Martyn Hollingworth

Documentary Film Maker

Jane Tomlinson: Across the USA

Blog for the Sky News website: Week 7

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.

Some of Jane's fans
Some of Jane's fans

Week 7: The Long Road

Updated: 13:04, Tuesday August 22, 2006


Day 50 - Lebanon to Chillicothe
74.5 miles
13.3 mph average speed
35.5 max speed
5hrs 35 mins ride time

We left Lebanon aiming to cycle 60-plus miles.

There was an unexpected steep drop to Little Miami River. The humidity was noticeably higher again today and by the top of the climb out of the river valley sweat was pouring down all the riders' faces.

Taking a shorter route around involved heading along a smaller sized road and yet again we experienced incidents with dogs, one in particular where five dogs ran at the cyclists from behind a house. Pepper spray was used to fend off the animals. Whilst these could not be truthfully referred to as attacks, with Jane's fear of dogs these are incredibly stressful for her and she was visibly very shaken by the incidents.

Pushing on through the planned day stop of Greenfield we entered a range of small hills, which brought a return to the type of rolling roads Jane hates so much, incessant drops and matching climbs. The climbs add up and by the finishing point today we had climbed a total of 3,500 ft.

There was a cruel twist to the end of the day. Having finished and driven off to the RV park Jane, Ryan and Cindy were unable to locate the site and were forced to return to the finishing point an hour later and then cycle into the next town on the road, an additional distance of 10 miles.

Tucking in
Tucking in

Day 49 Rushville to Lebanon
78.6 miles
14.2 mph average speed
5hrs 31 mins ride time

Before leaving Rushville, Jane said she hoped this would be a "good day" of making reasonable time and progress without many hitches.

Although we still have just over two weeks until the planned finish in New York, compared to the distance and time travelled already, that feels relatively soon. As a result there is an air of gathering momentum and purpose.

We stopped in the small town of Liberty to have coffee. Once inside the diner we learned of "Grandma's pies". It seemed the whole town would flock to the diner when the pies arrived so it seemed churlish not to try some slices. The look on Jane's face was enough to tell me the lemon meringue was all it was billed as being and I was not disappointed.

After leaving the state of Indiana and passing into Ohio, at Germantown it was decided to press on from the initial target of Franklin to Lebanon as Jane was feeling fine. That extra distance accomplished today should make tomorrow an easier day, but past experience tells us not to count on that too much.

Jane's last words as we got off the bikes: "Really pleased, been a good day." I am glad it turned out as she had hoped.

From Martinsville to Rushville
From Martinsville to Rushville

Day 48 Martinsville to Rushville
61 miles
12.9 mph average speed
4hrs 42 mins ride time

A 7am start had been planned, but once on the road the mist was laying heavily in the valley where Martinsville is situated. It was decided it was too dangerous to cycle in such visibility and we returned to the hotel to wait for the sun to burn it off.

Around 8 we finally climbed out of the valley and into a section of county very reminiscent of the Peak District in the UK.

As we cycled hay bales were laying ready for collection in the fields, another sign that we have been on the road for a great deal of summer.

Once again today we had a number of dog encounters, none too serious but enough to make the ride more challenging than necessary for Jane.

Each incident gives Jane a burst of adrenaline which progressively tires her as the day goes on. "It's one of the things I feel quite terrified about," she told me when we safely arrived in Rushville.

Racing the rain clouds
Racing the rain clouds

Day 47 Terra Haute to Martinsville
63.6 miles
14.2 mph average speed
4hrs 27 mins ride time

Yesterday was a rest day for Jane in Terra Haute, during which she outlined the remainder of the route through to New York.

Until La Crosse we had been on the conventional Trans America Trail, which is 4,200 miles. Jane decided she needed to look to reduce the mileage and the solution was to head as directly as possible to Washington. However, re-routing involves a great deal of planning and Jane has been using the time when she cannot sleep, due to pain, to work on the maps.

Today we were cycling from Terra Haute to Martinsville. Jane appeared to be having a good day on the bike and the miles passed relatively smoothly apart from a number of encounters with dogs. The worst incident involved about five untethered dogs which needed to be fended off using the bike frame as Jane rode past.

Day 46 Rest Day

Day 45 Effingham to Terra Haute
75.8 miles
27.4 mph average speed
5hrs 13 mins ride time

With the sun just rising we left Effingham. Having the sun in the face for long periods in the morning feels good as it is a signal that we are heading in a direct easterly line to our destination which after some of the torturous routes of the past few weeks is a welcome change.

Our average speed was also back up due to the gentle gradients and excellent road surface. This also creates a positive mood with the riders.

At one point above the road were migrating birds heading south. Over the past few days we have seen falling leaves also. It feels like we left Britain in the early summer but here fall is already on the way.

Visual highlights were a number of classic American covered bridges and the carpets of roadside flowers. Passing through Greenup and Marshall the ride halts in Terra Haute. Tomorrow is a well-deserved rest day for Jane

Scots Pine
Scots Pine

Day 44 Greenville to Effingham
53 miles
12.1 mph average speed
4hrs 21 mins ride time

Shortly after leaving Greenville we joined highway 40. This used to be the main route but has been replaced by the adjacent interstate 70, which made for quiet riding to our first stop in Vandalia.

Although today was a shorter day, and was anticipated as being such, the monotony of the straight road heading into the distance seemed to stretch out the miles.

Jane again progressed steadily to our end stop in Effingham. One more day until the scheduled rest day.

Passing the Mississippi
Passing the Mississippi

Day 43 St Charles to Greenville
73 miles
>12.8 mph average speed
5hrs 40 mins ride time

On arrival at the RV park Jane said she was looking to shorten today from the projected 70 miles. The last few days' unexpected climbs, in particular the 4,000ft of ascent of yesterday, have increased the pain she is experiencing.

We left St Charles as the air was thick with moisture; soon our clothes were saturated as we crept nearer to the edge of the Mississippi River. The river itself was crossed on a cycle lane beside the carriageway, and halfway across the bridge we passed from Missouri into Illinois.

I could tell by this point Jane was planning to do the full distance rather than finish for today 20 miles short. Although visibly in discomfort, there is an air of determination that had set in.

To some degree that determination was at the mercy of the roads and terrain, but beyond Alton luck was on our side as we encountered quiet backlanes and a generally straight and flat highway 140, enabling swift progress. At Hamel we crossed the old Route 66.

Jane arrived in Greenville as she had hoped but not necessarily expected. She has now completed 2,597 miles of her epic journey 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.

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

View the documentary (Flash video)