Now that I have had plenty time to look back on the trip and appreciate it as a whole, I thought I would write one last blog for my loyal fans.
I can’t quite remember the feelings I had about the trip before I started. I do remember thinking that it would be a lot easier than it eventually turned out to be. I had read a few blogs that all said that the most amazing thing about the this kind of trip is how mundane it becomes, how after a few weeks cycling 60/70 miles a day simply becomes routine. In all honesty, looking back I would say exactly the same thing about the trip. But I think that’s due to the fact that the easier days towards the end begin to cloud the memories of the tough days at the start. As I said before, the first few weeks were the hardest. For most people, a trip like this would be an accumulation of year’s worth of dreaming and planning, a lifelong dream to live on the road, cycling everyday across an amazing continent. The problem for me was that this was a three month dream; I had no experience of cycling for so long and I had (and still have) no love for cycling. I had to grow into the trip; I had to learn while I was doing it. What to eat, when to eat, how fast to go, what distances were realistic. While the bad days may have outnumbered the good ones, it is the good ones that I will remember the most. The people, the places and the experiences are something that I will always remember and it is certainly a trip that I look back on very fondly.
This will be my last post, so before I summarize, I want to take the time to thank all the incredible people that I met throughout my trip. I honestly didn’t give out the details of this site very often, so if I gave it to you, then you really contributed to the enjoyment of my trip and I hope one day I can repay you. Another big thank you to everyone who donated, I was able to visit Rachel House when I got back and witnessed where the money is going and the fantastic work that they do there. And a final big thank you to everyone who posted comments on here. I really appreciated every single comment; they really kept me going, especially through the tough first few weeks.
So here is a final summary of the trip:
Best day: Despite my constant moaning throughout the whole blog, I did actually have a good number of really enjoyable days. However, the best day of the trip decision was quite an easy one. From day one I dreamt of reaching the Atlantic Ocean and on day 69, this finally became a reality. It was still quite a long day, but I don’t think cycling 80 miles will ever feel so easy. However, it wasn’t the cycling that made this day the best, it was the destination. Good Harbor Beach was the perfect ending point for my trip and to have family there at the end made it even more special.
Worst day: To avoid excessive worry back home, full details of this day were not exposed in the original blog.
I mentioned a couple of times that Sundays tended to not be my best days, but one particular Sunday was worse than the rest. It was my first real day in the Rockies and it was bad from start to finish. Mileage wise it wasn’t a particularly long day, but in terms of hours on the bike, I think it was the longest. It started with a second accent of the same hill out of Lewiston, followed by a ridiculous ‘short cut’ through a field. Both of these factors meant that I hit the start of the real climb around midday, which meant climbing right through the hottest part of the day. In addition to this, I was quite low on water due to the shop on my map no longer being in business. In fact this was the only time throughout the trip that I felt low on water. The hill took forever, it was just steep enough to be constantly uncomfortable and the heat combined with a complete lack of shade made it unbearable. Towards the end of the trip, I remember thinking back and wondering if the hill actually was that tough and how I would have handled the same hill at the end of the trip. Irrespective of this, on this occasion, the hill took me around 4 hours to complete. However, if the day ended at the top of the hill, it probably wouldn’t have made this list; the day would’ve been forgotten about just like all the other tough days on the bike. But as I said, today was bad from start to finish. The flat stretch at the top of the hill to the town was a lot longer than I expected, probably due to my snail like pace at this stage and the fact that I was now completely out of water.
Upon arrival in the horrible little town of Winchester, I sat down at the only bar in town to get some food. I can’t actually remember what I ate, but I do remember getting an ice tea, which I definitely didn’t order. After dinner I set about finding somewhere to stay. My maps said that there was a campsite in town, and despite the tough day and the fact that there were a couple of motels, I was determined to start camping more. After a frustrating unsuccessful ride down and back up a hill to try find the campsite and a couple of rides around town, I finally worked out where the campsite should be. I went up a small but quite steep gravel track and arrived at where the campsite should’ve been, but all that was there was a model of a small old western town. After walking around a bit and tripping over a fence (landing face first), I decided to abandon the search and just stay in the motel back down the road.
