Andy’s perspective: Right, so we’re down in Florida (the last state), and having not written anything yet I think it’s about the best time to start.
Having completed the hilly sections of our tour I am now at liberty to describe (what I’m sure you’re all dying to know) which is quite how hard this task actually is.
Consider a Sauna – well the temperatures circle around that of a Sauna about 93 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Now consider sitting in a Sauna for between 4 and 7 hours a day and consider that as many as 6 of these hours in the sauna will be spent on a cycling machine. I think you’ll understand quite how tiring this is, and I neglected to mention the first five days were through the Appalachian mountain range.
Further to the Sauna point, one might also assume that the task would become easier the further south we travel as the land becomes flatter and easier to navigate, as well as the fact that we will benefit from a “cool” sea breeze. Alas, no. Sadly the further south we go the more humid it gets, with humidity in the region of 70 to 90%. Now I don’t quite know what it means (I should, having done a small part of a module on it in second year), but I’ll try to describe it. Do you know when you have a cold and you’re trying to clean out your sinuses, so you shove your head over a bowl of boiling water in the hope that it dislodges that tremendous amount of gunk you’ve got up there. It feels kind of like that. When you stop cycling you’re not quite sure whether it’s your sweat, or the water particles that you’ve managed to pick up on your way dribbling down your back.
On top of all this there’s the hazards of local wildlife with snakes, insects and even squirrels causing us to swerve on several occasions and this is neglecting to mention the dogs that seem to spot bikes from thousands of metres away and then proceed to chase them at break neck speeds along the roads. These dogs often require an intervention from the nearest moving car to get rid of them, needless to say there is a lot of road kill in America, I get the feeling they don’t take kindly to wildlife here.
However having complained somewhat about all the things that are hard about this task I think I should run through the things that are bonuses.
The locals are very interesting, they honestly cannot understand how anyone could do this much cycling, then again they can’t understand much! (although I’m sure many of the people back home are in the same boat with regards the cycling). They love the English accent – Alex actually managed to turn a lass weak at the knees (literally) just by saying… “Yes I am English”, it was quite a sight to behold, and its not just the women it has an effect on. So far it has got us a free towel, water, several beers, a tour of Washington (which we didn’t follow up), free maps, several offers of places to stay and lots and lots of advice however that usually involves “take the interstate”. They don’t quite understand we’re not allowed. This may be due to the fact that so few people do cycle.
People often complain that America doesn’t have enough variation on food. It’s not true. Admittedly its hard to find, but it is out there. Sadly we try to avoid finding it, but thats for good reason. With quality family restaurants like Mc’y D’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and KFC on every street corner who would eat anywhere else. We have strayed away from these places occasionally, mainly in pursuit of Neil’s perfect steak; his aim is to have his photo on the wall of a bar somewhere for completing a true American steak challenge.
Admittedly this may contradict a hell of a lot of the stuff that I have mentioned earlier, but it has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Admittedly it can get hard, and it does make me sleep at least an hour and a half every afternoon, but there is so much fun in between. On top of that the opportunity to see a country so rarely investigated in any other guise than its tourist hotspots, on a mode of transport that I’m not sure the Americans have even discovered, has given all of us the opportunity to see areas of the East Coast (if not the east coast as a whole) from a perspective that I suspect many of its inhabitants will never experience. In short, to date I have no qualms or hesitation in saying that this trip has lived up to everything I expected and more. …Perhaps my only regret is having not bought a softer saddle earlier in the trip.
However we’ll hold the final judgement to Key West, which I believe will be in just 3 cycling days time.