Tag Archives: cycling

The End – Thank you!

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“3,454 miles, 15 states, 90,039′ of climbing, 2 oceans, 4 new tyres, 1 new chain, 25 punctures later and we’ve cycled across the USA!!”

WE MADE IT! Sorry for not posting since reaching the beach last Friday, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. Dad’s flown home and is back to work and I’ve made it up to New York City to explore. I even got to cycle my bike right past Times Square yesterday in the attempt to get my bike from the Upper West Side to Mineola. The short 3 mile ride was interesting – in stark contrast to the past two months there was so much to look at and without my orange flag fluttering from the back of my bike I felt much more on edge. Luckily I managed to cycle bits and bobs with people on these new city bikes that the city has just implemented. Now THESE people are the ones to look out for. Crazy people.

Riding through the city for that short amount of time forced me to think back along the two months of cycle. Absolutely NOTHING compares to the Big Apple. You wouldn’t think that these tiny towns in the Mid-West shared the same country with NYC, it’s just smack bang in the face big and shouting which is what I used to think America is like. The Dairy Queens and Denny’s were nowhere to be seen on Manhattan – in their place, delicatessens and neighborhoods of delicious international food.

So reaching the beach on the last day was fairly emotional. The weather was so grim that we couldn’t see the Atlantic Ocean until we were about 50m away from it. But that sight was wonderful! Relief set in, mostly that we had no more miles to cycle and also that we’d made it, mostly in one piece. My bike started skipping gears on the last day and I just willed it to hold out until the beach.

Upon leaving the hotel for the front wheel dip way back at the start of May, dad got his first puncture (and tyre replacement) of the trip. As we’re in a bigger group of riders (about 25) we agree to cycle together at the very start and end of the trip. We joked that dad would get a puncture just before we reached the beach, meaning that we’d all have to wait until it was fixed before cycling to the ocean. And guess what? He did! We were about 100m from finishing the 3,415 miles and I heard a hissing noise coming from his bike. Sod it. He rode the last part of the ride with a flat tyre, ready to throw his ill-tempered bike into the Atlantic Ocean, never to ride it ever again.

Just joking. We only dipped the front wheels in, got our photos and were met by family and friends. Thanks to mum and Elizabeth for being there! I was less emotional than others I think. To me, this wasn’t a life changing trip but merely a fun experience and a good way to spend time with my dad and see America.

What I’ve learnt from this trip is that you really need to take care of yourself physically. We had women aged 69 on his trip and men aged 76 – yes they were a little slower than the rest but the bottom line is – they rode their bicycles across a continent. These people keep fit and eat well and I imagine they will go on to keep completing similar feats like this. Seeing them has made me want to take care of myself better. At age 70 I could either be contemplating moving into ‘an old folks home’ or rowing across the Atlantic. I’m aiming for the latter.

The people and staff on this trip have been superb! If you’re considering riding across America, I seriously recommend Crossroads Cycling Adventures, no matter what age you are they work so hard to getting you across safe, happy and healthy. It’s been great to spend this amount of time with dad – it might never happen again. It got a bit too much at times but I’m sure it would for many people sharing a room for 7 weeks with their dad?

Thanks to those who’ve donated towards our fundraising for WaterAid – we’ve smashed our target and raised £3,863 which is just amazing! You can still donate here

Thanks to you reading this blog and for those we’ve met along the way. Support is always appreciated. It got tough sometimes and it was nice to know we were cycling for a cause and people had our backs.

Oh and the verdict on East vs West. I’m going to have to say the West. They have the Pacific Ocean and therefore lots of cool sharks so it’s a no brainer really. What’s next for us? Dad’s back to work and ever active with cycling in Scotland and I’m off to Bangor University in September to do a MSc in Marine Environmental Protection. So absolutely nothing to do with this cycle – which is perhaps a good thing? Time to expand my horizons a bit further than the United States of America again. I think it’s time to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

All the best,

Catherine xox

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

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

 

Hills, Harley's Angels and Cinnamon Buns

“What goes up must come down” my main man Isaac once said. Well it’s safe to say the ‘down’ is great fun and, if timed correctly and judged well, the uphill isn’t that bad either on the rolling hills which Missouri has laid down for us. Unfortunately I am shocking at judging these uphill rollers and prefer to keep in my highest gear, pedal only when I start losing speed on the uphill and look down at my revolving feet in the effort to control/ignore the burning pain in my legs. This usually results in finding myself in an interesting position, a few meters short of the top of the hill, in an incredibly high gear with two choices: either stand, grit my teeth and slowly crawl up the remainder of the hill or quickly shift to granny gear and spin up the rest. Of course I could stop and walk the rest but I signed up to cycle across America, not walk it, so option one it is and as my ‘fixed gear’ friends would say: ‘gears are for pansies’. Or maybe I should just learn to use them? Safe to say the Oliver family will not be winning the polka dot jersey any time soon. The hills are just too clever and deceptive for me.

