For the first 14 days in April 2011, Dave Cornthwaite and myself will be attempting to ride a tandem bike from Vancouver to Las Vegas. The distance is 1400 miles and before you say it; yes- we fully realise that we won’t be able to sit down for a very long time after the journey!
For the next 14 days we will be making a diary (video and pics included) of the adventure which for me will be a tick for Number 51- Enduro Tandem Bike and for Dave will be his third completed task from his awesome project; Expedition 1000.
Please wish us luck for the trip or if you feel even more generous; feel free to donate to our 2 charities who we’re raising money for along the way. Camp Quality and the AV Foundation
April 3rd, 2011…
The Tandem Diaries
I might start today with our reasoning for this peculiar journey.
A few months ago we were invited by Professional Investment Services (PIS) to give a joint motivational talk at their Las Vegas Annual Conference. We of course said YES, but thinking that it would be a shame to fly all the way to America to give just 1 talk, we decided we fly to Vancouver instead and create a journey for ourselves. All we needed was a bizrarre mode of transport to get us to Vegas . The rest, as they say, is history.
Day 1- 90 miles, White Rock (BC, Canada) to Everrett (WA, USA)
What’s harder than trying to clear US customs having flown into the country? Trying to clear US customs having ridden a tandem bike into the country!
Customs border control: ”And where exactly are you boys heading on that thing?
Dave & myself in unison: ”Las Vegas!”
Customs border control ”Are you joking with me?
Dave & myself in unison: ”No”
Luckily this officious man had a sense of humor and before long he courteously allowed us to pass through and begin what was a delayed day of riding south on the I-5.
The aim of the our first stint on the road was to get used to our new bike. This of course took some time and as we wobbled and wrestled it down the side of the freeway with a clown’s horn fitted the front handle bars, people must have thought we were a pair of idiots.
During the day we hit some small hills and opened the old girl out on the freeway and thankfully she responded well. Things are looking good.
In terms of casualties, Dave has declared both his buttocks clinically dead and I have a knee which every now and then lets me know he’s hurting but to be honest our excitement far outweighs these little annoyances. Let me tell you; we are pumped to have knocked over 90 miles after what was a late start to the day.
Tomorrow with some nice weather again (no rain!), we’re hoping an early start will land us somewhere towards Olympia by nightfall and other than that we just hope that our already sweaty and smelly bike gear dries out by the morning! I could give you more details but I think i’ll save us the embarrassment.
Day 1- Awesome!
Before I leave you today, you might find this little video entertaining; it’s the moment we first tried riding a tandem bike together!
Seb & Dave.
April 5th, 2011…
Guest Blog by Dave Cornthwaite…
Vancouver to Vegas by Tandem: The first three days
‘What’s the purpose of your visit?’
‘I’m here to ride a bicycle to Las Vegas.’
The Customs guard tapped his badge absent mindedly as he looked up at me for the first time, one eyebrow raised.
‘And where’s your bike, do you have it with you?’
‘No, it’s a tandem, my friend is sorting it out in Vancouver City.’
‘How did you meet this friend?’
That’s the worst question he could have asked. Silly Customs man, asking questions he doesn’t want the answer to.
‘He came to my house with a bag of eggs, he asked me to help him break a world record.’
The man dipped his chin, and if he’d had glasses he would have peered at me over them. His eyebrow was now touching the back of his neck.
‘Are you ****ing with me Sir?’
I’m not sure they’re supposed to swear, but I began to sweat a little.
‘I’m completely serious. He broke a world record, and lots of eggs. He has a certificate, carries it with him everywhere.’
‘A world record certificate?’
‘A real one.’
‘You may go.’
So here I was, in Canada for the first time. I took the Sky Train, looked at the mountains, hoped we didn’t have to ride over them, and pondered the situation. We hadn’t really planned for this. The bike had only been sorted a couple of days earlier by a chap called Ryan from Reckless Bikes in Vancouver, and on closer inspection it appeared that just 17 hours until we were due to ride south, the bike was still in a box. It wasn’t until just after midnight that we left the bike store, our tandem bike all shiny and blue, and ready. Comedy horn, chrome dice as valve covers, a wicker basket, all the necessary stuff.
