Sunday, 8 July 2012

Just about there.....

What can one say, the last Blog for the 2012 Sea2Sea mission.

My what a journey?  What will  the journey mean to those we have met, to us who have taken part and for those who we hope will benefit from the funds raised and from the awareness that has been generated?

What I can say is that we had good flights to Heathrow, the 'red eye' special arrives at 06:40. Tom was held up in immigration before he was able come through to get a coffee.  After our downtime in DC we are now beginning to relax.  It seems strange not be getting up by 05:00 each morning and working out routes stopping points, schedules to be sorted and all the rest that made up our time in the road.  Four men and Marj in an RV for 11 weeks is an interesting experience.

No on this day no such issues, just a simple day, but one that was to be turned on it's head by circumstances.

So first Tom takes a coffee after arrival back in the UK. The Costa Coffee shop by arrivals in T5 at Heathrow.

No beard now of course and some sleep on the flight. 

Our plan was for Tom to ride from Heathrow to The Cenotaph in central London but it soon become obvious that this would be too risky.   The UK as been enjoying the worst summer for some time, even our reputation for poor summers has been eclipsed this year with the rain, it just hasn't stopped raining it seems. So the roads are awash.  Add to this the annual Gay Pride march to take place yesterday in central London and on top of this one of the major routes into town, the M4 was closed, not to worry folk but the metal on the bridges seems to be corroding badly. So we have crazy traffic and gay people. 

We take the sensible decision to ride by car  into town.  

The Cenotaph has been the UK's and London's place of remembrance for those killed in war since fist erected following the First World War. 

The card reads: With our deepest gratitude, from the American People

And then on to a place called Slough.  A town almost part of London and then to a Sainsburys (A UK 
supermarket) to get the bike back on the rod. 

We were met at Heathrow by Niel and between rain showers started to sort out the bike, 

But, and there is often a but, but the very vigilant immigration people from the US had been there before us and had broken the wheel of the bike in closing the bike box.  So no more riding to  Brize from Slough.

Instead Tom was dropped at his home and we went to Brize later that day to conclude the ride.  We were joined by the UK Team and other supporters.

So then end of the beginning of Sea2Sea2012.  We have learnt a lot over the last months.  We now know many people both in the UK and the US who can help, want to help , and will help as we continue. In the meantime, from this Blogger, its a goodbye for now but not farewell.

My next job will be to sort though the 6 or 7 thousand images to produce a book (or three) of what we did, saw and met.

If you we could like to see a proof copy on line when its ready for printing or as an eBook let me have your email.

mine is

One last thing, to the many, many wonderful people that have helped, encouraged and supported us across the UK and across America, my most sincere thanks.

None of this would begin to have been possible without your hands that reached out to us to help us in so many ways as we journeyed.

It has and been and continues to be the most wonderful experience for us all.

Thank YOU.

Love B

Thursday, 5 July 2012

They think it's all over

Well Folks, we are at the end of the US leg of the Sea2Sea Challenge but not at the end of the ride, that will continue when we get to the UK on Saturday. Tom will ride from Heathrow to the centre of  London to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, the memorial dedicated to those British and Commonwealth service people who have died in wars since 1914.

To get to where we are has been a huge physical and logistical challenge and I know that if I start to say thank you to individuals who have helped us I would miss many, and there have been many many such people. They have have helped, encouraged and supported us all across America. For me that help and support, rarely asked for but given without conditions that has been one of the most memorable aspects of the ride.

So let me show you the last two days in DC.

We arrived in a town just a few miles away from the city to stay overnight with a great family, Mum and Dad Jennie and David.

David is the USAF major that arranged the flight from the SE of France to Landstuhl in Germany for Tom back in September '09.   Landstuhl is the hospital to which the injured from Iraq and Afghanistan are flown.

We stayed at the home of David and Jennie and in the morning had an early start and the daily ceremony, one of the last, was held out side their home.

The last cards were read, the cards contain the name, age, rank and town from which the person came from.  They are a mix of both UK and US military service members. Reading 110 a day it has taken all the time since we started to read all the names. Later we are to read the names of those killed since we started the mission, and another 80 names.

Alvon, once again was able to demonstrate his prowess in his ability to do a headstand.

Later in the day we were joined by other bikers making a peloton of 30 odd riders for the trip to the city.

Our ride took us to the newly built hospital expressly constructed for the care and welfare of those damaged and injured by the fighting. The garrison commander of Fort Belvoir, Colonel Gadson,  himself a double amputee, wanted to welcome us and gave a very good speech to us and the other s gathered.

We were joined by a around 30 riders to make the ride into DC.

Great blokes.

Bob lead us and was the safety guy on this leg, he did a great job.

The end of the ride and Buffalo Wild Wings, they gave us a great lunch, but I have to add something here for the UK reader, there are not many Buffalo in the States and those that are there do not have wings, wild or tame. So we're talking chicken here. Very good too.

So good in fact the group had to leap into the air......

And Tom attempted to levitate...

In the evening we were privileged to be able to see the Marine Corps Tattoo, amazing music and discipline shown by the marching and even the sitting (to attention)..

The haircuts, well if you are a marine you will know how you hair will need to look...Like this....

But boy, can they march!

Following the Tattoo we went to the Marines Memorial. This is based on of of the worlds most enduring images form World War 2, the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.

