A Eulogy to my Mother

This is the eulogy I gave at the church service after my mother’s funeral – I’m posting it here to ensure there’s a digital copy for her children and grandchildren. The funeral was held on Friday, 11th November 2022, at Margam Crematorium, and the church service was at Skewen Methodist Church – the church that was a big part of her life for the last ten years.

Brenda Ford, formerly Sharples, nee Hawkridge

May 25th 1942 – October 19th 2022

Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a decent amount of time thinking about who my mother was. While that may sound strange, as I’ve known her all my life, we only get to reflect on the full life of someone at a time like this. I’m sure we all have stories, memories, and ideas of who Brenda Ford, formerly Sharples, née Hawkridge, was, and I would love to hear yours, but first, let me take a few moments to share mine.

My mother was born in the small town of Elland in West Yorkshire in 1942 – right bang in the middle of the second world war. Her father (Ernie) was in the Royal Engineers and absent for much of her early life repairing bridges in Holland.  She was a proud Yorkshire lass from the day she was born until the day she died. She liked her tea strong, was very down to earth, and would never shy away from sharing her honest opinion, and despite her diminutive frame, she could more than hold her own. Working the Friday night shift in Manchester Royal Infirmary was good preparation for dealing with a couple of unruly teenagers like me and my brother Rob. And I’m speaking from personal experience here – she would not hesitate to give us a good “clattering” if we stepped too far out of line.

In 1963 at the age of 21, my mother married my father, James Sharples, and a year later, she became a registered nurse and, a year after that – a mother for the first time. Over the next 40  years, she worked in large busy hospitals in Manchester, Oldham, and Lincoln and small family practices all over the country – wherever my Father’s Royal Air Force postings took us. 

As well as working full-time – she was often a single mother of two young kids, as my Father’s work frequently took him away from home for long periods. Then, every four years or so, we would get uprooted and redeployed – we lived all over the country and overseas several times. Despite that constant upheaval and disruption – my mother’s resilience, genuine warmth, and easy-going nature always meant friends surrounded us. Engaging with people came easily, and she quickly turned strangers into friends.

At the end of the 1970s, after living in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Berkshire, Malta, Cyprus, Berkshire again, and then Norfolk – my parents finally settled in Wiltshire. This move was an opportunity to be close to my mother’s family – brother Graham, his wife Beryl, their kids Pip and Anthony and my mother’s parents. We even lived in the same street for several years – demonstrating how important family was to my mother. I still remember the 1977 Queen’s Jubilee – like many of you, we had a street party, and all 3 generations of my entire family were there – we were very fortunate kids.

My other endearing memory from my childhood was the family holidays and day trips – camping in the lake district during the hottest summer on record and arranging family lunch in Cardiff on the same day as an international rugby game. The intent was good – the planning, not so much. She also made it out to California twice and North Carolina to visit my family and me. She was never one to shy away from an adventure.

As well as a long career as a professional nurse – my mother was always willing to care for those around her. She nursed my brother and me through countless illnesses, bumps, bruises, and breakages. Later in life – she looked after my paternal grandfather (Thomas)  and maternal grandparents (Ernie and Ivy), then later – my father when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and more recently, her second husband, John Ford, when he succumbed to dementia.

My mother married John Ford in 2013, having moved to Skewen in 2012. They both enjoyed being part of this community and church and gave up some of their time to make it the welcoming place it is today. I would try and call my mother once a week – though admittedly, I didn’t always manage that,  but when I did, she would, no doubt, mention her various church groups and friends, so it was clearly a huge part of her life.

So, in the coming days, weeks, and months when you remember my mother, Brenda, don’t be sad. Instead, remember the young girl from a small town in West Yorkshire who never could have imagined the long life before her. The places she’d live and visit, the things she would do, the adventures she’d embark on, and the friends she would make along the way. Remember the woman who lived an honest and long life of service to others as a nurse, carer, wife, mother, grandmother, and church member. A long life with no regrets and countless fond memories spent with friends and family is probably the most any of us could hope for. 

Finally, I would like to thank you all, on behalf of our family,  for being here today and for being an essential part of her life.

The Metaverse: the importance of interop

Avatar created in ReadyPlayerMe and imported into Somnium Space

Without interoperability, there is no #metaverse. Without open standards and open source and the resulting interoperability – there would be no Web or Internet as we know them today. It is no accident that the characters comprising this post are readable in any browser on any device and have been transported across the global network through various switches, routers, and proxies manufactured by different vendors. The reader doesn’t have to care or know which tool I used to create this post, nor which character encoding or font I prefer – that is all transparent to the user because of open standards like HTML, CSS, HTTP, and TCP/IP.

