Friday, 4 September 2015

BRING THE ROAD INDOORS

If you're a regular reader of my blog you will know all the gory details of what happened to me in Wyoming on 26 July this year whilst on a cycle touring holiday. If you don't then hit this link.

Last week I had the cast removed and to my relief they did not put on another one. However, the pain in my wrist was something else! And it was without any power at all. The slightest movement was agony. I was given several exercises which I have to do three times a day, and within just this past week I've managed to go from two or three reps per exercise, to 30. I am, pardon the pun, well on the road to recovery.

I am an impatient person though, and I thought that once the cast came off I would be back on my bike. Not the case. The doctor and physio at the hospital have advised at least four weeks to build up the strength in my wrist. This was of immediate concern for my fitness. It's almost six weeks since the crash and I know my fitness has mostly gone.

But I have found a solution.

I purchased what is called a turbo trainer. This is a magnetic resistance roller on a frame that you connect your own bicycle into. I can then cycle the road indoors without the risk to my wrist. I discovered after buying the kit that you cannot use a normal tyre on the rear wheel, so I have just taken delivery of a specific trainer tyre. I got to thinking that I might lose the will very quickly if I have to repeatedly change the rear tyre. 
So the next solution was to buy a second hand rear wheel with a quick release, so now all I have to do is change the wheel over. A lot quicker and simpler.

To combat the boredom there are several cycle training films that I can watch projected onto my home cinema screen in the lounge and I have a wealth of music to listen to. I've been told it is intensely boring, but if it helps me recover faster then I'm ready and willing.

The spare wheel is on its way from Manchester. It was the cheapest option. I visited a local business here in Edinburgh called The Bike Station, that deals mostly with second hand bikes through donations, but I don't think I've ever met such an unfriendly and unhelpful bunch of people. I'd been told to call in today as they would probably be able to help me. Didn't quite turn out that way. These things happen I guess.

I don't have my Sky Team cycling top anymore that I used in America, but within a few weeks with my trainer I reckon I'll be able to give Bradley Wiggins a run for his money!

Friday, 28 August 2015

THE QUEST FOR DAIRY FREE

If you read last weeks blog you'll know that I am on a quest to try and eliminate dairy from my diet. This is not as part of a vegan diet, or because I am intolerant to milk, but simply because I am appalled that dairy cattle are artificially and forceably kept pregnant, not to mention pumped with drugs to increase their milk yield substantially. And did you know all veal, which I have never eaten, come from male calves born to these dairy cattle?!

So since last week I set myself two challenges to begin with: find a milk alternative for cereal and tea, and a cheese alternative.

First the milk. I knew of almond milk long before I started this, so that was on the list from the start. Sourcing one unsweetened was not difficult, as it has become very popular, and there are many brands to choose from.

I chose four other milk alternatives; rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk and a mix of almond and coconut.


Straight away I found the two coconut varieties, well, too coconutty! Even the mixed one had too much flavour. It isn't that I don't like coconut, it's just that the flavour dominated everything I put it in. As a drink on its own the mixed one was OK.

The almond milk on its own was pretty foul, but I have discovered that not all brands are the same and that making it yourself is very easy. At this point though almond milk was off the menu.

Next up was rice milk. The look of this product is very thin in colour. This was the only one I tried in tea and it didn't colour or flavour the tea at all. It has a naturally sweet edge to it but in overall flavour it was not much different to water, and in cereal I just found that grim.

The final product was hemp milk. Oh boy, my hat off to anyone that can consume this! OK, so the clue is in the name, but I never expected it to taste like actual rope! This was the only one I actually spat out.

At this point I thought I was defeated, however, I decided to venture into Edinburgh city centre, to a wholefood store called Real Foods, to see if there was any other solution. The staff were great and most agreed with my findings. The products I had bought were sold by supermarkets and thus lower priced which was reflected in the quality. At least that was my own deduction. I then found an almond milk mixed with rice milk, made by a company called Rude Health. Without overstating it, this was delicious. A winner at last, and I have used it every day in muesli. Result. Plus it works out at only 12p more than a litre of dairy milk.

