TransAm Day 17 and rest day 27th and 28th of May

Tom writes:

Booneville to Berea: 81 kms

berea

Where are we!!??
Where are we!!??

Total distance so far: 1239 kms

 

Another day, another ride, this time in boiling hot sunshine and a mere 80 kilometers.

Ami did her usual gymnastics in the morning by wrestling with our inflatable mattress so we could get it into its pouch.

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As we hit the road we cycled alongside Lucas, a really nice guy who stayed in the same church hall as us, and is on his way to Boulder, Colorado. He was so kind as to have a look at Ami’s bike the night before, lube her gears and fix the puncture that would have taken us at least 45 minutes to do but seemed to take 45 seconds for him.

He is a semi pro serious cyclist and a bike mechanic to boot, so it was fun talking to him and he seemed at least semi serious when he complimented us on our speed, which I have to admit isn’t bad for a couple of middle aged amateurs.

I even managed to burn him on a couple of climbs which was a feather in my cap but should perhaps be qualified by adding that he was lugging a 30 kilo trailer behind his bike at the time.

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We were heading towards a welcome free day in the town of Berea and above all a hotel room with real sheets and no inflatable mattress. Berea also represents the end of the Appalachian mountains and some, theoretically anyway, easier rides in the next few days.

The first few kilometres were notable for the dogs. We had a theory that the reason we didn’t get attacked by any the day before was that the rain kept them inside and that was strengthened by the appearance of quite a few now when the sun was shining.

I was armed with a whistle in my mouth and some dog repellent spray but we found that the best way of avoiding trouble in most cases was just to go slowly. Many of these animals have no sense of self preservation and could easily just throw themselves in front of you if you pedalled at full tilt, killing themselves in the process but, more importantly, seriously injuring your good self.

They are a total pain in the arse.

For once we were quite happy to leave the small country roads and hit the more heavily trafficked ones, figuring that no one in their right mind would leave their dogs unleashed if they risked getting maimed by coal trucks and four wheel drive pick ups.

Within half an hour however two mutts ran out to us again as we rode past, just managing to dodge us and the cars around us.

Seriously scary.

They say that this happens less and less the further west we go and that Kentucky is the worst culprit and I hope it is true for you can never totally relax as it is right now. As soon as you hear the sound of barking you are on your guard and ready to take evasive action.

 

On our rest day we split up. Not literally I hasten to add but just for the day.

I went to Richmond, Kentucky with a few from the group as there is a cycle shop there and Ami’s bike needed a few small modifications made on it.

I ended up having a very interesting conversation with Jay from the shop who turned out to be an enlightened and proud Kentuckian (if that is a word) and who showed himself to be a very good source of information about the religions, politics, history, linguistics and race relations in the area.

I also ate a scrummy pastry, captured here for all eternity by group colleague, tandem cyclist and all round lovely person, Zoe.

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Ami checked out Berea’s cafés and art scene and had a few well deserved hours for herself.

We are now sitting up in bed and looking forward to one last night of sleep in a real crib before reality strikes again tomorrow.

 

À bien tot

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TransAm Days 13,14,15 and 16 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th of May

Tom writes:

Damascus to Rosedale: 52 kms

Damascus

Rosedale to Breaks: 70 kms

Breaks

Breaks to Hindman: 114 kms

Hindman

Hindman to Booneville: 108 kms

Booneville

 

Once again where we are in the world
Once again where we are in the world

Number of punctures: 3 (Ami 2, Tom 1)

Total distance so far: 1158 kms

 

It was a bugger getting back on the bikes after a rest day.

It always seems to take me five or six kilometres to get back into gear so to speak when I first mount my steed but after a day off I can in general almost double that time. Today was no exception, my limbs felt like warmed up jelly and trifle as we rolled away from Damascus.

