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Monday, 16 July 2012

The Olympic Park

True, we still have Horse Guards Parade and ExCel to visit but we're here, just outside The Olympic Park!

Hornby photo shoot done, the team felt a little quiet.  It was still raining and the prospect of the dream of entering the Olympic Park seemed to be being diluted with every hour that brings us closer to the opening ceremony and with every raindrop that seeks to dampen Olympic spirits.

The team decided to go on a recce to see what they could see from Westfield Shopping Centre having heard  the view from John Lewis is worth a look.  They donned their civvies and put on their walking boots and moved in on the target.

And there it was, a sign saying Pass Office.  Hmmm, maybe an opportunity, at last, to get a LOCOG name to e-mail to ask for some sort of special permission to just step inside.  An initial enquiry was followed by a referral, the second enquiry led to another referral and 2 men appeared.   A third enquiry led to these 2 men making further enquiries and suddenly we were there!

Security cleared, rucksack x-rayed, decidedly bemused we were standing in front of The Olympic Stadium alongside the fabulous curves of the Aquatic Centre, The Orbit sandwiched between the two.  Mike, John and Adrian had appreciated Jake's efforts and the unique challenge that he has completed (never to be done again) and had repaid him brilliantly.  

It was hugely emotional, yes because of where we were standing, but more so because, despite the tremendous pressures these people are under, they recognised Jake's achievement and went out of their way to acknowledge it.  Thank you SO MUCH!
Never happier!
Let the Games begin.
The Olympic Stadium and Water Polo Centre
By the way, it is a great view from John Lewis too...
Aquatics Centre and The Orbit

The Copper Box


Thanks to Hornby we have added £1000 to our fundraising kitty, given the bikewithJake team some invaluable publicity and very generously added to his mascot taxi collection!
Stadium, taxi, Alex a huge collection of commemorative toys
and a very happy Jake!
A photo-shoot was planned for today and gave us the opportunity for the team to meet up with the life-size, working Road Cycling London taxi cab.  Alex was there from Hornby, Tom was there from Threepipe, Lucy was there from Access Sport and Amy was there from Action for Children.  There was a photographer, there was rain and grey skies and it was all very exciting.

Jake, resplendent in his red Hornby kit, kindly donated by Hornby, took on modelling responsibilities on behalf of the team as we stood using the Olympic Stadium as a back-drop and celebrated reaching our destination.
Alex, Jake and Lucy (Access Sport)
sponsorship cheque being handed over.

Alex, Jake and Amy (Action for Children)
sponsorship cheque being handed over.
What a great way to have our largest donations handed over, personally from our main sponsor to our 2 charities.
That's why we've cycled this far (1386 miles) so many, many thanks!

Hyde Park, The Mall - Venues 20 & 21

Nice run to Hyde Park past the Albert Hall and a quick coffee by the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by the Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei - it's great and Jake had a fun time leaping over the cork structures.
Where does all the energy come from?
Then we were off to the Serpentine, home of the Triathlon and long-distance swimming events, today just full of people enjoying a rare glimpse of British summer sun.
Isis overlooking the Serpentine and stands
From here the destination was The Mall but the team's journey was interrupted by a surreal encounter as we left the Park.

There they were, just outside the Park.  People we know - amazing.  Not just people we know but Philip's brother and family.  What's more it was Steve's birthday.  What's more we had no idea that he would be in London.  The most wonderful surprise whilst still being quite a bizarre occurrence.
Spot the family resemblance?
I suspect Steve rather hopes you can't!

Jake, Beccs & Lorna - (sorry Tom, didn't capture you on film)
After a quick catch-up the sane half of Philip's family went to find some 'Boris' bikes to pedal off to a restaurant whilst the slightly batty side of the family went in search of The Mall and Stratford City Holiday Inn Express.

The Mall was teeming with people all with cameras in their hands, posing in front of Buckingham Palace, charging down The Mall as if finishing the marathon, negotiating barriers on Boris's blue machines.  Jake just had to join in...
Closing down the finish

As for Horse Guards Parade - shelved for a later date as we still had the trek across town, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's Cathedral, Bank of England, Bow etc.

Lord's Cricket Ground, Earl's Court - Venues 18 & 19

A disturbed night - Nic's itchy legs and the strange night-time activities of the local young inhabitants.  In Basildon we had been 'entertained' overnight by cars racing around the large car park.  In Wembley the car theme was far more sophisticated.  A narrow street with parked cars both sides meant traffic going up needed the traffic going down to give way and vice versa.  The game appeared to be who would back down first - it was a long night!  At one stage it included a police riot vehicle - we didn't get this when we were in Peebles!

So morning came, Nic bravely donned cycling shorts and paraded her blotchy legs for all to see and we reacquainted ourselves with our bicycles.  Transport for London had come up with a super route across to Lord's and we headed East to the home of cricket.
Outside the ground
'Play up, play up, play the game.'
Play the game - hmm.  Poor souls at Lord's, they were suffering from such a severe bout of paranoia that it was almost enough to warrant a lengthy visit to Harrow hospital.  We hope they calm down enough to enjoy the Olympic Archery because The Games should be a festival that everyone can enjoy, even stressed event managers.

From St. John's we headed south and a very interesting journey by bike to Earl's Court - never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined cycling along Kensington High Street - so we didn't, we walked that bit, it seemed the safest option!

