Martyn Hollingworth

Documentary Film Maker

Loneliest Road in America
Loneliest Road in America, The Daily Telegraph, 17 July 2006, Martyn Hollingworth/PA

Jane Tomlinson: Across the USA

Blog for the Sky News website: Week 9

The daily blog from the 64-day challenge to ride from San Francisco to New York has been archived here in full, starting with the final day's entry. (Words and pictures by Martyn Hollingworth.)

Jane's amazing ride
Jane's amazing ride

Week 9: Experience of a Lifetime

Updated: 14:21, Monday September 04, 2006


Day 64
Staten Island to New York
10.1 miles
8.2 average speed
1 hr 13 mins ride time

We left Staten Island via the Verrezano Bridge, with Cindy at the helm of the RV for the last time.

Like the bridge onto Staten Island, cycles are not allowed across so we had to be driven across the sea inlet and take to the bikes at the soonest available point.

We followed 4th St through the majority of Brooklyn, arriving at the Brooklyn Bridge just before our planned time. There was 10 minutes time for a coffee before heading off over the bridge, as this crossing has a cycleway.

It was a great moment cycling above the traffic, as the skyline of Manhattan Island opened up in front of us.

We had finally arrived. "I think it's a miracle we got to San Francisco, definitely a miracle we're 'ere" smiled Jane. For me Ryan summed up my feelings exactly when I asked him about the lowlights and highlights of the ride, "... highlight; every moment, the lowlights; the fact that in about 10 minutes it's going to be done"

That's how it feels to be finishing the experience of a lifetime; the bad moments are somehow left behind overtaken by the awe of what you have participated in. With that we sped off the bridge into the heart of Manhattan. Jane arrives on the walkway at Battery Park.

To her left is the bay and across the water the Statue of Liberty. Ahead of her a line of television cameras and photographers. That is the finish she has hoped for over thousands of miles, finally within just a few turns of the wheel, around 3,700 miles now behind her.

The ride had been billed at the greatest endurance event ever attempted by someone with terminal cancer.

It was quite amazing to have seen it all happen.

Day 63
Trenton to Staten Island
50.1 miles
10.5 average speed
4hrs 45 mins ride time

Hanging in there!
Hanging in there!

Today was the last full day of cycling, and with only around 50 miles to do it was a more leisurely pace.

On the map after the first couple of hours we began to hit urban areas once more and we were concerned that it may be similar to the less pleasant areas of Baltimore and Philadelphia, but luckily that was not the case.

To reach Staten Island involves crossing a motorway bridge, and although it has a pedestrian walkway this was out of use. The only solution was to put the bicycles in the car and cross the bridge, getting out again as soon as possible at the other side.

Once on Staten Island, we worked our way down to the docks and began to head around the edge of the water. Soon in the distance the Manhattan skyline came into view and then the Statue of Liberty.

Following Jane along these roads I was amazed she had finally got here, to see the city on the horizon we left over two months ago and crossed a continent to see again.

Behind Jane, Ryan and myself was 3,685 miles. Literally within sight now, across the water, is the final finish point.

Jane gets to the finishing line
Jane gets to the finishing line

Day 62
Newark to Trenton, New Jersey
3635.9 total miles
75.7 miles
10.9 average speed
6hrs 52 mins ride time

On meeting Jane this morning she said she was going to struggle today, and may even have to stop the ride.

Our ride was going to take us through three main population areas; Wilmington, Philadelphia and Trenton.

The route through Wilmington was incredibly frustrating due to the amount of stops at traffic lights, which was using up considerable time and very intimidating because of the neighbourhoods we were riding though.

On the far side of Wilmington we stopped for a coffee and I really thought Jane was going to have to call an end to the ride at that point, such was the state she was in.

She told me how hard it was to breathe due to the muscle spasms she was experiencing, how each intake of breath brought a sharp jab of pain.

Approaching Philadelphia we had been warned about the area called Chester.

Luckily, Jane spotted a bike route sign, which diverted us around the worst areas, and the day took a change for the better. Jane's spasm was easing here also.

The city was incredibly difficult to negotiate, cycling a hundred meters and then being stopped by another set of traffic lights, over and over again. By the time we left the city limits we calculated that the time waiting at stoplights was well over two hours.

With the end in sight we stopped at a cycle shop in Trenton, expecting some local advice about cycle routes through the town.

We were shocked to learn the person we spoke to would not actually ride through the town due to feeling very unsafe. He recommended a 15-mile detour.

This was totally impractical on top of such a demanding day for Jane, so we just crossed out fingers.

We had to turn back down one street due to the threat we felt, and it was with some relief we reached our finish point.

Day 61
Baltimore to Newark
58.6 miles
3560.6 total miles
12.8 mph average speed
4 hrs 33 mins ride time

After the highlight of reaching the eastern coast of the US it was back to the grind towards the finish point of New York.

"I feel absolutely exhausted - worn really thin, nearly see-though thin," said Jane.

We are so near the end of what is an amazing feat of endurance for a person in Jane's condition.

However, there is an air of gloom over the event due to severe concerns over the fund-raising aspect of the ride, which is falling dramatically short of expectations particularly in the US.

Today's stage followed generally larger roads with gentler gradients through rural landscapes to the university town of Newark.

Jane joined by embassy staff
Jane joined by embassy staff

Day 60 Washington to Baltimore
58.5 miles
11.7 mph average speed
4 hrs 50 mins ride time

After Jane's final rest day in Washington the start of today's ride was the British Embassy. A group of 11 cyclists from the embassy cycled with Jane down to the White House and towards the Capitol.

After weeks on the road together it was an enjoyable change to be part of a larger peleton of cyclists and certainly made our exit from the capital city feel safer considering the volume of traffic on the streets. As with our journey in, we were able to join a cycle trail that headed out via parkland.

Crossing America
Crossing America

Soon we were on quiet leafy lanes as we made out way towards Baltimore. As we arrived on the outskirts there was considerable concern from the support team about how safe it was to cycle through Baltimore, as our producer had been intimidated whilst filling with petrol.

Any nerves about how safe it was, were soon forgotten at what, to us, was an incredible sight after so many thousand miles; the sea. This was the first time we had seen the ocean since Vallejo, but this time it was the Atlantic instead of the Pacific.

We all ceremonially dipped our bicycle wheels in the gently lapping water and in doing so have crossed from one side of America to the other. It was a fantastic moment.

Day 59 - rest day

Laurel & Hardy moment - On the Blue Ridge Mountains
Laurel & Hardy moment - On the Blue Ridge Mountains

Day 58 Winchester to Washington
73.3 miles
12.8 mph average speed
5hrs 42 mins ride time

Between Winchester and Washington lies one final ridge, the Blue Ridge Mountains, made famous by the Laurel and Hardy song.

On reaching the summit where our route intersects with the Appalachian Trail, the first two lines of the song rang out from Jane, the riders and the support team. We only sung two lines because no one knew any more.

After dropping down from the ridge we joined the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Jane has spent considerable time looking at routes and this had been quite a find.

We had assumed that our journey into Washington was going to follow the usual pattern of dangerous roads and endless traffic light hold ups, but this paved trail took us 45 miles from the sleepy town of Purcellville right into the heart of the city.

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.

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)