Day 45. Manchester to Portsmouth New Hampshire. I have been looking forward to this day for over 40 years, if that's imaginable. What an incredible day. What an incredible 7 weeks. What an incredible experience. What an incredible group of people. What an incredible staff.
I think, strangely enough, my overwhelming emotion right now is one of relief. I don't have an awesome sense of accomplishment or that I conquered something. Right this second I am simply relieved to have made it safely. But what an accomplishment! For all of us.
Today, I ran out of landmass!
Here I am dipping Wonderboy in the Atlantic Ocean:
And here I am collecting Atlantic Ocean sand and water to match the sand and water and I collected from the Pacific Ocean over 7 weeks ago:
Before I get to today's events, I should fill you in on what happened after yesterday's blog posting. First of all my Duchess made it to Manchester New Hampshire yesterday afternoon in time for a late lunch. Yesterday we dined at Chez Subway where the head chef prepared a submarine sandwich made of turkey and cheese for us. After wishing us bon appetit we sat down at our semi-dirty formica clad table and chowed down. Elegantly, mind you. But chow down, we did.
Last night was the final dinner/banquet where the ABB staff presents a slide show of the thousands of pictures from the ride. Some of the riders perform skits (making fun of the ABB staff), others recite poems, songs, or stories, and then every rider gets a chance to speak about whatever they want to speak about.
A few days ago, the group elected me and Sandy from Colorado as emcees for the evening. At first we were flattered, but then we realized it was because we had the biggest mouths in the group. Anyway, I borrowed an idea from Karen and Jill at my office (our awards are called the Duebies) and created a faux award show (like the Oscars) called the ABBYs (Nicole from my office created an award template and e-mailed it to me; I had it printed at the "roach motel" in Albany – thanks Nicole!). Sandy and I created an award for every rider. Most were funny (best "wafflehead" from your helmet, "I don't need Nutrisystem" for weight loss) but some were serious ("perseverance", "blog as literary or visual art"). After each rider got their ABBY, they had the floor. Some were succinct while others spoke at length. There were plenty of tears and at times it was quite emotional. This has been a life-altering experience for many people on the ride and it showed last night. When I spoke, I mentioned the cause I was riding for (www.teamlara.ca) and I recounted how I had grave doubts about my abilities to do the miles, climb the climbs, and repeat the process every day for 50 days. I then talked about how I got over my doubts, which was great to get off my chest. Afterwards, a lot of the riders thanked Sandy and I for our roles as emcees. It was a nice dinner.
Back to today's events. It was so cool. The ride itself was 51 miles, which is no walk in the park. We also climbed over 2,000 feet. But it didn't matter. Nothing could have kept us away from the beach today. Not the Alps. Not the Rockies. Not even Toronto traffic. We had a very early load (6:30AM) so that everyone had plenty of time to get to the staging area where we all had to meet before we got together as a group for our procession to the beach. The ride today was through tree-lined roads. New Hampshire is pretty, but not like Vermont (at least the parts we've seen). Again, It didn't matter at all where we rode today. We could have been going through Yonkers via Hoboken and it would have looked beautiful. The weather was warm and sunny and the predicted rain never materialized. We even had a nice tailwind. We had about 5 hours to do a ride that normally would take us less than 3 hours to do, so we did it at a leisurely pace. We stopped for a 35 minute SAG (our normal SAGs are 15 minutes max), where the hugging, goodbyes, and yes, crying, began.
Then we stopped at a great bakery in the pretty little village of Exeter (home to the famous Phillips Exeter prep school). We killed an hour there which was great. I wish we had more time during the previous 7 weeks to do what we did today, but the mileage per day is just too much to spend time in bakeries across America. I spotted a haircut sign that reminded me of an important appointment I have on Thursday! We then rode about 12 miles to an assembly spot at a Junior High School 3 miles from the beach at Rye New Hampshire. As you can see from the picture above, Wonderboy had a little rest at the staging area too. Anyway, there were more hugs, kisses, high-fives, fist-bumps, good-byes, and a lot of tears. Lots of pictures too.
Around noon, the Rye police set up a police escort and cordoned off the roads to Wallis Sands Beach. We rode en masse and people who were on the street even started clapping as we went by. We got to the beach, and as one (after taking our cycling shoes and socks off), made our way over the seawall and onto the beach itself. There were a number of people and family members there. There were people clapping and cheering. It was so nice to see everybody's friends and family. I spotted Rob Nadler from my office and his wife Marci (who were in Maine just up the road on vacation and came down to say hi – thanks for coming!). I kept looking for my Duchess. My Duchess, who has been so supportive. My Duchess, without whom I could not have done this. My Duchess, who right now is napping and snoring in the room (sorry Duchie, but the truth must be told for the historical record).
A dip of the wheels, a scoop of Atlantic Ocean, and this puppy is history. Done and done. It's out of my system. Forever. I did the mother. My life can now be separated into two parts. The part before this ride, and the part after the ride. I'm onto the second part now.
Now, what about next summer. Maybe Mount Everest or an expedition to the South Pole. Yeah...that's the ticket. Duchie...where's my suitcase...I'm gonna need a bigger bag!
Final ride stats:
money raised for Team Lara $26,052
3,690.6 miles (5,978.8 kms)
ride time 223.5 hours
average speed 16.5 MPH (26.7 KPH)
calories burned 74,803
climbing 106,663 feet
8 flat tires
5 bike tires
2 bike chains
The DQ Blizzard, Snickers, and milk shake count is static today and probably will remain static in the foreseeable future as I try to return to normal eating patterns. Here are the final totals (boo frickety hoo, I haven't had a Blizzard in 3 weeks!):
6 milk shakes
Now on to today's mail:
Allan from Toronto writes: "
Don't really know how to congratulate you on your accomplishment, just simply glad to have your sorry ass home." Believe me, my ass is sorry.
Esther from Toronto writes: "
Congrats Mark! There will be lots of time to reflect and reminisce. Enjoy your ride to victory, it's an amazing accomplishment that few can boast. We're looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday." Thanks and I can't wait to return to some sense of normalcy too.
Jo-Ann and Alan from Toronto write: "