USA Day 6.

2 Sep

Today was a brilliant day.

We left camp early and climbed a 40km pass on route to Newcombe.

So drenched in sweat it looked like we’d been swimming and in need of nutrition we arrived at the only convenience store within many miles.

It was closed.

A kind man stopped to ask what we were up to and told us there might be a diner open a few miles down the street.

With tightly crossed fingers that these diner owners were not Sunday morning church attendants we luckily found it open and threw budget to the wind ordering omelettes and lemonade.

As so often happens the people around us took a quick interest in these stinking, dirty, homeless English that had disturbed their daily routine. On occasion it’s tough to summon the energy but with our mouths full of egg and soda we set about explaining our plan.

Suddenly cheques donations were thrust at us for our chosen charities and when we tried to pay the bill it had been wavered. High Peaks Kitchen. Amazing. Go there. Have an omelette.

We sailed by some stunning lakes in the afternoon, taking stops to chat to a few cyclists heading the other way. They are always heading the other way… But every single one speaks highly of the experience and sadness that it will soon be ending. Makes you feel lucky to be so near the start.

As evening approached we stocked up on food at the final convenience store opportunity for a while. Again we were approached about our plans and were given a number for a place to stay in Buffalo.

Peddling west looking for a public camp site by Eighth Lake, it was getting late and time to get off the bikes when at last we at last found the site. When we rolled up to the entrance where there was an attendant (odd as most state parks weren’t attended) and a big sign with heavy prices on. The first thought was the dread that we would have to keep peddling on to find a piece of land somewhere. We said to the guy we thought all public state sites were free and he said they are not, but this one would be to us. Cyclists need a rest.

His name was Joshua and we liked him.

Kindness. Shown to us frequently, but today seemed to stand out to us both.

We are never trying to be scroungers, but politely request help when we need it, be it filling water bottles or allowing us a spot to sleep.

Each day on these bikes can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but when someones offers you support it never fails to lift your mood and team morale. When you are tired, hungry and far from home it means an awful lot when people believe in what you are trying to achieve and offer you a helping hand.

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Where Joshua let us stay.

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Eighth Lake.

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Beautiful lake. Handsome man. It’s pornography.…

USA Day 5.

1 Sep

USA Day 5.

Today has been about sweating and scenery.

It started with an immediate climb up Bread Loaf mountain and the following descent, both, as with every road we have cycled in Vermont included a river on one side and a sea of forest on the other. It is beautiful and a privilege, but you get used to it.

As we neared the Champlain river that borders NY State the scenery opened up and we left mountain forests behind and instead crawled up hill top after hill top. The rewards for these efforts were panoramic views of the Blue Mountain range on one side and rolling hill tops adorned with miles of Red Apple orchards on the other. Literally breathtaking.

In the afternoon we left Vermont crossing the river by a small chain ferry into New York state and immediately the scenery changed again.

We began meandering the undulations of lakeside cycling as we passed Eagle lake and Lake Paradox, crystal clear waters which mirror the forests that surround them.

Today was a stunning ride but we peddled hard for very hard for every view. You have to work for your scenery in Vermont. Hopefully in New York it comes a little easier.

We picked up a few eggs for dinner and began the process of looking for a spot to sleep. A few non-starters lead to a short negotiation with a nice christian family (their words not mine) who gave us cola and birthday cake whilst we pitched behind there house near the woods.

We sat with George (the husband) as we polished off our scrambled egg dinner. He was an ex-military man in the home guard before finding God and starting a family. Nice bloke.

He asked ‘are you guys packing?’.

We had just arrived. Surely he didn’t want us to leave already.

 ‘Packing a weapon?’

Ah.

Now Pete had recently purchased a small scouts knife after we’d struggled with a particularly tough avocado. So i nodded at him to show the man.

‘Packing a pistol?’.

Right. No. No we are not. Not even close.

He was worried that we might come across strange people on the trip and like a state trooper walking up to an unknown car, it’s good to be prepared.

Already this evening we had sidestepped a conversation on religion, it was now time to stay clear on gun laws. If we had brought up American foreign policy we might of had the taboo subject hat trick within minutes of meeting this man.

I wanted to tell him that i thought without a gun we were more safe. That someone who takes a gun to a gun-fight is probably more likely to get shot.

Anyway.

