Bike Ride Across The USA, 2014 – Part Two (Kansas to California)

February 12, 2019

 This is Part Two of my epic bike ride from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. Part One (an earlier blog) took you from the Atlantic to Kansas and this blog picks up the rest of the tour. The scenery and weariness changes along with the temperature!

Originally this blog was on a Google blogging site and this re-posting on my site tidies up the typos and some of the mystery English (!) that occasionally surfaced as I wrote this on the road whilst trying to get an internet connection. Enjoy, I certainly did.

31.   Girl’s Talk (Dave Edmunds – I prefer it to the songwriter’s original – Elvis Costello)

Larned to Ness City 65 miles – August 19 2014

These small towns all have parks. Usually it contains a swimming pool and a baseball pitch as well as some benches and grass. So Larned was prepared to put up a cyclist and I took advantage of these fairly basic facilities. Due to weariness and an attempt to get up early I got into the tent at 8.30pm and kept very still to stop perspiring! As I am looking at the tent roof a rowdy basketball game starts up between the local yoofs nearby. Sadly there is street lighting to enable this. Also another recidivist in his Dad’s 5.7 litre diesel pick up is lapping the park. The real fun for him is the deafening noise of his accelaration for 20 yards before braking. As I am listening to all this, plus nearby highway traffic, I hear….”hello camper?” (…not now Britney)

It turns out that Misty who allowed me to use the shower at the other site has tracked me down to the park and is advising that a heavy storm is due overnight and would I like to sleep in her living room. Much to my relief her partner is beside her. He is about 3 stone lighter and prettier. I was actually in the picnic shelter area with a canopy and it would have taken me ages to break down the tent and pack and so I declined her kind offer despite feeling mean. She was  right, at 1.25am thunder and lightning began but after my initial awakening I fell back to sleep snug in the shelter.

The same team built the bridge over the River Kwai

The cycle to Ness City is standard Kansas, a gradual but continual climb, toward the Rockies and a persistent headwind. At one point the road offers a concession and I get to cycle north for 19 miles to Rush Center with a tail wind. ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ comes to mind. 

At Rush Center, a cross road between two highways, I am planning a cup of coffee and the largest piece of cake known to mankind. The cafe says ‘shut until Fall’. I stand there crestfallen as a man is driven across this busy highway by his 8 year old grand daughter, in a golf buggy, to the front of the cafe. “You can have a coffee and cookie but there ain’t nothing else”. Seems good to me and as I enter there are some seniors discussing floral arrangements. One lady looks at me in askance and I explain the invite! She shakes her head at his invitation and pours me a coffee and asks “would you like sugar and creamer with that Sir?”

Through out the USA because I am hitting these restaurants/cafes at early times I come across seniors shooting the breeze. Of course, everyone drives and so they drive up and yak!

Eventually Ness City comes into view and it is on the brink of ‘furnace time’. I get directed to the park by the Police and set up camp. No showers and so my trusty large bag and rose is brought out and does the job.

Scrubbed I face the heat and go looking for some lunch. Behold I see a bicycle and inside are three people who are cycling including a legend. It seems so long since I have seen a cyclist let alone had a long chat. Catherine and Jim ‘Legend’ McTaggart are crossing West to East. Jim has done this twice before and I expect that he won’t mind me adding that he is a septuagenarian. I had read his previous blogs and his route, spirit and practicality had been an inspiration when I was looking at my project. Catherine was on her first long USA ride and was going about the challenge with enthusiasm, energy and a cheerful approach, I can think of a few wives who would be in awe of her!

Jerry Saravia is a New Yorker, albeit no longer a resident, who is going East to West on the Trans Am and had an unplanned rest day in Ness City. He’s going well at his own pace but sadly his girlfriend has had to abandon the trip after picking up an injury and Jerry’s battling on solo.

It was good to chat and we dined later together (after I made an earlier brief visit to the town bar). I think everyone was pleased to find new people to talk to and learn from. Catherine gave me advice on medical supplies and Jim on how to save 4,000 feet of climbing in Colorado.

So eventually back to the peaceful park for a long wonderful sleep.

(Blog title? Well with Misty and Catherine either looking after me or telling me her brief recent life story it seemed appropriate)

32.   Dirty Linen (Fairport Convention)


Ness City to Scott City 55 miles – August 20 2014

I had a great night’s sleep in the park and agreed to ride with Jerry to Scott City. The ride was quite short and the usual Kansas conditions prevailed. We stopped in Dighton for breakfast, which was my best brekkie of the trip, and there again were the seniors sat around talking and drinking coffee before they all collectively left to presumably attend something like Combine Harvester Maintenance for beginners.

The facilities at Ness City were basic and so had been Larned’s. To arrive at Scott City at lunchtime was a bonus and I was hoping for an upgrade in accommodation. Here there was a private gym and pool and for $12 you could get a shower, swim, wi-fi, have a small room as well get acquainted with the owner’s two huskies. In fairness it seemed like divine retribution to the species that you would place two huskies in Kansas in August.

At the pool there were a number of kids swimming and I posed the standard question of “name 3 Brits?” The first three names I got back were members of One Direction (they had to explain who they were to me although Zane rang a bell) and then when pressing further I got Simon Cowell (which I also get a day later at a diner). So ahead of William and Kate or even Harry then the whole talent show circus represents Britain amongst the American nation.

Knowing how to have a good time then it was down to the laundromat. One heavily perspiring lady was washing all the sheets from a local motel. She explained that she was from Minnesota originally but Scott City was home. “So where would you go to do your major shopping or have a night out?” She didn’t volunteer anywhere else, Scott City seems to have it all. Some of these towns seem like small cages to me knowing what lies further away in the larger cities.

So the day drifted by with the mundane. As always I get asked in a supermarket where I am from and where am I going – it helps to walk round in lycra to spark the questions. One lady helped me unsuccessfully search for ravioli and then when leaving proffered 3 small cucumbers in the car park to add to my groceries. I am fairly certain doesn’t have the same Italian message as receiving a dead fish or horse’s head.

33.   Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)

Scott City to Sheridan Lake 79 miles – August 21 2014

Jerry now feeling confident after his romp into Scott City is game for a bijou saunter of 70 odd miles along to Sheridan Lake. So setting off in the dark. “Let’s get up at 5am to avoid some wind and heat and get on the road at 5.30am Jerry”. So we departed just after 6am after lots of Jerry pfaffing about. I say nothing (cough).

Riding in the dark means that sharing directions and signals becomes difficult. So when the first one came then I apologised for tardy communication and said that there would be no further problems as it was just another 75 miles straight on the US Route 96. Outside Scott City there are cattle stations where the beasts are given feed as probably one of the last stages of their growth before becoming a beefburger. Even though it is dark the smell tells you that there are a large number of cattle in pens.

So Jez follows until daybreak and then zooms past to disappear up the road, he’s feeling good. Mr Worldly Wise aka Agreable thinks he should conserve himself, it will be a long day.

So after 25 miles we stop in Leoti for a break. The town is just a crossroad with enormous trucks and noise. I set off before Jerry and sure enough he falls way behind. At the two thirds point we reach Tribune where at a diner the “name 3 famous Britains” question chucks up Simon Cowell, David Beckham, The Spice Girls and Adele. What do they teach in school?

After this guzzle of a late breakfast, Jerry, the only man to cross the USA on a bike with an umbrella gives the impression that he’s staying in Tribune. Adios amigo.

Not only have I gained an hour by entering Mountain Time I also acquire another State.

So I exit Kansas. Thank you Kansas you were kind and generous but your countryside always made me think you were at work. A continual stream of trucks, tractors, arable crops and farmers in pick ups. Whatever Kansas contributes to the US or world economy then someone is working hard.

The ride into Sheridan Lake is routine in the now developing heat when I pass two girls pushing a pushchair (with their worldy possessions in it). Christy and April have been on the road since late March walking across the USA. As all travellers seem like lost waifs I give them a bag of almonds and a Snicker bar to worrying gratitude and continue to my church for the night.

Virgil and Melanie are the Pastor and his wife, but first I am met by Ruth, who I presume is one of the congregation and she is tidying an immaculate kitchen. So I settle in, have a shower under a hose pipe in the garden and then a long chat with Family Ives via the very wonderful Skype. Everyone seems quite busy at home.

Later, Jerry arrives! He had had a puncture to add to his longest day ever. Then the two walkers arrive. So the peace is over but there is enough space enough for us all.

I caculated about 3,700 miles for the trip and I have now clocked up 2,127.

34.   Fly Like An Eagle (Seal, preferred to the Steve Miller Band version)

Sheridan Lake to Ordway 91 miles – August 22 2014

I calculated that I had two day’s riding to Pueblo (bright lights, vegetables, beer and music) and if possible then today I would put in a long ride. So leaving a bleary eyed Jerry and his perambulist buddies I was gone by 5.35am heading toward the County capital, Eads. 

Dawn

So into Eads where I found a box of croissants. Maybe not much to you but treasure to me. Onto Haswell where I started to experience a… be careful the next word contains flash photography, TAILWIND. Gone were the aching feet, the annoyance at the flies, the distraction of the Knaresborough problem because I was flying. Clearly staying at a church the night before may be the explanation. I am prepared to consider this as divine intervention as it was so fabulous.

Before Eads I came across Barry and Karl. Barry, from Sacramento, was heading to Witchita before flying back west (am I starting sound like an American now?) and Karl was from that most magnificent country, Holland. I love the Dutch, I have had such positive experiences of them when cycle touring in France. So we discussed the route and Karl’s recumbent bike when Karl with that spectacular insouciance the Dutch can have got out of his contraption and lit up a fag. Not in itself remarkable but not many long distance cyclists stop for a drag!

