Monday, 30 November 2009

Racoons vs. Opossums

Today proved to be a day of twists and turns! First and foremost we needed to service the fundamental pieces of equipment that had successfully brought us the 1,400 miles to Savannah. We wheeled Trusty (Anthony’s bike) and Steed (Kat’s Bike) to Sekka bike shop where Ethan placed his healing hands upon our “vehicles composed of two wheels held in a carbon fibre composite frame” to make them as good as new. More interesting, however, was the fact that in our previous blog we made reference to the evolution of the bicycle made in 1864, and for those not in touch with such trivial pursuits, we were referring to the Penny Farthing (Bone Shaker). And there, standing pride of place in Sekka, was a modern day Penny Farthing… bizarre!

Happy that Trusty and Steed were in the hands of a professional, it was time to place our next most precious items in the hands of Gloria and Sabrina for a good servicing. What many of you may not realise is that keeping bodily parts wrapped in leather, sweating for 8 hours a day can result in skin falling off those bodily parts. Fortunately for us, Gloria and Sabrina were proficient pedicurists and, much like the achievements of Ethan with Trusty and Steed, Gloria and Sabrina made our feet as good as new. However, slightly disturbing was Gloria’s advice on the best way to eat a "coon". Sometimes referred to as wild meat, the best way to eat a "coon" is to cut its head off first and then skin it (unlike Opposums where you burn/scorch the skin to remove the hair). Once gutted and portioned, season well and cook until tender. Apparently it tastes like beef. Personally eating Racoon or Opposum is something we’ll leave to the professionals.

With feet and bikes ready to stamp out another 1,400 miles before their next service, we headed back to our hotel for social hour; a complimentary spread of wine, cheese, biscuits and fruit to encourage frivolity and social chat amongst hotel residents… we know what you’re thinking! Not wishing to be party poopers we duly got into the elevator and made our way to the foyer for drinks. “Chance is as chance does” we met a lovely lady who lives in North London and works for Clifford Chance. We had a nice chat but Anthony decided to show Kat the “enough talk about boring work, already” card when the work conversation stretched past the 5-minute barrier.

Now seated in a lovely restaurant overlooking the Savannah River, Kat and Anthony were tucking into some great food. The interesting thing about this restaurant is that it overlooks the Savannah River, which carries cargo ships into the port, the 9th largest in the US. We’re not sure if you have ever experienced the optical illusion of sitting on a train in a station looking out of the window at the stationary train next to you? You gaze down to read the article in the newspaper placed on your lap then briefly look up and out of the window again, shocked to see your train is moving backwards. Of course it isn’t, it’s the train next to you moving forward. Well, when sitting in this restaurant looking out of the window witnessing a container ship the size of Manhattan making its way down the river you get the feeling the whole restaurant is moving; it’s mind blowing! We even heard the guy on the next table ask his date if the earth moved for her!

Us x

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Blue (Whale) Savannah Song

After watching Forrest Gump last night and realising that he was actually sitting on a bench in Savannah while telling his life story and talking about “my Jenny”, we were even more excited to get out today and have a look round the City. The historic downtown is made up of a grid system, but with a historic square in the middle every 2/3 blocks: 22 in total. Forrest sat on the North side of Chippewa Square, which is just one across and two down from our hotel. We have John Wesley in the middle of ours: the founder of the Methodist Church. Luckily, despite his influence, we were still able to locate a Mimosa (Bucks Fizz) and a beer for brunch today…yay!

In fact, one of the best things about being here has been the opportunity just to wander around and find cafes, restaurants etc that serve fresh food; not fried; no pizza, and definitely no Golden Arches. We might even manage to take a few photos…TMG, we actually saw a woolly mammoth riding on the back of a blue whale down the Savannah River today - couldn’t get the lens cap off in time; sorry…

Us x

Saturday, 28 November 2009

‘effing Ham

Have you ever spent the first few hours of the morning thinking something wasn’t quite right? Then suddenly realised that you have done something in your life you have never done before. Well we have and guess what it was. OK, don’t guess, we’ll tell you… Last night we had Burgers (McDonalds to be precise) for dinner before going to bed and then burgers this morning for breakfast. The breakfast burgers weren’t actually made of beef; we think pork was the main ingredient. Nonetheless, they were the yummiest processed man-made food substitute we have ever tasted. Fortunately today was due to be a 5400 calories burn… “should have had two of those man-made miracles!"

The plan for today was to enter the wonderful state of Georgia, touching down in Savannah to witness a little piece of Surrey in America. You see; in 1732 James Edward Oglethorpe, a member of the English Parliament who grew up on his family estate in Godalming Surrey, founded the Colony of Georgia now called Savannah. This interesting chapter of English/American history is confirmed as soon as you enter Savannah…the English are everywhere!

So, spinning out of South Carolina at 59 rpm feeling the sun in our eyes, no rain on our faces and love in hearts, we set off on the 60-mile trip to Georgia. Unfortunately, an additional 15 miles were missing from the plan. Worse still it was 2pm, the Sun decided we had seen enough of him and we were 45 miles into the trip in the aptly named county of Effingham (excuse our French) before the calculation error decided to reveal itself. Panic would have been a natural response. Good thing we didn’t panic, we just gave each other the “YES WE CAN” stare then set off at 20mph with flames dancing off our back wheels…burning rubber! Overjoyed with the hard shoulder presented before us that rated on the Moss scale somewhere between Lebron James and Shakil O’Neil, we were hindered only by the appellation controlee. If you’re familiar with the evolution of the bicycle made in 1864 by the French Michaux family, you’ll know exactly what the ride felt like. We soldiered on and remarkably made it to the Hotel just before 4pm.

We’re now fed and tired watching Forest Gump on TV, which reminds us. We have not yet seen any of you join us on a stage of the trip. We suppose if it does eventually happen it’s likely y’all are waiting for the PCH stage. But before you jump to make arrangements with work, family etc. we need to tell you that we’re going to be spending the next 7 days in Savannah to make significant changes to the route through Georgia, the West coast of Florida (Ferry schedules etc.) and the Southern tier avoiding the Mexican border (don’t ask). Blog postings will be short and sweet over the next few days.