None of the milks were any good in tea, but I have found a soya milk sweetened with apple juice that works OK. I'm not a fan of soya milk, but in tea its fine. You can't use it in instant coffee as it splits, but recently I have been trying soya latte at my local coffee shop, and its pretty good. The sweetened version takes the soya edge off the taste, and it has also led me to reducing the amount of sugar I put in my tea.

Quest two was cheese. This was in some ways hilarious. At first it never occurred to me for some reason to start with the Real Foods shop, and I ordered three items online: cheddar, blue and mozarella. The look and texture of these "cheeses" was like set plaster! The flavour was quite easily the most disgusting thing I have ever tried. They all looked identical as well; an insipid grey wheel of plaster!

But, you guessed it, a visit to Real Foods led me to a product made by VioLife. They have quite a range, but I just tried cheese slices first. Not a product I normally buy but good enough for the experiment. The flavour could have been stronger, but I found no real difference between this and dairy cheese slices.

I love pizza but will now revert to making my own, which I used to long ago. VioLife make a mozarella alternative specifically for use on pizza. It's popular, so out of stock a lot of the time, but I'm looking forward to that experiment. For now though the injury to my arm from my cycle accident has left it weak, and so the ability to knead pizza dough is a few weeks off yet.

As for butter, well I rarely ate butter before, and mostly stuck to olive oil spread. One thing I have noticed is that milk powder is in a lot of products. I bought a box of crackers yesterday, and not until I was home did I discover one of the ingredients was milk. In the UK allergy labeling is very good, and if a product has milk in it, then the manufacturer must state it on the ingredients list, so spotting it in the future should be easy.

So far so good. Time will tell how it integrates itself into my life.

Next quest, pizza!!!


Thursday, 20 August 2015

CRUEL MILK

Traveling, especially by bicycle, brings you into contact with experiences, sounds, smells and landscapes that would otherwise whizz past the tinted glass of a cars windscreen. Cycling through a landscape is the only way to fully appreciate the richness of a country.

Every mile I've pedaled by bicycle whilst touring, no matter which country, have all had one thing in common; the people. Everywhere I've been it's the people that have made the trip special, and the last few weeks were no exception. One key element of those meets are the things you learn.

My journey ended in Missoula, Montana, where I finally met Jennifer, the senior cartographer at Adventure Cycling, who I have been corresponding with for almost five years. Her husband Rob met me at the airport, and with a seal of approval from the family dog Tiika, we were already old friends.

Jenn and Rob follow a vegan diet, to put it simply, a plant based diet. No part of an animal, or anything they produce, is in their diet. Though I knew vaguely about the vegan way of life, I had never really delved into it. From the word go I was amazed and impressed at the fantastically tasty meals that they served up at the table, and a conversation ensued.

Though it is highly unlikely that I will change to being a total vegan personally, there was one aspect that struck me, and I was a little amazed that I hadn't previously known about it. That aspect was milk.

When I was a little boy in single figures, my father was a dairy herdsman, and every morning before school I went with him to bring in the herd for milking. Almost five decades, thanks to Jenn and Rob, on I have just learned a disturbing fact.

All dairy cattle are artificially, and forcibly, kept pregnant in order to constantly produce milk for us. When the calves are born some are disposed of and some are taken to be locked in darkness to produce veal. All veal comes from the calves born to dairy cattle.

In addition most dairy cattle are pumped with hormones in order to produce as much as 12 times the normal yield, requiring the cows to be milked twice a day!

I've never eaten veal, but I certainly consume milk.

Yes I eat meat in various forms, and I choose carefully what I buy with an eye on the welfare of the animal raised. But I can't abide the thought of this blatant, and not talked about, cruelty to an animal just to satisfy our thirst for milk.

So I have recently started a quest to switch part of my diet to dairy free. I believe it will be a healthier diet too, so that's an added bonus.

I have sourced five different alternatives to cows milk and over the next week I'll be trying them out in various parts of my daily diet. Included in this is cheese, which I have also sourced an alternative to, which should arrive in the next few days.

I'll publish my thoughts of my experiences next week. It's a tiny step in only one aspect of the whole animals-for-food trade, but at least it's a step.


Friday, 14 August 2015

EPILOGUE - LIVING THE DREAM

I write this on a sunny day in Portobello, Edinburgh. 

I'm home.

