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Monday, 19 August 2013

Angry dogs, prayers, steep hills, stormy weather, Mammoth caves andKentucky fried chicken

Day 50 Pittsburg to Everton    time on bike 4 hrs 54 mins, 64.02 miles, 13.0 mph average
Day 51 Everton to Marshfield 4:31.50, 55.03 miles, 12.1 mph ave
Day 52 Marshfield to Houston 5:12.58, 67.63 miles, 12.9 mph ave
Day 53 Houston to Ellington 5:32.46, 69.21 miles, 12.5 mph ave
Day 54 Ellington to Farmington 4:37.22, Day 55 impromptu day off in Farmington. The 'cycle only' hostel was too good to leave
Day 56 Farmington to Chester 3:29.35, 47.79 miles, 13.6 mph ave
Day 57 Chester to Carbondale 2:52.22, 40.65 miles, 14.1 mph ave
Day 58 day off, a lazy few days but needed a bit of a break, a bit scunnered with the bike
Day 59 Carbondale to Eddieville 4:35.43, 60.89 miles, 13.2 mph ave
Day 60 Eddieville to Sebree 6:44.34, 88.05 miles, 13.0 mph average
Day 61 Sebree to Falls of Rough 5:51.57, 75.65 miles, 12.9 mph average
Day 62 Falls of Rough to Mammoth Cave
7:24.19, 92.92 miles, 12.5 mph average
Day 63 Mammoth Cave to Hodgenville 3:55.53, 50.29 miles, 12.7 mph average
Day 64 Hodgenville to Chimney Rock RV camp 7:25.48, 97.48 miles, 13.1 mph average
Day 65 Chimney Rock RV park to Berea 3:21.48, 40.39 miles, 12.0 mph average ave

We are currently in Berea, KY.  We are 3 days or so from Virginia which is our last state.  Approximately 700 miles/2 weeks to go on the Transam!  The last two weeks or so has thrown up so much.  We left Kansas to enter Missouri, then Illinois and now Kentucky.  Every state is very different, it is very difficult to begin to talk about what we have experienced, the photos below hopefully give a snap shot.

The kindness continues, we stopped for lunch in a small village in Illinois, just as Tom was going up to pay (I know sounds unlikely) the cashier advised him that the lady in front had paid for our meal.  Tom ensures me he wasnt giving her or her husband the eye during lunch, it was just an act of kindness. We have also been offered places to stay, we have been given lots of tomatoes and generally just continue to be met with such unbelievable kindness.

Its fair to say by the time we finish the trip we will have been faced with every type of weather (with the exception of snow, although we have had hail) that there is on offer.  Through Missoula (nicknamed Misery by some locals and myself at times) we had consistent thunder storms.  Both our tents are pretty good, far better than most of the other touring cyclists but unfortunately they aren’t self supporting so cannot be pitched without pegging down.  Most of the other cyclists during the weeks of storms (flash flooding, record breaking rain in Missoula) have pitched within band stands on the concrete plinths to stay out of the rain, we don’t have that luxury.  Not a big problem because our tents are good but unfortunately on one occasion there had been so much rain during the night the water came from underneath and our stuff was swimming in the morning…..motel time the next day!
The weather improved somewhat for Kentucky, the humidity massively reduced and the temperature has been in the mid 20’s making for some fantastic cycling conditions.  We are now in mid Kentucky and so far it is one of our favorite states for cycling,  the cycling is on quiet roads flanked by huge corn fields on the whole. 
The one thing everyone has talked about in relation to Kentucky is the dogs!  So far it hasn’t been too bad, we have been chased a lot and I had my pannier bags bitten by one dog but all in all nothing to savage. We have nearly witnessed a couple of dogs being hit by cars as they focus on getting us, thankfully some emergency stops by the cars has prevented canine road kill.  I think it will get worse before it gets better, Eastern Kentucky is said to be less affluent, trailer type homes with no enclosed gardens so dogs roaming free.  I will strap a steak to the back of Tom's bike and see what happens.
We have less than 1,000 miles to go now including the added 250m miles to DC.  The bikes are making all sorts of noises now. The brakes kind of work and are complete with loud squeaking although this is actually of a benefit in scaring off dogs. The gears have a mind of their own but all in all they on the most part seem to work.  If the bikes see us to Yorktown, VA our original finish then we will be happy…anything after that is a bonus and we can always hitch to DC.  I reckon if I take the bike into a bike shop it may be written off and funds are running a bit low to replace every moving part.