Us x

Friday, 27 November 2009

Running to Stand Still

After 2 whole rest days, it was a tad more tricky than usual to get ourselves up at the crack of dawn, and climb onto the bikes; especially to pedal out of a truly stunning place like Charleston. Still, it was one of those glorious days that we used to marvel at when we lived in New York: bright, crisp…and absolutely freezing!

Today, it was a relatively straightforward 63-mile ride West South West to a place called Point South, a stop off on our way to Savannah, Georgia. Or it would have been straightforward were it not for the 10-20 mph head wind buffeting us all the way there (well, mainly Anthony, who took the brunt of the wind for the vast majority of it as Kat, the crafty draftee, tagged along behind), which made it feel at times like we were pedalling on spinning bikes in the gym rather than making any headway… and, of course the antics of the Gamines, who were worse than useless today (yawn, sounds familiar). Yes, although there was a Federal Highway all the way from Charleston to Point South, we had tried to mix it up a bit by choosing some roads alongside the highway to give us a bit of respite and get us away from the traffic. Unfortunately, we started to find that some of these so-called “roads” were actually half-made up sand tracks. Naturally, we didn’t find that out until we were already some way down the first one…we were particularly glad at that point to be on our touring bikes rather than the racers that we left back in the UK.

So, sticking to the highway for the rest of the way (Gamines, tail-spin, heard it before), it was a bit of a slog. Still, the scenery got better and better as the day wore on, including vast areas of wetlands with herons, and probably all manner of other beautiful birds that we were travelling too fast to spot. We did manage to snap one shot when we found a wide enough shoulder to stop on. Talking of shoulders, rather like the appellation controlee that we have been applying to road surface throughout our trip (today was fairly Vin de Table), we are thinking of starting a scale for shoulder width, based on our “Moss scale” (that’s Kate Moss in her waif-era, for those who missed our blog on that from a few days ago). Today would have been a Victoria Beckham.

Tomorrow we will set off bright and early, bound for Savannah, praying for Grand Cru Classe, Caster Semenya, and a tail wind…

Us x

Thursday, 26 November 2009

We give thanks!

First and foremost we’d like to thank all those who have made donations via our blog to help those living with MS, and big special thanks to our family who are great and Joseph who is so special.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in the US who have found it hard to celebrate Thanksgiving today due to the pain and suffering caused by MS; just like Amy of New Hampshire a Mom of three who battles through life everyday to make her children’s life as beautiful as she can. Unlike Amy, joy is brought to our lives knowing that you; our dearest friends follow us on the blog and care for our well-being. Unfortunately your care for our well-being does not help Amy and millions of others like her. What they need from you is your money. If love, care and best intentions could buy drugs and supply healthcare, Barack Obama would be having a much easier time reforming the US healthcare system right now. So guys start making donations and give thanks! And before you start formulating more reasons to procrastinate further, let us quash a few pitiful excuses for you:

  • We have completed 1,239.17 miles in 24 days, approximately 10% of the total distance, carrying all of our gear for the year, and at times in driving rain and wind. It has been quite tough, just in case you thought the last month has been a walk in the park and we hadn’t demonstrated enough commitment.
  • Both the US Multiple Sclerosis site and the UK Just Giving site are secure and will not steal your identity.
  • None of your money goes to us. Nada. We are funding this trip ourselves.
  • Healthcare professionals generally do not wait to administer life changing drugs until the patient has proved they have suffered at least 50% of the total amount of expected suffering…so please stop convincing yourselves we have to complete at least half (or more) of the journey before you donate.
  • Over 400,000 people in the US (2.5 million worldwide) suffer from MS with a new person every hour being diagnosed.

Come on guys, give thanks, donate cash and remember…

"Be glad that you are free

Free to change your mind

Free to go most anywhere, anytime

Be glad that you are free

There's many a man who's not

Be glad for what you had and what you've got"

… And now for something a little more light-hearted!

Unusually for us on a rest day, it was 9am when we rolled out of bed, drew back the curtains and were greeted by a beautifully clear, sunny day. As we looked out of our window and saw hundreds of Charlestonians doing the Turkey Run, we were keen to get out and join the street parties. The Turkey Run is a tradition in Charleston where people of the city get together to run down King Street and around the choice parts of downtown Charleston, giving thanks and making room for the 10lbs of deep fried turkey they’re about to consume. The atmosphere on the streets was pumping. Live bands and entertainment packed out Marion Square near the hotel. We had a great walk around the French Quarter, dreaming of owning one of the stunning houses dotted all the way along the waterfront. The views were astonishing, and to cap it all off, we saw a Dolphin effortlessly breaching 100 yards from the bayside… beautiful!

It was 2pm and we had walked about 3 miles; lunch was calling. Fortunately we stumbled across Magnolias, a Charleston institution for fantastic Southern cooking, serving the traditional gastronomic experience; turkey, stuffing, collard greens, cranberry sauce and mash potatoes… delicious! Of course we started with glasses of bubbly, progressed to some decent vino, then finished with a chocolate brownie.

Check out the pictures

Us x

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Runnin' Wild in Charleston

Preparing for a trip like this is no mean feat. A considerable amount of planning and expectation setting was required to ensure we would have the best experience possible. Throughout the 9 months of cataloguing, scheduling, researching and purchasing we received a lot of advice from family and recommendations from friends. Mary-Louise, a very dear friend of ours, had recently visited Charleston and was in awe of the place. Her rhapsodies of praise were definitely not over played. There are so many historic nuggets, amazing architectural experiences, very hospitable & generous people and great places to eat and drink. And of course not forgetting:

  • Condé Nast Traveller Magazine naming Charleston as one of the top ten places to visit in North America.
  • America's first museum, The Charleston Museum, was founded here in 1773.
  • The official beginning of the Civil War happened here at Fort Sumter in 1860.

