Kudos to the volunteers at the many controls along the route. Pre-ride, there had been some listserv chatter about volunteer efforts being in disarray, with some helpers threatening a full-blown mutiny. We prepared for the worst. In fact, nothing could have been further from reality. The small armies of volunteers at the stops along the way were among the true joys of the event. No question that the majority of the helpers were cyclists just like us. They were sympathetic to our pains and took unabashed delight in our progress. Many of them put in hours equal to our own -- I was surprised to see the very same workers at some of the controls on our return leg -- two days after we'd first passed through. Those volunteers looked as bleary-eyed as the riders, but they remained enthusiastic and engaged. Thanks to the whole bunch of you; your efforts were greatly appreciated.
Overcrowding was a problem at some checkpoints, especially the Eskdalemuir control. The control fell at about the 300K mark on Day 2, making it the natural destination for the many randonneurs riding a moderate pace. By midnight the place was jammed with bodies. The one sleeping room was overwhelmed, so exhausted riders began falling out wherever a square of floor space could be found -- in the hallway, under tables in the dining area. I tried to grab a little sleep under a table, but there was a beehive of activity just above my head. It sounded like a poker night at the frat house. Worse, quarters were so cramped that at one point a rider planted two wet socks, with the dogs still inside, squarely across the old kisser. That did it. Sleep was officially off the menu. Despite the unpleasant prospect of rolling dead-tired through the next day, I filled the water bottles and headed out into the night at 3:30 a.m. Thankfully, the sky began to lighten within the hour, which helped to revive me, and I was able to grab a precious hour of sleep at the Dalkeith control as I waited for Ende to arrive.
As for food? As a rule, English cuisine gets a bad rap; the common complaint is how bland the menu is. But I can tell you that the food was every bit as good as that on PBP. For one breakfast I enjoyed a plate of eggs, bacon on a roll, potato and leek soup, a bowl of cereal. I capped it off with a bowl of ice cream. Now, that's what I'm talking about. Finding food between the controls proved difficult. This was not America, where every corner has a 7-11. On the entire route I think we saw no more than three of what we'd call convenience stores here in the U.S. Of course, riding buddy Cap'n Ende apparently sniffed out the only MacDonald's in northern England and stopped in for fries and a burger.