Monday, June 15, 2009

Land's End to John O'Groats

The caffeine tablets have worn off now. All eighteen of them. Washed down with Pepsi Max (the one with added caffeine). I have a chest infection and I'm coughing up phlegmy ash. My wrist joints are sore. My knees are wrecked. And I feel over the moon.
You see, I've done it. Far beyond what I thought I could do, I've done. In one day, on my trusty Triumph Bonneville, I've ridden from Land's End to John O'Groats.
I know it has all been done before. But not by me. Doing it on foot (a la Ian Botham) is awesome. On a pushbike, awesome. But only in a car or atop a motorbike could it be done in one day. In a car would be simply pathetic. It has to be the motorbike.
Meet my travelling companions. Boro lads all: Chris Bell (Belly), Barry Corbyn (Baz), Andy Harrison (Harry), Ben Timney (Ben, my 19-years-younger brother). We have a motley collection of bikes. Belly is on a Kawasaki Versys, Baz is on a Honda VTR, Harry on a Honda CBR, Ben on a Honda Hornet and me on the Bonnie.
At 00:00:01 on 13th June 2009 we gunned our engines at a deserted Land's End and headed north. At 18:25 we turned our engines off atop the "mound" at John O'Groats. 850 miles later. Knackered. Running on instincts only.
We had ridden south from Teesside on the Friday, starting at 04:00 and bedding down at the Commercial Hotel, St Just (5 miles north of Land's End) at 18:30. No mishaps. Just before bed we had rammed in a meal from the chippie. I was straight asleep, so was Ben. The others took longer to drop off, but I think I was up first.
So, with between 2 and 4 hours sleep under our belts (and about the same the previous night) we tore through a silent Cornwall and Devon. We stopped in Exeter to refuel (Baz and Ben were both short of tank range - 120 miles or so from full to fumes). We transferred to the M5 and headed north past Bristol and then parallel to the Welsh border. Sunrise was welcome. Warmth beating off hypothermia. You forget how cold it gets on a bike. Asleep riding a motorbike. Not to be recommended.
Breakfast was just north of Manchester. Then to Carlisle, across Scotland heading for Edinburgh but turning north before that to reach Perth by lunchtime. From Perth to Inverness was a slog through the most beautiful of countries (high praise from an Englishman). After Inverness we crossed Cromarty Firth and refuelled again. The weather, kind so far, was turning. Some 50 miles south of Wick, it turned. Fog. Rain. Driving hail. Almost-zero visibility. Twisty, turning roads where one mistake gets you a bunch of roses tied to some railings. In atrocious conditions we finally rolled into Wick. Refuel. Last 16 miles. In driving rain and freezing fog we released our pink balloons, just as we had at Land's End.
Why the pink balloons? Well, this was all for a reason. Sure, there were the laddish "can we do it?" reasons. But there were deeper reasons too. In 2007, Harry's daughter Jessica succumbed to cancer after a long, painful fight. Harry raises money for a charity set up in Jessica's name to help families in a similar situation. If you are reading this and you have a few quid you could add to the meagre support I am able to give please send it in to me.
My life has a lot of ticked boxes. I can now tick the "Land's End to John O'Groats by Motorbike" box.

Any support you can afford would be appreciated. Cheques to "The Jessica Jewel Trust", cash - you'll have to trust me. Post them to Dr John A Timney, INTO Newcastle University, Old Library Building, Newcastle University NE1 7RU. Thanks in anticipation.

1 comment:

Bbabs said...


"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe