Friday, 2 November 2012

Day 14 “Cold toes & hot coffee save the day!”

Thursday 1st November – Day 14                                    Daily Mileage 889 – Total  5334

“I’m sorry sir but I am going to have to ask you to turn around and go back about 4 miles and take the B8079 which runs parallel to this road just over there” he said pointing over the trees to the left.

“How far back, officer?”

“It’s about 4 or 5 miles, not that far, just turn left and the road comes back out on the other side of the accident area”

“These lads aren’t going anywhere for the next 4 or 5 hours” came the voice of the second police officer from within the car, referring to the ever growing line of tucks behind me.

“Thank you officer,  I hope everyone is going to be OK!”

“Ride carefully sir, it’s very icy”

“I will, cheers”

With that I turned Mr T around, clumsily pushing him backwards a couple of times in order to face in the opposite direction before heading back past the miles of standing vehicles that I’d just ridden past.

A9 at 6.10am

My stomach was churning, my mind racing, repeating the very same sentence over and over again…..

“What if I’d not stopped? I could have, NO, I would have been here! Not good Raymondo, not good, think positive now lad, think positive”.

The night had started as a bit of a disaster, well a disaster in Raymondo terms that is. I’d woken Jeannie up because I’d put my mobile phone in my pyjama pocket which when it went off, were around my ankles as I was sat on the loo, it was 1.15am. I was cursing myself for putting the damned thing in my pocket in the first place.

Outside, I snapped the cruise control clip that goes over the throttle, then at ASDA Self-Service pump I had petrol splash back covering the whole of my left arm and Mr T in the process.

I realised just as I got onto the M62 west bound that the brand new dual heat controller switch that Gerbings had just sent back to me (6 months after sending it in for repair) was not working meaning my heated jacket was doing nothing. The cold was getting to me already even at 4 degrees C. things were not looking good! Pulling into Birch Services I had another go at switching the controller on, nothing. “Great!”
(My apologies to Gerbing, the controller does work, I tested it today and had not pressed the button long enough for it to come on last night, sorry!)

So it was off with the new and back on with the old single controller. What a “faff”, this was the last thing I needed to be doing at 2am in the morning with an 880 mile ride in front of me. The Iron Butt riders always say “do not try new equipment out on big ride”. How true that advice was turning out to be. Old trusty single controller plugged back in, jackets both zipped up and heated gloves swapped back to Seal Skinz winter riding gloves and I was off again. Temperature check 4 degrees C.

Riding at night on 
lit road...


and in Fog...... not good!

Dunblane - After looking closely at my proposed route which I’d planned over a fortnight ago  I’d changed it at about 3.00 o’clock that afternoon by deciding to ride clockwise as opposed to anticlockwise. This would mean I’d be riding  the “night shift” up the M6 / M74 heading to my first Gold Post Box of the night Dunblane. The other change being my start time, 1.30am as opposed to just after midnight giving me a couple of hours precious sleep which I’d enjoyed immensely.

By the time I reached Carlisle the toes on my left foot were starting to go numb, by Penrith I couldn't feel them at all and my right toes were starting to join in the deep freeze too. By the time I reached the Scottish boarder it was time to take action. I pulled into Gretna Service station and bought a coffee. Quarter of an hour later feeling restored I was on my way again. Now anyone that knows me personally will be saying one thing. “Gordon Bennett, Raymondo stopped for a brew after only an hour and a half” Shock horror,well what can I say “Folk’s do change you know”.

Glasgow saw me pulling into the services to top up on fuel and to defrost my toes again. Seems the only part of me that was catching the weather. Half an hour later I was looking for the Gold Post Box which I found near the roundabout in the village centre some 75 meters further on from where I’d plotted it so no great worries there. Temperature check 2 degrees C.

High Street Dunblane
Andy Murray - Gold medal Men's Tennis Singles

Aviemore -  The temperature at 2 degrees C. for the first hour of the 2 hours ride to Aviemore that was until the fog came down. 1 degree C. then my worst night mare 0 degrees C. appeared on the clocks, by this time the screen was frozen solid as was the GoPro

No wonder my video's were blurred!

