Day 62 has seen me cycle 46 miles, meet 4 fantastic new people and become a paddle steamer.

I was looking forward to the ride today after having to cancel before because of forecast gale force winds that didn’t really materialise. When I thought about it. Me cycling at an average 10 mph in to 40 mph winds would mean that I would be going backwards at 30mph!! It just wasn’t worth it. Today was forecast for some light showers and some sunshine with a moderate breeze. The forecast was absolutely bang on except for one bit. They forgot to mention the torrential rain bit!!

On the edge of Loch Katrine, in a brief break in the rain!
On the edge of Loch Katrine, in a brief break in the rain!

As I left home with the children all safely packed off to school on the bus the rain started to drift in gently. The light was poor so I had my lights on high vis vests on and set off for the top road over the Braes of Doune to Callander. This was easily my favourite route in to Callander when compared with the longer back road with it’s little ups and downs and the main road A84 with all it’s traffic. I have now been over the top road to Callander at least half a dozen times and never seen anything more than 1 car each time if any traffic at all. The views are spectacular, the road surface reasonable and the downhills fantastic. There is a push to the top first but unlike the back road that never lets you get a rhythm the slog uphill is not too dramatic and allows you to get in to a rhythm before a really good fun downhill. Today however was slightly different. The gentle rain that drifted in had become torrential. At times it was so heavy it felt as if it was penetrating my waterproofs with each drop. It was almost raining inside the waterproofs it was that heavy and it just went on and on and to top it all off my boots, retired from walking boots due to a couple of splits in the uppers were not only no longer waterproof but when I went rapidly through a large puddle I discovered that the boots were not even water-permeable but in fact water-penetrable. My fault really. This was an enormous puddle that crossed the entire road. There was no way around it so had to go through it and if you have to one may as well have fun when doing it so I peddled hard and grinned hard as I steamed into the puddle like a wee boy. I felt the water rush in to my boots the chill from the water quickly sucking all warmth from my feet. A warmth that was going to be some time before it returned. As I cycled towards Callander and as it poured I was contemplating my options. I was to phone ahead at 0900hrs to confirm whether or not the boat would sail today and take me up to Stronachlachar pier in preparation for the ride back alongside Loch Katrine. I couldn’t stop to phone as the water pouring out of the sky like from a bucket rather than like from a watering can would have wrecked my phone. Nothing for it. Pop in to the Deli Ecosse to make the call and consider my options while enjoying, of course, a Mocha and a flapjack. The Café was closed. Disappointed and missing Julie and the team I decided to push on and just get there. If they decide not to sail for whatever reason I will at least have had a good ride to Loch Katrine and could of course pop in to see my friends at the Brenachoile Café at Loch Katrine who I met when I did the 15 mile walk from Stronachlachar. Then I became a paddle steamer.

The very kind Debbie who looked after us so well at the Loch Cafe
The very kind Debbie who looked after us so well at the Loch Cafe

