Timmelsjoch / Passo del Rombo Loop

Alpine Adventures – Day Five (Austria)

Our last day of cycling in Austria started with a drive of just over an hour to the all year round resort of Solden – skiing in winter (it regularly hosts a round of the Downhill World Cup) as well as cycling & hiking in the summer. The Ice Q restaurant was used as a location in the James Bond film Spectre & there’s also a ‘007 Elements’ cinematic experience way above the town.

Solden is a bustling tourist resort, with all the usual trappings – hotels, bars, restaurants, outdoor adventure clothing shops & gift shops which may have robbed the town of some of its original charm. However, we were only parking the car here, so would soon be heading upwards on the main road which serves as a link between Austria & Italy.

Our plan was to tackle a 15 mile ascent of the Timmelsjoch & drop 6 miles or so into Italy. At which point we would ascent the Passo del Rombo (same mountain, but now climbing the Italian side) & then drop back into Solden – an out & back route.

There were quite a few lorries & coaches on the lower slopes, serving a couple of ski resorts slightly higher up the mountain. The first mile or so rose steeply, but then the gradient evened out to a fairly consistent 6% – 8% for about 6 miles. As we reached the resort of Obergurgl, we crossed the valley floor & started climbing in earnest, as the next 2 miles zig-zagged their way through forest, up towards Hochgurgl – at this point there’s a toll booth (similar to our ride up to Kaunertal), so the traffic would thin out after this point.

Hochgurgl is also home to a motorcycle museum & it has over 230 motorbikes from 100 plus manufacturers, including some early Harleys. Our reason for stopping was that it also does great food & coffee, so after about 90 minutes of riding we were ready for some refreshments – today’s treat was cherry tart & cappuccino!

After a brief stop were on our way again & although we weren’t anywhere near the summit of the Timmelsjoch, the road descended for a mile & we gave away 450 feet of hard earned altitude! The final 3 miles to the summit were the most wild & rugged, as the only vegetation was grass which was being grazed by wild cows & sheep. They roam freely & as we were climbing, a convoy of Porsches were forced to stop their descent as the cows chose that moment to cross the road.

By now, the weather was closing in, the sun was a distant memory & cold rain was starting to fall. We were also above the snow line & the final couple of corners still had decent sized snow walls on them.

After a brief stop at the summit for a few photos & to don our rain jackets, we headed down the Italian side, where the Timmelsjoch becomes the Passo del Rombo.

The first mile of the descent is a very gentle gradient, as the road follows a cliff face before passing through a long tunnel & exiting to an enormous view of the valley below. We would descend 6 miles in total & the road took hairpin after hairpin as it hugged a valley wall on the way down. It took us less than 15 minutes to plummet 2,000 feet in just under 5 miles, so we were in from a long climb back to the summit!

The ascent to the summit took about 90 minutes & was superb – the sun had come out again & we were just a few feet from a cliff edge with drops of over 2,500 feet to the valley floor below. There hadn’t really been time to take this in as we descended – there were too many tight turns to keep us focussed.

We stopped for a warming minestrone soup at a restaurant on the Italian / Austrian border, before descending back to Solden. It was raining again at the summit, so once we’d put our rain jackets on, we set off back down the Timmelsjoch – after a few hairpins near the summit, the road opened out & in no time I had hit 43mph & was still accelerating when I remembered the cattle & sheep crossing the road earlier, so I started to reduce my speed, just as well as there were now sheep where the cattle had been!!!

After negotiating our way around the sheep, we had a small descent left, before that nasty climb back up to the Motorbike Museum. My legs were so cold from the rapid descent, that it was quite a struggle to get them turning again for the short, sharp climb. Once we reached the plateau at Hochgurgl, the final 9 miles was a fast & flowing descent & before we knew it, we were back to Solden.

This was another epic day in the high mountains & although this was our last day of cycling in Austria, the adventure isn’t yet over. After taking in a final view from my hotel window, we spent the evening carb loading in preparation for 5 more days of riding, this time in the high Italian Alps above Bormio!

Garmisch Loop

Austrian Alps – Day 4, 2019.

After yesterday’s epic day in the saddle, today was a far more sedate affair, but fun on every level. We’d planned a 72 mile loop that would start & finish in Telfs, a 25 minute drive from our hotel in Mutters.

The first 2 miles took us out of town on a long, straight road which was reminiscent of a French avenue with tall trees on either side, providing some protection from the overhead sun. Unlike the first 3 days of riding, there was no need of arm warmers or rain jackets – the only protection we required was sun tan lotion.

After our warm up, we were introduced to our first climb of the day, a 4 mile effort at a fairly steady 8% to 9% through a pine forest as the road rose ever higher above the alpine valley below. As I stopped to take a photo, what I think was an eagle flew across the shot & it’s ended up in my first picture.

