The End (Part 2/2)

Dear fans

The moment you have all been waiting for, these blog posts are finally coming to an end. Family who have felt obliged to read them in their entirety, thank you for your perseverance, friends, if you’ve carried on until this point, you only have yourselves to blame. With overdrafts in full swing and both of our younger siblings starting or securing employment before their elder counterparts, we have come to the realisation that we need to start real life.

The grand entrance into downtown Seattle, what should have been the climax of the trip, turned out to be predictably a little underwhelming. Having been promised a trip out on a speedboat if we arrived by eleven, the ceremonial ‘Tour de France’ final stage turned into more of a sprint finish. The largest issue with the race against time was that no one had told us that Seattle is the second ‘hilliest’ city in the US, we were later told that one does not simply bike across the city. It is a labyrinth of bike lanes and 20% gradient hills. With Alb stubbornly refusing to to change a slow flat for the morning it also meant that we became very well acquainted with the gas stations in the Seattle suburbs, attempting to keep his tyres semi-inflated for the last stretch. Being titans of Instagram, we had been planning our arrival photo for some time. Having discussed it with various locals, we settled on the iconic Space Needle, hoping to have a view of the coast in the background. Unfortunately there were a few unforeseen complications. Firstly the Space Needle isn’t on the coast. Secondly, it turns out the best place to take a picture with a really tall tower is not directly beneath it. Finally, it is located in the heart of the Seattle Centre, and so it transpired that the large gaggle of people waiting, presumably we thought, to congratulate us at the finish line, weren’t particularly pleased to see two sweaty Brits on bikes pushing past them. Once we’d managed to convince a crowd member to leave their tour for a moment to take a number of fairly average photos of us, we vowed that we would not be getting back on the bikes for the remainder of the trip and promptly found the nearest bus.

The trip has taken us through 15 states, blue states, red states (including the county with the highest proportion of Trump supporters in the country), international cities, settlements of less than 100, two fully German towns, mountains, national parks, swamps and deserts – staying in all sorts accommodation along the route; an attic, a monastery, a geodesic dome, lake houses, biker bunk houses, hostels and of course a lot of camping. (For those expecting profound insights into American culture, you’re better off tuning into Louis Theroux’s documentary on the US, currently on 4oD). What we have learnt is to appreciate the stunning diversity of the country. Brits are quick to ridicule the 64% (State Dept:2016) of American’s who don’t have passports, yet it is hard to articulate how beautiful some of the regions are and in terms of popular tourist activities there isn’t much the US is lacking. In California alone you could be lying on a beach in the morning and skiing in the afternoon. Alb has enjoyed American culture so much, he is still hesitant as to whether he’ll be coming home at all. In a society where chocolate milk naturally accompanies cereal, ranch dressing is used as a dipping sauce and staple attire includes American football tops, the only thing standing between Alb and the citizenship test is the language barrier.

Seemingly more engrained within the Y chromosome is the inclination to ‘just wing it.’ If there is one thing that we have taken away from this trip, it is that as a policy it often falls short. Just to give you an idea of the inadequacy of our preparation: we went the wrong way across the country, we had the wrong maps, we brought the wrong pump, financially we under saved, physically we undertrained, we lacked anything waterproof and opting for a water purifier instead a roll matt, Bod in particular was seriously ill-equipped to deal with weeks of camping. Simply put, we would not have made it to Seattle without the generosity of a large number of people and a lot of luck. There are too many instances of each to cite all of them, so we are instead going to focus on a couple. If you read the last blog, you may recall that we found ourselves in a rather precarious position in Davenport with two malfunctioning bikes, no means of fixing them and an erratic bus service. Enter Kelly and Brooke Howell. Upon meeting them briefly at a petrol station, they helped us take apart our bikes, squeeze them into their hatchback, a difficult task for one bike let alone two, drive the two of us, who at that point where dripping in both sweat and oil, 100 miles to the nearest bike shop, insist on taking us out to dinner, take us to our campsite whilst the bikes were being fixed and then offer to have us to stay on the coast when we arrived. Amazingly, when parting ways, they kindly thanked us for sharing the experience with them! Thank you once again for your kindness! From a luck perspective, the most persistent example is our ability to turn up fashionably late to areas experiencing extreme weather. Upon arrival into the town of Libby, the entrance sign read ‘Thank you fire fighters,’ it later transpiring that we’d obliviously missed a forest fire by about a day. Having also had two close run-ins with tornados, one hitting 10 minutes after arriving into lunch and one forming 10 miles away and then fortunately moving in the opposite direction as we rode our bikes through the plains, miles from shelter; our trip could very easily have been cut short!