We’re not cyclists. We can both ride, but that’s about it. We learned how to change a tyre, fix gears and brakes. We had pizza. Five hours of sleep later we woke up and went for it.
The plan was to ride to Vegas. 1400 miles, 14 days. Day 1 took us into the USA and some 90 miles south. Seb’s covered all of that stuff in a blog that you might have read yesterday (below).
Riding a tandem is a new skill for Seb and I. We fell into America, literally, that’s how bad we were. As the first couple of days went on we became more adept at starting (we’re still not very good) but tandem biking is all about teamwork. First question: who goes at the front? Answer: Both of us. Not at the same time. The one at the back is chief navigator. The pedals are connected so there’s none of this mythical freewheeling on the back seat, but basically he can pedal with his arms behind his head. At intersections and bridges without shoulders the rear rider is responsible for checking traffic, the only other duty is the occasional back massage. The front rider, I realised late on Day 1, has incredible responsibility, like a superhero. You have to steer, operate the brakes and gears, watch the road ahead for potholes and corners, and stuff. Most importantly, as the front man, if you crash you don’t just hurt yourself, you hurt your friend. It’s in nobody’s interests, so concentration is paramount.
On Day Two we woke up in Everett, a little north of Seattle. We snuck out of our hotel by 7am and powered down the 405 Freeway, which runs to the eastern suburbs. We should have known because we were practically cycling through spaghetti junction with enormous trucks whizzing past our ears, but we didn’t realise we were on a Freeway. After 20 miles and 90 minutes we were stopped by a policeman, he told us we were naughty. (The incident was captured on camera, see it here). Luckily he was quite friendly, and so was his friend on a police bike, so they blocked traffic and ushered us out of the way.
After that it was tough going. We struggled to navigate through the suburbs and lost all inertia from our first sprint. And then it started to rain. A medium force, driving rain, it got everywhere. Down our necks. In our gloves. My trainers filled up with water and it seeped through the laces. Later, we would find that our waterproof panniers weren’t quite waterproof. By 5pm were were in a place called Orting. It was surrounded by hills, on all sides except for the one from whence we came. A big climb threatened. On these journeys sometimes a critical decision presents itself that will determine the outcome of the entire fiasco, this was our moment.
We’d pedalled only 70 miles, had no way to go but up, and we were very, very wet. We asked for accommodation. We asked for directions. No-one knew anything. Most people in these towns haven’t left these towns, seriously, this town with a Burger King and Macdonalds and three garages didn’t have a Motel or a B&B. Or at least, the town residents didn’t know if there was shelter for strangers. Then a lady named Macenzie told us her brother would be nice to stay with. He had a pool table. They were cooking fajitas. It was on our way, but 15 miles south west. We decided to pedal up the hill, and we found two angels. Kelly (Mac’s brother) and Hannah, a fine and happy couple, welcoming to the degree that they had an enormous drying machine. We put our belongings and ourselves in the machine. It was lovely. A pair of saviours in a world of delightfully friendly but sadly unknowledgeable people. We had landed. They gave us beer and fajitas. Travelling reveals the beauty in people, it really does.
And then, today. It was time to cover 100 miles in one day. We said we’d do it, we aimed for it, we cycled 101 miles. There were hills I’d rather not describe in detail. There were people along the way who gave us good directions. Some gave us bad. Everyone was amazed that we were cycling to Vegas, but only in between bites of their burger. We’re tired but not broken. My left Achilles and right knee have taken to screaming at me. Both of Seb’s knees are unhappy. But as people, we are ever so glad to be doing this. Three days ago we were new to this sport. We were new to this part of the world. We’d chosen to cycle from Vancouver because it sounded cool, because it began with V, like Vegas. It wasn’t a good reason, but it was enough, it was an adventure. We didn’t realise it was Winter, it’s rainy at the moment. Cold most of the time. And wow, nothing else in the world would previously have encouraged me to wear silly clothes like the ones I’m currently living in. It’s frankly, brilliant.
Do be nice and leave us friendly messages on my Facebook page, Dave Cornthwaite: Expedition1000
Find out about Seb’s bucket list adventures at www.100things.com.au
April 6th, 2011…
Day 4… 87 miles, Longview (WA) to Woodburn (OR)
A new state and some great progress but did it come at a huge cost?
