Discovering America

A few weeks ago I asked Facebook friends to let me know who they knew in America. As you might know my plan is to essentially do a speaking tour on bicycle – visiting community groups to talk about my journey, both physical and mental. Whilst I’m hoping my talk will be engaging and I’ll be able to find groups to speak to through the power of the internet, I’m fairly sure I’ll have more quick successes where I have a personal introduction.

So, I’ve been plotting the locations of these friends of friends on a Google map – not contacting anyone yet – and will use this to help inform my route planning. I’ve had such a great response with over 50 potential contacts already mapped. I’ll keep adding to this over the next few months as I also have conversations with friends about terrain, climate and distances. I’ll also be looking at cycle friendly routes across America (using the Adventure Cycle Association and things like Strava heat mapping to see which routes cyclists use). Then I’ll start putting it together, join the dots, and work out where the gaps are.

Map contacts August 18

But in the meantime… I’m learning a heck of a lot about America. Whether you like it or not so much of our culture comes from the US of A (and I should know. I did a whole module on this back when I was at University). So it’s intriguing just how often a memory is stirred as I work my way through the map. Seeing Vermont sitting above New York, I picture warm Autumn scenes and whisky production. When I bump into Salt Lake City I think of the times I’ve read about this place in books as the home of the Mormons. See Kansas city, think of the Wizard of Oz, see Des Moines and think of Bill Bryson, see St Louis and think of the famous plane…

Then the shapes! When you start looking you can see how each of the original states is on the coast and adds to the previous one above or below, like a crescent. Then as you head West the great rivers – especially the Mississippi – define the boundaries leaving a number of states with curvy edges. Further West the country was divided in a more orderly fashion with most of the states having strong square lines. So when you look at a picture of, say, Virginia you can work out where it is by looking at the coastline.

Best of all – I know that I’ve got much more to come. Whilst I’m doing this journey to raise money and awareness, I’m also aware that I’ll get to spend 3 months seeing America in a way most people won’t be able to. I’ll get to slice right across it and see how the country ticks – and hopefully by staying with Americans I’ll get to jump straight into their life rather than just witnessing it from a motel. 2020, I’ve now realised, is election year. Presuming that Trump is still around campaigning will be warming up. America is the world global superpower facing new challenges – both internal and external. I can’t wait to have a look under the bonnet and see what makes it tick.

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