We had an early start out of the Governor’s Hotel in Cheadle as breakfast was not until 8:30 which is no good for early start athletes. So off we went.
It was no good getting out of urban sprawl of Manchester but it was well worth it in the end.
What a tremendous route the Trans-Pennine-Trail (TPT) is, an absolute pleasure to ride. It’s pretty tough but nothing us trekkers can’t handle. The down-hills through the woods were very challenging for me, but the lads loved them. Honestly I can’t say how much we all enjoyed it. The looks we got from the mountain-bikers was a picture. “Bloody mad” they said, and were probably right.
We carried on through the mining villages around Barnsley thinking of the Sutcliffes from the village as they are from this area.
Then we stopped for lunch at the Scarborough Arms in Tickhill. We all regrouped and had a bite to eat. From there we then set off for the Dambuster’s pub and Plewies. It was great roads heading for Gainsborough which was the place of a classic crash for me on the Durness to Dover ride all those year’s ago [Ed: it was 2012!]. They even made me re-enact the accident!
These were great country roads and we hardly met a car for the 15 mile final run in. It was brilliant as we all grouped together to meet the legend Steve Plews a true gentleman and probably the best publican in the world.
What a welcome at the Dambusters. Cathal & Greg had travelled up from Sunshine Corner to meet us & the all the locals were amazing and great people.
Over and out from the Dambusters Inn. Great company having a little beer now.
We had a great night with the North Wales Clan and really enjoyed the stay. A massive thumbs up from the Team and also happy birthday Doreen have a lovely day you deserve it after looking after us. Irene, Keith and I loved the hot tub and full English breakfast you prepared for our early start. [Ed: nudge nudge say no more].
After starting the ride with our farewells we headed towards Mold and passed Warren House (We Doreen & Alan used to live) so we had little photo outside the main entrance. Once again happy memories of family parties and weddings.
Then we stopped for breakfast at Mcdonalds in Mold, and also had a look at booking some accommodation as we are meeting Dave’s mate Ian later for dinner and few beers.
But a bit of a problem as we can find no accommodation in Buxton. We were forced to do a bit of rerouting to Cheadle on the outskirts of Manchester. So on we went. At first it was not to good as the roads were busy with many intersections. Soon however we found some old railway tracks. Happy days, within the hour we were whizzing past Chester and back in England.
From there we kept on the tracks and canal tow paths most of the way but it was still not good enough to stop big Dave having a little tumble at a junction. He fell off with his shoes clipped in like a stranded turtle!
We stopped in a nice pub just outside Warrington for lunch and then carried on adjacent to the Manchester Ship Canal then on to another smaller canal. A great route. Then it was just the last few miles up to Cheadle and the hotel.
Eventually we had a lovely meal in the end last night. We were kept waiting for a table at the hotel for 3/4hour only then to be told they had no food left. The cylist were OK with it though Stubbsy daughter had just done a 12 hr shift at Bath hospital which is far harder than cycling. She was not best pleased. But all’s well that ends well as we found a great Italian restaurant less than 50m away.
We woke up to a lovely sunny morning had a bit of breakfast and then hit the road just after 8. It was a bit of a steep climb out of Chepstow as we headed for Newport for a quick meet up with Chris and Lester Powell. It was great seeing them both looking very fit and well. We had a little chat then wished them all well. Chris gave us a big bag of Welsh cakes: Bingo promptly took ownership of them.
We pressed on through Newport and passed the famous transporter bridge – a marvelous feet of engineering. After finally getting out of Newport we headed towards the Rhondda valley and picked up the Sustrans Cycle Route 4 or maybe Route 8 [Ed: or both; 4 goes E/W to Fishguard and 8 goes S/N to Anglesey]. It’s a credit to the Welsh tourist board as it was excellent, fully paved and a joy to ride on.
Before we knew it we were climbing steadily up the valley, going through Caerphilly where we stopped for a photo shoot of the castle and the statue of Tommy Cooper (I did not know he was Welsh [Ed: now you do, just like that!]). Then we stopped for lunch at a cafe in Pontypridd. Big Dave is making sure we have a dry lunch – he is a good lad. From there we carried onto Porth and then up the Valley to Ynysir where my Dad was born.
We had a few pictures taken along William Street and remembered holidays from the past playing football with Graham on the Oval and wearing a horrible tweed tweed suit that Dad had brought for Keith and I to name a few. Personally I was really pleased we went up the Ynysir valley. I loved it, but anyway that’s enough of the sentimental stuff as we had the first of two big climbs in front of us.
We had already started the the climb upto Maerdy. It was our first proper climb and it was good stuff as that’s what we came for.
All of us were laughing and joking as we rode up to Aberdare, and with big Dave ditching the no beer thing Keith and I went in the Aberdare Constitutional Club. Dave and Andy had a beer outside a coffee shop then joined us. It was just a timing and thirsty thing. The club was full of sporting memorabilia and the host was a great guy as he showed us all the bits and pieces.
Finally we left the club and struggled for a while to get out of the town. Then we hit another climb up to Merthyr Tydfil. On the descent we headed off towards Brecon for a good few miles, and stopped by a small hamlet on the side of a reservior. We tried a few B&Bs here to no avail and finally settled for a wild camp on the banks of the Llwyn-On reservior which is a lovely spo. We managed to put the water through the purifier, so we had coffee, 1/4 egg roll, 1/4 Soren Malt loaf each for dinner tand hen an early night.
Well here we go again with an early start at Daves to meet Stubbsy. I’m met with an eery silance as everyone is just a bit apprehensive. Especially young Stubbsy as it’s his first tour. We have a quick photo-shoot and then we’re off to meet Bingo at Longage (Lyminge).
We soon met Bingo and with a quick hello we are off with Garmins buzzing like crazy as all of us are out of practise. It should be impossible to get lost in Kent and the plan is to head for Tenterden and then check where we have to go from there.
We even met a few lost sheep along the way making us feel like we are in Wales already.
It’s a lovely ride and we are soon at Tenterden for a little coffee stop. We reset the Garmins and off we go.
Guess what I was the first to get lost! Who said “It’s impossible to get lost in Kent”. I’m distracted by a junction pub but after 10 mins I’m back on line to meet up with the rest to the chorus. “How the xxxx did you get to Japan?”.
With a cheeky smile and word to myself I was reminded that if it weren’t for Linny I’d still be riding around Ukraine!
From here we then had really good 20 odd mile along an old railway line with superb riding.
[this is the Forest Way which follows the old TunbridgeWellss/East Grinstead/Three Bridges railway line closed in the Beeching cuts of 1967. Plans are to link this to the Cuckoo Trail at Groombridge. This follows another old railway line south to Eastbourne].
This line follows the upper Medway valley, through the High Weald and passes close to Ashdown Forest made famous by A.A.Milne and Winnie the Pooh. No time for Pooh-Sticks though. All of us really enjoyed the track and it went a lot further than we thought.
After that we stopped for a little food at East Grinstead and then carried on to Crawley.
The urban sprawl outside Crawley was boring and in the end we crossed and re-crossed the M23 three times! As a bonus we went through a woodyard so that at least kept Dave entertained.
We cracked on until Horsham and had dinner in a Western themed pub. It was a bit strange but the food was very welcome and naturally we had a few beers.
Then we ambled the last few miles on to the first camp. It’s a nice spot but I made school boy error : I should have checked how the tent went up before this! Eventually got it up but then I couldn’t figure out how to open it to get in!
All good in the end. Sadly we had no beer! Dry tour this year. [Ed: who’s he kidding?]
After a marathon 44 day, 2937 mile ride across the USA (in 210 hours of riding) Keith flew home to a Christmas welcome.
In total this means Keith rode for 165 days (with 907 hours in the saddle) for a grand total of 11,838 miles for his round-the-world tour.
As you can see the team managed to raise almost £12,000 which was about twice the original target of £6,000 (it is £12,673.94 including Gift Aid). A great and much appreciated effort all around. We know this will make a considerable difference to the Slide Away and Fight for Sight Charities and of course The Alzheimer’s Society needs continuous support. They have all passed on their thanks from them to you.
[We’ve extended the donation deadline until after the 6 Nations on the 14th March: Ed]
We give our heartfelt thanks to all the following for being so generous and also those who contributed via various collection boxes or donated anonymously.
