Once In A Lifetime – To steal a line from the Talking Heads’ song, “Well, how did I get here?”
My USA cycling adventure has been almost 16 years in the making – Part One of my journey covers my introduction to cycling & a few of my first adventures.
Back in June 2006 I went on a group holiday to Sardinia with some great friends & on a whim hired a bike for a ½ day, 30 mile pootle out to Capo Caccia & back with Sean.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I’d catch the cycling bug & that I’d now be preparing to embark on a 6,000 mile, 6 month, once in a lifetime adventure. So, how did I get here?
After returning from Sardinia, Sean & I came up with the stupid idea of going on a one week cycling trip around Hamburg in October 2006 – in those days I didn’t even take photos of my cycling adventures, as my mobile phone didn’t even have a camera. We arrived on the Friday night & spent the evening checking out the local brew – my hazy memory says it was “one (or perhaps two) too many” pints of Einstein, in the bar of the same name. It’s worth pointing out that at this point we didn’t have any bikes to complete our tour, so we had a panicked morning desperately searching for a hire shop – in the end we had to buy a bike each so we could complete our trip!!! We learned a huge amount on that trip, the main lesson being that we needed to each buy a bike!
By 2007 I’d bought a blue, aluminium framed Giant Defy & we headed to the USA, doing a self-supported trip to New York State (including a visit to Niagara Falls). By now I’d realised that I needed to be able to take photos, so we bought a couple of Kodak Single Use cameras – we then had to get the film developed in a camera shop to see what the photos actually looked like! Having found the photos this evening, they were truly rubbish!!!
In 2008 we visited Washington & Oregon cycling the Pacific Coast Highway, hiring bikes once again. We still had much to learn about how to plan a trip abroad! At least by now we’d realised the importance of training, although I weighed more in 2008 than I do in 2022.
We became more adventurous in 2009, joining a guided tour in early May, organised by Cycling Escapes, that included Zion & Bryce Canyon – this was our first experience of cycling with proper cyclists.
I was totally unprepared (I’d broken my collar bone on Valentine’s Day & couldn’t get back on the bike until the end of March) & I met the most kind & generous group of people. They were so supportive of two total novices & shared many great pieces of advice, including to always look behind you & see where you’ve come from, as well as where you’re headed. For our 2nd week we did a self-supported trip to Moab & tried to practice what we’d been taught!
2010 was a breakout year, as in addition to buying my first carbon bike (still the fastest bike I’ve ever owned), we started training & returned to the USA for a 5 days of cycling huge Colorado mountains – again with Cycling Escapes. Rich & Benny ran the trip even though there were only Sean, myself & Rich on the tour.
This was followed by 5 days of cycling in Montana & Idaho (including a couple of days in Yellowstone) – we were still with Cycling Escapes. What made it even more special was meeting up with some of our friends we’d made the previous year, as well as making new friends.
We also paid our first visit to the big mountains of Europe – driving from Bristol to Bourg d’Oisans for a 3 day adventure taking in Alp d’Huez, Col de la Croix de Fer & Col du Galibier on consecutive days. I can still remember the feeling of complete awe I felt when we drove up Alp d’Huez in the car & both of us realising that we were in completely uncharted territory!
This feels like a good place to draw Part One to a conclusion as it marks the transition from our long haul travels to short haul destinations. Part Two will focus on our early experiences of exploring the mountains of Europe!