I'm a double cancer survivor, cyclist and walker who does various challenges for different charities, mainly cancer-related.

My latest trip was a three-week tour of Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton in September 2014: amongst other things I've cycled from Land's End to John o'Groats (2003), from Rotterdam to Lemvig in Denmark (2005), completed the ascent of all 214 'Wainwrights' in the Lake District in only 55 days (2009), cycled 4,500 miles around the coast of Great Britain (2011), cycled all 42 of the accessible Western Isles of Scotland in under a month (2012) and twice abseiled 230 ft from the top of The Big One in Blackpool.

Altogether I've raised over £60,000 for my charities including The Christie, Cancer Research UK, the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, and ABF (The Soldiers' Charity) and I was mightily chuffed to receive the British Empire Medal in the 2014 New Year's Honours List.

I give illustrated talks about my adventures in exchange for a donation to charity, so if you're looking for a speaker leave me a message.

You can also follow me on Twitter - @CancerBikeMan and on Facebook - just search for Bill Honeywell

Cancer Research UK is the world's leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research, whilst The Rosemere does fantastic work for patients in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 20/21

Thursday – Friday 24-25 September – Jackson,Wyoming to Manchester, UK  – 5,530 miles

No sooner had the alarm gone off than I heard the coach.  Good job everything was ready to go.  Bikes and all other bags in the coach and off we went, along with a surprising amount of traffic, all headed to the airport a few miles north of town.  Bike bags are the most ungainly things and very difficult to manoeuvre,  and mine was especially so in view of the amount of luggage I’d stashed away in it!

The automated check-in wasn’t really up to checking us in with all our gear, so eventually the one and only lady behind the desk came to ‘help’,  immediately declaring that all bikes were sporting goods so we would all be charged an extra $200.  Sighs all round.  When she got to mine she also informed me that it was overweight and would cost an extra $400!  So I set about emptying all the luggage that I’d squirreled into various corners and put it back into pannier no 2, until I got the weight back down below 50lb.

So, $200 lighter each, we all filed through security and grabbed a coffee and bun (no breakfast) before boarding the plane for Denver against the fine backdrop of dawn beginning to light up theTetons.  Well, not quite ‘we all’ as Jeff and Kathryn were to catch separate planes for Sydney and San Diego respectively.  Goodbyes were said, with promises to keep in touch and share photos.  Tony and Deborah, on the other side of the aisle, announced that a vehicle had arrived with our bike bags, the luggage operator had scratched his head, shrugged, and gone away again without loading them, so for the rest of the day we worried as to whether our precious cargoes were in fact sharing their journey with us.  It’s only 500 miles to Denver so it was a short flight.  The lady sitting next to me had her head completely covered by a blanket for the full one-hour duration of the flight, which I thought was a pretty strange thing to do!


Goodbye to Jackson and the Tetons

At Denver we all managed to grab a little breakfast before the next, rather longer flight to Washington Dulles airport, flying over miles and miles and miles of flat country divided into endless rectangular fields.  We had a longer wait at Washington (and time for something else to eat).  All our flights were with United Airlines – friendly enough but very basic.  First class is at the front, where the privileged passengers have leather seats, a bit more legroom, a curtain to separate them from the οί πολλοί and a separate toilet.  Hardly worth the bother, if you ask me.


Shoe-shine at Denver Airport


Miles and miles of prairie fields

As we set off for Manchester at 6 pm, we were looking forward to a 7-hour flight with the clock going forward 5 hours – so ETA at Manchester 6 am on the day after we set off.  It’s a long flight, but of course (so I’m told) nothing like as long as flying to Australia.  Being an overnight flight it was interesting seeing just how many people were fast asleep.


Interesting passenger on the seat in front of me!

Manchester arrived at last.  We had plenty of time as we waited for the luggage carousel – and worried as to whether our bikes would even appear – so goodbyes were said, and then to our relief and a little surprise, the bikes appeared, none the worse for their journey.  And so, after an hour’s taxi ride, I was back home.  Only one hour to go before my appointment with the dentist to repair that filling!!


Well I hope you’ve enjoyed this account of our epic Yellowstone Tour.  The Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, the John D Rockefeller Parkway, and the nearby areas of Wyoming and Montana are simply a spectacular part of the world, with their amazing geology, history, wildlife, and – last but not least – people.  If you get the chance to go, take it with both hands – you won’t regret it!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 19

Wednesday 24 September – Signal Mountain Lodge  to Jackson – 39.5 miles

The dawn view of the Teton mountains across Jackson Lake was quite, quite stunning.  After recovering from this amazing sight I once again went for the calorific option of blueberry pancakes, not quite managing to finish the two monsters I was served.  Signal Mountain Lodge had been a wonderful place to stay – cosy cabins, friendly staff, a fabulous setting (including the dining room) and a beautiful star-studded sky last night.