It didn’t help that the night before was notable only for the sheer volume of water that plunged from the sky onto our tent (which kept it out thankfully) and more disconcertingly onto the grass that surrounded it, turning it into a marshland. It is not so much fun waking up in the night needing a pee and finding you have to get out of your inner sheet, your sleeping bag, take off your socks which are protecting you from the cold, stumble into your soaking flipflops, run through the deluge above and the sludge below to the bathroom, pee, return through said deluge and sludge, remove flipflops, put socks back on, curse that you are soaking wet anyway, saying fuck it I can’t be arsed getting new clothes on in a dark tent with limited space and a wife who is trying heroically to stay asleep despite my cursing, to then struggle back into sleeping bag and inner sheet before trying in vain to rejoin that dream you were having of lying on a beach in the Bahamas being fed pineapple by scantily clad maidens.

We hit the road for a mercifully short day of cycling which was notable for its lack of notability.

Yes, it was routinely beautiful as I have written before, yes, there were a couple of good climbs and yes, Ami did see some cows having a bath.

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It was very nice to arrive in camp a bit earlier than usual and that that camp, once again, was a church that had generously opened it’s doors to bikers on its route.

You will never turn the devil into a religious man but I must say that the generosity and trustiness (if that is a word – it should be) of these places is striking.

Their doors are often left open and their fridges full, in this one we even found chocolate gateau with a note saying take what you want.

We did.

We slept under the altar (sorry the pics didn’t come out too well so you don’t get to see it) and the floor was softly carpeted and the pew cushions fluffy under our inflatable mattresses so a good night was had by all.

The only complaint to be heard from our throng was the cold water in the outdoor shower which I personally found oddly refreshing like the masochist that I am.

 

We upped the ante on the next day and rode a massive 70 kilometres (honestly it’s a cinch these days for hardened professionals such as us ;)) to the Breaks National Park which is situated on both sides of the state border between Virginia and Kentucky.

On our journey there we waited at a level crossing for the longest goods train I have ever seen

This picture doesn't do it justice
This picture doesn’t do it justice

and saw another nice street name.

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The Breaks National Park is said by some to be the Grand Canyon of the south and was suitably imposing and beautiful in its way.

Its camp ground however wasn’t quite as breathtaking and the first thing we were greeted by was a little dog who would not stop yapping all afternoon.

I swear it didn’t take a break for five hours. Members of the group were prepared to strangle the bloody thing towards the end. Thankfully it did shut up by the time its owners showed up towards dusk and we did get to sleep reasonably well on our last night in the state of Virginia.

 

So at last we left Virginia and entered Kentucky which proved itself to be the start of a day from hell.

We can start with the two bits of good news before getting on to the rest.

Firstly we have covered our first state, and got a little pin each to prove it.

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The second thing we covered during this day of cycling was our first 1000 kilometres (hooray :)) which was honoured by this epic picture of Ami’s speedometer.

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Only 5800 kilometres left.

The fact that we were on a very ugly stretch of highway when the magic moment arrived only dampened the mood slightly.

What really dampened the mood was the next sequence of events. While resting at the top of a steep gradient we were met by the news that one of our friends in the group, Merton, had been run off the road by a crazy driver and banged his head and injured his shoulder in the process. The bastard in the car fled the scene.

He was rushed to hospital where thankfully (under the circumstances) it was confirmed that he wasn’t in a critical condition but that his injuries were such that his tour had, barring a miracle, come to an end.

A sad end for a really nice guy and a collective reminder for the group that cyclists are not the most protected species on the roads.

This was made even more clear by what happened next. The phrase “it never rains but it pours” has never been so apt.

Our leader Christi, riding sweep (last in the group making sure that everyone is on track), misjudged a turn and ended up herself in a ditch, fracturing her collarbone.

She is sticking around for a while while things get sorted out, her arm in a sling, but realistically she won’t be with us for much longer as she not only can’t cycle but also she can’t lift anything or drive, other prerequisites for leading the group.

We will really miss her when she leaves. She is calm and soothing and has become a good friend.

Add to that that it was probably the hardest day of cycling we have had so far, four pretty hard climbs in 114 kilometres of riding, and that it was boiling hot all day.

And to top it all off I got a bloody puncture in the middle of the whole thing and it took us forty minutes to fix it.

The pizza we ate that night in the village of Hindman was good, but had a bitter after taste.

