The Route So Far - Google Maps


View X-America by Bicycle in a larger map

Why?

We are doing this ride to raise money for Research Autism. We are aiming to raise £20,000.
We are supporting Research Autism because my cousin Jamie is severely affected by the disease, and I have seen its effects not only on him but on the whole family." He is 13yrs old, but cannot yet talk.
Just take a moment to imagine not being able to talk.
Imagine understanding everything going on around you, but not being able to comment.
Imagine having to be dressed every morning in clothes you don't choose, and then hurting your parents as you try to tell them you wanted the blue shirt today.
Imagine being swamped by having to hear everything that everyone is saying around you, and not being able to listen to just one thing at once. Jamie loves being in a swimming pool, just floating, legs held motionless by the weight of the water, while he keeps his ears underwater to just relax, hearing nothing.
He understands everything - he appears to have a photographic memory - but can’t get his thoughts out.
Frustration leads to despair, and anger, which is just one of the many things that his family has to deal with.
He has extremely specific eating requirements and requires round the clock supervision. Jamie is at the severe end of the autistic spectrum, but given that one in 100 people suffer from the disease (with varying severity), and that everyone has some autistic traits, it is shocking that so little is known about it'.
Click here to support our cause and donate to Research Autism.
Read the "Meet Jamie" post - the only post in February, for more information about Jamie, and a poem - painstakingly slow for Jamie to type, but ultimately incredible.

Photo Video - New York to St Louis

May 31, 2010

The Kindness Of Strangers

 

Along with liberal helpings of inch thick pancakes and eggs and bacon - your donations give us the motivation to keep going, so keep 'em coming! Spread the word.

5 burgers, 0 miles = Good Rest! Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. ~Mark Twain

Today was our first real rest day since the 4th April. We lay in till 8, then ate all the doughnuts at our hotel's breakfast, before retiring back to bed. We spent the morning sorting out laundry, and emailing, and working out where it will be best to go white-water rafting.

At 1 we went for lunch in Taco Bell, a mexican fast food chain. While munching on the burrito's we got chatting to Lynn and Eric, who started talking to us because we were both wearing our ride T-shirts - Big thank you to Serena and Johnny for the T-shirts! After some chatting about us and what we were doing, we left Taco Bell with a donation for autism and an invite to dinner!

At 4.30, after a lot more admin - we set off for barbecued burgers in a Chilli Sauce - with Pueblo Green Peppers - apparently a delicacy not to be missed while in Pueblo. It was amazing - great to have lots of well cooked home food, and even better to chat to a very nice family and their friends, about everything from Pueblo and its beautiful environs, to whether or not we have peanut butter and ketchup in England!

Huge Thank you to all of you - it was great to meet you.

Time for bed now - we will go up highway 50 tomorrow, through Canon city, towards Salida, dodging the Adventure Cycling maps in the hope of finding some White water rafting at Canon City (as well as avoiding a 5000ft climb - postponing the inevitable.)

We say good bye to Highway 96 tomorrow, a quiet highway which we have followed for 335 miles and many, many hours! Highway 96 was like an empty dance floor - flat and deserted, but with the potential for fun when you stop. Among those we have met along the way are someone who has lived at the South Pole for a year, an SAS sniper, and a man in a liquor store who said "No Kidding", and then burst out laughing more than 20 times in 10 minutes. We also had a car overtake us using the ditchside, not the road.

I am really looking forward to the scenic mountains of Western Colorado, however much snow we have to go through. I will bear in mind along the way that "Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.” as well as the old favourite in endurance sports - "Pain is weakness leaving the body!" - Tough climbs ahead, but the views should be worth it.
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Pueblo, CO

 


A rare photo of the two of us - some no hands skill required...

Day 35 Ordway to Pueblo, 55 miles, 1 burger, Alex's tire acting up. Total 3609kms, 82 burgers (29 days riding - average 76.7 miles per day)

As usual with days when we have a long time to do not very much, we did this 55 miles very slowly. We left the motel at 8 having eaten, and slowly moved our way into the wind and the heat (it was more than 30 degrees by 9).

We met two other cyclist's, who seemed extremely similar to us - they were going from San Francisco to Washington, in two months - having just finished college. They had come over the Rocky's the same way we are going, and it was great to hear from them what it was like. I am really looking forward to it, despite the 6000ft climb we are doing tomorrow morning. They said that they came through snow-storms, and boiling heat and that the scenery was amazing but that it really is "the loneliest road in america" there are some stretches with no services for 70 miles! Have a look at their blog - www.baa3000.blogspot.com - They cycled 170 miles in the day we saw them - in celebration of finally hitting the flats and making good use of the serious head winds we faced.

We carried on - having to stop every half hour or so to pump up Alex's tire which was constantly getting flats. We checked the tyre for thorns and spikes and found none - but no matter how many tubes we put in there, they kept going down. We decided just to keep pumping and limp in. Thank you so much to Tom for the pump he gave us - we had to throw out our pumps in St Louis, as neither had survived the first third of our trip (don't buy a Topeak Mini morph pump).

We got to Pueblo just after 1.30, and went straight to a mexican restaurant. The mexican restaurants in Pueblo are special. We didn't want to go straight to the much needed bike shop, as we knew neither of us were thinking straight - too much heat and not enough food.

After our taco's and burrito's, we went to The Great Divide bike shop - who helped us a lot - they taught us how to fix gear cables, and we bought a spare in case Alex's gives out too. They also managed to fix Alex's tire, and he has brought a special heavy puncture resistant tube because the tires are beginning to wear out after being ridden on for more the 2500 miles. This means it is likely that we will get more punctures. If you would like to add to the donation of 5 pounds a puncture the Morton's have sponsored, send me an email. We also bought extra spare spokes - we don't think that there will be very many places to get them in the next 1000 miles.

Our Couchsurfing efforts didn't come through, there was a lot of confusion and we ended up checking into a motel that gave us a good rate. We went all out at supper and got a whole load of beer and beef to celebrate being done with nothingness!

Kansas was hot and windy and mostly flat (although do not tell someone from Kansas it is flat - they celebrate every molehill - we often got told about the "serious" hill's we would come to in western kansas - lies). The nice thing was that Kansas was also very green. There are consistent storms from the mountains, and this has been a rainy year. It is flat and monotonous, but would have been a whole lot worse had it been dusty and dirty and brown.

Eastern Colorado was much like Kansas, just slightly more desert like - the soils were sandier, which meant vegetation was courser - spindly and hard - drought-resistant. It was a remarkable change, one of many along the way. I think it is because Eastern Colorado is in the rainshadow of the rocky's: getting only 25 inches of rain a year, compared to the 40 inches a year in western kansas, and the 60 inches a year in Kansas city. (To put it in perspective London and Nairobi both average 40 inches a year).
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Pueblo, CO

Total Miles: 2250 Total miles to go: 1550

Yesterday no blog, quite simply because we were both shattered and after visiting a local Irish pub and sampling the local ale, we came back and straight to bed! Unfortunately we were actually supposed to be couch surfing, however that fell through so we have stayed the last 2 nights in a motel. Yesterday we covered the final 50 miles into pueblo without too much problem, but we were also lucky enough to run into some more TransAm Cyclists. To put it simply they were us but coming the other way! Very similar in lots of respects. They were doing the trip after graduating from college, were taking 2 months and were pretty much half way like we were and were very much novice tourers just like us! So we had a great time chatting to them for a bit. We wish them all the best for the rest of their trip. You can check out their blog at www.baa3000.blogspot.com. Arriving in pueblo not much after lunchtime we spend lots of time in the bike shop, will getting his gear cable replaced and i sorting out the root of my series of slow punctures that i have been having.

Today was really the first day in the whole trip where we had basically the whole day to relax and sort all sorts of bit and bobs out. I spent pretty the whole morning trying to sort out my student loan, and as you can imagine trying to deal with that out of the country is a bit of a nightmare. Looking at the route for the next few days, not to mention the next few weeks looks like it will be really amazing. Great gorges, breathtaking views perhaps a bit of whitewater rafting. Although the Rockies will be a bit hilly, i think we are both really looking forward to the next stretch of our trip. It will be a stark contrast to the flatness of Kansas and western Colorado. Whilst having lunch in a 'Taco Bell', a kind lady approached us to inquire into what we were doing. 15 minutes later, we had another donation and a dinner invite! So we headed over to Lynn's for a Pueblo special of 'sloppers': burgers covered in a hot chilli sauce....Yum. We had a great dinner and were made to feel most welcome. Would we be invited such generosity by a strangers and invited home for dinner in the uk...not so sure we would!
Yey Colorado
Pueblo-A common stop over city for transam cyclists


video
No more of this nothingness!

