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I’ve been home for just over 3 weeks and already my wee adventure seems like a distant memory – a very good memory though and there will be more adventures to come.
I could have happily carried on cycling but it’s great to come back and catch up with friends and family but not so sure about the going to work bit or the hoovering and polishing at home – there is something to be said about rolling up your tent and sleeping bag every morning and not having to think about any housework – only one pan to wash; no ironing (except I never iron anyway); no toilet to clean, etc, etc.
Since coming back I’ve not strayed very far from home but it’s been good to revisit stuff that is on your doorstep and to discover stuff you didn’t even know was there!
So a mix of cycling and a very short uphill run took me up Abbey Craig which has the Wallace Monument perched on top of it – it’s been long time since I’ve been here which is a shame as it’s only a few miles from the house – and I got to see the new carvings which have only been in place for a couple of months.
The Wallace Monument, Abbey Craig, Stirling
Two weeks ago I went running with Katie – a good 5.5 miles with lots of chat and catching up – some of the route I knew but Katie introduced me to a path I didn’t know existed and passed an old lime kiln which I didn’t know was there either so we had a good explore around that – it’s funny that you can go on holiday and explore other countries and can forget or miss what is right on your doorstep. We also found an old house which must have been beautiful in it’s day but now sadly very neglected – by the time we had finished our run we had both decided how we could return the house and stables back to it’s former glory – we are just short of the hundreds and thousands of pounds needed to buy and restore so someone else will have to do it (hopefully).
The Lime Kiln
Gartur House – needing a lot of loving and attention
So this weekend past I went for a bike ride on Friday – a 30 mile loop I’ve done many times before but took a few wee off shoots to do some exploring, including having a look at Clackmannan tower – somewhere I’ve passed by many times but never got round to having a proper look which I should be reprimanded for because it’s more than worth having a look.
The Kincardine Bridge, Clackmannan Parish Church (in the distance) and Clackmannan Tower
On the Saturday I cycled the 11 miles to Falkirk; ran the Parkrun and cycled back home again. The Parkrun takes place in Callander Park Falkirk, and starts and ends at the very grand Callander House.
Callendar House, Falkirk
And yesterday, for the 2nd time since coming home, I went up my wee hill – Dumyat.
Logie Kirk (at the foot of Dumyat), views from the top and some plant life in between
And finally this wee witch didn’t need a car (or broom) to get to the Halloween party – I did swap my witches hat for my helmet and stick a jacket on before heading off though.
So I’ve had just short of 3 months off work, cycled across the USA, ran a marathon, come home to Scotland and tomorrow it’s back to work – where did the time go and did I really do all that and do I really need to go to work tomorrow??
My last 3 nights were spent at the The Backpackers and Pub Hostel, about 4 miles from downtown Boston – I had a nice cosy bed to sleep in – and Bertie got a final ride before being boxed up to come home.
Cheers, China Town, Bunker Hill Monument – Bertie was left at the bottom when I climbed the 294 steps to the top of the Monument Tower.
Boston without Bertie – The Boston Tea Party, Boston Common and yummy seafood at the Barking Crab amongst other things.
Boston is a beautiful city with lots of history – very quite and peaceful compared with New York – loved Boston but think I liked the vibe of New York more .
Having read the play, The Crucible, at school I was keen to visit Salem as well and took a train ride there – really pretty and interesting town with lots of things connected with the Witch Trails that took place there – a fair amount of tourist tat thrown in for good measure but still worth the visit.
Bertie’s last bike ride before being boxed up – note to self – no matter how old and battered your pannier is DO NOT throw it out before the end of your journey.
To anyone reading my blog and who knows the geography of America better than I do you will have realised that there are gaps – big gaps – missing States in fact – as I’ve said before I’ve not always had internet or time – or sometimes I’d rather chat to the people I’ve met – or I’m just tired and can’t be bothered – but in view of my own rubbish memory I want to try and not miss too much out.
