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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Absolute Reality...


This blog was going to head off into a completely different direction... with some stats and kit list/review... but that is being left to part 2 of this blog which will pitch up next week at some point.

Instead I'm going to let you in on the post challenge world... assimilation back into Absolute Reality... or not as the case may be.

I arrived back having been up a long time... had a long sleepless flight... arrived back to a cold grey London Heathrow in a state of sleep deprived unreality.

A visit to the parents to prove I was alive and then home. And so began a week of sofa surfing.

It was more than that though... I had been overcome with a general can't be arsedness and my body was slumped ... my get up and go had well and truly got up and gone.
My sleep patterns were well and truly screwed up. I was wide awake at 3am and dozing lifeless on my sofa at 3pm. I couldn't be bothered to unpack my bike... wash my kit..... talk to anybody...
You get the picture..
I was ruined...
No energy...
Wanting to curl up...

But why...
Aside from the sleep deprivation and general energy overexpenditure...
Was my body and brain just rebelling ...
But it felt more than that.
And here is the thing.... I felt devoid of purpose...
Totally rootless... aimless... devoid
Maybe just devoid..

Absolute Reality
Is this the life I dreamed of...

Maybe this is why I end up planning a new venture even before I'm finished with the old...
It's addictive ... the open road life....
Space ... freedom... solitude.. fresh clean air... and a purpose to every day... a goal to achieve everyday... hurdles and challenges to overcome everyday...

Which makes it difficult when reality returns.... especially a not quite reality... one in limbo... not back at work... but back to normal life...

I'm sure the fact that I had pushed my body to limits day after day was a factor...now that I had a chance to rest.. my body had said 'thank fcuk for that' and done just that but without consideration of the new time zone I had returned to.

Adding to the detached feeling is the fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to explain to others who ask how my soul feels now that it is back in reality... it's missing something intangible... like when I breathe and the air feels different ....

Yes there is pain and suffering and exhaustion so great you feel like you can't move one inch further... but it enhances by juxtaposition the breathtaking beauty and isolationism of such an undertaking...
I miss that...

And then .. back to work...
Getting up in the morning was a bigger challenge than the Re-route! And cycling to work... on a bike unencumbered with bags... a light fast roadbike... .
Back on a bike and it felt good... legs felt good... breathing the (rain filled) air... battling the headwind...
I was in a bike heaven haze all the way to work...
And then hit the ground running... still feeling slightly dreamlike but gradually fazing into real- like... a bit like a cross fade transition between scenes in a movie ...only I feel a bit bit stuck half way through the cross-fade...

Cycle home... wind and rain as is typical of British Summertime...
It became a challenge... how fast could I go... head down... just hearing my breathing... legs turning... the rythmn of the road returning ... smelling the fresh rain soaked earth...
...The dream returning... is this the life I dreamed of...
 or the hope I hoped for....
...the mind wanders to  new dreams as the black tarmac disappears under my wheels...

and whilst my dreams may feel blown around like plastic carrier bags.. one thing is certain...

One adventure has to end before the next one can begin
...
And one only has to peek around the next bend in the road to glimpse the possibilities that can await for those who dare to dream...

Meanwhile... whilst I peek around the next bend... I must complete the cross fade back into Absolute Reality for a while... which is easier said than done and takes time.

In a few weeks I will wake up without that longing to feel the breath tearing at my throat and the pain hitting my side...
I will have stopped comparing my 14 mile commute with an ever constant noise of cars rushing by, with the fresh breeze and the noise of the birds singing in the trees...

I will have cross-faded....
Absolute reality...

The scent of pine pervading my senses...
 just a memory

Reaching for the plastic carrier bag....









Monday, 24 July 2017

Critters... CraZy and Camo...

Firstly... this may be a long one...
Secondly... if you read only one paragraph... read the end one...

In the last few days since hopping off my bike and swopping that mode of transport for the 4 wheeled version I have been happily residing in Arizona. My friends Louize and Mark have not only been putting up with me... my incessant chatter and my slightly restless nature but have also kindly helped me to continue putting ticks on my bucket list... but more of that in a minute.

The ride had ended but my brain hadn't really caught up as we swept westwards towards Phoenix watching the ever changing ... ever fascinating landscape shift and metamorph as the miles ran beneath the wheels. The ease of travel in stark contrast to the sweat and the toil for every inch (in places) only a day before. Gone though was the deep connection to those inches... with no sounds and smells and touch to ingrain each inch of travel forward into my soul... and my soul cried silently for that which it had lost. 

Settled in Arizona the programme to 'keep the CraZy one entertained' had been well thought out with stuff sorted for almost every hour of the days left here. But first ...  clothes shopping!!

I had literally no underwear and 1 pair of filthy shorts. The 505 bike shop had kindly supplied me with 2 clean t shirts but the rest had to be shopped for.
Once the different sizings were sorted it took no more than 10 minutes (I dont like THIS kind of shopping) to achieve the first goal of the day!