A final thank you to all those who have contributed to our trip: those of you who have read the blog; donated; sent messages of support; provided kit and of course to all those who have hosted us along the way. It truly makes an enormous difference and it made the whole thing a lot more pleasant. If you would like to donate, please see the link below:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=AlbandBodCoast2Coast&isTeam=true

What we’d have done differently:

Go the other direction

Spend more time off the bike

Do some hill climbing training prior to the trip

Take thicker tyres

Learn to change a puncture properly

Pack a floor pump

Do it on an E bike

Things we underestimated

Number of animals that can kill you (current count is 8)

America’s temperamental climate

The culture of generosity

How hilly Seattle was (never finish a bike tour there)

What 70 miles a day feels like on your arse

How quickly we’d run out of conversation

Our refusal to do miles in the wrong direction

The value of sudocrem

Things we’d overestimated

Bringing a water purifier was a bit excessive

The total number of miles

Bod’s mechanical skills

Alb’s hamstring

Our ability to grow beards that don’t frighten children

Amount of suncream needed

Sorry mum, things we didn’t tell you:

800 miles spent on a highway

Various stretches on an interstate

1 truck near miss

1 motorcycle very near miss

Caught on the edge of a tornado twice

Hitchhiked to the nearest bike shop twice

2 run ins with bears

2 big crashes (one each)

Best moments

Glacier national park (the descent)

Leaving the Appalachians

The Rodeo

Riding a Harley

Leaving Eastern Montana

Entering Western Montana

Warm Showers hosting

Worstmoments

Glacier national park (the ascent – see previous blog)

The Rodeo hangover

Alb’s rain soaked Birthday (see chapter 1)

Eastern Montana

Highway 2

Crashing a Harley

Bikestats

265 hours on the bike

100,000 feet climbed

320 granola bars

13mph average speed

Lost count of chocolate milk

The End (Part 1/2)

Dear Global Fanbase

Having deprived you of a new blog post for the last ten days, and unable to accept that in a few days no one could care less about our daily exploits, you’ll be delighted to hear that we have decided to split our final blog into a two part special. Or in Alb’s words, ‘we’ve got a week in Seattle with nothing to do.’

Welcome to the penultimate chapter of our tales, thank you for bearing with us this far, we are hugely appreciative of all the support! This post comes to you from the small town of Davenport (WA), where our mechanical inadequacies have finally caught up with us. With the unhelpful guidance that the bus will be running to the nearest bike shop in “about a month,” we have had rely on our own ‘expertise.’ Armed with YouTube’s finest step by step guides, Alb is currently drilling a snapped rack screw out of his bike and Bod, having unsuccessfully changed a tyre and thus exhausted all of his DIY capabilities, is in the local police station trying to explain to a largely unsympathetic mid-western Sherriff, who has clearly never experienced the perils of a puncture, why he was checking his tyre pressure in the middle of the road.

Michael Owen once infamously described football as ‘a game of two halves.’ The same could very much be said for Montana. Having endured ten days of the abyss, the mountain passes through the Rockies have been some of the most stunning scenery we’ve ever experienced. Logan Pass, the steepest and highest of the trip at 6886 feet happened to coincide with Alb’s first sense of humour failure. Having been promised panoramic views, our steep morning climb in thick fog and snow prompted the rather irritable and uncensored line, ‘I might as well be in the gym.’ The aggravation didn’t end there. Upon reaching the summit, unable to see Bod because of the fog, Alb decided not to recognise what should have been one of the most jubilant moments of the trip nor to get a photo with the iconic Logan pass sign nor to chat to the numerous other cyclists with whom we had ascended. He’d had enough and not fancying ‘small talk with people he didn’t know’ or a picture where ‘you could be anywhere’ he proceeded to descend, earphones in, rap music blaring, on his own. Thankfully five minutes into the descent the clouds lifted and with it Alb’s mood turned and we had a very pleasant and scenic ride down the mountain together.

With roughly half of our nights spent in a tent, camping has become a large feature of the trip. Whilst neither of us could truly be described as intrepid freedom campers who wash in streams or sleep under the stars, we have found that Americans have taken ‘glamping’ to a whole new level. To a Brit, camping usually involves a largely unenjoyable weekend down in the New Forest featuring relentless drizzle, a sore back and unimpressed children. American camping is a much more pleasant experience. More often than not, our sorry looking tent has been dwarfed by our neighbour’s ten man RV towing a boat, a car and usually a turbo powered off-road buggy to transport campers to and from the nearby washrooms. Other tents have actually been very hard to come by in American campsites, and it took a thunderstorm and a sleepless night in what could have been a river bed for us to realise why. What it has meant is that our minimalist camping is often taken pity on by onlookers; something which Bod has been quick to latch on to. As the less ‘happy camper’ of the two, he has developed a routine whereby the tent is pitched next to the plushest looking RV, the bike is then positioned very close to their camp so that the neighbours are aware of our basic means of transport, a prolonged period of stretching is undertaken to illustrate how worn out we are and to conclude proceedings, in a loud and exaggerated British accent, well aware that there isn’t anything for miles, he will ask Alb across the campsite where they are planning on getting dinner, in the hope of an offer of a warm meal.

As you may have seen on social media, we have now arrived in Seattle, the final part of our blog and trip reflections will be out shortly. If you have enjoyed reading, or even if you haven’t, please don’t forget to donate:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/donation-web/fundraiser?fundraiserActivityId=890596&stop_mobi=yes

What we’ve learnt:

Showing off your 3 times table won’t convince a bartender that you’re sober

Bod can still only do his 3 times table up to twelve

Wildfires move quicker than bikes

Hangovers and blog writing don’t mix well

Local bus services don’t exist in Montana

Don’t go to an outdoor sports shop to have your bike repaired

Washington has a desert in the middle of it

Alb genuinely believes his calling in life is to be a bull rider

Bull riding is harder than it looks

The world’s largest cinnamon roll doesn’t fit in our panniers

Don’t try a Mongolian Bar and Grill when looking for variety in a small town

A medium popcorn could feed a family of five

Don’t run over rattle snakes, they bite

‘There’s nothing here’ (adapted Eastern Montana slogan)

(Apologies for the delay of this Chapter, it’s hard to come by content in a 1000 miles of wheat fields)

One lunchtime we were approached by a lovely elderly couple who informed us that they had read about our trip in the ‘The Montana Standard’ (readership rumoured to be on par with this blog). Likely to be titled ‘Two Brits going the wrong way across America,’ in this era of fake news, we felt no need to fact check their tale – the publication is also conveniently without a website, so we have taken their word as gospel and are now coming to terms with a truly global fan base. This fourth instalment comes to you from the foothills of the Rockies, which we have recently learnt ‘you cannot just go around.’

Prior to North Dakota, we had had very little time to stop and immerse ourselves in the culture of the mid-west, the closest either one of us had come to being out of our cultural comfort zones was when Alb accidentally ordered ‘Tater Tots’ one lunch and had to send them back under the pretence that ‘he didn’t know what they were when he ordered them.’ However, within forty eight hours of entering North Dakota, we managed to spend a night at a monastery and be invited to watch the sold-out ‘Medora Musical’ a country style sing-a-long show. For those who know Alb, it is fair to say neither are his most natural environments. Having been ‘forced’ to take RS GCSE at school, it became clear that the Benediction Monks and Alb had very little in common. Unable to revert to the usual go-to’s of fantasy football and corporate finance, dinner time conversation, during the one meal of the week in which the monks don’t eat in silence, proved to be somewhat strained. The following evening we were very kindly gifted tickets to the musical. The maps had told us that the population of Medora was 130, so we weren’t expecting a great deal when we turned up. We realised we’d underestimated its scale when four thousand people piled in to watch ‘the best show in the west,’ a performance that runs seven nights a week during the summer. Again, having been ‘forced’ to watch ‘Cats’ when he was younger, an integrated audience-participation country music show was not how Alb envisaged he’d be spending his evening. After mumbling through the words to the national anthem and refusing to join in Johnny Cash’s iconic four word ‘Jackson’ chorus, Alb’s uncharacteristically loud applause dissipated when he realised that we had reached the interval and not the end of the show. On a serious note, we were extremely grateful to have the opportunity to see the show and meet the cast and would like to thank Andrew who made it all possible.

Having reached day forty, the trip has begun to take its toll on us both mentally and physically. Neither of us are able to sit down without wincing, Alb’s grip has weakened to the extent that he cannot hold a knife and fork properly and Bod has developed a chronic and debilitating strand of ‘puncture paranoia.’ For those who aren’t avid cyclists, this condition consists of the slow formation of a maternal bond with your wheels. One may be mistaken in thinking that when a wheel punctures, once you have been through the hassle of changing it, order can be restored. How wrong you would be. The crippling anxiety only starts there. As you ride off with a freshly pumped up inner tube, dark thoughts start to formulate. Am I losing pressure? What was that noise? Why didn’t Bod bring the right pump? Where is the nearest bike shop? Bod’s symptoms have included: stopping to prod his tyres every 20 minutes; inevitably then asking Alb to feel his tyres and compare them; pressing his ear up against the wheel in completely inappropriate situations and listening for the faint ‘psssshhh’ that denotes a slow puncture; asking Alb if he can bring his tyres into the tent during a storm; swerving randomly in the road when something glistens in the sun; a persistent fear of gravel roads and a decided lack of interest in the surroundings – whilst Alb searches for Buffalo, Bod scans the road ahead for glass. These symptoms have been exacerbated by uncharacteristically volatile episodes of bike rage. After a broken cassette, a cracked rim and four punctures and two new tyres, Ben ‘Balotelli’ Boddington now speaks to his bike more than he does Alb.

As we come to what is hopefully our final day in the Plains, we both agree that it is the first part of trip that we will be glad to leave behind. The last 1000 miles have been spent on two roads and today’s directions were genuinely ‘left out the campsite, right onto Highway 2 and then straight until dinner,’ although Bod somehow still manages to find himself disorientated at times. We have found that the Montana Automobile Association has a tendency to be overly eager when dishing out ‘highway’ status to certain roads. This label can cover both your standard dual carriageway and mud tracks that you wouldn’t wish to walk down let alone drive. Shout out to Highway 2 for winning our ‘Worst Road of the Trip’ award, it is so narrow in parts that drivers often have to use the hard shoulder to avoid oncoming traffic. On one of the slightly more eventful Plains days, again on Highway 2, we came across a sign unique to Montana that read ‘You may wish to consider an alternative route!’ With no obvious UK-esque diversion signs and worried about the impact that this road might have on his tyres, Bod approached a construction worker to enquire about this proposed ‘alternative route.’ The man looked Bod up and down, saw his bike, and completely dead-pan, proceeded to give by him detailed directions for a 300 mile detour on the interstate through Canada. Whilst tempted by the lure of smooth tarmac, if there is one thing Bods fears more than ‘puncture paranoia’ it is the prospect of heading back East, so we instead made our way very slowly through the road works.

Things we’ve learnt:

Theresa May would love Montana

Tater Tots are for kids

‘Broasted Chicken’ is not baked and roasted its fried

Train drivers have God Complexes

Monks swear, watch Netflix and waterski

Frozen Pot Pies don’t contain one of your five a day

America has a lot of dangerous animals

You can’t peddle against a 50mph wind

You don’t dictate your mood, the wind does

The smell of sudocrem lingers

Country Music is still the most popular genre in the US

The only item someone has tried to steal so far has been Bod’s 40 day old cycling shorts

Quotes

Q: ‘Where’s the nearest bar?’

A: ‘Oh it’s not walkable, it’s nearly a mile.’

‘It’s a two day drive from here to Seattle, so I’d say a three day cycle maybe’

Bike stats:

2850 miles

72,000 feet climbed

215 hours in saddle

212 granola bars

13mph average speed

144 chocolate milks

‘Discover the Spirit’ (North Dakota slogan)

Dear fans,

Thank you for your continued support and welcome to ‘Chapter Three’ of our nonsensical ramblings. With Murray conceding Wimbledon, England out of the World Cup and India steamrolling our ODI side, your summer of sport can continue here and it is only a matter of time before ‘Alb and Bod’s Coast2Coast’ has it’s own dedicated BBC Sport page for you to follow. Unperturbed by the fact that we have worked out how to view our ever dwindling readership, our delusions of grandeur haven’t faded and this chapter comes to you from Bismarck, North Dakota; home to 350 of America’s land based nuclear silos and commonly regarded as the last state people wish to visit when completing the 50 state challenge.

The further west we travel, the more recognisable we have become to the locals as ‘Brits abroad.’ We have learnt that the towns are fewer and further between and our tendency to ‘wing it’ has left us unstuck on more than one occasion. Nothing better encapsulates our naivety than our entry into the ‘town’ of Gackle (population 78). After a few days of cycling through the plains without passing any shops, we naturally had slightly different but equally inaccessible priorities. Ridden with mosquito bites and with skin only capable of turning various shades of pink, Bod’s tan lines coupled with his wispy beard and slightly too small lycra guaranteed us our own private camping spot in the local playground, a young family moving pretty swiftly after our arrival. With the only shop in the town shut, his quest for Factor 50 P20 suncream and a flat white was not received particularly well by locals as he went door to door. Meanwhile, Alb was finding that the language barrier had become so severe that the best form of communication was via hand written notes; genuinely asking one bewildered local if he could borrow a scanner to file his tax returns in a town that still used dial-up broadband. The British ineptitude when dealing with American customs continued the following evening when as a through away comment at dinner Bod indicated to his host that it had been a lifelong dream to drive a Harley Davidson. Five minutes later he found himself behind the wheel of a $20,000, 340kg, ‘Fat Boy’ Harley. Six minutes later, unable to back out of his ‘life long dream’, he found himself apologising profusely for crashing it into the owner’s front fence. Having opted to film the event rather than tend to Bod’s crash site, Alb politely declined the offer of riding the bike solo, claiming that riding a Vespa in Vietnam was quite enough thrill-seeking for him.

(Blake and Specialized – please feel free to skip the next paragraph!)

Up until now, the bikes have been fantastic, brilliantly equipped to deal with some of Bod’s more enigmatic shortcuts and once again we’d like to thank the Specialized team for kitting us out, without whom the trip would not have been possible. However, Bod’s bike decided that the Great Plains were the best place to start playing up, where it is hard enough to find shade, let alone rogue bike parts. When it comes to bike management and maintenance, we have two very different approaches. Alb’s propensity to fall over and crash into stationary objects or the ‘treat it mean, keep it keen’ method, as he likes to call it, starkly contrasts Bod’s anally retentive checking of the tyre pressure and gear alignment each morning. What Bod’s fastidiousness can’t account for, however, is Alb’s lack of spacial awareness and on day thirty, again making the most of the slip stream, Alb went into the back of Bod’s tyre and went flying off his bike. Bod, unfazed by Alb’s fall, tended to his bike like a newborn and assessed the damage. A couple of miles later in ‘completely unrelated’ circumstances or due to ‘self sabotage’ as Alb perceives it, Bod’s cassette happened to break and he was restricted to the use of his highest three gears and a wobbly wheel, two hundred miles from the nearest bike shop. Few words were exchanged that afternoon, Alb receiving frosty and monosyllabic responses when circling back to check on Bod and commenting on how beautiful the rolling hills of North Dakota were (or what seemed like mountains on three gears).

Travelling as a two, however well you get on, conversation starts to dry up after a certain amount of time. Having exhausted all his knowledge of how the pound was doing against the dollar and dangerously close to coming out of the trip with a Masters in Economics, Bod has started to look to meet new people along the way. After very limited success making friends with a biker group from Southern Ontario, one of them commenting on our ‘high-school facial hair,’ we thought it best to try and stick to meeting cyclists. One evening, our hosts informed us that she had seen a couple of touring cyclists about a day ahead of us. Unable to constrain our competitive instincts, we spent the next couple of days flat out, trying to catch them. Hoping for a couple of Swedes with a broken tent, Bod spent the time perfecting his Queen’s English, whilst Alb worked on his tan lines. In the plains you can see for miles and after a few days of racing we caught a glimpse of two cyclists out in the distance. As we caught up with them, they introduced themselves as Bill and Patricia, a lovely retired couple from Minnesota and we been racing them to the coast ever since.

What we’ve learnt:

The plains aren’t flat

Harley Davidsons are heavy

Guesstimating our half-way point using a wall map is not terribly reliable

‘Biker’ means motorcyclist not cyclist

It’s not coming home

‘Town’ can be used loosely to describe a collection of houses

Alb thought he was from 8 mile when growing up

Tornadoes aren’t mythical

When we ask for two spoons with dessert, people think we’re dating

Smoothie is a synonym for ice cream

No one knows the password to their own wifi

Amish stores are so cheap because everything is out of date

Best British joke we’ve been told:

Q: Why didn’t Raheem Sterling vote in the EU referendum?

A: Because he can’t put a cross in the box

Worst Joke:

Did you cycle here from England? Did you get wet?

Irrational fears:

Bod:

That his tyre pressure has fallen

Being chased by geese

Showerless campsites

Realising that he’s only put factor 30 on in the morning

Alb:

That we get to the west coast early

That we run out of oatmeal

That the next town won’t sell trail mix

Stats:

Miles: 2200

Hours in saddle: 171

Feet climbed: 54,711

Granola bars: 164

Number of states: 9

Days cycling: 28

Average speed: 13mph

Great Lakes Great Times (Michigan slogan)

Dear fans,

After at least five confirmed readings of our previous publication, we thought it time to release ‘Chapter Two’ before the fame becomes unbearable and we start getting recognised on the streets. Unfortunately both Stephen Fry and David Attenborough politely declined to assist in the narration of an audiobook series, so you are stuck reading for the time being. In lighter news, we have, however, had a verified Canadian reader so are now officially international bloggers (Alb has already updated his CV). We left you in Niagra Falls and we now find ourselves in the college town of Eau Claire for our second rest day.

Undertaking the trip as a pair, we have naturally spent a great deal of time in each other’s company, so much so that of the twenty two nights we’ve been traveling, twenty have been spent top to toe. Having lived together at university we thought we were well aware of the other’s habits and idiosyncrasies, but a trip of this nature, where Vaseline needs to be applied each morning, definitely pushes a friendship to new extremes! The first question we usually get asked is whether we have fallen out yet, and the answer is honestly that we haven’t, but that doesn’t preclude certain sources of friction that can occur after six hours on the saddle. After the first ten days or so, it became apparent that Alb had a slight tendency to overstay his welcome in the slipstream behind Bod’s bike, or, the ‘yellow jersey position’ as he likes to call it. Whilst hardly the most egregious of traits, Alb frequently manages to coincide the end of his time at the front with the arrival of an aggressive headwind, citing ‘delegation to be key.’ The problem persisted until day fifteen when our hosts kindly cooked us a full English breakfast to fuel us up for the morning session. Alb was left with a dilemma, pedal harder or hold his breath until lunch. We have, however, found that our strengths and weaknesses compliment the flaws in each other’s skill sets. Bod’s camping abilities are fairly basic and he has developed a tendency to ‘just check’ how cheap the motels are whilst Alb sets up camp. His sense of direction also leaves a lot to be desired, on numerous occasions he can be seen setting off from lunch in the direction from which we arrived. In contrast, Alb has developed a rather prominent ‘mid-western twang’ that he only employs when interacting with locals. Whilst his plan to ‘infiltrate from the inside’ might seem like a good idea to him, locals frequently give him a quizzical look, slow down their sentences as if conversing with a child and when they still don’t understand his response, turn to Bod for a translation, much to his irritation.

Alb’s birthday was last week and whilst we couldn’t get #bertsbirthdaybash trending on twitter, it happened to coincide with the most eventful day of the trip to date. We were warned that morning by our host, who also happened to be a cycling safety instructor, that storms were rolling in and that she would most definitely not set off into the current forecast. We naively informed our host that we would be absolutely fine because we were British, we were used to the rain and we had brought water resistant tops with us. About an hour into the day we learnt that there is a distinction between water ‘resistant’ and water ‘proof’ and that America has ‘monsoon days’ in June which are far more serious than British drizzle. Lost in the middle of a storm, and being millennials, we decided to consult Google Maps, only to find a message from Apple informing us that there was a tornado in the area and that we should seek shelter immediately (which also explained that the wailing sirens weren’t warning of an imminent air raid). After a near miss of about five miles, we set off into the rain again, more cautiously this time. Whilst at lunch, Bod found a shortcut via the seemingly foolproof Google Maps bicycle icon which looked to cut around twenty miles off of our day. What a birthday present it turned out to be. An hour into the ‘detour,’ we found ourselves peddling down a ‘PRIVATE – trespassers will be shot’ farmers track through half a foot of mud with Alb politely advising Bod on the more pleasant ways he could think of to be spending his birthday. In silence we came to the end of the ‘shortcut’ to find that google maps had omitted a rather beautiful, but rather large lake with no route around it. After a look from Alb that Bod read as ‘let’s stay in a motel this evening as a birthday treat’ we turned around and retraced our steps, ending the day with a celebratory beer and an Uncle Ben’s in Midland’s out of town motel. To put a more positive spin on it, we did complete our first (and most probably our last) hundred mile day and Google have been informed of their omission.

Finally, in the previous blog we touched on the extreme American generosity that we have encountered and this has continued in each state we’ve been through. We would once again like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped us along the way. Despite this being the case 99% of the time, we have come across a few people who aren’t too enthusiastic about British cyclists. Commandeering the television and animatedly celebrating Harry Kane’s penalty in JJ’s Sports Bar and Grill was not particularly popular with the locals who had turned up to watch the baseball. As we tried to explain that we would need the TV for extra time and penalties, we were finally hounded out of the bar to an adapted and rather more expletive version of ‘it’s coming home!’ We have also developed a thick skin when it comes to the roads; car horns are now interpreted as a sign of affection, and we have learnt that the American signal for peace is backwards to the internationally recognised two finger ‘V’. One more memorable show of affection was a truck that slowed down and entered the hard shoulder to get a better look at the charity logo on our tops, accidentally showering us in exhaust fumes in the process.

Things we’ve learnt:

Having cookies for breakfast isn’t frowned upon

Turning up to Wisconsin bars in lycra is

100 miles is too far

Our beards aren’t like fine wines…

Welcome signs are no where near the centre of towns

There is a Christmas-land in Michigan that is open 365 days a year

Michigan roads end without warning

Apparently it’s cheating joining a triathlon mid race, particularly on the running leg

Triathletes aren’t renowned for their sense of humour

Worse lunches to cycle on:

1) Subway foot-long BMT + cookie meal deal

2) All you can eat wings

3) Large ice cream sundae

4) Hot Dogs

Alb is going to be a caring father – quote from Day 12 “babies…all you need to do is feed them and they grow”

When giving directions, “it’s not far” is about as unhelpful as sending someone the wrong way

‘Thoughts and Ponderings’ with Alb and Bod:

Who takes their animals to Pet Palace grooming salons?

