Bluegrass state.

My afternoon in Middlesboro, Kentucky was pretty great. I spent some time by the pool, swimming and enjoying myself while my clothes dried and then I got dressed and walked across the road to a mall. Well, it was called a “mall” but that’s not the word I would use… I bought my movie ticket and first thought he said that it cost $14,25 and thought that that’s the same as in Sweden then. But then I realized he said $4,25. That is just insanely cheap.

IMG_2074_2The movie was great, but it didn’t take me long to realize why it was so cheap. The audio was really bad. Like if I had to rate it, I would say that the video quality was maybe 8 and the audio 5 at best. I had a hard time hearing what they were saying from time to time (ugh, sometimes I miss subtitles…), and I heard others in the theater say “what did she say?” several times too. I guess you get what you pay for…

Anyway, the day after I got on my bike and headed out of town towards London, KY.  I knew that I had about 90 km to go but the road was great and once again a nice fog kept the temperature nice and cool. The Kentucky landscape is pretty hilly, but as long as they’re not too steep it’s fine. The views make up for it.
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After 87 kilometer in 4 hours and 40 minutes I made it to London, just in time for lunch. Once again I just felt so strong and powerful, I love that feeling. London was a cute little town, nothing like its namesake in England though.
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I checked into my hotel and of course the bike gets to stay close to me even at night. I love her so much, she’s so comfortable and I’ve realized that every other bike I’ve owned has been too big for me. Elsa is much smaller and fits me much better, it doesn’t put as much stress on my body and I’m not hurting as much as I’ve been previously. She’s perfect! After a long day in the saddle my knees sometimes gets a bit stiff when they’ve cooled down, but other than that I’m feeling pretty great.

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I thought we should take a look at what’s in my handlebar bag. At the bottom is my big camera and my gopro, but the things that I want easy reach for is my wallet, my phone, trail mix and skittles for fast energy. Sun protection for my lips is a must too! My Garmin is great for telling the speed and other interesting facts, but I never use it as a gps even though it has that too. Google maps on my phone is much better for that. And on my arm is my RoadID, with my information and my parents contact details. Better safe than sorry…

Oh, and I’m in a Swedish magazine called Veckorevyn this month! This is a photo my sister sent me of my adorable niece Lovisa looking at the article about her aunt. Cutie!
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Anyway, this morning I tried sleeping in for a bit, but no such luck. I woke up at 5:30 as usual… After breakfast I got back on the bike and immediately realized that the cool air of yesterday was long gone, today was hot and humid already at 7 in the morning… Though I only had to bike 68 km today, they would be a struggle. So. Many. Hills. And after less than 5 minutes two dogs were chasing me down a road, barking like crazy and running in circles around me. I hate it, it’s super scary and I’m so scared of getting bit. I love dogs, but I’m not a fan of people not tying them up or using them as guard dogs. Let me tell you, guard dogs do not love cyclists. So far I’ve counted to 18 rather angry dogs chasing me during 2 weeks on the road, and even more barking at me from inside fences thankfully.
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I LOVE seeing that sign. But it’s double, because after a downhill, there is usually a huge uphill waiting. 
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My fully loaded setup. I love Elsa and I think Bob is pretty great too. 
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I really struggled today because of the heat, and with the repetitive hills, and it doesn’t help when I ride past someone and he calls “why are you doing that, you’ll get overheated!” to me. Some people are so helpful.
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Taking a break at a gas station. I’m completely soaked in sweat, my hair is drenched and my shirt is completely wet. So attractive… Oh well, this adventure is not about looking my best, it’s about pushing myself to my limits, which I’m doing daily.
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I got SO excited when I cycled past this sign! Bridges of Madison County is one of my favorite movies. But then I learnt that it’s not set in Madison County, Kentucky, but in Madison County, Iowa. Oh well…

And then finally the climbs were over and I got to the sign telling me that I was in Berea. This is significant because this is where I’ll get on the official TransAmerica Trail that goes coast to coast across America. After Charlotte, this has been my main goal for these first weeks. But to be honest I’m feeling a bit anxious about getting on the official trail. At first I thought it was a bit complicated to plan my own route and I longed for the day I’d get to use the transam map, but I’ve actually really enjoyed it lately. I’m scared that I will feel too restricted having a map that I absolutely have to follow… like it’s not really my own journey anymore, if you understand what I mean?

