Wednesday, 7 August 2013

America the beautiful - final comments

Total kms : 6195
Average Km per day: 131
Saddle sores: 0 ( thank goodness )
So another trip has come to an end and as always its a bit of relief that I kept the rubber on the road and not my skin. 

My bike was amazing 6195 kms, only one puncture and nothing needed adjusting. A big thank you to Mark Williamson from Free Wheel Bike Store in Cannington who once again did a fantastic job preparing the bike for me. Almost everyone else had problems from wheel rebuilds to new wheels, gear failures, new crank sets etc etc. Of course the fabulous Campagnolo never let me down.

We were extremely fortunate with the weather. We rode for 47 of the 50 days and it only rained for 2 of those days. We had a very light shower on another day but it was warm and we were dry within a few minutes. Talk about dodging the rain  !! If you could do a 50 day radar map of our route it would show rain above and below us for almost the entire trip. In Little Falls had we been there 10 days earlier we would have been unable to continue there was so much water raging through the town. We walked over a bridge which was about 25 feet above a river, I saw a photo of the previous week with the water lapping at the bridge. 

The wind was our friend for most of the ride and although we had 4 fierce days in South Dakota we were repaid in the end with continuous tail winds. I think I'm owed that after China  !! 

The roads on the most part were very good, there is a traffic law in many states which stipulate that if there is a marked shoulder you MUST ride within it. In Wyoming it was taken very seriously by the drivers who almost aimed at you tooting their horns and coming very close if you dared to venture out of the skinny shoulder. I think Lycra clad men striving to maintain their tan lines and shaving their legs scare those country boys  !! 

The major issue on the roads was that much of the centre of the continent has extremely  cold winters and the roads suffer badly. The road crack up, not across the road so much but in the direction you are riding sometimes leaving cracks 5 to 10 cm wide and also up to 10 cm deep for a meter or so along. This meant that when riding a pace line you had to concentrate 100% of the time. We had 4 riders go down, 3 of them were repaired in hospital but all continued the ride. 

The staff were fantastic, so much better than many other trips I have done. My only complaint was they  tried to foresee everything which took away some of the adventure. 
The riding group as usual varied with a huge disparity of abilities and initially I found myself doubting some would make it BUT they did. About 10 of the 36 whole tour riders spent time in the sag van or missed days. On lots of days riders would come in 2 to 3 hours after our group. I guess they were almost riding a different tour to us ( I guess their tan lines were better  !! )

At the final dinner I remarked to the Americans on the ride that they should be proud of their fellow Americans across the nation. I have never experienced such friendliness, on a trip of any kind. They were genuinely interested in our journey and enthusiastically wished us well or offered help on every occasion we stopped in a town, or even on the side of the road ( see note about Wyoming above - haha )
In Astoria on the day before the ride started one couple congratulated me on the trip. I thought their congratulations a tad premature. 

Would I do the trip again  ??  NO, of course not why would you do it twice when there is a whole world out there waiting to be seen. Would I recommend the trip, YES. I still think there is no better to take in a country but to do it from the seat of your bike.

Janette, once again thank you for understanding my wanderlust and being so understanding. I am so lucky to have found you. 

Finally a few photos which made me laugh, I filed them in a folder called " Fat America " it's not meant to be a dig at Americans but more a warning for Australia and our own eating habits.
That's rich i know coming from a confessed ice cream and milk shake connoisseur. 

This is not the official slogan of the USA but it could be.

I'm so fat I'm ashamed of myself  !! 

And last but by no means least, Who believes this  ?? 

Thanks for reading, I'm going back to finish the Silk Route next year so until then
HiHo Silver away  !!  ( private joke for the fabulous 5 )


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Stage 6 Niagara Falls to Portsmouth New Hampshire and the Atlantic Ocean. - Mission completed.

Last 7 days: 920 kms

The morning of the start of the last stage of this cross continent ride had me re focused and keen to get going. We have seven days of riding and the first two days to Rochester and on to Liverpool the longest days of this section. The distance is 300 kms spread over the two days, but the weather is fine and the winds are light south westerlies. 

We are now riding in the state of New York. I think it's the best riding of the whole trip, the roads are fantastic and although flat there are lots of bends and curves and there is something different around every corner. 

We have spent several days riding on roads along the Erie Canal, this is a man made canal that runs from New York City all the way up to Lake Erie. It's an amazing network that runs through much of this part of America and you can still boat up or down the canals through the old locks and through small villages and towns that were established to support the boats. 

