Martyn Hollingworth

Documentary Film Maker

Jane Tomlinson: Across the USA

Blog for the Sky News website: Week 5

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.

Week 5: Big Journey

Updated: 13:22, Saturday August 05, 2006


Day 36 Alta Vista to Topeka
64.2 miles

Meeting Jane this morning it was clear that she is looking forward to the rest day in Kansas. "This is the eighth day without a rest and I am really, really tired." She said before we got on the bikes.

Whereas yesterday was rolling roads today we were back into hills, so it was a day of constant up and down. A number of times whilst cycling behind Jane and coming over the crest of yet another hill I could hear her groan at the sight ahead as the yellow road lines dipped and then headed towards the sky once more.

The range of hills we traversed were the Flint Hills and it almost felt we were back in Britain, so similar were they to being in the Chilterns.

At Topeka, the capital of Kansas, we crossed the city through the northern suburbs. Suddenly ahead is a wall of a hill. I leap off the bike, grab the camera and lay on the burning tarmac waiting for Jane to scale it. As she rides past I hear: "Before I go up that 'ill I want to 'ave a chat with ya. Not going up that 'ill if I don't 'ave to".

Jane has her Yorkshire voice on. We might be about to have a 'chat' regarding the route but I already know we are going another way. Whenever Jane speaks with that Yorkshire voice things have been decided; having done climbs totaling 3,500 ft she has had enough of the hills for today.

Epic trip is proving testing
Epic trip is proving testing

Day 35 Salina to Alta Vista
73.8 miles

Following violent thunderstorms last night the air was heavy with moisture. A thick mist hung over the road on which we were due to leave, so the start had to be delayed until it was safe to ride. Jane obviously had not had a particularly good night and was looking very tired in the face.

Ahead of Jane was a 70-mile day along the type of road she disliked; a rolling road where there is a climb then a matching fall, then a climb, then a fall and so on for miles. Although Kansas has a reputation for being flat, by the end of today we will have climbed over 3000ft.

After cycling through Gypsum and Hope we arrive at a road junction with a road-closed sign. To cycle around via the detour would add 15 miles. It is not an option. Scrutinising the maps a route is found to hopefully avoid the reason for the closure 7 miles ahead.

However following very minor roads and in one section a gravel track proves to be traumatic for Jane. I had not fully grasped her fear of dogs until this point where she was visibly shaken as we progressed cautiously. Armed with pepper sprays we progressed, defensively cycling to shield Jane from any potential attack.

With some relief we arrive back on the correct road, a few hundred meters beyond the road outage, an hour later we are in Alta Vista, our journey's end for today, and still on target for Kansas City this weekend.

Ellsworth to Salina
Ellsworth to Salina

Day 34 Ellsworth to Salina
44 miles

Jane continues her progress today with a short stage to Salina. This is all part of the decision to be making incremental progress to Kansas City, reducing the daily distances involved on interim stages rather than having taken the rest day.

Although a short stage it is significant as near Carnerio, Jane passes the 2,000 mile point on this latest feat of endurance.

Dropping into lower laying ground it has been noticeable how the humidity has risen due to our proximity to more water and vegetation. Although only around 84 degrees farenheight when cycling it felt much more uncomfortable than being in the 90's due to this humidity level.

Having cycled just over 40 miles the consecutive days are taking their toll on Jane declaring she feels quite fatigued and was "looking forward to a rest this afternoon"

Day 33 La Crosse to Ellsworth
69.5 miles

Jane was considering making today a rest day, but keen to continue her progress to Kansas City we headed out of La Crosse this morning.

Bison farmer Melvin Erb
Bison farmer Melvin Erb

Along the route I met Melvin Erb, a bison farmer who was feeding his herd. Like most farmers we met he was keen to pass the time and tell me about his animals. "They are as easy to handle as a woman," he said, "as long as you let them do what they want to do, you don't have no trouble."

Aware that Jane and Ryan were pulling ahead, I attempted to say goodbye a number of times without success. It was almost like he wanted to say something else before letting me go.

On our final goodbye it came out. He said he was "apologising for the president and his actions - he says if you don't do what I say, I'll kill ya".

Finally satisfied I was fully aware he was not a Bush supporter, Melvin drove off. 

Short of Hoisington, Jane said she was considering cycling even further than planned, maybe up to 100 miles. However, as the day progressed she could feel fatigue in her legs and decided to make a halt as expected at Ellsworth - a total distance so far of 1,990 miles.

Jane's last fundraising cycle ride was from Rome to Leeds in 2004; on reaching this current distance she has now in effect finished that event.

With the projected distance of this Trans-America ride being somewhere near 4,000 miles she now has, in effect, only to cycle back to Rome from Leeds!

Making an early start
Making an early start

Day 32 Dighton to La Crosse
70 miles

Today the winds remained cross winds, the direction similar to yesterday, which to some degree  was a relief.

Shortly before Beeler is a bend in the road; this is the first change in direction for over 66 miles! Highway 96 swings to the right and more into the gusts making progress difficult for a few miles before swinging back to its usual easterly direction.

Now and again beside the road are oil wells with the 'rocking horses' slowly nodding as oil is drawn from the rocks underneath. From our high point in the Rockies at 11,312ft we have now fallen to below 2,500ft.

Passing through Ness City, with its brick laid streets, it is another 12 miles to Bazine.

Here the road turns more to the left and the force of the cross wind begins to work with us; our speed increases by a few mph, but it is at Rush Centre where we make a left that finally our backs are to the wind.

It feels like we are flying into La Crosse with the 40mph gusts finally behind us.

Fighting the wind
Fighting the wind

Day 31 Tribune to Dighton
70.3 miles

Even though we are up at 5.30am the wind is already strong; on the High Plains there is nothing to break its force and the forecast is for increasing gusts.

Ahead of Jane today is 70 miles, and what makes it even more psychologically challenging is that after the first 15 miles the road becomes absolutely straight.

There will be no turning a corner to get out of the wind.

To some degree we are fortunate as the wind stays generally at right angles to our direction of travel. Although not a help it is not a hindrance to our travel forward.

Later in the day the issue is stability for Jane.

Being much lighter than myself and Ryan, combined with a carbon fibre bicycle frame, the wind begins to suddenly shift the bike from under her.

Disconcerted by this, Jane still presses on, determined to make the day's target distance, but at the end she admits that if it had been a weekday with more traffic on the roads, she would have been more reticent about progressing once the gusts increased.

The forecast is for continuing winds; the hope is that the direction of those does not swing around to become headwinds.

Judging by today, progress against that would be extremely difficult.

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.

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

View the documentary (Flash video)