Thursday, 28 August 2014

Origins of an Idea

Location: Sheffield Sheffield
Where did it start?  Or when?  We've been trying to figure this out for the last few weeks, when and where did this idea of cycling around the States first take hold?  I've had a desire to traipse around North America for many years now, there's been a keen yearning to set out on those long open roads in my wanderlust filled heart for so long I don't know what lit that particular fire.  Easy Rider?  Wild Fang?  Little House on the Prairie?  Into the Wild?  The Littlest Hobo?  Honestly I have no idea, but that wilderness, that scenery, that vastness, that frontier spirit - it's been calling out to me for some time now.

So I'm not surprised at our destination, but cycling round it?  That's the bit I don't know how or when we decided.  It's not like I don't like cycling, I loved it as a kid, but when I bought my first adult bike 2 years ago it was pretty much the first time I'd been back on a bike since I was in my teens.  Tom's had a bike since we were in Dorset and has been riding pretty much 5 days a week since then and did a couple of 100 mile + rides which seemed pretty epic to me.  And now we have a plan that will involve cycling not just 100+ miles but somewhere in the region of 7,000 miles in North America alone, before heading South for a-whole-nother continent.  And it feels like the most natural, obvious thing for us to do.  Like something we were always going to do, but obviously we must have come up with the idea at some point, one of us must have pitched it to the other.  The origin is just lost amongst the jumble of other memories.

I feel a little envious of the people who are able to say "I remember exactly when the plan was hatched, my friend challenged me in the pub/I was inspired by reading this book/I just took off East on my bike..." whatever.  There's something nice about a definite beginning.  There are a number of things that helped shape this idea, we just don't have a timeline to take us from vague dreams and a bunch of possibles to where we are now, but maybe having a definite beginning to the idea of an adventure isn't nearly as important as having a definite beginning to the adventure itself.  And that we have a pretty good idea of.  183 days to be precise.  Not that we're counting...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

First Outing

Location: Sheffield Sheffield
So a couple of months ago we had our first outing on our new Thorn Nomad bikes.  We set off from our home in Sheffield and headed east to a campsite just north of Lincoln, this covered the kind of distance we are hoping to cover on our two year trip that starts next February; a fairly balanced 60 miles with climbs, descents, city cycling and country lanes there and almost exactly the same on the way back but in reverse (next year we are planning on cycling 60 miles on day one, 60 on day two and then resting on day three, then repeat until we get back to the good old UK).

The first day started wet and steep but the rain stopped and the roads levelled out as we headed into Lincolnshire, but the last 10 miles tried our patience with a crippling headwind that sapped the energy levels and morale, but these were instantly raised when we arrived at out campsite, got all set up, showered and clean.

Getting on the bikes on day 2 was a little tender because our Brooks saddles are still very hard and fresh out the box, but the weather was good, and we felt fit so we decamped and headed off bright and early. With no head wind and feeling confident and positive we chose a slightly different route home to miss some of the outlying towns around Sheffield so we could ride side-by-side just chatting away; this is when the rain started, about 20 miles east of home, oh and the hills - the never ending climbs and descents.  We're not sure why the roads seemed to go straight up and then back back down all those hills but they were tough, I think I counted 5 long climbs that we pedalled up in horrific traffic and much worse rain; but pedal we did and we conquered and kept conquering each and everyone of them, getting into our low gears of our Rohloff hubs and just spinning away.

All told it was a great couple of days, but I couldn't imagine setting up the tent in the thunder and lightening that started not too soon after we got home, but these are bridges that we'll come across; and, much like the hills, all we'll have to do is just get our heads down and get stuck in.  Hills won't climb themselves and tents don't just magically pop up.

Monday, 18 August 2014

All Part of the Fun

Location: Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK
So yeh, so far everything is pretty much going as expected. We have ordered the bikes, we're getting somewhere with most of our kit and we have started selling/getting rid of the random items that you seem to acquire, so all told pretty happy with the progress.  Granted we've had a number of unseen issues when we properly sat down and started planning our adventure, but that's part of the fun; right?

The first stumbling block was about some visa issue in the United States where you need to leave the continent to be eligible to get the two 90 day stays; oh well, we just changed the route and bowed to international border laws - no biggie. The second was finding out about the Darien Gap.  I cannot believe that I have only just learned about an "... anarchic cartel filled jungle that divides the continents..." of North and South America (great turn of phrase from The Runaway Guide).  We're not quite sure how we are going to tackle that one just yet, there seems to be three main options of yacht, fishing boat or fly - more research is needed.

But I think that the research is one of the aspects I'm really enjoying.  We started off with a vague idea but we built it up and developed it in our heads, and it all seemed so easy, so possible and it was just a matter of determination and time. Then the more we researched and planned, the more we realized that our initial idea was just a pipe dream, but that was fine because now our plans are becoming increasingly based in the real world and not a fantasy dreamland.  Our plan now has facts and figures with actual no-go-areas, laws and boundaries and, personally, it feels so much more real because of these limits and adjustments; now it has a grounding in the here and now, and that is really exciting situation to find ourselves in.

I cannot wait to go away, but before we do I know that there will be more obstacles to surpass, situations we'll have to figure out or major upheavals to sort but all of these will solidify the dream into reality.