Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Elegant solution

December 27th, 2011


Elegant solution. Which I liked. A lot. A certain beauty. Very appealing to a deeply logical mind. Quietly pleased I’d crossed the 8,228 feet Emory Pass. True, it had been a challenge. Camping far below zero in Mimbres. Then eighteen miles of uphill, mostly first gear, a meagre eight inches for each rotation of the pedals. Descending gingerly, great care required to avoid mishap on black ice lurking in the sun shadow. And bitter wind chill.

But the point was I’d managed the traverse without drama. Waiting for a weather window to head out of Silver City. Short day – little over thirty miles – to re-position ready to start the climb fresh the next day. Deliberate. Calculated. I’d known it would be cold overnight, just not expected it to be as tough as it had been. More focused on the daytime riding conditions.

Some might delight in battling up snowbound roads over the pass. Adversity head on. But I’m more interested in the long game. Not just today, tomorrow, but the weeks and months ahead. Stoic. Steady progress. More a tactician than a navigator.



Roads to El Paso

December 21st, 2011


Snowbound in Silver City at a little over six thousand feet. Fighting the white quite fruitless. Instead, refreshing the plan for the journey east to El Paso, Texas. Studying ten day forecasts, looking for a suitable weather window to traverse the 8,230 feet Emory Pass – twice the height of Ben Nevis. And the elevation profiles on my maps, making sure daily targets are challenging, but remain art-of-the-possible.

Careful balance required. Conditions at eight thousand feet can be very fickle. Best to be cautious, as flexible as possible. Draw on experience of the earlier passes. Expect the unexpected. But need to commit to a plan as I’ve already made arrangements to stay with fellow cyclists in El Paso and beyond. People generally don’t mind change, so long as you let them know in good time. And don’t do it too often.

And the plan. Wait for expected daytime temperatures to rise above freezing. Tyres never good on ice. Reposition thirty or so miles east of Silver City at a US Forestry Service campground at the base of Emory Pass. Complete the traverse the next day – about twenty five miles so if conditions are less than ideal, plenty of time to be cautious. Then downhill for a couple of days to El Paso.



Storm brewing

December 17th, 2011

Storm brewing, shortly to sweep across the continental United States. Expectations of snow on high ground, even in the southern States. I’d been watching the evening Weather Channel with Joyce and husband Gene-Robert. Not good news. But at least I knew what was heading my way, able to plan accordingly.

I needed to reach Silver City, roughly 120 miles further east, and the next and final rendezvous with my parents. Between us a mountain pass in excess of 6,000 feet. And short days. Dark soon after four. I explored the options with host Mons, deciding to push for arriving a day earlier than planned, just ahead of the front. Clear the pass the next day.

Bold, but feasible, plan. If progress was slower than I might hope for, I could camp at altitude, a little beyond the pass. Amongst woods just shy of the New Mexico border. Then descent onto open ground. Vulnerable to winds sweeping in uninhibited.



Heading for the Redwoods

November 15th, 2011


South of Bandon I’d stopped at the Greasy Spoon cafe. But opting for the salad. And a chance to reassess my timeline into San Francisco, my next stop after Seattle. Roughly a thousand miles between the two.

I’d a couple of days to catch up if I was to make my planned entry into San Francisco. Had a private room booked for a few nights in a hostel there, chance to securely sort out all my kit, before decanting to a cheaper dorm bed. Knew I’d not be able to shift this right as they were already fully booked.

But I also wanted time to stop and chat to people, to record my travels. Especially the giant Coast Redwood trees – sequoia sempervirens – trees along the southernmost Oregon coast and into northern California. Big blighters that can live for a couple of millennia.




November 5th, 2011

Simple enough plan. We’d ride for the Californian border. South from West Seattle, through Washington State in the top left of the US. Two hundred miles or so to the north Oregon State city of Portland. Then west through the mountains to the Pacific ocean at Lincoln City. Weaving our way along the coast to California. One week. Roughly five hundred miles.