I had National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 7 in my mind as the route I was going to be taking towards Loch Katrine. It was a route I had done 3 or 4 time before now towards Aberfoyle and was exactly the same until it heads up the Menteith Hills at which point I continue on towards Loch Achray. In fact I was so comfortable with the route my mind was in neutral as I slavishly followed signposts for NCN 7 in completely the wrong direction! I only woke up when I found myself confronted by the river. The River Teith had burst it’s banks and had flooded the cycle path and footpath. The water was only flowing very gently and was almost at a standstill. I could see the cycle path about a foot or so below the surface of the water. I could hear Mum and Pat standing on my shoulders with an ear each saying firmly ‘Don’t you dare try and cycle along the path through the river. It would be dangerous and foolish. But then my desire to seize life. To not only seize it but to experience it, to refuse to live under the shadow of fear, also took over. I know I am going to receive a couple of messages ticking me off for this but I had to do it. The pull onwards was too strong and besides I was already completely soaked through. With an impish grin I went for it and quickly realised what a mistake it was. I managed to stay on the path okay, there was almost no pull against the bike and was enjoying it as my legs peddling me through the water up down up down up down in and out of the water made noises very similar to the deep rhythmic rapid sploshes, splosh splosh splosh splosh of a paddle steamer ploughing through the water. I was head down searching for the paths under the water and steaming on until I hit the crazy golf course. My feet were like ice blocks and I realised that right now I had no idea where the paths ended and the river proper began. I started to fear for the embarrassment of having to abandon my bike and retreat up the wooden castle like structure waiting to be winched off by the RAF Search and Rescue helicopters. I could visualise the headlines! I spotted a route out but it was going to involve walking through the still water, step by careful step towards a soggy field and then on to freedom. I went on feeling sheepish and foolish as I heard Mum and Pat quite rightly telling me off again. I got out without incident and mounted my bike with a big red face of embarrassment and headed for the route I should have taken towards Loch Venachar and NCN 7. Still the rain poured from the sky while the day darkened a little more and I wondered whether we were due for a thunderstorm. Was it warm enough? I wasn’t sure. On I peddled and as I started to come to the end of Loch Venachar , the rain still beating down hard and my feet painfully cold I realised that the mood of the mountain had seized me and as I cycled had allowed lots of dark thoughts of despair to descend upon my shoulders. I started to want to cancel the ride. To give in. To can it and turn for home. I started to feel angry about my illness, the desperate situations in Paris, Syria and around the world where people still go hungry, where people still get ill, where warfare still rages. Then I thought of all the wonderful people I had met whom I couldn’t heal but who so desperately needed healing. More and more these overwhelming emotions built up inside me as a bubbling anger, building, bubbling, building peddle push by peddle push ever higher. I wanted to stop fling my head back and look up at the source of this torrent of rain with defiance in my face and scream. I felt helpless. And then I remembered, as I stood on the road, those two quotations that were given to me and set me on the path I am now on.

‘Go forth in to the world. Be of good courage; Render to no man evil for evil; Strengthen the faint hearted; Support the weak; Help the afflicted; Honour all men; Love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit ’

‘Do all the Good you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, for as long as ever you can.’

I was already, through trying to raise money on the challenge, doing all I could to try and improve the lives and life chances of all of these people around the world far worse off than I. I reminded myself, that although unexpected and not part of the original concept of the challenge, that through my simple writings I was also managing to provide some form of encouragement and even inspiration to others. And then from nowhere as I searched for answers came the memory of a piece of scripture telling me to leave my problems with God and make them his problems to help me. I did just that but having remembered it not particularly eloquently I looked it up with Allie’s help this evening so that it all makes sense in the telling. ‘Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you and he will lift you up in his own good time.’ When I remembered my own desperate version of that scripture I did try to do it but then I remembered all those people I couldn’t heal. But what I could do of course was pray for them. I felt a weight lifted, got back on the bike and kicked on for Loch Katrine. I was going to finish this bike ride whatever happened – I had to do it. No more negative thoughts. No more sadness. Then it stopped raining. It actually stopped raining and I giggled as I saw myself peddling the last few miles for Loch Katrine trying to drip dry as I peddled.

The wonderful Coen Van Werven and Fenneke Linker from the Netherlands

I arrived at Loch Katrine 30 minutes late and went in to the café/booking office to confirm that I would like to take the boat up to Stronachlachar if I am not too late? Then I discovered that the Loch road was closed for resurfacing. I was disappointed but the two lovely ladies in the café said that I could roll the boat trip in to next week for when the resurfacing should be finished. Would I like a hot drink? I declined the kind offer as I was going to see my friends in the Brenachoile café. Sorry but it is closed today. Would you like a hot drink? I thought a Mocha might make things better and with their permission started to strip off and turn the area of chairs and tables in to a laundry to try and dry out my wet kit. I took my socks off. Stepped outside and wrung them out. Then hung them up on the chair next to me. I discovered that the lady who made me a Mocha was called Meg and when I apologised again for turning her café into a laundry she confirmed that the rain just now was the heaviest rain storm she had seen for a very long time. That made me feel a whole lot better. It wasn’t just me being pathetic although it would have helped if I hadn’t turned myself in to a paddle steamer!! I cracked open my veggie pick and mix bag and tucked in to my tuna, mayonnaise and salad sandwich as I warmed up. Then in came a delightful couple, Fenneke Linker and Coen Van Werven from the Netherlands. They asked if I was cycling as I stood there in my thermals and a fleece, barefooted, trying to dry out. I said yes and laughed about how wet it had been. It turned out that they were keen cyclists. Bingo – we were talking about the challenge. Once their interest was piqued by the idea of a glass of wine to watch a video I had finished lunch. I couldn’t achieve any more here and had warmed up. I stripped off my warm kit and back in to the damp cycling kit for the route back. Dry socks in to wet boots. I was starting to shiver. Fenneke noticed and suggested that I should get going and work up a head of steam on the first hill to warm up. I assured her that that was entirely what I was planning before asking for a photo and then thinking that both Meg and Debbie had been so very kind to me that perhaps they would like to spend a pleasant evening with a glass of wine and facebook!! More photos and it really was time to go. The rain had held off since arriving. Would it hold for another two and a half hours?

