Initially America and New Zealand were coming out pretty even in the appeal stakes – America is way bigger but having seen Lord of the Rings, New Zealand is somewhere I really want to visit.
The deciding factor was going to be when the Edinburgh gig finished. If it was in British spring/summer then I’d head for the States. If it was British winter then I’d head to New Zealand and catch their summer.
The way the Edinburgh gig was playing out made forward planning almost impossible, with a seemingly infinite stream of mini-contract extensions – sometimes as short as a week, but with no certainty beyond that. Nevertheless, the American adventure was getting more of my attention and imagination.
I knew that there are a number of natural wonders that I want to visit – Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc. But I also want to see what “real” America is like – not the TV/movie version. I felt that I needed to travel coast-to-coast, through the middle, and to all four corners of mainland America to really see it. My initial tentative route was a big “S” shape – starting off in New England and ending up in South California, or vice versa.
The more I looked into interesting places to visit in the States, the more I realised that I would have to miss bits I wanted to see if I only did 3 legs across the country, so my route grew a 4th leg, which had the added advantage that my trip could both begin and end on the east coast which was likely to be cheaper to fly to from the UK.
Having thought of my route, I had to work out how long it would all take. I estimated that coast to coast across the US is about 3,000 miles (which I would be doing 4 times) and it was maybe 1,500 miles top to bottom (which I would be doing twice effectively). That gave a total of 15,000 miles altogether. I felt I should double that to allow for indirect routes, detours and sight-seeing along the way, so I estimated my total journey maybe around 30,000 miles.
I thought I might be able to manage an average of 200 miles of riding a day – I did 700 miles from Edinburgh to Worcester and back in a day the other week to collect my Sonisphere tickets but that was really too much for one day. I think 500 miles in a day is the most I could comfortably manage – and even that is pretty hard riding.
This meant that my trip would take about 150 days or around 5 months. Even allowing for some buffer, I thought I should be able to manage the whole trip in 6 months.
Checking with the US Department of State’s Travel website, I confirmed that as the UK is part of the Visa Waiver Program, I could go to the US for up to 90 days without a visa. If I wanted to stay longer I could apply for a B2 tourist visa which would allow me to stay for up to 180 days (or 6 months). All good I thought, and pretty much left it at that and got on with the project in Edinburgh.