My last blog from Jackson, Wyoming, was the day before I traveled to Missoula in Montana to meet my friend Jennifer and her husband Rob. I had said then that Jackson was my kind of town, due to its sporty atmosphere mixed with wild west charm, albeit manufactured. But I push it down the scale now for Missoula to take top spot in small towns.

Maybe under the influence of where Adventure Cycling has its US headquarters, it is a very bike friendly place. Then there's the micro breweries, coffee shops and independent restaurants. One of the micro breweries is called Highlander, and I spotted a studenty guy sporting a baseball cap with the brewery name on it. On the back was embroidered, "If it ain't Scottish, it's crap". Not sure that I concur entirely, but it certainly started a conversation.  The University of Montana, with its 10,000 students, is also here in Missoula giving the town a fun student vibe. My home city of Edinburgh has a strong university vibe as well, and many of its streets are lined with mature trees with a backdrop of the Pentland hills. And so it is in Missoula, with its wide streets also lined with trees, and with a backdrop of densely wooded hillsides, six to eight thousand feet high.

So I fell in love with Missoula, as I tend to do with most American landscapes, but this place just has that little something extra.

Rob met me at the airport with a fun sign he'd spent hours making, which said "Limo for Graham Kitchener", together with an accurate Scottish flag! Immediately I knew we were going to get on well.

I'd corresponded with Jenn for almost five years but we'd never met. Apart from one brief phone call a couple of weeks ago, I didn't even know what she sounded like!  Instantly we met you'd think we'd known each other all our lives, it was that easy and comfortable. Jenn's mum was visiting too and the four of us spent a happy three days together. There was one family member who gets the most attention, still to meet: Tiika the dog. She and I seemed to be instant friends, and I received the seal of approval.


My first visit into the town from Jenn's house in the suburbs, in an area alarmingly called Rattle Snake Ridge, was to the local weekly farmers market. I run a monthly one back home in Portobello, and I was very jealous of the size and variety of the Missoula one, and how well supported it was. Right in the middle was an old steam locomotive from a bygone era, and just over the perimeter fence was the familiar sight and sound of the bright orange BNSF, mile-long freight trains, that I fell in love with on my 2011 cycle.

On one of our days together we went on a road trip, first to visit a Buddhist garden where they have made a design from creating 1,000 Buddha statues. It was very impressive. From there we set out for the huge Flathead Lake, and at first glance, when we stopped at a viewpoint, I thought it looked exactly like the southern view of Loch Lomond, which was a nice coincidence. The lake is 30 miles long and 16 miles wide, and lies southwest of Glacier National park. After a very relaxing lunch on the side of the loch, with a cool breeze, we returned, directly south, the 70 miles to Missoula.

In the evening a work colleague, and friend, from Adventure Cycling, Arlen, joined us for dinner and brought along a bottle of Dewars. I think it was a surprise for him to meet a Scotsman who doesn't like whisky!
I had one more friend to meet, who had moved to Missoula not long after we first became friends in 2011, when I cycled into Havre, Montana. Luke is the son of Kathy and John Donaldson, who generously gave us a place to stay at the time. So we had lunch at The Shack, together with his partner Stella, and caught up.

The day before my homeward journey was to start, a violent thunderstorm passed right through town, bringing down powerlines and trees, causing havoc, but everyone just got on with it, clearing up the mess and continuing with life unabated. In the UK that would have been headline news!

I had a nice treat at the end of my stay; a tour round Adventure Cycling headquarters. And despite not making it by bicycle I still managed to get my photo on the wall of fame. 

Eventually it was time to go home, and apart from problematic flight delays, being re routed through London and lost luggage, it passed quickly and soon I was home to friends and all that is familiar. Once again my friendship group has grown, albeit some 4,000 miles away, but I know I will return in the not too distant future, and finish what I started.

One thing I know, is that once again I proved that the most important thing in life is friendship and the memories you make together that last a lifetime.

On one memorable occasion in Missoula, while we were all out for a woodland walk with Tiika, two mountain bikers whizzed past us. As is usual we greeted them with a friendly "hi, how you doing?", when one replied "living the dream!"

I would echo that, especially when soon I will get back on the bike for the next adventure, but maybe this time with protective padding!


As before, photos on Flickr (please scroll down the Flickr page to see the latest).