Mick and Carol, Fitzwalter Arms, Red Lion Bridge, Two Sawyers, Rochelle Amos and Jodanna Farrow-House, Penny and Martin Harman, Vicki Jago, John Higgins and Wendy, Mike Phillipson, John Y, Shirley, Jenny and Keith Etheridge, Maria, Tim and Jane, Karen and Alan Middlemiss, Sean, Aaron and Jill, Chris O’Sullivan, Peter Uyl, Michele Bisdee, Tracey and Ian, Trev Croft, Terry Garrity, Tony, Deborah and William, Euro Diamond Drilling Ltd, Jim, Jas Rana, Courtney, Mum’s Art Class, Angela & Co, Joy & Seamus, A Maxwell, Lucy, Dave and Sarah Wilmshurst, Shane Rhodes, Harv, Roger, Max, Tony and Jill Rawlins, Christine and Gary Fordham, Joyce Neary, Harwood and Ben Cheeseman, Mike Fanthome, Arron Ross, Tom Flaherty, Ashley Smith, Danny Sullivan Group, Dougy, Krysia, Gareth & Kellie Weston, Courtney Brown, Kindred Family, Neil, Stuart McMahon, Roger, Big Rog, Tommy and Brenda Johnstone, Kath and Pete Stow, Linda Cann, Pete and Angela Sutcliffe, Alan Tucker, John and Sylvie Horwood, Jaimie Mcdonald, Tony Bartolo, Dave Osborne, Pierre and Caroline, Arthur and Moira Moses, Ayleshamsmang, Eoin, Rylan and Dungerness, Patrick Meathead, David G, Budgie Nigel and Lenny, Jackie and Nick Farrow, Caroline EYC, Andy and Liz Gladin, Danni, Dianne Oxenham, Salljg, Gary Pain, Keith and Christine Gill, Ben Simmonds, Dave and Cheryl, Auntie Wendy Shelly, Steve Martin, Dave Robbins, Lynda and Jamie, Snowdown Colliery Welfare Rugby Football Club, Vernon Print, Glen Cullis, Mearl Dale Frost, Maureen Dunn, Bradleys Solicitors, Sparklez Tattoos, Martin James DCB Kent, Royal Oak Capel, Richard Malone, Clive Green, Peter Smith, Jodanna and Tim Farrow-House, Dave Ward, Sharelle, Arvind Patel, Nigel Cole, Dianne Oxenham, Ara Environmental Ltd, Gma Groombridge, Jeannette, Dan & Debbie, Abby Bradshaw, Alan and Doreen Williams, Jo Westrip, Clive, Lohane Petch Bob Sleith and the Ratling Club, Pickle, Colin Inett, John Clutton, Symcox, Kevin and Michele Wood, Glen, David McWilliams, The Donnachie family, Margaret Samson, Lauren, Sarah Pask, Neil and the Dambusters, E Hadlow, Daran Wilkins, B Walledge, Aylesham Parish Council and all those who donated as Anonymous.
And we’d like to thank all those who gave us encouragement as we started and as we progressed and for all your congratulations when we arrived in Shanghai.
Here are some of your words which we much appreciated; then & now.
Some Maps and Stats
You can catch up on the adventure by reading all about it here – click the links for more details.
Stage 1: where the 5 left Dover on the 12th June and rode 9 days and about 1000 miles to Krakow with Carl and Cathal riding with Dale, Keith and Linford and with Roger driving the minibus.
Totals for the first leg to Kraków: 1003 miles, 25185ft climbing and 65:49 hours riding
Stage 2: where the Dale, Keith and Linford started cycle-touring for proper and wobbled out of Krakow across the rest of Poland and into Ukraine with a mere 7000 miles or so to go. Ukraine produced some eye-popping moments (or quite the opposite for Dale) and a dalliance in a war-zone before they finally stumbled into Russia.
Stage 2 totals: 1196.8 miles, 29,395ft and 94:47 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 2200 miles, 54,580ft and 160.36 hours riding
Stage 3: Crossing Russia at a much higher route than originally planned. They head east but have to think about how they might re-join the original route.
Stage 3 totals: 727.1 miles, 16,505ft and 59:00 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 2927.4 miles, 71,085ft and 219.36 hours riding
Stage 4: Kazakhstan. Into the desert, blistering heat and head-winds. They follow the Oral river south to Atyrau on the Caspian.
Stage 4 totals: 660.0 miles, 4,428ft and 53:00 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 3587.4 miles, 75,513ft and 272.36 hours riding
Stage 5: Uzbekistan. More desert. More water to carry. Some legendary Silk Road cities to visit: Nukus, Bokhara and Samarkand. Then they were turned back at Tajikistan and forced north again on another detour.
Stage 5 totals: 1269.1 miles, 16,597ft and 97:57 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 4855.5 miles, 92,110ft and 370.33 hours riding
Stage 6: Kyrgyzstan. This is when the climbing got really serious as they battled up the Taldyk and Alay Passes at about 3600m as they headed toward China.
Stage 6 totals: 190.6 miles, 17,105ft and 19:55 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 5046.1 miles, 109,215ft and 390.28 hours riding
Stage 7: Into China and across the Xinjiang Province. Starting with crossing the border issues and continuing with an almost complete police presence as they are virtually chased across the land. Straight roads and dodgy hotels and some dodgy campsites.
Stage 7 totals: 903.7 miles, 16,358ft and 76:47 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 5949.8 miles, 125,573ft and 467.15 hours riding
Stage 8: Central China. Finally the restrictions on where to stay ease up. They still have plenty of straight roads and desert to cover. And mountains. They encounter nomad tribes with ponies and ride yaks! But a bear is stolen!
Stage 8 totals: 1061.0 miles, 26,307ft and 80:27 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 7010.8 miles, 151,880ft and 547.42 hours riding
Stage 9: East China. The team are joined by Rylan at Xi’an for the final run-in. They encounter some broken roads and manage to get separated for a while too.
Stage 9 totals: 904.1 miles, 18,332ft and 70:58 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 7914.9 miles, 170,212ft and 618.40 hours riding
Stage 10: Arrival in Shanghai. Finally the team enter the final straight and plough through the huge cities near the coast. Success! But not before a final encounter with the police as they attempt to ride through a tunnel.
Stage 10 totals: 326.6 miles, 4,095ft and 25:38 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 8241.5 miles, 174,307ft and 644.18 hours riding
From the tour I got a sense of team resilience, through trying circumstances and great accomplishment. Knowing we had the support from all our family and friends around the world and realising that people are really nice irrespective of their creed, colour or any thing else. All their kindness transcends any language barriers. It made me realise that long distance tours are what I am made to do. Watch this space, Greece, South Africa, Argentina who knows. Dale
Dale has already suggested that Greece is the destination for this years Hougham Huffers ride. The plan is to welcome Dave back into the fold after his monster crash and injury and subsequent recovery last summer.
No route has yet been designed or dates assigned. As usual the aim will be about a 1000 miles in about 10 days.
Two major questions arise: does the team do the tour unsupported by the minibus and therefore carry all their own gear as cycle-tourers (bike-packers) bearing in mind that many have not tried this mode of cycling. All previous tours have been supported by a minibus. Naturally we are grateful for our sponsors who have supported us on all our previous tours.
Is the tour to or from Calais/Dover as all previous tours have been or do the team fly or train somewhere and do a loop on arrival?
The first option is a Calais to Bari (Italy) ride of about 1200 miles and a ferry to a holiday in Corfu.
This “Loop of the Adriatic” 2nd option would involve a train to/from Trieste or Bologna and then a loop around the Adriatic sea with a ferry from Corfu to Bari (or vice-versa). It’s about 1500 miles though.
If by train it would be Eurostar to Paris, then TGV to Milan and onward to Bologna. Bear in mind catching a train to Milan from Paris has form (who remembers 6 Nations Rugby in Rome in 2000?)!
This “Loop of the Aegean” 3rd option would involve a flight to/from Athens and a ferry between Bodrum and Athens to finish. Holiday options would be Mykonos or Patmos. It’s about 1000 miles.
Rugby Lions Tour 2021
The British & Irish Lions is the greatest rugby tour of all and in 2021 the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will converge on South Africa. It will be a tour of huge impact, emotions and significance, evoking memories of the invincible Lions squad of 1974.
These are the warm-up dates.
Saturday 3rd July 2021
Cape Town Stadium
Wednesday 7th July 2021
South Africa ‘Invitational’
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Saturday 10th July 2021
Cell C Sharks
Jonsson Kings Park
Wednesday 14th July 2021
South Africa ‘A’
Saturday 17th July 2021
These are the important Test dates.
Saturday 24th July 2021
Saturday 31st July 2021
Cape Town Stadium
Saturday 7th August 2021
Emirates Airline Park
This is not a suggested route. A lot of thought would have to go into a route: safety, deserts, favoured countries, etc and so forth.
It’s unfortunate that Johannesburg to Cape Town is 870 miles and slightly too much for a 6 day ride to get from one match to another.
The distance is remarkably similar to the Calais to Shanghai ride. So I guess 120 days would be a reasonable estimate of the time taken to achieve it.
