Charity

Trans Atlantic Cycle – The Motivation

Roger Holmes No Comments

As I cycled on The Katy Trail in Missouri, approximately two thirds of the way into the charity challenge of riding across America and Ireland; a new mantra came to mind: See the good in everyone – especially yourself. Thinking about that sentence, and all that it entails, gave me increased awareness of my motivation. From that point onwards, I picked up the pace and put myself in a position where I was able to reach New York City on my target date of August 14th 2016.

Missouri_Sunset

I had a beautifully peaceful and spiritual experience overlooking this Missouri River sunset – by connecting with my motivation

Later that same day, I crossed the great Missouri River. I stopped and stared in awe at the amazing sunset. That led to several minutes of beautiful quiet time, reflection and meditation. When eating my supper later still, I wondered if I would have even noticed that sunset and had that peaceful spiritual moment on the bridge, had I not been thinking about my new mantra. Having the conviction to hold true to a genuine motivation cuts out a lot of stressful and unnecessary thoughts, and opens the door for newer, more beautiful emotions and experiences. You can be self confident without being cocky. When you are sure of your motivation, you can see the world from a different perspective.

When I announced that I was doing Trans Atlantic Cycle to raise funds and awareness for The Irish Cancer Society, I didn’t give too much background, or explain my motivation for doing such an epic challenge. Despite some people telling me that I wouldn’t do it, I shouldn’t do it or that I couldn’t do it; I am doing it. My motivation is strong – because it came from within. I knew that I could do it – one day at a time.

For a long number of years, I bent over backwards to seek approval from others; probably because I doubted myself so much. Sometimes we are our own worst critics. Self doubt is a ball and chain that we must cast off. I was once dependent upon others to grant me happiness and contentment. I was willing to do things that were detrimental to my own wellbeing and peace of mind, in the pursuit of winning approval from others. I now see that for the folly that it was.

Two years ago I fell from an electric bicycle. The injuries were very painful, and the trauma was a heavy burden to bear. I slipped into self-pity which compounded things. It took a long time to find treatment, but I was eventually referred to Philip O’Rourke. During my sessions with Philip, I realized that I had to face my fear and get back on a bicycle. To do this, I had to look deep within myself, and start to build from the bottom up. When I eventually felt better, we discussed the possibility of doing a cycle to celebrate the fact that I was well again. A case of, “hair of the dog that bit you”. I started to think about doing a charity fundraiser. Philip is a cancer survivor, and had been given invaluable help by The Irish Cancer Society during his recovery. It seemed fitting that I should help the charity that helped the man who helped me. It completes a nice little circle of giving.

Cycling alone across America is by no means a decision that you come to lightly. I weighed it up. And then it occurred to me: there are thousands of poor souls in Ireland who are fighting cancer, or grieving a loved one, who would jump on a bike in a heart beat if only it would make things better. The realization that I was blessed and fortunate enough to have recovered from my accident was enough to inspire me to take on Trans Atlantic Cycle. It is a tiny challenge compared to what many others have to face.

When I realized that I could experience peace and serenity by counting the blessings that I have instead of lamenting the things that I don’t have, my view of life changed. Isn’t it funny that when we pledge to help others (instead of trying to impress them), that we actually find peace and contentment ourselves? And when we concentrate only on our own material needs, we oft times encounter discontent and unhappiness? And so, armed with this attitude and motivation, on June 14th 2016, against all the odds, I was standing at the pier in San Francisco with my trusteed Peggy, about to set off alone across the United States of America. I was happy, at peace with what lay ahead, and confident that I would have the conviction to complete what I set out to do.

I meditate every day while cycling. And afterwards I make a point of counting my blessings. Most days, the first blessing that comes to mind is that I have my health, and that I was able to get up out of bed and face another day. In the past, I focused on negatives. Now I count my blessings, and the gratitude that this brings always gives me a good head start to the day.

The quieter you become, the more you can here

I passed this poignant sign outside a a presbyterian church in rural Illinois. Such a powerful message.

