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Friday, 27 July 2012

Home via Horse Guards Parade

It's very tucked away, Horse Guards Parade and the visit to Hyde Park and The Mall had only served to illustrate this more clearly/more covertly.  We needed to complete the task, so we headed back towards ExCel to track the river to Westminster, find the elusive HGP and head home on the train.

Taking leave of the hotel was odd, can't imagine spending 30+ nights in various hotels and B&Bs will happen again?  Even odder was the encounter with the policeman in his large police van as we approached ExCel.  "Do you need a lift?  There's plenty of room in the van.  I saw you on TV last night, well done!"  We declined the kind offer and off he drove - who'd have thought...?
Great views from a bike

Slightly nervous, waiting for the interview with Jon Harle
We stopped off at Tower Bridge so that Jake could renew his acquaintance with Jon Harle who had interviewed him at BBC Radio Newcastle and offered a quick chat now that the adventure was over.  A really lovely bloke - if ever you were to be interviewed for radio, he'd be your man.

That done we then headed towards Parliament Street to see if we could peer through to HGP.  We were approached by Mum and daughter who had seen us on the TV & wished us well - the power of television is extraordinary.

So a quiet pedal down Parliament St. and an obvious photo opportunity at the end of Downing St.  Philip nudged Jake into handing over a postcard to one of the Police Officers and then, in the space of just a couple of hours, we had our second surreal encountered with the boys in blue.  "Would you like a photo taken in front of Number 10?"  Now, having thrown away the previous offer, it seemed churlish to do the same on this occasion...

What's more, the Officer outside Number 10 was a keen cyclist (with Egyptian hieroglyphic tattoos - somewhat unexpected) and took one of our postcards and pushed the button on our camera for a photo opportunity we would never have imagined.
No need to curtsey, Jake

How unlikely was this?
We left Downing St. with the broadest grins, but the day was about to get more surreal and move from grin to verging on hysterical laughter.

There, crossing Whitehall, was the bike, the hair, the bluster... the Mayor of London.  "Boris, over here Boris, come and meet this young man, Jake!"  Buoyed with Downing St. exuberance Philip, called, beckoned and succeeded in obtaining Mr Johnson's attention.  Unbeknown to the team, this full scale assault was being monitored by a BBC News camera and journalist desperate to engage Boris about the proposed PCS strike.

With stereo eccentricity, Jake seems to have zoned to a
pleasant and quieter place.

BBC journalist despairs of unscheduled interruptions -
he obviously hasn't met Philip.
Boris chatted, took a postcard and conducted an interview with the BBC about the PCS and moved on seamlessly.  His days are probably littered with surreal encounters and this was another of those, but for team BikewithJake it provided nervous laughter for many hours.

The jittery giggling was continued when we finally did the Horse Guards Parade photo - even the horse was getting that end-of-journey, demob feeling.  And that was that, all sites visited, over 1400 miles cycled - a never can be repeated experience and three very privileged cyclists - thank you everyone, it's been incredible!
Couldn't have put it better ourselves!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

London Tonight

We won't lie, the team were feeling subdued.  We had cycled over 1400 miles, we had stuck to the task regardless of Jake's injury, the onslaught of the British summer weather and the fatigue of a five and a half week adventure.  We had achieved many of our objectives but we had spectacularly failed to reach our sponsorship target.

We had received great support en route, fantastic media coverage and raised money with help from our main sponsor Hornby and the brilliant support of our charities.  It just didn't feel enough.  So, imagine how thrilled we were to be invited on ITN London Tonight!
Jake being filmed by the Olympic Park &
being interviewed by Louise on her first day
for London Tonight.
A filming session in the morning was attended by Lucy & Dave from Access Sport, who had arranged this opportunity.  We were then taken, by taxi, to the ITN studios near King's Cross.  What an incredibly surreal experience.  A hive full of worker bees all busy and focussed on their role to meet the demands of the Queen Bee (the 6:00 pm deadline) - it was fascinating.  It was just as well that we were absorbed with all that was going on - not much time to panic.

