TransAm Days 22 and 23 Ist and 2nd of June

Tom writes:

McDaniels to Utica: 79 kms

Utica

Utica to Marion: 111 kms

Marion

Creeping closer to Illinois
Creeping closer to Illinois

Total distance so far: 1716 kms

McDaniels had a lake. Or more correctly it had a river with a dam at the end of it but it was water, and it was possible to plunge into it.

When you have been riding for five hours in 35 degree heat that is something that you could die for and we of course went straight in. I was a bit surprised that no one else in the group, with the notable exception of Ronnie who you will meet soon on these pages, followed suit.

I guess when you live in Scandinavia and you only get the chance to swim in natural water for a tiny fraction of the year, you grab every chance with all limbs, so to speak.

These yanks are probably spoiled. ūüôā

038

040

It was warm again when we finally set off on our velocipedes. A nice ride to the “town” (basically a crossroad with a fire station) of Utica.

And would you believe it, that was where we were staying. (The fire station obviously, not camped on the crossroad).

On the way Ami saved a butterfly in distress which was the most exciting thing that happened on a pleasant, if uneventful ride.

042

No sorry, I forgot, the most exciting thing was that I got given two delicious pieces of Super Supreme pizza at a small take away.

I was sweeping and had caught up with Emily and as we were sitting outside this establishment, a young girl came out with three pizza boxes in her arms and jokingly told me they were all hers. I feigned enormous disappointment at this but my acting talents are obviously more developed than I thought because the girl came back a couple of minutes later offering up two lovely looking slices.

As Emily didn’t want hers I got a free lunch.

While we were getting settled into our new dwelling an alarm went off and firemen suddenly appeared while sirens wailed.

We learned later that some idiot in a small (by American standards) car had tried to cut across one of the enormous crop spraying vehicles that you see around here and ended up stuck in between its wheels.

The firemen showed me some pictures. It was amazing that no one was hurt and it was a reminder again that not all motorists should be deemed competent to own a license.

It was quite interesting talking to these guys. In places like these they are all volunteers and come from all walks of life. They were saying that there had been a problem persuading the younger generation to join but that recently that had been changing and that recruitment was improving.

I am full of respect for people who are prepared to do something that dangerous and time consuming only for the sake of their communities and families. They get about 150 call outs per year so it is quite an undertaking. If they didn’t I guess the whole system would fall apart as a very large part of American fire fighting is built on volunteering.

It was very nice of them to give us somewhere to stay and it was much appreciated.

We got a new leader today. Jared drove a dejected Christi to Nashville airport and a very nice guy who also answers to the name of Ron joined us to take her place for the next two weeks. After that he has other commitments so someone else will then join, hopefully for the duration of the trip. ACA are frantically trying to find someone who can do this.

046

We also managed to get ourselves interviewed by the local paper who were doing a piece on the Trans Am.

I am keeping my eye out for it when it is published and when/if I find it I will link to it here.

The ride from Utica to Marion, our next church, was long, 111 kilometres. We made good time and were no more than five kilometres out from our goal when Ami was hit by hunger, thirst and energy deprivation.

We ended up sitting by the side of the road, eating our lunch and watching the cars go by.

Stupidly I didn’t take a photo, but the nearest small road to where we were sitting had the cutest name. So just to prove it exists here is a screen grab of it on the map.

Just a Mere Road
Just a Mere Road

Marion was to be our last night in the state of Kentucky before we hit Illinois.

A beautiful and diverse place, the eastern mountain area is beautiful and you can still get, from it’s ruggedness, an idea of the pioneer spirit that would have been needed to penetrate it on the way westwards.

I won’t miss the wild dogs, but your signs are impeccable and getting lost virtually an impossibility on a bike.

041

Still westward and onwards.

See you all soon.

 

Advertisements

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.

017

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

018

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.

021

Not as bad as it sounds. ūüôā

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.

029

025

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.

043

 

 

Byeee.

 

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.

IMG_1608

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.

20160517_133805

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

20160517_122043

Lunch time

.20160517_133751

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. ūüôā

Keep em peeled and hear from you soon.

Home again for a brief stopover!

Ami writes:

After our lovely Mallorca and Menorca trip we were back in Stockholm again yesterday, after having shared an aircraft between Frankfurt and Arlanda (Stockholm) with two horrible, nasty Swedish drunks (yes they were men). I`m not religious in any way, but still I prayed to God that nothing bad would happen and was thankful that this was only a 2 hour flight…

This morning started with one of my favourite ways of waking up and¬†getting your exercise for the day (bikes aren’t the only way¬†;)) –¬†nordic walking!