Barry & Karl

So the last 40 miles were a lot easier as I hit Ordway. The map offered me three lodging solutions. I don’t often explain what takes place but the major trauma of the day can be about to start at this point hence the delight in meeting cyclists who have visited these towns to give advice.

Looks like Kansas, can’t you see the tailwind?

Firstly, a campsite. This was an RV cum trailer park near a lake. The lake on some of its shore had some industrial use judging by the trucks and mounds of gravel. From what I could see of the park it was the usual combination of scrapyard and dilapidation that characterises these places. Not for Tony.

A bench in Arlington and resting the feet whilst I check the map

Secondly, “ask for Gillian” said the map. Everyone knew Gillian but it took three people to eventually get me to her farm. Did you say farm, Tony? Well there were goats, chickens, signs about horses etc and whilst it was all small time I found the path to her front door past animals and dilapidated caravans discouraging. When, despite hearing her voice, no one answered my knocking on the door. I took it as an omen and it brought to mind a conversation with April. She had the towns wrong but she had said Gillian gives you accommodation for an hour’s labour around the farm. Me working with goats in 38ºC, are you kidding?

Lastly, a hotel. Not my preferred solution given my three nights of comfort to be arranged in Pueblo. However, I relented and walking into the lobby of Hotel Ordway I noticed the “don’t bring your bikes inside the hotel” instruction and rang a bell. Carol appeared and was in a rush so that she could return to child supervision, bloody customers eh!

 She said did I want a hostel or hotel room. So for $40 (or $45 if I paid by credit card) I could have the hostel solution which meant going up the corridor for my ablutions. Fine, but the credit card disincentive seemed steep and her list of instructions about towels, the air conditioning unit and the storing of the bike all seemed a bit high handed. So she took the cash, took no details about me and gave no receipt. We call this ‘cash in hand’ in the UK.

There are thousands of abandoned vehicles in the Mid West

So then as I am wearying of her she asks “do you have wi-fi?” “No I don’t, but I have a tablet” “That’s what I meant, obviously a language misunderstanding.” “Ho ho, how right you are (chuckle, chuckle) and so what is the password?” After imparting the magic information she gave several more instructions and then suggested I would not see her again and disappeared to look after the child (no doubt she had left the child with the instruction, in her absence, not to put the toads, bats wings and hazlewood into the cauldron until she returned).

Spoke later in the evening to Jack who is near to finishing Missouri and the Katy Trail. He seemed chipper. Spoke to Jerry who had returned to sleep after my departure and spent another day at Sheridan Lake. Texted the South Carolina Belle who said that she had already cycled 112 miles today, with a tailwind, and she was cycling another 25 miles this evening to join the crew at Sheridan Lake, let’s hope she remembered to stop.

35.   You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (Dead Or Alive)

Ordway to Pueblo 54 miles – August 23 2014

Rest Days – August 24 2014

Firstly I am aware that I receive some ‘Anonymous’ comments on the blog and even more tantilising I receive anonymous donations. I always thank donors personally, so anything anonymous prevents me doing that, and so please be aware I don’t take that generosity for granted – thank you.

Oh dear….look what’s in the distance. Hills!

When I left Sheridan Lake early last Friday I passed a sign to a historic site – Sand Creek Massacre. To visit the site meant a detour probably to see very little but as I have cycled across this vast land the presence and legacy of the Native American is imprinted on much of the Mid West. They were here first but their decimation was completed by the white man.

At Sand Creek in 1864 675 American (Coloradan) troops slaughtered a large number of Cherokee and Arapahos Indians (around 150) mostly women, children, old and young males. The Indian older males had mainly been absent hunting bison. The Indians under various agreements and flying the US flag were meant to be safe. The slaughter didn’t just mean being killed but many Indians were scalped and mutilated. There were subsequent investigations and hence the suffix of ‘massacre’ rather than battle. No one was fooled about the murder.

What antagonism between the white man and the Indians could have led to this cowardly massacre? This is where your mind wanders. 

The Indian leaders/Chiefs had waged war on the local white communities but various treaties from the middle of the 19th Century had meant to normalise relations. The white settlers were often terrified of the ‘savages’ and Indian attacks and the death of white families could be common from some splinter factions of the tribes. This gave, presumably indignant settlers their justification.

Initially large tracts of land were reserved for the Indians in Colorado, Kansas, Oregan etc. but renegotiations took place as the white man decided that such treaties would preclude them from getting at gold deposits. In fact treaties were negotiated giving Indian tribes a fraction of what was originally agreed. Presumably in return the Indians received something but it can scarcely have been worth what they surrendered. 

Eventually it was the wholesale slaughter of the bison herds by white men for their hides at a $1 each that robbed the Indian of his way of life, food and many other basic necessities that caused them to no longer have a significant presence in these lands. From herds of bison that made the horizon ‘black’ up until the 1870’s with their plentiful number through to their eventual decimation the Indian was defeated. 

The British have an often inglorious history of self serving priorities with subordinated peoples that have left many disadvantaged or dead but this history shows how ‘wild’ the US West was and how barbaric.

My ride into Pueblo I hoped would be a gentle trundle. The wind had turned around and getting to the major town on my route (population of over 100,000) was a morning of considerable work. Leaving Ordway I passed more prisons. I have seen a few on my ride. The US imprisons 2.25m people. The rate is 764 per 100,000. The UK by comparison is 154 per 100,000. The route was flat and followed the railway line with still more coal deliveries. Being terribly sad I counted the exact number of coal trucks being hauled by one train, it was 120 trucks.

In Pueblo I got to the main drag where all the hotels, supermarkets, fast food outlets were placed and found the Super8. This weekend it was busy in Pueblo because the Colorado State Fair was on (which is based here) and accommodation was scarce. However, Super8 came through for me.

Riding a bicycle to the hotel was frankly preposterous. It is a six lane highway outside the hotel. I just went for it, changing lanes to get in the third lane to turn off at a junction required summoning some courage, with a slow overladen bicycle, but I write to you still in one piece.

On my first rest day I tripped up to Walmart (the traffic was light being Sunday morning and I had a lighter bike!) for provisions and then I went into Pueblo. I sought out a couple of record stores to peruse. Bliss is to look through racks of CD’s. Obviously they are cheaper over here. As I am sending a parcel home with a barely used chair and surplus maps and so I thought I could invest. At the first store the young guy running the store was playing an album by Pole. If I ever need to clear a building quickly I may get a copy. That was ‘Pueblo Records & Tapes’. Then by chance I was heading through town when I heard a woman with a partially shaved head dressed like Annie Lennox singing loudly (badly) outside a shop. This was ‘Independent Records and Video’. They let me pull my bike inside the store to secure it and I looked over their selection. The young ‘hip dudes’ were playing Michael Jackson which was surprising. In approaching the counter then I think they were playing it because it was vinyl.

                                                                                                    Mokki

So in talking to Mokki about vinyl then like the UK the kids are very taken and not only old vinyl is sought after but contemporary artists are issuing material on vinyl. For me the format offered great excitement as a boy but its fragility and tendancy to scratch meant the CD with its flexibility, size and quality was an ideal replacement. With palpable excitement, on a Jack White album, he showed me an angel dancing in the area between the centre hole and grooves when he used his mobile as a projector, how one track enabled you to pick an electric or acoustic introduction to a song, how one side played from the centre outwards and lastly if you sped up the rpm to 78 there was an extra track hidden there. I felt the need to depart to lie down after such information was imparted. For me anything that keeps record stores going is excellent.

36.   Merry Go Round (Kacey Musgraves)

August 25 2014 Rest Day

Couldn’t quite believe the luxury of another day off the route. However, because I am in the north of Pueblo I reckon that I must have ridden about 25 miles on my two days off. So much for resting the Knaresborough problem! 

So first stop was the US Post Office in the centre of town to send a parcel back to Blighty. This contained my wonderful but under used folding chair and the CD’s I bought yesterday. From here then I thought I would go ‘downtown’ and have a coffee. Lo and behold there was Jerry recently arrived from Boone. I bought him a latte and left him in intense discussion on the Trans Am route with a retired Major whilst I caught up on my emails. 

Where I haven’t had a regular dialogue with donors then I have been composing personal emails to these generous people. Frankly it is the least I could do.

I hung around here before a spot of lunch and then back to the Super8 for a long super Skype chat with Anna. She’s plodding through the compilation of her annual accounts for Mungo Deli. I usually help and so my absence was very inconvenient! 

Pueblo hosts the annual Colorado State Fair and I cycled the 5 miles down there to look round. The South Carolina Belle was in town and invited me to meet up but she couldn’t come to the Fair and so we said goodbye as she headed north to Boulder. I wandered around and saw the fairground rides and the delicious food (think of the chemicals that made this) for $10!

I discussed pick up truck engine sizes with salesmen, got a grip on Colorado fine art, analysed Colorado farming data, listened to some scratchy fiddle playing and tried to understand why one Stand were attempting to garner votes for the rights of unborn children when killed in motor accidents. Meanwhile Jerry arrived (the Fair was his idea). We toured around.

However, with the skies looking very angry with imminent rain we departed and for the fourth time we said “goodbye”. Sorry to lose you buddy, I have enjoyed your company, and as you Americans say, the ‘way you roll’. Don’t hang around as you now take a different route to me heading North West (although I am sure Christmas in Oregan will be nice).

Lastly, Wendy put on Facebook a request for a ‘selfie’ of her friends taking a drink as she ploughs through her chemo. It is my absolute privilege to be on #teamwendy.

37.   Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh)

Pueblo to Cotopaxi, Colorado 82 miles – August 26 2015

My heart sank as the cars and trucks coming in the opposite direction gave off the smell of burning brakes. Despite now, after nearly 6 hours of climbing, when I should be nearing the top of the climb I obviously wasn’t. These vehicles were descending and needing to leap on the brakes to cope with the tight corners.

