Finally it's up!
The last ride was anything but easy. I got up early and was still on quite a high from completing coast to coast the previous day. I was looking forward to the last leg and felt confident despite it being quite a long day.
I left at 7am and all was good until about the 25 mile point. From here the rain started and things got quite miserable. For long sections I was riding highway 1. The options for heading north are quite limited because of the peninsulas. Despite it being Sunday, traffic was heavy. Combined with the rain, the noise and spray made it far from enjoyable.
I stopped at a roadside lobster shack to try the local speciality. In pouring rain I sat under a small umbrella to eat it while some other customers sat and ate theirs in their big, warm, dry car. I must have looked a state. As they were leaving I watched them take a picture aimed in my direction. I don't think there was anything else of interest around. It must have been a crazy guy on a loaded bike, who looked like a drained rat, eating lobster in the pouring rain that they were capturing.
I didn't quite muster a smile ;)
I had ridden about 70 miles when my brother offered a lift and pointed out I had already ridden coast to coast.
With continuing rain and heavy traffic I said 'yes please, come get me' :)
On agreeing a meeting point the day almost immediately brightened up making me question my decision. It could have also been my morale lifting knowing that of nearly 4,000 miles I only had another 5 or 6 to pedal.
It was a good feeling. I had a moment with my bike, one last heartfelt conversation between the two of us. Then I slapped myself out of it.
The last few miles approaching the house were in deep woods and would have been difficult to navigate so a lift was a good idea.
100 metres from the house my brother kicked me out of the car and suggested I ride around the corner because the kids wanted to see me finish. When I came around the corner I was greeted by banners and balloons and cheering and decorations and big smiles all round. Oh, a nice cold beer too.
It was a really nice surprise and a perfect end to the trip. Thankyou for such an excellent welcome.
And thankyou to everyone for all messages and emails of encouragement Along the way.
Every single one was super appreciated Especially in the first few weeks where there task was quite daunting and I seriously wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew.
Total mileage : 3,935
I really should go for a 65 mike bike ride!
Today was a pretty good day!!!
I only went and rode across the bleedin United States of America didn't I Rodders.
I got up at 6.30 am, after a poor rest of only 5 ish hours of sleep. It was surprisingly easy to get up though!! After breakfast I was on the road by 7.30 for the final journey to the East Coast.
The ride was 64 miles. I arranged to meet my Brother at a halfway point, Naples, for a late breakfast/early lunch. This broke up the day quite nicely - it was good to see someone I knew whilst en route. I tried to persuade him to swap vehicles but to no avail.
The roads all day were quite busy. Probably one of my least relaxing rides. The motivation was endless though. I was riding a good pace for most of the time, excited about the prospect of seeing the Atlantic.
Finally at about 1.30pm I saw the coast!!
I skirted it until I could find a spot to sit and soak it up for a while. It all felt quite surreal.
Unfortunately I still have to ride roughly 90 miles to Linconville but today was the big one for me. I feel like its most definitely job done.
It's been the most amazing trip, one that I will never regret taking. There have been so many positive experiences and I've met so many brilliant people along the way. By poking my head outside of the bubble I was living in I have reaffirmed my love of life and the world we live in. nice and cheesy I know.
I have had plenty of hurdles to get over; (I've listed some before but this is the last time)
Snow storms, strong winds, rain storms,
The dessert, extreme humidity, +40C temps down to sub zero, tornado alley minus the any tornado's,endless mountain passes, rednecks, the Great Planes, heat waves. I've been called Australian more time than I can remember, once it was even put in print in the local paper. I've become numb to it now.
The amazing sights include the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, Golden Gate Bridge, Zion, Chicago, the Great Lakes, Canada, the Rockies, me in cycling shorts etc
Mileage so far 3,860
1 million counties
2 new pedals
2 new tyres, bollocks
1 new chain,
1 slow puncture
I had a great stay with Julie and Dave. A very interesting couple who I felt very at ease and bonded well with. Thankyou for looking after me so 'brilliantly'
After homemade blueberry pancakes and local maple syrup, Dave drove me back to the main road where I continued the journey east under pedal power.
Soon after my good luck with tyres came to an end. The bike shop that didn't tighten my wheel (last week) may be to blame, but I can't be sure.
After beginning riding I felt a bit of a bump as the wheel rolled over. I stopped at the first town to inspect. It looked like the tube was squeezing the tyre outwards by the valve.
Somehow the actual tyre twisted a bit under pressure.
I deflated it, straightened it out and blew it up again but it just kept popping out.
It could have been a faulty tyre with a weakness but I suspect it was badly fitted in the first place. I will never know though.
I was close to a bike shop who diagnosed that the tryre was now kinked and splitting on the side and I needed to buy a new one. They agreed on the potential cause.
Very frustrating bearing in mind my Marathon Shwalbe tyres lasted in excess of 4,000 miles (1 is still going) and never had a problem. 1 was only replaced when it was looking bald.
This new, equally expensive, puncture proof tyre lasted 1 week.
The shop only had bog standard tyres which they fitted and off I went. I immediately hit my last major climb of this trip.
The Kangamangus Pass - 2,855 ft. It was 10 miles of steep climbing.
After only 2 miles I noticed my new tyre starting to go flat !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ???????? !!!!!!!!!!!
Tyre 1 - 4,000 miles
Tyre 2 - 300 miles (est)
Tyre 3 - 2 miles
I hoped the shop had just done a poor job of re inflating it but that wasn't the case. I pumped it up and continued on. It became apparent that it was definately a slow puncture as I had to pump it up again once more on the journey.
The climb wasn't great fun for the first 5 miles because I was thinking about poxy tyres.
