Chris Oakes, lead maintenance technician at the LyondellBasell Carrington site in the U.K., hit the road alone and cycled from Cornwall in South West England to Scotland to raise funds for disabled and disadvantaged children. The initial self-discovery journey for this middle-aged man turned out to be eventful. In his 12-day ride, Chris accomplished 1100 miles (1770.3 km) and raised £2700 from friends, colleagues and even strangers!
Below is the interview with Chris and Ludovic Museur, site manager of Carrington.
Q: Why did you decide to ride?
A: I have always enjoyed cycling and have been a keen leisure cyclist for many years. I have also been fortunate that I live close enough to work to be able to travel to work by bike for over thirty years. One of my Carrington workmates cycled Land’s End to John o’ Groats about twenty years ago and I had harbored an ambition to do the same for some years but never got around to doing anything about it mainly because my children were very young and going away on a cycle holiday for two weeks was a non-starter.
As my 50th birthday approached, I decided to do something to mark the occasion and to take the bull by the horns and do the ride. Whilst fundraising wasn’t my motivating factor, I was persuaded that since it was quite a challenge, I should try to raise some money for charity.
I didn’t have an obvious charity to choose but I knew about the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust because it’s close to where we live in Lymm and provides a variety of free programs for terminally ill, disabled and disadvantaged children from all over the northwest in the U.K. Also we have young kids ourselves which makes it more relevant
Q: How long did you ride and what is involved in the trip?
A: After a lot of planning, I finally set off on the train to Cornwall on May 10. The reason for starting from Cornwall is to ride with the prevailing wind, which in May is generally from the South/West and for the vast majority of the ride thank goodness that it was. Anyone who rides knows that riding with the wind in your face is no fun whatsoever. I was planning to ride between ninety and a hundred miles a day to complete the ride in about 12 days.
I worked my way northward, leaving the Cornish coast and nasty hills behind through the changing countryside. From the, warm lush green, Cornish coast to the rugged, partially snow covered hills of Scotland. Luckily I had good weather and a fair southerly wind pretty much all the way, which as anybody who knows the U.K. well, is a rare thing. I averaged around 90 miles a day so after 12 days I finally arrived at my destination in John o’ Groats in Scotland. To avoid heavy traffic, I took an indirect route which ended up 1100 miles using smaller roads and cycle trails. By some miracle in all those miles, I had not had one single puncture or mechanical failure on the bike. One thing I can also say from having climbed up lots of hills is that the U.K. is definitely not flat. Surprisingly, the worst hills are in Cornwall and Devon – not mountains, just short steep hills that go on and on.
Q: How did your friends and colleagues from the Carrington site support you?
A: One thing that became apparent during the ride was how many kind people there are in the world still. As I was going along and chatting to people, I had at least four complete strangers who gave me money after they had asked where I was going and why. “Here’s a tenner,” they would say, “add that to the collection.”
It’s also amazing how word gets around, even without a social media campaign, I would look at the webpage and see the amount increasing and think, “Wow, people are giving me money that I haven’t seen for years. How have they even heard about it?”
In the end, I collected over £2700 from family, friends, colleagues and strangers which massively surpassed my expectations.
Q: Could you share some tips for a long bike tour?
A: Before I did the ride, people kept asking me “why are you doing it?” and “are you doing it on your own? You must be mad.” To which my answer was “I want a challenge and I just want to go and find myself,” which people used to call having a midlife crisis. I am not sure I found myself, but what I can say is it certainly leaves you in a more philosophical frame of mind.
Three things I would also take away with me and would say to anyone else thinking about Land End – John ‘O’ Groats are:
- You need a good bike
- You need good weather
- You need your legs and knees to hold out and not get injured, otherwise known as good luck
Q for site manager Ludovic Museur: What are your thoughts about Chris’ fundraising campaign and the result that the site achieved?
A: After Chris shared with me his goal to ride in his 50s for a charity, I told him that it was a very inspiring initiative and a nice way to collaborate and support our communities around Carrington to help less fortunate children. Through the Advancing Good program and with the valuable support of Monica Caudillo, Julie Crawford and Danny Thomson from Carrington, the site contributed £5000 to sponsor additional children with a five-day holiday retreat on the adventure farm. I am very proud that Chris and the Carrington Site could contribute to make such a difference for these children in North West U.K. We could feel it.