As I was going back down the gravel track, I began to pick up pace. Wary that the track let directly out onto a main road, I tried to brake a little. As a result, I started skidding and soon came of the bike, hitting the ground hard. Bleeding and bruised, bike broken, I walked over to the motel and went inside. The woman in charge immediately called anyone with any medical experience in town, including a vet!! The police came to make sure that no one was to blame. Still in quite a bit of shock, the ‘paramedics’ did a good job of patching me up, while the motel owner asked me some questions, including one of my favourite questions from the whole trip, “do they speak Russian in Ukraine?”
I was quite badly scrapped, but nothing too serious; my biggest worry was the bike. The handlebars were completely bent out of shape and the brakes were busted, with parts missing. The closest bike shop was back down in Lewiston, and I’ll be dammed if I was going up that hill again. Out of phone signal, no internet, unsure how to fix the bike and pretty sore to boot, it was a lonely worrying night and probably the low point of the whole trip.
The next morning, things seemed better, I was able to fix the handlebars and the back brakes (I didn’t use the front brakes anyway), and despite being pretty sore, my desire to get out of that town was too strong to hold me back. I managed to get the bike fixed completely in Missoula and the wounds eventually healed. Day 10 was certainly memorable, for all the wrong reasons.
Longest day: 20mph winds directly at my back, flat, straight roads the whole day and the motivation that I could get out of North Dakota within the day, day 34 was a day where everything aligned. In addition to this, I was feeling better after struggling earlier in the same week. 135 miles was the total, the only time I went over the century on the whole trip and to be honest it wasn’t even difficult. Physically and mentally day 34 turned out to be a real turning point of the trip.
Shortest day: In total, I had nine rest days and almost all of them were glorious. They included: Pump shopping in Walla Walla, tube shopping in Clarkston, body and bike fixing in Missoula, a very enjoyable day in Lewistown with Jerry and Vicky, recovering in Dickinson, eating anything I could find in St Joseph, stocking up with the parents, a day of eating and watching sport on the banks of Lake Erie and finally a relaxing day after a magnificent Canadian Thanksgiving.
I’m not completely sure what was the shortest day in terms of cycling, I wasn’t really counting the mileage, but considering I reached my destination at 9am on Day 8, I’m going to go with that one.
Favourite state: Quite a few to choose from here. If I had gone east to west, then my feelings towards certain states would probably be different. But in terms of favourite state to cycle through, I’m going to go for Minnesota. Really friendly people, beautiful scenery, wasn’t too hot, wasn’t too hilly and it wasn’t North Dakota. Honourable mentions go to New York state and Massachusetts, but as I say, if I had gone the other direction, I’m sure I would have enjoyed others more (Oregon/Washington).
Worst state: No real surprises here. I was only in North Dakota for about a week, but the constant winds, not feeling very well and the boring boring landscape made it the inevitable choice for worst state. Without the winds, I’m pretty sure that I would have cruised across North Dakota quite quickly and not thought much of it. However, this didn’t happen, ensuring that a return for me to that state is very unlikely. But in a way it lucky it was so unenjoyable, because if it wasn’t my worst state, I’m not sure which one would be.
Favourite daily heading: Being on the bike for so long gives you a lot of time to think, people are known to have had great epiphanies whilst cycling. The only revelation that I discovered is that I don’t seem to have a long enough attention span to reach any life changing notions. One thing that did take up some of my thinking time was the daily headings for this blog. Often they were adaptations of lines from the songs I was listening to (Day 24: Tear up the forecast, cause it’s a bright and blue sky) or simply ways of expressing how I was feeling (Day 31: Pissing in the wind). I liked most of them as soon as I thought of them, but there was one that made me giggle more that the rest. So this award goes to Day 64: Freezing My Tan Off.
Flat Tyres: About 7
Broken Spokes: 0 (Thankfully)
Rainy days: 3 (And only one was proper rain)
Record Temperature: 44 Degrees Celsius
Canadian Provinces: 1
Days on the road: 69
Miles: 3,800 (Approximately, but what’s a few miles amongst friends).
Finally, if you or anyone you know is planning on doing something similar, I would be happy to give some advice on how to survive out there on the lonely road.
Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed!!
Please feel free to come back anytime, I know I will