I was going to start this update with quick spiel about our awesome progress of the last 2 days BUT at about 65 miles today something happened that has thrown a blanket of doubt over the next 10 days- we crashed.
Now yesterday Dave and I were talking about the responsibilities of the front and rear rider (in fact Dave spoke about it in his blog below) and one thing we both felt was that when steering in the front seat, you feel a huge responsibility for not only your own safety but more importantly your mate behind. Ultimately as the steerer, you’re in control of where the bike goes. This is the reason I feel terrible right now because when we crashed I was the one steering and as a result of this; I’ve hurt my mate, potentially quite badly.
At roughly 4pm this afternoon a snap-snow storm hit the southern suburbs of Portland, Oregon. Luckily we missed it, by only 10 minutes, and so by the time we got there the streets were literally covered in snow. Naturally, feeling lucky that we’d missed the downpour, we got the camera out and began filming the Christmas-like landscape. It was awesome! As we did this however, our bike picked up speed down a hill and although seemingly in complete control, a sudden railway line which ripped awkwardly through the 2-lane road caused the back wheel of Tinkerbella (our bike) to slip out. The result was a very ungraceful dismount at about 15 mph, straight onto a snow-covered grass verge to the side of the road!
Now i’ll admit that whilst laying in the snow, my first reaction (probably much like yours) was to laugh at the fact that two fully grown men had a crashed a tandem bike into snow, BUT this stopped immediately when I realised that laying beside me was Dave, and he was hurt. He had somehow managed to twist his knee in the fall, and in words that we’ve had to bleep out of the video below (Yes, we did catch the crash on camera!) he made it known that he was in pain. It seems that he’s strained some ligaments.
It’s times like these that people reveal their true character and although Dave’s head may swell in a nature similar to his knee from hearing this; I’d have to say that Dave is an absolute battler. After a moment of assessing his leg, he got to his feet, brushed the snow from his clothes and in between gritted teeth, demanded we hop back on the bike and start peddling before the pain got worse.
Twenty-five miles later; we reached our destination of Woodburn, Oregon. Although wincing most of the way, Dave peddled hard for the duration. As I type, I’m looking at the red-headed adventurer who is lying on his bed with an ice-pack on his right knee. Although we don’t know exactly what damage has been done, we’re both now hoping that by 6am tomorrow morning he’s feeling OK to peddle some more.
Dave of course tells me that everything is fine.
I believe him.
On a slightly funnier note, we did later joke that the car behind us at the time of the crash must have had a good old chuckle to himself!
This is what makes these types of journeys so rewarding; bouncing back. We’ll keep you posted.
100things… What’s on your list?
April 7th, 2011…
Goodbye Washington, hello Oregon!
(Guest blog by Dave)
The shock of being flung off our tandem bicycle yesterday spurred Seb and I into action. Sure, there are some things out of our control on this mission, but we can only deal with whatever weather, injury, gradients and mechanical faults throw at us. Besides the hurdles, absolutely nothing stands between us and Las Vegas except for 900 miles of road, and our minds.
We strategised today, on Day 5, for the first time. Our last day of relative flatness before the land begins to roll south of Eugene, OR, we needed to lay down the gauntlet and show ourselves that 100 miles per day is not only possible, but that we could smash it. Up until now we’d taken coffee on a whim, lounged for an hour at lunch, and then with a knee bending crash yesterday the impact didn’t just swell my knee, it led us to cut short the day at just 88 miles. We realised for the first time that maybe, just maybe, we might not make it.
So this morning we rose at 6am. We were packed and on the road by 7am. We snacked on the bike, stopped rarely, and gunned it south. For the first time we went a day without heavy rain and it made quite a difference, waterlogging adds its own weight. With the sun on our faces we paced across pastoral grasslands, conditions calm, traffic gentle. One long, straight road took us 30 miles towards Eugene, our prospective stop for the day, and then our chain came off. We put it back. It came off again. Bugger.
There are two chains on a tandem, front and rear. We’d somehow damaged the central cog that links the left-hand chain between the riders, so without this we were unable to pedal at full speed. In fact, only the rear rider (Seb at that point) had the capacity to pedal. Before this episode began, our dreams of nailing 100 miles appeared to be fading. We are utterly inept at fixing bikes, we just pointed at the grease on our fingertips and made silly jokes. They didn’t get us anywhere.