For those doing the first 1000 miles I would suggest a route through western France perhaps crossing the Pyrenees in the middle or at Biarritz. This is because a previous tour went on the Barcelona route. Going via Biarritz to Madrid would be about 960 miles.
So if you were to aim for the opening tour match on the 3rd July the start date would be Friday 5th March 2021.
If you were to aim for the Cape Town Test on the 31st July then the start date would be Friday 2nd April 2021.
A special thanks this week to Aylesham Parish Council and the £1000 they have donated each to the Slide Away , the Alzheimer’s Society and Fight for Sight Charities. Remember a donation from the Parish Council is a donation from everyone in the village. Massive thanks. This is an astonishing contribution and we cannot stress enough how humbled we are that the village have done this for us.
Hi Bike Rugby Japan,
Thank you very much – have a fabulous Christmas and New Year too! I hope you enjoy a well needed rest after your fantastic cycling efforts and you welcome Keith home soon.
I can confirm the cheque has been received and a ‘thank you’ letter sent out to Kate Razzell on the 6th December.
Once again, thank you for all of your incredible support.
All the best,
Events Fundraising Assistant
Keith in the USA
This week Keith completes his ride across the USA and arrives at the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville.
The first 40 miles is along the coast today. It’s warm and sunny with a torrid head-wind. Today is going to be a battle. It’s a good straight but busy road with a smooth shoulder. That’s all I’m likely to be looking at for a good few hours.
I’m concentrating on keeping the bike nice and straight in these blustery conditions. Only thing I’ve noticed apart from the houses adorning the white sandy beaches, is the Bald eagles circling above.
At thirty or so miles in a dog comes from nowhere and is chasing me up the road. One loud command and it backs off. I didn’t need that against this wind. Shite the dog is back and too close for comfort; I crank up and yell again and it stops. For the next mile or two I’m convinced it will return.
Turning inland I get a bit of a respite from the wind. I pull over at a gas station and buy water and make an emergency dash for the toilet. Not as clean as anything in Japan, but fine when your in a hurry.
I make a call to book a room in Bristol as only one place in that area available. Nice young lady takes my details. Then says you need to be here by 4 or we’ll re-let the room, as she puts the phone down. Now I’ve done slightly less than 50 miles in 5 hrs, 50 miles to go in less than 4!
Still the wind is slightly better. With 15 miles to go in less than an hour the road turns in my favour again. But then 10 miles later and I turn back into the wind. 2 hrs to get there and 25 miles, not to much of a task. If I wasn’t already 75 into my day.
Either I’m stronger or the wind’s died down but the miles are ticking down nicely. I even have chance to snap the storm ravaged forest and the Apalachicola river.
As I cross the river a sign says you are now on Eastern standard time. All my effort in vain. The clocks have gone forward an hour! I’m not happy.
It’s the last couple of miles and I’m totally spent; I’ve left nothing out there today. I arrive half an hour late (local time).
I pull up at the motel counter and all’s well. I get my room for the night and there’s a small local restaurant close by. Grilled Pork chops, veg and potatoes. Not great but good.
I’m waiting for the sun to come up this morning,after the clock change yesterday. My plan is to ride 106 miles today so need to be on the road asap. It’s rained overnight and frain is forecast for today; heavy too. I can expect wet roads high humidity and a side wind.
It’s not long before I’m crossing the Ochlockonee river and the Apalachicola forest. This whole area is pretty scenic. The trees lining the roads form a tunnel. Must be spectacular in the summer.
Before long before I’m entering Tallahassee; it’s not a big town, but enough to keep me aware. The bike track goes through the university and I missed the turning. No worries I work my way around. Sometimes it’s awkward when the garmin takes you down an alley especially when you have been on roads for so long.
I’ve soon cleared the town and it’s time for lunch. It’s a gas station again but I have my own food and just stock up on fluids. I’m 56 miles in and 50 to go.
The rain starts as I pull away. No worries I’m drenched in sweat due to the humidity, so T-shirt and shorts it is. The rain gets steadily heavier. I can hear the thunder but see no lightning at first. It’s teeming with rain now and flash lightning is happening every couple of minutes. I can’t remember whether I should get off the bike or whether it’s OK to carry on.
I carry on; as long as the water’s running off the road and not pooling I’m good. Fellow drivers are looking at me in awe. What to do? I pull over and stand under a tree. That’s not right either. Just push on. Only 30 miles to go.
It does ease off a little just before I reach the Motel. The lady behind the desk isn’t too happy with the mess I’m dripping onto her polished floor. She advises me that there is a dryer in the laundry room. But it’s not for me. I wash everything then set up a line in the room and turn the heating up. 👍
The forecast is cold and sunny tomorrow, we shall see 😄
As promised the temperature has dropped over 20º. It was hot and humid yesterday and it’s cold and sunny today. The first couple of miles today are on back roads until I rejoin the H-90. It’s tarmac but with a covering of sand. It looks very nice but I need to be aware of deep sand and it’s grinding my gears up.
I’m soon back on the tree lined 90. It’s very cold (below 3º) and the wind is over my left shoulder most of the time. It’s not perfect but better than the last few days.
Soon I’m passing through the Suwannee State Park and over the dark green river. It’s lined by Cyprus trees covered in Spanish moss.
I have no hard shoulder for long stretches today but the drivers are very courteous and keep well wide of me.
The ride through Lake City wasn’t very exiting and I barely got a glimpse of the lake. I pull up after the town and eat my lunch; just fruit and homemade malt loaf from my sister Debbie. I’m slightly into the wind now, but I’m looking forward to the last 20 miles;
an old railway line converted into the “Baldwin Bike Trail”. Pushing on to the 90 mile mark and I’m very hungry.
As I expected and hoped for, the trail has benches, water fountains and toilets at it’s start. I sit down and eat what food I have left. A local cyclist pulls up and asks a few questions. He’s embarrassed because he only rides 40 or so miles a week. I tell him he’s cool, even my own friends think what I’m doing is crazy. Little and often mate and off he goes.
The trail is very scenic but unfortunately slightly uphill and against the wind. Not what I needed to finish the day. I pull into the motel knowing I have less than 25 miles to do tomorrow.👍
However the Motel is shite; no microwave or coffee machine and I could have a lay in tomorrow if I so desired. A bar and restaurant attached so it’s not so sad. But the cider was rank! Fortunately the brown ale is much better especially in a pitcher😁
I washed my bike in the bath tonight as I may not get a better chance. Also my pannier leaked in the heavy rain yesterday so my travelling clothes are damp ☹️
We will see what tomorrow brings as it’s my last day on the bike.
I have a late start today. It’s 23 miles to the coast and then a dozen back to my hotel nearer the Amtrak station. I’m not allowed to book in before 15:00.
It’s bright and chilly again this morning with headwinds. It won’t worry me today. I don’t get out of traffic all morning. It’s like riding across London. But no worries I have plenty of time.
I finally reach the beach which has lovely white sands but nowhere for a decent photo opportunity. The pier is closed and the only access to the beach is over the wooden bridges that span the dunes. I finally give up and settle for the bridge. There is not a soul on the beach within range so I have to set the self timer on the camera.
I eat my last slice of home-made malt loaf (Thanks Debbie) and banana. Now it’s time for a beer; it’s almost midday and I’ve already spotted a bar. As I roll in a dog in the beer garden barks angrily. I’ll need more than that to put me off a beer today.
I grab a beer from the bar and approach the garden and as I enter the pitbull goes quiet thankfully. It’s owners ask if I’m from England and the story unfolds. It’s lovely in the sunshine and I’m enjoying the beer. It tastes very good today.
I leave the bar and cycle to my hotel with the wind on my back. Unfortunately it’s the wrong hotel. A sister hotel to the one I’ve booked. Mine’s another 2 miles away. Turns out fine as this is the place I booked and it’s very close to REI, the outdoor store where I can pick up a cardboard box for my bike.
I pick the box up and pack the bike. It’s getting late, 20:00. So it’s the BBQ pit just down the road. Excellent food and service.
All the packing is nearly done. The train to Orlando is at 8:30 tomorrow.
I can’t believe the cycling’s all done (for this year)!
