Yes, it’s me, David Post, safely home at last – spot on time, 6.00pm Saturday June 30th. I want first to thank you all for your prayers and encouragement as you have been following my route on the map. Knowing that you were all rooting for me gave me greater incentive to complete the course.
It has been a fantastically enjoyable, challenging and satisfying journey, and I am so thankful that this time I have been free of the polymyalgia which hampered me so much before. I have been able to sleep well each and every night – a great blessing indeed – and the Rest Days I built into the programme have been extremely beneficial.
In the coming weeks I am hoping to write another booklet, giving a full account of my experiences on this bike ride. But for now here is a summary of my reflections a few days after completing it.
Personal health and fitness, as mentioned above, has been fundamental, and I have been constantly thanking the Lord on the way round that I was able to keep cycling without night-time pain.
Then it has been such a pleasure to link up with a number of friends who at several points gave me their gracious and welcome hospitality – including Dr. Robert and Mrs. Margaret Jordan in Northern Ireland, 47 years since we last met.
All the way round I have met and talked with people who showed great interest in my ride. Our conversations usually began with “Where have you come from, and where are you going to next?” After answering those questions about me and my bike ride, the next question “Why?” opened the way to telling them as much as possible about the wonderful Christians of St. George’s Baghdad, the food-aid programme, and the free medical and dental treatment given to all who come to the clinic irrespective of their religion or politics. All this work is funded from private donations only, which is the reason for my sponsored bike ride. I also tell them of Canon Andrew White’s amazingly effective peace-making work. Some of them have given me a donation there and then, but many have taken my leaflets with details for giving on-line. Sometimes the conversation has then moved on to questions about the joyful faith of St. George’s Christians, who have suffered so tragically and constantly face danger. I have then been able to explain that true Christian faith is not merely head knowledge about Jesus, but rather heart experience of knowing Jesus Himself with us and within us.
Besides these individual conversations, I have also had opportunity to give talks, both about the bike ride and about St. George’s, briefly at St. Martin’s Drumbeg in Northern Ireland, more fully at a Home Meeting at Philip and Judith Jenning’s house in Ripon, at a Coffee Evening at my former parish of Wheldrake near York, and finally at a Welcome Home gathering at my home Church Middle Rasen. At all of these I have been warmly and generously received, which has given me great joy.
The constant north-east winds, which have persisted all this year in Scotland, they tell me, were generally against me all the way to the north of Shetland; but I didn’t complain in prayer this time, and my new Dawes Vantage bicycle seemed to cope better with head winds.
Parts of the Cycle Route 1 which I was following make use of old railway tracks. Some parts of these have been surfaced with tarmac, but others are just hard-core. The old track between Scarborough and Whitby is particularly badly eroded and took me much longer than I had expected.
I didn’t find it easy following the trail in cities like Middlesborough, and in Stockton I missed a vital sign pointing right and got hopelessly lost. People gave me differing advice, and I realised how lost I was when I passed the same Snacks Van as I had passed an hour earlier!
At a B.&B. in Lairg on June 7th, I heard the weather forecast – very strong north-north-easterly winds and torrential rain for the next day. I had planned to do 80 miles that day, half of it due north to Tongue, then the rest eastward to Thurso. I was very anxious that on that second stretch the gale would be blowing me into the traffic, so instead I took the train from Lairg to Thurso.
By the time I reached Durness SY Hostel, my back tyre was badly worn down with carrying the full weight of the panniers as well as me, so Nick, a fellow hostelling cyclist, changed the better front tyre to the back and the worn one to the front. He advised me to get a new tyre fitted when I reached Oban. So realising that the ferry from Lochboisdale to Oban, arriving at 14.05, would not leave me time to change my tyre, do a few other things in Oban, and then cycle 80 miles to Dunoon, I cancelled that booking, and instead took the 18.11 Oban to Glasgow train, booked in at Adelaides (Baptist Church B.&B.) in Glasgow, then the Glasgow to Stranraer train, in order to catch a ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast, and thus be on schedule to spend the weekend with my “long-lost” friends at Drumbeg. These two diversions resulted in my final total of cycling miles being 1,900 – a little less than planned.
Of course the many long or steep hills of Scotland and the Pennines are always challenging. But undoubtedly the greatest challenge was to pedal up the long hill on Hirta, St. Kilda, from sea level to the radar station at the top of the mountain. I nearly shirked it, but Angus Mackay of Kilda Cruises encouraged me to have a go at it, assuring me that the track was surfaced with tarmac, not rough hardcore. They had told me it is the steepest hill in the whole of the UK. I laughed, thinking they were just having me on. But now I believe them!! It was the most difficult hill I have ever tackled. However, I did manage to pedal all the way up, but with umpteen stops for breath.
I knew the ride on Wednesday June 7th from Kirtlebridge to Ripon, 115 miles crossing the Pennines, to arrive in time to speak at my friends’ Home Meeting, would be a tough call. But by the time I reached Richmond at 6.45pm after 90miles, with 25 hilly miles still to go, I had little hope of getting there before the end of the meeting. But as I was racing past the Station Hotel in Richmond, I heard a shout, “Dad! Dad!!”
I looked round , and there was my daughter Helen, with the car – and the family puppy, Lily. Sensing that I might be in some difficulty, she had conspired with my friends, Judith and Philip, to intercept me and get me to the meeting in time. I need hardly say that I did not refuse her kind and caring offer. It was such a surprise and delight to see her there – and Lily, who went ballistic at seeing me after five weeks away! So I was after all able to speak at the Home Meeting, where I was very warmly received. After a further rest day, it was a short ride to my former parish, Wheldrake, near York, where I enjoyed another warm reception to speak at a Coffee Evening. Then after arriving home the following evening and enjoying a family reunion supper, the next day, Sunday, I took two Communion services in the morning, and then in the afternoon at a Welcome Home Spotlight Tea I gave a hastily prepared talk about the bike ride illustrated with some of my photographs. Sounds like “business as usual” – immediately!
That’s all for now, friends. I’ll tell you how the giving’s going in two weeks or so.
You can still make a donation through David’s fundraising page on Just Giving. We are so grateful to David and to everyone that has supported him in prayer and financially. Thank you!