Mosern marked the summit of the first climb – we’d ascended 1,932 feet over 4.17 miles & it had only taken us 45 minutes. For the next 9 miles the road twisted & turned as we descended into Seefeld, where we stopped for the best banana cake & a cappuccino!

We took a slight left & picked up a tail wind as we followed a verdant valley where we saw groups of workers picking strawberries & raspberries in the adjacent fields.

The road continued to drop slowly towards the Austrian/German border & before we knew it, we were in Germany & heading through the ancient town of Mittenwald, which was gearing up for a garden festival this coming weekend.

Up to this point, we’d been on quiet back roads, however, for the next part of the loop to Garmisch-Partenkirchen we were following a fairly main road, with occasional stretches of bike path – I’m sure that if I’d done a bit more research before the trip, I could have found a better way of navigating this section. We had plenty of big views up to the surrounding mountains to take our minds off the traffic – we also had the excitement of stopping at a level crossing & seeing one of the local trains go past.

We skirted around Garmisch & joined a slightly quieter road as we spent the next 13 miles gradually gaining height as we headed towards the day’s next categorised climb.

The Fernpass is only about 5 miles long & gains about 1,000 feet from it’s start point in Lermoos. As we approached the summit we saw signs for a panoramic rest stop, so decided to pull in just to see what it was all about. Way below us between the pine trees was a lake of aquamarine with huge mountains in the background – it was well worth stopping for.

As we swooped down the other side of the mountain, we passed the equally scenic lake at Fernstein, where holiday makers were sunning themselves on the beach below. We continued to descent to Nassereith, before picking up the main road again for the day’s final climb (it didn’t appear to have a name, but as we ascended more than 1,000 feet, it definitely counted as a climb!

All that remained was to descend the final 10 miles from Holzleiten back to Telfs. On a scale of 1 to 10, this loop would score a 7 (it loses 2 points for the stretches of main road where articulated trucks thundered past us – they always gave us plenty of room & it wasn’t ever dangerous, however it did detract slightly from the whole experience. I’m probably being a little harsh, as we’ve had 4 brilliant days of cycling in Austria so far, with another big day planned for Day 5.

Kaunertaler Glacier Loop

Austrian Alps – Day Three, 2019

The day began with an hour drive to the small town of Prutz, where the road to the Kaunertal Glacier starts. The logistics for the day couldn’t have been any simpler – 25 miles each way, following one road up to the summit. This tells you nothing about what the day would be like however, as the Kaunertaler Gletscherpanoramastraße tops out at 2,750 metres & is the 6th highest paved road in the Alps.

I first read about this epic day in the saddle from a cycling blogger called Will Davies (no relation), he has an awesome website www.cycling-challenge.com & over the years I’ve used it as valuable research for my cycling adventures around Europe. When Will says he loved the climb, then you know it needs to be conquered!

The purpose built road was built in 1980 & exists solely to enable people to reach the ski station at the summit, as a result, it’s open all year round – from there it’s possible to take a cable car up another 1,000 feet. The road itself is wide to ensure that coaches & large trucks can make the trip to the summit.

Our ride started under slate grey, cloudy skies & we used the first few miles as a gentle warm up, but then the bike route detoured around 3 road tunnels – they were all gravel, so the effort to pedal is that bit harder, plus the gradient increased to 9%. The climb is unusual in that from the very start the gradient jumps up & down, so it’s hard to get into a comfortable climbing rhythm.

The early slopes were cut through a pine forest, but as we rounded a sharp corner, the forest gave way to alpine meadows, with sheep & cattle grazing on the lush grass. Every now & then we passed through small villages, until after 7 miles we passed through a toll booth (for cars only) – from this point on, the road became significantly quieter. We were now following the route of a babbling brook as it meandered down the valley from a lake above.

We could just make out the dam wall of the artificial lake in the distance & as we got closer, the road kicked up for 2 miles, with the gradient varying between 7% & 12% – we also passed the first of 29 numbered hairpin bends. The views from the dam made the effort well worthwhile, as by now the sun had got its hat on & there were the beginnings of a blue sky overhead. We rode along the edge of the lake for about 3 miles, before starting the really challenging & fun part of the ride.

The views of the surrounding valley & lake below became more spectacular the higher we climbed. There were some wickedly steep sections by now, as the hairpins came thick & fast – at one point the hairpins were less than 100 yards apart & the gradient kicked up to 12% as the road followed the natural contours.

With 5 miles to go, we got our first glimpse of the glacier & we foolishly thought that we’d broken the back of the ride. We couldn’t have been further from the truth – the next 5 miles took me 1 hour 7 minutes to ride (at an average of 4.5 mph), with over 2,200 feet of ascent. This was quite simply the toughest 5 miles I’ve ever ridden, as the gradient regularly exceeded 13% for in excess of ½ mile at a time. We were also treated to some stunning scenery that helped to take my mind off the pain of the climb.