But we’ll see. I’ll give it a try at least, I might love it! Otherwise it’s not harder than just getting off, and head in another direction. Everything is possible!
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So far I’ve cycled for two weeks and I’ve made it 943 kilometers. I’m feeling pretty strong, but the heat is still a struggle. For now I’ll keep on doing the early mornings and stop cycling at around lunch time. I’m getting a little bit faster, so hopefully I’ll still make it across the country in time. I think I’ve made it pretty far already, in just two weeks so I really don’t see the point in riding full days until it might cool down a bit.

This adventure is about the journey, not the destination. The journey won’t be as great if I’m pushing myself too hard and not enjoying things outside of cycling too.
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Tomorrow is a big Swedish holiday called midsommar, which I will celebrate with a rest day in Berea. It seems like a cosy little town, and my legs need some rest too.

And for those who doesn’t follow me on Facebook or Instagram (go do it now!) here is another comic I made the other day. I really enjoy singing, though I’m very bad at it. I very often sing to myself when I cycle, and this might have happened once or twice (or five times) on the road…
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That is it for now, happy midsommar everybody! Have some snaps and pickled herring for me too! I might try to gather some people to jump around a tree singing about little frogs here too, but it would probably get me arrested so maybe not… Yes, we do that on midsummer, see video below or click here for more information.

Up and down, is the way of life.

We all know that what goes up must come down, both in life and in hills I encounter on the road. When I woke up in Greenville, Tennessee yesterday morning I was not in a good mood. I have no idea why really, but I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to pack my things, I didn’t want to have breakfast and I definitely didn’t want to get on my bike and cycle. But I did, because it’s what I do. I knew that I had a pretty short day ahead of me, just 60 km to Bean station where I planned to stop for the day. I knew it was going to be a hot day, with up to 36 degrees celsius in the afternoon so that is why I’m keeping to short days and I start riding as soon as the sun goes up. I talked to my mom and said that I felt lazy for being finished for the day by 11-12 already, but that is silly. 60 km is a good distance, and I like having all afternoon to myself.

But first, let’s take a look at this little comic I drew. I feel like it pretty accurately describes the general feeling of cycling. IMG_1945_2

But anyway. I headed out of Greenville and google maps kept wanting me to follow the smaller roads, but I wasn’t having it. There was a highway heading straight north towards Bean station that had a nice wide shoulder, and after a while there was even a sign that said that it was actually a bicycle route, so take that google! I can make up my own mind. Sometimes.
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The heat was pretty intense even in the morning hours, but I was making very good speed and was at Bean Station at 11 in the morning already. The last few kilometers to the tiny city were amazing, just by a lake and I was stunned by its beauty.
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Boys collecting garbage by the road. On their vests it said “I am a drunk driver” so I didn’t really have to guess why they were out there… 
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It felt good to have arrived so early, especially since the heat climbed to 97F/36C later that day. Way too hot to be out cycling… But the hotel, um. I felt like I would leave having been bitten by fleas or bedbugs or something other disgusting. I was not a fan, but I didn’t really have any other option. At least it was cheap. I took a ride in the afternoon trying to find a place to swim, but it was all “private property” and “no trespassing” so no such luck. It’s really making me miss the Swedish everyman’s rights. But I got to ride my bike unloaded and wow, it was so strange. It almost felt wobbly because I’m so used to the extra weight.

