Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Week 2 and a bit - Utah, lots of Subways and Canyons


So we're now over 2 weeks into this mammoth trip, and are currently in Salt Lake City where we've had our first proper rest day since starting. We've now travelled over 800 miles since LA, and still have over 2,500 to go, so just less than a quarter done, but moving in the right direction, both metaphorically and physically! Utah has been an interesting state in many aspects, but I think it's fair to say we're looking forward to getting out of it, but anyway, more of that later!

From scorching St. George we headed east to pretty Springdale and the Zion Canyon, which is an incredible canyon, unsurprisingly, sided by very steep red cliffs, and a river running through the base. Very spectacular it has to be said. A few big climbs were then in order for us to reach Bryce Canyon a few days later, which again, is very impressive. We gradually climbed upto around 9,000ft in the National Park, obviously most Americans then drove to the same height, but were then greeted with views as far as the eye could see, with not one bit of visible civilisation. Views such as these make you appreciate the vastness of this country, the third biggest in the world, and makes you think of all the bloody hard work that must have gone into settling it! We can vouch for this, as all this is cowboy (and previously Indian) country and we've had some fairly strong headwinds to power through, so I can't imagine being much easier over 100 years ago on a horse blazing trails!

I mentioned in the last post how the vast majority of people we come across are incredibly friendly, but on occasions we do encounter some random aggression, which we're never completely sure why we receive, apart from taking pictures of fatties I suppose. Most American drivers tend to be very sympathetic to cyclists, generally giving us a decent amount of room as they pass at 60mph...apart from one truck that is between St. George and Springdale. We were on one of the typically straight, empty and featureless roads they have here, when a truck driver's mate (so he wasn't even in the driving seat), went to the effort of winding his window down, removing his Cowboy hat, making the angriest face possible towards us and shouted "Get out the fuckin' road, assholes!" We weren't even in the "fuckin' road", instead on one of the generally very wide hard shoulders they have. Andy has been teaching me to greet these gestures with a sarcastic and happy wave back to the driver, as there's nothing they can do in retaliation, and it can only make them yet more irate. Probably the quote of the trip so far.

However, the friendliness of people has more than made up for moments like that, especially in Utah. These Mormons, or LDSers as they like to call themselves (Church of Latter Day Saints), may be a bit out there on a limb in some aspects, but they have definitely been helping us out! On Friday, after descending a 9,000ft hill to the heat of the semi-desert again, Andy got a puncture which had come about from a repaired patch peeling off his inner tube on the hot roads. This was going to prove very problematic, being miles away from the nearest town and campsite. Never fear though, some LDSers pulled up to check out our problem, swiftly whisked Andy off in their car to the nearest bike shop and sent me to their house to watch TV with the husband. This was fantastic in itself to get into some air con and out of the heat but within a few hours, we'd then had pizza bought for us and been offered a bed for the night! It then turned out the following day was the 24th July, Pioneer Day in Utah, celebrating the first settlers to the State some 150 years ago and so the family also took us to breakfast with the local Church group.
We then realised that Utah is one of the most Republican states in this country, as a man was walking round with his brand new purchase, a 6 foot shotgun, that he was using as a walking stick, and obviously he had another shooter on his waist.
However, the generosity continued all day, we arrived in a small village at 6pm to find a man giving hot dogs away. He stocked us up, gave us a drink and in spite of him introducing us to his grandson as "these guys from Paris", he was again, incredibly generous, even going to the effort of cooking us steak and potatoes and sending it round to where we were camping in the local park! Unbelievable!

On the subject of food, we've now realised why there are so many fat people in this country. We had been buying very poor quality bread, ham, cheese and tomatoes for lunch everyday, and making very sub-standard sandwiches as a result and this was often coming to more than $10. Then we realised Subway sell footlong sandwiches for $5! This has now meant we are basically planning our route on where Subways are, generally 60 miles or so apart in rural areas, which is perfect for our lunches. The same also goes however, for breakfasts and evening meals, it really isn't that much more expensive to eat out and get an outrageously sized portion of food. For us cycling over 60 miles a day, that's fine, for your average American going from drive-thru Subway, to drive-thru ATM, all with a refillable Coca-Cola at your side, it isn't hard to see how the pounds get piled on.

Utah has been very insightful. An incredibly beautiful state with scenery that changes every 10 miles or so, canyons to forests to deserts, it has it all. What it doesn't have is much fun however, which Salt Lake City more or less epitomises. It feels like a cross between a SimCity computer game and the Truman Show, all very artificial and serene. This undoubtedly comes from laws such as making all beer in shops a maximum of 3.2%, and Walmart being prohibited from selling vodka! I have never been greeted with such a look of disgust when I asked an assistant where the Spirit section was! All very ironic for the country of "freedom".

