Sunday, 17 November 2013

My Obituary

Too Soon?  Damn right it is.

Now I have no intention of shuffling off any time soon, but my head is swimming with so many thoughts of danger and death.

Firstly, I don't want to be seen as making light of any of the tragic deaths as of late, it just late night ramblings.

Secondly, I don't want to be "Cyclist, 34, from London" try being a bit more imaginative than just adding me to a list of stats and being a reason to crow about your issues  - not that there'd be any other choice of description in the fast paced world of news coverage

Thirdly, I didn't run a red light or undertake a moving truck, I had lights and more than likely some sort of high vis, I am a confident and very experienced cyclist, but also scared enough not to take on a moving (or stationary vehicle) one on one.

Tomorrow morning I'll be cycling to work, this is my 4th week in a temporary job, one that is (hopefully) the first step on a long and influential career in shaping towns and cityscapes for the better.  The last 3 weeks I've been communing: train, tube, train which takes about and hour and a quarter door to door if all my connections are smooth and not too many people get in my way walking from platform to platform.  I think in my first real experience of London public transport commuting I've gotten pretty good at knowing the right door to get on to deliver me to the appropriate exit point to avoid crowds as much as possible, but there's still always others slowing my stride from one mode to another.

The commuting was fun and exciting for the first week or so, buoyed along by my elation at finally being employed.  But the only reason I was on public transport was because a few weeks ago some numbnuts pulled out in front of me on Brixton Road, I T-boned the car, leapt onto the bonnet and swore along the lines of "Look where the fuck you're going, DICKHEAD"  He just hadn't seen me, on a clear day on a clear road and I was doing no speed at all.  Which in itself probably helped me avoid injury, but I was so pumped with adrenalin my cursory bike check failed to notice the huge crack in the steel frame top tube and I scampered off without exchanging details, who's the dickhead now?

So now I have collected my refurbished bike (at unfortunately high expense to myself) and am looking forward to getting back in the saddle.  My fitness has ebbed significantly I'm felling sluggish, like a wet sponge, and I'm pretty sure public transport is making me sick, or maybe that's the change in weather.

The climate since I was last cycling has changed.  Not just with the changing clocks and northerly winds, but the amount of deaths and danger regarding cyclists in London, and the wider UK is quite frankly overwhelming.  I admit I'm over exposed, though the outputs from the P2P research have slowed significantly with other priorities taking hold in my conciousness, I'm still very tuned into the blog-o-twittersphere.  There are so many opinions and accounts and suggestions, I am still at a loss as to what needs to be done.

Whatever the politics, or infrastructure arguments, or vehicular cycling arguments, or obey the rules arguments or enhanced training arguments, it still stands that after almost 3 decades of regular riding, solo cycling all over the world, riding in groups across America or Tibet, I'm being kept awake by the fear of falling under a truck.  And when I say 'falling under', i mean being crushed needlessly.  I'm an individualist, people need to take more responsibility for themselves, but I'm also of the opinion that the fabric of London, and many other places need to be more human scale...

My instant reaction to the outcries in the last week has been a bit non-plussed, as with all the other major issues that worry me in the world (beyond my own pursuit of a fulfilling career and settled home life) I feel slightly overwhelmed by my ineffectualness in being able to make a change.  Sign petitions, make recommendations, demonstrate, legislate, don't procrastinate!

Though my fear now is a late night worst case scenario, the reality is that my route will not be fun, trawling through greater London traffic, battling with busses and potholes.  Sucking up all kinds of fumes, urgh.  We really do need to collectively do something about it, which is another reason for me to go to work, learn the machinations of the planning world and make that difference, my biggest problem with all that, is that ASAP is not AS enough!

Oh and if by some stupidly freeaky and truly tragic turn of events I do cark it, Sorry.  Please can the statue be somewhere nice and prominent and representing me doing a one handed wheelie cowboy style (how sad that I never learnt to wheelie).
If you're doing anything in my name, do it better that I would yeah,
Ladies, I'm so sorry we didn't have more time together ;)
Gents, it's been a pleasure.
And I think this and this should be the start of the playlist,
Goodnight x

Monday, 4 November 2013

Portland to Portland (All my Blogs)

Right, this final all-in-one summary  post is taking far too long.  There are so many interesting, distracting things out there on the internet already what's the need for another story about someone cycling across a continent.  It may get there at some point, and It's nice returning to look at my pictures and stories.  But in the mean time this is here as a kind of index to all my P2P posts, which kind of have enough narrative in themselves.

Main focus is to have a printable book with pictures and stuff for me by Christmas, and hopefully there'll be other adventures along the way, and maybe time to squeeze another anecdote or two out of the portion of 2013 I spent cycling across America with my good P2P buddies.

Arriving in Portland[LHR-PDX].and exploration[Portland ExplorationPortland Day Four], a little leg stretch out to famous Astoria [Portland to Astoria].