I have faced many obstacles during Trans Atlantic Cycle. The Sierra Nevada’s came very early and were too much for my legs. It took three attempts to make it over Echo Summit. I was exhausted and had to rest for two days at South Lake Tahoe. The heat in Nevada caused all sorts of issues. I was dehydrated and had diarrhea in Utah. I was gasping in the thin air near the top of Monarch Pass, the 11,300 foot summit where I scaled The Rockies. I fell coming out of The Rockies. I was faced off by a mountain lion in Montrose, Colorado. I had to ask the police for assistance when it looked like I couldn’t find a place to stay late in the evening in Sacramento. I have had countless tough days. But one thing has been constant: my motivation to do this.

I believe that Trans Atlantic Cycle is 75% mental and 25% physical. I believe that if your mental attitude and motivation are right, you can overcome any obstacle to achieve your goal. There is always a way.

Brooklyn Bridge and Freedom Tower

Brooklyn Bridge and Freedom Tower in New York City. Both of these were difficult projects, but when completed they signify growth, freedom, movement and a bright future. I thought that was a very symbolic thought as I entered Manhattan.

I am writing this as I rest up in New York City, before moving on to Ireland, where I will ride from Letterkenny to Dublin, to the offices of The Irish Cancer Society. I am thinking about a few lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘IF’:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

Regardless of whether or not I complete Trans Atlantic Cycle, I hope that I am showing that even from the darkest place, you can find the light of hope. When I was asked to dig deep to find the will to face my fears and get back on a bicycle, I inadvertently found so much more, locked away inside. I am so much stronger than I thought I was. I have goodness within me. I discovered those things by finding silence and calmness through meditation. I learned to be able to give myself a pat on the back instead of flailing myself for no good reason based on what other people might think of me.

Trans Atlantic Cycle has been an amazing journey and adventure. It has been the most spiritual time in my life. I have seen the world from many different perspectives. Perspective is my favorite word. It is the first step in The Paris Method. Getting grounded and finding out about yourself in an unbiased way is a complete revelation.

No matter how fragile you may feel initially, you can build strong motivation to achieve your goals by using fundamental positives as the first building blocks. Rock bottom is the best place from which to build any strong foundation. A little over a year ago, I barely had the motivation to go out to the local shop. Now, I have cycled over three and a half thousand miles across America on my own.

I am not too sure what lies ahead – although I have an idea of what my future will be like. For now, I am returning to that silent, spiritual place which I get to by practicing The Paris Method, and whatever I discover about myself there, I know that it will be genuine, true and in my own best interests regardless of how others see it. I have learned to see the good in people – especially myself. I have been turning a negative experience (my bicycle fall) in to a positive outcome (raising funds and awareness for The Irish Cancer Society). But most of all, I have learned how to find peace. For years I searched frantically for it. I looked for it in other people, through vacations, in material possessions, inside bottles (thats a whole other story), and in many more ways and places. And all the while, it was there with me all the time, deep inside of me. I just had to figure out how to find it, and believe in it.

People have asked me if I prayed during my journey. I most certainly did. But I wasn’t praying for my needs, I was saying wordless prayers of gratitude for being given the time, the health and the energy to do what I am doing. I can honestly say that I breathed in every last drop of what my journey across the United States of America had to offer me. It was and is, a life-changing experience.

Thanks for reading. I hope that Trans Atlantic Cycle is the start of a spiritual adventure of continued personal growth, and I hope that I can continue to do a little bit to help others – instead of trying to impress them. That is my motivation going forward.

Trans Atlantic Cycle – The People and The Emotions

Roger Holmes No Comments

So, I am cycling 3,750 miles across America and Ireland to raise funds for The Irish Cancer Society. Trans Atlantic Cycle has so far been defined by people – great people. I am leaving a trail of new friends across the United States of America. New friends, who I am sure will become old friends. This challenge has also been heavily ingrained with emotions. The support for #TransAtlanticCycle is very much appreciated. I am a lucky man to have such good people around me.

Ray at Huckleberry

Ray Kim, whose expert advice at Huckleberry Bicycles really set me up well for the long road ahead.