I had left Pueblo at around 6.30am and avoided the majority of the rush hour. Today was an end to the flatlands and it was up and into the Rocky Mountains.

Despite the map suggesting that I would be on the flat until the mountain range then I seemed to be climbing from the start. The traffic was generally light throughout the day but pick ups, often with trailers, simply barreled through, despite blind summits and double solid lines in the middle of the road. The thought of braking never entered their heads. The driving is getting more dangerous. What is the rush?

In the last two hours before I reached the summit or frankly the plateau I had only covered 9.5 miles. The gradient had touched 8% but generally it was a lot less than this. It was a 45 mile hill climb with no respite. Over 6.5 hours is a long continuous bike ride before stopping. This came about when I found a diner in Silver Cliff. I entered this empty hostelry wet through and frozen. With altitude comes different climates and at a further 1,000 metres up I found heavy cold rain and 10ºC. What a contrast! Sherri, when asked if the rain would stop did suggest that the forecasters were saying Friday, I was hoping for 3.30pm today! 

So after carrying some heavier clothing through a heatwave for a month I was finding a doorway in Westcliffe to put on these additional layers. In fact had I been riding in this weather in Yorkshire then I would have worn tights and gloves (not mitts).

Despite the cycling challenge then the overcast skies, mist and rain had not obscured some world class scenery. The plateau showed the mountains to their glorious best and I was looking around literally grinning because I was moving between these enormous structures. Ranches were common with beautiful horses grazing with cattle nearby. This was the countryside I had seen in endless ‘cowboy and indian’ films – lots of grass, amazing rock structures, distant mountains and running water.

Talking of which, after leaving Westcliffe I was descending and the temperature rose and the rain stopped. Descents are tremendous but every cyclist knows that what goes down inevitably goes up. My map indicated camping at Cotopaxi (a name for a volcano) and after over 8½ hours I found the site. The site is run by KOA (Kamps of America). The pitch cost just under $30. A lot for a piece of fine gravel, a bench (in the drizzle), a shower and one hour of wi-fi. I saw this coming as they are known to be expensive and don’t have a pricing policy for solo travellers or cyclists. Out here I had no options. However there is always Tripadvisor to express an opinion!

38.   Gimme Shelter  (The Rolling Stones) 

Cotopaxi to Sargents, Colorado 57 miles – August 27 2014

Let’s call him Don. ‘Don’ was arriving at the Salida McDonalds at the same time as me. He had come from the west, I was heading west. A burly older man wheeled his bike and two trailers to the wall and then secured it with a heavy link chain. The set up was one of inexperience. He had a tent that McDonalds could hire as a marquee strapped to his trailer along with a gallon of water. Don himself was in tennis shoes, shorts and T shirt and had that tatty look that those of us on the road eventually cannot avoid.

I didn’t really want to bond and so the camera didn’t come out, I had tasks to do before a mind boggling mountain climb and Don seemed like a guy who I couldn’t have a useful conversation with. He was heading to Denver to get a train home, he had started in Nevada and had covered some of the ACA route but I couldn’t work out where he had been or where he was exactly going next. More to the point he couldn’t understand much of what I said. When I spoke there was that lag in response that reminded me of those who contacted space craft. A number of older Americans find my accent impenetrable.

However, Don munched his way through his Big Mac, fries and chocolate milk shake and told me he was 69 years old and had been on the road since June. He admitted to not really enjoying his trip. As I tapped away on the iPad sending an email home he stared into space.

He seemed a little lost in more ways than one. This is not a terrain I would want to be aimlessly wandering around in with a bike and trailer. He made to go and emphasised the importance of having lots of water in the desert and a couple of ideas, if I got into difficulty. I think he was a nice guy and maybe I short changed him.

I feel that they are probably posting him missing in his home town and I have found him. Or some of him.

From here I went about continuing my climb. The scenery is large and impressive, it is high, green and often with some contrasting rock out crops. This is an American scene and I wanted to see it.

I had another 1,300m to reach the Monarch Pass summit of 11,312 feet (3,450m). I headed out into the breeze/wind on the lower slopes. The pace was terrible due to the wind and I knew this would take hours. In fact it took 5.

The road was a main highway but imagine running a busy A road straight through the Lake District with 5 or 6% gradients, little or no hard shoulder and traffic that seemed to be driving at 70mph and pulling a trailer. It was truly awful. I was given clearance but steering a heavy bike in a straight line on these gradients with a headwind knowing that a pick up towing an enormous caravan is going to pass you with 2 or 3 feet to spare is daunting. These Coloradans do not slow down.

Spot the hard shoulder!

So I ploughed upwards knowing that this 28 mile stretch was something that other East to West tourers had done. The prevailing wisdom is that you minimise the headwinds going West to East. This was proof. As time went by and little by little I got there I eventually found it getting chillier, about 2 miles from summit I put on a coat. As I breasted the summit it was less than 6ºC. Why or why didn’t I carry those gloves?

I plummeted downwards with hands that eventually lost all feeling. It was now raining to add to the chill and on the bike with numb hands clutching the brakes to keep me on the road I am starting to bodily shake with cold. I thought I was putting myself at considerable risk along with the pressures on the body due to altitude.

After a 10 mile descent I am at Sargents. Basically a petrol station and diner with a few cabins and RV’s parked behind. I dash into the diner and stand in the heat and attempt to thaw. I am happy to just stand and let my body get back in balance.

I was going no further and with the temperature at this lower altitude still beneath 10ºC then I am not about to pitch a tent either. Reasonably the proprietor knocks down a cabin price down from $45 to 30 and I take shelter.

That single malt Scotch I’d carried so far was a reward I had earned.

39.   My Favourite Things (Julie Andrews)

Sargents to Sapinero 62 miles – August 27 2014

“Excuse me, do you sell gloves?”

The two Walmart Sales Assistants broke off from their chat, with each other, and said that as it was not yet Winter and they didn’t have any in stock yet.

I could have debated the comment that it wasn’t Winter. I had woken in my snug cabin and even contemplated another day within my sleeping bag doing various things on the iPad. However a joint desire to escape this ‘weather’ and get to McDonalds in Gunnison in time for their Breakfast Menu still being served got me on the road (I am not a complicated man). It was below 6ºC and I became fixated on buying gloves. Like all cyclists then I have cupboards full of gloves at home, I couldn’t justify buying another expensive pair and so Walmart would do.

The ride to Gunnison was downhill but with a very gradual fall in elevation and an obligatory wind; I had to work and started to warm up. By the time I reached Gunnison it had scaled the heights of 11ºC and my hands were not numb.

After breakfast and some time on the internet I went and found Walmart. Gunnison is a smart little town which seems to have its own draw as a tourist resort and also has a branch of West Colorado University. Passing through towns of populations above 5,000 is usually quite exciting for the plentiful retail and restaurant opportunities they offer (“but you always go to McDonalds?” “Yes quite”).

So I wandered about Walmart collecting bits when I drifted down the discount/ end of line aisle and found these gloves!

Beside myself with joy at finding bargain price gloves I found one of the sales assistants to show her the error of her ways.

“Oh, yes. I didn’t think about the hunting gloves on sale.”

Fluorescent orange gloves for hunting? I already had a picture in my mind of portly men dressed head to foot in camoflauge crawling through the undergrowth manfully clutching a high velocity rifle with something akin to a large bright belisha beacon attached to their heads. These are gloves for hunters?

Anyway thinking that she was probably on placement from an institution I left her to it.

Departing Gunnison I found a shop claiming to sell souvenirs and wondered if they might sell postcards. They did! Along with all sorts of bits of dead animals. It was quite morbid to my eyes. Being the wag that I am and having a captive audience I regaled the owner with my hilarious fluourescent glove story at Walmart.

Once wandering around a nearby hill

“Absolutely true, hunters need to wear a certain amount of orange when hunting so that they can see each other and not shoot each other”. Well I never. I asked her whether the hunting season had started. It had for those who wish to crawl through the undergrowth and kill Bambi with a bow. The gun season had yet to start. I just don’t see the pleasure in it.

If anyone wishes to explain the presumed colour blindness of elks and deers then I await your report with interest.

I saw this fellow beside Route 50 and recollected that the only song I knew with a goat in the title came from a certain film and then decided the blog title. So for everyone who hasn’t got a key fob and as a ‘gimme’ to Peter Crockford, what is the association between the blog title and one of the photos?

The route west was windy but reasonable but as I left Sapinero, the next meaningful settlement after Gunnison, and as I started to climb I saw an RV Park and thought that I would be prudent and call it a day in advance of more Coloradan mountains to climb in a couple of days time. Sadly this camping location brought a new meaning to squalor, I will save you all from further detail.

40.   Colder Weather (Zac Brown Band)

Sapinero to Ridgeway 63 miles – August 29 2014

I hated this campsite and wanted to leave at the earliest opportunity. I broke camp in 50 minutes and was on the road at 6.50am. I packed badly, mainly because everything was wet and needed separately bagging and because it was so cold that hanging around was not an option.

The ride started with a long climb and then a 6 miles descent to Cimarron. Usually I wouldn’t have complained but despite my new gloves the icy wind was blasting onto my exposed legs. In Cimarron I breezed into the General Store and began to thaw with a coffee. The owner declared that the day had started at 37ºF and when his assistant took my change for the coffee she declared how icy it felt! There was no breakfast here and after finishing my drink I began the climb away from Cimarron and then took a long descent into Montrose. This was a 35 mile and 600m climb ‘pre breakfast’ spin.

Montrose has a population of over 19,000 and seemed an interesting place. I hung around as the sun appeared, as did the heat. A visit to a bike shop called Cascade enabled me to purchase some leg warmers (lycra to cover the leg between the shorts and the socks). As the sales assistant was selling some cycling shoes to a fussy lady I strolled into the workshop at the back to get some service.