Simply knockout views


 Almost immediately after setting off, an obliging mule deer posed for photos as it fed among pine trees at the roadside, whilst later, at the Mount Moran turnout, six Pronghorn Antelopes were grazing in the sage brush.  The views continued to be spectacular, especially as the autumn colours were now advancing quickly.   Retracing our steps of two and a half weeks ago, past Jenny Lake and then on to the cycle path along the Grand Teton Highway, I began to think that if views were alcohol I’d be seriously inebriated by now!




One of many views of the Tetons


Pronghorn


Mount Moran




 At Jenny Lake there was an ‘overlook’ (viewpoint), where a man was taking a picture of his girlfriend.  I offered to take a photo of them both, and once I’d done this he asked to take my photo too.  Not being a big fan of being photographed, I answered
 “No thanks, I don’t really like my photo being taken.”
“Ugh?”
“It’s for security reasons.”
“Really?”
“Yes, UK Social Security...”


Jenny Lake



Autumn colours

By the way, there's a frequent sign on the cycle tracks which at first I thought was for the benefit of Chinese tourists - it reads XING HWY.  It took me a long time to realise it means 'Crossing Highway'! Numpty.


It's not Mandarin...

This is not a joke that your average American understands, which is understandable without a detailed knowledge of the UK benefits system!  (It WAS a joke, by the way.  The last benefit I claimed was unemployment for two weeks in 1971).



At Moose, engineers were working on resurfacing the cycle track (in the notes I’d mentioned to take the cycle track through a tunnel under the main road, then bear right, to which Andy replied “How do you know there’s going to be a bear on the right?.  Now, ironically, we couldn’t use the tunnel!).  While Helen decided to go to Dornan’s (where we’d called on the first day’s cycling) I decided to detour back to Mormon Row to try and get a better photo of the classic view of barns and the Tetons.  I don’t think I was very successful but after a 7-mile detour arrived back at Dorner’s whilst most people were still there.


Mormon Row

Sadly the next long section had to be on the shoulder of the main road, as the cycle track was closed for some miles for resurfacing.  I had to continue past the airport and over the Gros Ventre River before I could get back on it.  There were more stunning autumn colours here.


Gros Ventre River

No sign of elk as I cycled along the edge of the National Elk Refuge (nor the Sandhill Cranes seen by Kathryn a little earlier).  From the outskirts of Jackson I followed the cycle route through town back to our original starting point – the Rawhide Motel.  After retrieving all the bike bags, and giving the manager her living room back, it was a matter of disassembling the bikes and packing them.  This time I packed a full pannier’s worth of clothes in with the bike in an attempt to save the $100 excess baggage charge I’d had to pay on the way out (this was to prove a BIG mistake!!).



Then a quick shopping expedition (more ear-rings, a new wallet and an ice-cream).  The wallet was priced at $49.50 but with sales tax came to $51.48.  Haggling, as usual, I offered $50.00 cash and was rebuffed with “You’re in Jackson, not Morocco, sir!”  $51.48 it was then.  We all went out for a final evening meal together, and found there was a quiz in the restaurant/bar.  Much too biased towards the US, but managed to win a couple of spot prizes – one of which was for my answer to the question “What is the largest dolphin in the world?”  No other team knew the answer.  In an attempt to gain some ground, I wrote “The Killer Whale or Grampus, Orcinus orca”.  The question master, in his wonderful western drawl, said “The guy hasn’t just got the right answer, he’s written it in Latin!!”


Look at the pedestrian-conscience bonnet mascot!


'Fun' Quiz?


Then an early night – tomorrow we’re getting picked up at 5.00 am for our ride to the airport and a 16-hour flight home.  Not before problems at the airport – details in the last episode tomorrow!

Total, final mileage 777.0 miles (1,258 km)
Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 18

Tuesday 23 September – Lake Village to Signal Mountain Lodge – 71.8 miles

After last night’s self-service dinner came this morning’s self-service breakfast – not that bad actually, with French Toast (available in every American restaurant for breakfast, apparently) but perhaps not always accompanied by strawberry sauce (I thought I’d try it - it was pretty good!) and oatmeal (aka porridge) with banana.