The next day Mark had happily (with his arm possibly twisted behind his back) agreed to take me out on a little ride on the desert trails. I hadn't yet got to cycle through the desert and this was an opportunity to put a little tick in another box. This was PROPER desert. The Cacti here are like you see in the movies... tall and imposing and of proper cactus shape! They are protected round here and this is one of the only areas they grow in... the Sonoran desert (Mark and Louize feel free to correct me if I have any of this wrong).
The trail was fantastically technical with quagmires of sand ... lots of rocks and the odd small cactus to avoid running over.
The trail started to stretch up and even with a days rest in a car... my legs just weren't gonna do uphill. They staged a rebellion and so we turned the bikes around and chose a gentle downhill instead.
On the ride several lizards skittered out in front of us ... so swift in movement that it was impossible to see what they looked like.... beyond the blur.
It was a short ride as I have been informed that round here people just don't go out in the summer cos its too hot. And it was starting to get warmer. I was used to cycling in well over 30 degrees C as that's what I have essentially been doing every day for the last month but it was probably just as well we stopped after 1 hour as although my brain is eager to keep moving and doesn't yet get that I have now stopped riding... the rest of my body has had enough and needs a little rest and recuperation. It just seems a shame to waste this sunshine!!

The evening brought a new kind of fun... critter hunting... in particular scorpions and spiders.  Mark and Louize have a black widow spider living in their gardrn that is out most nights so we first managed to grap a look at that. Its small and appears do insignificant but bites from that little thing can cause huge problems and dead flesh on the bitten limb. It was really cool to see it not more than 30cm away from my hand... the red patch on it's abdomen clearly visable. Result! Then out came the UV light... and almost as soon as that had been switched on ... glowing there in the gravel was a scorpion. This one had very small pincers which meant that it's bite (sting) was most definately worse than it's bark!  When the UV light was removed it was almost impossible to see it amidst the gravel... showing how easy it would be to get stung. But very cool.

Louize and Mark had friends round for dinner and it was a lovely evening. At some point it was mentioned that I was dying to see a rattlesnake in the wild. They mentioned that they had had a couple at their house recently... whereas Louize and Mark have never had one in their garden.
Apparently they are not that common a sight so I resigned myself to not seeing one on this trip.

The following morning... the phone rang. Snake at the front porch!! Literally charged out of the house to the friend's house a few doors dowm... there ... hiding in the corner behind the plant pot was a real live Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. He was perfectly calm... no rattling going on... his tongue flicking in and out a little more perhaps as he caught our scent on the wind but no agistation at all. I was less than a foot away from this magnificent reptile... with no glass to separate us. It was one of the highlights of my whole trip as I love these creatures. I wasn't worried about getting bitten because as with anything in the animal world... if you leave them alone... they will leave you alone. I was just so chuffed to get so close in the wild!!!

The plan for today was to go to the gun club in the morning. A typical recreation for many families in America. I love shooting... I love the competitive aspect of it greatly... BUT being British I baulked when I realised that Mark kept his weapon at home (in a safe). A discussion ensued... if you keep a weapon at home.. it is woth the expectation that you may use it in defense of your home... and this is where British and American views differ. I can understand liking shooting... because I do... but my mind is only prepared to go to the point of shooting for competition. Round here people learn to shoot with the expectation of carrying it for their personal safety and shooting anyone who threatens that. Given that most criminals in America carry weapons this seems resonable to them but was hard for me to stretch my brain to that extent to accept that as a good thing.

At the range there were a variety of nice... seemingly normal people... with all kinds of weapons including semi-automatic. The weapons you could buy was insane... weapons that would put holes in building never mind people. It was terrifying.... more because this was normal. And the weapons weren't that expensive either. A reasonable glock pistol sets you back around $500. One of the aforementioned building destroyers around $5000. Not that much for a weapon that could kill a lot of people.
Classes on self defence ... womens classes ... instructor classes... just like our local gym only with deadly intent.
Its a scary thing for me that this is normal...
Despite that I did enjoy trying to hit the target. I have shot .22's and SA80 rifles but that was a while ago so it was particularly satisfying to hit the target and get a reasonable grouping by the end of our time there. But then Mark packed up the Glock and took it home.... it doesn't seem right... as a Brit.
You can debate all day about the rights and wrongs of gun ownership but it is a fact that the right to bear arms is deeply entrenched in the American psyche and hard as it is to understand for a British person... it is their way. And so endeth this debate 😁

The afternokn was ringfenced for drinks with some friends of mine who live just north of the city and were able to randomly meet up onve again.
I met Alan and Marissa first when I flew over to Vail, CO for a weekend to climb Vail mountain with Mike Peters and the Love Hope Strength family. I knew very few people but came off the mountain with hundreds of new friends... 2 of those being Alan and Marissa.
Fast forward a few months and they came to the End Of Ride Gig in L.A at the finish of my Route 66 cycle journey. Alan .. who had participated in Everest Rocks with Mike Peters... gave me his commemorative Everest Rocks medal which I have treasured ever since. And so when it was suggested we could randomly meet up here I jumped at the chance. It was lovely to see them again at the end if another ride and they are catching up with Beki and Randy for meeting up with me randomly.  I love Random!!

Evening consisted of a very nice take out pizza and sitting down to watch 'Man in the Camo Jacket' ... the documentary about Mike Peters and his Fight against Cancer... released in the U.S on 4th July.  I watched it with tears threatening many times. It summed up the reason for my journey over the last month... summed up why I dedicate part of my life to following Mike around the country (and sometimes to other countries).. it completed the story of my journey somehow... providing a book end. I cannot find the words to express what I am trying to say but hope you get my meaning.

