Several days ago Hugh had introduced us to an idea - that of the last two days pedaling themselves. With an evil glint in his eye he followed this up with stating the possibility of finishing the ride on day ten, after all once we got to Wick we would be within touching distance of the end and it seemed a shame to spend the night there when we could just go knock it off right? And if the day is going to pedal itself you may as well let it pedal a bit more right? In fact it would be even more of a shame if Duncan and I fell by the wayside and had to get up in the morning knowing that Hugh could sleep in right? He ended with the final appeal to our dwindling masculinity that Helen had done exactly the same when she finished her trip. The seeds of the idea were firmly planted and duly ridiculed but seemed to take root. Thanks to Steve's encouragement the previous day we were in a shout with taking it up and it seemed that by the morning it had been all but decided - we were ignoring the aches and pains from the previous day and we were going for it. The huge dose of coffee at breakfast helped and we were soon putting our bikes together. Meanwhile the owner's dog seemed to have got into the enthusiastic spirit and tried it's best to encourage us with a frankly manic display of leaping and jumping.
The prospect of finishing by the end of the day had glavanised us and we set off at a stern pace - often tanking along at over 20 miles an hour in strict slipstreaming formation. I felt the need to comment that this could be the longest sprint finish any of us had ever managed - over 100 miles! Duncan did his best to break the pack where he sped up a hill barely dragging us along behind him. All the suicidal pace came to sudden stop when Duncan's tyre thankfully waved the white flag for all of us. Some repair patches on the inner tube and some on the tyre to support the side wall and we were off again, but at a more modest pace. We did have the luxury of a back wind occasionally and with the warm sunny weather the miles started to melt away.
Our first stop was at Golspie where a couple of curious suggestions came our way. Firstly we spotted a large statue at the top of the hill and Steve suggested walking up to it, a climb of a couple of hundred meters height climbed. We gave this idea the reception we felt it deserved and used the more obvious 'look it up on your phone' route to finding out that it was a controversial statue of the Duke of Sutherland, responsible for burning and butchering most of the indigenous population of Scotland. Steve then followed this up with the idea that if we finished LeJog today we could go for a ride in the morning. Hugh, Duncan and I almost choked on our collective metaphorical false teeth, perhaps it was target fixation setting in but I think it would have taken quite some emergency to get us back in the saddle in the morning if we managed to finish off the ride in one day. Mind you that still left over a hundred miles left to do and it was by no means certain that we would polish this off.
Duncan then picked up some sweet treat in the shop and we continued on. With seemingly everlasting sunshine we rolled on with ease until we found some hills rudely in our way. One particular hill was quite push and the effects of the previous day was begining to make themselves felt. We stopped in a lay by with some Irish bikers and a camper van owner looking for some friendly chatter that clearly his wife was not providing him. I floated the idea that perhaps the 'big day out' approach at the end of 'the big trip' which had been broken up by the 'big night in' for me at least might not quite hang together. Hugh soon headed this sort of talk off and we snacked and pushed on. In fact it was only a sixteen mile stretch to our next stop, the Owl Hotel. This had a lovely view across the bay but more memorable for us was that when we ordered four cups of tea it came with four slices of free cake. Obviously we were looking as bad as we felt and with only 80 miles knocked off. With Wick only another sixteen mile stretch away Hugh declared that we would have to lock his bike up to stop him completing the ride that day. To try and explain how he felt he compared himself to a hound with blood on his nose, I felt like a fox with a limp but I kept that to myself.
Some more crank turning and we were rolling into Wick at a touch and go 5.30pm. By now we had collectively decided to hang onto Hugh's coatails and the end was firmly in sight. We picked up some more food, somehow ending up with yet more dried fruit, and checked into our hotel. This had been booked in a rush over the internet, as was evidenced by the double bed in the room for four but a quick chat with the guy on reception promised a resolution before we got back. The problem with stopping, if only for a little while, is that it seems much harder when you try to get going again. This was certainly true of the last 18 miles to John O'Groats and even the wind had got in on the action and swung round into our faces.
I thought that hysteria had finally set in when Hugh lept off his bike and rushed back down the road. It turned out he was rescuing a colour catapillar from almost certin misfortune and relocating it off the road. Other that this all I remember of the final run in was of grinding out 18 tired miles, even Duncan started to swear at the roadsigns when they didn't show the progress he had mentally ticked off. Eventually we crested the final hill and rolled all the way into the well deserved 'most dismal town in Scotland 2010' - John O'Groats. There was a sign post as there was at Lands end, and like it's counterpart it was privately owned so they choose to take the sign home at the end of the day. We got a lovely photo by the sign post. With the abandoned hotel just to one side. Our feelings of jubliation were somewhat tempered by the fact that we still had to bike another 18 miles back to Wick - making us more jealous of those people with a support crew. At this point a homeless guy strolled over and struck up a monologue with first Hugh and then Steve. He claimed to be walking around the UK coast line to raise awareness of homelessness while constructing pebble sculptures. In fact like many grand plans he said it had been sparked off one drunken night with a bet. The fact that we just happened to have bumped into him exactly half way around struck Hugh as just too much of a coincidence and he declared that 'there's no chance he was genuine'. Some research later uncovered that Dr Geebers, the pebble man was in fact the real deal, if a little unhinged.
Having made the 'stopping' mistake yet again the initial stretch home felt like hard work squared but the advantage was that at least we knew we were getting closer to home all the time, even if the miles were most definately not pedaling themselves. However once we got going with the wind behind us it turned out to not be so bad after all. With the light failing we all rolled into Wick, with Hugh, Steve and Duncan even managing a strong sprint finish. Back at the hotel we discovered that the bathroom acted more like a sound box and we all go slightly concerned about the amount of time it was taking Hugh to get his slap on for the evening. This pushed us very close to 10pm before we got to the pub and clearly the kitchen staff already had one foot out of the door. When asked if they were still serving food the barman made the critical mistake of hesitating long enough for us to snatch up some menus and tell him we would be ordering in seconds. With food inside us I almost fell asleep at the table so for the second time this trip left the guys to grab one more beer and headed back. Tired but satisfied after a good days work.