… our (more like Anthony) personal favourite

  • Charleston maintains a ratio of 12:1. Yes that’s right; for every 1 guy there are 12 women, and we’re not talking about the types of women you’ll find queuing in your local KFC ordering a family bucket for 1!

With our heads still throbbing from the night before, we decided to venture out and witness first hand some of Charleston’s amazing facts and figures; we weren’t disappointed. Chaps, this place is amazing, great shops …and stuff! KatNav located King Street (much like the Kings Road in Chelsea) quicker than Audrey or Margaret could suggest to ‘Make a U Turn’; and then proceeded to make a purchase in the very first shop we saw, no kidding. We did eventually find a great place to eat that served ‘bottomless’ Mimosas and of course we accepted their offer to drink PINTS of Mimosa with a vain hope and belief in the ‘hair of the dog’ theory.

Its Thanksgiving tomorrow, and we’re going to take part in the celebrations. Don’t worry, we’ll research what the celebrations represent before blindly taking part in this historic American cultural event. Expect lots of photos tomorrow.

Still missin’ ya.

Us x

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Long Way Round

Eagle-eyed followers will glean from the small number of photos for today that it was a time of much pedalling and little dallying. Well, when you’re going to cycle 81 miles for a journey that really ought to be about 35 miles, you don’t really have time to hang around…

We set off early into what was a grey, drizzly day – a BLD (back light day) i.e. we had to keep our back lights on for the whole day for visibility. Our route took us South from Moncks Corner and then skirted round to the West and then the South of Charleston, rather than taking a direct route in from the North. The Gamines were totally confused, bless the old dears, and had several panic attacks on the way. Still, as a couple of flappers, they were looking forward to Charleston (groan). Rather alarmingly, they told us at the beginning of the ride that the route was 120 miles long (and dug their ‘kitten’ heels in on that one until very near the finish).

Early into the ride, we had the usual loose dog issue; this time, an aggressive little Jack Russell. However, our new technique of slowing down and facing up to the little mutts is serving us well. After tearing out of its porch at full pelt, yapping its head off, it saw us face up…eek, and screeched to a halt. Checking its proverbial fingernails, and looking around with faux nonchalance, it adopted the “anyway, as I was saying” retreat, much to our amusement. Especially for TWH, who needs to know precise details of all dogs mentioned in the blog, we’ve included a photo…enjoy.

Still, it was a great ride: flat, fast and with some lovely scenery. The roads were generally quite good, though with shoulders narrower than Kate Moss in her waif era (and in some places, non-existent). Due to the ditzy Gamines, the route line approaching Charleston city centre itself looked like a child had scribbled on the screen … However, we arrived safely, and excited about the prospect of 2 whole rest days in a row.

Kat was overjoyed to see a Starbucks on the route to the hotel - her last skinny latte was weeks ago in Baltimore courtesy of Caribou Coffee (slogan “Life’s short, so stay awake for it!”). And so many wonderful bars and restaurants to choose from…yippee – no burger/fries/pizzas for us, at least for a few days.

We were so excited, that we ventured out early evening bound for a decent looking French restaurant. However, as we loitered outside a different French restaurant en route, we were “approached” by Billy, whose family owned the steak restaurant next door. Even Anthony, the best salesman Kat has ever witnessed, has to admit that he was outmanoeuvred on this occasion. We were inside the steak restaurant drinking complimentary Bombay Sapphire cocktails, and eating delicious food quicker than you can say “aged strip steak” (Anthony denies that it had anything to do with the scantily clad “Sapphire” girls parading around inside). With our usual restraint, our “just one after-dinner drink” turned into more than one, and…well, you know the rest. But, it was worth it, having had a great fun evening with our new friends: Sheri, Tim, Billy and Billy’s Dad (Bill).

Now, we just need to get ourselves out of the door to see a bit of Charleston… pass the Advil will you, dahling….

Us x


Yes. We're here in Charleston, and we have so much to say about our ride, and our evening...However, a la Richmond (hammered), we went out for a bite to eat, and have only just arrived back in the hotel room, having met some lovely new friends...

We will tell all tomorrow.

Us x

Monday, 23 November 2009

Day 30 (dull, grey, cold and wet)

You won’t be surprised to hear that today ‘a rest day’, was again an opportunity for us to do our laundry. For some of you it is no wonder to read that we’re spending a significant amount of time in laundry rooms; it is where we met after all. Second only to loitering in laundry rooms Kat’s other vice (or virtue) is food. So with a pannier full of clean clothes and a fist full of dollars we headed down to the local (if you consider local to be a 2 mile walk down an 8 lane highway without a sidewalk/pavement) Appleby’s for a spot of wholesome non-fried food. Feeling a little healthier we headed back to the Hotel room, after a minor detour to Food Lion to collect an essential bottle of Chenin Blanc; one can never be too prepared!

We’re now psyching ourselves up for tomorrow’s 78 mile trek to Charleston. That’s like cycling from London to Swindon just in time to catch Trisha on daytime TV.

Us x

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Moncky Business

The day started in a very similar way to the one before, with us peeling ourselves out of the silk sleeping sock. Yes, the motel was another skanky flea-pit … very Bates-like, to borrow a TMG-ism (thanks for the comments, guys). So, after a quick cobbled together breakfast courtesy of yesterday’s Food Lion expedition, we hit the road quick smart.

It was a short hop to Moncks Corner, our destination for a rest day prior to our lengthy ride into Charleston for Thanksgiving. At our rest stop we ran into the County Sheriff…not literally (thank goodness), although we did end up talking with him for quite a while. He confirmed what we already knew…our “cycle-safe” routes definitely take us the long way round! According to him, we could have been in Charleston by tonight, instead of which we had a 40 mile ride today, and we have a 78 mile ride on Tuesday.