Love Hope Strength provides those three things for everyone involved in the charity who then work to spread it across countries to people who need it most.  My bike ride once again provided an opportunity to go out there and try to do my own small part. I received much more Love Hope and Strength in return and it reaffirmed my faith in the human race and humanity as a whole. Meeting up with Alan and Marissa is part of that family. Because of LHS I know that I can come here and find friends... people like them... and Beki and Randy (who are slightly ahead in the random meeting stakes 😁) and Louize and Mark (catching up fast) who did not know about LHS before but have provided support and friendship once again. This then stretches out to people I literally meet on the road... people like Faith and Tom that I met on Route 66 have now been joined by people like Megan H who I spoke to for 5 minutes out on a dusty road in Montana and Michelle McDowell who invited me to their family's 4th July celebrations. LHS is spreading and I am so proud to be a part of it.

My just giving page remains open for a little while longer so if you feel you are able to spare a little... please click the link below... Together We ARE Fighting Back!!
www.justgiving.com/fundraising/OneChallengeAtATime

Life is so very short and so very fragile.
Life speeds by like a falling star
Is all we have is Time
Grab hold of Life and Squeeze every last drop of it out.
Make your own chances.
Fight Back
It's all there in the lyrics!
And of course...

Fight The Fear... Embrace the Randomness but above all ... as always....

Go With The CraZy!








Thursday, 20 July 2017

After the Rock and Rolling is gone....

So the hard peddlin' may have finished but for those of you who aren't quite bored of this journey ... there is still an adventure or two out there before I come home...

I woke early on today... the day after the day before when it all ended. 06:30 or so I thought... at least that's what my phone said. My watch was confidently stating that it was 07:30 and the hotel receptionist equally confidently stated that it was 0830. Somewhere between Colorado and New Mexico I had either lost 1 hour or 2...
It turned out to be 2 and so my plans for this morning were already on the backfoot.
Plans!!  I hear you say incredulously.  Yes... well you didn't possibly think I was going to sit in my motel room all day until Louize and Mark got here to pick me up did ya??

Breakfast done and all the bags taken off my bike leaving it light and unencumbered and unfamiliarly responsive. And out I went into the bright sunshine and blue skies of New Mexico. Instead of taking the main road and risking life and limb I headed to the off road trail by the river. Literally 2 seconds off the road and I was transported back to a peaceful and silent journey. As I sped down the gravel path enjoying the freedom of just riding my bike the river sped along with me... bubbling along as if enjoying it too. I could hear birdsong and once again little furry creatures darted in and out of burrows and across my path.
It really was an oasis of calm amidst the car roaring noise that Farmington appeared to be made up of.

I reached the end of the river path and was faced with a push up a gravelly sandy hill reminiscent of the wall ... or backtracking in order to get onto the road.  Needless to say I took on the wall .. mark 2!
Once there I peddled furiously in order to stay ahead of the road hogging traffic. A few minutes later I finally found the bike shop that had been recommended to me by the hotel manager.
I wheeled my bike up to the door... more in hope than expectation after the bike shop in Durando.

I was immediately welcomed in and taken to the workshop... explaining what I had done... where I had cycled from and please was it possible to fix my brakes so that maybe I could go trail riding in Arizona with Mark and Louize 😁

No problem was the reply. Any chance you have some t shirts for sale ... here is a couple you can have (with a very cool logo)
Would you like a coffee?? Ooh and try this... its a beet drink... very healthy.  What a fantastic place. I spent around 2 hours there... chatting about bikes... the ride.. my brakes... and all other bike related stuff. It was a fantastic way to spend the morning. Mike (who fixed my brakes) and Josh who sorted clean t shirts and the beet drink are absolutely awesome and it was a right crack. And my brakes work!!! Woohoooo.
So another big shout out to 505 Cycles in Farmington for anyone doing TransAm or simply passing through!

I swooshed my way back to the hotel... with working brakes and went back down by the river... happily meandering along... when across my path ... wagging its stripey tail... was a skunk! An actual... live... skunk! I fumbled for my camera... zoomed in as it waddled towards taller grass... snapped the shot.. and seemed to have missed it! Dammit!

Then it was CNN time until Louize and Mark came. Full of the OJ Simpson parole and the repeal of Obamacare it made interesting watching... particularly as last time I cycled through here it was all about the introduction of Obamacare...  politics hey!!

The knock at the door finally came and Louize and Mark came through the door brandishing balloons and.... a tiara... hmmmm. Unfortunately there is photo evidence.
The small bottles of totally questionable alchohol were brought forth and I offered them the choice... apple... watermelon or banana!
The banana was actually better than expected and it was a good way to toast the end of yet another journey of a lifetime.

Then it was shopping time!! Mark excused himself (apparently there was some golf on) and left me and Louize to search out some underwear (I hadn't brought any) socks and a new pair of shorts for me to wear. We went to Target and despite my hatred of clothes shopping it was all accomplished pretty swiftly even accounting for the delay whilst trying to work out British versus American sizing!  All this was done with me chatting 19 to the dozen... maybe even 20.
It was soooooo nice to be amidst friends and much as I like chatting and debating and arguing with myself out on the road... you get funny looks when you do that in company.  It was just nice to be with friends... people from home. Louize and Mark weren't new to the 'rescue Lydia from the road' role. On my Route 66 trip... they had picked me up from Williams and taken me to the Grand Canyon... a place I couldnt have got to otherwise. Then... as now... they good naturedly put up with my incessant chattering and slight adrenaline high.

