The Big Finale!

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After 990 miles of riding through romantic vineyards, protected state parks, mysterious redwood forests, and along beautiful coastal roads with views of the bright blue Pacific ocean, migrating whales, and gigantic sea rocks, we eventually found ourselves back onto a hectic road leading into San Francisco. It was time to go back to city life.

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When we came over the hill from Sausalito, filled with excitement and adrenaline, I saw the enormous Golden Gate Bridge and my breath was completely taken away… by the wind. Man, you have to work hard before getting to the other side. Major winds and more ridiculously sized hills laughed at us as we powered through them, often sideways, trying desperately not to be knocked off to face an unfortunately untimely death. But despite this dramatic finale, which made me wonder if we were on the Truman show, I managed to clamber up to the peak which looks across Golden Gate Bridge and into the city of San Francisco. At that moment I felt an overwhelming sensation as I realised that I had actually done it. I was really bloody pleased with myself but also a little sad that the trip was over. It has been the most incredible experience of my life.

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Once in San Francisco we met up with old friends, ate hotdogs at a Giants baseball game, whizzed around the art galleries, ate dim sum at chinatown, posed in the prison cells of Alcatraz, and made a quick visit to Las Vegas. Whaaat? It’s so close to San Francisco, we couldn’t resist the neon charm. We made $60. Apparently.

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So there you have it – our EPIC journey from Seattle to San Francisco. 1000 miles cycled, and over £1000 raised for Womankind and Orchid Project (and still raising)! I strongly recommend this trip to anyone who’s interested in doing a long-distance cycling adventure. All you need is your general fitness, determination, and good kit. Ahh, the essential kit list… I couldn’t finish the blog without it!

Bicycle
If you don’t have your own bike, find a friend who is exactly the same size as you, and owns a bike on which she recently cycled around the world.

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The Greasy Bits
Find an awesome bike mechanic who is overly-enthusiastic about fixing your friend’s slightly knackered bike. Overly-enthusiastic bike mechanics love a challenge. Give him/her only 2 days to build an entire gearing system with no parts in stock. Thank you Tim from Balfe’s Bikes (East Dulwich) for being an overly-enthusiastic bike mechanic / expert!

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Touring Bike Shoes
Clip in bike shoes never fail to provide endless entertainment. Life is not just about fun though. Make sure you buy touring cycling shoes as this means you can walk around and take photos on cliff tops without damaging the cleats.

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Helmet
Despite popular belief, it is not actually necessary to look ugly on your trip by wearing an ugly helmet. Purchase a super light weight, incredibly well ventilated, and all-importantly photogenic Bern Helmet.

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Mega Tool
If you are going with a male in the group, you won’t need to worry about this piece of kit. He is probably already browsing the web for the best tool on the market.

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iPod
Smile smugly when your cycling buddy finally gives up, and starts downloading music after 200 miles of insisting his thoughts are enough to entertain him throughout the 1000 mile trip.

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Brooks Saddle
Fixing a brand new Brooks saddle to your bike just 2 days before departure is stupid. Do not do that. Break it in for at least a month first.

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Vaseline
“Use this before you need it” Tip of the trip, from James Thorne. It’s especially relevant to guys who forget to break in the saddle first.

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Padded Shorts
Find a friend who thinks you are absolutely stupid for not taking any padded shorts, and as good friends do, decides to buy you a pair the day before you depart.

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Tent
Not taking a tent is the only mistake we made. However, we made up for this by signing onto warmshowers and meeting some amazing hosts. A huge thank you to:

Alan, Donna, & Lewis (Shelton)
Mike & Jan (Kelso)
Steven Battaglia (McMinville)
Matt Messner (Eureka)
Gerry & Trudy (Crescent City)

You were all amazing, your homes were lovely, and your dinners were incredibly appreciated and tasty! If anyone is doing this cycle route, I recommend you sign up to warmshowers and get in touch with the lovely people above!

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Sustenance
Find some cliff bars & shot bloks, buy them, eat them, find more, buy them, eat them. Repeat until day 30 is over.

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There are other bits and bobs but, generally, you don’t need much so get on your bikes and do it!

Thanks for reading my blog… I’m thinking up a new adventure so I will be back soon!
Meena
🙂

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Where’s Mr. Motivator when you need him?

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(cycled 800miles – only 200 to go!)