Is there a size of lawn that doesn’t require a sit on lawn mower?

Is there really a demand for drive through ATMs and pharmacies?

Do pick up trucks need to be as wide as the road?

We were so many people at Christmas land in June?

Spotted

2 Bald eagles

1 Trump supporter

1 Tornado

1 Concertina

Stats:

7 states

20 days cycling

1500 miles

40,000 feet climbed

115 hours

Av speed 13mph

3 punctures, 1 broken spoke

107 energy bars

0 tailwinds

Chapter 1: ‘Live free’ (New Hampshire slogan)

Dear fan(s),

The moment you have all been waiting for has finally arrived, our highly anticipated serialised chronicles have dropped (audio book and bonus features such as Alb’s executive summary and step by step guide to budgeting for the trip available upon donation).

Laden with expensive sun cream we set off from Boston into the rain. Within an hour we had fallen twice, reversed up a high way slip road and unaware of the width of our new panniers, knocked over numerous of Boston’s Wednesday morning recycling bins, finally making it to our first Warm Showers host (free lodging for the cycling community).

Unable to resist the childish urge to establish who was fitter, it took two older gentlemen on a casual morning ride flying past us to realise that we were both seriously underprepared to take on seventy miles a day. As we later worked out, these have been the only two cyclists going in the same direction as us for the entire ten days. Upon meeting new people, once we get past the inevitable mocking of the accent, virtually everyone takes great delight in informing us that we are cycling the wrong way across America, against the prevailing wind.

Our first camping experience nearly saw us deported for bathing naked in what we were later told was a communal family area of the river. When it comes to camping we have found that we both have two particular strengths. The first being the extreme detours we are willing to go to in order to avoid it (current record 20 miles). The second being the ability to use British charm to make up for our considerable shortcomings in trip preparation. One evening, having exhausted all options, we turned up to a campsite late without any source of food or water and seriously dehydrated so we turned to our neighbours for assistance. The rather unusual response of ‘is Ben short for bend over’, to the question of whether they had any spare dinner had us worried, but fortunately having thrashed around with the tent for twenty minutes, and looking decidedly dejected, an extremely kind family invited us to share tacos with them.

The most prominent feature of the first ten days has been the Appalachian mountain range. Arriving in Boston confident that the Rockies were the only mountains in the US, and that it ‘would be virtually all down hill until we got there,’ our host on night one told us that he lived at the foot of the Appalachians. A quick google search confirmed their existence and we boldly proclaimed that we’d deal with them in a day. The following evening, after a long day of climbing up a mountain pass, we celebrated with a beer, very pleased with ourselves, thinking we’d got through it. Four days, a lot of swearing and a tight hamstring later we limped out of the last of them. Despite the climbing, both of us have been surprised by how stunning Vernmont and New York State have been and whilst we will miss the scenery, we are very ready to leave it behind for flatter ground.

One thing we have noticed throughout our trip is the extraordinary generosity ingrained within American culture. In a typically British fashion, we were initially hesitant to talk to people about our trip, generally suspicious about why they were interested. However, time and time again we’ve found people have gone to great lengths to help us along the way. One very memorable example was a couple (Patrick and Emily) who, upon hearing that we were on our way to an out of town campsite, again having overestimated our mileage capability, kindly let us spend the evening free of charge in their guest house on the coast. There have been too many acts of kindness along the way to list them all but, we’d like to thank everyone who has made this trip a little bit easier, particularly all of our Warm Showers hosts.

We are writing from our first rest day in Niagra Falls which seemed like an ideal place to take in some culture. Having stumbled across the Falls themselves however, we realised that the town is essentially Las Vegas for kids and have spent the day terrorising school trips on arcade games and walking around the Hersheys factory collecting samples.

Things we’ve learnt:

America is big

As far as American customs officials are concerned, sharing a tent for 60 days is not cohabitation

Two bikes side by side don’t permit use of the bus lane when crossing the US/Canadian border

Alb is on a spiritual awakening, learning of life beyond the Bournemouth bubble:

– The Adriatic is a sea not a mountain range

– English pop music is actually American and Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are not from the UK

– He can frequently be heard muttering ‘bigger is better’ to himself throughout the day

-His hamstrings are just short not tight

Bod has only just stopped waking in the night with exam terrors

-His knee only hurts when Alb beats him up a hill

-He has no geographical awareness and can’t use a physical map

-He either has terrible eyesight or takes pleasure running over road kill in the hard shoulder, including a near miss with a live bear

– He has to empty the entire contents of his bag to find anything – yet he still stubbornly believes strongly in the stuff it all in approach