He was a nice guy and very kind to us. But it frustrates me that people so committed to believing and worshipping a great God to protect them and their families completely and unequivocally still need to carry a gun just in case God’s takes his eye off the ball.…

USA Day 3-4.

23 Aug

Isn’t the USA flat?

It always looks flat on Friends.

There are hills EVERYWHERE. It’s like the Alps on crack.

Progress has been slow due to the above. But we’ve moved on through Maine and New Hampshire and now sit one mountain (called ‘Bread Loaf’…) away from the border with New York state.

The first few climbs have been tough on our still fairly unfit bodies. In the spirit of flying the flag for naive Brits we ran out of water halfway up the Kankamagus pass in the heat of the midday sun. I sucked on an almond for an hour dreaming it would turn to Lucazade. As headaches set in we were close to asking tourists for help before the summit was reached and water found.

A superb long descent following a beautiful river and tree tops as far as my poor eyesight could see seemed to make it all worth it. It’s like that one excellent golf shot you play which quickly helps you forget the 17 holes of high blood pressure and bag full of snapped clubs.

The scenery in Vermont has been spectacular, even when the weather has tried to spoil it. Lake after river after stream, rolling hills, endless wildlife and tree after tree after bloody tree.

We followed the Connecticut river in the late evening sun last night and it was the first moment that i properly relaxed and remembered why i like doing this so much. After all the humdrum of leaving house and work and life and loved ones it’s taking its time.

But fear not.

A quick night of endless heavy rain, no sleep, 8 miles of dirt track and potholes, knee pain, everything we own wet, muddy and cold, plain pasta and a can of chicken soup for dinner and it’s back to normal.

Spent the early evening scouring barns and sheds to look for a night spot but stumbled across a site to place our sodden tent. So here we sit, about to attempt slumber in a tent wetter that a seals pyjamas. At least my feet will get a wash.

Night.…

USA Day 3. 1002 kms.

21 Aug

After a hot and hilly day yesterday we are on route across west New Hampshire to the Vermont border that we hope to reach later today.

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A nice flat start to the USA touring cycling experience.

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Pete from behind.

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First big milestone – 1000 kms since the Uxbridge road, Shepherds bush, London.

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Early morning New Hampshire.

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Breakfast by a stream in a wood. Bears optional.

 …

USA Day 1-2. A new beginning.

20 Aug

We began our cycle across the USA by heading down from Portland city to Crescent Beach State Park for a final wave across the Atlantic to the UK and quick dip in the sea. Off we peddled heading north west towards Freyburg where we could join up with our maps for the Northern Tier route that directs us through the mountains across New Hampshire, Vermont and New York states towards Toronto.

As 7pm came we started thinking about where to sleep for the night, looking for the friendliest looking houses to ask for a place to pitch our tent. After a first efficient denial we found an old lady whom we spoke to in the most charming English accents I’ve ever heard leave our mouths. She definitely wasn’t sure but got her son-in-law who agreed to have us sleep down by the road.

In the evening he was interested and friendly, but come 6am he was ready for us to go. We packed up and headed off at speed, absolutely freezing and all kit dripping wet with the morning dew, and tired eyes due to the damp and constant din of traffic.

The people we come across so far are a mixed bag. Often incredibly friendly and interested, but sometimes sort of strict and fearing. There is already tons of evidence of the importance of religion and hunting to these people of the north east. In fact nearly every sign is about God or shooting something. In my head these are not obvious bed fellows.

We made it here to Freyburg early morning and are drying kit out in preparation for the start of some big climbs through the White Mountain National Forest and up the Kancamagus Pass at 2,855m. She’s a biggie.

My right knee is causing some discomfort which is a bit of a worry (behind and below the knee cap for anyone who fancies a stab at diagnosis), so i’m moving slowly and trying a few things out to take the pressure off. There is quite a way to go yet. Pete has the energy of an olympian and the suave of a Frenchman tasting wine. So all good there.

We plough on.

Follow our progress here.…

Leg 1. London to Galway. 765 kms.

19 Aug

The start of this cycle has been fast and furious.

We left Shepherds Bush and my office at ‘Fruit Towers’ on the morning of Monday 4th August. The plan to head west across England and Wales reaching Holyhead in 4.5 days, ferry to Dublin and two days to cross Ireland before our flight to NYC. This was always a tight deadline but it was important to get off to a strong start and reach the USA quickly to kick off this adventure.

