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.

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

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 16

Sunday 21 September –Ennis to West Yellowstone – 72.3 miles

Thinking, with good cause, that today would be tough – the second toughest of the Tour – we rose at 5.30 and left the motel in total darkness with lights on, heading for the nearby Ennis Cafe.  This time I went for the waffles with strawberries and shaving foam.  At 6.55 I set off, just as it was coming light, and it was COLD!  Soon my fingers were in pain (I get Raynaud’s, which leaves my digits looking like they belong in a morgue) but the dawn was pretty spectacular and there were plenty of Mule Deer and Hawks around.  Unfortunately the range of hills to the east prevented the sun from breaking through the skyline, so the cold continued for longer than I would have liked – it was after 8.00 before I got any direct sunlight.



Dawn outside Ennis

Early morning is always good for wildlife, which today included Meadowlarks, Pronghorn and a Golden Eagle which flew across the road between me and Helen, who was only 50 yards in front!  One or two pickups gave us a blast on the horn which didn’t sound all that friendly, and later we found that Richard had a contretemps with one, the driver thinking that the roads should be reserved exclusively for motor vehicles.



Pronghorn Antelope in the early morning

In places the road was straight for mile after mile (the longest straight was 12 miles!), rising at a steady 1% gradient, and with a moderate headwind too there was no let up from pedalling at all.  After 25 miles we were back with the Madison River.  We were tempted by a junction on the right which led shortly to Idaho, but as we weren’t ‘bagging states’ we carried on towards Earthquake Lake and Wyoming.


The long and not-at-all winding road 


Another bear!!



How to disguise a telephone mast

The road began to climb more steeply and the river became a fast running series of rapids.  At one point there was a massive tree trunk sticking up out of the river bed and I couldn’t imagine how it could have grown there.  Presumably the river must have changed course.  Sadly, the Earthquake Lake Visitor Centre was closed – the building’s design looked interesting from outside.


^ Earthquake Lake Visitor Centre >



Quake Lake

Earthquake Lake was formed when the biggest earthquake in the Rocky Mountains in recorded history – 7.5 on the Richter Scale – hit this area in 1959.  A huge landslide dammed the Madison River a few miles from where it left Hebgen Lake, and formed ‘Quake Lake.  As you cycle alongside the ‘new’ lake there are still hundreds of dead trees to be seen, which now date back over 55 years.  I couldn’t work out why the tops had been cut off so many.

I dropped behind the few riders who were in front, who then turned off for a small cafe/restaurant, leaving me as an unwitting Billy-no-mates for most of the rest of the day.  I contented myself with the odd bite out of yesterday’s turkey sandwich, and also had a look at some more evidence of the 1959 earthquake at Cabin Creek Scarp, though it wasn’t too impressive.


The bike having a rest at Hebgen Lake

The sun was strong now but there was still no let-up from pedalling as I carried on alongside Hebgen Lake, but the headwind had subsided and the road was pretty level, so progress was quite good up to the last junction where I turned right for West Yellowstone.  I dropped behind the few riders who were in front, who then turned off for a small cafe/restaurant, leaving me as an unwitting Billy-no-mates for most of the rest of the day.  I contented myself with the odd bite out of yesterday’s turkey sandwich, and also had a look at some more evidence of the 1959 earthquake at Cabin Creek Scarp, though it wasn’t too impressive.


The sun was strong now but there was still no let-up from pedalling as I carried on alongside Hebgen Lakel the headwind had subsided and the road was pretty level, so progress was quite good up to the last junction where I turned right for West Yellowstone. This was a much busier road:  at least it was only five or six miles before West Yellowstone was reached, with its friendly One-Horse Motel.  For once I was the first there, but everyone else arrived fairly quickly after me.


Grandpa's transport of the future, West Yellowstone

Tomorrow's route will be West Yellowstone to Lake Village, covering some ground we've been on before but with some exciting wildlife.

