Firstly, sorry for the delay with the blog entry’s, since Denver we have only had the one day off which was in Moab and we used that day to explore the national park, which I’m sure you can understand. So we are now in Las Vegas, and have a few days to catch up.
So last time we left you we had just entered Colorado. We Initially where very worried about the climb up to Denver that sits at 5,290 Ft, but we where pleasantly surprised, it felt as though it was as flat as Nebraska. Truth be told it is was a slight climb, but we couldn’t feel a thing.
We rode into Sterling and camped in a rest stop. By this point we decided it would be a good idea to go back to using the tent, and to keep our food well away from where we slept, this was bear country.
We woke in the morning fresh and aimed to do 50 miles to Fort Morgen. Unfortunately Colorado is covered in what I would call Spikey Normans, and we had to deal with at least 3 punctures a day but we reached our destination.
That night we found a decent park with a few comfy looking benches, so we decided to do without the tent. Unfortunately we where awoken that night, but not by the bears, by something much worse, the sprinklers. They doused us both, luckily eventually they moved on and we went back to sleep sodden and cold.
As you can imagine the next morning we woke up a little tired and grumpy, so we cooked our porridge, had our vitamin C pills and I brewed my coffee (thankyou Charlotte and Jenny!!) and we set off.
That day when we reached highway 70 we saw it. A view we had been waiting to see since we left Omaha. We saw the Rockies, like a cloud on the horizon, but unmistakably mountains. This was a great sight, it got us very excited but also a little worried. We had to cross them.
It was two days later that we arrived into Denver. We had contacted an old school friend of Kieran’s sister. His name was Michael, he had moved to Denver and had very kindly said we could stay with him while we prepared for our assent of the Rockies.
We where relieved to pull into his house, we hadn’t had a day off since we left Omaha some 12 days earlier. He was a great host, who offered us a beer as soon as we came in the door.
It was also nice to hear another British accent. Michael told us the next day he and a friend where planning on going camping on the side of a mountain before waking up early doors to climb one of the Rockies notorious 14er’s, Mount Bierstadt, and asked if we wanted to join. We definitely wanted to rest, but we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to do something like this, so we said yes.
We chilled out the following day while Michael was at work, resting our bones and catching up on Breaking Bad. When Michael got home we packed our things up and headed to the mountain.
We slept just off the road that leads to the trail. It was a chilly night but Lilly, Michaels dog, helped keep us all warm. We woke up at 5am, it was still dark outside, we had a little breakfast, and did a little stargazing, you could literally see the milky way, it was one of the most beautiful skies I have ever seen.
We set off to the trail just as the sun started to rise. To begin with the trail dips to the base of the mountain, then begins to wind up the mountain side. The Sun was coming up casting a shadow on our side of the mountain but bringing to life the mountain opposite. It really was something special.
As I got higher my breath began to get shorter, and my legs got heavier and heavier, Lilly was running between us all encouraging us up the mountain. Eventually I had to stop, take a breather, but stopping didn’t help, the air was just so thin you could never get your breath back, so we soldiered on.
By this point the suns raise was on us, which was a relief, because at this height it was a little chilly. Eventually we reached a lower peak, all there was left to do was a 100ft rock climb to reach the 14,264ft peak. It was a steep climb, but once you reached the top it was worth it. 360 degree views of the rockies. It was amazing.
We then climbed down again, with the help of Lilly the dog, who by this point had become the mountain mascot, willing every climber on to the finish line. We where greeted at the car park by a moose and her calf something neither of us had seen before.
Eventually we got back to Michaels house and did nothing for the rest of the day. We where all so bushed from the climb we couldn’t move. Safe to say we slept well that evening.
We spent a while longer at Michaels planning our ride through the mountains and Utah. Once the route was all sorted, and we realised we could actually cycle through Utah, we packed up and got ready to leave.
Michael and his house mates Tim and Nick where amazing, they made us feel so comfortable throughout our stay in Denver, they where great hostess and by the end, great friends.
As we set off we where greeted with the site of the rockies in front of us. Our aim for the first day was to get to Idaho Springs, which was a 32 mile ride climbing over 2000ft over the course of the day.
It was not easy. Both of us where a little over whelmed once we stopped for lunch just off Highway 70, as we ate our cream cheese bagels we dreaded the next couple of days.
After two days on the road we came to rest below the hardest road we would have to tackle on the whole trip, the Loveland Pass. This piece of road would take us up to 12,00ft within 6 miles of tarmach. It was going to be a mornings work for us. Luckily after that it was down hill for near enough 15 miles.
That morning we ate well, and cracked on. It was a real push to get to the peak. by the time we got to 12,000ft the air was so thin that stopping for a bit to get your breath back just didn’t work, so we took a few photos and just shot down the other side.
