Getting ReadyJenny and I arrived in the UK early Friday morning, a week before the ride, picked up a rental car and headed for Northampton, where Jenny grew up and her family still mostly live. Doing RAB on jet lag would be no fun, hence the week to acclimatize and do some family visiting. One big event was our 30th wedding anniversary party on the Sunday at a nice pub on the Grand Union Canal, with most of the family present. Time flew by and Wednesday saw us heading down to Devon via a night at the Pudding Club in the Cotswolds. The plan was for me to pick up one of the coach transfers arranged by RAB from Exeter Airport to Lands End on the Friday, while Jenny stayed with her sister who lives nearby. They were then going to do some traveling, meeting up with me at a couple of the base camps.
The weather during this first week was outstanding, but I knew it couldn't last and rain was forecast for the middle of the RAB week. One item I had failed to find at home was my RainLegs, which are a really cool design by a Dutch company. I tried without much success to locate a dealer with some stock and amazingly the only one I could find was actually really close to Exeter. So we picked those up on the way. I realized I also needed some straps to attach the sleeping bag to my rucksack and stopped off in Newton Abbott for those, collecting a parking ticket as a bonus.
After final packing my (too small) rucksack, we departed on Friday morning for Exeter Airport, where I picked up the coach.
After months of website interaction, it was fun to finally meet some fellow RABers in the flesh. Everyone was a bit apprehensive as we chatted about our experiences and expectations. It's interesting that during the ride I seemed to regularly run into a lot of the people I met on on the bus - I guess we were together long enough to recognize each other quickly - Richard and Vicky in particular. Richard managed to write a real-time blog each day, which was way more than I could manage.
Finally after several more pick up stops, we arrived at Lands End. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Evidently in previous years this has not been the case and I was happy that I would be able to assemble the bike in such nice conditions. After getting my tent number (a daily ritual), my roll-up air mattress and my Powerade bottles, I found my tent and dumped my bag.
Now it was time to assemble the bike.
Several people were amazed that a real bike could fit in the regulation sized S+S suitcase, including Hugh Webb who stopped by early in the assembly. It was good to finally meet Hugh who like me, had been quite active on the RAB web site (known as the rider hub). As always it took me longer than I would like to put the bike together. I also made a couple of mistakes, one of which required installing a new front derailleur cable because I hadn't paid attention to the cable routing when installing the fork. I hate adjusting front derailleurs, so made good use of the Halfords support team to do this and adjust it properly. I also realized that I had put the fender stays on the wrong wheels (they are slightly different lengths), but decided to live with this (for a while at least) as the clock was ticking and I had to get my photo taken at the infamous signpost, and then eat.
Catering was in a huge marquee, although not quite huge enough. It was a tight fit to get everyone in, especially for the daily briefing. The food, however, was outstanding, something that would be true each and every day. After dinner we had the briefing, starting with some inspirational words from "Mack", one of the founders of the organizers, Threshold Sports, and a big driver behind the RAB idea, who was riding the whole ride for the first time. This day we also had some spiel from Deloitte, the main sponsors, and then a lot of logistical information, finishing with a weather forecast and words from the route designer, Andy Cook, about tomorrow's route. The medical team were very focused on getting us to use the hand sanitizers which were everywhere around the camp as, evidently, they had a terrible "tummy bug" outbreak in the first year that spread like wildfire. Then it was off to bed. Returning to the tent, wearing the all important headlamp, I was amazed how quickly the dew had formed making the grass soaking wet.