Adventure Cycling who are organising this trip are now frantically trying to get hold of a new leader who can assist Jared, who is now effectively doing two peoples job. We will see when and how that sorts itself out.

Until then the group has got together to help organising meals and taking it in turns to ride sweep now that Jared is stuck on driving duties. It will be my turn on Sunday.

 

So what happens the next morning when we wake up to go to our next camp in the town of Booneville?

Yupp, totally unexpectedly the weather forecast changes drastically and we have pouring rain for the whole morning of our ride.

Wonderful.

It proved itself to be an even tougher day, for us at least, than the day before. The final hill into Booneville totally flipped Ami who for the first time decided to get off the bike and walk.

It was not so much the gradient or the length, more the accumulative psychological effect of going up and down hills in the rain all day

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and also the fact that she was biking on a half flat back tyre, which we didn’t discover until we got into the church gymnasium which was to be our sleeping place for the night.

Extenuating circumstances, you could say.

 

See you all soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TransAm Rest day in Damascus 22nd of May

Tom writes:

I think we were all looking forward to this after a long ten days riding so it was a bit of a disappointment to discover that the weather was going to be so wet when we got here. Tenting on a squishy lawn is not my idea of a cup of tea as they say when they mix up their metaphors.

Damascus is a touristy little place that has grown up on the back of the Trans Am and the Virginia Creeper trail passing through here.

After doing some laundry in the morning a group of us went to the nearby town of Abingdon (not the one near Oxford) to have a true American meat dinner (not a vegetable in sight) and also to be cultural and see a play.

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The Barter Theater has been in existence since 1933 and was a lovely little venue where a pretty much packed house of Southerners, plus one or two bemused others (Ami and me), gathered to watch Greater Tuna.

It was actually really good, a two man piece playing multiple characters reflecting everyday life in a typical Texan town. I couldn’t figure out if the audience were laughing with themselves, at themselves or at uncivilised others who they could look down on from above.

At a glance most of them seemed to fit in quite well with the characters being portrayed on stage by appearance and accent at least, but probably that is my prejudice shining through.

I think I got about thirty per cent of the references so god knows how many Ami got but it was entertaining and very well acted.

And we saw a lovely rainbow from the van on the way back.

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Tomorrow (or today or perhaps even yesterday depending on where and when you are reading this) we hit the road again where we will be getting ever closer to Kentucky which is one of the poorest states in the country and, worryingly for us, famous for its wild dogs that like to chase cyclists.

Personally I am scared of chihuahuas so it is not something I am looking forward to too much. I am armed with my dog repellent spray however so fingers crossed.

Bis später.

 

TransAm Days 9, 10 and 11 19th, 20th and 21st of May

Tom writes:

Troutville to Christiansburg: 91 kms

Troutville

Christiansburg to Wythville: 86 kms

ChristiansburgWytheville

Wytheville to Damascus: 92kms

Damascus

Where we are in the general scheme of things
Where we are in the general scheme of things

Total distance so far: 814 kms

As you can see from the bottom map we are slowly inching our way across the land mass that the US comprises of. We have landed in Damascus, Virginia after leaving the St Paul’s Presbyterian church in Wytheville so I am feeling very biblical at the moment.

But back to day 1 of this little report. (And it will be a little bit little I’m afraid as  it is pissing down with rain and I am a bit cold. The internet is good though so I really should make the most of it, it isn’t always like this).

We left Camp Bethel in the vicinity of a non-entity of a place called Troutville and headed off into the distance for a 90 km or so ride towards the latest of our church destinations, another St Paul’s, this time of the Methodist variety, in the reasonably large town of Christiansburg.

The weather has been unstable to say the least in this neck of the woods but apart from the day on the Blue Ridge when we got lost we have missed most of the rain when out on our bikes which is a blessing, as it is a real pain in the arse drying clothes in a tent.

We rode at a good pace and enjoyed the rolling hills which, if you use the gradient of the hill going down in the right way, you can save yourself a lot of effort in the going up part.

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I did like this road name and we passed a whole load of sweet little farmsteads such as the one you see below.