Remarkably, Seb pedalling on his own kept us at a steady pace of 13mph, just 4mph below our joint average. I felt quite inadequate after that, although I was doing a very good job steering (straight road) and changing gears.
Eventually a man in a tractor factory holding a big spanner sorted out our cog. We blitzed the day. We made Eugene by 3:45pm and decided another 20 miles was in order, just for luck. We eventually pulled up in a Highway town called cottage Grove at 7pm, 12 hours after our day started. We’d cycled 114 miles, were stiff as two boards, and our bums are well and truly sick of being between our bodies and a hard seat for hours on end. We’re sore, tired and need to constantly stretch to avoid seizing up, but we’re jubilant at the task in hand.
Physically we’re fine. If you wake up and it hurts you know you’re alive, so the battle here is mental. We CAN cycle 100 miles a day, even through a mountain range, but fighting the demons in our heads that argue for rest and alleviation from the monotony of pedal pedal pedal is the crux of the issue. We still have 900 miles left to go. Nine days out of fourteen, we’ve only ridden for five so far. Endurance travel is a numbers game, and my number is 22:45. The time right now. Bed time. Goodnight!
Visit www.davecornthwaite.com for my story, and www.100things.com.au for the adventures of the mighty fine (in an entirely non homoerotic we’re two men on a tandem way), Seb Terry
April 9th, 2011…
The Mountain Stage beckons….
Pardon the missed update yesterday but I fell asleep within 20 minutes of finishing riding. You could say it’s tiring work.
Up until yesterday, Dave and I had been enjoying the hospitality of the flat landscapes that adorn much of Washington State and Northern Oregon. This however, as we’ve been finding out over the last 2 days, is changing with every mile we peddle south. Put simply, we’re currently in the middle of a mountain range.
This morning, for example, we scaled two 2,000 feet summits within 10 miles of one another. This though is just the beginning. As we speak, Dave and I are resting up in a motel in a place called Ashland. Through our window we are able to see the road we’re taking tomorrow; it’s the interstate-5 and it leads straight up the side of another mountain which peaks at 5,000 feet. This peak is actually the first of 6 similar sized mountains that we face in the next two days. This typically would be a scary proposition, but considering we’re riding a tandem bike; it’s hard not to laugh!
When Dave and I started on this journey just 7 days ago, we were of course full of excitement for the challenge but in honesty we had no idea whether it was possible or not. We’d never ridden a tandem bike before, after all! Right now we’re just trying our best and that’s what’s making this even better; the unknown. We aren’t looking at the destination of Vegas here, instead each day we look just 100 miles down the road and that’s what we focus on. To date we are just about on target but with the mountain stage just ahead, things will certainly slow down over the next day or two. So, does this mean that we won’t make it? I don’t think it does. You see, yesterday evening as we climbed our last hill before pulling into an inn in Wolf Creek (OR), I had a strange moment; the sort of moment that I live for. With sweat beading into my eyes; grit flicking up into my face and my muscles letting me know that they don’t like me, I broke out into a huge smile and I’ll admit I felt an incredible sense of euphoria. In some kind of introspective moment where I forgot about what it was that I was actually doing at that moment in time, I felt a huge sense of satisfaction; I was exactly where I wanted to be. I was out of my comfort zone, challenging myself mentally and physically, all whilst trying something that has no guarantee. The unknown.
I’m not sure where i’m going with this exactly, but based on that brief moment of clarity, I know that we’ll make it to Vegas. Dave and I are making it happen because we wouldn’t rather be doing anything else in our lives right now.
100Things… What’s on your list?
April 12th, 2011…
Mountain Stage- Complete!
These days are tough! Its the end of Day 10 today and I should start with an apology of sorts; I haven’t updated you on this journey as much as I would have liked over the past ten days. Sorry! I’ll be honest though, I’ve never felt so tired in my life!
