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Wonderwomen!

Day 17 – destination unknown – next scheduled host in 101 miles.

I ride with Kim, Lee & Sarah. After a few miles a realise i left my phone back at camp – luckily when we contact the lovely Jonathan he is still there & says that he will grab it for me. It is cooler than yesterday & 23 miles is a breeze. We stop for brunch at a ‘Big Boy’ diner. I discover that steak for breakfast is a real thing in America & that Americans call scones biscuits & biscuits cookies. Kim has southern fried steak, which tastes like chicken. It is another customer’s birthday & the staff serve them a cake whilst singing the most lack lustre happy birthday I’ve ever heard. They all seem downtrodden & I make sure I tip well even though the waitress can’t understand my accent.

After some suggestive photos with ‘Big boy’ outside (with 1 chap passing by at inopportune moments exclaiming ‘oh boy’), we get back on the road towards Jackson, Michigan, which naturally triggers Johnny Cash to be stuck in our heads all day.

We stop at a bike shop while Sarah & Kim enquire about getting their stems changed. The owner offers to let us camp around the back of the store & we decide to call it a day at 44 miles & go to the movies. We hide our stuff in the bushes, dumpster dive at Aldi & find more cookies, grapes, bananas,, tomatoes, avocado & cheese than we can carry, then cycle to the Wonderwoman at the ‘movie theater’. I enjoy the 1st 20 minutes, then men & nazis are introduced & it all goes downhill from there. Not feminist at all.

A storm is abrewing when we leave the film & lightening flashes across the sky. The others are not confident that their tents will withstand  the rain so we search for a cheap local hotel. We cycle through the night rain with lightening in the sky & fireflies flashing on the ground. It reminds me of ET. 

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Sweating & Swimming

Day 16 – to Bahn public pool, Adrian, Michigan (55 miles)

Up for 6am & i am sweating before i leave my tent. We are treated to a breakfast of homemade granola,yoghurt, fresh fruit & bread  7am & the sun is beating. I ride again with Claude, who later tells me that inadvertently I taught him the meaning of the word ‘shade’ today. We stop & nap in a cemetery about 25 miles in. We have frequent stops to cool down & find a murky green lake next to an unlabelled industrial looking building. .. 94F is not hot enough to jump in there but we risk dipping our t shirts. We chat to a trucker who is super excited about starting his own 3 week tour. We arrive to our destination & I stand over a water spigot for 5 minutes to begin to feel normal again. The town has allowed us to camp outside their public pool for the evening, it is still open so it’s water slides & communal showers all round. We do a clear up of trash from the creek, as much as poison ivy will allow.

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Trails & Trucks

Day 15 – to Shared Legacy Farm, Elmoor, Ohio (60 miles)

The morning is beautiful – quiet roads, warm sun, open fields. I reconnect with Sheryl Crow, who lifts my spirits as I sing & dance on my bike – the perfect soundtrack. We ride a lot on bike trails, which make life a whole lot more relaxed, & play cat and mouse with a few other riders – one of my favourite things about cycling the same routes. 20 miles goes by quickly. 

We find a lake that potentially is just a duck pond & dive right in. Some other riders have beat us to it & Rob piggy backs Cheryl into the water. We are invigorated by water &  stop at every fountain to soak our clothes as well as fill our bottles. 

We stop for ice cream – the store only sells half gallon tubs so we get one & sit on the concrete porch with spoons. We make a good dent in it & offer the rest to passers by.
About 10 miles from our destination we turn into the next bike trail… just as a chap pulls over a ‘Do not use’ sign. It has just been freshly tarmacked. Our alternative is a very fast, very busy truck route. With a dip on our right & warning grooves on our left, the shoulder gives us about 2 tyres width to cycle within. When large trucks whizz past I am pushed a few feet forward by the wind they create, which makes things quicker I suppose. It continues for 6 miles, which seem to take longer than our starting 20 miles. 

Yet finally we make it to Shared Legacy farm. I let a small child hose me down upon arrival & my trainers are damp for days. They put on a pot luck dinner & a friend of the farm sets up speakers & serenades us with his guitar into the night. 