I worked for 6 months at Cycle Heaven in York, a year or two back, and it felt familiar to be amongst bicycle components and young guys chatting mainly, in this case, about the delights of KFC. Whilst I was there I got talking with Hollis about my future route, given his local knowledge….”oh I wish I could do what you were doing”.

From here a visit to an ATM and Safeways and then a fairly flat run to Ridgeway to a booked hotel. The usual routine of laundry and drying out everything that I packed wet, was the order of the day. From here then out with the map and where am I going tomorrow? Predictably the days of the week and date simply become unimportant until you discover that you are in a tourist area and everything gets busy on a Friday and Saturday night and, oh yes, it is Labor Day weekend and I am in a resort area with a massive influx of people needing accommodation.

After how awful last night was then this was a sight for sore eyes. Too tired to worry now. Tomorrow’s another day.

(The song/blog will be unfamiliar to most but this Country/Rock artist is stellar in the USA and this song makes reference to Colorado (and its weather) and a man who like to wander. Seemed to fit).

41.   Roll With It (Oasis)

Ridgeway to Stoner (Priest Gulch Campsite) 74 miles – August 30 2014

A leisurely start due to my mojo not being fully engaged until 8.15am and I started to climb out of Ridgeway up the Route 62. Out of nowhere then Americans on bicycles suddenly appeared. Not something I have seen since Virginia, they were participating in a charity ride called Project Axel that raises money to buy bikes for 5 year olds or under. Very laudable but if they want to get children on bicycles I suggest a fire at the Harley Davidson factory and a speed limit of 30 mph for all other vehicles on the road.

I am passed by a lot of lycra clad, mainly 30 something, men and women spinning past on their carbon road bikes. They all see the Union Flag on the back of the bike and wish me well or chat. One such is Brian, a local, however, he has been to Skipton, Yorkshire and remembers the ‘Bradford Riots of ’95’, which was more than me. A splendid fellow out to win the ‘best dressed’ competition by dressing in a tuxedo and dress shirt and dickie.

Even Cascade Bikes were out supporting and as I passed Hollis he did volunteer to carry my bags in the truck up the 600m climb. I didn’t waiver and cycled on. It seemed like a lot of fun until the gradient kicked in and people had only one use for their breath. Weirdly I was handed a piece of crisp cooked bacon by one supporter as I cycled up the hill – I have, probably, innocently joined some outlandish cult by accepting this meat. Hey ho, they have to catch me first.

Again as I trundle upwards I get called by some English voices and meet Sarah and David who are not in the Charity Ride but are cycling the Western Express. They run an airport transfer business in Morzine, France and this is their free time to holiday. They have already done the Trans Am as well as cycled across the USA by another route on other trips.

This was a day of two mountains and they let me tag along. They were faster due to age, lighter luggage (not camping or cooking) and being fresher but because they kept stopping to eat, take off coats etc. they stayed in my eye line. It really helped me achieve the 1,700m for the day in good nick. As they stopped in Rico at a booked hotel I continued down the valley to a campsite at Priest Gulch near Stoner. What a wonderful campsite: the best of the trip by a large margin.

As always the Colorado scenery is epic apart from one Harley Davidson biker who called me an ‘asshole’ for being toward the centre of the road. I am now in the ski reort area of West Colorado and it is very touristy with RV’s (“look out for the ones from Texas” – Hollis). This, however, is one of my last days in the mountains.

42.   Leader Of The Pack (The Shangri-Las)

Stoner to Dove Creek 60 miles – August 31 2014

I thought you may be interested in what I have as a camp meal. Tonight was boil the kettle and then pour sufficient water out to make a cup of tea. Put dry pasta into the kettle and cook until done. Replace the kettle with a mess tin that has the contents of a Campbell soup (Vegetable Beef). Get that hot and chuck in the drained pasta and then leave to bubble for 5 minutes. 

This campsite at Priest Gulch was fabulous and I could easy imagine spending a rest day there but places to go etc. The first 25 miles were downhill into Dolores and whilst that is good, then at 4º C it is very cold! However, frost bite was averted by new gloves and leg warmers and as I rolled into Dolores the sun was properly out and time to take off the layers. I had a breakfast burrito that I can highly recommend with a large coffee. The sales assistant indicated that coffee was to be selected off a board with about 20 types of coffee, however, not different beans but some horrible abuse of coffee with honey, vanilla, sprouts etc. So playing the numpty abroad I pleaded for a regular coffee. Not quite home and dry because then I got asked what type of milk I wanted. “From a cow?”

Entering the cafe after me were three bikers. Colorado is a destination for hundreds of bikers on their one type of machine, the Harley Davidson. As an owner of a Morgan sports car then I know all about ‘bright and shiny’ and ‘ancient’. That is my view of these bikes. The riders however are caught between homosapien and chimpanzee as regards the hierarchy of primates. I told you about yesterday’s little event on the road. These chaps don’t think bicycles should be on the road. They think that the highway is no place for the odd bicycle.

The statutory weight for a biker is about 16 stone and solid (overweight), usually they have a grey beard and tattoos. The whole look is rounded off with leider hosen that probably coordinates with the leather luggage and tassles on their motorbike. I don’t like them. I get the impression that they’d like to be members of Hells Angels but in fact during the day they repair vacuum cleaners or attend AA classes. Hopefully as I exit the mountains I shall see less of them.

So after Dolores I had ambitions to do another 65 miles and get to Monticello, just inside Utah. I have a few difficult days coming up with little accommodation or food outlets and this would be a good springboard. However, I got to 60 miles at Dove Creek and saw a motel room for $45 and thought I go’d no further. I was weary. This, however, has put me marginally ahead of schedule and tomorrow I will fall behind it. I shall now start eating into my contingency days.

At the motel David and Sarah eventually arrived. After they showered we found a bar where Waylon introduced himself. Waylon (named after Waylon Jennings – Google it Steve), thirty something, tall and looked quite something asked about our origins but then under questioning he sang like a canary.

First we went through our reasons for being here and I pointed out that David and Sarah had cycled twice across the USA….”no shit huh?”

Born and bred in Dove Creek. He worked in the local oil industry and we were surprised to learn that the oil on the first drill was different to that which followed. The first draw went to the cosmetics industry and what followed went to automotive. The sunflowers, that seemed so delightful ended up in biodiesel! Beans were a major crop either pinto or anasazi and wheat played a part.

Then we touched on the legalisation of cannabis in Colorado and, shock horror, gay marriage. He seemed accommodating of it all but thought the cannabis was bringing the wrong people, as tourists, to the State and it was leading to growth in the use of other drugs.

“So Waylon have you ever been out of the country?”

“Err well only once and that was to Mexico” at this point he went very coy about the trip.

“So was she pretty?”

This unpicked the lock and he had been internet dating and she suggested he travelled from Colorado and she’d join him from New York. Its long over and she’s married now with 2 kids and texts occasionally.

Sadly the bar was closing, early because it was Labor Day tomorrow, and so we parted. I feel we might have learned more!

43.   Wherever I Lay My Hat (Paul Young)

Dove Creek to Blanding 48 miles – September 1 2014
Blanding to Hanksville 128 miles – September 2 2014

So just over the Colorado border there are a few settlements but they soon run out and the accommodation or food outlets stop. As a consequence it is a matter of getting as close to this wilderness before, as the maps say, ‘No services for next 74 miles’ and you ‘leap off’ ensuring that 74 miles is your maximum for the day. 

So this led to a short hop to Blanding, quite a metropolis of 3,375 people, I dawdled during the day and spent a little time in Monticello because getting to a windy and very hot campsite early doesn’t offer much in terms of comfortable relaxation. Crossing the Utah State border ticked off another State and promised some amazing landscapes.

So goodbye to Colorado, you are beautiful but cold in more ways than one. The Kansas and further east hospitality and genuine interest in people started to drop off and I felt I could have been in Europe with some of the attitudes. The scenery was of a scale that can justifiably make the Americans indifferent about Europe. Tourism took over from agriculture and industry and being on the roads with the RV’s (Recreational Vehicles or, in Europe, camper van, but usually very large) and Harley ‘bloody’ Davidsons was a new challenge compared to the pick ups and coal trucks. I will be back but not on my push bike!

I was soon into a barren landscape of short stubby and wiry trees and exposed sandy soil and rocks all covering a rough terrain. The silence was immediate. The soundtrack of America has been dogs barking, the burble of a V8 (night or day), motor bikes, wind and trains! I felt it was similar to parts of Spain and Portugal. However quite soon a landscape started to appear that you have only ever seen on the TV or in a book. It was quite literally amazing. I was genuinely awestruck.The heat and wind made getting on the road at first light (6.30am) essential and as I left the campsite then David and Sarah said ‘good morning’ as they cycled past from their hotel on their epic 120 mile ride to Hanksville. They were travelling light and I would be no match on the hills.

The size of the structures make you feel miniature and in the emerging sunshine their magnificence was overwhelming. Being on the road early means that traffic was virtually none existent for a few hours but now I was truly off the beaten track the only traffic were tourists. Motorbikers, RV’s and cars.

I had a punishing climb of 600m to complete before the furnace heat took hold and I did this and on the descent got flagged down by Kirk and Gretchen, from Washington State, for a photo and chat. Kirk at 68 years old said his long distance cycling days were over. I did point out that he was probably a little on the young side compared to some tourers I had met!

I made it to Hite after 70 miles, it was mid 30’s in temperature. Hite was a spot on Lake Powell. This was a man made lake to service Southern California with water but there was little water in this part of the lake (northern end). The campsite, recommended by the map, at Hite was basically a toilet block and the opportunity to pitch your tent in some sandy land around it. Kirk and Gretchen were loitering in the shade of the block at 3pm. My option was to hang around with them in intolerable heat for 5 or 6 hours before going to sleep or pressing on. I pressed on.

Another 55 miles: what was I thinking in this heat?