Friday, 7 August 2015

GEYSERS AND BISON AND BEARS, OH MY

Following my discharge from Lander General Hospital, I spent five more days recuperating in a nearby motel whilst being an outpatient. Slowly my walking was improving, and the wounds were healing well, enough to visit the Pioneer Village on the edge of town.

There were ten original buildings that had been relocated to the site to create the village. Among them was a house belonging to one time lawman Charles Stough, who made fame at the end of the 1800s by arresting the outlaw Butch Cassidy.

Early on the Tuesday morning I transferred 160 miles north, with Bob the driver, to the famous town of Jackson Hole, named after David Jackson, who trapped beaver in the area in the early 1800s. The "Hole" comes from the geological fact that it sits in a depression between the Teton mountains and the Snake River.

On the way we passed several touring cyclists and I felt quite jealous. Finally though I was in Jackson, just a few days later than originally planned by bicycle. Though the centre is very touristy, I loved the feel and look of the place, with its boardwalks and timber-clad stores. My motel this time was right on the edge of downtown, so everything was within easy access. In the centre of town at various places, were arch sculptures, made from thousands of Elk antlers, collected at the end of winter from a large refuge on the outskirts of town, where every winter 11,000 Elk gather. On my first night I went to the Silver Dollar Saloon for supper and was entertained by a live bluegrass band. 


 
The following morning I awoke to torrential rain and thunderstorms. This was my day to join a tour up to the worlds first National Park, Yellowstone, something I had been thinking of for months, and thanks to friends back home, here I was! It was roughly 70 miles before we were in the park proper, and the rain cleared and sun came out.

First stop was Old Faithful geyser, and within a few minutes of its predicted eruption time, it lived up to its name. We were just about to move on when an announcement went out that the Beehive geyser was about to blow, which only happens once every five days or so! It was bigger and louder than Old Faithful, and I thought much more impressive. I was very lucky to witness it.

Next stop was the Grand Prismatic Spring, which had always been my main goal. Had we had more time we would have trekked up a nearby hill to look down on it, but getting up close and personal was still a big thrill.

I've included an aerial picture here from the internet to give you an idea of why I wanted to see it so much. As everyone followed the boardwalk round we were treated to a hot steam facial! Most geothermal sites have this feature, but each has its own characteristic, be it bubbling water, roaring steam vents or boiling mud.


As we were on the way to our next geothermal  boardwalk, we noticed a large number of cars parked at the side of the road. Clearly something interesting was nearby. As we walked through long grass between Lodge Pole pine, the dominant tree species in the park, we came across a large adult male elk grazing, with antlers five feet long and just as wide between the tips of the two. Then, in a nearby clearing, something snorted. A bull Buffalo was quietly minding its own business, sunning itself in a clearing.


The landscape highlight of the day was the astonishing Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. If ever there was a geological feature with a wow factor then this was it. It looked almost artificial, it was so picture perfect. The drop to the canyon floor was vertical, varying between 800 and 1200 feet down. Words are hard to describe the view. We viewed it looking toward the falls, then journeyed to the brink of the falls themselves.


The skies were darkening again as a large thunderstorm started to move in. We had been very lucky with cool temperatures and glorious sunshine all day, so we had nothing to complain about. But it actually set the mood for what was to come next. As we headed for the exit we passed Hayden Valley, famous as the best place to spot the wild animals of the park, and where the wildlife encounter of the day was about to unfold.

On the side of a hill, roughly 250m away, was a Grizzly Bear and two cubs! It was too far to photograph, so I took a set of binoculars and just sat and enjoyed the moment. If that were not treat enough, just after we left, and wondering why we had suddenly become part of a large queue of traffic, we saw up ahead the cause. A herd of roughly 100 Buffalo were crossing the road! As we eventually got to the point where they had crossed, they had mostly finished blocking the traffic, but we still had close up views of several beasts.


It had been truly an amazing day, very much an out of this world experience. Yellowstone has the largest collection of geothermal features anywhere in the world, and it was a privilege to get up close and personal with many of them. But to see the wildlife at such close quarters in their natural habitat was the icing on the cake.

