Tag Archive Cycling Across America

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

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