Monday, August 16, 2010

Home and Final thoughts

Home again to the mountains of Big Canoe.

It’s great to be home again. The seven days since I’ve returned have gone by as fast as the last seven days of the cross country bike ride. Now that I’ve been home for a week, there has been time to reflect on the ride.

It was a great experience. I saw some wonderful sights that I want to come back to again, this time in a car with Karen. And I’ve met some wonderful people I hope I’ll see and ride with again. I’m very grateful the other four Geldings asked me to ride with them the first week. And I’m glad we got to ride with Alex and Katie too.

Completing the ride was a great accomplishment for me. When I look at a map of the United States it will never be the same way again. I’ll always think of this ride and scan across the states we’ve ridden from Oregon on the left to New Hampshire on the right.

Finishing is bittersweet. I’m glad I reached my goal and can now take a brief pause from riding seriously. (And Bob’s Bicycles of Portsmouth has helped by not shipping my bike yet!) It will be tough not riding with friends I’ve been with every day for the past month and a half. A goal that I’ve focused on for several months is done, never to be repeated. The only remaining goal I have is finishing my hike of the Appalachian Trail. Perhaps I need to set a few more goals.

Other riders asked me for the last month what I was going to do when the ride was over. I told them I didn’t know and I still don't. I’m sure something will develop that will be fulfilling to me. I just don’t know what it is yet.

If you are considering a ride similar to this, know that it is not all wonderful sunshine and tailwinds, with birds chirping and corn fields waving in the breeze. Those moments are all there, many times over. But there are also stinky cattle farms, roads with cracks every ten feet for miles on end, steep climbs when you least want them, a few marginal dinners, and some frustration when things aren’t going your way. I’ll refer back to Teresa’s five “P’s” from Day 5: Patience, Perseverance, Positive Attitude, Peace, and Prayer. A cross country cyclist definitely needs all five. The great moments (and there were hundreds of them) make up for the difficult times. The great majority of the ride was fantastic. But some was just getting down to business and riding the miles. And maybe less than 5% were the tough times including the headwinds, heat and humidity, rude drivers, rain so bad you couldn’t see, bad roads, and traffic. If this is something you’ve dreamed of, find the time to do it. It is definitely worth it.

There were some hilarious moments you had to be there to appreciate. Todd’s confession he wore his riding shorts inside out one day. Another rider who had soapy pants when it rained because they were not properly rinsed out the prior day. The guy snoring on the S.S. Badger when crossing Lake Michigan.

On Day 1, this journey was all about the ride and reaching the destination. By Day 50 it was all about the riders and the time spent getting to the destination together. I’ll miss everyone. On every organized ride from here on out I’ll be scanning faces, looking for any ABB North 2010 riders, so I can get reacquainted with them.

To close, here are what I think were the highlights of the ride. Some of these pictures are new and some have been posted previously. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog. Highlights below:

1. Day 0 – Dipping my wheels in the Pacific and thinking. “This is really going to happen.”

2. Day 1 - Stopping at the first traffic light, right in front of the hotel, and thinking, “What did I get myself into?”

3. Day 2 – The bike path in Portland next to the Columbia River

4. Day 3 – Climbing up and over Mt. Hood on a brilliant sunny day with fantastic views of the mountain. Then, meeting the other Geldings on the way to Kah-nee-ta.

5. Day 5 – The 117 mile ride to John Day with the other Geldings.

6. Day 13 – Riding on East Baseline Road

7. Day 15 – The climb up Teton Pass, views of Jackson Hole, and the hair raising descent to Jackson.

8. Day 16 – Riding past the Tetons

9. Day 17 – Wind River Canyon

10. Day 20 – The empty road to Lusk with the coal trains to our left and the strange person we met near the last SAG stop.

11. Day 22 – Wind Cave National Park, buffaloes, Mount Rushmore, and 5000 feet of climbing.

12. Day 24 – The long day to Pierre with 20 miles of headwind that took us two hours to complete. And the plague of grasshoppers that were everywhere.

13. Day 33 – The tunnels of the Elroy Sparta bike path. Especially, three quarters of a mile Tunnel #3.

14. Day 36 – The relaxing crossing of Lake Michigan on the S.S. Badger and laughing with Baltimore Mark.

15. Day 40 – Crossing the Blue Water Bridge into Canada en masse, Jeff’s tour of Sarnia, Butter tarts, and the Canadian countryside

16. Day 42 – Niagara Falls, slowly I turn...

17. Day 45 – The Erie Canal bike paths

18. Day 50 – The whole day. Every minute. Riding as a large group. The bakery. The school in Rye. Wallis Sands Beach. Dipping our wheels in the Atlantic. The swim with Jeff and Alex. And final pictures in the ocean, complete with Dave still in his riding shoes.

19. All of the small things that add up to great memories: DQ blizzards, riding 120 miles in a single day, a sub five hour century, rain so bad I couldn’t see through my contact lenses, great hamburgers, a memorable brat in Wisconsin and BLT sandwich in Birch Run, epic climbs including a triple mountain day, Teton Pass, Togwatee Pass, and the climbs on the day to Rapid City. Drafting Jay for 10 miles trying to not get dropped, and also struggling to avoid getting dropped by the other Geldings, Alex, and Katie.

20. And finally, Day 51 – After losing eleven pounds, taking my belt off going through security at Logan Airport and almost having my pants fall down.

That's all. Until the next great adventure.

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