In San Francisco, I met Ray Kim in Huckleberry Bicycles, who was amazing to deal with, and still provides support. I stayed with Fabi, Dylan and Brissa – such great hospitality. Tracey Cullen, a talented singer/songwriter, allowed me to use her music ‘First Kiss‘ in the video I made about leaving San Francisco. It is a beautiful song, and it was great being able to use it. It is available to buy on iTunes.

Donna contributed so much in terms of motivation and support, and made a generous donation to The Irish Cancer Society. Then there was Sinead, who went out of her way to help me, and hooked me up with Cheri and Jim in Carson City, where I was treated like a king.

Cheri_And_Jim

Cheri and Jim, who provided great hospitality at their lovely home in Minden, Nevada. They were great hosts.

 

1965 Mustang

Jim’s 1965 Mustang GT, which I got to drive! Not many men would hand over the keys of such a car. Thanks Jim

The Desert Angels – where do I even start to describe their kindness. I met these twin ladies outside of a grocery store in Dayton. When they heard where I was headed, they went home, packed up their motorhome and basically shepherded me all the way across the state of Nevada. I am still lost for words as to how I feel about their kindness, but it was epic, and has remained in my heart.

Desert Angels

The ‘Desert Angels’ M and Liz. These twins really saved me, by shepherding me across the state of Nevada

When all seemed lost after a heatwave swept through Utah, up stepped Grace and Bob. Had it not been for their assistance, I would surely have succumbed to the 110 degree heat in the Canyon Lands.

Things went a little pear shaped in Moab. Trans Atlantic Cycle hit the wall, to borrow marathon terminology. The heat and elevation combined with all of the long cycle rides, finally got to me. I had to remain indoors for two days as I grappled with stomach cramps, diarrhea, and a blip in form. I posted an online update from Moab in which I was a little cranky, but I am so glad that I did it. It is good to share the tough and embarrassing moments as well as the classic Instagram moments.

Once the heat subsided, I scaled the La Sal Mountains, and in doing so, crossed another state line; this time into Colorful Colorado, where I again immediately met some nice folks. Tony, Amanda and their kids were great hosts. While visiting their hillside house and strolling on their grounds admiring the views, I came face to face (around 40 feet away) with a mountain lion!. I back-traked, and once out of sight I ran back to the house. I was both shaken and delighted to have experienced this very rare encounter.

On the eve of July fourth, I met Randy Kerr; a gentleman, and a phenomenal athlete. At 60 years of age, he is competing in (and wining) all sorts of mountain bike races. His fitness, and his commitment to it, are a lesson to any cyclist. Randy doesn’t hear so well (a legacy from his Army service), but it didn’t dampen our conversation. I had the pleasure of riding out of Montrose with him, just after the Independence Day parade, and we rode the very scenic (and very tough) road to Gunnison, where we watched the town’s fireworks display. That was a special day. En route I also bumped into Brad and Chris, and spent a very enjoyable hour on their breathtakingly beautiful ranch in the mountains.

While resting in the homely Wanderlust Hostel, where Amy has created a lovely atmosphere, I met yet more nice people. Mike, who was en route from Atlanta Georgia for a new life in Denver, was a good guy, great company, and a lot of fun. I also met Ron, and hung out with him for a day or two. A retired federal employee, he forgoes luxury to vacation a little differently. Ron hikes. For hundreds of miles. And he hitches rides between trails. I don’t think I have ever met a more humble and genuine man, and that is exactly why he does what he does. The wild country and the low budget experience, remind him of how lucky he is to have his luxuries when he gets back home. Ron, if you are reading this, I think you should write a book – people would love to read it.

Mike_Reno

Mike, who was heading to Denver

Also in the unique Wanderlust Hostel, I met John, a pharmacist from Garden City Kansas, who was guiding his young daughter through a Colorado vacation. Watching how much time John spent with his daughter, ensuring that she was having a good time, was just a joy.