I really enjoyed the 2nd 5 miles though. I got in a good grove and even managed to overtake 2 lightweight cyclists on the way up.
They were in their 30's I guess, had all the sporty looking cycling gear including sponsored vest etc and were riding bikes that weighed less than my STINKING shoes.
They must have been gutted to see a fully loaded, baggy top wearing, grubby looking, pop belly Brit overtake them. Especially so when my clippless shoes made me look extremely unprofessional, as my feet fell off the pedals when my dodgy gears kept jumping. (As I powered past ;)
To rub salt in the wound, after the overtake, they were downwind of me.... ;)
I was sure to say a big hello and wave as I went past. So many racing bike types don't say hi when they I overtake me. ;) hehehe.
I arrived in Conway, alongside queues of tourist traffic, having ridden 46 miles. It's a nice town and have found a hostel which isn't super cheap but better value than a Motel.
I'm now undecided whether to go for the coast tomorrow and hit Portland, or skirt it (the coast) a while longer and head more directly for Linconville, Maine.
So far the local beer is not helping me decide.
Either way, soon, I will be able to say I rode the USA (and Canada) coast to coast.
State number 12, New Hampshire.
Today was slow and steady and ended up being really tiring. I rode 64 miles with some steep climbing and kind of hit a mental and physical WALL after about 50 miles.
I'm having so many conflicting thoughts. I go from excited at being nearly done, to a bit dissapointed. Then I feel like it has all gone by so quickly, yet these last few days are seeming to take FOREVER!!
I'm staying with my third warmshowers hosts tonight. A very warm a quirky couple who again have been just so welcoming and made me feel very relaxed. Julie and Dave have a nice house in a very rural setting. Apparently a bear has been spotted in a neighbours garden the last few days. I'm getting closer.
As a hobby Dave runs a shooting range so I got to watch some 'gun nuts' enjoying their shooting earlier.
Julie kindly picked me up to save the mile or so journey up a dirt road to their house and we shared another great meal.
In other news today, I pedalled, allot.
I'm too tired to write any more. The last of the big climbs tomorrow before just plain old hills for a couple of hundred miles. Easy!!!
One step closer to the East Coast, but a reminder that there is plenty more work to do. It's not over until its over - there are some tough climbs to come first.
I started a little slowly again today, not leaving my motel until just before 8am. I was pretty worn out from the previous day.
Ticonderoga is located by a large lake so one of the first things I had to do was catch the ferry which takes you across.
Apparently this is the last remaing cable ferry in North America.
I arrived a few minutes after 8 and just missed a crossing so had a short wait for it to come back. I pulled a lever down to raise a flag to let them know I was waiting and to come back get me.
It was a very atmospheric morning. I sat on a dock watching the calm waters. Lots of dramatic and ominous clouds mixed with clear blue skies and the early morning sun. It was very relaxing sitting and waiting for the return of my lift.
The only thing that ruined the moment was the awful stink of my trainers. They seem to have taken on an evil lifeform since yesterday's soaking. I was tempted to sit with my feet and shoes submerged in the lake but realised this would not help for more than 20 minutes or so. I was also worried I may kill any nearby fish by doing so.
When the ferry returned I was the only person waiting so I had it all to myself. I paid the $2 and we made the quick journey across. On arrival I landed in Vermont, my 11th state.
It was quite a windy morning and as I rode into the first major town some seriously grey rainy clouds seemed to be closing in. I was looking for an excuse to stop, as riding in wind is not my idea of fun.
I stopped in a cafe to research local accomodation but nothing was really coming up. The skies also cleared up so stopping after 25 miles was looking like a non starter. When I heard another customer comment that the cafe 'smelled funny today' I decided to hit the road and see how far I would get.
Soon after I came to my first big climb of the Appalachian mountains. After riding the Rockies etc I feel like its a bit of a cheat calling these mountains because the maximum altitude I'm going to hit is around 3,000 ft compared to hitting 11,000 ft previously. However, these climbs are much steeper grades. These roads do not have switch backs so its a very hard, continuous effort getting to the top.
Today's peak was just under 2,000 feet and it was tough but didn't take too long. A cyclist who was riding a lightweight bike without any bags caught me up halfway to the top. I managed to keep up with him until we reached the top though which I was pleased with. My legs must be in good shape.
The downhill was equally steep and very fast. Unfortunately the road condition was poor so I had to keep on the brakes more than I would have liked.
Since hitting this region I've encountered a new problem when climbing. There are tons of Mosquitos and those evil biting flies. As soon as I slow down I'm joined by several trying to land and bite me. Today was worse - at one point I couldn't even take a deep breath in because I was in danger of swallowing the little ba@%%#rds.
They are like an army of evil personal trainers, trying to get me to go faster.
I almost got stranded with no accomodation today because everywhere was booked up. In the end I have found a place that costs way more than I can afford but it's on a nice working farm. I'm going to have a beautiful home cooked meal and breakfast included which I'm sure is going to be a massive treat.
I rode exactly 50 miles today.
Today was a great days riding through some beautiful scenery.
Things didn't start out too well though.
I had breakfast ordered the minute the pub opened for business and was then on the road by about 7.30.
From the very beginning there was a constant rain which I optimistically believed would clear up in no time.
Unfortunately it went on for several hours. By the time it let off I was soaked through.
Actually, I was soaked after only about a 1/4 mile of riding. A 4x4 overtook me and drove through a massive puddle which gave me my 2nd shower of the day. I just laughed to myself - That's the way it's going to be today I thought. Better to get fully saturated within a few minutes instead of dragging things out.
I stopped after about 25 miles to try and warm up over a coffee. I was actually worried the diner wouldn't let me in, I was that wet. But they were very nice and didn't look twice at the state I was in.