You may remember that I was treated to breakfast by John and Irma (coincidentally the name of one of the recent hurricanes) when I was in Wymoming – now they have been following me ever since (Hello John and Irma) and put me in touch with Kim and Jim, in La Crescent, Wisconsin – La Crescent is on one side of the Mississippi and La Crosse is on the other – now this was about the time my camera packed in – Kim and Jim put me up for the night and looked after me – when I arrived in La Crescent it was “Labour Day” weekend and it is tradition in this town to have garage / rummage sales – Kim was using hers to raise money money for the local historic society – the historic society were a friendly bunch and some of them had tips on the trails to pick up after I cross the Mississippi – once the sale packed up Kim took me into town so I could replace the faulty memory card on my camera (glad it was just the memory card that was faulty and not the camera} and then on to buy long leggings as my knees were getting chilly in the early mornings – not sure why I have left home with no long leggings?? While I was there Jim had been smoking venison jerky in the garden – the first time I had tried jerky it had come free in a goody bag after a marathon and it had tasted revolting and was like chewing on very old leather – I swore I would never eat jerky again – but in Montana I had tried some and this tasted much nicer and had a much much better texture – now Jim’s jerky was beautiful – tasty and tender – and just goes to show like most things there are good and bad and Jim’s jerky was very very good.
Quite a few weeks ago Nige messaged to say I should avoid going through Chicago and Detroit and that I should take one of the ferries across Lake Michigan instead – “Shite holes with massive gangland issues and many no-go zones” he says – my automatic reaction: there is good and bad everywhere but mostly good but I decided not to reply – Detroit wasn’t on the agenda anyway but Chicago was – now I know there are some areas I definitely want to avoid but reckoned I’d be fine if I was careful with my route – there was a another reason for taking the ferry though – “time!” – something that I was running out of – however I was still keen to cycle south along the coast of Lake Michigan, a lot of which is meant to be beautiful.
In Wisconsin on one of the cycle trails (big thumbs up to the Wisconsin for their trails) I met Al and Kathy who were going the opposite way and they stopped to chat – Al does a lot of cycling and has done some big tours in the past – we say our goodbyes but a wee while later on Al catches me up on the trail – he’s raced back up the track to offer me a bed to stay if need one when I get to Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and a couple of days later I take him up on his super offer – have a lovely meal that Kathy has made and discuss the pros and cons of taking the ferry or cycling down the West side of the lake – it is doable to stick to my route and cycle to the southern end of Lake Michigan but it is very industrialised in one area (Gary) and not very pleasant cycling – if I had more time and was with other cyclists I would have stuck to the original route but have opted for the ferry but even on the way to the ferry I still wondered about carrying on down the coast – it was chilly but beautiful morning and perfect for cycling and I’ve got a good few hours to kill before the ferry sets off but opt for the ferry and I know I made the right decision, especially when the heavens opened and it poured with rain as I crossed Lake Michigan .
Having landed in Muskegon, Michigan I pick up the trail that takes me to Grand Rapids – another thumbs up for the trails – I cycle fast as I know it will be getting dark when I arrive and head for the hostel that I found online (as there were no campsites in the right area). It’s dark by the time I get to where I think the hostel should be – I try the website and the phone number and they no longer exist – transpires that the hostel has been closed for a number of years – bugger – if I was on the edge of town I would have found somewhere to put my tent up but it’s pretty busy and I’m not at all familiar with the area – I’m now googling to see if there is a motel or hotel nearby as I haven’t seen one. But luck is on my side again – I stop Cat and Pippa, who are on a night out, to ask if they know of a hotel nearby – they point me in the direction of downtown and I am about to head off when Cat suggest that I camp in her garden if I am ok with that – I’m definitely ok with that – addresses are exchanged and these fantastic ladies are going to meet me there with beer and sandwiches – great night, music and chat with Cat, Pippa and Cat’s lovely Mum, Jan. Nige be warned I’m going to open up our house to stray cyclists (and walkers and sailors and kayakers (Cat) and artists (Pippa) and anyone else) when I get back!!
From Michigan I go through Ohio and then onto Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania is hard work – no big hills but lots of them and them seem harder than they should be – in Pittsburgh I pick up the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) – it runs from to Cumberland, Maryland and is nice easy cycling as it follows the old railway line. I start on the trail early evening and I’m glad to meet another cyclist who has just completed the route – he tells me there is a hostel in the next town of McKeesport but doesn’t know anymore than this. Luckily I check the website – it’s just a little hostel (sleeps 4), not manned and you need to phone ahead to book a bed space, which I did. The hostel is right on the trail but not obvious unless your looking for it.
