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The Italian Job

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We may have somewhat shot our bolt on the movie titles – this one was too good to resist  but we are struggling to think of more. 


This year’s trip is a shortened end to end of Italy; we didn’t have the time for the full thing unless we went for a silly 100 mile/day pace which we are both getting too old for.  So we are doing Pisa to Catania in Sicily.  This is still 830 miles over 10 days with plenty of mountains so we don’t feel too much like shirkers.


Neither of us has cycled in Italy before and we are looking forward to experiencing:


·         Italian motorists – we imagine them to be very calm and sensible motorists with a minimum of gesticulations and ‘mama mias’

·         Speaking Italian – I got a book and it seems you just put a vowel on the end of every word; if the word already ends in a vowel you just add another one

·         Authentic Italian cooking – hopefully there will be Pizza Huts all over the place

·         Spotting the EXACT moment when pretty Italian girls put on 5 stone and grow moustaches (or maybe they go via some sort of pupae like a butterfly in reverse)


We will try and file a report each day as well as uploading the odd photie, though these might be a bit pants as we will have to use very low quality pictures to avoid bankrupting ourselves with roaming charges. Our route takes us past many famous tourist sites so hopefully Alan will pull his socks up and cycle fast enough (and faff little enough) to allow time to see some of them.




Sunday 5th

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We arrived at JOG at 5pm after a lovely day riding up the East coast in glorious sunshine.  Despite the sun it was chilly and we were ‘glad’ of the many hills to keep us warm.

Just two more end to ends as a Bike Adventures tour leader in the next 8 weeks to look forward too :-). Sure beats working for a living!


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Saturday 4th

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The hostel in Fort William was exactly what you would expect for 15 quid a night but we were all so tired we slept like babies (woke up with pooey pants).

Today it was cool and cloudy with a pesky headwind as we worked our way along Lochs Lomond and Ness to Inverness then a mad dash up the A9 to
Invergorden.  If you have never been to Invergorden (and I imagine you haven’t) then you will probably want to keep it that way.  The people seem friendly enough but far too many fingers for my liking.

Tomorrow, John O’Groats.

Ps The photo is actually from yesterday.

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Saturday 3rd

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No report yesterday because we finished very late and had to rush for showers and food.  We had sun for our first full day in Scotland and it would have been a good day had Stuart not broken a spoke in the late afternoon.  A few weeks ago Stuart had patiently explained how it was perfectly ok to use sport wheels using very few spokes as they were special indestructible ones.

The wheel completely collapsed.  Luckily he had spare spokes (ah…so he KNEW they might break) and I was able to effect a repair though it all took time.

We spent the night in Stirling and today we headed into the highlands and across the pass of Glencoe which was spectacular in perfect weather.

For once we made good progress and made it to Fort William by 6pm.  We are staying in a hostel – 5 bedded room.  Basic doesn’t begin to describe it.

We have covered 700 miles in 7 days.  Everyone had found it challenging and sore bums and knees are standard but I have no doubt now that we will all make it.

It looks like we have exhausted Scotland’s 2011 quota of sunshine so the forecast for tomorrow is ploppy.  That should wipe the smile off our faces.

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Wednesday 1st – Och Eye The Noo

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Yup – Scotland, and 500 miles done….. though our jubilation is tempered by the thought of another 400 to go. 

A pretty good day all things considered.    Michael seemed remarkably fresh this morning despite an evening with his girlfriend and the rest of us were eager to leave Stalag Luft VII (or the Whitburn House hotel as it is also known) so we were rolling at 8:30.  Unfortunately John was struggling with a very sore knee so we told him to take some pain killers and man up a bit.

Today was all about Shap Fell (often known as Shap Hell), supposedly the toughest climb of the trip.  Basically a 5+ mile climb of about 8% gradient.  The 45 miles before and after were scenic but nicely flat so all the work was in that short middle section.

The boys did me proud.  Nobody walked, some didn’t even use their bottom gears and only Michael wept a little. 

Tonight we are in Gretna and have already had to fend off the advances from the bridesmaids in a wedding party also staying at our B&B.;

Tomorrow we head for Stirling unless we meet the right girl and stay to get married.

