A warm hello from Prineville, Oregon, where I am currently taking a rest day from a rather tough introduction to bike touring in America. The journey has started, and I will fill you in as best I can.r.
When I came up with the idea to cycle across America, I had no idea of the time it would take to prepare for the journey. However, thanks to some amazing people, support and sponsors, I took my starting snap at Astoria and headed south and into the unknown. 4228 miles of adventure lying ahead of me.
As I mentioned in my first newsletter, I will always feel indebted to Anthony Nolan for saving my mum's life, and I wanted to pick a journey that people cold follow and draw inspiration from in the hope that I can inspire them to help the charity. Mark Quinn, the stem cell donor who saved my mum's life, always talks about the 'what if's' around his decision to act, and it is this decision that I want to challenge my followers with on this journey. The reason I say that is that Mark only joined the Anthony Nolan register a few months before my mum needed her transplant. If he had left it any longer we wouldn't both be here now enjoying this incredible trip. My world would have been a sadder place without her .
I made it to Seattle in good time, my bike intact and spirits high. My Mum, Sheena, and her partner Tim had decided to take the opportunity to fly out just before me and do their own road trip, taking in Oregon and some of the surrounding States. They kindly offered to drive me to Astoria and see me on my way. Seattle has had an extremely dry summer, and leading up to my departure, I was concerned that the wild fires might delay my start, however I have been fortunate, the sun has shone and the fires remained calm.
I'll admit to being a bit apprehensive prior to starting, probably a mild dose of jet lag too! However, a pep talk from Tim and encouragement from a helpful bike mechanic in Astoria saw me depart in better spirits. It was amazing to have mum at the start with me, and I got a little emotional as I waved her off. It is incredible to think of these extra years we have been given because of Anthony Nolan, and moments like this I will remember for ever. It felt like a real milestone in my life.
I routed from Astoria towards Fort Stevens, a short 15miles, but this was the closest campsite I could find. Unfortunately I had timed my start with Labour day, which is a nationwide holiday in the States, so it took me some time to find a camp space with room even for one! It was a good feeling however, to finally be on the road after all of this time. The build up to leaving had involved weeks of manic preparation of acquiring kit, net-working and phone-calls as well as writing blog posts for the trip, so it felt slightly strange to now be just me and the bike!
I awoke at 6:30 and packed my kit. I had hoped that during the first few days I would develop into a routine, and so wanted to be sure I didn't get off on the wrong foot. Following my GPS I made it back onto the Trans-America trail, and headed south. The prevailing winds in the summer month blow from the north down the west coast - so it was a great way to get going, wind at my back! Oregon is beautiful, and I passed through some lovely farmland and forests. Eventually I headed towards the coast where I stopped at Canon Beach, famed for featuring in films such as the Goonies, Twighlight and Point Break. I dipped my back wheel into the Pacific and officially started my journey East. The heat was constant, and I had to make a point of constantly hydrating along the way. I continued South with only a few minor issues from red-neck drivers, and ended up at Fort Outlook, right next to the Pacific. It was beautiful and I fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the sand.
The legs were a little bit stiff when I woke, but Day 2 was my first 100mile day, and it felt great. The tail wind persisted all morning as I continued south through Pacific City along some of the most stunning coastline I have seen. Unfortunately I had to leave the iconic 101 and headed inland, enduring a roaring highway for several hours. Eventually it broke and I was again on the quieter routes with the same tailwind. I had hoped to stop before Corvallis, however it turned out that this was the only place nearby that had a campsite, so it was well after sunset when I crawled into bed.
Corvallis is a lovely little town, and it was sad to have to pass through it. My target finish of 8th October was constantly on my mind, and I was still trying to find my rhythm. The sun was still shining, and the tailwind continued, so I made good time. Near Eugene I took a turn east, taking me further away from the rich farmland I had been passing through and towards the foothills of the Rockies. Mackenzie Pass is the first of many passes that I will have to traverse on the TransAmerica trail, and so I was looking forward to tackling this one. I stopped after sunset at a campsite near Mackenzie Bridge, a few miles before the climb really gets serious. After arriving so late, the kind owner of the RV campsite I had picked let me stay for free and offered me food and a hot shower. It was a lovely gesture and a welcome end to the day.
I woke early, and fueled up at a local store in Mackenzie Bridge. The sun was well up and I could feel that it was going to be another hot day. Mackenzie Pass sits at 5325ft and I climbed all that morning, passing through beautiful and unspoilt redwood forests along one continuous stretch of switchbacks. I had to stop several times to rest, before eventually pushing out through the trees and into another world. A huge lava field spread out before me, the Three Sisters rising tall to the south and Mount Washington standing tall to the north. It was incredible.
Even after three days I was still adjusting to the idea that most of this trip will be solitary, just myself and my bike! There is the traffic, and the constant danger of broken glass on the road side, but it does give me time to think, and to reflect! I go through future plans, think about where I have come from and I think a lot about my mum and how lucky I am to still have her in my life. We have built some beautiful memories in the lead up to this trip. She had driven the Mackenzie pass the day before (She and Tim are shadowing my route for a while) and commented on its beauty, and I realised that being able to share part of this experience with her was really special.
Easing myself into this ride, I was expecting the first few days to be tough until I become a little more toughened and find my stride and then hopefully things will improve as my fitness increases. One of the biggest problems I have found is actually having the time to keep up with sharing the story at the end of my day. After 8-10 hours on the road, all I usually think about is sleep! After 4.5hours of climb, the downhill was done in about 20 minutes. I then pressed on through Three Sisters (the town) and along a busy highway to Prineville. Unfortunately on the final downhill into the town, I had a serious blowout on my rear tyre. Fortunately it didn't result in a crash, as the road was extremely busy!, and equally as fortunate was the fact that Prineville has one bike shop that opened in the morning! I switched my plans a bit and decided to take the following day as a rest day.
I realise, too, that I have so far been in absolute control of my life to date. One of the hardest things to learn is how to let go of that and live in the moment. Setting your target for the day not knowing where you will end up, but having the confidence to realise that it will all work out and just rolling along with it. It's worked out well so far!
So that's where I am now . It's been a tough start, but I knew that, and now I'm getting into a rhythm and although I expect things to get a bit harder still as I head towards the serious altitude in Montana and Colorado, I've met some lovely people along the way, and have been touched by the generosity of many when I share my story. I will continue east for now, hoping that this beautiful weather continues.
Thank you for all of your support, it's been incredible to see and I feel privileged to be able to share this journey with you!