Neil’s story so far…

The journey so far by Neil Crimes

I’m now sat in a super 8 motel, in a small town called Lumberton in North Carolina (Since initially writing this we have now reached Miami, Florida, but that’s a different story which I haven’t got round to yet!), after spending 3 weeks in the USA cycling over 800 miles! I thought I would update you all with the journey so far from my point of view, how it’s been so far from the point of view of the most unfit member of Team America!

Day One: After some initial bike problems we finally set off from Niagara Falls, Canada and it quickly became obvious that Leo and I would not be able to keep up with the pace of Andy and Alex, who were already a good mile ahead of us at the bottom of the first hill! So after a few miles struggling to keep up, we split up into our two groups, going at our own, still exhausting, pace! We quickly encountered problem one though: our maps. Me and Leo were using road maps of America to navigate from place to place, the problem with them was that they didn’t show any minor roads at all… so after an exhaustive 80 miles cycling we were stranded 10 miles away from the motel, in a different town, with no idea how to get home! This was where our support vehicle quickly came into play: we rang Rob and he was at our side in a few minutes to pick us up.

Day Two: Feeling great from our good cycle the day before, and amazed that we were still alive we set off on the 90+mile journey down to Itacha. We quickly realised that the American dream of straight flat roads was very far from the truth however, and after the most exhausting day we finally made it into Ithaca, over many, many hills and through many backward little towns. Once in Ithaca problem two hit us: Leo’s phone. In a word, rubbish. It doesn’t get signal anywhere and so made contacting Rob very difficult, not having a clue where we were; we wondered around the town for a bit and finally discovered the art of using an American pay phone. Home for 9pm…dead.

Day Three: thankfully we had to add an extra day into the itinerary, and we were also very lucky with terrain: gorgeous valleys to cycle through that made the journey very enjoyable indeed. It was on these days that Leo and I discovered the joys of great American cuisine, in the many amazing diners we frequented. We learnt the lingo and started to develop some muscle!

Problem number 3 surfaced today as well, something which would plague the rest of the trip: my bike. My gears gave in today and whenever I wanted to change the front gears I had to get off and change them manually: not the most enjoyable thing to be doing over the Appalachian mountains. We got it fixed however, and hoped for the best.

Day 4: WARNING: never plan a route that takes you through any town which has ‘summit’ in its title. Clarks Summit, NY in particular. I hope I never have to go there again, or if I do, I hope it is in a car. I was glad to have gears today at least. It is very disheartening to spend 5 hour cycling up hill only to then descend into a valley down a massive hill in the last 5 minutes.

Day 5: Nearly there, only two more days to go and then we would be in New York. At this point, I was a ghost, the walking dead, I was so tired and exhausted. Not only were we doing stupid distances each day, we were doing it day after day and over hills. They were the kind of journeys that you would be proud of if you did them once at home, we were doing them every day.
2 miles into the cycle however, problem 3 resurfaced, my bike, in spectacular fashion this time however: my derailleur came off, snapping the hanger and smashing into my rear spokes. Luckily I was going up hill so I wasn’t badly injured, if it happened 5 miles earlier at the end of the previous day, coming down a massive hill at 40 mph, I most certainly would have been in hospital.
I didn’t know what happened at first, but after looking at it, it became obvious that I would not be cycling anywhere until I could get my bike into a shop that specialises in my model and would be able to replace several parts. It was Sunday, and we were in a small part of New York State, we sat in a motel car park and tried to find a cycle shop… all closed except for those in New York City. Begrudgingly we left for our next destination planning to look further once there. To our surprise however we found a Trek bike specialist in the tiny town we were staying that night! It was closed on Sunday of course, but the next day we were able to take my bike in. My hopes that it would be ready for the afternoon and I could catch them up were soon slashed though, it was a bigger job then I had realised and he had to fashion a new hanger from a newer model for me, a job that took him a few hours. Come the afternoon, and a few trips around mineral museums and the like however, my bike was finally fixed and we rushed to New York to catch up the others, who had just arrived.

The few days in New York were fantastic, what an amazing city! We managed to see two shows, see a few museums and art galleries, wander around, and see the statue of liberty and go up the Empire State Building at night. This was a truely spectacular sight, even more so that I got to share it with Leo.

The next leg of our cycle started with a trip down to Atlantic City.. my first time on the bike in over a week. I was very excited. It looked like we had a fantastic day’s cycle through the forests as well, until my bike broke of course! It was only a simple problem this time though, the bolt securing my seat into place had snapped (metal fatigue like the previous failure I imagine), so we had to ring Rob and get him to pick us up so we could find a shop as quick as possible, not the easiest of tasks in the middle of a forest in New Jersey. We found one though and were back on the road in a few hours. We had a good day’s cycle up until the point our useless maps meant that we ended up in the wrong city on the Interstate, a very scary place to be on a pair of bikes! Rob, as always, came to rescue once again though and we were whisked to safety!

The next day was the loooong day, Atlantic City to Washington, over 3 states and with the added task of catching a ferry in the middle! All Leo and I asked for was that for one day we would not have any problems with our bikes. And guess what?! 5 punctures, a split tire, a broken valve extension and dodgy SPDs…. as expected really. We spent more than 3 hours trying to repair puntures and having to wait for Rob to get a new tire, this was certainly not the thing we wanted on the longest, and hottest days so far. We had to race to catch the ferry in time, we were the last on!

We had a really good cycle though, it was just a shame that we were so far behind because of our problems. We were still cycling at dusk when Rob had to come and collect us, about 15 miles from our destination. We saw some of the most amazing sights that will stay with us for the rest of my life on this day though. Dolphins on the ferry, deer running by the side of the road, and the most amazing sunset peaking through the trees in Delaware. We also had some of the worst food that will stay with us for ever, fried chicken from a very dirty shop in a petrol station… me and Leo are still recovering from the after affects!
Washington.. a few, very needed, days off again. Odd City, the buildings and monuments seemed to have to been placed all around this big green, and none of it really made very must sense to me, and all looked a bit fake, rather like someone had invented the Capital on Sim City or Theme Capital Tycoon.

The next couple of day’s cycling have taken us to where we are today, on the coast in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I have found these few days cycling very difficult and have wanted to stop on many, many occasions. The surroundings have not been as inspiring, straight roads that go on forever, beside the interstate that zap the soul out of you. It hasn’t been the physical side of things that has been getting to me the most, but the mental, I think. I find that I really don’t enjoy cycling when I am on a busy road, or cycling by an Interstate, it really gets me down and I get tired, hot, and worked up a lot quicker. On the worst day I had to stop for a few hours beside the road and have a nap because the heat had got to me so much! The last few days have been good though because we have made sure that we have got up as early as possible to avoid the heat and have just cycled as fast and hard as possible to try and get everything done in the morning. The weather has been really good as well, a lot of cloud in the morning to keep the weather down, and then getting sunny in the afternoon when we arrive. I’m not sure how we are going to cope, or how we are going to plan our day in the next couple of days when the distances are longer and the weather may not be as forgiving!

Neil

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