That night we camped just off Highway 70 in a forested area. We struggled to sleep very well with all the noise of the cars. Plus it was still very cold and wet outside, Colorado had been gong through a “1000 year flood” it basically had not stopped raining since we set off, apart from a few breaks in the clouds, when the sun would warm you for an hour or so before the rain would come back.
When we woke in the morning everything was wet. we longed for extend periods of sun just to dry the tent at the least. Unfortunately that didn’t come.
Eventually we reached Vail, a beautiful ski resort, when the sun came out as we explored, we managed to hang the tent out to dry while we had a look around. But the rain clouds descended and we had to run back to save the tent. Thankfully we got there in time, the tent was dry and packed away before the rain hit.
We set off again, from Vail it is pretty much down hill to Glenwood Springs, but we stopped for a day just before Glenwood Springs to do a Hike to Hanging Lake. We camped in the rest area car park and hiked up the following day. It was amazing. I think we have both agreed one of the most beautiful things we have seen on this trip so far.
It was an hour’s hike, but so worth it, some of the clearest water I have ever seen, with huge waterfalls falling into the lake before pouring off over the edge of the mountain. Absolutely stunning.
That afternoon we finished of the ride to Glenwood springs and found a place to camp up for the night in a small park. Glenwood Springs is quite a big place so we where a little worried we might have a little hassle camping in a public park, but we didn’t hear a peep, and both slept well.
It took us another two days to get to Grand Junction, this was the point when we knew we where over the rockies, the hardest part of our trip was done, and we where bushed. We couldn’t believe we had managed it, also in quicker time than we originally thought.
We where now 20 odd miles from the Utah border, life was about to change drastically, from wet mountains to dry deserts. We where now going to have to be very smart with our water, and also think about camping spots because snakes, scorpions and spiders could now be a massive problem for us.
When we crossed into Utah the next day it dawned on us, 4 more states to go.
Remember if you haven’t already you can still donate HERE, we are so close to our target so please, help if you can.
When Kieran last left off we where riding into Omaha. We expected a hard day, a day much like the rest of Iowa, it was up and down all the way. We lunched in an old deserted state fair ground, which happened to have WiFi, so Kieran and I could speak to people back home. Which is always nice. We then put our thoughts into our ride for the afternoon, it was going to be our last ride for a while, we where going back to Chicago so I could spend a week with my girlfriend, I couldn’t wait.
But first we had to get through Council Bluff’s and onto Omaha. We set off, and we where pleasantly surprised, it was hilly, but nothing compared to what we where used to.
We got to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian bridge, which was the crossing into Nebraska. In the centre of the bridge it has the state crossing line. It is always a great feeling when we cross into another state, its a huge mile marker for us, and Iowa was a state we will have fond memories of, apart from the hills of course. Getting into Nebraska meant we where 7 state’s down, with 7 left. We are now on the back leg of this trip. Crazy stuff.
In Omaha we where going to be staying with a guy called Vince. I had met him while I was searching for a place to watch the first game of the football season. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a massive Arsenal fan, and after searching for Omaha Arsenal fans on google, Vince came up as the head honcho of the Omaha Gooner’s. So when I mentioned to him about what Kieran and I where doing, and I wanted to catch the first game of the season, not only did he say he could help us out, he offered us a place to stay.
So we rode up through downtown Omaha and to Vince’s house, partaking in a quick pint in a bar first. When we arrived Vince welcomed us in and I couldn’t believe my eyes; not only was an Arsenal beach ball in the living room, but a picture of the Emirates stadium (Arsenal’s stadium) took pride of place on the living room wall. I felt home.
Vince showed us around, and we chatted about the lack of signings at the time by Arsenal (I’ll try to stop the football talk for all of those uninterested). His partner cam e home Andrea, and their amazing daughter Marlo (who’s middle name is Gunner, AMAZING!). Drea was so lovely to us, and both of us couldn’t believe how well Vince had done for himself (sorry Vince lol).
We then went with them to a bar downtown, where they play volleyball on a weekly basis. We chatted more with them and their friends, more football talk, which was great for me.
After they finished there game Patrick, a friend of Vince and Drea’s, has offered to take us for lunch the next day, which was a nice surprise. Vince had also offered us his old car to drive around town the next day.
We didn’t get out of bed till 11, and drove down town to meet Patrick. We met him at a bar called Wilson and Washburn, it was a lovely place. We had a great lunch, and it was good to chat with Patrick some more.
We chilled out for the rest of the day, resting our legs. When Vince and Drea returned from work we discussed going out for the the evening, we had to be up early to catch the Liverpool game the next morning, kicking off at 0630 Central time. We ended up going for a few pints at a bar called Beercade, mix of a bar and an old school arcade, full of machines. We went home early though, ensuring we would be fresh for the next day. It was going to be a heavy one.
We woke up early, Vince, Drea, Marlo and I all got out Arsenal jerseys on and headed to Vince’s mates house, Nick. We had breakfast and watched Liverpool beat Stoke 1-0. We then picked up Kieran and headed towards the Wilson and Washburn in anticipation of the Arsenal match.
I was so surprised to see so many jerseys, unfortunately some Spurs fans tried to come in just before kick off, I made sure there where aware they where not welcome. Its not wrong to spit in someones drink because of the football team they support isn’t it? (I didn’t do that.)
At this points the drinks really started flowing, a lot of people brought us drinks, by half time we where very merry. Unfortunately at the full time whistle Arsenal has lost 3-1. Vince and I decided there was only one way to show our disappointment, down our pints and get another one in.
We carried on drinking to watch Manchester United beat Swansea, unfortunately, but I think the majority of us had drunk too much to even care. We went back to Vince’s and headed to watch another game; Omaha Uni Vs Penn State at football, (proper football, not American football). Vince and I threw out a few of the usual chants, “Who Are Ya!” and “Referee’s a Wanker!” things of that nature. (We didn’t).
As the drinking began to wind down, Kieran and I had to get ready for our 10 hour bus journey for me to get back to Chicago to se my girlfriend, Charlotte, for 5 days. Vince, Drea and Marlo accompanied us to the bus stop, it was an emotional goodbye, Marlo was in tears (She is one and a half, she may have just been hungry, but I like to think it was us.) luckily we where returning when we come back from Chicago, before carrying on through Nebraska.
Megabus isn’t to bad, we managed to get the whole back seat, and there is WiFi, but it was an over night bus journey, so being honest, it was not an enjoyable 10 hours, specially when the hang over kicked in. Maybe the Mexican wasn’t such a good idea either. I feel sorry for everyone else on the bus. Sorry guys.
I had an amazing time in Chicago, seeing my girlfriend was amazing. We know Chicago well from our last time there, so It was nice to be able to show her around. Once Charlotte left Kieran and I where ready to get back on the road, I felt a little crappy, knowing I wouldn’t see Charlotte for another few months. We felt the sooner we got on the road the better.
We spent 2 days before our bus journey back to Omaha with a good friend of my sister, Rory and her boyfriend Gaby. They where lovely, and had an amazing flat, it was beautiful, and had a lovely view from there window of the skyline. It was a great 2 days of relaxing, but we where itching to get back on the road.
We waved goodbye to Rory and Gaby at the bus stop, they sent us on our way with some tuna, limes and painkillers. (we miss madmen). Again the Megabus journey was horrible, it was another overnight bus.
Arriving back in Omaha we where greeted by Vince, and the heat. Vince and I discussed the latest on Arsenal’s transfer activity, the conversation wasn’t long, because at that point we hadn’t done anything to write home about. Any whom….. We had taken the decision to get back on the road the next day.
That night we went to Vince’s parents house for a lovely Mexican dinner. What a lovely family, and amazing food. We told them stories of our travels, the story of Ben-jammin (the shower gel incident if you remember) and the story with our mate Channing Tatum always seem to go down a treat. We hugged it out and said goodbye to Vince’s family.
That night we slept early getting ready to leave the next day. When we woke up we could already feel the heat, it was going to be a hard day. We filled up our water bottles, got our bikes out and got on the road. Nebraska here we come.
Thank god Nebraska is flat, like they said. It is also a lot of nothing. After Lincoln it just consists of corn and beans. We aimed to finish in a town at the end of everyday, so we could fill up for water the next day. As a result we had to do some serious millage. It was also a hot couple of weeks, which did not help.
Western Nebraska is a bit more hilly, but it is a beautiful place, it reminded me of driving out of Sheffield towards the peak district, beautiful rolling hills. It was a real pleasure to ride through.
On our last day in Nebraska we had to really push ourselves, riding 65 miles to reach the Colorado state sign. It was a hard day, but so worth it, to get this picture.
So 8 states down now, we are getting into the harder part of our journey now, a mountain range then hundreds and hundreds of miles of desert. Hopefully our luck will keep up.
Meeting people like Vince, Drea and Marlo have made this trip a life changer, and seeing some old faces gives me the strength to carry on, and make me remember why i’m here. So please keep following and if you haven’t, and are feeling a little flush, please click HERE and donate.
MORE BREAKING NEWS: We’re idiots. After speaking to locals and individuals who have cycled the state, we have found a route that is safe and doable. This means there’ll be no need to resort to four wheels, and we will be end at our original finish line, in Santa Monica. Apologies for the confusion, and thank you for the continued support
Once again I’ve let fun get in the way of the real point of this adventure: writing blogs. This entry should have been written 3 weeks ago, but here it is now.
The two of us were excited to get into Des Moines, not only because we knew we would have an actual place to sleep that night, but also because we wanted to see if Jack’s granddad (and Bill Bryson) was right about it being the most boring place on earth.
