THANK YOU

There are so many people I would like to thank for their support. However, with old age comes forgetfulness so if I have left anyone out I apologise in advance.

All donees – your messages of encouragement were an inspiration and your donations were so generous. How could I possibly fail to finish the ride when I knew you were all behind me and thinking of Karen.  I would like to ask the anonymous donees to please consider letting me know who you are so I can thank you personally.

My cycling support team; Tony, Nat, & Viv – on the first two days Tony always had a word of encouragement ready when he could see me flagging, including such motivational lines as “now the lazy b*****d is taking a tea break and having a muffin”. Nat helped me through the tough unknown territory west of the Severn. Her calm measured response when I called to say I was lost after a long hill climb of “well you have gone miles off track and better turn back” was exactly what I needed to hear. Viv joined the team on Day 4 and demonstrated superb local knowledge of the best routes to take. If his knowledge of terrain was half as good he could get  job with Team Sky. If I had a pound for every time he said “it’s all downhill from here”, only to be faced with another uphill climb around the next turn, I would be a rich man.

My training support team; Ern & Mart – the two Saturdays they spent driving to Newbury,  Bath, Bristol,  and Chepstow to drop me off for training rides meant I knew the route for Day 2 and most of Day 3 really well. I did all my getting lost on those training days. Mart’s driving was second to none and not all all erratic. Ern’s availability on the phone whenever I called for support was equally impressive. Meeting for lunch was a delight as I received multiple texts telling me one pub after another was a dive so they were heading to find somewhere else. Finding a pub with good beer and food is vital on any bike ride and obviously takes priority over a cyclist getting more and more soaked as the day wore on. Still, lunch was only 90 minutes later than planned so it’s a bit churlish to complain.

Alistair – for teaching me everything I needed to know about bike maintenance. I learned more about derailleur gears and slime tyres than I ever imagined was possible. I also received an invaluable tip about clothing attire and a tub of special cream to apply where the sun don’t shine in order to make for a smoother ride.

Nic – for creating this wonderful web page and posting all the updates and pictures.  Also for such an amazing surprise with Dylan yesterday!

Mal – for co-ordinating and publicising the event with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust and for keeping me in the dark about everything else as usual.

Lynda – for hosting us in Ferndale,  supplying champagne and lunch, booking a fantastic dinner, providing breakfast and giving up her bed for the night. Kipping on the sofas with Viv is really taking one for the team… and all while in training for the Cardiff half marathon in two weeks time.  Go Lynda!

Rachel & Andy – for providing enough energy food and drink to keep me going for a year.

Dan – for lying through his teeth about the whereabouts of my daughter and grandson.

Taylar – for Picasso-like artwork in making the welcome poster. All colour coordinated and very impressive indeed.

Lauren,  Robyn, & Izzy – for taking a 400 mile round trip on Izzy’s birthday to welcome me at the church. I think secretly Izzy wanted to see me as her extra special birthday treat.

Nick – for doing a great job with editing our story and getting the event publicised in the local paper.

Random motorist in Porth – for asking me for directions on Day 4. I was so chuffed having a welshman pull up in a car next to me in the valleys and saying he needed MY help.

All mine and Karen’s friends – for your support and encouragement.  It is absolutely true to say that I could not have done it without your wonderful presents on my 60th.  The bike and accessories stood up to four days of all England and Wales could throw at them.

 Karen – for everything.
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I made it!

Well I made it!
It was lovely to see the welcoming party outside the church in Ferndale,  including some surprise visitors from far away places.  Our daughter Nicola and grandson Dylan all the way from Bangalore, and the Holden-Smiths from deepest Surbiton joined the local Welsh contingent and our daughters Natalie and Mallory.
Very emotional and a great tribute to Karen.
The ride itself was more knackering than the previous 3 days and I’m so glad I had those 14 miles in the bank from Friday.  There was a bit of a false start at Tredegar Park where it took me 15 minutes to find the right route to Machen.  When I did finally get going it didn’t take long before I encountered the first of those famous welsh hills. It took me 25 minutes of low gear climbing to get to the top only to find I had gone the wrong way. A call to my support team, which had been supplemented by local boy Viv, got me on to an alternate route to get me back on track and rt4.
There then followed many more uphill climbs despite assurances from the support team that ‘it’s all downhill from here’. It wasn’t.
Finally I got to Caerphilly and on to the Taff Trail which was thankfully quite flat and very scenic.  A cuppa in a greasy spoon in Ponty was the midday break and then it was off up the Rhondda Valley following as much of rt881 as possible.  All uphill but not too bad.
Seeing the welcome comittee and banner outside the church was wonderful.  A 10 minute break and pictures and then I was back on the bike uphill to Maerdy where Karen was born.  The welcome committee beat me there easily and there was time for more photos and hugs.
A wonderful day. Karen would have loved it.

The last day

Day 4.

The weather looks good again and I’m ready for the final 31 miles. Once I’m dropped off at Tredegar park I will take rt4 to Machen and then on to Caerphilly,  Nantgarw,  and Pontypridd.

It’s then off rt4 and up the Rhondda valley through Porth until I get to Ferndale where Karen and I were married, and then on to Maerdy where Karen was born and where I first visited her home 37 years ago.

I’m feeling rather emotional as I write this but im looking forward to completing the ride for Karen.