I didn't rush it but by the time I started riding again the rain had stopped :). I changed my socks which were squelching and continued on.
The aronidondacks, airyduckbaps, adirondacks are really stunning. With every mile of riding things just get better. For the majority of the time I'm riding through dense trees but quite often it opens up to a beautiful lake, river or view of rolling hills covered in thick trees. It's almost rainforest-like. Lots of fantastic small villages and camps are interspersed throughout. There must be so many properties hidden away.
It also seems that with every extra mile things get more and more hilly. Sometimes it's just gentle rolling but then you hit a massive steep hill that goes on forever. It's like western Kansas on steroids.
I'm really enjoying the challenge of climbs and feeling fully fit again. I'm getting a buzz out of caning the riding for 10 miles or so having already ridden 70 or 80.
Admittedly I might increase my pace of riding when I start thinking about bears eating me but quite often it's a choice not borne out of fear.
The adirondack region apparently has a healthy population of bears. I also saw a sign saying there were Moose on the loose. I would have LOVED to have seen either but unfortunately I didn't today.
At the same time I was also worried about seeing a bear too closely. As the trees closed in and traffic reduced to 1 car every 30+ minutes I did feel very isolated.
I wondered how close I could actually be to a bear. Despite wanting to meet one I turned my music up to full volume to minimise the chances of a surprise!
I feel like I got over a big hurdle today. The east coast could be reached in only a couple of hundred miles. Very exciting.
I managed 86.4 miles today, in 8 hours 36 minutes, climbing a total of 4,540 ft
I had half a heart to do 100 miles today.
The minute I heard my alarm, deep down, I knew it was unlikely. I was really tired and aching quite a bit from yesterday's exertions. But most days I ache so this was no big deal. It did take me 2 hours to get up, pack up, find breakfast and finally get on the go. Starting properly at 8 instead of 7 again made a long day even more unlikely.
After 23 miles I decided to stop for my 2nd breakfast, early, although it was already 10am.
I found a nice little hamlet on a lake with a shop and an old pub/hotel that looked like it would do good bacon and eggs.
The lady serving was the complete opposite of yesterday's experience. We talked about how expensive the area is at this time of year and she agreed, but then pointed out the rooms upstairs were only $35 which is a bargain!! I agreed.
They are basic with no wifi or tv but that's just fine.
With the smiles and value I was sold so on 23 miles I quit for the day!!
I'm really pleased I stopped. As I was eating my breakfast it dawned on me I wasn't in a race and I started to relax. I am trying to get through the expensive areas faster but this place is perfect.
I'm going to sleep, Swim in the lake, have a beer, go for a boat ride and sleep some more.
Tomorrow will be another long day on the bike though.
It was a strange start to the day.
As soon as I left the motel there was a wind in my face, which worried me because I wanted to put in a long day. Wind like this had previously done my head in. Fortunately it wasn't as bad as the same strength winds in Nevada or Kansas. Here there are trees and building galore which provide some shelter and break it up so it wasn't too soul destroying.
The next issue of the morning was my wheel.
I had bought a new tyre yesterday because the old one had worn worryingly thin. I thought I should replace it before I ride the fast descents that are ahead of me.
The bike shop swapped it all for me but this morning my bike didn't feel right. In the end I checked the front tyre and the shop hadn't tightened it at all. The front wheel was just sitting loose which could have ended in disaster. Luckily I spotted it and an accident was averted!
Just after this I (again) learned the important lesson not to ride with your mouth open.
A big juicy fly that has probably been bathing on a giant turd smacked into my tonsil and was never seen again, despite many wholehearted efforts to free it.
The last test on this difficult morning was the discovery of my least favourite patrons In the whole of America.
They were terrible.
It was a husband and wife team. Both extremely rude and unhappy but happy to show it.
The husband had a habit of shouting something at you then mumbling his discontent to himself.
When I ask him to repeat himself I'm 100% certain he did not repeat exactly what he was muttering.
I decided to order something cheap and quick so I could leave without delay but they obviously didn't like my order. I heard him mumbling 'bagel and cream cheese and tap water fggagrbe blah blah. I said what?
They ignored my request for a glass of water and told me to go and get a bottle from the fridge myself. It is the norm in the USA to give you endless glasses of ice cold water. Rarely do people expect you to buy bottled so I wasn't asking too much.
I explained I just wanted tap which they continued to ignore and mutter about.
The tipping point was when he mimicked the English accent and said 'tap water'
Really strange behaviour from someone running a business.
Very often people repeat what I say and laugh and joke. Its usually because they like the accent and I take it as a compliment. When this bloke repeated what I said he was being a twat.
I said that's it, cancel my order, I'm going elsewhere.
On my way out we had a brief discussion about who should stick it up their ass. I'm not sure what 'it' was but it was clear we weren't going to agree anyway.
I think this is an example of a pitfall of riding the adventure cycling routes. This couple (I presume had) had previous with other cyclists at some point.
It's unfortunate that their brains can't distinguish between different people on different bikes.
If I had a restaurant or any business here I would be extremely pleased to be on this bike route.
So I rode onwards. I was actually a bit worried because I'd already gone 40 miles and the next town was another 10. I would normally eat after 20-30 miles max. I was fine though and didn't get the food 'shakes'.
I really want to ride back to back 100 mile days on this trip. I know I'm capable of it and previously (Back in Kansas) did 2 X 96 mile says in a row. I managed 102 miles today and thought I would go for another tomorrow. The terrain has now gotten very hilly though and it's just going to get harder tomorrow. I was riding for 11 hours 27 minutes today, including 2 brief stops for food. I also climbed 5,600ft in total and some of the hills have been getting really steep.
I'm going to try for it tomorrow but its not going to be easy.