USA Day 45 Friday December 20th
[Keith caught an early train down to Orlando and got himself packed and ready for his flight tomorrow. Spends the evening relaxing, including, I think, an operatic performance of Hamlet in the park!: Ed]
USA Day 46 Saturday December 21st
[Flight home! Next weeks blog will wrap the whole trip up and we’ll welcome home Keith and give a summary of the whole tour from those who started six months ago in Calais (Cathal and Carl), to the long ride across Asia where they first tried cycle-touring (or bike-packing as some like to call it these days). Then when Rylan joins for the downhill section to Shanghai. After that we’ll recall the rides around Japan and the Rugby before the solo run across the USA: Ed]
A special thanks this week to Aylesham Parish Council and the £1000 they have donated each to the Slide Away and Fight for Sight Charities. Remember a donation from the Parish Council is a donation from everyone in the village. Massive thanks. [We are still awaiting confirmation from the Alzheimer’s Society that they too have been donated a £1000: Ed]. This is an astonishing contribution and we cannot stress enough how humbled we are that the village have done this for us.
Dear all at Bike Rugby Japan
Just to let you know that Slide Away has received a letter from Kate Razzell enclosing a cheque for £1000 from Aylesham Parish Council for and on behalf of Keith, Dale and Linford. I will be wrilting to Kate to acknowledge and thank the Parish Council for their kind and generous donation.
Hi Bike Rugby Japan,
Fantastic news about Keith! He is doing amazing and what an achievement.
I can confirm we have received the cheque for £1,000 from your Parish Council. I have also sent them a thank you letter on behalf of Fight for Sight to thank them for their generous donation and support towards your challenge.
Keith in the USA
This week Keith has headed towards New Orleans, and then beyond.
I leave the hotel at 07:00. The weather’s cold and foggy and have my lights on as a precaution. I can only see a hundred yards or so down the road but the hard shoulder is smooth clean and wide. It’s a slight head-wind as well. There’s nothing to look at so I bury my head and push on along the rolling road.
After 4 hours it’s time to eat. I have fried chicken from last night and chocolate brownies. I’m parked at a farmer’s gate. the sun has broken through intermittently but it’s still cold.
I take my gloves and jacket off and carry on with 30 miles to go.
The sun comes out as I join the Interstate 11. It’s the first time I’ve ridden the interstate. It’s busy and noisy; not ideal. The good thing is it pushes you to go faster and it’s not long before I’m at the motel.
The manager is an Indian guy who’s convinced I’m a professional traveller.
It turns out he’s only been in the USA 6 months himself. He’s originally from Hyderbad central southern India. I knew more about travel in India than he did!
I had my first taste of catfish tonight though I’m not a great fish eater. But it looked better than the Tex Mex. In fact it was really good, in a tasty beer and soda batter.
What a difference a day makes; it’s 18º this morning, humid and cloudy. No gloves and no jacket. However I need to push on this morning as a slight headwind forecast to get stronger as the day unfolds. It’s the same problem as yesterday in that the Highway 90 runs into Interstate 10; a very busy road, although the shoulder is very good.
All going well until I come to the “Calcasieu bridge” it looks like some sort of Thunderbirds take off ramp. But what really concerns me is the lack of hard shoulder. [this is the 1951 Louisiana World War 2 Memorial bridge over the Cacasieu River and Lake Charles: Ed]
I pull over and check my maps. A possible detour is a long way. I take on some food and drink and decide to go for it. I put on my rear flashing lights and don my flashing jacket. It’s the first time I’ve worn it and it needs to earn it’s place in my pannier.
Suitably dressed I go for it. Wow what a bridge; it’s a long ramp up to the top with a great view of the lake. But I’m concentrating on riding a straight line and keeping in close. Not a peep from any driver, they all do their best to give me space. So I’m relieved to get off the bridge pull over and take my sweaty jacket off.
I take Highway 90 for the rest of the day. It’s mostly quite but the intermittent shoulder isn’t good. 20 to go and I’m making good time when something sticks and is going around with the back wheel. The tyre is still inflated so I pull over to investigate. I have a huge nail in the tyre, but it hasn’t gone down. A puncture is better than anything I was thinking of and I’m soon back on the road.
I’m booked into motel but the receptionist is a nightmare; no printer,and can’t find my zip code or understand my ID (drivers license). Just give me my key please. It rained for the final 15 minutes and I need to get dry.
I have plenty of time this morning with a slight wind in my face but improving all day and a strong tail-wind to finish with.
I had lots of discussions last night as to which route I should take; either the I-10 fast road but good hard shoulder, or H-90 which frequently has no shoulder but it’s not so busy. Lots of advice on the internet
I decide to take the I-10 (Debbie 😞). It’s not raining yet but it has been and will do again soon.
I’ve only been on the road 15 minutes and the Police pull me over. (Well it’s happened in all previous countries for one reason or another). I’m not allowed on the Interstate. So what am I to do? He suggests I get off at the next junction and clear off out of his district down the H-90. That has no hard shoulder I say. He replies, it takes you away from me.
Stood there, six foot five, fit, armed and in his scout leader uniform!
So the 90 it is. Through Lafayette first and the rush hour traffic; chaos. Once through the road’s busy but with no shoulder. I give it 15 minutes and it doesn’t improve. So I take a back route. It’s much quieter but the roads aren’t great. It turns out I’m on the Spanish trail.
It’s raining hard and I’m soaked to the skin and only one hour into the ride. It just keeps on raining, but with the wind behind. I keep my head down and push on. I’ve given up trying to avoid puddles; it’s a waste of time. Twice my front wheel skids out on the white line. That wakes me up, but I don’t crash. Sometimes it rains and then it rains harder.
A real horrid day. Torrential now. I pull over to a fast food joint. Need to eat, warm up and use the WiFi.
I book a motel 25 miles down the road. Get back on the bike and realise I’m proper cold now. Why did I book it so far away? Last ten miles or so I’m battling 30>40 Mph gusting winds.
Keeping myself to the right hand-side, I press on past the air museum. Birds of prey are surfing on the winds above. Dozens of them. As they swoop down low I have a great view of my first “Bald Eagle”. Excellent.
As Morgan City appears there’s a large bridge to cross. I hope it’s not like yesterdays. I find a lane closed; perfect! I dodge between the cones and ride the empty lane. It’s perfectly safe. On the descent the other side they’ve left a machine blocking my access.
I hope the keys are in it. No problem, just take panniers of one side and I squeeze through.
As I’m approaching the elevated take off lane for my hotel my bottle cage drops off, probably due to the poor road surfaces today. The yellow bottle bounces in front of me and disappears down a drain onto the grass 10 metres below. Looking down I console myself that it’s lost.
I get into the motel dripping. I shower and dry my gear.
Zip Nolan was an American Highway Patrolman who for some inexplicable reason fought crime in the middle of Britain!
Running for years in The Lion, the strip had the gimmick of putting all the clues the reader needed to solve the crime and then asking the reader if they could solve the mystery before turning the page and finding the answer along with Zip.
I woke up late this morning 6:40. No worries as I’ll still be out the door by 7:30. I breakfast in the motel; a nice spread. I meet Nick who is cycling the East to West Coast route. He’s been riding a couple of weeks and only gotten this far. He asks me about my trip and I give him the run down. An average of 75 miles a day surprises him, especially as I’m carrying 110lb, 50Kg (bike & gear) plus food and water. He wishes me the best and says enjoy the wind on your back today. That’s not how I read the weather this morning!
I get away at 8, but have to pull over after 15 minutes. I don my rain jacket and gloves. It’s strong, cold head-winds, grey sky. Definitely not a tail-wind. I keep my head down and pedal on, it’s going to be a very long day I suspect.
The morning is pretty uneventful. The roads are terrible; the worst since leaving Ukraine – uneven and littered with debris. I take lunch in a petrol station; the hot coffee is good but no fruit for sale in gas stations. Must have been spoilt across Asia.
40 miles to go and I spot my first alligator. No worries it’s flat on the road but it does make me think about where I take a leak though.
With 18 miles to go I turn right with the wind on my shoulder. It’s much nicer but I know the last six is back into the wind.
The approach into New Orleans is horrid with busy roads and gusting headwinds.
As I’m approaching The Huey P Long Bridge I notice no hard shoulder. Trying to cycle close to the wall in a straight line isn’t easy with large vehicles passing close and a strong gusting wind. It’s not a short bridge either. Glad to have survived I ride the last couple of miles gingerly through the traffic.
I’m at Ron’s Gumbo shop for dinner. Excellent Gumbo and a fried alligator starter!
USA Day 37 Thursday December 12th
I have a rest day today to look around New Orleans.
I’ve arranged an Air Boat tour for 9am; they contacted me yesterday and rearranged for 11. Not happy, that’s my day basically done.
I take an Uber cab downtown for the pick-up. Whilst waiting I meet a couple from Minnesota also on the trip. The bus is twenty minutes late so I email them. Obviously the bus turns up straight away. As I’m boarding the bus the driver gets a call asking why he hasn’t picked us up yet. Never mind. It’s half an hour drive back down Highway 90. The road I came into town on yesterday. It’s still very bumpy in the bus.