May 29, 2010

Ordway, CO

Sheridan Lake, CO to Ordway, CO 90 miles, 1 snapped gear cable, 2 more burgers, temperature high - 98 fahrenheit, 37 celsius, total 3534kms, 81 burgers

We were woken up at 5.10 by an awesome sunrise and left by 6. We were making good time, when my gear cable snapped - after this, we made better time for the first 3 miles - I couldn't slow down, it was stuck in the highest gear, and I didn't want to stop as I knew it would be tough to get going again. I worked out what I needed to do to make it work till Pueblo, and changed the limits on the gears so that the chain was stuck somewhere near the middle, not right down at the bottom. This means that I have 3 gears to get me to Pueblo! We will get the cable fixed in Pueblo, and buy a spare because if mine is broken, it is highly likely that Alex's is about to break too.

At 6.15 in the morning we had what is definitely a highlight - but only through its oddness - we were cycling along casually, using up a little bit of the road, when a car came and piled into the ditch alongside us, before rising back out of the ditch onto the road in front of us, and speeding away.

We cruised the first 25 miles, limped the next 24 - it was getting hot and the wind wasn't helping. We then used the time we had gained by starting so early, and relaxed at the service station in Haswell for a couple of hours. The 20 miles after Haswell were tough - it was hot, and we were tired. But then a huge storm came, threatening to completely soak us/tornado/hail, which made us speed up dramatically, and cooled everything down - the clouds blocked out the sun.

We spent the night at the Hotel Ordway - which has a special rate for cyclists, because so many come through. Off to Pueblo today - 50 miles, hopefully with slightly cooler weather.

First day in Colorado

This morning we set off really early before 6, waking up with an amazing sunrise at 5:10. Our aim was to do 90 miles today, so we would be left with only 50 to do tomorrow to Pueblo. Riding early was great, even though a little chilly at first. We covered 28 miles and had some breakfast and were away by 9:30. (Will early on snapped a deraileur wire, so lost use of his rear gears, so he will ride the rest of ride to pueblo, where we will get it fixed on 3 gears rather than 27!) Getting some miles in early was a good idea as it started to heat up. By the time we came into the small town of Haswell, it must have been approaching the high 30's. Due to the early start, this afforded us the luxury of being able to spend a few hours, during the hottest part of the day in a gas station relaxing under the shade. Reluctantly we set off with a further 40 to do until our final destination of ordwell. This 49 miles was slow, mainly due to the heat and a small wind which wasn't really in our favour. So far i can say Eastern Colorado is essentially the same as Kansas; there is a whole lot of nothing. However i thing things are going to change dramatically after Pueblo; mountains will provide a dramatic change of scene.

tomorrow only 50 miles so should be a far easier day.

May 28, 2010

Sheridan Lake, COLORADO

Scott City, KS - Sheridan Lake, CO: 78 miles, 6.5 hours, 1 slow puncture. NEW STATE - Colorado Totals - 3377kms, 1 more burger, 14 States, 4 punctures. Time Change, back one more hour.

After a hearty breakfast courtesy of Marcia and Craig, a great ending to a fun time with them, we set off to the west. The wind in the early morning started from the east but by the time we got going at around 10, it was turning into a southerly wind, blowing across us. We weren't helped much by the wind, but 78 miles is easy following the bigger days we have been pulling off recently. Kansas has a reputation for being hot and windy, and it didn't disappoint. Eastern Colorado seems to be not much better, so we are planning on waking at 5 tomorrow, to get a few hours in before the wind starts, and the heat comes.

We split the day into three, as is becoming habit, 30 miles is about right for a proper break, with a small one at 15miles. The middle third was toughest today - as I have already mentioned, it is hot and windy, and it is hottest and windiest in the early afternoon. Riding with a cross wind is tough, you have to constantly lean into the wind, and lorries blow you about, oncoming ones stop us in our tracks, and trucks going our way pull us along, but suck us out into the middle of the road - which is not great when more traffic is coming. Luckily, there traffic is sparse, and for the last third of the day, between Tribune KS and Sheridan Lake was great - we took it easy, and spirits lifted by the border sign (finally leaving Kansas behind!) Alex rigged up his IPod with the speakers, and we pedalled along happily to the tune of "Sweet Home Alabama".

We are now bedded down by Sheridan Lake, set for a 5.30 wake up tomorrow, and we'll end up where we are when it gets dark, having probably taken a rest to avoid the midday heat and wind.

May 27, 2010

First Tuesday, then Wednesday - No Wifi in Kansas.

Tuesday 25th May - McPherson - Rush Centre 95 miles, 3 burgers, 1 spoke - 11 spokes, 3108kms, 31 days, 78 burgers

Today was a day easily divided in thirds. We did 95 miles, 3 sets of 30ish. First, after leaving Courtney and Dave's at 10 - refreshed and relaxed after a good meal, shower and sleep - we got to the town of Lyons - passing the 3000km milestone on main street. Shortly afterwards I broke yet another spoke, but decided to fix it in Great Bend 30 miles on. We ate lunch in Dairy Queen in Lyons - branching out our fast food tasting mission - then cycled to Golden Bike Shop in Great Bend (named as it comes at a big junction, and highway 56's only bend in Kansas). Here we fixed our spoke, and had a load of help from the owner, concerning gears and chains and bicycling Kansas.

We then embarked on the final third of our trip - leaving Great Bend late, after a KFC buffet. We got to Rush Center at 8.40, and went straight to the liquor store to find a spot to camp and something to celebrate our cycling efforts with. Great, peaceful campsite, near the highway (peaceful highway). Until 11 o Clock that is, when, as we started to sleep - the tent started collapsing on Alex's head because of the high winds. The rain meant that quick fixes with extra ropes, and sticks as pegs were out of the question (the tent only comes with minimal pegs - and as such is "not suitable for severe weather"). This weather was certainly severe. Hail the size of golfballs was falling 20 miles north of us, and the lightning was sharp and widespread. We decided to leap out, take all the pegs out, and drag the tent to the other side of the park we were camping in - to be in the lee of a big warehouse 50m away. Now 50m could be done in 5 secs by Usain Bolt on a clear day, but for a night time race in "adverse" weather conditions dragging a tent against the wind with a sandpit and a tap as an obstacle - I think we set a record. I was back in the tent, in my sleeping bag, all pegs back in, and kit back under cover (second trip) within a minute.

In the process of moving, we ripped a small hole in the bottom of the tent, which meant that I used the mattress donated to me by a rider on "the ride for world health" (see leitchfield, KY post) to lift me out of the wet on the floor! The rain came down pretty hard for 6 hours, which meant the ground was not dry. But, I have now fixed the hole, so we are ready to brave whatever Colorado has to throw at us. Hopefully we won't get snow in the Rocky's.
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Wednesday 26th May - Rush Centre - Scott City, 88 miles, 4 burgers - 3250kms, 32 days, 82 burgers

Averages - per day - 102kms, per cycling day - 125kms/78miles, burgers each per day - 1.2, 1 spoke every 3 days.

I woke up at 5.30 (as you do in a tent when the last thing you thought before you went to sleep was "will I be dry in the morning?") and took a peek outside from the safety of my sleeping bag. It was still raining! I made an executive decision not to go ahead with plan A to leave at 6, and rolled over for another couple of hours. At about plan H we decided it was time to get up, and ended up leacing Rush Centre at 10. In the calm aftermath of the storm we made good time - it was cool, clear and not windy. We divided today up into thirds as well, because it worked so well yesterday (and because there is only water every 30 miles) so we arrived in Ness City for Lunch at 12.30. For breakfast we had finished off most of KFC's buffet from yesterday - smuggled out of the restaurant in an inconspicuous big red box.

Another 31 miles took us to Dighton, where we had supper/tea, and a quick 24 miles later took us to Marcia's in Scott City. We covered the 140kms in just over 6 hours, crusing along with East winds helping us on our way. Apparently extremely unusual to have east winds, but suits us just fine. They should continue into tomorrow, and we will make a decision whether to do 75 miles to Sheridan Lake, or 100 miles to EADS, when we get to Sheridan. It would be great to make the most of the East Winds, but 100 miles is a long way anyday, and there is nowhere in between in case we don't make EADS - we'll see how we go.

As I said in my update - wifi is sparse, corn is abundant, and "nothingness" stretches forever. This is a pretty apt description of Kansas - one of the things that has kept me going is the mile markers on the left hand side of the road - every mile there is a number on a little green sign, we started in Kansas City on 421 miles, and 4 days later we are on 53, so we haven't done badly - we have covered the last 700 miles in 9 days from St Louis at 85 miles per riding day, with one rest day. The monotony has brought my "no-hands" skills to a new level, I have cycled 5 continuous kms! - I only stopped because that too got boring - I can also take my raincoat out of my panniers and put it on and take it off. But, all this is tiring, and plenty of miles still to go - we passed the halfway mark yesterday - so another 3000 kms, of deserts and mountains, time to sleep ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

There ain't much in kansas!

