I reached Washington DC on Sunday 12th September after cycling for 913 miles (1,469km) over 16 days with 42,628ft of ascent. Starting in Maine, I cycled through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
While I pause the ride for a few days and return home to celebrate my daughters 11th birthday it gives me a chance to reflect on the trip so far and, of course, what is to come in my final push to Key West, FL.
The Grand Depart. It was lovely to have Jules and the the kids there to wave me off in Bar Harbor on August 27th and then meet me at the end of day one in Searsport. That coupled with meeting up with a great friend and his family for dinner at the most magical of Maine garden/Pizza spots made the beginning of the trip feel like a holiday. It was from day two on, when I was alone, that the focus on the ride really began. The first thing was tweaking all those little things that I hadn’t thought about or indeed it was difficult to plan for until the ride actually began. Getting my packing right, adjusting the iPhone mount on the handle bars so I did’t sweat directly on the phone, having my lock attached to the rack so I didn’t have to fish it out of a bag every time I stopped etc. Over those first few days as my body got used to the riding schedule I began to feel more comfortable with my set up on the bike and I felt like I was adapting to the grueling ride ahead.
By the time I reached Portsmouth, NH on day 5 my legs were very sore but I was lucky enough to find Ramona Cavasin and her magic hands and after 90 minutes on her massage table I was revitalized and felt like I’d been gifted a new pair of legs. I also took my one rest day in the beautiful town of Portsmouth and although I enjoyed the time off the saddle I decided it would be the only rest day I would take before reaching Washington DC.
The conditions have been changeable both in terms of the weather and the terrain. Day 9 (Windsor Locks CT to Millerton NY) stands out as being particularly wet and miserable but it was a case of head down and get it done. The ride on day 13 saw some of the fall out of the recent adverse weather conditions in the area with trees downed across paths and sometimes completely washed away canal trails. There was quite a-lot of walking the bike and lifting it (and the bags) over trees. An exhausting day.
Scenery, food and accommodation. Anyone who has followed along with the novice cyclist instagram account (@thenovicecyclist1978) will have noticed the beautiful (hilly!) countryside of North East USA, the amazing food and the fabulous inns, motels and hotels which have been a real highlight of the trip so far. You really get to see and experience places from a bicycle in such a fascinating and unique way.
My bike. All I can say is I love it. It is the Trek Domane SL 5. I was concerned when I purchased it that it was an unknown entity and I should have stayed faithful to my 1987(?) steel frame Pinnarello. Well, simply put, I look at the my bike and my gator skin continental tires in awe every day. The comfort of the ride and the performance on all terrain and obstacles thrown at us has exceeded all my expectations.
People. The biggest thrill of the trip has undoubtably been the interactions with people I have had along the way. From the briefest of conversations at a gas station as I grab water or a coffee, to the fly-fishing outlet I stopped at to grab a coke, to lunch stops, bike shops, fellow riders, hotel guests and employees and even cars at junctions. It has been truly fantastic and it reaffirms my belief in the human spirit, in the kindness and generosity of strangers and our underlying good, caring nature. A special shout out to Eric who kindly bought me breakfast in Rockport, to Cole and Ashley who invited me into their house for breakfast in Windsor Locks and Joe and team at Bike Works, Newtown PA who gave me the warmest of welcomes when I popped in for some air for my tires. They made me coffee, gave me snacks, sponsored the ride and shared local knowledge of the route that lay ahead. Sadly not all bike shops are like theirs but they are the real deal. They care about bikes, they have time for cyclist, they know what they are talking about and they are generous with their time. I wish every bike shop that I had dropped into on this journey was like Bike Works… If you’re in the neighborhood go see them and say a large English man on a ride down the east coast sent you…. i know they’ll look after you.
Here comes Florida. What lies ahead is 20 days of riding just over 1,500 miles to get me from Washington DC to Key West, Florida. While it is fair to say the majority of the hills are behind me the increasing daily milage and the rising temperature and humidity as I head south will ensure there is no let up in the challenge. I am delighted that a friend will be meeting me in DC to join me for the first five days, accompanying me to James Town, VA. That will then see me solo again for 15 days for the final chapter of the ride.
Thanks. I can’t thank everyone enough for their kind words of encouragement, those who’ve been able to join the ride, the sponsors; Fundamental Group, Kay & Burton and Q5 and those who have donated to the GoFundMe page. It means the world to me and I know it does to Alister and Gemma too. We’re almost at our goal of $20,000… let’s get this done. A little vid below of the story so far.
The Novice Cyclist xx