Trespassers will be used as target practice

Cycling out of Orlando airport, one of the first signs we passed, hung up outside a front gate read:

“Trespassers will be used for target practice, thieves will be shot on sight.”

Other signs spotted outside houses on the first day include:

  • “We don’t call 911 here” (followed by a picture of a gun)
  • “Never mind the dog… beware of the owner”
  • “Pray for God. Be scared. Hell is real”

The first service station we passed had two shops: a wholefoods store offering organic produce, a range of super foods, and homeopathic medicine. The other store sold guns. “You can even buy your gun on finance”, the sign boasted.

America can be an intimidating place at first sight – but give it a chance and the people will prove you wrong. More on this later.

It’s hard to believe we started this week in Dublin, it seems so long ago. We completed leg one cycling up the east coast of Ireland – it was beautiful. We found a fantastic camp spot at the top of a cliff and stumbled out of bed to see the sunrise.

We’d figured it wouldn’t be too much hassle to pack the bikes in Dublin, and get pedalling again in USA. We’ve flown with road bikes a number of times so know the drill – this time however it seemed the world was against us:

Couldn’t get the pedals off with our pedal spanner, had to take bikes to shop. Our 10mm spanner didn’t work, had to borrow one from a separate shop. Bike wouldn’t fit in the boxes properly, had to remove literally every part and cram in alongside kit. In between taxi and airport started raining, boxes (made of cardboard) got soggy, had to wrap in cling film. Boxes didn’t fit in oversized luggage, had to put them in cargo check in. Boxes didn’t get loaded onto our flight. Had that sinking feeling in Orlando, when everyone else has left with their luggage and you are still waiting on yours. Eventually got them back after nervously waiting out a day in Orlando airport.

It was frustrating being cooped up in the airport, with no luggage. No change of clothes. Jet lagged. Tired. Hungry.  Fair to say morale was low. However we shared a cab with a guy whose roof had been blown off the previous week by Hurricane Matthew. Quickly put our problems in perspective.

Once the bikes arrived and we were on the road – everything was fine. It felt so good to be back moving again and finally making progress across the USA.

At first sight it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by America. Cycling on the roads, all the cars are massive, there are gun stores everywhere, most houses you cycle by there are dogs that come and bark at you, there are freaky signs reasonably regularly along the roadside…

But when you actually get into it you realise how welcoming people are.

The receptionist at the hotel when we’d lost our bikes saw we’d had a long day and sent a complimentary bottle of wine to our room. People have invited us to camp in their gardens and even sleep in their houses. We asked at a house if we could fill up our water bottles… they asked us in, made us milk and cookies, invited us for full breakfast the following day and a young girl named Ella even made Katie a bracelet!

Aside from the minor hiccup with the bikes, it’s been a brilliant first few days in the States. We’re currently making our way west across Florida, aiming to be in New Orleans next week.

The cycling has been hot and humid, but we’re making good progress, aiming for upwards of 100km per day. Not massive if you’re used to cycling a road bike but takes longer with the additional weight of kit/tent etc, it equates to around 6 hours in the saddle a day.

Today we reached our first “milestone” of 1,000km completed. We celebrated by jumping in fresh water springs at a place called Ichetucknee Springs.

Really excited about the next few weeks. The election is coming up on the 8th November – everyone has an opinion about it. We’ve been struck by how much people seem to hate Hillary… in rural Florida, Trump banners in gardens out number Clinton by 10-1, if not more. That said, no one seems particularly enthusiastic about either candidate, and a few have said they’re not voting.

We’ve also got Thanksgiving, but before that is Halloween. With pumpkins and roadside displays aplenty, it seems it’s a month long festival here. It seems we’ve timed our arrival well!