Sunday, 14 June 2009

Day 5 - I Can See The Sea

Waking knowing they only had a short distance before it was all over filled the team with mixed emotions. Yesterday they'd been able to really enjoy themselves and today it was all to end. With everything they needed in the bunkhouse the Team were able to set off early. Jon had been up for hours and soon had the bikes ready for the final day's ride. Enjoying the luxuries of a TV the team were well aware that rain was predicted within the hour.

Setting off it soon became clear John was struggling. With painful knees he was getting left behind at any slight incline, it was obviously his turn to have the bad day today. Stopping at the petrol station he stocked up on pain killers and the team turned on to route 14 to Newcastle. Riding side by side the team chatted away as they headed towards the east coast. The track was pretty much downhill all the way to Tynemouth, their final destination.

Cycling along the river Derwent the intrepid travellers arrived at the Tyne with Neil leading the singing of the Fog on the Tyne. As it turns out it's all mine, all mine. With a quick check of the map it was up and over the Tyne and alongside it towards Tyne Bridge. Unusually it was Neil rather than John who was keen to stop for a drink and snack. Spotting the Baltic Flour building, Neil cycled across Millennium Bridge and found the last stop before Tynemouth. With coffees and cakes in front of them, the team enjoyed a brief rest. John receiving a text from a friend who had been following their progress. Explaining where the finish line was he joked they should join them for lunch in Tynemouth.

With refreshments on board Team Pannier had one last target, to be in Tynemouth for 1. Where not only would Ced be meeting them but now Steve and Becky were on their way. Being in Tynemouth for one o'clock required them to cover 15 miles in an hour. Could their tired legs handle it? Cycling out of Newcastle and on to Tynemouth was not the picturesque journey the boys imagined. Riding through road works, tired housing and industrial estates was not what they had in mind at all. With tired legs they pedalled on, getting closer and closer to their destination. Well so they thought, the number of miles remaining went up and down as the sign posts varied.

Pulling in to Tynemouth and along side the sea the men (they were no longer boys) rode side by side. It seemed an age to reach the finish and what an anti climax that turned out to be. With only a blue sign, surely this wasn't the way to mark the end of an epic journey. In fact Neil and Rich had to call the other two back as they rode straight past the finish. With the photos taken it was down to the sea, to dip the front wheels in. There may have only been a blue sign to mark the finish but there was also a massive blue sea.

By now they had met up with Ced and he was chief photographer. Team Pannier wanting to capture the moment from every angle despite the lure of beer in the nearby pubs. Then something amazing happened, something that hadn't happen throughout the 167 miles before. They got a flat. Jon, pushing his bike in to the sea had got a puncture. Surely signifying the end of the journey, the four Yorkshiremen had done it. It was then off to the pub and, as they pushed their bikes to the car, Steve and Becky joined them. They were soon sent on their way to scout out pubs for lunch. In the meantime Team Pannier with the help of Ced loaded the bikes on to the car and cracked open the champagne. Well, the Sarah supplied Cava. CHEERS.

With that done it was on to the pub and a couple of beers, food and a change of clothes later they were back on the road. This time it was in the car and to head home. They had done it, they had climbed Skidaw, they'd cycled to the M6, twice and they'd overcome so much. Cycling 167 miles, 30 miles more than the "normal" C2C, Team Pannier had conquered the C2C+

30.61 lovely down hill miles, 169.61 (let's call it 170) miles in total, it's supposed to be 147 miles. 18 hours 37 minutes of riding, 10.7 mph average.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Day 4 - The Biggest Breakfast Ever

After three Wheatabix, two slices of toast and a full English you'd think John would be satisfied. "So where are we stopping for lunch then?". There wasn't a concrete answer so he cycled on up the hill out of Nenthead. Quite a hill to start the day but with the wind behind them the team made quick progress soon reaching the highest point of the C2C.

Rich was tired and cold, he'd had to be coaxed out of his bed after his breakfast. It was his turn to have a bad day after Neil's struggles the day before. He didn't let that stop him bombing down the hills and in to the first coffee shop the team spotted. Caffeine and sugary cakes all round. With only one major hill to go the team were again buzzing and even dreaming of being in Consett before bed time.

Ah, Consett, Team Pannier had been warned of their next finishing point. "You want to lock your bikes up there" "what are you going there for?" "I'd keep riding if I was you". The locals sharing the bunk house the night before certainly didn't have a high opinion about it. Nevertheless the team pressed on, keen to see their accommodation in daylight. Climbing away from their coffee stop they arrived at their second to last major summit. A free wheel for a good few miles saw them arrive at a pub in the sunshine. John of course was the first to venture that they should stop for lunch.

