Martyn Hollingworth

Documentary Film Maker

Jane Tomlinson: Across the USA

Blog for the Sky News website: Week 6

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.

Week 6: The Long Road

Updated: 12:13, Friday August 18, 2006


Day 42 Hermann to St Charles
75.9 miles

From Hermann our route heads east for the majority of the day, alongside the Missouri River, a mixture of flat easy going along the plains and more demanding sections where the route heads into the hills either side of the river.

Clouds had been gathering gradually and by the small town of Defiance the first large drops of rain were falling. We sheltered in a café whilst the thunderstorm passed and then cycled through rain to Weldon Spring.

From here on the map it looked like a short journey to St Charles, our finish point. Following highway 94 involved riding on the hard shoulder due to the volume of traffic, but after a few miles this finished. Jane felt very uncomfortable with the vehicles passing so near to us as we cycled in the main traffic lanes and we decided to try and find a back route into the town.

Although it had been an early start we finally arrived in St Charles late in the afternoon. These are feeling like long days as we try to progress eastwards though Missouri.

California to Hermann
California to Hermann

Day 41 California to Hermann
74.4 miles

Jane is having problems with her right knee, it is inflamed and painful due to the days of climbing up and down we have had to tackle across Kansas and Missouri. As we left the motel she was hoping for less climbs.

The first 10 miles were along a very busy and narrow highway 50, so it was a relief to turn off onto a side road that took us towards the Missouri River. Although not visible its presence was made clear by the very high humidity levels.

At Jefferson City we finally see the river, an expanse of light brown coloured water, languidly moving underneath the bridge that we are hoping to cycle across. There had been some debate if we were going to be able to cross the river here due to traffic restrictions and it was a relief to find we could do so. On the opposite bank it was good cycling for the next hour until we met some totally unexpected and punishing hills.

With the temperature now over 100 degrees farenheight combined with the humidity it felt like we were cycling in a sauna. Jane's hopes for less climbs had been dashed: "I felt really, really heat fatigued? I've reached that stage that if I do too much I might just fall off the bike."

We finish the day by crossing back over the Missouri River for the night stop in Hermann.

Day 40 Warrensburg to California
70 miles

It is difficult to motivate yourself after a long, hard day, with much the same on the horizon. Today was such a day. After checking it was possible to cycle on highway 50 yesterday evening we swung on to it shortly after 7am.

Perhaps for a mile all was well until yet another 'road ahead closed' sign. When the traffic was diverted on to the opposite carriageway we followed the one under repair, which worked well until we reached the section where it had been scraped out of existence.

Top of the ridge
Top of the ridge

Dropping on to an adjacent road we progressed into Knob Noster, climbing the steep Bristle Ridge. 

Finally we were able to rejoin highway 50 and follow a three-mile-wide hard shoulder, which gave reasonably fast riding into Sedalia.

The day improved further with a coffee stop and the mood became jovial. It's always nice to see Jane laughing; things feel much better if she seems to be enjoying herself despite how she may be feeling.

From Sedalia to the town of California, we are once again neighbours with the Union Pacific railroad, and today were treated to a behemoth of a goods train, which shook the ground we stood on as Ryan fixed another punctured tyre in the glaring sun.

Our accommodation for tonight? Motel California. Cue music.

Day 39 Kansas City to Warrensburg
79.5 miles

When we arrived at the start point after our 'rest' day, the thunderstorm arrived too. As the rain hammered down our early start became a late one.

Kansas City to Warrensburg
Kansas City to Warrensburg

Crossing Kansas City proved to be a challenge. Endless stopping and starting through a forest of traffic lights delayed us further. Added to this mix a road closure.

Finally breaking free from the suburbs it was looking good until another road closure, and this time a major one. We located a detour to highway 50 but during this re-routing discussion on a garage forecourt, the road crew instructed us to go a very different way.

The 'quieter' route proved not to be, and added on a considerable distance to our already long day. When the temperatures are reaching 100F an extra hour or more in the sun is not good news.

En route I met a man running along the railway track adjacent to the road. Scott told me her preferred it because there was less traffic. I asked him if there had been any incidents in using this alternative running track. He admitted to once nearly being hit by a train; "I didn't see it coming around the bend, I was too focused on running. Came about 60ft away from hittin' me". Shortly after saying goodbye I saw the largest goods train of my life heading in Scott's direction. I hoped he was not too focused again.

It was nearing five in the afternoon that we finished, almost 80 miles behind us from Kansas City, by the direct route, 59.

Day 37 Topeka to Kansas City
52.2 miles

Before we left Topeka I had a chat with Jane. Last night she had heard from a group of cyclists we met early in the journey that they have had a number of rather unsettling incidents on the road, including being threatened with guns and attacks by packs of dogs.

They are cycling the route we would have taken before the decision was made to follow the most direct line possible.

At one point, whilst cycling ahead, I encountered a rather over-zealous black labrador protecting its territory which needed fending off, but it was not a serious incident. Let's hope that is the worst we have.

The remainder of the day's cycling was without incident but again I was aware how much Jane was looking forward to her day away from the bike in Kansas City.

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.

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

View the documentary (Flash video)