Martyn Hollingworth

Documentary Film Maker

Jane Tomlinson: Across the USA

Blog for the Sky News website: Week 2

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.

Nearing the summit
Nearing the summit

Week 2: Coast To Coast

Updated: 15:43, Monday July 17, 2006


Day 14 Cedar City to Panguitch
59.6 miles
10.8 average speed
5hrs 29 mins ride time

Despite the rigours of yesterday Jane was in good spirits as we met this morning, and surprisingly upbeat about the challenge ahead; an immense climb to an altitude in excess of 10,000 ft.

At these sort of heights altitude sickness is a real danger. The route to Cedar Breaks ascends via a deep canyon and so was in shade for the majority of the climb.

Jane steadily progressed and on the way I asked her how she had motivated herself to get back on the bike after the punishing ride of the day before, "That was yesterday, this is today. That's pretty much how I live my life".

Any effort of the climb was instantly forgotten at seeing the view from Cedar Breaks. A massive expanse of eroded limestones coloured by iron and manganese oxides that was truly jaw dropping.

We cycled down into Panguitch, with Jane tired but expressing how good today had been.

Milford to Cedar City
Milford to Cedar City

Day 13 Milford to Cedar City
55.39 miles
9.6 average speed
5hrs 45mins ride time

This was supposed to be an easy day, and for the first 10 miles it was.

As we climbed out of Minersville the wind began to increase, gusting at first and then building, until at the summit we were hit by the full force of it, as it swept up the valley from Cedar City.

The sheer ferocity of it meant that it was impossible to freewheel down the slope, which would have offered the rest that Jane so much needed.

She had told me whilst riding together that her back was very painful today, and a short day in the saddle would have helped. Instead she had to force hard onto the pedals, pushing against what felt like an invisible hand.

Progress was incredibly slow and at what was supposed to be the bottom of the hill, I asked her if at times like these it all felt worth it. "No" was the flat reply.

Without the gradient to help the final miles must have been excruciating, especially with the thought that tomorrow could be even more physically punishing; the ascent to over 10 000 feet climbing out of Cedar City into the mountains behind.

Day 12: Baker to Milford
84 miles
731 miles so far
11.3 average speed
7hrs 23m ride time

From Baker to Milford
From Baker to Milford

If a roadsign can have menace this was it: "No Services for 75 miles". It did not feel good leaving Baker. With an 80 mile plus target today was always going to be a challenging day.

Heading to the border of Nevada and Utah an incredibly strong headwind hampered progress.  Fortunately with a slight change in direction we were left with just the sun to contend with as the mountains began to offer shelter from the wind.

Continuing the geological theme of crossing mountain ridge and wide valley, Jane Tomlinson negotiated Halfway Summit and Wah Wah Summit, the latter proving to be somewhat testing in the blazing sun.

Although Highway 50 is billed as the 'Loneliest Road in America', route 21 surely deserves the award for that. Within range of the San Francisco Mountains an electrical storm developed overhead leaving Jane and her team sheltering low in the road gulley. On such a quiet road it was easy to feel isolated, exposed and very vunerable.

With a slight break in the clouds a chance was taken to escape from the storm in Wah Wah Valley and climb up the punishing grade to Frisco Summit, 6445m. We arrive in Milford, and a glance backwards reveals a warning sign to travellers heading from where we have come; " No Services for 75 miles".

Jane clocks up a total of 650 miles
Jane clocks up a total of 650 miles

Day 11: Ely to Baker
59.21 miles
654.03 miles so far
13.6 average speed
4hrs 20m ride time

The stopover in Ely has been good, but it felt time to move on. We had enjoyed an excursion yesterday on the "Ghost Train" which ran past the old mines and ghost camps of Ely's copper mines.

On passing through a tunnel, the train guard, resplendent in bowler hat and waistcoat, instructed me to be careful with my eyes in case hot ash from the funnel burnt into my eye. "It can happen" he said, "You just ask my wife". I pondered why she did not get the same warning.

Between Ely and Baker are two more of Nevada's ridges; the Schell Creek Range which is climbed via Connors Pass, and Snake Ridge via Sacramento Pass. During the latter we encountered temperatures of 40C, making it quite uncomfortable.

Jane Tomlinson has now reached the small cluster of buildings known as Baker, on the edge of the Great Basin National Park, a total so far of 650 miles.

Day 10: Rest day

Day 9: Eureka, Nevada to Ely
81.59 miles
12.3 av speed
40.1 max speed
6h 35m ride time

As I cycle up to the RV park to meet Jane, I am partially expecting that the ride for today will be postponed so Jane can take a rest day slightly earlier than scheduled. The route is due to take in four mountain passes and is over 80 miles. After the effort of yesterday a pause in proceedings would seem sensible.

But it could be the very distance which makes Jane set off. A day relaxing with that looming ahead is maybe not a good recipe for mental relaxation so at around 6:30am we reach the top of the first pass, Pinto Summit.

A long sweeping downhill and then a climb to Pancake Summit which, at 6,521ft, is certainly not as flat as one.

The third climb to Little Antelope Summit is more severe and reaches a height of 7,904ft.

It is on the way down from this pass that in the vegetation to the side of the road I hear a sound which I assume is a cricket, but soon I realise it sounds more like a shaker or maracas. No, a rattle sums it up better. A cold chill at the realisation that in the bushes a few meters away were at least four rattlesnakes. I will be more careful striding off into the bushes to get the wide camera shots of Jane from now on.

The last summit comes and goes surprisingly easily and soon we are sweeping down past massive spoil heaps from the gigantic Ruth Copper Mine into Ely.

Ely marks the end of our ride along the loneliest highway in America. The mileometer ticks over the 80-mile mark. It has been a good day.

Jane's Eureka moment
Jane's Eureka moment

Day 8: Austin to Eureka
70 miles

As soon as the feet have clicked into the pedals we are heading up Austin Pass; 7,484ft. It is a rude shock to the system first thing in the morning but at 6.20 am at least it is cool. As soon as the summit is reached we plunge down only to climb again to Bob Scott's Summit at 7195ft. The crickets are about too, but not in the same numbers as yesterday.

Route 50 then drops into Big Smokey Valley, which offers some flatter riding, and around the mountain buttress of Cape Horn. I thought people were supposed to sail around there not cycle. Next another climb rears up to the skyline - the grade to Hickson Summit. It soon becomes obvious that Jane is not enjoying the climb and is fatigued from battling the considerable headwind.

Once over the summit the road bends and ahead is a sight to make you go cold despite the increasing temperature. The road ahead does not bend for about 20 miles. It stretches into the distance; a shimmering strip of tarmac that looks like a river of mercury such is the amount of heat haze welling up from the road.

Although relatively easy to cycle on, it is certainly demoralising, with only the odd feature to break the monotony and divert the attention from the increasing feeling of saddle soreness.

We finally pull into Eureka. Jane looks very weary after the challenge of today. Tomorrow's route looks even more demanding.

See the diary from Week 1 of Jane Tomlinson's ride across America.

View the documentary (Flash video)