So I cycled onwards, initially due to climbing I was watching my distance, what appeared to me, remain the same but I saw daylight ebbing away. I have lights in case I was truly late.

So I laboured away in a canyon which gradually took me higher and the sun started to fall, albeit still blinding me to my left. I had dwindling water supplies but a determination to push on through.

Eventually after 20 odd miles I breasted the summit and then began a furious sprint downhill to reach Hanksville before the campground shut (or the manager who usually took lettings went home) and the light went. After 11½ hours solid riding in mainly unspeakable heat I crested the last hill and saw some twinkling lights in the distance as I rode the last 5 miles in near darkness toward this beacon. This was my longest bike ride ever.

The town had a population of a couple of hundred. This meant a gas station, two motels, a small supermarket and an RV site. I found the campsite which had a diner attached to it. I wondered into the restaurant dazed and asked to check in but could I have a glass of water first, I had drunk my last drop on the bike and had a mouth, as my grandmother would have said, where ‘I couldn’t spit a threepence’.

That done I quickly showered and erected my tent in the dark and returned to the diner. As I entered the waiter appeared:

“Hello sir, good evening, how are you?”

“Err, fine….I was here twenty minutes ago when you checked me in?”

“Ah yes, sorry I didn’t recognise you without your helmet on.”

As I am sinking a beer waiting for some pasta to arrive Sarah walks in. They had made it a little earlier and checked into a motel. David wasn’t with her as he had been vomiting after getting sunstroke. You have to be careful you know.

44.   Better Not Look Down (BB King)

Hanksville to Torrey 50 miles – September 3 2014

Torrey to Escalante, Utah 64 miles – September 4 2014

I had a leisurely start in Hanksville as it was, I thought, an easy stroll to Torrey. The number of settlements would increase but as always it was 50 or 60 miles between each. The sound of French voices were all around and I even met Philippe and Pascal en route to New York just outside Hanksville. It appears that this is a prime destination spot for the French. There are many driving around taking in the sights. I can confirm that they know what they are doing, it is exceptional. I would like to tour from California to Colorado in an RV. to see more of the sights. I would choose an RV so that I could carry beer, vegetables and stop when I want!

The first part of my ride was flat and I soon picked up the Fremont River, which had created a canyon/gorge that was quite exquisite – a little like the Dordogne. There were many tourists along the route and several had stopped to look at the petroglyths. These are the drawings etched onto the rock by the Fremont Indians. They departed in the 13th century to be replaced by the Native Americans. A few centuries later came the Mormons. Their influence and coverage of Utah is considerable. They settled in Utah after persecution and violence in Missouri. Clearly their interpretation of their faith and polygamy was unacceptable to many as latterly were the chart toppers ‘Paper Roses’, ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’ and ‘Puppy Love’.

I have to add that the heat now is very dry and your mouth soon dries and my lips are chapped and my nose is peeling (but I still look amazing).

As I got to the end of this gorge I then climbed 200m and ended up on a higher plain in a strong breeze. I crawled along and these were the longest 10 miles of the 2,900 I had cycled. Time for a rest day I thought, the day after tomorrow.

I got to Torrey, une ville d’un cheval, and checked into a handily placed campsite. I was mistaken about it being a campsite, I think it was an open prison with tent pitches as I was charged $28.66 by a thief who when I gently pointed out her larceny still maintained it was the correct charge and that another local site charging ten bucks less had not updated their web site. I shall investigate to see if this penitentiary is on Tripadvisor.

The next morning at Stupid O’Clock as I was lying very warm and comfortable in my sleeping bag I knew that ahead lay a massive mountain to climb. Given my weariness how would I go?

I pedalled off as dawn broke and four hours later I reached the summit at 9,600 feet (2,928m). I had started at 2085m. I had averaged 5.6 mph to get there. Now that is slow. These are the Boulder Mountains, which were not mapped until 1872. This is even after the American Civil War! The road was quiet. In total four deer ambled across the road in front of me as I drifted slowly upward and one even let me get to within 40 metres before it moved off. It was steep and quite Alpine in its appearance with the pine trees that lined the road.

An eventual amazing descent followed to another small town called Boulder. From here two more spiteful climbs of 300m and then a descent into Escalante named by the Mormons from the river named after some Spanish cleric who passed this way looking for a trail. However, with a headwind I had to pedal downhill.

In Escalante as I looked for my cabin (glamping as one of my offspring has called it) a lady drew up alongside in her Subaru and said she had passed me on the mountain a few times today and was inspired to get her bike out again….why shucks, what can I say.

Despite a fond farewell the day before then David and Sarah turned up for another farewell beer. Actually I think this will be our final farewell as they move off tomorrow as I stay. I spoke to Jack in Kansas who is doing well but I didn’t really have the heart to tell him of what lay in store for him in Colorado apart from super little resorts and amazing scenery.

45.   Work To Do (The Average White Band although the original was by the Isley Brothers)

Rest Day – September 5 2014

Escalante to Panguitch 67 miles – September 6 2014

I thought by way of a change I might run through today as it happened and some of the processes and challenges that are typical but I don’t report. I could be providing a cure for insomnia but the pictures will be nice.

However, firstly a rest day in Escalante without riding the bike was excellent – long chat with members of the family, laundry, shopping for food, cleaning and checking the bike etc. I met Ben (below), at the cabins/campsite, who is the usual twenty something American who is cycling bits of the west before he decides to settle down and make a living. ‘Finding himself’ would be the speak. He’s one of many.

Cabin (with thumb)

The map said a gentle descent before two climbs today. I set off at just before 7am. I had slept like the dead but it took a while to ‘die’ whilst other cabin dwellers seemed to be having a raucous time nearby, I still have the dog pepper spray, it crossed my mind.

So despite what should have been a freewheel downhill is actually a stiff pedal because of a westerly headwind, as Demis Roussos once sang ‘My Friend The Wind’, I can confirm he’s not mine. I have over 60 miles to do today and the first easy bit shouldn’t be a grind at 8mph and not in 8ºC.

I am going nowhere fast and as I didn’t have breakfast I stopped and had a kind of energy bar (seems lots of sticky compressed fruit) and then stopped again for a Twix (oh come on, there has to be some pleasure in all this) and a banana. Despite my complaints then the views still remain truly remarkable.

I seem to be on the first climb now and the temperature is rising and so again another morale mechanism is listen to the iPhone. I put on a podcast from the team who used to produce The Word magazine. It is basically banter about their lives and diversions about if and when Jimi Hendrix went to Marrakesh etc.

Lost in this podcast the climb seems to be not steep at all. The temperature is rising the wind has gone and it’s alright. I am getting to the summit when I notice a coach has pulled into a stop ahead and loads of pensioners are spilling out to admire the view. So I thought well I will have a look. It turns out they are British and on some rambling holiday (walking, not this type of rambling that you are wasting time reading).

Two people come up to me for a brief chat and I learn about their schedule and who they are. As the rest are getting back on the bus a lady delays her alighting and comes across specially to tell me to take care. She didn’t need to but she did – these things I am so grateful to receive and I descend the other side as they depart in the opposite direction.

I am descending to the start of a long climb to Bryce Canyon. This is one of the main attractions on any tourist’s visit to Utah. It means a 10 mile detour for me, I am thinking I will return and do it another time★. As I am taking in the view and listening to a Westlife song a car pulls alongside on a gentle descent. It is two cabin dwellers from last night. The window is lowered and with a blinding glimpse of the obvious one of the two Chinese American ladies says “you left early!” In fact 3½ hours ago and 33 miles covered since. The driver can’t drive alongside successfully and we wave goodbye. Being Mr Agreeable I decide not to raise a complaint about din they were making last night, I am like that.

✭In fact in 2017  I did return to Utah and Bryce Canyon with my wife on a trip to Las Vegas and the National Parks. It was an amazing canyon to see. The day we visited it was bright sunshine and not the squally type of day I cycled past.

So a town called Tropic arrives. The usual small settlement with a petrol station, motel, small supermarket and, in this area, a gift shop. It also has a restaurant. I enter as three French youngsters are attempting to get cash out of the ATM, they spent sometime trying to do this, I am not sure if it ever coughed up.

No wi-fi in the restaurant and so heavy scrutiny of the map along with a Club Sandwich and fries. Outside I apply suntan lotion and get on the road knowing that I have another climb ahead.

One of the best parts about listening to songs is that in these long captive hours you actually listen to the words and try and follow the plot or story line. I can confirm that Side 1 of Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play is complete bollocks although a great set of tunes welded together for 20 odd minutes.

This climb was long but never terribly steep. I am on the smallest chain wheel and on the last two gears on the rear cassette. I have endurance and durability but no real zap; I probably need at least a week off the bike to get that back. That isn’t happening anytime soon. As The Fugees are killing me softly I seem to have reached another summit and there is the turning for Bryce Canyon. However, I am distracted it is raining hard and then it turns to hail. Most of this week has been spent at over 2,000m, it is no surprise that the weather can be so hard.

The hail hurts my thighs but the rest of me is just getting wet. I am relaxed about that knowing that I will personally dry and my panniers are sealed. I do reflect that my cycling shoes are getting saturated and they will be wet and cold when I put them on tomorrow morning. The rain lasts for about 15 minutes and is torrential, I cycle on. In fact I am on the flat, I can live with drowning if there is flat and no headwind.

As it abates there is a sign on the Route 12 saying cycles can go no further but must divert onto a cycle path that runs alongside. Okay, it starts off with a good surface although going up and down whilst the road seems flat as a lake. The cycle path then falls into disrepair as large cracks from one side of the path to the other dissect the route every 20 yard. I bash through a couple of these accidentally, worrying that I am going to create a puncture, bow a wheel or break a rim. I swear loudly to nobody imparticularly, its worse than ‘bloody hell’.