One other new sight on the roads in Kentucky is a number of Amish people. We have passed a few horses and carts on the main roads full of children no older than 8 years old. Great to over take some other road users! That said we have also seen them in trucks and in gas stations buying junk food, the movie Kingpin obviously taught me nothing! 

State #7....happy to get out of Kansas.  Kansas was nice in its own unique way but i didnt like the fact our days cycling was so heavily influenced by the weather.  I was also a little disappointed we didnt get one tail wind, that said the head winds could have been worse! In that sense we were kind of fortunate.  We have met so many people who had easily cycled 130 miles or so in Kansas or completed 3 or 4 successive century days because they had a wind, it is so flat it would be easily done.  Och well.

Entering the Ozarks.  Our first hills in a while.  The Ozarks are small in height but steep in gradient.  It is described in our maps as a self propelled roller coaster, a fine description although a roller coaster evokes thoughts of fun.

Illinois - This was a campsite 'social room' which doubled up as the community church.  The campsite owner allowed us to sleep in there instead of camping due to the storms.  There was one bed shown in the background.  We flipped for it (contrary to popular belief sharing would be a bit too much), needless to say Tom won and i slept on the concrete on my self deflating air bed. The flys buzzing around assisted with the nice nights sleep.

Crossing from Illinois to Kentucky.  No bridge across the Ohio river at our point of crossing.  I was a bit disappointed at the duration of the boat trip.  It was about 10 minutes including loading and unloading, i was hoping the boat was going to take us 20 miles or so.
 Yeeha. State #9.  Fried chicken, mullets and loose dogs. 
 This is the church we stayed at in Sebree.  The best place we have stayed in.  There was a bed and a shower too as well as a large screen tv complete with DVD player. If that wasn't good enough we were invited into the Pastors house (along with 3 other cyclists traveling West who also stayed there) where the pastors wife cooked us the most amazing meal.  We said grace and joined hands for prayer at the end.  I'm not a religious man but prayer is the ideal opportunity to fill your pockets with the remaining food. I didnt get the giggles during grace and the prayers.
 The outside of the Sebree church.  Difficult place to leave and we definitely would have stayed if we hadnt have had a few lazy days a couple of days previously.
 Back into the swing of things camping.  We actually missed our rice, green beans, chilli combination! 
 Another bridgeless river and a ferry crossing (20 metres or so), this was entering the mammoth cave national park.  The 'Mammoth Cave Loop' is a 87 mile loop which is an optional extra on the TransAmerica.  Tom and i decided (we must have been feeling fresh) we would do it as we have a few days to spare.  A beautiful cycle, so beautiful that Tom got us deliberately lost twice giving us a nice wee 15 mile extra.  Cheers Tom.
 Mammoth Cave, the longest cave network in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site.  We only ventured in for a tour of approximately 1/2 mile,
the cave extends over 400 miles and new parts are being discovered all the time.  Graded 'moderate' difficult because of the 80 steps......i wont say anymore.  Fascinating place and well worth the extra 87 miles (plus Toms bonus miles....not still annoyed)
 We decided we havent been taking enough photos.  Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and to an extent Kentucky havent thrown up the same picturesque sites as the more Western States.  Beautiful and interesting in their own right, we just havent taken too many photos!  We also on this day passed through our final time zone (Central to Eastern), only 5 hours behind now.
 Kentucky - We passed the birthplace of Lincoln, president and vampire hunter.  Decent bloke by all accounts.
 Kentucky - We camped at the back of high school ball park one night and on the adjacent field there was a high school football match going on so we stopped by for a look.  I managed to negotiate us free access by saying Tom was a high school kid from the UK hoping to make it in the US as a 'receiver' an american football term i believe.  The American high school talent on show was fantastic, the game was pretty poor.
 The home of Bourbon in Kentucky.  A huge distillery on our route, we stopped in for a tour and some tasting.  I'm not sure they do it on 'Le Tour' but a whiskey half way through a 97 mile cycle is just what you need, especially in the heat.  It was actually really interesting, i managed to hold back on saying Bourbon is just a poor mans whiskey.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Half way and beyond...