Through warm showers we had got in contact with Ben and his wife Kim, and they had agreed to put us up for the evening then show us the city the next day. Kim was taking her two young children on a tour of the state’s capital building, and she welcomed us along with them. We met Kim’s friend Sherry outside of the building, then headed inside to meet LJ, our tour guide (for now).
This stop in Des Moines was a chance for two unfit young men to rest their legs after cycling 300 miles in 8 days, having not ridden bikes in the last decade. So what better way to rest than to climb hundreds and hundreds of stairs? All i can say is, it was worth it. the pictures of the building really don’t do the climb, or the beauty of the building justice.
LJ has been working in the state capitol building for nearly 30 years, and so he was able to take us on a tour that nobody else goes on. we got to go through doors that don’t often get opened, and up stairways that don’t often get climbed, but at the top is the dome – giving a 360 degree view of Iowa.
Ben and Kim were heading out of town that evening, but had kindly arranged for us to go and stay with LJ and his wife Nancy; at the end of the tour we made arrangements to meet that evening, but first, we were going to go to the Iowa state fair; supposedly the greatest fair in the world.
So the six of us joined the hoards of people queuing to get tickets. Honestly, every stereotypical American cliche you’ve heard was there: the two ton woman in a bra and tie-dye shorts? queuing in front of us; the family who look like they’ve never shopped anywhere other than Ralph Lauren? behind us; the 6 foot, 8 stone man with a mullet and no teeth, wearing a t-shirt that said “In my store I’d rather serve 1000 Al Qaeda than 1 American soldier. I SELL CASKETS”, well we found him in the beer tent. What I’m getting at here is: everyone was at this fair. Kim and Sherry told us people drive for up to 5 hours to get here, some people even drive from different states if they’re ashamed of their own fair.
Nobody was going hungry at the fair either. That day Jack and I each ate: deep fried Oreos, deep fried Twinkies, Iowa corn on the cob, Pork on a stick, Turkey legs, and some salt water taffy. Apparently (from the looks we got from Kim, Sherry, and the kids) thats a lot. This fair seemed to mainly be about agriculture, food, and selling hot tubs. I don’t know who takes the family for a day at the fair, pays $12 for each of them to go in, probably spends $100 on food and drinks, looks at some cattle then decides, “I cant go home without a new hot tub”. There was a choice of about 100!
For what was supposed to be a day off, we spent almost every minute of it walking or climbing narrow stair cases. It was getting late and Kim had to get the kids ready to go away that weekend; we were headed over to LJ and Infancies’ house but were running a little bit late, so Sherry agreed to run ahead and stall them. We needn’t have worried, LJ and Sherry were chilling on the deck, having a cocktail; the more punctual Nancy had gone ahead to watch a band downtown.
We said our goodbyes to Sherry, who we’d both really enjoyed spending the day with, since she had such a dry, British sense of humor. Jack and I cycled with LJ downtown to a bar called the GasLamp. Supposedly it used to be THE jazz club in Iowa, but was taken over by new management a few years ago (plus the smoking ban had taken away some of the FastShow JazzClub atmosphere… Niiiiice). ,LJ, Nancy and their friends were watching the band as they had booked them for a fundraiser; we were all more than impressed. the whole band rotated on vocals/guitar, bass, sax, and drums. at one point the lead LEAD singer ran out into the middle of the intersection for a guitar solo. that warrants a standing ovation in my book, and the rest of the bar agreed.
Right across the street from the bar was the Pappajohn sculpture garden. John Pappajohn is a local business man and philanthropist, with an impeccable taste in art. Its a beautiful (and free) park for people to come and enjoy the art, which would otherwise cost them to go and see in a gallery. We wandered around taking in the art and taking photos for about half an hour before we remembered we were on our way somewhere.
Kim had told us that Owl City were playing at an open air venue by the river, but that most locals just watch for free from the bridges. As we stood around outside, a couple of girls heard our accents and asked us if we wanted tickets. Just like the last time this happened we said we did but that we didn’t have the money. And once again they said they didn’t want money, we just had to take a photo with them. deal. four tickets for a photograph was a great deal, but when we got in we were told that because we had cycled to the venue, we were each entitled to a free beer.
For those of you unfamiliar with Owl City (as we all were, until we heard and recognized their ‘big single’) they are an American, electronica band, whose only successful song has been a very cheap rip off of the Postal Service; the entire audience was made up of families with children already dressed in pajamas, or young couples (with the males sitting bored on the ground, while the girl stood screaming) . We managed to sit through 4 or 5 songs before we all looked at each other and decided it was time to go home.
