It started with me agreeing to a very innocent-sounding “How do you fancy doing a UK 4 Corners Gold?” which was then quickly followed by a “and we can try to extend it to an SS2000 Gold on the way home, I don’t think anyone has done one of those in the UK yet.”.
We’d already done a 4 Corners ride (John o’Groats, Lowestoft, St David’s and Lands End in any order) but making it Gold meant short stops and no hanging around as the time allowed is shortened to 24 hours rather than 36. The SS2000 Gold is 2000 miles in 36 hours and I believed it would only be achievable using the motorways. That being the case I was pretty happy to say “OK” as I assumed we wouldn’t do it. Fool that I am!
So that’s how come at around 11 o’clock in the morning I found myself once again at the Lands End Hotel making an entry in the End to End book. This time it was the starting point of our ride not the end.
The M4 round Cardiff was another car park but we were soon out of it and onto the twisty roads leading up to St David’s for our 2nd Corner. Last time we were there we stopped at the cashpoint for our receipt but decided this time to go into town to the Texaco garage the satnav showed. Unfortunately the garage wasn’t there. It wasn’t even one of those derelict ones that you see so often now, it appears to have never been there at all. Odd. Luckily there is another petrol station just outside town (no toilets) and we stopped at the next village for a late lunch break and to put on another layer in anticipation of the colder night riding.
We had an uneventful trip to Lowestoft (our 3rd Corner) via Wales and the Heads of the Valleys Road which winds Kevin up for some reason (something to do with “There are at least 3000 roundabouts and at every one the stupid satnav tells me to take exit x to the Heads of the Valleys Road which isn’t on any of the signs. I’m sick of hearing it say that!”); good job we knew where we were heading. We arrived at our designated 24-hour garage in Lowestoft just before 11 pm where Kevin was quizzed at length on the bike’s comm’s by a 125-owning guy who wanted to know all about using a phone on a bike.
By now it was dark although as we rode northwards I was aware that to our left was an orange patch where the sun was going down and to our right the sky was dark blue with lighter blue patches. By the time we had to stop for Kevin to have a power nap at the Iron Butt Motel I was able to watch the sunrise. As he was snoring away so contentedly slumped over the tank bag I didn’t have the heart to disturb him to get the camera out so the event went un-recorded. After 10 minutes or so a loud red van went past and Kevin woke up with a start and said “Let’s go”. I’d never realised before how effective ‘power naps’ can be!
The sun was still making pretty pink patterns in the sky as we passed into Scotland – all those lovely clouds waiting to dump their content onto us later. By the time we got to Kinross it was tipping down and we stopped at the services to put our waterproofs on. Last time we were here it was raining heavily as well and we couldn’t get the bike to start. We had no such problems this time and we trundled on through the downpour.
By Dunbar and our regular petrol stop at Asda it was improving but as we went over the Forth Bridge it was raining again. I kept seeing brighter patches ahead but as I have the greatest weather protection device known to women, aka Kevin, I often thought it had stopped while he was still getting very wet. It was raining hard as we went up the east coast towards John o’Groats and I was very impressed with the Michelin PR3’s that we have on the GTR. I don’t know what it is but they make the bike feel very planted, even on wet roads. If you’ve been up that last stretch towards Wick you’ll know how twisty the last 50 miles or so of the A99 are. I was so comfortable with the bike and Kevin’s riding in the rain that I nodded off as we returned down this road later.
Finally we were at John o’Groats (4th Corner) and I got our End of Ride Witnesses for the 4 Corners at the Journey’s End café. On the way out we decided to stop at the SeaView Hotel for something to eat as their food was good last time. Unfortunately their chef was not in until later so we made do with a cuppa and some crisps. Now it was decision time – bed or continue? Continue. We had enough time to do the remaining miles if we didn’t need too many stops.
On our way out we saw that the local Vintage Car Club was holding an open day. It looked quite sad as there were only a few cars there and I wondered if it was going to be rained off. However, the local inhabitants are made of stronger stuff and a little bit of rain wasn’t going to deter them. As we rode on we were treated to a free procession of lots of old vehicles, all in pristine condition, heading towards the show.
After Kevin had done his final route check before we left home I did a last minute re-route of our journey south to reduce the petrol stops. We discovered when we got back home that I had left Mapsource in ‘Shortest’ rather than ‘Quickest’ route calculation mode which is why we found ourselves heading for the centre of Perth rather than round it. Oops! Luckily the traffic wasn’t too bad and Kevin was able to do a quick re-route on the satnav to get us back out again.
It was not to be the same in Edinburgh. Talk about a comedy of errors. As we pulled off the ‘right’ road into Edinburgh Kevin’s intercom lead unplugged so he couldn’t hear Mrs SatNav or Mrs Pillion. We were immediately bogged down in the traffic and I saw a sign with lots of instructions, one of which was ‘A1’ to the right. We stopped at some traffic lights and I told Kevin we should be going right. Unfortunately he couldn’t hear me very well and thought I was misinterpreting the satnav so he ignored me. We then found ourselves going right through the centre of the city which was completely jammed with traffic. Big Groan. Every traffic light was Red. Bigger Groan. Time was ticking by and it looked like we would fail.
Eventually we were the right side of Edinburgh and into Dunbar for our return visit to Asda (where the receipt ‘printed’ but failed to appear). By now the rain had stopped and we decided to take our waterproofs off and take stock. It was still ‘do-able’ as long as we didn’t get stuck again. So off we went.
Anyone who knows me well will know that I am always hungry, tired, or needing a pee so it must be somewhat of a surprise to learn that I can go for hours on end during these rides without sleep or proper sustenance. What is the secret? I wish I knew. Long distance riding wisdom has certain ‘rules’ about eating, drinking and stopping but somehow we manage to get by without eating tons of ‘field rations’ etc. Every so often I ask for a special stop so I can take off my helmet and have a good scratch and let my ears recover. I make sausage rolls and cheese sandwiches which are easy to eat and we fill up on whatever else takes our fancy as we go round. Kevin always stops for a rest if he’s feeling tired and I just nod off occasionally on the back if it all gets too much!
Nothing mich happened on the trip south apart from my planned petrol stop on the A1 being closed so we continued to the next one. The GTR in Eco mode is much more fuel-economic and whereas at 200 miles we’d generally be riding very slowly on fumes we apparently had another 40 miles or so before empty. We had enough time for a quick helmet-off, drink, bite and head-scratch before heading on for our last 180 mile leg.
At last we came to Thurrock services which was the end of our two thousand miles and I went into the station to get our receipt and witness signatures. It was close as we only had about 25 minutes to spare. A couple of quick photo’s then we headed home for a cup of tea and a really good night’s sleep.
Garmin track showing the route taken.