An early start at 6am see’s us peddle for 30 or so miles where we grab a coffee and a doughnut at about 11am. After that we push on until about 1pm where typically we have a bout 55 miles under the belt. A large order of MacDonalds usually fills our hunger at this stage before we then set off to peddle to around 7pm. If all has gone well, we’re usually at the 100 mile mark by nightfall. This is of course forgetting about snowfall, rain, wind and more lately mountains. By 8.30pm, we’re usually asleep. It’s tiresome.
Seeing as I have a quick moment, let me tell you how amazing this journey has become. Travelling down from Brittish Colombia, Washington State, Oregon and California, we constantly looked out to our left to see a huge mountain range looming ominously in the distance. The horrible thought that this range stood in between us and Nevada (a place we needed to get to) played on our minds a little to say the least, but as of 2 days ago we decided it was time to cross it. The pass itself started at Mount Shasta and with about 130 miles on inclines to tackle, we feared the worst, but unbelievably this expected 3 day journey turned out to be the most incredible stretch of our trip so far. This morning for example, after peddling 104-miles yesterday, we woke up at 5000 feet of elevation, surrounded by snow, a piercing blue sky and an intense mist that made Dave and I step back and just say WOW. It was amazing. By the end of the day, we were peddling through baron desert!
What’s more; the huge inclines that we had been warned about weren’t as bad as expected and so it only actually took us a little over 1 day to cross the mountains! Because of this I type this from Reno, Nevada, and I am stoked. Our trip is getting done, and on a map we can see progress!
What does this mean? Well in short, having now cleared the mountain-stage of our journey, we eagerly left looking at the imminent desert-stage; a 4-day period which will take us to Vegas. We’re excited. Excited and tired.
I wish I had more time to talk but I’m in a MacDonalds (of course) that is about to shut.
The best way to keep updated is to follow me on Facebook or even on Twitter.
Wish us luck as we prepare for remote sandy plains.
100Things… What’s on your list?
April 15th, 2011…
The Last Night (written last night 15th April)
I sit here writing this from the middle of a desert. I’m in a tent with the door open and a full moon is shining brightly down on the surrounding plains. There isn’t a breath of wind in the air and silence surrounds us. When I say us, I’m talking about myself and Dave. For the last 13 days we’ve been doing something absolutely ridiculous; attempting to ride a tandem bike from Vancouver, Canada, all the way to Las Vegas, America. Previously never attempted (for reasons that are fairly obvious), the 1400 mile journey thus far has led us through flat baron wastelands, city centers, snowy mountain passes and currently high-desert. Roads that seem as endless as they are foreign to us, have introduced us to freezing temperatures, sporadic snow-fall, heavy rain and even the occasional crash along the way. It’s because of all of the above variables that I can’t believe I can now tell you that tonight, on night 13, we are actually less than 100 miles from our destination; Las Vegas. It’s incredible. We’ve travelled 1300 miles so far.
The concept of timing is something that I’ve been thinking about today; after all when you peddle down a straight road through endless plains for 10 hours straight, there isn’t much else to do. When Dave and I first forged this bizarre plan to take a 2-seated bike the majority of the way across America, it came by way of on an invitation by an Australian company who wanted us to give a motivational talk at their annual work conference in Vegas. We knew we wanted to do the talk but thought that instead of flying all the way to America for a 1-hour presentation, we’d try and incorporate an adventure of some sort into the trip as well. A 5-minute discussion decided that this would involve a tandem bike journey from Vancouver to Vegas; I’d always wanted to test myself on a bike and Dave wanted to travel 1000 miles on one (Expedition 1000). It made perfect sense. The talk itself was scheduled for Sunday, the 17th April, as such we were told that we had to be in Vegas a day early on the 16th (tomorrow). Having absolutely no idea about distances, landscape or even the physical nature that would present itself with our challenge, we said ’no worries, we’ll be there!’. The funny thing was that due to other commitments, the earliest that we could start the ride was on April 3rd. This gave us just 14 days. Without a second thought, we flew to Vancouver.
Tomorrow we anticipate that we’ll arrive in Las Vegas somewhere in the afternoon. The last 13 days have taught us that it will take us almost an entire day to cycle the 100 miles required. This though amazes me. How on earth, after what has to be said was one of the most loosely prepared adventures that Dave or myself have been involved with, will we make it to Vegas at exactly the right time? For all we knew, this 1400 mile journey could have taken 2 months, but as it happened it took the precise 14 days! There’s something strange about this that I can’t get my head around.
