Coast to Coast

I was quite sad to say goodbye to the others last night. The hard core group that came through everything and made it to the end. It takes a certain kind of person and I respect them all for that. There are some really nice people too. Maybe I’ll see some of them again, maybe not. They’re going to take a little longer to get back across to NY than me so that’s it, Adios, so long, over and out. I’ll really miss spending my days amongst them all.

canada0016I’m up at 4am. 3..2..1..Go. Let the madness begin. It’s nearly dawn, misty and cold. The sun’s dimmer switch is slowly unwinding and filling in the shadows but the mountains don’t give up their cloaks of darkness easily and it’s a slow ride up and out. Get onto the main road. It’s deserted, wide and inviting. ‘What have you got to loose?’ it whispers. This is the most dangerous time of the day. All the animals are returning home drunk from a night on the town and they’re liable to wobble out in front of you at any moment. I see a moose at the edge of the road, huge and statuesque with steaming coming off it’s back. Hit that on 4 wheels and its a car insurance claim. Hit that on 2 wheels and it’s a life insurance claim. Keep the speed down, resist the temptation to pull in the horizon as fast as possible. I’ve underestimated the temperature and I’m absolutely freezing. 120 miles in and I’m completely numb and shivering. It is 6:30 but none of the garages open this early. I can see people inside but they wont let a frozen biker in for a coffee and a warm up. I dig the heated waistcoat out the panniers and plug in then come slowly back to life as the sun climbs up and starts spreading it’s joy across the landscape.


Plan is to make Calgary today, about 1000 miles. 1000 miles is a flippin long way. 1000 motorway miles is not too bad but these are mostly A road miles. Speed limits, overtaking, traffic lights. I’m trying to maintain a 60mph average but its not easy and means illegal speeds pretty well all of the time. I have to come back through Jasper and Banff too. I just hope the animals are wherever I’m not as I’ve not got the energy for a close encounter today. By the time I reach Calgary its late, I’ve done 978 miles and lost an hour in a time zone. I’m really not looking forward to tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that…

canada0021I’m not in the mood for this today. Aching and tired, it feels to early. About 2 weeks to early. I’ll just check the map. Ummmm, where’s my map? It was in my tank bag yesterday but now it’s gone. It must have flown out yesterday sometime late. I had a lovely map I bought in Salt Lake City, marked with my route and everything. Never mind, I’ll just follow the sun out of the city then follow my nose out of Canada. It’s only about 600 miles to the border I’m using, how hard can it be? Find the Trans Canadian and the going is easy. It’s getting warm, not a cloud in the sky. Easy easy riding out to Medicine Hat and stop to bolt down some breakfast then get out of town. It’s flat. Very very flat for a very very very long way.

Flat plains like this are the wind’s playground and today it’s really enjoying itself. It’s absolutely MENTAL. I think the Canadians have been to the South American builders merchants and have some super strong wind on trial. It’s really savage, it’s punishing and it’s hard work. It doesn’t bother me from a riding point of view but it’s extremely tiring fighting the bike all the time. The turbulence behind the trucks is unbelievable, much worse than in Argentina. The bike dances around like it’s treading on hot coals. I get tossed about and it feels like I’m being frisked by a clumsy brown bear. It’s rough, it’s tough and it’s an all day experience. Any local I talk to tells me the same thing. As usual, it’s unusual. Just another chapter in the freak weather tour I’m on. Towards the end of the day I get to the USA border, this should be a simple in and out right? Getting into the USA from Mexico was easy peasy.

