Three weeks ago Miguel Endara broke his ankle after slipping off his skateboard in Miami’s Coconut Grove. Just a few roads away and ten months earlier Miguel, his wife and two friends serendipitously walked across a junction as I pedalled up on a Bikecar. I was on top of the world, had just crossed over 1000 miles on a ruddy great hunk of aluminium and office chair, and had only a few hundred metres to go before the end of my 6th big journey.
I was in no hurry and the group were a by then typical mixture of curious and friendly. One of the guys said he’d been thinking of doing a big bike ride up the East Coast and I gave him my card. A week later he came to an event I was speaking at, and a few days after that he ended up taking the Bikecar off my hands. During that exchange Miguel told me he worked in advertising but was slowly pursuing a new career as an artist and a filmmaker. ‘If you ever need someone to film a journey,’ he said, ‘give me a call.’
So I did. A couple of months later Miguel flew into Sioux City, Iowa, to join up with my team for the first few days of Swim1000. Out of his own pocket he decided to fly in two months later as myself and my final three teammates covered the last 100 miles of the Missouri River into St Louis. And then we said goodbye.
Miguel didn’t have a huge portfolio when we first met but from what he showed me I had no doubt that he’d produce an incredible short film from the days he spent on the Missouri with us, and this is coming from someone who has an innate suspicion of anyone who holds a camera.
I woke up two nights ago for no reason. I never wake up in the middle of the night, I like dreaming too much. I couldn’t sleep. I checked my email, and there was a link to the film from Miguel. ‘Enjoy’ he wrote. That was it. I watched it three times, pumping my hands in the air countless times. Sheer delight. It was beautiful.
The first time I let someone else make a film about an adventure of mine it was a frickin’ disaster, so much so it put me off having anyone on board in that capacity for the best part of 6 years, but I’d work with Miguel again in a heartbeat. The guy is a true professional, a pleasure to spend time with, and he managed to put together an incredible film having shot most of it perched high on team gear in the middle of a canoe.
Personally, this journey was the hardest of my life. It was peppered with issues that made me sometimes wish I’d gone solo or made different choices. The resultant stress meant I was dealing with ulcers from the fifth day of the journey through to the end, and that’s even before swimming 1001 miles whilst dragging a raft tired me out!
Except for the countless times where we met incredible strangers (like the Feltmans in the film) I struggled to enjoy my time on the Missouri, for much of expedition I was unable to clear my head and I’ll admit, my inability to cope with the pressure meant it was rarely fun for myself or any of the team. They deserve a mention here, each person who joined me on the river took a leap of faith having never taken on an adventure of that scale before. It was with great relief that after everything we eventually finished happy. Beat, but happy.
We also fell vastly short of the initial fundraising target, which I found desperately disappointing, and I hope this can be rectified somewhat by the film’s success, but now there is something that creates a positive memory from the river. This film has made all of the effort mean something, this journey was unimaginably tough for everyone involved and it deserved to leave a legacy. Now it has.
Had Miguel not broken his ankle we’d still be waiting to see the Swim1000 film but I’m delighted to be able to share it with you now. I really hope you enjoy it and if you do, please send the credit Miguel’s way - it’s all down to him.
And please don’t let him forget that once his ankle heals, he has an East Coast cycle journey waiting for him!
Without further ado, please watch the film at www.swim1000film.com
And check out Miguel Endara’s art @ www.miguelendara.com
We wanted to share the film for free so as many people get to see it as possible. If you enjoyed it and appreciate the effort behind its creation and the expedition itself, please do make a small donation to CoppaFeel! Now, go and enjoy it! And please share the Swim1000 Film website with your friends!
Much like 1000 Photos has formed a network through which my usually limited brain can access a bank of memories, my expeditions are slowly throwing up a few familiar faces. This became apparent during a visit to Memphis earlier this week, where folks I only met 18 months ago were recalling their own personal memories from a handful of my own journeys. What a feeling!
My journeys, even the solo ones, are about people, friendship, generosity and positiveness. If the same folks turn up again and again I can only take that as a good sign and I can only hope that my remaining expeditions will deliver as many good friends as the seven so far have.