Today I have just returned from Jenny Lake, just 45 minutes out of Jackson. It is nestled directly under the astonishing mountain range of the Grand Tetons, something I have wanted to see for as long as I can remember. If yesterday was about geothermal events and wild animals, today was about jagged wild mountains over 13,000 feet. I felt right at home. A small boat takes you across the lake to a trailhead, and there are many trails to follow once over, but I had to be careful as I was still recovering. I'm notorious for pushing myself too soon after injuries and undoing all the recovery, so I cautiously set out on a signed short and easy walk to Hidden Falls.

Cloud covered the peaks all morning, and I thought I wouldn't be able to get an iconic shot of the Grand Teton. But on the way back by bus, the clouds cleared briefly. I told the friendly driver that I'd have to try again tomorrow, at which he pulled over to allow me to get the shots I was after.


My time in Wyoming, and America, is drawing to a close. Tomorrow I will fulfill the final goal of my journey when I finally get to meet Jennifer and her husband, in Missoula, Montana. Jenn is the cartographer for the Adventure Cycling Association, and we became friends in 2011, when I crossed America by bicycle with Pauline. But we've never met, so tomorrow will change that. Not only will I meet Jennifer, but also her cute dog Tiika, and do I have a surprise for her!

Next week I'll be back in Scotland and I'll tell you all about the final leg.

Lots and lots of photos on Flickr! (please scroll down the Flickr page to get to the most recent)


Friday, 31 July 2015

DISTAL RADIUS STYLOID, INTER-ARTICULAR COMMINUTED FRACTURE, NON DISPLACED

What a difference a week makes.

My last blog ended with my arrival in Rawlins, Wyoming, having had a fun day crossing the state line from Colorado into Wyoming.

Pulling out of Rawlins I entered an area that can only be described as desert. Not the sand variety but just a featureless expanse covered in sage as far as the eye could see. The road dropped in elevation down a steep hill into the Great Divide Basin, roughly 200 square miles of nothing but baking heat.


The Great Divide is, as I described in my last blog, a fun phenomenon, where if you pour water on one side it will flow west, and just a few feet away on the other side of the divide it will flow east. But the Great Divide Basin is unique in that none of this happens. The water is trapped and simply evaporates.

This days ride ended at a location called Muddy Gap, which was in fact just a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Run by two enthusiastic guys they were very interested in where I was from and where I was going. Inside their gas station main building, thousands of through cyclists over the past 10 years have signed every available space on the ceiling and walls, so I added mine to the ceiling of course.


I camped the night here but didn't get much sleep. At sunset all the forecourt flood lights came on, and even brighter lights over the road junction, just 100 metres from my tent!

The next day though made up for it, as, after just 6 miles, I came across a historical landmark called Split Rock. The landscape is virtually flat smooth everywhere, with the occasional blob of rock. One of these large rock hills has a natural V split in it, and some liken it to a rifle sight. In the early 1800s, 500,000 people passed this point as they were pushing west, including 75,000 in 1848 in search of gold in California, who became known as the 49ers.


The pioneers were able to see Split Rock from miles away, and for miles after, so they knew they were on the right path. There goal at this point was another rock formation 18 miles west, that became known as Independence Rock. They had to make this point by the 4th of July if they were to make it safely west before the winter storms. Many didn't make it. Those that camped at the rock carved their names into it, and their carvings can still be seen today. A permanent record that they passed this way.

My next camp spot was Sweetwater Station at another road junction, which took me six hours to reach, even though it was only 40 miles, due to a 25mph head wind.

Wyoming may be desert-like, but boy, is it windy! Partly I guess because there are no trees.

The camp was in an historic site maintained by the Mormons on the edge of Sweetwater River. It's called the 6th crossing, and marks one out of nine points were pioneers had to cross the Sweetwater River. Thousands came through, traveling thousands of miles, but not on horseback or wagon (as pictured here). They were pulling handcarts. Pushing west was big business, and a handcart was more affordable than a horse and wagon. Astonishing to think of a family pulling a large wooden handcart all that distance. The majority of these people were Mormons fleeing persecution, and would eventually establish their new base in what is now known as Salt Lake City.

I was now at the edge of the desert areas, and the winds had finally subsided. I set off knowing I was less than 200 miles from Yellowstone. Within 10 miles the scenery immediately changed. I was entering more lush areas, and mountain ranges were starting to appear in the distance, a precursor to the mighty Grand Teton. Though it had been a hard, but fun ride so far, the less interesting and featureless landscapes were behind, and it felt like this was the first day of the Rocky Mountain adventure.