Still, the routes have been pretty good so far. Today, we rode through the Francis Marion National Forest, miles of unspoiled woodland, where we barely saw any cars, though we did spot a few interesting fungi (just setting some of you comedians up for an easy joke or two…). And even the Gamines were moderately well-behaved today, after having an extremely mischievous day yesterday, “go figure”, as they say…

So, we arrived at our lovely, clean, non-infested hotel just in time to miss the rain. Result. We did, however, end up with pizza in the room again for dinner (sans alcohol – gotta love those Sunday trading laws), though not until we had already ventured out in the rain at Kat’s insistence to “see what’s there”. Tomorrow, we will explore a little more. Apparently, the film The Notebook was partly filmed around here. Hopefully Kat will be able to contain herself if we find out where, since she’s usually in tears less than 20 minutes into that film. We might even discover somewhere to get a decent glass of wine, though we won’t be asking Audrey and Margaret for help with that.

Us x

Saturday, 21 November 2009

... c'mon baby lets do the twist

Apologies for the late post! We arrived at the Motel in Andrews with lots of time to spare looking forward to reading your comments and posting more interesting facts about the day today, only to find the Motel didn’t have interweb access; worse, no flippin’ hair dryer!

Before getting started with today’s events, we should explain that we’re both a little squeamish when it comes to Arachnida, which can be a concern when travelling coast-to-coast crossing through the wilderness. To help us address this issue, we brought a few essential items from the UK. One such item, which in Anthony’s view is the most important, had its second showing last night: the Silk Sleepy Sock. The sock is an ideal way to protect oneself from being ravaged by Bed Bugs at those select establishments where Arachnida can be seen with the naked eye, but fail to be included on the list of Motel room amenities. Thanks to the Sock we woke with all ten fingers and toes still present and correct, then set off opting to pass on the only breakfast available, a large open bowl of communal Raisin Bran!

Fortunately, 2 miles into the journey we found an amazing place to eat breakfast and got chatting to a really nice guy called Martin who paid for our food and drink. We were speechless! Yet another splendid example of Southern hospitality. It’s the second time we have had our food and drink paid for so graciously by the people of the South… thanks Martin and all ya’ll.

Breakfast was great! It kept us going for 2 hours (30 miles) without stopping. We did then stop to reenergise with Gatorade and Cliff bars, and set-off again across the very flat terrain and in ideal cycling weather conditions. We arrived in Andrews which claims to be the home of Chubby Checker (although he was not born there and never lived there!); with lots of time to spare, took a shower and walked a mile and half to the local Food Lion, bought a bottle of wine and some KFC, also stopping at Kat’s favourite place, CVS, to stock up on toiletries, water, Ritter Sport (best chocolate ever) and many other bits and bobs that Kat likes to buy. Sometimes it does feel a little like Groundhog day…

A few vital stats to finish the day:

  • Miles = 52
  • Mph = 14.9
  • Punctures = 0
  • Laundry visits in last week = 1 (not enough…)
  • Dollars spent in CVS visit = 48
  • Mosquito bites on Kat’s left foot = 17
  • Hush Puppies consumed = 17

Us x

Friday, 20 November 2009

After Bite

We had a fantastic time at The Sunset Inn. We woke up, walked out onto the balcony and saw Sun was bright and tide was high, we were holding on to the thought that today was going to be another good day.

Before retracing our tracks back over the Uppy Down bridge (which was “uppy” of course, it being high tide – who was paying attention to yesterday’s blog?) then on the short 42miles to Conway in South Carolina, we took one last look at the beach…it didn’t disappoint.

Today was a tough old slog, lots of headwind and no hard shoulder to cycle on. We were pleased to finally be off the roads and arrive at the Motel, unfortunately the Motel didn’t really display many traits that said “welcome!” or “come and relax here!” We won’t go into details, as it would only worry our parents. So with doors bolted and dead-locked, Anthony set to treating Kat’s mosquito bites (from spending 2 minutes outside the room at Sunset Beach) … thanks to Anthony’s mum for buying us a many essentials for the trip including “AfterBite”.

Having beers and burgers watching trash TV… missing y’all more than you can imagine.

Us x

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Sunrise, Sunshine

Weather forecast was for light rain all day. So, with bags carefully packed, ensuring all wet-weather gear would be accessible as soon as the first “Sky Tear” fell upon our anxious brows, we set off. Full of hope that the meteorological forecast was incorrect, we came upon the pier at Kure Beach and admired the picture-perfect scene and soon erased melancholy thoughts of rain from our minds. The sunshine on this forecast rainy day held out as we rode to the ferry at Fort Fisher to cross the river to Southport. If you didn’t like Hitchcock’s “Birds” don’t look at the photos.

Back on terra firma, we cycled like Gods and met yet more very interesting people. One guy we met whilst eating our bagels outside a service station. He opened the side doors to his Dodge van and kindly presented Kat with an opportunity to save money. Rather than wasting our cash on Bed & Breakfasts, he suggested we stay with him, as he lived alone in a house just around the corner... we cycled on! Only to be passed 2 miles down the road by him and his buddies hanging out of the van windows screaming encouragement.

Making good progress at 15mph, we neared Sunset Beach. Of course not the Sunset Beach Kat and Anthony frequented in the Hamptons, but the historic Sunset Beach of North Carolina, which is actually an Island that can only be reached by a one-lane Pontoon bridge aka “Uppy Down” bridge. This bridge is unique in that the middle section floats on water. So at high tide you traverse in a convex manner and at low tide a concave…it’s a truism, honest!

Crossing the bridge, we soon arrived at The Sunset Inn and met the owner Dave and his assistant Kelly. Both very lovely people, they upgraded us to a fantastic room with a view, a balcony, a bottle of chardonnay and a Jacuzzi (photos not suitable for the public domain). Before we sampled the delights of our room, Kelly suggested we walk 5 minutes to the beach and swim in the Ocean…OMG, fine sandy beach, crashing body board waves, hot sun and the Atlantic Ocean all to ourselves. Problem is, when you see everyone on the beach and no one in the water, you can’t get that bloody Soundtrack out of your head… you know that one from JAWS. Fortunately, we did spot one guy swimming; he was from Alaska! Needless to say the water was freezing but he thought it was like the Caribbean Sea: Alaskans and English, much in common (well, not all Alaskans, but we won’t give HER any air time on our blog).