With 18 of the 25 journeys still left to accomplish I have no idea who will feature down the road but for now, taking into account I’m often reluctant to align my journeys with competition, it naturally seems sensible to create a competition.
So here’s a league table of folks who have made multiple appearances during Expedition1000. Included in the list below are people who have featured in at least two of my Expedition1000 journeys. I’d like you to meet them, they’re all exceptional, unique humans and I’m glad to call them my friends.
(5pts are awarded to individuals who completed an entire expedition, 2pts to a significant contribution or personal appearance en route.)
1. 10 pts - Danny Loo
Danny is the only person so far to complete two whole expeditions with me. He drove behind me for five months as I crossed Australia on a skateboard (and he probably deserves a couple more points for his part in my UK skate), and in 2012 he was the photographer onboard Sea Dragon as we sailed from Mexico to Hawaii. I love Danny, he’s one of my oldest, most trustworthy friends and he has the driest sense of humour on the planet. Cheeky monkey.
2. 9pts - Emily Penn
I met EP in late 2011 and from the off she was always going to be a special part of my life, partly because her eyes betrayed intellect and mischief in addition to a very deep blue. One of the first things I said to her was, “You’re the only person I’ve ever met who makes me feel lazy.” That sentence came soon after, ‘You’re not vegetarian, are you?’ She happened to be Programme Director for Pangaea Explorations and it wasn’t long before we were forging plans for a social experiment which eventually took shape as a 3000 mile sail between Mexico and Hawaii, my 5th expedition. EP made a significant contribution to setting up the Swim1000 project but worth noting is that just two weeks after we reached Honolulu on the sail I was riding out of Memphis on a Bikecar, en route for Miami. A pattern was developing where I only did pedal journeys between places that started with the same letter, and although Miami offered an appropriate starting consonant it was an extra bonus to have this second Em waiting at the end.
- Rod Wellington
Rod is from Canada so his accent is debatable, but he’s lovely and has appeared in four of my journeys. We first got in touch in 2009 when I descended the Murray River in Australia a couple of months before him, but we didn’t meet until two years later, when Rod joined Seb Terry and me for a few hours during an overnight tandem-preparing session in Vancouver. Next up, he joined my brother and a couple of other friends for a day’s paddle out of Memphis, as I descended the Mississippi by SUP. Rod was pedalling alongside me when our Bikecar was struck off the road by a speeding car in April 2012, and his Missouri-weathered face also appeared out of the blue on the morning of the Swim1000 finale in mid August. He had taken a couple of days off from his own journey along the length of the Mississippi Missouri river system and was prepared to drive 12 hours to find us. Our friendship blossomed slowly, but I value this guy’s presence in my life more than he knows.
- Dave Summers: The only person on this list that I haven’t met in person but his moral support, financial contributions and general exuberance and humour every time we talk gives me the motivation to keep on doing what I do. I’m very particular with my sponsors and only work with people who truly dig what I’m doing. Even though we’ve not yet met (that will change soon!) I consider Dave a true friend. Not that he’d request me to plug this, but if you ever need CDs or DVDs burned on a mass scale then Disc Manufacturing Services are the people to go to!
- Dale Sanders: What’s left to say about Dale? Not only has he appeared in my Mississippi SUP and Missouri swim journeys, but he was driving the support van which was totalled by the speeding car which spun and skidded on to knock the Bikecar off the road. All he could say afterwards was, ‘Still Smiling,” a motto that lives on today. Once upon a time there was no human on the planet who had held their breath underwater for longer than Dale Sanders, he has a world spearfishing title to his name and he never, ever, puts himself before the needs of others. Special man and a great photographer, the Greybeard Adventurer.
- Jake Lindgren: I first met Jake, whose nickname is ‘Big Tall’, as I gave a talk in Minneapolis 500 miles into the Mississippi SUP paddle. Soon afterwards Jake joined my Expedition1000 Internship Programme and became an integral part of the social media campaign for both my swim and sail trips. He also collected Miss Emily Bell as she travelled to join the Swim1000 team in August 2012, and offered this timeless advice to her. ‘To get by as a member of one of Dave’s teams you only need to do two thing, pull your weight, and smile.’ Into the future, Jake will continue to be involved with Expedition1000 and Say Yes More.