The summit was very busy, as workmen were undertaking all the repairs that need doing between ski seasons, plus there were several hundred tourists. We headed for the restaurant to replenish our energy supplies (you may have noticed I didn’t make any mention of a coffee stop on the ride) which were now depleted. After a spaghetti bolognese & gateau, we ventured outside to get our photo taken next to the tourist trap sign – 2,750 metres above sea level!

Having taken 3 hours 45 minutes to complete the climb, we could now relax & enjoy the plummet back to the start point, some 2,000 metres below.

We stopped a couple of times to check out the views again & also to admire some of the brilliant wood sculptures that were in every lay-by  most of the trail heads.

Less than an hour & 10 minutes after leaving the summit, we were back at the car – it had been an incredibly tough climb to the summit, but was also a truly epic day in the saddle! A few hours later, we’d recovered enough to raise a glass to another amazing Austria Alpine adventure.

Kuhtai Loop

Austrian Alps – Day Two, 2019

Day two carried on where Day One left off. I woke to the sound of rain on the window panes, but by the time we’d had breakfast & prepared the bikes, the precipitation had moved further along the valley. The cloud base was still really low & all the mountains were hidden from view as we set off. As bad weather had again been forecast, I planned a route along the valley floor, before looping round to take in the day’s only climb of significance (at least on paper!) in the latter half of the day.

We started with a gradual climb out of Mutters towards Axems, before a fast, fun descent towards the River Inn, some 1,000 feet below. As we hit the valley floor, the sun came out, although the big mountains were still shielded from view by the low lying cloud. We followed a busy main road for about 5 miles, before detouring on to a quiet cycle path for the next 10 miles or so.

We were in prime agricultural farming country, as we passed fields of potatoes, lettuces & wheat, as well as orchards of apples, pears & cherries.

As we hit the 25 mile mark, we found a small bakery which had a great array of pastries. The only challenge was picking just one to eat with our coffees! In the end I chose a cherry pastry & wasn’t disappointed!

Having recharged our batteries, we re-joined the cycle path as it wound through a quiet forest – in the middle of nowhere we spotted a small chapel that had been built to remember all those who lost their lives in the First World War.

After hugging the valley floor for the best part of 20 miles, it was time to take a left turn & follow a tributary of the River Inn as it gradually wound up the side of the valley. For the next 20 miles, the road would be heading ever higher – the first 8 miles until we reached Otztal were a gentle warm up for the main event (Kuhtai is about 11 miles long & climbs about 4,500 feet), so we decided to stock up on energy with a quick lunch of ham salad roll & a cappuccino.

As we rolled out of town, we took a left & the road immediately started climbing, with the first couple of miles averaging 8%, with a few stretches in the 10% to 12% range. The road continued to snake its way up the side of the mountain, as we passed through tiny villages (some of them were less than 200 yards in length). As the road took us round the back of the mountain, we left civilisation behind & entered a pine forest as we twisted & turned up hairpin bend after hairpin bend for about 15 minutes.

As we continued to climb higher, the temperature began to drop & we felt the first drops of rain – by now it was about 2.30pm & the forecast had been for rain all day, so we were still thinking we’d been lucky with the weather. We continued to ride with arm warmers, as we were generating plenty of heat as we climbed. With about 5 miles of the climb remaining, the forest abruptly ended & we were entered an alpine meadow, with occasional herds of cattle roaming freely. With less than 2 miles to the summit, we had to stop to put on rain jackets, as it was now properly raining & would continue to do so for the remainder of the climb.

All of a sudden, the road flattened out as a lake & hydro-electric dam appeared on our right – this was great news, as I knew this was close to the top of the climb! We stop for a couple of quick photos, before pushing on for the summit. Before we knew it, we’d reached the Kuhtai sign & we relaxed as we took some snaps – we jumped back on our bikes, ready for the descent, only to realise we still had another couple of hundred feet of climbing to reach the town itself!

As we crested the summit, we commenced what would normally be a fast descent on a wide road, with great views. However, we were on wet roads & visibility was limited, so we adapted to the conditions. One of the unexpected hazards of our descent was a herd of longhorn cattle loose on the road – they looked like they were itching for a fight, so there was a bit of a Mexican Standoff while Sean plucked up the courage to pass them! As we began to lose some altitude, the air warmed up & as quickly as it started, the rain stopped.

After 10 miles of descending, we took a sharp right & were both surprised to see we had more climbing to do. The route profile had such a big lump for Kuhtai, that the rest of the route looked flat! It only lasted for 15 minutes or so & before we knew it, we were in Axams, so we’d circled the loop – all that remained was a relatively flat 5 mile ride back to Mutters & just as we walked into the hotel, the skies opened again! We had been so fortunate all day – the actual weather was way better than what we were expecting & the ride itself had been a real adventure.