The added bonus was getting an opportunity to met and talk with Anne Wafula Strike, she was the first Kenyan woman to compete at a Paralympic Games and has since competed for Great Britain.  She was on London Tonight to raise awareness about the plight of people with disability in Haiti after the earthquake.
Anne Wafula Strike and Jake at London Tonight Studios.
Discussion over tea and chocolate hobnobs.
Philip was not allowed into the studio, their excuse was that there wasn't enough room on the sofa, you can make up your own minds!  Anyway, he got an opportunity to view Nic and Jake's panic from the calm surroundings of the production gallery...  Not exactly!  The programme hinged on live reports from the 'red carpet', Leicester Square and the opening of The Dark Knight.

Queen Deadline needed to be fed!  There was a 'no show' on the carpet, there were raised voices in the gallery; Phil, the studio manager, went to turn down the volume to his earpiece thinking he had turned it up - wrong!  "Ahh, you are shouting," he said, realising there was a degree of nervousness emanating from the room of massed TV screens and stressed production managers.

Suddenly, we were in the studio, Phil was tripping over cables and Ben Scotchbrook had a quick pre on-air chat with a non-communicative Jake, "Now is not the time to be silent," was the general gist of his banter.
Still from the London Tonight interview
What a fantastic experience!
Jake was not silent, he was great.  Ben, if we can be so informal, introduced us mentioning our 2 charities.  There was footage of us from the morning, a couple of still photos from our journey (including one from Lee Valley with Jake holding his Hornby mascot and wearing his cap) and best of all a link to the Tour de France and Bradley Wiggins -wow!  True, we didn't get a chance to remind people to donate but what a brilliant experience.

ExCel & The Olympic Park at Night

Sorry ExCel but it was quite tricky trying to motivate the team to cycle to see this venue.  As a result of a non-cycling day in Wembley, we were slightly out of sync and therefore we had reached our target destination whilst leaving a couple of venues still to visit.
Walking towards ExCel for a photo in front of the building
accompanied by the people who could say, "Yes."
The pedal down to ExCel was straightforward enough and we were able to line up a relatively unencumbered photo.  What really made our trip to ExCel worthwhile, as has so often been the case, wasthe unscheduled chat we had with a group of busy LOCOG officials and police and the enthusiastic reaction to our ride we got from one of the soldiers at the barrier.
The happy trio
We headed back to try and track down a relatively clear view of the Velodrome - this proved impossible from a bike, despite cycling to Leyton and points beyond.
"There it is!", shrieks from the B&Q car park.
On reflection - not a great view!
Down-hearted but not beaten we then headed for the 12th floor of the Staybridge/Holiday Inn building.  No velodrome in view but...
The Orbit ... hmmm maybe we'll come to love it -
we're sure the views would be spectacular.

Strange expression - must be the altitude.
P.S. this is the best photo of Jake here?

Aquatics Centre, Orbit, Stadium, Water Polo Arena.
The tents in front are for spectator checks.
The Shard, Gherkin and other London landmarks in background.
The team then hung around to repeat the experience at night...
Funky view from Westfield 'viewing gallery'.

Lit up against a leaden sky - very impressive!

Looking over to the Shard & Gherkin with pulsating lights
and musical accompaniment.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Olympic Park

True, we still have Horse Guards Parade and ExCel to visit but we're here, just outside The Olympic Park!

Hornby photo shoot done, the team felt a little quiet.  It was still raining and the prospect of the dream of entering the Olympic Park seemed to be being diluted with every hour that brings us closer to the opening ceremony and with every raindrop that seeks to dampen Olympic spirits.

The team decided to go on a recce to see what they could see from Westfield Shopping Centre having heard  the view from John Lewis is worth a look.  They donned their civvies and put on their walking boots and moved in on the target.

And there it was, a sign saying Pass Office.  Hmmm, maybe an opportunity, at last, to get a LOCOG name to e-mail to ask for some sort of special permission to just step inside.  An initial enquiry was followed by a referral, the second enquiry led to another referral and 2 men appeared.   A third enquiry led to these 2 men making further enquiries and suddenly we were there!