So replete with new clean clothes and having also dragged Louize round an outdoor shop (well it was just next door) we went back to the hotel.... meet in 15 mins for a drink before dinner was my suggestion... make it 30 mins said Louize... for a bit longer of peace and quiet methinks 😉😉 lol.

Given that I have found Pasta extremely hard to find... they suggested we head to Olive Garden for dinner... a pasta restaurant essentially ... and what a great idea that turned out to be....
Finally.... PASTA!!!
Its the little things in life right!

Over dinner we discussed healthcare in America... the difficulties in just ordering fried eggs.... in fact ordering anything without further questions being prompted..  Charlie Gard.... POTUS (otherwise known as The Donald) and all manner of differences between the U.S and the U.K.

We have also made plans for ways to keep me entertained over the next few days  ... having got that annoying tendency to get restless... including a scorpion and rattlesnake search ... some trail shredding in Arizona and a few other interesting experiences!!! Cant wait!!

And so the Rock n Rolling may have gone temporarily but....

It still burns in me.

Kit appraisal for tomorrows blog for those that are interested in the why's and wherefore's of the most important bits and pieces ... as I journey into Arizona and travel a part of the Route 66 route that I cycled several years ago.

Nn all... LHS X




Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Day 23... I've got the scars to testify...

This morning was no different from any of the other last 22 other mornings... except that it was.
It was the last morning that I had to get up and peddle to a destination set by my own reckoning.

But it was no different... I packed up with the same routine that I had done for the last 22 days... I answered fb messages and comments... I filled my  water bottles... I pulled on my cycle shorts and added chammy cream to saddle sore prone areas... I switched on my GPS...I started my SPOT tracker tracking....
I took a deep breath... and headed out into the now expected bright sunshine and blue skies.
My plan this morning was to head to the bike shop to see if they could fix my brakes(I couldn't as I had no brake fluid with me) only they didn't open until 9am so I went and had breakfast in the greasy spoon diner next door.
Some could have considered it a bad omen when I unwittingly poured VANILLA milk into my coffee... WHAT?? WHY?? NO FAIR!!
Being British.. I said nothing and sat as drank it and even nodded politely and said thank you when the waitress refilled my cup!

At 9am I walked into the bike shop... they were sympathetic but could only promise to try and look at my bike in the next few hours. I understood completely because at 9am the shop was heaving (EMPTY) and they clearly had loads (NONE) of work to do. The customers lining up with their bikes (TOTALLY EMPTY SHOP) clearly precluded them having the time.

So I walked out.. and set off to my final destination for this trip. Durango was a wonderful town to cycle in... with clearly marked bike lanes... signs everywhere for 'Share the Road' and generally felt very safe and cycle friendly. It reminded me of Duarte going into L.A.

Today on paper was pretty flat. The reality confronted me straight away. No sooner than I had left Durango and the 550 turned South did the road climb up out of the river valley to a plain on an escarpment.  It was a proper climb... with barriers and everything... but with a bit of 'soft peddling' (see day 22) I got up it no problems. In the grand scheme of things it is barely worth mentioning.. only my legs would put it into a mountain stage category.

Once up on the plain it flattened out. To my left stretched green .. irrigated fields.. to my right a spectacular view hidden by trees and houses. One house had the name Eagle's View and was for sale. If I had been unconvinced about the worth of that house before... the view when the trees receded would have stamped the paperwork firmly.

Stretching out ... a view over the whole valley.. the river (which I will come back to) winding far below and the yellow brown fields beyond. On the other side of the valley a similar escarpment as the one I stood on. Way in the distance were the mountains I had done battle with. They still call me... trying to tempt me back into their clutches once again. No doubt they will eventually succeed for the calls and the whispers pervade my life as an ever present rustle in the background of my life. My love of the mountains... whether scrambling on foot or crunching the gears on my bike.. will always ensure that I challenge and push myself as far as I can ... and no matter how much it hurts or how much sweat it entails I will always answer the call.

I contemplated this as I stared at the horizon. Unwilling to move... to break the spell. For to move was to bring the end closer and I wasn't sure I was ready for it to end. My body hurts but my mind is strong and already even at this point was missing the open road.. the silence... the fresh air... the independance... the simpleness of it all.

But for a journey to begin... another has to end and so I reluctantly turned my back on the mountains... promising to return... and set myself Southwards once again.

I freewheeled as the road headed downwards back towards the river. The Animas River... a fitting river to run alongside on the final day of this journey. Anima ... meaning soul or life force...
My soul has been fortified by this journey... more force brought to my life from the challenges and the hardships. The remainder of this journey would trace a path alongside the Animas River providing a parallel.

I crossed the river and settled in for a stretch of minor ups and downs.... the dusty road stretching out in the distance towards my final destination. A gas station loomed and given the heat... which must have been pushing 100°F (in old and U.S currency).. I needed more refreshment. One carton of banana nesquick and 1 gatorade later and I was ready to hit the road again. V shortly after I crossed the border into New Mexico.
Almost as soon as I did that the rock by the side of the road turned into sand and cactus appeared suddenly. Birdsong had been replaced by the chirruping of crickets and the heat radiated off the black tarmac in a heat haze.