The only other people on the A9  at 4.30am were lorries, lorries and more lorries. The A9 was full of them. I was so pleased I’d put my panniers on just before going out just for that added security of caring sleeping bag, Bivie bag and even a 1 man tent. Better safe than sorry! Plus the extra bright break and indicator lights where proving to be “priceless” in dealing with the odd “exhaust sniffer” (tailgater to most folk). As soon as I touched the break lever they would back right off. Sadly one thing I do not have on Mr T is a set of rear fog lights but I am toying with the idea after last night.

Having a number of police cars drive past me at unbelievable speed for the conditions only meant one thing. 5 minutes later my worst suspicions were realised in the form of a line of parked lorries separated by the odd car & van.

Sadly two lorries had collided just north of Pitlochry. I rode around them but as you know was  turned back. Luckily the B8079 lane was only 3 miles back and lead me around the crash area.

Arriving in Aviemore it took me a couple of ride byes in order to spot the Gold Post Box as it is sighted on a low level walk way. The chap who took the photo for me told me he was neighbor to David Smith who had won the gold medal. Temperature check 0 degrees C.

Grampian Road Aviemore
David Smith - Gold medal Rowing: Mixed Coxed Four (LTAMix4+)

Grantown on Spey  - I was pleased to be told Spey was only 14 or 15 miles up the road and with the temperature firmly sat at 0 degrees C. I could have done with a little heat from somewhere. As it turned out the foggy cold night was slowly relenting and to my surprise and deep joy allowing the sun to rise, which with it came a couple of degrees then went back down. Although a nice place I was too cold to really care at this point and just wanted to be back on Mr T and tucked up in my Gerbings heated jacket. Photo taken and that was me off up the road. Temperature check 1 degrees C.

I like it "Twisty"

High Street Grantown on Spey
Craig MacLean - Gold medal Cycling Track: Men's Individual B Sprint

Sun Rise in Scotland

Lossiemouth – There was a post on the IBA site a few days ago that read

“Just started having a dabble with the post boxes this weekend ……..  the Lossiemouth one is still red….”

I’m happy to say it is not red but Gold and has been since 2nd of August but I had this information confirmed by Paula a fellow Gold Post Box visitor who was there on 22nd of October. Paul had Tweeted me to confirm it was indeed Gold. Here’s Paula’s incredible Gold Box Journey Blog

The ride in the glorious Scottish morning mist was breath-taking. The sun continued to rise and all I could do was stop and take photo’s every few miles.

Arriving in the coastal town I realised the location was wrong and the Gold Post box is a few 100 metres further down the road at the side of a car park.

Clifton Road West Lossiemouth
Heather Stanning - Gold medal Women's Pairs Rowing

Westhill Aberdeen – Just 62 miles down the beautifully sunny coastal road I found the two Gold Post Boxes some 300 meters apart. Apparently the locals thought the first one near to the athletes home was a little too far out of town so they painted a second near the shopping area and bus stop. So Tim Baille has two Gold Post Boxes in his home town, Result! Temperature check 4 degrees C.

Westhill Drive Aberdeen
Tim Baillie - Gold Medal Men's Double Canoe Slalom

Westhill Drive Aberdeen
Tim Baillie - Gold Medal Men's Double Canoe Slalom

Aberdeen – Riding into the first city of the day was surprisingly easy compared to London. My first destination Golden Square which actually turned out to be a “circular” car park surrounded by some very impressive buildings also in a circle.

Golden Square Aberdeen
Neil Fachie - Gold medal Cycling: Track, Men’s Individual B Sprint

Next I was off to Castle Street which blow me down if it’s not a “Square”! Still the nice lady who came out of the local shop behind me took a good picture and the police officer looked the other way as I rode onto the “No vehicles allowed” square. I like Scottish people they're nice. Temperature check 6 degrees C. (almost tropical).

Castle Street Aberdeen
Katherine Grainger - Gold medal Women's Double Sculls Rowing

Edinburgh – The two hour ride down the A90 with Scotland’s whole quota of “Speed cameras” on it was both relaxing and enjoyable. I know the road well from riding it on the RBLR1000 and also riding it on my own SS1500 in 2010. How time flies!