With our first peddle out of Vancouver, we had huge smiles on our faces, and like wise with our last peddle today, we again were smiling proudly. We were excited about the challenge. From Day 1 to now we had a goal in mind; get to Vegas by the 16th April. A simple goal on paper that when committed to our minds, we prioritized above all else. For the last 13 days there hasn’t been anything else that we’ve thought about and as such in a way I can’t quite explain we’ve subconsciously made it happen. It’s the same way that we used to always only just get our assignments in on time at school and even the same way that no matter how intense the urge is we always just make it to three bathroom on time (in Dave’s case today; it was a rock on the side of the road). I think put simply, when we put our minds to something, and truly give it our true attention and belief, we as people can accomplish anything. For us, on this occasion, it was to peddle a comical bike that we named Tinkerbella a long way in 14 days, but for you it may be something completely different. That is the point here that I think is most important; anyone of us can accomplish any numbers of goals or dreams; the only thing you need is belief. Belief followed by application and commitment will enable success (even if you don’t own a tandem bike with a front-basket).
This journey, simply put, was incredible, but this challenge was not just about cycling; it was about throwing ourselves at a goal completely unknown to us and by doing so; testing ourselves. We could have failed of course and by the same token we could have succeeded but either of these outcomes would have been valuable to us as a people. We wanted a test. As it happens tomorrow I along with Dave will be peddling Tinkerbella down Las Vegas Boulevarde with ridiculous grins strapped across on our faces. Those in the streets at the time may think we look quite odd, but that doesn’t matter, we both know that we’ve both ticked off a goals that we set our minds to.
Is there a better feeling in the world? I don’t think so. Maybe that’s what we’ll speak about at the talk on Sunday?
100Things… What’s on your list?
April 18th, 2011…
Number 51- Endurance Tandem Bike Ride- COMPLETE!
I’m still trying to digest the strange feeling I have inside now that Dave and I are in Las Vegas. It’s a mixture of surprise, excitement, accomplishment and euphoria. We managed to do it; we cycled Tinkabella (our Tandem Bike) all the way from Vancouver to Vegas! Yeeeoooooow!!
For me it was a huge tick from my list and for Dave it was his third successful expedition from his awesome project Expedition 1000. We are both smiling still.
Dave tells a story during one of our joint speaking programs where having skateboarded across Australia from West to East he climbs to the top of a hill and sees the glistening skyline of Brisbane for the first time in his life. This was his destination. Without being able to help it; he began to cry. Up until that point Brisbane had just been a place on a map but at that moment he realized that it was so much more; it signified the realization of one of the biggest accomplishment in his life. Now admittedly me and Dave like to have a laugh at each others expense and occasionally I rib him about crying like a girl, but I’d have to say that two days ago, when we cycled to the top of a hill in the Nevada desert and were met with a view of the glistening Las Vegas skyline, I too got a little emotional! I won’t go on but let’s just say that both Dave knew that we had reached a point that we had both been working hard for over the previous 14 days. We had pedaled 1400 miles in 14 days!
Last night, the final stage of the trip played out as we presented our journey to a room full of 700 corporate delegates at Planet Hollywood. It was epic! With Dave on one side of me and Tinkabella on the other, I’ve never felt more comfortable. On top of that, we were also able to raise a substantial amount of cash for both of our charities; Camp Quality and the AV Foundation. Thanks to everyone for their generosity! Awesome!
I should in the first instance I’d like to thank Professional Investment Services for inviting us to talk in the first place; after all, without them we would have had absolutely no reason to conjure up such a brilliant and strange adventure in the first place. A truly fantastic bunch of people, Dave and I are very happy to be able to announce that for 3 weeks in May, we will be working with PIS to present a 3-week speaking circuit in all Australian capital cities. We can’t wait! If you’d like to see us speak, please just let me know firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be posting our speaking schedule closer to the time.
Before then though, there is one more adventure that I get to try out and that starts on Saturday; I’m about to tick off Number 10- Chase a Tornado! I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow though. This is one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time and just quietly I’m over the moon that it doesn’t involve cycling!
100things… What’s on your list?