August 6th, Day 49: Brattleboro, VT to Manchester, NH: 78 miles, 4034 ft. ascent

It’s never over until the fat lady sings, but I do believe I heard a buxom lass clearing her throat this afternoon in a preparatory sort of way. After entering our 10th and final state this morning, we had another day of reasonably stiff climbing. James’ thigh is definitely on the mend and we averaged 14.5 mph over the 78 mile ride. This leaves just 60 miles tomorrow until we dip our front wheel in the Atlantic.

James and Chris pose in front of the Welcome to New Hampshire sign
James and Chris were delighted with the sunny welcome to New Hampshire

So how much of North America have we actually seen on this 3,653 mile journey? The literal answer of course in my case is zero. Even in the case of the other riders it is a tiny, tiny amount. We have crossed the entire continent, and the horizon on both sides has sometimes looked an awfully long way away, albeit only separated from us by one ginormous cornfield. But even so, assuming an average distance to the horizon of 10 miles (each side), then we will only have seen around 72,000 square miles of the continent.  

The total size of North America is 3.7 million square miles. So we have seen a grand total of approx. 2% of the continent – hmmm, sounds like we need to start booking a few more rides (Note to self: choose moment carefully before broaching with Mrs Mairs who has been wonderfully tolerant of me going on this particular jaunt, but nonetheless…).

There are other ways of looking at how much of the US we have seen, such as:

  • What fraction of the 50 states in the US will we have visited? Answer – 20% (10 out of 50)
  • What fraction of the US population live in the states we will have visited? Answer – 17%
  • What fraction of the US land mass is in the states we will have visited? Answer - 18%  

In researching these numbers I also came across the following statistics:

  • The combined population of Idaho, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming (5 of the 10 states we visited) is less than half of the population of London
  • We visited 4 of the 12 largest states by area (Oregon, Wyoming, Michigan and Minnesota)
  • We visited 4 of the 12 emptiest states by population density (Oregon, South Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming)

Wyoming is the least densely populated of the 48 contiguous states. It has a population density of less than 6 people per square mile, compared to Wales which has around 375 people per square mile.  

All this trivia and much more available from: 

Overwhelmingly, the sense I have come away with is that America is incredibly empty. Of the 10 states we visited, only New York is more densely populated than either Scotland or Wales. Even New York state has huge swathes of countryside where there is not very much going on. On the one hand, ubiquitous restaurant and hotel chains make the US feel very homogenous and predictable, but on the other hand, the daily experience of much of the country’s population is almost entirely focused within small communities, dwarfed by the surrounding landscape. 

But it’s great to see that the residents of Manchester, New Hampshire, have made an effort to welcome me to their township.

Chris stretches up to hold a sign reading "Blind Person"
Chris embraces a personal welcome 

On the Route and Tracker page you can find short videos representing nearly all our rides. They show a little dot (us!) moving across a 3D landscape. These ones in particular are well worth watching: