Still bruised from yesterday’s mammoth fight we woke up this morning surprisingly calm but of the mind to cycle to LA, where Anthony would stay with his friends Pat & Chava and Kat would stay in a hotel to create some space for us both to consider our options. However, as the day progressed and we made our way up the Pacific Coast Highway through Emerald Bay, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Manhattan Beach and Venice Beach and then into Santa Monica we were positively affected by the beautiful experience (your name would have to be Victor Meldrew not to be on cloud nine). Also, our battle against a fierce headwind most of the way, which whipped up sandstorms as we made our way along the beach paths, created a certain “wartime spirit”, pitting us as a team against the elements! Arriving at Santa Monica around sunset, we decided that we could probably manage to stay in the same house without killing each other so, after a quick phone call, Pat arrived in his FJ Cruiser to collect us and our trusty steeds and transport us to his Pop Star mansion perched on the side of the Hollywood Hills. With great views across LA, we ate in-house and had a great evening.
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
The day started out as perfect as perfect could be. We woke late in the morning and leisurely got ourselves ready to meet with Jordan, Carrie and their son Noah for lunch at Montage. After a fantastic lunch (thanks guys) we strolled through the private gardens, where we saw several humming birds and wondered down to the private beach to dip our toes in the ocean. Jordan then very kindly drove us back to Laguna Beach town where we walked back to our hotel, La Casa Del Camino along the sandy beach having our feet caressed by the gentle foaming surf. By the time we got back to the hotel we were ready for something to eat and made our way up to the roof deck to have some wine and fine nibbles for a couple of hours before watching the sunset at 7pm. Then it was time for dinner! K’ya is the name of the hotel restaurant. It serves great reasonably priced food consisting of a huge choice of “small plates”. We loved this concept and, judging by the crowds of people eating there, so does everyone else in Laguna Beach.Then, out of nowhere, we had an almighty argument, which followed us from the restaurant, up the stairs and into the hotel room. Things got messy! And we reached the conclusion to go our own ways and cancel the trip with no refunds.
Monday, 29 March 2010
Sunday, 28 March 2010
So this is it! We’re here on the West coast of America. Our 101st day of cycling: a truly seminal moment. Completing over 1½ million revolutions of our pedals to auto-magically get here.
“That’s all very well”, we hear you say, “but what have you learned? What sage thoughts or paths to enlightenment can you share with us?” Fortunately we believe we have solved the most important issue facing America today: Healthcare! No need to thank us now Obama. America spends trillions of dollars providing healthcare and municipal services for the millions of obese Americans every year. Our travels suggest to us that obesity in America tends to thrive in certain areas. One area where this doesn’t happen is on the coastline. So, by moving everyone to the coast, where the standard uniform for women is a bikini just large enough to cover three postage stamps and the male equivalent resembles a Hacky Sack stuffed with cotton wool and a brazil nut, the pressure to conform would be so great, everyone would stop eating chicken fried steak and processed food and start to appreciate the beauty of fresh fish and vegetables …problem solved, hook, line and sinker. Done! Thank you very much, drinks at the bar.
Today was just a short 40 mile-trip, but we’re beginning to realise that with the constant rolling hills (we ascended and descended 1,700ft today) and relentless prevailing NW wind, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is not going to be a cinch. However, the ‘West coast effect’ is truly magnificent, everything has a soft-sheen hue of candy blue and orange. As the sun makes it way toward the vast open Pacific, cars, bikes, buildings, cliffs and plants sparkle and shine. Even the multitude of surfers bobbing and riding the crest of every wave look as if they’re on a film set. The ride along the coast was perfect, fitted with our new silky smooth cogs and chains, and brand new helmet-mounted rear view mirrors. Trusty and Steed joined the West coast party, cruising effortlessly along the ocean boulevard without a hiccup. Which is more than could be said for Margaret and Audrey, who were their usual unhelpful selves. Margaret got so hot under the collar, she ‘turned’; herself off in a tantrum.
As we overdosed on the scenic beauty, we temporarily stopped at a red light and were joined by a cycling couple, Carrie and Jordan! As Anthony and Jordan cycled ahead chatting about fast cars and Top Gear, Kat and Carrie were behind cycling abreast (or four) having a great time. Riding the last 10 miles into Carlsbad with Carrie & Jordan was great; hopefully we’ll meet up with them again in Laguna Beach tomorrow.
Arriving at the Bed & Breakfast the owner recommended we make a visit to Vera Cruz Fish Market for dinner. OMG! Have you ever been to a restaurant that doesn’t have a deep fat fryer and doesn’t serve any fried food? Well, we now have and we loved it. All the fish is simply grilled and served with a selection of sides (no fries/chips). We inhaled the food and lovely bottle of house wine.
We met lots of happy people cycling today, and are looking forward to more California cycling tomorrow.
Saturday, 27 March 2010
Today was our last full day in San Diego and, while we will be happy to be back on the bikes tomorrow, we will definitely miss this place. We have been struck by how many times people have told us that they grew up here, moved away, and came back. We can see why. It would be difficult to make a case to live anywhere else once you had become accustomed to everything San Diego has to offer, including the climate.
Today, after a quick trip to Whole Foods for provisions, we had a wonderful light lunch with Janet and Bob, who made the trip down from their home around 20 miles North of San Diego, to eat with us in our Studio suite. Janet is the sister of Bridget, whom Kat has known since she (Kat) was 2 years old. Janet and Bridget both have the same quick, dry wit, and sense of fun that makes them such good company to be around. With a few of Bob’s jokes added in, oh and a couple of bottles of wine, there was a lot of laughter around the table!
After a bit of laundry, route planning and other admin, our thoughts turned to dinner. Naturally. We decided that we couldn’t leave San Diego without a return to our favourite restaurant here, Avenue 5. This time, we kept it simple and ordered a burger and fish & chips from the bar menu. Both stunning. We were also thrilled to meet the chef and proprietor, Colin MacLaggan, a native of San Diego, who spent a few years earlier in his career working in some of the best restaurants in London. Colin is a knowledgeable and talented guy, and we had a really good chat with him about a number of things. Thanks to Colin, and our servers Yo and Chiko for a fantastic evening.