On my last night in the hostel, I met Natalie; a school teacher and adventurer from Cincinnati. Again, conversation flowed. We covered ground from health insurance, to outdoor pursuits, right through to spirituality. It was this topic that has provided a legacy now that I am out on the road again. Natalie, I wish you nothing but success and happiness. I also briefly met Kevin Record, from Tallahassee Florida who is riding across America from East to West. Kevin is also fundraising for a cancer charity. We compared notes and experiences, and although our meeting was brief, we will stay in touch on social media.

Kevin_Record

Kevin Record, who is going the other way across America. If only we had more time to chat. Kindred spirits

After almost settling in permanently at the Wanderlust, I finally made the move that I was preparing for. Monarch Pass had been looming large in my thoughts since I had left San Francisco. I won’t lie, had it not been for keeping some cancer victims in mind, I may have bailed out of that tough climb. My aunt Kathleen passed away in 2008 from Cancer, as did Jimsie in 2016, and those two, along with numerous others, were in my thoughts the entire day. At 300 feet from the summit, the climb was so steep and the air so thin, that I was literally gasping.

I rested for a time, and just like an apparition, along came Kawika Plummer, a trans-American rider from Hawaii, who stirred me up for a final push, and so I followed his back wheel to the summit. Kawika often rides up to 140 miles a day. I hope Im so fit at that age!

Kawika

Kawika from Hawaii, whose wheel I followed up the last 300ft climb to Monarch Pass. Top of The Rockies

I actually stayed on the summit of Monarch Pass for around 2 hours. I was just so happy to be there. Places like this are the Everest of the cycling world. Monarch is 3,500 feet higher than the highest summit on the 2016 Tour de France. I was feeling very emotional, as I remembered those who had been in my thoughts as I struggled up the mountain. It was a strange mix of happiness, sadness, achievement, tiredness and satisfaction. There were a few tears. And that’s ok, and ok to admit to.

sign_man

Top of The Rockies! Happy to finally scale Monarch Pass – Highest point on Trans Atlantic Cycle at 11,312 feet

And that brings me to another defining day. En route to Canyon City, I was riding US50 as it turned and twisted through a deep gorge, which followed the flow of the Arkansas River. The scenery was beautiful, but those steep canyon walls had a little menacing input into my adventure. Some rock fall rolled out in front of me, and there was little that I could do. Thankfully, the split second that I was airborne gave me time to accept what was happening, and I managed to roll with it as i hit the road. Peggy took the worst of the hit. Thankfully, after a few running repairs and a few days rest, Peggy and myself were back on the road. It could have been a lot lot worse in so many ways.

Poor_Peggy

Poor Peggy looking a bit worse for wear in Canyon City, CO

 

Cuts

Road rash after falling between Salida and Canyon City, CO

For my part, I escaped with some road rash and a few cuts. My hip is sore but there is nothing broken. A very nice French tourist (whose name I did not catch) dressed one of my knees on the roadside, and a lady called Diane gave myself and Peggy a ride into the nearest town. From the highs of Monarch Pass, there was a bit of a low that evening as I gathered my thoughts and rejigged my plans. I became even more determined to keep going and reach New York City. I have met too many genuinely kind and supportive people, and have too much support from family and friends to just throw in the towel. There is also the matter of thinking about all of the people who will benefit from the donations which have been made on Trans Atlantic Cycle’s behalf to The Irish Cancer Society.

I called to mind a mantra which I have been using from the outset of Trans Atlantic Cycle – every negative experience can have a positive outcome. And sure enough, after vowing to continue, I finally rolled out of The Rockies and entered the Arkansas River Valley, where once again, the people were friendly and kind almost beyond belief. I felt rewarded for making the decision to continue. I visited two hospices while riding through the valley; firstly Sangre de Cristo in Fowler, and then Arkansas Valley Hospice in La Junta.

Ark_Valley

The staff of Arkansas Valley Hospice, who gave me a warm welcome

It was just amazing to be greeted by these wonderful people who do such amazing work for their patients. These visits had a very humbling effect upon me, and added renewed determination which counterbalanced the hurt I was feeling since the fall.