Security cleared, rucksack x-rayed, decidedly bemused we were standing in front of The Olympic Stadium alongside the fabulous curves of the Aquatic Centre, The Orbit sandwiched between the two.  Mike, John and Adrian had appreciated Jake's efforts and the unique challenge that he has completed (never to be done again) and had repaid him brilliantly.  

It was hugely emotional, yes because of where we were standing, but more so because, despite the tremendous pressures these people are under, they recognised Jake's achievement and went out of their way to acknowledge it.  Thank you SO MUCH!
Never happier!
Let the Games begin.
The Olympic Stadium and Water Polo Centre
By the way, it is a great view from John Lewis too...
Aquatics Centre and The Orbit

The Copper Box


Thanks to Hornby we have added £1000 to our fundraising kitty, given the bikewithJake team some invaluable publicity and very generously added to his mascot taxi collection!
Stadium, taxi, Alex a huge collection of commemorative toys
and a very happy Jake!
A photo-shoot was planned for today and gave us the opportunity for the team to meet up with the life-size, working Road Cycling London taxi cab.  Alex was there from Hornby, Tom was there from Threepipe, Lucy was there from Access Sport and Amy was there from Action for Children.  There was a photographer, there was rain and grey skies and it was all very exciting.

Jake, resplendent in his red Hornby kit, kindly donated by Hornby, took on modelling responsibilities on behalf of the team as we stood using the Olympic Stadium as a back-drop and celebrated reaching our destination.
Alex, Jake and Lucy (Access Sport)
sponsorship cheque being handed over.

Alex, Jake and Amy (Action for Children)
sponsorship cheque being handed over.
What a great way to have our largest donations handed over, personally from our main sponsor to our 2 charities.
That's why we've cycled this far (1386 miles) so many, many thanks!

Hyde Park, The Mall - Venues 20 & 21

Nice run to Hyde Park past the Albert Hall and a quick coffee by the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by the Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei - it's great and Jake had a fun time leaping over the cork structures.
Where does all the energy come from?
Then we were off to the Serpentine, home of the Triathlon and long-distance swimming events, today just full of people enjoying a rare glimpse of British summer sun.
Isis overlooking the Serpentine and stands
From here the destination was The Mall but the team's journey was interrupted by a surreal encounter as we left the Park.

There they were, just outside the Park.  People we know - amazing.  Not just people we know but Philip's brother and family.  What's more it was Steve's birthday.  What's more we had no idea that he would be in London.  The most wonderful surprise whilst still being quite a bizarre occurrence.
Spot the family resemblance?
I suspect Steve rather hopes you can't!

Jake, Beccs & Lorna - (sorry Tom, didn't capture you on film)
After a quick catch-up the sane half of Philip's family went to find some 'Boris' bikes to pedal off to a restaurant whilst the slightly batty side of the family went in search of The Mall and Stratford City Holiday Inn Express.

The Mall was teeming with people all with cameras in their hands, posing in front of Buckingham Palace, charging down The Mall as if finishing the marathon, negotiating barriers on Boris's blue machines.  Jake just had to join in...
Closing down the finish

As for Horse Guards Parade - shelved for a later date as we still had the trek across town, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's Cathedral, Bank of England, Bow etc.

Lord's Cricket Ground, Earl's Court - Venues 18 & 19

A disturbed night - Nic's itchy legs and the strange night-time activities of the local young inhabitants.  In Basildon we had been 'entertained' overnight by cars racing around the large car park.  In Wembley the car theme was far more sophisticated.  A narrow street with parked cars both sides meant traffic going up needed the traffic going down to give way and vice versa.  The game appeared to be who would back down first - it was a long night!  At one stage it included a police riot vehicle - we didn't get this when we were in Peebles!

So morning came, Nic bravely donned cycling shorts and paraded her blotchy legs for all to see and we reacquainted ourselves with our bicycles.  Transport for London had come up with a super route across to Lord's and we headed East to the home of cricket.
Outside the ground
'Play up, play up, play the game.'
Play the game - hmm.  Poor souls at Lord's, they were suffering from such a severe bout of paranoia that it was almost enough to warrant a lengthy visit to Harrow hospital.  We hope they calm down enough to enjoy the Olympic Archery because The Games should be a festival that everyone can enjoy, even stressed event managers.