It was here we had our last reading of names, sadly we were to read the names of the youngest of those killed in the wars, all were 18 years old.

I shouldn't apologise but this is a long day, so a long Blog, but bear with me, more follows.  I didn't want to leave anything out of our time here.

This day ended for us with a trip to Krispy Creme Doughnuts.  Oh boy are they bad and good. Suger, deep fryers, dough, irresistible.

I blame out hosts  DC for introducing these fellas.

You can see, already two from the fryer..

So now the next day....July 4th, Independence day, not a great day for the Brits!

We visit Arlington and more of this below, but first the party, to celebrate the US finish....Lynn and Rob hosted a great party, all enjoyed enormously.  Cake and Champagne, sun and warmth.  Friends and relaxation, it really doesn't get much better, Rob and Lynn, thanks you so much.

We go to Arlington, this is the American Forces National Cemetery. over 300,000 men and women are interred here, all from the military or their families.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is permanently guarded.

From the US  it's a very tired, happy, sad, grateful, blogger that says don't go too far, more on this blog after we finish the journey by completing the UK element.

I should be back on Monday.

Love to all.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Geting closer

Yes Dear Reader we are now in DC.  If you live in America you'll know its hot, hot, hot just now.  For the residents of DC that'll be around the 100 degree mark in old money, for the  Europeans that's nudging 40 degrees Celsius.

So the Blog moves forward, Much to say and post but I will add more posts as tomorrow and the next day.

The journey has been quite remarkable, we are finishing with mixed emotions, the finish feels very good.   An amazing achievement for the  bikers, in fact lets have few numbers:

Miles Covered 4,412 miles

Wheel revolutions 3.1 million per wheel

Punctures 9

Hours 'in the saddle' 301

Average speed 14.5 mph

Days cycling 61 days

Average daily ride  71.7 miles and 4.9 hours

The RV used 808 US Gallons and did 8.6 MPG  UK Numbers   672 UK gallons and 10.3 MPG 

Bowls of Oats (Porridge) made  280

Up Close and personal  with the police   5 times

Rain days 12

Snow days 2

Highest pass 6550 ft

So today we  can see Tom's beard coming off.  and the run further into Virginia

Our overnight stop, this is the caravan that houses the woman that keeps the dog that attacked my shoe that housed my foot.  Little s**t.

and off heading toward Smithfield and then to Williamsburg

Dear Reader, you see here the close relationship that has developed between the iPhones and Alvon and Tom.

Smithfield, early morning.  Another American very happy to have his portrait taken.  The American people in general love to have their picture taken, and why not?

Later in the day we get to Williamsburg and have our naming ceremony in the company of Fire Fighters and police.

We stayed near here overnight and had the everlasting problems of of WiFi took us to MacDonald's to get hooked up. Not good enough for Blogging but good enough to take photos.

One of the stats we didn't have is how long was Tom's beard before it was shaved off, sadly the world will now never know but here is the proof  that it's gone.

Monday, 2 July 2012

A Big Blog

Yes Dear Reader, we are now so close to DC we can almost smell it.  Tomorrow we get even closer arriving on Tuesday.  That day Tom will return to being a clean-shaven Tom.   Alvon, who also has a hairy growth may or may not shave it off,  I think that decision will be helped when Alvon meets his wife in DC.

So where does this leave the Blog, well I reckon I need to get up to date.   So I will post a biggie today, another tomorrow if I can and more blogs as the mission comes to its close.

This blog is all about Virgina Beach and Smithfiled.  Virginia Beeach, what a cool place,  home to the

 Navy, and bases of the Marines, USAF and Army all close by.   

Clearly a great place to have a vacation (holiday).

In and around Virginia Beech we were hosted and guided by a really great guy, Jeff, Ex Forces, Ex West Point and resident of the fine city.

Jeff arrived on a mountsin bike and then proceeded to ride 74 miles with us, later invited us all to his home for a great meal prepared by him.  Jeff thank you.

Tom VK >  Chip>  Jeff>  Alvon

Jeff took us a very good route that day and, joy of joys,  we even get to see a grain silo.    Not at all expected in this part of the world.

and more besides...

And on we go.  The next day sees us under the guidance of Laura, another great person, another very good organisor and  hard riding biker. A very good ride took the bikers from Virginia Beech out on a 75 mile run to Smithfield.  One of the original settlements of the very earliest of English settlors.  The names of the town will be well known to the English Reader of this Blog, Smithfield, Isle of Wieght, Plymouth, and so on.  A beutiful town on the river .

The ride started on the Seafront on Virginia Beech at 07:00, what could be better, well maybe if Alvon could do a headstand as well?

The conclusion of the ride that day was the reading of the names in the town of Smithfield, the previous day we were able to do the same ceremony inland from Virginia Beech.

The Navy were able to provide a colour guard at the ceremony which was attended by a lage number of both ex and current serving members of the forces.

In Smithfield we were joined by the bikers from the day and the local police were very supportive and fully involved with the ceremony.

They wear great hats,  police do seem to wear good hats, easily recognised I guess.

So there we are two days in one as it were.

Tomorrow we head up to closer to DC, we arrive on Tuesday morning.

The bikers have now ridden over 925 for Chip over two weeks and Tom and Alvon 4,372.   More numbers next time.....B