Written by Jen Offord

Health

Burn in the USA

Standard Issue’s former couch potato turned sportsaholic Jen Offord has taken her bike Beyoncé on a crackers 2,500-mile ride across the USA. This week she’s travelling solo and having to come over a bit Taylor Swift.

Jen on her bikeMy adventure continues, but now I’m a solo traveller, as Sophie is back in the UK.

In some ways, I’ve enjoyed being on my own, I am an irresponsible fuckwit after all, and it’s nice not having to worry about how shite a time you might be inflicting on one of your pals.

I was kind of worried it was the worst holiday Sophie had ever had, but I remind myself it’s not a ‘holiday’. Well, not really. I mean it’s kind of a holiday right now, sitting in a hostel in Nashville, nursing another hangover. And it was kind of a holiday last week when I went to Dollywood (a truly surreal experience. I always knew me and Dolly Parton were kindred spirits – there’s a falconry area, for fuck’s sake). But mostly, it’s just bloody hard work, pedalling alone (360 miles last week and almost 1500 miles in total, now) across this enormous land mass, through some beautiful but also some pretty bleak and desolate places.

Jen in front of the Dollywood signWhat a confusing contradictory place this is. Americans will do quite literally anything to help a stranger. I’ve had meals cooked for me, beds given to me, free healthcare provided to me after I took a bit of a tumble, but there’s something of a disconnect when it comes to the help you might expect as a fellow-American. I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me – don’t get me wrong; I’m incredibly grateful for the kindness of these strangers.

“I am constantly warned that Texas is very far away and that Texas is very hot, as if I might not have considered these things.”

Speaking of which, the constant assertions that I’ll most likely be killed by poor people in Louisiana or Mississippi have started to grow tedious. “Aren’t you’re worried you’ll be bumped off?” asks an Australian woman in my hostel.

Off my bike? “No, I mean killed. They’re desperate people, you know.”

'Hill' road signBut younger Americans tell me the politics of fear are rife in this part of the world. I am constantly warned that Texas is very far away and that Texas is very hot etc etc, as if I might not have considered these things. This is very much a mental challenge as well as physical, and there’s a lot of negativity I’m having to shake off, Taylor Swift style.

Fortunately, however, I’ve also met more amazing people on my travels: mega-cyclists Jerald and Debra; another cycling Jen who gave me her water bottle because it was better than mine; Christy, a boxer turned teacher who campaigns against domestic violence; a bunch of Mancunian caners who got me drunk and fed me toast; and Sue, who found me bleeding on the side of the road and is now taking me square dancing. Oh and the man who wrote The Promise by Girls Aloud – I almost peed my pants with excitement.

http://inspireajen.com
@inspireajen

Not sure why Jen’s doing this? Find out more here.

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Written by Jen Offord

Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen

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