Had a very close call today. We were just 3 miles from the hotel and one of our group did not call or signal a giant pothole. My bike almost fell into a bucket size hole and seemed to jack knife in the air, I didn't have time to think I just wrenched it back from almost crashing and a very strange angle and was very lucky not to fall. Damn got to keep concentrating. 

My favourite boat. 

An interesting thing in this part of NY is that there are quite a lot of Amish. These are the religious sect who shun technology. They are great news for cyclists. Why ?? because they dont drive cars and only use horse dawn vehicles. Why is this good  ?? It's because the road shoulder has to be wide enough for a horse drawn cart. It's fantastic 

 my room mate Mark at Fairport on the Erie Canal

The entire group is now riding thinking only of getting to the coast and we were shocked that Ohio Don was taken to hospital two nights go with fluid in his legs and also his lungs. He missed a day on the bike but is now back riding.  Your EFI status is a well treasured thing on these trips. ( Every Fucking Inch)

We rode through to Little Falls for our 3rd wet day of the trip. ( We had rain EFI that day too !! ) Little Falls is now a very empty sad town but was once a thriving city and was once home to the biggest bicycle factory in the world. One year they produced 2 million bicycles !! (before the war ) They also made the uniforms for the Union army back in the day 

Check the names of the IPA beers. 

We left New York and into Vermont State. 

The weather was as described, well the hot and sunny bit. 

What an amazing change to the countryside it is very hilly and very green. It's known as the Green Mountain State and it lives up to its name. We are only there for 2 riding days and we overnight in Brattlebro a great town with a vibrant alternative culture. Birkenstock sold everywhere and we could not get a milkshake in town without rice milk or whey WTF  ?? 

The ride to Brattlebro was great we climbed all morning. ( Had to find those climbing legs again ) then had a 20 km downhill into town. Some of it pretty steep with shitty road surfaces. 

How can it be artificially flavoured when its 100% arabica coffee  ?? 

Next day was in to New England, hilly hilly hilly. 

Our ride to Manchester was a roller coaster ride. It was 140 kms with a fair bit of steep climbing. We passed Phillipe (crazy Isralie ) 7 times during the day. We waited at the top of the climbs for one of our group then he rode past then we chased him down again. He was very frustrated in the end and stopped trying and sulked. Haha. At one stage we passed him and he had snot hanging down to his neck.  !!  

Graham flavoured ice cream WTF could that taste like

Yes be very careful cyclists. Walk down the gradual slope  !! 

Last day to the beach was glorious. Sunny with a decent tailwind. We just had 100 km to ride and we savoured every km. it felt a bit like the final day of the Tour de France when you see the riders chatting and in no hurry to reach the final circuits. ( but we had no final sprints) 

The beach was quite emotional ( no I didn't cry ) almost everyone had family and friends there, a crowd of about 400 turned up including press and TV, what a great laugh as we were given a police escort for the final 5 kms with flashing police lights etc etc. 

Phew, made it. 

( monkey is off my back James)

Monday, 29 July 2013

Stage 5 part 2 London Ontario Canada to Niagara Falls USA

Distance ridden so far: 5395 kms
Rain days: 3
Am I feeling lucky: Damn right  !! 

The ride from London Canada to Brantford Canada was a wet day. We started the 122 kms with light rain falling and it was wet through to lunch time. It was actually nice as there was no wind at all and it was quite warm too. We rode as a group of 3 as Mark was taking his enforced Detour ( more further down ) and Mitch went country boy on us and wanted to visit a market or something to buy corn  or whatever  !!  He didn't find one market open haha. We arrived in Brantford a university town and ate a great lunch in a modern part of an old town. We checked into the hotel at 1pm and I was told my room would be ready at 3.30 ish. I was a bit  pissed off but smiled sweetly. Dinner was in the motel and it was one of the best meals of the trip. It was a buffet but it was fantastic. Weird as it may seem there was a wedding going on in the room next door and the guests also ate at the buffet  !! There were 8 kinds of desert as well and not just fruit or ice cream. 
Brantford is the home town of Wayne Gretzky the famous ice hockey player and we ate in the Gretzky dinner in the Gretzky wing of the hotel situated on Wayne Gretzky Parkway. Just a little bit of an overkill  !! 

