Firstly apologies to our thousands of readers for the delay in posting our blogs.  Firstly we hightailed it out of John O’Groats so that we could get home at a decent time today and secondly, after a (very fine) meal, we sat down to write our blogs and the web connection failed on us.  This lost the 60% of blog I’d written and stopped me being able to publish Ian or Rob’s.

So I’m starting again early this morning and no doubt the passage of time will mean a slightly different take on yesterday will emerge.

We are staying in the Barley Bree “Restaurant with Rooms” in a village called Muthill near Crieff.  We think we’ve found the Scottish equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle (The Irn Bru Enigma?) as strange things are a happening in our “e” world.  Rob, our IT Guru at work has been cussing and scratching his head as even Bluetooth has been playing up.

Back to the plot.

On Wednesday night we ate at a great little restaurant in Helmsdale called La Mirage, recommended by Janice the friendly host at our B&B (Heathcote).  The restaurant was apparently quite famous and had been on TV quite a few times.  Barbara Cartland used to frequent it as she had a place locally.  We had an excellent, massive fish meal and drinks for £23 which I thought was pretty decent.

We slept well and awoke to the deep Geordie impressions and the Madness song, realising this was the last time we could (legitimately) do these rituals.  We had our athlete’s breakfast and set off for what looked like a comparatively straightforward day to finish with.  But was there a sting in the tail?

We stopped after 200 yards and I took this picture which showed the task ahead of us for the day.  Actually it isn’t accurate and the distance is more like 51 / 52 miles.

The forecast had been for the weather to change to cloudy and then rain and the wind to turn around to South Easterly.  The weather had indeed changed and there was a full cloud covering, but the wind had clearly not read the forecast and was stubbornly still mainly in our face (ENE I estimated) and made the going, as ever, tough.

For several days now, when people asked our route and we said past Helmsdale, they’d do that motor mechanic face (you know where he sucks his teeth and says “oh, that looks expensive”) and say “you do know there are some pretty stiff hills there don’t you?”.  Within a mile we were into those hills.  They were long and pretty stiff but we pretty much took them in our stride. 

However, our legs were feeling a bit heavy due to the hilly start and the adverse winds and probably made worse because we’d looked forward to having the wind behind for once.  

I took virtually no photos today.  The first 13 days had not really been about the destination, they were all about experiencing the journey.  This day, the last day, was totally about the destination.  I did take one shot though of the Laidhay Croft.

Our original plan had been a one stop strategy, with stop one being after 35 miles in Wick.  Like any good Formula One Team, we were flexible enough (okay, nackered enough) to change this strategy and stop after 22 chilly and tiring miles for a hot drink and shortbread at a small place called Lybster..

Revived, we set off again and miracle of miracles, after a few minutes we senses the wind had changed.  A surge of adrenalin or something hit me and I put the hammer down (whilst singing the obligatory Queen song) and took off.  For the next 13 miles my speed hardly dropped below 20 mph.  It felt great.

As agreed, I stopped in Wick.  The café was on the main road so I left my bike outside and went in to order.  A couple of minutes later, I watched Ian speed past, his eyes firmly fixed on the other side of the road.  I rang him several times and when I got through he said he’d carry on slowly and I’d catch up.

After a great bowl of soup, I set off in Pursuit and after a few miles caught up.  I carried on at speed to make time for a call of nature stop so we could then cycle to the line together.  I stopped with 5 miles to go – thinking it’s done, we’re here now.

The phone rings and it is Ian.  “My bike’s broke bruv” he said.  Can you believe it.  We’ve cycled a thousand miles and with 6 miles to go, Ian’s mashed his bike.  I expect Ian will describe what happened.  I rode back to see Ian sat with a mashed derailleur and a chain hanging loosely.  Can’t see how to fix it says Ian. 

This is where my years of mechanical expertise kicked in.  Well actually, I remember reading on a cycling forum, that if this happens, you shorten the chain, chuck the derailleur and make the bike into a singlepeed.  Of course I knew this but I had no idea how to do it.  Luckily Ian did and we had enough tools to get the job done.

By now, Rob had arrived.  Had we not had the problem, I think it would have been a photo finish who got there first.

The bike patched up, we rode the last 6 miles.  It was hard going for Ian up the final hill, with only one gear but he was not in the mood to get off and walk.  The final mile was downhill and we coasted down.  We crossed the line into John O’Groats side by side as we had started and it felt immense.

We rode over to the Last House on the Mainland and Rob took this picture which I think will remain a special one to me for a long time.

We had a bite to eat in the café there and signed the end to enders book. 

It was great but we weren’t here to explore.  We’d done what we set out to achieve, proving some people wrong and done what we said we would.  We packed the bags in the car, put the bikes on the roof and Rob lit the afterburners.

5/5/2011 05:33:30 pm

Whoever said you wouldn't do it doesn't know the Norris family!! Well done to my two of my amazing brothers.

I did wait up til the early hours hoping to read the blog (!!) after Ian's cryptic text - glad you could send it this morning. Looking forward to seeing you both and celebrating together. xx

5/5/2011 06:13:16 pm

I suppose you could call it an achievement. Well done.

5/5/2011 07:21:48 pm

What an eventful but finally successful last day. Well done and many congratulations to you both.
I thought the episode of the mechanical failure epitomised your teamwork throughout the rode.
We look forward to seeing you both to celebrate a fine achievement.
Love from your proud parents.

5/5/2011 09:40:07 pm

Well done darling!! I'm getting so nervous as you are about an hour and 20 away from home! It's like our 1st date....but this time I promise not to start a food fight with you ;-) lol

P.S. Crying at Dad-ish xxx


5/5/2011 10:15:12 pm

Rode is a special word in my last reply. Ride might be better!,,,
Hope your journey is going well or has now e ded safely and you are with your loved ones.

6/5/2011 03:27:32 am

What an achievement. Even with your detailed blogs I know it has not been possible to capture all the challenges, discomforts & frustrations that you have been overcoming every day in order to reach your final destination. I imagine it is just as hard to put into words your joys & satisfaction at completing what you set out to do. I'm sure memories of the past 2 weeks will last with you forever.


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