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!

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!