Bettyhill to John o’ Groats, 83 km, 829 m climb, average temperature 9C. Departed Bettyhill about 0900 for the 50 miles to JoG, our final leg. There was a theoretical option to go to Dunnet Head – most northerly point – but the weather forecast was not propitious. Winds of 25 mph+, increasing during the day to 40 mph and rain at 3pm. Any thought of Dunnet Head depended on time at the diversion and what time there. The route was quite lumpy at first, with long climbs and long descents. The Garmin altitude trace resembles a sine wave – horrendous. Add the swirling wind, sometimes head on, sometimes sideways, sometimes following and progress was somewhat spasmodic. Eventually Jen and I saw the white dome of Dounreay nuclear site and we stopped in Reay for a coffee and Tunnocks, to fortify the over forties.
Onward to Thurso for lunch, arriving about 1300. Very good caff in the pedestrian precinct and took on more fuel to combat work and low temperatures. It felt really cold in the wind and waterproofs were deployed fairly soon. The climb out of Thurso was a killer – caught me out and necessitated a stop for static gear selection and a cross road, horizontal re-start. Not elegant. This climb introduced us to a strange section of the ride, across a remote moor, with straight, undulating roads disappearing to infinity. Were the Romans here, I asked. After many pedal turns, we issued on to the main road again, for the triumphal run in to JoG. Except the wind had other ideas, trying to blow us off the road and then block all progress. Riding into a strong wind is so soul-destroying. Seeing habitation on the horizon raised the spirits, suggesting that here was IT. But no. Hopes dashed many times. Past the short ferry to Orkney, past a caravan park, past more habitation, and then suddenly, it seemed, the hotel we were staying at, Jen had a momentary panic that it wasn’t the hotel she had booked but all was well. So down the A99 to the JoG visitor centre and signpost – a surprisingly long way from the hotel. Lots of photos and congratulations and hugs and such like. All very satisfactory.
The ride back up the the hotel into a 40 mph headwind was the final roll of the weather dice – a practical joke. Celebratory champagne from Chris, not at the Signpost but in the haven of the hotel lobby.
We’ve done it! Here we are, trying to remember all the 17 previous days, the adventures, the mechanicals, the glorious days, the super views, the sheer enjoyment and uplifting rides. Lots of highlights – too difficult to pick out one as special. It will all sink in when we review the Facebook entries and the photos and the memories. When I’m sitting in the arm chair at home, dribbling down my cardigan, it will warm the hartles of my . . . . .no! no! The cockles of my heart.