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We got to our destination early and took the chance to look around town where we met the mayor (yes really :)) and bought some delicious oat and fudge cake.

We enjoyed Dave and Madison’s excellent paella in the evening and fell asleep on the floor of the community hall listening to various people snoring.

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Not as bad as it sounds. 🙂

Day 2 was, as you might already have worked out, stretched from St Paul’s to St Paul’s, the latter of which is in the afore mentioned town of Wytheville which we both agreed looked depressing or at the very least a place that had seen better days. Its one claim to fame seemed to be the fact that it was the home town of the wife of Woodrow Wilson, the US president who initiated the Versailles treaty which was largely responsible for the rise to power of Adolf Hitler.

The journey there was similar to the day before, the same kind of terrain and weather. It is very noticeable now that Ami is growing in confidence on the bike and getting stronger for every day on the saddle. I am almost struggling to keep up with her at times.

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She also befriended some other rather sweet little beings.

Day 3, and this will be short as I am really flagging here, finished with one gorgeous descent winding through forests and groves, which really was an absolute joy to ride. Sadly we got no pics of this gloriousness as we were busy flying down the hill at a hundred miles an hour at the time but trust me, it was lovely. A splendid way to celebrate the coming of our first rest day of the tour and our entry into Damascus which was, as if to punish me for my lack of faith, soon to be pissing with rain.

Our tents were soon to be drenched and here you see Madison, the youngster of the group, stupidly braving the elements doing a passable Gene Kelly impression.

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Byeee.

 

A song for every state 1

Tom writes:

In which I attempt to find a song where the name of the state we are biking through is named.

First off Virginia.

And what better way than singing the old Laurel and Hardy song:

from a cabin actually in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

For the masochists among you, look out for more from Kentucky in about a weeks time. 🙂

For those of you who want to hear the original here it is. It’s actually pretty good.

Toodlepip.

Looking back on Iceland

Ami writes:

After little more than a week in the States now, bicycling AND bicycling, I find myself thinking of our wonderful trip to Iceland. It feels like it was much longer since we were there, even if it wasn’t.

We feel truly blessed, getting to travel around this beautiful world of ours and meet so many interesting and friendly people. There isn’t just misery, pain and bad people doing horrible things to each other (which is often what you get to see on the news). In fact, travelling the way we do now makes you realize that people actually want to help you, even if you don’t ask them to, and also, they show an interest in you!

When travelling on Iceland we decided to list our 4 most magnificent waterfalls (according to us) and here they are, judge for yourself:

Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Godafoss
Godafoss

 

Skogarfoss
Skogarfoss
Svartifoss
Svartifoss

 

And also, Tom had this brilliant idea about how the Icelandic language works- you just take the Swedish word for something and put “ur” at the end and voilà, you have the Icelandic word! Can’t be any easier, can it? 😉

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SONY DSC

 

SONY DSC

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And my absolute favourite:

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So, to sum it up. For any of you, like us, who has been thinking of visiting this beautiful island, do it, you won’t regret it- we promise!

That is of course if you love being out in nature, breathing fresh air, looking at Mother Natures creations, being active or/and maybe feeling like having an adrenalin rush- go for it! And you don’t have to worry about dangerous animals, cause they don’t exist here, but these cuties do:

SONY DSC

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Just remember two things though- it is VERY expensive, so bring lots of money with you (but no cash is required, though every little place where ever you are will take cards- good ey!) and bring WARM CLOTHING because IT IS CHILLY- I promise! (At least this time of year).

And yeah by the way, if you’re not a dare devil, DO NOT TRY THE FERMENTED SHARK, I repeat DO NOT TRY THE FERMENTED SHARK!

The taste in your mouth and the memory of eating it will stay with you for a looong time… 😉

Take care and be safe ❤

Bye for now!

TransAm Days 5,6 and 7 16th, 17th and 18th of May

Tom writes:

Mineral to Charlottesville: 78 kms

mineralcharlottesville

Charlottesville to Montebello: 77 kms

charlottesville

Montebello to Troutville: 113 kms

Monteb

Total distance so far: 545 kms

Total number of punctures: 1 (Ami)

 

Where we are in the world
Where we are in the world

To be honest not much happened between Mineral and Charlottesville apart from the normal gorgeous scenery and reasonable weather. So instead I thought I would write a little bit about how the tour works practically and how we try to cooperate to make things go smoothly.

