Day 21 Dornoch to John O'Groats....via Duncansby Head
I was determined to go the extra mile - well extra 4 miles to be precise - to reach the very north-eastern tip of Scotland, 2 miles east of John O'Groats - however non of team Olympianist were aware of my intentions so were waiting anxiously by the official LEJOG sign by the sea front in the town centre, fearing a last-minute puncture, mechanical glitch, or even a lunge into a ditch!
OK well that's my spin on it, to borrow a cycling term, but in reality I thought the LEJOG sign was at Duncasby Head and, as I sprinted up the very last hill, anticipating ticker tape, congratulations and accolades, I was greeted by an empty car park! 'Must have gone to the pub', I thought to myself, 'or gone to the wrong place - thanks guys!' Always a believer in second chances as an opportunity to improve on first attempts, we headed back down the hill (a tail wind at last!) and were chauffeured by my father to the real finish line (although one which is in fact closer to Land's End). Riding in at ceremonial speed, we drifted under the winner's banner that my friends had thoughtfully erected, were met with whooping cheers, as well as a typically amusing quip from Rod (our BeethoVan) driver - oh, THAT John O'Groats! We soon revelled in the celebrations and sense of achievement , and although I try not to rest on my laurels, a laurel was rested on my head!
It was the first time in over 1200 miles that I had arrived at the wrong place, but the false arrival had made the real one all the more spontaneous and prevented any sense of anti-climax. I had felt anything but anti-climactic on the approaches to the town I have to say, as the skies miraculously cleared to afford stupendous views over towards Orkney. It had been cloudy for much of the day, so I felt blessed. I was also fortunate to have the company of my brother who rode 50 miles further today than he had ever done previously, and was nevertheless still going strong up the last dastardly hill - bravo Tom! His good humour and positive spirit prevented any lonely, sentimental wallowing for those last few miles on the bike. The emotion of the moment can't be underestimated though as the clear outline of the corner of the UK came into view and the reality sank in that I really couldn't go any further. Thoughts turned back to Land's End and how the scenery here looked strikingly similar, and in making a mental picture between the right angled shapes at both ends of our land, the scope of our country and my epic journey flashed before me.
Lyth Arts centre was the host for the final concert on the cycling tour proper, and the warm professionalism of William and Mark make this venue second to none in every respect. Playing on a gorgeous new Steinway B and having some close friends and family there was all the reward I needed for the 1200 epic miles of adventure - it has been absolutely BeethoFantastic!!