Carlisle to Inverness, 450 miles - Day one: Saturday 12th May

Having had a tennis match after work on both Thursday and Friday evening, I had to drop my bike and

Having had a tennis match after work on both Thursday and Friday evening, I had to drop my bike and

Having had a tennis match after work on both Thursday and Friday evening, I had to drop my bike and luggage off with Ken at 07:30 this morning. Dave, Ken and Neil then went to collect the hire van and drive to Carlisle, whilst the rest of us gathered at various train stations between Knaresborough and Carlisle. At 09:00, when Alan, Graeme and I joined the train at Harrogate, Ric and Richard were already on board. Having changed at Leeds, and picked up Colin and Ian at Skipton, we were on our way.

The scenery on the train journey to Carlisle was stunning, as we passed Settle and through the Ribble Valley. But as the skies darkened, so did our moods. The banter and high spirits were quelled as the apprehension set in and we began to focus on the task ahead. Fortunately, by the time we reached Carlisle, the rain had stopped, and Dave, Ken and Neil were at the station to meet us, along with Alan's parents in lawâ¦

Once all the bikes were out of the van and we had changed, we were ready, after the mandatory pre-ride photographs, of course.

Navigating our way out of Carlisle was tricky, but we soon picked up the pace as we hit the open roads. I held back, still feeling my way on the new bike. Suffice to say, it is an absolute dream.

The 32 miles were fairly event free. One small navigational error, and a herd of cows charging towards Ian, attracted no doubt to his aftershave, but we were eating up the miles. Having met Neil, and filled up our water bottles, we sped on towards Annan. Dave, Graeme, Ric, Richard and I broke away, only for Ric and Richard to pull away further with 3 miles to go.

As we entered Annan, we stopped to ask directions to our bed and breakfast. Cycling the other way, was a lady doing LEJOG, Lands End to John O'Groats, only in reverse. She had a radio antennae attached to the back of her bike, as well as a radio headset, enabling her to keep in touch with her partner and support driver. But the most bizarre part of her equipment was her footwear, which consisted of a pair of socks under some Merrell sandals. Unbelievableâ¦! She was planning to do 40 miles a day, stopping en route to draw, so she reckoned the whole trip would take her 4 weeks. Good luck to her.

We arrived soon after 16:00, locked the bikes in an outbuilding at the lovely bed and breakfast, and began to unwind. Tomorrow is our longest day, whilst Monday will be our toughest. With that in mind, we've booked an Italian restaurant to load up on carbohydrates.

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