It was midnight, pitch black and pouring with rain. I had been fast asleep for over 2 hours. Suddenly I was aware of a ringing noise, I slowly uncovered my eye mask (the stations rarely have curtains... and yes I looked ridiculous) and sat up. No sooner had I done this than a man ran into the station, stopped, looked at us both, half naked in sleeping bags and then ran past us into the changing room where all the weatherproof gear was stored. He was then followed by 6 others who stormed into the room with a distinct almost military purpose to get geared up and be out on the boat as fast as bl**dy possible!
It was a 'shout' or in other words the coastguard had paged all crew members which gives them the instruction to get to the station as someone is in trouble.
It's a 'first come, first serve' system- the first 6 or 7 people there get to go out on the boat. This was clearly upsetting to the no.8 guy who missing the boat launching by about 45 seconds. After we informed him of this fact, he expressed himself quite eloquently that this was not to his pleasing... he then enquired what we were doing sleeping I the station and we explained our story. He simply replied 'f'ing nutters! Fair play to you!' and promptly left braving the rain on his journey home.
3 hours later and the crew returned. As exciting as this was, it reminded us of exactly why we are raising money for the RNLI. A bunch of volunteers, drop whatever they are doing to go to the assistance of others who are in trouble at sea. I can't tell you how unwelcoming the weather was and it was reassuring to know that these guys have been given the best training and have the best kit available to them. As much as I love seeing Nick in Lycra every morning, this is why we cycle.
We awoke later that morning and got into our now familiar routine of packing up our gear, slurping down a coffee eating an oversized bowl of cereal and getting on the road. Today is our last day of this years trip- 90km to the RNLI station at Loch Ness and then doubling back on ourselves to Inverness, where we would begin our train journey back to London.
It was fine weather again which given our accumulated tiredness following almost 1000 miles of cycling was very much welcome. We left Invergordon and its oil rigs behind us heading south, south-west for 50km to the station at Kessock, just above Inverness. It was rather gritty cycling, following the A9 all the way.
We spent about an hour trying to find the station, put off by the fact we saw a lifeboat in the marina and headed in that direction, over the Keasock Bridge. This turned out to be there for servicing and the station itself was back over the bridge where we had just come from!
After resolving this situation, we headed south-west, still on the A9 to Drumnadrochit where Loch Ness station was located. This was a 40km out and back journey tht saves us from having to head inland at the start of next years trip.
Returning with a tailwind back into Inverness, I had a mix of emotions- proud to have completed the trip with all it's logistical and physical challenges bit sad that the cycling is over, particularly when the sun has only just come out!
Having found a pack of the most wonderfully awful 'Scottish' postcards, we wrote to all the stations that had kindly put us up this year. I'd like to thank them here again, it is great meeting you all and you are all first class ambassadors for the RNLI.
So, it is from Inverness, which tired legs, a sore bottom (from the saddle... honest!) and a great sense of pride that I say goodbye to all 4 people that read this blog. Thanks very much and we'll be back next year!