As the web evolves – standardization and interoperability will play an increasingly important role. The Metaverse is more ambitious than the current web regarding the sheer amount of technology involved. The Metaverse is an amalgamation of technologies from gaming, film, AR/VR, AI/ML, commerce, etc. Some of these areas have established standards; others are still nascent.

One of the critical areas of interop (according to a poll at the Metaverse Standards Forum) is the exchange of assets. This is required for seamless commerce, moving digital goods between assets, and choosing different tools at the design stage. Designers also need the ability to import assets into a virtual world from a film or game studio or real world without losing fidelity. 

There are already two major standards in this area – USD (Universal Scene Description) – first developed by Pixar and open-sourced in 2016. Today it enjoys strong support from AutodeskAppleNVIDIA, and the open source blender 3D graphics application. NVIDIA goes as far as claiming that USD is the HTML of the Metaverse – more here.

If USD is the HTML for the Metaverse, then maybe the other standard – glTF (GL Transmission Format) is what JPEG is for the Web and Mobile today. glTF is a lightweight file format for describing 3D scenes and models and is widely supported by @Microsoft, Meta/Occulus, and Unreal Engine.

Each standard has its benefits and supporting ecosystem, and it may not be possible or necessary to arrive at a single standard to meet all needs. Queue joke about the need for a  3rd standard to rule them all!

What this illustrates is that for something as central as being able to describe a 3D scene or object – the Metaverse will likely have to support (at least) two significant standards along with the overhead and complexity of versioning, converters, extensions, importers, and translators to ensure assets can be moved between ecosystems without exposing the problem to end users.

The efficient and seamless interchange of 3D assets is just the tip of the iceberg, and interoperability in many other areas (security, identity, money, reputation) will have to be addressed before the Metaverse becomes a reality.

Sleep. Part 1.

An aggressive cancer diagnosis in May 2018 got me thinking about my health more generally and specifically the importance of sleep in maintaining a healthy mind and body. I’m on my 3rd re-read (listen actually) of Matthew Walker’s, Why We Sleep, Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams in which the author makes a pretty convincing case that sleep is everything and that with good sleep habits you will live longer, smarter and happier. If you haven’t read it and are interested in health you should check it out.

My cancer was deemed aggressive and so in consultation with a surgeon, two oncologists, a radiation oncologist and my wife – we decided to treat it aggressively. Over the last six months I’ve had surgery (prostate and lymph nodes removed), a two month course of radiotherapy and currently 4 months into 24 months of hormone therapy. Cut, burn, poison – they’re the current options when it comes to cancer treatment. That said, I believe a healthy diet, exercise and good sleep will have a big impact on my recovery and longevity. Hence the current interest in sleep.

Like most people – I’ve never really thought too much about sleep. You just sort of get on with it and battle on with what sleep you manage to get – your body lets you know when you don’t get enough and compensates to make it up . But travel, stress, illness, environment, diet can all have a short or long-term impact on your sleep and it’s more likely you just fall further into sleep debt.

After trying a few apps. on the Apple Watch (more on this in another post) I came to the conclusion that the poor battery life and form factor just weren’t working. While I love the Apple Watch for many reasons- the battery life sucks and I just can’t get used to sleeping with it on.

So prompted by a friend I took a look at the Oura Ring sleep / health / wellness tracker. The Oura ring is on it’s second generation and the first thing you notice is what a remarkable job they’ve done jamming a lot of technology into a small space – 3d accelerometer and gyroscope, body temperature sensor, infrared LEDs, battery and BLE radio.


As you can see in the picture – It’s only slightly thicker than my platinum wedding band and a little bit lighter (titanium and plastic). I ordered size 10 but I’m probably a 9.5 so it’s a little loose but I erred on the bigger size assuming my fingers will swell in the summer. Oura have done a good job with the design – quite a few different finishes and styles – I chose the Heritage Stealth (matt-black). It’s waterproof and fairly scratch resistant so you can put it on a forget about it. The battery lasts about a week and only takes 20 mins to charge and uses a wireless charger (included). There is an airplane mode which turns off the BTE radio and that pushes battery life to about 11 days – but you have to remember to put it on the charger to re-enable it and upload data – so sorta defeats the purpose IMO.

