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.

Wednesday 18th June

Route: Arrochar, near Loch Lomond, to Glasgow
Mileage: 44.57 746 miles so far; 754 miles to go
Weather: Cloudy to the north but broken cloud to the south, light wind

I'd booked in for the 8.00 am breakfast which turned out to be the full works. It was impressive to see how the 3 coach loads of people were served in 2 sittings. Many of them had spent yesterday on Arran and were heading to Dunoon today.

My start was delayed this morning till 10.00 due to still wet clothes, but thanks to Anna on the front desk everything but my shoes were tumble dried – they would have to get the natural airflow treatment when turning my pedals.

The road from Arrochar (emphasis on the Arr not the o) leads over a small hill to Tarbet where I joined the busy A82. With some relief I found the Sustrans Route 7 which runs alongside this busy road, rather like it does alongside the Perth to Inverness A9. Looking back north, heavy rain clouds loomed, yet the sky ahead looked encouragingly bright with the sun breaking through now and then. Much of the old A82 has been used for the cycle track and the lapping water of Loch Lomond was never far away. I passed a few cyclists coming the other way including Craig Samson from Melbourne and his New Forest friend Terry Mason who stopped to chat. Craig was interested in the bike for a possible end to end attempt.

Further down near Luss I stopped to observe a party of 'silver' paddlers prepare for an intrepid kayak crossing to the island of Inchconnachan where, would you believe it, lives a colony of wallabies – yes wallabies. You learn something new every day. Further down the Loch side, I came to an imposing gated entrance to an estate which turned out to be the Loch Lomond Golf Club where the Scottish Open is being held from 10th - 14th July,

I reached Balloch around 12.15 and spotted a MacDonalds so thought I'd see if the free WiFi was available which it was for the cost of an 89p coke. A quick email check and blog send. Then on to Balloch station the cycle path starts its trail alongside the canal towards Dumbarton. So far so good, but I realised on reaching Dumbarton that I wasn't going to make the 2.00 pm rendezvous at the Glasgow Science Museum with Gerry and Elizabeth Green. So I rang and optimistically suggested I would be 30 – 45 minutes late. Then the cycle path signs disappeared and no-one I spoke to could help me find it. So I headed into Glasgow for a while on a thunderingly busy road until I spotted a roundabout with a minor road leading off it at 3 o'clock. This led onto the cycle track which signs later confirmed was Route 7. I feel a letter coming to Sustrans to suggest that Fred in charge of signing gets on his bike through Dumbarton!

As I innocently glided along this rural path, I must have missed a crucial turning, as I was set on an irrevocable course which was to lead me to Glasgow City - Speirs Wharf to be precise. My only distraction was negotiating two rather large swans guarding the route. I gathered speed as fast as I could on the clinker path and tried to surprise them, but one of the darlings was quick on the uptake and lurched forward, its telescoped neck bringing its beak to within mere inches of my leg. I've heard a swan can break bones if threatened whilst guarding its young.

Little did I know it, but I was too far north. Not knowing where Speirs Wharf was, it was time to switch on the SatNav. Elizabeth and Gerry were being very patient, meantime, and to cut a long story short, I wheeled over the impressive foot bridge which spans the Clyde, at around 4.00 pm, 2 hours late! I think should have bought a Sustrans map...

After a short ride with Gerry and the mandatory photos, we headed off to the University Catholic Chaplaincy where we were due at 5.00 to attend a lecture by philosopher Professor John Haldane who earlier in the day had been awarded an honorary degree. Feeling a little out of place in my lycra shorts and dayglow jacket, I was ushered up to some reserved seats at the front behind Archbishop Conti and Bishop Tartaglia. It was a very thought provoking and challenging lecture on religion and the search for meaning, and faith in contemporary society. Afterwards we were all invited to a buffet banquet, a chance for me to distribute publicity material personally to the assembled gathering and invite them to sponsor the Big Bike Ride. I also met an old friend Vincent Toal who is the editor of the Diocesan newspaper, Flourish, and gave him some details for an article. The photo will be on its way to you this week, Vincent. Also the Scottish Catholic Observer editor, Martin Dunlop, had been briefed by L'Arche PR Officer David Winpenny, so I got a call from him for some detail about the ride so far.

Thanks to Joan and Laurie Keenan for organising my attendance at the lecture, and Lawrence, Marie and Matthew Logue for arranging the sponsor forms.

I was then driven over to Rutherglen by Gerry and Elizabeth to my accommodation with Ann
McCart, Dierdre Blagbrough's sister where her other sister Marion, previously of L'Arche Kent, was waiting to welcome me. Thanks so much for your help, Gerry and Elizabeth – sorry you had such a long wait.

When I parked the bike, It was clear the back wheel was out of true, so we did some research on possible bike shops to call at in the morning. A long day ahead and again accommodation plans had fallen through, so it was going to be one of those journeys into the unknown.


kevin coogan said...

Delighted to hear you made it to you lecture. Did you say they were dayglo lycra pants you wore sitting behind the Bishops? And did you wear them to the evening function too?

Reading your blogg it sounds exhilarating and exhausting. I would love to do something similar one day. For now I will have to be content with trying to take Wednesday off work. If I can is there anyone doing the Liverpool to Manchester leg with you? Could join you?


kevin coogan said...

John we have arranged 'hot dogs, cold beer and a warm welcome' - with a few words from John Peet....
7.30 to 9.30.

Three questions.

1. What time do you think you will arrive in Mcr?

2. Is there a good place and time where people could join you on the way in ?

3. Would you like the opportunity for a shower and a chance to ditch the lycra before we go for the hot dogs? (there will be something more substantial to eat either before or after the doo. Whatever time suites you best).