We decided to celebrate our good fortune, by catching the mountain railway into Innsbruck, enjoy a couple of beers with dinner & then catch the train back too – I’m sure we were mistaken for locals, especially when I thanked our driver in true Bristolian fashion, with a “Cheers Drive!!!”.

Rattenberg Clover Leaf (That Became A Loop!)

Austrian Alps – Day One, 2019

Our 2019 Alpine Adventure is a split affair, with 5 days of cycling the lesser known mountains around Innsbruck (Austria), followed by 5 days in Bormio (Italy), taking on some of the giants of the Giro d’Italia. We’re staying just outside Innsbruck in the small town of Mutters, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

It all began today with a 45 minute drive from our base in Mutters to Rattenberg, which is famous as being Austria’s smallest historic town & also the start point of the 2018 World Road Race Championships. It’s a stunningly pretty town (population of 400) with a pedestrianised central area, surrounded by craft shops & quaint cafes.

We started our ride under bruised & heavy clouds, but already feeling fortunate as rain had been forecast for the entire day. We’d made the decision to ride today regardless of conditions, as we’re here for the cycling, not to sit indoors if the weather’s a bit moody!! Having said that, I was wearing wet weather gear, just in case.

After leaving Rattenberg, we followed the main road alongside the River Inn for the first 3 miles, which gave us an opportunity to warm the legs up a bit. At this point we turned left onto a smaller side road & it immediately started to rise – nothing too steep, but our first experience of an Austrian ascent. This was a very deceiving introduction to what was in store for us for the remainder of the day!

The first proper climb of the day would take us up to Alpbach, a mere 4 miles in length, but rising 1,500 feet in that time. Significant chunks of the climb were above 10%, so we took our time & admired the spectacular views of the mountains all around us. By the time we reached the first summit of the day, we’d covered a total of 10 miles, climbed 1,900 feet & been riding for 1 hour 12 minutes. We joined a main road at this point for 15 minutes of respite as we descended into Reith.

Before we knew it, we were at the start of the day’s 2nd climb – the first mile or so was a 10% incline, so we were pleased when we saw somewhere to stop for our first coffee stop of the trip. After a quick cappuccino, we continued the climb & to our surprise, the first mile was as easy as it got….the gradient didn’t drop below 11% & at one point hovered at 16% for a couple of hundred yards! As we neared the summit, the peaks of the mountains all around us came into view, a few still had snow on display.

The narrow road plummeted back towards the Inn Valley, many hundreds of feet below us. After a cautious descent, we took another single track lane that followed the River Inn along the valley floor for mile after mile. As we zig-zagged through small villages, we passed two distinct styles of churches in them – either tall with a slim spire or squat with an onion type protrusion in the spire.

After 30 miles we were back in Brixlegg, where we had a quick lunch stop, before heading off on our 2nd loop of the day. This one would take us up a couple of climbs on the opposite side of the valley. We started off by following a fast flowing river up a gently rising side valley, however, it wasn’t long before the gradient steepened. The sun was still shining at this point, but the first signs of storm clouds were showing themselves on the other side of the valley.

As we continued climbing, the views became more spectacular, as the dark clouds made a great backdrop to the mountains. It really felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere. After about 6 miles of heading ever higher, we reached the afternoon’s first peak at the small village of Aschau. The road briefly headed downhill for little more than a mile, before rising again. For the next 5 miles the road rose steadily at between 8% & 10% as it climbed towards the Branderberger Ache – & my, did it ache! As we were within sight of the summit, we felt the first drops of rain, so we put in a big effort to reach the bus stop & get into the dry before putting on our rain macs. In less than 2 minutes, we were looking out on torrential rain, as thunder & lightning competed with each other in the skies above us.

The rain looked as if it was in for the long haul, so we carefully set off on the 4 mile descent back to Kramsach. The original plan was to take on a 3rd 20 mile loop, but we were cold & drenched by the time we reached the valley floor & the rain was still bucketing down. We took the decision to head back to the car & count ourselves extremely lucky that we’d been able to ride most of the day in the dry.

All that remained was to pack the bikes into the car, retrace our tyre tracks back to Mutters & try to dry out our kit for tomorrow – more rain is forecast, so our rain macs will be earning their keep again! My first day of cycling in Austria has been an absolute joy, I can’t wait to see some more of the stunning scenery over the coming days!

Passo Falzarego & Passo Cimabanche

Devilish Dolomite Delight – Day Six

Wow, where has the last week gone? It feels like my Dolomites trip started only yesterday & yet here I am writing about my 6th consecutive day of cycling!! Today the plan was to ride up the Passo Falzarego, complete a long loop & return via Passo Cimabanche – in total the route would be just over 80 miles via the towns of Brunica & Dobbiaco, but nothing too strenuous as far as climbing was concerned. Cortina d’Ampezzo is at 4,000 feet above sea level & whenever one of my trips involves staying at altitude, it takes me 4 or 5 days to become acclimatised to the lack of oxygen, especially when the mountain summits take us above 7,000 feet above sea level.