We returned just in time to catch the start of the Australian Grand Prix…come on Lewis.
RELAXING and CHALLENGING! When describing any sort of life experience, these are two words that wouldn’t normally sit side-by-side, yet we feel blessed knowing that we have been given this opportunity to relax in all that the USA has to offer, and simultaneously be challenged by the 8,000 miles of cycling that lie ahead of us over the next 7 months …wow, it’s so liberating!
Today, whilst Kat was out having her eyebrows and eyelashes spruced up by a professional beautician, Anthony was out on Trusty cruisin’ the local parks around San Diego Zoo looking for wild animals! Fortunately, it wasn’t long before Kat’s ‘Permanently Surprised’ look was complete and Anthony was called back from hunting on the plains of San Diego before any animal got hurt …apart from that irritating squirrel who tried to steal Anthony’s salty nuts!
Back in the hotel for 30 minutes and beginning to feel a little peckish, we headed back out to Whole Foods and purchased some chicken, leeks, bread and butter; and made …wait for it …chicken, leek and chorizo (two sausages left over from Wednesday) risotto accompanied with the most garlicky garlic bread. T’was a very fine meal indeed.
…hopefully you guys are not feeling jaded by our uninspiring recounts of the day! It won’t last long we promise; once back on the road the stories will improve. Saying that, a funny thing did happen today! We went to the hotel rooftop bar/restaurant for a quick drink before we started cooking. As we confidently stepped out of the lift/elevator that led into the vast banqueting room, we abruptly became aware that tonight was gay night. Kat must have been 1 of 3 girls in the company of 200 guys. Needless to say Anthony was getting a lot of attention. We mingled a bit but kept it brief, deciding that risotto back in our hotel room sounded more appetising.
Thursday, 25 March 2010
We had a fantastic surprise today: Trusty & Steed were ready…over a day early! Yes, we had been in our new hotel for an hour or so this afternoon when the phone chirruped, and it was Greg from the bike shop saying that the boys were ready to come home…yay. We had missed those little critters…
We were down there within the hour, overjoyed to see how well they looked, particularly splendid with their new Ultegra bits, and gleaming in the sun. Greg had done a really fantastic job and spent quite some time talking to us about what he had changed/added and giving us tips for maintaining the bikes going forward. A massive thank you to Greg and to Adams Avenue Bicycles in Hillcrest!!
We then popped into Cal Coast Cycles just along to road to pick up some lube not stocked by Adams (Aaron – nice talking with you), and revelled in the ease with which we shifted between the gears as we steered Trusty & Steed back to our hotel, near Balboa Park at the other end of Hillcrest.
This evening, we went out for a slap up meal to celebrate in a great restaurant called Avenue 5, just around 4 or 5 blocks from our hotel: a really classy yet unpretentious joint with fabulous food and wine. Yummy.
Tomorrow, we are thinking that we might take the boys out for a trial run along one of the bike paths and perhaps a spin around the park. We’ve started booking our accommodation now for the West coast on the basis that we will push on out of here on Sunday.
P.S. Don't forget to check out the new 'View Our Top Rides' feature added by IT Support courtesy of Badge.
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
As you all know, today was rest day number 2 of 5: we set out again on Sunday.
Not very much to report on; but we did visit Whole Foods this evening, purchased chorizo, broccoli, garlic, onions, parmesan cheese and a bottle of wine then returned to base camp and rustled up a very tasting risotto …yum yum!
Tomorrow morning we move to a new hotel on the other side of Hillcrest.
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
These days, we never sleep well when Trusty & Steed are not with us. But we will have to get used to it for a few nights as the boys have gone in for their overhaul, and will not be back until the weekend. For the cyclists out there, they are having their Groupset replaced: bottom brackets, cranks, shifters, derailleurs, sprockets, chains etc etc, as well as having new rear hub bearings, brake pads and the like. They will then have Shimano Ultegra triples, which is going to make life on the West coast much more comfortable. For those in our midst who do not understand bike mechanics, all of the moving parts at the bottom of the bike (apart from the wheels) are being changed, we will have more gears to choose from, and they will work more efficiently…oh, and those dreadful noises we keep hearing as we pedal along should be gone. Yay for Trusty & Steed!
So, this morning, we went across town to one bike shop to pick up all of the parts that we had ordered (where we got a particularly good price), and took them and the bikes over to another bike shop nearer to our hotel, where the bikes will be rebuilt. We LOVE the neighbourhood where we are staying. It’s called Hillcrest, and seems to be the “Greenwich Village of San Diego”. We can walk everywhere, and have the most amazing choice of restaurants, bars, shops etc. We have already eaten sushi and Indian food, and it has all been delicious. We may take a stroll tomorrow to the local Whole Foods, which is only a couple of blocks away. We may eat Chez Antoine tomorrow night!
After all the activity of the morning, we were very pleased to meet Bob (a family friend of Kat’s) and spend the afternoon with him sitting by the bay, sipping chilled white wine, eating chips and dip and chatting away. Bob then whisked us off to see the Pacific at Ocean Beach, and the shore just down from Point Loma. It was a rare treat to speed up the hills in Bob’s car and to cover so much ground in a couple of hours, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were sad that Janet, Bob’s wife, was unable to come as we were really looking forward to meeting her, but hopefully we may be able to catch up with them both later in the week. Thanks to Bob and Janet for their support, and for the very thoughtful gift: a lightweight, portable and flexible tripod for the camera, which will hopefully help us in future with some of those self-timer snaps…
Tomorrow, we will have a lazy day…or at least that is our aim anyway. Due to the bike overhaul schedule, we’re planning to be here until Saturday, and to head out up the coast on Sunday morning. We’ll be changing hotels on Thursday, as there is no availability here, but we’re just going to be at the other end of Hillcrest, and saving a few dollars too, so we’re happy!
Monday, 22 March 2010
You wouldn’t believe it but we have made it to San Diego. That’s right over 5,500 miles from New York to San Diego. We haven’t seen the Pacific yet but what the hell; we’re here and feel great after successfully cycling across the fattest part of Northern America and pretty much completing 2/3rds of the Atlantic Coast.
We won’t talk much about the ride today as it was insignificant in that all we had on our minds was seeing the sea and starting our Pacific Coast tour in a few days.
What is cool, though, is sitting just here chillin’ in the hotel, content in the knowledge that we have at least 3 rest days to recuperate and do absolutely nothing.
…one last thing! Trusty and Steed are being rebuilt tomorrow and Anthony’s going to search for a Helmetcam.
Sunday, 21 March 2010
We didn’t quite manage an Alpine Start this morning from the mountains of Jacumba, but we did finish the day in our second Alpine of the trip: Alpine, CA, just 30 miles or so East of San Diego (blog followers will recall that we had a great stay in Alpine, TX earlier in our adventure).
After a hearty, but not so healthy, breakfast of fried eggs and sausage patties, and lots of chat, we eventually rolled out of Jacumba around 11.45am this morning. We weren’t too concerned, as we knew that we only had a 45-mile ride, although that did include over 3,000ft of climbing… in 3rd gear again for Anthony. So, we took our time, and enjoyed the day, secretly (and selfishly) being rather chuffed that it was slightly overcast and we weren’t burning hot. We were also pleased to find ourselves descending for the last 8 miles of the ride, and to find that we will continue descending tomorrow into San Diego…yippeeee!
We met a whole bunch of great people today:
Todd & Jay: these guys are cycling from San Diego, CA to St Augustine, FL to support people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer and ostomies. Check out their blog (and see photo).
Jeff, Gregg and Kelly: we had a great chat with these guys over breakfast. Huge thanks to Jeff for the packs of Snacktrition Fruit & Nut mix – we started to eat them on our ride today and they were yummy, as well as super-healthy (Jeff is a friend of the founder of Snacktrition, Mike Mellace. We checked out the website tonight, and liked what we saw).
Marjorie at Pine Valley Java: the best coffee shop we have been to in some time. It is full of cyclists at the weekend since Pine Valley is a popular destination for day rides from San Diego. It reminded us of the rides we used to do to Nyack, NY when we lived in Manhattan, and the coffee shop we used to stop at there. Also, Kat is extremely excited that we are back in Latte territory again, after rather too long of a hiatus…
Jack and his buddy: we met these guys last night at our hotel…hilarious. They sped past us this morning on their way back to San Diego, shrieking and whistling at us for encouragement, and hanging their cans of beer out of the window…nuff said! We’re glad we didn’t meet them on a narrow section of road.
Tomorrow is a short roll downhill into San Diego, the Pacific Coast, and the last day of the Southern Tier!!!
We started 220ft below sea level in a town called Brawley and were facing a gargantuan climb over a 3,250ft mountain pass into Jacumba. Now, this may not sound as impressive as our previous climbs to over 8,200ft, but today we achieved our greatest net climb of 2,930ft over a distance of just over 70 miles. We’ve put the graph in the photo gallery along with a couple of cool photos from the pass.
It was tough today, especially after yesterday’s 90-mile trip. Our legs were shot; and mustering up the energy, let alone the will, to brave another 6 hr workout (8 hrs in the saddle) in searing 85°C temperatures was no mean feat. Our first break was in El Centro, where we stopped at The Finish Line bike shop to stock up with inner tubes and C02 canisters. Carlos was very helpful and gave us a spare inner, ‘gratis’. Thanks Carlos!
Feeling a lot more confident that we could now cope with any ‘rubber’ mishaps, we cycled against the wind for 20+ miles before Kat’s rear decided to lose air very quickly. The problem with punctures is that they take an average of 30 minutes out of the ride, which is a right pain in the rear when you still have 30 miles of climbing to do before the suns sets …anyway it was all fixed and we struggled through. And just as we began the ‘meat’ of the Mountain Pass climb, 6hrs 15mins into the ride and thinking everything was ‘good in da hood’, Trusty decided to get stuck in 3rd gear. Anthony wasn’t happy as he put his body through a tortuous 2 hours.
It was 7:30pm and dark when we coasted into the hotel, which is literally on the Mexican border (we saw the “wall” as we cycled in this evening – yes, it does exist). Fortunately the restaurant was still open and after a quick freshen up we had a great meal …Mexican of course, and met two great women, Mo & Denise.
…more climbing tomorrow
Friday, 19 March 2010
What a ride! Today’s 90-miler into Brawley, CA was hot, hot, hot. We’re not sure of the precise temperature, but we’re pretty sure that it was in the 90s at times. Eek Squeak! But still better than the 120s that we would have hit had we tried this in August…
We didn’t quite make our mega-early start, but were on the road by around 8.30am. It was a windy day. But, for once, we caught a break. After the first few miles, where we had a ridiculously strong sidewinder, we had 25 miles or so of tail wind, which was just glorious. Services along the route were few and far between, so we had to stop around 20 miles into the trip to refill our already empty water bottles. We had a great chat with the local deputy sheriff (we think his name was Alfonso) and then rolled out of the gas station knowing that it would be 40 miles before the next gas station or grocery store.
The road today was both the most stunning and the most dangerous that we have ridden on. It was a 2-lane highway (i.e. a single lane in each direction) with a very narrow (Kate Moss-like) shoulder, and 18-wheelers, RVs and pick-ups speeding by at regular intervals, many of which were too close for comfort. And for some reason, even vehicles coming in the opposite direction seemed to think it was OK to overtake and speed toward us head-on rather than waiting until they had passed us. Still, we’re here in one piece, so it can’t have been that bad. It didn’t put off the cacophony of cyclists we saw riding in the opposite direction to us either: seems like California is living up to its reputation.
More than making up for this, though, the scenery was truly unique and breathtaking (see photos). We rode through the middle of the sand dunes of Glamis, giving the feel that we were right in the middle of the desert. And just to add to the vista, on one side of us in the distance were the Chocolate Mountains; a great contrast to the expanse of white sand. At the Glamis viewpoint we met Kent and Gary, from Phoenix, who kindly took a photo of the 2 of us together, a novel scenario, and entertained us with their witty conversation as we took in the view.
And then just as we were stopping to take yet another photo on the side of the road, a sheriff’s car pulled over. We were slightly uncomfortable until we realised it was Alfonso, who was on his way home, and who had pulled over to say hello and to check that we were getting on OK. What a star! Having been charged $7 at the one grocery store in Glamis for 2 bottles of Gatorade, and what with them trying to charge us $2 just to use the restroom (we crossed our legs instead in principle), we felt like reporting a daylight robbery… but we guess that’s what happens if you have a captive audience, and 40 miles to any other services.
So, we rolled into Brawley, CA, a bit hot and bothered, but having had an amazing ride. The hotel has its own restaurant too, so we were able to get some fish, rice and vegetables for dinner, which was an extremely welcome change to our recent diet of Mexican food and pizza.
We’re 220ft below sea-level at the moment…which is a bit strange given our jaunts at 8,230ft only a few weeks ago. Still, we’ll soon put that right. A 67-miler tomorrow, with a big 2,800ft climb at the end up to the small town of Jacumba, right on the Mexican border.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
With laundry and bike stuff completed yesterday, we sat and drank Starbucks Frappacino’s in the 88°C temperatures …too hot baby. We had a great chat with MG&T on the phone and just chilled for the rest of the day.
Tomorrow is a 90-miler literally through the desert (wait for the photos), so we plan on leaving at 7:30am, cause as you know, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
Yesterday’s blog is now posted …apologies for the delay.
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
"We’re in that sunshine state with a bomb ass hemp beat, the state where ya never find a dance floor empty. And pimps be on a mission for them greens, lean mean money-makin-machines servin fiends. We’ve been on this ride for five months makin progress, ever since our families finally said yes. Now it's March 2010 and ya still loyally follow us, smiles beaming lookin like we just ate bouillabaisse. And it's all good, from Del Rio to Midway, your city is tha bomb if your city makin pay. Throw up a finger if ya feel the same way, Kat & Ant puttin it down for Californ-i-a …yeah, that's right California Love, California Love!" You guessed it we’re in Cali … and thank you Tupac Shakur for inspiration.
Before reaching Schwarzenegger territory today, we had to perform essential maintenance on Trusty and Steed this morning, who are on their last legs and in desperate need of the replacement Groupset due to be fitted when we arrive in San Diego on Monday. Anthony patched up a few inner tubes and tightened the crank nut holding Trusty’s pedals together. Feeling left out, Audrey and Margaret decided to play silly buggers and when loaded with today’s route gave their independent view on how far today’s ride would be. Audrey estimated 65 miles, whereas Margaret decided to add an extra 300 miles to the plan …they’ve been a right pain in the arse of late.
So, ignoring the so-called guidance of satellite navigation, we were on the road heading for the borderline. It was so hot today the view straight ahead was a constant mirage. Each time we stopped for a short break, every person we met felt the need to tell us how lucky we were to be on the road now and not in a few weeks time, when apparently the temperatures soar above 110°C and it’s common to hear of people dying of heat exhaustion. Trying not to suffer the same fate, we stopped in Quartzsite, AZ for lunch/picnic eating 6-inch long Subways (which surprisingly can be quite healthy) under the shade of a tree on the lawn in front of the local McDonalds …no Stella this time just water.
Back on the road and approaching the California state line toward the end of today’s 61-mile ride, we thought how lucky we were to have had a perfect road surface that gradually carried us downhill all the way to this point, just 200ft above sea level. With a quick visit to a motorbike shop 2 miles shy of our hotel, we purchased a new tyre and their last inner tube just in case we experienced another failure before reaching San Diego, and then made our way to the hotel and prepared for a rest day in Blythe, CA.
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Have you ever wondered what a bug feels like as it hits the windscreen of your car? We’ll save you the jokes about what the last thing is that goes through its head… But, even if you have contemplated this fascinating question, have you ever considered what your windscreen feels like? Well, we think we can give some insight into this.
Spring has definitely arrived in Arizona. Technically, according to The Weather Channel, Spring starts on Saturday, but we’re already in the 80s here, the wildflowers blooming, and with them…yes, the BUGS are out in force. We first realised this yesterday evening as we changed Trusty’s tyre, and found them swarming around in packs and swooping down mercilessly onto every piece of exposed skin. Somehow, we didn’t end up with as many bites as we thought, but that was more through luck than better judgment.
Today, the bugs were in full flight as we cycled along. Imagine that our teeth are the radiator grill; our glasses the headlamps; and our handlebar bags the bonnet. A couple of rules all cyclists know: always zip up your shirt when descending, and most importantly of all, whenever you are travelling at speed, keep your mouth closed (a bug between the teeth is even less attractive then a piece of spinach, and one stuck in the back of the throat is even worse). Even when following these rules, there’s still a fair chance of some unwanted stow-aways either stuck in your cycle helmet or perched on your handlebar bar clinging on for dear life. Bugs, bugs, bugs…you gotta love em.
So, bug’s aside, what happened today? Well, it was a hot and sunny 55-mile ride from Wickenburg, the “gold rush” town, to Salome, a small town with little fame of which we are aware. The wind and hills were kind to us, and all we really had to worry about were the punctures and slow punctures that continue to plague us. Finding ourselves with a diminishing stock of spares (actually, no spare tyre and one spare tube, which was in need of a patch to repair it) was actually quite an alarming state of affairs. Still, we’re hoping to limp in to Blythe, CA tomorrow, where there is a small bike shop that can hopefully help us out.
One noteworthy event was lunch. We stopped at a small town called Aguila, pretty much the only place between Wickenburg and Salome, and were thrilled to find a farmer’s market in full swing as we pulled in. We ate Gorditas from a van operated by a friendly Mexican couple, washed down with a couple of Refrescos, and let us tell you that this was by far the best Mexican food we have tasted so far on the whole trip…and recently, that has been A LOT! of Mexican food.
Tonight we are in a very basic motel, and just ate take out hamburger and fries from the local (Mexican) restaurant. Given that the only cash we had left between us was $12 (we had forgotten to go to the ATM), and they only took cash, this was all we could afford! Still, at least we came in under budget.
p.s. sorry for the late post and thank you to Cactus and Cream for letting us use their internet connection
Monday, 15 March 2010
Here’s something strange! Arizona is in the US Mountain Time zone; to the west, California is in the Pacific Time zone; and to the east, Texas is in the US Central Time zone. So when the whole of the US adjusted their clocks on Saturday (one hour ahead for daylight savings time), one would think that Arizona would do the same? Well strange as it may seem, it didn’t. We are now officially in the ‘twilight zone’ and we’re being very careful not to watch too much TV in case our facial features disappear …cue spooky music!
Today’s curiously spooky ride must have been a result of the ‘twilight zone’. It was without doubt one of the clearest and hottest cycling days we have experienced to date; not a single wisp of white in the sky could be seen for miles around. All about us had a brilliant sheen; it was so bright you had to wear sunglasses to look at the shade! But, we’re not complaining. Scottsdale is so clean and pretty it definitely makes our top 3 list of places you would want to live in America. Our first 20 miles were played out along the most beautiful dedicated cycle path that hugged the banks of the Arizona Canal. Coming off the canal path we passed through Youngtown? Which is strange because as far as we could see 90% of the population consisted of very senior citizens driving around in their pimped out golf buggies; and then through Sun City, which did exactly what it said on the tin. The trees chosen to line the roadside weren’t your standard oak, ash or beech; but instead orange, lemon and palm.
Halfway through the day, everything was looking peachy, especially after we ate lunch at Appleby’s and experimented with a new rehydration method …2 pints of Stella! Carefully remounting, we set off again in the desert temperatures, being careful to stay close to the edge of the hard shoulder farthest from the traffic lanes! This we think was our undoing. One usually finds the most flotsam and jetsam (from the ships of the road) on this side of the hard shoulder, and soon afterward, as the sun was setting and we were just 15 miles outside of our final resting place in Wickenburg, that dreadful sound of pressurized air escaping from a small tight hole came upon us. After closer investigation we realised Anthony had experienced another tyre failure. Fortunately with one spare tyre left the problem was quickly fixed and we upped our pace to reach our Hotel as soon as possible to avoid another terrifying night cycle. We got to the hotel at 7pm (just a little night cycling but nothing too hairy), freshened up and went out to eat some lovely Mexican food …again.
Happy 12th Birthday Joseph (Anthony’s son), we love you Little Fella.
Sunday, 14 March 2010
We had a great rest day today in Scottsdale, AZ. It feels like we have finally cycled into the weather that we had been hoping for throughout our trip. Today was in the 70s…perfect for brunch outside, a quick wander around, a dip in the pool and the usual rest day activities (laundry, route planning, admin etc). Sounds like a typical Sunday, right? Well, it would be if we weren’t still completely exhausted, but we’re getting there.
Scottsdale seems like a wonderful place to live: never that cold, dry heat when it’s hot (and we believe that it does get ridiculously hot here). Also, full of cycle paths, bike trails, parks and outdoor activities, with stunning backdrops, plus plenty of quality restaurants and stores. We had a fantastic but reasonably priced fine dining restaurant right next to the hotel; and we’re now a big fan of Fry’s, a chain of supermarkets which is new to us, but which serviced our every need while we were here.
Tomorrow, we cycle 65 miles through Phoenix and out to the small town of Wickenburg. We’re focused on how close we are to the Pacific Coast now, and are hoping for some nice weather and some relatively easy riding to help us to continue to recover from some of the recent challenges. The forecast is “Scorchio” for the whole week, so for once we are hoping that the weather guys and gals have got it right.
P.S. Title chosen specially for Susie Bean, since we know it’s her favourite comedy show.
P.P.S. Well done Lewis Hamilton.
Saturday, 13 March 2010
Apparently there is a high chance that, like most of the 50 states in the USA, Arizona, with its high budget deficit could file for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy. The news reports are everywhere and to make things worse it’s alleged that party officials are so busy slinging mud at each other they have lost sight of how to run the state effectively and efficiently. Much like the rest of the world, Arizona has been confidently borrowing and spending with the belief that insurmountable debt is good, because if things get really bad the ‘Credit Fairy’ will turn up and wave her magic wand and make everything right again. Unfortunately, that magic credit fairy is currently on vacation, leaving the state of Arizona to think for itself and fix their debt crisis. Not that we’re complaining! As we pedalled the remaining 20 miles through Chandler, Tempe and into Paradise Valley, with the sun in our face and the wind on our backs, gliding along perfectly groomed tarmac arranged meticulously into 8ft wide cycle lanes, whilst we gazed upon the numerous crystal clear water fountains framing the entrances to each multimillion pound gated community and up-market Shopping Mall lining every street; we smiled and thought “what a lovely place this is”. It’s really not surprising there’s a mammoth budget deficit, even the road signs look as if they were commissioned to and designed by Philippe Starck …we love this place. We’ve published a couple of new photos on the site that show how decadent the bikes paths are!
Our Hotel is an example of coolness. Cheap but beautifully clean and managed by very professional staff, we’re stunned by how much is on offer for such a reasonable price. However, we have a slight problem with the building next door. Avalon Restaurant! It’s to die for, great food and wine, beautiful people and a great bar; they have even promised Anthony he can turn up at 8am tomorrow to watch the start of the Grand Prix …c’mon Lewis!
FYI the riding today was a perfect 60-mile flat ride into Scottsdale, AZ …just cruisin’ baby! Rest day tomorrow.
