USA: Matthew Wood and Camilla Lyttle

New York City to San Francisco: 4074 miles cycled from 15th August to 17th October.

We left New York City on the 15th of August, with the aim of riding over 4000 miles unsupported across the continent to San Francisco. We battled the humidity and hills of the east: climbing over the Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Ozarks. That physical challenge was followed by an equally exhausting mental one: the great plains of Kansas and Eastern Colorado. We covered hundreds of miles on flat roads with only a handful of turns, in blistering heat, with a constant headwind. This was contrasted with the seemingly endless high mountain passes which we climbed over as we conquered the Rockies (the highest being Monarch Crest at 11312ft!). The endless downhills with bright explosions of colour from the autumnal trees to either side of us was a well-earned reward.

After a few thousand feet of descent we were surrounded by the sand and scraggly desert vegetation of Utah, almost 3000 miles from New York, and where we found ourselves this morning. We woke up in our tent in Blanding, faced with the prospect of riding 84 miles through through the desert to Lake Powell (in Glen Canyon). The road was completely service-less for the entirety of the journey and, to the best of our knowledge, there was only primitive camping at the lake. Our plan was to filter lake water for drinking and cooking with on arrival, so you can imagine our disappointment when the locals informed us that the lake had dried up! Our plan then changed to “carry enough water to last 125 miles of cycling through the desert and hope for the best”. Gulp.

As we left Blanding the signs of civilisation around us rapidly dropped to nil, and soon it was just the two of us and the desolation of the Utah desert. We passed through a huge gorge blasted out of the cliffs by the first Mormon settlers in the area; the commanding vista of the golden canyons we got on the far side was breathtaking. We slowly climbed for twenty miles or so (although it felt longer under the fierce heat of the midday sun) and then took a sweeping turn to the west which gave us great views of the valley we had ridden through, and further in the distance, the incredible rock formations of the Monument Valley. Camilla's front tyre fell victim to the cacti thorns scattered over the road so we paused to repair the puncture. We were glad for the break and had a chance to appreciate the stark beauty of our surroundings.