Well, first and foremost, I'm really glad I did it; wouldn't have missed it for anything. Despite being a cycling novice; only been cycling seriously for around two years, I had no problems at all with the physicality of the challenge. True, I climbed hills slowly, aided by the low gears on my Sherpa and a couple of times I got off and pushed but I never, repeat never, had any muscle pains. Obviously, regular Peak District cycle riding had left me physically and mentally prepared for anything the notorious Cornish or Devonian hills could chuck at me.
What I was less well prepared for was the mental challenge of being alone for such a long time, for me anyway. By the final week of the trip, this aspect was beginning to take its toll and, on occasion, I found myself wanting the trip to be over. Because of this I'll probably never tackle anything quite so long again, at least not on my own. I found myself craving company and conversation, which is why I've said already the connections I made with other folk on the trip were the highlights of my journey.
I've frequently described my ride as unsupported but, with hindsight, this was far from the case. True, I was travelling alone, but I had support from a diverse range of people, not least Chrissie (evidenced by the massive phone bill I've just had). I doubt I'd have coped without regular chats with the love of my life; always supportive. Then there were the delightful people who offered, via a number of internet avenues, to accommodate me along the way. It wasn't just the accommodation though, it was the vital human interaction this gave me which had a massive impact on the success of my trip. I'm so very grateful to you all.
Then there was the weather! Despite the impression from some of my photos, it was challenging to say the least. Wind, rain, hail, cold; I had the lot. Crossing Scotland, many locals were complaining that, "it shouldn't be like this in May" and farmers were suffering with a lack of foodstuffs for livestock due to the cold and poor growing conditions. I suffered with serious chilblains because of the cold and found myself wearing more and more clothing as I traveled north.
I struggled being alone, but I'm glad I was. I could travel at my own pace, in my own time and make instant decisions on where and when to stop. No-one heard me ranting at the weather or cursing yet another false summit on a long climb, nor did anyone hear me talking to the animals in the fields as I rode by, or singing my "song of the day" less than tunefully as the wheels turned relentlessly round.
Overall, I did enjoy the experience. Riding from Thurso to John O'Groats on the last afternoon was truly idyllic; easy riding in fine weather ... and then the sun came out! What more reward could I ask?
I will cycle camping tour again. I love the exhilaration, the achievement, the exercise and the independence. Right now I'm craving some warm weather though and a next long tour may see me on the continent. I may tackle something shorter in the not-too-distant future, but I'll watch the weather forecast and WILL cancel if it's not good. I need an antidote. I need some warmth; some sunshine.
Would I recommend riding End to End? Yes, without a moment's hesitation. But, do it on your own terms; make it your own journey, your own ride.
Would I do it again? I doubt it; but I'm not one for repeating things. I'd prefer to try something different. But, finally, I have no regrets. May 2015 will linger in my memory as one of the most momentous adventures of my life ... so far.