On arrival it’s the ‘All American’ welcome, what’s your name where do you come from. I’m allocated to boat seven. Our driver arrives and runs through the safety briefing. The weather’s awful, grey and wet. The boat speeds out through the bigger channels then slows as it enters the smaller channels. The driver points out Osprey, Bald Eagles, Egrets and Purple Herons. Snaking us through the smallest of gaps he gets us into an alligator pond. A Nutria dives for cover. Seems they are a pest here as well as Europe. The guide gives us a briefing about the alligators habits, some are very disappointed that they will not see one (cold weather). The boat won’t start now. He messes with it for a bit to no avail.
It raining hard now as we wait to be rescued by the back-up crew, if they can find us. An hour later rescue arrives. We transfer onto a smaller boat and ready ourselves for the ride home. Everyone is shivering from the cold and I am really feeling it in my shorts.
This boat’s super fast and on the way back we’re flat out. You can’t look ahead as the rain stings your eyes and face, so we’re all looking into the bottom of the boat. We soon arrive at the dock. I use the toilet and expecting hot coffee or something. Nothing on offer and I’m still shivering. Others are waiting on the bus for us. As I leave the shop I’m informed that people are getting their money back. Good for me, join the queue and they pay me out. Still cold though.
Luckily I’m first off the bus on arrival in the New Orleans French quarter. Straight into a bar and order beer and a PO-boy. this is a local take on a french stick sandwich. Very nice with spicy sausage.
I spend the rest of the evening, after warming up, visiting music bars with dueling piano, jazz, creole, sixties and modern music bellowing out along the street.
I’m woken up by noisy neighbours at 5:30 and then went to breakfast at 6. I managed to smuggle a couple of bananas out along with three muffins. That will help on the ride today.
I’m not looking forward to the ride out of New Orleans today. It’s cold, wet, busy and foggy. Also I make two wrong turns in the first mile so it could be a long day. I’m suffering from my over indulgence of the local hospitality last night as well.
Finally I pick up a nice cycle trail through the city. So I stick with it and use my GPS as a rough guide. Within a couple of hours I’m clear of the city and riding across the swampy grasslands on a concrete road. I’m not keen on the concrete sections that bump every 5 metres. It rattles both me and the bike.
After 40 miles I cross the old Pearl river on a rickety bridge. I stop in the middle to photograph a couple of Brown Pelicans, the first I’ve seen. It’s still very foggy and wet.
At 66 miles I’m crossing the Bay Louis Bridge and it’s couple of miles long with a good cycle path. The view is terrible however due to fog.
When I hit the beach I ride on the boardwalk where I can. My lights have run out and it’s teeming with rain now. I stop to photograph a Bald eagle that’s devouring a fish on the beach.
A long straight run down the beach to finish in the pouring rain, but I’m not cold and happy with my 90 miles today.☺
Breakfast was fine in this tatty motel but I’m glad to be on my way.
The weather’s better: dry, light winds and foggy and it’s a nice easy flat start with a small tail-wind. As I leave town I’m followed by a group of young Americans. They are asking questions and pushing the pace. It’s fine by me and I’m enjoying the company and challenge. It doesn’t last long however and after a couple of miles they pull up. I’m warm now although the wind is chilly.
I’ve a ferry to catch today from Dauphin island to Fort Morgan. Ferries leave at 12:30 and 14:00. To catch the 12:30 I’d have to cover the 70 miles in 5 hours. Not likely but possible.
So I crack on and see what happens. The roads are good and it’s only light traffic but the fog is pretty thick in places so I see very little all morning.
The Biloxi Bay bridge is a two mile long low level concrete causeway with a good separate bike lane. Unfortunately the views are ruined by sea mist and fog.
As I approach Dauphin island the causeway is barely visible as it’s only metres above the sea. It’s 5 mile distance makes it disappear and the wind’s always going to be a problem.
Keeping one eye on my watch I press on and arrive at the port with barely a couple of minutes to spare.
The cloud breaks, sun comes out and it’s much nicer. The last 25 miles is pleasant; clear sky’s and a tailwind. Huge houses all built on stilts line the coast.
A walk on the beach tonight is a rare event in the last month or so.
Overland To India
Ben and Jess were cycling a more southern route across Asia to India. They’ve arrived in India, but have decided to split up. It looks permanent as the blog, once ‘Jess & Ben’, is now only ‘Jess’.
You can catch up with Jess here. An excerpt is below.
We’ll follow Jess for now and wish Ben all the best with whatever he is doing. Meanwhile I’ll see if we can re-connect with him in some way.
A special thanks this week to Aylesham Parish Council and the £1000 they have donated to the Slide Away Charity. Remember a donation from the Parish Council is a donation from everyone in the village. Massive thanks. [We are still awaiting confirmation from Fight for Sight and the Alzheimer’s Society that they too have been donated a £1000 each: Ed]. This is an astonishing contribution and we cannot stress enough how humbled we are that the village have done this for us.
Keith in the USA
This week Keith has mostly hung out in Austin, Texas visiting our family there.
Thanks to Debs for her contributions to this weeks blog.
This week: 199 miles, 5876ft climbing and 13:42 hours riding
USA Day 25 Saturday November 30th
So excited today as Keith is scheduled to arrive mid afternoon, we have been looking forward to this day for 3 weeks now,I have been so tempted to jump in the car and rescue him from the straight, boring long roads of West Texas. I hated the thought of him out there alone on Thanksgiving but Keith was determined to ride into town.
Charlee had given me a small list of his favorite things for breakfast and snacks etc, so I got busy in the kitchen a few days before, Soren malt loaf is not available in Texas so after searching for a few days I managed to bake him several loaves.
I rushed to make a welcome sign to place outside and just as I finished it, Keith was riding down the hill. So good to see him finally and eager to hear his stories from the past few months. He looks amazing and is ready for a cold drink, hot shower and lunch.
USA Day 26 Sunday December 1st
We took a quick trip out to Windy Point on Lake Travis before heading back to prepare for Sunday dinner, it was a fun afternoon with everyone here enjoying a roast dinner.
Keith and I spent the evening at a nearby Irish bar drinking cider and listening to the tales of Bike Rugby Japan.
USA Day 27 Monday December 2nd
We spent the morning at REI looking for a tent and then met up with Genevieve and Kristian for lunch at Hop Doddy’s. We picked up Geraint from school, he had seen Keith from his classroom and was very excited to see him again. Then we spent a few hours overseeing homework and playing at the park. William cooked a curry for dinner, a nice change for Keith as he had not eaten one in months.
USA Day 28 Tuesday December 3rd
Keith spent the morning cleaning up his bike and getting his gear sorted. Alex met up with him at Mellow Johnny’s bike shop and cafe, as it’s just a short ride from his office.
Pizza for dinner with the crew, plus Ryan a keen cyclist who wanted to hear more of Keith’s stories.
USA Day 29 Wednesday December 4th
Alex, Victoria and Keith met up downtown for lunch. Keith then explored the capitol and the downtown hike and bike trail. Kristian and Geraint met at a new place not far from my work so we all got together and decided to have BBQ for dinner.
USA Day 30 Thursday December 5th
Keith and I met for lunch and then he had a afternoon exploring Central Austin.
He put the word out that he was at the Draft House so time for a quick drink before heading home for dinner. William had cooked home-made pasta and ciabatta bread.
Time to get back on the road, I think I packed him another 100 lbs of food to take, just kidding. After cooking him some eggs and bacon, he packed up the car as I had insisted on driving him out of Austin; Big Sister won this battle.
Big sad lump in my throat seeing him ride off up the hill, I was very tempted to follow him.
I have so enjoyed following the Bike Rugby Japan tour and feel so incredibly proud of them. So many memories and stories to share.
We only got to August on the photos as each one has a story.
I am grateful for the many people who showed them kindness on their journey, a bottle of water, or a piece of fruit, even offering them food and a place to stay.
Thank you Keith for stopping by, we really enjoyed your visit.
We will miss you.
Look forward to the updates.
My wheels arrived late last night (23:00). I went to bed reading up on the front hub adapter and reminding myself what I need to do in the morning.
I’m up at 6 going over the details of the new wheels before I shower and breakfast. Then it’s into Williams garage. I remove the tyre, brake disc and cassette from my old rear wheel, fit a new tyre disc and cassette to new wheel and partially inflate. I then remove the brake disc from the old front wheel, assemble the hub adapter and disc on the new wheel and fit an old rear tyre and partially inflate. I fit wheels to the bike, fully inflate the tyre and take for a spin around the estate. All appears well.