Total mileage 606.5

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 15

Saturday 20 September –Bozeman to Ennis – 52.5 miles

Breakfast at the Lewis & Clark Motel is nothing if not simple, so I took Kathryn’s advice and went to the Bagel shop store.  I’ve never had a bagel before, but she said they were a favourite of her husband’s so it seemed a good idea to try one.  I found the experience to be rather like a friendly Spanish Inquisition:  having decided on ‘The Works’, I was bombarded with questions like “What kind of bagel?”, “What filling?” “Hot or cold?” “Eat in or to go?” and lots more.  I got a strawberry-flavoured cream cheese filling to go, a bargain at $2.50, and left the store with my head still spinning.


Had me fooled for a moment...

After a photoshoot for the benefit of Hewitt Cycles (Tony, Deborah and I all had Hewitt Cheviot touring bikes which are superb) we all set off at a cracking pace behind our leader Richard, so that after 6 or 7 miles we’d averaged over 15 mph and dropped one or two!  The commercial outskirts of Bozeman go on and on and on, but finally we left the town heading uphil, passing the golf course (and a dead Mule Deer) and into open agricultural country.


The Hewitt cyclists - Tony, me, Deborah




At around 12 – 14 miles we reached the Madison River, where lots of anglers use big canoe-type boats to fish from.  A group of White Pelicans seemed unperturbed by the fishermen nearby, and a Great Blue Heron flew effortlessly over the river to disappear into the reeds.  The scenery was very dramatic as the road climbed and then left the river.  My Garmin showed a left turn but it was a dirt track and I decided to continue straight on, which was the right decision as otherwise I’d have missed out Norris, where there would be something to eat.  (Not to be confused with Norris Springs inside Yellowstone National Park, even though to add to the confusion there are some hot springs near this Norris too.  They were closed for the season though.)


Fishermen on the Madison River


What a wonderful bird is the Pelican...



We all regrouped for a brief moment at the petrol gas station in Norris for coffee and snacks.  Having felt for a while that my saddle was a bit low, I stopped to raise it by a centimetre or so. Everyone else set off and left me! Harumph!  The road was straight and rose gently for a while, then kicked up into a really big climb, with signs advising the fitting of snow chains (which I ignored).  After eventually arriving at the top, there followed an equally long descent to the floor of the Madison Valley.


What on Earth is an 'Organic Theatre'?



Two great signs on the outskirts of Ennis



So after a fairly easy ride, I arrived at the Motel on the outskirts of Ennis a few minutes after 2.00 pm.  Unusually, compared to all our other overnight stops, the owner seemed a bit, should I say, grumpy.  He told me that the others had arrived ten minutes ago, too early to check in, so they’d gone into the town to find a cafe.  They weren’t difficult to find, Ennis being another very small town.  Also in town on the same day as us were a Japanese cyclist – carrying more luggage than I’ve ever seen on one bike – who was taking two or three years to ride from Canada to Argentina, and an Englishman called Luke who was cycling coast-to-coast from New York to Seattle.  Some coincidence!  They found a space to camp behind Willie’s Whiskey Distillery, where there was a mini music festival going on.


Ennis, Montana


More intrepid cyclists



Seeking somewhere a little quieter, we had our evening meal at the town Bowling Alley – you’d think it would be noisy, but next to the alley itself was the most genteel of restaurants with wood panelling, soft lighting, and generally an excellent restaurant atmosphere.  As we walked back to the motel the stars were absolutely amazing – in a clear sky with no light pollution the Milky Way was crystal clear.

Tomorrow we had another longish day planned, heading for West Yellowstone past Earthquake Lake and Hebgen Lake.  I’ll tell you about the 1959 earthquake that created the lake in the next instalment.


Total mileage 534.2

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 14

Friday 19 September –Rest day in Bozeman

Yesterday was decision day for Scotland – the Referendum.  I was surprised how many Americans knew about it and seemed genuinely interested, and without exception they thought it would be a bad idea for Scotland to go it alone.  Being seven hours behind the UK, my bedtime in Bozeman was breakfast time at home, so I was able to wait for the result before I turned in.