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Tuesday 31st

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What should have been an ‘easy’ day was messed up by mechanical issues.  Stuart had a puncture early in the afternoon, then a 2nd and a 3rd.  Eventually he found a split I’m the tire wall through which the tube was escaping and getting ripped so a trip to the bike shop for a new tire was needed.

So we ended up reaching our hotel at almost 7pm.  Our accommodation is a grotty  hotel (or quite a nice prison) but we are mostly too tired to care. 

Tomorrow we will be in scotland, cleverly staying in the one part of the country with rain while the soft southerners enjoy their mini-heatwave. 

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Monday 30th

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Today it rained.  A lot.  Sometimes it was just heavy and other times it was torrential.  This was rubbish.

To make matters worse we had to do 110 miles so all round it was a ‘difficult’ day.  The falling off count for the day 1 was 1, Stuart somehow managed to career into a ditch completely unaided by bolting horses.

The world finally ran out of rain about 4pm so we had a bit of sun for the last few hours.  Annoyingly it was only at this point that I realised that the rain cover for my bar bag makes a fetching rain hat and you can see me modelling it here with matching vehicular accessories.

We are in Church Stretton, Shropshire which is very pretty AND has a Chinese so we are having a rubbery meal.

Tomorrow we are going to Preston where Michael has a girlfriend (I mean his girlfriend lives there, not that he has them dotted around the country).  Hopefully he will be too tired for any conjucals.

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Sunday 29th

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Here is yours truly reaching the top of the biggest climb in Devon.

Today was a game of two halves; the morning was spent up and down like a whore’s drawers over the Devon lumps while the afternoon was spent blasting across the Somerset levels.  We started late because breakfast, while huge and magnificently cooked, was served very slowly.  It was almost 9:45 when we finally got rolling but overall we made brilliant time and got to our hotel around 5:30.

Everyone managed to not fall off today and the sun even came out a bit in the afternoon so overall a good day.

Tomorrow is a biggie at 105 miles and it is forecast to hurl it down all day.  🙁  On the bright side the Holiday Inn does a free buffet breakfast and I intend to eat their profit for the whole of May.


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Saturday 28th……MEDIC!!!

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Yup, man down.  But first the important stuff.

It was a fairly hilly 95 miles today with nearly 7000 feet of climb.  The weather ended up not nearly as bad as forecast and it only really rained to any effect for about half an hour. 

We are now in Oakhampton, Devon (this really doesn’t have the same ring as Eureka, Nevada) and by sheer good luck the hotel doesn’t have Sky so no football.  With any luck my colleagues will go and watch it down the road leaving me to my pint and crossword.

OK, yes we have a wounded colleague.  Given that it is Michael I am astonished to report that it wasn’t his fault.  He was crossing a cattle grid on the moor when a spooked horse darted in front of him.  He braked hard on a wet cattle grid and physics took over.

He has some spectacular gravel rash and is quite shaken but he will live.  The main thing is that his bike is OK!

I am pleased to say that I feel quite fresh, I had been worried about keeping up with the youngsters but so far so good.  Alan will be pleased to know we have two faffers in the group so my morning ritual of sitting impatiently on the bike at 9.01 muttering to myself is still being observed.

Heading for Bristol tomorrow.


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Friday 27th

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Let me introduce you to my partners in crime, from left to right:

The dick in the middle is obviously me.

We got to Penzance on time on the train from hell – bank holiday special with people and luggage everywhere.  The 5+ hours could have been quite tedious but it was possible to occupy hours at a time by trying to pop to the buffet car.

It was a quick 10 miles to Land’s End but some of my colleagues were a bit alarmed by the rolling terrain – they have done all their training on the flat!  We were feeling pretty smug about our planned 9 day trip until we met a couple of insufferably smug Jocks who were just starting a 6 day trip.  150 miles per day for 6 days is a hell of a lot on a diet of deep fried Mars bars!

Now we are back in Penzance for vital fluid replacement.  Tomorrow we start proper.

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