Debbie makes me a full english breakfast and packs enough food for me to get to the east coast (12 Days)! We’ve (Debbie) decided to run me to the outskirts of town to avoid the rush hour trafic. I finally get off at 9 o’clock. We drive through traffic to Manor on the 290 but roadworks going on so we carry on to Elgin. Debbie insists it’s the far side of Elgin. Then there is no hard shoulder. I’m thinking she’s not going to let me out till Jacksonville!
Finally we pull over and I put the wheels and panniers back on the bike. Set my Garmin up and say my goodbyes. Never easy as we don’t see each other often enough so it’s always an emotional time. I sling my leg over and promise to stay in touch.
The bike feels real good today with the new wheels and front pannier racks that are fitted much better than previous attempts. It’s a nice wide smooth hard shoulder, I have a tailwind and I’m making good time. Long rolling hills in front of me.
I pull over after 30 miles to eat some of the lunch that Debbie’s prepared for me.
Only 20 miles to go to Brenham so I contemplate pushing on to Hempstead, a place Deb and William have mentioned. It’s only after I’ve passed Brenham that I realise Hempstead is not on my route. Luckily I’m on the outskirts so only have to backtrack a mile or so.
Really happy with the bike and my body today. Been resting for a week and I’m sure my legs thought it was all over. They didn’t ache for long.
I’m up early and getting stuck into breakfast. This upmarket B&B has a kitchen full of food that I’ve been invited to help myself to; and that included the alcohol last night!
It’s a bright frosty morning but I’m out at seven. Not long before I’m out of town and on the long undulating roads. After half an hour I begin to get a screech from the bike. I can see nothing and can’t determine whether it’s from the crank or rear dérailleur. I pull over and lubricate everything and accidentally brush my hand over a hairy caterpillar. Now my hands and face are itching where I rubbed and touched it.
Not much improvement. I pull over again and dismantle the jockey wheels in the rear dérailleur and clean. I have all the parts lined up on a sleeper when a lorry goes past and blows everything into the long grass. After ten minutes I’m one bolt and one washer short. After another fifteen minutes, same story. I rebuild the dérailleur using the not ideal spares I’m carrying. The squawking is no better. I change the washer on the jockey wheel but it’s no better.
I’ve been riding four hours and covered less than 30 miles. SHIT.
I decide to inspect the whole rear mechanism, piece by piece. I remove all my panniers and turn the bike upside down. The rear cassette will not reverse and throws slack chain when I stop pedalling. Is it the new hub? It seems fine when I remove the wheel. The rear dérailleur and jockey wheels fine.
By now I’m covered in oil and grease from my many attempts at a repair. HOORAY I see the problem a tiny grub screw that holds the hanger on has backed itself out. I screw it back in 3mm with an allen key, rebuild the rest of the bike, load panniers and I’m good to go.
Sweet, no noises and I’m happy. 60 miles to go and it’s nearly midday. Not good, we calculate our time on the road at 10 miles an hour at that rate I’ll be riding in the dark for the last hour. I have the lights, but it’s not ideal.
I crack on, the road’s good and the wind is coming across my shoulder. I’m pushing 17mph for the next couple of hours. I take a short break to fuel up in “Conroe” and push into the weak headwind. Lake Conroe is on my left then it’s through the Sam Houston forest, very picturesque, for the last hour.
What I thought was going to be a horrid day turned out not too bad. I just need to clean the lubrication off the bike tonight.
Overland To India
Ben and Jess were cycling a more southern route across Asia to India. They’ve arrived in India, but have decided to split up. It looks permanent as the blog, once ‘Jess & Ben’, is now only ‘Jess’.
You can catch up with Jess here. An excerpt is below.
We’ll follow Jess for now and wish Ben all the best with whatever he is doing. Meanwhile I’ll see if we can re-connect with him in some way.
Expect the unexpected today. I’m heading to Roswell site of Aliens landing in 1947?
It’s a beautiful morning again today. Clear blue skies. Straight road ahead of me with a gentle gradient for the first 10 miles. Hills to the north look great as the low sun casts shadows across them.
I’m riding in historic Lincoln County this morning, realm of Billy the Kid. As the climb intensifies I notice an animal in front stood on its hind legs. On closer inspection its a Grey squirrel not very exciting. This steep section is up through woodland and very scenic with large birds of prey circling overhead. Lots of road kill on this road more than I’ve seen all of this journey. There’s an owl, Porcupine, Skunks and lots of small birds.
At just over the hour and the climbing’s done. It’s flat now with a cold tail-wind, so it’s head down and crack on. All is going well until a bit of a climb at 55 miles. Nothing massive, just a change of mindset and push on. As I brow the hill I pull over and check my tyres. Both a little flat. Is it the cold air I wonder. Half hour later I’m changing the inner-tube in the rear wheel. That’s sorted but the front has a slow puncture as well. I fill it full of air and ride; only 25 to go.
Not sure why the aliens picked Roswell as it’s a pretty dull place, especially on a Sunday afternoon. Not a shop within 2 miles that sells alcohol and I’m not that fussed about going that far on foot.
I stick to the hotel and fix the punctures. Another exciting evening.
A good breakfast in the hotel this morning; I managed to come out with an apple, a banana and a couple of tangerines!
It’s still very cold and overcast and not a lot to look at. Vast fields on both sides, mostly cattle with the odd herd of deer.
Fresh winds make the flat roads pretty hard work. Reminding me of Holland, no escaping headwinds. The occasional bird of prey above and darting rabbits on the verges. It’s a long straight boring road. Dale and Linney would be good riding three abreast, chatting.
First time I’ve really missed them. After 40 miles I start the only climb of the day. Nothing hard just a long straight climb of fifteen miles or so. After making the top I’m looking forward to the 30 mile descent. I take a sharp right then left, no left? Once again the Garmin has taken me onto private land. The sign on the gate is pretty off-putting.
There is nothing on this property worth dying for KEEP OUT
Ok I’ll find another route. No problem, straight head against the increased wind for 10 miles then turn left for 28. The ten against the wind is hard, I can’t wait to turn left and have the wind on my back. I decide to take a break at the junction; ham, cheese and fruit. I threw the horrid bread away.
A large petroleum lorry pulls into the layby and the driver jumps out, shakes my hand and gives me a bottle of water. He’s just interested in where I had been and going. He gives me plenty of advice as to where to eat and pray. Turns out he was very religious and worried about me. No worries he meant no harm, nice chap.
I turn left and sail home with the wind on my back and flat roads. Only an extra 3 miles.
I have a quick cereal breakfast in the room this morning and am on the road at 7. I’m expecting high winds this afternoon so I need to get some miles in early.
Not a lot to look at again this morning and that’s the theme for the next couple of days. Vast flat farmlands as far as the eye can see.
A high wind’s coming over my right shoulder threatening to blow me into the road. Luckily the hard shoulder is flat and wide. After 20 miles I pass through Hobbs a pretty typical nondescript town. Turning east the wind is now directly behind me and I soon sweep over the Texas state line. Oil heads and cotton fields greet me. The road stretches out straight in front with rolling hills. I pull over after 60 miles, with a puncture in the front and time to eat. The winds really picked up now but it’s still right behind me. I’ve also broken my front pannier rack, nothing a Ty-wrap won’t hold for now.
30+ miles to go. The wind is now growing into a storm and red dust is everywhere and tumble-weed is racing me down the road. Absolutely smashing it. Whilst fixing the bike earlier I inadvertently turned off my garmin. So my stats are only from the break.
I’m averaging 24mph for 20 miles I notice. I think I can improve on that I say to myself. I put the hammer down and complete the ride in 75 minutes, 31.2 miles, average speed a great 25.3mph. Not bad for a 50kg bike and a descent of 45metres.
I consider making the most of the wind and riding another 30+ miles to GAIL. After checking my maps, turns out there are no hotels.
So I take the early day and find a motel and set about going over my bike. Everything checked and tightened, innertubes repaired and a spot of lubrication. Only the rack that I’m not 100% with. Handful of Ty-wraps wouldn’t go a miss.
I walk down to the shop to get food for tomorrow. The locals stare at me in my shorts and the fact I’m walking. There’s a petrol station near the shop so I pop in but they have no Ty-wraps. “Bingo” next door is an electrical firm. I knock on the door and enter. There’s a large woman sat behind her desk keen to help. I explain my situation, so she phones her husband, no answer. So she phones her son, he directs her over the phone into the stores with me following close behind. I could be at home. I spot what I need and ask for ten, she hands me a whole bunch. We sit and chat in her office over a cup of tea and a biscuit or two, with me explaining what I’ve done and seen.