The front of Earl's Court still looked like a building site but it took all of our efforts to get a photo of the back through the guarded open gateway.
The London logos look pretty cool on
Earl's Court

The happy trio - it's sunny!

Wembley - Harrow - Wembley?

Harrow, you say, what Olympic Venue is housed at Harrow?

There is no Olympic connection with Harrow of which we are aware but this did not deter the team from spending all day there.  In fact, having returned from Harrow to Wembley they did an about turn and revisited Harrow just for good measure.

Stranger still was that all this to-ing and fro-ing was done without the turn of a single pedal but by the roar of various Falcon taxis.

The cause of this strange behaviour was the particularly impressive effect the taking of an anti-histamine had had on the Reading mosquito bites.

With apologies to the squeamish - a sample of Nic's 'target'
mosquito bites now infected.
An estimated 25+ bites.
Overnight Nic's legs had transformed themselves into some kind of alien feature, swollen, red, hot and very itchy.  Taxi to Harrow's Nicholas Park & St. Mary's Hospital - Accident and Emergency Department.  A remarkably quick entrance to see Dr. Omodu and despatched clutching a prescription for 3 items.  A taxi back to Wembley and 15 minutes establishing that neither High Road chemist could fulfil the prescription and the prescription therefore needed changing.

Back to Harrow in another taxi, whilst all the time the fluorescent red marks spread their glow further and further afield.  Again a quick turn round visit to Dr Omodu who kindly phoned ahead to a local chemist to check their stock and off we went to locate a solution.

Nic was now feeling quite out of sorts and stamped her foot at the end of a blotchy, itchy leg and refused to move from Harrow until the medication had a chance to kick in ... thank goodness for the in-hospital branch of Costa's & WH Smith as the team were confined until 5:00p.m before Nic agreed to leave.

An odd day, not one that had been factored into the schedule but according to Dr Omodu pedalling should be able to be recommenced the following day.

Wembley Stadium & Arena - Venues 16 & 17

Off we went to tackle Wembley Stadium.  Fortunately, it was in it's final day functioning as a tourist attraction so we made it as far as reception.

Even more fortunately, we located a fantastic host - Tom was brilliant.  The team had not bargained for the 1948 Olympics memorabilia that is housed at Wembley.
Some of the 1948 gold medallists

Jake standing next to the very
understated 1948 flame cauldron.
Despite the initially unpromising prognosis about what we would be able to see, we even managed to look down on the pitch of this very spacious, clean 90,000 seater stadium.  We had a really brilliant tour.
Tom pointing out the area designated for extra
media seating for The Olympics

Three happy team members.
From the Stadium we crossed to the Arena, in a former life the swimming venue in 1948.  There was obviously lots of construction going on so we were more than pleased to get a front of venue photo.
Team bikewithJake outside the Wembley Arena

Kingston to Wembley

Having completed the south of Thames experience we needed to head north.  We had really wanted to visited the notorious Box Hill section of the road cycling course but we feeling jaded and decided we couldn't risk the amount of time it was likely to take.

It was good for the team to discover that the initial route away from Kingston took them along some of the Time Trial and Road Race route so that we can at least say we pedalled a bit of Olympic route.  It was an interesting journey northwards, planned courtesy of Transport for London website - it worked really well and we had a great ride until we hit the Hangar Lane gyratory - not good by car and with an equally befuddling series of exits for cyclists using the subway - to be avoided.

Reaching Ealing Road was fantastic, far too busy and hectic to cycle, we walked mostly, soaking up the atmosphere of colours, smells, shops extending out into the street as a little bit of Asia blends into multi-cultural London.  There was an amazing Hindu temple under construction - well worth a look.
Apparently 10 years under construction - stunning

The only other thing of note en route was a stop at a Pharmacy.  The Reading mosquito bites were still hanging on and Philip persuaded Nic to invest in some anti-histamine tablets as some bites were beginning to look angry - good move?

Wimbledon - Venue 14, Hampton Court Venue 15

Seeing Wimbledon from the back of Larry's magic transport did not constitute visiting the venue so we had more back-tracking to do.

First we had a photo-shoot to do.  Suresh Singh, Deputy General Manager at the Holiday Inn and all the staff were absolutely fantastic hosts and we all had a fun photo shoot outside the hotel before pedalling off to the All England Lawn Tennis Association.
Team BWJ with our fantastic Holiday Inn hosts.
At Wimbledon we were lucky enough to bump into Tom who helped us get a great photo as proof of our visit.  Quite a relaxed venue compared to others but then they'd just done a Grand Slam tournament so everything seemed to be running smoothly.
Trying to drive into Centre Court
We then had by far our best mocha coffee of the whole journey at 'Paul' in Wimbledon village - we didn't say no to trying out some of their pastries either mmmm.  We took the scenic route to Hampton Court desperate to make it in the dry...
Richmond Park - 3 handsome fellows?
On the way, we got wet.  We also got incredibly muddy as we scooted along the towpath.  We were overtaken by a hardy group of 16 cyclists from North Wales beginning their annual pilgrimage back to home from a variety of starting points - this year, London.  It had started to rain.

Luckily for us the two ladies at Hampton Court were very hospitable and knowledgeable as we chatted and took photos.  They heartily recommended the Time Trial as an event to watch - we just might take them up on this!

Jake standing roughly where the Time Trial
start ramp will be.
We headed back to the hotel in the drizzle, getting plastered but pleased with our day when splat!  Down came Philip on some slippery planks alongside the Thames.
Ouch! But just look at those muscles