I was met by Linda and Joyce and the hostel is their baby – the hostel used to be a riverside snack kiosk and still has the metal shutters – it’s small, clean and cosy inside, has a shower room and an area for eating with a fridge and microwave. Linda is excited that I’m her first foreign visitor – Joyce is excited that I’m Scottish and hopes that her husband, Bob MacGregor can meet me. However the hot water has stopped working and I really need a shower – Kenny (Linda’s son-in-law who is in charge of maintenance for the local housing scheme) is called and diagnosed a faulty element but can’t fix it until tomorrow – I’m now been given a guided tour of Mckeesport, on the way to the community centre so I can have a shower – while I’m getting scrubbed up these too nice ladies have decided to take me out to dinner – now during dinner it transpires that Linda’s husband is the local Senator and that someone of importance is going to be cycling the same trail as me the next day – Linda asks if I would stay on the following morning for a “photo shoot” to help promote her wee hostel – I would end up leaving 2 hours later than planned and a photo shoot wasn’t on my tick list but how could I refuse – as it happened it turned out to be good fun and met lots of lovely people.
So I had took the train the last 30 miles to New York City – if I hadn’t stopped for the photo shoot would I have needed to take the train – maybe yes / maybe no – but if I hadn’t waited for the photos I wouldn’t have camped where I did the following night (good campsite but with a nightmare of a trail to push the bike up to get there) and wouldn’t have met Janet, Kevin and Jim – fellow cyclists who were going the opposite way – they were good fun and I had a nice evening with them and relaxed breakfast the following morning with them – and if I hadn’t had a long breakfast I probably wouldn’t have met Jerry at lunchtime who cycled with for part of the afternoon – so things happen because they happen and this is my bike ride and there are no rules to it.
So I went from Wisconsin, across the lake to Michigan, south west to Ohio and across to Pennsylvania, briefly into Maryland and back into Pennsylvania – onto New York and then north through Connecticut, Rhodes Island, Massachussetts, New Hampshire and finally Maine.
Well via the magic of Facebook most folks know that (1) myself and Bertie made it – we managed to get from the most Westerly Lighthouse (Cape Blanco, Oregon) to the most Easterly Lighthouse (West Quoddy Head, Maine) on mainland USA and (2) and I ran the Maine Marathon – I’ve done my own wee personal duathlon in America – so I’m going to go and blow my own trumpet and say yip yip hurrah to me! Big thank you to every one I met on my way – some folks who haven’t gotten a mention yet but you will do – and also thank you to all the folks back home who have been sending me messages, etc.
West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, Maine
So Maine was beautiful – lots of trees and trees, just starting to turn. I had hoped to see more of the coast line and more of the lighthouses along it but time dictated that if I was going to make it to Quoddy Head I needed to take a more direct route, which is what I did.
Maine was beautiful during the day but the temperature had seriously dropped during the night – if I had been camping any longer I would have had to re-think both my clothing and my sleeping bag – for the last few nights I was sleeping in most of my clothes and was still getting chilly – I’m very glad to be spending the last few nights of my holiday in a hostel.
So I arrived at the lighthouse in perfect conditions – the sun was catching the lighthouse and the sea was sparkling – I met Kimberly who works there – she knew I was coming because I had been emailing her to get information on transport from here to Portland further down the coast – I got a nice well done hug from Kimberly and then tried to let the world know that me and Bertie had made it and couldn’t – no phone or internet reception – I had been struggling to get both in Maine – I don’t think I’ve ever felt so let down by gadgetry before but it didn’t last long – I was in a perfect place in perfect conditions and Bertie’s right pannier had hung in there by a whisker!
No – You Are Not Meant to See the Yellow of My Dry Bag!
So I cycled to Whiting – the closest town to the lighthouse that had a bus service – I could get one of 2 busses south to Portland I thought, where I was going to run the Maine Marathon and I didn’t have long to get there. It turned out that there was 2 busses – the one that left at 10.25am in the morning and the one that did the return journey back to Whiting at 5pm – I would have to wait till the morning to get the bus and it was all a bit vague – if there was room me and Bertie would get on the bus / if there wasn’t we didn’t – I was told that there was normally room. I was going to camp 4 miles along the road and return in the morning but the local headmaster had heard the conversation and said I could camp in the school playground for free – the gas station across the road had food, a seating area and a washroom so I was set for the night.
Rather than waiting for the bus I tried to get a ride for me and Bertie to our first stop in Bangor – lots of people said they could have taken me on previous days or the following day but Saturday didn’t seem to be the day that most of the locals did their weekly trip to Bangor – I gave up and had a 2nd breakfast in the gas station and caught up on some of the gossip and news with the locals until the bus came and me and Bertie got on with no problems and Bertie didn’t even need to be boxed up – mini bus was about 1/2 full and I got some good chat with some of the other passengers.
