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Mike's travels 1

Birthday Dash

Leaving the comforts of home to cycle on the UK mainland can be a daunting thought for even a seasoned traveller but I’ve never really let it bother me as the passion for cycling overcomes any fears of road rage, weather, traffic or even pesty youths shouting abuse from cars or the roadside.

Late June 2009 and my older sister was having a special birthday party in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands and what better way to get there than bicycle, so it was a case of ‘on yer bike Mike’ and off I went.

Wednesday 24th June 07:00hrs - I disembark from ferry at Aberdeen astride my ‘Litespeed titanium bicycle and just one small bag attached to the underside of the saddle was all I needed for the trip. Left onto Market Street over the river Dee and head along the Banchory road to the junction with the B979 for Stonehaven, I like to go this route although it take a wee bit longer it’s much safer than going on the A90 dual carriageway. 

From Stonehaven the A92 coastal route to Arbroath is quieter but can get a bit windy, stopped at my regular roadside tea cabin (Greasy Joe's) south of Stonehaven for breakfast where I’ve been known to indulge in the full monty (fry up). From Arbroath the remote cycle path alongside the new dual carriageway to Dundee is okay if you’re not in too much of a hurry but again it’s the safer option. Lifted onto the Tay Bridge by the elevator then cycle along the enclosed path to the other side for lunch at the car parking/viewpoint. 

70 miles done now and legs are nicely warmed up so I’m looking forward to the distance to come even although some of the hills can be ‘challenging’. The mist that plagued me from Aberdeen has now dispersed with the sun out and the temperature up to around 22C, travelling by bike has become very pleasant indeed. 

Through Fife from Tayport to Glenfarg following the side of the river Tay is my most used route thus avoiding any busy roads, then head for the Forth Road Bridge going through Milnathort, Kelty, Cowdenbeath, Inverkeithing. It's only now in the afternoon that I’m starting to see other cyclists out on the roads and on the cycle path over the Bridge, can’t for the life of me understand how so few on such a nice day though.

Thurs 25th June - After a good nights rest at a friends house in Edinburgh I set off through the busy city roads on route to my pre-booked B&B at Lazonby near to Penrith in Cumbria. Once clear of the city centre and onto the A701 for Moffat the traffic thinned down, the sun came out, the birds were singing and the scenery was well worth looking at - what more could you ask for! 

Lunch at Moffat after a long fast decent of the ‘Beektub’ then head for the borders on the old A74 now almost traffic free due to the M74 close by. Over the border at Gretna the head wind had picked up but with not too far to go (approx 40miles) it wasn’t going to make much difference to my arrival time. 

18:00hrs and I’m already basking in the shower at the B&B in the beautiful Eden Valley, I can highly recommend this B&B for cyclists or even non cyclists as this woman looks after you well and takes a genuine interest in your well being, although she probably questions my sanity.

Friday 26th June - 8am and I’m back on the road pedalling for the next overnight stop at Church Minshull in Cheshire, following another familiar route - the A6 to Preston then onto the A49 not my favourite part of the cycle as it takes in Lancaster, Wigan, Warrington etc not really cycle friendly areas with so much traffic. 
Meals at the truckers stop in Carnforth are a must for the hungry cyclist for the food is good, relatively cheap and good sized helpings.

Saturday 27th June - just a short day 68miles to Wolverhapton through Market Drayton and onto the A41 in what now has become a heat wave in England with temperatures close to 30C. Arrived in Wolverhampton in early afternoon to surprise my sister with my unexpected arrival, then it was party time in the evening to the wee small hours. 

Sunday 28th June - morning and time to head back north again following the same route as far as Moffat then veer north west to visit my twin sister in Dunoon. By this time the weather was very hot but as long as I was taking plenty fluids these temperatures were most welcome even to a northern cyclist like me.

Monday 29th June - From B&B at Lazonby north to the borders I took a different route to the one coming south so as to avoid Carlisle city but this proved to be a test for the cardiovascular system with some lung bursting climbs and steep descents to contend with. Once over the border into Scotland I followed the B7076 north through spectacular scenery of the Southern Uplands to the outskirts of Glasgow eventually reaching the ferry terminal at Gourock in the late evening for the short trip across the Clyde to Dunoon.

Thursday 2nd July - After two days in Dunoon my plans were to get to Aberdeen via ‘The Rest and Be Thankful’ but had to be changed after a military plane crashed into the hillside near to the road resulting in a long detour, so to avoid this it was back on the ferry to Gourock to make my way across country eventually reaching the east coast at Dundee very late in the day.

Friday 3rd July - After another overnight stop I was ready for the 70miles hop to Aberdeen and with a lot of heavy thunderstorms looming from the south I was keen to keep moving as quick as possible in a northerly direction.15:00hrs and a total of 950miles covered I arrived in Aberdeen with plenty of time to spare before the 14hr ferry trip back to Shetland. 

Once I’m safely aboard ‘Northlink’ and the bike is secured on the car deck it’s time to indulge in the luxury of shower, dinner & bed, with plans for the next trip never far from mind I easily drift off to sleep with the constant rolling from side to side of the ship.