Other than things getting hillier and steeper I've been going through allot of dense forrest. There are lots of cabins hidden between the trees. I can't really remember the film Misery but this is the kind of setting I imagined it to be filmed in. if there weren't so many tourists about I might be getting paranoid.
I feel relaxed and refreshed having done nothing today.
The weather has actually been very cool!! There was a lot of heavy rain in the morning but other than that it would have been a great day to be on the road.
I'm pleased I didn't ride though.
Other than eating lots of food, I have been trying to solve a dilemma as to what my final route should be.
I know that my final destination is going to be Linconville, Maine.
I want to achieve the coast to coast badge sooner though. I like the idea of arriving at the East Coast close to Biddeford or Portland (which are hopefully picturesque spots???), then heading north to the end point.
I have also toyed with the idea of going to NY, NY, or Boston but think it will add too many miles. I appreciate the offers of a place to stay in both cities though :)
My main question has been whether to keep following the Adventure Cycling maps.
I'm not convinced about these routes. I feel like businesses and people on these routes are too familiar with cyclists. I wonder if some of the motels prices go up and people get a bit bored of more cycling odd balls passing through.
The benefit is you get a useful, easy to follow maps with tips on hill climbs and services etc. especially useful when planning journeys over mountains.
On the other hand, ignoring the ACA maps and choosing a complete random route means you pass through towns that have zero Cycling traffic which I find refreshing. I'm convinced motels are better value. It's a bit more hit or miss.
At the moment I have decided to follow the ACA route because a section of the Appalachian mountains is ahead. Once I'm past the really difficult climbs (350 miles from here) I think I will free style my days again.
I achieved my objective today which was to avoid riding after 11am.
Even between 7 and 11 it was extremely uncomfortable. It was slow and steady progress.
Since Chicago the landscape has been pretty flat, but in the last couple of days things have got noticeably hillier. Some of the climbs today were actually really steep, but at least brief.
I'm pleased to say I only went 31 miles. As soon as I had checked in a wave of relief hit me. I'm really looking forward to just chilling until Sunday.
Saturday is predicted to be another scorcher but after that things should cool down (to mid to high twenties) and the humidity should drop a bit.
I'm going really benefit from just chilling and recharging. Trying to exercise when it's like this really does wear you down.
Today I reached Lake Ontario meaning I have ridden the coast of three of the Great Lakes. The other two were of course Lake Michigan, Lake Erie.
The highlight of today's ride was finding a street called GobblersKnob Road. I took a small detour to ensure it wasn't a mistake by google maps. It seemed like any other rural road except admittedly it didn't look like there was much demand for housing and the few houses I saw looked like the owners needed to show a bit more pride. I also found 1 business on the road that called themselves Sukup. I would love to see one of their addressed invoices.
Tomorrow I'm going a maximum of 30 miles and I'm not riding a bike or undertaking any exercise, or movement of any type after 11am.
If I see the sun after 11 it will be from within a cool air conditioned room. I will be wearing sunglasses and be surrounded by cold drinks.
This is how I intend to spend the following 36 hours after arriving at my destination tomorrow.
This heat and humidity is too oppressive and I've had enough of it.
I started the day with no energy as a result of yesterday's sun exposure. I was out of my room at 7 but I still needed to find somewhere to eat. This meant I was going to lose valuable riding time. Ideally I would have eaten and been on the road sooner.
My problem today was working out where I could finish up. I had a couple of motel options after only 20 miles but they looked dire and were a good distance from anything that I would have found useful, like a restaurant or shop.
Other than that my next option was in Wolcott which meant a 45.6 mile ride. I wasn't keen on this option because I thought it might mean riding in the mid day sun. Also the review of the only motel in Wolcott were pretty bad. I feared the worst but it turns out I have been in worse places.
I arrived having thoroughly overheated but luckily it wasn't too late in the day in the end. I managed to get there by 12 despite my worrying.
Still, the temperature was 26C at 8am and climbed over 30C by 9.30. From 10.30 it was killing me. My gps said it hit 33C but with the humidity it felt more like 36/37C
I'm happier about tommorrow's plan because there are lots of accomodation options. I hope that after a day off temperatures will cool off at the end of the weekend.
I have now been on the road for such a long time I'm getting a bit anxious about finishing. It's going to be strange to have no focus anymore.
I planned this trip for so long and very soon the whole thing will be over. Of course I'm going to feel very proud, if and when I finish, but there is definitely going to be a bit of a void.
I have had fleeting thoughts about continuing to travel the world on my bike but that's allot to take on as a solo traveller. It's not as simple as just packing a backpack and hopping on a bus, boat or plane. Every day requires a plan A, B and C.
I can't imagine repeating some of the mind and ass numbing days in Kansas/Nevada etc. But the other days, riding across California, Colorado, Utah and seeing San Fran, Chicago, the Grand Canyon and Niagra Falls has made the whole thing such a positive experience.
I have definitely gotten everything I wanted from this journey and more.
My main motivation now, with 2 weeks or less to go is thoughts of crossing the 'finish line', or hitting the coast. I just can't wait. It's going to feel extremely rewarding.
Boring day today - all about the weather.
I was up early again and had eaten breakfast and hit the road by 7am.
I had decided not to ride after mid day because of the extreme heat. This gave me only 5 hours make up some miles. I had decided to take it easy and thought I would only make it as far as Rockport. I had done 30 miles by 10am though and felt good. I'm pleased with myself because in the end I managed 49 miles and arrived in Fairport at almost exactly 12.
It's a good feeling checking in somewhere so early knowing you have the rest of the day to relax and get organised. This whole week is going to be the same story. While its this hot I don't plan on riding after mid day if I can avoid it. I will put in some long days again as soon as things cool down.