We came, we saw, we swam…

Us x

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Square Eyes

Today has been a rest day of watching screens. It’s amazing how many old films you can catch on daytime TV in the US. When we say old, we mean 80s, 90s etc – we’re not that cultured. Today, it was Sleeping with the Enemy, a Julia Roberts classic, which was apparently filmed mainly in South Carolina, despite the fact that it was set in Massachusetts and Iowa. Cape Fear, that we spoke about yesterday, was set in North Carolina, but filmed in Florida and Georgia. Weird.

Anyway, as well as watching movies, and trash TV (natch), we also spent hours on the laptop mapping out our GPS route for the next week or so, and playing with other features, the benefit of which you will see over the next few days, loyal Followers…

Kat spent some time Googling Gamines in an attempt to give proper names to the SatNavs, hoping that this might endear us to them a little more. Of course, Kat wants hers to be Audrey, but what should Anthony’s be called? We throw it open to our Followers for suggestions…

Last, but not least, we watched the entire contents of our panniers go round and round through the windows of the washing machines in the Laundromat. Well, we do like spending time in Laundromats… And today, we had run out of literally all of our clothes, having held off doing laundry for that wafer-thin day too long. So, with a refrain of “I heard it through the Grapevine” fading out in the background, we bid you all a good night.

Us x

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

“Fast changes arriving, slow changes are moving out!”

Tempting as it is to wage a war of well thought out and humorous words on the legend that is TWH, we have agreed to resist the overwhelming urge to entertain just one of our devout Followers with witty riposte and instead endeavour to bring a little sunshine and laughter into the lives of our devout Followers with stories you can all appreciate. That said, please feel free to critique, review or simply make any unwelcome suggestions about the Blog and we’ll give you all the time you deserve… TWH you deserve all our time as long as you share it with MG!

Back to today! Without “Helmet Cam” it is near impossible to describe the dramatic transition of scenery from State to State. From the intense bronzes, greens, yellows, reds and oranges of Virginia flora that abruptly refashion to the “kinetically challenged” fauna (domestic road kill) of North Carolina, today we were blessed with yet more metamorphosis. As we turned South onto the Topsail Beach coastline we witnessed the Sun kiss the Atlantic Ocean and the sound of surf endlessly breaking on the golden sandy shoreline. We hope this is a sneak preview of the coastline beauty we’ll enjoy over the next few days.

An update on the comedy tan-lines. Picture this if your imagination can stretch to such lengths. Take a piece of paper and cut to the shape of an “X”, large enough to span half the surface area of a Soccer ball (no offense intended). Put the X on your face and ride your bike for 6 hours in a Southerly direction with the full wrath of the Sun mercilessly beating down on your face. Ensure Sun Block wasn’t added before the 6-hour trek and upon arrival at your destination carefully remove said “X” and look in the mirror…voila Anthony. Kat says “safety before vanity”, Anthony says “damn those Sunglasses and Helmet”.

We’ve uploaded a few photos to provide insight into the “fast changes arriving” and hope you’ll feel compelled to book a holiday and come join us on stage of the Epic Journey. Oh yes, another thing about today; we found that mythical place “Shangri-Law”! If you lawyers out there can keep a secret it’s located on 3rd & Princess Street in Wilmington. Never have you seen so many lawyers happily moving from door to door, safe in the knowledge that behind every door is yet another law firm filled with like-minded people. Kat had a momentary injection of euphoria as we sat in the Courthouse Café observing the frantic behaviour whilst eating our delicious lunch.

Talking of food, we’ve just finished dinner! Who says fried food is bad? We’ll tell y’all who, those very same people who haven’t eaten North Carolina Hush Puppies.

Finally… we are now in Cape Fear. Do not panic, we are not alone now, there do seem to be a lot of people around, and Robert De Niro is not waiting in the Lobby talking Italian.

Us x

Monday, 16 November 2009

Sneads Must (and Ferry Hot)

The day started well. The Hanna House did us proud with a fabulous breakfast of poached pear, followed by Quiche Loraine and polenta. We were sad to leave, but waved goodbye to the owner’s little dog, Miss Kate, and were on our way. Though not so fast. The bridge from New Bern to our route was unfortunately only half standing; this was confirmed by boats sailing through the gap between the bridge and the shore. Hoping that SatNav would guide us through this confusing situation, involving a one-way system, New Bern’s version of spaghetti junction, and the temporary road signs caused by the works around the bridge, was rather optimistic. Having read what we said about them on the blog yesterday, the Gamines were definitely sulking…

After about an hour, we had managed to negotiate our way onto the correct road, travelling around 5 miles for what would have been about 800m had the bridge been up. However, we made up time after that, and had just about caught up with our schedule by lunchtime. It was a hot day (sorry Tim), and actually quite a slog for the last few of the 73 miles that we ended up pedalling today to Sneads Ferry, our destination. At the end, we were dismayed to find that, yet again, the hotel was a good few miles from the nearest restaurant, fast food outlet or grocery store. So, it was pizzas delivered to the room again…hmn.

Tomorrow morning, we will start our day with a climb up the steepest bridge we have ever seen, which was looming just ahead of us as we turned into the hotel this evening. Perhaps we’ll even manage to take a photo…

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Bring me sunshine in your smile bring me laughter all a while

A few more heart felt words about the Inn on Bath Creek. The proprietors Rich and Linda were so welcoming it felt like being back at home. We must also mention how much we enjoyed spending time with the Burrows and the Gallahers who were staying at the Inn during our stay… we wish you well for the future and look forward to hearing from you on the blog. And finally… big thanks to Rich for two truly magnificent breakfasts, with French Toast to DIE for.

