August 27, 2011, by Andrew Burden
The VC’s Blog: JoGLE Day 1, John O’Groats to Helmsdale
A bad night for Scottish football last night. Both Rangers and Celtic exited the Europa League. That’s it for this season, no European football at all; the first time we have seen this for about 30 years. Hard to imagine it is only three years since I attended the UEFA Cup final between Rangers and St Petersburg.
The furthest north in the UK I have been is Inverewe Gardens on the west coast. We went well beyond that. The drive from Inverness to John O’Groats was lovely. Much more gentle vistas than in the west, but no less impressive and with a surprising amount of late summer colour.
It was a high spirited minibus until we reached Berriedale Braes and the riders saw what was to come on the way back.
John O’Groats was at its best: bright, sunny and with clear views of the Orkneys, all quite uplifting. Brady Haran was there to film us seting up and setting off. (If you visit, make sure you have 20p for the toilets. Kate paid for me, but the proprietor was unimpressed by being offered 25 cent coins).
And then, at last, we were finally off.
There is an official ‘end to end’ starting line in what seems to be a disused car park. But, it is an official start line so we used it. I was invited to lead off and willingly did so. That lasted for about 800 metres, by which time the Flying Squad had already had enough and sped off into the distance. The Bikers that Brunch (me, Kate, Karen, Chris J, Neville and Steve) moved on at a steadier pace and made an early lunch stop at Morag’s Café in Wick: foot long subs and curly fries, great biking food.
The ride from Wick to Helmsdale was fabulous, as was the weather. Our coastal views were dramatic and as were some of the descents and ascents, especially Berridale Braes. We did see a few bikers coming in the opposite direction, nearing the end of their journey.
We had a welcome treat at the top of Berridale Braes. In the car park to Badbea’s deserted village we were greeted by Alison and William Parente, the owners of Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire (and decedents of our former Chancellor, the Duke of Portland). They had set up a tailgate party for us with drinks, chocolate and jelly beans.
A great first day, with just a few mishaps: one puncture, one wheel change, one Chris barging another Chris into a ditch. We had wonderful support from the back-up team of Gavin, Simon, Paul and Ed who are doing a terrific job.
So the first 55 miles are on the clock and the weather forecast for Saturday is much better than it was a few days ago. We are looking forward to a dry day 2.
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