There is nobody else here. I deliberately chose a quiet crossing point to avoid a delay. I rock up to the customs officer. Usual questions. He’s clearly not satisfied…I suspect with his appearance, his job, his sex life, the size of his hampton, nothing. The only thing that can satisfy this man is to unnecessarily waste an hour of a busy bikers time. ‘I think we’ll have you inside for some more questions’ Greeeeeeeeeat! I get taken into the office and quizzed. All my pockets are searched. I’m questioned by TWO officers, one of whom looks scarily like an ex girlfriend of mine who must have been reincarnated just to cause me more pain. Then, onto the bike. They want to search the bike. Fate has a never ending supply of turds to throw at you whenever you’re in a hurry and in this case it’s in the form of two bored customs officers with a rubber glove fetish. Any excuse to feel tight rubber round their finders. I have to sit in an office and wait while they go over the bike. 20 minutes later and I go outside. They’ve had EVERYTHING out. It looks like someone has thrown a grenade in each pannier. They’ve had the tent and sleeping bag out, all my clothes, all the wrapped presents are unwrapped and everything is all over the floor.

I’ve travelled throughout south and central America and I get the longest most intrusive search going from Canada to the USA, bloody astounding. Into North Dakota at dust. The wind here is even worse. There isn’t anything above crop height to the horizon in all directions. The landscape has been raped to allow ever square centimetre to be put towards food production in order to overfeed the nation. You see rows and rows of combine harvesters ready to work in big gangs to bring in the crop. Trains that stretch beyond the horizon will take it all to the tables, tummies and toilets of the waiting population who sit like baby birds with their mouths open, never refusing a meal. I’m taking a road less travelled across Dakota and populated areas are few and far between. They’re frequently a single road with a few dwellings along the side, no motels. the sun is busy setting in my mirrors and I want a bed.

There is nobody about so I up the speed to 90 to get a move on. Suddenly a deer breaks from the right at full speed. The emergency pilot is on the case before I realise it. Brakes to full, poo door shut, mouth full of adrenaline. I’m lucky it’s broken across a bit of open ground so I have a few vital moments to assess the situation whilst the autopilot steers and breaks as hard as possible. 30 yards and closing. I make eye contact with the deer for a microsecond…Dr Doolittle mode on…’Pull back….PLEASE’. Turns out it was more important to learn Deer than Spanish for this trip. The deer digs it’s front legs into the ground and spins away from the impact at the last moment. That was defiantly a close encounter of the venison kind. “It’s better to be late than ‘the late'” as my old dad says. Point taken. 70 seems safer. The sun is sinking fast. All the lakes are cast in the soft final light of the day and turn a dark blue. The wind is so strong that there are little waves with white horses breaking at the shores. Eventually come across a small town just as it eventually gets dark. The only motel town has a huge Red Indian Chief outside, The Chieftain! Park the bike next to three hics playing some dice game in the car park. Fuck knows why they’re playing out here, maybe they’re not allowed dice indoors, who knows.

It’s late and the only place to eat is the sports bar attached to the motel. Soup and salad. “Soup of the day?” “Beer Cheese” Beer…and cheese? WTF! “I’ll try that”. She brings me what looks like a lump of processed Red Leicester that’s been microwaved to a thick gooey consistency and had onions added. Can’t see where the beer comes in. You can stand your flippin spoon up in it for Christs sake. Eat that and I immediately feel like someone has put a pair of particularly unfriendly Japanese fighting fish in my stomach. I leave the salad and retire to bed where I fully expect the soup to reappear and splash against the back of my teeth on its way out. I’m sure the soup was some kind of sick experimental potion. Come to think of it, the sexless bespectacled blob who served it to me did look a bit like Harry Potter.

epilogue0003Walk back past the bike and glance at the rear tyre. Its flecked. That was new 5 days ago and now it’s wrecked. I think I made a bit of a rubber selection error in Salt Lake. I usually think hard and select the one I want but this time I just picked the cheapest without even thinking what it was -what an arse, I just didn’t think, that’s what tiredness does. I reckon its a sportsbike tyre. The constant driving against the wind today has finished it off, it’s done less than 4k. I’ll have to get it changed tomorrow – TITS! And those weirdos are still throwing dice in the dark. How does that work? 870 miles today, more of the same tomorrow.