Friday, 12 March 2010
It’s always difficult to get moving again after a rest day, so having had two glorious rest days in Tucson, and adoring the little B&B where we stayed, it wasn’t easy. However, we felt refreshed by our break, and were thrilled that the weather was being kind to us for a change. It was a fairly straightforward 72-mile ride today from Tucson to Florence, AZ. The sun shone and the winds were light so, although it was a long way, we completed the journey in good time, and at a moving average of 14.1mph, our fastest average for some time. The scenery was lovely as usual and, as well as the various cacti to which we have become accustomed, we were also treated to masses of wild flowers along the sides of the road as we sped along. When we arrived at the hotel, we soaked in the hot tub, followed by a quick cold plunge in the pool before heading across the road to a small Italian restaurant (in fact the only restaurant around) where we had pasta/pizza and a glass of wine: just the ticket. We’re off to Phoenix/Scottsdale tomorrow, and will then be back on the cycling maps again…California, here we come!
Thursday, 11 March 2010
Today we give thanks! Thank you Thursday for being the day after Wednesday and bringing another day of rest to our weary bones and fatigued muscles; thank you Followers and Commentators for living the dream, doing good in the world and continuing to support us along our flight of fantasy; thank you Family members for being patient as your 40/39 year old children embark upon craziness you would have expected us to do during our terrible teens …better late than never we suppose; and thanks to Georgios Varnasidis the owner of Athens on 4th Avenue, a Greek restaurant in Tucson that serves the most authentic Greek food outside of Skiathos … cheese and prawn saganaki followed by chicken souvlaki: deeelicious.
By now, you will have already guessed that yesterday’s fun packed day has left us with little to do today but eat, laze around and be merry. It’s upsetting for us to write a blog without having anything interesting to say, so in an attempt to make this a little more interesting let us share a few of today’s activities:
(i) Kat shook the cobwebs off her itsy bitsy teenie weenie brown polka dot bikini and sunbathed in the walled garden, trying to fade-in some of the prominent suntan lines acquired from spending hours dressed in t-shirts and shorts riding a bike; (ii) Anthony shaved his head; (iii) we both read books; and (iv) we took a stroll down University Blvd and had coffee and cakes (and pizza) for lunch.
We start cycling again tomorrow; 75 miles into Florence, AZ.
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Today was all about our heroes, Trusty & Steed. As we mentioned in one of the recent blogs, they have been badly in need of some TLC for a while now, and today we started to sort out a few of their issues.
Tucson really is an amazing city for cyclists. You have never seen as many bike lanes, dedicated bike paths, and cyclists. Apparently it is the 6th most bike-friendly city in the US, the top 5 places being taken by Portland, OR, Boulder, CO, David, CA, San Francisco, CA and (our old favourite NYC) respectively. We can’t imagine how anywhere could be more cycling-friendly than we have found Tucson to be, but we’ll report back as we get to California and Oregon.
Another advantage of this state of affairs is that Tucson has a wealth of excellent bike shops, churning over bikes for service almost as quickly as items of dry cleaning, with hundreds of them stacked up ingeniously in rows all over the walls, each with its little tag on saying what is wrong with it/what has been fixed etc.
The issues with Trusty & Steed, however, need a little more than a day to fix. So, we rolled over to Performance Bikes (E Speedway Blvd location), where Bryan, Maxim, Chris and Ricky helped us order all the parts that we need to be delivered to their San Diego store, where we will book T&S in to be stripped down and rebuilt. These four guys worked like Trojans for us to get all of the parts together, and matched an internet price that Anthony had found, so we were very happy indeed. Thanks guys!
Then we cycled over to Fair Wheel Bikes, a Specialized dealer, where Steve kindly sorted out Steed’s rear ‘freewheel’ hub, which had been making a terrible racket, all for the price of a 6-pack of Hoegarten. Thanks Steve – you’re the man!
By the time we had finished all of this, we were “Hank Marvin” so we wandered out to a nearby Thai restaurant. The meal would have been great, were it not for the fact that we chose a bottle of wine from the ‘wine wall’ (there was no wine list and no prices) which we found out, when we received the bill, was $60, compared to a meal otherwise costing $35. Even though the wine was nice, we felt ripped off. You win some, you lose some, we guess.
Anyway, we’re enjoying our break here in Tucson, and particularly having two rest days in a row, which we haven’t done since Austin, and which we have now realised is really essential every now and again to recharge properly. And we must also say again that the Peppertrees Inn is one of the nicest places we have stayed. We’re being well and truly spoiled, and it will be hard to leave…
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
As soon as we crossed into Arizona state, we sensed an air of wealth and sophistication about the place. Clifton, Safford, Bisbee, and now Tucson (notice we have excluded Willcox, which was total shite) all felt refreshingly different. It’s difficult to describe but, much like when crossing the Brooklyn or Severn bridges, there is the undeniable feeling that you have left one environment and entered into a very different one …think of Osmosis! The bridge/state line being the semi permeable membrane and you/we being the ‘energised’ solvent … who would have thought that south east Arizona is a hot bed for hippies, thespians, students of life, bohemians and cool 40 somethings!
Excited at the prospect of staying in Tucson for a few days, we woke up this morning after having a great night’s sleep at the Sonoita Inn (big shout to Alfred the day manager who made our stay perfect), had breakfast by the open fireplace then set out for the 57-mile trip. The first 50 miles were perfect, bar a few violent 23mph gusts (too many cowboy beans last night); the last 7 miles were spent cycling square into the wind, with sheets of freezing rain cutting into every piece of exposed skin.
Arriving at the Peppertrees Inn B&B and meeting with Jill (a joint owner) we were overjoyed to be staying 3 nights at this most wonderful place. After a quick wash and brush up, we took Jill’s recommendation and ate a restaurant called the B-Line; it was great and full of sooo-phisticats.
Before we go we’d like to say a big ‘hiya’ to MG&T, Pat and SB
Monday, 8 March 2010
(Apologise for the delay. Limited Internet last night)
We were slightly dismayed by the “Local on the 8s” forecast on The Weather Channel last night: 1-2 inches of snow overnight for Bisbee. We went South to avoid that! But, despite the winter weather advisory, by the time we hit the road this morning, it was fine. A little chilly, but we can cope with that. We waved a fond farewell to Bisbee (we loved that place, especially our hotel, Letson Loft – thanks Jami!), and were on our way.