The ring tracks a number of sleep metrics :

  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
  • Body Temperature
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Activity

The first four of these are used to determine how much time you spend in different parts of the sleep cycle and gives you an overall  Readiness Score. Activity track, as you might expect – activity – it’s not really a dedicated activity tracker and from my experience the step and calorie tracking is pretty inaccurate compared to my Apple Watch.

Right now I’m really just interested in the overall score and duration of my sleep but will likely at some point dig a bit deeper into things like HRV and body temperature – especially when I get back to cycling.

The ring comes with a pretty decent app (I’ve only tried the iOS version) that basically derives the readiness score and presents last nights sleep as well as overall trends.

The key part for me is the duration of each element of the sleep cycle. REM and Deep sleep are the most important to overall health and recovery. Resting Heart Rate is a good indicator of general aerobic health. Everyone is different and it’s key to focus on the trends and not the absolutes.

At this point (now you can see the charts) – it’s worth pointing out that my sleep right now is really poor  – these are the effects of my aforementioned cancer treatment – I wake up 2-3 times a night for a bio break. But already I can see some improvements and I’m able to experiment with different sleep aids, bedtime routines and eventually impact of exercise (when I’m recovered enough).

So far – after about a month – I’m pretty impressed with Oura – I certainly have some suggestions for improvements in the app – more on that when I get time to write about my comparisons with other Apple Watch sleep trackers. Until then :


If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

– Peter Drucker



Warrior Creek, Beech Mountain & Rocky Knob Park

My son and I are trying to hit all the best North Carolina trails over the summer and made a start last weekend with a trip to the mountains. The wish-list was Warrior Creek (conveniently on the way), a day a Beech Mountain and then Rocky Knob on the way home.

Day 1 – Warrior Creek.

We loaded-up and headed out midday on Friday  with the aim of riding Warrior Creek on the way up to Boone. It is part of the Kerr Scott Reservoir trail system and we recently raced in the Southern Classic at Dark Mountain and heard good things about Warrior Creek. We arrived about 3pm which was good and bad timing; bad because it was still in the low 90F’s and humid; good timing – for reasons I’ll get into later.

Warrior Creek is a really well-designed trail in a really pretty lakeside location; it’s a mix of hard-pack, rock-gardens and lots of huge, fast berms. There’s nothing too strenuous (even in 90F’s) as the trail mostly follows the same contours – just enough rise and fall to make it fun and fast. There were a couple of large trees down which meant we had to walk a two of the faster sections but otherwise the trail was in good condition.

At about mile 9 you can add the extra 1.6 mile Headwaters loop (Black Diamond) – we opted out because we were out of energy and out of water so we headed back to the parking lot. An unfortunate wrong turn towards the end added a couple of (downhill) road miles.

The trail is great – will head back in the fall and do the whole 18+ miles. The parking lot is worth a 5-star rating in itself – bike (or human) washing station, vending machine and bathrooms / changing rooms.

After re-hydrating, loading the bikes we hit the road – just 45 mins to our campsite near Boone. The first rain-drops started as we left the campground parking lot and within minutes we were in a full-scale storm – driving rain, lightning, trees down – probably the worst weather I’ve driven through. After 90 minutes, we arrived at the campsite unscathed but our camping spot had turned into a small river. With rain forecast until 4am; we put plan B into action and after a bit of last-minute hotel shopping, headed back into Boone for the night – most of which was in darkness due to the storm. Many of the restaurants were closed but we found a decent Mexican on the edge of town that still had power.

Day 2 – Beech Mountain

My son has been raving about Beech mountain for months – and it really was the main goal of this trip. Beech is pretty typical of the small ski resorts in the area – a couple of chair lifts and half a dozen runs and in the summer you can park right in the village at the bottom of the mountain. There’s also a bike shop in the village where you can rent enduro / XC bikes as well as protective gear. We decided to use our own bikes though I’d probably consider renting to get some extra travel next time – my Specialized Epic took a real pounding – really not made for the kind of terrain at Beech.

All-day lift tickets are $35, $28 for kids under 12. Loading your bikes on the chair-lift is pretty straightforward and there are a couple of guys to help if needed, you ride in the chair-lift behind your bikes and someone unloads your bike at the top; you can also ride down if you break your bike while on the mountain.