Hello, its been a while.  Apologies, my excuses are the smart phone  has killed the internet cafe and Kansas Libraries have funny opening hours. 
Half way has been and gone since the last update.
We have left Wyoming, cycled through Colorado and we are currently on the Kansas/Missouri border.
In Wyoming we continued to cycle at altitude through mountain dessert, still every bit the wild west.  Not a lot of people, several deserted 'Ghost Towns'  mainly from the gold rush era.  The landscape was relatively bland in comparison to the magnificent scenery of the Tetons and Yellowstone and the preceding states. 
Colorado and the Rocky mountains were absolutely stunning, some of the best cycling of the trip so far.  We gained altitude culminating in the highest point of the trip - The Hoosier Pass at 11,542ft, thankfully we were pretty well acclimatised so it didnt seem to effect us.
After this we had some awesome descents which took us into the very flat Eastern Colorado which was a warm up for the even flatter Kansas.
The weather in Wyoming and Easter Colorado continued to be very hot (I cant wait for winter), unusually though Kansas has been very wet.  We had 8 inches of rain in two days which is pretty much unheard off for a state which has apparently been in a drought for the past 3 years.
Some pretty frightening lightning storms accompanied the rain which has been an experience to cycle through, someone needs to tell Tom that it isn't safer hiding under trees if trying to avoid lightning.  A couple of flood induced diversions ensued also, a baw ache at the time but it all adds to the experience!
Photos and further explanation below.
The stats:
Day 30 - Ddebois to Lander                      5hrs 08mins 28secs on bike, 74.94 miles, 14.5mph average
Day 31 - Lander to Jeffrey City               4:26.49 on bike, 58.17miles, 13mph average
Day 32 - Jeffrey city to Rawlins              5:35.02 on bike, 74.3miles, 13.3mph average
Day 33- Rawlins to Riverside                  4:31.11 on bike, 62.71 miles, 13.8mph average
Day 34- Riverside to Walden                  3:48.46 on bike, 49.09miles, 12.8mph average
Day 35 - Walden to Kremmling              5:33.23 on bike, 81.01 miles, 14.5mph average
Day 36 - Kremmling to Breckenridge      5:13.24 on the bike, 64.05 miles, 12.2mph average
Day 37 - Breckinridge to Guffey             4:52.15 on the bike, 67.99 miles, 13.9mph average
Day 38 - Guffey to Pueblo                       5:41.56 on the bike, 85.21 miles, 14.9mph average
Day 39 - Day Off in Pueblo, Tom still cant finish a large Dominos pizza
Day 40 - Pueblo to Ordway                     3:56.24 on bike, 51.08miles, 12.9mph average
Day 41 - Ordway to Sheridan Lake         6:12.05 on bike, 91.05 miles, 14.6mph average
Day 42 - Sheridan Lake to Scott City      5:59.44 on bike, 75.98 miles, 12.6mph average
Day 43 - Scott City to Bezine                  6:39.10 on bike, 67.04 miles, 10.0 mph average
Day 44 - Bezine to Larned                       4:35.13 on bike, 52.48 miles, 11.4mph average
Day 45-Larned to Hutchinson                  5:37.12 on bike, 73.11 miles, 13.0mph average
Day 46 - Hutchinson to Cassody             6:03.35 on bike, 77.8 miles, 12.8 mph average
Day 47 - Cassody to Coyville                  4:53.17 on bike, 66.96 miles, 13.7mph average
Day 48 - Coyville to Pittsburg                  6:36.48 on bike, 89.4 miles, 13.5mph average
NB on Day 48, Tom cycled a further 10.6 miles around Pittsburg to ensure he got a 100mph day, whoever made the bet must now pay up.
Day 49 - Day off Pittsburg

