Come along for the journey!

Come along for the journey!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

TIME ON THE RANCH: (Tumalo, Oregon, USA)

Clearly suffering from missing out on all the love and fun going on back in Bend, Mackenzie spoiled us yet again by sending us horseback riding with her wonderful Mom Terry.

We spent an afternoon learning how completely powerless we were when on the back of a one-tonne beast. Thankfully, the horses were amazing and we had the first ever experience of telling, nay asking (no pun intended…ok it was) the horse what to do and them doing it! Amazing. We frequently went where we wanted to go, and sometimes didn't. A sunny day, in the snowy Cascades, in our chaps and stetson…who could ask for anything more?


Friday, 21 May 2010

SNOWBOARDIN', FISHIN', & DANCIN' : (Mt Bachelor, Oregon, USA)

On our trip home, it's great that our big / lil' brother shows us such a good time. Nehemiah took Kris to the mountain for some spring boarding. I couldn't believe we were doing snow things in May - we caught the last opportunity, just before the end of season 'Push Peddle Paddle' tri-athlon-ish big Bender special event: skiing, canoeing and a run.

Next, Nehemiah took us a fishin'. We caught absolutely nothing, lost our bait, and got rained out. It was fantastic. To celebrate Miah's birthday, we took him to see his fav band, 'Band of Horses' at the amphitheatre. Next, for a good time, Miah is teaching us the art of chewin'.

Friday, 14 May 2010


So we were tuning in to quality local Bend radio, heard one of the kids from Kris' group at challenge day, and then heard an ad for the 'Sprout touring film festival', here in Oregon from Sprout in NYC where Kris used to work back in 2001. Small town! Naturally we got tickets to go to the Tower theatre and surprised Anthony, Kris' old boss, the director of Sprout.

Sprout is an NGO that works to support adults with developmental disabilities to experience travel (nationally and internationally) and activities that promote their personal growth. There is a fantastic trip run in NYC that enables clients to 'Make a Movie'. This short film is then screened at the festival alongside many others from around the world themed around disability.
The films are more amazing than ever - it made me really miss the work I used to do. The next night, Anthony, congratulated us getting married (been a while since we saw him!) by treating us to a fancy Gala event of 'The boys next door' featuring a cast included disabled actors. Kris was recruited as the cast photographer at the 'after party'.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

CHALLENGE DAY: (Bend, Oregon, USA)

Not satisfied with our tremendous cycle challenge and charitable stunts of late, we participated with Terry (Mackenzies Mom) in a day with teenagers at a high school, Neko's old high school in fact. Our trip is all about the kids you know. The event was geared towards getting young people to connect with one another, and explore issues around bullying and other problems. Of course, with a background working with teens and troubled folk, this was going to be a breeze. I wasn't going to feel out of my depth, or uncomfortable, exposed and frankly scared.

Dunked into a frenzy of Americanised emotion, whooping and holla-ing, and feeling everso British, I was finding the idea a tad scary and felt the need to run out of there. However, as the day got going, we were amazed to see the process working. Really working. It was actually more like a massive group therapy session and there was no hiding even for the so-say 'adult' facilitators.

I recalled my uncle Nigel crying during a group counselling feedback session and felt I was definitely heading down the same route. Despite my therapy centred professional background questioning the blatant prising open of such young minds for all to see, with little or no training for facilitators, or structured follow-up, the honesty and love shown by these amazing young people made it work. Gone was my trans-atlantic cynicism. Might the day's stories and vulnerabilityies provide further fuel for bullies? Doubts  were abated through seeing people connect and heal. Spectacular stuff. "Go Team"!

You too can get a bit touchy-feely by seeing their website

Monday, 10 May 2010


WE MADE IT!! …we came through Death Valley, and onwards to Yosemite Valley, and did the final leg past Crater Lake National Park to finally arrive in Bend. Population 80,997. We enjoyed a triumphant entry into Neko's hometown and timed our arrival as a surprise for USA Mother's day. We have cycled several hundred miles, climbed over mountains, overcome some demons, suffered some chafing, and now need a bath. We've met great people and seen some of the most beautiful places on the planet.

We didn't get to see Sequoia National Park as they were snowed in, so we made a special effort and another 6000 ft climb to get up to some giant Sequoia trees in Yosemite. It's been an epic trip - hard work, and wonderful. It sounds like an episode of Monkey. 

We are still hoping to raise a bit more money from our cycle ride for the Salvation Army in Greece. It's not too late. It goes towards the work with the homeless and human trafficking in troubled Greece - Please do sponsor us at the link on this page!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

THE BEAR FACTS: (Yosemite Valley, California, USA)

Bear fact #1: Bears can actually break into your car and take your food. The really clever ones can hot-wire the engine too.