I've been lucky to be riding a trail following the Erie Canal for the last two days. It's really kept the temperature down. As soon as I hit asphalt during the last 3 miles of today's ride I instantly started to boil. I was pouring sweat down my face. The heat radiating from the cars and the road was very intense.
since arriving I have tried to keep cool and avoid going out, but my aircon hasn't really been coping either.
total miles travelled - 3348
distance between Australia most eastern and western points is 2485 miles.
A perfect start to the day.
I reluctantly got out of bed at 5.50am. The motivation for this early start was fear of the mid day sun and humidity which has made riding conditions extremely tough.
By the time I had eaten in an extremely slow diner and hit the road it was 6.50.
I arrived back at Niagra Falls at 7am and as I had hoped, there were hardly any people there. It was a much nicer way to view the falls.
The sun was still very low and sat right behind the huge cloud of mist created by the water hitting the rocks. It looked great but I don't think my camera caught the moment.
After seeing it again briefly from the Canadian perspective I crossed the bridge and border (which was very painless) and went to see the falls from the American viewpoints.
Wherever you view from they are brilliant but the Canadian side definitely wins, hands down.
By 8am I'd had a good look from every viewpoint I could find and I hit the road.
I commenced the last leg of the journey.
Looking at the US map I am almost done. There is still the small matter of covering a distance that is the rough equivalent of lands end to John o groats. Almost there!!
The journey today was 58 miles. The first 10 consisted of riding a main road but after that I hit a path that follows the length of the Erie Canal. It's not Tarmac but it is rideable. Most importantly though here are no cars or lorries to worry about. In fact there were very few cyclists, walkers and even boaters about. This weather is just too hot and people are staying indoors.
Apparently we're now in a heat wave too. I didn't want to be on the bike after 12.30 ish but I got caught out and was stuck in the sun until about 2.30.
I thought I was coping quite well until I stopped under a bridge for some water. I didn't feel like stopping but did anyway. As soon as I was stationary sweat started dripping from me. I was soaked and spinning a bit. I also simultaneously felt like being being sick and err, going to the loo but held it all in. I got a grip, cooled down and waited until I felt normal again. After that I slowed my pace a bit, but I wasn't exactly racing before!
I arrived in Albion and then got a bit frustrated finding a place to stay. I eventually found a motel on the edge of town.
When I went to my room it stank of damp. They has clearly recently had a flood or been caught out by heavy rain. They gave me an option to take that room or go to another which would have next to no wifi. I took the room with no wifi and breathable air option.
Unfortunately this means I can't update the blog unless I'm in a pub with wifi. So here I am. It was a tough consequence but I'm coping.
This weather is predicted to go on until the weekend. I'm probably going to do a very short day tomorrow.
I rode my bicycle to Niagra Falls !!!!!!!!
I allowed myself a lie in and a low mileage day today. I left home at 9 am and went looking for breakfast. After I had eaten at Tim Hortons, Canada's staple coffee and doughnut shop, I made the journey to Niagra Falls.
It was further than I had mentally prepared for but still only 23 Miles. I was riding with real anticipation and excitement at seeing such a famous landmark and hoped it would live up to expectations.
I decided to check into another motel just before hitting the tourist zone. I wanted to savour the spectacle rather than rushing some sightseeing and riding on. This is after all one of the highlights and major milestones of my trip across the States, and now Canada.
After showering and changing out of my scary cycling shorts, I headed (on only a 5/10 minute ride) to the falls. I wasn't sure if I would be approaching it from the top or the bottom. When I hit the river it was flowing in the same direction I was riding, so was pleased as this meant I would be viewing from the top.
It was a great spectacle. The amount of water you watch flowing over the side, so quickly and with such power is really impressive.
You wouldn't think a lake could sustain such an escape of water but that says something about the size of the Great Lakes.
There were tourist viewing points at every angle. At the bottom, at the top, in boats, in helicopters, in high rise buildings, on a bridge. looking over to the American side you could see they also had all the same bases covered.
Every available viewing point was full of tourists.
I'm looking forward to passing through again at 7am tomorrow when hopefully it will be a bit easier to get a good viewpoint. It was still great to be there today though.
It was absolutely roasting. After checking out the falls I ventured into town to look for a barbers. When I finally found one the lady cutting my hair asked why I was riding my bike on a day like this. I said I wasn't really, this was just a day off.
The next 4 days are supposed to be extremely hot and humid too so my mileage may be on the low side. I'm going to try to get on the road before 7am to beat the heat of the day. It may be a little difficult though because I'm treating myself to a celebratory beer today.
The more I continue on this journey the more I am convinced I should have frozen some sperm before I left England. I fear the worst regarding long term damage to my testicles. I have been looking for motels with a bathtub so that I could immerse my legs etc in cold water. Now I'm thinking that just a sink will do the job.
The Brooks saddle, which on occasion is very comfortable is supposed to mould into your shape once it's broken in. This is why they are so popular. I do love my saddle. It had become a part of me. After some rides we are inseperable.
Unfortunately, as my saddle changes shape to match mine its starting to look like its been in a conker fight, and lost.
You should not judge a Brooks by its cover though - I can confirm it is winning this conker fight.
I think I'm suffering from that rare condition, invertotesticleitus
I don't want to put you off your breakfast so I will try and tell you about today's journey instead.
It was very bumpy.
It was a much hotter day than the previous 2. It's didn't drop below the 30C mark between 11am and 3pm. Humidity levels also climbed right back up again. It properly 'did me in'. I'm a happy man though because I managed 82.96 miles.
That's 254 miles in 3 days and 3,267 in total!
