Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The End of an amazing trip.

Well, where do I start? I think it's best I start with the end, just to confuse you.
The final stretch was by no means like seeing the finishing straight of the marathon, I think smooth, hill-less tarmac is a luxury reserved for the streets of London, not the back roads of south west Cornwall. It was a sort of 'go out with a bang' ending as on exiting Penzance I went up the steepest climb of the trip, 16.5% I think the sign said, I say I think, I was in total disbelief but had to climb that final hurdle to get to the finish line.
After we left Penzace it was more of what I had gotten used to expecting from the Cornish countryside; narrow, rough roads with looneys driving their farm equipment at silly speeds coming the other way.
There's a certain spike in the back of your mind thats always there to say "Will the next nutter be going just that bit too fast? Will this corner be my last?" You kind of have to ignore it or you don't progress at all.
That was why I hated the final week, I was used to having a queue of 20 cars behind me and stopping every so often to let them past, the majority didnt mind at all, but on one day we had a queue of 60 cars and lorries backed up behind us, after that point I was demoted to un-named roads and more of the ever-present cattle shit clogging up my wheels.
Aside from the skating, the final few days were by far the best, it's weird that things contrast so heavily from skating time to free time. During the day myself and my mom would be at each others throats debating over the best route and how my feet hurt and anything we could find fault with really. After the days skating had finished we would sit down and joke about the funnier parts of the day, have some good food and even play frisbee; completely dismissing the swearing match we had 2 hours previously.
The relief of seeing signs for Lands End was huge, we stopped for lunch in a layby facing a T-junction, one side read Penzance, and the other, Lands End - 2 miles. It was the longest 2 miles of the trip, and I'm not just saying that for dramatic effect, I think the signing was wrong too. It was a battle between keeping my head down and concentrating on the road, and bursting into the 6 year old on Christmas eve I felt like inside.
As the line came into sight I discarded my high-vis shirt and backpack, and the 6 year old came to the surface, I replaced the grimace of the past 27 days with the cheeky grin of the 6 year old thats just eaten all the nutella after being asked not to.
The line approached and the sound of cheering drowned out the pain of the verruca that had split the day before, and the sound of the boards' wheels rolling along the tarmac, and for the first time it was just me doing my thing, no GPS, no navigation, no pit-stops, and no hills. Just one man out doing what he loves doing, not for world records, not for charity, but because he can.
I closed my eyes, opened my arms and felt the soft kiss of ribbon on my chest, and at that moment I made my peace with the road. There had been some pretty bad moments, but they all got me to the place I needed to get to; triumph, in the face of adversity, and against some of the most brutal conditions mother nature had up her sleeve.
And whats this about prevailing winds? Hairy skateboarders are what is prevailing in the north-east of Scotland I think you'll find!
After I crossed the line the rest was a blur, a sip of cider sent me dizzy and I stumbled to the landmark to have various pictures taken, then we got down to the business of celebrating at the local campsite where burgers, sausages and champagne glasses were guzzled in my honour.
It's hard to start thanking people in order, because it's unfair if someone is thanked last they feel like they have done the least, but everyone did over and above what I thought they could and were prepared to do. I'm so proud to know such generous and kind people.
Firstly, my amazing family for supporting this crazy trip and giving me the all important kick up the arse when I needed it. All the wonderful people I have met and stayed with along the trip, it's nice to get to know the people behind the windows you skate past. I am never going to forget such generous people that willingly will accomodate a smelly teenager and his support team for free, they are the real heroes. A special thanks to our meals on wheels crew (thingy and thingy) who made a change of hands of the driver run smoothly, and for support throughout the trip. A huge thank you to the maker of my beautiful Birthday cake, which was so detailed it even had the right coloured wheels on my skateboard, it rests to this day on my wardrobe and I am still too scared to either eat it or throw it away.
For everyone who made their way down to cornwall to see me over the line, I want to say a massive thanks to as it's an expensive trip with the rediculous petrol prices. But it made all the difference that people would go out of their way just so I could see a friendly face to welcome me across the line, and it means a huge amount to me that people are willing to do that for one person, so again I thank you greatly.
To my friends, who have called me everything from 'skater boy' to 'absolute bloody nutter' I want to thank for not only supporting me personally, but who supported the charity too and gave generously to CORDA.
I think it's safe to say that without the help of a few people the trip would have been a non starter, Jenny Jenks of CORDA and Nicky Smith of Nexus have put in a huge workload to make the most of this trip and I want to thank them both hugely for their time, commitment and patients.
Now I know theres always a 'last but not least' in every list of thanks, but I think I have no trouble is saying that the next person is not only a huge inspiration to myself and hundreds of other bidding nutters, but is the most generous, giving, kind, helpful and likeable person I have ever come across. It has been a privelidge to have been helped by, to have been embraced as a friend by, and to have broken a record of the great Mr. (should be sir) David Cornthwaite. Without the help and guidance of Dave, I wouldn't have had the determination to accomplish such a task as this, and I would probably never have thought it possible to achieve what I have.
So then, how do you end this chapter of the Ben Stiff story?
It shouldn't be concluded with a statement, like 'it's been incredible' or 'I'm buggered if I'm doing that again' but it should be a question.
Not one like 'how was it'? or even 'how do you feel'?
Simply; "What's next"?