We've arrived in Yosemite valley and we're just a matter of days from finishing the cycle tour. We've managed so far to get by with no flat tyres, two sets of alternating undies, and only two squabbles (we resolved Kris' hygiene and manners could improve). Kris is losing sight of the 'healthy lifestyle' aspect of what we're doing and is of a mind that the trip is in fact a glorified burger tour of the west. More miles...more boigers.

Bear fact #2: Bears will equally go for some scented shampoo as they will for real food. In Yosemite valley, there are over-engineered metal lockers for campers' food, shampoos, scratch and sniff stickers, whatever may take a bears' fancy.

Bear fact #3: Neko likes Bears. She has fulfilled another life-long dream to be in cuddling distance of something furry and bigger than her (Tigers and Kris so far) when we saw a bear out in the wild. We took a pic for our God-daughter Florence and for all yo doubters out there.

Well we have the final leg to go in Oregon. We've gone from the desert under sea level to the snow line! We've appreciated all the kind messages of support. We're really motivated by the fact that we're raising some bucks already (checked online) for the good work going on in Greece. We hear there's riots going on there following government public spending cuts as their economic crisis continues - the people who will come off worst of course are the country's poorest, as usual. I don't suppose the billions of EU aid for their economy will be seen by your average person until they've suffered a while. Please do sponsor us - your donations will make a great difference over there. We love you all. We're nearly there.

Friday, 7 May 2010

RAFTING AND SOFA-SURFING: (Kernville, California, USA)

After a really tough slog on the bike in the mountains, we were fantasising about all sorts of creature comforts that might await at the next town…cold beer perhaps, maybe we should splurge on a motel instead of camping, a big nearly raw steak??? Well, we'd spent the morning on a mountain ascent which is tricky on a fully loaded tandem, when you can't even get 'out of the saddle' to get stuck in because the balancing is too hard. We then spent the early afternoon enjoying the transition from desert to forest on a 15 mile downhill! Then it was back under blistering sun, headlong into the wretched wind, miles from water and snacks.

We crashed out on the road side by a river for nearly an hour, poached a fish off of a prison guard fisherman, cooked it with noodles at the roadside, then picked our sorry selves up to do the final fifteen miles to beautiful Kernville. Can you imagine how delirious with joy and fatigue we were when we arrived after a tough fifty miles at a brewery, in the late evening sun, to be able to tuck into a burger big enough to give you liver failure, and meet the nicest people in the world. We were offered a real bed and a warm shower at the home of Andie and Rick, bicycle and motorbike enthusiasts, teachers and travellers.
We spent the next day rafting on the Kern River and getting to know half the town - a bunch of people from the night before, and some new friendly small town faces. The town was like a scene from Back to the Future as we sat in an old diner surrounded by 50's cars, the weekly old fellas breakfast. The following morning, Andie was an angel and dropped us to a northbound train to take us to our next cycling leg in Yosemite.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

GUARDIAN ANGELS: (Death Valley to Yosemite, California, USA)

We cycled the whole length of Death Valley - it was a joy. Now there's the slightly annoying obstacle of the Sierra Nevada range! Thankfully, as we head for the hills and beyond to Yosemite, Neko has acclimatised, got stuck in, and I haven't had to give her a backy all the way by any means - she's solid. Trouper.

We've also experienced a lot of kindness on our journey: we were travelling a little heavy with extra water by the time we reached Furnace Creek in Death Valley. 'Parky Joe Snow', the park ranger who'd done a Forrest Gump walk across America, kindly took a box of superfluous things off our hands to post onwards - you know, dead weight like extra marshmallows, leather chaps, Kris' hair products, cyanide pills, stuff like that. 

'RV Chuck and Teryl' gave us a ride through the most barren bit (so we didn't have to carry half our body-weight in water…or die, which would have put a dampener on things).

'Walker Pass Joe' gave us a refill of water as we summitted the 5,300 ft Sierra Nevada pass.

'Jonathan the Jeweller' gave us oranges when we pulled into our camp site after dark.

'Andie & Biker Rick' put us up for two nights in their spare room whilst we stopped by in beautiful Kernville for white water rafting.

'Banjo Jon' gave us a ride for a few miles when our gears jammed until we realised he was a tad drunk. We stayed in town (Mariposa) for his concert.

There's good people all over the world.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


We are remarkably amicable so far on this character testing silly idea of a trip considering. Yes, there's been some tears, and words were needed on a couple of occasions. It seems no matter how fast I cycle I just can't get away from her! It doesn't help that we've arrived when Nevada is suffering record high winds that we are going directly (North-East) into. The shocker is not so much the heat (actually pretty nice and do-able this time of year - top research skills) but it's just so dry. Cracked lips, dry eyes, and the fact that we have to carry masses of water is hard.

