Day 2: John O’Groats to Tongue (83 miles?)

The day started with a lot of rain and ended with a lot of rain. The in between part was nice and dry with a lot of really good scenery.

I left John O’Groats at about 9:30, which means that I missed out on getting my name in the register. I suppose this blog will be my personal register that I did it. 🙂 Along the way I made a detour to Dunnet head to see the most northerly point on the island and then quickly turned around and continued on to Tongue.

The first 50 miles of the journey was fairly flat and easy. After that, though, the terrain started to change from coastal lowland to coastal mountains and most of my time was spent climbing. After a while I started cursing the gearing on my bike and wished for a yet lower gear. I think that if I had ridden any slow, I would have just toppled right on over, so not having that lower gear was probably a good thing.

It looks like I might have to add an extra day to my time in the highlands. Not because the scenery is unmissable (although it is) but because the hills are taking a bigger toll than I had hoped. Tomorrow will be the day that determines one way or the other.

Tomorrow I cut straight south from Tongue to Alness. I found a topo map that showed the road and it looks like it might to be too bad of climbing, but I need to be ready to stop early if I have to.

P.S. Looks like I get no record of my journey today since my Garmin has mysteriously decided to forget everything (including all of my settings in it).

Day 1: Wick to John O’Groats (17 miles)

This morning I transfered at Inverness to the train to Wick. It turns out that the reason that it takes so long to get to Wick (>4 hours) is because you get a nice sightseeing tour of roughly half of the Highlands.

After getting off the train at Wick, I started up the GPS and so the first result of this trip are available for your viewing pleasure. The ride was uneventful, but the landscape was amazing. I tried to take a picture of the coastline, but I don’t think my camera did it justice.

At the campground right next to the start/end point of the End to End I met a man who had just finished his journey. He had walked the entire stretch in 66 days. That is determination!

Tomorrow I set off for Tongue. I might have to skip getting my name in the register of people doing the End to End because the cafe where I have to do that doesn’t open until 10am.

Day 0: Train and Cycle to John O’Groats

Right now I’m sitting in the lounge car of the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. I had no problems getting to the station other than my normal inability to navigate London. Once I got there it was simple to lock up my bike and get settled in my berth. Then I found the lounge and found a seat to occupy until it is time to sleep.

I’m looking forward to the riding, but after taking a look at the weather today I’m dreading the constant rain that seems to be coming. It looks like my first day or two will involve packing up a wet tent, but clear riding during the day (maybe some wind). After than it looks like I might have constant rain to deal with. Looks like I’ll have some more practice putting away a tent and sleeping bag during rain. Always a fun intellectual exercise to figure out how to take apart a tent from the inside to minimize the amount of soakage.

Countdown to JOGLE

T-10 Days and Counting

Just a few more days to go, and it looks like everything is starting to fall into place. Last week I bought my tickets to get to John O’Groats, which really drove home exactly how far it is that I’ll be going. I leave from Euston Station at about 9:30pm on the 14th of July. On the 15th I arrive in Inverness and transfer to a train that after almost 5 hours gets me to Wick. Once I arrive in Wick I still need to ride another 20 miles to reach John O’Groats. I’ll be staying overnight at a nearby campground and then set off for the real trip the next day.

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To Cambridge and Back

The trip out was harder than I think anyone anticipated. The wind was against us and the sun was beating down. See the ride.

That leg of the journey took its toll. Julian K., Julian S., and Joe decided that they wouldn’t be able to make it back by bike. I can’t blame them. It had been a long, gruelling day. See the ride.

Cairan and I headed back by ourselves. The way back was eased by the wind being at our backs and the sky being mostly overcast.
On the whole my new kit worked out really well. The new wheels felt much sturdier than my old ones, and I didn’t break any spokes! The dynamo charged the battery, but only filled it enough to recharge the garmin. I’ll need to figure out some way to get more power to handle both the garmin and the phone.

This trip did tell me that the n8 was the best choice for what I have planned. The others had android phones which ran out of power before the end of the day. Also the ovi maps made the trip much simpler since we sometimes had to deal with spotty phone coverage. This presented no problem for me, but it caused issues for those using google maps.

Once I got back I’ve been able to upload the tracks from the garmin and write this post, all using just my phone. This hasn’t been the smoothest process because of issues with various programs, but I got it done in the end.

Pair Programming Is More Than Code Review

Pair programming, that deceptively simple practice introduced to the masses by Extreme Programming, but done by everyone at some point or another, is one of the most divisive issues that I have come across.  Some people hate it, others love it. Like any other practice though, it serves a purpose and must be understood to be used effectively. I think that one of the most deceptive things about pairing is that it looks easy, when viewed from the outside. Two people sitting at the same computer working on the same problem. What more is there to it?

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Looking for Software People

The preparations for JOGLE continue! For those not in the “know” JOGLE stands for John O’Groats to Land’s End. It is a bike route from the north-easterly most to the south-westerly most points of the island of Great Britain. I’m going to be riding it this year during the second half of July, but I have bigger plans than just riding the route.

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Discussions of git and an experiment

The company I work for (youDevise) hosted the Stackoverflow meetup the other week. I got to meet a few people, eat, some pizza, and play a game on a Kinect. The evening ended with a discussion about the branching and merging capabilities of git versus those of subversion. Rather than us simply talking about the differences and probably getting many of them wrong, one of the guys challenged me to try out the scenarios we had been discussing and write up a post about it. This is the result.

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Creating a USB Charger and Telling a Story

After getting my new wheel I started working on putting together a USB charger to be powered by the hub dynamo.  I found plans online that looked simple enough, but I’m in no way skilled with electronics.  As luck has it, I know and work with a guy who not only studied electronics, but still dabbles in it as a hobby: Andrew Booker.  He was the man behind the iron on this project.

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New wheel

Today my new wheel got delivered to the office. It arrived in such a large box that I knew what it was even before anyone said it was for me.

Unpacking that box revealed a wonderful new wheel (Mavic A319) with the Shimano dynamo. Everyone, of course, wanted to know what was so special about the new wheel. The first guess was always that it was a carbon fibre wheel. It isn’t.

Instead I get to produce my own power, which I think is incredibly cool. I’m going to harness that power for my next trip to power my phone and GPS instead of having to find a power plug every night.

The next step to that dream is to create a power converter. There are plans for these all over the internet. They look pretty simple to build, but I don’t actually know how to solder, so a friend at work is going to help me out in building it.

Before I can do that I need to get it home. A few bungee cords should suffice. So I just need to take some in tomorrow and strap it to my bike.