To find out more about Ben's trip and others like it, log on to

Happy skatin'

Thursday, 24 July 2008

the last push

It's the final countdown!!
No, not the Europe song, put the air guitars away, it really is the countdown to the end of an amazing trip. To say it has been fun is a huge understatement, and to say its been easy is just a downright lie.
There hasn't once been a time I wanted to give up, there have been times where i wanted to chuck the board into the path of a combine and go off in a strop, but it's tmes like that where you need to just keep plodding on and keep your head - or in my case, feet - down.
This is just a short one, the big thank you to everyone (and I do mean everyone) Will come when I'm over the line.
But for now, I'll just keep you in suspense!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Bristol to Cheddar!

I am lucky enough to have a bed again tonight! I'm being put up by a couple who my mom knows, who were generous enough to lend us a bed for the night, and while were at it, I can steal their internet too!
Today was probably the most varied day I've had, I know every time I update things I say I've just had the most something, but today was quite special indeed.
It was the last day of my grandad taking over the navigation from my dad, and things started smoothly with setting up camp in good time, and having a meals on wheels delivery from two of my mom's good friends; Ali and Mary meant that the first night was completely hassle free, which was just what we needed.
After having 18 days of a pretty rigid routine, it wasn't hard to keep thing flowing the way they had been before, and with visits to local pubs being frequent, we didn't have to worry about washing up too often either.
Today we found a pub like no other, I forget the name but it's what went on inside which was so, er, different about this pub.
As we pulled up ot it, the appearance was just like any other pub, but as we drew closer we found that it was also a chinese restaurant, which had been sort of bolted onto the side as an afterthought, although it was probably a lack of thought more than anything.
We walked in anyway, still hopefull that we could have food from this hemisphere, and on asking the landland if food was available, we were showed the menu's for both English and Chinese lunch.
We were shown through into the resaurant area, which had to be unlocked from the inside to let us in, and we walked into what can only be decribed as a Chinese pub. There was a small bar, and the tables were laid with knives and forks, as opposed to chopsticks, but there were wicker partitions and oriental ornaments scattered about the room in a vein attempt that we might think we had stumbled upon some portal to Shanghai.
To keep things as simple as we could, we all ordered a steak, and the landlady was impressed that I had a similar taste to her in that I have my steak so rare it is still moo'ing when it's served.
After we placed our order th landlady approached with what, at first, appeared to be a breadbasket, but to throw us completely it was full of prawn crackers. Yes thats what I had for lunch today; steak, chips, peas, onion rings and prawn crackers.
After staring at the basket until the landlady had left the room, we all burst into laughter at the same time, which was just the boost we needed to keep the trip in good spirits.
After our very nice steaks we headed back to the road and completed the days skating, but the day wasn't over until we had our first confruntational meeting with the police.
On being asked to 'pull over', I dismounted the board and cooly approached the squad car and asked; "is there a problem?"
It appeared that there had been a complaint about our presence on the road, not that we were causing any particular micheif to the public, just that we were on the road and it wasn't to one persons liking.
I explained to the officer that it was for charity, and that we were nearly done, and he let us on our way.
Still, 800 miles and only one complaint isn't bad going...

Friday, 18 July 2008

Just north of Gloucester to Just north of Bristol.

Today was great; we had photographs taken for a local newspaper, and had an interview with the local radio. We also adopted a new style of collecting our funds, whilst moving!
Not that it was any choice of our own, but in 2 separate incindences today we received money at, pretty much, full speed.
The first was as we were just coming out of Gloucester, we had pulled into the right hand lane of a junction as we had to turn left then immediately right. Only on turning was it that we found that it was actually a dual carriageway, and people were now undertaking us at quite a rate. One passer-by was kind enough to offer a donation, unfortunately it was out of the window of her car, which was going at 15 miles an hour. Now although this is ultimately a fund raising exercise, I was a little hesitant in trying to grasp the fiver, which was at this point being waved ferociously as it was holding up a lot of traffic. I swerved towards the car, hitting more cat-eyes than i would have liked to, and, outstretching my hand I managed to grab the money and rejoin my lane with heartbeat racing.
The second was pretty much the same, but it was the support van that was offered money, not me. A van full of, well, white van men overtook and half way through the maneuver thought it would be a good time to drop in a small donation. So, the driver of the van searched his pockets, as did his friends, and the passenger thrusted a clenched fist towards the support van, which was quite heavy with change. The difference being in this case was that we were no longer on a dual carriageway, and the traffic coming the other way was beginning to look a little worried that the transaction may not be complete with enough time for the van to avoid quite a nasty smash.
Luckily there wasn't a head on collision, and it was the van driver who's heart was racing.
The rest of the day was fairly samey, after we met with the photographer we set off south on the A38 towards Bristol.
As I saw the sign it began to dawn on me that I really was getting close to the end. Being in the south came quicker than I expected, and to be honest I don't really want to be in the South. Of course I do want to progress, and I certainly don't want to turn around, but I don't want this to end. It's been such fun, and I have gotten to know some pretty amazing people, to name one, Sandy McGill's flawless talent of being able to turn traffic lights green from 40 feet away. I swear he had some kind of remote on him.
The trip has been a sort of self-discovery in a lot of ways, now bear with me here I'm not taking up feng shui or aromatherapy or any bollocks like that. But when you're alone for 80% of your day, with nothing to keep you company apart from your Ipod and the growl of a skateboard running over tarmac, you start thinking about stuff, mainly because you have nothing else to do. I think about the people at home who I miss, and although I don't want the trip to end, I can't wait to see some of them, so it's a bit of a funny position I'm in. But aside from all that I think the trip has been well worthwhile, and would reccomend an adventure like this to anyone, just don't go stealing my world records!!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The well earned day off.

