Well as the title says better late than never, sorry for the lack of blog updates. I have very limited Internet time. I have been trying to keep regular updates through my twitter and Facebook pages. I hope everyone has enjoyed following these? I hope to keep more updates and photos coming from now on.
So anyway. What have I been up to?
With it now being 7 weeks since departing from Greenwich park, the time has really flown by!
The start was a great mix of emotions I was very keen to finally start turning the peddles after nearly one year of planning this trip. However at the same time I was very anxious as to what lay ahead of me over the next few months and also I never enjoy saying goodbye to my family and friends. The guys at Quick Energy did a great job of organising the start and getting a good deal of press interest so this distracted my mind from the reality.
5,4,3,2,1 GO! And we were off! Well for about 500 yards as I had to stop just out of the park as I had not had time to check my route out of London. What a good start! A few of the other riders did the same so it was a good chance to exchange our well wishes before parting ways. The first day down to Portsmouth was a good test for what lay ahead. Rain all day and a strong headwind! But for once this didn't worry me as my mind was going at a million miles per hour thinking of what lay ahead and everyone I had just left behind. So I was down in Portsmouth before I realised it.
I was always expecting the first 2-3 weeks to be very tough as it is going to be a shock to the system. However I was quite surprised at how good I felt going down through France, Spain and Portugal. Although on the morning of the second day I awoke from my frost covered tent with my legs feeling incredibly sore. This was not good, two days in and I'm ruined I thought! But after the first few hours of peddling they eased up and have not felt anything like that since. I guess they have just got used to the daily miles and given up complaining..
The ride down to Portugal was fairly uneventful, which was just what I needed to get into the swing of things. I didn't push myself to hard and just stuck my daily target of averaging 125 miles per day as even if I got to the airport early my flight was booked and couldn't be changed.
With my bike boxed up I was ready to fly to America. It was just a shame that the check in staff weren't ready for me! For some reason there were problems getting their computer to register my ticket and passport. So I had to wait until the very last person and with all of the check in staff on hand they eventually corrected the problem. But this only left me 5 mins to get to drop of my bike at oversized luggage and get on the flight. I got on the flight with seconds to spare but could not see how my bike would have got there in time. So I had a long 18hrs of connections, and flight times to worry about where my bike may be...
After a night dusseldorf airport waiting for my connecting flight I eventually arrived in Miami and to my relief my bike was there waiting for me and ready to be rebuilt out the front of the airport.
I was great to be in America and start riding up through Florida. It soon became apparent just how big everything is here! The vehicles, roads, food, people and of course the actual country is massif! I soon settled into the American way and had a good start. With my daily average milage creeping up each day, the first week went very quickly and I was up to Alabama in good time. On arriving in Alabama i lost a bit of time because i began to have knee problems and was riding in pain for a few days and had to have a early finish one day to try and give it time to recover. By doing this and taking it easy it slowly began to feel better. From Alabama I then began to head west through Mississippi, Louisiana and into Texas. I was surprised at how different each state was. Both in terms of terrain and the people. They each have their own individual charms. I also was surprised to discover that sitting on your rocking chair in the porch of your house is not just a stereotype of Alabama but they actually do! I have never seen so many rocking chairs! One thing that each state did have in common was that they don't keep their dogs on leads or fenced in so I was constantly chased by them! In one day I got chased 10 times! It is never nice when a dog charges out of its garden at you barking and biting onto my panniers! It's hard enough cycling with all my luggage let alone with a dog hanging on for the ride! One one occasion I saw two dogs coming at me so put in a big effort to out run them but at the same time my chain slipped and i ended up laying over my handle bars and wobbling down the road! I'm not sure how I didn't crash. More luck than skill I think! After that I no longer tried to out run them. Instead I have taken to kindly asking them to f-off in my best doggy language!
After louisiana I went into Texas and into a strong headwind! For most of Texas I was crossing the plains. Out on these plains there is not allot of anything! Just pan flat open fields with oil pumping rigs dotted about for miles and miles. There was certainly not any shelter from the wind! On on day it was do bad that on arriving at a small town I stopped as usual at a fuel station to fill up with food and drink. I soon realised that the fuel station was full of lorry drivers who had been stranded because the wind was threatening to blow them over. They also warned me that it will be allot worse the further west I get. But as I was only on 70 miles that day I had no intention of stopping to though how bad can it be and pushed on. After getting just 1 mile out of town I realised that perhaps it was a bit bad. I was putting in full effort to go 5mph and stay up right. Even this wasn't enough and one guest blew me straight off the road and into fortunately only a shallow ditch. With this I decided it was pointless to fight it and turned back to town where I was greeted by a very friendly couple who owned a small motel and they let me stay for a very discounted rate and helped my find some food for the evening. This early finish and time spent with the owners was what I needed to let my body and mind have a break. Because the past few day of fighting the wind had started to get to me and for the first time I began to get a bit fed up with it all!
Unfortunately after leaving Texas the weather didn't improve, in fact it just got worse. After the Texas plains i went up into mountains of New Mexico and with this the temperature dropped dramatically. So I was now riding into the same wind but now with some snow just to make it all the more fun. The first 2 weeks in America the average temp was around 25 deg c. And now it was around -1. With a wind chill of -11 one morning! This did not help me at all. And again I was starting to be tested. The combined hills, cold wind and a bad spell of punctures made it very hard to get any good miles done for almost a week. One day I did 95 miles in 14hrs! On a normal day that should be over 150 miles in that time. Despite this I was still enjoying the challenge and the scenery and small mountain villages were truly amazing. I have always enjoyed being up in the mountains so this kept me going despite being beaten by the weather. One section that I will always remember was as I began to head down from the mountains I went through a huge canyon. The road dropped for ten miles around lots of switchback turns all the way to the bottom. This was great fun, but the reality that I now had 10 miles of steep uphill to get back out the other side was not so good. But I really enjoyed the climb. When I was near the top It began to get dark so I started to look for a camp spot. I eventually found a small ledge off the road and on the side of the canyon. It was one of the best views I have ever had from my tent! I just had to make sure I didn't roll off the side!