From St. John's we headed south and a very interesting journey by bike to Earl's Court - never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined cycling along Kensington High Street - so we didn't, we walked that bit, it seemed the safest option!

The front of Earl's Court still looked like a building site but it took all of our efforts to get a photo of the back through the guarded open gateway.
The London logos look pretty cool on
Earl's Court

The happy trio - it's sunny!

Wembley - Harrow - Wembley?

Harrow, you say, what Olympic Venue is housed at Harrow?

There is no Olympic connection with Harrow of which we are aware but this did not deter the team from spending all day there.  In fact, having returned from Harrow to Wembley they did an about turn and revisited Harrow just for good measure.

Stranger still was that all this to-ing and fro-ing was done without the turn of a single pedal but by the roar of various Falcon taxis.

The cause of this strange behaviour was the particularly impressive effect the taking of an anti-histamine had had on the Reading mosquito bites.

With apologies to the squeamish - a sample of Nic's 'target'
mosquito bites now infected.
An estimated 25+ bites.
Overnight Nic's legs had transformed themselves into some kind of alien feature, swollen, red, hot and very itchy.  Taxi to Harrow's Nicholas Park & St. Mary's Hospital - Accident and Emergency Department.  A remarkably quick entrance to see Dr. Omodu and despatched clutching a prescription for 3 items.  A taxi back to Wembley and 15 minutes establishing that neither High Road chemist could fulfil the prescription and the prescription therefore needed changing.

Back to Harrow in another taxi, whilst all the time the fluorescent red marks spread their glow further and further afield.  Again a quick turn round visit to Dr Omodu who kindly phoned ahead to a local chemist to check their stock and off we went to locate a solution.

Nic was now feeling quite out of sorts and stamped her foot at the end of a blotchy, itchy leg and refused to move from Harrow until the medication had a chance to kick in ... thank goodness for the in-hospital branch of Costa's & WH Smith as the team were confined until 5:00p.m before Nic agreed to leave.

An odd day, not one that had been factored into the schedule but according to Dr Omodu pedalling should be able to be recommenced the following day.

Wembley Stadium & Arena - Venues 16 & 17

Off we went to tackle Wembley Stadium.  Fortunately, it was in it's final day functioning as a tourist attraction so we made it as far as reception.

Even more fortunately, we located a fantastic host - Tom was brilliant.  The team had not bargained for the 1948 Olympics memorabilia that is housed at Wembley.
Some of the 1948 gold medallists

Jake standing next to the very
understated 1948 flame cauldron.
Despite the initially unpromising prognosis about what we would be able to see, we even managed to look down on the pitch of this very spacious, clean 90,000 seater stadium.  We had a really brilliant tour.
Tom pointing out the area designated for extra
media seating for The Olympics

Three happy team members.
From the Stadium we crossed to the Arena, in a former life the swimming venue in 1948.  There was obviously lots of construction going on so we were more than pleased to get a front of venue photo.
Team bikewithJake outside the Wembley Arena

Kingston to Wembley

Having completed the south of Thames experience we needed to head north.  We had really wanted to visited the notorious Box Hill section of the road cycling course but we feeling jaded and decided we couldn't risk the amount of time it was likely to take.

It was good for the team to discover that the initial route away from Kingston took them along some of the Time Trial and Road Race route so that we can at least say we pedalled a bit of Olympic route.  It was an interesting journey northwards, planned courtesy of Transport for London website - it worked really well and we had a great ride until we hit the Hangar Lane gyratory - not good by car and with an equally befuddling series of exits for cyclists using the subway - to be avoided.

Reaching Ealing Road was fantastic, far too busy and hectic to cycle, we walked mostly, soaking up the atmosphere of colours, smells, shops extending out into the street as a little bit of Asia blends into multi-cultural London.  There was an amazing Hindu temple under construction - well worth a look.
Apparently 10 years under construction - stunning

The only other thing of note en route was a stop at a Pharmacy.  The Reading mosquito bites were still hanging on and Philip persuaded Nic to invest in some anti-histamine tablets as some bites were beginning to look angry - good move?

