I wake early and immediately smile, this is it, my final day of riding. As I pack away a soggy tent for the last time I see patches of blue sky as the sun peeks through the cloud - not a bad day for cycling!
It was calm and quiet riding through the country roads.
There were a few killer hills but I enjoyed the challenge and my legs felt good. I wanted to savour the experience of my final day on two wheels. To breathe in as much of the fresh country air as possible.
Just after Stamfordham I came across a great little place to stop, the Tea Garden. I had been hoping to come across a cafe and this one was perfect.
There was a hut in the garden where you could make your own tea and coffee and there was juice and snacks for sale and you simply left your money in the tin. We sat down and had a brew and a piece of tiffin and Monkey was loving it as he was getting some attention from a couple of other lady cyclists on a nearby table.
Back on the road the hills had petered out and I was flying along the flats. In one hour I saw more cyclists out riding than I've seen in the last 11 weeks, it was great to give them all a wave and see their expressions when they looked at my heavily laden bike. I was inching ever closer to familiar ground and eating up the miles.
Emerging from the field tracks onto busy streets I said goodbye to the cycle route signs and headed for the passenger ferry at North Shields. It turns out that my ferry back to Oban wasn't my last ferry after all!
The 5 minute crossing over the Tyne was long enough for me to get chatting to a couple of guys about my trip and as I said goodbye they told me to come to South Shields for a surf lesson where they worked. Another time perhaps as I still have to get this ankle back in ship shape. It has been swollen again for the last few days and I know I'll have to get it seen to.
Riding along the sea front at South Shields was where I really started to get excited. The final few miles along past Whitburn and into Seaburn were very busy as it was the last day of the Sunderland International Airshow. I had to get off The Beast to get down onto the promenade for a glimpse of the beach.
I was back to the place where I'd started from 12 weeks ago. It was a bizarre feeling, like most trips the end is always a bit of an anti climax but I think combined with the extreme amount of people that were around it was just a bit much. I got back on the bike and headed for the quieter streets to ride to my Mams house.
Rounding the corner into her street my heart was pounding. I'd told her that I would be coming home on the Monday and was hoping to surprise her by arriving a day early. My heart sank as I saw the signs on the door.
She must have figured out that I was coming home early as there were Welcome Home signs on the door and the front window. It was a lovely thought and I was actually a little bit nervous as I rang the doorbell. She answered the door and gasped as I gave her a big hug and kiss. It was pretty emotional and my eyes were leaking with happiness. She didn't know I was coming home early but she'd put the banners up in case I arrived early in the morning, haha.
Taking the Beast around the back yard I paused for my final photograph of the trip. It all started here in this not so glamourous back lane 84 days ago and now it ends here.
All that has happened in-between is a blur of islands, ferries, people and experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am not the same person that stood here on the 1st of May with quiet anticipation and nerves. I am the sum of the last 3 months. I am happy. I will be forever grateful for the kindness of the people I have met on my trip. I know now that I can make the rest of my life whatever I want it to be and not knowing exactly what that life will look like is fine, I will work it out along the way.
Before I came away on my trip my good friend Tim gave me a going away present which was a personalised stem cap.
I've looked at it every single day and when the rain and wind would start to get to me I would look down and see the stem cap and smile. Live, Love, Laugh - the perfect recipe for life and my adventures. I certainly feel like I have lived every one of my 84 days to the fullest. I have laughed with strangers who become friends. Now it is time to celebrate with the ones I love!
Miles ridden = ???
- Ice creams eaten = 10
- Ferries taken = 37
- Islands visited = 28
- Wild camp nights = 47
- Ticks removed from body = 14
- Distilleries visited = 8
- Breweries visited = 4
- Bothy nights = 6
- Trips to A & E = 1