Neither of us can grow a full beard

Neither of us know very much about biking

We’re both really bad at social media

Bears can run faster than we can bike

Sudocrem can’t be applied in public

Americans don’t understand undulation because they mostly drive everywhere

A large size portion must be made for giants

Biker translation:

‘Gnarly climb’ = steep

‘Sick climb’ = long

‘There’s a detour this way for a great ride’ = stay on route

‘It’ll be easy for you guys’ = it’s going to be a long afternoon

Spotted:

2 bears

1 bull frog

1 terrapin

1 elderly racist

Still haven’t met a trump supporter

Stats: (Alb is on Strava if you’re bored)

4 states

9 days cycling

650 miles

26,000 feet climbed

50 hours cycling

Av speed 13mph

9/9 days of headwinds

41 energy bars consumed

2kg of raisins

15 chocolate milks

0 hours of 2018 World Soccer tournament watched

Beginning in Boston

0 miles

0 states completed

0 nights

It turns out waiting until the very last minute to dissemble and fit a bike into a cardboard box to fly halfway across the world is not the most relaxing

activity on a hangover. After two last minute visa applications, some less than friendly customs officials and a delightful in-flight ice cream, we arrived in Boston. We have kindly been hosted by Alb’s great aunt and uncle for last two days, while we got over our jet lag. There have been a few teething problems putting the bike together. Our lack of bike expertise became apparent from day one. A long half an hour attempting to pump up a tyre was only brought to an end by Alb’s great uncle who realised Bod had bought a mountain bike pump (the one item he had to bring…)

Today kicks off with a jolly 60 mile cycle to our first warmshower.com host, Charlie in Boscawen, who has kindly agreed to put us for free for the evening.

We are both absolutely buzzing to get started, and can’t quite believe we are here. One thing that has become apparent is the extent to which we underestimated the cost of this challenge and the trip would not be possible without the fantastic support we have received. In particular, we’d like to thank our partners; Specialized, Deliveroo, AirCanada, Adventure Cycling Association, Frettens, Blumariin, Bosham Capital, Lime Estates UK and all those who have already donated to CALM. We are delighted to have now raised over half of our target. Any donation big or small to help us edge up to that £10,000 mark will be greatly appreciated!

Alb and Bod

Two men, two bikes, one huge country, 4,300 miles. Meet Alb & Bod

Hi Alb & Bod, tell us about yourselves – how did you meet?

Just over five years ago we both started Exeter University and signed up to the same football team. Once we realised how awful we were, we decided to live together with most of the team and have been friends since. We’ve endured two years togetherincluding several disastrous football seasons, and a graduate holiday to Portugal. We’re the last of our friends to have managed to put off jobs and the real world for one more year, and fancied a final pre-work adventure this summer.

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Tell us about the challenge…

On the 14th June 2018, we’ll depart from the east coast of America in Boston and attempt to cycle the width of America, spanning 4,300 miles and finishing on the coast in Seattle. We’re looking to complete the route in 60 days averaging roughly 70 miles each day. We’ll be unsupported for the duration of the trip carrying all of our equipment on the bikes and camping along the way. It’s completely self-funded, Alb has raised money interning in London and practising his cycling for Deliveroo, Bod has been tutoring while at law school.

Why are you fundraising for CALM?

We realise that it is a once in a life time opportunity to push ourselves both physically and mentally in order to raise money and awareness for a worthwhile cause. Mental health problems are the great public health challenge of our time.

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How will you prepare ?

We’re both fairly active and have cycled across France previously, so have some idea of what 70 miles a day feels like on the saddle (albeit for a much shorter period of time). Alb has been racking up the miles for Deliveroo in Bournemouth, Bod has been (trying) to navigate London’s cycle highways on his way to and from college. Despite best intentions, there will most likely also be a last minute training push when it actually sinks in how far we have to go!

Any highlights you’re looking forward to?

The journey starts in New England and continues down to Buffalo, across the grasslands of the Great Lake states and through the mountains and Great Plains of the West. We decided to do the northern route to try and avoid miles and miles of desert, however, we did overlook the fact that finishing in Seattle does mean a pretty gruelling climb over the Rocky Mountains during the last stint of the trip. The two obvious highlights are Niagara falls and Yellowstone National Park, and we’re looking forward to seeing the Great Lakes and Boston, Chicago and Seattle too.

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Any worries or nerves?

We’ve not truly come to terms with the heat and humidity that we’ll come up against. It’s hard to account for when training in London in February. Unsurprisingly the other worry is the distance! When we agreed on the route, it seemed so far away that the width of America was just a cool target to set. The more training we do, the more we realise how far 4,300 miles actually is!

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