There are 3 green trails, a couple of blues and some black and black diamond – they are interrupted a third of the way down by an access road which allows you to mix and match trails. We mostly stuck to the greens and blues – nice, fast and flowy with a some technical sections – but basically everything was easily rideable; there are a few big drops and tables towards the bottom if you like air. We gave the black and black-diamond a try as well but being in the woods they really hadn’t dried out from the previous days storm – walking / sliding down was hard enough – riding would’ve been suicidal. Gives you some perspective though – these are actual Downhill Championship courses – amazing to see pros. fly down this stuff at full race speed in any condition.

Despite not actually pedaling much – I was surprisingly tired at the end of the day – you’re mostly out of the saddle and on your breaks. We did about 9 runs and a break for lunch in about 6 hours. Fortunately I was able to rehydrate and carb load with a 5506 Pale Ale from the excellent Beech Mountain Brewing Company at the bottom of the mountain and there’s a bike stand and hose to clean your bike – handy if you’re staying in a hotel.

Here’s Jack’s 5 minute video showing the green and blue runs  – starts off slow but the pace picks up about 2.30 as we gain confidence – crank it up to 1080p if you have the bandwidth. You won’t see much of me in the video – as usual – I’m struggling to keep up !

Day 3 – Grandfather Mountain and Rocky Knob

After a lazy morning watching the TDF in bed and breakfast we packed up for our journey home. Just two stops on the way. The first – Grandfather Mountain via a cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a beautiful clear day  and you could see forever. The area was pretty busy due to the Highland Games  (who knew ?) – lot’s of red hair and sunburn.

Next stop was Rocky Knob Park  just outside Boone – there’s about 9 miles of trail here and there’s a bit of everything – some short climbs, rock gardens, skinnies, epic downhill, a skills area and pump-track. We only rode about 6 miles on the main trail – we climbed up Middle Earth and Boat Rock stopping at Stone Binge skills area then raced down the aptly named PBJ (Pump, Berm, Jump) – Jack burped a tire so we had to stop for some field-maintenance midway. Trails were in great condition aside from the large fallen tree blocking the last berm on PBJ.

In the parking lot there’s a fun little pump track with probably one of the best views in the state – Jack spent a good 40 minutes finessing his track skills while I chatted with some other riders from all over the southern US.

This is a really well maintained trail system – kudos to the trail keepers – wish it was in my backyard !

We’re planning another weekend in the mountains – would love to hear some more recommendations – Pisgah is on the list – what else ?









DevNation and Red Hat Summit 2016


It’s that time of year again (OK Summit is actually fairly late this year) but you get my drift. DevNation / Summit alternates between Boston and San Francisco – this year we’re at Moscone North and West in San Francisco.

Two events for the price of one – can’t be bad. DevNation is by developers and for developers. Red Hat Summit is for our partners, customers and prospects and has technical, strategy and business tracks revolving around our commercial offerings.

Would love to catch up with friends, colleagues, customers and prospects.

Here’s where you can find me :

Sunday 26th, 5.30pm – 8.30pm PDT – DevNation Welcome Reception (travel gods willing)

Monday 27th, 9.30am – 11.45am PDT – DevNation General Session

Monday 27th,  8.30pm – 10.00pm PDT – Technical Leadership Meet and Greet, Thirsty Bear

Tuesday 28th, 10.15am – 11.15am PDT – Session –  “The current state of enterprise languages, frameworks, and platforms”, Room 2020

Tuesday 28th, 11.30am – 12.30pm PDT – Session – “Build your game plan for enterprise Java 2020”, Room 3005

Tuesday 28th, 3.30pm – 4.30pm PDT – Panel – “Red Hat containers roadmap”

Wednesday 29th, 6am – 7am PDT Red Hat Summit 5k Run / Walk. In customer, press and analyst meetings all day, then …

Wednesday 29th, 8pm – APBG party (aka the JBoss Party) – you’ll have to use your contacts to get an invite (eg. come to one or all of my sessions above) !

I’m actually around ’til Friday morning and have some spare time on Thursday if anyone wants to catch up.








MTB Mods.

I’ve been mostly happy with my Specialized Epic Carbon 29er except for a few minor niggling things which I’ve corrected over the last year or so.

The stock Formula brakes were not great. Fortuitously I snapped one of the levers off in the first few months and rather than replace just the lever; I fitted Shimano XT brakes on front and rear – they have better stopping power, less fade and are infinitely adjustable. They also use mineral oil instead of the nasty Gycol-based stuff.