As this imposition ends and I am allowed back on the highway it is a long descent to a crossroad. I turn right to Panguitch with not far to go. Today’s cycle has been a lot better than I thought. However, the heavens open and it pelts down (sans hail) again. I get to Panguitch and the first priority is to get wi-fi so that I can go onto Tripadvisor to evaluate the accommodation options. I have planned to camp but the potential ongoing rain makes me think twice. Eventually a Subway provides the free wi-fi and I decide on the campsite. I simply don’t want to spend $60 on a motel.

The campsite turns out to be splendid. So throw up the tent and go across the road to Family Dollar to see if I can buy anything to put in the campsite microwave. ‘No’ is the answer. They have a limited range of anything and I cannot face any of their food offerings. So I pedal back into Panguitch and after buying a tin of WD40 to oil my chain at a hardware store I get directed to another supermarket. A good place with a great selection.

So microwave chicken pie and pasta it is. Whilst sorting the cooking out I have a long chat with Vic and Sandy, who are playing pool.

They are in an RV on the site. He is 68 years old and a former attorney now living in Arizona. We talk about my ride and the experiences I have had with the people. I ask about the races and their issues and current affairs. However a major problem is that I am pushed for time as I have to shower, cook, sort out the tent, check out tomorrow’s route and do this in daylight.

So who knows what tomorrow holds, but I know that I will come through.

46.   What Was I Thinking (Dierks Bentley)

Panguitch to Milford, Utah 115 miles – September 7 2014

Packed a very wet tent as quietly as I could, so as not to wake a nearby tent At just after 6am on this Sunday morning and left a very cold and damp town. I was straight into my last mountain of Utah but the State had decided to ‘sign off’ in style and 5 hours later I topped out at over 10,000 feet (3210m) after 1,450m of straight climbing. The weather was cool but there were some magnificent sights on the ascent by way of compensation.

Lake Panguitch

At the top, in the Cedar Breaks National Park, I stopped to look at a magnificent geological sight and met a German in a Bayern Munich shirt. A delightful and affable chap who, as we discussed football, tried to say some positive things about the England national team, I told him to save his breath! However I did revisit the appalling refereeing in the 1975 European Cup Final when Allan Clarke was taken down in the penalty area by Franz Beckenbaur but no penalty was awarded. He shared my pain and then raised his heartbreak in 1999 when Manchester United scored two late goals to win. We both agreed this was terrible.

Cedar Breaks State Park

I am now very much toward the western border of the State and am starting to wonder how Nevada will shape up. I descended in less than an hour into Cedar City. A large town with various attractions. I had initially planned to stay here but, as I sat in McDonalds on this sleepy Sunday afternoon, I saw that due to my miscalculation that I was falling further behind my schedule if I did.

So I decided to ride on for another 55 miles. There was no other camping or hotel solution nearer. I got lucky as it was mainly flat or descending. Riding in the early evening, when the weather has settled a bit and the air is cooler, can be exhilarating. As usual the issue was to reach Milford with daylight remaining. I didn’t quite as I entered the town at 8pm. I was directed by a helpful bystander to a campsite that was basically a park with toilets, I thought that I had earned more after such a day.

In darkness I drifted back into the centre of this small town. On a Sunday night in the literal middle of nowhere I came across a motel, that I had failed to find on the internet in Cedar City, and for $39 I took a room. Appearances can be deceptive as the accommodation was fine.

Maybe next time

So I had a quick shower and then I draped my sopping tent over the bath and got on with the blog. No evening meal but a couple of muffins and a banana sufficed.

Left to my own devices I just push on and seem confident something will work out.

47.   Wild Horses (The Rolling Stones)

Milford, Utah to Baker, Nevada 84 miles – September 8 2014

Setting off, in the morning, from a hotel is better than a campsite because I don’t have to break camp and I know the tent will be dry. This I did and as there was no one at Reception I left the key in the room door and went. My first priority was to find some breakfast as I had not eaten properly the night before. Cycling around this still quiet town then all I could see were petrol stations and so I picked one to ask about a diner.

There was David buying some provisions for the day. They had stayed over in Cedar City and were moving west steadily and had got to Milford yesterday. He was surprised that I had caught up again and the old tortoise and hare comparison came to mind. In fact when I looked in the mirror what with a lack of sleep, a patchy suntan and my wrinkles then I had more in common with the crusty crawler than just speed.

He knew an excellent diner and led me there before setting off with Sarah ahead of me. I partook in an exceptional guzzle and then departed. The map had warned that there were no services between Milford and the next settlement, Baker; this was 84 miles.

It was a nice bright morning with little or no traffic, just a few tourists and commercial vehicles went past. This was the desert, apart from the road, there was nothing. The path I took was north. The route would reach a point in a few hundred miles when I would turn west on a parallel line to San Francisco. With this desertscape then when you reach the top of the small mountain you could see the next mountain and a very straight road inbetween of around twenty miles. What was truly odd was that if a car passed you then you could see it for another 5 minutes. Usually they come and go quickly. Again it was just amazing.

Robert turned up looking ragged after a night wild camping. He was returning home to Dove Creek, Colorado after a loop around here and further north. He was heading to Milford.

The climbs over the small mountains were not steep but started about 8 miles from the summit and so it was slow going in fact I am averaging less than 10mph per day when a mountain is involved. I am used to cracking on and this is taking some getting used to.

The ascent of Wah Wah Mountain was early afternoon and in front of me was a blanket of grey over the mountains interspersed with lightning. The wind was gusting dangerously and I had to stop. It backed off just a little but my ascent was even slower in accompanying rain. At the top was a gradual descent and I came across these chaps. Not that unusual, as we have them in the UK I suppose, but a delightful sight in a bleak and open landscape.

Now the weather changed, the sun came out and the ride became a pleasure. I was about to leave Utah and collected my thoughts. Simply the most astonishing landscape that lasts the whole State. The people were better than Colorado but nothing like the centre or east of the country and again not an obvious place to see on a bicycle. However, see it you must. I am hoping that I can retain these vivid images in my head. Utah, it was a privilege.

The border and then Baker arrived. I had ridden so fast I had gained an hour or had I entered the Pacific Time Zone? I found the campsite and got sorted. During the night it rained heavily. I was snug and dry but packing will be miserable in the morning. Hey ho.

(Quiz question – what Seventies group had a big hit with a song that you’ll be able to take from the images above. To help the Crockfords – “in the desert you can remember your name”).

48.   Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley)

Baker to Ely 63 miles – September 9 2014
Ely to Eureka 78 miles – September 10 2014

Nevada’s terrain is described as a ‘basin, fault, range’. Block building caused by immense fractures in the Earth’s surface, have resulted in no fewer than a hundred ranges, running roughly parallel, trending north to south and separated by expansive flats. As I head west then it is these ranges that I am ‘hurdling’.

The cycling distances are determined by the distances between settlements. There are odd campsites before or between the settlements but ‘primitive’ is the description and they probably don’t have running water. In reality they are a ‘pull in’ for an RV or caravan. Quite a number of cyclists are happy to wild camp but it means having surplus water, to cycling, with you and of course no other facilities. I would have made a very poor pioneer explorer or Native American!

Another feature is that the roads are mainly ‘commercial’ or tourist highways. There are no families or people going to work as nobody lives here. The other reality is that this traffic, sparse mostly, is attempting to get where it is going as fast as possible, after all it is always facing a long journey and the objective is to get there as soon as possible. The traffic in Nevada has been at times the worst on the tour and dangerous. I am quite angry; if it were one of their relatives on the road they wouldn’t drive so close and so fast, they are hoping I keep a true straight course, anything could happen.

Ely was quite a busy little centre with the first sign of neon and gambling.

In fact Highway 50 was quite busy! There is little man made and the landscape can be impressive but it ain’t no Utah.

In Western American folklore there is something called the Pony Express. This service was set up to try and get post to the half million or so living on the West Coast in less than 3 weeks. This was the absolute best before 1860. So a relay of riders and horses was set up to carry the post. Not only was it a long way with few settlements and roads but Tonto was not kindly disposed to the white man charging across his land. In Nevada alone, sixteen riders were killed by Indians. This risk factor pushed up the wages and a rider could earn $25 a week for this job, however life insurance was a bugger to arrange. The logistics and number of stations were immense but the initiative was only to last 18 months before the telegraph was installed and communication was made swift. There may be another story as regards the loss of lives to Indians, that is the unfortunates who built this network.

My favourite question when at a job interview was always “do you know your weaknesses?” To which I was always tempted to reply that “I live with three women, what do you think?”. One I will admit to is a total lack of enthusiasm for hotels. I just can’t see the value in paying anything other than the lowest rate. I don’t use the pool, put on the fluffy dressing gown, go in the jacuzzi and seldom eat there. I have, in fairness, travelled the world on company business thinking it no problem to pay whatever for something in Hong Kong or Dubai but on mature reflection ‘money for old rope’ comes to mind.

So hotels in the USA are variously priced and location can push prices up. This is obvious but not to me when you reach somewhere in Colorado and find it is astronomic. Super8 seems to fit usually but the last two nights show the mystery of it all.

Meet John, Bea (random interloper) and Chris going West to East (a bit late methinks)

In Ely there are about 10 hotels, it must be a hub of some sort. Most of the locations are beneath the radar for Tripadvisor. I was heading for a campsite but prepared to weaken because it is simply too cold in the morning to wake up and break camp.

I spotted a row of motels and based on some nice shrubs outside the Reception I picked the White Pines Motel. She wanted $45, I pleaded poverty and said that the sign outside said there were cheaper rooms and got it for $38. Again American pricing can be a bit like being in a Middle Eastern bazaar and you are not sure of the price until the last thing. That’s when they conclude the deal and then add on Sales Tax. This varies from State to State and seems a dark art. The room was tatty and worn and the shower eventually gave up some hot water. When last thing at night I turned back the bed clothes I discovered that the sheets hadn’t been changed from the last guest. I slept between the blanket and counterpane (Varley’s boarding school description) or bedspread (wife’s preferred description) but I would have dreaded to see Anna’s face.

