Back in the USA
Swapping Crazy Drivers for Careless Ones!
Hot, Damn Hot. Hotter than a snakes ass in a wagon rut; to quote Good Morning Vietnam I believe – so much for some respite in flying North!
Its been an eventful and busy few weeks. Nearly a month has flown by since i was boxing up my bike ready to fly from Panama back to the USA. But it feels like I’ve hardly ridden at all!
The about turn came for a few reasons. Principally down to a broken bike. Which was suffering a little from the 16,000mi of pedalling over the past year and a bit. If you followed any of the photos I’d shared online then you might remember some of the problems. With a pair of forks that collapsed and lost their spring the result was 2 problems – with the front end dropping by 130mm my riding position has pitched forward. This geometry tweak moved my weight over my arms so required me to look up more to see the road giving me a sore neck as i rolled as well as sore wrists and minor whiplash from the lack of cushioning that the forks had afforded. Second was the protection the forks had seemingly given to the bike. Without their softening of the punishment the road was giving more things started to break across Honduras and Nicaragua. After a pothole in Honduras I was pinging spokes almost daily, my front rack had been fatiguing and the aluminium cracking, my tyres were all but worn through, bottom bracket worn out, pedals replaced but the replacements malfunctioning; and the final straw came, fortunately at slow speed and half a mile from the end of the day at a comfortable hostel, with the clamp on my stem shearing through! Adding up the expense of repairs – paying rrp plus import duty and shop profit – the economy of continuing directly to Columbia was in question.
Interestingly it was to work out an equal expense to repair my bike with unbranded components in Central America then fly to Columbia as it would have been to fly via the USA to Columbia and repairing the bike. With that the availability of tools being so much more the norm in the USA a decision was made. But the notion of an international commute wasn’t so appealing. If I was landing in the USA it seemed sensible to make something of it.
And so slowly a plan started to come together. Depart Panama, north to the USA. The most affordable option was a flight to Fort Lauderdale in Florida. But I’d overdone it with Florida as a youngster and with no desire to return the next most appealing destination was New Orleans. Which happened to coincide with the start of the Adventure Cycling Association route from just east in Alabama up through the States and into Canada. Then I’d continue on through Canada to Nova Scotia. Thus completing a lap of the north American continent.
Even with a missed connection and 36h in airports for what could have been barely a 5h flight, landing in New Orleans I almost though I was going deaf. The silence compared to Central America was astounding. Even after assembling my bike and exiting the airport the volume under the flyover surrounded by cars and people was almost zero by comparison.
The noise in Latin America had started to hamper my enjoyment of the continent. This coupled with the thoroughly dislikable people that were all too abundant in Panama had left me ready for a change. In Mexico you could get away from the noise; there was enough wilderness to be found here. Moving south of Guatemala, however, the geography and mountains funnel people onto a few maintained highways with many of the back roads being considered too dangerous (less off-putting) or dead end routes to remote villages. People fit fart cannons to their buses. Why does one need a boy-racer exhaust on a bus?!
So, on the 13th July I landed back in the USA. Still with the intention to ride to Tierra del Fuego but, for now, on a slight detour before that.
After a week effecting repairs and making a full overhaul of my bike I was back on the road. Rolling out of New Orleans on a quiet Saturday morning. Crossing the swamps on the old highway and with the destination of Alabama that day. I was enjoying riding again. My bike was comfortable again. And I was well rested. Ready to take on the next 4000mi chunk of pedalling up to St John in New Foundland. My destination, further than Nova Scotia, is just about the most eastern point of what is accessible in North America.
The deep south is an incredible place, friendly, kind and barely deserving of the stereotypes that get attributed to the area. I was crossing from Louisiana through Mississippi to Alabama before starting North towards Tennessee and Kentucky. There was no respite from the heat of Central America though. It might have been slightly cooler in the southern states as I set out but the humidity made it feel the same as before. Bearable but needing a slight change of tactic in riding. Given that I was enjoying the riding again I had ceased to be in a hurry. So I started to take the afternoons off. Riding from first light to about midday, then resting up somewhere in the shade or with air conditioning until about 4pm! Then riding until dark. No longer was I pushing on through the afternoon and suffering the ill effects of the sun and the heat. Church yard, parks, diners with WiFi, were all helpful places and never too far away compared the heat of the day.
And then I got knocked off. I was rolling up the Natchez Trace in northern Mississippi. A historic route across the old south west. A cycle route no less. I’d sat out the afternoon sun at a visitor centre half way and set out again at 4 having spent the morning visiting the local bike shop. I’d just fitted grips to the new bars that’d arrived for my bike. Life was sweet. The bike was super comfortable and there I was rolling along. Then as a car behind turned off the dopey woman following just accelerated into the back of me! And then drove off. Though she did return a few minutes later. Whether that was on her own accord or thanks to the driver following her who I’d flagged down I’ll probably never know.
Fortunately I wasn’t hurt too badly, nothing broken at least. An x-ray or two the following morning confirmed my wrist was intact and my other aches and pains were soft tissue. Just some amount of damage to my bike. After a week of repairs I was sad. The grips I’d fitted that morning were in tatters, as was my beautifully repaired front rack; brand new parts were scuffed, rear rack took an impact so was bent and my panniers holed. It kind of sucked. And then I was stuck in a hotel for a week until my wrist was recovered enough to ride on. Still not 100% but on the mend.
So in 1 month, nearly 3 weeks enforced rest. But now I’m in Tennessee. And there’s a solar eclipse in a week or so time. So reason enough to hang around and let the body repair itself – as infuriating as that generally is!
And in other news, my all new Tracker is now live. Soon it’ll be interactive too:
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