Today was great! I woke up and didn't bang my head on the roof of a van, didnt have to open a trapdoor to find solid ground, didn't have to pack any tents away, and most definitely didn't have to do any skateboarding!
Having said that, I did feel inclined to go for just a small skate, but I was already late for leaving for my brothers graduation, so I pressed on with getting ready.
With everyone suited and booted we set off to the theatre Royal where all the other relatives, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends were queuing to get in. The Graduates entered using another entrance.
The ceremony went on for about an hour and a half, and after the first 30 or so graduates, my hands were starting to hurt from clapping, but I was assuming everyone else was thinking the same thing. My brother was announced and our little group went mad, I didn't care that my hands were hurting, he deserved everybodies applause, not just mine.
After the ceremony we met up with him and had all the photo's taken of him with various members of the family. My dad took over 120 pictures, I can't think what of as there were only about 9 of us.
With Dad's camera memory full we headed to a lovely fish restaurant where we toasted his achievements and ate until we could hardly walk.
We stumbled back to his flat in an all too familiar drizzle, which seems to have been following me all trip long. When we arrived we swapped our suits for something a little less damp and set about planning the next few days of the route south.
My grandfather takes over from the drivers seat of the support van tomorrow, he will take me south for the next 3 days, at which point my mom will pick up and we will be in deepest darkest Devon.
Looking back on the first 2 weeks, it's unreal to think that I have already crossed the entire length of Scotland on a skateboard. I can't look at a map without chuckling anymore.

Monday, 14 July 2008

South of Scotland.

It's been 4 days since I last updated the blog. Unfortunately the English countryside hasn't yielded much in the way of wireless internet.
I am now in my brothers flat in Nottingham, and tomorrow is my one and only rest day; which I am taking to wish him well on his graduation.
The past few days have been a mix. After we left Mike Hunter - one of the rotarians to put us up - in the Lakes the rain went south with us, there were times where I could have gone swimming and not gotten any wetter.
Coming out of Shap was something I'll remember for a long time. There's something about skating up a 10% hill against 30mph gusting headwinds carrying torrential rain that sticks in the mind.
On a lighter note, we have walkie talkies! They are a real help with navigation as I don't have to stop at every turning and consult with the driver. They are also fun to play games like I spy with, and arguing without having to look at each other.
The roads have been good to me too, after passing into England the traffic has picked up a lot though. Even going around, let alone through some towns has been very on and off with letting traffic pass, skating for 5 minutes, then doing the same. It's really tiring because I can't get into any kind of rhythm, even with the Ipod on.
The board is holding up fine, although we had to swap some bits over with the trucks, 500 miles of twists and turns takes a lot out of them, so we just swapped the base plates where the axles are mounted, and were rolling on again in no time. Actually it took 3 of us about an hour, but the time just flew by...
After the Preston day, the roads seemed to get a bit calmer, but we were still reminded that we needed to be careful when lorries and tractors went past; kicking up clouds of diesel as they went, which wasn't too nice to breathe in.
The hills are now definitely getting smaller by the day, the shoes are still taking a beating though as there are more traffic lights to stop for, and more pedestrians to avoid. People still look at me as though I'm not on a skateboard at all, that I'm some kind of alien thats rolling down whichever street it happens to be. I guess as I'm only the 2nd person to have done this, people haven't really gotten used to it.
Unfortunately, on one of our days, the GPS I carry with me stopped working, so we have 3 days with no record of me skating at all. So if anyone asks, just take my word for it, the very confused yet amused people of the north-west of England can back me up.
There haven't been any encounters with any sheep since the last one, I'm quite dissapointed at the English wildlife really it's quite unadventurous. Although I was woken by a sheep this morning, and before you start getting any funny ideas, it was in the field next to our campsite, along with some equally noisy geese.
At the end of today we were pretty much out of the busy part of the UK, the next busy place will be Bristol, and I think thats where the hills will pick up again, but hopefully after a rest day, and a few days of flat'ish' skating, I'll be ready for them.
From then on it's into Devon, and then the final few days.

Friday, 11 July 2008


Post by Dave @

By lunchtime yesterday Ben had made it to Kendal, Cumbria, having made it safely through the Scottish Highlands to England. Still a few more hills to go, but he's feeling strong and isn't far off the halfway mark now.