Travelling Home from Wick
The LEJOG (End to End) ride completed the night before, it was a strange feeling to be no making plans for setting off to ride our bikes long distances whilst we consumed breakfast. We figured we still needed to help our bodies to rebuild after the big effort of the last 9 days, so we tucked into yet another big cooked breakfast. We had been staying in the Norseman Hotel (www.norsemanhotelwick.co.uk) in Wick and there breakfast offering was ample, in a running buffet style, so it seemed rude not to eat heartily.
With the important task of nourishment out of the way, it was just a case of rounding up the gear, which was luckily all dry this time after using the bin liners in the pannier bags. Packed up and ready to leave and ready to check out of the hotel we decided to have a wander around town and, smart phones in hand, see what options we had for the journey home. Unlike the car hire to Penzance prior to our departure, we hadn’t decided how we would get home. We both obviously needed to get home, but with it being a Friday the immediate pressure was off. Other than the wedding Paul’s was going to attend on the Sunday, we didn’t need to rush home for anything on the weekend (apart from meeting back up with the WAGs).
We visited the train station in Wick and had a look at our options. The lady working there was extremely helpful and looked into everything for us. She even looked at what was going to work best for us, considering we had the bikes, from both a cost and timing point of view. She seemed to be struggling to get a guaranteed connection at Inverness that would have room for us to put the bikes on. She suggested us seeking an alternative way of getting the bikes home separately and then our train options would be better. That sounded like a good plan. The lady recommend a local toy shop/bike shop that often offered a courier service for the bikes. Obviously, being one of the larger towns in the area and with a number of accommodation options, Wick seemed to a common place for people riding their cycles End to End to stay. From that point of view, the locals were all used to seeing cycling tourists and offering them services, help and advice.
We head of to the recommended shop. It was called “The Spot” and did a large range of toys, models and games along with a range of everyday family cycles. The man in the shop (Brian) suggested he could do each bike for £50 (fifty pounds), which included both the packing up and shipping of the bike directly to our doors. We figured that we would need the bikes for a few days when we got home, and tot be fair we both have other bikes if needed, so letting somebody else take care of getting them home seemed like a great idea. It’s one thing taking the wheels off and putting them in the back of a car, it’s another thing altogether rushing between connecting trains etc. with a bike in tow. That bit sorted, we head off back to the train station to sort out our tickets and route home before getting the bikes back to the shop, so that Brian could organise the shipping for us.
On the way back to the train station, Paul suggested we look at splitting our journey between the train and bus an the journey home. We hadn’t got a final price, but the cost of getting home on the train had been stacking up and considering that we’d already parted with fifty quid to remove the hassle of travelling on public transport with bikes, we needed to consider the cost. Now that we were on foot and travelling with just our pannier luggage our options did open up a bit. Paul had a look at the Megabus web site on his phone and reckoned that we could pick one up at Inverness and then get back to Preston (we have a big bus station there - was once the largest terminal in Europe, I think) with perhaps one or two changes on the way. This seemed like a reasonable plan and would definitely save us a few quid compared to making the entire journey by train. It probably wasn’t going to be a quick and would involve a bit more stopping, but at least we’d be sat down all the way and could rest a bit as we travelled. We booked the mega bus online and then went back to the train station to sort out the train from Wick to Inverness.
The bikes dropped off with Brian, the travel arrangements sorted and checked out of the hotel, we set off the get on the train. It wasn’t going to be too far to the first stop in Inverness and we were going to have a reasonable stop there to wait for the connection with the mega bus. We picked up supplies at the local co-op and got on our way. The train journey was fairly pleasant. The train was pretty quiet and the scenery out of the window was good, but not spectacular. It was a dry, but not overly bright day at this point and it was interesting to pass through a good number of the towns and villages we’d cycled through the day before.
Once in Inverness the weather had taken a turn for the worse. We had a bit of time to kill, so we stocked up on more supplies, from another co-op, for the rest of the bus ride into the night and grabbed some reading materials (cycling magazines) to read whilst we were on the move. However, the supplies this time did include a few cans of the local beer. As we were walking around the rain was coming into my leaky trainer again. Now that carrying things wasn’t as much of a problem, I set off to investigate what I could purchase as an alternative, more suitable footwear, in the local shops. We got settled in another Wetherspoon’s first and it set off alone for a bit to explore. Fortunately, I discovered the local Sports Direct and was soon in position of a nice pair of ’cut-priced’ Karrimor walking boots. I returned to the Wetherspoon’s pub to meet up with Paul, had a few beers and dined out of burger and chips again.
We departed from the pub and had small wait outdoors to get on the appropriate Megabus. I can’t remember too much about the journey on the bus, other than the early scenery. I suppose because a lot of it was in darkness later on, as I don’t think we got back to Preston until something like three or four in the morning. We did travel along the A9, which a totally different route to the one we’d cycled and that did afford us nice views of the Cairngorms into the early evening until dusk. We had a change quite early on at Avimore (I think) and then a bit of a stop on the outskirts of Perth at Broxden Park and Ride. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed the alcohol on the bus, so we’d had to stash that in the hold with the luggage! By the next stop at Glasgow, it was quite late at night and completely dark, so it was a case of trying to rest as much as we could and keep our lift from Preston informed (my girlfriend Rachel) as to how we were progressing. I can never sleep properly sat upright on public transport. I do doze a bit, but always feel worse when I wake up. We were totally shattered at the end of the journey, and it was a great relief and pleasure to see Rachel in the bus station car par in Preston.
Our adventure over Paul and I parted ways at his home on the way back to mine. It was great to be back, but it was a real anti-climax to be not thinking about were we would next be cycling to. Oh well, maybe next year we can do something similar?