In our drunken state we had all agreed to get up early and head back downtown to a mass yoga session. In our sober state we all agreed to sit on the sofa and eat a huge breakfast. Nancy and LJ kitted us out with lights, and bells for the bikes, and helmets for us. We cycled in convoy as they guided us out of the city, onto the raccoon river valley trail.
The trail was the perfect cycling route for us. It was straight, it was paved, but most importantly, it was FLAT. Don’t ever believe someone who tells you Iowa is flat. In fact, if you’re going to be cycling across it and someone tells you Iowa is flat, slap them. After doing 20 miles, and stopping for a lengthy lunch (nursing our hangovers) we got an unexpected visitor. Sherry had cycled out to meet us, and to say goodbye one last time.
We’ve given up on sleeping in our tent. Its small, its cramped, if it rains its not water tight, its hot to sleep in, and it stinks.,As an alternative, we’ve taken to sleeping on park benches, or just under the stars. For the family members i would usually reference by name at this, don’t worry. its no different to sleeping in a tent. its two pieces of canvas. Throughout the first half of the trip we became a little too accustomed to sleeping in houses, so doing this brings a bit more authenticity to the trip.
Between Des Moines and Omaha we stuck to the trail, stopping in a town each evening, sleeping in the local park, packing up and starting up again each day. Each of the towns were pretty uninteresting with the exception of Audubon. Audubon is home to Albert. Who’s Albert? you know who Albert is. No, seriously?! Fine. Albert is the worlds largest statue of a bull. Yes, that Albert.
Through Warm Showers we got ourselves a place to stay with Steve and his family. They had a small holding just north of the town, with the whole surrounded by cornfields, so it makes the prettiest temporary, natural fence. When Steve had listed himself on Warm Showers he had mentioned that there was a bike shop close by, what he didn’t mention was that the bike shop was in his garden (and since it was his sons first day of school the next day, we slept in there to keep ourselves out of the way). So, not only did we get a shower, dinner and a place to sleep – Steve had a hot-tub. While Steve and Jack were tinkering around with the bikes, I soaked in the Jacuzzi for almost two hours.
The next day, after being on the road for a little while, a truck pulled up alongside us, it was Steve apologizing for leaving without saying goodbye, and wishing us luck on our journey. Later in the day, after getting over the hills and far away (thats for my mum) Steve gave us a call to say he had found us a place to stay with his co-worker Courtney that evening.
Just before reaching Courtney’s house, we both experienced our first flat tires, right at the same time. I’m sure they wont be our last. Courtney wouldn’t be home until later that evening, but she told us her front door was open, so we should let ourselves in and treat it like home. When Courtney got home she insisted on taking us out to dinner, and it was there that we ate our first testicles. Bull testicles. Rocky Mountain Oysters. Breaded and deep fried they didn’t look a thing like we thought and they actually tasted ok, but Jack said he wished they had looked more like actual testicles.
Waking up the next morning it was raining like we had never seen. We made excuses for as long as we could, sat and watched half of SpaceJam, but finally agreed if we didn’t get on the road there and then, we wouldn’t make it to Omaha that day.
I completely forgot to mention, as well as the butter cow, there was also a butter Abraham Lincoln. Everything he’d ever wanted. Until next time,
Since Kieran last signed off alot has happened. Unfortunately due to the lack of spare time and the lack of WiFi, it is a lot harder to keep everyone updated, so we are sorry for the delay in writing these blog updates.
We left you as we crossed over the Mississippi into Iowa. We spent the night in Davenport with Dustin. We decided to kick off the next day and try and reach West Branch. We had spoken to a lovely lady Kathy, via couchsurfer, who had agreed to put us up for a couple of days, which was a welcomed rest for us. At this point we had been non stop for over a week. Our legs where tight and bodies bruised.
We where told that Iowa was flat, well they where wrong, so very very wrong. Iowa is nothing but hills. You whiz down one side to climb the heights of the other, hoping that when you can see over the top you will be greeted by a flat road that travels for miles ahead. Instead you are met by miles and miles of rolling hills; and remember we are pulling trailers weighing over 110 lbs each, which obviously makes the hills a complete nightmare.
When we reached West Branch we where met by Kathy, her husband John and their daughter. They gave us a tour of there lovely house, filled with some amazing art work. We where stationed in the massive guest bed room in the basement. That first night we went to sleep early, we needed the rest because the next day was “Hoover’s Hometown Days”.
West Branch is the birth town of the 31st President, Herbert Hoover. So every year they celebrate his birthday with the “Hoover’s Hometown Day”. The whole town comes to a stand still. Filled with stalls, peddling various delights from homemade lemonade to water fight competitions.
We walked into town from Kathy’s house later than Kathy and John. We had used the morning to catch up on some needed sleep. When we got to town we where met first by the “Hoover Ball” tournament. Hoover Ball is basically volley ball, accept you actually catch the ball before throwing it back over the net, and the ball is actually a 12 lbs medicine ball.