- Andy Cornthwaite: my darling brother not only appeared in Australia to surprise me (and RUN alongside for two days) during my continental skate, but he also flew out to Memphis and paddled a Stand Up Paddleboard 500 miles to Baton Rouge. Legend. In his spare time he flies a fast plane for the RAF and I very much doubt his involvement with Expedition1000 is over!
- Mike Clark: Big Muddy Mike is the guardian of the Mississippi Missouri confluence and has joined me on the water on both Stand Up Paddleboard and Swim journeys. His on-the-water culinary skills are second to none and his River Shack in St Louis has provided shelter to countless paddlers. Top man.
- Tim and K.K McCarley: Tim has the best Southern accent I know, and he and his daughter K.K offered priceless moral support on both Mississippi and Bikecar expeditions. K.K is one of the best young athletes in America and without Tim’s mechanical skills I may have been sitting on a Walgreen’s deckchair for the second rendition of the Bikecar trip! He’s the one in the Bikecar Film saying ‘James Bond would be proud!’
- Miguel Endara: As I pedalled Priscilla the Bikecar through Miami’s Coconut Grove neighbourhood just a few hundred metres from the journey’s resting place, I stopped at a T-Junction as four people walked their dogs ahead of me. They double-took and then we chatted for a few minutes One of the guys told me he’d always wanted to ride a bike up the East Coast so I gave him my card and said to get in touch if he needed help. A week later he gave the Bikecar a new home and during the exchange late at night he told me he was starting a new career as an artist and documentary maker and would love to get involved with a future journey of mine if possible. A few months later he was present for the beginning and final days of Swim1000, and I’m eagerly anticipating the short film he is currently editing about the expedition!
- Wayne Pratt: Along with Tim and K.K above, Wayne is a Vicksburg, MS native and first brought my brother and I to the town by organising for us to take a break from paddling the Mississippi in a casino hotel. We didn’t argue! He was also waving me off with Tim when the Bikecar journey resumed in Crystal Springs, MS.
- Jamie Zelazny: I first briefly met Jamie in Memphis during the SUP in 2011 but his second appearance was a fortuitous surprise. He knew the Bikecar Expedition was leaving Memphis around then but assumed we were taking a different highway (might have been a good idea, with hindsight!). As it was, just minutes after our accident on Highway 61 Jamie was riding his motorbike the opposite direction and noticed the commotion. He turned around and just happened to be carrying the tools we needed to get the Bikecar back into working order. As a side note, Jamie also supported endurance swimmer Martin Strel on several of his distance swims.
- Rachel Sumner: Rachel is one of the most amazing people I know and part of the effortlessly incredible Memphis crowd I’m so proud to now be a part of. Her tireless work to prevent and support child trafficking victims has taken her all over the world and she makes a quiet, essential difference to so many lives. She had a part to play in both Mississippi and Bikecar journeys, and also co-organised the Wolf River expedition in early April 2012
- Jonathan Brown and Richard Sojourner, like Rachel, are also Memphis natives who welcomed me in from the Mississippi and saw Rod and I off on the Bikecar. Hawaiian native JB was instrumental in bringing me into Memphis in the first place and must have a wand hidden in his jeans, he also organised the Wolf River Expedition. Richard is always there, whatever the weather. Paddling, pedalling, a true friend.
- Tom Roehme: Tom was waiting on the Memphis cobblestones to welcome us off the Mississippi in August 2011 but his greatest contribution to my journeys was to choose, from a wonderfully eclectic selection of chair options, the seat that I’d perch on throughout the Bikecar journey. Turns out, it was an office chair ‘borrowed’ from one of his employees at Big River Engineering. Tom now owns the second paddleboard that Tom Evans and my brother Andy took over 1500 miles down the Mississippi.