The mood of the mountains had lifted and as I cycled my mood was decidedly better boyed by the company of Fenneke, Coen, Meg and Debbie. My feet were warmer. I remembered to go back the sensible way and avoid the river and went to head back in to the Braes of Doune over the top road to Doune. As I cycled on this very quiet road lifting my feet high as I whooshed through big puddles my adrenaline pumping as I hoped that I wouldn’t hit a pot hole hidden under the water the sun started to appear. It was playing along the emerald green hills over my left side like a laser show on the crowd in a disco. Then suddenly it was on my face. I was reminded immediately of my little prayer for people I had met who were ill that they might feel the warmth of the light of Jesus’s love on their face and turn their face towards the light to see God and receive comfort and healing. I peddled on in the warmth of the sun and as I reached the top of the hill I stopped to turn around and look at the view. Then I heard it. The wind moving through the fir trees in the wood behind me in a quiet, whispered breathy roaaaaar. Nothing unusual just my attempt to visualise the sound we all hear when a gentle breeze moves through the trees. I turned to enjoy the view a little more and then I heard it as the wind came through the trees in a whispered breathy voice ‘go onnnnnn, go onnnnn.’ I decided to listen. Not quite sure why I was being urged to push on I jumped on the bike and headed for home. The sun went in and the sky darkened a little but no heavy downpour followed but I did then feel the breeze on my back. It was never on my back. Always a head wind on the bike but today, after all that anguish earlier and anger the wind was definitely at my back. I was reminded immediately of my favourite Gaelic blessing.

‘May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.’

I decided on a treat for this evening so made sausage dippers with a cheese filling and bacon wrap with a pre made tomato salsa sauce. Quick and easy but lacking something so I added a handful of spinach, rocket and watercress salad as James and I entered in to discussion about our best and worst jokes ever. Guess what – mine were the worst!!

A 2 mile walk for Georgie in the morning and evening

And the wonderful Meg who also looked after us so well at the Loch Cafe
And the wonderful Meg who also looked after us so well at the Loch Cafe

The challenge in numbers total since the start:
Days completed: 62
Total Miles Cycled: 334
Total Miles Walked: 249
Total Miles Run: 14.4
Total Distance Swum: 150 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam: 597.4
Total Height Gained under own steam: 24,006 feet
Mountains Climbed: 5
Hills Climbed: 9
Days of Voluntary Activity: 5.5
Organ tunes learnt and performed: 5
Salmon Caught: 0!
Curling Matches played in: 3
Curling stones placed on the button (the centre of the target): 1
Weight Training Sessions: 5
Aerobic Circuit Sessions: 2
Press Ups: 55
Pull Ups: 15
Sit Ups: 55
People Met and Hands Shaken: 220
Pots of tea shared: 12
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 1
Pills popped: 262
And most important of all – Money Raised as at Day 58- £4,029.

Considering I started this challenge 9 weeks ago very quietly with no target beyond a fiver, thanks to the brilliant advice from a friend of mine, I am absolutely thrilled and again thank you all. So far that is £69.46 for each and every day that I have managed to find the will and energy to do something worthwhile and my goodness it has been worth it for my peace of mind, for my healing and for the five wonderful charities you are supporting through your generosity. Long may it continue.

Thank you all for your incredible comments and support. Please continue to spread the word.

If you see me around do please give a cheery hello and shake my hand or toot your horn and give a cheery wave to show your support and encourage me on.

Thank you

Yours aye