Yesterday we set off at around 10 having had a quite superb nights sleep after riding 108 miles the previous day. We cycled from Mcpherson to a very small town (population less than 30 me thinks), which was a total of 95 miles. However the winds had shifted in our favour so although not quite a tail wind, it certainly didnt hinder our progress like the previous day. Just before lunch Will broke another spoke (what else would it be!?). Luckily enough there was a bike shop where we had lunch, so we visited yet another bike shop. We have become more and more adept at fixing our own problems, so without the help of a mechanic Will fixed his spoke and we both did a little service on each of our bikes. Now we can do basic mechanics on the bikes, it saves us a minimum of $15 every time we get a problem on the bikes. Will and I were completly unaware that spokes could cause us this much issue. Never ever had a problem with them before the trip, so a slight shock to the system. I think that we can conclude that, in fact, although the bikes as a whole are good bikes; Evans cycles(who we bought the bikes from), were slightly cheeky. They had obviously changed a few bits and bobs on the bikes before they sold them to us to save them a few! So they must have changed the spokes that were originally made with the bike and replaced them with far less sturdy ones(we think they did this with the hub and pedals' as well). Anyway with the spoke fixed we forged on and reached our destination at around 8:30. We set up camp on a very small park area, which was a really nice spot. We got a couple of beers and drank tham as the sun set whilst listening to some music....great end to the day. 30 mins later as we settled down to bed the weather took a turn for the worse, the wind really picked up and heavy rain started. The tent didnt like the wind at all, so we were forced, in the dark and in the rain, to move the tent next to a building for some wind shelter. An 'interesting experience' i will say. In the process of moving the tent we also ripped the bottom of it, only a small tear, but annoying nonetheless.

Today we set out for scott city, 88 miles away. To be honest there isnt really much news from today, as we saw very little apart from fields of corn and lots of flat land for miles around. People warned us that there isnt much to see out here, and they were right. It would be a lie to say it is boring but there is hint of monotony about kansas. Towns are at least 30 miles apart and often there are very little services in them. A few times today it did feel as though we were on the of the edge of the earth, as in front of us we could only see flat road, as far as the eye can see. However it is very peaceful out here, which is a nice change from busy roads, no more than 30 cars an hour pass us. Tonight we are residing with some friends of Tony and Stacey, who we stayed with in Kansas city. Tomorrow we may just get into Colorado, but it depends on the winds. We have 215 miles to pueblo where we will have a rest day. This might be two long days or three shortish ones, but we will see.

Safe in Scott City, KS

Much more to follow - but just a quick update - we have cycled 188 miles in the last two days to get from McPherson to Scott City. A hectic night last night in a storm, but tonight we get beds courtesy of another friend of Tony's - Marcia - which will be great!

Wifi is sparse, Corn is abundant, and 'nothingness' stretches forever! It is not flat, but gradually uphill, which would not be fun if the wind wasn't being extremely helpful and blowing from the East.

More news to come, many stories to share.

May 25, 2010

Kansas City - McPherson KS - 190 miles, 2 days

 

2950kms, Burgers 75, days 30 (Riding days 24 - average 122kms - 76 miles/day).

Pizza Hut - Osage City, Kansas
70 miles so far today, we left Kansas city late this morning, after our last Bob Evans Breakfast! - Bob Evans is a chain of Breakfast shops, and we were lucky enough to be given a gift voucher by the manager of one in Owensboro, Indiana. We had to use up the voucher by the time we left Kansas City because there are no stores west of Kansas City. The breakfast was great, and it was a good ending to a fun time with Tony and Stacy, who we have been staying with.
We have managed 70 miles as I write this at 6.30 sitting waiting for my massive pizza in Pizza Hut. They have a special deal - you can have any size pizza, with any extra toppings all for $10. We have gone all out on this, and apparently our pizza has to be cooked twice because it has so much stuff on it. Looking forward to it.
We will carry on until it gets dark, getting as far as we can before putting up our tent in a quiet spot. We plan to wake up at 6 tomorrow, because it is so much nicer riding early in the day: it has been around 30 degrees for most of today.

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We camped last night in a random field - and got almost every bit of stealth camping wrong. We left the road at 8.15 - as it was getting dark, but still too early - it only got completely dark at 9. We tried to keep heading in towards the tree's, and ended up by a swamp with no place to set our tent - then, Alex remembered Tom's warning about Poison Ivy - possibly slightly too late - it was all around us... Not sure if we've been stung, but will let you know if everything starts hurting. We then just chucked the tent up in an Ivy free spot, and hopped in very fast, so that the swamp's vibrant insect life didn't disturb us any more.

As we were going to bed, a coyote started howling very near at hand - with little ones yapping away - so Alex quickly stuck the leftovers from our huge pizza in thedry bag and hung it up.

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We set off at 6.45 this morning, and managed 22 miles by breakfast at 9. This has been our earliest start by a long way, and made a good start to what was to be our longest day so far. We were headed to McPherson, KS, where we are being put up by Courtney and Dave, friends of Tony and Stacy. Our plans to do a 105miles in a day took a hit when we only managed 18 miles in 3 hours after breakfast. This was because of huge headwinds when going south, gusting at 30 mph. In the midst of these, my only hopes were of Kansas reverting to a sea, and my bike changing to my Laser (sailing boat) - it was tough. We then ran out of water, and when we eventually found a spot to fill them up - found a WW2 Vet with an antiques store, who very kindly gave us water and a free book. The Water wasn't drinkable however - too much sulphur, so we searched and searched along the route - looking in all the cow trough's for taps, until we finally found one in a deserted farmhouse.

We eventually rolled into McPherson at quarter to 8 after some late afternoon lunch, and some helpful winds later in the day.
We plan on heading to Scott City for Wednesday, we aren't sure where we'll end up tomorrow. Wifi is sparse, but cows are abundant - the plains of Kansas look just like a much bigger version of the Maasai Mara, with Black Angus Cows instead of Buffalo, and pick-up trucks instead of Mini-vans. Very tired, 108 miles (as it turned out) is not a small feat, and it took us 9 hours of riding time to complete - which means that now I have been awake for 18 hours, therefore - bedtime.

We are on track - tomorrow we should pass the line marking the centre of America. (not an actual line - but a few cities claim to be right in the middle, and we will pass close to them.)

O' so windy

Today was our longest day by at least 10 miles. We actually ended up doing 108 miles, over a period of 14 hours and over 9 hours of riding time.

Just to fill you in on yesterday, we covered 85 miles and as towns/services are getting few and far between, last night was the first time we stealth camped. We found a field and set up our tent...simple as that. It was however a very hot and humid night, so not the most comfortable sleep. Anyway, this morning we decided to take a bold step and get up at 6, so that we could ride the long distance of over 100 miles to Macpherson, KS, all in the light. It has to be said riding at 7 is very nice. It is cool and pleasant and the traffic levels are low. After breakfast, at roughly 10am , we were really hit hard by the wind, and i mean really hard. The wind was coming from a south westerly direction, and for over 3 hours we were heading straight into it. To put it into perspective we covered 20 miles a shade under 3 hours, so working really hard and moving at half our normal speed. In addition to this we really did not anticipate how sparse the landscape is. No services for about 50-60 miles indicates this. So there were a couple of times where we were very low on water and food.

Due to the lack of towns, we eventually lunched at 4pm, having covered 80 miles. Luckily the winds shifted slightly in the afternoon, so it was no where near as hard as some of the morning. The last 20 odd miles were not too hard, however after 100 miles and 9 hours of riding the mind is tired the legs are tired and my knees are sore! But(a big but) 108 miles is a very long way and it is a good chunk closer to our final goal. This evening we are staying with some friends of friends, so a nice welcome after a very long day.
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May 23, 2010

Rest day in Kansas City

After a tough day yesterday we relished a day off. Kansas city can probably be considered the last reasonable city, going west, for quite a way. Planning the route today, it was obvious that soon we will have to plan ahead carefully in terms of taking extra provisions and water. Civilisation(along with water) really seems to dry up! Things like MacDonald's wifi may become a bit of a rarity, so our blogging may become sporadic. Western kansas is known for long flat stretches of nothing and only corn fields to keep us company.

Earlier today, after a really nice lie we headed out for a nice Mexican lunch and explored a local market. Although we are mostly 'out of touch' in terms of what is going on at home sporting and news wise, we were lucky enough to watch the champions league final today, which especially for my self is a 'must watch' game of the year, so it was nice to do that!

We will now do 560 miles to Pueblo, Colorado, in 7 days. That averages at around 90 miles a day so it will be a tough week, but we will cover lots of miles.