First day out of Portland Portland to Hood River and Hood River to Biggs Junction weaving between Washington & Oregon states Biggs Junction to Umatilla.  then onto Idaho Umatilla - Walla Walla - Lewiston, ID.

My Birthday (34) at Ryan's Wilderness Inn in Lowell. and our first rest day.  Up the Losksha River, over the pass Lowell to Missoula and another bonus rest day in Missoula.  The start of Montana.  Helena - Three Forks - Big Timber, Big skies, blazing sun, and roads stretching as far as the eye can see.

WyomingBuffalo to Gillette coal mines and accidents and golf ball sized hail.  Gillette to SundanceSundance to Deadwood, and we're in South Dakota.

Deadwood rest day then Deadwood to Keystone and Mount Rushmore.  Keystone to the Badlands, I wrote a South Dakota Summary when we were barely half way through the state, it certainly left it's mark on the psyche of P2P.   Highmore to HuronHuron to Watertown (where there was apparently a town architect called Maurice Hockman) Watertown to Montevideo where we enjoyed pizza and beer after an incredible ride through the storm, and we're into Minnesota.

Montevideo to Hutchinson with mayors and sushi... how cosmopolitan, Minneapolis (A frikkin CITY, with beer and baseball) Minnesota to Wisconsin crossing more state lines and more hello's and goodbye's Le Crosse to Richland Centre where we got to the first motel/hotel with a bar in, that was a happy sight after unleashing everything I had on the ride in, and then the lovely compliments about my hair at the bar, hahaha.  Research starts ramping up as we head Through Madison, WI and onto Madison, Milwaukee & Racine (apart from the Johnson Wax factory Racine was a hole and one of my true lows of the trip, which of course was also to do with other much more serious thoughts).

Racine to Chicago arrival to Chicago blues festival and Chicago Rest Day like Buller.  More team changes, new members join, old member leave (not meant in an age way!).

Into Indiana, it's getting hotter in the mid-west, and more populous and as we look at maps and recount the journey so far to strangers we're gaining more attention Lafayette to Columbus, IN with architecture and air con.

From Indiana to Ohio, and skipping across the rust belt into Pennsylvania.   Breezewood to Harrisburg, getting closer to home and trying to put it all in perspective Harrisburg to Philly, the land of Rocky & Hoagies, both of which have been nicknames for me one way or another over the years.

New Jersey with the harshest welcome to a state and the massive jumble of emotions as we ride into New York and I complete my coast to coast journey from  Astoria to Coney Island.

I hung out in New York and rejoined the gang on the Severn Bridge outside Bristol then to Oxford and ride the Last day to London.

There that was easy.

Here are all the places I stayed:
  • Portland, OR
  • Hood River, OR
  • Biggs Junction, OR
  • Umatilla, OR
  • Walla Walla, WA
  • Lewiston, ID
  • Orofino, ID
  • Lowell, ID (R)
  • Lolo Hot Springs, MT
  • Missoula, (R)
  • Ovando
  • Helena
  • Three Forks (R)
  • Big Timber
  • Laurel
  • Greybull, WY
  • Ten Sleep
  • Buffalo
  • Gillette
  • Sundance
  • Deadwood, SD (R)
  • Keystone
  • Interior
  • Murdo
  • Pierre
  • Highmore
  • Huron
  • Watertown
  • Montevideo, MN
  • Hutchinson
  • Minneapolis (R)
  • Red Wing
  • Wabasha
  • La Crosse, WI
  • Richland Centre
  • Madison
  • Milwaukee
  • Racine
  • Chicago, IL (RR)
  • Merriville, IN
  • Lafayette
  • Indianapolis
  • Columbus
  • Cincinnati
  • Xenia
  • Columbus
  • Zanesville
  • Stubenville
  • Pittsburgh, PA (R)
  • Confluence
  • Breezewood
  • Harrisburg
  • Ephrata
  • Philadelphia (R)
  • Princeton, NJ
  • New York, NY (RRRRR)
  • Bristol
  • Oxford
  • Windsor
  • London

I kinda miss motels after hating them so much towards the end of the trip.  Not as much as I miss my bike since some dickhead pulled out in front of me cracking the frame!  On Brixton road!  I cycle 4,000 miles across America and my sturdy steel framed Surly gives way less than 3 miles from my front door!

I've also been compiling an endless thank you list to my co-riders, sponsors, family, friends, home support team and the many generous hosts all along the route.  I'm so very grateful, and thankful to have such good memories all along the way.

After returning we released our first research output. and there was a bit more reflection, but that's pretty much it for now, well at least as a little bookmarker for all the stories in one handy compendium.
If you are reading this for any reason whatsoever, and decide to delve deeper and read the story in depth would love to hear any feedback (and I will try and adjust some of the grammar if and when I re-visit the actual stories in time, but it was all very on the hoof, so my apologies).

OK, I can't leave without a few pictures, here's 5 of my personal favourites.

Yellow Lines
Some friends call me Rocky
Scenic Highway 16
Ducky Passes By