My climbing legs had recovered after a good night’s sleep & we set off up Passo Falzarego in beautiful sunshine as soon as we left our hotel in Cortina. The climb itself is just over 10 miles in length & rises just over 3,000 feet (including the steep ramp to Passo Valparola.  We’d previously driven the ascent on two separate occasions, as well as descending it once on the bike, so we knew what faced us – we decided to make this our only Full Gas effort all holiday, as it was the last day & we could always ease back if it got too hard/painful part way up the climb!!!

The early slopes pass through meadows, before the ubiquitous pine forests take over. This is great on the one hand, as it provides protection from the sun & wind, but it also limits the views of the surrounding mountains. Every now & again the amazing vistas sneak into view for a few moments, but you have to pay attention or they’re gone!

The landscape suddenly changes about three quarters of the way up, when the trees simply disappear to be replaced by scrub & bare rock – this is when the true majesty of the mountain is clear for all to see. It’s also very exposed & today the wind whistled into our faces for the final section of the climb, an unexpected & naughty surprise!! We stopped at the summit long enough to get a couple of photos & don our rain jackets for our second descent this week of the Valparola.

After a quick coffee in La Villa, we turned right & continued descending into a strong headwind – if I stopped pedalling, my speed dropped instantly, which was a bit of a blow, as I was hoping for an easy 20 miles of riding!!! For once, my route research was seriously lacking & I missed a small right turn somewhere & as a result we had to endure 5 long tunnels (varying in length from 500 metres to 1.9km) with traffic hurtling past us – this was the one moment of cycling disappointment on the whole trip, so all in all it wasn’t that big a deal.

Having survived the tunnels, I was now paying much more attention & spotted the cycle path we should have taken earlier – at the same moment, the sun came back out & we packed away our rain jackets for the final time on the trip. We were on quiet country lanes that meandered across farmland & through picturesque villages.

As we continued along the cycle route, we stumbled across a restaurant & decided that it was a signal that we should eat – as we wandered in, there were a couple of tables of locals engaged in a card tournament, while out on the terrace there was one empty table available & it had our name on it!!! The food was great & the staff really friendly (they also thought we were a bit mad to be doing such a long ride!).

There was still time for a couple more unexpected surprises, the first of these was a 5 mile stretch of gravel as we skirted around a man-made lake that provided drinking water to the surrounding villages. Road tyres aren’t really made for this type of terrain, but we took our time & admired the scenery as we navigated our way around the shoreline. Before we knew it, we’d reached the outskirts of Dobbiaco & we took the road towards Cortina.

The Passo Cimabanche was the final climb of the trip & it was a very gentle 3% to 5% the whole way, except for a plateau where Lake Dobbiaco had formed – another stunning alpine lake in a jaw dropping location. In spite of there being a few hundred tourists admiring the views, there was a real peacefulness to the place – it would be an amazing place to camp for the night under the stars.

After reaching the summit of the climb, we had a rollercoaster descent back into Cortina d’Ampezzo, with big views of the surrounding peaks. We were back in town just after 5pm, so decided to round off the week long adventure with a locally made ice cream, while relaxing in the sun. The perfect end to another amazing cycling adventure!

Daily Cortina Trivia Feature (stage 6) – The 2015 remake of Point Break was filmed in Cortina d’Ampezzo. As if that wasn’t enough trivia, AC Milan run a summer training academy for children aged 6 to 17 – coaches in the past have included George Weah & Stefano Eranio.

Tour of the USA – Final Reflections (Part One)

My final update on my once in a lifetime cycling adventure reflects on the highs, lows & challenges we experienced, as well as answers to the big questions. Trying to pick out a few moments to summarise 93 days of cycling (plus another 30 rest days) has been more difficult than I expected, as there were so many highs.

The adventure began when we boarded the Bainbridge Island ferry in Seattle on 30th April & ended when we dipped our wheels at Maquoit Bay, Maine. We needed thick rain jackets to keep the cold wind at bay in late April, but by the time we reached the East Coast, we had shed weight as well as our jackets!

National Parks

When we first floated the idea of cycling coast to coast, we both wanted to ensure we experienced as many areas of outstanding natural beauty as was possible. We each purchased an America The Beautiful annual pass which gave us unlimited access to all the National & State Parks through the USA. Without doubt, the best $80 we spent on the entire adventure.

In order, we visited the following National Parks (NP) & State Parks along the way – Glacier NP in Montana, Grand Teton, Yellowstone & Devil’s Tower NPs (all in Wyoming), Mount Rushmore NP, Custer SP & Badlands NP (all in South Dakota) & Niagara Falls (New York).


