Monthly Archives: June 2013

Eastern USA Vs. Western USA

Eastern USA Vs. Western USA

“All pick-up truck drivers aren’t jerks but all jerks drive pick-up trucks” said Jim, a fellow cyclist who has not only almost cycled across the USA but has also walked across half of it. Words of wisdom right there and very evident in these eastern states where drivers seem a lot more impatient and aggressive. As if 30 extra seconds to slow down as you pass by us or let us navigate a tricky intersection is really going to change your day. Thanks for swearing at us too, I’m sure you feel better saying those complicated four letter words out loud.

Well there’s one reason why I don’t like the east but I’m not sure if it sways my opinion of the whole coast beyond the Mississippi River. I think I’ll have to come to a decision on which I prefer as although they are in the same country, they are drastically different places. Now, I’m just going to go ahead and do it, I’m going to rule out the ‘middle bit’ from the running. They don’t even know where they are in those states, I felt like I spent an awfully long time in the ‘mid-west’ having never really reached the ‘middle’ or the ‘mid-east’. We cycled from the ‘mid-west’ to the ‘east’ just like that. No explanation. Yes yes, the bread basket of the USA lies in the middle but so does a hell of a lot of nothing and not very happy people. Ironically the food isn’t even good there. I spent a lot of time cycling through Kansas, battling through the head and cross winds, trying to like it, even with the smell of cow manure always lingering, but I couldn’t – I wouldn’t live there. Sorry guys, not even the sign (pictured) on Pawnee Rock in Kansas proudly saying: “one of the grandest sights ever beheld” could convince me.

So we’ve ruled out the windy, smelly, inedible middle of the country. Thank god for that. Just so we’re reading from the same book I’m classing the ‘west’ as anything western than and including New Mexico and the ‘east’ as anything eastern than and including Ohio. Latinos versus the Amish. Dry versus wet. Hot versus hot. Riding through Vermont today could not be more different than riding through the desert in California. We were literally drenched today and it wasn’t even raining that much. The humidity was so high that our wing mirrors and sunglasses were fogged up beyond use and we were profusely dripping with sweat. For a good 15 miles or so over a mountain pass we were riding in the clouds with rushing rivers running beside the road. In California and Arizona we were regularly pouring water over ourselves to keep from turning into a crisp and lower our body temperature. Water was scarce there and ice was more precious to us than gold.

Cycling is much more enjoyable in the east due to the vegetation which therefore prevents Kansas-esk winds driving into you all day. There is more life! Today the roads were lined with beautiful wild flowers, a world away from the cactuses and prickly plants in the west. It’s hard to ignore the beauty of Arizona though. The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen and the ride through Sedona, AZ is to the day, my favourite of the 40 or so we’ve done. Niagara Falls doesn’t really compare to the Canyon, it’s pretty cool, yeah but, nope, you can’t beat the big GC.

So back to these pick-up drivers. Gone are the days where we waved frantically (I mean incredibly coolly) at passing freight trains, who would honk their horn for the world to hear and wave back at us. The drivers in the ‘west’ could spare 30 seconds for us to pass them and the trucks on the interstate going through the desert would move over lanes and slow down to ensure that their draft wouldn’t blow us too far across the road. In the east, drivers really couldn’t give a sh*t. I’ve dished out at least 10 sarcastic thumbs up in the past few days as truck drivers have shouted at us to “get off the f*cking road”. Thanks Mr pick-up truck driver, but I’ve just cycled 3,000 miles to get here, passing thousands of other drivers who thus far haven’t had a problem with us, but thanks for your kind thoughts, I’ll take you into consideration when trying to decide the fate of your geographical location in this blog post. Sorry if this comes across as bitter, but having two near death experiences today makes me wish that I was back in the ‘west’.

Just joking! That would be devastating to be transported back there with only 100 miles to go now. Can’t wait to reach the Atlantic Ocean. FINALLY.

So the verdict? The west has the Pacific Ocean, long flat desert roads and good margaritas. The east has luscious vegetation, twisty and hilly narrow roads and the best Long Island ice teas. Well it’s a shame neither do particularly good gin and tonics…

It’s neck and neck. I’ll decide in Boston. All I know is that the middle isn’t winning. Too bad Kansas.