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A very different Birmingham

Day 14 – to Birmingham, Ohio – 45 miles

I set off with 2 other riders, we emerge into a group of 6 for a while then 3 of us take a wrong uphill turn. We decide against going back down to cycle up the hill from a different angle & reroute. It’s another hot sunny day & the fierce wind brings no relief – it is also hot & blowing against us. We reflect that we only notice the winds against us – when there are tailwinds we just take pride in our speed. We lose Jonathan to a fruit stall on the side of the road & later learn he stopped for a nap! So somehow I find myself riding with Adam , one if the fastest in the group & generally number 1 arrival. I keep good pace (Adam has the GPS) & he later admits surprise,  particularly as his speedometer clocked him as going 14 mph for some time. About 5 miles way from our destination I need to take a break & let Adam go on. I sit under a tree at the end of a driveway eating peanut butter on a hot dog bun. I muster up the energy to cycle the last 5 miles. I am assisted by Alanis Morissette, who I sing & scream to along the way – taking Jess’ advise to realise the trauma from my fall. It makes me feel a lot better until I am almost run over trying to take a photo of the ‘Welcome to Birmingham’ sign for the folks back home in the Midlands.  I realise that my phone has been fried underneath the solar panel that I’ve had bungee-d on the back of my bike (so I can’t even post the photo!)

<imagine photo here>

I make it to our host second of the pack. I saviour the fluke. Bob welcomes us with his friend Roy. I wonder if their Trump sticker is tongue in cheek. Bob has 2 pet wolves… well, close enough – one is 90% wolf, the other 80%. I say hello & move to the stroke too quickly, which is received with a warning bite to the air. Bob says that they are just fine – they sleep in his bed – he tells me not to be scared of them “or they’ll mess with you” & to be careful of putting my face too close. I avoid the wolves. One pees on Elle’s panniers. Bob also has another much smaller dog, who walks with a limp & is not allowed to be alone with the wolves in case they view him as prey & eat him. I almost sit in his poo.

We walk to the local bar, which is closed on Sundays, & instead buy what groceries we can from Dollar General. The other food shopping option is the gas station or a drive 6 miles out of town. Ohio makes me reflect upon the term ‘food desert’, something that I have heard but never really experienced before. I tell the cashier in Dollar General that I brought my own bag & he says, “oh great, your own  bag” & fills up a plastic carrier bag anyway. I complain about this to anyone who will listen. When we return our host has offered to drive to the real grocery store & Sarah joins them before making a Spanish rice dish for everybody to have dinner. We have now got into the habit of having a ‘help yourself, dumpster food’ area & tonight’s is a huge table including fresh fruit, vegetables, cakes, bread & more. We camp in Bob’s front, back & neighbours garden. He is delighted that we’ve made ourselves at home.

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Back in the saddle

Day 13 – to Richfield, Ohio – just under 70 miles

Jess, Elle & I are back on our bikes. Vanessa is still on a lot of pain so heads to visit an uncle & recover in Nashville, Tennesee.  We ride our first 30 miles in no time. Ohio is flat, which is just wonderful. We detour to a huge lake to swim & cool down. We cycle off in dripping clothes which dry in no time. The sun is beating & the last 7 miles in 35ºc are tough. We are glad to arrive at our next stop – a former girl scout camp that we are staying at as a kind of trial group for opening it to the public in the future. Our camp hostess is super sweet & peppy & makes us sign disclaimers. 

This is the hometown of one of our riders, Lexi, whose mum happens to be the mayor, and so we are treated to a spread including kombucha & vegan pizza by the mayor of Richfield. Lastnight’s hosts rock up in their truck with Bear, more food, a crate of beers & a massage table. They have just driven 60 miles to camp out with us – “we kinda like y’all”. We are delighted. Our camp hostess is less delighted as their arrival is unexpected, alcohol is not allowed & our visitors are obviously worryingly cool. They stay anyway.

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The nicest ghetto I ever visited

Day 11 – to Youngstown, Ohio

Cierra gets home at 4am & has to leave before 9am to get to her other job. I leave her a thank you note & something towards her own adventures. Jess & Elle get in touch -they stayed the night in Pittsburgh as well so we meet up & find our way to Youngstown. I stop in at a bike shop to get my bike checked & the pedals unjam easily. The bike mechanic shows me what to do if they jam again, scratches his head a bit & adjusts my gears, probably just for something else to do. 

I arrive at our next host’s house. Joshua & Emily are artists who live in 2 amazing houses that they bought, abandoned & in a state, for $2500 & $8000. They have worked hard on them &, along with their warm welcome, I quickly feel at home. Emily gives me a homemade comfrey & plaintain salve for my cuts & later Cris, Joshua’s mum, gives me a wjole tub. Cris lives around the corner & is the person who found us.

We eat & drink into the night around an open fire. Without exception the Green Riders fall for Joshua & Emily’s tiny kitten, Bear, who they found in a dumpster 4 weeks ago. He now goes everywhere with them. Joshua & his mate have a go on their extra tall bicycles which have seats at least 7ft in the air. We are all blown away by the cool loving vibe of this place.  

