DAY 18

Today's mileage: 53
LEJOG mileage to date: 988

Map view:

Google Earth view:

And the ride to date:

The day was a grey one.

The day started on a good note when the farmer arrived to feed his cows, Hoilly, Molly and Dolly.

He gave us some extremely fresh eggs! He had cross-bred different breeds of chicken in an attempt to get tartan eggs. :-)

While it wasn't actually raining, it felt like it was about to, so I put on my jacket.

We set off through the village.

The road atlas, GPS and road signs gave three different distances to John O'Groats: 52, 53 and 55 ...

While the weather was not quite as kind as it had been, I didn't think it likely this gate was going to see any use today.

Ok, it's another A9 shot, but I think I can be forgiven this one.

The day did begin with a 700-foot climb!

Erica was waiting at the top, having breakfast in a layby.

The grey clouds were clearing; it appeared the weather gods had only been teasing us and the blue skies were coming back.

A traffic light was one thing I hadn't expected to encounter today!

At almost every stoip we'd made in Scotland, whether overnight or refuelling, someone had commented about us having Berriedale ahead. This legendary climb was growing more legendary by the day!

When it arrived, it certainly was bastard-steep. The hairpin was the worst, jumping significantly in level.

But it wasn't anything like as bad as I was expecting. From all the warnings, I'd half-expected to be climbing for hours, or even to have to get off and push the trike up. Either the severity had been exaggerated in the telling, or I was now fitter than I realised!

The hill eased as we climbed, to around 400 feet, not the 600 feet everyone had been claiming.

It did feel good to be at the top, though.

Especially as Erica was waiting at the top, and handed me a cup of tea the instant I stepped inside. :-)

We went to feed the cute ponies in the field opposite, and a passing postman kindly offered to take our photo.

Desperately trying to avoid more A9 shots ...

Which wasn't actually going to prove too difficult, as we were about to turn onto the A99:

This was the road that would take us the rest of the way to John O'Groats.

One thing the A99 lacked, however, was places to eat. As we entered Lybster, I spotted a local mowing his lawn and asked if he could suggest somewhere to eat. He said he wasn't sure there was anywhere that might be open, but invited us in for a cuppa. :-) This is Roy:

His wife Pam arrived shortly afterwards, and immediately rustled us up an amazing feast!

The quiche turned out to be bacon and nettle! It was absolutely delicious.

Pam was more camera-shy ...

Pam gave us a tour of their amazing home. It was called Miss Lillie's Cottage. Miss Lillie had been born there, and died there, aged 102.

I wanted to buy them a drink for their kindness, but they absolutely refused. Waving goodbye to them, it was next-stop Wick.

We caught up with another LEJOGger en-route.

We had an enjoyable chat as we cycled together for a few minutes. He'd been going for 50 miles already that day and was going to overnight at Wick before doing the final stretch in the morning.

Then we arrived in Wick.

And had almost passed through it before we found an open cafe.

Suitablly refuelled, we had just 16 miles left to go.

I couldn't resist photographing pretty much every JOG signpost along the way ...

Ok, it5's a road shot, but at least it's not the A9 any more ...

Um ... look, a not-road shot:

The GPS directions were fairly self-explanatory.

The very last junction before JOG:

Please excuse one last road-shot.

Before ... <Fanfare of trumpets>

We rode 988 miles and the best they could manage was this ropey-looking sign?

Ok, so I lied about the last road shot ... This is the final run in to the harbour:

As we reached the harbour, I rode onto the jetty. A local asked me if I was planning on going into the water. I said no, but I was damn well going to get as far north as could be done on dry land.

Yep. we have now officially run out of Scotland. :-)

Erica met us there for photos.

We'd done it. We'd cycled 987.79 miles, from Lands End to John O'Groats, in 18 days, two days ahead of schedule.

I really can't tell you how that feels, especially given that this really was an uncertain enterprise for me. At the beginning, I simply didn't know whether I was capable of doing it, only that I was going to give it my best shot.

But the thing about cycling from one end of the country to the other is that you don't ever have to actually do that. All you have to do is the next pedal rotation. Keep doing those, and you've done a mile. Do 50 or 60 of those, and you've done a day. Do 18 of those, and you've cycled the length of the country.

This photo is cheesy, but it's kind of compulsory:

After that, a quick walk to see the stacks (those pointy bits):

Then repairing to the local hotel for dinner, where Erica bagged the best table:

(Even if we did have to share it with a vacuum cleaner.)

The food wasn't fantastic, but the wine was good and the view from the window wasn't bad.

The view from the bar was even better:

We had a few Lagavulins in the bar, then back to the motorhome, where we finished the last of the Talisker and then tried the mysterious Mexican brandy we'd been given by the hotelier in Rosemarkie. It was very, very good.

There was just one small problem.

That pesky odometer reading. When we'd planned the ride, I'd expected us to break 1000 miles (our original estimate was 1,028 miles). We were 12.21 miles short.

However, I had a cunning plan to fix that, the following day ...

Onto day 19 ...