Saying that, the hills really are beautiful – Missouri has been likened to Devon, interestingly by an American guy from New York. I thought those guys didn’t leave the magical New York, New York? So picture Devon and then picture where we’re riding. Got it? Perfect. If you’re struggling then the attached photo might give you more of a clue. The roller-coaster hills are certainly more fun that long drawn out climbs we’ve had up till this point and of course free wheeling is the best! Tucking in and not touching the brakes can get you up to around 40 miles per hour. The highest I’ve reached is 51mph so far which quickly drops to 2.8mph on the tops of those climbs. Ouch.

Tractors and lawn-mowers are a big feature in Missouri. I wave at every single one and always get a wave or nod back. The cows also like to be waved at and do respond if you whistle or shout daily greetings at them. Basically everyone is friendly round these parts. I’ve decided that I quite like the Harley’s Angels which growl by at speed. we had at least 50 pass us today. They like to wave too as they pass – me sweating, crawling up a hill, them chilled out in their massive leather seats blasting out their beats. When I told some people that I was biking across America, many were like: “cool, that’ll be fun, motorbiking right?” No no, cycling. Followed by “WHAT? Are you crazy? Your bum will be so sore!” Yes I am crazy and yes my bum is sore and I have learned my lesson. Next time I will be on a Harley Davidson waving at poor, sweaty cyclists as I zoom by eating Twizzlers being serenaded by Queen. Just joking, I’m not trading in Gulliver (my bike) for anything. My bike runs on fat and my resting heart rate is undoubtably lower than the bikers. (It makes me feel better if I think this way. Those bikes look too comfortable).

Another great thing about cycling (if I haven’t already mentioned it many, many times) is the food! We had a delightful SAG stop at this small town yesterday – Maysville. The locals had gathered around their local volunteer museum, cheered us into town and then fed us!! They were so adorable!!! This amazing man had been up since 5am baking the most amazing cinnamon buns I have ever tasted (I’ve not had many mind, but trust me these were great!) They had also made us peanut butter and homemade jam sandwiches and strawberry lemonade. They loved finding out that we had come all the way from Scotland, whereby many then proceed to tell you that they are in fact from Scotland, you ask them where and they have no idea. I was blown away by their hospitality.

So, we reach the 2,000 mile mark tomorrow and our 8th state as well as crossing the Mississippi River! It’s a very exciting day. Shame my legs are absolutely shot. Oh well, onwards and upwards (and then hopefully down again!)

Catherine xox

Getting Greener

Getting Greener

After a strawberry sandwich, a change of winds, a bit more water and an A Capella performance I’ve decided that I actually quite like Kansas. It’s certainly not yet a love but a like. I’ve decided that you can bring your bikes to cycle here if you want to but listen to my advice: take your bike to central Kansas, with plenty of roads, determine which way the wind is blowing and then just go with it. Don’t try to battle against the wind or even a crosswind because it won’t be a pleasant experience. Oh yeah, and try not to get blown to Oklahoma or Texas because we still aren’t that friendly. But if you did a tornado or something would probably pick you up and place you somewhere else in America so don’t worry about that too much. Have a nice ride!

After my last blog we cycled for half a day and then suddenly everything was green and the rivers we cycled over actually had water in them. It’s like a tale from the Hobbit except with more oil distilleries and grain mills. Abilene, our rest stop, has been really lovely despite having no where to have a beer after 10pm on a Monday night, shocking really, do the 6,000 strong population not want to do that on a weekday? In the daylight Abilene is just as lovely and quaint. The houses are stunning, old painted and decorated wooden buildings, all different and equally spaced out (pictured). The community feel outside town is great but inside town it’s all a bit sad. There are a few antique shops, some derelict/abandoned ones and a couple of random shops but nothing of real life – all of that can be found outside town in big supermarkets and fast food joints. I’ve heard that this is common for a downtown in the mid-west. The people however are brilliant! Everyone talks to you, many are gobsmacked when we tell them what we’re doing, as if they couldn’t imagine ever leaving Kansas. The majority of them love their state and what I’ve noticed is that, aside from a small Mexican influence, this is real America. No Oriental ramen places, no sushi joints, no takeaway curry, just pure undiluted America.

The cycling has been pretty cool, legs don’t hurt like they used to. I think we’ve become accustomed to that sort of pain. Lactic build up in the legs doesn’t seem to hit me until mile 60 or so and especially after long downhill stints of doing nothing and then trying to pedal again. But apart from that, I’m all good. New tyres seem to have done the trick on the puncture front, I’ve had none since I’ve put on the Gatorskins and dad seems to be getting along well with his new Brooks saddle.

So onwards and upwards it seems. We have a 105 mile with a 6000ft climb to look forward to tomorrow and when we reach Topeka, we’ll be half way there so that’s a good reason to carry on pedalling, if ever there was one. We’re excited! Thanks for following our journey so far!

