This trip was a dream for me, in fact, I’d been waiting for it all my life. Dreams like that don’t come easy, of course. It all started out with a horrible snowstorm in Atlanta. The road to the airport was a disaster, with 4 inches of snow and abandoned cars everywhere. My dad finally managed to get me to the airport for my flight, which had been cancelled. I eventually got on a flight to New York, which was also hit by the same storm. I finally got out though, just a little behind my original plan.
Arriving into Cairo Africa was intense. I knew there were 65 riders on the trip + 15 staff Trip leaders, drivers, cooks, medics, bike mechanic, and the hotel was full of bikes, gear and nervous riders. It’s always fun to meet new people, especially other riders. All we could do, of course was talk about the trip and anticipate what was next. We were so excited, and all we really wanted to do was get going. Soon enough the next morning, we headed to the pyramids, where we had a brief meeting. After the meeting, we all rode together with a police escort to Uigurh. This is when we got the chance to figure out our speed and find our riding partners. It took me a while to find somebody that worked with my pace, but I finally pulledup on a big guy and started chatting. His name was Scott, from Denver, CO and he was going the right pace and we had Colorado in common. We were happy to form the unique partnership of riding friends for the rest of the trip.
The second day of the race is Mando Day, which means a 30 point bonus for the winner. We set off a pretty good speed and kept it going all day, and it was fast. I was wondering if this was how the whole trip was going to be, and not far from the finish I got dropped. It seemed like there were a lot of races within our group, mainly locals, so I decided to keep my own pace. I didn’t think we’d be going at this pace for much longer anyway.
To my amazement, we carried on racing like this day in day out for the first few weeks. I couldn’t believe we were going so quick, especially considering that we had four months to go. Surely we should pace ourselves. On the bikes we were flying through towns so quickly, we’d get a days’ ride done, normally before lunch. We were following the Nile river. When we were off the bikes we were able to wash in the river, but we were told to make a lot of noise in case of the crocodiles. We also were able to spend time in the tiny river villages. We visited temples along the way, many were crumbling and falling apart, but every once in a while there’d be something spectacular.
A few weeks into the trip and I the pace was getting to everyone. There was a lot of unhappiness with the races, and a few of us decided to go bit slower. The entire group itself was getting smaller and smaller with people being annoyed and losing interest. We wanted to enjoy it a bit more, and I’m glad we took it upon ourselves to do it different.
Catch Him if You Can
When we entered into Ethiopia I got sick immediately. Luckily, it only lasted a few days and I was back on the bike within the week. A group of us had come to a little bit of an agreement; six of us were were regularly trying to put forward good times. There was one guy who stayed in the back the whole time. He was the race leader but he wouldn’t take his turn at the front which was annoying everyone. He was playing good tactics if it were the Tour de France, but he should really of done his turn on the front like everyone else.
We lost a few more riders here, just based on the fact that the conditions were pretty rough. I enjoyed the challenge though, and kept at it.
To my amazement, we carried on racing like this day in day out for the first few weeks. I couldn’t believe we were going so quick, especially considering that we had four months to go.
Eventually we got to Kenya with bumpy, lava rock roads. It was a Mondo day, meaning I could race and I knew at this point I’d have a good shot at it. I let everybody else leave camp and then clocked in so all I had to do was catch everyone else, and I would effectively win. I proceeded to ride through the entire race group, take the lead and finish ahead of everyone, plus my time bonus. Feeling strong and being inspired by the country, It was the highlight of the trip.
A few days later my health started to fail. I was struggling to stick with the group during the race and needed more recovery time. I tried a 2 rounds of antibiotics, but after another few days I knew it was more complicated. I was taken to a clinic for tests and it turns out I had contracted malaria. Now knowing what was wrong made me feel better, and I knew what I needed to do to get better. After another week I started to feel better and then my health went south again. After a very slow and painful day I decided I need to get more help, I had wanted to stop as so as I started riding that day and climbed into the lunch truck and fell asleep, At camp i packed a few things and flagged down a ride to the next city. The doctors told me that malaria kills your immune system so most people contract something else while trying to recover. I checked into the hospital and explained the situation. The doctors at the hospital seemed to give me every medicine they could think of. The issue was they couldn’t find anything ‘wrong with me.’ I decided to take time recuperating and took a few more days off the bike. I got another bus ahead for the trip to the halfway point of Victoria Falls.