1 more day to go

178 miles down, 31 to go.

Things were going well so I decided to put in some extra miles and have got 14 in the bank. That leaves 31 on Day 4, most of it uphill.

Bath to Bristol was ok as expected and the weather was good. The big difference was getting through Bristol to the Severn Bridge 50 minutes faster than on the trial run last weekend.  It’s amazing how much easier it is when you know where you are going and don’t get any punctures.  I hope it stays that way.

Crossing the severn bridge was as amazing as last week and you really get to feel the bridge swaying in the wind. It was then into the unknown heading from Chepstow to Caldicot but it turned out ok with no wrong turns. Caldicot to Undy was a bit trickier as the road turned into a farm track for a few miles and it was like the kango hammer experience all over again. It also didn’t help cycling into a strong headwind. The wind turbines along the road were going faster than my pedals. However, I really wanted to try and get ahead of the game because of the hills on Day 4 so I kept on going to Tredegar Park in Newport.

The route included a crossing on the Newport transporter bridge which had to be seen to be believed.  It is one of only 2 of its type left in the world. The last part of the ride also included a very hairy mile or so on the dual carriageway a48 with cars and lorries swerving around me at speed.

Unfortunately, tomorrow will not be a happy anniversary, but it will be a memorable one.

 

Bath, Bristol and on to Wales

Day 3 sees me start by cycling through beautiful Bath and along the Avon until the start of the disused railway line. It’s about 15 miles into Bristol and pretty flat with a good surface.  Also hard to get lost… apparently.
Going through Bristol city centre will be totally different though. It’s very hilly and the route is not well signposted. My trial run of Day 3 last weekend was not a success so let’s hope I’ve learned the lessons and my crib sheets will do the business.
Once I get to Aust services by the M48 Severn Bridge I should be meeting up with my new support team i.e. Nat. We will no doubt enjoy some haute cuisine for lunch and then it’s off over the bridge to Chepstow and on to Caldicot and Undy near Magor.
The Welsh side will all be new as I did not manage to fit in a practice session so I fully expect a few wrong turns along the way. Hopefully not too many and fingers crossed for another puncture free day.

Past half way

119 miles down, 90 to go.

After getting a head start from Kintbury as a result of day 1’s efforts I managed to make it to Woodborough at 11am for a second breks of poached eggs on toast and a scone. Very nice too.

Then I decided the next stop would be Trowbridge for a drink and a snack but halfway there my advance party reported the pub was closed and up for sale so we rearranged for Bradford on Avon.

I must have been getting distracted by the new arrangements because I promptly got lost in Devizes.  A very nice lady went out of her way though to help me back to the canal. I still can’t comprehend how I messed that up.

It was then a very very rutted and bumpy towpath ride to Bradford on Avon for about 9 miles and at the end of it I felt like I had been holding a kango hammer for over an hour.

Then headed on to Bath where I will soon be looking for another carb load blowout dinner.  Tomorrow is changeover day for the support team with Nat taking over from Tony O’B. Still no punctures. Long may it continue.

 

66 miles done, 143 to go

After a seafood linguine in Newbury it’s off to bed at 9:30. Alarm set for 7am with porridge on the menu for breakfast and then a 25 minute drive to Kintbury to pick up where I left off.

Will go through Hungerford, Little and Great Berwyn and Burbage before stopping for an early lunch in Woodborough at about 11.

Then off to Devizes and the amazing Caen hill locks and all along the canal until Trowbridge where the plan is to stop for a small snack at about 1:30. Then it’s on to Bradford on Avon, Bathampton and Bath, going over the incredible Dundas aqueduct on the way.

I aim to get to Bath between 3-4pm provided no punctures, bad weather or serious wasp type incidents. I will then be saying a farewell to my support team of the first 2 days of the trip.

Thank you Tony O’B, I couldn’t have done it without you.

Day 1

A good first day. Weather was great and no punctures. I managed to get to Newbury 40 minutes ahead of schedule so decided to push on to Kintbury. So I now have an extra 6 miles in the bank!
Very nice morning break and lunch but no donations as I went through Stoke D’Abernon.  Only incident was when a wasp flew into my helmet just after Thatcham and I nearly came off the bike trying to get it out. Luckily no stings…
Just had a shower and now off to carb load at the local pub ready for tomorrow.

Away I go!

Well it’s 8am and time to start the first leg to Newbury. I must admit to feeling a bit nervous but I have put new tyres and inner tubes on the bike, so what can possibly go wrong?  It’s also the hottest September for years, so cycling next to the canals could turn out to be a real bonus.

I will be heading north west and passing the Chelsea FC training complex at Stoke D’Abernon at about 8:30 so hope to get a few pennies thrown into the donation bucket by some hard up footballers as I pass by.  It’s then on to Cobham, Byfleet and the Basingstoke canal and Saturn Trail until Frimley Green for a tea break at about 10:30.

I then head off to Blackwater, Yateley, Eversley, and Mortimer for lunch at about 1:30pm before continuing to Padworth, Aldermaston Wharf, Thatcham, and Newbury.  I’ve cycled most the route in various stages over the past 2-3 months so am hopeful of not getting too lost.

I have been overwhelmed with all your messages of support and generous donations, you have been absolutely brilliant.