August 26, 2014, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 4 Blog: Day 11 – Cumnock to Cairndow

Lunch timeWe passed 1,000 miles today. I have done it three times before, but it was still a big thrill, especially because the Support Team had laid out a 1,000 mile finishing line across the road (using some of our protein powder!).

Today we were riding in honour of Eloise Mills, and Steve W was our nominated rider. Steve’s comments were: ‘Eloise is a lovely, bright and fun loving 10 year old who, after having her tumour successfully removed, is now able to live a full and happy life. This was in no small part due to the skill, care and expertise at the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre. It is my privilege to be riding in her honour. By so doing I am helping raise funds to increase the chances of other children to be like Eloise, and fully recover’.

Cumnock was cool and overcast when we left. Everyone was out by 07:45. Inevitably I was last out, with Nick and Esteban who had waited. Riding conditions were lovely: cool, overcast and blowy.

Nick used his local knowledge to give us an unscheduled tour of Cumnock before we hit the main road. Once through we headed for Kilmarnock on the A75. It was a faster ride than I expected, given the weariness in my legs and we completed the first 15 miles in an hour. We made a first stop at Jack’s Grill and Coffee Shop in Stewarton, where all of the other riders were present. What a great café. I had the breakfast I should have had at the hotel.

Nieves and FrancesFrom there we headed to Bridge of Weir, through hilly but very attractive countryside, and with more climbing than I anticipated. My sister Frances had invited us to lunch at her home. Nineteen of us barrelled in to be offered a feast of baked potatoes, expertly barbecued tandoori chicken, paella which Nieves pronounced excellent (and she is from Valencia, and knows a good paella), and various other goodies. It was the lunch of this Life Cycle.

As well as Frances, my brother Albert, Terry my brother-in-law, my nephew TJ who is a singer / songwriter (and not to be confused with CJ – this one can sing), his girlfriend Alex, and other friends were there. It was an outstanding lunch and break, topped off by Frances taking an ice-bucket challenge, which has so far raised £400 for our cause.

Fortified we headed for Gourock, through the lovely dairy country of West Ayrshire. Before we knew it we were on the ferry to Dunoon, a short but delightful trip. The views were stupendous, down to Arran in the south and Ben Lomand and beyond to the north.

The final 28 miles was all on the A815 which runs up the side of the Holy Loch, then skirts Loch Eck, before ending up on Loch Fyne. It is a landscape which lifts the spirits. We took a final break at the Whistle something Inn which sits opposite Ben More. They had a nice fire running (I know it is August, but this is Scotland) which we parked ourselves by for half an hour. Even Doug had a little snooze.

Almost inevitably there was a final climb and sharp descent to our destination in Cairndow. Everyone was in by 18:20. We had cycled 82 miles and climbed another 6,000 feet.

Riders and bikes are feeling the consequences of 1,000 miles, in different places. Susan has pulled a thigh muscle which was being worked on ahead of today; two of Nick’s spokes pinged (fortunately when he was not travelling very fast); and I notice the pink chicken now has a plaster on his shoulder, he must have injured his when I did mine in the fall in Kent.

What is often not fully appreciated is the mental pressure on Riders and the Support Team. That is partly about sustained concentration required to stay safe for long hours on the road, day after day. But it also comes from constantly chasing the clock when you are off the bike. Today is a good example. We got in around 18:10, and I was sorted and in my room at The Stagecoach Inn by 18:30. Dinner was at 19:30. In that hour I had to do the obvious: shower, change etc; then there is kit washing (and partial drying); thinking about today’s blog; wondering if there might be time to reorganise an increasingly chaotic case; recharging all devices; remembering I must fit in a call home and so on.The LC4 Support Team

After dinner I am back to my room to write as much of the blog as I can before crashing. The alarm is set for 05:30: up, finish the blog, get breakfast, ram stuff back into bags, get on the road, make sure nothing is forgotten (and I have left one cable, a charger and glasses so far) and off we go again. That is not an untypical day, that is every day. And I cannot think of any more shortcuts! My clothes are already washed with me, I only shave every few days, I have learned how to lob clothes over shower doors and into the closest bath / washbasin. As Tesco has it ‘every little counts’. And we are always picking up little tips from each other. Evidently Andy and David W shared a whirlpool bath last night (I assume to save time) but I am not going there.

Now on to team matters.

There was another challenge today: The Kilmarnock Sprint, a competition for teams of three on a designated Cumnock to Kilmarnock course (the A75). After the data was verified by Paul, I was pleased to learn I was again part of the winning team with Nick and Esteban.

Shock of the Day: CJ announced he was splitting off from the Jaggerettes. He gave two reasons: (a) ‘they are too much trouble’; (b) I do not want to share my royalties seven ways. I think his expectations on the latter have been raised by last night’s Life Cycle auction, when a first issue of the inaugural album (featuring such classics as ‘Moves Like Jagger’, ‘Hit the Road Jaggs’ and ‘Road to Nowhere’) went for  whopping a £100 (he did not buy it himself, and his Mum was not there).

David, Svenja, Susan and Nick on the ferryTeam of the Day: has to be the Bilhams and friends for such a fabulous welcome and lunch at Bridge of Weir.

Quotes of the Day:

First Svenja to me and Nick, on the ferry: ‘Why did you guys leave Scotland, it is so lovely, and it never rains’. Svenja, you have been in Scotland two days. You need a few more data points before you make statements like this.

Second Marion, over dinner: ‘Well it hardly seems like this morning since we crossed the border’. Yes Marion, that’s because we crossed the border yesterday.

Our 82 miles today takes us to 1,002 in total. Tomorrow we have 90 miles plus to Spean Bridge. The forecast is good, and tired as we are, we have some wonderful views ahead.

Finally, total funds raised are now past £578,000. Thank you for your marvellous support.

Professor Sir David Greenaway

Posted in Life Cycle 4