Rest Day Number 6

Rest day's are much needed breaks to cycling, giving our muscles a chance to recuperate, and our minds a chance to rest before we have to start thinking about where to eat, where to sleep and which roads to ride on once again.

We have been lucky enough to stay these last two nights with Tony and Stacy in Kansas City, seeing the sights, eating good food, and resting. Thank you very much to them for putting us up.

We will now set off to Pueblo in Colorado, 580miles, in the next 7 days.

May 22, 2010

Kansas City, KS

78 miles, New State - Kansas Total: 2634kms 22 days riding, 27 days total. 69 burgers. States: 13

Missouri was meant to be flat. But, one thing that is very dangerous to have is expectations that things will be easy - if you think it will be flat, it never is. We rode the first 35 miles with Geoff and Alon who we met yesterday - www.bikeintothewind.com - This meant slip-streaming with a line of 4 people, which meant that even into the wind, our average speed was above 22kph - despite hills and headwinds. But this great progress got held up for a while as we waited for Alon to fix a puncture, which he did... 3 tubes, 2 tires and 90 mins later, we were on the road again, Alon cursing his bad luck. Some more speedy slipstreaming took us to Lone Jack for pancakes, egg and bacon for lunch. Then we parted ways, they headed towards downtown Kansas City, while we headed west - skirting the southern border of Kansas City, aiming for the southwest corner - Olathe.

We are staying tonight with Stacy and Tony, Thank you very much to Ben, Leslie and Teresa for helping us work it out, and thank you to Stacy and Tony for hosting us.

We plan on taking a rest day in Kansas city before heading out across nothing for 600 miles. We have covered 80 miles each of the last three days, at record speeds, so our legs definitely deserve a rest.

May 21, 2010

Change of Plan

Between the tornado sirens, the torrential rain (flooding) and the lightning, we came to the decision (an obvious deduction some may say) that camping was not sensible. We are now in an Econolodge, staying with the two cyclists we met along the way.

Tornado!

This morning the previous days rain had cleared, and although slightly cold it was pleasant enough. I think that today was the first time we were properly aided by a tailwind. Our progress was swift, not only due to the wind, but also we were on just one road for a long stretch which solved our problems of navigation but it was also a good surface quality. At one stage we covered 24 miles in less than one hour and twenty mins(very quick for us).

This afternoon we met some more x-america cyclists! (on two wheels this time) They started out in Phili and have followed a route similar to us. We cycled the last 20 miles or so together into Knob Noster. It started to pour as we approached our destination. Things did start to get exciting when a tornado warning went out as we sat in MacDonald's together! Alas, there was no real wind to be seen(as we all watched excitingly out of the window, expecting to see cars and people flying around outside....bit of a let down really).

Tomorrow we will get to Kansas city, where we will decide whether to have a rest day there, or just press on into Kansas.

Tailwind!

 


Jefferson City to Knob Noster - 85 miles. 69 burgers, 21 days riding - 26 days

The picture is of me riding down the corridor to our room in the motel - it is a mission pushing loaded bikes, so much easier to roll!

There is a massive storm system over us (and three other states) which means we've had lightning, rain, thunder and even tornado sirens. But we are dry and warm, and have just filled up in McDonalds.

We had the fastest average speed of all our days today by quite a way - averaging just over 25kph - helped by the wind. Our aim of California and San Francisco seems closer than it is, in the Motel last night the soap was made by the San Francisco soap company, and today we went through the town of California. We will camp tonight in the state park at Knob Noster, with two other cross-country cyclists: www.bikeintothewind.com.

Tomorrow, off to Kansas City.
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May 20, 2010

Into the storm

 


142kms, 1 broken spoke, NEW TOP SPEED - 76.6kph/ 47.5mph Totals: 2373kms, 9 broken spokes, 61 burgers.

Today, we left the Katy Trial, away from the flat calm paths with no cars, up to the hills and busy roads. We cycled the first 20 miles of the day along the trail, before crossing the Missouri river into Hermann. Unfortunately this is where we broke our 9th spoke - my fourth. Luckily it didn't stop us for long, and we still managed 85 miles in the day.

The last bit of the day was seriously hilly - steep short sharp hills - tough on the legs, but great downhills. I clocked 47.5mph down one hill - the speed limit was 35mph... Awesome. But then the rain came. They expect 1.5inches to fall on this area in the next day and a half - with flood warnings all over. We treated ourselves to a motel this evening to keep morale high, cycling in the rain is not much fun, and camping in the rain would not have been a good rest!

We will now follow highway 50 for almost all of the next 500 miles, going through Kansas City into Kansas on Friday.
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More spoke issues -May 18th

1 broken spoke, 53 miles - totals: 61 burgers, 8 broken spokes, 12 states, 2230kms

I was right when I said that starting again after our long break would be tough - we only set off after many hours of sorting, and a great breakfast (again many thanks to Tom) at 11.20am. We made it a mile and a half, before exactly the same thing as had happened to Alex, happened to me. We thought that it would be good to have the same bikes because our problems will be the same, and they have been - but the problem is that whenever we get one problem, we are almost guaranteed to get two. Another bit of copycat problems came this morning - both of our pumps are broken - after not much use. Luckily Tom had a spare and very good one, which we hope will treat us well for the rest of the trip.

My chain got caught in the wheel, which ripped up my spokes - as happened to Alex last week, and one spoke even broke on the impact. We limped back to the bike shop that had rebuilt Alex's wheel (twice) - Big Shark Bicycles of St Louis - and asked them very nicely if they would do the same to mine! Luckily they weren't busy, and they fixed my wheel while we enjoyed a reviving hot chocolate from Starbucks. Apparently the problem came because the derailleur may have been bent a bit which puts the gears out of line so we sorted that out too. We eventually set off again at 2.20pm, 3 hours later after a quick check back at the house to see if Alex's parcel had arrived (it hadn't).

We then cycled 15 miles up to the Katy Trail before heading west along it - along the banks of the Missouri River. The Katy Trail is a converted railroad - that has had tightly packed, small gravel poured over it. Many thanks to Megan who helped us find it - it made the start of today a lot easier than it could have been - tired and wet and frustrated as we were. We were tired and frustrated by having to fix bikes, and wet because of the flooding we had to go through to get to the Katy Trail - where all others turned back, we had no option but to plough through a deep section of flooding - having a great time in the process, but soaking everything below the level of a foot and a half.

We then had a casual 35 miles up to Marthasville on the trail, going at a decent pace, and arriving at just after 7. We are now camped beside a baseball pitch where there has been a competition all evening - the annoying thing is that we haven't yet got to sleep - the floodlights are still on.

Pedalo out of St Louis

It has been a while since my last blog, so there is much to tell! We had a great few days in St Louis, watching a baseball game, going up the gateway arch(195 meters high), but best of all eating non-junk food and having a really good rest. I must thank Tom, Will's Uncle in law, who was so kind to look after us and take us around. I got my bike properly fixed (only after it was fixed the first time, but then broke again as i rode away from the shop and i had to walk a mile or so back to the shop with the bike on my back!)

Yesterday started out as a bit of a disaster, as about 300m from the house Will's chain popped off, just like mine did which has caused all my problems, and completely screwed up the back wheel, breaking lots of spokes in the process. So back to the bike shop we went. It appears all of our chain/spoke problems occur as a result of having a bent derailleur. After a lengthy wait whilst Will's wheel was fixed, we finally set off, away from St Louis at about 2pm.


There has been a lot of rain in the past few days, so there were a few interesting moments(as my title would suggest) where we were at least in a foot of water on the cycle path. Very Amusing. Anyway having pioneered a new water sport of 'water biking', we crossed the Missouri River and cycled roughly 45 miles on the 'Katy trail', which was like riding down a toe path....no cars, completely flat, great weather = perfect. We arrived to our camping spot quite late as a result of the delay in the morning, which was situated next to a baseball pitch, where a game was occurring. All i can say is that cricket is definitely a far better game!

Today we set off nice and early with the intention of riding 85 miles to Jefferson city, Missouri. The 25 miles we did on the Katy trail passed quickly and we turned off the trail back onto the roads. As we came into Hermann at roughly 12 another spoke problem! ANOTHER spoke broke on Will's rear wheel. We were lucky that in Hermann there was a bike shop, so we got it mended quickly. In the morning we set out into glorious sunshine but the weather turned dramatically in the afternoon. Rain and lots of it. Nevertheless we have reached Jefferson city and have treated ourselves to a motel. Setting up a tent in the pouring rain, already soaking wet surprisingly did not appeal! We have got just over 140 miles to Kansas city which we hope to reach in two days time, so not too a hard day tomorrow. Total miles done=1462.


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May 18, 2010

Wake up time.