It was fun descending the massive hill that we had climbed in the dark two days ago…especially in the light. Our problem today was the wind: sound familiar? Well, when we rode into Bisbee on Saturday, we were travelling South and the wind was blowing from the South, or South East. On the way out of Bisbee, we were travelling North, and then West/North West. So, where was the wind coming from today? Yes, people, you know the answer to that. And it was blowing at 20 – 30 mph, with even stronger gusts. When will it ever let up?
Still, it was a much shorter ride today; just a 55-mile hop into Arizona wine country, and the town of Sonoita. Taking it steadily, and weathering the odd shower along the way, we tried not to fight too hard against the wind, and found that we pulled into the hotel car park in fairly good shape and at a respectable time. We were looking forward to our arrival all day, as we knew that there was a great restaurant next to our hotel where we could have a decent steak and sample some of the local red. We weren’t disappointed.
Soon after sitting down in “Steak Out”, we found that the chef, Vince, was English (though he has been in Arizona for around 30 years). So, as well as a fantastic steak and a great bottle of wine from the area, we had a really entertaining evening chatting with Vince, and his other half, Toni, who was our server for the night (they run the restaurant between them.) We were also treated to a bowl of Toni’s special dessert, a type of frozen “mudslide” on top of crushed Oreos….yummy.
We’re off to Tucson tomorrow, where we will try to ensure that Trusty & Steed, who have been suffering a bit recently, get some TLC before we are on our way again. Bless them.
Sunday, 7 March 2010
We’re no religious folk y’all understand (no offense intended), but today we observed Sunday as a day of well-needed rest and didn’t rush to get up out of bed. Cycling last night in the dark was pretty scary and we hope never to do that again.
It was lunchtime when we finally left the hotel room to have a quick tour of the town. First of all, we went to the local coffee house for a caffeine and pastry fix. Whilst there, we took advantage of the wifi signal and posted yesterday’s blog. We also met cyclists Lynda, Teresa and Tom, who looked very 'pro' in their team colours with their ultra-light racing bikes. Shortly afterwards, we took a stroll to the Bisbee Bike Brothel, had a chat with Ken the proprietor and bought some new gas canisters and inner tubes. Around 3pm, we visited the local Food Market & Café where we met Payton (we believe she’s the proprietor) who coincidentally had also toured the perimeter of the US, starting in New York and going clockwise, on a bike …Motorbike! Walking away with our purchased bottle of Jacobs Creek fizz, Rosemary & Olive bread, Chicken Liver paté and Fromager d’Affinois we got back to our hotel room happy and content.
Bisbee Arizona aka the “mile high city” is a bonanza of refreshing quirkiness. Very different from any place experienced to date, we’re pleased to have a rest day in a truly cosmopolitan city. Gone are the marketed personal experiences Walmart, McDonalds, Starbucks et al and instead a plethora of local businesses line every street that more than adequately cater for your every gastronomic and artisan need.
We had an early dinner tonight and plan on getting an early night; we’re facing more headwinds and steep hill climbs tomorrow.
Saturday, 6 March 2010
We saw some stunning views today. The sort that you expect of Arizona, including expanses of desert, cacti, large rocks perched on top of on another, mountains etc. It’s just that today was one of those very few days where we would have preferred to see them through the lightly tinted window of a White Chevy Suburban rather than sitting on Trusty and Steed. Let us enlighten you.
To explain today, we really need to start by going back to last night in Willcox. We were staying in a hotel which really ought to have been perfectly respectable, but turned out to be a complete “Norman Bates” motel: groups of guys “loitering” outside and, worse, partying in the room above us until around 3am. Not good, considering we had set the alarm for 6am, knowing that we had a long ride with a lot of climbing, and the wind forecast was not looking favourable. You know what’s coming next people…
…yes, we overslept. The alarm went off, we switched it off and promptly slept through until 7.40am. Rushing a quick shower, pulling on our cycling gear and bolting down a hurried breakfast, accompanied by coffee out of cups that had been washed in bleach and not rinsed… we dashed to reception to check out. Only to be charged a $2 “security” fee because apparently they employ a security guard to keep things in order and check that cars are not being vandalised etc… obviously a deaf security guard, given the noise levels. We refused to pay the charge on principle and huffed and puffed as we set off to join our friend the I-10 for the first leg of today’s trip.
The ride started well, with a goodish road surface and only a mild side wind. That was until we hit a stretch of road, which went on for several miles, where the shoulder of the interstate had been “groomed” but not yet re-tarmac’ed. Still, we beetled on, and soon found ourselves climbing up into Texas Canyon and the truly fabulous views we talked about at the start of this blog (see photos). Descending into Benson where we would have a short break for lunch, everything seemed hunky dory. We had a pleasant break outside a gas station on the edge of Benson, where we met Chris and Floyd, a lovely couple who were interested in our trip and even made a donation to MS. Thanks Chris and Floyd!
Then we set off into the wind. And the rain started too. Big, warm rain drops blown into your face by the strong head and side winds. Luckily the rain didn’t continue for too long, but the winds certainly did: relentless draining wind, accompanied by the most powerful gusts you can think of. Teetering on the strip of tarmac in the shoulder between the white line and the rumble strip, we found ourselves frequently pushed off the road or onto the rumble strip. And of course, we were making very slow progress. By around 4pm, we eventually pulled into Tombstone, AZ, just 25 miles from our destination, Bisbee.
Tombstone, AZ, the site of the gunfight at the OK Corral…and the location of our first puncture of the day. Having fixed Trusty’s tyre, stocked up on liquid, and receiving another kind donation at the gas station in Tombstone from Denise, a lady who spoke to Anthony while he fixed the tyre, we set off again, with the sun quickly falling in the sky. And in the true spirit of today’s offerings from the man on high, a couple of miles from Tombstone, Steed got a puncture. So, there we were, on the side of the road, oily and dusty, being buffeted around, and watching the sun start to set, with still around 23 miles to go.
