Less than a year after becoming a "cyclist" I was setting off from my home in Keighley, West Yorkshire along the Liverpool to Leeds canal on my bike to embark on my 1st big fundraising & awareness ride, The world famous LEJOG, Lands End to John O'Groats.
Travelling towards Leeds Train Station along the canal I should have known things weren't going to go to plan when I got a puncture at Rodley but unwilling to let all my planning & the support I had gathered down I fixed that & continued to catch my train to Penzance.
This process wasn't as easy as I had thought either.
As a novice cyclist that had never previously caught a train with a bike I was unaware that I had to book my bike on too. This left me having to abort my planned train direct to Birmingham & Penzance & instead I had to go Via Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol Temple Mead to Penzance. An 8 hour journey became 13 hours.
Anyway, I arrived in Penzance & rested at my Bed & Breakfast to ensure an early start to Lands End.
Day 1 - Penzance to Lands End to Penzance to Exeter
Rising whilst it was still dark I set off to cycle the 20 miles from Penzance to Lands End, arriving there for a beautiful sunrise & enabling me to depart with 2 local cyclist's that made me feel like Chris Froome being lead out by the SKY Team.
Pushing on as they left me at Penzance I continued solo to Exeter via Redruth, Newquay, over Bodmin Moor and into Exeter to complete a 150 mile 1st day over the undulating hills over Cornwall & Devon.
Day 2 - Exeter to Bristol
Setting off from Exeter after a great, if not difficult 1st day I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as the rain belted it down for the 1st few hours of the morning until lunch, leaving me soaked wet through but making progress through the hills of Devon as I headed towards Somerset.
At Bridgwater an incident occurred that was going to define my LEJOG experience...... I fell off, my 1st bike accident since I was about 9 years old, and not only did I fall off I CRASHED.
Cut, bruised & bleeding I got patched up at the local Morrison's Supermarket, found a 2nd hand phone to replace my smashed one & because it was easier to cycle than ride I continued, painfully slowly on to my hostel in the centre of Bristol.
Day 3 - Bristol to Wolverhampton (Telford)
After a terrible nights sleep in which I became stuck to my blood soaked sheets I set off to the sight of a young homeless lad slept in a tunnel outside the hostel covered in just a sleeping bag reminding me of why I was cycling for mental health & homelessness.
Forgetting my own pain for a while I set off North towards the Midlands in what was a difficult but unremarkable ride until I found myself at Kidderminister, miles off course.
Because of my injuries I was cycling but not really concentrating on the route, but simply to push the pedals & make progress. This lead me to rebooking my accommodation to a YHA at Ironbridge, near Telford, which again I arrived at, at approaching midnight.
Day 4 - Wolverhampton (Now Telford) to Lancaster (became Oldham)
Well, if you hadn't of gathered by now luck wasn't on my side & day 4 brought no change to that until much, much later.
Cycling towards Market Drayton I gained my 1st puncture, which I quickly changed by the roadside, soon to be followed by my 2nd & 3rd, I just couldn't find the problem & the more I looked the more time I lose, the more stressed I became. So, to resolve the issue I bought a new tyre, not ideal but I was getting frustrated with this day after day cycling.
Then as I reached Tarporley I was welcomed with a wonderful diversion, a nice 6 mile road became a 32 mile detour via the edge of Stoke.
As you can imagine, I was now well behind schedule & my moral was dwindling fast until at Manchester I realised I wasn't going to reach my Lancaster destination.
At this point Andys Man Club came to my rescue again. A shout out was made to the groups members & I was kindly offered accommodation with the wonderful Katie Lockwood in Oldham. Katie's brother had recently committed suicide & thus her interest in AMC, this was a truly inspirational night & one I will never forget.
Day 5 - Oldham to Carlisle
Setting off early with Katie's friend Stacy I was given a lift back to the location I had reached in Manchester before detouring to Oldham. From here I made great progress towards Lancaster as I attempted to make up the distance I had lost the previous day & most importantly meet my Dad who had travelled to Lancaster to ride with me up to Carlisle on what should have been my shortest, mid way rest day. That it wasn't.
Upon reaching Lancaster at around midday me & my Dad cycled up over The Shap & in to a town called Wigton just outside of Carlisle where my Grandparents live & where by cousin gave my now wary bike a quick service.
Day 6 - Carlisle to Dunfirmline
And now things start to go well.
Upon leaving Carlisle I headed through Gretna & up the Glasgow/Edinburgh scenic road up to Abingdon before gaining my 1st real tailwind as I headed across Scotland towards Livingston & the Tay Bridge over to Dunfirmline.
The shortness of this paragraph just tells you how unevenful this day was but what I will say is that that scenic road when your on a bike isn't scenic, the view looks the same, corner after corner after corner for what felt like days. If I was to do LEJOG again I would avoid that as much as possible, it was boring.
Day 7 - Dunfirmline to Inverness
The longest & hardest day of my journey, best I set off from Lands End & one that I knew was going to be hard as I had to face a 150 mile ride & The Cairngorns & i'm not ashamed to say that at Aviemore I cried & didn't think I could make Inverness but after severval talks with my Dad he reminded me how far I had come both in life & on this ride & this ultimately spurred me on to reach Inverness YHA for what would turn out to be my 1st visit there (but more about that on RyanRidesAroundBritian).
Day 8 - Inverness to John O'Groats
Another long day but one that I knew would be my last & one that I really enjoyed. Cycling up the A90 I knew that I had my friends John & Ian waiting for me at the finish & whilst on route they caught up with me & what a feeling it was having people I knew with me again.
Pushing on up the hills of Helmsdale, Berriedale & Dunbeath felt like mountains but as each inch I crept the finish got closer.
Upon reaching John O'Groats I at 1st struggled to find John & Ian because they had no signal but typically they were in the pub & I soon got a wonderful welcome to the signpost at the end of the end to end, a total journey of 1036 miles in 8 days, raising a great £1700 for 2 brilliant charities.