The Epic’s stock tires were clearly made for speed above all else – I was never comfortable with the grip at the front. While the bike was having some down-time due to the rear shock getting serviced I added a bit more volume – Maxxis Ikon 2.2 on the back; Maxxis High Roller II 2.3 on the front – the bigger front tire really makes a difference. For what it’s worth – you might just be able to go up to 2.3 on the back and 2.4 on the front . I also went tubeless – I don’t know why specialized fit tubeless rims and tires but also ship with inner tubes – I suspect tire sealant doesn’t travel well and gets a bit messy while in transit.

Another thing I found is that the design of the front QR through-axel means it quickly degrades if too tight to the point where its no longer able to function and you have to use a hex wrench – somewhat negating the idea of a quick release. So I replaced it with the non QR version – the Maxel.

Finally I used the same maintenance window to fit a dropper. Without manually dropping the seat-post – my saddle is constantly butting me in the arse mid-jump – making for exciting nose-down landings. I do realize the Epic is a pure-bred XC bike not a dirt jumper – maybe at some point I’ll buy myself an old beater for the jumps.

Getting the right dropper for an Epic Carbon was a challenge due to i) the 27.2mm seatpost and ii) the shape of the frame which severely limits travel.  The only dropper Specialized will recommend is the Command Post XCP 350mm – which is pricy and only has 3 cm of travel – that’s $15 per millimeter ! I tried the 500mm version but that rode way too high for me and would’ve resulted in a riser; not a dropper.  KS now do a 27.2mm internally-routed  dropper and that might have been a better option but hard to know if the bend in the Epic’s frame would’ve restricted travel. Seems to be a fair amount of trial and error with droppers. Either way, you’ll probably want to have your local bike shop fit it because the internal routing is pretty complicated; but in my opinion – well worth it.

So with these new mods in place I hit the backyard trails before dusk. Nice to have a working auto-sag again (the Specialized / Fox Brain really is a decent piece of engineering) and the front tire running about 30 PSI handled really well – feels a lot more confident.

I hit one of the jump-lines and felt much more in control – no saddle tipping me forward mid-air and the trigger is really smooth – feels natural already.

Feels great to have my bike back working better than ever –  now I’ve got to rack up some miles before it gets too hot and humid !



The Legendary HyMasa and Captain Ahab

After 5 days of riding, Jack and I still had a bit more ride left in us – our fellow explorers decided to try something different for the day but we were determined to make the most of what Moab has to offer in the shredding department. Our RimTours guides recommended a couple of local rides. The HyMasa / Captain Ahab  and the Mag 7 seemed like the best options and we chose Captain Ahab because Jack thought we really needed to do a double black diamond after five hard days of riding and I’m an irresponsible father.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 10.51.42 PM

We re-rented the same bikes we’d been using for the last four days and were dropped at the start of HyMasa by David – one of our Raleigh compadres. It was around 10am and already fairly busy (probably due to OuterBike).

HyMasa is a slow 3 mile grind  on a mixture of rock and dirt and is mostly pretty straight forward but you have to keep moving to ascend the numerous rock steps that take you up to the start of Captain Ahab. This really is some of the best mountain biking I’ve ever experienced – slow going but fulfilling.

On the way up my son and I passed a pivotal moment in our father son relationship – given his superior fitness going uphill and fearlessness going downhill – he became the leader; and me the follower. Of course he didn’t notice – he was too busy racing some of the local hammerheads to the top of the mountain.

After you’ve enjoyed the amazing view you start the Capt. Ahab descent – it’s all very technical though most of the big drops have an alternative line so you can make the ride as hard or easy as you want – there were only a couple of places we had to dismount and walk. But this really is a very technical and unforgiving trail – if you take a fall you’re going to get hurt and you’re a long way from anywhere – I never ride in knee or elbow pads but would definitely do that next time. Jack came off twice and was lucky to only loose some skin – we slowed our pace after the second tumble.

When we got back to the parking lot (after a short traffic jam due to 4 wheelers) the mountain rescue team were heading into HyMasa with a stretcher – a rider had fallen and broken his arm (compound fracture) – a good reminder that while this is some of the best MTBing on the planet – it’s not without it’s risks.

This is a trail I would definitely ride again – with fresh legs and some armor it would be a blast !




