John Peet, former General Secretary of L'Arche UK, is hoping to raise £30,000 by cycling 1500 miles around the UK and visiting every L'Arche Community and Project on the way. The money will go to L'Arche in Zimbabwe, where funds are so desperately needed just to keep the Community going, and to the Projects in Glasgow and Manchester that, with your help, will soon become L'Arche Communities.



Tuesday 17th June

Route: Oban to Arrochar, near Loch Lomond
Mileage: 63.38 701 miles so far; 799 miles to go
Weather: Cloudy and showers in Oban, then wind and persistent rain for the rest of the day

Knowing my planned route for the day, Joe, the Duty Manager, kindly gave me a complementary breakfast which I consumed in the company of a German couple, and a Spanish group, and two women from The Wirral. My Thai friend was already up, seemingly cooking what seemed like another Thai banquet for breakfast.

Another cyclist shared my room. His machine was a recumbant type which looked like it would need quite a bit of getting used to, but he told me it was better in windy conditions, I guess because of the lower profile. I think I'd feel more vulnerable.

After packing up, I called into Catherdral House and spoke with Monica who kindly agreed to ask the Canon to display the poster recruiting L'Arche Assistants, and to mention the Big Bike Ride appeal in the Newsletter. I had visited the Cathedral last night and pleasantly surprised to find it open to visitors during the day.

My next task for the morning was to check with the sorting office if the pannier hooks had arrived which they had, and to send the blog for uploading. Thanks to the receptionist at the Caledonian Hotel for allowing me to use their WiFi.

As I headed back along the Esplanade, I passed the Oban Times Museum and was told the new office was near the supermarket. I half hesitated then decided to make the effort and so spoke to reporter Euan who seemed interested to run a story on the Big Bike Ride, and take a photo of me. If it gets more sponsorship, it will have been a fruitful diversion – if not at least it will help announce L'Arche.

The rain then started to fall as I headed north along the coast road. This was a route I wasn't going to enjoy, with heavy traffic, a poor road surface which in places felt like going over an off-road track and wind that seemed to be driving the rain in my face. After passing a field fullof deer, I passed Connell where Oban Airport opened yesterday and round to Loch Awe for a coffee stop. Thanks to Wendy here, I was discouraged from continuing along this road, which was also a Sustrans cycle route, and persuaded to turn at the end of Loch Awe, past the Cruachan Hydro Scheme, right down the quieter A819. Good advice Wendy, even if I couldn't see very far with all the rain.

This was probably the worst day so far. I had to talk myself into believing that somewhere at the end of it all was joy not pain, in the form of a hot bath or shower and a slug of warming alcohol. I called into the Tourist Information for an uplifting chat with Chris and Sara who called up the route ahead on their internet map, and suggesting I call at a hotel in Arrochar, just short of the planned night stop, Tarbet, and negotiate a bed for the night.

The next part of the ride was easy enough around the Loch, past the famous Loch Fyne Seafood Restaurant whose well fed customers must have thought “who's that idiot out on a bike in this weather?”, as another oyster slipped down the gullet. Yes, I was jealous!

It was another few miles before the climb started to bite, and the rain came down even harder to the point that I could see cloud hovering above the nearby pine trees. Before reaching the Rest and be Thankful lay-by, I came across a film crew in the middle of shooting a scene from a new film 'Valhalla Rising”, some delight being expressed about the authentic cloud and gloom which would otherwise have cost thousands to create artificially. So you see, one man's nightmare, is another's Valhalla.

It was with only 6 miles to go that the summit was reached, and the gradient turned. This was not the exhilarating descent it should have been due to the now chilling wind and rain hitting the face like needles. But, hey, I wasn't having to pedal.

I vowed to call at the first hotel in sight on arrival in Arrochar which came into to view through the rain at the head of Loch Long. There was a strange square building which I somehow mistook as a paper mill but as I passed noticed it was a Lochs and Glen Hotel, outside of which were parked 3 coaches. I eventually found the manager and negotiated a heavy discount for dinner, bed and breakfast. Many thanks, John, and for putting the sponsor form on the notice board for all to see.

After an ample dinner, large group style, served energetically by attentive waiters, I felt a little more human. Thanks Michal, Tamaz, Katrina, Edit and Monica - hope you enjoy Scotland!

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