Next day we woke to clear sky's and a strong wind - at our tail again. I tell you west to east is the go for a bike trip. We rode as a 4 and we flew along. We rode 135 kms at an average of 33 kph. What a hoot, at times we were sitting on 43 kmh and not really trying, it was quite funny. It was also warm. One of the riders is a bit of a know it all and had told me it was going to rain so wore his rain jacket and rain pants all day, he must have boiled. 

We arrived at Niagara Falls at noon and WOW it truly is an amazing sight. It has been the most spectacular thing of the trip from a tourist point of view. The falls are breathtaking and I'm not sure if the photos do it justice. 

We have now completed Stage 5 and at Niagara Falls rode back into the USA.

The view from our lunch table  !!  No water shortage here. 

Meeting the Mounted police, behind him is his steed. 

Meanwhile my room mate Mark rode the 750 kms around the bottom of Lake Michigan staying within the USA. He took a very small backpack 4 tubes a spare tyre, my pump and thongs, his toothbrush, credit card, a pair of gym shorts and a light T shirt. And yes you guessed it he rode 750 kms in 3 days and arrived one day ahead of us, so he had 2 rest days. 
Mark hiked the Appalachian Trail which is 2200 miles or 3550 kms during last year non stop end to end by himself !!  Why did I ever doubt he would make the trip around the lake. 

Would you eat the Daredevil Burger  ??   What is it about peanut butter and the Yanks  ?? 

Ah yes the ice cream of the day. 

Only 7 more riding days  !! 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Stage 5, part 1 Ludington Michigan to London Ontario, Canada

Not just a Ride across America but a Ride across a Continent. We now ride through Ontario Canada before crossing back into the USA at Niagara Falls.

What should have been a rest day was spent waiting for and catching the SS BADGER across Lake Michigan. The SS Badger is the last coal powered vessel operating on the Great Lakes. She was launched in 1952 (Tom Neilson travelled on her in 1955,  - bet she was state of art back then  !! )

Loading the bikes aboard  SS Badger

Before we left on the boat we stopped at the Manitowoc maritime museum. It has the USS Cobia restored and ready to view. She was a WW11 submarine that saw active service in the pacific and actually called in to Perth during the war. It was well worth the time as it was in very good condition and with the other 40 tourists it gave one a real feel of how crowded it would have been with 80 crew aboard. 

Torpedo Tubes. 

On the ferry it was strange having nothing to do for 4 hours. We seem to be either riding or eating or sleeping every minute of the normal riding day. On leaving the boat we rode into Michigan and had had a ripping dinner in Ludington. 

 The next 3 days take us across Michigan and then into Ontario, Canada.

First day of this section was 186 kms to Mt Pleasant with a strong tailwind  !! Yes I repeat a tailwind  !!  
We arrived in town about 1pm and had a nice lunch at a sandwich shop in the old part of town. 
This was our last "Century" ride ( 100 miles + ) for the trip. 

We had a strong cross headwind the following day which was disappointing as the forecast was for a tailwind. When you are riding 130 kms a day, any wind with any E in its name is a bummer. Michigan is not nearly as nice as Minnasota it is very flat ( that's good) but its a bit boring to ride through as there is nothing new to see. 

Just before we got to Port Huron we stopped at the ice cream / shake shop of the trip so far. The menu was for 100 different flavours and the chocolate custard was incredible  !! 

My room mate was today denied entry to Canada due to a conviction when he was 20  !! It was just a driving conviction as well,  it appears that the tour company forwarded a list to the canadians who did checks on everyone. Canada  changed their laws a few years ago and you must notify them of any past convictions, Mark did not notify them, so he now has to ride south by himself for 4 days and meet us in Niagara. It adds 230 kms to his 5 days riding. 

Crossed the Bridge at Port Huron this morning and into Canada. Was quite an experience as they closed the entire bridge for us to ride over. Normally bikes are transported over by bus. 

You forget that that's a lake and that its fresh water, it looks just like the sea and check out the colour !! 

We then rode 150 kms to London a nice town in the middle of Ontario. Light winds and sunny, perfect day. 

We are now just 9 riding days from the Atlantic. 

How do they know  !! 

Really  ?? 