Of course, there are so many others who have made invaluable contributions to single journeys. Everyone on my Skate, Swim and Sail teams, my friends at Aquapac, Palm, Buff, BAM, Nite and Blue, Sebastian Terry, Shane Strudwick, the Dodds family, the Gerlachs, Liz Froment, Kate Denham, Cristina Vigo and Heidi Gross, Ro Privett, Dave Englund and family, Jessica Giard, Jarett Bies, Jim Swenson, Chris Cleator and family, Emily, Ben and Lucy Green. Wow, it goes on and on and on. I’m currently piecing together the last few years as I write some books and as other names filter back I’ll add them to this list. I apologise if I’ve forgotten about you, it’s only temporary!
I live a rich life and it’s down to the people above. This project would be worthless without people, I can’t wait to make new friends in the coming years. You included!
Explore my journeys: www.davecornthwaite.com
Say hi on Facebook: www.facebook.com/davecornthwaite
I’m on Twitter, too!: www.twitter.com/DaveCorn
Someone came up to me the other day and said, ‘I loved your video about staying awake for 72 hours.’
I’d completely forgotten about doing that! The last few years have been a whirlwind of change and action, so busy and jam-packed with new adventures that many have disappeared unfairly down the pecking order of conversation.
So, here they are, written down in one place.
Included are expeditions, projects, books, TV appearances and even some of the most enjoyable talks from which I’ve learned a great deal. Each item on the list was a true adventure and if anything, the accumulation is simply an example of what we can achieve if we just decide to say YES more.
Let’s begin with the most recent. First, a quick list, then a more in depth look at each one further down the page
EXPEDITION: ElliptiGO Europe (starting May 1st)
TALK: Endurance Life, Anglesey
TV: Live N Deadly
TALK: TEDx in Bath
EXPEDITION: Stand Up Paddleboard Mississippi River
PROJECT: Hole In One News Reporter
TALK: PIS Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas with Seb Terry
EXPEDITION: Tandem Bike Vancouver to Vegas
PROJECT: Paragliding/ Defeat Vertigo
PROJECT: 1000 Photos
PROJECT: 72 Hours Awake
PROJECT: Australian Speaking Tour
PROJECT: Mototaxi Junket
SUP ADVENTURE: Bath 2 London
SUP ADVENTURE: Lake Geneva Crossing
EXPEDITION: Murray River Expedition
PROJECT: Living on a Boat
TV: The One Show
PROJECT: The Aquaskipper
PROJECT: Quitting the job
Adventures in full:
EXPEDITION: Swim1000 Missouri River
August - October. 58 days. 1001 miles.
I hadn’t swum further than 300 metres in one go before jumping into the Missouri at Chamberlain, South Dakota. Two months later my team (all paddling) and I reached St Louis, MO having accomplished one of the longest swims of all time. Read more
Expedition: Bikecar Memphis to Miami
April - May. 29 days. 1000.3 miles.
Getting hit by a speeding car and ending up 30 metres off the road is not a good way to start any journey but it gave rise to an important question: ‘Do we stop living simply because something bad might happen?’ I chose life, and a tough, rewarding journey on Priscilla the Bikecar was the reward.
SUP Adventure: Wolf River
April. 7 days. 89 miles.
A brilliant little challenge. Sadly I missed the first two days after being stranded in Honolulu airport, but once on the Wolf revelled in the obstacle course of fallen trees, shallow waters and the famed maze through the Ghost River section. A perfect example of how a challenging adventure doesn’t have to take months.
Expedition: Sail Mexico to Hawaii
March. 17 days. 3156 miles.
Expedition1000 Journey #5: This was a social expedition with a group of people who had signed up after I posted on social media channels. How would a group of 13 people change their mindsets after being at sea for three weeks, far away from the pressures of land, work, the commute, banks, supermarkets and daily stresses?
Finally, I decided to turn down offers from Publishing Houses and self-publish my second book, a candid and unorthodox tale about trying to find a girlfriend. Bringing it all together - including researching, writing, formatting the copy, designing the cover and finding a printer - made this one of the most satisfying projects of my life.
Talk: Endurance Life, Anglesey
Another fun talk partly memorable for an 18-hour train journey home afterwards! It’s not easy making 70 people who have just run a mountain marathon laugh, that’s all I’m saying!