In the morning, Richard, Tony, Deborah and I headed for Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies, on the edge of town and a longer walk than I expected, through a largely residential area with some rather nice houses including what appeared to be the mansion of the Story family, not now lived in but perhaps maintained as a museum.  Or shrine, I’m not sure!


The rather nice Story Mansion

The museum itself is impressive, with much of the space devoted to dinosaurs, because Montana is dinosaur-fossil heaven.  Much of it one already knows by keeping up with news of discoveries, but as always one learns something new every day (hopefully) and today it was the fact that dinosaurs DIDN’T DRAG THEIR TAILS.  In the Planetarium there was a good piece about theAntarctic Ice Cube neutrino detector.  The Ice Cube is one cubic kilometre of ice (that’s be almost a billion tons), and six billion neutrinos pass through my head at almost the speed of light every second?  No wonder I need those aspirins!


Bozeman's Museum of the Rockies


Triceratops

At the side of the museum there’s a reconstruction of an early pioneer’s farmhouse – or perhaps it’s the original farmhouse that’s remained on site, I’m not sure, and on hand to discuss things are a few local enthusiasts in period costume.  It wasn’t quite like going on to the set of Downton, but I’m sure you get the picture.  I got chatting with Chuck Broughton who was keen to tell me about his recent holiday in Great Britain and a very bad (and equally old) golf joke.  I don’t know why people keep telling me golf jokes – I don’t play!  There was a working blacksmith's forge here too.


Pioneer's Farmhouse


and presumably the working forge...


...made this, from chain links

After sauntering back through the University Campus, I wandered around the town centre for a while.  I bought Val some nice earrings (good presents, earrings, because they don’t weigh you down on the bike!), had a Huckleberry-flavour ice cream (ridiculously good value at $2.25 (£1.40) – enough to feed a family of four), and visited the Emerson Gallery arts centre.



Your investments can go down as well as up. (And end up back where you started)


Emerson Gallery art


Bozeman bike shop art


A selfie taken by a Huckleberry ice cream


Who says the Americans don't have a sense of humour (it's all in the small print)

And it was to the Emerson Gallery that we returned for dinner in the evening – which turned out to be a good idea, with a very homespun, convivial and uncommercial atmosphere.  The only trouble was, we all ordered pizzas, not realising they only had a small oven, so for some of us this meant quite a wait.  But Andy was on form, telling jokes that were even older and less funny than Chuck Broughton’s.  Some were so not funny, they were hilarious.  But you had to be there.


That was the last rest day.  Only five more days (and almost 300 miles) to go.  Tomorrow we cycle SW to Ennis, Montana, prior to our last ‘circuit’ through Yellowstone National Park.  I hope you’re enjoying this – feel free to join the blog site (have a look in the left hand column somewhere), share with others, or leave a comment.  (All comments are moderated so it may take a day or so for them to appear).  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Cycle Tour, September 2014. Day 13

Thursday 18 September –Livingston to Bozeman – 34.2 miles

Rain! I woke to dark grey skies and heavy rain, which came as a bit of a shock after all the fabulous sunny weather we’d been enjoying.  Just like yesterday in the Mexican Restaurant in Gardiner, the restaurant waitress apologised for the slow service, as she was on her own.  The only difference his time was that she knew what she was doing and did everything ten times faster than her counterpart.  I didn’t notice any hold-up at all.  I began to realise that I wasn’t eating much fruit and veg.  My diet had lots of meat in it – mainly chicken, plus fries, bread and so on.  But in an effort to redress the balance the best I could manage for breakfast was three blueberry pancakes, liberally doused with maple syrup and boysen syrup (I’ve never heard of this before.  There’s the taste of Benylin in there somewhere!

Setting off in the rain we headed first for Livingston town centre, following the railway tracks as our objective was the Depot Center, built in 1902 and designed by the same architects as New York’s Grand Central (Minnesota's wonderfully named Reed and Stem).  Now closed, the building is certainly impressive, and has now been converted to a museum.  However, while we were there a huge goods train arrived, pulled by THREE locomotives, an indication of both the size of the train and the gradients involved in these parts.