The straight roads meant I became vulnerable to that most dastardly trick of the cycling gods... the headwind. It wasn't severe (I didn't have tumbleweed heading straight for me this time- see 'Putting the Metal to the Pedal' available on Amazon for that story) but it sapped the energy somewhat. I had earlier determined to enjoy every lasting minute of today and the headwind served to make it that little bit longer but my body is short on reserves and is easily tired ... so now I wished to be there... the end... finito.

I eventually came upon tbe town of Aztec.. and decided that food was a necessity for fuel should this headwind continue. McDonalds it was... free wifi and a place to sit. I sat there... tired... but still not wanting it to end. When I got on the road again ... it would be the last leg of so many legs.

But I wouldn't get there at all if I didn't get moving.. my mantra still being uttered out loud...

I was now riding through Ute and Navajo Indian territory ... a history and a people that fascinate me with their love and understanding of the natural world. I wish I had more time here to explore... but there has to be some adventure left for next time.

And then I was there ... Farmington... or at least the outskirts of... and suddenly traffic started shoving past me... jostling for the space on the road... forcing me to rely on my cycling wits once again. ..

It was not a pleasant 20 minutes as I fought my way through. In fact I had probably more close calls in those 20 minutes than in the whole of the rest of the journey. Farmington surprised me... I was expecting a small town... unhurried and laid back. It was not to be. However I found myself crossing the Animas River for the last time and arriving at my final destination... The Hampton Inn, Farmington, New Mexico.

It wasn't my original intended destination but at least I had cycled into New Mexico and totting up roughly the journey of 2 parts... I have cycled over 1000 miles. More details of exact figures will be given in the next week or so for anyone still interested.

As for how I feel now that my cycling jersey is hung over a chair .. not to be worn again until WASHED!! (It might well walk off on its own)....

The answer is... I don't know yet... and I haven't told my bike yet so shhhhhh.
There will be a few more blogs to round off this adventure... some information about the kit I took and what I would never have been without and some thoughts once my pedals have stopped turning.  One question which has already been asked... which may be answered... is What's next?

There are some things I do know...

This journey is in memory of my Phoenix.. who I carry with me always and forever.

I do know that without the support... messages... comments... shares... likes and above all ... donations to the cause at the centre of all I do... I would not have been able to get as far as I did. Heartfelt thanks to every single one of you. Love Hope Strength  x

I also know that every one of you is also capable of a journey like this... if you choose to step out over the edge of the comfort zone... Fight the Fear... Embrace the Randomness and above all Go With The CraZy!

Thirdly I  know that I have the scars to testify to this wonderful... breathtaking... wearing... soul destroying... soul building... renewing... rebuilding... rearming journey and I wouldn't change a single thing... not a thing.....

Except perhaps the mosquitos... yup them... I would murder every single one of the little Fcukers!




If you have enjoyed following the journey and want to help Fight Back against Cancer with me... please go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/OneChallengeAtATime by clicking on this link and donate whatever you can.

To find out more about Love Hope Strength Foundation and its founder Mike Peters...my inspiration. ..

Please click on the link below
www.lovehopestrength.co.uk
Or
www.lovehopestrength.org if you are in the U.S.A






Day 22... My shadow is the only one that walks beside me...

I was itching to leave this morning...
My rest day had been necessary as my knees had brought my LLFF score down to a 9 or 10... but it left me restless... wanting to be on the move... the rythmn of the road shouting from my soul.

And so I was up early... out the door into the bright sunshine and back over to the bear cafe for breakfast... pancakes... my staple in New Zealand... rare to find here it seems. The pancakes in NZ were topped with loads of fruit and cream... not so here but still filling and hopefully providing fuel to the legs.

Today ... on paper... wasn't that bad.
Given I was already over 9000ft.. and google maps informed me that the pass out of here was just over 10000ft... thats not bad right???
The cycling gods howl of laughter could be heard echoing around the valley as I set off with that expectation.

Almost immediately the switchbacks started. The knee wasn't too bad ... the legs ..LLFF 8... and today was the first time that I felt a bit winded... altitude style. Maybe it was because I had ignored the old adage ... 'climb high.. sleep low' and had slept higher than I had before for two days in a row.

Whatever it was the achey leg pain was back although it was possible to pedal through it by what I have now termed 'soft peddling'. This is where I turn the gears right down and spin the legs through the pain... when the pain subsides it is then possible to turn the gears up a few notches.
In this way I was making progress. A sign informed me that the summit was 7 miles... a distinct improvement on the 13 miles and 5000ft climb of the other day... but this climb was with that one in my legs.

And then came the roadworks!!! Down to one lane... I passed the lady holding the stop/go slow sign. Go slow!!! Haha... nothing else I could do! She informed me that there was no one waiting at the other end so I crawled up... tapping away... getting higher and higher above the Silverton valley.