… Although it will disappoint Tim H, the sun was shining in glorious technicolor at 9am, 10am, 11am, 12am , 1pm, 2pm, 3pm… you get the message. It was and still is a beautiful day. As we boarded the Pamlico Ferry across Gaylords Bay the scenery was pretty awesome too. We alighted at Aurora and pedalled the pristine 36 miles to the historic town called New Bern, where we’re staying at The Hanna House, a lovely bed breakfast in down town, where we were welcomed by Camille and Joseph with fine wine accompanied with cheese and biscuits…can’t get much better than that! It would not be right for us to leave without mentioning a few historic facts about New Bern: (i) New Bern is the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola! and (ii) according to Joseph, New Bern boasts the first affordable housing project “The Projects” to have been built in America…and guess what? The SatNav (not KatNav) took us straight through the middle of it, a safe yet interesting experience.

A word about the SatNavs (aka Garmin Edge 705s). Even Kat has to accept, having now lived with them for over 3 weeks, that they are definitely female. The Gamines (as Kat now calls them) are unpredictable, change their minds a lot and scream at us to “make a U-turn” when we are on a multi-lane highway. Worst of all, if we decide that, despite their sage advice, we want to “Dance our own steps at the Pan Pacifics”, they throw a total hissy fit and start going Psycho … eek, eek, eek etc… Yes, there is some rivalry between SatNav and KatNav, but followers will be pleased to hear that KatNav is still alive and well, re-programmed to ignore expensive shoe shops, but still able to sniff out a decent glass of vino at 500 paces…

Tomorrow beckons with a 68 mile trek to Sneads Ferry, so good night and speak soon.


Saturday, 14 November 2009

Rest Day (Proper)

Not much to report today. A few photos, a bit of bike maintenance, some route re-planning, and some discussions about the American economy. The rain has stopped, and we are hoping that it will stay dry at least for the next few days. More after tomorrow...

Us x

Friday, 13 November 2009

What a difference a day makes!

Let’s recap! Wednesday was wet, Thursday was like… well if you have ever tried Water Skiing in the Atlantic Ocean (not on a lake…that’s for P&@@!%$’s), that’s what Thursday was like. So imagine our jubilation when we woke up, opened the curtains to our hotel room and saw a single ray of sunshine fighting its way through the grey clouds and drizzle…welcome to paradise baby!

Bikes packed and ready to rock n roll we headed south with the wind behind us (but in front of Kat unfortunately… Anthony blames it on the Fried Chicken). We had a ludicrously easy ride clocking in 31 miles (av. 14.7mph) quicker than George Bush could say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

A quick word about the journey… (i) rotting Deer carcasses discarded at the side of the road smell worse than a smelly thing on a smelly day; and (ii) barking back at dogs doesn’t always work! Alex V, Anthony may have to use THE BATON of JUSTICE on those pesky dawgs

Tonight and tomorrow, we are in the historical town of Bath. In the 1690’s, a European settlement led to the founding of Bath, North Carolina’s first and oldest town. It’s beautiful here, staying at The Inn on Bath Creek; yet again the Land of America doesn’t disappoint. Of course, England also has a place called Bath, which provides archaeological evidence that human settlements were established there in 6000 BC…not that it’s a competition or anything! We have but only seen a minuscule part of America and have already passed by Windsor, Isle of Wight, Suffolk, Plymouth Donegal and even a Crouch End…proof that the English and Americans are two nations separated by the same language.

Friends, family, countrymen, Americans…we love you.

Us x

Thursday, 12 November 2009

It’s a game of two ‘arves

Not a phrase that is usually associated with cycling but apt to describe today’s events. We set off this morning in an Easterly direction; usually not a salient fact. But today, with “sustained winds of 30 – 50 mph, and gusts of between 55 and 65 mph coming from a North-Easterly direction”, and driving rain, extremely relevant… After 14 miles of head-winds sapping every ounce of energy, and side-winds buffeting us constantly, not to mention the torrential biting rain, we were overjoyed to reach the community of Harrellsville, and even more ecstatic to find a warm gas station with a food store.

We have been pleasantly surprised to date with the amazing reaction we have been getting by the folk we meet, and their supportive attitude. Today was no exception. We had a lovely chat with Tony, a customer, and Margaret, the wonderful lady running the store, who would not hear of us paying for anything.

Fed, watered, with Margaret's blessing and with significantly higher body temperatures, we hit the road again … in a Southerly direction…YAY! And this, our friends, is why it was a game of two halves. We had the wind behind us for most of the rest of the journey, save for some scary moments with cross winds as we crossed the long bridge into Plymouth, and arrived good and early at our hotel, complete with hot showers, and guest laundry facilities. Result.

Talking of hotels, a word about our hotel last night. Grim. That’s the word (although “bleak” or “grungy” would do equally well). We have been spoiled with the clean, well-equipped, welcoming hotels and motels that we have stayed at so far. Yesterday, we were greeted by a “no loitering” sign as we stood in the lobby waiting to check in. We’re not sure that the room was really that unclean but if someone told us that they had invited the local dogs from hell to lick every surface clean rather than wiping it down with a cloth, we would not have been surprised. Breakfast was complimentary…because there wasn’t any. No, that’s not entirely true. There was a bowl of soft, bruised apples, a plastic jug of Sunny Delight, and a plate of Nutrigrain bars, that looked like they had seen better days. And don’t even get us started on the meal we had last night. But our favourite, and what woke Kat up in the middle of the night laughing, was that the TV in our room was literally screwed down to the table. A nice touch we thought, and one to help you sleep safe in your bed at night.

Here’s looking forward to a good night’s sleep in a comfortable hotel, and optimistically hoping that it might not be raining tomorrow. Come on, Ida, gizza break…

Us x

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Rainy days and Wednesdays always get us down!