As we left, Tony, Deborah, Shirley and Joy were lucky enough to spot a lone wolf, between our cabins and the lake.  We saw them just afterwards and kept close to the shore, hoping to catch another glimpse, without success of course, although we did have a close encounter with a couple of bison.  Further along the road another bison held up the traffic as it slowly ambled along, seemingly oblivious to the outside world.  Not for the first time, my technique was to place another vehicle between me and the bison for safety:  drivers seemed to quickly understand what I was doing, and cooperate.


Yellowstone Lake near Gull Point

Joy and I then took the loop road to Gull Point, a worthwhile detour with beautiful early morning views across the lake, where there were Canada Geese, Goldeneye and American Coots.  I looked towards the sound of some splashing near the shore and saw that an unfortunate Lark Sparrow (I think) had somehow fallen in the water and was struggling to get out.  With every splash it got nearer to the shore and was eventually able to haul itself out.



Goldeneye Ducks



A lucky Lark Sparrow - it shouldn't be in there!

A quick-ish run along the side of Lake Yellowstone took us to the West Thumb Geyser Basin – after just missing a fine bull elk (again! people were getting back into their cars as we got there).  I caught Jeff and we to the next turn into Grant Village, hoping to find someone for an early brew stop.  Much of the place was now shut down – things happen quickly at the end of the season, and like the General Stores at Lake Village, places that were open two weeks ago were now closed.  But we did eventually track down Helen and Joy at the store by the service station: they were sharing a massive cinnamon pastry, and I took the chance to buy some more provisions for lunch.


Thanks to Andy for this photo of the elk I just missed

Soon after setting off, we spotted a squirrel right by the side of the road and stopped to take a few photos.  Passing motorists also stopped, each time asking “What are you looking at?” – no doubt hoping to see a bear or elk.  When we replied “A squirrel” they were definitely underwhelmed!



A very cute squirrel

The next section was hard work – a climb to the Continental Divide, then undulating roads past Lewis Lake and Lewis Falls, after which I stopped to eat my Grant Village sandwich.  After what seemed like too many flat miles, I could finally enjoy the long descent to the South Entrance gate, where I met up with Andy and Jeff again.


Lewis Lake


Ravine on the Snake River near Moose Falls


Goodbye to Yellowstone - the South Entrance (exit!)

Passing Flagg Ranch, Joy was just coming back out on to the road and told me that a few others were still there, but I decided to carry on, to be faced with another long steady climb.  The skies had now cleared so finally I could get rid of a few layers of clothing and my full finger gloves.  Two cyclists, a few miles apart, passed in the opposite direction, fully loaded with panniers and apparently on a trans-continental odyssey.  The road entered the Grand Teton National Park at the top of the climb, and I put a jacket back on for the next long descent.

At the bottom, Jackson Lake appeared:  I stopped to take a photo of the lovely fall colours and as I set off a Downy Woodpecker flew on to a tree just to my right.  Soon afterwards, looking down to the right I was amazed to see a massive bull moose wading knee high.  As I watched him, he waded out into deeper water and then began to swim, parallel to the shore.  I continued to watch him, as various cars stopped to watch too, until he re-emerged on to the shore and walked off, dripping, into the woods.  Amazing!  Lucky timing is everything, I thought, pleased with myself for not stopping earlier at Flagg Ranch!


Series of photos - moose gives a swimming lesson






Feeling strong now, I pressed on past Colter Village, looking all the time for bears, elk, anything, without success.  Just before the Jackson Dam I caught Andy, who was taking a photo of some pony trekkers, then stopped at the dam to watch a pair of Horned (Slavonian) Grebes.  After over 70 miles I arrived at Signal Mountain Lodge at around 4.00 pm.  A lovely place to stay, on the shore of Jackson Lake with wonderful rustic cabins.  There were signs warning us NOT to leave out any food in case it attracted bears, but I was thinking “Well, we haven’t seen any bears yet” and was tempted to disobey, but thought better of it.


^ Beautiful Fall colours - what a difference a fortnight makes! >



 ^ Looking over Jackson Lake to the Teton Mountains >



^ Sunset from Signal Mountain Lodge >


The best beer on offer that evening was the wonderfully-named Dirty Blonde.  And now we only had one short day left before we returned to Jackson.


Total Mileage 737.5

Monday, 20 October 2014

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 17

Monday 22 September –West Yellowstone to Lake Village – 59.2 miles

As we arrived at the Running Bear Pancake House for breakfast (after our now customary early start!), another large group turned up.  Richard was on the ball and got inside first so we didn’t have to queue, and got served first – we wanted to be away quickly as today was yet another longish day.  Two enormous pancakes (buckwheat this time) with fruit, maple syrup and boysenberry syrup were enough for me.