Coming to the end of any break is tough, be it a 5 minute coffee break at work, a half term break from school, or a 3 month break from exercise. We are reaching the end of a 3-day break from cycling 75 miles a day - its tough! The knowledge that we have to cycle 75 miles tomorrow is ok - its what we are here to do, but the issue is that we also have to pack up all our kit - when we get comfortable in a place kit spreads out all over everything! We also have to plot the finer bits of our route - we have the general plans, but there are a couple of issues with flooding from the Mississippi river and the Missouri river that we will have to divert round.

I fixed the spoke that I broke 10m from the house on Friday, and Alex had a whole new set of spokes put in, twice. He has also spent time making a video of our photo's so far,
- viewable at this youtube link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4He1nognvU

In the mean time, I sorted places to stay and the route to take. We will be going west along the Katy Trail, before heading to Kansas City. From Kansas City we will continue westwards gradually climbing off the plains into the Rocky Mountains at Pueblo in Colorado. If you know anyone on the way who would be happy to have two tired slightly crazy cyclists, send us an email!

Wake up time is in 7 hours, we had a late night, because we managed to squeeze in a baseball game which was great! The St Louis Cardinals thumped the Washington Nats, thank you very much to Tom for taking us.

May 15, 2010

St Louis, Missouri

Nashville, IL to St Louis, MO – 65 miles, 2 broken spokes (1W, 1A) 1 Fall, 3 burgers, New State = Missouri. Totals – 3 punctures, 7 broken spokes, 3 falls, 51 burgers, 2136km, 12 states. 20 days – 18 riding.

Today was long. Although 65 miles is well below our average per riding day of 75 miles, the tough bit today was knowing we had a really long time to do it in – which means that “why not stop for just a little while!?” is a very hard question to say no to! We are also mentally drained – I haven’t worked for 18 out of 20 days since the Christmas rush at Black Mountains Smokery - www.smoked-foods.co.uk – check it out – good food, delivered to your door anywhere in the UK. I think that we would have been in danger of really mucking up in the traffic later on in the day, had I not taken a tumble early on in the day.

Now falling off a bike is not perfect – the aim is to keep riding. But nevertheless, there is such a thing as a perfect fall. Today I managed to do a perfect fall. After 2hrs and 25 minutes of riding, your body has just gone into autopilot, your mind is relaxed. A bit too relaxed in my case – A gust of wind took my front tire into Alex’s back left pannier and pinned me there. Soon after – and I’m not clear how - I was somersaulting down a grassy verge on the right side of the road, my bike having flipped to a standstill. The perfect part of the fall, is that it took up no extra time – serving as a more dramatic way to stop for a loo break, it didn’t injure me or the bike, and it acted as a wake-up call that cycling is dangerous if you switch off. Although I have already ploughed through a couple of ditches on this trip – this is my first fall, the other times I stayed on my bike which means that Alex is winning the falls category and the puncture category 2-1, and the spokes category 5–2.

On arrival in St Louis, we went to the bike shop, after a quick visit to hold up the Arch; a huge monument, the biggest in America. We left Alex’s bike with the bike shop, for them to rebuild his wheel. I then rode on, to my uncle’s house where we will stay until Tuesday. Last week we shunted a rest day forward – so that we could wait long enough in St Louis to get Alex’s tire fixed. This made us more tired last week but means that I now don’t have to put on my Lycra shorts or get on a bike for the next 3 days – a thing you would also enjoy – after 2000kms of riding and 18 days of Lycra.

Time to relax, and read, and watch 20/20 cricket! But, we must also fix my spoke and plot the route up to Pueblo, Colorado.

 



As a side note – the picture is of a big red plane that we found hanging in the only cafe in a small town called Belle Rive. It has only 200 people, and the cafe doubles as the shop. It was a classic. To set the scene, imagine this: A pump action shotgun lying on the customer side of the counter, ready for action, a deer rifle by the till, and a massive bow and arrow (“take out a deer at 200 yards”) on the shelf. It is run by a husband and wife team - and they are not at all business minded - it was marked closed outside, and they would have a look outside at the few people who came past, and select even fewer to let in! On hearing of our mission, they plied us with chocolate bars and water, and told us stories of how dangerous the roads were. But, to me, the most interesting thing was the model aeroplanes hanging above us. My dad has always had a soft spot for model aeroplanes, which means that I take an interest, but these ones were so big one could not fail to see them. When I asked about them, the owner said that they all flew, they were remote control planes made by a local lad, crafted in wood and powered by the engines of old lawnmowers. Truly awesome machines. The plate is a standard size, which I made Alex lift up to give you a scale.

Finally arrived in St Louis!


The last day before a rest day, especially a 3 day break, is always going to be tough. Not because the terrain or we are really tired but mainly because we have the knowledge that come the end of the day, we have a nice comfy bed and we can get out of the cycling shorts and stay out of them!(for a little while at least)

So the morning went very slowly. It was one of those moments where i thought that the odometer was going to start clocking back the miles. Anyway we did stop for a spot of lunch at an 'Arbys', where we got given another donation and someone wanted our photo taken with them, which is always nice.

As soon as we reached the outskirts of the city, the ride became far more pleasurable, as we saw the huge gateway arch of St Louis approaching(195 metres tall and wide). As we crossed over the Mississippi, also crossing the state line into Missouri we went over Eads bridge, which was the first bridge to use steel as its primary structural material(a little fun fact for the day). We took some great photos next to the arch and then headed over to the bike shop. I have left my bike there over the weekend so hopefully come Monday it will be all sorted and one less thing to have to worry about. Tom, Will's aunt's husband, has kindly offered to let us stay with him over the next few days. Will an I were discussing today, how actually, we are probably more mentally tired than physically, as we are constantly having to think about our next move: directions, where to eat/drink, where to stay, maintenance of the bikes, looking out for cars...all sorts of things. So it will be really nice over the next few days to give our brains a good rest too!

May 14, 2010

Nashville,IL

Today we didnt have the greatest of starts. We set off after a slow morning, and after roughly a mile i broke another spoke. This is not a surprise, but just really frustrating nonetheless. We found a garage to borrow a wrench and set about trying to fix the wheel. This was our first time fixing a spoke on our own, so it was a true example definition of 'learning on the job'. Even after fixing the spoke the wheel was still wobbling all over the place (a sign that the wheel is not true). It was another reminder of how badly the wheel needs a proper servicing and a new set of spokes. After a lot of fiddling around(loosening and tightening of the spokes)eventually i got the wheel running slightly better, but still not perfect. After all of this we properly set off around 1:30.

After such late start we hoped only to reach Nashville, IL, which was about 50 miles away. There was a slight headwind, but we did the miles fairly quickly, in the process passing the 2000 km mark. About 1 mile away from Nashville i broke yet another spoke. I think i will just brave it until St Louis, which is only 60 miles away. I cannot wait to get there not only to have a much needed rest but also so i can stop worrying about my wheel, which is only causing me anguish! An eraly start tomorrow so we can have as much time in St Louis as possible.
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Nashville, IL

 


McLeansboro – Nashville, IL – 55miles, 2 broken spokes, 5 burgers. Totals – 3 punctures, 6 broken spokes, 48 burgers, 2027km, 11 states

A foot long sandwich from Subway was an interesting start to a long day. The first time we set off from McLeansboro was just before 12, and we made it just less than a mile before we had to turn back to a garage to borrow a spanner to fix a spoke on Alex’s wheel. We spent an hour and a half, at www.kingsautosalesinc.com. We took the wheel off, the tube off, the cassette off, and then changed the spoke. After you change a spoke, you have to true the wheel – because the tension is wrong, the wheel wobbles. Alex’s wheel is mucked up – the spokes are much weaker, so we couldn’t quite get it true. It lasted 45 miles, until just out of Nashville, then another spoke broke. The problems come because the chain cut into the spokes and weakened all of the spokes on one side, which means that they are breaking one by one.

We hope to reach St Louis tomorrow, where Alex will get his tire fixed, and we will take three days’ rest. We will have been riding 18 of the last 20 days, and as a consequence we passed the 2000km milestone today.

We finished the day with another foot long sub from Subway, before heading to Best Western Motel for the night – Thank you to everyone who helped us get here!
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May 13, 2010

Where we have come from!

X-America by Bicycle - Google Maps

The route so far - I am still working on the line! But each of the balloon's marks a stop. Click on X-America by Bicycle - Google Maps to take you to the map.

Illinois

This is what I wrote yesterday but it only went up as a draft so here it is:

Having done a big day yesterday, we have made the next few days far easier as we only needed to do 180 miles to St Louis. Today we managed a casual 65 miles to the small town of Macleansboro. This morning we had a late start, but that gave us time to really get ourselves sorted for the next few days. We got all our maps and route sorted until St Louis, and i have booked my bike in to have my back wheel and spokes sorted out at a shop in St Louis. We originally planned to take a day off in Evansville(where we were yesterday), but having a 3 day break in St Louis, combined with the fact that Evansville seemed pretty dull, persuaded us to do 7 straight days riding instead.

