Since 22 May, Luc and I have been cycling across America. We have been following the TransAmerica bicycle route which people have cycled since 1976 a rambling route from Yorktown, Virginia to Florence, Oregon - a total of 4,325 miles.
Sitting in the evening sunset in a campground in Montana, the memory of dipping our wheels in the Atlantic Ocean feels very distant. Yorktown was selected not by chance - the British defeat at Yorktown arguably led to the birth of the United States and the lush corn fields of Virginia were filled with a sense of history. Trucks and sidewalk-users waved encouragingly at us and friendly store-owners shared stories about their local areas. The temperature and humidity was high and growing. Western Virginia comprises the shady forested Appalachian Mountains. The east-most are named the Blue Ridge, somewhat aptly in the midday haze. They fade into eastern Kentucky but the atmosphere changed as our route winded through narrrow valleys, the constrasts of poverty and mining riches... and angry dogs. Western Kentucky is calmer, with more horses and fields than burnt out trailers and coal trucks but wherever you go you are reminded by the church bilboards - you are in the Bible Belt.
We crossed the Ohio River ferry into Illinois in the crisp early morning sunlight and enjoyed a couple of days of rolling fields, towns and forests but onyl just survived the muggy, mosquito-filled nights. We cycled for a day alongside the mighty Mississippi before crossing as a convoy into Missouri and the Ozark Mountains - a self-propelled rollercoaster rides of forested humid hills (State warnings of dangerously high heat indexes ringing in our ears) and a toughest challenge. And then Kansas - flat, straight, hot, windy and passing through the epicenter of the breadbowl's harvest with all the trucks and combines that entails. Some call Kansas boring but the wide open spaces of the unplowed and unending Flint Hills were awesome and we shared the fourth of July celebrations in a tiny community with a big atmosphere (and thunderstorm!). Colorado rose up at the end of the Great Plains with sagebush, wildlife and snow-capped mountains. Amongst the flowering alpine meadows we spotted elk deer and antelope.
At the State line of wonderful Wyoming, the headwind started. Antelope, cowboys and geothermal springs failed to distract us from this fact. The stunning jagged Teton Mountains rising up from Jackson Bowl, buffalo (or bison?!), rodeos, and the odd close encounter with bears did. And now Montana - all of above was mere training as to the definition of wide open spaces. Frontier tails of Trails and the Gold Rush litter the landscape. You appreciate how far north we have come by the bitter cold air first thing.
We are part of a group of around a dozen riders with two leaders from Adventure Cycling who provide support by driving a van which carries our luggage during the day. We camp in city parks, gardens, community/church halls (my favourite, as they were usually cool) and even a commercial campground or motel as a treat.
We're over halfway and on the downhill stretch - although we know there'll be plenty of uphills before the Pacific and Oregon! Some days are long and over 70 miles, others shorter. Sometimes we have help (gradients or winds) but more often than not they hinder. Somedays we pass through historic monuments, national parks or state wildlife reserves, otherdays we just ride on one road past nothing but cornfields (no, literally in Kansas). We are sharing an amazing adventure and somehow managing to overcome all the nasties - the aching legs/bottoms/arms, the confusing turns and never-ending inclines.
We set out to have this adventure but also to raise some much needed money for RedR. Let me tell you a little about RedR. Uniquely, they provide people and training to support aid agencies' competent response such as the UN, Oxfam and many smaller local organisations. For 30 years, they have made a massive impact supporting the relieving suffering from disasters. RedR are a fantastic international disaster relief charity who we have supported in different ways for a number of years. Their work saves and rebuilds the lives of people affected by natural disasters and conflict by ensuring that the right people, with the right skills are available to respond. We would be very grateful for your support and we would encourgage you to consider donating through www.justgiving.com/bikeamerica.