Day 64. I’VE DONE IT !!!! Finally I have managed to complete the 60 mile round trip to Loch Katrine, boat trip up to Stronachlachar, cycle round the Loch and back again and in the process met loads of people.

It was an early start, after a quick 1 mile walk for Georgie, as I had to arrive 23 miles later by 1030am at the very latest or I would miss the boat. What a glorious way to start the day. It was a beautiful dry, crisp and golden dawn and very cold. This was a day that the Lord had made so I rejoiced and was so very glad to be given it.

I had a wonderful cycle over the top road to Callander with it’s beautiful views, alongside Loch Venachar, then Loch Achray before linking up over the top of Loch Achray and in to Loch Katrine.

The fantastic view looking over loch Katrine
The fantastic view looking over loch Katrine

This was one of the best rides ever because there was no traffic on the road so the wildlife was still only just stirring and coming by a bike in good working order meant that I was surprising quite a lot. A Heron popped up next to me with surprising grace, a couple of Roe deer popped across the road ahead of me and Red Squirrels kept wandering out in to the road and skittering back and up into the trees as I passed. I was really enjoying the peace and solitude and then remembered a bike ride in the Canadian Rockies I took. I had heard stories suggesting that it is more likely to be a bike rider that gets attacked by a bear in the mountains because they move so fast when they come haring around a corner and bump into the bear the bear is so surprised that it attacks in self defence. So I sought advice about the best routes to take and hired a trailer for Heather so we could cover some distance and explore the Rockies. We stuck to the main tourist routes which were very quiet but as safe as they can be. As we rounded a corner there, a couple of hundred metres away, on the other side of the road, was a grizzly bear and her two cubs. We stopped and I asked Heather to remain very quiet and still, then, when asked ‘Why?’ stupidly replied ‘because there is a bear just ahead with her cubs. We mustn’t frighten her.’ Heather was only 2 so, not realising the possible danger we might be in started to try and jump up and twist out of her seat belt in the trailer demanding, at the top of her voice, ‘let me see, let me see, let me see.’ ‘Ssssshhhhhhhhh.’ I was really concerned but how do you stop a 2 year old making so much noise. I couldn’t unstrap her and hold her in my arms because if the bear decided to charge a couple of hundred metres is not much of a head start on a bicycle on a hill especially with a 2 year old in your arms. I couldn’t turn her around so she could see because then she was far closer to the bear than I was. It just seemed to be wrong. I should be between her and the bear to protect her. It was a real dilemma as Heather grew more and more excited and I became more and more uncertain as to whether it was a Grizzly or a Black Bear. She was brown but so could black bears be brown. I wasn’t close enough to see the side profile of the face which allows one to make a positive identification and yet the response to a charge from either is completely different. A Grizzly you lie down and play dead. A Brown bear you make yourself as large and tall as you can shouting and waving your arms and maybe even move towards the bear and certainly fight back as noisily and aggressively as possible to scare the bear off. Imagine the dilemma then if you don’t know which type of bear it is!!! Thank fully I never needed to find out as some tourist cars came up the road, saw the bears and parked between us and the bears to take some photos. We slipped away, quickly, downhill, back to civilisation. Today I was thankful that the scariest thing I was going to stumble across was a startled Badger!! But I was also missing James and Heather. They were both busy today and it was cold and a long way so not the right route to start them on. So perhaps in the Spring. I would love them to experience life like this too.

Marion and Tony Leese and John and Susan Edwards on the loch
Marion and Tony Leese and John and Susan Edwards on the loch

I received such a warm welcome from the team at Loch Katrine when I walked in and almost immediately a Mocha arrived as if by magic!! Then even better Mags reappeared from the staff room with a donation for the challenge. Wow Mags that was so hugely generous of you and unexpected. Thank you. I met the skipper who was full of praise for my endeavours and then I basked in the warmth as I put on additional layers to keep me warm in the voyage. I was crossing in the Lady of the Lake and a couple of groups of tourists also boarded with me totalling I think about 15 passengers. I was thankful for the warmth and sat just behind a group of 4 adults. It immediately became clear that all were in good mood so I siddled up the bench seat behind them and at the opportune moment introduced myself and the challenge and took a picture. Marion and Tony Leese and John and Susan Edwards from Leek Stafordshire it was lovely to meet you. Thank you for listening and I very much hope you come and join me on the journey and help raise awareness. The table on the opposite side also seemed to be a very pleasant couple so I crossed over, asked for a picture and told them about the challenge. Dave and Helen Boden from North Hants it was also a delight to meet you. Thank you for listening and I very much hope you too come and join me on the journey and also help raise awareness. The crossing was smooth and beautiful with a fresh dusting of snow on the mountains around the Loch. Then Tam the Skipper came on the tannoy to tell us all about the view and points of historical interest around us before ending with ‘and finally ladies and gentleman I would like to introduce to you a very special passenger on board today called Archie Douglas. He is engaged on a personal challenge called Beat the Beast Challenge. He is cycling around the Loch today. We all support him at Loch Katrine and hope that you could get behind him too. You can find him on facebook at Beat the Beast Challenge.’ I was bowled over by such support from Tam and couldn’t squander it so I jumped up and introduced myself to another table of people I hadn’t yet had the chance to talk to. We arrived at Stronachlachar too soon so it was just a snatched conversation but it was nice to meet them all and hopefully they too will also come and find me, join the journey and help raise awareness. It was time to strip back down to my cycling kit and shivering, I bade a cheery farewell to my fellow passengers and headed back to Loch Katrine pier. Very quickly my fingers became painfully cold so I had to stop to change in to my skiing mittons but once done headed off to complete the next 14 miles with a number of ‘whoopsies’ or significant little climbs to tackle on the way but with warm hands and warm feet in my new waterproof winter walking boots and a clear road with a great vista plus a couple of cheery waves on the way back in it was a great ride.

An impressive Ram
An impressive Ram

Once back at Loch Katrine pier I stopped for lunch of tuna mayonnaise sandwiches with spinach, rocket and watercress salad and my usual veggie pick and mix bag. I caught up with more of the team and thanked Tam for his support. It was becoming time to go to begin cycling home before the light failed but spotted that the Brenachoile Café was open and couldn’t leave without popping in to see my friend Nancy made when I completed the 14 mile route on foot back in Day 18 of the challenge. It was a good decision but was very sad not to have the time to stop for a coffee but there was time for a quick hug and then it was time to go.

The ride back was delightful and uneventful with the exception of a couple of back wheel twitches on the ice until, as I came through Callander to hit the top road route back to Doune, I bumped in to Paul McIntyre whom you will remember from my chance meeting with on Day 56. He was with his friend Robert and both were out for an afternoon spot of fresh air in their chairs. He was still smiling and so positive asking all sorts of questions about what I had been up to, my planned route back et al. It was lovely to see him again and see him looking so well but I had to get going as the light was fading fast.

It was a great ride home with no incident beyond the odd twitch on more ice. I was starting to feel the tiredness in the legs on the hills up the top road over the Braes of Doune from the miles covered but pushed on, lights flashing, and was soon home. Hot, sweaty and steaming but ecstatic. It took 3 attempts but I completed the 60 miles. I had beaten the beast today. Another quick 1 mile walk for Georgie before tea and most importantly of all. No seizures!


The challenge in numbers total since the start:
Days completed: 64
Total Miles Cycled: 394
Total Miles Walked: 263
Total Miles Run: 14.4
Total Distance Swum: 150 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam.671.4
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: 227
Pots of tea shared: 15
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 1
Pills popped: 270
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