The days riding went fine, with just one puncture on my bike, which was easy to fix and didn't take too much time. We also have entered the state of Illinois. It has got slightly hotter than the previous few days, and it is very humid. We arrived in Macleansboro at around 6:15, had a nice dinner and set about trying to find a place to stay for the night. However the only campsite was 8 miles in the direction we just came, so that ruled that out! we went to the police station to see if we could pitch our tent anywhere in the town, however there was no one there. So we trundled over to the B&B, expecting to have to pay a handsome price for the night. To our luck they had no room but were happy for us to pitch our tent in the back yard, and offered us use of the bathroom. So it has turned out very nicely. It has been few long days, so we are using the opportunity to get a early nights sleep!

11 States visited

 


Day 18 - 65 miles, 1 puncture. Totals: 1940 kms, 43 burgers, 3 punctures, 11 states

We are out of horse territory and into corn. But, storms are still around and the corn is under a foot of water. This meant that we had to adjust our route yesterday - not what you want to have to work out after riding for 80 miles - but meant that we were prepared today. Yesterday it was the Ohio river which had caused the flooding, today it was the Wabash - a tributary of the Ohio but it still looks bigger than the Thames!

We heard a ticking sound coming from Alex's wheel this morning, but when we stopped to investigate, found nothing. The spokes were fine, the brakes were fine, the fenders were fine - but the ticking still happened. When we set off again, I noticed a massive metal spike coming out of his wheel... and then he got a puncture. When we were changing the tubes we noticed that it wasn't the massive metal spike that had caused the puncture - that had been stopped by the kevlar lining of our tires - but an even bigger metal spike that he had picked up in an unrelated spot. We fixed the puncture quickly despite Alex's pump breaking as we laboured to get the pressure in our tires up to 85psi.

We are camping in the yard of a bed and breakfast here in McLeansboro, ready for the remaining 120 miles to St Louis in the next 2 days. We are now in Illinois - having crossed the bottom of Indiana yesterday and today.
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May 12, 2010

Hampered by spokes




Yesterday was one of those days where initially we thought it was going to be a bit of a nightmare, but actually turned out to be an absolute gem of a day! We woke to a very cold, cloudy morning. Just as we were setting off I discovered that I had broken yet another spoke on my back wheel. We did fiddle around and try to fix it ourselves, alas, we really didn't have the right tools or experience to successfully repair it. Having been told by a bike mechanic in Knoxville, that riding on even one broken spoke is not a good idea, and can cause much further damage if not repaired sharpish. We searched for the nearest bike shop, but that was still 60 miles away. There was nothing for it but to go for it and hope for the best. Our aim for the day was 70 miles however we decide we would get to Leitchfield (60 miles away), where the bike shop was, and decide what to do from there in terms of where we would stay for the night and have supper. 30 miles away from Leitchfield. I called ahead and spoke to the owner of the bike shop 'Rick'. I explained the problem and he kindly agreed to stay on past the closing rime of 5pm so he could help me with my spoke. (I must add, during this hectic day, we actually passed the 1000 mile mark). The day really started getting better as soon as we arrived at the bike shop. Rick swiftly repaired the spoke, whilst giving us a little lesson on how to repair it and what to do if it broke again. I addition he kitted us out with the necessary tools so we could fix it properly ourselves. Rick then had to shoot off to join a group 25 of x-America cyclists(going from west to east), who were being hosted but the local ‘Lions club for dinner’. Rick kindly invited us along to join them for the ‘all you can eat’ at pizza hut. We had a great dinner mingling with the fellow cyclists, and sharing some of our experiences. They were staying very close by so we were quickly offered lodgings with them for the night. So what a result from having a busted wheel in the morning, to having a free dinner, a free nights sleep, free beer and top banter with the other cyclists thrown in for good measure.


Although we got lots of benefits by having the broken spoke, we did not cover our scheduled 70 miles for the previous day, so today we set out with the ambitious intention of riding 95 miles to Evansville. We set out very early (up at 6:30, away by 8:10). Before 11 we had covered over 30 miles. Just after the 30 mile point, I broke another spoke! It was at that moment that it became quite a big concern. To break 1 spoke, fine. To break two spokes, unlucky. To break 3 spokes, especially all within the space of 5 days......there is something fundamentally wrong. Despite this we continued to Owensboro, where, after being given a free lunch at ‘Bob Evans’ and a $40 free gift card, we visited yet another bike shop. As the avid readers of the blog might recall, a couple of days ago i got my chain very stuck behind the cassette. It has become apparent that actually damaged 2 or 3 spokes, just by bending them. This in turn put a whole load of unnatural strain on the other spokes. Basically i need to replace all the spokes in my wheel, and have the whole wheel ‘made true’ again. This i will do in St Louis in 3 days time. The mechanic patched the wheel up best he could so it will hopefully survive the 200 miles to St Louis. This as you can imagine is very frustrating, not only because of the trouble, but it will also cost me roughly $80 to fix. Then again, on the other hand, at least it is something fixable, and not something that will cause too much disruption to our trip. We polished off the remaining 45 miles in the afternoon, with a fair amount of ease, meanwhile crossing into another sate, Indiana. Tonight we have treated ourselves to a motel, after a few fairly stressful days. We originally planned to have a rest day here in Evansville, but we will probably press on so we can have more time in St Louis.


LONGEST DAY EVER

Waking up at 6.30 meant that today would be a long one. We woke, ate breakfast and packed the tent up by 7.30 – in time to watch the 25 medics hit the road on their amazing carbon road bikes – excited to have a massive tailwind. We were worried that this meant headwind for us – and with the storms around, the wind was strong. Luckily for us the wind stayed as a crosswind, with occasional shifts to help or hinder us – we were pushed up some hills, but had to pedal down some in return.

We managed our fastest average speed – 22.2kph, and yet also our greatest distance ever in 1 day – 150kms, just under 100 miles. We managed this despite Alex breaking his 3rd spoke in a week. We took the bike to a bike shop, because 3 spokes in a week is not right and they recommended that he change all his spokes when we get to St Louis. The weak spokes were I think caused by his accident with the chain – which sheared them in half. This put more pressure on the spokes on the other side, which means that they break more often.

We are now in Evansville – relaxing at a Quality Inn. We plan to skip a rest day, and head straight up to St Louis – to arrive by Friday, so that we have more time to fix his tire and get set for the next part of the trip. FUNFACT: Evansville schools have longer breaks than most schools because during those times, they used to have to move the horses they came to school on into the shade.

We had a great happening at lunch – Thank you very much to Dan and Alex from Bob Evans Restaurant – They gave us a large gift voucher so we can get our fill of eggs and pancakes in the mornings at any Bob Evans. I am seriously tired – today was the longest day either of us have ever done, and we plan to do another long day tomorrow.

May 11, 2010

Leitchfield KY - Monday 10th May

The worst possible start to the day – once we’d finished packing up our kit, we discovered that yet another spoke had broken on Alex’s rear wheel; bringing our broken spokes count up above our puncture count. Spokes however are a much bigger problem than punctures, because to fix them, you need a tool (which we didn’t have) to take the cassette off (a cassette is what you call the thing where the cogs live on the back wheel).

We were well equipped, with spare spokes, but couldn’t put the spoke in, because we couldn’t get the cassette off. The really annoying thing was that before we worked that out, Alex had taken the air out of the tire, and the tire off the rim. Eventually we left at 11ish, far too late, and with a spoke still broken. Alex’s tire was wobbling away, so we had to unhook the back brake to stop it rubbing. We limped 60 miles into Leitchfield, KY to the nearest bike shop at very high speed – an average of 21kph, stopping only for short periods, eating leftover pizza from the night before.

The first bit of the day was tough – Alex constantly had the thought that every mile could be damaging his wheel, as well as the lack of a back brake to contend with and a not quite full tyre to slow him down. But, we made it through to Leitchfield at 5.20pm, having rung up the bike shop to ask them to close later if possible.

When we got to the bike shop, we were met by Rick, who was amazing. He fixed the spoke, and taught us how to, and gave us the tools we need, and some energy bars all for $20. Not content with that, he then told us that there were 20 cross-country cyclists meeting the local lions club of Leitchfield, and that they had put on a meal for them, and would happily have us too. We were extremely grateful to the Lions club for their help and the stacks of pizza. We are now camping in the fairground, beside the other cyclists. They are cycling the other way, and are supported by 3 vans. It’s amazing to see their incredible road bikes, and look at the logistics of their trip, all from the comparative sanity of our one day at a time routine. They are all medical students cycling to raise money for global health.

Time for bed – we will wake when they do, at 6.30!! Can you imagine... Then we will go as far as we can towards Evansville – which will be a mammoth 95 miles if we manage.