I can confirm that Canadians love yard sales!! In three days I estimate to have ridden past at least 30. They literally pop up every few miles. It's very strange. They definitely like selling junk allot more than they like passing strangers. I have had many grumpy looks coming my way which has really surprised me. I was expecting Canada to be even more friendly than the USA.
I have reached Port Colborne. From here there are some nice relaxing bike paths to follow until I reach Niagra Falls.
I managed another good day today. 87.81 miles and I arrived in Tillsonburg just before 5pm
It was a long day - over 9 hours, including stops for food.
I had told myself I would only ride 55 miles and stop at St Thomas. However when I got there the town really pissed me off so I just carried on. I felt like Steve Martin in Trains Planes and Automobiles.
I stopped at various Motels to ask if there was any availability and got wound up on each occasion. So I decided to pedal on. Just having a grumpy day I think.
I kind of feel like a day off but I'm determined to reach Niagra Falls in good time. If all goes to plan tomorrow I will reach Port Colborne which is very close to the big attraction. This means I can get up early the following day and have plenty of time to explore, before crossing to see it from the USA viewpoint too.
I'm really looking forward to getting a mobile back when I cross back to the America. I realise now how much I rely on it for calling ahead to arrange accomodation. It's also really useful for double checking you are on the right road on the maps app. Getting used to working without it has just been a pain in the backside.
Not being able to plan ahead had stressed me a little. I can't complain though. I'm lucky to be living a carefree life at the moment. It is a real physical strain though and my backside and legs have constant discomfort after about 10am on any given day.
Today started with Wes and myself loading our bikes onto his truck for the journey over the Ambassador Bridge and into Canada. Cyclists are not allowed to cross so I needed some help to get over. This also eliminated some urban riding through Detroit which could have been hairy.
Once across and into Canada Wes accompanied me for about 10 miles until we reached Amherstburg. After Coffee and a Doughnut we said our goodbyes and I continued my journey alone again.
Thankyou Wes and Barbara for being so hospitable and helping me see so much of Detroit.
It's a good feeling to be riding in a different country. It's also rewarding having a 2nd country to add to the list of statistics for this bike ride. I wonder if it will be the last?! Does anyone want to quit there job, evict their kids, release their pets and ride through South America with me?
It was a great day for riding. Temperatures dropped to average in the mid twenties. Most importantly though, the humidity dropped from 6,090,988,865 on the humidity scale back to normal levels.
After Amherstberg I turned and headed east and faced a slight head wind. It wasn't the kind of head wind that drives you to a nervous breakdown, but you knew it was there.
Because of the good conditions I decided to push for a good day. I managed 83.6 miles. I was riding very slowly for the first 40 miles, but after lunch I seemed to find some extra energy. I was stood up and pedalling hard for long periods of the final 40 odd miles.
I'm without a phone (and as a result live track) while I'm in Canada so I rode into Blenheim blind. I knew there were 3 places to stay but hadn't called ahead to any of them. On arrival the first had no vacancies and the 2nd had shut down. I was getting worried and was very thankful when I found the third was open and had a space for me. This could have meant lots if extra riding but the motel gods were nice to me.
My route us now going to simply skirt the top side of Lake Erie until I reach Niagra Falls.
Detroit is a city that is in a sad state of affairs but has potential to be another Chicago, or better. (In my opinion, formed after the briefest of visits)
The population peaked close to 2 million but now only numbers around 700,000.
As a result so much of it is derelict and the city can't afford to keep on top of all the services. Some blocks may only have 1 house inhabited. Arsonists burn down property after property and the charred remains of rubble and timber just sit where buildings used to. There is no money to clear it up. It seems there is too much work for the broke police and fire services.
Rich (?) and lazy Landlords have all these properties which sit empty and deteriorate. Some truly grand and previously magnificent places just stand as shells, like ghosts, you can see right through them except for a tangled structure that has crumbled within their walls.
The whole place still seems to have a soul though. There are some vibrant multi cultural areas with with lots of colour and life.
I was told by Brian that he has watched the city decline since 1967 but thinks in the last few years it has seen a turning point. People are now hopeful things could be on the up.
You can buy some fantastic detached houses for as little as $40,000 and a beautiful mansion for a couple of hundred!!!!!
My prediction - This place is going to go from strength to strength. It has a brilliant, gritty, urban feel to it. There is so much cheap land, buildings and opportunities for people with initiative here.
This is the place to invest. In 20/30 years it's going amazing.
We had a tour of the Heidelberg project. Basically a few blocks of unused, derelict or barely occupied properties that an artist tried to change for the better. Houses were painted various colours, some with giant polka dots, or thousands of vinyl records. Various random skulptures or collections of urban waste used in random ways. Decorated trees and pavements.
Some of it just looks like junk but other bits looked amazing.
My pictures don't do it justice.
I'm very glad I got to see Detroit. And thankyou Anne, Wes and Brian for showing me the best and worst of the City.
Another really hot day.
I was up at 6.30 and on the road by 7am having has a quick breakfast at my motel. I needed to beat the mid day meltdown.
I arrived in New Boston at about 12.30 having covered another 64 miles. It was slow and steady again. I did all I could to avoid overheating.
I'm consuming more cold water/drinks than at any point on this trip. I'm also stopping very regularly just to find refuge in some air conditioned rooms/shops/cafes etc. It is really tough going at the moment. Probably the some of the most difficult riding I've endured. It's comparable to my first 2 weeks on this trip.
When in Chicago I randomly met 4 people at a train station who were also visiting the city for a few days.
Wes, Barbara, Brian and Pat all live in New Boston. We chatted briefly.
Wes and Brian are good friends and do a lot of riding together. Between them they have ridden 40,000 plus miles!! They warned me that I couldn't simply ride over the border from Detroit to Canada and said I would need a lift over the main bridge crossing. They offered to drive me over if I decided to take this route and we exchanged details.