Despite the status of the hotel, I slept okay that night and was up before sunrise as usual. After a delicious pizza breakfast I set off, knowing that I would have to climb a hill pretty early in the day. It looked very steep according to google maps, so I had already settled for that this would be another hiking day. But sometimes I’m wrong. I started slowly cycling up the hill, and it went perfectly fine. I just kept on going and before I knew it I was standing at the top looking at the sunrise.

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And as I stood there, I started crying. I cried because I was happy. I cried because it was so beautiful. I cried because I felt so incredibly strong, and because I’m actually doing this adventure, despite struggling from time to time. I just felt so thankful. And then came the downhill and I just kept crying because wow, Northeastern Tennessee is beautiful. Yes, I cry a lot, but these were happy tears so everything’s fine!
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A fog arrived after that as you can see, and just made the day even more beautiful. It also made the temperature drop, which is the reason I’m loving whenever there’s a fog now.

There were a lot of hills today. A lot. I’ll show you the graph later, but I think I climbed almost 800 meters in total. And I cycled every last bit of them, which really boosted my confidence. In my favorite movie “Into the Wild” there is a quote which I kept repeating in my head throughout the day:

“It is important in life not to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once. If you want something in life, reach out and grab it.”

Right now, I’m feeling very strong, and I’m measuring myself daily.

The day was simply amazing, and the most beautiful views so far. Once the fog went away it got pretty hot again though, so I was sweating buckets. So attractive when your shirt is completely soaked, don’t you think?

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IMG_2033_2Happiness after having climbed upp a big hill.

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Sweaty? Naah…

When I was almost at Middlesboro which would be my stop for the day, I came upon a tunnel. A tunnel that was forbidden for me. Despite that I kept going, and came upon someone who worked there just before the beginning. He jumped out of his pickup truck and moments later my bike and trailer was loaded onto it, and I got to ride next to him in the car through the tunnel. Apparently they get plenty of cyclists each day, and they would rather give us a ride than have us ride through a dark tunnel with nowhere to escape. Thank you very much for that!
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I was dropped off on the other side, and was officially in Kentucky! Woho, state number three!
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After that it was just a short ride into town, where I stopped for a milkshake before continuing on to my hotel. It was only 10:30 (!!) but they were super nice and let me check in early. They usually let me do that, and I am so thankful for that. Now I’ve spent the afternoon by the pool, with my hand washed clothes drying next to me. Luxury with pool and hotel, but the clothes kind of reveals my status of homelessness… 
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Tonight I’ll go to the mall right across the street to see a movie, and feel like a normal person. Going to the cinema is my favorite activity at home, so I can’t wait! And yes, of course it’s Jurassic World I’ll be seeing… I’ve been excited about it for months! 

Height and speed of the day: 
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So many hills, but I cycled up each and every one of them and it felt amazing. I’M SUPERWOMAN!

Tomorrow I’ll continue my journey north, and the plan is to reach London, Kentucky.
Honk if you see me on the road!

I climbed a mountain to see the world. 

And there they were. The mountains. I was so happy that I stopped cycling around 20 km before they began the day before, because I’ve realized that it’s about that distance it takes for me to warm up my legs in the mornings. I cycled until the incline began and then took a small energy break. The climb wasn’t very steep at first, so I was feeling extremely confident. That would change.    

      

After a while the mountain got a whole lot steeper. Just as I was feeling confident that I would be able to cycle the entire way up, I came around a bend in the road and at that moment it got so much worse. I tried cycling but had to stop and start pushing instead. And then I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. At every bend I just hoped that it would flatten out a bit, but it never did. I pushed for more than two hours with no relief. 

 

At one point a car stopped next to me, and I was so sure that they would offer me a lift. But he just wanted to warn me about snakes by the side of the road. Well, thanks for that. I just stared at him… 

After a few hours I made it up to a rest stop and could finally sit down. I had seriously never been so sweaty in my life, I was completely soaked. A family was there too, and they got really excited to see me. We took pictures and then they offered me water and chips. I could seriously have cried. So I sat down and watched the beautiful view and had  some chips, it was perfect. 

