John ‘the Shoes’ Andrew
Dan ‘Versace’ Everson
Pro Paul ‘the Mechanic’ Newell
‘Who needs to train’ Jonathan Pollentine
Adam ‘True Grit’ Quesne
‘Liahona’ Mike Siswick
Ben ‘the Fixer’ Tomlinson
Adam ‘I nearly booked the hotel’ Wilkey
and introducing, ‘King Louis of the mountains’ Wilkey
Day 0, The Meeting.
Thursday night, the congregation of the team for the first time in the confines of the …..Hostel central Edinburgh. Fuelling completed our plans were finalised for the following morning and bed beckoned. Perhaps it was the howl of the wind, or the hammering of the rain or the excitement felt by all participants anticipating the following days exertions through the forecast cold and blustery conditions, but sleep did not come easily to the buoyant band of brothers.
Day 1, Edinburgh Castle to Alnwick (~ 95 miles). Our darkest hours.
‘The weather couldn’t be as bad as predicted’, was the collective opinion of our group. So after our morning fuelling (there was to be a lot of that over the next few days), and John the Shoes advances to one of the girls staying in the hostel we excitedly skipped to the meeting point, through rain and near freezing temperatures. The forecasts for the days weather were, of course, wrong, the weather was to be much, much worse than anticipated.
Cold light drizzle greeted us as we made our way to the start point of Edinburgh Castle. We weren’t allowed beyond the cobbles on pain of being shot, who knows why! Photos taken and off we set with Liahona Mike leading through the mists of Edinburgh centre. A few turns here and there and we were on the right track. The wind had decided upon a north westerly gale. Our route to Dunbar, some 35 miles was westerly with a slight hint of the northerly. We were battered by the wind, the sea spray, the rain – which had steadily become heavier through the morning, and hail. The temperature struggled to 3 or 4 degrees, but with the wind chill and the wet it felt well below zero. King Louis was close to exhaustion and hypothermia so was put into the support vehicle with the hot air blowing to thaw his frame.
Lunch at Dunbar was a wet affair in a café perhaps not accustomed to entertaining 8 sodden cyclists shivering with the cold (the last bit they may be used to). The lack of excitement about returning to the road was palpable, but the weather had eased, the rain stopped and we were ready to roll. I am certain the landscape we traversed is beautiful. The glimpses of the bits we were able to see through the gathering storm looked as though it was probably lovely. The break in the weather didn’t last long enough for us to see. Neither were we in any mood to stop and take pictures. A holiday village we passed through had a road with a ford, actually it was more like a torrent. Had we tried to cycle it we would have been swept into the jaws of the ferocious steel grey sea. Within 15 minutes of struggling up the steepest hill we were to encounter on the whole trip our fortunes took another nose dive. We battled the elements resting periodically when the rain and hail became too heavy. From the blizzard there was to be no escape and when we could no longer use or feel our hands, except for the pain of the cold, the decision was made to call it a day. It had become too dangerous for our health and our ability to control our bikes for us to continue.
The welcoming Youth Hostel at Alnwick, with its warm showers and comfortable beds was like heaven. The washer and dryer were well used that night. As we fuelled with pasta that night at a local Italian our reflections on the day were not particularly happy or satisfying, but they will be memorable. We prayed for better the next day…