Up at 6, groundhog day. Chicago is today’s target and I hope it will be easier as I get to the interstate network again. Hit I94, open the throttle, sit back and relax. Minneapolis first but every target is 100s of miles each. All is fine. Wind has dropped, traffic is light, sun is up, excellent. I’m getting a good average speed for a while, until I get to the roadworks. The first lot I pass off as inconvenient, the 2nd lot as a mild irritation…by the time I get to the 10th lot I’m steaming and I’m ready to kill. Hackles are up, fangs are out, I’m Mr Hyde in hide. These roads are bolloxed. More In-a-state than interstate. They’re frequently concrete and are badly broken up. You have to queue with the cars, no filtering. I try it once and get hit on the back of the head by the spit and vitriol fired at me by a truck driver. They just don’t like it, BIG STYLE.

I’ve seen trucks be seriously dangerous with bikes that have upset them. They’re just as likely to get on the CB to their shumucks in the trucks up ahead if they can’t get at you themselves, it’s just not worth it. The queues are enormous, it’s hot and the bike smells like I’ve got a deer on a spit roast. On long rides something leaks from somewhere onto something hot and makes a right stink. When I stop at toll booths the attendants look at me with ‘soap dodger’ eyes. i don’t want to think about what the problem might be. I’m sure the bike will continue to work….probably. I get to Minneapolis and take the route straight through the middle.

Negotiating the cities is always a challenge. Going through at 70-80 you are like a ball bearing in a pinball machine. Every few seconds there are concrete choices of different avenues to follow and you need to concentrate hard. One slight distraction is the sign for ‘Cretin Avenue’. Do the Americans have dictionaries? I almost take the exit just to take a look. Can there really be an avenue lined by cretins? Only in America. Out the city and onwards towards Chicago. Still a long way to go. These are long days in the saddle and I’ve no entertainment except the multiple personalities fighting for my consciousness. Think, think, think. What shall I think about now? How does a mind keep itself occupied for 14 hours with only a throttle, brakes and gears to play with? American roads are absolutely littered with signs.

Advertising boards, information signs, protests, campaigns. All take a few seconds to process and catalogue. Someone has painted something on the side of their barn. “Protect our rights. Hunting, shooting, fishing” Umm, difficult to argue with that one, or they’ll probably shoot you. I see a big billboard. It has a Shell sign , ‘Fireworks’, and ‘Cheese’ written on it. Nothing else. Can you get cheese fireworks from a Shell station? Maybe it’s Zen. Maybe it’s shit. “Vote Beardy for sherrif”. “Vote Weirdy for sherrif”. Make your flippin mind up will you. Wildlife is another distraction. Identify the dead usually. Lots of deer, racoons, porcupines, a few dogs, eagles, small things with long tails, I think I ever see a badger. Didn’t know they had badgers here? Get a song in your head and that’s fatal. I rode over ‘Oldman river’ the other day. I really did! That was me for the rest of the day.

Chewing lips is another distraction and saves stopping to eat. Standing up on the pegs and creeping up on trucks is another. They look left and are faced with an 80mph crash helmet and they usually do a double take. Anything to take up the next few seconds and distract from the aches and pains that long distance riding give you. Towards evening and Chicago is approaching. Another billion tonnes of concrete and glass to find accommodation in. Ask an attendant at a toll booth about a motel. She’s simple, excellent.

Take a gamble. Out of town the motels are signposted and it’s easy. In a big city it’s much more difficult and it’s not always simple to get back onto the freeway when you get off so I throw the dice and take an exit. Holiday inn. “How much please?” “$159 plus tax” FARK! “Anywhere cheaper?” “$129 plus tax” ” Anywhere cheaper?” “$99 plus tax”. I’m hoping if I keep asking “anywhere cheaper” she’ll get down to $20 but she stops at $99. The bloke who’s been looking down his big gay nose at me for the last few minutes takes the brain cell baton from the girl I’m taking to and tells me there is somewhere a mile away. He can hardly mention it’s name, it’s clearly a bad smell to him. Down to the unspeakable hotel I go. It’s fine and only $60 too. Its late, again, and the only place to eat, believe it or not, is Hooters. I’m sure everyone out there knows Hooters? Girls…well…females..in tights orange short shorts and tits pushed up by scaffolding sell overpriced food and drinks to wanked out salivating blokes with bad video habits. It seems though that they have lowered their standards since my last visit. the only criteria now seems to be that you’re willing to put your jumper lumps on parade and are less than 40….stone.