Catherine xox

Just over 100 miles to cycle to the Atlantic Ocean at Boston

Today was a wet hilly day from Albany to Battleboro, VT. I have had trouble with both my hands having crushed both my median nerves in the carpal tunnels. I do not have carpal tunnel syndrome but I have muscle weakness especially in my right hand which affects my grip, it’s very difficult to brake and change gears. It will recover in a few days to weeks once I get off the bike.

Cycling an average of 85 miles has been truely exhausting. It’s a bit like running a marathon every day. It’s a bit like doing a job. The alarm goes off at 0530, it’s the worst bit of the day. 0600 breakfast, then riding by about 0700. Once I’m on the bike, I’m free from any worries. Nothing really gets sore. I just have a deep sense of fatigue. I was stronger in the hills of Missouri.  i just seem to have weaker legs despite the stretching I have done instructed by my friend and personal trainer Colin Wycherley. It’s still great fun.

i still have a lot to reflect on about the end of this ride. But yes I am planning to do it again if fit enough in ten years!

 

Press Release – Cycling surgeon and daughter complete American challenge for @WaterAidUK

Father and daughter duo, Chris and Catherine Oliver, have almost completed an intense and gruelling 3,415-mile cycle ride across America in aid of international charity WaterAid.

The pair left Los Angeles on 11 May and will ride into Boston on 28 June. After nearly seven weeks of intense riding they can’t wait to reach the finish line.

They have now reached their fundraising target of £ 3,415 – representing £1 for WaterAid for every mile they have cycled.

The achievement is especially incredible for Chris, an orthopaedic surgeon at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, who just a few years ago weighed over 27 stone and struggled to complete the most basic exercise.

The route took Chris and Catherine along the Rockies, through the Mojave desert, across the Midwest and the Great Lakes, and finally over the Appalachian Mountains before reaching Boston on Friday 28 June.

Chris said: “Crossing through the Mojave desert was the most challenging part. The temperatures reached 119 degrees plus (48oC); it was like riding in an oven. It made us realise just how important water is in the desert.

“The most fun part was the hills in Missouri; we did 148 roller coaster hills in one day with 5,000 feet of climbing over 80 miles.

“Getting enough food was also a challenge for me. Even though I had my gastric band adjusted before I left I still didn’t want to eat. I’m using over 6000 calories a day and I need to make this up somehow, but it’s still a real challenge for me to consume enough food.”

Chris also struggled with altitude sickness when crossing the Rockies – but managed to recover quickly and continue the challenge.

Catherine, 22, a graduate environmental geography student previously at the University of York, said: “Staying hydrated has been a challenge, especially through the desert where we were literally having water poured over us every 20 miles or so. The water on our backs was for drinking and the water bottles on our bikes were for pouring over our arms, legs and head to keep cool whilst cycling.”

Water has been vital to Chris and Catherine on this trip, and not only when crossing the valley. Chris says: “Every 15 minutes cycling we’re supposed to drink to keep up hydration. Why shouldn’t everyone in the world have the luxury of drinking every 15 minutes if they want to? We are very glad to have raised money for WaterAid.”

Sarah Walker, Community and Events Manager for WaterAid, said: “Congratulations to Chris and Catherine for completing such an impressive challenge for WaterAid. It can cost as little as £15 to ensure one person has a lifetime access to clean water and improved sanitation, so their efforts could potentially transform the lives of more than 225 people.”

Chris made the decision to lose weight during a business trip to China in 2006. Chris said: “I was at the Great Wall of China and was so unfit that I couldn’t manage to get up ten steps. I decided then that I wanted to do something.”

The following year, Chris had a gastric band fitted: “Obesity is a massive societal problem and people do need support. Bariatric surgery is not for everyone, but it’s a tool to help you change your life. It helped me to lose weight, and return to exercise. Now my patients don’t even recognise me I’ve changed so much.”

Chris has since lost 170 pounds and completed many impressive challenges, including triathlons and cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Having conquered the UK, he set his sights on America with his daughter.

Ends

Chris will return home on 2 July and Catherine will return home on 8 July. For more information, photos, or interviews, please contact Laura Crowley: lauracrowley@wateraid.org / 020 7793 4965.

Notes to Editors

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. The international organisation works in 27 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 17.5 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 12.9 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org , follow @wateraiduk on Twitter or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid

• Around 2,000 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.
• 768 million people in the world live without safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world’s population.
• 2.5 billion people live without sanitation; this is 39% of the world’s population.
• For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity.
• Just £15 can enable one person to access a lasting supply of safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation.