After a swift pint the team sat down to eat beef baguettes with gravy. Neil, causing problems with the waitress for his requests for mustard was soon labelled 'spicy'. As the baguettes were brought out the second waitress turned to Neil and said "oh you must be spicy" much to Neil's enjoyment/embarrassment. The sarnies flew down quicker than the team had done down the hill and conversation was soon taken up with the cyclists on the next table. "Yeah we got lost and ended up in Great Strickland" they said, and one of them had done the C2C before! Then again they were a bit older (see their blog here). Turns out everyone takes that route. With a little pride back in their map reading the team mounted their bikes to leave. Suddenly the bar man ran out of the pub, somebody had forgotten to pay! Searching around for the kitty Rich was unable to find it. Luckily it was sat inside, waiting to pay the bill.

An off road climb was punishment for an enjoyable lunch and it was taken at walking pace to the final summit. Going pass ruins at what appeared an ancient train station. Then a run across a disused railway, really disused, with often no space to pedal for heather. Neil and Jon's bike tyres came in to their own as they dealt easily with the off road. Like an episode of junior kick start the team worked their way through a series of water obstacles and eventually on to the road. With team jukebox Neil singing out the theme tune at the earliest mention. On the road and there was a C2C sign, last services for 10 miles. This was a sight for sore eyes for the boys. They didn't need the services but it meant they were only ten miles from Consett, beer and, a special treat, CURRY. Not daring to dream too much earlier Team Pannier had discussed the possibility of a couple of cheeky beers followed by a curry. First they had to cover 10 miles and, judging by previous performances, this could turn in to 25 miles taking the rest of the day - and night. That wasn't to be the case this time as the team cycled in each others slipstream and gobbled up the miles. The straight, flat track no match for Team Pannier. Stopping only briefly for a viaduct photo op the team arrived at their farm bunk house at four.

Excited by the possibility to 'potter' and just chill out the team eagerly got off the bikes. The owner opened up the bunk house to reveal a brand new building with all the mod cons you could wish for. Told to help themselves to tea, juice and toast the team did just that and dug out the pate they had been carrying since Booths. Showered, changed and raring to go the lads left the farm to see the delights of Consett. With the tip of a local real ale pub Team Pannier wandered in to town. Greeted by signs for Matalan and Morrisons the team had well and truly hit civilisation. Manoeuvring their way past the bank holiday drinkers the team ended up at the desired local pub. With the ales names all related to the local steel industry Jon was keen to know how steel was made. As Neil began to explain, the beer flowed and so did the conversation. Everyone brimming from the cycling done safe in the knowledge there was only an easy ride in to Newcastle left. One pint turned to three and soon it was time to head on to the curry house. Back up the road and past a group of similar looking gents, Team Pannier soon found the Station Road Indian. Destroying the kitty Jon, Rich, Neil and John enjoyed beers, poppadoms, curry and chili nans. Well Neil and Jon were the only ones to suffer the heat of the chili nans. Drinking the curry house dry of beer (it wasn't hard, it only had 8) the team left sated and ready for bed.

Looking out of place dressed up in warm clothes the team walked through Consett towards home. Walking past the local nightclub the boys weren't to be disappointed as Consett lived up to its reputation. No, not women in short skirts, although it had plenty of those, but a fight. One young lad took the force of three others and then got up and did whatever any tough northerner would do in those circumstances. He ran, like the wind. Satisfied they'd seen the sights of Consett the team decided not to stand around and wait for a taxi and walked. Rich by now was walking with his eyes closed as the cycling and beer had caught him up. It was straight to bed for him as Jon and Neil shared Neil's much travelled brandy. John, Jon and Neil enjoyed sitting, watching MotD2 before retiring to their bunks.

27.71 miles, 138 miles in total. 15 Hours 43 minutes of saddle sore, 10.3 average.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Day 3 - Great Strickland

A restless night of sleep was broken by daylight and the first question was raised by Jon. "What are these beds made of, crisps?" He was referring to the noise they made when anyone turned over. We'd all slept in our clothes with hot water bottles to battle the cold but it was the noisy beds that had kept us awake. So much so that when one person got out of bed to go to the toilet the noise started a relay of runners to the toilet. Despite the crisp beds spirits were high and the team look forward to a cooked breakfast - of sorts. For £3 a head the team had been able to buy eggs, bread and beans for breakfast - to be fried of course!

There was no bacon because there wasn't a fridge but there was a selection of yogurts and cereal for those who wanted it. Team Chef Jon cracked (excuse the egg pun) on with the cooking as the team of four monitored their own mini grills to cook their toast. Once filled with breakfast the team washed up and readied their bikes for the day ahead. Setting off down the soft track it wasn't long before there was another fall. John falling sideways down the hill, a really unspectacular fall but a fall none the less. Three down one to go...