I’d be riding with old school friend Giles. Pleased to discover his wife Sara and their young daughter would be joining us at various points along the road. For in the US a week is a serious chunk of annual leave.

We’d be stopping in motels. Giles quite adamant there were no conceivable circumstances under which he’d camp. Rather admired his honesty. After all, the trip was meant to be enjoyable, a chance to catch up on what we’d both been up to for the last twenty years or so. Challenging – yes – but not a test of endurance, the sort of thing you only appreciate in retrospect.



Road to Seattle

October 8th, 2011

Road to Seattle from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken plans the next leg of his North American journey. A thousand miles south to Seattle, just over the border from Vancouver.




July 22nd, 2011


Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "prophet-shearing". Dividing up the proceeds

Mum was right. North America is, well, BIG. Sought to bound the problem. Keeping the entire continent to two maps. Worked for China. Apart from the bits where I got lost.

"All you need is ignorance and confidence and success is sure" Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain – witty writer

Sat on the ferry back to Wellington. Three or so hours. Enough time to contemplate the next continent. A few rough calculations. Couple of weeks from Anchorage, Alaska to the Canadian border. Six weeks to cross Canada.

Various influences on the route. I’d seen "The Shining". Liked the sound of the Jasper National Park. Yukon River. Great prospects.




June 27th, 2011

Dull stuff

It’s not all "Home & Away". That’s Palm Beach. Just north of Sydney. There’s quite a bit of dull, but necessary, stuff to do. Maps to consult. Visas to organise. Funds to find. Logistics. Articles to write. Website to run. All part and parcel of the project. Of life on the road. By way of illustration, some of the scribblings in my pocket book:

Monday – Timeline to Sydney – review day’s progress – on track? US visa application – consolidate and check all paperwork held – too tired – another night. No visa for New Zealand but need to satisfy other entry requirements – clarify

Tuesday – Entry into Tasmania – check leaflet – no fruit permitted – eat! Processed foods ok. New Zealand – need to borrow Bergen – and need to check travel times to airport

Wednesday – Pick up spare tyre – too expensive in Australia – cheaper in New Zealand? Or ship from UK? And to where? New Zealand exchange rate?

Thursday – Offer of free kit – choices? Shipping address? Wait until received by parents.

Friday – Progress today not good – 240 km to cover in two days – follow coast / avoid highway and use ferries for most direct route – start first light (6.44am) and aim to finish by 4pm. Sunset just before 5pm.

Map work



Days ahead…

February 6th, 2011

I’d always planned to be in Cairns until around my birthday. One, thanks to Cyclone Yasi, I’m unlikely to forget. For a little while. Seems I may be here for a bit longer. Roads south blocked. Downed trees. Flooding. Extensive devastation. Picture sketchy. Emergency services presently "chainsawing" their way into some areas. And very real risk of localised flash flooding.

Tins - web

Delay unfortunate. But unavoidable. Besides, I’ve a large stock of tinned rations, hastily acquired in anticipation of having to be wholly self-sufficient in the aftermath of Yasi. All have to be eaten. Far too heavy to carry on the bike. Soups. Tinned tuna. Cans of tomatoes. Baked beans. Glad I’d remembered to pick up some extra toilet rolls…

I’d not get bored in Cairns. Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef might have to wait. But I’d heard there was another cyclist in town, who’d ridden up from Melbourne. Would have to try and track him down. Good source of intelligence for the road ahead.


Onward to Wuhan

November 25th, 2010

Fresh visa. New direction. A southerly shift. South East now. Towards the city of Wuhan. Perhaps ten days away. Two weeks at a push. Hills at first, then opening out. A large flood plain. Wishful thinking perhaps. Continuing as far south as Nanchang I hoped. The next major city before the final plunge south to Hong Kong.

Plans were in place. Arrangements made. My new visa insufficient to reach the former colony. Nights drawing in. So I’d conjured up a little, albeit quite legitimate, scheme to overcome this. Enabling me to continue south at a sensible pace. Make sure I saw what I’d come to see. China. Reaching Hong Kong in time for Christmas. But first I needed to reach Wuhan.

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