We are invited to sleep anywhere & we do – inside on the couch, the floors, the music studio, the eaves, & outside in tents, hammocks, on the trampoline, & on all levels of the wooden climbing frame fashioned to look like a ship.

Day 12 – Rest day at Un-Abandoned Community Garden

Cris, Joshua & Emily have put efforts into creating positive community space in Youngstown – the murder capital of the USA. Crime & heroin are rife here & they constantly refer to being ‘in the ghetto’. They try to get people interested in building community & growing as a way of providing other choices as well as giving people access to fresh food. The local grocery options are poor & Joshua tells us about local kids who think fruit comes in a can. We clear rocks, create a path & flower bed, weed  & make a start on a hoop house. It is hot but lovely. The author of a book about ‘Humanure’ comes to speak to us about composting. He says that you can compost just about anything & makes several potentially overzealous comments about composting his mother in law.

We return to the house where one of Joshua & Emily’s friends is starting a BBQ. We have several visitors throughout the evening & it feels that a community has certainly been built.  A friend of theirs, who started her growing with several kiddie pools in an overrun back yard, tells us about her journey to open ‘Lady Buggs Farm’. Her passion is inspiring. Spray paint art, yoga & meditation happen before bed. What a wonderful rest.

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More coffee please

Day 9 – to Mount Pleasant, Norvelt, PA

We have a leisurely morning in our b n b, then breakfast in an all-American diner. I have pancakes (of course) & too much coffee. We cycle for a bit, which freaks me out a little so it’s back to thumbs out. Jess & I get a ride from Tom, who is heading just half a mile around the corner but offers to take us all the way to Mount Pleasant – 27 miles. I strain to hear Tom, a dairy farmer & grandpa of 6. With probing, he tells us that he has been married to his wife for 46 years. They met on the front porch as their parents were friends – he took her out for a motorcycle ride, purposely ran out of gas & the rest is history! We offer to take Tom out for a beer but he has to ho home & feed the cows. He won’t accept gas money.


We are welcomed at our host Teresa’s house, or as she calls it ‘Mad Momma’s Micro Farm’, by a spread of salad, pasta, cookies, & a paddling pool full of iced beers. We weed Teresa’s vegetable patch, light a bonfire & Craig & Cristina clear trash from the woods. Teresa has 2 humungous cats, a slow old dog & a very excited puppy in a cage. I have myself some quality cat time & Teresa  cooks us all burgers. Later we do some restorative yoga & I realise that I’ve really hurt my shoulder. I decided to ignore it & hope it goes away. 

​Teresa’s neighbour comes over to chat & brings homemade chocolate cake & blueberry loaf. He tells us about the history of the area – people were given very cheap rent ($15 a month) on these homes & land after the Great Depression (1929-1940). They became a strong community / coop & named the area after Eleanor Roosevelt – ‘Norvelt’. He pointed out a house nearby that she had visited.

I brush my teeth looking out across a field of sparkling fireflie

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When drinking beer saved the day

Day 10 – to Pittsburgh,  PA

Teresa makes us piles of French toast, which is like having dessert for breakfast.  Again. What a great country! It rains so my tent gets rolled up wet for 10 out of 10 days. Jess is still feeling unwell & Vanessa has a bad case of saddle sore so it’s hitching again for us. We get a short lift to a better place to hitch.  The woman who picks us up is another diary farmer; she has ‘only’ 60 cows. She bought a robot last year which milks the cows automatically – the cows go into a special booth when they want to be milked. I picture an odd kind mix of doctor’s waiting room & hairdressers. In my mind the cows are wearing straw hats.

We have trouble getting another ride & cycle a bit before my pedals stop fast & refuse to move. We walk along a treacherously shallow shoulder next to lots of traffic until we find an Italian Deli.  We have lunch & hang out chatting to passers by. A sweet elderly lady asks if our bikes will fit in the boot so she can give us a ride. The car is small & the bikes are large. One of the staff at the deli steals chats with us between collecting trolleys & clearing up. She is a trail cyclist & excited about our trip. She offers to give us a ride to a better hitching spot when her shift ends & she does, 1 bike by 1.


We try for another ride for over 45 minutes.  It is dire. One of the staff comes out of the nearby Domino’s pizza & graces us with unhelpful suggestions such as ‘why don’t you just walk 7 hours to Pittsburgh’. Eventually a man in pick up truck conveniently stops for a pizza & Vanessa chats him up. He is a police officer who spends all his free time kyacking. He comes from California & doesn’t think much of the area.