I started down a steep 6% gradient that went on for five miles. Thank goodness for disc brakes. Half way down I felt a hard bump through the handle bars, caused by a two or three inch crack in the road surface, which are everywhere, but usually they're small or have been filled. As I passed over it there was a judder in the handlebars. The third wheel trailer then hit it and bounced, causing the front end to oscillate violently. I slammed the brakes on to reduce my momentum some more, which only made the wobble worse.

I knew something bad was coming.

I seemed to be catapulted from the bike, bounced off the road several times, banging my head so hard there was a bright flash, and removed large areas of skin on my right side calf, hip, elbow, fingers and shoulder. I also rammed my right leg ball joint hard into its socket, bruising the joint and ligaments. Just to put the icing on the cake I fractured my wrist too (type of fracture in the blog title!).



I came to rest, badly winded, after I rolled down a small embankment at the side of the road. The bike and all the kit were scattered all over the road, and one bag had opened and spilled everywhere.

I was in the middle of nowhere. I sat, dazed, for a while, bleeding and shaking as the adrenalin kicked in. I was carrying an emergency satellite locator beacon, and I contemplated activating it as I lay there. There were no passing vehicles. Somehow though, probably because of the adrenalin, I managed to pick everything up, put it all back together, and even got on the bike. I was attempting to rescue myself basically.  I free-wheeled another two miles, with my right arm hanging at my side, when I came across two workmen at the side of the road. I almost crashed again as I got to them, exhausted, but one guy reacted instinctively and grabbed me. They didn't hesitate, and bundled everything in the back of their pick up and took me the 35 miles to Lander General Hospital.

I never got their names.

In ER they gave me happy drugs and literally scrubbed my wounds. The morphine wasn't much help. Then after multiple x-rays uncovered the fracture, my arm was put in a cast. I was distracted a bit by the attractive nurses and the comedy of the ER physician, who was a spitting image of John Goodman. At this stage, because of this tiny fracture, I knew the cycling was over. I was enormously disappointed. That said I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my hospital medical team, who were all characters in their own right and endlessly cheered me up. I will miss them.


Five days on and I'm discharged, resting in a local hotel for 4 more days (I was transported by the Senior Bus!). My leg, and thus my mobility, is improving in leaps and bounds every day. I'll be an outpatient until next week getting my dressings changed but the cast will remain on for a few weeks yet.

Obviously plans have changed. The bike, which doesn't have a mark on it, is already on the way home. But I felt I needed to salvage something from my trip, not just an interesting story, so that I didn't go home having seen nothing of the most beautiful part of my route. So next week, with assistance, I will travel 160 miles to Jackson in the Tetons, and from there take a day trip to Yellowstone, thanks to the generosity of friends. So be sure to check the blog next week when I will be able to share that experience with you, which five days ago I never thought I would get the chance.

My helmet was compressed and split open from the crash, but that could have been my skull. So I end with a personal mantra: when you're on a bike, always wear a helmet.

More, higher quality, photos on Flickr (if you've seen the earlier pics please scroll down the Flickr page).




Thursday, 23 July 2015

WYOMING - FOREVER WEST

I departed Golden, on the outskirts of Denver, early morning on Friday 17 July. My goal for the first day was a small town just 39 miles away called Empire.



But not before I hauled my 40lb load, me and the bike (which I've nicknamed Yogi by the way) up a relentlessly steep six miles to visit the grave of Buffalo Bill. Apparently, not long after he was interred in 1917, residents of Cody, a town he founded, planned to steal the body. So the townsfolk of Golden poured tons of concrete on top of him!

Down the other side of Lookout Mountain Road I hit a major problem. I was at a junction of Interstate 70 (i70) and I needed to get to a point two miles on. But bicycles are not allowed on the Interstate and there were no other roads. I stood for almost an hour scratching my three-day facial hair growth, pondering what on earth to do, when Bob, in his pickup truck, arrived. Unbelievably he was an engineer about to start construction on a bike path to fill the gap!  Four months too late for me he says, then puts all my gear and bike into the back of his truck and takes me the two miles!