I eventually got to the end of that stretch of roadworks to find a whole queue of cars waiting for me... I grinned... it was kinda funny. The gentleman first in the waiting queue shouted at me... jumped out of his car and handed me a fresh peach for my efforts... bless him. And as I continued up past the line of cars... everyone was waving... putting their thumbs up at me and generally being understanding and supportive of the effort! So nice. I got a small insight to what a mountain top finish on the Tour De France might feel like 😁

Once I had passed the line of cars I stopped and looked back... wow ... what a view!  I carried on up... tapping away... through the achey pain... getting into a bit of a rythmn and already overheating... it was only 09:30!
I came out of the initial uphill struggle into what I could describe as a high alpine valley... The pine trees filled the air with the fresh scent and the green scrub and grasses stretched out beneath grey rocky peaks... some like pinnacles... others more tradition mountain top shapes... all capped with flecks of white.  It was beautiful and serene... because of the roadworks there were long gaps between streams of cars... and so the silence in between was blissful.

I took some photos... the bike propped up against a rock... standing triumphantly...
Yet my work was not yet done for the day. I got back on and continued up as the sun beat down mercilessly.
Google maps be damned... just over 10000ft my a£$@. I sweated past 10500ft and still the summit wasn't in sight. Eventually it did appear and it was with relief that I stood victorious at the top ... gazing out over the mountains.... my playground.

And so all down from here?? Haha ... nope!! I knew that the road dipped in order to climb for a final time but I was unprepared for the sight of the road switchbacking sharply up... next to the sign for the second summit..3 miles! 3 sodding uphill miles!! I was almost done in and then ... with absolute abject horror I saw another queue of cars signalling another single lane issue. No way!! I would struggle to climb this at my own pace... let alone that of the line of cars.
I crawled up to the front of the queue...

'You are going to have to get taken up in that truck' were the words uttered by the gentleman in the hard hat directing the stop/go slow sign... 'it's not safe and you will hold up the flow of traffic'

Wooohooooooooooooooooooo!!!

The cycling gods must have seen fit to reward me for my efforts...

And so my bike was loaded in the back of the truck and I was driven up the final climb! Guilt... nope! I felt I deserved this for sure and it given the gear the truck was in... it would have taken at least an hour to go those three miles on my leg power.
The chap driving told me about his work year round... snowploughs and how it was a good job... how he had moved from the city and much preferred this.
Looking at the drop dead stunning views surrounding us as we drove up I could immediately understand and envied him a little.

Dropped off at the top of the climb...  all I had to do was put my gears into the big ring and drift down the mountain. Given my lack of reliable braking and the recently installed chipseal... it was a little hairy... the sidewind gusts not helping in the slightest.

The descent was glorious... punctuated by the odd uphill bit which made my legs scream ... but otherwise just speeding downhill. As I had a wide shoulder I was able to concentrate less and look around.
The valley I was plunging down into was wide and seemed pretty green in this part.
Rising up at the sides were great lumps of reddish/ brown rock... looking like they had just been plonked down there.  As I got into the flatter part of the valley it became hotter and  headwind sprung up.. the last straw for my legs which were close to imploding. But it didn't matter as I had made exceptionally good time and it was barely 1pm.
It was drier down here on the valley floor and now instead of little furry creatures scurrying out of the way... crickets and locusts were springing out of the path of my front wheel. One type of cricket made me think loads of butterflies were flying through the air as when they opened up their wings to jump they had black and white undersides and looked like butterflies as they flew through the air.

At one point I was plodding along and on the other side of the road was this lump of rock with water flowing out of it. I screeched to a halt (literally) and headed over. It was a hot spring and the minerals in the water had turned the rock a beautiful red orange colour.
As I was there a lady about to drive off came and checked that I had enough water which was typical of the people I have met here.

Not much further.... it can't be much further... please let it not be much further...

Of course there was another rise in the road to surmount.. inconsequential in comparison to some of the stuff I have been over but it felt like Mount Everest at that point!!

Of course the town soon came into view and the budget motel loomed up... perfect.

I checked in and promptly crashed out for a couple of hours.. completely missing the thunderstorm apparently.

I went for dinner at a mexican version of subway... nachos it is then! Esentially it was right next door to the motel...

Today would have been my last cycling day but I decided that my trip would only feel complete if my legs carried me into the state of New Mexico. I liked New Mexico when I cycled through it on Route 66 ... it was my favourite state of the ones I cycled through that time and so it seemed fitting to end my journey there.
Louize (who is picking me up) also pointed out that it wasn't far from where they met me last time...life in full circle.

This journey has been one of two halves and in so much as it has been a solo journey... my shadow has been the only one that walked beside me.... however on this journey my shadow has been made up of many parts.. each and everyone of you who has liked and commented and shared in this journey with me has become part of my shadow.... so thank you.

Final day tomorrow... not sure how I feel about that...

Keep smiling
LHS



Monday, 17 July 2017

Day 21... I'm so high...

9318 ft to be exact!!

Having crashed out last night early without blogging (gasp!!) and then waking up this morning with a pounding head... and knees that feel like they belong to an 80 year old... it was confirmation that today would be a good rest day day! I had already spoken to the owner of the hostel... Im fine with a mixed dorm... but a bit of privacy and my own electrical sockets were too good an opportunity and I sorted out a private room for another night here.

I was determined to explore Silverton... it had seemed like a wierd kinda place... however my pounding head told me to lie down (now in my own room) and I once again crashed out... for another 4 hours!!

Awoke again at 12:30 ... headache gone but still not feeling quite right.. dehydration I think and so I set out to look around ... explore a bit... and get lunch!