Neko's actually been a trooper and dug deep. It's not exactly a fortnight on the Costa del Sol. Keeping up the good motivational work, Kris continued to encourage the good wife with the main selling points - raise money for a good cause, get fit, stare at my gorgeous behind for a fortnight, get an awesome tan...and glossed over the heat, desolation, dry skin, having to stare at my calloused behind for a fortnight, and the small matter of a six and a half thousand foot climb out of the valley.

Once we'd cycled the length of the valley, we actually got a little help through one of the most barren waterless sections of the desert on the other side (no water for 60 miles) and caught a ride in a kind couple's RV! Don't worry though, we've suffered and put the miles in, as is customary for these sponsored thingys. Thinking of George and cuzn Seth on their Birthdays.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


No this isn't referring to my wild wife. Burros (Wild Ass) wander the desert in search of water holes, and apparently a 'cheeky go' at the tourists. Lured by our dirty camping cook pots, or my equine-esque buttocks, the first I realised of the close encounter was when the beast was licking my face with only a micro-millimetre of rip-stop nylon between us. It was quite nice at first - then I was a bit scared. This horrifying start to the day was only a foretaste of the horrors to come. These included a 25 mile tour de force through the valley bed going headlong into the highest winds in Nevada on record for sixty years, then a six and a half thousand foot climb out of death valley.

Monday, 3 May 2010


The picture in the last blog entry looks like we have a support vehicle. Well, as lovely as Jerry is, and a 'big up' to him for taking us here for our first leg, he basically left us for dead, knowing full well we had done no real training, and that our knowledge of the desert was limited to knowing it has one 's' in. The vultures are hovering already. This high probability of dying is exacerbated by the fact that Neko has a thing for stopping to look at pretty coloured rocks, and Kris wants to take a photo of absolutely everything. All this whilst our water supply diminishes.

Our first day saw us do just 24 miles. That wasn't too bad considering we set off at 3.30pm, and took the first in a series of 'scenic diversions' (you might say that pretty much encapsulates our life right now), up a couple of thousand feet, in nearly 100 degree heat, from America's lowest point at 'Badwater', below sea level, zero humidity, salty dry air so that you simply could not drink enough water to quench your thirst. Heat aside (and it's really not too bad yet this time of year), it's the dryness that really gets you. All's well-ish so far. Thanks Dan 'tech support' Westy for the weather updates.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

SPONSOR US ON OUR TANDEM RIDE: (Death Valley, California)

Right - we're doing it. We're cycling by tandem through Death Valley and beyond into some of America's great National Parks...not for fun mind you, but so y'all don't have to. Suffer through us. And all you have to do is shell out a few quid / bucks, and maybe pray that we don't die (sun exposure /dehydration / killing eachother).

It's all for a good cause - the Salvation Army will take your hard earned cash, and go and do some worthwhile work with the homeless and people trapped in human trafficking in Greece...they promise to then stay off your streets playing trumpets, shaking collection tins, and other such pesky behaviour.

So we have arrived in Death Valley, and are briefly visiting the visitor centre for an internet connection and the low down on watering spots before heading off into the wilds. Before us is 500 miles of desert, and a small matter of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Kris is basically giving Neko a 'backy' through some of the most inhospitable places on earth. She has a pair of spurs for when the going gets really tricky. This she says is good measure for hauling her butt here in the first place.

Do the right thing - hit the 'Just Giving' button on the right hand column.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

COUGH UP YOU BLEEDERS!: (Las Vegas to Death Valley, USA)

Here we go! You don't think this cycling trip through one of the hottest and inhospitable places on earth is for fun do you. There's easier ways to get a suntan. It's basically all part of our charitable portfolio darling.

In essence, Kris is giving Neko a backy through the desert and over the Sierra Nevada mountain range…for a larf…and your hard earned cash. All money goes to our Salvation Army chums in Greece (read more on the 'Just Giving' website. This is so y'all can live in a better place, because if we give them money, the Salvos won't be out on the street pestering you all with their trumpets, bonnets, and collection tins. Don't pay us…and we'll unleash the full fury of the Sally Army onto your streets.


We've been staying with an old school friend of Neko's, Jeff and his fiance Kelly. They've been stars, running us around getting the final bits & bobs for our bike trip and searching for bus companies, or willing people with a truck, to take us the first 120 mile leg to death valley to start our trip. Jeff mentioned that the only people who drop you off in death valley are gangsters. Moments later, he told us his buddy Jerry was free to take us in his truck.

Thankfully Jerry is a decent chap, and we frisked him for silencers and shovels before heading out. We've been doing the final checklist for our intrepid exploring…everything you could need for a relaxing jolly to death valley: factor fifty lotion, butt-so-bigg cycle shorts, suicide pills. We've had a facebook message from our best man Richo stating that having warned us, he takes no responsibility if we get a divorce because of this stupid idea of a trip. 'Au contraire' my overdressed friend, the Griffins are solid, and aside from the occasional complaint when Neko digs the spurs in too hard, it's all love and good times.