America. An ambiguous land…

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We’re back in Blighty. It feels good to leave the house in a t-shirt, no longer layered up like Michelin Man for the sub zero environment. Even the drizzle is a novelty.

Despite any preconceived ideas, our trip to the US was great. Awesome, even. We hung out with the extended Coolbaugh family and their pets (Ice, Fat Cat and Smokey) and met some wonderful, like-minded people who showed us their favourite places to ride and x country ski (a first for both of us). Thanks Matthew, Sue, Justin, Heidi, ‘trackstand’ Jason, Marcia and Marshall! And all the folks at Shenandoah bike shop in Harrisonburg. Without exception, everyone was warm and welcoming.

What can you say about America? For all its similarities, it’s bizarrely different. A larger than life world that both captivates and confounds me. So much endulgent choice! Like the 12, mouthwatering varieties of bagels at Mr J’s – even though I knew I’d be happy with just one. The pumped, muscled cars that clutter the identi-stripmalls. Where do people walk?!

Wide. Open. Spaces. The fantastic trails! (that you need to drive to).

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To those brought up on a diet of American TV culture, it’s strangely seductive. Take this big old lump of Americana. I know it’s an antiquitated gas guzzler, that no one in their right mind should be driving in this day and age. Yet… just look at it. Why can’t they make electric cars with charisma like this?!

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Indeed, the Car Rules. Even cycling a couple of miles to the post office seems out of the ordinary and draws curious stares (mind you, it was bitterly cold).

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The view from the Lincoln. Like negotiating a barge down a highway. No wonder the roads are so wide.

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Under the neon microscope. The 24/7 world according to Wal Mart.

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And those iconic open roads. Big skies and burning sunsets. Grain silos and whitewash farms.

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Yet the sense of untapped wilderness is just as strong – even if it’s neatly cordoned off into state parks (forget the UK’s rights of way). The George Washington National Forest seemed just a blip on the map but it’s huge, with 50 mile ridges erupting out of a wide, flat-bowled valley. Long, burny climbs, fast ‘n furious singletrack descents, rolling ridge rides. A bit like a massive Quantocks…

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Where we rode was simply stunning. We snaked our way through deserted woods, on trails shared with wild animals who left only paw prints in the snow…

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Here’s Cara with ‘trackstand’ Jason, showing us the spider web of singletack that is ‘O’ Hill – Charlottesville’s version of our local Bristolian trails in Ashton Court. Despite his unassuming modesty, he worked us harder than we were expecting, climbing as smoothly as he descended on his fat-tyred Spesh Enduro.

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And we felt it all the more for cramming in as much riding as we could. Just that morning, we’d put in a lap at At Walnut Creek, rediscovering the trails where Cara cut her cycling teeth.

For all the good bits and the bad bits that are America, it can safely be said: we had a great week (-:

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4 Responses to “America. An ambiguous land…”


  1. 1 Simon February 17, 2007 at 9:26 am

    It looks like you had a great week…blue skies and snowy trails beats wind and drizzle in my version of paper, scissors, stone.

    Just got the latest C+…great test feature…S

  2. 2 otbiking February 17, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    I was really pleased with how the pics came out in the magazine. Bob Smith did a great job – looks like we were *on location* in New Zealand, or somewhere equally exotic and adventurous! (not that the Brecons aren’t lovely too)

  3. 3 'trackstand' Jason February 17, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Hey Guys, glad you made it back safely and that your trip went well. Sorry about working you harder than you expected, you should have said something! I was working pretty hard myself. You can thank Sue, Matthew, Marcia and Marshall for dragging me up so many big mountains to get me as strong as I am. It was great to meet both of you and I hope you’re back in this area soon!

    -j

    p.s. That Spesh was my ’07 Stumpy.. I loved my ’04 Enduro, but it was time for an upgrade.

  4. 4 otbiking February 18, 2007 at 1:36 am

    Ah yes, a Stumpy it was… and with that massive 2.5in tyre (I know, I keep going on about it).

    Anyway, we like a good workout! Don’t worry – we’ll be back for more (-:


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