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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Thank you Newcastle - it's been fantastic!

STOP PRESS - STOP PRESS Jake has updated his diary here.

So, technically speaking this is a day off...

First stop St. James' Park, home of Newcastle United Football Club - fantastic stadium.  Host to 6 scheduled matches including Brazil, Spain, Mexico and the USA women's squad and then quarter-final matches.  There should be some really exciting Olympic football games played here.

Our host was Dan from the NUFC Press Office, he was tremendously helpful and we had a superb morning checking out the 52,000 seater stadium.  We went pitch side and inspected the amazing job the ground staff are doing with the newly laid turf for the Olympics.

Jake checked out the racing car style seats in the  dug-out, heated apparently for those balmy winter evenings in the North-East.  We even tested out our vertigo by going to the top of the new stand.  Newcastle was looking very fine, the pitch was looking a long way down and the descent was an interesting journey and Jake said, "Wow!" a lot of times.

This is very high up and gives a great view.
Not for sufferers of vertigo.
2nd Venue for Jake's mascot
Destination London 2012 taxi cab

Our host for the morning, Dan from the NUFC Press Office.

After our tour we headed west to BBC Newcastle and an interview with the co-host of the afternoon programme, Jon Harle.  Jon immediately put Jake at his ease talking bikes and cycling stars and the interview was great.  Jon then followed it up by introducing Jake to some unsuspecting ladies who had come for a tour of the BBC - it prompted a quick whip round and coins collected in a first-aid glove (as you do...)

Off we pedalled in search of Sacred Heart High School for Girls.  We were greeted by David Bartley, Deputy Head Teacher and Louise Banfield, one of our original contacts from many months ago.  The school was incredibly peaceful and the pupils were obviously engrossed in their work so Gary took a photo and Louise took our PowerPoint Presentation and Year 10 will be receiving an assembly on Jake's challenge.  It will be great when we get some response from the pupils.

Then, typically Philip, we gate-crashed Sacred Heart Primary School, unannounced to discover they have a strong Eco -Schools and sports bias so we left our information for the Head Teacher, Mr Foster and hope to get some response over the next couple of days.
Olympic display at Sacred Heart Primary

We like Newcastle a lot, a little odd that there doesn't seem to be much in the way of Olympic fever but maybe that's just on the horizon.

Anyway, Jake's day ended on a particular high when, on arrival at the hotel, the manager knocked on our door and delivered a Newcastle United football shirt and a card signed by the staff.

One very happy boy!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

NCR 1 - What a great route! Day 4

Mission accomplished by 10a.m - Thank you so much Mark and the guys at Breeze Bikes, Amble. Phoned from Steph's, Amble Guesthouse, Mark arrived with his van a ferried us all to the shop.

Within a nano second, inner tube replaced, tyres to all 3 bikes fully pumped and brakes checked and a nudge to Philip's front wheel so that he doesn't have to climb hills with the brake rubbing (no stopping him now).
Mark, Nic, Jake & Philip outside the fantastic
Breeze Bikes, Amble
 (Just a little note; there's a theme running through bike shops helping us out on sponsored rides. Last time it was Braking Wind and now it's Breeze .. think on).

Today was a day of sun, sea, sand and breeze.  Breeze, Amble and breeze from the North Sea, chilly!  However, guess what we've got - arm warmers, hooray!

Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside - it's flat!
We decided that safety meant National Cycle Network - Route 1, avoiding those busy roads.  What a great route, well signposted, really good surface and easy to follow - recommended.

Typical fab Sustrans NCN signpost

Route choices before Whitley Bay
The ride turned out to be 51 miles, which was a surprise but we went at a leisurely pace because it was such a fun ride to do. 

Dry again today and yet, despite the suncream and cloudy conditions for much of the day, Philip could offer to stand on St. Mary's Island, in place of the lighthouse and ward off ships with his glowing red nose.

Got to Newcastle, have seen the Tyne and many bridges, one of which had a special significance, have also seen some interesting buildings we may try to investigate.

Achievement - 230 miles/368 km and our second host city.

Gateshead Millenium Bridge with Tyne Bridge and the Olympic Rings
Nic grateful for some dim, distant training in interpretation or they would never have got a room or eaten!  Jake and Philip totally baffled by the accent and the speed of delivery.

Host venue tomorrow and apparently a date with local radio?

