Martyn Hollingworth

Documentary Film Maker

Jane Tomlinson: Across the USA

Blog for the Sky News website: Week 8

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.

New Creek, to Winchester, Virginia
New Creek, to Winchester, Virginia

Week 8: 'A Classic Turner Scene'

Updated: 20:22, Sunday August 20, 2006


Day 57 New Creek to Winchester
62.9 miles
12.9 mph average speed
4hrs 51 mins ride time

As we climbed out of New Creek the early sun cast a deep orange light over the fields. This area of the Appalachians could be a classic scene from a Turner painting.

Ahead of Jane today was a sequence of ridges starting off with Knobbly Mountain and then Patterson Creek Mountain. Beyond Mechanicsburg another range reared up, but the road builders had managed to find a natural slice through the hills so we reached Romney with ease.

Out of the town was a long slow grade, but our incentive at the summit was a classic truckers' road stop. The inside was resplendent with sheet wood paneling from the 70s, red vinyl seats and a copious number of flies.

The considerate proprietors did provide the tables with a plastic fly swatter; only one though which had to be shared. Some customers were obviously expert in eating here; I saw a lady with fork in one hand and fly swatter in the other.

The remainder of the route had a plethora of other cafes to choose from; one offering "All you can eat crablegs". That must be a challenging affair to fill up on those.

We arrived in Winchester with Jane continuing her recovery of spirits from her low point of two days ago.

Grafton to New Creek
Grafton to New Creek

Day 56 Grafton to New Creek
69.1 miles
11.3 mph average speed
6hrs 4 mins ride time

Although we have had climbs over the past few weeks, today we began our encounter with the Appalachian Mountains. This major range of upland is now all that separates Jane Tomlinson from reaching the eastern coastal area of the US.

Following a relatively gentle start the first ascent of the day was over Laurel Mountain and then a quick drop down to Cheat River. A short distance of flat riding then a long climb up away from the river valley to the small town of Aurora. The road fortunately kept to the high ground before a final lift to Backbone Mountain, the highest summit in Maryland.

Continuing our rollercoaster day, our arrival in Gormania also saw all the height lost, meaning another long climb back up to Mt Storm. Jane was craving food as she felt her body was totally out of energy, so 10 minutes was spent sitting on a garage forecourt eating crisps and chocolate.

It had been a long day but finally we tipped over the summit of the Allegheny Mountains and hurtled our way to the stopping point at New Creek.

Day 55
(3237.8 miles now ridden)
Pine Grove to Grafton
62.3 miles
12.3 mph average speed
5 hrs 5 mins ride time

Pine Grove, 7am. Jane seems reluctant to get on the bike. Later it becomes apparent the scale of her fear about dogs.

Although she has tried to keep this under control, a road such as this with miles of bends, each bend potentially having another house with a menacing dog is almost too much for her to bear.

She admits the fear is probably irrational, but the result is the same; a very traumatic morning. As we cycle we can hear the sound of howling bouncing off the hillsides.

Arriving at Connie's Café we have a break from the road, and this seems to lift the mood.

Connie refuses to take payment for our coffee and cinnamon twirls. It is a kind gesture we all appreciate and makes the locality feel more friendly.

Martyn going nowhere fast
Martyn going nowhere fast

At Lumberport I stop to take a shot. Jane and Ryan cycle past. I put the camera away and look up. They are nowhere in sight.

At Lumberport is a junction; to the right is the shorter road to Clarksburg, ahead is a longer variation. Taking the right turn I cycle to a hill and cannot see them, so returning to the town I try the other road with its hill.

At the top there is no sign. I assume they are in the first road but further up the hill. Back again to Lumberport and up the first hill. The climb is over a mile long and it becomes apparent we are on different roads.

The stress in the situation is not being separated, it is the fact that it's not possible to communicate in these hills. Are the others continuing, or waiting and losing time, making their day longer?

Unfortunately, it is the latter, and bad route advice from firemen in Clarksburg send them on another longer route variation.

We finally meet up again and complete the journey to Grafton, supposedly the "birthplace of Mother's Day".

It's other current claim to fame is that at the family diner, for tonight only, there's Meat Loaf. The edible version.

Cycling through the mist
Cycling through the mist

Day 54
Marietta to Pine Grove
60.7 miles
14 mph average speed
4 hrs 19 mins ride time

After the penultimate rest day in Marietta, Jane continues her journey towards New York.

Our route followed the River Ohio for the majority of this stage, Cloaking the water from our view was a layer of dense mist hanging within the river valley. At one point this gave some slight concern if it was safe to ride considering the amount of large vehicles on the road but we continued.

Intermittently, the sun would break through only to be shrouded again. But a few miles short of New Martinsville, the last of the mist was burnt off and blue sky opened up overhead.

As we crossed the River Ohio, we passed into the next state; West Virginia.

Rolling hills
Rolling hills

Day 52 - Marietta

While I work in Marietta, Jane and Ryan cycle in from their overnight stop near Athens. Over the past few weeks we have cycled through a number of small oil fields, with the 'nodding donkey' machinery and the associated heavy oils smell.

The route today heads through an area of farmland and rolling hills, but in the past there must have been considerable oil reserves here.

Few of the wells now appear to be working and the machinery stands silent, overcome by weeds. Although made of metal there is something sad about the appearance of them, forgotten and now useless.

Marietta sits at the confluence of the Muskingham River and the gigantic Ohio River, an extremely pleasant old town.

Passing a water tower
Passing a water tower

Day 51 - Chillicothe to Marietta
110.9 miles
16.4 mph average speed
44.5 max speed
6hrs 45 mins ride time

As Jane left Chillicothe this morning, the mileometer ticked over 3,000 miles.

I asked her if she felt like she was on the last lap; "It would have to be something pretty devastating not to get to New York now. I don't quite feel uplifted yet, but getting there I think."

The route from Chillicothe to Athens has to cross a range of hills, and typical of so many of our days this involves an endless series of climbs and drops, which, as the miles build up, become more and more fatiguing.

Jane and Ryan stopped today just before Athens, taking advantage of the shorter day offered by the previous days' extra distances.

I chose to push further on into Marietta; as the ride end is within sight I felt I needed to win some extra time for editing work, by cycling what would be tomorrow's section within today.

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.

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

View the documentary (Flash video)