George Russell is cycling across America for National Trust for Scotland to raise urgent funds that will support the organization as it faces devastating income losses due to the current public health crisis.
Update from Week 6
George has made it all the way across Texas and we pick up his journey again as he crosses into Louisiana – the fifth state so far on his cycle across the USA. On arrival in Oberlin, George and Mary found that one of the after-effects of Hurricane Laura was that it was tricky to find accommodation in the area. But thanks to some good local knowledge, they found some good food and a safe spot to camp.
The next day, again spurred on by the promise of more quality cooking, George was up early and on the next 68-mile stretch. Stopping at a café in Mamou for some lunch and heard just how challenging the weather in this area has been over the past few months. Fortunately, there was no sign of tornadoes or floods before George arrived safely in Bunkie.
The next day takes George to New Roads where he ended his day with a flat tire to fix, but he is buoyed by the fact that tomorrow, he will cross the mighty Mississippi River – another major Milestone in this massive trip.
On Saturday 3 October, it’s a trip down memory lane, as George re-treaded a route he’s ridden before. He crosses the Mississippi and passed through Audubon country. Mary manages a visit to the museum to see some of John James Audubon's illustrations in real life and the couple to cycled together in very pleasant temperatures and surroundings, chalking up another 79 miles to Tangipahoa.
Day 40 was a bit more of a challenge, with another flat tire to repair at the outset, and then stiff winds, canine encounters, and hills combining to make an arrival in Bogalusa a big relief (and achievement).
Bogalusa is George’s final stop in Louisiana and he decided to go for a huge total of 109 miles, mainly because accommodation was so scarce, but also because there’s another storm on the horizon. The ride to Gautier was on rural roads, through lovely scenery and Mary provided not one, but two lunches, which gave George the extra energy he needed for this long section of the trip and arrival in yet another state - Mississippi.
We last left George in Alpine, enjoying a well-earned rest day. His first leg on week four of his epic trans-USA cycle is a huge 82 miles across the Texas plains, with appropriately enough a stop in a wee town called Marathon, before arriving that evening in Sanderson.
The next day, en route to Comstock, George and Mary encounter a few surprises, some welcome and some less so. First up – the hills. While this stretch looked to be downhill on the map, it was much more ‘undulating’ than a steady decline. On the positive front, the discovery of a museum at Langtry provided a comfortable lunch stop before George completed another challenging stretch of hilly terrain to the best burger they’ve ever had (Mary’s review) and a night under canvas.
Although he’d planned a shorter day on Thursday (17 September), George crosses the Rio Grande and still racks up 63 miles, for an overnight in Bracketville.
After a full 12 hours sleep, George sets off on a tough stretch with the wind and road surface against him, arriving at Camp Wood at 5 pm, having glimpsed his first Texas Longhorn cow. The challenges continued with a very steep climb to Leakey the following day.
On Sunday (20 September), there’s the prospect of a meeting with friends to propel George along Highway 83 to Hunt and he gets there by 1:30 pm. Fortified by the kind of breakfast only good friends can provide, George sets off on the next stage of his journey at 9 am and it looks like the weather might turn. There’s rain forecasted for the afternoon, and big storms looking likely in the next few days so George is thinking about what all of this means for his route as he heads further into Texas and beyond …
There’s another chance for a catch-up tomorrow, as George and Mary are joined by Mary’s cousin Jay and they all get to ride together into Johnson City – 1,527 miles into George’s journey.
We find George in Caballo, New Mexico as begins week three of his journey, and after weeks of tackling high temperatures, the weather takes some inspiration from his homeland and he finds himself riding in torrential rain and northerly winds. George said: “At times I felt I could have been cycling from Oban to Fort William on a bad day.” He arrives safely in Las Cruces.
The next day temperatures stay low and the terrain flattens out, as George covers 52 miles taking him into another state – Texas. He spends the night in El Paso and leaves at 5 am the next day, cycling for a short time beside the Mexican border. Mary was able to cycle alongside for a while, before he decided to push on for Sierra Blanca – a huge undertaking involving a climb of 1000 feet. He reaches his destination after 12 hours in the saddle.
