History Group Talk December 2015

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John Lowe gave the meeting a talk on his epic Artic Cycle Challenge of 1999 in Aid of his local Exmouth R. N. L. I.
This in John's own words was a 'Life Changing Event'.
It was the story of a 500 Kilometre cycle ride from Tronso to Nordkapp in Norway held in 1999 to raise funds for RNLI at Exmouth.
He related how his early life at Eastbourne led to a love of the sea.. His father regularly took him to the beach and he grew up respecting the sea.
He then went to Africa with the family, came back to London to continue his education.
He remembers well the Eastbourne Lifeboat Station and he later joined the The Royal Naval Reserves and served on minesweepers.
His real aim was to join the RAF which he did later .
He saw a poster asking for volunteers to take part in a sponsored 500 Km cycle challenge to raise funds for the RNLI an organisation of which he had great respect.
His immediate response was YES! I could do that. He registered to participate.
Having an old bicycle in the shed he got it out and started practicing.
He truthfully had no idea what he had committed himself to do.
The organisation soon informed him.
He suddenly realised what he had undertook to do.
Preparation, is critical for a venture like this. Fitness and diet needed expert advice .
Application, he found that needed regular and ever increasing practice and D Determination that once he had started he had to keep at it - there was no turning back!
Dedication, he was going to see this through to the end.. He gained inspiration from many sources one such was Pete Goss the yachtsman. This led him to realise that a great deal of sponsorship had to be obtained. His fitness improved week in and week out building up to long rides for example from Okehampton to Falmouth over a hundred miles a day.
In all 21 other people signed up this challenge from all over the country, each supporting a different lifeboat station. John did not meet these other volunteers until they all met on the way to the start of the event.
He explained how he had to make presentations to various groups of people and organisations to obtain the sponsorship necessary to have the right equipment and recourses, as well as relying on family and friends who supported him so well.
He kept rigorous records of all that helped him, the firms and the individuals who supported and encouraged him financially as well as physically. The challenge became like a drug to him - he had to keep going he was not going to fall by the wayside. There were two lads, David and James who would turn out and cycle with him, they gave him great moral support.
Eventually it became obvious that he needed the right equipment, and thanks to a well known firm a special ‘bike’ was imported from America - top of the range for such a challenge. Food supplements etc that athletes need when putting one’s body through the rigours that he was about to face.
He related what a wonderful organisation RNLI is and the top grade training that they give all their members is nothing short of excellent. As an RNLI member all this helped in his preparation. John being a member of that organisation.
Eventually the time came for the ‘test’!
They all met up at Stanstead airport, and headed off for Oslo and so on to Tronso. The reality of what he taken on was beginning to dawn on him. Even the risk of coming face to face with Polar Bears they had to be prepared for anything and what action could be needed in such a situation.. Maps of the route were distributed and a word undulations appeared in places. This word really meant ‘Mountains’ - undulations what a laugh!
Some of these ‘undulations’ were in fact 50 miles of up hill riding with little respite.
Many of the roads were in good condition and very little traffic was experienced but after a while the standard of the roads deteriorated into quite rough tracks. Punctures became a bit of a problem.
Looking back at the challenge now John stated that the event was really worthwhile and he experienced those 'life changing events' earlier mentioned in this write-up. the wildlife he saw, reindeers, puffins, seabirds to mention a few, The people of the area that he met and their kindness. One not so nice thing was the huge mosquitoes that were inhabiting one area that they had to cycle through. They had lots of cream and things to repel them and to certain extent that helped.
He related how they met up with a group of ‘Geriatric Hells Angel Motorcyclists’ all on their Harley Davidson Bikes who gave them great support. They even had a trip on what must be the most Northerly Lifeboat in Europe - 130 feet long and with a crew of three. Most of their work consisted of collecting bodies from the ice cold waters of Norway.
The result of those five days cycling in the Artic was a staggering £57.500.
We congratulate John and thank him for a fascinating Informative talk.


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