As the sun set, and it got darker and darker, it became more and more difficult. We didn’t know whether to be more scared of the cars and trucks passing us at night (though we were well-lit), or the wild animals that were clearly present in the area: not only did we see the chubby backsides of a couple of wild-boar type animals darting through the long grass at the side of the road, but we also observed the road signs warning us of the animals that we might encounter as well. The last 15 miles in the pitch black, climbing over 1,500 ft to an altitude of 5,890ft, seemed to go on forever; and we really mean forever. It took us over 1h30 of being disorientated, scared and tired before we finally saw the “Welcome to Bisbee” sign and started descending into the town, almost 10 hours after we had set out from Willcox this morning.
With huge relief, we arrived safe and sound at our hotel for the night, the Letson Loft, which is absolutely lovely, and so cosy. We were also thrilled to find a proper little town with sidewalks, restaurants, shops and coffee houses etc. Joy. It wasn’t long until we were in the Bisbee Grille with a large glass of wine, and some yummy food. Who needs a Chevy Suburban?! And we realised that we had, today, passed the 5,000 mile threshold (only 9,000 to go).
A well-needed rest day tomorrow in Bisbee, where we plan to meander around the town and do as little as possible.
Friday, 5 March 2010
Umm …Hi everyone, how was your day today? Ours was pretty bland. Just scorching hot weather as we headed south toward Bisbee filling time, as we’re no longer going to visit the Grand Canyon.
Umm …Hi everyone, how was your day today? Ours was pretty bland. Just scorching hot weather as we headed south toward Bisbee filling time, as we’re no longer going to visit the Grand Canyon.
Tonight we’re staying in Willcox and will complete the 85 miles into Bisbee tomorrow.
…we’re really sorry guys but today was just a simple 45-mile cycle in the bright sunshine, on great roads surrounded by majestic mountains (see photo).
Thursday, 4 March 2010
Bliss! An early night last night, and a lie in this morning. We’re still feeling beaten up by the last few days, but this has helped towards our recovery in a big way. We had a great rest day here at the Olney House B&B in Safford, AZ, starting with a hearty breakfast and fascinating chat with Chris and Deborah, the owners, including many tales of high jinx in High Wycombe and its environs…
The “stay as far South as possible without crossing the Mexican border” approach to route planning was also implemented, and we now have a cunning plan to get us from here to San Diego. We will explore Southern Arizona, including travelling through Tombstone, Bisbee and Tucson, before we head back up to Phoenix, and join up with the ACA cycling maps again to take us into California, and on to the West Coast. Sounds like fun, and we’re demonstrating our faith in the weather by putting our cold weather gear to the bottom of our panniers, and dusting off the short sleeved tops, which have been screwed up in little balls in the bottom of our bags for a very long time now. Good news for the share price of U.S. sun-block manufacturers we think. Buy, buy, buy. (Add disclaimer statement here!)
Trusty & Steed have also had a proper wash and brush up, and are gleaming like dressage horses ready to do their criss-cross steps elegantly across the paddock. And we’ve made progress with finding a place for them to have their half-way “check-up” on the West Coast to make sure that all is in order.
For our Eat the Borderline fans, who may have thought that we had gone rather quiet recently, we should let you know that we had a fantastic Mexican meal tonight. Wonderful chicken fajitas cooked the proper way, washed down with a large Rita. And just you wait for tales from Bisbee and Tucson…we’ve already checked out the restaurants in the guidebooks that we found here at our B&B.
A relatively short hop tomorrow to break our journey to Bisbee. More then.
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
It was a short relaxing ride out of Clifton today: we cycled 44 miles from Clifton to Safford, which is 165 miles ESE of Phoenix. Phoenix is also known as ‘The Valley of the Sun’ and this aka did not disappoint today. The sun was so bright and hot today (let’s not talk about Sunday’s weather experience) it put us in such a great mood that the prospect of spending the first 2 hours of the ride climbing 2,000ft out of the valley did not faze us. The ride was ‘really cool’, you know one of those days where nothing goes wrong and burning calories is a pleasure and not a chore. Only the one photo was taken today but it’s pretty awesome!
An interesting fact about the Clifton area: the neighbouring town of Morenci has the largest open-pit copper mine in the US and one of the largest in the world. The mine produces around 30% (approx $2 billion) of the US total output of copper and is so big it can be seen from space …so how come we missed it? Sorry guys, the photos would have been grrrreeeat! Oh and one other thing! It is believed that Geronimo, the famous Apache Warrior, was born in the area.
Arriving at Olney House Bed & Breakfast we met the owner Chris Gibbs, who before living in Safford, AZ lived in High Wycombe for three years. That’s right! The very same place in which Anthony spent his formative years between the ages of 5 and 18. Chris then waxed lyrical about one of his favourite pubs in Flackwell Heath. That’s right! The very same Flackwell Heath in which Kat spent her infant years between the ages of 0 and 2. It also turned out that he and his wife worked for the armed forces, with his wife working at the same place Anthony’s dad worked. Who would have thought that after flying 3,000 miles and then cycling 5,000 miles we’d meet someone from Buckinghamshire …six degrees of separation people!
Before we retired to our lovely little cottage, Chris informed us of the local history involving ‘Billy the Kid’ making his first kill not too far (just over the hill) from our room. Apparently he shot the local Barber who was the town bully.
So we’re just chillin’ out in front of the TV with a remote control that doesn’t work. To switch channels we now have to temporarily stop stuffing crisps and cookies in our mouths, get up out of the sofa and push the channel button on the front of the TV. Who would believe it! How did we cope in the 70’s before the invention of the common infrared TV remote? But imagine our excitement as we flicked through the stations and saw in full view on the Cathode Ray Tube, an advertisement for a new series to be aired on the Discovery Channel; ‘Who Framed Jesus? Was it the Jewish authorities, Pontius Pilate or maybe Judas Iscariot?’ We can’t wait to see the first series and have put money on the mild-mannered janitor!