He drops us off past ‘the dodgy bit of town’ & we stop at a bar next to a huge Google building for a much needed beer & Wifi connection. We frantically contact hosts on Warm Showers – basically Couchsurfing for cyclists – & look uncertainly at the lack of cover at the local park. Our waitress, Cierra, offers us a place to stay – she says we need to prepare ourselves for the messiest house we’ve ever visited. Lifesaver! We immediately relax & enjoy a few more beers as we wait for Cierra’s shift to end. She sends us over pitta with delicious cheese dip & chicken wings which makes us realise that we are actually quite hungry. In the end,  Cierra gives us her address as she’ll be staying late. She works 2 jobs & seems to be itching for an adventure. She is apologetic & open & closed & awkward & confident & wonderful. I’d like to get to know her better. We arrive to her house where her dog Kenya just stares out at us before Cierra’s brother, Nathan, welcomes us to make ourselves at home.

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Scrapes, bruises & cracks

Day 7- to Valley Hi, PA & Day 8 – to a b n b in Somerset, PA

Firstly – everything is fine & there is no need to worry.

About 10 miles into day 7’s anticipated 60 mile ride I swerve to avoid something & lose control of my bike whilst speeding downhill. I go flying & get scraped up real bad, though feel very looked after – I am fed chocolate, cleaned, bandaged & hugged as I sit on the side of the road in tears.  My bike is checked over though I later find a crack in the wheel rim, holes in a pannier & tomorrow, cracks in my helmet. I have to buy a new helmet which freaks me out. I have been owning the hills (apparently I am a decent climber) but now feel pretty shaken up about all this speed business. I decide to hitchhike through the mountains. 


A few cars stop on the side of the road to make sure I am ok. One chap drives home 5 miles to get his pick up truck & returns to collect Elle & I. He is on his way home from church & drives us at least 40 miles out of his way to our next destination – Valley Hi. We are met by Roy, who grew up here & who’s family own the valley, lake & land. He tells us that Route 30 was built over a native American path as they found the best route through. He also tells us that the chap who created the American cycle routes in 2001 cycled every mile personally. Roy is very passionate about the history of the area.

We swim in the lake & set up camp. The 1st riders are very surprised to see us there before them! Roy makes masses of pasta. One group found a roadkill deer on their path & arrive with the heart & tenderloins which they add to the dinner pot. They were cut out by John,  who used to be a hunter & is now a vegetarian. 

The next day I am very achy & I have a broken bike. A few people feel sick / exhausted so Roy gives us a lift in his dumptruck to ‘Fat Jimmy’s’ bike store. We have a terrible lunch & hitch from there. A couple stop but have no room for our bikes as their back is full of gas cans. We give up hitching & cycle for a bit. The couple, Doris & John, have pulled in up the road & are rearranging their van – piling the gas cans into the back seat with their sun. John chains in 3 bikes & 3 women into the back of the truck – the back is down & our wheels are close to the edge but we are pretty secure. John stops every so often to check we are ok & gives us Gatorade. Doris is a nurse & they have 2 daughters in the army, one is a field medic.

​We get Mexican food, a hotel room to share between 5 & chill the fuck out.

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Dumpster diving the mountains

Day 5 – to Wrightsville, PA – 60 miles

The first ‘on our own’ night – I haven’t ridden with so many people yet! Lancaster is the 50 mile mark so we play cat and mouse until we get very close then split a little. We have been invited to camp in a park next to a river. The bemused ranger meets us & brings water & tools before the mayor drops by for a visit with his wife. We share out food found in the dumpster earlier for dinner – aubergines,  spring onions, green beans, radishes, & bagels. Lee makes an amazing salad.

Day 6 – to Paladomia State Park, PA – 60 miles

Ouch ouch ouch.  We start the day cycling through a street of yard sales then a visit to a local market where people are super friendly.  I talk politics with one chap who apeaks of Trump as ‘he who must not be named’. I meet a couple who have just cycled West to East USA in 2 months – 80 miles per day. The stall owner of ‘The Bees Knees’ gives us all free smoothies. He tells us that his mum was a fitness fanatic & forced him on many active pursuits – including cycling the Rockies – when he was younger. He recommends Rolo’s for altitude sickness.

We dumpster dive & find pizza that is still warm & sandwiches that go off tomorrow.  Jonathan says that confidence is the secret of dumpster diving – “walk in there like your dick is dragging along the floor”. He is unsure about the female equivalent. 

We cycle hard. It is hard. Today we hit the Apalecha mountains. Ouch. We cycle through vineyards & an unfortunately closed winery. We also pass a closed ‘Elephant museum’. I think about having a beer for hours & the first sign I see upon entering the State Park we are camping is “Alcohol Prohibited”. I wonder what era this is. I have a hot shower & get into bed. I have a fig bar for dinner because I cannot be arsed.