December 2021 update

Does anyone know where 2021 went? It feels like just a few weeks ago that I was writing that I wouldn’t be able to cycle across America in 2021 but we’d see what 2022 would bring. Turns out it was actually nearly 9 months ago, but the good news is that it still seems fairly likely that I’ll be able to set off next year. I thought that now would be a good chance to share some of the updates – what I’ve been working on, and what comes next. It still feels a bit surreal but my hope is in about 4 months time I’ll be jumping on my bike and wobbling my way out of New York and towards the setting sun.

Route planning

I’m now fairly certain that I’ve now got a solid route for my trip across the States. Exciting! Here’s a map showing all the stops I’m planning on on making between New York and San Francisco.

You might notice there have been a few changes since 2020 – mainly that I’m now starting from New York instead of Cape Cod. 2020 was the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims arriving, and the plan was to celebrate from setting off where the Pilgrims first set foot on American soil. But thanks to Covid I won’t be setting off in a big anniversary year, and so it doesn’t seem so important. I’ll still be cycling coast to coast, but starting from New York saves about a week of cycling. It also makes starting much easier (as Cape Cod is quite difficult to get to by public transport), and the only confirmed host for that first week has now moved to the Midwest. When I first came up with the idea of cycling across America in 2017, the plan was to cycle from New York to San Francisco, and the extra time saved will allow me to see a bit more of the rest of America.

Along the route I’ll be using various different rail trails and bike paths. The longest of these will be the he Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Towpath, which run several hundred miles between Washington DC and Pittsburgh, across the Appalachian mountains. For the rest of the route I’ll be trying to find quiet roads that run in the right direction, using google maps and bike mapping websites to identify which routes combine safety, efficiency, and interesting places to visit.

I’ve also been doing some research into the route I’ll be taking. As it happens my journey closely follows the Lincoln Highway – America’s first coast to coast road, which was dedicated in 1913. This ran from Times Square in New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco – where I’ll start and finish my journey.

On of the hardest parts of the route to plan is the section that runs between Colorado and California, as the route crosses vast unpopulated areas of arid desert and salt flats. As I’m planning on trying to avoid camping (as part of the reason for setting off on this trip was a mental health breakdown caused by isolation) I’ve tried to find a route where I’ll pass through at least one community every 60-70 miles. After passing through Salt Lake City I’ll work my way towards America’s “Loneliest Highway”, Route 50. In parts this is built on on the historic Pony Express, which functioned for 18 months from 1860.

Dates

Right now the biggest stumbling block is setting a date to set off. I’m currently on a secondment that finished on the 22nd March, which means I’ll either be setting off just before or just after Easter (as flying during the Easter holidays is a lot more expensive!) Setting off before Easter means there’s still a chance I’ll encounter snow, and setting off after Easter means another few weeks without income.

Training

I’ll be honest – this part of the post is going to be a bit sparse. Whilst I’m doing the odd ride here and there I’m certainly not doing as much training as I’d like. In some way’s I’m not too worried – most of my early days are quite low mileage which will allow me a chance to get settled in before some of the longer days

Mental Health

The whole reason for planning this journey was because I had a mental health breakdown in 2017. This was partly caused by a period of isolation and working from home – so as you can imagine Covid has been challenging. Alongside this there have been other challenges over the last 12 months which have – if I’m honest – been a bit more than I can cope with at times. I’ve been working hard to make time for myself, to listen to the signs my body is giving me, and to seek professional support to help me deal with what’s going on. I’m still passionate about setting off across America – this project was the framework that helped me rebuild my life and gave me purpose at a time when I wasn’t sure who I was. So whilst I’m facing challenges, I’m using the knowledge I’ve gained about myself to respond to these. I’m also in the process of looking for a therapist to help unpack some of the difficulties I have faced and to make sure I’ve got support as I ride across America.

Fundraising

Since the ride got called off in March 2020 I’ve been carrying on with fundraising (in a safe and socially distanced fashion). Like most charities the MS Society had a significant drop in income as fundraising events have been curtailed and cancelled. With you’re support we’ve raised nearly £3000 over the last two years across a range of fundraising activities, including an online quiz (remember those!), a virtual marathon, and a 24 hour marathon. This means that my fundraising total is now over £12,000 pounds – 60% of the original £20,000 target!

Next steps

As long as the Covid situation doesn’t significantly decline, it looks like in just a few months time I’ll be pedalling off from New York. I’m going to be sharing regular updates on this blog and on my social media (FacebookTwitter Instagram). There’s still a lot to do, including:

  • Set and follow a training plan
  • Follow up with logistics – contacting potential hosts (including on warmshowers) to try and nail down the route
  • Start creating route maps for each day (I’ll be using a Garmin navigation device and although routes might change once I’m on the ground I’ll need to have an outline route for each day. This also involves using bike routing websites/trail websites/google maps to check out which routes are likely to be safest and most enjoyable).
  • Book flights
  • Keep a close eye on Covid situation, have booster jab, get suitable insurance etc
  • Life admin (handing over some voluntary activities, completing my current secondment, sorting out budget etc.)
  • Plan more school/community visits to discuss the journey and my mental health
  • Find and start meeting a therapist

So – I’ll share another update after Christmas – but in the meantime if you have any questions, suggestions or comments please feel free to comment below or contact me over social media!


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