The great thing about English weather is that there’s always an ounce of hope that when you wake up to torrential rain it may not last throughout the day. Unfortunately we’re starting to learn that weather in the USA plays to a different set of rules… ‘what you see now is gonna get more intense later!’ Our ride today was wet, exciting and redefining. “Why redefining?” we hear you say. Let us explain… cycling in the rain and being passed by a Lorry travelling at 50mph, one will experience “spray” and an unnerving sensation of being “gently pushed” into the side of the vehicle. However; when you are passed by a Road-Train the length of Long Island in the middle of a Tropical Storm, the words “spray” and “gently pushed” don’t quite define the moment.

Despite being soaked and buffeted we had a fantastic ride, crossing the state line into North Carolina and out-running yet more Dogs of Hell. Typically we shift our 63lbs of equipment at an average speed of 11.5mph, ascending a total of 3000ft and spinning our legs around 56rpm. So when we arrived at our destination and learned we averaged 14.8mph over 61miles with a total ascent of 706ft, spinning our legs at 61rpm, it reaffirmed why we had such a great day today. Lets hope tomorrows experiences will be just as great as the weather channels predict Ida will be increasing her wind gusts to 50mph.

One last thing! We have decided that certain blog followers may have an unfair advantage over other followers when answering the competition questions. So this question is for UK followers:

“We’re collecting little silver discs, each one with it’s own design. When united they could be worth more than $12.50”. What are we collecting?

US x

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Calm before the storm!

Rest day in Suffolk successfully completed… Today, we had a bit of a lazy day mooching around, eating breakfast at the local iHop (another quiz: who knows what iHop stands for??), Kat finally getting her mani/pedi (yay), and Anthony buying a rainproof jacket in preparation for the rain that we are promised for tomorrow. Yes, apparently tropical storm Ida is coming our way… we look forward to 57 miles of soggy, windy cycling tomorrow…bring it on.

Us x

Monday, 9 November 2009

Who let the dogs out????

We started early; is was cold but the Sun was still shining and the fresh morning dew sparkled like tiny little diamonds scattered over every blade of grass in the surrounding fields. It was truly dreamy until the heat of the day started to kick in. And true to form, mad dogs and English-men…

…and speaking of dogs! Dogs and bikes do not mix. People had always said that to us, and we had to agree that our bikes did seem to hold some morbid fascination for every canine creature that we passed on our journey. Up until now, we had always had the last laugh as the little pooches barked like crazy and ran up and down outside their houses, chasing us, but finding…oh, yes, there’s the fence/gate/invisible electric fence (ouch) that keeps them in their place. Tee hee. Not today. Oh no. Today, we learned that a number of rural homeowners in this area of Virginia rely on their dogs to guard their houses. No fences, gates etc. Gulp. The first time it happened, it was a bit of a shock. The sound of their claws picking up pace on the concrete behind us, and not dropping back…cue Jaws music. Suffice to say that there are a few frustrated Spaniels and Jack Russells out there this evening, not to mention the weird Daschund-Labrador cross…freaky.

Anyway, having survived the dogs, but having started to run out of Gatorade, the Isle of Wight was a God send! After 58-miles of Herculean cycling with only cheese (well if you can call American cheese slices “Cheese”) and coleslaw sandwiches for sustenance we were dreading the next 20 miles in the saddle. But as the fluffy white clouds parted a ray of sunlight shone down upon Kim’s Court House Café (we swear we heard the voices of angels and stringing Harps) where Kim, John, Britney and John were so kind and helpful. We were fed with great food and received some sage advice about how to avoid being attacked by the Dogs of Hell on the final stage of our journey. John was especially helpful and recommended we defend ourselves with a stick if we got chased. He then disappeared into the back room of the Café and re-emerged with a “stick”, more like a 6ft piece of wood large enough to bludgeon a bull African elephant to death. We couldn’t fit the “stick” on the bikes and agreed to take our chances with Mark Cavendish-esque pedal power.

Thinking that nothing could get better we then came across a curious looking Tonka Toy (see photo… I want one of these) never before seen on any farm in Europe. If anyone can guess what it is used for please comment and you will receive a prize!

And at about this point (63 miles into the trip), Kat suddenly that her back break-pad had been sticking against her tyre since, which would explain why she had been pedalling like crazy down the hills as Anthony free-wheeled down them, and why she had been drafting behind Anthony most of the way. Luckily, Anthony was able to save the day and expertly un-jammed the break. And from then on, it was plain sailing.

78 miles later, we rolled into the hotel in Suffolk, happy to have completed the day, and ready for another day of rest.

Sunday, 8 November 2009


The sun has got his hat on, hip hip hip hip, hooray…etc. Yes, for the first day since we started our trip, it has been really hot. It was in the 70s today for our roll down from Richmond to Hopewell, a short 33-miler, which we completed before the heat of the day really got started. The terrain here is much flatter, and we found ourselves in the middle of a number of plantations, wondering why we kept getting wafer-thin strands of some kind across our faces as we cycled along. After Kat had freaked out several times about the possibility of them being spiders’ webs, we suddenly realised that they were probably just cotton… and then Anthony started to freak out. And we’re still on the look-out for the Virginia vineyards that produced the Chardonnay that started our downfall on Friday…

A super early start for us tomorrow, cycling the 75-miles to Suffolk, arriving before 4pm. Apparently, it will be hot for the next 2-3 days, so we’ll be keeping ourselves well topped up with Gatorade along the way, and trying to avoid those embarrassing uneven and bizarre tan lines that have already started to emerge from the cycling shorts and (worse) the helmets. Eek squeak… In the meantime, a bit of chilling out in front of the TV, resting the legs.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Resting in Richmond

…we skipped breakfast this morning and lunch as a matter of fact. We did finally leave the Hotel room and managed to complete a few chores, posting stuff back to the UK, searching for ‘mani-pedi’ establishments (but not finding any, much to Kat’s disappointment), servicing the bikes etc. Big shout out to Chip at Pibby’s Bicycle Repair who serviced the bikes and changed our tyres for a set of rubbers that according the marketing blurb don’t split under heavy use! …good thing really considering Anthony’s record.

