Friday, 16 July 2010

Day 5 - Balloch -> Catrine

Knitwits Yarns

We stayed in a really swanky campsite in Balloch which even had baths and free hairdryers! Resisted the bath (tempted as I was) but took full advantage of the free hairdryer. It rained for the whole night - when I say "rain", what I really mean is torrential downpour with cats, dogs and a few frogs thrown in for good measure. But, amazingly, as we got up the rain eased off a little and we were back at hospital by 8.20 for G to have his check up and be cleared for take off. Today he was treated by Mary who is a triathlete and, having heard about G's accident had gone out and bought him a pair of cycling gloves with gel in the palms to protect his sore hands. Such an incredibly kind thing to do - thank you, Mary - they've worked well, along with a good dosing of pain killers. The roads up here have been really badly affected by the cold weather and some of the potholes are legendary. The constant juddering on G's hands and arms caused him a lot of pain but the painkillers, gloves, plasters and tubi-grip have really helped. We do actually wonder if he's cracked or broken a small bone in his left hand as the bottom of his thumb is black and blue (with a tinge of purple, for the artists amongst you) and is very swollen. However, undeterred, we headed back to the very dead fox: (the next 2 photos may upset some of the more squeamish amongst you but not nearly as much as the fox upset G!):

G & T have asked me to point out that the fox has been run over again since they hit it - it was bigger then!!!

So, having started where we'd unceremoniously stopped, we headed south to Glasgow and the Erskine Bridge (which doesn't exists in the sat nav, incidentally). The weather was intermittent dry and wet. Here are the boys on the bridge (which, fortunately, has a cycle path):

I think this picture just sums up the conditions brilliantly. Here are the boys on the top of the bridge:

and this is the view from the bridge. Not sure if this is the River Clyde, which then turns into the Firth of Clyde or whether it's the beginning of the Firth itself. Either way, it's the water that runs under the Erkine Bridge!:

From the Erskine Bridge, FB had plotted a cunning route using mostly B roads and we met at Morrisons in Johnstone for our usual lunch in a supermarket car park routine. This car park was slightly different though - we were challenged by the jobsworth car park superintendent (very officious) and told we couldn't stay here for long and had we done any shopping in the supermarket (we had) and we'd need to move on soon. The van is covered in H4H posters, the boys are wearing H4H cycling tops and cycling gear, the bikes have "John O'Groats to Land's End" notices on them - how long did he think we were going to stay?!! FB was very polite but seething inside - we should have asked for a donation to H4H but didn't think about it quickly enough.

So - having been told to move on, we did! The weather improved, the scenery was lovely:

and then disaster struck again. Going up a steep hill, FB's chain broke:

After about an hour of (in retrospect) wasted time fiddling (and the kind loan of a pair of pliers from a nearby house), the boys admitted they couldn't fix the problem. This is when the van turns into a mobile office. I have the laptop and pongle and, therefore, google. I have a mobile and sat nav so I find the nearest Halfords with a bike expert, he gives me their postcode which I pump into the sat nav and we're off! Halfords in Paisley has the man you want in a cycling crisis. The brilliant Harri, who is a cycling nut and knows all there is to know about bikes. Fixed FB's chain in no time and then stripped and re-fitted G's pedal bearings which had become loose. All for no fee because it's a charity ride and he hadn't used any parts. A true gent and enthusiast and thoroughly brilliant man.

Ironically, the sat nav - which had taken us to Halfords perfectly - then faffed around taking us back to the same spot so we could start again. We got there in the end and within 5 yards of starting, FB and T crashed into each other - twisting FB's handlebars out of alignment. There were nearly tears. Fortunately, FB managed to twist them back (how embarrassing would it have been to have gone straight back to Harri again?!).

It does make you wonder, though, how people without a backup van would have coped. We lost about 3 hours of cycling time but if you didn't have backup, that would have written off your entire day. And these incidents are bound to happen, that's just the nature of the challenge.

As a result of the delays, the boys cycled on late into the evening and we eventually reached our campsite at about 8pm. Everyone's starting to get really knackered now, not helped by pain (G's hands, T's quads and FB's ribs [FB had a small incident when his cleat didn't click in properly and he crashed down onto his handlebars - every cyclist with cleats has done it, apparently, and it hurts like hell]), the weather (cold and intermittent rain really doesn't help) and the slight hiccups we've encountered. But we soldier on - after all, this isn't supposed to be a walk in the park!

The comments on the blog and on just giving are really fantastic and give us all a real boost. When we saw we'd gone over the £1,000 after the horrors of Day 4, we raised a cheer. Thanks for your comments - keep them coming and for the wonderful, wonderful donations.

And the knitting? Well, I'm behind target! About half way up the front and I should (according to the schedule) be finishing the front tonight. Must knit faster! If the boys could stop having accidents, it would help!

Miles today - 67 (even having lost 3 hours)
Total mileage - 331

Today is Gretna!


  1. Hi Jul's and the gang!
    Love reading your blog! but gutted your having a tough time!! love the pic of the fox!!! bloody thing!! Take care and keep going!!! look forward to seeing you all safely home soon
    Amanda x x

  2. If you have any more problems with the bikes - I must refer you to Monty Python's "Bicycle Repair Man" on YouTube:

    He's guaranteed to appear from nowhere.

  3. Brilliant progress guys despite the hold ups. Keep going for it!

  4. Really loving the blog. Following it everyday. Your Loch Lomond blog reminded us of a dreadful fortnight we spent in the rain with a two and a half year old in a camper van!Lets hope you have got all the disasters out of the way now and the boys have a better time of it (and you can get on with the knitting). We are cheering you on from down here and think you are all brilliant WELL DONE. We will be there when you get to Land's End.
    Ceri, Keith and Tom