We are ten riders in the group and the age span is such that we cover every decade between people in their twenties and people in their seventies which is pretty impressive in my opinion. We are going to write a bit more about each of them later and maybe even let them speak for themselves but until then it is enough to say that they are all very nice and that we work together very well. Quite often when you mix strangers together like this my experience is that there is always at least one who you think is a bit of a prat or to put it kindly, slightly hard work.

I can seriously say that this isn’t the case with this bunch. We all seem to get on and no conflicts have been recorded so far. Pray let this continue.

Complementing the participants are our two dear leaders, “Kim Jong” Jared and Christi who take it in turns to drive the van and trailer (pictured here with Ami doing her usual posing routine in front of it) and riding with the group to make sure that everyone is safe and on the right track.

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These two have the patience of an “insert suitable metaphor here” and do their utmost to facilitate our needs, whether it be the right snacks for the ride, mechanical help or sometimes just a little dose of TLC.

Every day two of us are on cooking duty which entails getting a list of ingredients together which then the van driving leader goes out and buys during the day so that the evening meal can be prepared by six o’clock in the evening. These two are then responsible for fixing the breakfast stuff in the morning at seven before we all hit the road at some point between eight and nine thirty.

We have a map meeting at seven every evening where we go through how we will be riding the next day and where our next goal will be.

We usually ride in small groups, so far Ami and I have been together basically all the time, to the next camp site, church or luxury of luxuries a hotel room. There the van will be waiting with all of the bags that we thankfully don’t have to lug with us on the bikes and a hot cup of cocoa if we so desire.

Everything is beautifully orchestrated and well oiled, surprisingly so I must say.

We have had some great meals, some great conversations and some very early nights. We are all pretty knackered in the evenings.

 

If day 5 was routine, day 6 was anything but. It was a mountain stage into the Appalachian mountains and we woke up to a steady rainfall. We put on our protective clothing and discovered, as you always do, that it only protects so much.

As we climbed up the mountain we were getting wetter and wetter and it was getting foggier and foggier. A bit depressing really as the Blue Ridge Parkway, which we were following, offers views that are designed to make you breathless with wonder.

This is what we saw.

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This is Ami looking as miserable as she felt but still managing to look graceful on a bicycle.

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Lunch time

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To cap this all off we were literally 100 meters from our destination, longing for a hot shower and enjoying the fact that we had actually climbed over a kilometre in height during our nearly 80 km ride, when we took a wrong turn and went careering downhill down a gravel track for what seemed like an eternity.

We finally stopped the only passing truck that was going past who told us of our mistake and that we had to go back up again.

Ami was totally deflated and unsurprisingly agitated so I ended up cycling back up the road like Lance Armstrong on steroids (so basically like Lance Armstrong) to the top.

There we got hold of a pick up and his owner who drove back down to find Ami still trudging on up looking like committing a murder wouldn’t be out of the question.

A great end to a great day.

 

Today, the 18th of May, was thankfully devoid of rain although it was a bit nippy and comprised of our longest ride so far on this trip, 113 kms.

For the first time we didn’t get lost once (hooray!) but we did, as indicated above, get our first puncture.

Ami had got a bit excited on seeing our first real descent for a while and went whizzing down at full tilt before sensing the air leaving her front tyre at an alarming rate.

After we fixed it it was however a really nice ride with a gentle wind blowing in the right direction and not too many hills.

It was also the furthest distance Ami had ever cycled in one go which we celebrated by having kitchen duty and making a pretty good chicken curry  (if we say so ourselves) for the group.

Well to be fair, Ami designed, created and made the curry. I was her dogsbody.

The Baldrick to her Blackadder if you will

Signing off full, happy and shattered and aching to get out tomorrow.

OK I lied about the last one. 🙂

Keep em peeled and hear from you soon.