I re-joined the group at the halfway point. the whole trip had 3 days off in Victoria Falls where we had a massive amount of fun just relaxing. We golfed, sat by the pool, and did a bungee jump. Had a helicopter ride. Looking back now, it was a full couple of days that we truly enjoyed.
When we resumed riding I decided not to race for a couple of weeks. I really needed to let myself recover. Instead, I enjoyed riding with different people and experiencing the towns along the way.
I had a great day with my friend Bastin. He was racing at the beginning but chose to go slower to see more and he took the lead on an adventurous day. He saw a farm and we stopped. It was a coal sorting facility so we toured the room and watched as the workers got paid they had the choice of money or supplies.
Back on the road we were the last riders in the group; different for me as i was usually in the front. We got caught in a crazy rain storm and arrived in a town with flooded streets. It had a German influence, and we were told to get schnitzels, so we hung out eating. One of the trip staff told us that we had better get going…we had 2 hours till sunset and 40 miles (trip rules no riding after sunset). Bastin was in the EIF Club (every F!!king inch Club) so we left and rode with a great team doing a minute each on the front flying along until we got held up by the support car saying there were elephants and we had to be careful and stay next to the car. The trip leaders were worried about elephants because some people had been charged a few days earlier and the trip company CEO had been mauled in india a few weeks earlier, Rolling into camp we saw a small sort and got a few beers to end a great day.
I started racing again when we got Tanzania, knowing that it was on the dirt which I could probably take advantage of. The trouble was the dirt was so smooth that it didn’t really give me an advantage i was hoping for at all, it was like riding on pavement. I was back, however and I knew I had a chance to make some progress. My goal was to win the last few Mando days and the last section, and I did.
Pie and the Naked Mile
I had friends that helped me. There was the day that we didn’t race in the morning and the race was to start after the border crossing, for some reason my passport didn’t come back with most of the racers, so they left without me. I was in 2nd place until i had to take days off. Race rules you get to drop your 5 slowest times and each missed day counts as 24h. I had moved to 4th. I really wanted to stay there but 5th was close.
Scott’s and my passports arrived at the same time he said he would help me try to reach my goal, so it was on to try and catch the others. We rode well together, pushing the speeds and then having little rests drafting we caught Bastin along the way and he joined in they helped me all the way back to the group, and I didn’t lose any time.
Another day we set up camp and there was a pastry shop with the best apple pie but we devoured it all. When the owner said they were out of eggs and couldn’t make and more we hatched a plan to get some for them. We got a box from their trip cooks the next morning and gave it to them, and we all stayed a little later for pie for breakfast.
The longest day of the trip 120+ miles. It was a Mando day and I wanted to win. We went though conditions that day; it was a long flat day but we had wind and rain to deal with. We started with a good group asd it was the last Mando day but by the end we were down to 3. I fancied my chances with the sprint. It was nice to be back and feeling strong again.
One of the trip traditions was the naked mile. This was taken a little far by a few…Dennis who asked us to hold his clothes and then kept riding for 20 miles. We kept asking him to put them back on but he was have a great time. Finally fed up of seeing him we told him were not carrying his clothes anymore and he got dressed. There was also a naked calender so one night is a sleepy town we tried to get a picture 5 boys in sink with the sunset and ocean in the background. It took many tries to get us all in just the right pose and we were glad to get dressed when finished. As we were putting our clothes back on we hear cheers from the hill side and look up to a balcony full of people with cameras….guess we gave them a good show.
The End of the Continent
The last day of the ride we road to Cape Town. My dad and Brothers Will and Matthew joined me for the last few miles. It is so awesome to be with my family at the end of this huge achievement. I seriously love that they were there. But we didnt want it to end! People kept saying should we just turn around and go back.
Looking back, the time flew by. We were on the road for 4 months, and made it to the bottom of Africa. Tori had started at the Mediterranean Sea and rode to Cairo and she wanted to get to the southernmost point so a few of us rode to the tip of Africa at The Cape of Good Hope. It was so fun to be back on the bikes after a few day off hanging out with family but back on the bike with friends for one last day.
I loved this journey so much, the hardest part was leaving. I realized what a gift my life is, having the chance to ride bikes with my friends day after day.