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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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