Another bus took me to Portland, where I had a whirlwind of getting registered for the marathon, finding the campsite which was about 8 miles out of town and having something to eat.
Alarm set for 6am on Sunday morning – should have set it for earlier – freezing cold but beautiful again – washed dressed – quick bite to eat and drink with plans to eat some more when I got to the start line – managed to take a wrong turn and get lost and the marathon had started before I even got there so no second breakfast – luckily it didn’t take me too long to catch up with the runners at the back and I was doing not too bad on time until 16+ miles and then the body protested – apart from running for a few traffic lights in New York my body was not ready for this – my legs were in cycling mode and not running mode – I was gubbed – fast walking took over from running – slow walking took over from fast walking – and stopping took over from walking – luckily about the final 3 mile mark I caught up with India – we had passed each other a few times prior to this and now we chummed each other to the end and we were both grateful for the free pizza at the finish line – great marathon – beautiful course and good music on the way but would I cycle across a pretty big country and do a marathon straight after again …………………………………………………..??????? despite the pain in my legs at the moment, yes I probably would!
The following morning a bus to Boston – but more of that later as I’m too tired to type – night folks.
Camping on the East side of America is rediculously expensive and trying to eat your pasta and sauce with a plastic MacDonalds fork that only has 2 prongs remaining is not easy.
The further East I went into Long Island I was passing through farms, wineries and garden centres – colour every where. Since coming through Pennsylvania there has been much more colour and plants in people’s gardens and it has continued the further East I’ve come.
The wineries had signs indicating whether or not bus tours and / or limos were allowed to visit or not – I saw a number of limos doing the rounds – there was no indication of whether sweaty cyclists were allowed to visit or not so I decided to give it a miss.
However lots of the farms were selling their fruit and veg and home made goods – some big markets, lots of little stalls and a variety in between – I could have spent the day just eating. I had freshly roasted sweetcorn at one and it would have been rude not to buy the huge delicious cranberry and orange muffin as well; apple cider doughnuts at another one and I was going to try the pumpkin ice cream at another but the staff seemed to have vanished so that was a no go unfortunately.
Typing this I’m now feeling very hungry.
Just for Nige I thought I would give a wee resume of the weather so far.
Oregon coast fluctuated from warm and sunny to blooming cold and windy and everything in between – much like Scotland really but warmer when the sun came out.
The further East I went the hotter it got and there were times in Washington I didn’t think I could survive the heat.
Lovely and warm in Montana but could be cold at night and then I realised I was at over 6000 feet.
The day I left Yellowstone it peed it down and I got really cold but soon warmed when the sun came out later.
From 1st of September suddenly got chillier but still sunny – long leggings were needed.
In Pennsylvania it suddenly heated up again and the humidity was mental – although not as hot, I think I sweated more and drank more than I did when I was in Washington.
Had my 2nd day of real rain in Pennsylvania – hammered down and I was cycling through rivers it was so wet – this was a Sunday and I saw lots of Amish people on their way to church – some walking – some in horse and buggy – great to see but there was a distinct smell of horse poo and I don’t think it was just rain water I was cycling in.
Since leaving New York City I’ve come through Long Island, New York; taken the ferry to New London, Connecticut; into Rhodes Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire and should get into Maine tomorrow and it’s still hot, hot, hot.
Fingers crossed I’ve not jinxed things for the rest of my holiday.
Had planned to type more but overcome with sleepiness (which probably isn’t even a word). Very little sleep last night × good but long day on the bike = very tired cyclist. And why didn’t I sleep? New noise outside my tent last night – not the now familiar crickets and cicadas noise – this one rattled – my Audology chums will know the noise of a high frequency rattle and that’s what it sounded like – at 2 in the morning I was googling rattlesnake information, inc do they sleep at night and it turns out they don’t! Reckoned I was safe in my tent but if there was a snake outside definitely didn’t want to disturb it. Made lots of noise when I got up this morning to put off anything that might be outside and a thorough examination before I got out of the tent – certainly no sign of one. The noise may well have been something else but will never find out but wasn’t a happy bunny last night. Reckon I’ll sleep tonight though.
Good night from Massachusetts.