We both had a wish-list of wildlife we would like to meet along the way – in spite of having high hopes, we didn’t expect to see the huge variety of animals who wanted a look at two crazy Brits on a cycling adventure! We were visited by a menagerie of animals – pretty much the only animal on our list to elude us was a moose, although seeing a golden eagle swoop over our heads on the way to Rexford more than made up for it!

Our wildlife show began on our 2nd morning when we saw a pair of bald eagles perched on the mast of our ferry. I’ve included a few of my favourite photos below including an eagle with her offspring, terrapins, deer galore, a black bear cub, alpacas, elk, bison, a snake, pelicans, heron & turkey vultures.

Hydration Strategy – aka the beer count

Several people got in touch early on to ask whether I was on a cycling adventure or a booze cruise! I promised that I would report back at the end, so they could decide for themselves – here are a few of my favourite photos.

  1. Toasting our first day on the road in Port Townsend
  2. Celebrating after summiting Stevens Pass in Leavenworth
  3. Cheeky beer to recognise crossing from Idaho into Montana
  4. We may still be in our cycling kit but that didn’t stop us being pampered by Misty & Tina at The Pioneer Bar (our first night camping too!)
  5. Enjoying a beer after a rest day in Lincoln
  6. Relaxing after a 6 day block of riding into Helena
  7. Contemplating the news that Yellowstone NP was closed due to flooding as we reached West Yellowstone
  8. Looking smug after completing our longest ride of the trip (104 miles) into Cody
  9. Surrounded by money on the walls in Hill City on Independence Day
  10. All the gang at The Wagon Wheel (equal favourite watering hole with The Pioneer Bar)
  11. We’ve made it to Minneapolis – the first big city since Seattle (11 weeks ago)
  12. Afternoon drinking at the Fremont Hotel
  13. Toasting our 75th day of riding in Defiance
  14. Enjoying the last of the summer sun on the Erie Canal at Brockport
  15. Toasting Dave, Ruth & Sienna who kept our adventure on track in Ticonderoga
  16. The end of the cycling adventure as we celebrate in Brunswick

I notched up 72 different varieties of beer on my travels – mainly IPAs & only one mass produced beer on the entire trip. I started with a Pike Place IPA in Pike Place & along the way found some unusually named brews – Dutch Girl Blonde, Jackass, Neon Bear Hug, Sodank, Falling Knife, Chaos Pattern, Great North Moose Juice & Mind Haze. I ended with a World Gone Hazy in NYC!

My final update will focus on the people we met, the mountains we explored & the cake we ate!

USA, Coast To Coast – the final stopover

Friday 2nd September

Although our cycling adventure ended in Brunswick, Maine on 30th August, it wasn’t the end of the trip – we had a few days exploring The Big Apple planned! We took the 11am train from Brunswick to Boston North Station, enjoyed a final 3 mile ride across the city & then caught another train from Boston South Station, arriving in Penn Station just before 8pm.

I’d booked us into The New Yorker Hotel, on the corner of 34th St & 8th Ave, which had a spectacular view across to the West River & uptown towards Times Square. After dropping off our kit, we headed out for a bit of a wander – we made it one block before stopping in The Tailor to take the edge off our thirst & we ended up staying there reminiscing about our adventure until about 1am.

Anyone who knows me well will be aware that NYC is my favourite city. I’m fortunate that many of my friends have joined me on one (or more) of my trips – my first experience of New York was in 1990, when my cousin kindly put me up for several weeks & I learned to navigate without a map! Since then, I’ve returned to meet up with friend Jo when she was Au Pairing in 1994 (just before I started work at Bank of Ireland) & again with my hockey friends Dave & Michelle in 1997.

I returned to NYC for my 40th birthday in 2004 & I was fortunate enough that about 15 of my friends joined me & then joined Bob when he celebrated his 50th birthday in 2007. Sean & I have previously visited too, at the start & end of a cycling trip from Albany to Niagara Falls & back in 2007

I then visited twice in 2014 – firstly to celebrate Mum & Dad’s 60th wedding anniversary & then again for my cousin Chelsea’s wedding. In short I’ve shared many wonderful moments with friends & family, hence me wanting to finish my adventure of a lifetime here!

Saturday 3rd September

We began the day by dropping our bikes off at Liberty Cycles, so they could be prepared for their flight home. Our plan for the morning was to stroll along the western edge of Central Park on our way to the National History Museum on 79th & 8th.

Pretty much all the major tourist attractions required booking in advance, a hangover from Covid restrictions earlier in the year. I won’t bore with what we did & where we went, I’ll just let the best of the photos tell the tale.