Day 4 – White Rim Road : Potato Bottom to Horsethief

Read day 1 – White Rim Road : Shafer to Airport

Read day 2 – White Rim Road : Airport to Murphy

Read day 3 – White Rim Road : Murphy to Potato Bottom


After the evening’s star, satellite and ISS spotting we woke to a beautiful calm and clear morning. Being next to the Green River where there’s a little more moisture – we got a mild frost and the Sun took a little longer to rise over the surrounding mesas but once it did we had coffee and a decent last day breakfast in the (relatively) warm morning sun.

First task of the day was to reclaim all the height we lost tearing down Murphy’s with a tough couple of climbs straight out of the camp (Hardscrabble) – no chance to warm up the legs or lungs.

The next 7 or 8 miles along the Green River were mostly flat and fast with some interesting stops on the way to view some old Anasazi Indian ruins and artifacts the guides had discovered over the years.


Between us a lunch was our final and toughest climb of the week – Horsethief Bottom up to the Island in The Sky – it’s not technically hard – just soul crushing as the alpine-style switchbacks seem to go on forever. The kids practically sprinted up leaving many of the adults in the dust. My plan was to start last and attack from the back – I didn’t quite pull off the second part of that strategy ;(

Our ride finished with another great lunch in the parking lot at the top of the climb – more stunning views and a great place for some group pictures. But there’s more


Day 3 – White Rim Road : Murphy to Potato Bottom

Read day 1 – White Rim Road : Shafer to Airport

Read day 2 – White Rim Road : Airport to Murphy

It was great to wake to a warm sun rising and no wind and a good opportunity to dry and air our gear before packing it away.  Day 3 mileage is about 22 miles but it’s either downhill or flat and pretty fast.

After we’d eaten breakfast, caffeinated and decamped we hit the trail which starts with a fast and long down hill section giving up about 900ft of altitude. At about mile 6 we stopped take take in the views of the Green River and White Crack – a long fissure on the White Rim which is a few hundred feet deep and 6″-12″ wide. At some point a huge section of the White Rim will sheer along this fissure and a couple of millions of tons of rock will crash into the valley below. Fortunately not this day.



At about mile 13 we stopped for lunch and a quick detour to  explore Holeman Canyon – an interesting and fairly accessible slot canyon that ultimately drops into the Green River.

How far you can explore really depends on the level of the floor which rises and falls depending on what storm wash-off leaves behind. Pro-tip for exploring slot canyons – wear regular shoes – climbing in cycling shoes is a little tricky.

I left my phone in my pack so didn’t get any pictures but this Google Image search will give you a good idea of what to expect.

The last few miles roll fast and slightly down hill to Potato Bottom campsite. It was a cold and clear night – perfect for some star gazing after dinner.


Day 2 – White Rim Road : Airport to Murphy

Read Day 1 – White Rim Road : Shafer to Airpot 

The good news was that my trusty 25 year old 2-season tent survived – but only just.  The bad news was that I had a pretty poor night’s sleep – howling wind, flapping tent fabric, driving rain. So much for an early start – we ate breakfast and scrambled back to our tents until the rain cleared – then quickly de-camped, wrapped up in our warmest, most waterproof gear and headed out. The second day is a tough one – about 30 miles, some tough climbs and some interesting weather to contend with.

day2First an admission and some practical advice. Somehow I ignored the good advice on what to bring on the trip. I have every conceivable piece of outdoor gear to survive practically anything mother nature decides to inflict on me. But I left all of it at home.

Instead I packed pretty lightweight (North Carolina Winter) cycling clothes and very basic waterproofs – we have enough good riding days in NC that I don’t cycle if rain is in the forecast. Jack had to borrow a thicker Waterproof from Beth our guide (hence the color) and we had to put on double and triple layers.

An hour into the day’s ride we were cycling into vertical rain and sleet with a bit of snow thrown in. About 10 miles in (Gooseberry Camp) Jack was frozen and it was clear that no amount of riding was going to warm him up – so he rode in the support truck with Beth until our lunch spot at the White Crack junction 10 miles later. As soon as we crossed over the small ridge we we’re out of the rain and wind and into the sun – we all spread out like lizards to get our toes and fingers moving again.

The next few miles were flat and fast then you hit Murphy’s Hogback – our first serious climb. It’s loose, dusty and a bit of a lung-buster but with the right technique and some stamina – all rideable. The picture below shows our support truck rounding the corner at the top.


The hard work climbing the Hogback is rewarded. Murphy’s Camp must be one of the most spectacular camp sites on the planet – 270 degree views from 5200ft – just awesome. But it’s high up and pretty exposed so pretty cold – it also gives you a great view of what’s in store the next morning – what goes up …