Now, if I ran Hooters I’d have a special test at the interview stage. You know that game ‘the wall’? Well my wall would have the silhouette of an average hight, size 10-12 slim woman carved in it. If they didn’t fit through the wall then they’re out. Try that at this place and the place would be piled with polystyrene pieces as 95% would end up in the water. The place is packed though. There are families here, with the kids. Right besides me there is a table of teenage boys trying to look simultaneously hard…and not hard. I put my head down and try to ignore the lurid lycra clad lardies putting me off my food. These girls where tights and some of them must be seriously tight I tell you. It’s a miracle of modem technology and lard packaging. Head off to bed ASAP. All the roadworks have knocked me back today. Even though I finish late I only manage 830 miles. I got a map today – it says 879 miles to New York from here. I hope the interstates are better than today.

epilogue0006Up at 5:30 today, chisel the sleepy dust from my eyes and slap epilogue0007myself into some sort of consciousness. There is a rally in the states, the Iron Butt rally. They do up to 11k in 11 days. I’ve thought about entering in the past but now I know better. I’ve done 1600 miles in 24 hours and over 1000 regularly but constant long days are different. I’m about 2 minutes from I90 and I join it half asleep in the cool morning light. In the middle of 8 lanes of fast moving metal is not the place to be when you’ve only just woken up. It’s 6:15 and the city is already gobbling up all the cars and workers it can. The roads are busy and we’re in the pinball arcade again. I’m taking the toll road option today. I90 is toll across 3 states so I’m hoping for a clear fast run. Chicago is OK, through and out. Round the bottom of Lake Michigan then east towards the climbing sun. What’s this?

A trick of the light? Flare? Sun spots? No…. it’s fucking bloody wanky shitting pissing farting roadworks. I’m paying to sit in roadworks now. Fan-fecking-tastic. I want to stop for breakfast somewhere. Somewhere that doesn’t serve you on polystyrene plates with plastic cutlery. If there is one thing I’ve noticed this trip its the trend towards disposable implements in restaurants. It’s appalling. Even in sit down restaurants with waitresses I’ve had it. It seems it is cheeper to throw away everything than employ a dishwasher.

I just refuse to eat like that. I90 might as well be on the moon. It crosses an area of little population for 100s of miles so there are not the usual opportunities for exiting to a Dennys for a bite. All the ‘Plazas’ have is the fast food shite of the disposable kind so have to be ignored. Its 400 miles before I90 toll stops and I80 begins. 400 miles before breakfast…or make that lunch. 400 miles before I see my first Dennys and peel off to eat. The roadworks have really knocked me back. It’s 2pm – 3pm with the time zone change. I’m in a hurry so obviously fate get ready to throw me a treat. Rather than a turd, she throws me a ‘tard instead. Get to Dennys, “Hi, my name is Ron, I’ll be your server today and I’m a ‘tard”. Now…I’m not ‘tardiest, I’m really really not, believe me. I thank the genetic lottery every day that I’ve had the good fortune to be dealt a half descent body and an able mind. To think my soul could just have easily been hosted in a disabled body, or one with HUGE ears, 6 toes, a birth mark on my bollocks or any one of a million different problems that effect humanity scares me shitless. I have genuine sympathy for less able people, I really do. I just don’t need a ‘tard dealing with my meal today. I’ve not got time to watch the instructions crawl from his ears to his brain then slowly fall down his arm to his hand. I’ve not got time to answer the same questions 5 times. I’ve not got time to get three things individually instead of all at once. I’M IN A FUCKING HURRY HERE MATE!