Wearing the tour jersey for the ride into Canada

Monday, 15 July 2013

Stage 4 Sioux Falls to Manitowoc (Lake Michigan)

Total Distance ridden so far: 4227 kms 
Ice creams eaten : losing count I think it's 45 including rest days

Last 6 days of this week we rode 910 kms

Sioux Falls was a great rest day, we watched Froome win on Ventoux then we went down town. Sioux Falls has a population of 160,000 and looks like a nice town. The city centre is very small and as it was Sunday almost everything was closed til noon. Many of the buildings are built in a rose granite which is quarried from very close to the falls themselves. 

Just across from our hotel was the biggest single level mall in the USA. We didn't even bother to go in except on our way to dinner one night. It was 9.00pm on Sunday night when we passed back through and all the shops were open but there was not a soul in sight shopping. 

First day out of Sioux Falls we rode to Worthington in Minnesotau yeeha another new state. The first 16 kms were through the green belt bike path which lines the city and down to the actual falls! It was a really beautiful.

 roads have been fantastic here so far. Very smooth and wide too. 

Next day we rode 189 kms to Mankato a glorious ride through corn fields and more corn fielda and yet more corn fields. It was a green day out there which made a very nice change from the last two weeks of brown fields. The entry to Manakato was down a 15 km rail trail through the woods it was fantastic. 

Apparently it's getting very hot  !!  Today's ride to Rochester was 181 kms and there was a heat advisory issued - WOW the temperature rose to 31c  !! 
Riders were complaining about the extreme heat,  some struggled all day and were concerned because tomorrow it may get as high as 34 or 35. WTF gives ?? 

HEAT ALERT - HEAT ALERT  !!  Last day in Minnesota and we rode 156 kms to  La Crosse in the state of Wisconsin. Today would be one of my favourite days of this trip so far. There was a lot more variety and less straight line farm edge riding. The scenery was spectacular with rolling hills around every corner and it was pretty hot too the temperature rose to 38c about noon and the humidity was 90%. I guess we are used to the heat but the wingeing from the Americans was very funny. We had a very steep 2 km hill at the 110 km mark it was like someone had folded the road up. 10 - 14% the whole way from a flat start. Almost like riding up a wall. Part of today's ride was along a Rail Trail a disused train route that went through a beautiful Forrest 
La Crosse is on the banks of the Mississippi River and feels like a really nice town.

Day 5 of this stretch was to be 144 kms, it should have been a fantastic day as we had 60 kms on a bike path. We had been told that under no circumstances were we to ride through the 3 long very dark tunnels. Sure  !! We rode through he first tunnel and 1/2 way along passed one of the staff walking. Damn and they were shitty too. We just rode on and later in the day I spoke to Jeff the ride director and he was cool that I had spoken to him about it. 

Tunnel photo - ( walking haha )

We arrived in town after a big detour which increased our distance by a lot of kms only to be told that the hotel we were booked in had been sold and we no longer had any rooms. Shit the staff had to work like crazy to get us accommodated in 5 separate motels all over town. Lucky we were in Wisconsen Dells which is like a poor Disney land town with many hotels and thousands of accented tourists from southern USA. 

Last 2 days we rode on towards Manitowoc on the edge of Lake Michigan.  Two longish days with a strong headwind.

That means we have now completed stage 3 yeeha  !! 

THEFT We have been warned that from here on as we travel east we need to lock up our bikes or there is a good chance they could be stolen.
The night we stayed in Rochester, Mitch ( one of the fabulous five - our riding group ) took his clothes to a laundromat adjacent to the motel. When he returned in an hour his clothes were gone. They stole his F'ing Lycra - very funny  !! I wonder what they thought when they opened their bag. 

A Few random photos

sandwich with a small amount of Beef and it was not the "Max Version "

Refer to me from now on as " The Thompson " or " The BT "

At dinner today I told the table that I thought I had found Adolf Hitlers son living here in Manakato. They looked bewildered so I showed them the photo I took of the restaurant manager. Well apparently nothing you say about Hitler is funny. It seems to be considered not funny to mention Adolf at all. 

Oh come on - he has to be related to Adolf  ??  Ooops Not Funny  !! 

Found myself a new pet, in down town Sioux Falls

Nice touch - bit different to the China experience 

Nice street  name

Mississippi River

I guess we are not that important to the Clarion Inn. 

3 different churches. - And that's the last church photos you will see from me. 

Crazy Helmet tan lines - NO THAT'S NOT ME  !! 

Of course we all need Military Arms  !! 

Small American beauty