Neil was again having problems with his gears and as the team reached a tarmaced track after an hour it was over to Spanners once again. It was slow progress with only 3 miles covered in that first hour. However Martin at the YH had promised downhill all the way back to the C2C route and that soon materialised. The team were now travelling at 25mph and covering distance fast. Before long they were back on route but with this due to be the hardest day there was no time to rest on their laurels. Cycling on they knew their target was Penrith for lunch. An important target for John who always liked to know where his next meal was coming from.

It wasn't long before Team Pannier were again cycling along side other C2Cers. However the team didn't take long to mention they were doing it the hard way, still no other cyclists seemed to have panniers. It was as Penrith got nearer the team passed under the M6, a real milestone in their journey across the country. On entering Penrith the team found a local chippy and soon tucked in to a hard earned lunch. With that done it was quick errand time while in civilisation. Jon nipped to Boots and John nipped to a bike shop to get some more brakes. With the previous days efforts taking their toll on his bike John's brake pads were totally worn away. Of course it was Spanners who helped fit them as well as giving Jon's bike a quick once over. It was soon back on the road and Rich and Jon seemed a lot happier. Mainly due to the fact they had joined John and Neil riding commando.

Riding out of Penrith there was a loud screech as Rich's heavy bike hit the ground right in the middle of town. With a girl laughing loudly it was his pride more than the scrapes on his leg that hurt. Needless to say he wheeled away quickly. Leaving Penrith the two Jo(h)n's headed out up a steep hill with Rich and Neil following behind. It was soon pointed out we'd taken the wrong route. The two Jo(h)ns had followed Route 7 and not route 71. Having not done any map reading they were none the wiser and it was only twenty yards to get back on track. With a good lunch inside them and having passed up on the beer and whiskey chasers the team were powering ahead. Within no time 10/15 miles were covered, stopping only briefly as they came back parallel with the M6. Neil's gears were still not right "you can fiddle with them until the cows come home you'll not get them working". Well that's was just red rag to a bull as far as Spanners was concerned. As everyone topped themselves up on Jon's sugary Maoam sweets Spanners sorted Neil's gears once and for all.

Riding on they came to a little place called Great Strickland which happened to have a pub serving the team's favourite Jennings. Jon and John riding on past the pub were called back by Neil and Rich. Thinking it was a strange time to stop for a beer they reluctantly cycled back to find Neil and Rich pouring over the map. Sure enough route 7 was the correct route out of Penrith. The Jo(h)ns had accidentally taken the right route and Team Pannier had now ridden 10 miles off route. With the team now off the maps they had with them they gathered around a tourist map posted outside the pub. Feverishly taking notes Jon, Neil and Rich plotted a route back on course. John then popped in the pub and appeared moments later with their own copy of the tourist map. No notes needed.

By now the team had drawn attention from the pub and the scouse (we assume) landlord came out. He was not surprised by our predicament and said they get loads of cyclists ending up there when they shouldn't. With a route back to the C2C from the landlord we got on our way. Going over rolling hills and then climbing in to the woods. "Nobody said it was easy" sang the Team Jukebox as Coldplay seemed the order of the day.

Pushing on ahead John cycled up the steep hill in the woods and stopped to wait for the others as he reached some gates at the side of the road. Soon to be joined by Jon they spotted what a nice track it was the other side of the fence. "It looks just like a holiday village" said John. By the time they'd been joined by the others the penny dropped, Whinfell Forest said the sign, we're at Center Parcs! Loaded up on more sugary goods the team headed on, down a steep hill with Rich reaching a heady 44.2mph. As the team pounded away on their pedals the miles to Penrith came down. Getting back on track was demoralising, seeing Penrith 6,5,4 1/2, 4 miles. Team Pannier really started to motor determined to get back on route as quick as possible.

Around 5 as the football scores came in the team finally got back on track. Stopping at a pub for brief refreshments there was still no sign of beer as the team had learnt from the lessons learned the day before. Knowing they had a long way to go the team phoned loved ones and then set out again towards the biggest climb they had faced so far. There was a long way to go, leaving the pub behind after 5. Had they kept on the right track they would have been in the same position two hours earlier. It was then up and down, up and down, Team Pannier cursed every downhill knowing the height they had just gained had been wasted. At 6.30 the team started to climb with a feeling this was it, this was the hill. With the knowledge that there was a cafe at the top of Hartside but it was now closed did not help. The start of the climb was tough, straight up, with only a bit of winding road to hide the summit. Coming round one corner, there it was, the cafe, not in front of us but high in the distance. The team stopped to regroup and take on supplies. "Shall I take a look at the map" said Neil. Mistake, big mistake. With the time now at 7 and a lot of the climb plus many more miles to go Neil was desolate. "I'm worried we'll not make it we'll die of htpothermia" said Neil. "Don't worry" said Jon, "we can stop in the next village and get accommodation there". "But we did try there" Neil replied, "and it was all full". Jon then took the map and predicted we'd be at our destination by 9.30. Wishful thinking the rest of us thought. John reassured Neil he would get him there in one piece, installed as team psychologist and masseur he would get Neil's legs working again in the morning.