The town is old.. that much is clear. Also host to one of the earliest railways from what I can gather. A history of gold and more importantly Silver mining in its background... despite all the tourists it somehow manages to retain that frontier town feel
Yes... there are gift shops ... and restaurants but equally there is the old jail... and the restaurant once housed the courthouse... and that place over the road was where the last whorehouse in Silverton was!! Lots of history... linked to the railroad and the mines.

Somehow it mixes the old and the new in a wierd kinda blend that normally I'd be determined to dislike but actually secretly think is kinda cool.

Lunch was at a disappointing 'McDonalds like' place only it seemed to take them forever to get the order sorted. Near the end of my lunch... the train arrived... so I jumped out to take a photo. Quite impressive even for a non-train lover... this engine looked like it had been hauling loads up the mountains since the railway was built here.

Having walked round town and finding nothing to buy (woohoo) I did stop briefly at one shop that would be illegal in the UK.
Colorado is one of the states that legalised Cannabis and there are shops right along the main street that sell it! This was almost as wierd as gun shops for a brit like myself!!
(And nothing whatsoever to do with this blog's title!)

Then I went back to the hostel to do some needed bike maintenance... chain clean and oil and bike brake clean (back brakes only.. can't sort the front ones) As I was doing that... the clouds gathered... the sky darkened... and Hail began to fall... yup HAIL!! It certainly speeded up bike maintenance!!

A few hours later I made my way back into town for an early dinner... back to where I had eaten yesyerday evening. Today as perhaps is fitting for a wild west town.. I was served by a middle aged lady with two teardrop tatoos beneath her left eye! Now I know what they are supposed to represent and was desperate to ask... but didn't! It just seemed like (stereotypically) of all the people in the restaurant.. she would be the last one I'd put those tattoos on... interesting!!

I feel kinda wierd not being on the road today... bit restless... not moving! Tomorrow I'm off again... on the road to Durango... where the train starts... and only around 55 miles away. There will be some up of course but mainly down so hoping that my legs (and knees) are back in working order.

Thank you to everyone that has sent in messages... comments... has liked... and shared and sponsored. I try and answer everyone but if I dont please be aware that I'm very thankful and appreciative of all the support and generosity.

Back out on the road tomorrow!!

Day 20... Swansong

Nothing worth having is easily won...

I woke up this morning with the knowledge that I was in for a hard day.
This day is what could be called in cycling terms... The Queen's Stage
The hardest of them all. Would I be equal to it?

This day was basically an uphill day from the very start to the top of the pass..  starting from 5500ft and rising once again to over 11000ft in just over 60 miles was going to test my physical and mental strength in a big way.

Once again it was already pretty hot by the time I got on the road... having stuffed down a few bagels and a make your own waffle type thing for breakfast.
The first 10 miles were on what is called 'false flat'... looks like a flat road... especially if driving it... but actually you are gaining height all the time. It saps the strength from your legs and mind. .. and that's all before the real climbing starts.

After about 10 miles I stopped at a coffee shop... seemingly randomly planted in the middle of nowhere. It had a steady stream of customers however and as I sat there with my banana smoothie and 2 bottles of gatorade I was thinking about what I had to accomplish today.... with more than a little trepidation.
Smoothie finished and procrastination done I set off again... the next destination was Ouray... the last town before the big pass.  This road essentially wound up a couple of thousant feet ... the mountains always in the distance... beckoning... calling... challenging. My brain was basically repeatedly going 'oh shit' as I got nearer and nearer... the scale of the climb was being revealled and it didn't look pretty... well it looked pretty... stunning in fact... but not pretty to my legs!

I eventually got to Ouray and looked for a place for food. I was already knackered from the constant drag upwards to get to this point and one part of my brain was looking longingly at the motels... vacancy... vacancy....
The other part of my brain was saying .. I WILL NOT be defeated. .

If I was going to do this... I had to get on my bike...
A fact I kept telling myself as I walked up the main street of Ouray... known as the Switzerland of America!

Stretching up above the town I could see the cars struggling up a series of switchbacks... cmon then... lets do battle!

And so it began... the first switchbacks surprisingly ok... lulling me into a false sense of security... just 13 miles of this then... thats ok... said my head...

But the altimeter told a different tale... still over 3000ft to climb in only 13 miles was a huge undertaking. Immediately I was high above the town and the view just got better and better. Surrounded by mountains it was justifying its name as the Million Dollar Highway for sure. My main problem was that there was no shoulder and no safety barriers... with loose gravel at the side leading to a very steep... very long drop off.
The wind was now buffetting me a little as well and I don't mind admitting that I was petrified at times...so much so that on many an occasion I was cycling in the middle of the road... just to feel safe..
I am not exaggerating the danger... if a car forced me to move a little to the right and I hit a rock or skidded... it wouldnt be hard to imagine skittering over the edge.


And so I progressed slowly up... the series of switchbacks switched for a 7-8% gradient which sapped energy like a fan heater... fast!

I passed some people getting their ATV'S ready to go up a dirt trail... a woman smiled at me as I passed and said 'I dont know how you do it'... my reply... Im not sure at the moment either...

I was gulping down gallons of water and gatorade but still felt like I was becoming badly dehydrated... the sun still out and relentless... though once again storm clouds were building. Much as the heat was bad... climbing this was bad enough when the cars had good visability....