This, in my experience, is what I love about the American people.

I didn't make it to Empire. The altitude of 8,000 feet was already taking it's toll, and it was near to 95 degrees and almost the same humidity. At Idaho Springs I threw in the towel and took a motel room.

The following day was short and I just finished the 13 miles to Empire. All the way there I was treated to the old and abandoned gold mine works, now long since closed down. However, I was constantly distracted by the chaos of heavy traffic, at times just two feet from me! At Empire I decided to stay put and acclimatise a little. I'm glad I did, as I met the local town character Rob Morris. What he didn't know about Empire wasn't worth knowing. He was once married to the grand daughter of one of the founders of Harley Davidson. I could have listened to his stories all day, especially about the local Hard Rock Cafe. This is the original, by name, and it was hotly contested when the chain started up. But Rob and Empire won the day.

An overcast, and actually cold, day greeted me for the ascent over Berthoud Pass, at 11,307 feet. With inclines as steep as 6% it took me four hours to haul everything up the 12 miles to the top. Once there I posed for a photo on the Continental Divide. If I poured water on one side of the sign it would flow to the Atlantic. On the other, the Pacific. Down the other side it was freezing as I whizzed along at between 25 and at times 35mph. I was actually shaking on the bike form the cold.

I scooted through the ski town of Winter Park, a purpose built town with no charm, and clocked a few more miles to stay in Grandby, a town that the Colorado River runs by on the edge of town. As I chatted to a local policeman about my journey he asked if there had been any "No Bicycles" sign at the problem i70 junction. There hadn't been. In that case then, he said, no one could have stopped you using the shoulder!

Another pass beckoned, Willow Creek, with it's approach through a stereo typical picturesque North American wooded valley. Arapahoe county. This pass  was only at 9,683 feet, but when the sun comes out and beats down it makes it just as difficult as the day before. Beyond the pass the temperature rose rapidly and I struggled onto Walden, running out of water before I got there. I rewarded myself that night with pizza. The local police had no problem letting me camp in the city park. They told me the sprinklers came on around 5am on the south side, so camp on the north. But that was not what happened. They came on at 5am alright, but both north and south! Nothing like a morning cold shower to get you going!

I had hoped yesterdays ride would be under 50 miles, but in the end I clocked up 68, again in searing heat, to camp at Saratoga. My intention had been to stop at Riverside, the 50 mile point, and have a day off to use wifi. Unfortunately, at the local diner, they said their wifi (the only one in town) was down, but it would probably be back in five days or so! Five days?! As I was chasing wifi to be able to post this blog I pushed on, so that today I could reach Rawlins, where I knew I would get reliable wifi, which I did, obviously. The most exciting part of yesterday though was crossing the state line out of Colorado and into Wyoming.



Long roads disappearing into the distance in a straight line from the Colorado/Wyoming state line, took me through a tree-less, yet amazing landscape of rolling plains, and eventually led me to Rawlins. Not before I had to endure 13 miles of craziness on Interstate 80 though! Phew! Sadly, on arrival, the police in Rawlins were unwillingly to let me use the city park, which is becoming the norm, and annoying, and a local campground, called KOA, said they were full. When I explained I just had a bicycle, not a super-massive RV, and a wee tent, they weren't interested in helping me. Eventually I stayed the night in a motel and tomorrow night in another, further away campground. It's all part of the adventure and daily challenges; sleep, get up, cycle, buy food, find somewhere to camp, repeat.

When I look at the photographs and recall the magnificent views on the plains, all the problems seem not to matter.



Overall every day is pretty tough. Occasionally the boredom of cycling solo is broken by meeting fellow touring cyclists going the other way, having as tough a time as you, and a fun exchange takes place of tips of the places each has yet to encounter. Always it starts with, where are you heading, where did you start from.


Every day always entails climbing of hills, and it regularly hits 85 degrees. Throw in an 18 to 24 mph head wind and 40 miles can feel like 80. But the bike, sorry, Yogi, is running well, and I'm acclimatised and getting stronger, slowly.

The next section takes me through areas of little services so I'll have extra weight on the bike in the way of additional food. 250 miles done, 280 miles to mighty Yellowstone National Park!

All the photos so far on Flickr.