May 10, 2010

Edmonton, KY

Today was a day where a lot more could have gone wrong. Luckily it didn't, so we are now lying in our comfy sleeping bags on Austin's lawn in Edmonton, Kentucky.

It started out well, an early start and a great all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet for $3.99 is a close to perfect beginning to the day. We rode at a decent pace up and down many hills, until at the bottom of one we came across two other guys with bikes. These guys had 3 times as much stuff as us, and on their bikes were all the possessions they had. They said that they aimed to live in the same manner as the early christians - sell all that they own and trust that the Lord will provide for them. We talked to them for a long time – a fun discussion about all things from learning Hebrew to stealing seatposts for bicycles.
We crossed the border from Tennessee to Kentucky at lunchtime today, the ninth state that we have visited on this trip. I should also mention that the clocks have changed, a very unusual occurrence – but good in that it means we are definitely moving west.

We rode on, along roads where there were more animals than cars (which makes a nice change). I saw a snake and some deer as well as another woodpecker, and there are now fields of cows and horses wherever we look. Our first obstacle was called Subtle Rd. The subtlety of this particular road became evident soon after we entered it, without the sign, it would not be called a road, more like a Himalayan trail for Tibetan Yaks. The locals said that they had never seen anyone bicycle up it, so I did. It was tough – and I finished all my remaining water going up it, in constant danger of falling off and of a puncture – it was an extremely steep hill, covered in gravel. Once we had made it over that hill, we had some pleasant views, and a nice run down along a more agreeable, less subtle road. The lucky bit was being forewarned about the subtle hill by the locals, if we hadn’t, we probably would have turned round on seeing it and done a 30 mile detour to get past it.

On the next hill after the run down, Alex’s chain came off and jammed extremely firmly between the cassette and the spokes. Despite a lot of yanking and levering and pulling, we couldn’t get his chain unstuck. Given that we were 1 mile away from a garage – Alex hitched a lift in a pickup, and I cycled up to meet him at the garage in Edmonton. It took a while, but we managed to fix it, and then headed off to find some food and some wifi to find a place to go. – note here how lucky we were to have a good supply of pick-ups to hitch with and a friendly garage with stacks of tools, open at 7pm on a Sunday.

We found the food, but no wifi access, so after a couple of burgers and yet another $10 massive Pizza, we were abit stuck. This is where things could have gone wrong again; we had nowhere to stay – the GPS said the nearest campsite was 20 miles, and the motels office was empty. Luckily, I got chatting to the employee’s of pizza hut, and sourced us a place for free and with wifi, Thank you so much to Austin for all your help.

Tomorrow we will ride 60 miles to Clarkson, then plot some new maps, and try another 20 miles. We have ridden 1570 kilometres, eaten 37 burgers, and I have a new top speed! 41.3mph or 66.4 kph. See below for what I say about yesterday, and what Alex says for the two days.

Jamestown, TN - 8th May

No internet yesterday - here is what I wrote.

Although the movie yesterday cost us only $2, today it cost us some more – we only left at 12.30, because of our late night yesterday. Today was the first day heading northwest towards St Louis, and it was a beautiful day. But, beautiful day or not – we needed to do 70 miles to get to civilisation, the town nearest here is 30 miles. 70 miles and leaving late is not a good combination; we work on an average of about 10 miles an hour including breaks and stops which meant that we eventually scraped in at ten past 8.

We went through some extremely scenic areas which was great, the unfortunate thing is that scenic areas are hilly areas and we are reliant on our legs to take us up them. The fun thing is that what goes up comes down, and we had some epic descents. I clocked 64kph – 40 mph, which seems to be about the maximum that we can manage fully loaded. One particular section, round a bend downhill through a forest was about to be a highlight for me – cruising round the bend at 30miles an hour, but when I looked back, Alex was in the ditch. He went too fast round the bend and came off the side in a dramatic but luckily not too serious tumble. He has some stinging grazes that will be a reminder to use the brakes a bit more, but no real structural damage. The bike was ok, although the handlebars bent substantially, one tug was sufficient to bend them back into shape.

Tomorrow we intend to do at least another 70 miles, starting at 9ish, and seeing how far we get.

Anyone got some stabilisers?

A lot has happened since our last blog. As we move further and further to the west, it is becoming increasingly more rural, thus less opportunities to use MacDonald’s free wifi! On Saturday we set out with the aim of covering the 500 miles to St Louis in 8 days, one of those being a rest day. That averages at about 72 miles a day. However, having braved the worst of the Appalachians, 70 miles a day is not too strenuous at all. We didn’t get off to a fantastic start, as the very late night we had in Knoxville, made things come Saturday morning very slow. We only left at 12:30, but we covered really good ground and had done 60 miles or so by 6:30.

Now to explain my title...I thought it would be a good idea to have another tumble. Trying to experience G-Force, on a touring bike, going round a sharp corner, at the end of a steep hill = NOT A GOOD IDEA. Only minor cuts and bruises. I have to say; in the last 2 months I have fallen off my bike more times than I think I have in my entire life!

This morning there was a big drop in temperature...although sunny it was only about 8c. In the morning we ran into two fellow cycle tourers. We chatted to them for about 1 hour. They were both devout Christians, who cycle round the country for a living. They have no income and no credit cards, however leave it up to God to provide for them. How is this possible you may wonder? We asked the very same question, but they do it and it clearly works, as it became apparent that one of them had been on the road, not necessarily cycling, but living off no income since 1984. Eventually, after a good teaching of the Christian faith we got on our way and by 6:30 we had done roughly 70 miles. With only a couple of miles to go till Edmonston, my chain somehow got ridiculously stuck and tangled as I was changing down a gear. So we tugged and pulled for about half an hour, trying to yank the chain out...however no joy. The chain was stuck in a way that the back wheel could not go round, so I couldn’t even walk with the bike at all. I hitch hiked the last mile into Edmonston where I sourced out a car mechanics. There Will and I finally sorted out the problem (with a little help from a local southerner). We couldn’t find a wifi, which we really needed, not only to write a blog but also so we could work out where we would spend the night whether it be a motel or a nearby campsite. So we headed to pizza hut. Fast food always solves our problems. Whilst there Will chatted nicely to the employees and managed to get a place to stay, in the form of a front lawn. One of the workers at pizza hut kindly said we could camp on his front lawn. So after a bit of searching in the dark, we found his house and I am currently sitting in the tent on the lawn, writing this blog! All in all we covered the distance we set out to do and have got a place to stay for the night so it has been a good day.

May 8, 2010

Rest Day, Knoxville, TN

Rest day's should be restful, but there is always so much to do - we spent 3 hours fixing our bikes in West Bicycles, Thank you very much to Kelly for all your help. We now have bikes that are fully serviceable - no wobbly back wheel due to missing spokes, and a new set of brake pads on each of our back wheels. It is amazing how finished our brake pads are - and in only one month since getting the bikes!

After an energizing pizza we went back to Ben's house - yet another couchsurfing success story, where we relaxed all afternoon. We did a bit of oiling and cleaning on our bikes, and some admin. Since then we have plotted a route for the next 180 miles (2.5 days) - still using our envelope technique - see earlier posts if you missed out on how exactly we know where to go (involves writing down a long list of each new road on the back of whatever paper is available - I don't advise the free paper pad from motels, it is too thin.)

We will be going through Kentucky, leaving Tennessee on Sunday. From the maps it seems that the towns are spreading out - we will have to be a bit more careful about water provision and wifi access. Just a little sidenote about spreading out: Knoxville is a city, but not densely populated as it is spread over more than 25 miles. This means that the only way to get around is by car - bicycles are extremely foreign and walking is unheard of. This means that crossing roads is a mission - akin to walking across a motorway - there are no spots for pedestrians. It also means that the BMI of Knoxville residents is generally extremely large - especially when combined with the multitude of cheap fast food; why spend more/take longer to cook a meal when you can get a double cheeseburger for $1.19 in less than a minute?

We have also found out that while our bikes are heavy, we are unable to do a MacDonalds drive-thru on them - the voice that takes your order is activated by a weight sensor that needs much more than just a tent and some bikes and a couple of guys.

We are now headed Northwest to St Louis, MO - just under 500miles, to be done in the next 8 days. We plan to take 7 days riding and stop in Evansville, KT for a rest day. This means an average of just over 70 miles per day, which means bed time, Now. - PS sherlock holmes is a good movie... definitely worth the $2 we paid - cinema tickets are exceptionally cheap!

