Those pesky blackthorns

If you read yesterday’s blog then you will know that we were supposed to be hosting a woman called Adrianne Hill on the first night of her round Britain bike ride on the exact anniversary of our own departure two years ago. The good news is that we did host her; but only just.

Firm new friends

Firm new friends

We were expecting her sometime in the afternoon so the first hint that things weren’t exactly running smoothly came with a text informing us that she would be with us early evening. We just assumed that she was taking her time and enjoying exploring the lovely Lancashire countryside. Several texts later though it became obvious that the horrible headwind, frequent wintry showers and unpredictable Garmin route suggestions were taking their toll. I offered to ride out and meet Adrianne to give her a bit of company for the last ten miles which she gratefully accepted but before I was five miles from home she phoned to say she was being hampered by multiple punctures which explained the delays. I immediately went into emergency rescue mode which achieved nothing apart from proving how incredibly unfit I am at the moment and the idea of sprinting to her aid was nothing more than a figment of my imagination. I finally found her and discovered that my damsel in distress was in fact a very cheerful, funny, optimistic, independent and resilient soul whose only flaw was a tendency to be just a teeny weeny bit disorganised. By this I mean that the punctures she was dealing with were in the 20” wheels of her trailer whilst all her spare inner tubes were of a 27” variety to fit the bicycle wheels. She had persistently patched the offending tube but unlike her mood, the tyre remained obstinately flat; no doubt due to an unseen thorn remaining in the tyre. We had no choice but to call for Thunderbird 2 in the form of Gill in the car who quickly loaded up the trailer and Adrianne’s bags and took off up the dual carriageway for home. Fortunately she had to return past us after turning round and fortunately she noticed that we weren’t speeding homeward but rather we were looking dejectedly at yet another flat tyre, this time it was Adrianne’s front wheel! Those black thorns have a lot to answer for. To her credit Gill stayed with us for moral support while I changed the tube as fast as my now freezing fingers would let me.

In fading light and a bit late for supper we finally made it home sometime after 9pm and salvaged what was left of the evening with copious amounts of food, a little wine and lots of laughter. I’ve said it before but cycle touring is always a roller coaster of ups and downs of every type but they don’t normally all come along on the first day. Welcome to touring Adrianne.

Off she goes

Day two, here we go.


We packed her on her way this morning with cheese and salad sandwiches, a homemade scone and two brand new 20” inner tubes. As I am writing this she has reported yet another puncture but she is battling on regardless. I have every faith in her ability to make it around our coastline because beneath her petite frame and beaming smile I think there lies a character that is tougher than the toughest blackthorn and believe me, they don’t come any tougher.

Top of the fears

Lots of people have told Gill and I that we are brave to do what we are doing. So just for a bit of fun and to prove that we are not really, here is my take on how good old Alan Freeman might have presented our top ten fears on Pick of the Pops back in the days. Click on the video to set the scene while Alan lines up the first of our fears and concerns. (If you are under forty you might want to look at this first)

Evening folks, it’s Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman here with another edition of Pick of the Pops. This week it’s Pick of the Fears though with our top ten chosen by Gill and Tony from Clockwise Words. Not arf. Alright.

So here it is pop pickers, straight in at number ten and I think this one’s going to be a climber:

The Grand Depart by Tummy Turner and the Butterflies

Yes folks with lots of friends threatening to turn up at the departure on April 26th it’s going to be a nervous start for our two intrepid adventurers. Maybe they’ll settle down once they’re on the way but saying goodbye is always hard.

At number nine, up one this week it’s the first of two entries from a brand new band. That’s right it’s

Pooing in a Field by The Wild Campers

This one is more for Tony than for Gill. He’s one of those ‘when you gotta go you gotta go’ kind a guys so he’ll be the one trying to keep the toilet roll dry as he crouches in a field in the rain with his trousers down. Not arf.

At number eight it’s a non mover this week for:

She’s going down by The Puncture Fairies

Not a problem in most cases but when it’s cold and wet and it’s the back wheel it’s a real bummer. This is one of those irrational numbers that gets stuck in your head on a bad day and like a fear worm you just can’t get rid of it.

In at seven it’s

Driven insane by The Midges

That’s right pop pickers, these little beasties can really make you long for home. On a warm still evening on a Scottish campsite it can be a race to eat dinner before the midges eat you. Not nice folks.

