Bristol (UK) to Seattle (USA)

Travel, final preparation & sightseeing ahead of the Grand Depart.

The adventure began when Barry The Taxi picked us up from Fishponds at 9am on Monday 25th April. First stop was the Heathrow Hilton Garden Inn at T2 / T3, prior to taking our PCR tests in the afternoon. We received our negative results at 6pm & then completed the final paperwork & checked in online prior to relaxing with dinner & a couple of drinks.

After a light breakfast, we popped our boxed bikes & suitcases onto a trolley & walked them across to check-in at T3, where we were looked after by the Virgin Atlantic team – our bikes were too big to fit through the normal queueing system, so we were taken to the express team where we were fast-tracked through check-in process. Within 30 minutes of arriving at the airport, we’d completed check-in, dropped off our oversized bikes & were clearing security & chilling out as we waited for our gate to be called.

We were flying Premium Economy, so were greeted with champagne as we took our seats for the flight. We took off on time at 11.50am & this felt like the real start point of our adventure.

A mere 10 hours later (after 3 films & a lot of feeding & watering by our cabin crew) we were wheels-down at Seattle-Tacoma. It took about an hour to get through immigration, baggage collection & customs. After a 40 minute taxi ride, we were registered in the Holiday Inn Downtown, our hotel for the next 4 nights. Seattle is 8 hours behind the UK, so our body-clock believed it was 1am on Wednesday morning, but our watches told us it was 3pm on Tuesday, so we quickly unpacked & got out for some sightseeing & a couple of celebratory beers (by the time we returned to the hotel at 9.30pm, we’d had 6 pints, but we slept well & avoided any jetlag!).

We enjoyed a big breakfast on Wednesday morning, before heading up to the Space Needle to get the sightseeing underway. Sean & I both struggle with heights, but sometimes you just have to face your fear & go outside your comfort zone. I’ve a feeling we’ll be doing a lot of this over the coming months!

We had our first experience of the vast number of sculptures in the city as we walked through Olympic Park, a stand-alone part of the Seattle Art Museum. Although the temperatures are very much like spring in Bristol, we’ve been really fortunate that the weather has stayed dry while we’ve been out & it’s been sunny most of the time.

The Seattle Art Museum itself has a great piece of live action installation art – a huge man swinging a hammer! I’ve probably not done it justice with the video below, but you’ll get the idea of what I mean.

Some of my longer standing bank colleagues may remember taking a course titled ‘Fish!’ – it featured a company based in Pike Place Market who sold fish to the general public. I’m delighted to report they’re still up to their fish throwing antics – this is a PLAICE well worth a visit!!

The whole waterfront area from the State Ferry Terminal (where our adventure will start with a boat crossing to Bainbridge Island) to Pike Place has some big views across the bay. I stopped briefly to get a couple of photos of all the people queueing outside the very first Starbucks, as well as looking at some of the colourful fruit & veg stalls.

At various moments over the last few days, the Space Needle has popped into view – if ever you visit Seattle, it’s well worth making time to visit the park around the Space Needle & take the lift to the top. As you queue for the lift, take time to learn all about how & why the Space Needle & adjacent monorail was built.

In addition to sightseeing, we’ve also run around town picking up a few last minute items ahead of the adventure starting. This took us to some places that we wouldn’t have thought to visit normally, We passed the Public Library, walked down to Lumen Field (home of the Seattle Seahawks football team & Seattle Sounders soccer team) & spotted a dining cart that had been converted into a banana stand!

We’ve walked in the region of 7 or 8 miles a day, so food & drink has been an important part of our planning! I’ve enjoyed trying a few craft IPA’s like Space Needle & Pine Place, while Sean’s been testing out some of the red ales.

We’ve been fortunate to have a small, greenspace just across the road from us – we’ve seen squirrels galore in there, as well as a couple of rabbits. In addition to the wildlife, the park has been planted with striking flowers, as well as being a quiet space with a large chess set, Jenga & Connect 4 are available too.

This morning we packed our panniers with all the kit we plan to use over the next 6 months – a few of my observant friends may have noticed that all our photos show us in the same shirts. That’s because we’ve been wearing the same set of clothes since we started our travelling on Monday morning – we’re both now looking forward to throwing them away tomorrow morning!!

Our bikes were dismantled by 73 Degrees in Keynsham 10 days ago & MBR Bikes of Seattle have done a great job rebuilding the bikes for us – we put the bikes through their paces yesterday on a short shakedown ride to South Lake Union. The big adventure begins in earnest tomorrow, as we head towards Port Townsend – by the end of the day we’ll be even further West than we are at the moment!

From Sardinia to the USA (Part One)

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!