Kieran and I thought we would try our hand, and maybe show the American’s how its done, very much like our game of beer pong in Chicago (unbeaten Chicago Champions); but these guys take there Hoover Ball seriously. We where unfortunately not allowed to step foot on the court. It turns out these guys had been training all year for this competition, the only one in the country. In my opinion they where just scared, but we agreed to give any help and tips we could from the sidelines. Turns out just like volley ball, its more interesting to watch the women’s games.
We then wandered into town. Its a beautiful place. Home of Hover’s presidential library and museum, so we made this our next stop. The grounds of the library are beautiful, a huge expanse of meticulously mowed lawn, with large oak trees all around. It was also the same location as Mr Hoovers childhood house, which was a tiny one bedroom shed. His grave is also on the site, which is a lovely understated marble plaque, which has clear view across the grounds to his old house.
The Museum was very interesting. A little history lesson here for you all. Herbert Hoover is remembered by most American’s as the Depression president, he was inaugurated a year before the stock exchange crashed, an inevitable disaster after the boom of the 1920’s.
Unfortunately due to this terrible timing, Hoover’s name will be associated with the great depression. BUT what we found out was that Hoover did a lot more during his long life. After the first world war Hoover set up the American Relief Administration, and helped to feed the starving all over Europe. Alot of children had never eaten a white bread roll before, they where eating a mix of dough and wood chipping, until the Hoover Rolls arrived all across Belgium and eastern Europe. What a hero.
He was a great chap, and we both realised that it was a terrible shame that he is remembered for his Hooverville shanty towns and the dust bowls across the american prairies, when he was so much more, the Hoover Dam is a great landmark in his name. Something he commissioned to get people working again during the depression.
The Museum is a must see, it also had a lot of stuff on the abolition of slavery, and Lincoln which again was very interested. We left the museum and wondered back into the town. We had agreed to meet Kathy and her Husband at 5 o’clock for the fireman’s dinner. Which was a annual dinner to help raise funds for the local fire station.
We met John and went and ate our dinner, which consisted of gorgeous succulent steak, lovely buttery mashed potato and locally farmed sweetcorn, it wasn’t just dinner, it was the fireman’s dinner.
We then joined up with Kathy at the friends church for hymns and (more importantly) free pie. We boomed out the hymns really hitting each note with British pride. I didn’t have a clue what I was singing, and didn’t recognize any of the songs, until Smack my bitch up started, no I joke it was Amazing Grace. So when this tune started on the old Joanna, Kieran and I took it upon ourselves to take it to the next level, barbershop style. Kieran rocked the baritone while i kicked out the tenor. Safe to say we got a standing ovation.
We then went into the basement of the church for our free pie. We met some lovely people. We chatted to one lady for over an hour, unfortunately we didn’t get her name, she had travelled the country herself. She had a lot of advice for us.
We then did what any other person in our position would do, we went up for seconds. We approached the church helpers hesitantly, before we held our empty plates out “Please sir, I want some more.” The helper eyed up our plate before saying “ Moooooooooooooooooore?…….Yes that fine.”
Home made pie was delicious, and the company we kept was even better. Once we where finished we walked back to Kathy’s to watch the evening’s fireworks display together on her lawn.
We then packed our things up ready to get on the road the next day. We had really enjoyed our stay, Kathy had been an amazing host, and West Branch was a beautiful and interesting little town.
The next morning we got on the road early and biked through Iowa City, which is a large college town, and home of the Iowa Hawkeyes, one of the big 10 American football college teams. Which is a big deal here.
It was a cool city, which I’m sure would have been even better when college was in. Unfortunately it was very quiet while we where there. So we didn’t get to the see the city in its true light.
We rode on; our next big stop was Des Moines. It was a long ride untill then. We hoped the state would flatten out before then, but unfortunately we where wrong. Hill after Hill after Hill.
We met a few other people along our way before we got to Des Moines, we stayed with Bruce Ashton in Marengo, who we met in a bar in town. Then we slept in a baseball dugout in Brooklyn.
We then stayed with Suzanne and Daniel in Newton. We met these two through the Warm Showers website, they had a lovely home, and made us feel very welcome, buying us a beautiful Mexican dinner, and Daniel took us out with his friends.
When we woke up we planned on making it to Des Moines, it was a long push, another day full of hills, and plenty of stops.
Being on bikes has its ups and downs, literally, but we are very proud of our progress, as you know we are writing these blogs retrospectively, and at this point we have finished our ride through Iowa, which is over 350 miles. We have slept rough now countless times, we have laughed a lot, cried together, but we are doing it all for a reason that give us more determination, and fight than we ever imagined.
After Kieran’s injury we racked our brains on how we could finish this and still feel we have accomplished something worth sponsoring, and after biking more than 400 miles we believe what we are doing still is worthy of your support, we hope you agree.
