During the last couple of days of the ride, I had started to think about how I was going to describe it. What would I say when people asked me how it had been? How could I sum it up?
In any activity lasting a month, there are bound to be highs and lows. Making it over Bealach na Ba on the way to Applecross was a definite high, especially as the weather cooperated for once. In fact, the whole section in north west Scotland and on Skye and Mull was superb. I'll definitely be visiting that area again in the future. On the other hand, the rides to Oban and to Mallaig were really tough, mainly because of the weather. The final day to John O'Groats was also very disappointing, with fog preventing views of Orkney.
On the plus side, the only mechanical failure I had on the bike was minor and I avoided punctures completely. Having said that, I did know that my rear wheel was out of true by the end. I've just found out how bent one of the spokes is. I was lucky not to have had a breakage. Actually, the only real threat to the entire schedule was the Skye ferry breaking down. I was really lucky not to have to go far that particular day.
The electronic technology held up pretty well too. I always knew where I was and had enough soft copy maps on my PDA to be able to reroute where necessary. I always had enough battery power for an entire day's ride and was always able to recharge over night.
My only real health worry was my left knee, but once I'd taken to using a support when off the bike, it just got better and better. Saddle sores were a constant annoyance, despite liberal use of Johnson's baby lotion. Last time I'd used that was on my children, while changing their nappies! By the way, cattle grids and bad road surfaces can be really painful!
Overall, I'd say that this was more of a challenge than I expected, but that most of that was due to the weather. I had not anticipated such strong winds, nor had I expected the run of bad luck in wind direction.
Am I glad I did it? Absolutely! Would I go on a cycling tour again? Yes, definitely, though I'd I'd probably not attempt such a long trip next time and I'd build a bit more slack into the schedule.
Along with memories of the ride itself, I have fond memories of the people I've met along the way. From the folks I've stayed with to the cyclists and walkers I've encountered and the people who've spontaneously donated to the charities I've been supporting, everyone has been fantastic. By the way, I've heard from Luc since I got home. He made it to the Hebrides. His ride finishes this week.
I'm not quite finished adding material here. I will post the list of places I stayed. I'll also be working on uploading at least some of the pictures I took with my camera, as opposed to my mobile phone. I'll post a link to them here too.
By the way, cycling is, as we all know, fantastic exercise. Over the time of the trip I managed to lose somewhere between 8 and 9 kilograms, weight that I definitely needed to lose. And that was despite a full cooked breakfast every day. The trouble is, none of my clothes fit any more!