Day 165…

With over 21,000 miles travelled, we have completed our virtual round the world challenge!!! SO many people joined us along the way, some for just the odd walk or cycle, some for a month or two and some people have been with the challenge the whole way! I really hope you have enjoyed this bit of light relief from the lockdown on all travelling that we have had to endure for so long. Maybe take a bit of time to go back and see the countries we have enjoyed visiting so much.

Our journey across the USA took in some outstanding places. Reluctantly leaving the gorgeous city of San Francisco, we headed almost due east crossing the Sequoia National Park, Death Valley National Park to Las Vegas. The contrast between the natural beauty of the national parks – one of the sequoias measured 31 metres around its base by 83 metres tall (!!!!!) – and the glitzy presence that is Las Vegas was quite incredible! You can choose – hug a tree or party and gamble the night away…actually, of course, you don’t HAVE to choose, on this adventure, you can do ANYTHING!

Could anything take our breath away more than those giant sequoias….? YUP! Bring on the Grand Canyon….. *sigh….* It’s amazing, it seems there are no words to justify describing its magnificence and yet no photos do justice to it either. It is a conundrum!!!

Heading again, pretty much due east, we travelled through Albuquerque (the hot air ballooning capital of the world) on to Amarillo. We asked quite a few people en route if we were on the right road…. “Is This The Way To Amarillo…?” and of course sang the song and LAUGHED to ourselves!!!!

Those old cadillacs buried nose down in a farmer’s field in Amarillo pay homage to the famous Route 66 that passes through Amarillo – you can actually add your own bit of graffitti to the cars! There is lots to do in this town which is vaguely in the middle of the enormous continent of North America!

STILL heading east we passed through Oklahoma (looking in at one of the world’s largest livestock markets) on through the Ozark National Forest. The Ozark region is known for an abundance of sparkling springs, waterfalls, lakes, caves and caverns – it was so refreshing! We couldn’t miss stopping in at Arkansas (remember to pronounce it AR-CAN-SAW!!) and nodding to former US President Bill Clinton! We crossed the GREAT Mississippi River at Memphis – did you know that river is 2,320 miles long!!! Memphis – the home of the blues – great music, great food and you HAVE to see the ducks at the Peabody Hotel….On to Nashville, Tennessee – the home of country music and the state in which Dolly Parton was born! It’s so funny to see signs to familiar English places…Birmingham (pronounced Bir-ming-HAM) and Oxford jumped out to us!

From Nashville we took a slight north-easterly route through the stunning Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia – The town of Harpers Ferry, where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River, is the site of a famous Civil War–era raid. Surrounded by a national historical park, the town looks as it did in the 19th century, with many of the buildings open to the public as living-history museums. There is much Civil War history in the whole of West Virginia and just so much to see and do and take in! There is visual over-load!!!

We had to call in to Washington DC…Capitol Hill, The Smithsonian, the Washington Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, the tomb of the unknown soldier….so many iconic landmarks!

IMHO – there is no city like New York and our virtual journey round the world included a visit there. On the East Coast of America, it hustles and bustles 24/7. How can you list what to see and do…you HAVE to go up a tall building – maybe the Rock? You have to visit the scene of 9/11 and experience the unbelievable tranquility that has been created in a place that was ripped apart so brutally. You have to go to Central Park. You must visit the museums; take in a concert at Carnegie Hall; go to the opera at Lincoln Center; of course the Statue of Liberty beckons; take the A-train up to the top of Manhattan and view the George Washington Bridge from Fort Tryon Park…we didn’t touch the surface as we passed through on our way up to Nova Scotia!!!!

With THE greatest reluctance, we left New York, heading up through the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. On into Canada, we took a short ferry journey from Prince Edward Island to Newfoundland. Original home of the huge shaggy dogs, it is understandable that they have such thick coats given the mass extreme of cold that can be experienced in the region!

Truly on the homeward stretch now….and thankful that it is “double miles fortnight” as we journey back out over the water to Ireland. Time and miles pass quickly, thanks to all the people on our route! We reach the west coast of Ireland at the charming town of Galway. It all suddenly feels incredibly “British” and even though we have a few hundred miles to travel still, it is a great feeling of homecoming! We travel straight across Ireland to Dublin where we jump on another boat to Holyhead…through Snowdonia in Wales, down through Shropshire, Worcester, Oxford the M25 (!!!!!) and then Kent welcomes us with open arms. 165 days of travelling done. THANK YOU everyone who took part – it has been awesome to travel with you. As the final part of lockdown lifts, please travel safely wherever you go and if any of our virtual journey has inspired you to travel somewhere new – do let us know!