The next morning I headed down from the mountains into Arizona and through Phoenix. It was approx 45 miles across Phoenix and with there being countless traffic lights this took a very long time! If I added up all the time I have waited at traffic lights in America it would be days! They have them everywhere it seems! If there was a chance a fly wanted to cross the road in the future they will put a light there just incase!! With my arrival in Arizona came a rise in temperature and also a long awaited tailwind! This was a real treat and made the ride up to Nevada and las Vegas very enjoyable. After a couple of days in the desert I reached Vegas at midday and decided to have a slightly early stop to get some rest and do some quick sight seeing.
After vegas I pushed on up through the desert and into Oregon. Once into Oregon the scenery really changed. From being in the open desert I was now into forested mountains. And again the weather turned against me. It was all over the local news how much rain they were having and about to receive allot more. This didn't do allot to help my motivation for the final few days in America.
Once in Oregon I decided upon a change of route. My original plan was to ride up to Seattle and fly from there but I decided to head across to the coast and and then down the coast to San Francisco. I decided this because it was a route that I have heard allot about as being one of the great roads to cycle in the world and also I could get a cheaper flight to NZ from San francisco. So this suited both my search for adventure and budget.
The weather man was not wrong unfortunately and it really did rain! I also now had to cross the mountains to get to the coast and the rain was snow up there. So I knew I was in for a hard couple of days. On one day when i set of there was quite allot of snow already on the floor and I was not even up the mountain yet. As I started to climb it began to snow harder and harder. As I got half way up it began to get really quite bad and I had several people stop and ask if I needed a lift over the mountain. But each time I refused as this was not a option, or so I thought. Eventually I reached the summit where the snow was very deep at the sides but not to bad on the road. As I began the decent it got allot worse because the storm was coming in from the west this side of the mountain was taking the worst of the weather. After just 1 mile of descending with both feet sliding on the floor to stop myself slipping over, because I am using slick road tyres I was not at all prepared for snow riding. Around the next corner I could see the traffic had stopped. As I got closer and walked passed the queuing traffic i got to a police car and went to have a chat and see what was going on. He was not amused by my greeting of "hello mate! Lovely day for a bike ride hey". And in return i received a lecture about how stupid I was and how he was not going to be responsible when I get hurt and he insisted I get a lift of the mountain from one of the queuing motorists. So of course I refused and said I will get to the front and then get a lift and left him. After another mile of walking I reached the front and found they had just got a jackknifed lorry back on the road. So I carried on, but it continued to get worse. My bike wheels were now blocked solid with snow. I kept sliding down for a little wile longer but it just got stupid. The traffic had started moving again and with the snow pulled on the road side I was forced to be in the road. With the traffic and very poor visibility I felt very vulnerable and had a few very close brushes with passing trucks. With this I decided the next offer of a lift I will take as perhaps the policeman was right, I would be stupid to carry on. I soon got a lift with a very kind local couple and we chucked my bike on the back of his pick up. We drove for about 15 miles down the mountain and were soon out of the worse of the snow and I decide I should be ok to carry on. It really annoyed me to have to get a lift as I wanted to ride the whole way. But I reasoned it better to miss 15 miles of down hill than to be involved in a accident and miss the remaining 13000 miles! I think it was the right decision as on the way down the visibility was down to no more than 25 feet so was no way a truck would stop in time when they see a English boy sliding down the middle of the road. As I am not so worried about the Guinness world record I don't need to worry about proving to them why I got a lift and I just Havant included those 15 miles in my total. As it happened in those miles we passed my turn off and I was now down in the wrong valley so had to ride further to get to my destination that day. After this I was in a bit if a bad mood for the next few days. This was not helped by the constant rain and wind. But the coast road was great... When I could see it. The rain continued until the last day into San Francisco. I was very glad to reach the hotel and get properly dry for the first time in nearly a week!
A summary so far:
I am now on 5950 miles. I have been away for 51 days giving me a average mpd of 116.6 including 4 days of non riding because of flights. And a average mpd of 126.6 for riding days. So basically I am just ahead of my original planned schedule.
I am pleased with this, but due to the pace of the race leader Mike Hall. (average mpd around 180) I would like to up the pace a bit and feel I should be able to over the next few weeks. Probably not to that pace but just a bit. I am trying to find a good level between remaining competitive in the world cycle race and also enjoying the adventure and not just riding passed everything and choosing a route just to go fast. I'm probably not going to be cycling around the world again so best to choose a route and go to places I want to explore and enjoy the adventure. My main ambition now is to still get round in160 days. Including flight days. So that will be a riding time of around 150 days. I'm pretty sure that alone will be enough of an achievement to keep me happy and also to encourage people to help me support Make-A-Wish by donating. Along with with doing more blog updates and uploading more picture I am going to start asking for donations, every little will help to maintain that Make-A-Wish can continue their great work granting magical magical wishes to children and young people fighting life threatening illnesses.
"This is the last call for all passengers on the NZ71007 flight to Auckland"
I'd best dash before I miss my flight. Lets see what adventures lay ahead! After just two days off i am very keen to get cycling again! So my mojo is very much alive!