Any whom, Kieran will continue and tell you more about our trip across Iowa. Please keep up the support, its has been priceless so far, and please keep sponsoring , the link to the page is below.
So by now anyone who actually reads this blog, or follows the Facebook page will know that, due to my own feet injuries (some walk related, some through my own stupidity), we are now cycling the remaining 2000 miles to Santa Monica, California.
We picked back up on the Illinois and Michigan Canal trail, just south of Chicago. Where we joined it was not far from where we had left off, in Joliet. The first person we met told us “you boys are in over your heads”. He continued to tell us how it was a terrible, terrible area filled with gang-bangers and murderers; as usual we neither saw nor got any impression of the above being true. It wasn’t the nicest of places, but it seemed the same story as many places we had come across previously: a town that used to centre around an industry that had since moved to a country with a cheaper work force. We didn’t have to walk through it for long before we were back into the countryside, walking along the trail.
After having such an amazing and luxurious rest you’d think that being back on the trail would be all gravy. wrong. my feet didn’t seem to be in any different type of state. At the end of the first day we had only walked 12 miles, which I’m sure you can figure out is less than we would previously walk before lunch; not a good sign. Did I mention that the day we had started back on the trail happened to be my birthday? no? Well, the day we started back on the trail, the day walking 12 miles caused me excruciating pain, the day I broke down in tears (second time so far) and told Jack I didn’t think I could complete the walk – that day was my birthday. We sat on a bench in silence.
We had already discussed what would happen if there was an injury, we had joked about scooters and Segways, but the idea of bicycles had also come up, and that didn’t seem like a stupid idea at all (not least because it would mean making it over the Rocky Mountains before winter). I apologized to Jack about the state I was in, suggesting that I fly home and he complete the walk on his own. Not only did he refuse to let me fly home, he refused to let me fly home before I had seen all the things we had planned to see. Not only did he refuse to let me fly home before I had seen all the things we had planned to see, he refused to let me fly home before we had completed the journey. Together!
Bikes it is then. A quick look at Google maps (thanks again to Dave Wilson and the Lagana’s(we’d be lost without the phone)) showed us there was a bike shop 8 miles away, so that was as far as we’d have to walk the next day.
The Grand Schwinn Cyclery just happened to be the only bike shop for about 60 miles in any direction, and its owner, Roy, sized us instantly and was able to tell us exactly what bikes we’d be needing. I say instantly, we ended up spending nearly four hours in the shop, but it gave us plenty of time to charge all of our equipment. Roy sorted us out with 2 identical bikes, padlock, road flag, spare inner tubes, and he sorted out the wheels on our cart for us. We’d later go to a bar about 10 miles down the road to have a late birthday drink, and be told by more than a few people that we had encountered “Rip-off” Roy. I’ve got to say I think this was a fully undeserved nickname, seeing as he threw so much free stuff in and even gave us a discount.
Despite my original apologies, I don’t think either of us could be any happier with being on bikes. Not only was it not causing me any pain to peddle, we were also covering a hell of a lot more ground than we usually did on foot. Cycling along the canal was so much fun too. It makes so much difference when you aren’t having to contend with cars, but we quickly learned that the type of surface your on makes the biggest difference of all. Riding the 100 miles along that canal was broken up into chunks of: elation at 12mph(tarmac cycle paths), happiness at 8mph (oil and chip), and devastation at 3 mph(loosely packed gravel).
The biggest difference that has come with the bikes is that we no longer get to meet as many people, or stay in as many amazing home; but that’s exactly how we expected the walk to go from the start. We had never spent two consecutive nights in the tent before Chicago, but after the bikes it was 6 straight nights before we got an amazing offer to stay with someone. Staying in the tent isn’t a problem at all, and I cant speak for Jack, but I really enjoy roughing it. The only downside is when we have a rainy night that continues all morning. obviously it’s not ideal to put the tent away still wet, but we’ve always been able to air it out at some ones house; this particular morning there was a torrential downpour and no real chance of a place to stay that night. we bundled all of the stuff into our carts and pedaled as quickly as we could to a storm drain a quarter of a mile away. we hung the tent as best we could, then spent the next two hours shaking it, trying to get it dry. Had we known the (sort of) good fortune that lay ahead of us,we needn’t have bothered.
I must mention at this point that it was now Tuesday and neither of us had showered since Thursday morning when we left the Waldorf Astoria. So when we were cycling on a closed road and passed by an unused outdoor swimming pool, we saw an opportunity, and we took it. There was no water in the swimming pool so we tried all of the doors to the changing rooms – no luck. We started to walk away when we saw a hose reel next to a portaloo round the back. I’m not ashamed to say that while one kept an eye out for passers by, the other had an alfresco shower. Hopefully the only time I’ll ever be naked so close to a playground. Anyway…
At the end of the day there was a large private campsite/RV park, who we had been told were pretty unsympathetic towards charity cases, and charged a (frankly disgusting) $22 to pitch a tent. We walked in, paid our money and at the last minute, Jack pleaded our case. The woman behind the desk seemed to take pity on us and said we could have one of the $50 cabins at no extra charge. Result! the cabin was really basic, but it was a bed each, a roof over our heads, and the opportunity to have the first real shower in nearly a week.
