Martyn Hollingworth

Documentary Film Maker

Jane Tomlinson: Across the USA

Blog for the Sky News website: Week 1

The daily blog from the 64-day challenge to ride from San Francisco to New York. (Words and pictures by Martyn Hollingworth.)

See the diary from Week 9 of Jane Tomlinson's ride across America.

See the diary from Week 8 of Jane Tomlinson's ride across America.

See the diary from Week 7 of Jane Tomlinson's ride across America.

See the diary from Week 6 of Jane Tomlinson's ride across America.

See the diary from Week 5 of Jane Tomlinson's ride across America.

See the diary from Week 4 of Jane Tomlinson's ride across America.

See the diary from Week 3 of Jane Tomlinson's ride across America.

See the diary from Week 2 of Jane Tomlinson's ride across America.

Jane's ride for charity
Jane's ride for charity

Week 1: Jane's Marathon Bike Ride

Updated: 12:17, Wednesday July 12, 2006


Day 7
Cold Springs Station to Austin
50.86 miles
13.3 average speed
26.3 max speed
3hrs 48mins ride time

Over the next few days Jane Tomlinson will have to overcome a series of tough climbs as the region of Nevada we are passing though is typified by parallel ridges of mountains and wide flat valleys. Our route cuts across the grain of the land and the Desatoya Mountains are the first barrier to be overcome.

However, as the pass is climbed, it is not the gradient that causes Jane concern. It is a sea of enormous crickets smothering the road. The living ones hop about as if trying to scare Jane off the bike, and the dead ones, squashed flat by passing cars, create a putrid stench that makes us want to retch.

To begin with it seems there are thousands, soon I am thinking in terms of millions but by the final climb into Austin, escorted by the constant clicking from the road and surrounding bushes the only conclusion is probably billions of the insects.

I overhear a lady in Austin saying that the last time a swarm of this scale happened, six people died in car crashes resulting from cars skidding on the 'slick' created by crushed insects, and that the roads had to be closed to traffic for safety. She also adds that the swarm is heading towards Austin.

Day 6
Fallon to Cold Springs
Ride time: 4hrs 38mins
Distance: 63.24m
Average 13.6mph

Leaving Fallon on highway 50 we were soon amid a scene straight out of the Wild West. Shimmering saltpans, towering rhyolitic mountains and sparse green bushes.

Our route was again following the 'loneliest highway in America', but today we felt it deserved its name.

The names of the surrounding hills testified to the past mining activity throughout this region; Gold Coin Mine, Red Ant Mine and Dromedary Hump Mine.

Dotted amid the dry creeks and bluffs, isolated trailer homes often falling apart but dwarfed by colossal satellite dishes.

Jane seemed to enjoy the ride but was having to focus on keeping the legs turning and moving the miles by. As the day progressed, the heat increased and the pace slowed, making the interminable gradients take an age to conquer.

Finally a respite in the heat haze; Middlegate. A small bar and collection of trailers billed as "The Middle of Nowhere". Elevation 4600 feet, population 18. The 18 had been recently painted over and replaced by 17. A cruel hour and a half on and we finally reach the day's stop at Cold Springs.

Day 5
Carson City to Fallon
Ride time: 4hrs 06 mins
Distance: 66.71m
Average 15.8mph

Leaving the capital of Nevada, Carson City, Jane Tomlinson slowly climbs in the shadow of the Pine Nut Mountains to Dayton. This expansive tract of land, once busy with gold and silver mines, now just sits in the glaring sun sliced apart by highway 50. It is our first real taste of the loneliest road in America.

Today it feels anything but lonely as a constant stream of vehicles sweep past the bikes, offering a momentary cooling blast in their wake.

Passing through Stagecoach we arrive in Silver Springs. It is a windswept foreboding place, and we choose not to stay long. The woman inside the garage asks where we are going. "Coast to Coast" I say. "You'd better be careful, there's a lot of crazy people out there." And then with a very worried look "You're not going past Chicago are you?" I point out we are not and she breaths a sigh of relief. As I close the door I hear her voice again "You be careful though?"

Averaging 15.7mph Jane seems to be enjoying the day and relishing the chance to get her legs really turning as she pushes the speed. Passing the Dead Camel Mountains we arrive in Fallon having cycled 66.71 miles. Like Carson, it's another town with Las Vegas aspirations having a central strip and a few casino joints. 

Day 4 Silver
Lake California - Nevada
Ride time: 4hrs 24 mins
Distance: 58.87m
Average 13.3 mph

Starting from Silver Lake, Jane and the cycling team, climbed from 7200 ft up to Carson Pass at 8573 ft, then descended to 4200 feet where they crossed the California / Nevada border. This marks the first state to be crossed in Jane's marathon cycle ride across America.

Carson Pass is an important milestone as it is the first in a series of severe mountain passes to be negotiated along the route. For the next 1000 miles Jane will stay at a minimum of 4000ft altitude as she crosses the hot high plains of Nevada.

Day 3 Rescue to Silver Lake
Ride time: 6hrs 52 mins
Distance: 58.58m
Average 8.5mph

Day 3 was going to be a major day as Jane starts to climb up into the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Starting from a height of 534m we cycled around Placerville and up Pleasant Valley to about 2,000ft.

This easy initial gradient was suddenly replaced by a series of hairpin bends as the road clawed its way up through forests to Jenkinson Lake, where distant views of snow capped mountains appeared.

The disconcerting fact was that we were to climb up into those mountains over the next few hours. The road climbed incessantly and the sun was again merciless. Jane admitted to wanting to get off the bike and weep such was her struggle with overcoming the ascent up to 8,000 ft.

By the end of the day we had reached a position to ensure Carson Pass itself would be tackled in the cool of the following days morning.

Day 2
Winters to Rescue

Jane rides along the main street in Winters and announces she intends to ride 80 miles today instead of the scheduled 64.

The route takes her though Davis to Sacramento, pictured, a strange combination of down-at-heel motels, glitzy skyscrapers and old-charm cowboy saloons.

We join the American River Bike Trail for the next few hours as the heat of the day builds, finally reaching Folsom where preparations for a rodeo are taking place.

By now the 15 miles ahead to Rescue, eight miles short of the initial target, is bathed in intense sun, raising the temperature to 120 degrees at the end of the ride.

Day 1
Vallejo to Winters

With a good luck handshake Jane Tomlinson, triathlete Ryan Bowd and myself, Martyn Hollingworth, cameraman for Sky News, leave the pier head at Vallejo. It is the first proper day's cycling for terminal cancer patient Jane in her quest to cycle coast-to-coast USA.

Jane is attempting this feat of endurance to raise money for a number of children's cancer charities. Her target is to boost the million plus pounds already raised from previous events with another million.

The travel to San Francisco has taken its toll on Jane, for the past few days she has been resting to try to relieve the stiffness in her legs, which threatened to prevent her starting this event.

However today the euphoria of finally being on the bike in earnest seems to be giving her a boost and the atmosphere on the road is positive as we head into the hills behind San Francisco bay.

We cycle just over 60 miles, and climb approximately 3000ft. During the day the temperature climbs 15 degrees to 34 degrees c. The route from Grizzly Bay, past Vacaville and through the Vaca Valley proves to be unexpectedly scenic.

View the documentary (Flash video)