I hope he gets a better deal in the next life, poor fella. I bolt down the meal, even having to go in search missing items myself which I’ve NEVER had to so before. Onto the I80 and I see my first sign for NYC. Its still well over 400 miles but it’s the No1 target and the bike has spotted it to. It starts to hum sweetly like a horse smelling home and cantering to it’s stable. Cantering straight into more frigging roadworks. These are the worst so far. Lanes merge 2 miles, 3 lanes into 1. Traffic is at a standstill. I get off the bike for a while and the traffic doesn’t move. It’s hot, I’m sweating and the bike’s boiling. Fuck the trucks, I’m filtering. I get abuse but I’ve turned my bovered-ometer off and I don’t care any more. 7 miles of roadworks, 40mph at best, single lane. Out, open the throttle, round the corner … AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH ‘Lanes Merge 2 miles, congestion ahead, lane closed’. THIS IS MENTAL! The traffic is moving to slow to be in gear and the clutch is smelling. epilogue0009I’m overtaken……by a butterfly…..that says it all. The miles crawl by, roadworks are just everywhere. Average drops way below 60. Today my mind is completely preoccupied with how long it’s going to take to get to NYC. The calculations are ever changing with all the speed changes and delays. I get up on the outskirts about 10 but I’m still a long long way out the city. Take the exit lottery and ask then find a ‘Budget Inn’. ‘Room 116, round the back’ Ride round the back, it’s a scary place – I don’t like this. There are people here that look like they’ve just stepped off the set of the Thriller video. Room 116 is open already, there are bedclothes everywhere and it looks like a gang bang scene. “Room 116 is not ready mate, can I have a room round the front please?” “OK Room 121” I go to room 121. I open the door…without using the key. Room 121 has recently been opened with a boot and the lock is no longer part of the door. “Money back please mate, I’m off” It’s 10:30 and I cruise down the road looking for an alternative.

No motels, its residential so I take a random road and get thrown back on I80 again. SHIIITTTTTTT. Next town 20 miles..nothing again… I’m now approaching NY outskirts proper. I’m in the concrete pinball in the dark. A flipper hits me and knocks me onto 46 east – where the feck does this go? Bollocks! I stop at a Wendys to ask for directions but I don’t speak Mexican. It’s gone 11. I ask the only bloke in the place. Nice bloke, rides an RT. Talk bikes for a few minutes while I chew a lump of grease. He tells me there is a Holiday Inn up the road. Draws me a map. Fuck all use that turns out to be in the dark concrete assault course outside. I get there only by riding the wrong way down some roads then through some barricades then up a steep bank, probably not the usual way to arrive. “How much?” “$180 plus tax” “HOW MUCH!” “$150 plus tax” She’s not playing the game and stops at $150, she won’t tell me anywhere else local either. Back on the road. I’m lost, tired, it’s nearly midnight and my body yearns for a bed. It can be quite disconcerting to be in that situation.

The darkness makes it worse and you feel like you’ll not find anywhere. I think about just stopping in a car park and kipping on a bench cos I’ve nearly had enough. I run into a load of buffers in the pinball machine and let fate decide. Random left, random right, on the way up an on ramp I spot a sign for a hotel on the road I’m just leaving. Without a second thought I ride over the big concrete central reservation and down the ramp then back onto the road I just left. I’m not sure how many laws I broke there but I like to do things in 3’s. The sign says $75. “How much please?” “$95” – “What?” “And we’re full” “WHAT?” She sees a breakdown coming on. “I have one smoking room left I’ll do for $85 plus tax”. I don’t care if the room is still smoking, I’ll take it. It’s gone midnight. I started at 5:30. 850 miles is a slow day after this many hours. I take a last long look at the bike outside. We’ve both made it in one piece, we’ve both had a long week, the longest I’ve ever done anyway.