A much needed rest

Today there isn't an awful lot to tell as we did very little, which is perfect for us because its just what we needed! We did venture along to the bike shop where we got our spokes fixed and a few other bits and bobs sorted out. Ben, or couch surfing host, kindly took us to a movie, this evening 'Sherlock Holmes', and then gave us a little night time tour of knoxville. He showed us one of the biggest Footballl stadiums in the States. A capacity of 125,000 people, belonging to the college of Tennessee. But now bedtime as it is nearly 1am here and we will ride about 70 miles tomorrow, starting our 8 days to St Louis. Tomorrow big storms are predicted but fingers crossed this wont hinder our progress.
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May 7, 2010

Knoxville, TN

We started out late today and took it easy to begin with, cycling along the 30 mile long cherokee lake which we had camped beside. It is getting hot again and I reckon that means a storm on Saturday.

It was one long highway with a small space for bikes, but many bumps if we strayed from that space - not good on broken spokes.

One of the good things about having the same bike is that we get the same problems, the bad thing is that when one of us gets a problem, so does the other. This happened to us recently - we now both have a broken spoke on the back wheel - Alex broke one yesterday, I broke it today.

We comfortably nailed the 55miles into Knoxville today, and were relaxing in McDonalds when we found out that the place we are couchsurfing was 20 miles down the road - nearly 2 hours. But we have made it and are now relaxing - our first rest day in 8 days - 500miles.

Laundry, recharge legs and battery's, haircuts and bike fixing tomorrow, as well as learning to ride a unicycle.

Tennessee




Yesterday we couldn't put up a blog as we were in a very beautiful but secluded campsite in northern Tenessee, which did not have wifi. Yesterday was another great day, though it did start with a minor hiccup. On my bike there was a continuous clicking sound, after a bit of home mechanics we discovered that one of my spokes is broken. Having reneged on bringing spare spokes, and no apparent bike shop for miles, i crossed my fingers and started to pedal. Come the end of the day there was no further problem, so it seems that i can survive with one less spoke. Tomorrow we can sort out the problem. Last night after the 70 mile ride, coincidentally, Will also discovered that he has a broken spoke as well, so we are now in the same boat! I have to say in fairness, the Cannondale bikes which we bought, having done over 1000 miles in total, have only had between them: two punctures and two broken spokes. So all in all we are still pleased with our purchase.
The days seem to get easier and easier at the moment. I suppose it is a combination of increasing fitness and the terrain starting to flatten out. We were discussing yesterday that we cannot remember what it is like to cycle on flat ground again, as though it was one of those far off distant memories.


This morning we awoke to the beautiful view of the sun rising over the lake which we were camped beside. With only 55 miles to Knoxville we set out in high spirits, but thoroughly looking forward to a days break. The miles were slightly tougher than usual, perhaps because we are worn out or maybe because we had a nice comfy bed to look forward to tonight. We arrived in Knoxville at around 5pm, where we checked where the address of our destination tonight. It turned out however that it was another 20 miles to where of bed for the night was...bit of a letdown, nevertheless we got on our bikes and polished off the miles. Tomorrow we will have a good rest, do some much needed laundry and fix the bikes.



Here are a couple of older photos which are quite good............

Using a random wifi connection in the middle of a secluded park



A Historic moment!







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May 6, 2010

Camping

Sorry, no wifi yesterday, but here is what I wrote.

Camping in America is very different. We saw a sign to a campsite yesterday which we followed up some steep hills to a forest. This would have been an awesome campsite, but they had poured gravel everywhere, to make it easier for cars. The World War 2 veteran in charge of the campsite told us many stories as we were trying in vain to find a spot for our tent, all of them interesting, but none of them helpful – except for the fact that “as long as I can recall – only 4 people have pitched a tent in this campground” – which didn’t help our dwindling resolves (bearing in mind we had just finished 70 miles and it was getting dark).

Today’s cycling on the contrary was excellent – we made great time – setting one of our fastest average speeds for the day: 22km/hr, and seldom stopping. We are by no means out of the Appalachian’s, but it has been flat nonetheless – we are cruising down a highway that goes down one of the valleys.

One minor problem is that a spoke on Alex’s back wheel has broken – but we hope to get it fixed in Knoxville tomorrow. We have a relaxing next two days – we hope – 50miles tomorrow, and then a rest day the next day.

We are camping today at Cherokee Lake Campground, and the Owner has given us the night for free as his donation to autism which we are very grateful for. It is a scenic campground for weekend RV owners, with a lake shore and a swimming pool – if you are ever near Rogersville, Tennessee, have a look!

May 5, 2010

Abingdon and Bristol

I can't go as far as to say that today has been easy - the day I say that 60 miles uphill against the wind is easy will be after the day I get my motorbike licence. But, the weather was perfect, our legs strong and the countryside pleasant.

We left late this morning - relaxing in a great campground was way too appealing. We travelled the first 10 miles of today with Sky, our friend the unicyclist. This is so much fun, because while a few people are curious about what we are doing, when they see Sky, without fail everyone is astounded! Wouldn't you be? How many people do you know that can ride a Unicycle? Let alone a massive one for 4000miles. You can check his blog out at www.thirtysixer.com (thirty six inches is the diameter of his wheel).

I have had my first casualty of the tour, and unlike Alex, it isn't with my equipment (his bottle exploded and his pedal snapped): I on the other hand have lost control of the 3rd and 4th fingers on my left hand. This is not good. I think its due to too much pressure on my hand as I ride, so I will carry on trying to ride no-hands to give it a break.

We are camping again tonight, in ten miles time - so I must turn this off, the sun is on its way down. We are staying between Abingdon and Bristol - they steal all our names.

Awesome day

As i write this blog, we are currently eating a 'all you can eat buffet' in a pizza inn. Restaurants rue the day that they let us loose on the offer of 'all you can eat'. The phrases 'complete domination' and 'lions let loose in a chickens pen' spring to mind. Anyway back to the cycling bit...We left at around 11 with the new addition to the gang of the unicyclist.(He is cycling along behind us in the photo, sorry its not that clear). The weather couldn't have been better, bright sunshine and not too humid as it has been in the previous few days. There was a slight headwind, but nothing too severe, thus we have made good progress. Cycling through the gentle hills of west Virginia can draw comparisons with cycling through the most beautiful parts of the UK during the great British summer (no, not the rainy British summer we all know and despise, but the one we always look forward to and are disappointed when it never comes)

Days like today make the miles seem easy, which is just what we needed, having had a couple of fairly tough days. It seems we have got over the worst of the Appalachians. From here we have a casual 10 mile ride to the outskirts of Bristol where we will camp for the night. Having finally used the tent last night, camping is no longer surrounded by the initial worries and fears we had. For example it being too small etc...It was a comfy night, with only minor hiccups of Will occasionally kicking me in the face....he will have his comeuppance . Tomorrow we will ride about 65 miles, so not too a strenuous day.
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May 4, 2010

Having had a good nights sleep, we set out at 9:30 with the aim of riding to Wytheville,
which was 75 miles or so away from Salem. Being in the heart of the appellations comes with it a very beautiful but also a very hilly area. We were warned prior to our trip that riding through the Appellations is actually harder than riding over the Rockies. The reason for this is that, although the Rockies go much much higher, they ascend far more gradually, whereas in the appellations the climbs are steep and the descents are fast! So progress this morning wasn't very fast, however by starting early we had covered over 30 miles by lunch, which is much better than usual (our 12:30 starts are a thing of the past.......i hope).

This morning was the first time that a few aches and pains have become apparent. The thigh muscles are getting bigger but 5 days on the trot with out a rest does mean that they are getting more and more tired. It takes a while to get into a good rhythm. The knees are also slightly sore, not too bad, but i think they are just looking forward to a good rest in a few days time.

At lunch we decided to stop at a MacDonald's( the first of of trip, which is surprising), and proceeded to eat 5 hamburgers and fries...EACH. That considerably increased our burger count, not to mention our waistlines, however at a $1 each, who can blame us? As we were leaving the infamous MacDonald's we ran into another Trans America cyclist! He did however approach us not on two wheels, but on one! No he wasn't doing a wheelie, he was in fact a unicyclist. I thought that crossing the USA on two wheels was epic, but this takes the biscuit. He is in fact going a very similar route to us, following the ACA route as we are. "Hats off to him" is all i can say.



After lunch we covered the 40 odd miles fairly slowly due to the 5 burgers and fries rumbling around inside. Nevertheless we reached Wytheville at around 7:30 and pitched our tent for the first time, also meeting the unicyclist, Sky, who is also camping here for the night. The tent seems to be a good buy, sold and surprisingly roomy for a 2 man tent. Somehow we have managed to pick up wifi in a random park, so this is how i am able to write this blog.

At supper we sat next to a rather large American who proceeded to challenge the owner of the restaurant that he could eat 35 inches(nearlt 3ft) of cheese steak sandwich in under 30 mins, and if he succeeded he would eat for free. To the amazement of both the owner and us he completed this feat with ease......definitely the highlight of the day.