Well hello there NB lovers, it's been a while since I've filled you in on the 50 state crusade by bike. Where on Earth have the past three months gone? I ask you? Three months since I first packed Boudica, my beloved pink bike, into a cardboard box and flew her across the pond to state number one - Alaska.
I've now wheeled my way 5,500 miles through 17 states. And so, before I cross that West-East boundary of this marvellous country, I thought it high time to share some highlights, and let you all know where pedal power alone has taken me so far....
Here's a run down of the top 4 sights so far...
- Denali National Park: I can't begin to describe how utterly stunning Denali is. It's wilderness like nothing else. The 90 mile road through the park comes with next to no traffic and put's you within 100 metres of Moose, Caribou and Grizzly bears (Scared? Me? Never). I did also get eaten alive by Mosquitos, but for the sheer beauty of everything else, I'll take that hit (well, 40 hits) any day
- Route 50: Who would have thought that a part of the trip I was so apprehensive about, could have turned into something so memorable? I rode 'America's Lonliest road' from Fallon, Nevada to the Utah border over 6 days. Awake (but not alert) and on the go before dawn each day, I learnt about the Wild West, the legendary Pony Express and was treated to some incredible sunrises over the Great Basin Desert. It was a week of solitude, heat and thunderstorms, but I loved it.
- Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon National Parks: These three wonders of the Colorado plateau totally blew my mind. I'd just never seen anything like it. I took a day to hike Angels landing in Zion, and camped just 20ft from the North rim of the Grand canyon. But it was Bryce Canyon that had me truly spellbound. Walking in amongst the weather beaten 'hoodoos' has to be the closest you'll ever get to feeling like Alice in Wonderland, and it left me grinning like the Cheshire Cat
- Yellowstone and the Tetons: The Grand Tetons were a majestic appetiser to what Wyoming had to offer, but Yellowstone.... Oh my oh my. Suffice it to say that Yellowstone had me at hello. I had in no way allowed enough time to visit the hundreds of bubbling mud pools and sulphur encrusted grottos on display in the park. After watching uber-geyser Old Faithful, faithfully go off, I spent the best part of an hour near running around like a woman possessed, trying to take it all in. Yellowstone is one place I will definitely be going back to. One day.
Although the scenery has been off the chart incredible, it's the people I've met along the way that have surpassed expectation. I've had campground owners take me home to stay in their spare room, a family provide shelter for days during the recent South Dakota Blizzard, and countless others let me pitch up in their back yard for a night or two. Sharing a beer, dinner or even just a 5 minute chat with these people is just awesome. It not only makes my day, it makes the trip. In my mind, there's no sense in moving through a country without gathering at least a basic understanding of what it means to live there. I've discussed politics, religion and local history far more than I ever would at home. And every time, I'm engrossed. With each new town, culture and family, I'm like a kid back at school - the only difference being that the classroom is Pink and has two wheels.
LIFE ON THE ROAD
Life on the road is a simple one - I eat, I sleep and I cycle. I wake up excited every morning, knowing that what I'll see that day will be entirely new, and that I'll likely never see it again. Being outside all day, every day, with fresh air in my lungs and the sun (mostly) shining has to be just about a near perfect way to spend precious time on this planet. I'm definitely living a dream. Albeit one that involves lycra, sore legs, and some very dodgy tan lines.
THE ROUGH PARTS
Of course, I'd be lying if I said things hadn't got tough. This is a challenge after all, and I've had some grim days. Like last week, when I hit a closed road and made 129 miles in a day. Or spending 2 days not being able to feel my hands or feet, riding through snow storms in Western Montana. Then there was getting stuck smack bang in the middle of the Colorado floods, and seeing some things which I'd probably like to forget, but never will.
Yet, these are the experiences that form the backbone of a real adventure. They strengthen your character, spur you onwards and shine a light on everything you have to be truly thankful for. Honestly? I'm amazed with how well both my body and mind have coped so far. Something which affirms what I've always thought to be true. That, chances are, we're all capable of so much more than we know. We just need to test the waters once in a while.