  
    

But I wasn’t done. There was more climbing to be done. I’m so glad I’m wearing Keen sandals and not ordinary cycling shoes, I would never have been able to walk up that mountain pushing my bike otherwise. It was also really nice weather, just 20 c so that helped a lot. I did have an energy shot that helped too. 

 

After 6 hours and about 65 km I was finally in Banner Elk where I had planned to stop for the day. I immediately decided to take a rest day there tomorrow, that hike up the mountain was so hard on my body and I was so exhausted. 

  

Interesting fact: fart means speed in Swedish. So there’s that…

My rest day in Banner Elk was amazing, it’s such a beautiful little village high up in the mountains. I took a walk, I had to walk beside the road as usual but I don’t mind. If I didn’t walk there I’d never make it anywhere if I don’t want to cycle.    

         

This morning I was ready to hit the road again, this time I’d finally make it to Tennessee and down from the mountain. Yes, of course there were some hills as well, but for almost 65 km it was mostly downhill riding. Amazing! I love going down much more than I do up, that’s for sure. And google maps lead me to some beautiful cycle paths, I was a bit resistant about going off the main road but it was so worth it!

  
       

I cycled 112 km today in 6 hours, which I feel pretty good about. The heat wasn’t too bad, 31 c at most and I was truly enjoying myself today. And yes, then I got myself a hotel room, took a swim in the pool and now I’m just enjoying my first afternoon in Tennessee. I’m only 280 km from Berea, Kentucky now where I’ll join the Transamerica Trail. It will be weird to actually meet other cyclists… 

See you soon! 

Last days in North Carolina. 

My days in North Carolina are coming to an end, as I expect to cross into Tennessee tomorrow or the day after. Yay, a new state! Though I have really liked NC, despite the heat and the hills.

I am feeling so much better now. I am eating plenty, I’m sleeping better and my mind is at a much better place. I’ve been able to call home several times now without even wanting to cry. Success! Though it comes at a price; the price of only cycling during the mornings when it’s not quite as extreme heat, not doing very many kilometers a day and sleeping at pretty good hotels. Well, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? At the moment that’s what keeps me motivated, so it will simply have to be that way. If I find at the end of the summer that I’m running out of time and have too much distance left, I’ll have to rent a car or get on a train or something, simple as that. My main focus is to enjoy this adventure, and sleeping in a tent and cycling all day will not do that at the moment. I’m already asking myself ten times a day “why am I doing this to myself, why couldn’t I just drive across the country as everyone else?” so I need things to keep my mood up.

I’ve left Charlotte now, and am currently in a town called Morganton. The ride out of Charlotte was luckily pretty uneventful, and I even found a bicycle lane, a rarity in American cities. It was still pretty warm though, but I found my mini fan the other day so it actually helps some. There were some hills to be conquered but at 11:30 I was already in Lincolnton, my destination 60 km outside of Charlotte. I felt pretty lazy to stop cycling so early, but I have promised to be nice to myself so I did. I checked into a pretty nice hotel, swam in the pool and took a walk to Walmart. I’ve never been before, it was fascinating. Super big. And I though the cars would crash when they saw me walking next to the highway in the grass, people really don’t walk here. A lot of places lack both sidewalks and places to cross the street for pedestrians. Very weird for a Swede, we walk a lot…


    

How do you like my bruises? I have no idea how any of them happened… It looks like someone has beaten me. Oh, and the shoes! Best choice ever, I love them!! Very comfy, they keep my feet cool and you can clip them to your pedals if you want. I don’t anymore.

    
This morning I woke up really early, had breakfast at the hotel before riding out at 7 in the morning. It was pretty warm, but soon a fog surrounded me, making the air much cooler. It was sooooo nice! It stayed like that for more than an hour, I even felt chilled at one point! But too soon the sun came out, and with it the heat. Paired with some pretty obnoxious hills, I struggled. At 11:30, after 60 km I stopped for lunch and to consider my choices. I was right next to a hotel, but I knew that 20 km away was a camping. But the weather report said thunderstorms and rain off and on all afternoon, so I decided to check into the hotel. I really am bad at living the simple life, but who cares? I’m loving this! And the moment I stepped into the hotel, the skies opened up and a heavy rainfall began. A good choice to stay then!


