So, a variety of factors lead us to this. Five 50-somethings, male & female, are blundering about after dark in Sedona, AZ, their 28’ Campervan a manoeuvring nightmare. Day one of our 3 week road trip ends with a desperation meal at a deserted Burger King, and parked up overnight in a supermarket car park.
The thought “I could live here” popped into my head as we drove into the town of Bend, Oregon. Not too big, not too small, high desert climate, good foodie options, a craft brewing scene that’s perhaps the best in the USA and phenomenally good mountain biking. I mean phenomenally good.
South of San Francisco, the Peninsula and South Bay offer a myriad of options for combining riding and sightseeing. More famous for tech - Apple, Google and Facebook - than singletrack, Silicon Valley does though sport many diverse parks and preserves, most clustered along Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35).
San Francisco... arguably one of the world's iconic cities. Booming tech sector, classic liberal history, world class food, wine, artisan cocktails and the birthplace of mountain biking. Really?
I had excess baggage on the brain when planning last year's cycle show for Ground Effect in London. Flying through the USA with its more generous piece allowance was the obvious choice.
While making wedding plans and sifting through glossy brochures touting honeymoon-type resorts, Shane and I hastily reassured each other that none of that soft stuff was for us. At some stage Cuba bumped the radar.
'The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay', promises Colombia's latest tourist advertising slogan, printed over glossy photos of idyllic Caribbean coastlines, perfectly preserved colonial towns, rolling, lush coffee plantations and a Latin couple dancing hot cumbia.
February last year had me arriving at Anchorage airport amidst snow storms and sub zero temperatures . Hardly your standard summer vacation, but I couldn't wait to don my thermals and snow boots so I could get out and pound the snow. With less than a week to prepare for the Iditasport race I had plenty to learn about the Alaskan wilderness... and the local culture.
As reported in the last instalment of our North American odyssey (In Search of Maple Syrup...), raging forest fires had forced the 'not-so-famous five' across the border from Canada to the US.
A Canadian friend once cheerily informed me "if you're being chased by a bear, it's easy to figure out whether it's a brown or a grizzly. Just (quickly) climb a tree. A brown will follow you up the tree while a grizzly will stand at the bottom and push it over, or at least shake it hard enough so you fall out."
Tempted by undercurrents of burgeoning popularity, it was inevitable that sooner or later we'd feel the need to give Ground Effect a nudge in the USA.
"Mountain biking in South America - are you guys completely nuts?" Almost certainly, but over the years we've often contemplated the possibility of a few Latin American epics. A randomly spotted article about riding in Peru defended our sanity and catapulted us into planning a trip.