The Tropics

Sharks & Dinosaurs


Artifacts from ancient civilizations

I had an appointment in Central Park with one of the kindest & most generous people I know – my lovely friend Shada. I thoroughly enjoyed showing Shada the sights of Central Park, including Strawberry Fields & a wonderful view towards The Dakota Buildings.

Central Park is an oasis of peace & quiet amongst the hustle & bustle of New York. In one direction was the Boating Lake, with terrapins sunbathing on a rock, yet by spinning 180 degrees, we were looking back towards The Plaza Hotel & 5th Avenue. All too quickly my time with Shada was up, but it’s a moment in time that I’ll look back on fondly for a long time to come!

I just had enough time to get back to the hotel & get changed, before meeting up with Sean at 7.30pm. We’d intended to have a fairly quiet night, but that wasn’t quite how it turned out – we started with dinner (washed down with a couple of pints) in Smith’s Bar on 44th & 8th. We then headed to Hells Kitchen on 9th Avenue – we’d built up a thirst on the 10 minute walk, so stopped in Mercury Bar for a couple, before moving on to Rudy’s Bar for a couple more.

All would have been good if we’d gone back to the hotel at this point, but we didn’t! We walked to the Printer’s Alley bar on 40th & 7th, where we continued to test new beers until just gone 2.30am…..luckily my only photo of the evening was taken just before our dinner arrived!

Sunday 4th September

We met up at 9.30am, both feeling a little the worse for wear, but keen to do some more exploring. Once we’d had some breakfast & recovered our energy levels, we headed to Grand Central Terminal & then on to Times Square.

We stopped briefly in the Levi’s Store & both of us stocked up on jeans in our new slimmer sizes! We made our way across town to The High Line at 30th & 10th. This was once the main raised railway line for freight into NYC, but it eventually fell into disrepair until the local community persuaded the city to turn it into a green space.

After taking in the views across to New Jersey, we followed the High Line as it headed downtown. We’d arrived at lunchtime & things were a bit busier than expected – I’ve since learned that we should have done this early in the morning, before everyone else arrived. There were numerous sculptures & art installations along the way & this is somewhere I’d love to come back & visit again.

It was time for some serious shopping, so I headed to Macy’s for a couple of hours of retail therapy – a pair of jeans, a few tee shirts, boxer shorts, socks, a belt & a wallet later, I headed back to the hotel, totally shopped out (for today at least!). We collected the bikes from Liberty Cycles, as planned then headed out for dinner, a couple of quiet drinks & then a stroll to Times Square.

Monday 5th September

We had a tasty breakfast in Skylight Diner, then headed to Macy’s to buy a suitcase each – when we travelled from London to Seattle, we jettisoned our very old suitcases, as they were then surplus to requirements. Luckily it was Labor (sic) Day bank holiday, so there was a big sale on & we were both able to pick up a relative bargain. This also meant I now knew how much room I had for clothes & I bought another pair of jeans for myself, as well as a pair for a Christmas present for my brother.

We dropped our purchases off then set off for the main event of our NYC stay – I’d managed to get some baseball tickets for us to watch the Yankees take on the Minnesota Twins (we passed their stadium when we passed through Minneapolis). Believe it or not, I’d got two $72 tickets for $36 from Stub Hub.

The Yankees were the team to beat in the American League East (they eventually won the division, before losing the championship to the Houston Astros). Our real interest was watching Aaron Judge bat, as he was on his way to setting an American League East record of 62 home runs in a season. In line with our luck throughout the entire adventure, we saw Aaron Judge hit a home run!

In the end, the Yankees were far too strong for the Twins, which the result all the home fans (& us) were hoping for.

We took the subway back from Yankee Stadium (in The Bronx) to Manhattan & headed out for our last night in The Big Apple. We returned to Hell’s Kitchen for food & a few more celebratory beers as we took turns to go through our favourite moments from the last 21 weeks.

Tuesday 6th September

The last day of our adventure was spent doing present shopping, as well as stocking up on a few essential clothes – I had room in my case, so it would have been rude not to fill the space!

Leaving the hotel, I took one final look at the Empire State Building, as we headed for JFK airport & our flight back to Heathrow.

I’m planning one final ‘Reflections’ update tomorrow evening – I’ll share our favourite places & best moments as well as answer the all important questions regarding beer, cake & ice cream!

USA Coast to Coast – August Update

August 2022

When we set off at the start of our adventure on 30th April, our plan was to ride an average of 5 days in every 7 & to average 50 miles a ride.

I find it hard to believe that we reached the end of our adventure on 30th August, after only 4 months. We actually rode 5.40 days in every 7 & averaged 61.17 miles a ride. So we were close in terms of ride days per week, but we significantly underestimated how many miles we would travel on each ride.

The outcome of the additional miles & ride days was that it only took 93 ride days to complete our adventure – I had anticipated us taking 114 days of riding to complete our planned route. Once you add in the rest days, we finished almost a month earlier than we’d expected!