As for Edinburgh, I cannot believe how different two Scottish cities can be. One a sedate almost large rural country manor type place the other a sprawling full on city of “go – getter's”. I love them both and will certainly be returning for a more leisurely visit.
Temperature check 10 degrees C. (global warming – or sitting to close to van in front).

Hanover Street Edinburgh
Chris Hoy - Gold medal Men's Team Sprint

Hunter Square Edinburgh
Chris Hoy - Gold medal Men's Keirin

Peebles - Two quick photos and I was off for the short ride down to Peebles through some stunning countryside that was once I had extradited myself from the busy streets of Edinburgh. Give me open roads any day of the week.  The A701 which leads into the A703 is a cracking little road and well worth a visit.
Peebles looked a really nice place but as ever I was on a mission to get home in time for “Snuggle – Buggles” with Lilie Rose and if all went to plan I would be, just!

Plotting in Jarrow gave me a 120 mile ride down the west side, plotting in home gave me a 190 mile ride down the east side of the country. Finally plotting in home with a Jarrow way point gave me 215 miles and added 20 minutes it was a no brainer. There was no way I was going to ride a 268 mile round trip for one Gold Post Box.

I finished my Snickers bar off which I’d started in Aberdeen, another swig of water. A quick “I’m OK” text to Jeannie who replied “Have you eaten yet?” How well she knows me and I was off to the last Gold Post Box location of the day. It was 2.15pm Temperature check 5 degrees C.

High Street Peebles
Scott Brash - Gold medal Equestrian Team Jumping

Jarrow – Last year Jeannie & I rode to Moffat with a group of the Manc Riders and we had a brilliant time. As I rode down to Jarrow the road felt very familiar indeed “yes that’s the place we stopped for lunch in Jedburgh” I said to myself. Riding through Kielder Forest again brought back loads of happy memories and the fact it wasn’t raining made the ride almost as good but just not the same.

Well after a good hour and a half enjoying some of the best roads in the North East I arrived at the grid locked A1(M). The 4.3 miles on the A1(M) took almost 35 minutes to complete, the only down side to having rather large panniers. Still when I finally escaped the kayos I was chuffed to see the roads into Jarrow were all but empty and as it was now dark it was 5.10pm

Pulling up at the first location I had plotted in my Garmin and looking up to see a red post box did not impress me much but I knew that Wikipedia can be wrong sometimes so I was off to location number two taken from the press release published on BBC news site. Bingo.

The final Gold Post box of the days is right at the side of the main shopping centre and so with photo taken and that was me for the day!  A quick drink of water. Home plumbed into Garmin 120 miles and with that I got underway. Temperature check 4 degrees C.

Grange Road Jarrow
Josef Craig - Gold medal Swimming: Men's 400m Freestyle - S7

Arriving home just in time to lift Lilie Rose into bed and give her a good old snuggle I felt a little sad. The accident and what could have happened was playing heavy on my mind. When I told Jeannie about what had happened and how lucky I’d been to miss the accident by only minutes she just looked at me…………… the exact same look my Mum had given me in the staff room of Chesterfield Co-op in 1987 when I arrived back from Germany with my sister. We had missed the midnight ferry from Zeebrugge by 10 minutes.  Arriving at the dock to find it had capsized killing 100’s of passengers because my sister wanted a  break & a cup of coffee……..

Day Fourteen - 12 Gold Post Boxes

So all in all a brilliant days riding preceded by one hell of a tough “Night Shift” . Still with only 9 more Gold Post Boxes to visit…………….. “no stop the press………. Royal Mail have just announced that all 110 yes 110 are to have a “Plaque with the winners names fitted to them” and will remain Gold in colour permanently.

98 Gold Post Boxes Visited
10 remaining
Plus 2 according to Royal Mail News

Looks like I need to find the missing 2 Gold Post Boxes. 1 already found and it’s in Manchester on Piccadilly Square, how’s that for a bit of luck! The other is still to be painted for Natasha Baker. Now that just leaves 1 to be found !!! I just hope it's not the post box in London that was painted red again after the Gold Medalists father complained and had it moved from Carshalton Road to Ewell Road for Joanna Rowsell. If so I have them all!

My favorite photo of the day

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