Asphalt and deadlines are causing challenges on the next leg of the trip, as George and Mary aim to get to the Rio Grande for a float trip. With determination and teamwork, another 73 miles are ticked off, breaking the 1000 mile barrier.
With the change of the clocks, George started riding in the dark on this next stretch from Valentine to Alpine, Texas and the scenery goes from monotonous flat desert to magnificent mountains in a matter of miles! George and Mary have a comfortable overnight in Alpine before enjoying a much needed and much looked forward to rest day exploring the Rio Grande, a place most of us have only heard of in Westerns.
Week Two Update:
After a pretty challenging first week, George took a well-deserved rest day on Wednesday and set off again from Tempe on Thursday 3 Sept. This was a grueling 75-mile ride beginning at 5 am and on a really hilly route, into a headwind! High temperatures continued to challenge as George traveled through Arizona, towards his next stop at Safford.
Crossing the San Carols Apache Reservation, George was again reminded of Scotland, with the mountains recalling Torridon.
Even with chain trouble the following day, he still chalked up another 38 miles finishing in Duncan, AZ (another Scottish connection there).
The next day, Sunday 6 Sept, the temperature had dropped, the wind had died down, roads were quiet and the scenery was beautiful. George said: “It all made for a delightful day’s cycling”. This was a major milestone in the journey too, as he not only made his way to another state – New Mexico – he also crossed the continental divide. He and Mary rewarded themselves with another very well-deserved rest day!
After a day to recharge, George was on the bike early again at 5:15 am and ready to face a huge climb up to 8228 feet - the highest point of the entire trip. He topped out at 10 am and started the descent, racking up another 72 miles. That means we leave George in Caballo having covered 813 miles already. His determination and grit are so impressive, and he doesn’t even look tired…
Week One Update: On the Desert Borderlands
It’s been a week since cyclist George Russell embarked on his epic trek through the Southern United States. We are incredibly inspired by George's enthusiasm and his willingness to step up and support the Trust during these difficult times. Which is no small feat: his path this past week took him through some very rough terrain along the U.S./Mexico border in heat, at times, exceeding 120° F.
While his journey last week started off idyllic enough on the beach at San Diego's Ocean Beach Park, George found himself on Day 2, slightly turned around near scorching hot Ocotillo, CA, where his wife Mary picked him up and got them safely camped and hydrated.
"Got a frantic phone call from George late in the afternoon. Thought he’d missed the Ocotillo turn off and had been blown by the wind 30 miles further down the road. And could I pick him up? I shot off down the interstate only to find he was 30 miles back the other direction. Not thinking too clearly!!! We eventually found each other—George very dehydrated and overheated. I was able to drive him back to the RV park (Jackson’s Hideaway—all other accommodation closed due to COVID) where we are spending the night. The owner said it wasn’t safe to camp outside in the extreme heat, so she’s letting us sleep in the Rec room. People coming and going to get ice and use the kitchen, but it’s blissful compared to trying to sleep outside in the heat." - Mary Russell
The rest of the week went by much more smoothly as George carved a steady route from Ocotillo to Brawley, and from Brawley to Blythe, California, where he got his first look at the rolling desert dunes noting: "Hills or headwinds in this heat at any time after noon is a nonstarter.”
In fact, to avoid the heat George is up well before dawn to get on the road by 4 or 5 am on most days. On Monday he set his alarm for 1:45 AM so he could be on the road before 3!
Scotland has been on his mind throughout this journey. George has quite a painterly eye, seeing echoes of the Scottish landscape mirrored in America's Southwest, and even noted with some amusement the city of Glamis, California—though the residents there pronounce it "Glam-iss." By the end of his first week on the road, George had made it to Phoenix where a particularly majestic mountain crag turned his thoughts to the Highlands.
Thank you all for putting power in George's pedals!
Today is the day! George will begin his epic 3,000-mile bike ride across the US this afternoon. Please join us in cheering George on as he pushes off from Ocean Beach State Park in San Diego, CA between 3 - 4 PM.
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