It’s an early start this morning as I’m expecting the worst. 105 miles, very cold and headwinds. As expected it’s a bitterly cold headwind that’s burning my face. Nothing to look at except cotton fields and oil wells, undulating ground and straight roads. Just me and my mind today. My speed’s not too bad but everything seems to be a struggle going into the wind. It’s going to be like 8 hrs of solitary confinement. Just keep pressing on. Rain clouds are gathering to my right, maybe it can get grimmer.
After 35 miles I pull over to eat, urinate and put some air in my rear wheel. Nowhere to hid from the wind just standing on the side of the road. A large pick-up comes past me and does a u-turn. A gentlemen gets out and starts questioning me on my mentality and my plans. Lovely chap offers me a lift, I refuse explaining that I’m doing fine, on schedule and loaded with food. He says I’m mad and asks how difficult is it to take the panniers off. I take one off to show him and he loads it in the back of his truck. Looks like I’m getting a lift.
Ed starts telling me about his magnesium mine in “Snyder”. They extract it by boring holes and pumping water in and washing the magnesium out. He has a 1900 acre site! Then he’s describing the pig farm his family had in the eighties. At 83 years old he loves charging around his estate on his quad bike on two wheels. The bloke’s a goldmine of information. After 30 mile he pulls over, that’s as far as we go. He helps me put the bike back together, shakes my hand and says I’ve got to go shopping 20 guests to feed at Thanksgiving tomorrow.
So with a smile on my face I push on into the wind for the last 40 mile. It finally rains, but only for the last couple of mile. I book into the motel and spread my gear out to dry. I venture down to Walmart in my shorts and the rain. Yes I’m an alien!
I had breakfast and sat waiting for it to get light enough for me to hit the road. It’s cold and raining and that’s the forecast all day. I make the break at 7:45. It’s not a big road out of town and it has a small rough hard shoulder. I have my lights on and I’m riding on the road.
I’m only just got out of the town and I’ve spotted four deer carcasses already. If the drivers are hitting them I’ll get back on the hard shoulder. Riding across a couple of small valleys this morning, up and down through the woods. I disturb a couple of feral pigs that run along with me for a second or two. A welcome break from the open fields of late. The weather is not improving.
After the woods it up with the wind turbines. I know I’m heading directly into the headwind, but it’s confirmed by the angle of the turbines. This is going to be another testing day. After 30 miles I hear a spoke go in my rear wheel but looking down it’s still running pretty true. So I push on. 50 miles in it’s time for lunch. I need to eat for my energy.
There is nowhere to hide from the wind or rain. Pulling over I just sit on the bank eating my sandwiches, fruit and chocolate. Cars passing wave in acknowledgement, but they don’t stop and offer me Thanksgiving dinner. One spoke broken one very loose. I tighten it just enough to keep it in place.
The road-kill I’ve seen today is appalling, at least a dozen deer, 5 or 6 skunks, coyote’s, ring-tailed cats (raccoons probably), feral pigs and armadillos. The pigs looked like a whole family had been wiped out in a single stroke. “The Road Kill Cafe” needs to get down here.
20 miles to go and it’s freezing fog, sleet and icy winds. I need to finish ASAP.
I pull into my motel, strip of and start drying my clothes. I remove the back wheel and set about replacing spokes and truing it up. Two new spokes and 20 minutes and it’s done. I repair a puncture, have coffee and jump in a well deserved shower.
I walk out for food but it’s “Thanksgiving” and the three local restaurants are closed. At the local garage I pick up a couple of beers, Snickers and milk. Back to the motel and I microwave myself some pasta and rice. Chocolate biscuits and bananas for a sweet. Can’t be bad. That’s why we carry food!
I’m up and waiting to go, over a hundred miles planned today and it’s grim. I have a quick breakfast in the hotel and I’m rolling at 7:15. Not light yet so I’m on the hard shoulder with my tail lights flashing. It’s raining and foggy but not too cold or windy.
I made my mind up not to look at the Garmin today but just keep riding till I arrive in Lampasas, probably in ten hours or so. Start in the dark, finish in the dark! The road’s good today with villages dotted along the route rather than towns 80 miles apart. So I’m counting down the miles using the villages, but oblivious to the time. The suns not coming up, but it has stopped raining.
The days going well, not so much wind and feeling pretty good. As I brow the climb I spot a pick up-truck parked on the shoulder. As I near the drivers struggles out and halts me. Asking where I’ve been and going. Do I want a lift. I’m fine thank you I reply. He says the weather stinks and the traffic is busy get in the van. I’m hesitant as it’s going fine today, warmer and less wind. But the guys a charm so I agree to throw my bike in the back, bags on the back seat and settle in next to him. 73 years old and the guy’s still working, repairing small motors and tools, in his shop.
After 20 miles I suggest he pulls over and I get back on the bike. Not really – he was at his journey’s end!
I unloaded the bike and his compressor from the back. Perhaps that’s why he picked me up, to unload his van. I don’t think so, far too nice and genuine. I’m only sorry I never got his name.
I struggled to get it going again, so pulled over at a picnic spot and had some lunch. I’m feeling better and I set off with only 30 miles to go. I spot my first live “Armadillo” on the grass verge, definitely in Texas now.
With twenty to do it begins to rain hard but no worries as I’m soaked anyway. I finally roll into Lampasas around 15:00. A good day all-round considering I was expecting the worst. Just need to get my kit dry for tomorrows champagne ride into Austin.
I was on the road at 7:30 this morning with 60 miles to my sister Debbie’s to go. The forecast last night wasn’t great; rain and headwinds. The first couple of miles is uphill but nothing serious just a climb. When I get to the top I pull over and pack away my gloves and jacket, wow it’s hot and humid today a complete change from yesterday.
It’s a nice route this morning very green with quite steep undulating straight roads. It’s still humid so I’ve had to peel off another layer. Down to my short sleeved shirt and shorts. Still overcast and damp from the overnight rain.
As I approach Austin the sun breaks through briefly and the sweat is pouring off me. This humidity is madness, but surely better than the arid heat of the desert. At least I’m aware of the liquid I’m losing. Unlike the desert when you just realise at the end of a day that you’ve drank 8 litres of water, and not had a bead of sweat or urinated all day.
On the outskirts of Austin I pick up the cycle paths and only have 15 miles to go. I text my sister to insure the beer is chilled, I’ll be with her within the hour.
It’s a nice roll in: not much traffic as it’s a holiday weekend.
As I enter the estate my sister lives on I remember Kristian saying go to the left. I could pull my phone out and check the door number but I have this vision in my head.
Excellent as I turn into where I think Debbie lives she’s stood outside with her husband William, decorating her car with a welcome sign.
Great to see her and William, also glad to be relaxing for a few days.
After a chilled beer or two I take a well earned shower. Feel so much better now. A bit to eat and down to the store to sort tomorrows dinner out. Stopping briefly on the way home for some fine local ales.
Well I finally made it. But what to do from here? Smash it to the east coast and maybe late home for Christmas or call it a day.
I can hear you all saying it’s only 1200 miles. 🙂 🙂
“My name is Ben Viatte and I’m just like you: I’m not quite sure how I got here.
My search started 9 years ago, when I closed my eyes for the first time: I saw that I was free. So I started travelling the world in search of a new mindset. My current pilgrimage is bringing me on foot from Europe, through Northern asia, to holy India.”
When we last checked up on this Ben, Dale , Keith and Linford had bumped into him in Kyrgyzstan. Now he’s crossed through China into Pakistan. He had his issues with the police in western China too as you can read.
A special thanks to those that contributed at the Two Sawyers (Woolage Green), the Red Lion (Bridge) and the Fitzwalter Arms (Goodnestone) in our collection jars. It means a lot to us and we’ll see you soon & regularly for another pint.
I was up early as normal and had breakfast in the Mexican restaurant next door. Not sure why I bothered it was bad. Egg, tiny sausage and a slice of white toast.
I get on my way knowing it’s a 90 mile ride again today, mostly slightly uphill. I’m back onto Route 66 and after half hour I get a puncture. My first in the USA. I soon have it sorted and I’m fretting about how long my day’s going to be already.
It’s praires on both sides again and not a lot to take my mind off the miles. A couple of young jack rabbits running around is an improvement anda large bird of prey lets out a screech as it takes flight. It’s not long before I’m 50 miles in and I pull over for some lunch. The ARMCO barrier gives my somewhere to lean my bike and rest on. Not the most picturesque place.
Later the scenery changes a little with lots of stone escarpments on either side of the road. Someone has actually adorned the cliff faces with Indian mannequins. It feels like an arrow is going to cross my path at any moment.
It was a pretty dull day today, but 95 miles clocked up. I spend the evening repairing inner-tubes and going over the bike. The rear wheel isn’t looking good.
It’s very cold this morning. Clear blue skies and icy roads.