So the team started again on the hill, the road switching back on itself many times ahead. Cars making slow progress themselves in the distance. A camper van passed with empty bike racks on the back, each member of the team thinking to themselves about hitching a ride. As we climbed the road was not as steep and the wind picked up - in our favour. Pushed on by the wind we made quicker progress than we thought and reached the summit to see a welcome sign "Cafe Open". Sadly the joy was not long in our minds as it was clearly shut. Sheltering from the wind behind the cafe we put on extra layers and got out what food we had. Oatcakes, houmous and a pack of crisps. Devoured in seconds we were soon on a houmous high if there can be such a thing. Knowing we had another big climb left to go there was talk of one person going on ahead and the food order in at the pub near our accommodation. With no one feeling up to the task we motored on "they'll be an all night garage we'll pass" said Jon thinking we were heading in to London.

The ride down from the cafe was 4 miles of the best pick-me-up the team had had. Averaging 25mph the team soon swallowed up the miles. Suddenly there was a belief we'd make it in time to put our food order in. Arriving in Garrigill the team passed a pub, cyclists squinting out of its window in to the low sun. Pressing on Team Pannier knew they had one more climb before bed. Not wanting to make the same mistake of stopping before the end as yesterday. Turning the corner they hit a wall, a shear climb out from Garrigill to Nenthead. With all legs tired there was only one option, push. So the team pushed for an hour up a shear hill as the sun set behind them. Passing them were three cyclists, the first they'd seen on the road for hours. Stopping to chat the (pannierless) cyclists told of their challenge, the C2C and back in three days. "Yeah but they haven't got panniers" the team said when they'd gone. With daylight gone the team reached the summit a little after 9. With Nenthead lit up below them they brake squeaked their way down the hill. The noise got a local's attention and he gave directions to the two B's, bed and beer.

Arriving at the Nenthead Mine Museum, site of the night's accommodation, the team found the bunk house locked up. "She said she'd leave the keys on the table" said Rich relaying his earlier conversation with the lady running the place. "But she didn't say which table or where". Luckily a local neighbour had a spare key and sure enough, locked inside on the table was our key. A quick shower and turnaround was suddenly greeted by some other cyclists coming back from the pub. "They're still serving food", "someone just ordered a pizza as we left" they regaled. The team were down there in a shot but sadly to no avail. The kitchen had stopped serving. So Team Pannier sat back and enjoyed a beer, watching Match of the Day and eating 6 packs of crisps, 5 packets of pork scratchings and a packet of nuts. Bon appetit boys. Not quite making it all the way through MotD team Pannier headed by torch light through the freezing cold air to bed. With shared accommodation it wasn't the best night sleep with snoring and any movement keeping the team awake.

63.80 miles today, 111 miles now covered in total. 12 Hours 41 mins on the bike so far. 8.6 mph average

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Day 2 - Getting The Back Wheels In

There was certainly an air of excitement as the team headed down to prepare their bikes. Plastic wrap added to pannier racks, air to tires, seats adjusted and horns fitted the team were ready - for their cooked breakfast. Over breakfast the team looked at the map and saw the hills to come over the coming days while Rich told us of his breakfast cooking prowess. The secret of which was fried baked beans. "But surely they're not fried" Jon put forward "as they're in a sauce". Needless to say fried beans became a running joke for the rest of the holiday.

After a hearty breakfast it was down to the sea for photo opportunities and the Sea to Sea (C2C) ritual of dipping your back wheels in the sea. All with thoughts of dipping your front wheels in the sea on the other coast. It soon became clear that we'd have some company on the route as teams lined up to have their pictures taken. Yet there was something different about these other teams, sure they had matching T-shirts but it was something else they were missing. Then it dawned on us, none of the other teams were carring their own gear, no panniers. We soon decided this made us real men and so Team Pannier was born. So we waved goodbye to our driver and set off on a long journey of non stop cycling along route 71. Well when I say non stop we stopped three times within 3 miles as we fixed our bikes. Rich seemingly the only one who knew what he was doing. Finally sorted we set out on the nice, flat, track out of Whitehaven.

As flat track turned in to country side we discovered the joy of hills, bombing downhill in the hope it would carry us up the other side. Rich soon found his extra weight (in his panniers) and road tyres an advantage on the downhills. Going from back to front in no time he bombed down every downhill. As flat tracks had turned to rolling countryside, cloudy skies had turned to rain and without really realising the team were now riding in a downpour. Coming in to a small village John looked longingly at a pub in the distance as they turn the other way. Still pushing on with the team tiring all eyes were peeled looking for the planned pub stop. Keeping morale high in the rain was Neil, the team juke box happily led the team in singing their way through the best part of Queen's Greatest Hits. However the team soon discovered the planned pub was shut and it was an about-turn and a quick downhill ride to the pub spotted earlier. A good morning's cycling was rewarded with a Jenning's Brewery sign.