In La Junta I was given hospitality by John and Kathy, whose caring nature and dedication in helping others less fortunate is quite simply staggering. I completely relaxed in their home, and added a few more names to the long list of great American people who I will be staying in touch with when this is all over. John and Kathy have such a profound impact on the lives of those they care for. Thanks must go to selfless Mary Palmer for the introduction.

John_And_Kathy

Denver Bronco’s fan John Mestas, and his lovely wife Kathy, who made me feel so at home in La Junta, Colorado

I was quite sad to be leaving Colorado, as it has definitely been my favorite state to have visited thus far. The scenery is beautiful and the people are really friendly and kind. So far, Kansas has been Kansas. Some people complain about how boring the landscapes are, but I really like them. The land in places is so flat that the cattle ranches, wind farms and corn fields stretch out as far as the eye can see. I was raised on a farm, so can appreciate the beauty and fertility of this land. It is vast, and it is a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by so much of what others describe as so little.

Corn

One of the many corn fields in Kansas. They roll out on both sides of the road as far as the eye can see.

It has been very hot, even at night time. It is hard to know which is more comfortable; the heat at night, or the rattling of an air conditioning unit. My hip is also still troubling me. But it was good to cross another state line, and in doing so, change timezones once more. I am now only an hour behind New York City.

Kansas

It is always such a milestone when entering into a new state. But I was sad to leave Colorado

If anyone is in any doubt, this challenge is very trying. It is taking a lot of energy and sometimes I have to dig right to the bottom of the tank to find the strength to keep going. But, there is a two-fold benefit happening which cannot be ignored. Firstly, donations are being made to the Irish Cancer Society as a result of the effort that I am putting in. And secondly, I am meeting some truly wonderful people on my journey across America. Sometimes the experience becomes a little overwhelming, but it is all very positive nonetheless. I have spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts while traveling through this beautiful country, and have decided to write more extensively about the experiences after I have completed Trans Atlantic Cycle. There is so much to tell.

To make a donation to The Irish Cancer Society on my behalf, please visit the following page: TransAtlanticCycle

Trans Atlantic Cycle – The Highs and Lows of Cycling Across America

Roger Holmes No Comments

The title of this blog post is something of a misnomer. There are no lows; just calm periods that have the effect of making the highs more enjoyable. Im in Moab; a beautiful cycle-friendly town in south eastern Utah. Many who are cycling across America will pass through this little town. The landscape here is simply amazing, and the place has a real feel-good, laid-back vibe. There are dozens of cycle paths, dirt bike and ATV trails, and some amazing hikes through natural arches and canyons. But I’m just not feeling at my best today, and I’ve learned the hard way that it is okay to have days like these. Tomorrow is another day.

I made this video log when I was feeling the strain today. Its good to talk about this kind of stuff, as opposed to sugar-coating it.

I am tired, my digestive system is a little off, and I am certainly affected by the altitude, heat, and the number of miles cycled since I left San Francisco. In the past, a day like today may have tarnished the good times, but not now. I know it will pass. One of the best (and hardest) lessons I have learned is that when a down day comes, to realize that it is a passing moment, and it will indeed pass. Today, I was able to recognize that I am tired, and off-color, and so I accepted that the feelings I had were temporary. Self awareness is a game winning ace to pull from the deck on a day like today. I know that if I rest and refuel, that today’s worries will just drift away, as a cloud does when it temporarily blocks out the sun on an otherwise blue sky day.

I’d like to thank the girls at Bike Fiend, Moab, for not only cleaning my chain and checking the bike over, but for lifting my spirits when I walked in to their store in a very tired and weary state. I also need to thank Cheri and Jim in Minden, Nevada, who gave me kindness, hospitality, a bed, meals and some great encouragement. I just couldn’t have been treated any better, and that stays with you out on the road.

Cheri_And_Jim

Cheri and Jim: great people who really helped me in Minden, Nevada. That kindness stays with me.

I was also saved in the Nevada desert by twin sisters M and Liz, who I named my Desert Angels. I am still a little lost as to how to describe how far M and Liz went to ensure that I got across Nevada safely. Grace and Bob also extended some much needed generousity. I will be eternally grateful to these amazingly kind people. These were all random acts of kindness by strangers. I benefitted from American hospitality at its very best. Isn’t it ironic that I met such great people, and such good company on the ‘Loneliest Road in America’?