The Depot Centre, Livingston former railway station.


The front one of three locomotives - some pulling power!

There was a deli across the road where we stocked up on food for the day (even though it was a short hop to Bozeman), then headed out of town and on to the old road which runs parallel to the busy 2-lane freeway.  The road climbed steadily for several miles, with various items of interest to attract one’s attention including a dead Prairie Rattlesnake (I think it was dead – we poked it a few times so if it wasn’t dead it must have been a very sound sleeper); a dead Garter Snake; and a dead Coyote.  It wasn’t all road-kill, mind you – there were also American Robins, Ravens, Hawks, and lots of horses which appeared to live in an abandoned railway carriage.


Horses and Carriage


I'm fairly sure this Prairie Rattlesnake was dead...

The climb was at just the right gradient for me (2% - 5%) and I made good progress before descending at high speed to the Grizzly Bear Experience.  The rain had now stopped and some blue patches of sky were emerging, as we stopped for a look at the bears.  Reduced rate for seniors – how old is a Senior? – 62! – Perfect!  That’ll be $6.00 then.  The two 8-year old Grizzlies seemed reasonably content in their large, open enclosure, separated from visitors (aka breakfast) by a moat which was very deep and wide.  Distractions included another 3-header train going by, some very pretty Brewer’s Blackbirds, and an even prettier guide who thought we were awesome for cycling all this way and then proceeded to inform us that she would soon be backpacking through South America!


A real Grizzly Bear in not-so-real surroundings


Brewer's Blackbird

Crossing under the freeway next, we headed through undulating country at first very reminiscent of the Callander area of Scotland, climbing and descending through golden autumn colours, before passing by houses which were more Swiss than Scottish.  A vehicle parked in a field had us scratching our heads until Richard decided it must be a snow-blower.


And the mystery vehicle is... a snowblower (I think!)


It was only early afternoon when we arrived at the largest town on the Tour – Bozeman, Montana.  We took the scenic route into town, past old grain silos and then along a gravel path to cross the railway line, before finding the town centre proper and cycling through several sets of traffic lights.  The Lewis Clark is named after two early pioneers (a bit like Mason & Dixon in the east?) and is a really classy place with 50’s piped music all day in the lobby, free snacks and even a complimentary (and tiny) glass of wine every afternoon.  The rooms are a bit odd though, opening on to the front with full width glass doors, so if you want to get changed you must draw the curtains and remain in darkness!


Our motel in Bozeman


One of many distinctive Bozeman buildings

Next door to the motel is the amazing Bozeman Co-op.  Every kind of food for sale including rows and rows of bottles and jars – weigh out what you want and take it to the checkout.  And they even have proper Yorkshire Tea.  The town centre boasts lots of stylish buildings, including some from the art deco period, and of course plenty of choice for dining out.  By evening the weather was back to dry and pleasant, and we could relax ahead of our final ‘rest day’ tomorrow.



The impressive Bozeman Co-op, which even has...


Proper Tea! (and I'm a proper tea expert!)

You may be wondering about laundry.  Cycling with panniers demands a certain economy when it comes to packing clothes, yet the effort of cycling can produce a good deal of perspiration.  The answer?  When you arrive at your motel or cabin, the first job is to have a shower.  Off come the cycling clothes, which are placed in the shower tray.  Liberal amounts of shampoo and shower gel, combined with something rather like a Native American Rain Dance (otherwise known in Lancashire as ‘possing’) combine to get the clothes clean again.  After a rinse and firm wringing, and after drying oneself, the said clothes are then rolled up one-by-one in a towel and wrung again before placing near a radiator on coat hangers.  The great advantage of NW America at this time of year is that the humidity is so low (usually around 25% - 35%) that everything dries overnight.  On the rare occasion that it's not completely dry, it goes on the rear saddlebag to be sun-dried in a breeze of one's own making.  Simple.  It’s a routine one gets very used to!


Total mileage 481.7