New tyres on and chain gear nicely cleaned and lubricated we headed down to the Richmond Canal Walk (on the bikes though….well, who would walk?) to take in the atmosphere and admire the theatrical scenery.

Tomorrow promises to hold yet more adventures: we’re both looking forward to the short 35 mile stint, and then the 70 mile mega stage on Monday.

Friday, 6 November 2009

.. warm down!

Waking up, we were happy at the prospect of a short 20-mile sprint into Richmond, VA. The ride-in was as expected: fast, flat and a premier cru surface all the way to the Hotel in the City centre.

Apologies to the regular followers! The date may indicate we posted this blog yesterday, but you may have noticed it has just appeared this morning; please let us explain… We set off for a late lunch and a quick glass of vino. However, the Virginia Chardonnay was rather moreish and one glass quickly turned into a bottle, and then an extra couple of glasses. Then we noticed that the sun had gone down and it was cold outside. Taking refuge in a different warm and inviting bar/club/eatery on the way back to the hotel, we ended up clubbing until the early hours, got totally hammered – Kat is now a pair of sunglasses down, and a few empty containers of Thai food up. We had a great night and met lots of really cool people: James, a 71-year old party animal, his son Darren, who looked younger than Anthony but was 10 years his senior; and not forgetting Rita, who was the spitting image of Rihanna, and Shanna, who was the mirror image of Samantha Mumba.

…we’re off the see if we can collect some lovely photos of Richmond.

Us x

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Heading South

OK so it’s our tenth day of cycling and we’ve managed to clock up 525 miles, burn 40,000 calories and still look the same…WHY?

Today was another exemplary day of up hill, down hill, energy drinks, close calls with Road Kill and great scenery. If only we had ‘Helmet Cams’ you could see what we see everyday in glorious technicolor. We hope the photos provide you with a little insight into how brilliant this trip has been so far.

Speaking of brilliant. Americans! What a lovely bunch people they are. Even the drivers of motorized vehikkles are friendly and considerate. There has however been the occasional incoherent hollerin’ from the passing truck, we can only assume they’re shouting ‘Go Kat and Ant you’re doing a great job”.

Apologies if this blog post is not very exciting; we’re both shattered after 4 consecutive days of cycling and tomorrow we have another 25 mile sprint into Richmond…then we rest (get bikes serviced, send emails and buy stuff) for a day.

US x

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

... cycling is like a bag of Revels

Forest Gump’s mother once said “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. We would say that our cycling tour is like a bag of Revels. Yesterday was the coffee cream, whereas today was either the toffee or the Malteser…. You know what we’re saying. Yes, today was a bright, crisp beautiful day. No punctures. Garmins working. 60 miles done by 3pm, and an average speed of 12.4 mph. Cool.

And when we arrived, 7 comments on our blog. We’d like to say a huge thank you for all you wonderful folk who are commenting. The first thing we want to do when we arrive each day is log into the blog and see our messages. They mean a lot. However, we know that there are a few people (ourselves included) who are desperate to add a few words of wisdom (or perhaps support) but who are technically challenged when it comes to posting a comment on the blog, so if anyone has a few minutes to explain how you actually add these comments, you will be our hero!

So, tonight we are in Fredericksburg, a wonderful town in Virginia, steeped in history. The Kenmore Inn, where we are staying (see photo) is beautiful, and many many years ago housed George Washington’s mother. The wonderful Innkeeper, Terri, also gave us the best recommendation for a drink before dinner: the Capitol Ale House, which has hundreds of beers, and a bar with an ice strip to keep your beer cool (photo). Truly cool.

We are now very drunk…looking forward to our 55 miles tomorrow.

Us x

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Tyred & Emotional

So – you have good days and bad days on a trip like this. Suffice to say, this was a BAD one. Three punctures, Garmins not working (or worse, appearing to start to work half way through and then starting to take you back towards where you started), and then trying to finish the last part of the day in the dark (thank god we have good bright lights). We are reminded of a sign we saw earlier in the tour on one of the many churches we have passed on the route: “Can’t sleep? Try counting your blessings.” We’re trying. Tomorrow is another day….

Us x

Monday, 2 November 2009

... go Ravens

Well rested after our day off in Baltimore, packed lunches neatly arranged in our handle-bar bags, Garmin Edge 705’s in hand and programmed to take us the next 49 miles to Rockville, we set off keen to get on the road whilst the sun still shone. This state of euphoria was short-lived when Kat suggested that we take a more refined route than that recommended by the Satnav. What Katnav failed to realise was that the Satnav comes with a built in “avoid gangland territory” SD card, where as Katnav only comes with “where is the nearest Salvatore Ferragamo shop” SD card. Nonetheless, we did successfully navigate through the eerily silent streets of gangsterville, and were soon cycling once more across the rolling hills of Maryland.

We arrived in Rockville after achieving our fastest average speed (11.3mph) to date despite ascending over 3335ft in total. The hotel is great and the town had lots of great restaurants for us the pile the Kilojoules back on.

Now, all that remains is for us to watch family guy and finish another packet of peanut M&Ms... goodnight.

Us x

Sunday, 1 November 2009

... And on the 8th day we rested.

It’s amazing how many things there are to do on a “rest” day on a cycling tour like this… Laundry, stocking up on supplies, bike maintenance, left over admin from the UK, trying to write a few texts and emails, route uploading etc etc. However, we had a relaxing day in Baltimore, stretching the legs by walking around the Inner Harbor and willing the sun to appear, which it eventually did this afternoon…yay. We have also been taking the chance to catch up on a bit of trash TV (is there any better kind) and have been trying to embrace the long commercial breaks, rather than whining about them, as we always used to do. You never know when we might want one of those set meals at Friendlies for $9.99, did you say “$9.99”, yes, that’s right, $9.99 etc etc. On second thoughts, maybe we did have a bit too much time on our hands today.

Anyway – we’re off early tomorrow, heading South, for the first of 5 days on the trot. Forecast is good, so we’re doing our sundance and keeping our fingers crossed.

Us x