Here’s a climber up from ten to six this week it’s the second chart topper from those Wild Campers themselves it’s

Mad Axe Men by The Wild Campers

Gill and Tony haven’t done any wild camping yet but everybody that has says that for the first few nights they were a bag of irrational nerves. Every rustle  of leaves, every snapping twig and snorting hedgehog will probably have them clutching their teddy bears and that’s for sure pop pickers.

Here we go with the top five now and up from fifteen last week to this week’s number five is this real tear jerker. That’s right folks it’s

Missing you already by The Lonely hearts

I reckon they’re going to miss those friends and families folks. Back in my day there weren’t any mobile phones and the internet didn’t exist but even with these new fangled inventions it won’t all be roses folks, oh no. Not arf.

Down two at number four, here it comes and it’s not looking too good for

Sick as a Dog by The Hypochondriacs

Being sick at home is no fun but being sick in a tent is the pits so let’s hope our two adventurers stay healthy and keep grooving on throughout the trip

At three it’s a non mover for

Jacking it in by The Wimps

That’s right folks. Apparently this is one of the biggest fears of all long distance travellers and our two heroes are no different. The idea of limping home early with their tail between their legs will play on their pop picking minds. Not arf it will. Alright.

At number two, up from five last week it’s

What Happens Now by The Returners

This one’s going to be a big hit I reckon. With no jobs, no home and after such a big adventure your guess is a good as mine when it comes to settling back into ordinary life. Maybe Pick of the Pops will bring them back to earth. Lets hope so.

So here it is folks. It’s the big one, it’s number one. It’s been at number one for as long as any of us can remember and the band have never ever appeared in Britain in our life time. It’s been number one all over the world and it’s kept there by crazy stories in the media. It’s the most irrational number one of all pop pickers, alright. Here it is its

Eaten Alive by The Grizzly Bears

That’s all folks. Tune in next week. Alright. Not arf. Tara.

Six months and counting

Today it is exactly six months from the day of departure for our grand tour around Britain. I have a geeky little countdown gadget on my computer desktop which tells me to the second how long is left and I’m slightly concerned that I may be getting a little obsessive. I’m worried that the pre-adventure anticipation may peak too early and I’m not sure what I will feel like if that happens. I have been reading a lot of blogs about long distance bicycle tours and they all seem to have a preamble that starts a few weeks or months before the leaving date and usually incorporates various degrees of panic because nothing is organised and there is still loads of kit to buy. In our case, we have virtually everything we need already from many previous shorter tours. In fact, not only do we have all the right gear but we even know what goes in which pannier. We also don’t have any real route planning to do because we will be travelling around the coast of an island and it doesn’t take much in the way of navigational skills to work that one out. This only really leaves the task of shedding our belongings (see previous post) and organising a bit of a leaving do. I’m thinking six months might be a tad on the cautious side to achieve those two things. Which is not the best news for anybody looking forward to a riveting read, because you have six months of inane drivel to get through before anything really happens.

For example:

Today I realised that it is perfectly possible to have good punctures and bad punctures. Bad punctures are like the one I had on our recent tour in Scotland. We were cycling around the island of Arran and really enjoying a bit of sunshine after getting thoroughly soaked by previous heavy showers.

Holy Island

Holy Island from Arran

Gill was about fifty yards ahead of me as we gathered speed down a good descent and I was contemplating the corresponding ascent that lay ahead. I was estimating just how much speed and momentum I could gather and how far up the next hill it would get me when I felt that horrible blancmange like sensation under my rear wheel. Shouting to Gill at the top of my voice to save her any wasted effort (she was at the bottom of the hill by now) I braked hard before the tyre destroyed itself on the rim and managed to stop at the lowest point of the descent. Great. A rear puncture means unloading the tent and panniers, getting oily from handling the rear mech and to top it all having changed the tube and loaded everything back on the bike we would have to start the climb from zero miles per hour. That’s what I call a bad puncture. Today, by contrast, we turned the corner to our house at the end of a really nice morning spin on our road bikes and five yards from home my back tyre deflated. “I’ve got a flat”, I called to Gill, with a big smile on my face because that’s what I call a good puncture. Funny isn’t it?