Entrance to the National Park just outside West Yellowstone

It was another cold morning.  Our first stop, just outside town, was the West entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  I produced our annual passes and to my surprise the ranger wanted to see my ID!  Luckily I had my passport handy.   Once through, I turned around to take a photo and the bike decided to twist and fall over.  A fully loaded touring bike isn’t light, so it took an  effort to get it vertical again, by which time everyone had disappeared.  After four or five miles there was a loop road to the left (Riverside Drive) which took us off the busy main road and led alongside the Madison River.


Madison River, Riverside Drive

Once back on the main road, the cold weather was producing ribbons of mist on the hills and the river, which looked very atmospheric.  I don’t know whether the river water is still warm from all the hot water which pours into it several miles upstream at Excelsior Pool.  When we arrived at Madison Junction we were back where we had been almost two weeks ago, and we repeated our original route up past Terrace Springs (dozens of Japanese tourists with cameras on tripods) and Gibbon Falls.  Soon after the falls I heard a familiar-sounding bird call from the river and turned just in time to see an American Dipper flying downstream.  It was about the same size as its European cousin, but a uniform slate-grey colour.


Madison River


Canada Geese at Gibbon Meadows

When we reached Norris Hot Springs this time, we (Jeff and I) turned off to look at the hottest geyser basin in Yellowstone.  Porcelain Basin (it sounds like a bathroom fitting) is quite spectacular with turquoise pools and several steaming vents.  As we were returning to where we’d left the bikes, we wondered why so many tourists were taking an interest in them – and then found that they were watching a Raven which had opened Jeff’s saddlebag to get at the biscuits inside.  Everyone except Jeff was very amused!



^ Porcelain Basin, Norris Springs >



We carried on along the now-familiar Virginia Cascades route and this time Jeff managed not to fall of his bike.  It had taken some time to find out what was causing his chain to jam, but eventually he found a cycle shop in Bozeman a few days ago who fixed it by re-spacing his chain rings, so now he could pedal in the granny gear with no worries.  After the long climb to over 2,500 m above sea level came an exhilarating descent towards Canyon Village.

As the road got steeper and started to leave the heavily wooded area, a movement on the right caught my eye.  I looked across and saw a BIG bird flying into a tree.  I hit the brakes hard and left two black lines on the road as I stopped, then looked back to see...  a huge Great Grey Owl perched on a branch next to a tree trunk.  It even stayed stilled and looked right at me while I got out the camera and took a picture.  A magic moment, and the best bird of the tour.  Five seconds earlier or later and I would never have seen it.


Great Grey Owl -wow!

I arrived at Canyon grinning from ear to ear, bought some lunch from the general store and ate it with Joy, Andy and Jeff outside while tourists admired (and chatted with us about) the bikes.  As i set off, a shower wetted me, but not too badly.  There were a few Bison about but otherwise not much, although I had high hopes that the Hayden Valley might produce something really noteworthy like a bear.  I passed Joy who was stopped overlooking the river, not realising that out of my sight were Trumpeter and Whistling Swans.  An obliging Snipe partly made up for this.


Hayden Valley Panorama

But my wildlife hopes were to be unfulfilled –several times I came across tourists gazing across the nearby countryside, and stopped to see what they were looking at, but on every occasion it was either nothing or another distant Bison.  No bears.  Tony and Madeleine, much later in the day, became the only tour members to see one when they spotted a distant Grizzly along this section much later in the day.

Arriving at Lake Village I stopped at the Hotel, assuming (correctly) that there would be others at the Deli.  At the counter I asked for a banana and a carton of milk.
“Yogurt?”
“No, milk, please.”
“Do we have that?”
“Yes, it’s there.”
“Where?”
“THERE!”
“Oh yes.  That’ll be $3.65.”
“Could I have something to drink the milk out of?”
“Would you like a bag?”
“I’d rather have a cup to be honest.”
Not the sharpest knife in the box, as they say!

We finally checked in at the Lodge, which is a fine building, but the cabins don’t even have a proper footpath leading to the door.  Deborah’s bike needed fixing – the gear cable was completely knackered, but Richard got it fixed with a minimal amount of assistance from me and Tony.


^ Lake Lodge >



We enjoyed another clear sky after dinner, then off to bed for a good night’s sleep before the last long day of the tour, and one which would bring another special wildlife moment and some more great photos...


Total mileage 665.7