Couriers will probably tell me they do this most weeks. In the last 7 days together we’ve done over 5000 of your Google miles. 5000 miles in a flippin week, that has what has been worrying me and preoccupying my mind for the last month or so. Still, it’s done, and after everything it’s not been that bad really. My fingers are numb and my shoulders feel like they’ve got bad sunburn but I feel surprisingly good. The body is a weird thing. Most bodies are pretty well the same, give or take, it’s the brain that makes the difference. The body is capable of amazing things. It doesn’t HAVE to eat 3/4/10 times a day, it doesn’t HAVE to stop every 5 minutes and rest, or drink, or rub itself, or take a piss. It just doesn’t. It’s all in the mind, all of it. I’m not any different to anybody else, I’m not special (thought some may beg to differ), my body is the same as most other peoples, it’s just that I don’t give in most of the time. It’s not difficult, it’s certainly not impossible but it’s not easy either and I think that’s where the difference is. Some people just give up to easily. Any road – I shower, lay my head on the biggest most comfortable pillow the world has ever seen and go out like a light.

Home today. Up at 7, a real lie in. Down to breakfast and its a dispose-a-fiest. Serve yourself, use as many disposable cups, bowls and cutlery as you want. Some bloke is employed to constantly empty the bin. It’s obscene. I at least re-use everything to cover all I eat. It’s all shit though, all gobble size cakes, waffles with butter and syrup, all cholesterol to go. The hotel is full of teenagers on some sort of trip. It’s not a fashion trip certainly. American teenagers seem to have the fashion sense of a buffalo in a boutique. It’s a random selection of cheap looking tacky shite covering as many colours and patterns as possible. The look awful, truly sad, like charity shop cases, and a particularly bad charity shop at that. There is no hope for this lot, no hope at all — Get some directions to the nearest Walmart – I need to buy some jellybeans. For once in my life I manage to follow some directions through the maze and find the place, then on to NYC proper.

epilogue0010I’ve promised my bike a ride through Manhattan but I’m a bit scared epilogue0013epilogue0015epilogue0016TBH. I’m not the world’s greatest navagationalist, not even the 2nd greatest, I’m a ‘follow your nose, seat of the pants’ navigator. the road roulette round here scares me and now is not the time to get lost. I’ve got to get my bike to the shippers and then onto a flight home. Bugger it – you only live once – in we go! It’s over there, I can see it, how hard can it be? Over the Hudson on the George Washington bridge then follow the Hudson parkway – that sounds about right. Traffic is dense and intense, they don’t take kindly to dawdlers. Make a decision and stick to it. Down past the cruise terminal. The Queen Mary 2 is in and discouraging coach loads of rich wrinklies onto the street. Drivers are interested in the bike. Lots of questions from heavily New York accented drivers who spot the british plates. I’ve been to NY a few times now and sort of know my way around. Take a left into the skyscraper maze and head across the avenues. Traffic is solid and I’m conscious of the time. As I sit I ask a van driver his thoughts on filtering. “Hey man, this is New York, who GIVES a fuck”. That’s my cue to queue jump. Through all the traffic and up 6th avenue for a while.

A cyclist comes alongside. Human and iron horse power in perfect harmony. He’s crossing the states by pushbike. A short chat as we cruise slowly between the scrapers then we touch fists and he’s gone. Across and down 5th Avenue, past the Empire State then across onto 7th and down to the Holland Tunnel, off the island and onto the Jersey Turnpike. I know I’m in the right area. I grab a lorry driver at a toll booth and ask. Two exits down and off. I can smell the finish now, it’s really close. Ask a geezer planting flowers, a really heavy accent this time, a drawl. Final instructions received and I’m on final approach looking to land. epilogue0018Surprisingly find the shipping epilogue0021agents easily and sure enough, there are some of the other bikes of the riders that cut and ran earlier in the trip. Engine off. Game over. Sort out the luggage then hand over the paperwork. Run my hand over the bike – “see you back home mate”. My bike was one of the oldest on the trip, only an Africa Twin was older but that started with 3k on the trip and I started with 70. It’s well over 90k now. All I’ve done is change the oil twice and the tyres, nothing else really. When others have had expensive professional services, mine has just sat outside like the poor kid at school. It’s given me one or two frights and missed a couple of beats now and then but it’s put up with all the shit I can throw at it and come back for more. Over 5k in the last week alone. Big BIG respect to that bike. Someone told me it looked derelict. That bike is a fighter, it’s a survivor. It’s like a terminator. It just doesn’t give a shit what people think and it doesn’t give up. So it’s not shiny, it’s a bit battered and bruised, it’s not perfect. If you can read it, it can tell you a story. It’s like me.