“Can I help?”….”We could do with a tow, ha, ha!”

So onto Eureka. This is a common name for a town in the USA. I think I have cycled through three so far. I descended into town and there were three hotels to select. Being a tight Yorkshireman I went to the least bright and shiny one on the outskirts of town. The proprietor, let’s just say hillbilly, emerged from the back dressed like a tramp and smelling of booze and said the price would be $60, or $65 if I wanted to pay by credit card. So, fighting back tears, I asked if this was the going rate for the town? He said the other hotels were more expensive. I turned on my heels thinking if it costs an extra $10 for something better then it might be money well spent.

I got to the Sundown Lodge, a much swankier affair, and entered Reception. In walks the proprietor, Hillbilly Deluxe. Oh dear! Anyway $48.10 was the price and he had another customer. Austin awaits.

49.   There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths)

Eureka to Austin, Nevada 70 miles – September 11 2014

Firstly, the charity I’m riding for – York Carers Centre. In looking at my web site for this www.localgiving.com/follow-your-arrow-usa then I see that we have raised £1,696. Thank you to everyone who has given, especially as this is a local charity to York, (and offers little to many of the donors and their family and friends). I think a number of people read my blogs who haven’t donated. Fair enough but just a fiver or a tenner can help me get to the magic total of £2,000. Thank you if you add your name to my many donors.

Nevada has come at a time when I have climbed mountains, ridden in ‘furnace’ heat and perishing cold, done over a 100 miles in a day several times and toughed it out with showers attached to climbing frames or eaten rubbish food because that is all the gas station had in seven previous States. Nevada is tough and I must admit clearing the Sierra Nevada and cruising down to the coast is now on my mind and a reward for my ‘heavy lifting’.

The total mileage covered is 3,438 over 47 days cycling, which equates to over 73 miles a day. Yes, I have had six rest days but that is not remotely indulgent. The bike has over 20 kilograms of weight on it (plus me) and everyday usually involves immense climbing. I am fit with no muscular issues but various points of soreness are to be found near Harrogate. I think the fact that I have cycled for so many years and have an accumulated fitness helps as well as simply getting fitter with all this riding but it will be nice to stop for awhile! I thought you might have wanted this medical report!

So many of the towns I am seeing have, frankly, been in decline since the 19th Century. Nevada was part of the ‘Gold Rush’. Austin, had a population of 8,000 in 1862. Today it has less than 200. Austin’s mineral was silver. It appears that these towns quickly extracted whatever mineral they mined and then the miners and the attendant services moved on. Today these towns still have mining in the locality but it is an automated affair and not associated with gold or silver. So accommodation is important for the miners and the tourists. In the towns you’ll find museums and artefacts but the towns are sad shells of what they were. Also due to the scarcity of towns you’ll find Court Houses and medical centres. What amazes me is the bussing distances for the children at school. I wonder if they spend more time on the bus than in the classroom?

Jimmi Lynn (current favourite American girl’s name) had to let a colleague serve two chaps with a beer in the restaurant then I had blueberry pie and ice cream at. She’s not yet 21 years old. From here started a conversation. She has never travelled outside of Nevada and California. However, she’s got her own horse, and rodeo is her sport. I thought it was all about hanging onto a very irate bull for as long as possible. Apparently the sport has many ‘events’ including lassooing calves at a distance of at least 20 yards etc. She showed me photos on her mobile (cell phone) and the outfits seemed worth taking up the sport for alone. I want a cowboy hat.

The road through Austin

I am now in a nice motel room and Sarah and David have just arrived two hours later. I start earlier and cycle through, they start later and dilly dally. I can’t help but notice that they shrug off the difficulty of the route. This is may be because of their lighter bikes, younger ages and less time on the road (having started at Pueblo) – but look ‘all in’ every time I see them. What must I look like? Just saying.

50.   Free Falling (Tom Petty)

Austin to Cold Springs 49 miles – September 12 2014
Cold Springs to Silver Springs 100 miles – September 13 2014

The ride to Cold Springs was over in a flash. I fell all in all 300m and ended up at Cold Springs Station at before noon. I am now starting to descend from the Nevada high mountains and today was mainly about going down and being on the flat. My first day like this for weeks, yippee!

The RV Park is still in the middle of nowhere but there is camping on grass (ooohhh! I hear you say) and had a fabulous bar and diner attached to it. I did stop outside the park and look at the map and think should I continue but I wanted to speak to the family on Skype and also thought that my body deserved a short day.​

The 12th was my 27th Wedding Anniversary. I am a lucky man to have such a wonderful wife who lets me disappear for two months to live the dream. I had wanted to send flowers but organising it in small (miniature) town America was impossible and the internet still required me to call. I also wanted to see what the bouquet looked like. So I turned to my favourite eldest daughter in London, Katrina, and she arranged the selection and delivery. Not bad eh?

(Photo courtesy of Anna)

After setting up camp and laundry I got down to catching up with the blog and doing some research about San Francisco.

I woke early on the 13th and was off by 7.25am. The descent continued and I made good progress into Fallon. To my relief I was back in a town with restaurants, wi-fi and stores. As I had done 60 miles I made the conscious decision to take an hour out of the ride. Walmart enabled me to get some ideas for dinner and Ceasar Salad it was (I will add some pasta). I know this sounds very mundane but into my 7th week, on the road, then getting some different ideas of what to eat is a treat.

Meth Lab (for you Breaking Bad afficianados)

I pressed on to a State run campsite beside the lake at Silver Springs. However, due to a dry winter and summer then the lake had evaporated. It was well off the ‘beaten track’ and I dropped into a small store to get directions. Dwayne helped me and I commented on his Dr Who T shirt. I had seen this merchandise before in the USA and noted that BBC America aired the programme. It is quite big in the States. I said to Dwayne that I remember the launch in the Sixties. “Oh that will have been with William Hartnell.” Woa…respect, Dwayne! Here, literally in the middle of nowhere, a Dr Who afficianado.

The campsite was quite nice if it had had drinking water, electricity and a shower. Anyway, I rigged up my shower solution, had enough water on the bike to drink, and cook with, and some charge in a little solar charger I carry this to boost what was left in the Sat Nav. All bases covered and so to bed after another century ride.

51.   The Fool On The Hill (The Beatles)

Silver Springs to Woodfords 78 miles – September 14 2014

I think I was enthusing about the Americans in the East and Midwest, however, some of the inconsideracy I meet now, in the West, is infuriating. Last night’s site had few facilities and certainly no electricity. So some of these large caravans have external petrol generators, presumably to heat the jacuzzi. Fair enough but with a tent nearby then would you start it up at 6am on a Sunday morning? I expect this brain donor is one of the drivers who has grazed my hip on Route 50.

So up and away and in Dayton I came across a Starbucks. Oh wow….yippee…raise a flag. It is here that I charged my Sat Nav and had breakfast before pedalling onto Carson City. Most of this run was on the flat before I started on my appointment with the Sierra Nevada. In Carson City I found Walmart and bought my dinner for the evening. As I was locking up the bike next to a rather ill looking chap in a wheelchair he called across to me. He was eating a Big Mac that I noted had been brought to him. He asked me if I’d get a large Coke for him and proferred the cash. I declined the money and went and fetched him the drink. When I returned I gave him the drink but he was surrounded by the Police and Walmart personnel vexed by his presence. I ducked back into the store to get my items.

The Sierra Nevada looms in front of me like a wall

Leaving Carson City was hard work with a six lane highway, several sets of lights, an incline, a headwind and surprising heavy Sunday traffic. Carson City is the State capital of Nevada but I think the traffic is a function of it being between major areas of population.

Obviously where Rudolph, Prancer, Dancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Chase, Blitzen and Dasher spend the summer 

Off the mountain came a hard wind. I think the afternoon heat had generated this. I went up and down until I reached Genoa. This looked quite twee with Sunday tourists. Pushing through I eventually left the foothills and started to climb. By tomorrow I had to reach 8,500 feet and here I was at 4,000 feet. As I started on the ascent I bagged my last State – California. I had expected the State sign to be neon and about 20 foot square. In fact I got something akin to a sign that you might get in the UK indicating a footpath.

So with a large number of miles in the legs I began to climb. I had the chance to stop earlier at a primitive camp site (vault toilet and drinking water) but selected a private one another four miles up the mountain that at least had a shower and electricity. Eric, the campsite ‘host’ told me that he had origins in South Ruislip (something that I personally would have definitely kept secret) and then he asked me about why the Scots wanted independence. I had no useful answers and I had to bid him farewell as the light was about to go and I had a tent to put up. However, before I left I asked about morning temperatures at 6,000 feet. In the late 30’s or early 40’s ºF he replied – right I thought, a few layers in the sleeping bag needed then.

Just to mention some of the camaraderie amongst the cyclists then Jack who I met at the first campsite back in East Virginia has offered me a room in his daughter’s house in San Francisco for the duration when I get there. How brilliant and kind. In fact I have booked a hostel but it says something about the bond of the folk who embark on this beautiful, painful and long ride.

Woodfords to Placerville, California 81 miles – September 15 2014

I have decided to push on and complete my tour despite quite a bit of time left before my return flight to the UK. There is no attraction to stopping off in these lesser towns, I like the thought of getting ‘the job done’ and San Francisco looks exciting. I also believe they have meals with fresh fish in them there.

