7 July 2008

Back Home

So I made it safely back home to London after a couple of days on the beers with my Dad up the Oregon Coast and in Portland and after no sleep for 24 hours walked jet-lagged into a delightful welcome home/30th birthday party.

A few weeks later after a bout of flu, several heavy drinking sessions, 2 day long music festivals and a Ben Folds concert I thought it would be good to collect my thoughts on the trip and hopefully offer some tips to future riders who stumble across this blog (I have already met one chap who is going to take it on next April)!

I'm not the kind of person who needs to "find" themself and so this trip was never about getting to know the inner me or any of that new age nonsense. It was first and foremost a physical challenge and to that end it was a success. I found that once I was past the Ozarks and into Kansas, the physical side was no longer a problem as by that stage your body knows what is expected of it and just knuckles down to the job. The toughest physical aspect of the trip was definitely the first 2 weeks or so. No matter how much training you do, you can't realistically get yourself ready for the daily grind of 60-80 miles each day in blazing sunshine then pouring rain straight afterwards topped off with a ropey night under the stars!

Mentally, there were some tough elements since the hills and the wind really get you down, particularly when thrown together. Again, you can get used to the hills since they are clearly of a finite length but when you are being battered backwards by wind and driving rain, you definitely contemplate stopping 5 miles into the day and going back to bed! I suppose that all you can do is what I did do, and just get your head down and keep pedalling and hopefully other riders won't get as rotten weather as I had this year! I found that i helped so much having a daily goal to aim towards in terms of mileage as without this it would be so easy to do short days not out of necessity but out of laziness when your body pretends it is more tired than it really is!

I met some great people along the way, both fellow cyclists and saner normal local people in the various towns I passed through and 99% of these folks were hospitable and welcoming. I never felt in any physical danger and rarely locked my bike up either at night or during day stops, and when I did, I just used the world's smallest lock. I wouldn't recommend taking anything other than a lightweight bikelock as some people I met were carrying absolute beasts that could secure a building but just weren't necessary.

I can't call my favourite state overall, as it is probably a 3 way tie between Kansas, Colorado and Montana. This is partially influenced by the weather since Oregon looked lovely on my last day but was cold and wet for the rest of the time, and the same applies to Idaho and Wyoming which didn't get a fair crack of the whip. Colorado was truly stunning with the best scenery I have seen all around me, Montana rode really well and had a great mix of snowy mountains and sunny meadows, whilst Kansas was just nice and flat and I had a lot of fun going through it!

Finally, I just wanted to mention kit. This post gave an overview of the equipment I took with me, but eagle eyed readers will have noted that I ditched a lot of this along the way as it was just too heavy and I didn't need half of it. I kept all of my tools, but luckily only needed my puncture repair kit but perhaps if I was going through a country with fewer bike shops then I wouldn't have got my 1000 mile services.

I won't go through all my clothing, but in summary, I had way too much. I survived with one pair of casual shorts and a casual shirt, 2 cycling tops, 2 nike under tops, one long sleeved top, 2 lycra shorts and some socks and boxers. There were plenty of laundromats or just sinks to do handwashing in, so this was plenty. I'm pretty sure I could have squeezed all my stuff into my back panniers and done without the front ones but it was nice to have the spare space to store food and water along the way, as well as books and various bits of junk I picked up!

My tent was great and my sleeping bag was more than enough to keep me warm since I didn't camp out in the coldest parts of the mountains, so I could probably have taken a lighter one but it was good to know that I could sleep just about anywhere with the equipment I had. I didn't miss not having a stove since there were cheap diners everywhere and I would rather pay 5 bucks and have dinner cooked for me than struggle in the wet with a gas burner.

Beyond that, I can look back on a fantastic adventure with memories to last a lifetime, or at least until Alzheimers kicks in, but if anyone wants any tips or advice then feel free to drop me a mail on the address on the front page, and hopefully I will see you on the road!