I just love it: fresh air (although still quite chilly), blue sky, sunshine and a good podcast or music, (if you don`t just enjoy birdsong, which is also great!).

I used to be seen as a weirdo walking around with my sticks a few years back, but now it seems like it`s become more accepted which is good, cause it`s pretty sweaty if you do it right!

Although we are living in Northern suburbs of Stockholm with my mum for the moment (which is also were I lived as a child) the scenery can be beautiful even here <3.

There are even some fascinating old Viking burial spots in the area.

Rune stone

The Husby Stone

 

On Sunday 1 st of May we`re leaving for good, so these last few days will be fully packed with things to do and family and friends to spend some last quality time with…

 

Reasons to despair. Part 1

Tom writes:

How the beauty and poetry of this

can be chopped up, mashed in a blender and allowed to be regurgitated into this:

is not far away from being a crime against humanity.

You don’t need to know Swedish to understand how shit this is but if you do, I promise you, it is 200 times worse.

Say what you want about Madonna’s butchering of American Pie, but at least Don McLean got a good pay day out of it.

There are some great cover versions and translations out there.¬†Melanie’s Ruby Tuesday¬†or Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah are arguably better than the originals.

There is far more crap around though and Miriam Bryant, you qualify for the top ten.

Hang your head in shame.

 

 

 

The end of an era. Last Hammarby game ever. 10/4

Tom writes:

One of the pleasures of my existence during the first two thirds of my life in Scandinavia was¬†tottering down to the temple that was S√∂derstadion to watch the “entertainment” provided by the local football team, Hammarby IF.

It has been what could clichédly be described as a roller coaster ride. From the highs of the early 82 when the team almost went all the way to the lows of the early 90s when they could never seem to get out of the second division for more than one season at a time. The zenith was finally reached in October 2001 when the team, who were almost universally tipped for relegation, capped off a magnificent season by winning the Swedish championship for the first, and so far only, time.

The atmosphere in that wonderful, rickety old stadium was always unique, even during the worst times when only a couple of thousand could be arsed buying tickets, but on¬†that day when √Ėrgryte from Gothenburg were beaten¬†it was absolutely electric. One of those occasions when sport can be an orgasmic experience.

Since that day however¬†my interest has dwindled. I guess nothing could ever have topped that magical time and this has almost certainly¬†been a reason for my loss of passion. But it isn’t only that.

Football has a tendency to encourage some of the worst aspects of human behaviour that I know such as tribalism and hooliganism. The older I have got the more this kind of bullshit irritates me. Also the behaviour of the players, writhing around faking injuries and gesticulating at referees has left an ever increasing bad taste in the mouth.

I have fallen out of love with the watching of football (as opposed to the playing which I love and if the risk of injury was slightly lower would still do regularly) and thus the watching of Hammarby IF.

Give me the honest hard men of rugby with their fans from opposing teams sharing a beer or twelve while watching the game without a hint of rowdiness before the divas of the soccer field and the wankers in the stands.

But for the benefit of closure me and my friend Peter decided to see one last game before I leave.

Everything has changed. Söderstadion is long demolished and instead the team play in a monstrosity called Tele 2 Arena which resembles a space ship incapable of lift off.

The gorgeous smell of new cut grass has been replaced by astroturf which I admit has obvious practical advantages this far north of the equator, but still isn’t a patch on¬†the mud baths of the past.

The hissing of plastic lawns...
The hissing of plastic lawns…

And as for the game. Well, it was weird. I don’t really know how to describe what I felt. I think the word that gets closest¬†is insipid.

There were 20000 fans in the stadium and what could be described as a reasonable atmosphere, especially as the team won at a canter against a pathetic opponent in Helsingborg.

It just felt so empty. I was detached and unconcerned which is light years from what I went through before. Sure it was nice that they won but in all honesty I really wouldn’t have given a shit if they hadn’t.

Still, it was nice to spend some time with Peter, who I have known for a long time, and will miss dearly once we have gone. And I liked the fact that the referee looked like a wild animal from the Southern African plains when he was running.

The referee looks like a gazelle.
The referee looks like a gazelle.

From now on it is cricket and rugby for me.