August 29, 2014, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 4 Blog: Day 14 – Strathpeffer to Inchnadamph

LC4 riders and support teamAt 65 miles, this was the shortest day of the entire trip. With almost 4,000 feet of climbing, and a lot by way of headwinds, it was still a challenge, but having a day of this length now was helpful.

The child we were riding in honour of today was Leah Brockbank and Penelope was our named rider. Here is what Penelope said of Leah ‘Riding in honour of a child who is no longer with us really brings home the reality of brain tumours. However for me, this cycling challenge is a really positive response. Leah’s Mother Louise told me Leah loved being on a bike and would have wanted some part in Life Cycle 4. She is with us in that I often think of her. I hope the funds raised will help improve the outlook for children like her in the future’.

For only the second time we set off in wet weather gear. Those that were away at 07:30 (Chris J and his crew) set off in rain; those that were off a bit later set off in drizzle. Chris R and Penelope were out next with our leg rider Bob Bayman; then me, with Nick and Esteban who had both waited back. For once we were not out last, and Doug, David W and Andy followed.

I found the first 20 miles really hard going. When I saw Doug at the van in a midgie-infested lay by about 18 miles out, he said he had too, and pointed out we had been on a gradual climb for about 15 miles, on a pretty heavy road. That cheered me up!

From there we rode through to Ullapool, at 40 miles, up and down along Loch Broome, followed by some further climbing then a snaking rapid descent on a lovely road. About six miles from Ullapool we picked up Doug, David W and Andy again and rested by a bridge on the estate of the person who designed the iconic Forth Railway Bridge.

At Ullapool, a jewel of a town, we met up with everyone else (including David R) and most of us had lunch at the Ferry Boat Inn. Weather conditions had changed completely by this point and the town and its setting looked stunning. Whilst there we met a current Year 1 Music student, Clare Fowler, and her family, including her mother Tessa who is an Economics graduate.Scenery

It was 23 miles from Ullapool to Inchnadamph, through landscapes of real grandeur, and with something of a wilderness feel to them. Whereas on the west coast you feel the landscape is predominantly shaped by glacial activity, here the legacy is unmistakably volcanic. It makes for big climbs and fast descents, but also breath-taking vistas that will live long in the memory.

Although it was only eight miles from our destination, Nick was hoping we could stop at the Elphin Teashop, owned by a close pal of his sister, someone Nick had known since childhood. The teashop stands some way above the road and when we got there, a ‘closed’ sign greeted us. As we debated what to do, Nellie spotted us and called us in. She opened the teashop and took the closed sign down so Doug, David W and Andy would also find it. We had tea, coffee, carrot cake, chocolate cake and scones, which we enjoyed in the garden. If there is a teashop with a better aspect anywhere in the UK, I have yet to find it.

Although here were six of us, Nellie refused to let us pay and asked that the bill be donated to our cause. It was a heart-warming end to the day.

Now to some team updates.

Unfortunately there were three falls today, and all at the same level crossing. First Svenja went over, resulting in cuts to her arm and knee. Those following were warned by Steve to slow down. Nonetheless, Susan went over and Marion ran into her. They too sustained grazes, but also bangs to the chest (Marion) and knee (Susan). All three are fine, though a bit sore. Having subsequently come over the same crossing later, I can see how this happened, it is at an acute angle and being wet, it was also greasy.

David and the Support TeamMore generally there is ever more evidence of physical wear and tear on the riders, with many suffering repetitive strain injuries of one form or another, as well as obvious mental fatigue. But people still let off steam in the evening and are up and ready to get on the bike the next morning.

I am back on form when it comes to lobbing washing from shower to sink, 100% tonight. And for those who attributed my slip last night to a distillery tour rather than fatigue, I ensured it was a fair comparison by going to the bar for a couple of drinks beforehand. (Mind you, it was one of those arrangements with a shower head in a bath, and a sink adjacent, so it was hard to miss). On washing, I have worked out that this is the last night I will need to wash gel pants and socks; shirts come off the rota tomorrow night.

Some Quotes of the Day:

First, at the Elphin Tearooms, Andy asked Nellie about how she had arrived in this part of the world. She explained that she lived in Glasgow, wanted out of the city, so moved to Skye, and then to Ullapool. And now she has her tearooms in Elphin. ‘So you’ve been around a bit’ says Andy. ‘Aye’ replied Nellie, ‘You’re a long time deid, so you might as well enjoy the journey’. Who can argue with that?

Second, last night Andy stayed up to play pool, and apparently fell asleep at the table. When asked about this, his response was: ‘I was playing pool with my eyes shut, but I was still potting the balls’. Fair shout.David W and Andy, happy to see a JOG sign

Third, Chris R left the King’s Arms Hotel in Chipping Campden with a TV remote, which the hotel have been trying to get back ever since. His defence was that it must have fallen into his rucksack, because why would he steal a TV remote. Doug’s answer was, ‘You might have stolen it for the batteries, Chris’. That will be a £10 fine for Chris R.

Our 65 miles takes the running total to 1,240, already well over 100 miles more than any previous Life Cycle and with two more days remaining. People are not getting too far ahead of themselves, but you can feel the first of anticipation as riders and the Support Team see roadside signs to John O’Groats.

Finally, I caught up on blog comments this evening. Thank you all so much for posting them and for your encouragement to the team. We really value your support and I am pleased you find the blog of value.

Professor Sir David Greenaway

Posted in Life Cycle 4