So I recently got in touch and here I am. They are also registered warmshowers.org hosts and have kindly offered to accommodate me for a coupe if nights.
Tomorrow they are taking me for a tour of some interesting parts of Deeetroit which I'm looking forward to. A day if relaxation without a bike in sight :)
Language alert - parental guidance.
My day started out in thick Humid mist. Strangely it's the first time I've encountered this here. I was actually getting soaked as water droplets were forming all over me. My helmet was dripping from the visa!
It kept the temperature down under 20C for an hour or 2 but once it cleared things got hotter. And wow, it got really hot. The last 3 hours kicked my backside. The riding from 1-4pm was just painful. I was melting away. I managed 66 miles in the end.
One of the most repetitive aspects of this trip is repeating your story to people. Everyone means well and I genuinely enjoy each interaction but the after 7th tim, in any given day that you explain you are going across country - it can get a bit boring. The conversation normally goes;
Random - where ya headin?
Me - Jackson
Random - wherdya come from?
Me - Kalamazoo
Random - (obviously a detective) but you're not from round here? (Looks puzzled)
Me - (after as long a pause as possible) No I'm heading to Maine
Random - WOW, and where dya come from?
Me - San Francisco
Random - Wooow
It's almost impossible to stop anywhere with the bike, without being asked. I'm not complaining though. When this journey is all over I won't have such a great conversation starter in my armour. It is also really fun meeting new people and getting their reactions and story's etc
I wanted to avoid talking about driving standards on this blog and I think I have done very well so far.
I'm going to have a little rant though because I had my 2nd close encounter with a truck today.
Before I go any further I would like to point out that every single time I have had a close encounter with anything I have seen it coming in my mirror. I'm always watching what is approaching behind me. If any of these close encounters had been any closer I would have moved voluntarily into the ditch rather than being pushed.
Soon after my first encounter (which I didn't mention to spare the worriers) back in Kansas, I met three lads from England coming in the other direction.
They were raising money for a charity and doing this trip before Uni. None of them had mirrors and all of then were listening to music on their headphones, directly in their ears. I thought this was completely crazy and suggested they get a mirror each. My mirror is the one item I would not go without. I messaged them on twitter the next day offering sponsorship for every mirror they bought themselves but did not hear back - this was a relief because I really didn't want to sponsor them ;)
Truck drivers seem to be the best and worst of road users. The majority of trucks don't just move over to go round you, they actually get as far over to the other side as possible giving you the whole lane to avoid potholes, fight the wind and generally wobble about in. That's the safest way to overtake and better than most cars manage.
Very occasionally though, drivers seem to get a kick out of giving you a close call. That, or they just don't like cyclists for whatever reason. No one likes being held up by someone slow I guess.
So anyway, today's driver had the entire other side of the road to move into as nothing was coming in the other direction. There was also a 2ft wide shoulder that I could ride in meaning I wasn't in the road. This dick decided to skim as close to me as he could.
As I said, I saw him coming but it's still always gets the adrenalin pumping when a huge trailer follows behind. The whole time I could have reached out and touched it, with my elbow!!
I did my best with sign language to express my, err, dissapointment, but he just kept on driving.
Straight after this the road split into two. 1 route heading to the highway and the othe to a nice quiet road that I planned to take. With my adrenalin pumping I opted to follow the trucks route a short distance, just in case he was stopped at lights. In the distance I saw there was a truckstop and I saw the top of this truck pulling into it. Bingo I thought.
I headed over and by the time I arrived Mr Dickhead had left his truck, door ajar, and headed into the stop.
I circled his truck raging to myself not sure what to do. If this was Hollywood I would have had a shit in his glovebox, snapped a key in his ignition and shafted a banana in his exhaust.
Unfortunately this isn't Hollywood and I don't have balls big enough to do that. Had there not been lots of other truckers watching me circle I may have tried the banana, exhaust trick.
I didn't fancy walking into the truck stop either so instead I took the boring and most sensible option.
I took the number on the side of the lorry and called his boss to express what I thought of his driver.
Me - hi, just calling to let you know about the terrible dangerous driving of one of your trucks.
Boss - ok, where's your location.
Me - I'm near Marshall, your driver deliberately drove as close to me as possible, he was inches from hitting me. It's a disgrace. If he didn't do it deliberately he was texting or watching tv which is worse
Boss - I know who that is, I'm sure he wouldn't do it deliberately but I will speak to him.
Me - you have to understand how bad this driver is, I have ridden nearly 3,000 miles and your driver is the most dangerous I have come across.
Boss - wait, are you on a bicycle?
Me - yes, and I have never..
Boss - wow, and your riding across country?
Me - yes, it's a disgrace, he's the worst...
Boss - where did you start?
Me - San Francisco, and in all that time I ...
Boss - and your heading to the east coast? Wow
On the plus side though, got a couple more readers of the blog ;)
Ps. My intention was only ever to get a number from the truck. I'm not an idiot looking for a fight. I never did see the driver, but I'm pleased I alerted his boss. Maybe next time he gets a complaint he will be taken off the road.
A much better day today but nothing too exciting.
The roads have been very flat with zero difficult climbs. The flora has become very lush and green. I have seen no arrid, dry land recently. I also can't remember the last time I was more than 5 minutes ride from a house or building of some type. I'm missing the desolate stretches of Nevada and Kansas. It was certainly alot easier to find somewhere to go to for a leak.
I covered 57 miles in 4 hours 55 minutes, arriving at Kalamazoo just before 1pm. This gave me lots of time to re charge.
The weather was extremely humid (again) but at least a little overcast too, which helped my cause.
