It's fast approaching the end of August, and after a couple of weeks off the bike I've had a little time for reflection on the first few months of this journey. It's going to take a lot more than that to fully comprehend everything I've experienced and learned, but it's a start. Definitely worth mentioning straight away that I've discovered just how big America is. It's HUGE. I mean really huge. And it's absolutely full of stories. Whether fast-paced city or tiny truck stop, busy sidewalk or every deserted boardwalk, the places and people I encountered had history, a present and a future, and all these tales are worth of retelling. It's impossible for me to do that, but I feel honoured to have heard them, and I look forward to sharing some of them with you in the upcoming documentary.
So here's where I'm at right now. I've cycled about 3,500 miles from New York to Seattle. In a few days I'll hop back on my bike and pedal from Seattle to San Diego. From there I'll make my way to New Zealand and ride North to South. After that it's the East Coast of Australia, and then finally South East Asia; Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it is, that's for sure. However distance wise I've made a pretty good start. 3,500 miles is probably about a third of the overall distance I plan to ride, give or take a few pedal strokes.
I'll use this opportunity to give new readers and old a quick reminder of what I'm trying to achieve.
My passion is the documentary. I'm aiming to make a film combining my personal journey on the bike with the stories of the people I meet. I'm especially seeking to highlight individuals and causes that are working to try and make a positive impact on the world we live in. To donate to the cause for the documentary, follow the link to the 'How can you help?' page or click on the button below:
The other consequential element is that of the charity fundraising. I'm endeavouring to raise £10,000 ($15,000) for the children's charity UNICEF. They work around the world to deliver health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, and rely on voluntary donations. If you are interested, inspired or moved to donate to their cause I would be delighted, and you really would be making a huge difference. You can do so by clicking on the UNICEF logo below
That's all for now - keep checking in regularly for more blogs, photos and videos. I'll be back in the saddle within the next few days, so log on then to see how the next stage of the journey goes!
Don't forget there's plenty of info all over the site to read and enjoy, including the snapshots I've taken so far here, so have fun navigating around!
Well, then. Here we are. I'm in Seattle, and you will have no idea about the journey that brought me here because I have neglected to post as frequently as you deserve. Struggling to find wifi connections, and then to combine that location with the time, energy and correct camera cables to post photos and write an update has led me to re-think my whole strategy for this project. It's already become very clear that the video aspect hasn't quite worked out as planned. As disappointing as that is, I've managed to find the silver lining hidden amongst the failure. The first leg from New York to Seattle was always going to be tough - it was long, unpredictable, and, most importantly, a brand new experience for me. I feel that the lessons I've learned from the first seventy days will stand me in good stead for the rest of the expedition. Let me explain.
Wow, I'm really starting to rack up the states, and it feels like I'm getting somewhere. The journey has been start-stop, circuitous and inconsistent thus far, but in the last week I have really made some progress into the heart of America. Much of it has been spent in Iowa....and as always with these things it has been a mixed bag; a more multifarious week in my life I have rarely had. As has become a happy trend to my travels, the people I have met could not be any nicer. Many nights I have been welcomed into the homes of locals or directed to a safe place to pitch my tent. Always appreciated, I have come to value this kindness even more so during this storm season - something which wasn't really on my radar of the 'highly dangerous' to be watched and feared.
The force of some of these mid-Western storms is unbelievable, and they move with a speed and power more awesome than anything I've known before. Twice now I have seen the front approaching from the south and had to weather it out in a well-placed barn. Others have come at night and left me thankful that my tent was pitched low and under cover. The greatest devastation however was to be reserved for my final night before rolling into Sioux Falls.
This should be seen as a map of good intention, which is my speciality. Thus far I have met with mixed success in executing said plans, but I'm okay with that. I believe it to be healthy. Still, pretty crazy stuff looking at it like this, eh? This'll take me as far as Seattle, and from there I'll do a loop up to Vancouver and then back down to start my journey on the Pacific Highway.
It was somewhat inevitable that I should feel inclined to issue an apology to Michigan, and so here we are. Of course I am delighted about this fact, as you will remember that the point of this trip is to have great experiences, not to badmouth states with offensive generalizations.
Rolling out of Flint, Lily and I riding together for the last day, the stubborn ruggedness of the roads relented and following highway 21 I encountered nothing more exciting than a flat and relatively well paved surface. The headwind buffeted us from the North-west, and the trucks crashed past at full speed, but by now I had realized this comes with the territory and my immature mood of the previous days dissipated. Nothing much passed by other than fields and an occasional tree; indeed the most noticeable characteristic of the landscape was it’s lack of any feature which could be deemed memorable. The perfect condition for entering into the ‘zone,’ and that is exactly what I did, awaking some sixty miles later to find myself in somewhere very much resembling the place I had left that morning. What luck, then, that I was to be rescued from this ignorant view of the territory as colourless and commonplace, of the hideous crime of being mundane, or ‘average.’
It's a shame the extent to which I have developed a hatred for Michigan, considering how much I like saying the name.
The only pleasure I have taken from each mile I pedaled over the last two days is that it has taken me a few steps closer to getting the hell out of this state. This is a rant, and will not be in any way an accurate reflection of anything other than my need to vent. There is no video; there are very few pictures. Survival remained just about within my grasp; keeping my sanity was touch and go.
I have spent 36 hours here, and until I until this evening when I arrived at a lovely house with nice people, the only remotely enjoyable time I had in Michigan were the hours spent asleep. Even they weren't that great.
"There are no limits to the majestic future which lies before the mighty expanse of Canada with its virile, aspiring, cultured, and generous-hearted people." - Winston Churchill
Well, I am in Canada. Warm, generous, exciting, diverse, infuriating at times. It's a country which has given me cause for much mixed emotion. For sure though, 95% of that emotion is variations of positivity. Arriving over the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, I was greeted into the country with a warm welcome, a quick scan of my passport and sent on my way. All my worries of delays and visa questions were quelled just like that, despite my sweaty, unwashed cyclist's demeanor. I'd applied for an extension to my US visa which I needed in order to have enough time to cross the country, but the hitch was that I had to send off my original I-94 form, which is essentially the little slip of paper that declares how long I am allowed in the country, if indeed I am at all. Luckily for me, I am, and even more happily I have been granted my visa extension, but temporarily missing this stapled slip could have caused all sorts of problems. It didn't - Canada was pleased to have me, and I couldn't have been more delighted to be there.
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Essentially it came down to survival. Making it through the first day only made it even more apparent how much more there still was to do. I spent much of the second day busying myself with trying to repack the bike in the hope that I wouldn't have to think about the logistics in too much detail. I was able a guest of the DeMaggio household, family friends who make me feel very much at home. And, for one of the first times I can ever remember, I felt a little homesick. Not a whole lot, but spending time with such a lovely family reminded me of some of the things I'd left behind to take this journey.
Hopefully I'll be able to keep this up to date very regularly with WiFi spots - so here's where I am now!
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Well, it actually happened. After all the time spent dreaming and pretending, I'm now on a bike heading in one direction with no intention of turning round. And, indeed, nothing to turn back for. In the USA, I am in that category of 'no fixed address' - that's a though I'm still coming to terms with.
I started relatively early, but not perhaps as early as I should have. Opting to hang out with some great people in Brooklyn on Saturday night was definitely the right choice though - it managed to de-stress me so much that I was able to at least make the most of the 3 hours I had to sleep. So, after minimal shut-eye and more last minute packing and apartment cleaning, I managed to get out my front door by 9am. It took me seemingly forever to get through Manhattan and up the west side to the George Washington Bridge - a leviathon of a structure, proudly spanning the Hudson at the very north tip of the island.