Another series of switchbacks... and still it kept on coming... by now at 9000ft and still 2000ft to go... this was hurting. My knees were aching badly especially after a stop and my mental mood was sinking lower and lower... playing tricks on me...

Why don't you stop and thumb a lift to the top.... pretend your bike is broken... pretend your knee just popped.... anything to end this suffering ..
The scenarios being created by my brain were all plausible ways I could get out of this... and I think actually helped my resolve... bear with me....

I work better... i.e my stubborness works better if I think I have a choice. My brain was telling me that there was a way out of the pain and misery I was currently undertaking and therefore I was choosing to continue...

In the back of my mind... there was NO WAY that I would not get to the top of this under my own power unless I physically collapsed. But the body can take waay more pain and punishment than you think it can... just as you think you can't go on any more... it steels itself to once again move upwards and onwards. Whether that is because the mind is strong that the body follows I have no idea.... but somehow I kept going up... the pedals kept turning.

I came out of the scary... no barrier... big drop section into a high plateau.. once the preserve of mining companies that led the way across America...
I was struggling up and suddenly a mental boost appeared in the form of one of those 'crazy fools' or touring cyclists...
I crossed to the other side of the road to meet him...
Jason was a low budget nomad... touring and occasionally working...
It was a real boost just to see someone who knew how hard this pass was... who understood the rigours of the road. We chatted a while about the road to come... safety... sh!##!ng ourselves with the road and the drop off and no barriers... bears came into the conversation as they often do... it was just nice to chat
Thanks Jason for the mental boost and I hope you made it safely down the pass!!

So onwards and upwards....
To keep myself going and not just sitting by the road and breaking down... when I stopped I often looked at the altimeter and rounded up... only another 1500ft... thats nothing... already done waay over that...

If I felt I had been stopped too long (over 1 minute) then I would say out loud... 'not going to get anywhere just standing here Lid... time to move'... my little mountain mantra.
To say my LLFF score was approaching 11 would have been underplaying it... my knees were causing me some serious bother and I could feel that there wasn't much left in the energy tank... not just in the legs... body.. mind... FCUKED!

With about 1000ft to go (not sure re distance) I was trying to convince myself I was nearly there... so every time I went round a bend... only to see another series of bends ... it was a bit demoralising. Now however.. I noticed lots of drivers giving me a thumbs up ... or a wave and you have no idea how a)that boosted me and b) how that falsy made me think I was very close... turns out I still had a couple of very painful miles to go...

Somehow I still had a sense of humour... either that or the heat and dehydration had sent me a bit doolally... but I was laffing that I might still be on the mountain by christmas... I know but it kept me going by laughing at myself and my exhausted state.

Another ... yes... another series of switchbacks and as I wound round them ... I saw a car approaching... uphill... had I actually got there... the final big pass of this ride... or was there another bend and more switchbacks...
No... this was it... it was actually finally the top of the pass...my legs spun round to take me and my bike over to the summit sign...
Shakey legs got me off the bike...
I leaned it carefully against the sign...
Sat down...
And burst into floods of tears...

Why?
Relief... exhaustion... stress (physical and mental) ... sheer overwhelming happiness...
Sadness and pain in my soul missing those who can no longer follow the journey... the pinnacle of this journey starting to sink in to my being...

All of the above hit me at once

As I was sitting there head in hands .. a car drew up... two lads  and their dad ... asked if I was ok...
Yeah... I was ok...
Tried to explain... probably badly about the journey...
Gathered for a photo... strangers no longer as they are now part of the story and the journey...

Chase and Brian.. (wearing the Who T shirt) joined me for a summit photo..
Then Larry came from his car and held out to me an old dollar coin.. for me to keep.. part of the journey...
I protested... but he insisted saying it was worth more to him being given as a gift to me...
Stunned and touched from this gesture I shook  his hand... trying not to be overwhelmed again. It somehow meant so much... this gesture of togetherness I guess... especially in a world which at times sedms so full of apart- ness...

Larry... Chase..Brian... thank you so much... for making me smile and being part of this journey.


And then it was downhill..
Yeah my brakes still not working great...
Somehow the rumbling thunder to my left hand side had failed to materialise into the promised downpour and so it was on dry roads with shafts of sunlight through the greyish clouds accompanying me on my descent... which in places was sketchier than the ascent... but the cars were good... patient in overtaking. They didn't always have a choice when I was sat in the middle of the road but it ensured I was seen.

The mountains seemed less forboding and the red earth that gave the mountain pass (Red mountain) its name vividly shone out as I wound my way down... so little effort now required .. it seemed to make a mockery of the exertion required to get up.

I rolled into Silverton... relief the overwhelming emotion. I had booked in a hostel... a mixed dorm room... and made my way there... gaping open mouthed at this wierd.. quaint.. old-new... cowboy... town.
But exploring can be left for tomorrow.. as it was now firmly set in my mind that my knees and body required a rest day and this strange place was as  good a place as any!

I got food... and a most delicious ice cream sundae... and then collapsed. Blog... photos.. unwritten. That can be done tomorrow

I will fight back till the day I die...
But this... for now... is the Swansong... the pinnacle of this journey.

I have decided to at least cycle into New Mexico... so 2 more days of the ups and downs of life on the road.

Today... I truly #sufferedforsponsorship.
Everything I am was left on that pass...
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