Long Road

It really is ironic that I met so many great people, who helped me so much…on The Loneliest Road in America

Trans Atlantic Cycle is incredibly difficult. It is okay for me to admit as much on this blog. Even if nobody reads this, just writing it helps to get it out of my system and allow that feeling to subside.

People have asked me what music I have been listening to out on the road. So far, I haven’t listened to any music while on the bike. I love music, and play bass and ukulele. But I haven’t played music yet while cycling across America, and probably won’t either. While doing something else (cycling), I prefer to be giving my concentration to what I am doing, what I am seeing and hearing as it passes by. Music would gradually allow my mind to slip from the present. Songs remind me of the past and give me ideas for the future, and thats okay. But right now I want to be aware of the present. I have meditated a lot while crossing California and Nevada. I have let go of a lot of negative thoughts and worries along the way – in a form of emotional littering. I like to imagine that any negative thoughts or feelings just flutter over my head and get left behind on the side of the road behind me. Without casting off some negative emotions, I cannot make room for newer happier feelings.

Rusty_Car

Some things need to be cast off and left on the side of the road. There, they can slowly rust away naturally instead of causing a wreck.

I try not to look too far ahead. All that matters most days is that I am moving. As long as I am moving I know I am working towards something. I need not be concentrating on what that something is, but when the wheels are turning, I am happy in each individual moment.

I have drawn parallels between cycling across America and life in general. When moving uphill, I am aware that my energy is being used at a higher rate. But I am also aware that the top of the hill is coming, and there will be a downhill sometime soon to balance things out. The last time I checked, the Pacific and the Atlantic are at the same level! I started at sea level, and I will finish at sea level, so the hills are balanced. Some days I cycle into a head wind. There may not be a tail wind to balance that out, and that is okay. Sometimes in life we just have to grit our teeth and bear into the headwind. When I happen to catch a tailwind, I make full use of it. The same goes for life. Being aware that things are good, and enjoying them to the maximum is important. Being aware that things are not so good, and accepting that they will pass is equally important.

Someone commented on social media today that after cycling across America, my life will never be the same again. Well, it is already different. Every moment brings change. There isn’t really a goal as such, just the progression towards something, and the awareness of each wheel turn along the way.

A_Sign

A ‘sign’ in a bathroom just as I was finally getting out of Ely, Nevada.

Today was a less than high day. But I still managed to make a little progress by sharing how I feel. And now that day is almost over, and tomorrow is another day. I have been using a few mantra’s during this Trans Atlantic Challenge as I have been cycling across America:
One Day at a Time
Onwards and Upwards
Positive from Negative

The most poignant one is a quote on canvass which I saw in a bathroom just before I finally got out of Ely, Nevada. I really feel that it was a sign, in more ways than one:
”Don’t be so focused on the finish line that you forget to enjoy the journey”.

Learning how to enjoy even the less than high moments is something I am working on as I am cycling across America. Even a down day is richly rewarding.

 

You can make a donation to The Irish Cancer Society on my behalf, by clicking here

Trans Atlantic Cycle – Starting Out in California

Roger Holmes No Comments

Since I began writing on this blog around a year ago, I haven’t often been short of words. But starting out on Trans Atlantic Cycle from California last week changed all that. In a little over a week I have intended writing this blog post so many times, but it became a little overwhelming and I couldn’t quite find the words!

Ive been keeping people at home, and those following my Trans Atlantic Cycle for the Irish Cancer Society updated, but I haven’t really talked about the emotional end of things. Thats about to change!

Firstly, there are not many girlfriends who would be so supportive of a man being out of town for so long, and going on such an endurance adventure. But I am blessed on that front. Thank you Yesita Bonita for your support of Trans Atlantic Cycle – it is greatly appreciated.