It’s 4.05am and I can’t sleep which is particularly annoying because we have our most hilliest and gruelling day ahead of us – climbing up 1750ft, followed by another 800ft immediately after. I guess I’m apprehensive. And hungry.
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It’s strange feeling nervous about something I know I can do. I’m actually just worried because I know I’m tired and my body just doesn’t want to do it. Towards the end of a hilly ride up through the forests of Leggett yesterday, my body seemed to fall into a protest, and I knew that no more amounts of protein bars or energy shockblocs were going to lift me up. I was tired.
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This is when I have to remind myself of my motivations, as my legs are asking my head, “Why exactly, are we doing this?” It’s because of the challenge – not just the physical challenge but a test to see what I’m capable of and what I can achieve if I put my mind to it. Most importantly it’s the appreciation of being able to do it in the first place.

I’ve recently hit a juncture in my life where I’ve decided to change it and progress by doing something more meaningful to me – starting with volunteering at Womankind and Orchid Project. Changing careers left me at exactly the same juncture as where I’m at right now. Tired and apprehensive. But I know I can do it. I know this because I have the strength that I’ve gained through my life, my family, and my friends. It’s this strength that other people aren’t as lucky to have to get over the hills they are faced with. Being able to appreciate this is the single last ingredient to my mental protein shake. Bring it on.

As I doze off for the remaining two hours I shall leave you with some information about these two organisations and the great work that they do. If you would like to help me fundraise please donate here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/meenasmegabiketrip

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Orchid Project is a truly amazing little organisation with immense strength in working to end female genital cutting within our lifetime. There has been a lot of news about this recently following a government announcement of a major fund towards ending the issue – thanks partly to the work of Orchid Project. Whilst working with their partners Tostan, and ambassadors such as Sister Fa, Orchid Project help to bring about behavioural change by educating communities on the harmful affects of FGC, both physically and mentally. This is a proven method which needs our continuos funding and support until all communities have abandoned the issue. I actually had no idea, or to what scale, FGC was even going on, and really commend the work that Orchid Project are doing by understanding the cultural root of the issue. It’s really important to raise awareness and to help people understand sensitive issues such as FGC, so please visit www.orchidproject.org to find out more info.

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Womankind Worldwide is an amazing international women’s human rights charity working to help women who are victims of violence and discrimination all over the world. Working with partners in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Womankind need funding to be able to deliver the essential support to their partners, allowing them to amplify their voice, increase their impact and bring about greater change. Womankind have done some incredible work which you can read about at www.womankind.org.uk

I’ll have the fruit bowl, eggs on toast, bran flakes, yoghurt, blueberry muffins, orange juice and coffee…. Oh and do you have any toast with peanut butter and jam?

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Forget my last blog. That hill wasn’t so bad considering the relentless climbs we’ve had since. One after the other… gruelling and never ending rollers, but it does mean that we’ve been able to see some epic views over the last of Oregon’s west coast, and now into the giant Redwood forests of California – home to the Ewoks and Starwars! We’ve also been really lucky to spot lots of whales migrating north and elk chilling out in the forests. It has been incredible and totally worth all the effort.

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But, why is it that after 600 miles of climbing these relentless hills, my buddha belly still prevails?

It’s the food. I’ve heard a million cyclists say the same thing; “The best part of a cycling trip is the amount of food you are allowed to eat” which I would happily repeat whilst chowing down on donuts, burgers, energy bars, sandwiches, chips, cheese, bananas, pizzas, pasta, and anything else that came into sight.

I never thought I’d say this but I’m so bored of eating! The sight of an apple pie now makes me feel physically ill – but I’ll still eat it. According to various calorie counters and cycling experts, we are burning approximately 3000 calories on top of what we’d normally burn in a day. This is a ridiculous amount of additional deep fried, super sized, full fat, and honey glazed US food. Unfortunately for Jindy, this also means he no longer gets my leftovers – because there are no leftovers – and he no longer gets to have the bigger half. There is no sharing or caring going on anymore, to the point where Jindy actually stole and ate MY banana in secret the other day and then denied it whilst said banana was in his mouth. Obviously I retaliated by eating all of the remaining protein bars unnecessarily. The war continues.

Here’s a photo diary of a typical days worth of food. Yes, it was essential that I drank two ice cream and malt milkshakes with my lunch.

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Portland to McMinnville… My way

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The dual carriage way was just as expected – straight, flat, busy, and incredibly boring. We approached another traffic jammed junction at just 10 miles in, and I couldn’t resist the sarcasm anymore as it poured from my mouth, ‘scenic, isn’t it?’