TV: Live N Deadly
Fresh off the Mississippi River Expedition I was asked to guest on the BBC Two children’s show, Live N’Deadly, where amongst other things I was to challenge presenter Steve Backshall to an unusual race.
Talk: TEDx in Bath
One of the best days of my life, opening the TEDx Youth @ Bath conference was a big test in the early days of my speaking career.
Expedition: Stand Up Paddleboard Mississippi River
June - September. 82 days. 2404 miles.
The 4th journey of Expedition1000, this became a new world record for the longest distance travelled by SUP and without doubt my favourite expedition to date. An unbeatable way to spend three months.
Project: Hole In One News Reporter
Seb was determined to tick off No. 18 on his list, to get a Hole In One. He tried on three separate occasions during this speaking tour, without success. I decided to chronicle his efforts via a spoof news report.
Talk: PIS Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas with Seb Terry
Well, we made it to Vegas just in time and cycled straight into the conference to give the talk. Here are the highlights.
Expedition: Tandem Bike Vancouver to Vegas
April. 14 days. 1396 miles.
Expedition1000’s 3rd journey. Seb and I had been invited to open an Australia company’s annual conference in Las Vegas, but accepted only on one condition, that we be flown into Vancouver so we could cycle to the conference. We hadn’t ever tried a tandem before flying into Canada.
Project: Learn how to Paraglide
It took me a while to agree to head to Nepal and face my fear of heights, but a paragliding journey was on the Expedition1000 list and I had to start training despite my fears. Thanks to Alex Ledger, it was one of the most memorable three weeks of my life.
Project: 1000 Photos
Life is a series of moments which become memories. I remember little of note from when I was a graphic designer, every day seemed to merge into the next. On 1st January 2011 I took a self-portrait, promising to take one each day for 1000 days. The places, people and situations in each shot give me a daily marker by which to retain my memories.
Project: 72 Hours Awake
Another speaking tour followed the tandem ride and throughout we ticked off a few items from Seb’s 100 Things bucket list. One of them terrified me, staying awake for 72 hours. Equally painful and exciting, we packed quite a bit into those three days.
Project: Australian Speaking Tour
October - November
Seb Terry and I again joined forces, this time on a speaking tour around Australia. We simply decided to try out speaking together and pulled this tour together in a matter of weeks. Jeep even sponsored us!
Project: Mototaxi Junket
August - September
The Adventurists asked me to manage one of the first Junkets in South America, a mad 4000km journey from Peru to Paraguay on local mototaxis. Although I wasn’t taking part it was a proud day, having spent six weeks working with the local team to bring all this together.
SUP Adventure: Bath 2 London
June. 7 days. 146 miles.
Having lived on the canals in 2008 I was joined by adventurer Sarah Outen in this cross-Britain Stand Up Paddleboarding challenge, which included portaging over 120 locks in a week.
SUP Adventure: Lake Geneva Crossing
April. 3 days. 53 miles.
My new friend Seb Terry and I paddled the length of Lake Geneva on Stand Up Paddleboards, a testing ground for a possible world-record journey by SUP.
Expedition: Murray River Expedition
October - December. 79 days. 1476 miles.
Journey #2 of Expedition1000. A source to sea descent of Australia’s largest river and my first taste of travelling on water and self-filming an expedition (not always successfully!). Formative, life-changing expedition.
Project: Living on a Boat
January - September
Following the publication of BoardFree I wallowed in self-congratulation and confusion for a year. Not knowing what I was meant to be doing anymore I spent most of 2008 slipping back into surviving in London. Eventually enough was enough, I wanted to move to the country, live on a boat and paddle every day. So I did!
A proud moment, seeing the first book on the shelf. Becoming an author was one of my dreams, magic moment.
TV: The One Show
Former England cricketer Phil Tufnell had a segment on BBC One’s evening magazine show in which he was challenged by the Olympic Hurdler Colin Jackson. This was one of a few occasions when the Aquaskipper was required for a TV skit, and as pretty much the only person who could make it work in Britain I got the call.
