Stranded in the middle of the scorching Mojave desert with a broken bike is the biggest fear facing Chris Bloomfield on his 3,500 cycle ride across the United States.
It’s all about numbers for the insurance consultant looking to get his kicks on the historic Route 66. He has planned his adventure to ride 66 miles a day in 66 days, accepts it will be a lonely ride, but hopes the welcoming arms of American hospitality with embrace him when his body needs a bath and a rest.
It’s a tall order for a man who will be self-sufficient all the way on Route 66 from New York to Los Angeles, passing through landmark states and cities written about in songs and featured in movies such as St Louis, Oklahoma, Amarillo and Las Vegas.
Death Valley, named by the prospectors who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields during the California Gold Rush, poses its own challenges, but the isolation is not lost on him. The vulnerability and loneliness felt by his grandfather who suffered with Alzheimer’s and died last August, will be something Chris hopes to understand with his own sense of helplessness.
“I am trying to emulate his vulnerability by riding through some pretty inhospitable places. This is self-inflicted for me but my grandfather did not have that choice so my riding experience will give me a chance to depend on other people to reach my end goal. It will also give me a sense of realising how vulnerable one can be when out of familiar surroundings.
“As my grandfather’s condition worsened, he was less able to take care himself. It was a desperately sad experience. By being totally out of my comfort zone, perhaps I will get a glimpse of what he went through,” Chris says.
“I have seen the draining effect this illness can have on the individual, but more so on the family. I want the money raised from the ride to help families seek the advice and support they need, and also help Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital which has been a part of my family’s life for 40 years.”
To celebrate the life of his beloved grandfather, who was a brilliant painter and decorator, Chris, 26, has built a brick wall on his website to attract corporate sponsorship where donations are displayed with the company logo which clicks through to their own website.
Chris, encouraged by his mum to ride as a youngster, admits his early training programme had no “structure” but a cycling test with Britain’s multi cross-country mountain bike champion Oli Beckingsale and a training plan drawn up by Team GB cycling coach Pete Mitchell has put him on the right track with 14 hours training a week complemented with steep climbs in the Mendips/Cotswolds. This will increase to 30 hours as the September trip draws closer. “Plenty of scope to take out shares with a company which makes talcum powder,” he joked.
Heat is a major concern for Chris who will be pulling a trailer in excess of 30kg which will include at least five litres of water a day, vast amounts of nuts, dried fruit and other foods to give him a constant supply of energy, along with a full maintenance and camping kit.
“I am certainly a novice when it comes to repairing problems! I can repair punctures and simple things so I hope I don’t have any major issues. The bike will have to be pretty robust so I will be selling my Trek Madone 5.2 road bike and that will help fund some of the trip,” he explained.
The money needed has been raised in a variety of ways from waxing his legs, designing t-shirts, to cycling 6hours and 6minutes on a static bike.
“There is a huge adventurer within me, so to travel like this and be sure I experience as much as possible about the country and its people is really exciting. I hope to stay with as many different families in America as possible, understand their culture, how different communities work and live. I will camp as well, so again I will be relying on good fortune and not to have too many problems while on my own, and keeping an eye open for storms and hurricane warnings.
“Just to see things and achieve a target is driving me to complete the task. It’s not a glorified holiday as the majority of people would not even attempt this. I have never done a charity event on this scale but it has given me a project to work on and I aim to be successful.
“The nightmare situation for me would be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a bike problem that I can’t fix. I am also more worried about not reaching the target than I am about the cycling.”
Two members of Chris’s family have been treated at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and he wants to give something back, making them his second charity. “When I see the children and their hunger for life, I am so inspired to give something back. A challenge of this magnitude is well worthy of raising the awareness of their work.”
Growing up in Colchester and Essex, Chris has always been a keen road cyclist. He is taking unpaid time off work from his job with Direct Line in Bristol, funding the trip himself, including his flight, so every penny can go to the charities.
“I have dropped a note to Richard Branson as he has a streak of the adventurer in him. Be nice if he was able to help with the flight, but for me to be able to give something back to others is really important. It would be so satisfying and lovely to see under-privileged children and the elderly get the help they deserve.”
You can visit Chris’s website for more information: www.justdoitforcharity.com