Lands End to John O’Groats 1997 Part 4

….Praise indeed. Over the winter, Ray had proven himself to be one of the club’s stronger riders, and indeed went on to win the annual 25 mile Time Trial championship. In addition, his sartorial elegance on the bike was faultless. The Wattmeister still had much to learn, but this day had been a step in the right direction.

March, April and May of 1997 flashed by. We had discussions about what kit to take and took advice from every possible outlet. But it was old Bill Marshall’s two pearls of wisdom which stayed long in the memory.

“Don’t take too much luggage, you’ll just fill it with useless stuff, and nobody ever wishes they had a bigger gear on the long steep climbs.” We took notice and both managed to fit everything into a couple of panniers each and a handlebar bag. The bikes were serviced, fitted with suitably low gears, and on the morning of the 19th June, 1997, “The Real Deal” and The Wattmeister took the train to Penzance.

To this day Ray insists that when I nodded off at Hungerford, the stream of dribble running down my chin was tidied up by the lady sitting opposite. I’ll never know for sure.

The following afternoon, we set off from Lands End accompanied by fellow North Londoner, Martin into a stiff headwind and steady rain. Ray had elected to be navigator-in-chief, but after guiding us into a Safeway supermarket car park  in Penzance, and then missing an important left turn at Nancegollan crossroads, all within 24 miles of starting, he gifted the role to The Wattmeister for the duration of the trip.

Our energy was spent after a day of relentless climbing and enjoying a particularly scenic ferry crossing. The King Harry ferry carried us across the river Fal from Philleigh to Trellisick allowing us to embark at the foot of another rather steep incline. The prescribed route then endeavoured to include as many rude hills as possible before we arrived at our destination for the  first night, Boswinger YHA.

The warden was a charming and sympathetic woman from Leeds, whose sense of humour cheered us up while we were fed, watered and cleaned up before collapsing into our bunk beds. The following morning saw The Wattmeister up bright and early in order to ask a favour of the warden. In those days, hostellers were required to complete a chore as part payment for their stay.

“When Ray surfaces, would you ask him to clean the men’s toilets?” asked TW.

“Can’t do that,” replied the warden.

“Why ever not?” challenged TW.

“Because Ray has already asked me to ask you to do it”,…said the warden. Checkmate….

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