Securing the bikes outside the team piled in to the pub as non pannier people piled in to dry vans. With over twenty miles of the days thirty seven miles covered the team were in buoyant mood despite the weather. A round of ales was ordered as the team pondered the pub menu. As baguettes and soup were digested another round was consumed next to the newly lit fire. With clothes drying by the fire and the rain coming down outside, Rich, Neil and Jon enjoyed a shot of whiskey. Then with no sign of the rain stopping it was back on with half melted gloves and socks and back on the road.

The team soon forgot about the weather as they hit Winlatter Pass, the first climb of the day. Cited as possibly the hardest climb of the day and perhaps even the C2C it was a big early test for Team Pannier. Overcoming it despite bellies full of food and beer the team felt confident of what lay ahead. The route then headed in to the woods and past a Go Ape centre. Stopping in the hope of a stamp towards their C2C T-shirt they were told the best route to their nights accommodation, Skidaw House. They were also told they weren't far from Keswick, the planned stop for tea and shopping before the trek up to the cut off youth hostel.

With these words ringing in their ears the team set off at a quick pace down through the forest. Following a now very wet forest track Neil and Jon enjoyed the benefits of off-road tyres. Rich not to be out done followed at pace with John bringing up the rear with his "City Gent's" bike. Heading down a steep section in to a corner Rich misjudged the corner and headed straight for a drainage ditch. Coming off his bike, over his handlebars and narrowly missing hitting his head on a tree stump. Getting up to cheers and with no injuries Rich was soon back on his way.

It was soon Spanners to the rescue (as Rich became know) as a loud noise signalled the collapse of Jon's pannier rack. Digging into his vast array of supplies Spanners was able to get just the right bolts to save the day. Without being able to fix them the team would have been walking to Keswick.

Arriving at Keswick at 4.45 the team were pleased with a job well done. The sun was coming out and with only a 3 mile climb to Skidaw House left the pub beckoned. With more Jennings on the menu and Rich's favourite Lamb Henry, it was a celebratory feel in the beer garden. However first there was an important matter to settle. With Neil wanting scampi (he might have mentioned it a couple of times of the ride to the pub) Jon wanted to know what scampi actually was before ordering it. Neil and Spanners claimed it was prawns but Jon disagreed. A quick look on Wikepedia and it explained it was lobster, but wait, more investigation showed it was langustine, which is also known as a prawn. Petit-dejeuner, everyone's a winner, as Del Boy would say. Back in civilisation the team had been able to settle the argument with their mobile phones. It was Rich's phone that was to provide the next area of intrigue. Receiving a text from his Mum which solely said "Text missing: satisfaction with every erection". Obviously the second part to a text but what could the first part be? Why was his Mum texting him about erections. Sometimes what you can imagine is much more exciting than the truth. The first part of the text arrived "Your Dad says tell John regarding the shop names, he once saw one in Lanzarotte for a scaffolding company..." You can complete the rest.

Two hours later and full of food and beer the team headed to the local supermarket, Booths. An aptly named establishment as Andy Booth, Huddersfield legend, was to play his last game for the club the next day. Now working with a kitty the team got the necessary supplies in for the evening. Three bottles of red wine, pate, houmous, oat cakes and chocolate bars were loaded in to our middleclass panniers. Setting off for Skidaw House, Rich and Neil were still hoping to see the Ospreys at the local viewing site. However with more miles pedalled and the time getting close to seven it was decided the 1/4 mile walk from the road was not worth it. The team pressed on. Cycling away from the main road the team started to climb up towards Skidaw on minor roads. With Neil unable to get in to a low gear for the hills (try driving up a steep hill in fourth) progress was starting to slow. A look at the map showed despite already covering more than the expected three miles the team weren't even at the off road climb to Skidaw yet. Riding by farms in the late evening sunshine lambs and sheep ran to the fence as we passed. With a lake below us in the valley we finally reached the turn off for the climb to our accommodation.

A lady walking down the path said hello and asked where we were heading. She hadn't heard of Skidaw House but when we said we hoped it was one of the buildings in the distance she said the ride shouldn't be too hard. "I've just come over the top which is really steep but you should be alright if you're not going that far". Sure enough, you've guessed it. We soon realised our accommodation wasn't one of the two in the distance. That was it. On a sugar low and without working gears Neil had had enough but they are two easy things to fix. Loading up on Jon's wonderful Moam sweets and Mum supplied mini Toblerones it was just down to Spanners to fix Neil's gears. He needn't have bothered. By the time we got around the corner we realised the steep, rocky road was unrideable to four bikes laden with panniers.