At that point, Jindy did two things; 1) he pulled over and handed the map over to me, and 2) he made a very big mistake.

As I scanned the map for an alternative route, I was lured by the words ‘scenic viewpoint’ and decided that this would be our new route to McMinnville. I handed the map back to Jindy with my finger pointed to ‘Bald Peak State Park’ and he simply responded with ‘Yes that’s nice, lead the way then’. He had silently surrendered.
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The new route took us over some considerably steep sections into the hills, where we cycled across acres of beautiful vineyards, with stunning blue-sky views of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Rainier. After a few hours, we hit a crossroad bearing one little store. As Jindy disappeared inside, I stood and stared ahead of me, slightly bewildered by what appeared to be waiting for us. I turned to see what else was on offer. Two older cyclists were packing their bicycles into an oversized SUV so I thought I would talk to them. Cyclist to cyclist.

‘Excuse me, where’s Bald Peak State Park?’
‘Hahahaha, well that all depends on how strong you are little lady?’
‘Haha. Why is that then?’
‘Because it’s all the way up that hill and that’s why we are driving up there.’
They described an alternative route which included the words ‘longer’ and ‘traffic’ at which point I stopped listening.

Jindy emerged with a lump of cheese and a handful of crisps hanging out of his hungry mouth. As I explained that it wasn’t lunchtime yet, the two old folks drove past, honking and mischievously chuckling ‘good luck’ at us. I hope they involuntarily wee’d their pants as they did so. They could have bloody offered us a lift. The SUV was big enough to cart a bus.

‘What do they mean’? Jindy asked, whilst sneaking another handful of cheese into his mouth.

‘Nothing, they are just too old to get up that little hill’. As Jindy turned to face the hill, I watched to see his reaction. Total bewilderment. Good, we were on the same page.

Another cyclist approached the crossroad and I watched longingly, hoping for him to also turn into Bald Peak Road. But instead, he veered towards the ‘longer’ road on the right, almost enticing us to follow. Jindy looked at me and said ‘are you sure it’s not lunch time yet?’ It was actually as if our bodies were refusing to move forwards whilst my internal monologue was scolding me, “Well done you idiot. I wish we were back on the dual carriageway.” And then one last time, as if they were being sent by the gods, another cyclist rode past. I managed to stop him in his tracks with what must have been a pleading look. ‘Bald Peak?’

‘You’re looking at it. It’s pretty tough?’ He said quizzingly as he checked out our heavy equipment.

He reeled off some facts and figures about the climb but I’m rubbish with both heights and incline percentages. So everything this guy said meant absolutely nothing to me, and Jindy was in a completely unresponsive state of hanger which meant i had to make a decision, so off we went… up to Bald Peak State Park.

1 hour, 1639 ft, 3.3 miles, and an incline of up to 12% later – we had reached the top of what we now understand to be one of the toughest climbs in Oregon.
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We sat down in Bald Peak State Park (which is a roundabout with grass on it), ate our lunch, enjoyed the epic views, and stretched our legs, only to learn that the way to McMinnville was 1 mile back down the same way and then a gruelling 3 miles down a steep gravel road. Despite being a dog toilet of a dismount from the top of Bald Peak, We were both totally buzzing. What an awesome effort and what a brilliant idea 😉

I’m wondering if I would have been so happy if it had been Jindy’s idea to take this insane detour?
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We eventually made it to our warmshowers home for the night where our lovely host, Steven, fed us a hearty pasta dinner and (as if I would forget) a tasty blueberry pie of which Jindy ate three portions – well deserved after cycling up 1639ft whilst suffering with hanger. I’m sure a lot if men will be in awe of this.
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We’ve since made it to Lincoln City on the west coast and will be heading down Route 101 tomorrow. Today will be mostly spent in the hot tub and obviously sampling local pies.

You will all be amused to know that for the first time in my life I’m hideously sunburnt!

(Thanks to the super friendly Tommy’s Bicycle Shop in McMinnville for checking over my gears!)
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Pack your bags – we’re moving to Portland

I’ve decided, on behalf of everyone, that we are all moving to Portland. In addition to being the city where Ollie and Kirstin live, it’s also home to voodoo donuts – insanely gluttonous donuts, numerous sushi and sake bars, strange ice-cream combos, Powells bookstore, vineyards, mountains, lakes, rivers, and bikes. I don’t really know what more we’d need?
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We have to leave today to continue our journey south. The next destination is a small town called Mcminville. I’m currently arguing with Jindy about the route to take. He wants to go down the dual carriage way because it is quicker. I want to go around the dual carriage way because it is more scenic and only five miles longer. There’s only one correct answer. I feel bad for him so I might just let him have this one. I’m also letting him have it because I farted this morning – ACCIDENTALLY – and am a bit sheepish. He keeps laughing. I’m really embarrassed. But it’s very funny. Damn it.

