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Even having gone to bed late the night before, Bill was up and out by 5 to go to the gym. We were up a fair amount later than that and were busy eating pancakes that Gloria had prepared for us when he returned. He had been on the treadmill and proudly telling people about us. We are sometimes asked by sceptical people who don’t couchsurf what our hosts get out of the experience. Moments like that are one explanation we can offer. The genuine excitement and fascination people we meet have to hear about our adventures and to help us out in whatever way they can never ceases to make me feel warm inside. The media in the UK often talks about how society is breaking down and people are becoming more self-centred, but every day we see the kind-hearted people this world has to offer. C often attributes a good chunk of our progress to the people we have met, and it’s definitely true.

On arriving the day before we had seen an impressively maintained car collection in the garage. Knowing nothing about cars, so much so that I don’t even have a drivers licence, I couldn’t recognise them. All I could tell was that they were probably worth a decent amount of money and that someone took good care of them. When we were putting our things on our bikes to go, Bill started telling us about his cars and he got in his show car and revved the engine. He said it was a muscle car and although I was standing about 20m away I could still feel the floor reverberate.

We were ready to ride off when C noticed her rear tyre had gone flat again. I was impressed that she had been able to put all her bags on without noticing the lack of any air in her tyre. On pumping it up again, it seemed to hold and we were off.

It was just before 10 and we were meant to meet my friend Abdul at 4 in Madison. I met Abdul during university. We stayed in the same halls of residence and, although we studied different subjects, had a few classes together. Through the three years I was at uni we hung out a lot, be it in the cinema, pub or coffee shop. I was happy to be meeting up as it had been 7 years since our paths had last crossed. He is currently living in Ohio doing his Ph.D., but took the weekend off to fly over to meet up.

The small village of Wales, near where we started, was on the Glacial Drumlin trail which headed all the way to Madison. It was brilliant to ride on a well-maintained trail for the first time in a good while. The only motor vehicles allowed on it were snowmobiles in the winter, so it was almost exclusively used by cyclists, walkers and joggers. One of the great things about riding on a trial is the number of possible ride partners you meet. For example, we met and rode with the recumbent riding Steady Eddie for a few miles. Breaks like that do a lot to alleviate the monotony that pedalling for 5-6 hours can build up. We rode together until we arrived at the Bicycle Doctor bike shop where he caught up with his wife and we said our goodbyes.

C wanted to buy a couple of new inner tubes so we went in to Bicycle Doctor and she was astounded by their collection of women’s clothing. When she had been looking in the UK she could easily spot the women’s section as it was where everything was pink, but here there was a good mix of different colours and there was a jacket in particular that really grabbed her fancy. She was very tempted to buy it, but couldn’t bring herself to spend the money. We spent a good 15-20 minutes talking to Doc Tom and Jon, the owners of the shop. I started by asking about the trail and then it progressed to cycling in Wisconsin before I was explaining our trip. We went outside to show them our fully-laden bikes and, after asking to borrow a pump, they popped inside to emerge with a pump and a handful of energy gels to energise us on the trip.

We pulled into our hotel in Madison at just after 4pm. A quick call up to the room and Abdul came down the lifts with his usual grin on his face. We wheeled our bikes up to our room and spent a couple of hours sat in the hotel room catching up and drinking coffee. He had a friend in town called Danielle also doing her Ph.D. and so we met up with her for dinner and then went out to watch the final Harry Potter film. A fun start to what would be a wonderful time in Madison.

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