Vicky Duke's North West 500
This epic adventure all stemmed from an inspiring talk by Mark Beaumont (global cyclist extraordinaire) who had just completed a top to bottom bike ride of Africa – the talk also showcased Scotland's equivalent of Route 66 around the North Coast – it looked stunning, suddenly it seemed do-able - I got carried away! So what better way to mark a major life-change than to hop on my bike and raise money for a fantastic wee charity set up for Joanna Walters who died tragically young at 28 in a bike accident in 2010. For me as I bowl along it's all about remembering Jo, who grew up with our children and how she made the very most out of life. As you will see from the JWT website they have supported manyprojects which would have been close to Jo's heart from Aberdeenshire to Madagascar and beyond.
The defined 500 mile route seemed a step too far so my trusty roadie has refined this to 450 although sadly there are just as many hills! My route kicks off at the end of May in Inverness (see map), heading west past Achnasheen and Kinlochewe to Gairloch. Then north past Ullapool, Inverkirkaig and Lochinver, Stoer and Scourie to Durness on the NW corner. Along the north coast to John o'Groats then finally down the east coast past Wick, Brora and Golspie towards Inverness - phew! The distance, the mountains, the head winds not to mention the midges will be challenging but one thing’s for sure, it will be worth it! If you feel like sponsoring me (every penny of which will support the very worthy JWT) this would keep me going far more than any of Peter's acclaimed flapjacks and I honestly won’t be making a habit of it, this is a one-off!!
Here's a flavour of the journey with far too many unflattering photos - annoyingly you have to go to the 'i for info' tab for details:
Safely home! The strong head winds made for long days in the saddle combined with plenty of steep ascents, not to mention panniers full of equipment and clothing for every eventuality - this was the North of Scotland after all! So much for dawdling along stopping here and there for a spot of culture - just getting to our B & B (in time for supper) meant a good 9-hour day on the bikes!
However what kept us going was the backdrop of spectacular mountains and fabulous views over sea and lochs, constant birdsong and delicious smell of bog myrtle and heady aroma of coconut from the gorse but above all the encouragement of both friends and the strangers we met along the road. We couldn't help noticing we were the oldest ones doing this by some margin but we did earn respect!
Really happy to say that the total raised for the Jo Walters Trust thanks to everyone's generosity and including cash, cheques and pledges, is over £3,000. It meant so much to be doing this in Jo's footsteps.
Lots of love
Huge thanks to Vicky and Peter and all their friends and supporters for the generous sponsorship, the effort and organisation and the committment. Well done!