Tuesday 11 September 2012
Interview: Cycling across the USA for ShelterBox
"When I meet people, I am constantly talking about the good work ShelterBox does and it serves a daily reminder of why I decided to do this ride and also why I need to keep going." -Richard Boxhall
Richard Boxhall is more than 1,650 miles into a 5,000-mile adventure cycling from one side of the USA to the other for ShelterBox. After setting off from Neah Bay in the far northwest of the country, Richard is cycling solo and unsupported all of the way to Miami Beach in Florida. His aim is to raise enough money to fund 10 ShelterBoxes that will provide families displaced by disasters with shelter, warmth and dignity.
ShelterBox had a chat with Richard about his experiences so far, traveling through forests, mountains and deserts.
SB: Where are you now?
I have just arrived in West Yellowstone, Montana. I should spend the next two days cycling through Yellowstone National Park. I have allowed a bit of time to see the geyser ‘Old Faithful’ as a treat. I am now firmly in bear land, all food has to be locked away at night and the campsite warden just told me that it’s about this time of year the bears get hungry and start coming into town looking for food/cyclists to eat.
SB: How did you get into cycling?
I got into cycle touring when a friend and I decided to conquer the UK by cycling Land’s End to John O’Groats in 2008. I was quite a novice back in those days and looking back, I made some quite poor decisions on things like kit and provisions. But these learning experiences have helped equip me for the challenges I am facing in the USA. Due to some of the desolate landscape I am cycling, I need to be prepared for virtually all eventualities.
SB: What have been the highlights so far?
The people have definitely been the highlight. I am only one third of the way through my trip and I have met so many kind, friendly and generous people. Most conversations start out with the obvious question ‘where you cycling?’ followed by ‘boy, are you crazy?’, but everyone I have spoken to has been interested in my trip and a great many have offered help along the way.
The scenery has also been fantastic, especially in Oregon, where the landscape changed on a daily basis from seaside to forest, to mountain, to desert, to canyon and back to forest.
SB: Are there any problems that you have had to overcome?
‘Knock on wood,’ I have not had a single mechanical issue to overcome with the bike.
The one major problem I have had to deal with has been the cold. I expected temperatures to plummet a little when I was cycling at altitude, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how cold it would get at night (-4C). My plan was to purchase some warmer gear over here, which I have done, but I was not expecting to be climbing on my bike with no feeling in my fingers and toes some mornings. The good news is that as I head south and reach lower altitudes, things should heat up a little (25C most days). I’ll probably then start moaning about the heat…
SB: So far you have been cycling for 27 days and have covered over 1,650 miles. What is it that inspires you to keep going each day?
I have been approaching this trip one day at a time. Even now I am a good way into my journey, the thought of not seeing loved ones for another eight weeks is quite a negative thing to focus on so I don’t really think about finishing the journey or what I am going to do when I finish.
When I meet people, I am constantly talking about the good work ShelterBox does and it serves a daily reminder of why I decided to do this ride and also why I need to keep going. So many people have generously sponsored me to date that if I stopped now I would feel like I had let people down, and barring a disaster or an angry bear, I will not let that happen.
SB: What are you looking forward to most about the remainder of your adventure?
I can’t wait to explore the deep south of America. The people, the food and the culture.
Although I am loving every minute of this trip, I am also looking forward to the day when my day doesn’t start with packing up all my belongings into four little bags, which takes around 30-40 minutes most days, in freezing cold temperatures.