Helen’s Take On…Vancouver to Vegas

Trip Update

5,000km and 3 months since Vancouver and I’m in Vegas.

In neighbouring countries, these cities are worlds apart.

Vancouver is a modern, cosmopolitan city with high-rise offices, chic cafes and a buzzing life on the streets. It has green parks and a laid-back atmosphere.

Vegas stands alone in the desert. High hotels, casinos and bars concentrated on The Strip with their flashing neon signs and 24 hour doors. Beyond that is a sprawl that festers, feeding off this fabrication.

But the best bits of the trip, are the bits in between… In between is rural British Columbia and small town America. In between are thick forest, towering mountains and open plains, winding rivers and barren deserts. A bit of everything and all a whole lot better than either city.

It’s been Indian summer heat in the  Chilcotin, where water runs cold and bears roam free. It’s been wet, waterlogged and muddy in Montana. It’s been endless hills and long valleys in Idaho. And high desert in Nevada where the coyote calls through the night. It’s been snowstorms and freezing nights on Utah’s winding roads through red rock canyons.

Now it’s into southern California and the road to Mexico.

And I can’t wait…

As usual, if you want to read more about thecycle trip, see my website Helen’s Take On…

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Cycle Touring Travel Insurance

It’s now only 3 weeks until I fly out to Canada for the start of the Great Divide ride and once again I’ve still got plenty to organise.

I have my flight booked, somewhere to stay when I arrive, my bike is repaired and ready to ride and I know the route I’ll be cycling.

But there’s plenty more to sort out…

Like any holiday, I’ll be needing to get travel insurance. Negotiating the myriad of insurance companies and trawling their terms and conditions to find one company that will cover a long cycle-touring trip is always a chore. Generally, travel insurers aren’t keen on cycle tourers and often won’t provide cover, or only on an incidental basis, or they add on a massive charge as they consider cycle touring a high risk sport. Forget trying to get your bike insured (it’s easier to add it to your home insurance). Just stick to the essential accident and medical cover.

There are plenty of long-term cycle tourers who don’t bother with insurance – Of 25 asked by the Travelling Two, a third don’t.

I used American Express for my 2-year Africa tour. It was the only company that would provide cover for 2-years cycling in Africa. I checked out at least 20 other companies. Fortunately I never had to make a claim. Was it a waste of money? Chances are, in many of the regions I was travelling through, if I had got seriously ill or had an accident, there would have been no fast rescue service. Had I needed to go to hospital, treatment would have been relatively cheap and probably I could have covered the costs myself. I probably would have tried to avoid hospital anyway. I carried a comprehensive first-aid kit and may well have been better equipped than some of the local hospitals. Having the insurance did give me peace of mind however. It was there if I needed it. But if I was doing the same trip again, I probably wouldn’t bother.

But that was Africa. And this next trip is to the States. Medical care in the US is excellent. But excellence comes at a price. This is one country where I would definitely get travel insurance for. And just to prove my point… the last time I went to the US, I spent a couple of days mountain-biking and fell off. Fell off, over the handlebars, face-planting onto the trail with bike flying off into a nearby bush. I hurt my leg and my friends had to call the emergency services. Six hours later, having been stretchered off the trail and I arrived at the hospital, high on strong painkillers. The bill, which came to a few thousand dollars, was paid for by my insurers (STA Travel).

So the search for insurance continues… at the moment I’m heading towards World Wide Insure, but I need to read the small print first.

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Crazy and the Great Divide

Some people think I’m crazy… crazy to quit my job so I could cycle through Africa. The same thought, albeit fleeting, went through my mind before I actually set off.

But craziness, like many things, is relative.

So that when you’ve just cycled 25,000km through Africa, the idea of cycling 4,400km through the US, seems like a holiday.

But when I mention that I’m going to cycle the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, an off-road route that crosses the continental divide some 80 times, and I’ll have to pedal or push up so many hills that by the end I will have effectively scaled the height of everest 7 times…. people still say I’m crazy.

But even I have my limits, and the borderline for craziness to me is cycling that same 4,400km route as a non-stop race. Yes, that’s 4,400km with all those hills, cycled in about 3 weeks. Now why on earth would you want to do that?! Well, several people do want to do it. And they do….

Well, actually I do understand – it’s for the challenge, to physically push yourself to the limit, to see what your body can withstand and it’s to satisfy the mildly masochistic nature that lies within some of us and drives us to undertake such seemingly pointless trials and adventures.

The Tour Divide, the race, is currently underway. It started on the 10th June. Of the 66 riders who started, two have already finished and 14 have dropped out. The others are still racing. The winner made it in just 15 days! (I shall be taking much longer…)

You can follow the rest of the crazy racers on the Tour Divide website (www.tourdivide.org) and see a map of the route which I’ll be following later this year.

The craziest of all, have to be the three men on single speed bikes. I have no idea how you cycle up the hills with only one gear. I’m just glad I don’t have to!





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