The drawback is that we had to cycle hard for 7 days often taking direct routes, using duel carriageways to move quickly and stopping infrequently to enjoy the surroundings. It was an unfortunate sacrifice but also important for us to get miles under our belts and to reach America to start the first big challenge.

Leaving London with a small bunch of close friends was a lot of fun, making it to my home county of Rutland in 2 days to see my mum. A vital start to any adventure. The next morning Pete and i set off from the front door of the house i have always lived in,  to begin this adventure into the relative unknown. We had an excellent throng of friends to wave us off as we peddled up the lane I’d cycled since childhood. An extraordinary feeling.

I have dreamed of doing this for 8 years. It’s always been this magical thing I’m going to do some day. So for the week before we left London i never slept a night. Nerves. Worries. Even regret. Peddling up the lane from my family home, leaving the people who mean the most to me on this planet was an extraordinary feeling. Sad, upsetting, lonely.

I don’t want to get too deep. But there was this really weird moment. After all these sombre thoughts had rattled around my tired brain i started feeling this incredibly magical sense of relief. Literally 10 miles from home i felt brilliant.

Ive been dreaming, planning, committing, talking, worrying, promising, guessing, asking, begging. It’s exhausting and sometimes selfish how much this has consumed my life. But now all i had to do was peddle. It was Pete and i, our lives strapped to each bike and nothing to do but cycle. No admin, emails, explanations. Just the road.

And although it’s awful leaving such important people for such a long time, for the longest time i ever have, the quicker i now peddled the sooner i would see them again.

Enough of this. A quick synopsis.

We peddled towards Stoke passing a pub which offered Fish and Chips for £3.50, unlimited chips and peas. Gutted we couldn’t go in.

Peddled passed the Alton Towers entrance. Gutted we couldn’t go in.

Through the Derbyshire dales was beautiful whilst also the first real test of climb after climb. Gutted we couldn’t find a flat road.

Into Cheshire, we found busy roads to move quickly into Wales for a final sprint to Holyhead through a country of lovely campsites but terrible food outlets.…

And we are off…

5 Aug

Joined by a motley support crew Pete and I set off from central London at 10am on 4th August 2014.

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Arriving in my small but perfectly formed home county of Rutland a day later.

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Almost time to stop saying goodbye to everyone and kick this adventure off for good.…

What’s The Life Cycle?

1 Jul

What.

The life cycle is about taking a year out of my conventional life to travel our planet by bicycle, seeking adventure and new horizons, and raising money for young people for whom illness prevents such opportunity.

How.

I leave London on 4th August 2014 to ride West across England, Wales and Ireland before crossing the American continent from Boston to San Francisco, and on to Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and all the way back home to the UK to see my mum. This is at least the plan. See completely geographically inaccurate map below.

Pete and I begin this trip together and others may join along the way. The route is unplanned. We will be camping wild to keep costs down, travelling light so we can move quickly and push on into prevailing headwinds. We will undoubtedly be relying on the support of strangers to keep us motivated and moving forward each day.

Why.

Cycling is the best way to see our world. It’s slow enough that you capture every sight, smell and sound, but fast enough to cover the ground and to be permanently interesting. Every day is physically and mentally tough to challenge your will and resilience, and I love that. For 8 years I have been harbouring the wish to make this trip; there has never been a right time and there never will. So I’ve set a date, bought a bike and that date has arrived.

It would be a privilege if in doing this we are able to inspire a person to do something similar as I once was. To take time out of life for a day, month, or for the rest of days, to chase down an experience that means the world to them. Often i’m guilty of being a person who is going to do everything someday. It’s terribly unfulfilling to be always promising the pursuit of dreams but rarely executing them. So if one person is inspired by this trip, to pursue memories over money, to fill their life up with something new and brave, then I will consider it a triumph.

If we succeed or fail this will be a life changing opportunity. There is no doubt. Due to the cards that life deals us many young people do not have an opportunity to pursue a goal like this and may never have. Seven young people each day are diagnosed with a life changing and potentially fatal cancer in the UK. Being too ill too young, facing hospital, drugs and the reality of life and death at such a young age requires a level of courage greater than the most daring of adventures. It is for these 7 young people each day that I will be raising money and helping build awareness for this excellent charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Please sponsor me on this journey for the bravest young people for whom our support is critical.

Thank you for your support.

James

 

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