The big push started and the sun ended. With it setting behind us we kept pushing up the steep track. Every corner we turned there was no sign of the accommodation just more rocky track that eventually turned in to a single mud track. Then at about half nine with all light pretty much gone and nearly 50 miles covered we saw, in the distance, Skidaw House. No lights on and looking very desolate. The promise of warm showers suddenly looked very doubtful. With the end in sight Jon and Neil pressed on, finally able to ride as the terrain levelled out, a bit. Riding quickly Neil saw a large puddle in the track. Misjudging it he soon became wet as well as tired as he fell in the puddle. Two people down, two to go...

On arriving at the house we were met by Marie and Martin. We were told the kettle was on and to go and put our bikes in the shed. Although Martin rightly pointed out we could leave them outside if we wanted as there was no chance of them getting nicked. Once inside we went through the boot room where we were offered sandles in exchange for our muddy trainers. The house itself was an old shooting lodge, with stone floors and walls and one central wood burner. We soon gathered around the fire with all our wet clothes and trainers hung everywhere. We were looked up and down by Martin, a guy in his fifties with a familiar accent. He asked us where we were all from and after each "Grenoside" etc. we were told, "I, Grenoside's alreyt".

Martin was a friendly guy but there was something unnerving about him, I don't know whether it was because he was from the Manor or because of the large Daniel O'Donnell mug collection on the wall. We were told where the toilet and hot shower (hurray) were. As well as the much needed biscuit tin and tea pot. Neil was first in the shower as he was looking the worse for wear, cold, tired and wet he had started to get a nasty cough and was having trouble with his breathing. The hot shower soon fixed that and he was soon sat around with everyone else supping red wine and listening to tales of Martin's travels and their secluded life on Skidaw.

So it was off to bed, the room above the fire of course (the only source of heat). The lights in each room were run off a battery so you turned them on at the light as you entered, a difficult job in the dark. Finally at nearly 12, Team Pannier made it to bed.

47.24 miles covered. 5 hours 26 minutes. 8.6 mph average.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Day 1 - The Prologue

It all started at 12.30 in Bristol, well John's journey up there did. Cadging a lift off the in-law to Nottingham to pick up his bike he hadn't seen for two years. It was then on to C2C headquarters AKA Sarah and Neil's in Sheffield. Where they were met by Rich and all four bikes were loaded on to Neil's car and the team set off. Taking a slight detour to pick Jon up, the five of them eventually leaving Sheffield at 6. So the team of Neil, Rich, Jon and John plus return driver Alan set out on an adventure of unknown proportions. Driving through Glossop the team discussed the merits of shop names, Shocked By Lighting sadly now missing from the high street. Cod Almighty and British Hairways given as examples of the great Chip Shop/Hairdresser tradition of puns. Stopping for light refreshment Rich rang the guest house to inform them of their late arrival. They were then given the bad news, the fish and chip shop would be closed by the time they got there. "No problem" said Alan, "I'll have anything except Chinese and Indian", "Ah" says Rich. So on arrival in Whitehaven a quick turnaround in the guest house saw them sat in the local Chinese just before closing time. You'll be pleased to know Alan loved his Lemon Chicken but wouldn't be replacing meat and two veg just yet. Discussion at the meal table consisted of the days ahead. Rich stating that refreshment would be in beer form while the two Jo(h)ns discussed a reward system of getting to the pub on Saturday night to watch the evening kick off. Saturday being the toughest days cycling. Alan voiced his concern about the team not taking the challenge ahead with enough seriousness... The team then headed to bed full of Chinese and two cans of Carling. Dreaming of gentle rides and beer gardens in the sun.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Rich Firms Up Details

