The weather was now pretty grim. It seems that a depression was not behaving as forecast (how inconsiderate!). Instead of keeping well out of my way, it was generously providing me with a wet easterly wind. Although the mist was now less of a problem, the rain and wind were getting to me.
I can't be sure of quite what went wrong, but my brain seemed to be playing tricks on me. I was looking out for Latheron, followed by Dunbeath. I knew to recognise Dunbeath by the bridge across the valley.
So imagine my surprise when I saw the signs for Dunbeath, but no bridge! In fact, you don't see the bridge until you're almost on it (well I didn't), and so I was left wondering what had happened to Latheron.
I remembered a sign before Latheron saying 39 miles to John O'Groats. My speedo indicated that I had passed the '39 to go' point, and so I was confused.
I decided that Latheron must still be up the road, but couldn't understand why it hadn't appeared. Eventually (it seemed), I arrived at Latheronwheel, and the promised roadsign, which actually said 38 miles to go.
As I passed 'The Bungalow' I saw someone looking out the window, and so I waved. I wonder if the connection was made between a bedraggled tricyclist, and the person who stayed there in May, promising that he would do Land's End to John O'Groats on a 'three-wheeler'.
Shortly, I became unhappy with the road I was on. Surely I've been along here before..... I decided to stop and look at the map. Hedley assured me that I was going in the right direction on the right road, and I hadn't been there before.
Unconvinced, I carried on. Lybster is a bit of a blur, but I do remember the signs for the Portland Arms Hotel. The conditions were so miserable that I decided that I couldn't still be on the record attempt. Hence, logically, I must have already finished, and I must now be dreaming (or something).
However (I was trying to be logical, remember), if I had finished, then I'm sure I would know my finish time - and I didn't know that. Also, the wind and rain were rather realistic. No, I decided that I wasn't dreaming - this was real life. Reluctantly, I pressed on.
Why was I out on my trike, when they were all sitting in the van? I bet they're loving this - sitting in there laughing at me getting blown around and soaked. Why can't I get in the van, or why aren't they out here with me?
Martin did his best to explain. Audrey tried as well. "What have you been doing for the last two days Ralph?" "Getting the End-to-End" "Well you haven't got it yet. You have to get to John O'Groats first." Silence.
I continued for a bit further, then stopped to complain about the weather. John assured me that in a couple of miles, I'd stop climbing, and I'd get a tailwind run in to Wick. Unconvinced (again), I continued, less than quarter-heartedly.
At Wick, my brain must have recovered slightly, and I left the town still on the A9. With 17 miles left, I then started to look for the right turn towards JOG.
At a junction which was obviously not the right one, I turned around in the road, and had another look at the map. (I really can't believe this, as I knew the course perfectly before starting) I was told to look for the junction in a place called Reiss. I continued.
That right turn meant the weather became less favourable, and I began stopping quite often, without good reason. I was also sure that I was on the wrong road. My prior recollections of the Wick to JOG stretch were of peat fields and telegraph poles. There were none of either.
To add to the confusion, helpers from different cars would tell me different mileages whenever I stopped. This fuelled my paranoia about being on a wild goose chase. By this time, I had totally lost any idea of why I was cycling along this road. The words John O'Groats would have provoked no reaction.
Several times, I was implored to ride along 'just over the next hill, then you can finish'. I'm sure the guys believed that the finish was just over the next hill. However it wasn't "over the next hill". This continual promise of the will-o'-the-wisp finish enhanced my suspicions about the motives of these people around me. I seemed to be on a conveyor belt being soaked by a perpetual shower.
The team were having more and more trouble getting me to restart. At one point I rode into a sideroad and then into a field entrance. Martin despairingly asked me to get back on the road, and told me to carry on. I just wanted to do anything to make them let me get into the van.
At around this time, Audrey switched into scolding schoolteacher mode. She informed me that she had gone for two days without sleep to get me this far, and I was not to mess things up now!
Funny, no response from Ralph.
She told me that all I had to do was ride along this road. I asked how far I had to go. She said to continue until I saw a large hotel at the end, on the left. I didn't really understand what the fuss was about. I actually worked out that she meant the John O'Groats Hotel. I still didn't know why she wanted me to get there.
I think that routine happened several times, with Audrey being accompanied by any one of Martin, Hedley or Bob. Martin tells me he ran for two miles, not having slept for 30 hours - and on top of a 'twelve' ridden only days before! Clearly, Audrey must have run considerably further than this - what a star!
At one point, I was handed the mobile phone and told to speak to my Dad. Even this failed to convince me of anything - I wasn't even positive that I was talking to who they said I was!
John now drove ahead with Hedley, to get to the finish. It seems that I then started to go faster (it is downhill though). No sooner had Hedley stood on the finish line than I came around the final corner towards the hotel.
I was pleased to get there, as Audrey had promised that I could get in the van at the hotel. I had no conception that I had now finished the record attempt. I also had no idea of the time.
It turned out that I had taken 2 days 5 hours 29 minutes 0 seconds, and had beaten Eric Tremaine's 1982 time by 49 minutes 35 seconds.
Things flooded back to my brain as people shook my hand and congratulated me. Suddenly it all made sense. Oh dear - why oh why had I wasted all that time?