Tag Archive Irish Cancer Society

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

Trans Atlantic Cancer Cycle

Roger Holmes No Comments

Trans Atlantic Cycle

Im writing this over New Foundland and that means that Trans Atlantic Cycle is underway! The charity cycle from San Francisco to New York City and Letterkenny to Dublin is still around 10 days away, but we have managed to raise around 1,600 euro so far for the Irish Cancer Society, which is a really healthy start.

I am undertaking Trans Atlantic Cycle for many reasons; primarily to raise fund for The Irish Cancer Society, but also to challenge myself and challenge a theory. Six months ago I was afraid to even look at someone else on a bicycle – now Im planning a long tour. Thats worth celebrating (thanks Philip O’Rourke for getting me through that). I also want to prove that with the right attitude, amy negative experience can be turned into something really positive.

I have set a fundraising target of €5,000. To generate that amount of money for a very worthy charity, coming off the back of a very negative 19 months, would be amazing, and would go a long way to proving that with positive thoughts and plans, positive things can happen, even when they are born out of a negative.

This is a short little blog post. Soon I will land at JFK, and next week will travel out to San Francisco where hopefully I will meet my bike, which will become my best friend throughout the summer of 2016.

I am nervous, excited, inspired, humbled (by the donations and good wishes thus far) but mostly I am determined to make Trans Atlantic Cycle a successful both for the Irish Cancer Society and for myself and anyone like me. Maybe there is a fine line between determined and stubborn – either of those traits would be welcome once I am out on the road.

Thats it for now. I just wanted to thank everyone for their encouragement and generous donations thus far, and to provide an update that Trans Atlantic Cycle is now a step closer.

You can search for updates by using the #TransAtlanticCycle hashtag. Lets do this!

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