Now then Everyone. Schonberg and mi gud sen were having a chat about departure times last night so I thought I'd start putting a few feelers out. As we'll be going in Neil's car I guess it's best if we all meet at, and depart from, his place? Google tells me it's 3 hours and 48 mins from Bocking Lane to Whitehaven (not accounting for traffic or a car full of five burly blokes, 4 bikes and associated cycling tat). So, in order to get there in time for some fodder and a couple of beers I'm guessing we need to be leaving at 5 at the latest. Even at that we might be struggling to get food in a pub but we can always have chips and fish on the Whitehaven seafront. Do we need to make any other arrangements? We probably don't need to take much more than clothes, toiletries and a towel as all the accommodation provides bedding. I'll be taking a C2C map, bike tools, grease, oil, puncture repair kit and a couple of spare brake / gear cables but I suggest we each take a couple of spare inner tubes (it's easier to change a tube rather than try to repair it while you're on the road). And don't forget you're bike lights, just in case. I've got a spare set if anyone wants to borrow them., If you've bought panniers, I suggest you put a plastic sheet or something similar over the pannier rack before you put your bags on. It'll help keep your stuff dry if it rains. Having used the National Cycle Network maps before I think it may be as well to take Ordnance Survey maps as well and plot our route on a daily basis. The NCN maps tend to be large scale and difficult to follow in places. I need to go to CCC so I'll pick them up. Don't forget padded cycling shorts! Saddle soreness will not be tolerated! A pair of incontinence pants stuffed down the back of your strides would probably do the trick as a cheaper alternative! Skiddaw House YHA is 6.5 miles from Keswick and can only be reached by foot or bike up a "mountain track" (i guess this is a normal countryside footpath / bridleway - see the pink line on the map below). Thinking about nourishment in the evening I guess we have 4 options: 1. Ditch our stuff at the YHA and ride back into Keswick for food and beer 2. Take a detour into Keswick for food and beers and head to the YHA afterwards (might be a difficult ride with a belly full of food and booze) 3. Take a detour to the supermarket in Keswick (it closes at 9pm) and take supplies for the evening up to the YHA 4. Take a detour into Keswick, grab some food and a pint, procure additional booze from the supermarket and head back to the YHA 5. Take supplies with us from Whitehaven. Extra weight but will avoid the detour into Keswick. NB. the detour into Keswick is along a flat road. I'd probably plump for option 3. (Embedded image moved to file: pic22509.jpg) Err, I think that's it for now. Any thoughts anyone? Rich

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Training (?) Began

Just got back from my first real ride on my new bike and my legs feel like jelly, not sure if it's tiredness or adrenaline, or both. For those of you familiar with Sheffield, I've plotted my route here->
It took me 1.5 hours and I covered 15 miles (so about 10 miles per hour), but that included negotiating boulders and rocks on the top of the moors and dragging myself out of waterlogged peat bogs! I've got grit in my teeth from grinning too much!
Felt great. Can't wait for the real thing!

Can I give you all a spot of advice? If you ever fancy putting your life on the line and taking in some of the less desirable parts of our beloved Sheffield and North East Derbyshire, can I recommend a trip down the Trans Pennine Trail, from Grenoside, via Parson's Cross, Wincobank, Darnall, Handsworth, Beighton, Sothall, Rother Valley, Killamarsh, Renishaw and Staveley to Chesterfield.. 30 miles of the most hellish squalor I've ever seen. Nearly got my bike nicked by some chavvy scumbag when I got off it to negotiate a gate and then rode passed a dead tramp on a bench. Well, I thought he was dead until I went back to check and realised he was snoring. Needless to say I took the road way back through Dronny and Sheffield City Centre! 47 mile round trip! Bring on the Whinlatter!


Sunday, 7 June 2009

Rich gets to grips with the Accommodation


Schonberg and me good sen have been having a look at C2C accommodation and have one or two options.

Fri 1st May: Mungrisdale / Skiddaw

Blake Beck camping barn (can't find it on t'interweb but I've got the phone number)

Or as an alternative.......

Skiddaw YHA's a bit out of the way but could be a cool place to stay.

Sat 2nd May: Garrigill / Nenthead / Alston

Garrigill Village Hall

Nentheads Mines Bunkhouse

Alston Training and Adventure Centre

Alston YHA

Sun 3rd May: Castleside / Consett

Hownsgill Bunkhouse (Castleside)

Consett YMCA (Consett)

All the above options look like they’re about £10-£16 per night which is probably a bit more expensive than camping but we won’t have to lug the tent around and will be able to get warn and dry off if it rains.

So, I’m going to make a few phone calls tomorrow and if everyone’s happy with the options, I’ll use my initiative and book them. If they're full I think we're going to have to camp.

I’ve spoken to John and he’s fine with anything so, let me know what you think.

10 weeks and 2 days to pedal-off!


My only concern is with the Skiddaw YHA place. Nice location, but would involve a half-hour ride back on ourselves and leave us quite a bit to do on the second day. Also, not sure where the nearest beer and skittle emporium is.

But if the others are full then we can always stop off in Keswick on the way to fill our panniers with single malt!!!


Fellow cyclists,

2 down, 1 to go!

Haven’t sorted out Friday night yet, I’ve left a message for the Blake Beck Camping barn at Mungrisdale people to call me back.

For Saturday night I’ve booked the Assay Bunkhouse at the Heritage Mine in Nenthead. The C2C route runs right passed the front door apparently. It’s 400 yards from Nenthead village which has a pub (Miners Arms) that will supply breakfasts if we pre-book...... I presume they do evening meals as well. The bunkhouse is £12.50 and we need to send a 50% deposit which I’ll sort out if everyone’s happy with this option. I couldn’t get through to the Village Hall in Garrigill so I’ll give them a bit of time to call me back before I send the deposit.

For Sunday night I’ve booked the Hownsgill Bunkhouse which is 200 yards from the C2C route and 1 mile from Consett. It’s a bit pricey at £18 per person but they supply cereals, tea, toast etc for breakfast along with towels and bedding.

