Before travelling to join Pauline for our North American cycle, I had the task of working out the distance and calculating a rough schedule in terms of daily mileage, days off, etc. I was a bit concerned that the average came out at 40 miles per day with one day off per week. One week in and I wish it was only 40 miles a day!
Getting out of Boston was, not to exaggerate, a nightmare. The city map was about as useful as a condom in the Vatican and had it not been for helpful Boston residents offering directions, we would still be there. Trying to find a route away from traffic was pretty pointless. America is the land of the car after all. Since arriving in the States the weather has been appalling, with permanent low cloud and drizzle. The first day down to Plymouth was no exception and our first night under canvass was during an enormous thunderstorm. Filming so far has been almost impossible due to the torrential rain, which is very disappointing. I can only hope things will improve.
Location is something of a mystery generally. As you can imagine there is a proliferation of forest in Massachusetts, so you are hemmed in on all sides by thick forest depriving you of any view to find your bearings. Add to that a distinct lack of town names and it becomes very disorientating. However, America may be home to the automobile but it is also home to McDonalds, and though I would rarely eat them back home, they provided a welcome rest stop. They also have free wifi which enabled us to find our location using the computer.
Car drivers have, on average, been very courteous, stopping in the middle of the carriage way to allow us to cross safely. Occasionally we do get the odd bit of abuse, which generally goes something like: "get off the road asshole!" This has been few and far between, and today, as we cycled north west out of Ashland, a woman in a car pulled up beside us and asked where we were eating dinner tonight, offering to give us a meal. How fantastic. Mind you, maybe we were being taken back to a farm of mountain men and banjos.
So our official starting point was a foggy Plymouth beside the rock commemorating the first landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. Nearby was a replica of their ship, the Mayflower.
It had been 54 miles from Boston to Plymouth, and the second day in the saddle from Plymouth to Ashland was a momentous 70 miles. We had arranged to arrive at the Ashland home of my friends David and Karen by around 3pm, but events conspired to delay us until 7pm, by which point my "butt" was like a well tenderised steak.
We had been delayed as my bike was plagued by breakdowns. One hour in and the front tyre punctured. Half an hour later and the rear hub started to disintegrate due to lack of grease, and a half hour after that the front hub started to go! These breakdowns did have their upsides though. At the first a local guy called Marc Valentine popped by as I was repairing the tyre and gave us a potted history of the local area's original native Americans, which he kindly agreed to do on camera (see the website for a preview) and the repairs to the hubs introduced us to a stunt cyclist, who gave us a demonstration on camera.
We spent a great weekend with David, Karen and their kids, Jenifer and Craig, oh, and Dougal the dog of course, and it allowed us to reorganise our kit and onward plans.
As if the last few days of bike breakdowns and inclement weather were not enough, I also have the challenge of finding money. Of course I have an adequate supply of funds in the form of American Express travellers cheques, but virtually no bank in America, home of American Express, will change them back into dollars! You have to have an account with whichever bank you use. So a word of warning: if you are coming to the States don't bring travellers cheques. I'm hoping to find some sort of solution in Troy, New York State, just north of Albany, in a couple of days.
Tonight we are tucked up in a very basic cabin, out of the damp, in an attempt to keep our gear relatively dry. The days are tough cycling, as the roads twist and wind and undulate all the time, so on a very wet day the last thing you want to do is have the hassle of wet gear and trying to cook a meal in the rain while swatting the mosquitos.
I'm hopeful when we reach the Erie Canal that our mileage will become more sensible, but until then it's 50 miles tomorrow and 60 miles the day after. God help my butt.