Cycling For Fun or Cycling to Get There?

With only 500 miles left to ride I thought that I’d use this opportune moment to update you on our trip (just joking, I’ve been passed out again for the past few weeks every day after riding). It’s been a whirlwind of states, roads upon roads decorated with different colours of green, Amish homesteads, broken bicycles, milkshakes, sweating all grinding the pedals round in the bid to reach the Atlantic Ocean.

Some days I ride for that purpose only: to get the miles under my belt and a step further towards Boston, I find myself counting down the miles till the end of the day as I slog up hill after hill. But some days it’s not like that at all – I’m out to cycle to enjoy the feeling of self-propelling my ever strengthening body across a continent or just enjoy a cycle with these strangers who’ve become my friends, my cycling buddies. What we’re doing isn’t really a big deal at all (to me anyway). All we’re doing is pedalling. That’s it. Just every day until we get to stop. This tour has made every effort to make sure that we have optimum energy supplies with all the SAG stops with water, Gatorade and a selection of snacks to make sure we don’t go hungry or thirsty. Each night we sleep in a clean bed and get the use of a good shower. Meals vary from American crap (Perkins) to pretty good food. And you can never go wrong with ice-cream!

The states we’ve recently passed through have been mostly similar: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and now into New York State! I’ve noticed the price rising and the people getting less friendly and more aggressive drivers. Welcome to the East Coast! Having cycled for 40 odd days it kind of blurs into one. Highlights have been setting our hands on fire in a bar in Champaign, Illinois, having met some local students teaching us how to do the Statue of Liberty shot (basically involving lighting alcohol dipped fingers) – then there was seeing some friends close to Erie and spending a rest day with them eating delicious food and chilling out! (Thanks again guys!). Having our first glimpse of Amish living has been interesting – with the kids waving at us asking us questions – they called me ‘lady’ which was pretty funny: ” hey lady! What you doing?” Well.. It’s a long story. Another highlight was being able to visit Niagara Falls yesterday in Canada! We were so close to the border it seemed silly not to. It was spectacular but definitely not as much as the Grand Canyon which seems so long ago thinking about it now.

We’ve recently been joined by a few more riders who’ve started the trips in previous years but not been able to finish it due to accidents. Bob was hit by a motor bike in 2009 and was helicoptered to hospital around 900 miles from the end and has spent 4 years trying to convince his wife to let him finish the trip. And John, miles from Boston last year had a crash with another rider and shattered some bones before spending a good few weeks in an American hospital. It’s so good to have them join us and finally finish the trip. It just goes to show the commitment and sacrifices some people have made to complete this cross country ride.

I think maybe these riders were anxious to see what there was lying on the hard shoulders for the remainder of the trip, waiting to be ridden over. Since LA, we’ve cycled along a fair few hard shoulders – cycling over or past enough tools to complete a pretty good tool kit, today, it was a fishing rod and if you’re interested in taxidermy, you know where to come if deers, tortoises, possums, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes are your thing. The road kill is crazy. But I’ve learnt my lesson from the cattle trucks in Kansas, not to breathe in (or breathe at all) when passing 2-3 day old road kill. Yuck. Glad to see that America keeps their roads spic-and-span!

Again, I’ve given you a speel of rubbish to read! Apologies. Mind has turned to mush. Must cycle. Cycle towards the ocean.

Catherine xox

 

Bike mechanical failure Day

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It’s a funny world cycling. Today should have been the third consecutive day I have ridden about 100 miles. Its a tad tiring! I was physically very, very, tired. I did not expect how the day would turn out. A rapid succession of mechanical failures ensued. Cycling shoe started to disintegrate, derailier started jamming, head set and bottom bracket loose and then discovered three full thickness holes in my rear tyre! A major mechanical rebuild ensues! Fortunately we have a mechanic, Rick with us. So what was a potential physical failure day turns into a mechanical failure day! Emotionally fine though!

Only Ten More Cycling Days until Boston

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Ten more cycling days until we reach Boston: Ride, Sleep, Eat, has become a way of life. Today quite a hard day cycling across hilly Ohio, lots of climbing through Amish homesteads, village of Funk was memorable with Amish children asking us about our ride.