When planning the ride I put quite a bit of contingency into the schedule to cover for injury, weather or mechanical issues. Up to press then apart from one miscalculation on distances in Utah I have had a trouble free ride. As Jim has pointed out to me, by email, then the mileages I have cycled are immense. Not least when you factor in mountain ranges, the bike’s weight and how many consecutive days I have ridden. So San Francisco should be mine by the end of the week. To think I will have gone coast to coast in about 52 days riding is a little hard to absorb. For anyone who hides behind the fact that they are ‘too old’ to do something then think on. I am no athlete (although cycling fit) as a 59 year old and, frankly, anything is possible.

Anyway, I saluted the boy from Middlesex as I left Hope Valley camping and proceeded up the mountain. Such an early start meant a good temperature and no wind. However, I was disappointed to be joined by articulated trucks on the climb.

I know I rant about the traffic but in fairness to these boys then these drivers have been professional and, barring the odd Kentucky coal truck, safety conscious around me on the trip. However their size and noise has been intimidating and when, as in this case, the road becomes narrow, I had to stop to let them pass.

Road works added to the excitement (not) and this lolly pop holder, on discovering my nationality, told me of his one time English girlfriend from Essex. He expressed some shock at her presentation of egg soldiers (again, I can’t make this stuff up) and I told him that in Essex this was considered haut cuisine and for her to have made this dish confirmed her affection for him. Sadly she returned to Stanford-le-Hope, never to return.

I had to claim another 4,500 feet before dropping 800 feet to claim another 300 feet and then down 1,000 feet before up to 8,000 feet again. It was a long morning. I was relieved to have done this and felt that I had maybe seen the last of the ‘heavy lifting’ on the trip. The scenery was, as usual, quite superb and for the first time the trees were all pine. As the heat rose you could smell the resin as it wafted across the road. In fact some of the route started to look European. When I turned off at Cooks Station it was completely French in its appearance and the lack of traffic. When vineyards started to appear I had to take a double take.

Placerville proved a little reluctant to present itself and after my coaching by the South Carolina Belle I asked a local whether I should take a shortcut or follow my map. He confirmed the map was the one to follow. So I went around the proverbial houses and freewheeled into my first proper Californian town. Yes, it had Subway, McDonalds, General Dollar, Mexican restaurants and ramshackle ‘liquor’ stores andso no change there then! Got free wi-fi and checked Trip Advisor and then found a hotel.

53.    The Beginning Of The End (B B King)

Placerville to Vacaville 98 miles – September 16 2014

In the grand style of the Tour de France I thought that if I could get a good distance today then I could roll into San Francisco on the Thursday like the General Classification riders. That is, with no pressure I would just mop up the adulation of the adoring populace who would be lining the route as I trundled in. Oh well the trundle bit is hopefully right.

Today’s ride was mainly on cycle paths or through fruit groves and flattish. However, in line with my contract, the day started on narrow roads with over powered pick ups driven by neanderthals and the obligatory large trucks brushing my hip rather than wait for me on an ascent. I shall miss you boys.

However, after getting help on the directions at Folsom (queue Johnny Cash song lyrics) It was cycle paths all the way past Davis. The sun was hot, there was no traffic and the route was as flat as the river it mainly followed. In fact it was cruel to the souls who rode the Western Express from West to East, just imagine the false sense of security they were being lulled into before they soared skywards on the Sierra Nevada.

On one such occasion of asking directions I was joined by Andrew, a hero who had also cycled the Trans Am/Western Express (West to East, bright boy) a couple of years back and for 20 odd miles we chatted about the route. He had a perfect example of how you start to speculate on small details as you traverse the country. He had started to wonder why all the gun shot holes and dents in the signs in Nevada were randomly spread anywhere on the road sign of a cow or deer. He concluded that the drivers at, say 90mph on Route 50, were discharging their firearms at the signs hence the low precision. However in Kansas this sign abuse displayed a higher accuracy as regards hitting the beast. Did Kansas gun men park up to achieve this higher proficiency? Anyway as we continued we discussed the surprising fact that anyone wants to live in Nevada and what delightful young men the half breeds who ride Harley Davidsons are (did I tell you that I didn’t like them?)

I briefly stopped in ‘historic’ Sacromento before cycling out west. I was starting to notice the higher number of people, the greater number of motor cars versus trucks and the strangeness of a number of people. They could have sold tickets to view the people in the queue at McDonalds. Usually skinny older men badly dressed with pony tails and pointy beards. At Placerville one guy, apparently with his uncle, abandoned his order and went to the back of the queue to calm down before trying again. Frankly, these people with issues are not likely to live in sparsely populated outposts of the USA but rather in large urban sprawls.

Another big difference was the amount of Spanish being spoken. In the Midwest I might hear it down a Walmart aisle but now it was common amongst all. It will be interesting to know where English will stand in 50 years time in many States.

Horse burger?

So after the psychopaths (geddit? Peter, say it out loud and then you’ll get it) I found myself in the fruit groves. They were beautifully arranged in large fields with calm empty roads in between. I abandoned the ACA map, which had me climbing, and let the Sat Nav lead me to Vacaville. Again I haggled at the Super8 for a better rate. David had told me he had a card for pensioners, he’s only 50, and usually got 10% off. I pointed out my age to the Receptionist and also that tomorrow I would be celebrating a remarkable event. It worked.

Later on I bought a tin of 3.2% proof Black Cherry Lemonade at a petrol station and a woman my age asked for my ID to prove I was old enough. I expressed some bemusement despite my youthful looks, and showed her my Passport, to which she replied that her job required to ask all. Upon mature reflection then I can sympathise, if I had spent so much money on a lobotomy to get the job as a gas station cashier, then I would want to get full value.

54.   Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen)

Vacaville to San Francisco 47 miles – September 17 2014

Woke late and departed late! Frankly shattered and the body needs a rest. Eventually I joined the Vacaville rush hour and then found the ACA map route. They directed you away from the traffic and soon I found myself in the Napa Valley vineyards. Their presentation was scruffy compared to the French (bar one vineyard I passed) and also they boasted such landmarks as ‘established in 1982’!

The route was winding and I eventually found myself on a ‘frontage’ road beside the I80. This gave way to a cycle path and eventually I made Vallejo. The map spared the cyclist any bridges or long detours into San Francisco and for $13 I caught a small but high speed ferry that took 55 minutes to deliver me to the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf.

I was excited as I wheeled my ever reliable amazing bicycle off the ferry. However there was another 5 miles to go to reach the Bridge. So with the day tripper tourist cyclists I wended my way to the Bridge. A policeman stopped me crossing the span for whatever reason – wind? I, however, found a poppet from Dallas who did the honours.

The job is done. I have crossed America. Every inch of land covered on a bicycle. Just under 3,900 miles and including rest days I took 59 days.

So, in summary, I learned about America and its values, culture, its often sense of community, its perspectives on the world, and the environment, and the differences usually State by State. 

I saw some of the most inspiring landscapes known to man and also moved alongside its plentiful wildlife. I made some new wonderful friends via cyberspace and on a bicycle.

I completed a physical challenge that has taken pounds off my waist and simply amazed me in my performance. I have raised a little money and raised the profile, locally, of a charity.

Lastly, I have been allowed to pursue my desire to wander by my wife and family. Quite a sacrifice whilst they got on with life back in the UK.

I thank all the readers for being an extra gear or two on the bike – don’t under estimate your contribution.

I have had the time of my life.

55.   Epilogue

Acaster Malbis – February 12 2019


This blog resided on Google’s blogspot for four and a half years but it seemed I should tidy up the grammar and put it on my own site. It has brought back many memories and I think of the trip one way or another everyday still. So much of the daily detail is seared into my brain from remembering stumbling around on a dark campsite without a torch in Colorado to accidentally tipping my planned evening meal off the back of my bike onto the road as I approached my evening stop in Nevada.


The following year, captured by the bug, I rode down the USA in pursuit of music. I rode from Toronto to Nashville, to Muscle Shoals, to Memphis, to the Mississippi delta and then eventually to New Orleans. From here I cycled to Orlando to meet the family who’d flown in. This also currently resides on Google but I plan to move it across. However, a link to it can be accessed in ’Travel’.


In transposing the blog from one platform to another I haven’t transposed the comments at the bottom of most of the daily blogs. These were a delight; always motivational and sometimes very funny. One dear friend, Steve Johnson, ‘accompanied’ me across the country and was seldom short of being hilarious (and rude). On his own amazing South American adventure, in 2017, he discovered he was seriously ill and died shortly afterwards. I can’t tell you my sadness at his parting.


Most of the folk who commented are still good friends or in contact but many have drifted away. Marion from Kentucky corresponded without fail on my ride and said she’d follow me the next year. However technical web access issues intervened and she also made a commitment to meet me in Memphis that never came to pass and our contact ended. Chelsea, my Southern Belle, was in touch for a little while after but scrubbed our link on Facebook and was gone. Jack from California, who so appreciated my calls, never stayed in touch. I occasionally hear from Jerry who was last known to be living in Boston. David and Sarah still take my newsletter and I rely on them for advice about cycling. I remember David was worried about the UK leaving the EU: he must be having kittens at the moment! I mention Bob Sanders in the blog and he’s still covering the USA on his bike and corresponding. To be honest, however, I ploughed on happy with my own company and have no complaints if some relationships have gone.

On arrival in San Francisco I had a week to spare. I spent this in a hostel with a number of interesting young people. 

I generally did the sights and had some nights out with fellow hostel dwellers. I must have walked miles, I certainly had no inclination to get the bike out again! I came back a lot less than impressed with SF but as somebody accurately observed then I was so knackered that I was too jaded to be enthusiastic.

On my return I went onto BBC Radio York to talk about my ride. I offered, on the air, to come along to gatherings to talk about my ride. Local groups were quite engaged and I have done about 15 talks around North Yorkshire since. I have raised additional money for York Carers Centre in the meanwhile. I’ve enjoyed taking them across the USA in an hour!

If somebody is reading this researching the ride or thinking about an adventure. Do it.

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