Any questions, queries, quandaries or comments, let me know.



Saturday, 6 June 2009

Further Planning In The Rising Sun

A brief progress report:
1. We've got accomodation sorted in a nice guest house for the night before we set off
2. There's bugger-all available other than campsites en-route
3. Henderson's relish flavoured crisps are nice, but a little pricey at 75p a bag
4. Rich has taken an action to sort out accom for the rest of the trip, with camping barns as preferred option, followed by camp sites
5. There is an inordinate number of fine real ales available at the Rising Sun
6. Jon and I thought it might be cool to do 'extreme camping' if we couldn't find a site - Rich for some reason didn't agree...
7. The route will go from Whitehaven to Newcastle
8. Some people who do pub quizzes are rude
9. Three pints is about my limit these days
All in all a 100% successful meeting!
Peace out.
10 weeks and 3 days to pedal-off!

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Planning Began

Transport - Everyone agreed best option was to bribe a semi-retired Dad to drive us to Whitehaven and then pick us up again in Tynemouth. Payment would be food/beer.

Accomodation - What is a camping barn? To answer your question, a camping barn is a barn that you camp in. They usually have basic cooking, washing, showering facilities and bunk beds. Sometimes might just be a bench to sleep on. I'll ask my friend at work who did the C2C last year and send you some details. Again I don't mind if we camp or do camping barns. - Rich

Equipment - If anyone needs equipment like panniers and stuff I can highly recommend Decathlon. I bought their stuff for my Cornish Odyssey and it was really good quality and alot cheaper than JE James' for example. I think a rear pannier and bags will be better than trying to manage with a rucksack, but that's up to yourselves. Just make sure you get something in a heavy duty material with removeable rain covers. I also bought a handlebar bag which was quite useful.
I also bought a lightweight tent, self-inflating matress and lightweight sleeping bag from decathlon, again, all really good quality cheap stuff.

Neil: You may need to concentrate on getting a bike before worrying about bags and stuff.:-) - Rich

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Replies Came In

Sounds excellent boys own stuff so I'm in, happy to take on any of the roles apart from navigation officer, I get lost in Sheffield as it is. - Jon

I'm in, PS who's Jon? - Rich

I'm in, PS who's Jon? - John

Jon and I have been talking about doing something adventurous for a while (including things like three peak challenge). As a brief CV, Jon is from Huddersfield and supports (Huddersfield) Town. He is an accomplished chef (worked as one in Australia) and is quite fit (physically) - does a bit of running in his spare time as well as mountain biking with Dink. Hope you don't mind me inviting him as well... - Neil

Fine with us - Rich / John

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Official C2C "Release"

From: Neil
To: Rich, John, Jon

Calling all Adventure Seekers! You are cordially invited to be a part of a great expedition, planned for May Day bank holiday weekend (Friday 1st May - Monday 4th May), to traverse this great isle of ours powered only by pedals. Yes, that's right, we're planning an attempt of the world-famous coast to coast (C2C) cycle route between Whitehaven in Cumbria and Tynemouth in Northumbria (other routes are available). You have been sent this email because you have expressed in interest in the past of doing a bike ride of this kind, so now's the time to put all that talk behind us and take the plunge.
At this stage I'm looking for confirmations of interest, which will involve booking Friday the 1st May off work to allow four days to complete the route. After we have confirmed participants we will need to assign tasks to each person so that the effort in planning this epic journey can be shared. Off the top of my head I think we may need the following:
Accommodation Officer - to sort out booking campsites, making sure these are close enough to hostelries that will be able to serve evening meals and flagons of ale. The accommodation officer will have to work quite closely with the...
Navigation Officer - who will be responsible for planning the route, including stopover points, miles per day, rest periods, etc.
Inventory Office - will be responsible for ensuring that all stocks and supplies are procured and co-ordinating their transit along the route. (I'm thinking tents, first aid kit, bike tools, energy food, etc.)
Finally, and probably most importantly, we need a Logistics Officer - to plan how we're going to get to the start of the route and how we're going to get home after it. There's lots of options, including support car, van hire, public transport and taxi service - just need to make sure we choose the easiest and cheapest option.
So, what do you all think? We have three months in which to plan and train for this. Let me know if you're in by the end of the week and I'll arrange the next step...
PS- if you want to have a look at what the C2C is all about, is an excellent resource.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

It all started so simply...

From: Rich
To: John & Neil

this might be of interest (great website)......
John: This is the thing I was supposed to discuss with you this weekend.
Sounds do-able in 4 days!
Any thoughts?

Monday, 1 June 2009

Welcome To An Adventure

When four friends, well they kind of knew each other, set about organising something to do over a bank holiday weekend they didn't realise what they were letting themselves in for. This is the story of their C2C adventure.