So the final day began in an overcast Beauly. A few pictures and we were off.
My bike had been making a scraping noise from the bottom bracket and it soon started again, which was a big worry. So near and yet so far! A quick google the night before (ooh matron!) had suggested there was a bike shop in Brora 60 miles away. That was my target so I left the guys behind and set off to get as far as I could as quickly as possible.
Cycling the A9 is hard. It’s a narrow road and yet the traffic moves very quickly. Consequently there is a lot of roadkill, including yet more deer. The guys were unfortunate to see (and almost be hit by) a cat get killed. An unpleasant experience. On a lighter note, apparently Ian was having a moment of serenity, admiring a particularly lovely countryside scene – mountains in the background, heather, sunshine, cows munching grass. Then Rob’s brummie voice rang out. “Look at the size of the balls on that bull!” Fair ruined the moment.
When I reached Brora it turned out that there was no bike shop, but there was a bloke with a shed who “dabbled”. I politely declined and decided to take my chances.
We stopped outside a house in Dunbeath and the chap who lived there came out to chat after seeing the Prescot Hockey Club livery on the van. He was originally from Huyton! He invited us in for a cup of tea and then gave us a tenner to the charity fund as we left! It really has been amazing how kind people have been on this trip.
The noise was getting worse and I thought I detected a faint smell of burning so I was now only pedalling when necessary, and gliding down hills. And there were still a few cheeky hills remaining – of the 13-17% variety! And 3 miles long too. Call it a kick in the tail! To cap it all I was nearly wiped out by a “lady” turning left in her car across my path (referred to as a left-hook). Luckily I was alert and on the brakes quickly enough to avoid her – but she hadn’t seen me at all.
Anyway, we finally regrouped about 4 miles out of John o’ Groats, put our charity T-Shirts on and rolled down the final hill to John o’ Groats.
As well as a great sense of achievement, if I’m honest, there was a hint of anti-climax and sadness that it was over. I’ve put near enough 5 months into this and I was already thinking “what next?”.
I carried a set of flags attached to the back of my bike all the way from Land’s End – a Cornish flag, a St George, a Saltire and a Union Jack.
As a memento the guys signed the St George at the end
Anyway, a glass of champers and a mooch around (there’s not much there) and we we left for the hotel and some beers…