Wimbledon - Venue 14, Hampton Court Venue 15

Seeing Wimbledon from the back of Larry's magic transport did not constitute visiting the venue so we had more back-tracking to do.

First we had a photo-shoot to do.  Suresh Singh, Deputy General Manager at the Holiday Inn and all the staff were absolutely fantastic hosts and we all had a fun photo shoot outside the hotel before pedalling off to the All England Lawn Tennis Association.
Team BWJ with our fantastic Holiday Inn hosts.
At Wimbledon we were lucky enough to bump into Tom who helped us get a great photo as proof of our visit.  Quite a relaxed venue compared to others but then they'd just done a Grand Slam tournament so everything seemed to be running smoothly.
Trying to drive into Centre Court
We then had by far our best mocha coffee of the whole journey at 'Paul' in Wimbledon village - we didn't say no to trying out some of their pastries either mmmm.  We took the scenic route to Hampton Court desperate to make it in the dry...
Richmond Park - 3 handsome fellows?
On the way, we got wet.  We also got incredibly muddy as we scooted along the towpath.  We were overtaken by a hardy group of 16 cyclists from North Wales beginning their annual pilgrimage back to home from a variety of starting points - this year, London.  It had started to rain.

Luckily for us the two ladies at Hampton Court were very hospitable and knowledgeable as we chatted and took photos.  They heartily recommended the Time Trial as an event to watch - we just might take them up on this!

Jake standing roughly where the Time Trial
start ramp will be.
We headed back to the hotel in the drizzle, getting plastered but pleased with our day when splat!  Down came Philip on some slippery planks alongside the Thames.
Ouch! But just look at those muscles

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Greenwich to Hampton Court

Originally planned to include Greenwich Venues and Wimbledon, the timetable went out of the window with the regression to Teletubby Land and the team found itself hacking across London trying to get in to the Holiday Inn Kingston Slough without a particularly clear plan about how to go about it.
The Shard under grey skies - a long way to go.
So, we got to Merton, it was late.  The team disintegrated into 3 individuals all wanting to go in different directions.  It was not pretty, not good for morale and then ... Jake had a puncture - aaargh!

There was a garage just down the road, could we get it together and sort out how to mend puncture and get from Merton to Kingston in the failing light and impending rain?

Of course we could because we found Larry!  Larry had a 'mini bus', knew where to find the Holiday Inn on Portsmouth Road and took to his role of knight in shining bus like a duck to water!  We were initially happy to take directions, we were then offered the opportunity to follow him, he then proposed the full journey to Kingston before, eventually throwing in a trip passed Wimbledon for good measure.

In addition to his driving skills, Larry had great knowledge of just about anything and everything and was tremendous company.   

The team would like to wish Larry all the best in his quest to move from London to Somerset - he deserves the quiet life!

Greenwich Park - Venue 13

We were quite chilled about Greenwich Park, home of the equestrian events.  Such a large area, we'd surely just rock up and there would be a photo opportunity?

Ah, there you go you see - you never can tell.  Despite our best smiles, our best photo opportunity was outside the Maritime Museum but it definitely confirms our location.
Message in a bottle at
Greenwich Park.
Stands to main arena in background.
Jake was a little despondent but just as we were about to leave we bumped into some lovely gentlemen from the police and LOCOG who made our visit so memorable - as always, it's the people!  Thanks for applause for Jake as he left the Venue - very special.

North Greenwich Arena - Venue 12

You do know the North Greenwich Arena, really you do - (aka Millenium Dome, aka O2 Arena).  We could see the hedgehog from the corridor at the Holiday Inn.  We wondered whether that counted?
It is now an iconic sight.
However, anyone for cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks?
We visited it, in the daylight - it was still open to the public and loads of people were milling around - security didn't like our bikes much though.
O ... look it's the taxi about to get wet.