Catherine xox

It's a hard life: Eat, Sleep, Bike across Kansas

Well that just about really sums up life at present, literally is Eat, Sleep, Bike. Wonderful flat, slightly rolling ride into Abilene, Kansas. A rest day tommorow. Bike and me running well. No hellish wind, well a bit of a side wind, but we made a major 90 degree turn initially and then the wind followed us for 40 miles for smooth run into Abilene. Catherine stayed with me today for most the ride, getting the hang of drafting now, Abilene looks a friendly place, home of Eisenhower.

Many have asked me how I got the time off from my job, well I look annual holiday May and for June it’s unpaid leave. I had to pretty much close down all my private practice for the duration. Thanks to my colleagues for covering me in the Edinburgh Orthopaedic Trauma Unit. There are a lot of changes in the unit at present, hope I still have a desk when I get back!

Sir Harry Burns, the Cheif Medical Officer for Scotland (and keen cyclist) has sent Catherine & I a message wishing us well, but he says that he has made a video mentioning our cycle ride and the Scottish Physical Activity Agenda. The video will be shown at the NHS Scotland Conference held in Glasgow in mid June. Sir Harry is giving a video presentation as he is away in the USA. So thanks Sir Harry, much appreciated.

My beard eradication auction, not surprisingly going slowly!

Destination: Mid-West America

Hollaaa,

It’s Catherine again, don’t worry, I’ve already had a three hour nap today so I’m ready to blog again! Since last writing we’ve left lovely New Mexico and cycled through a whole deal of shitty smelling practically barren land. Welcome to the mid-west people!

I now know why I haven’t chosen to travel to this part of America before, having previously only been to the coasts. The people are still lovely mind but it’s crazy windy and the museums we’ve been to don’t serve cake (as all British museums certainly would). I guess this area would be a pretty good place to come sailing, on no wait, there’s no water so scrap that idea. Basically come here but not on a push bike. So since New Mexico we’ve been through the pan handles of Texas and Oklahoma and up into Kansas where we are currently in the delightful ‘city’ of ‘Great Bend’.

I’ll just quickly run through each state as I remember it: Texas we were greeted with a sign with bullet holes in it but a lovely tail wind where we basically didn’t have to cycle all day. A few miles into the state heading towards Dalhart we reached XIT Feeders – a cattle farm with densely packed cattle in pens stretching further than the horizon. It was sad and stank really bad. Thankfully Ricky got his first puncture of the day after those farms so didn’t have so breathe in that air for too long. Dinner that night was ironically at a steakhouse – the only restaurant in town.

From Texas we gently rolled into Oklaholma into Guymon which was equally as smelly, perhaps worse as you pass the farms and abattoirs. Ther are regular trucks which pass-by holding cattle which suck you in win force as they pass you by and then spit you out leaving you with the smell of cattle and shit. Thus I noticed myself subconsciously breathing through only my mouth when hearing a truck behind me until they were far enough away.

From Oklahoma (no tornados for us yet) we cycled into Kansas which mean ‘people of the south wind’. I beg to differ. As we are traveling mostly north east we should be expecting a nice tail wind to push us through this state also dubbed as a ‘little hell hole’ in Google when you type in ‘Kansas means’. We’ve had a few days of crosswinds and headwinds which really slow you down and mess up your back as you find yourself leaning into the wind for 86miles to stay balanced. Last night we stayed in ‘Dodge City’ – no not where dodgy things come from – but it does turn out to be the windiest city in America, averaging 14mph winds on the Main Street throughout the year. It also turns out to be the fifth windiest city in the world so I’m not surprised Dorothy’s house flew away in The Wizard of Oz if she lived in Kansas.

So on observation of the Mid-West, the food is getting worse and the people are getting bigger but just as friendly. The land is flat (perfect for cycling you would’ve thought) and there is the constant threat of tornados as we are currently in Tornado Alley. Currently they’re in the Oklahoma area and also east of us. Fingers crossed they stay away from our bicycles!

As for us, I’m still battling through, dad is back on his bike again getting down the miles. The people we’re cycling with are top chat but we’re already two people down due to health problems but we’re almost half way there!! We actually passed a sign close to Larned claiming to be the half way point between New York and San Francisco – we have three more days of cycling until we reach our half way point. That’s exciting isn’t it?

Anyway, I’m looking forward to being a bit further east. The grass is starting to turn green (unaided by sprinklers) and the weather is cooling down to the point where we don’t have to pour water over ourselves to stay cool. But don’t worry the wind is doing that for us at the moment. Looks like we’ll be truck surfing for the next days and getting side blasted by the wind! Rest day in a few days in Abilene where dad has threatened to shave his beard off – all for the cause of WaterAid our charity we’re riding for. I’m sure he’s posted something about it online.

So that’s it for now. To sum up: don’t come to Kansas for your next holiday. Somewhere sunny like California would probably be a better option, I heard they have a Disney Word there and real food?

xox