            Tomorrow I have a 1200 m/3800 feet mountain to climb.  I’m a bit anxious but hopefully it won’t be too steep. If so, I’ll simply have to push my bike up. Or hitchhike.
But anyway, I’m feeling better and it’s such a relief. Yes the cycling is hard, but hopefully that will get easier too. Thank you for all of your encouraging word, I really appreciate it! I have the best followers.

Thoughts and feeling after a week in the U.S.

It’s been a week since I first sat my foot on American soil now, and in some ways it’s been both the longest and shortest week of my life. I knew before setting out on this adventure that it would be hard at times, but I have really been struggling this week. I feel sorry for my mother, I know she’s been struggling with me leaving too and still she has to watch me cry on Skype almost every day. The worst part is that I don’t even know why I’m sad! Yes, it’s been tough week physically but I’ve been struggling even more mentally. But then the other day I got an email from a follower who said that at the beginning of a change this big, there is usually a sort of “grief period” and when I read that it just clicked. It has really felt like I’ve been grieving this week. No wonder I’ve been struggling with eating and been feeling so low! I’m not sure what I’m exactly grieving, but I’m hoping it’s about to pass now, and that I can be my usual happy self.

Yes, I am finally living my dream, but that doesn’t mean it will only be amazing and I’ll love every second of it. 

The reason I’m sharing these very private feelings with everyone is because usually adventure blogs are all about the great things that happens and how amazing everything is. There is normally not a lot about feeling low or struggling, and I can’t pretend to be fine when I’m not. Maybe this will help someone else too, who might be feeling the same way.

But in better news, I am feeling much better now. I’ve actually managed to eat without feeling nauseous for two days now, though not full portions yet because after a week of barely eating my stomach has shrunk a bit. But I’m eating and I’m feeling much better at least!

On Monday I spent almost all day in bed, only venturing out to get some food. It was just what I needed, but after a while it was time to get a cab and go into central Charlotte.
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After walking around in the sweltering heat for a while I had dinner (well, half a dinner) before heading to the Time Warner Cable Arena and the Taylor Swift concert.
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A lot of people were in costumes which was a lot of fun to watch. I think every single music video she has ever made were represented in terms of clothing… I think I saw at least 10 people in pajamas (see the You belong with me or We are never ever getting back together videos). Everyone was given wristbands when we got in, which then lit up during the concert in a multitude of colors depending on the song, or the beat. It was amazing to see. But first we got to see Vance Joy who sings the huge hit Riptide.
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After Vance Joy, Taylor finally came out and oh wow, it was just amazing. She won “Entertainer of the year” five years in a row at the country music awards and when you go see her in concert it’s so obvious why. She really goes the extra mile to make her concerts an amazing experience for everyone there. Before the show starts there were interviews with her, and fan videos and her own personal youtube videos which was fun, and during costume changes her closest friends had been interviewed and talked about her and her music and their friendships. Pretty great. She played almost all songs from the 1989 album and some of her older songs, but all remixed into something completely different. No more country for that girl… “We are never ever getting back together” even turned into a rock song!
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It was a truly great night, but I was pretty tired when it ended, luckily I got a taxi quickly and were back in my room in no time. When I woke up this morning I decided that I needed another rest day, so all I’ve done today is lie in bed, watch movies, eat snacks and Skype with my family. I’ve also ventured out to eat twice, I don’t think you can understand how amazing it feels to finally be able to eat and actually want to eat again.

Tomorrow I’ll get back on the bike, and head north towards Kentucky. I’ll try to do shorter days for a while now, no need to put so much pressure on myself anymore.

See you soon!