We stayed with Yesi’s friend Fabi and her husband Dylan in San Francisco while I rushed around like crazy trying to get a bicycle and supplies organized for the trip. Fabiola, Dylan and Brissa were amazing hosts, and did everything they could to help. They even found time to bring us to a San Francisco Giants game (which the giants won!), and tour us around San Francisco. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me the run of your beautiful home.

San Fran

Posing in Downtown San Francisco!

We had arrived in San Francisco late on a Friday night. Two days earlier I had put out a desperate plea on social media looking for my dream bike that would take me across the United States and Ireland. That plea was probably symptomatic of my pre-tour edginess; something that other cyclists confess to also. My SOS was answered by Raymond Kim, who works for Huckleberry Bicycles out of their recently opened Berkeley store. Within two days of arriving in San Francisco, I was the proud owner of a Surly Long Haul Trucker, and she was saddled up, adjusted to suit me and ready for the road on Trans Atlantic Cycle.

Ray at Huckleberry

Raymond Kim at Huckleberry Bicycles, Berkely. Ray is the wikipedia of bicycle touring

Ray and Huckleberry Bicycles: you have nothing but my admiration, respect and gratitude. I highly recommend these people should you have bicycle needs in the Bay Area, or if you would like to buy online from experienced and reliable people.

I named the bike Pegasus, in the hope that she would sprout wings and fly me forward to help in the battles ahead. I shortened it to Peggy to make her female, and the Y is a tip of the hat to Yesi 🙂

Irish Cancer Society Balloon

Flags and Irish Cancer Society Balloon

I won’t lie – my first few days on the road were troublesome and I felt a bit lonely and overwhelmed. Getting out of the Bay Area and its satellite towns was torturous. I lost count of how many wrong turns I made, how many busy intersections per day I went through, and how many times I felt vulnerable. I wondered sometimes what I had undertaken, and if I would be able for it. Daily mileage was low and it was an error prone, nervous and stuttering outset. Eventually I made it to the California Central Valley, and although my newly acquired GPS sent me on an almighty 80 mile detour, it actually served a purpose. (Theres that positive from negative mantra again). The detour afforded me the chance to experience my first day of riding on wide open roads, and the ranch, orchard and vineyard scenery was amazing. It recharged me and gave me hope that I was actually able to clock some bigger mileage and man up to Trans Atlantic Cycle.

Leaving San Francisco

Starting out on Trans Atlantic Cycle, near the Bay Bridge, San Francisco. June 14th 2016

In Vacaville I stopped by a UPS and mailed 8 pounds of unnecessary stuff back to New York City. I have not missed any of it, and plan to shed another few pounds soon. I draw a parallel with life here. How much stuff are we carrying around that we think we need to carry, but can manage well without if we just let it go? Letting go of stuff is revitalizing and leaves room for growth. I am still carrying more than my body weight in the saddle bags. This may not be a problem on the flat, but as I was soon to discover, it made climbing uphill sections almost impossible. (Another life parallel and lesson).

Following a nervy night in a shady motel in downtown Sacramento, where the police helicopter swooped overhead, and ladies of the night and other hoodlums were circling around, I made it uptown the following morning. I bumped into Dan Donahue, a man in his 60’s who was out cycling. He told me he has clocked over 100,000 miles on two wheels since he first started commuting to work. His grandmother was Irish. A lovely man to meet, and it was a nice start to the day.

Once uptown, I made for Sacramento State University Campus, where I had read that a bike trail originated which would take me to Folsom. I asked for directions and met two absolute gentlemen, Dave Pratt and Steve Huddleston, who work nearby on a state sponsored geology study. They walked with me to the trail head, and we had a fantastic conversation about many things. Dave even gave his phone number should I need it, as he lives between Folsom and Placerville, where I was headed. That made the total of nice gentlemen I had met three, and did a lot to balance my opinion of Sacramento. Thanks guys.

After bidding farewell to Dave and Steve, I got on the American River Bike Trail, which follows the American River all the way to Folsom. It is beautiful, and in the absence of traffic and knowing that I need not waste energy worrying about directions for 20 miles or so, I got some great time to relax on the bike and meditate. Ive always been drawn to water (says he sitting writing this in the Nevada desert!), and I find it easy to relax when I am near it. I just love watching the flow of water, and find it very soothing.