I was riding all day with a rainstorm looming behind me. I managed to keep it at bay until I was about 10 miles from my destination. From that point it (The rain) slowly and steadily got heavier and by the time I arrived I was pretty soaked.
It was actually a blessing in disguise because it was quite cooling and refreshing. It meant I could increase my pace of riding.
When it's this humid you just have to adopt a slow steady pace to avoid overheating. I think overheating has been my main problem on this trip since the end of June and into July.
My body has been operating on the edge of meltdown. I hope I become more accustomed to it by the time I start climbing the Appalachian mountains.
It turns out that I'm becoming quite a master bike mechanic. I was riding and my pedal was clicking with every revolution. It was really starting to wind me up. So I stopped the bike, unscrewed the pedal and stared at it. Then I span it in my hand and stared a bit more. Finally I gave it a shake and swung it in a circle.
Voila. After re attaching it, it was good as new. Clicking had disappeared.
I'm going to add bike mechanic to my skillset.
I woke up this morning to something running across my back. I did my best to locate and destroy but it was just too quick. It was a little reminder about where I was - I was up and out of the door fairly quickly after that.
It was not a good day on the bike. I was completely lacking in energy the whole time. In fact I was starting to wonder if there was something wrong with me.
I had already made the decision to only do a short day. At 27 miles though, it was possibly a record.
Despite feeling fine at the end of a long day yesterday, it was not my intention to ride 80 miles. Maybe today's lacklustre performance was just a big hangover from yesterdays shock to the system, having not exercised for 15 days prior. I'm not sure.
I set off at 8.30 but it still took me until 1pm to finish. I seemed to be stopping every 5 minutes. A very slow ride.
About 5 miles after setting off I crossed into my 2nd state in as many days and my 10th in total. Arriving in Michigan also meant I rode into my fourth timezone. I lost 1 hour straight away, making the ride seem longer than it was.
The new time zone also means I need to re adjust my body clock further if I want to beat the humidity and temperatures. It really would be good to set off between 6-7am every day.
From here my plan is to head to Detroit where I will cross the border into Canada. I will then follow the north edge of Lake Erie until I arrive at Niagra Falls and cross back into the USA.
After what feels like an absolute age I have finally gotten back on the saddle and ridden out of Chicago.
It was strange to be setting off again. I did not feel anywhere near as fit and healthy as when I arrived in the City. Still, I'm quite positive that after 3 or 4 days I will feel good and strong again.
I departed from downtown, so immediately started along the lakefront, sharing it with thousands of people who were on their way to work or getting an early morning fitness fix.
It was a beautiful start to the day - I pedalled as slowly as I could in order to take it all in. The high rise buildings, the boats in the harbour, clean waters, blue skies and sun etc all looked brilliant and I didn't want to leave it behind. Unfortunately, despite almost pedalling backwards, the sky line did get smaller and smaller. The number of runners and cyclists also steadily reduced.
I soon reached the suberbs and South Shore/South Side.
I was getting hungry and wondering where to stop for food. This is always more difficult in a City because you have to keep the bike very close by.
At some traffic lights I had a pretty standard interaction with someone on a motorbike. He asked if I was going cross country and what route?. I said yes and explained my start/end point etc. All pretty boring.
He seemed helpful so I asked if he knew somewhere I could stop to get some food. His response to me was - " well your right in the middle of the hood at the moment so I wouldn't stop riding if I were you. Keep going until you get to Indiana" (about 5/10 miles)
I was aware that south Chicago had a worse reputation but hadn't really worried too much about it until now. I already had any expensive looking Stuff (GPS) in my bag instead of on show but wasn't worried, just cautious. The streets I was riding hadn't felt threatening.
After this interaction however, things did start to get a bit more industrial. Derelict houses became more apparent etcetc. If anyone was watching my live track they may have noticed the dot start moving a bit faster.
I have to say 1 or 2 of the locals in this area seemed very friendly. In most cities people make you feel like you're not there. Here it was very obvious they knew you were there. They seemed to want to make eye contact but then when it was made, strangely, didn't follow it up with a smile/hello or nod. Instead their eyes just opened wider. Was this local custom for acknowledging a new friend? By the time I mulled over that question I was long gone - I may never work out the answer ;)
The majority of today's ride was along cycle paths. A more direct route along roads would have saved about 10 miles. However I opted for 'safer' more 'relaxed' riding away from cars etc. Despite this I still found a wreath and flowers on route heading through a park. I don't think it was a riding accident though.
Later I stumbled across a teenagers baseball match. I was getting hungry and noticed people were queuing for food so decided to head over to see if I could buy myself something.
Unfortunately it was not a public thing and was arranged by the baseball teams parents. They were not selling food but still would not let me leave without eating some burgers and watermelon :) I sat and talked - apparently the other team had not turned up so they had way too much food. It was really handy because I probably managed to eat the other teams share.
Further on I found probably the least picturesque bit of riding of the trip.
I ended up on a gravel track that dipped and weaved along the route of two sets of crackling electricity pylons and an old dissused railway track!! The moist humid air made me feel like I could be electrocuted at any point. Periodically the track would completely disappear under dark, murky water. It was wonderful.
I eventually reached Michigan City actually feeling pretty good physically. I had done about 70 miles but unfortunately everywhere was booked up or too expensive. I cycled around for nearly 10 extra miles until I found something.
My final mileage was 80.5 miles.
The only place I could find is an absolute dump. So far I have got them to change my room once and also collect the pile of rubbish sitting close to my front door. The tv is from the 70's, the aircon is a joke, the curtains are a colour I didn't know existed and the carpets are best appreciated with socks and shoes on. The bed is clean though otherwise I may have opted to sleep back in the hood.
At least I'm going to be keen to get going in the morning. :) :)
Indiana is my 9th state.