We now plan to move North into Idaho briefly, drink some proper alcohol, and from there cycling upto Wyoming where Yellowstone National Park is, grizzly bear country! Andy's iPhone didn't take kindly to his water bottle leaking on it, so he's lost his photos and it's proving rather awkward to get mine onto a computer, so not sure how I can get pictures on this, but a solution will hopefully be found! I'll update this as soon as possible! Please remember why I'm doing this, and sponsor me too on my JustGiving Page, it's looking a bit bare at the moment!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

1 week in, hot hot hot...

I've now been in the States a week now and all is going very well up to now! I'm updating this blog from my new iPod touch (had to get with the culture over here), but it is a bit awkward to type lots of stuff on, and also to upload photos, so will try and sort something out.

So, LA then...huuuuge, noisy and a nightmare to cycle out of normally but being on the ball we chose to get out on a Sunday. After a few days of being a tourist around Santa Monica, Venice and Hollywood, we dipped our feet in the Pacific and set off on our way. We eventually managed to get out of the sprawling metropolis and after 55 miles and some 1000m of hot uphills, reached Acton. A typical American town in a semi-desert with the greenest grass imagineable and some big scavenger weasel type creatures that robbed our food! A campsite with lots of massive pick-up trucks, Winnie bagos and an adult room too. All very new to me, and very American, big and bold!

A day of tailwinds took us to Victorville, our first Denny's Diner experience and then to Vegas! Quite simply the most outrageous place I've ever been to. Extravagant, morally corupt, engineering triumph...lot's of different opinions, but it's bloody good fun I can assure you! Walking around 40 degree desert heat inbetween Parisian and Egyptian themed air-conditioned super casinos, being handed flyers for strippers, is what Vegas is all about! Cheap booze, food and accommodation is plentiful to encourage gambling, and it's fair to say it had the desired effect on me and Andy.
We also got into our first American argument. Now I have to emphasise that almost every American we have met so fat has been incredibly helpful, supportive and friendly, and we probably shouldn't laugh at all the obese fatties around, but occasionally it's unavoidable. So when we saw a gigantic family waltzing out of an all-you-can eat, 3 of them on fat mobiles, we took a picture. We were then "chased" by someone with a face morphed into their own neck asking us, "ain't you got fatties in your own country?, I said not like you and then she asked if we thought they were funny?". We said yes and refused to delete the photo that is now on facebook. Should have offered to delete it if she beat me in a race to be fair I suppose.

Anyway, we're now in Utah after cycling 55 miles from Nevada, through Arizona and into Utah, the state that discourages alcohol consumption. We'll be here for about 3 weeks which should be interesting then, we haven't seen one bar yet. Luckily the scenery is incredible, as it had been all along the way since LA and through different types of desert. The heat is incredible though, today we were cycling through 44 degree heat, which was the joint hottest day in history in this part of the world! Needless to say it is very tough cycling in that heat and so we're setting out at 5am before the sun gets up to make it as easy as possible. We're now heading to Zion National Park which should be equally as stunning, and hope to be in Salt Lake City in a week or so, approximately 300 miles from St. George. I'll try and get some pics up on here to make you all jealous and if you'd like to sponsor me, check out the post below with info on how to do it by JustGiving, spread the word! Another post soon hopefully!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Coast to Coast of the bicycle!


This blog sort of fell by the wayside whilst I was in Colombia, but never fear, it's back for a new adventure!

On the 8th July, I leave Manchester for Los Angeles, where I'm collecting my bike from a friend, to whose house the bike was sent from Colombia. A bit of a complicated and long winded story, but from there, me and Andrew Kenny are setting out to travel all the way across the States on our bikes, to New York! We've given ourselves just over 10 weeks to do it, and our current route has us passing through Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone National Park, and then we'll hang a right, and roll into New York some weeks later...hopefully!

We'll be encountering intense heat through the Nevada Desert, some high altitude roads through Yellowstone, and possibly a grizzly bear or two, although I'd rather that not happen. There'll probably also be some McDonalds on the way of course, with a fair few fatties thrown in for good measure who'll probably get in our way. On a more positive note. I'm also hopeful that we will meet some super friendly people, who don't have a clue why we're doing what we're doing, but will no doubt wish us well, and maybe even take pity on us and give us some food or shelter.

I'm doing all this for a reason of course, I'm cycling in aid of Muscular Dystrophy as I have a very good friend who suffers from this degenerative disease. I have a JustGiving page for donations. It's super easy and safe to do, and any donations or any amount are welcome and received gratefully from myself and the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

I'll try to update this every so often so you can see where we're upto, what we've encountered and how big my calf muscles are getting. I'll try and stick some pics up too! I'm not sure if I can wish myself the best of luck, but I'd like to...we'll probably need it.