As i headed back to the cabin a guy was stood beside a bike, looking like he’d cycled a few thousand miles. we got chatting and it turned out he was cycling coast to coast too, but from Seattle to NYC. Like us he didn’t seem too enamored with the price of a pitch and was going to head a few more miles down the road. I told him that we still had one spare bunk in the cabin which he was welcome to; he was incredibly grateful but did warn us he had been known to snore (he did warn us). After we chatted about each others journeys, where we’d been and what we’d seen, Jacob told us about a service called WarmShowers. Much like CouchSurfer but for, you guessed it, showers. He said it was specifically for bikers to get a place to wash, but more often than not he had been cooked dinner and invited to stay for the evening. We downloaded the app straight away and found a guy who was willing to let us crash at his the following evening in Davenport, Iowa.
Seeing as it was the first bed we had seen for a while, Jack and I were ready to crash out; Jacob had other plans. I snore, my brother snores, my dad snores, children scream, dogs bark, bears roar! None of this compares to Jacobs snoring, nor would it wake him. He fell asleep and started snoring instantly. We put up with it for about 20 minutes, then Jack and I looked at each other and started laughing. We quickly went through a range of emotions, then Jack decided the best solution for him was to wrap his head in clothes so he couldn’t hear it anymore; no luck. I couldn’t take it anymore. I shouted his name five or six times, nothing. I flicked the light on and off whilst shouting, nothing. I left the light on, shook Jacob whilst shouting his name, nothing. it wasn’t until i did all of this as well as slapping him on the forehead that he began to stir. When he came to, he apologized profusely and agreed to try sleeping on his side (it probably doesn’t help that he wears ear plugs to stop himself from waking up). Despite a few random snores during the night,we managed to sleep loosely until morning. We said goodbye to Jacob the next morning, with Jack warning him that the girl hes headed to meet in NYC probably wont put up with that noise for too long.
When we used to contemplate the days walk ahead of us, I rarely remember either of us seeming excited, but these days we are genuinely anxious to get going each morning. Even more so that day because we knew that we would be crossing the Mississippi into Iowa that afternoon. The whole day went without a problem, we peddled hard and fast, excited to make it to the river as soon as possible. It had only been a week on the bikes but we both agreed that was by far our favorite day of riding; it was beautifully sunny, but not too hot, there was a breeze but it didn’t slow us down, and we knew that we had a real bed in a real house that evening.
We both got really excited when we saw the Mississippi river! It had never been a milestone in our heads, but as we approached it we were both punching the air and cheering. This only made me more excited for what its going to feel like when we do eventually reach Santa Monica. After stopping to revel in just how far we had come and to take a photo of the teddy, we carried on down to the Centennial bridge where we could officially cross the Mississippi and the state border into Iowa. As we crossed over to the other side there was a guy who seemed to be waiting for someone. That guy was Dustin, and the someone was us.
Dustin was from WarmShowers and had been kind enough to let us stay with him for the evening. He’s a graphic designer and his home is an amazing work/living space above a newspaper office. his walls are covered in amazing art work, all of which (i think) he had done himself. We headed out for dinner and chatted about WarmShowers and how many people Dustin had had to stay with him (a lot) almost all nice, some very strange. We obviously told him all about our almost identical experiences with CouchSurfer. When we got home that night he showed us his photos of riding his floating bike through rivers, taking it out in the deep snow, and the album of every cyclist that has stayed with him. Somebody commented on our photo that we were “the first HOT guests, somebody with great taste.
Well i think I’m nearly caught up on the backlog of blog updates, but unfortunately seeing as we’re now camping more often the entries will have to be fewer and further between.
until next time,
When we were planning this trip, there were a few things that I never thought would happen: I never expected to go to a baseball game, I never expected to stay in a suite at a five-star hotel, and I certainly never expected to spend half an hour in a steam room, chatting to Hollywood highest paid actor.
BREAKING NEWS: due to a terribly sad/inconvenient development, after completing the first third of the trip, we are no longer allowed to call ourselves the big old walk. I’m sure you’re aware of my ongoing foot trouble; with a broken toe in the right foot and strained tendons in the left its now pretty impossible to walk. For this reason we have switched to bikes for the remaining distance. I hope nobody feels cheated by this, and that you realize cycling 2000miles will take a lot of time, energy and willpower.
If you’re still interested, please keep following us on our journey.