Taxi to JFK please. “$75 plus tolls and tax – call it $100” How the hell does anyone survive and pay their way nowadays. Taxi is the only option from here though cos I’ve not got loads of time. I know it’s only $55 from the city though which grips my shit! The taxi driver is a New Jersey boy, born and bred. Used to have a Ninja before someone cut him up and broke his knees. That was 10 years ago though. He’s thinking of getting another bike, something more sensible. ‘A Busa’. Yep, that’s far more sensible. We’re chewing the fat and he’s complaining about the state of the States. How it’s so dangerous. “Someone was shot in the street in Jersey yesterday”.

I tell him about the UK gun laws. Why would you need guns? He’s quiet… “Have you got any guns?” I ask. “Well, I have a couple in the house, in case someone breaks in”. “What would you do if they did?” “I’d shoot them in the leg”. “What if they had a gun?” “I’d shoot them in the face! You gunna take my life I’m gunna take yours first” Then he goes on to advocate putting all the prisoners on an island and bombing them (which I sort of agree with:)) or arming them and letting them shoot each other.

He starts complaining about the state of the US and finishes with a tirade of advocated violence. Maybe they left out ‘irony’ in the American version of the OED. Get to JFK – $90 plus tip – fuckidy bollocks! Fate hasn’t finished with the turdballs yet. I’m flying Air Lingus. Auto check-in wont auto check me in. Middle names screw up the system apparently. Middle names are rare after all, hardly anyone has them do they. I’m always getting shocked looks and stares when someone sees a middle name in my passport. It’s almost like I’m a freak or something. So I have to queue instead…and…JF fucking K has NO free trollies for luggage. They want $5 to hire one. Fuck them…fuck them all. I’ve had so many hands in my pockets already today I’m just not paying another $5 to move my luggage 200 yards to the check in desk – they should be free. BASTARDS! I’ve got more luggage than hands.

Getting two aluminium panniers to the check in desk whilst holding my tank bag and helmet is like a Great Egg Race challenge. Shiny floor – low resistance – kick the panniers over the floor. I sound like a giant with a concrete club foot as I shuffle and hurd the two panniers over the concourse with my feet. When I do check them in they want another $50 for the extra baggage. “I didn’t pay that on the way out”. Blank look. “But they cumulatively weigh less than the baggage allowance”. Blank look (I think I saw a twitch of terror at the word ‘cumulatively’ as it had more than 5 letters in it). I hit her round the head with a baseball bat. Blank look. This humourless automaton sitting with my destiny at it’s fingertips is programmed only for simple operations. My logic does not compute clearly. FUCK! FUCK FUCKIDY FUCK FUCK. Another $50 disappears without trace. BOLLOCKS. Then the check in desk doesn’t take the bags anyway. “Take them to machine 7”. “Machine 7, is that another one of you clone weirdesses?” Bitch. I have to do the Quasimodo walk of shame over the hall again to machine 7 where I drop them and finally get to walk properly again. Onto the plane at last. “Hello this is Mr Englishaccent (relief all round). One blink and I’m home and back to work :(

How do I reflect back on this trip? It was an exciting/disappointing/exhilarating/irritating/amazing/cold/warm/hot/boiling/tiring/refreshing/frustrating/annoying/uplifting/depressing/incredible/extraordinary/indescribable/piss taking/easy/relaxing/hard/stressful/chaotic(yep, it was definitely definitely chaotic)/educational experience for sure. You can’t label something as an adventure just because you haven’t really organised it properly and don’t seem to have a plan though. I spent the last month of the journey often preoccupied with wether I was going to make it to Alaska or not and that was an unnecessary distraction. Having said all that, I’d get straight back on the bike tomorrow and do it all again tomorrow.

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