Oh, before i go on my epic journey down a dual carriage way, i just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has sponsored me so far! Anyone who still wants to donate please do as the money will go to two amazing charities: Orchid Project and Womankind. You can donate here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/meenasmegabiketrip

Me
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Blueberry Pancake Slumber

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I won’t even attempt to lie, so here’s the truth. The reason why I haven’t set up this blog yet is because I’ve been stuffing my face with blueberry pancakes since I arrived. It’s really not my fault. I’m in America. We’ve also cycled 229 miles so far so I suppose you could say the pancakes have been helping me ‘acclimatise’.

We’ve been heading south from Seattle, hitting Shelton, Centralia, Kelso, and have found our way to Ollie and Kirstin, in Portland, Oregon.
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The trip started off with a few days mooching around Seattle, where we checked out the infamous pike place public market, iconic space needle, Bruce Lee’s grave, the secret underground city, and obviously ate a couple of blueberry pancakes along the way. There was one debate about Margaret Thatcher caused by one too many whiskey sours, but apart from that, tension levels remained pretty low as we set off for our first ride on Thursday.

Then, an hour later, Jindy leads us the wrong way down a very long steep hill. Apparently, I gave him a ‘look’ of disgust before stroppily pedaling back up the hill. Tension levels shifted somewhat, but only for a few seconds before I decided that he didn’t get us lost on purpose, and that he looked like he’d slightly stained his pants when confronting me. You might be thinking ‘Come on Meena, you could have helped out with reading the map?’ Aha! i did offer to help with directions but was abruptly shooed away. I couldn’t really respond with anything other than a raised eyebrow and a little bit of patience knowing what would inevitably follow.

After an incredibly hilly 45 miles we hit our first destination – Shelton – where we stayed with a warmshowers host. For those of you who haven’t heard of warmshowers, it’s a site for cyclists by cyclists who offer a warm shower and bed for cyclists en route. As we walked up the drive we were met by a dude in his garage, beer in hand, sanding down two beautiful kayaks. His name is Alan. Alan is a hardcore adventurer / chemist / artist / and anything else he choses to be, who is currently building two kayaks for a trip to Alaska. He reckons he’ll die doing it so he wants someone to go with him to witness his epic death by whale encounter. So who’s in? The actual reason why Alan is so amazing is because he made us lasagne, home made apple pie, and a stack of blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I love Alan.
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Day 2: We rode to Centralia, via a wrong turn into a farm where we were met by a lovely old man who drove up and down the road sticking two fingers up at us. This was a turning point in our relationship as Jindy decided, all by himself, that I was now allowed to be involved with directions. I ate blackberry pie that night.

Day 3: We had a hilly and successful ride to Kelso (without getting lost, ahem) where I ate more apple pie. I have to add at this point that Jindy was chased by a dog during this journey. I laughed – a lot. Take a moment to picture it for yourselves. In Kelso, we stayed with another amazing warmshowers host – Mike Long and his girlfriend who were both really lovely and may have had a pick up truck which may have driven us a few cheeky miles down the road in the morning.

Kelso to Portland, 50 miles, one road, headwind, no pie, one strip joint, and one conveniently weak bladder as we approached said strip joint.
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As soon as we walked in to Ollie and Kirstin’s, we were met with cold beers and taken for more beers at a warm pool, followed by a tasty Thai dinner, and epic ice cream desert at Salt and Straw where we ate an odd strawberry, balsamic, and black pepper combo. I don’t want to say it, and it’s really not my fault that I’m always right, but my choice – the almond brittle and salted ganauche, was the best. Everybody said so.
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While we were eating ice cream, Jindy’s sister in law gave birth to a brand new baby boy – not in the same room – which was amazing news to end an amazing day. We ate a hot apple pie to celebrate! Not really… But we should have.

So there you have it – it’s now 7am on Monday 29th April with 30 days and 800 miles to go. We have an exciting day in Portland with Ollie and Kirstin ahead of us, but for now, I’m wondering what time the donut store will open…