It started out as a joke. But having ridden her mobility scooter from her home in Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire, across the misty Peak District, through the Midlands and due south with the finishing line in London a few days away, breast cancer survivor Tracey Vinyard is having the last laugh as she comes to the end of her unique 250-mile charity challenge.
“Nobody believed me when I told them what I had planned,” she told The Independent from the A6 near Flitwick in Bedfordshire. “I’ve been on the road almost two weeks now and I’m exhausted, but I’m almost at the end.”
Waiting for Mrs Vinyard at the finishing line in Canary Wharf, east London, is her 78-year-old father Alfie – who has no idea what his daughter has been up to. “It’s going to be a bit of a surprise when I tell him.”
Husband Michael and their dog Skipper accompanied Mrs Vinyard on the first leg of their trip to Blackpool but from then the 50-year-old has been going solo. Having ridden for around 14 hours a day every day since 11 May, she has battled thieves, convinced police to escort her to the end of carriageways and even fought an irate lorry driver who tried to carry out a citizen’s arrest after blowing his top at seeing the ‘class 2 invalid carriage’ with a maximum speed of 4mph slowing him down.
But nothing is going to deter Mrs Vinyard from completing her challenge and donating what she hopes will be thousands of pounds to her six chosen charities - Blue Skies Hospital Fund, which provides breast care at Blackpool Victoria, the RNLI, who lent her waterproofs, Support for the Elderly, the North West Air Ambulance, British Heart Foundation and the Spiritualist Church in Cleveleys.
Mrs Vinyard, who has been in remission for three years, said: “I’ve had the police called on me three times, but they’ve given me a pat on the shoulder once I’ve told them why I’m doing this.
“It hasn’t been easy – I’ve been surviving on a diet of McDonalds and sandwiches – and I don’t want to stay in £90 a night hotels so there have been times when I’ve just stayed all night in McDonalds with a cup of coffee. I nodded off once and the staff tried to throw me out, so I just bought another coffee. They can't throw out paying customers.”
One woman rescued Mrs Vinyard from outside her house in Derbyshire after her batteried went flat. Heather Toomey, who set up a website for donations, wackyscooter.co.uk, said: “We put her up for the night so she could recharge the scooter batteries.”
Thieves struck during another late night encounter in the Salford McDonalds, snatching her mobile phone while Mrs Vinyard had nodded off. Greater Manchester Police promised that “such cowardice will not go unpunished”.
The toughest moments so far have been crossing the misty peaks near Buxton, when she had to get off and push the scooter with one hand while waving a tea towel with her hazard lights on to warn oncoming traffic, and getting across Kirkham roundabout with its two motorway slip roads.
Her brother-in-law Dave promised to follow with a back-up van for the two weeks but dropped out when he realised Mrs Vinyard was actually serious, leaving cousin Denise Cavens to check in every morning and update the Facebook page.
Mrs Cavens said: “Tracey is doing great and meeting some amazing people along the way. Thank you to all the kind hearted people that have help and supported her.”