The first couple of miles is up hill which is good as that will get my temperature up. Generally it’ll be slightly downhill most of the day. It’s ok when you’re in the sunlight but the shadows are cold.
I don’t seem to be able to get going this morning. After two good days maybe I’m tired! An hour in and I get a puncture. No worries I’m in direct sunlight and it’s quite warm.
The surroundings are similar to yesterday; prairie to both sides and advertising hoardings for Indian rugs, blankets and jewellery. All the genuine article, maybe.
As I cross one of the junctions the tarmac jumps up, I hit it pretty hard, and I hear a ping from the back wheel. I carry on enough to clear the junction before I stop and take a look.
It’s not looking good; one broken spoke and one spoke nipple pulled out of the rim. This added to the temporary spoke is critical.
I take my lunch whilst going over the scenarios. Hitch a lift, phone for help or ride on and see what happens. It’s only 24 or so miles. So I set of riding as carefully as I can Counting down the miles. Strangely I get a beep of the horn and a big wave of encouragement from a passing driver. Don’t get that too often here. Thought about trying to flag him down but he’d gone.
The scenery changed a little, forest to my right and a huge cliff face to my left.
I limped into the motel feeling sorry for myself. Booked in for two nights, I’ll have a beer or two tonight and mull things over. It will be fine tomorrow. Seems the nearest bike shop is back 60 or onward 90+.
Tomorrow’s another day.
USA Day 14 Tuesday November 19th
[No cycling today as Keith ponders how to get his back wheel fixed: Ed]
A rest day today. I walk into town and visit the Uranium mine and two breweries.
I leave the hotel just before ten and pick up from the parking lot a pair of “Raybans”. They are very nice and the sun is shining.
So I’m walking down the high street in my shorts and Raybans, bright sunshine and about 5º. I look like a local.
It’s a 2 mile walk to the museum. When I arrive the guy is very friendly and interested in my previous mining history. We chatted for some time before he sat me down and showed me the introduction film. Then you’re on your own. You call the lift (man-rider) and go down to the mine itself. At points throughout the tour there are buttons to push that give you a commentary on what’s happening in the area. All by a former workers.
The set up was very familiar to me and a lot of the machinery was what I had worked with in Kent. In fact the battery lights and self rescuers were identical. It took me a couple of hours to make my way around completely on my own. A great experience.
When I returned to the surface I joined a group of older local folk interested in the mine because their fathers had worked in the uranium business. Which shut down in the US around 1986-7. The same time I came out of the coal industry.
I made my way to the Route 66 scrapyard brewery on the way back. Nothing new here apart from the fact it was situated in a scrapyard.
From there to the Elkins Brewery Company, nice couple of beers here. Sampling 5 or 6 of their brew. All very good but I need to get back and sort my bike out and make plans to move on.
Decision made, cycle 70 miles tomorrow on my broken wheel. As my brother would say ‘Faint heart never fxxxxx a pig’. I’m going for it.
USA Day 15 Wednesday November 20th
Fly-through Map of USA Day 15.
Breakfast is in the hotel. I ate every thing I could. It’s raining outside and cold. If my wheel breaks down today I’ll could be stood on the hard shoulder for some time.
I cock my leg over the saddle and set off. I’ve gotten rid of anything I can to keep the weight to a minimum. I’m not carrying food or water, well one bottle of water.
It’s 70 miles mainly down hill with a bit of a climb towards the end. I set of gingerly avoiding any changes in the tarmac, avoiding all pot holes and debris. It’s a shaky first hour or so.
I get a few toots from passing drivers appreciating my efforts in the rain. I’m starting to relax now and pushing a good average speed (17mph).
I didn’t stop for five hours and smashed the ride and arrived at my hotel at 12:30 dripping wet. I’m not allowed to my room till 15:00. No worries. I set up my laptop and picnic in the lobby. Helping myself to coffee and pinching the sweets off the reception. The soon give me my key.
It turns out there are half a dozen or so cycle shops in town and Kristian as been ringing around for me.
After warming up and eating I decide to take my bike to “FAT TIRE BIKES”. I’d spoken to them on the phone and they’re very helpful. Its another 12 miles to them but it’s dried up a touch now. It’s an excellent route mostly on cycle paths and following the “Rio Grande river” for a couple of miles.
The staff are super friendly and eager to help, especially Sharon and Clint. They have a 36 hole rim, so we agree to rebuild using my hub with new spokes and rim.
It’s ready the following morning. Excellent.
USA Day 16 Thursday November 21st
[No cycling today either: Ed]
I have a relaxing morning as the shop doesn’t open till ten. Snowing outside. I order my “UBER” cab and I’m at the shop at 10:03.
It’s all good, they’ve done a great job and I’m back on the road. I leave the shop in the rain and make my way to REI. I’m in need of some warmer gear. I pick up a snood, winter socks and a Therma-rest air pad for camping. I refuse to sleep on the floor when it’s this cold.
I make my way down to the “The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History”. This place is pretty amazing but also a lot outdoors. Cold and wet. I’m not hanging around.
Down town to the “High Noon restaurant” as recommended by our friend Paul. Excellent lunch (Tacos). Time to get back to the hotel and warm up. Clean the bike and repack my bags to make room for the new airbed,
All sorted but it took me longer to clean the bath after than it did the bike. I popped down the shop to pick up stores for tomorrow and had my haircut, Burger, beer, fries.
I’m up early to check the weather; it’s cold and damp. Better than expected. Breakfast in the hotel is nothing special.
Decided I’m only riding 70 today what with the new back wheel and things. The only other option is 110, and that’s a struggle in the cold.
I set off through the town for the first ten miles (should have moved hotel yesterday). It’s a steady climb out looking up at the snow topped peaks. Just a flurry I say to myself.
The climb’s longer than I thought, pushing and pushing. The snow’s getting more intense. Cars are approaching me with 4 inches of snow on them. I’m a little apprehensive to say the least. It’s a great ride; I left the Route 66 at the 20 mile mark and I’m now on the “Salt Mission trail”. It’s a lovely twisting road up through the mountains. What with the snow I could be in the Alps. The climbing is easy and generating heat. Only my feet are cold. The descents are freezing and my eyes are watering. I can’t see the Garmin never mind the road. Dave’s glasses will have to go. I’ve got my new “Raybans” now.
After the mountains we’re on the rolling plains, but still patches of snow about and the wind is cutting across my shoulder. The small section I rode into the wind almost brought me to a stand-still. The roads have been good and clear of snow all day. The Garmin says go left, I look and it’s a track. I follow the Garmin but after a couple of miles the sign reads “Dead End”. I do you a U-turn and retrace my route. Three dogs appear as if from no-where. No worries they’re too far behind and not barking? No they’re not, they are level with me and looking to have a go. I’m flat out; They chased me all the way back to the junction. At least I wasn’t cold anymore but I had to get off and recover for a minute or two.
No worries; a quick look at the map and I’m 16 miles from home.
It’s a strange 1920’s hotel. The room is freezing and dated. The heater does work, just not been on for a couple of years. Dinner in the hotel, it shuts at 6. Meat loaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. Wonderful, just what I needed.
It’s breakfast in my room. My granola and milk and coffee provided by the hotel.
I leave at 7:30. It’s been light for some time but it’s icy outside. Stunning clear blue skies and a tail-wind. All wrapped up and happy to ride. It’s long undulating roads today mainly downhill and praire on both sides.
I seem to have the road to myself this morning, only the odd car coming towards me.
I’m spotting Eagles today not sure what type. Also a kestrel sat on the fence post. Making good time and riding hard to keep warm.
I pull over for a spot of lunch. It’s surprisingly warm out of the wind.
Later I spook a herd of “Pronghorn deer” as they race across the prairie but parallel to the road. So I have a good view of them for a mile or two. Finally they turn away from me and stop. Pretty dumb animals, but look good with their white rumps. Only 25 miles to go now so I sit up a bit, no rush and the wind doesn’t cut when you go slower.
I join a slightly bigger highway with not a lot of traffic and a nice wide, smooth hard shoulder. As I descend a dip in the road I spot a cat just to my left. It’s a cat OK a bloody “Bobcat” sat in the sparse grass. I pull up take my camera out and walk back. No sign of the thing. I’m gutted, what a sight, lovely markings down it’s flank and ears erect. No idea where it went, didn’t fancy searching through the gorse looking for it. Spend the rest of the ride thinking about the Bobcat, a chance in a million. Up there with my all time best spots [pun intended I expect: Ed].
Overland To India
See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here. An excerpt is below.
Whilst they are in India they will travel separately.
It now appears the separation is more permanent. The Blog now only refers to Jess. Whether Ben has been airbrushed out I don’t know. So we’ll follow Jess for now and wish Ben all the best with whatever he is doing.