 The view leaving Debois was stunning.  We stopped at an Indian reservation about 20 miles after leaving Debois, a guy came up to me and asked me if i liked Debois, i replied 'yes, very nice' before i realised what i walked into. Prick.
Tom insisted on taking a photo of me on this occasion, he said i looked really nice.
 Typical camping scene, kit explosion.  If i was to hazard a guess I would say Chili and Pasta was on the menu with sweetcorn and/or green beans.
 Proper cowboy pose in the Wild West, more Brokeback than John Wayne though.
The stars and stripes flying proudly on Tom's bike. Tom has mentioned many times how he wished he had been born an American
 Jeffrey City, one of many 'Ghost towns' in Wyoming.  This town within the last 30 years was booming with over 3,000 people, a new school was built in the 80's which in its prime had around 600 attendees. Jeffrey City was a Uranium mining town.  When the Uranium industry collapsed in the US the town was vacated over night, there are lots of empty buildings, i believe about 50 people now reside there, very creepy.  Liquor store wasnt open, darn it.
Continental Divide #lost count, still enthusiastic though, you got to give the guys some credit.
 Some sight seeing, Wyoming State Penitentiary opened in 1901.  It was a very interesting place if not a little eerie.
A low budget movie titled “Prison” was filmed on location. The movie was one of Viggo Mortensen’s first and featured several other well known actors. Significant damage was done to the prison grounds during filming because it had yet to be considered a historic site, the walls still stained with fake blood etc.  The Gas Chamber and Stalls where quite a few people were executed over the years remain intact though.
 Wyoming and Tom. State #4 (although this seems in the wrong order, we took this when entering Colorado as the sign was better than the one within Yellowstone)
 Spelt colourful wrong, other than that the photo is flawless.  State #5.
 We visited a Rodeo whilst in Breckenridge, an authentic American experience.  A bit cruel for my liking but the Americans seem to be all over it!  That said they love Baseball.
Breckenridge was one of the best places we have stayed, it is a winter ski resort so very cool (and expensive).  We would have liked to have stayed longer but were also keen to get going with the Hoosier Pass looming.
Highest point of the trip, we reached the 11,524 feet pass on the last day of the Tour de France. Many road users commented on how i reminded them of Chris Froome in the way i tackled the mountain. The climb was beautiful and the downhill was class too.
This was our accommodation in Guffey, Colorado. The gentleman (Bill) owned a lot of land which was full of cattle skeletons, old buildings, wrecked cars etc. He let some of the buildings out to cyclists and has done for a good few decades. It was a very unique place, Tom put some of the external shots on twitter.
Kansas........I might have something nice to say about it if the wind blew East. It doesn't though so i haven't. Dorothy your shoes are shit. OK so perhaps a bit harsh.  The people were incredibly kind and friendly, the weather could have been worse. 
An indication of how flat the roads are in Eastern Colorado and Kansas
 Half way! yeeha.
 Seeking shelter at a church by the side of the road.  Kansas doesn't have too much going scenery wise but it does have lots of Churches which are generously open to cyclists.  Happy to soak up the hospitality.

A quick stop following a thunder storm, although i dont like it i am very happy at the UK'esq weather.  I am more suited to it peeing down (this was pre humidity) with rain than i am to anything above 25 degrees, it tends to be around 35 degrees.
 This was a church we stayed in Hutchinson.  The Zion Lutheran Church.  We picked the key up from the local bike shop as indicated on our map.  The place had two beds with a TV and DVD player above each bed, a kitchen, showers, lots of room to hang stuff up.  It is one of many churches offered to cyclists along the Transamerica Trail. It is incredible.  There was a storm outside as we sat watching a DVD, so happy and grateful to be indoors.
 Early morning cycle to beat the heat.  The rain has brought the humidity, and i know i keep complaining about the weather but it is so bloody hot.  The humidity is unreal.
The community centre where we stayed in Coyville. We asked a local resident whether we could stay there for the evening (another cyclists had said it would be ok if we asked).  The same lady we asked offered us use of her pool, we ended up showering in her house and she made us dinner.  I in return offered up Tom but she declined.
In the photo Tom is planning the remainder of the trip.  We are a little ahead of schedule so have decided to extend the trip another 250 miles and cycle up to the Nations capital.  According to the maps, the Obama's let you camp in their garden.