And we’re off! Day 1: John O’Groats to Helmsdale

At this time of year, and in this part of the world, it gets light well before 5am and we were nearly up early enough to see the sunrise. What a difference a day makes. Gone were the clouds, rain, and howling gale and in was a clear blue sky and lighter winds. After a porridge breakfast, Jer was eager to set off and finally start the challenge. With only two other guests in the hostel (both end to end cyclists), it was very quiet…too quiet in fact – we couldn’t find the hostel manager to open up the bike shed! She appeared in the end, a little bleary-eyed, just after 7am.

We drove the short distance to John O’Groats and Jer kindly posed for various photos and videos around the start line before taking the cue to ride off into the distance…and head for our first target, Helmsdale, 55 miles away. The route today was very straightforward, a short stretch of A9 before joining the A99 that hugged the coast all the way down to Helmsdale.

I drove ahead and found suitable spots at the 20 mile and 40 mile markers – both, as it turned out, on the forecourts of abandoned petrol stations at Thrumster and Castlehill. We attempted to make a cup of tea at the first stop but Sean’s (aka Shane Lightning) petrol stove produced a little more flame than expected – more of a fireball than a gentle burner! Fortunately Jer managed to wrestle it to the ground and off the flat-bed. We will try something else tomorrow, probably the flask method…

Apart from nearly setting light to the pick-up, Jer’s first day was comfortingly uneventful although one long climb certainly dispelled any idea that this was going to be easy. A quick stop to relieve the onset of cramp and to get the colour back in his lips was all that was needed this time. But…there are many stories from other cyclists that there’s worse to come. Oh goody.

Jer dropped down into Helmsdale around 2pm having cycled for 4 hours 40 minutes at an average speed of just under 12 miles an hour. Nicely done Jer and a well deserved rest this evening.

We can’t close without thanking everyone for sending their good wishes today. It’s so great to know that Jer is being supported by all our family and friends. Please keep it up, it means a huge amount.


One Response to “And we’re off! Day 1: John O’Groats to Helmsdale”

  1. Wellden family says:

    Just keep peddling, just keep peddling. Friend Gary says make sure you have the pedals on the right way or you’ll end up going backwards!

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