Monday, 11 June 2012

Forty plus miles cycling and 1 mile pushing - Day 3

Let's get the pushing mile out of the way - Warkworth.  Looks a lovely place, on the river, by the sea, castle, near our destination and ... ample benches to be able sit and change an inner tube not once but three times!
Anyway, cutting short a very long story - puncture, brilliantly fixed - cycled 50 metres, pop, hiss - big hole (a piece of the tyre lever had broken off in the tyre.  2nd change pump, pump, pump = hiss, hiss, hiss.  Hmmm, puncture kit to the rescue, pump, pump, pump = hiss, hiss, hiss.  2nd patch on pump, pump, pump = hiss, hiss, hiss (and that was just the team!) = walk, walk, walk.  

Philip - knight in smelly lycra.
Panniers on the other 2 bikes, Philip lifted the back & pushed.

A more than disappointing end to a great day's cycling.

Mill House, Kirk Yetholm was great; Clare, David, Hannah & Logan were all excellent hosts, the breakfast was fantastic and we were so lucky to be able to wash the bikes, wash our clothes and have a great shower.  We were also £15 to the good after Hannah & Logan donated £5 each and Molly, a mum at the school also donated £5 after Jake accompanied Logan to school.

We headed off with a promise of coffee in Alnwick, crossed the border just a few miles down the road but the 2 Phipps members hadn't got much umph to their pedalling.  So the team fuelled up on caffeine in Wooler.

Great run to Alnwick with a bit of a grim hill going towards Chillingham and their wild cattle (which we didn't see!) and an incredible amount of roller coaster roads.  Alnwick was in the middle of celebrating London 2012 and the Olympic Torch Relay, so we stopped and met up with Barry Greaves who turned out to be an ex-road racer and gave us the low-down on the local roads.

Have a quick look at the day's ride here.

From Alnwick to Warkworth was great; checked out the sea at Alnworth and hooked up with the off-road National Cycle Route 1 - then the puncture.....

Could go on and on about the scenery, the wildlife and the great villages but ... bed time in Amble, bikes into the kitchen, power cut and a weird mix of mixed seeds, prunes and peanuts for supper (we know how we're going to be powered tomorrow!)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Where's the map? Day 2

Winkston Farm, Peebles - great place to stay however, it would appear to be a black hole for maps.  We turned the whole bedroom upside down - emptied panniers that were packed and on the bike ready for an 8:30 am start.  No sign of our map or our written instructions. Jan, our hostess, did however soften the blow of the map by donating £5.  This reminds us - thanks to Sophie and Freya for their donation via the virginmoneygiving site - readers are welcome to do the same by clicking on the button to the left of this post.
Our suspicions lie with Micky, the cat, his markings
tell us that he's an unusual cat.....
Anyway, we found a page of map that would get us there and then the team were relying on Nic's memory for the written instructions.

We really love this part of Scotland, great scenery,quiet lanes, respectful drivers.  It also an acknowledged centre for lovers of mountain biking.  Hooray! thought Nic we're passing Traquair there'll be bike shops, there'll be arm warmers.  Arm warmers are a complete necessity - we've discovered - goosebumps on goosebumps with a short sleeved jersey and sweaty and uncomfortable with a jacket on.

This seat and one portaloo are the total amenities at Traquair!
No arm warmers then with big dark clouds rolling around the hills - brrrr!

National Cycle Route 1 took us along the Tweed before it then took us on a restricted road at Yair - hmm, bumpy but good cyclo-cross training for Jake.  The end of the bumps brought conciliation of The Airy Fairy - outdoor, self-service coffee stop - thank goodness.

Lack of detailed directions meant we ended up in Selkirk - another unscheduled town and another climb - to over 1000ft. Nic dropped her phone - disaster, smashed screen, sad face. We were put right by Sandy Bruce, a fellow cyclist who also donated £5. The plus point, as with Lanark, is the fabulous scenery and Jake met up with Molly, the puppy and we had a collective photo opportunity.

Almost at top of Selkirk ascent - 11 week Molly
probably a better climber than us!
A well recommended route, beautiful.  We dodged ominous grey clouds all day, bar one shower, and even needed the sun-cream on one occasion.  Met up with fellow cyclists en route to Crailing (they'd been staying at the B&B in Kirk Yetholm - small world).  Crailing to Morebattle was a hard slog with tired legs - probably need to return with fresh legs because views and hares spectacular.

Fantastic welcome at Mill House from Clare, David, Hannah & Logan.  Jake disappeared for a couple of hours, playing with Logan & came back even grubbier - brilliant, just what he needed.

Footnote, for those in the know:  After 57 miles cycling, who would insist on wide open windows because "It's a bit stuffy?"

Off to the seaside tomorrow.