Project: The Aquaskipper
An article in the Metro newspaper sparked my interest in this extraordinary hydrofoil-based contraption. I determined then to win a competition to become ‘the face of Aquaskipper.’ Mum was proud.
Expedition: BoardFree Australia
August ‘06 - Jan ‘07. 105 days. 3618 miles.
My team (in vehicles) and I set off from Perth, WA on the 20th August and took the best part of five months to reach Brisbane. A new world record for the longest distance travelled by skateboard and the first journey of over 1000 miles I’d completed.
Expedition: BoardFree UK
April - May. 34 days. 896 miles.
A ‘warm-up’ which turned out to be the hardest challenge of my life. This was the first time that anyone had travelled the length of Britain by skateboard and the journey strengthened my resolve that crossing Australia was possible.
Project: Quitting the job
The first lesson of living a happy life. More is less. Don’t do a job or make any decision based on money, otherwise you put money before happiness. I quit and started living.
In seven days time my team and I will drop into the Missouri River at Chamberlain, South Dakota with one heck of a journey ahead of us. We each have a 1000 miles to travel, me in the water and the team on top of it.
Over the next ten days I’ll introduce you to the team one by one, as well as sharing some thoughts, expected challenges, shout-outs to the companies supporting us and also the cool stuff we’ll be working towards.
We’re not alone on the Missouri this year. It so happens that two of my friends are descending the entire Mississippi Missouri system by kayak. They’re currently upstream of our launch point but will catch us up at some point. Both Mark Kalch and Rod Wellington are highly experienced adventurers who are worth checking out, I’m really looking forward to seeing a now familiar expression on their faces, one which says ‘Cornthwaite, you’re a nutball.’
I’m currently in Salt Lake City, Utah, attending the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, one of the largest gatherings of outdoor equipment and recreation suppliers in the world. Making connections and putting faces to email addresses that I know off by heart is cementing support for both Swim1000 and Expedition1000 as a whole.
The time has come again to dress up as Oliver and hold out a bowl of hope to people, organisations and companies who might be able to offer up a small segment of an expedition puzzle that I’m currently piecing together at ExpeditionHQ (read: Kitchen Table, Stockwell, South London).
In 2005 and 2006 I sent out over 1700 emails to companies big and small asking for support, cash, product and anything they could offer to aid my dream of skateboarding further than anyone ever had. Most didn’t reply, even with a no. A couple responded saying ‘nope, but good luck.’ One said there was no way in hell they’d support an idea that was destined to fail. And a very small handful (a Simpsons handful) gave the thumbs up.
That’s all it took. It was a start.
Since I made it the length of Britain and across Australia on my board I’ve learned some lessons. I’ve done a couple more expeditions that required support from sponsors. I’ve done a couple more that didn’t require a single sponsor letter: either I used kit I’d obtained previously, or funded them myself. Soul food journeys, those ones.
Now I’m hunting again. Swimming 1000 miles down the Missouri with a team of six people means the approach to this expedition can’t be a quiet one. I’m ready for a big challenge, not only tackling the endurance, psychological and logistical challenges of a big swim, but the marketing bit too. Bloomin’ love it.
I’m driven by sharing stories from my journeys, and even without much imagination there’s an obvious and rather short hop between creating expedition content and providing sponsors with the stuff they need to justify their support. It’s a social media world out there, I’m only writing to companies who know how to Facebook and Tweet and YouTube, otherwise they’ll be no good to me, nor me to them.
And here’s the cool thing, it’s not 2005 any more, I have experience now. I’ve got six big expeditions - thankfully all a success - behind me. When I write to a sponsor it’s because I’ve handpicked them and because they have both the attitude and the gear I think can work with my expedition. And I stress that if they’re interested I want them to be interested in the How and Why, as opposed to the £ Result.
I don’t want a sponsor for just one expedition. The vast majority of companies I’ve worked with have stuck with me through the years. We’re friends, and that’s how I like it.
So today I’ve been looking into canoes, camping, and clothes (just happens to be a C-day). As opposed to 2005 I know now that I have something to offer, rather than just believing that I do. I love this process. Some won’t reply but most will, and I’m kinda excited about going big on this one alongside a new friend or two.