A few people have been in touch, asking what States we visited – if you’re interested, check out the table below. Just 3 states (Washington, Montana & South Dakota) accounted for half of our cycling days;

StateTime Spent (In Days)Days RiddenMiles RiddenFeet Climbed
South Dakota151165323,654
New York11850521,934
New Hampshire21704,308

There were 30 possible riding days in August (we finished our adventure on 30th August), so we were expecting to have ridden just over 21 days in the month.

August totals were;

13.5 – average speed in mph.

22 – number of days ridden.

46.1 – highest speed achieved in mph.

64.8– average mileage per ride.

84.64 – longest single ride.

106 – number of hours ridden.

1,426 – total miles ridden.

46,752 – feet climbed.

The totals since 30th April are;

12.9 – average speed in mph (up from 12.7 at the end of July).

93 – number of days ridden (up from 71 at the end of July).

53.3 – highest speed achieved in mph.

61.2 – average mileage per ride (up from 60.0 at the end of July).

104.08 – longest single ride.

440 – number of hours ridden (up from 334 at the end of July).

5,689 – total miles ridden (up from 4,262 at the end of July).

207,143 – feet climbed (up from 160,396 at the end of July).

While I had a detailed plan of the route we would try to follow, I hadn’t spent too much time planning where we might be at the end of August – I certainly didn’t expect to be in Maine!! There were some significant changes to the original route;

April & May’s unseasonably cold weather, which has resulted in road closures due to snow in the mountains.

Late snow in Washington required us to navigate The Cascades via Stevens Pass, rather than Rainy & Washington Passes.

More snow in The Rockies meant we couldn’t explore as much of Glacier National Park as planned & the Going To The Sun Road was closed. As a result of increased Covid outbreaks, paperwork requirements & late snows, we didn’t visit the Canadian Rockies at all.

Our extended tour of Montana delayed our arrival in West Yellowstone – by then there had been flooding which caused Yellowstone National Park to be closed. We detoured via Jackson & Grand Teton National Park, so we could enter via the South Entrance on the day the National Park re-opened.

We made a late decision to explore Wisconsin when we left Minneapolis, rather than Ohio & Illinois as previously planned. Thank you to everyone we met on the way who encouraged us to cycle in Wisconsin, we’ve had a great experience riding deserted roads, meeting some wonderful people & watching a world class Water Ski exhibition. We also got to take a ferry across Lake Michigan!

The changes to itinerary have all added to our experience & have taken us to some amazing places – Grand Teton was one of my favourite places on the adventure, yet we only visited it because Yellowstone was closed.

I’ve been amazed by the kindness & generosity of the people we’ve met on our journey across the USA. Without fail someone has stepped up & helped us when we needed assistance or support. Doug, Tom & Dan at Black Hills Bicycles saved the day when I was stuck with bike troubles in Philip, South Dakota. Also Dave, Ruth & Sienna got me out of a pickle when my chain broke less than a week from the end of our adventure.

The Wagon Wheel stands out as my favourite evening of the adventure – Joel, Don, Vicki, Sharon, Karie, Charly & Allen made it a night to remember, especially the sunset cruise on Oakwood Lake.

North Woodstock to Brunswick

Monday 29th to Tuesday 30th August – Stages 92 & 93.

Monday 29th August – North Woodstock to Bridgton (Stage 92)

We only have two days of our Coast to Coast adventure remaining, but that doesn’t mean we can take it easy, as today we plan to ride 69 miles & climb the Kancamagus Pass (pronounced Cank-a-Magus I’m reliably informed!). At 15 miles in length & 2,200 feet of vertical, it’s almost Alpine & the first BIG climb since Powder River Pass on Stage 46, way back on 26th June.

We continue to see reminders that Moose do exist, although this feels a little that we’re being taunted. as it’s one of the few animals that has eluded us on our travels! We’ve seen a whole load of animals I didn’t expect to see (like a black bear cub & a golden eagle), so I shouldn’t complain.

The towns of North Woodstock & Lincoln are ski resorts in winter, but they have also harvested the forest since the late 1800’s – between 1893 & 1947, 2 billion feet of logs were hauled out of the Loon Mountain forest on the railroad!

We’re riding the Kancamagus Highway, which is a scenic byway that links Lincoln with Conway, 37 miles to the East (it’s also our planned coffee stop in a few hours time). The early slopes of the climb followed the course of the Swift River & that resulted in the gradient being more friendly than either of us had expected – we were climbing at a fairly consistent 4% to 5%.

This was our last chance to get some action photos on a climb, so we took a few shots of each other – the best are included in the next two sets of photos. At this point we were about half way to the summit & were grateful it hadn’t been as bad as we had initially feared, although we knew it ramped up in the last half mile or so of the climb.