Alas, the relaxed bike ride left me behind schedule, and I arrived in Folsom during Friday evening rush hour. After a quick snack I hit the road again, and a few short miles later started my first ascent into the Sierra Nevada foothills. I had left Sacramento too late, ridden too leisurely and was now struggling to get to Placerville. I wouldn’t use the word panic, but I was definitely worried about getting off the road before sun down. Highway 50 was very busy with California traffic heading up to the mountain resorts for fathers day.

Lake Tahoe

First glimpse of Lake Tahoe

I arrived in Placerville, got my head down at a Norman Bates styled motel and slept for 10 hours solid. I awoke, showered, had breakfast, got the bike checked out with Andrew at Placerville Bicycle Store and hit the road. It was immediately uphill, and I am not ashamed to say that it beat me. I stopped after around 20 miles, and freewheeled back to Placerville. I was feeling very low at this point, and it looked like Trans Atlantic Cycle had failed at the first hurdle. And then a long lost friend appeared! Lyle, who lives in Grass Valley – around an hours drive from Placerville – and who I had roomed with while at college in Ireland, swung by and came to my rescue. His trustee truck, ‘The Red Dragon’ carted my luggage up the hill, and although it took all day and left me completely exhausted, I made it over Echo Summit and down into South Lake Tahoe where I hunkered down for two days to recover. Thank you Lyle and The Red Dragon. She may me from 1993 but she saved me big time. And all while running on salvaged vegetable oil!

Lyle and Red Dragon

Lyle and his Red Dragon truck

When needing to rest and recharge, I could barely have picked a better place. 968 Park Hotel in South Lake Tahoe is the kind of place where you feel like you have arrived at a new home. Neal, who checked me in and told me about his Irish heritage, was a total legend, telling me stories about the local area and giving me tips on where to find everything I might need. His best advice was to hit the hot tub in the hotel, which I did for about 45 minutes and it was the magic cure I needed. I slept well, rested indoors the following day, and was even greeted and given good wishes for my trip by the hotel manager Sean Pratt at checkout. 968 Park is part of the Joie de Vivre chain, and this particular hotel in Tahoe is boutique styled, with almost all of the interior decor made from recycled materials. Very cool, and homely. All of the staff are friendly and helpful, and I would highly recommend it.

Feeling recharged, I cycled my last mile on California roads and crossed over in to Nevada, following highway 50 as it meandered along the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. I stopped at Logan Sholes where I had lunch and the most amazing period of relaxation on the entire trip so far. The view from here is breathtaking – almost heavenly. I really swallowed it in, and it helped to remind me just how lucky I am to be alive and healthy enough to be able to do this charity ride and see the great American landscapes.

Logan_Sholes

Peggy having a rest at Logan Sholes vista over Lake Tahoe

The bear signs by the roadside as I climbed Montreal Canyon to Spooner Summit was amusing! Thankfully, Spooner is at 7, 148 feet, so pretty soon I was descending into Carson Valley at 38mph. That is beyond the pace of even the Usain Bolt’s of the bear world. The scenery was spectacular, and as I descended I could pick out highway 50 AKA ‘The Lonliest Road in America’, as it weaved its way across the Nevada desert. Thats the route I will be following on Trans Atlantic Cycle.

Bears

Oh dear, or is it oh bear?!

As another day ended, I was again on the road later than I had anticipated, but when cycling through such beautiful scenery, I found it hard to avoid stopping to take pictures and being thankful that I was experiencing such wonderful places, while also raising money for the Irish Cancer Society. Those two emotions are very humbling, and in my experience, staying humble and finding time to breathe in the great outdoors is a great recipe for inner peace and happiness. I am certainly feeling those emotions on Trans Atlantic Cycle.

If you would like to make a donation to The Irish Cancer Society you can do so here: Trans Atlantic Cycle

You can follow updates on several social media platforms by using the hashtag #TransAtlantic Cycle

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