So, who’s in?!
It has been exactly one month since Priscilla and I began our relationship. One month since we pedalled out of Memphis with my friend Rod Wellington in the passenger seat. One month since that car hit us off the road. A lot happens in a month.
Following the crash the damage to Priscilla and my psyche meant a few days off the road in Vicksburg to regroup before the journey started once more in Crystal Springs and ever since then I’ve been plodding in a south easterly direction up and over the hills of Mississippi and Alabama then into a flatter, more topographically friendly Florida.
The early stages of this expedition presented me with the most physically difficult challenge I’ve ever encountered, but it is the mental battle and the necessity for focus that will forever define this journey for me. To survive the crash on Day One without anything more than a sore shoulder was beyond fortunate, but boy did that encounter clarify what it would take to complete this traverse of the South.
Having not pedalled anything for over a year was obviously not the ideal preparation but after five or six days I became conditioned to powering 400lbs-worth of Bikecar, gear and human. Meanwhile not two seconds passed without an eye on the wing mirror, assessing the ever-approaching danger of cars, motorcycles, log trucks and other vehicles. Priscilla’s width means I rarely fit entirely within a roadside shoulder and my life is dependent on an ability to get out of the way when another driver isn’t paying attention. Sadly, this is often.
The lack of respect for non-motorised vehicles in this country is astonishing but not surprising. After all, I’ve been travelling through country that is home to the fattest, most unfit people in the world. The idea of riding anything but an enormous truck around the corner to the fast food eatery is laughed out of town down here by 90% of the population, and of course the lack of sidewalks or cycle paths means society gently encourages folk to sit upon a motor for even the shortest of journeys, which of course develops a deflation of any understanding what those lithe, exercising people are doing down there on the road with their pedals. Because of this America has guzzled up three of my nine lives on this journey, and with that estimation I’m being generous.
Of over 200 motorcycles that have passed me in the last 810 miles only two riders have been wearing helmets. ‘We have a right not to,’ say the unprotected. At some point, the wind in the hair will cost some of them their functions, if not their lives. I have learned the bizarre failings in highway common sense by studying patterns on the road. I deplore what I have nicknamed ‘The Metallic Conga of Death,’ the impatient habit of cars speeding along on a long straight highway leaving no more than 10 metres between ones front bumper and the rear of the car in front. I’ll go for miles without seeing another car and then BANG, twenty careering trucks end-to-end will thrash by. It takes one of them to brake, adjust or defer from a consistent speed and there will be a multi-car pile-up, swerving cars bringing people in other lanes into danger. My God, it’s like everyone has a death wish.
But of course if people can’t understand the intricacies of their own mortality I shouldn’t expect them to care about mine, so I remain tied to a personal policy that I should act like I’m invisible, I mustn’t assume I’ve been seen by anyone and therefore if there’s the slightest chance that I could be struck I move off the road. It has been slow going but I’m still here, still breathing, still enjoying the challenge, still learning. My average day sees me moving for 7 hours and stopped for three and a half. That is how long I spend in intervals pulled over on the roadside grass, or dirt, or sand, waiting for gaps in traffic. But I’m patient, this is just part of the journey, part of travelling by Bikecar, part of the process.
I have 189.5 miles remaining to Miami, not that I’m counting. This expedition has been rich for me. New friends, hours of thinking-time, experiences I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of having had I opted for my original April and May plan - writing in a room in London. Despite the daily dangers I have grown, I have had fun. I have ridden past armadillos and eagles and snakes and alligators and wild hogs. I have woken to misty mornings and fought through the boiling midday sun. I have listened to people tell me I have a death-wish and replied that to the contrary I am living life with every drop of time I have. Sure, it can be dangerous out here but the decision not to finish my Bikecar career immediately after that accident a month ago was one of the best I ever made.
The joys of finding the peace and quiet of a bicycle path or a quiet state road or even a remote dirt track through the woods are now an integral part of my day. I will not stop living my life just in case something bad might happen; dreams are best when experienced awake, don’t lock them away until you sleep.
Thanks for reading…