As lockdown eases we are seeing more of you out on your bikes and more orders for Milltag custom kit.
One such person is Laura Kennington, who we are supporting with kit for her mammoth ride between all 15 of the UK’s National Parks. That’s over 1700 miles and 92,000 feet of elevation, in two weeks, in THIS weather!!!
Hats off to Laura.
Here’s her diary for the first week...
Day 1 - The Warm Up (with not much warmth... but plenty of up )
Felt GOOD to finally hit the road today and get my legs spinning out some of the nerves that have been building! Beautiful route out from Plymouth - eased nicely into the day with a peaceful meander through Plymbridge Woods before going through a really cool (/slightly spooky ) tunnel. Met some friendly locals along the way, and reached... Dartmoor National Park.
Today's main aim was to get a head start and make the most of the "good" weather before it turns tomorrow. Naturally, it rained all day until I stopped for the day when the sun finally made an appearance.
Today also featured the biggest puddle (read: small river in the middle of the road) I've ever encountered... it went up to my shins as I rode through it Ridiculous.
One park down - 14 to go. Exmoor tomorrow.
Day 2 - Go Go Aquabike
Another hilly one today featuring torrential rain ... followed, of course, by a beautifully sunny evening the minute I stopped cycling.
Really hoping at some point the weather is a little kinder to me, but that day won’t be tomorrow - in for a long ol’ slog so catching an early night tonight after giving my legs a little pep talk/ massaging in plenty of Weleda arnica oil.
Belly happily full of an amazing dinner made by wingwoman, support driver & photographer extraordinaire Jessie Leong Photography Extra props to her today for also very patiently dealing with me asking “Have you seen the...” many, many times - especially when one of the items I was looking for was actually on my head Hours of battling the elements/inclines had me a bit frazzled.
2/15 National Parks now ticked off with Exmoor.
Heading towards the New Forest & South Downs tomorrow.
Day 3... I have to admit, I’m really glad that’s over
The skies opened as soon as I left at 6am this morning and I didn’t see even a hint of sunshine until I’d ticked off the first 65 miles. That lasted for 10 blissful minutes... then the relentless deluge continued.
I think I must have somehow deeply offended the weather gods - it felt like they were trying to drown me.
With even *slightly* nicer weather, today’s route would have been a delight... but it’s been a very long day in the office. I don’t ever remember having such a savage day on the bike - 113 hard fought miles in total. I was aiming for 10 more to hit my target today but after hitting yet another flooded country lane, with “puddles” that came up to my shins as I rode through them, I called for a pickup, shivering (again). To keep on track with the schedule, I’m not sure I’ll make those 10 miles back which feels like cheating... but it also feels like I haven’t warmed up all day, so I still think it was good to call it when I did I don’t usually have a bail out option but it made all the difference to have Jessie’s support today Also, yes - that is a sandwich bag over my phone ... to protect the charging cable from the monsoon, worked a treat! So incredibly excited to crawl into my little bed!
South Downs (bit more tomorrow!)
We’re both going to sleep well tonight.
Day 4: Weather Gods - 2, LK - 0
Hampshire - West Sussex- Surrey - London - Essex.
Managed another 113 miles yesterday - short of my target again but after another 12+ hours of being cold, it was all I had so I called in backup.
Brought briefly back to life with a hug from Jessie and a hash brown & @maplecanadauk syrup bagel (don’t judge me - delicious) at the 90 mile mark but mostly, yesterday was spent in the bin.
Battling flooded roads for 2 days has wiped me out! Jessie’s feeling worn out, too - on the road for 13+ hours yesterday in total - hoping for a kinder day today.
Thanks for all the messages, guys!
South Downs National Park.
Norfolk Broads today.
Day 5: Rider of the Storm
It all started out so well... I had the bewilderingly brilliant experience of SUNSHINE for the first couple of hours today and *almost* felt human again for the first time since leaving Plymouth. I persevered through a couple of heavy showers, with rumbling thunder & occasional lightening flashes nearby that I tried to outrun... and then the floods returned with a vengeance, extinguishing what little spark I had left. 75 miles done & I dived into a bus stop until Jessie arrived & bundled me back in to the adventure wagon.
Reserves are pretty low. I’ve cycled across entire countries and been less exhausted than this The decision to cut the mileage - again - today is not a decision I wanted to make but I just really couldn’t handle another few hours in those horrendous downpours Jessie’s exhausted from driving in it, too Hoping by catching an earlier night, we both manage to recalibrate - this team is frazzled.
Day 6: Emergency power mode, please recharge immediately
Intermittent downpours today (standard these days apparently ) but thankfully nowhere near as bad as it has been.
Today’s beautiful route was perfect for cruising... or, in my case, very slowly crawling Managed 70 miles, which was 69.99 miles more than I felt like doing. The last few days of riding through the vicious downpours has put me in a huge deficit and I feel annihilated. Hoping that staying dry (relatively speaking) today will have massively helped reset things but my internal thermometer is definitely broken - bundled up in all the layers with the sun bearing down and still felt chilly!
Crashed out the minute I got back into the motorhome as Jessie drove on to our campsite.
No National Parks today but still gutted to be hopscotching the miles like this C’mon body! C’mon weather!
Day 7: Zombie cyclist reporting for duty
Feeling very glad I caught some extra sleep yesterday... today’s weather was absolutely abysmal Shocking, I know #Storm2StormUK.
Lots more rain accompanied by... HELGA 30-40mph winds violently blowing me sideways across the road / slowing me down to 8mph. No fun for Jessie to drive in either. Who knew it could get any worse?!
There were tears shed today - a few in the morning when I first woke up & looked at the severe weather report & it’s wind warnings (after which Jessie cleverly distracted me with some pancakes ) and many more after my first 45 minutes on the road, when it all just got a bit much. Completely done in by this relentless onslaught.
After this morning’s roadside pity party, I went to war with the elements and decided to intermittently yell out really childish insults / sing Rihanna extra loudly in defiance. Very therapeutic! Flashes of fight aside, however, most of the day was spent feeling weary & rather fragile. By the time I rolled into Brecon, I was once again a shivering mess Nonetheless, wrapped up in 2 thermal layers and 2 jackets, I somehow made it out of the bin long enough to cover a little over 60 miles and cross over from England to Wales - progress.
Doing my best to let go of the intended mileage targets for now & just trying to celebrate another day of this duo persevering through the worst weather I’ve ever known. Weleda Arnica oil on the legs and then its time to climb into bed bed with a hot water bottle.
Brecon Beacons National Park.
Follow Laura’s journey on Facebook and via Live Tracker.