Once In A Lifetime (remastered) – revisiting some of our favourite places, but finding new routes to explore. Part Three also includes trips in the UK as we prepared for our USA adventure. The following lines summarise some of the questions I’ve asked myself at various times on my cycling adventures to date;
You may ask yourself “Where does that highway go to?”
And you may ask yourself “Am I right? Am I wrong?”
And you may say to yourself “My God! What have I done?”
The final chapter of my journey from clueless cyclist to American Adventurer focuses on my later trips to Europe, as well as my self-supported UK trips during Covid times.
As well as our annual Spring trip to Mallorca in 2016, we returned to Switzerland in the summer. This time we based ourselves in Martigny & explored the quiet roads up to the numerous hydro-electric dams in the Swiss Alps.
Mallorca again kicked off my 2017 adventures, followed by a first summer foray into the Italian Dolomites. The mountains are unlike anywhere else I’ve visited, with enormous grey crags & alpine lakes in every direction – I really struggled to limit myself to just a few photos from our week in Cortina d’Ampezzo!
We also managed to fit in a week of late summer riding in the French Pyrenees – we were based in Lourdes for our first visit. The mountains were steeper, more remote & wilder than their Alpine cousins! This is somewhere we want to explore further in the future.
Our 2018 adventures kicked off again with a Spring break to Mallorca, however, I had a low speed crash on the first day which resulted in me spending the remainder of the trip sun bathing (which rather ruined my sharp tan lines!), instead of cycling.
My Mallorcan injury kept me off the bike throughout May & early June, so I had a few concerns about my cycling fitness ahead of our 11 day summer trip to Lake Annecy & St Jean de Maurienne. Our luxurious base in Talloires was the perfect launchpad for 5 days exploring quiet mountain passes as I built up some fitness for the huge climbs to come. Hopefully the photos below will show why I love visiting the big mountains – they also show my left elbow being held together with kinesiotape from my crash in April.
The transfer to St Jean de Maurienne took less than 2 hours so we were able to fit in an extra ride on our transfer day up to the ski station of Karellis. This was one of a few lesser known climbs we explored, others included Les Lacets de Montvernier / Col du Pre & Col de la Beaune. We also returned to Col de la Madeleine & Col de la Croix de Fer, regular guests on the Tour de France & favourites of ours.
I went to Ibiza in September for Stevie W’s birthday & managed to hire a bike & sneak in a day of riding – this is another place well worth returning to for further exploration. I also won a competition to spend a day in the Neutral Service Car at the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, which helped me appreciate the difference between cycling athletes & novices like myself!
We returned to Mallorca in 2019. I managed to stay in my bike for the whole trip & we enjoyed visiting a few well known climbs, as well as getting off the beaten track – sadly I haven’t been back since this trip, but I’m looking forward to getting back in 2023.
Our summer adventure took us to Austria for the first time, with 5 days of riding the remote mountains around Innsbruck. Each day offered a different experience, as we mixed routes that looped over the mountains with valley riding along the way, with high mountain roads up to glaciers. While the climbs were challenging, pretty much every day we had the roads pretty much to ourselves.
We then crossed the border into Italy as we returned to Bormio for a further 5 days of adventures in the huge mountains . In addition to the legendary climbs made famous by the Giro d’Italia, we also found a few unknown climbs well off the beaten track.
It appears I must have used all my 2019 holiday allowance on cycling trips, as we also returned to Barcelonnette in September for a week of cycling! Again, we had the roads to ourselves as we combined some Tour de France favourites like the Col de Vars & Col de la Bonette, unknown climbs like Col des Fillys & Col St Jean & an away day to tackle the wickedly steep Col de la Lombarde from both the Italian & French sides.
The world changed in 2020 & foreign travel was off the agenda & the early months of the year involved lots of solo rides to comply with Government Lockdowns & Guidance. Luckily by July we were able to meet up again & although we couldn’t get away to Europe as planned we still managed to do plenty of day trips in July.
Week one saw us exploring the North Wessex Downs, the Cotswolds, the Mendips, the Malverns, Cranborne Area of Natural Beauty & the South Downs. This was a great reminder that there are plenty of places within an hour’s drive that are well worth exploring!
Week Two involved more trips to explore new tarmac. We began with a Tour of the Cotswolds around Bourton-on-the-Water, followed it up with Tour of The Tumble in South Wales, headed out to horse country on a Lambourn Loop, returned to the Cotswolds to explore all around Chipping Norton & then finished with a trip out to Symonds Yat. A glorious couple of weeks that showed there is plenty of scenery to see in the UK.
By the end of 2020 I’d had an application for redundancy agreed at work & had decided that I was going to use it as an opportunity to take on a challenge I’d been thinking of for a few years – riding coast to coast across the USA. Fortunately, this adventure also appealed to Sean, so we started making plans to turn it into reality.
I bought a new touring bike in January 2021 & started training on it in May. I started loading up the panniers to prepare me for what a trip on a touring bike might be like. However, the only way to truly know is go on a tour & find out! In July 2021 Sean & myself embarked on a 5 day Tour de South Wales, taking in Brecon, the Elan Valley, Aberystwyth & Carmarthen via National Cycle Routes 8 & 42. We then returned to Bristol via NCR’s 82, 47 & 4. The scenery was stunning & we were fortunate with the weather – we enjoyed ourselves so much!
We gambled on having an Indian Summer in September & planned a 2nd Tour de South Wales – this time we’d be going in a clockwise direction, following NCR 4 via Pontypridd & Carmarthen, then returning via NCR’s 47 & 43. We were loaded with 20kg of kit which gave us a really good taste of what touring in the USA might feel like. Once again, the scenery was amazing!
As I write this, we’re waiting for our “Fit To Fly” results, sat in the Hilton Garden Inn -we’ve completed 4,500 training miles on our touring bikes & thoroughly enjoyed 2 separate tours to South Wales. The waiting is finally over & technically, the adventure has begun – we fly to Seattle tomorrow (26th April) to start our Tour de USA!!!