Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's over

Day 1. Of the rest of my life. Or should I say the second part of my life. Up until June 20th of this year, the first part of my life was much like everyone's lives. School, more school, friends, parental punishment, more school, marriage, marital punishment, career, kids, even more marital punishment, career punishment, blah, blah, blah, blah. You get the picture. But unlike most people (except the fine people I just crossed the country with), the first part of my life was also marked by an unfulfilled dream.

I wanted to ride my bike from ocean to ocean across the country.

From the moment I rode my brown Schwinn 5 speed bike at the age of 12, tearing all over Cherry Hill New Jersey with my friends, I always contemplated the trip we just completed. It would appear in my head every so often like lightning from a distant approaching thunderstorm. Except, the time between the flashes was counted in years, not seconds. The flashes were even less frequent when I got married, started a career, had kids, and opened a business. As I contemplated my upcoming 50th birthday a few years ago, the flashes started coming closer together.

I missed the opportunity of doing this for my 50th birthday due to a number of reasons, but we all know that 50 is just a number. No big deal. Originally I had browbeaten The Duchess into the idea of doing this trip with me on the tandem but we both got spooked by stories of cyclists getting run down by motorists. I was sure I didn't want to be responsible for The Duchess getting hurt on a bicycle, so that idea just died.

However, the dream wouldn't go away. It kept flashing until last Fall when The Duchess pushed me over the edge and said "just do this already, I'm sick of hearing about it". So I signed up and did it. I did it with the greatest group of people I could possibly have hoped for. The miles were long, the challenges were incredible, but we made it.

Was it everything I had hoped for? Yes. And no. Under the yes column goes scenery, people, challenge, accomplishment, experiences, and emotions. Under the no column goes only one thing – an "aha" moment. You know – something revelatory about life. I thought something profound would hit me. But unless you count "oh my god, I had no idea there were that many white people in Idaho" as profound, I came up empty on that one. That's OK though. Maybe I'm not insightful enough to spot profound moments when they roll under my wheel. Or, maybe they're simply not able to be spotted by people like me. Kind of like color-blindness, but in a cerebral way. Or maybe they simply aren't out there. I'm not sure I'll ever know the answer to this and I'm tired of thinking about it, so I'll simply close the book on that topic for now.

What was interesting and a bit sad was what happened after the beach arrival in Portsmouth the other day and watching everybody start to revert back to their normal lives. The transition was subtle yet sudden. After the warm welcome at the beach from the town, friends, and family, came the inevitable return to normalcy. I saw short little disagreements about how to get the bike into the car, where people should go to lunch, who was gonna bring Aunt Gussie to the hotel, etc. You know – little family quarrels that dissipate fast, but are a constant part of our routine lives. At the hotel, people were quickly arranging rental cars, waiting in the interminable line to check in, printing airline boarding passes, arranging bike transportation and more. I got to see a whole other side of my fellow riders. Even The Duchess said I was acting different than an hour before. I was getting aggravated about the room not being ready. I was a little short with the somewhat incompetent desk clerk. In other words, I was beginning to act

Is it possible that I left the best part of me on the road somewhere in the heartland of America?

Did we all?

So here I am, back at my desk in my office in hot humid Toronto. I weighed myself this morning. By the way, the "It's over" title of this blog not only refers to the ride being over – it refers to me being "over" on weight for the trip. I then fought the awful Toronto traffic to work. The folks at my office (encouraged by Vance and Jamie Pollack) replaced my office chair with a bike seat (see picture) adorned with an honorary Snickers bar (which I did not eat!). Very cute. I'm back to dealing with whatever I deal with at work and that's not likely to change.

I've realized my dream and now I can get on to the second part of my life – the part after I rode my bike across the country.

But wait! In my head I see a flash of lightning way way way off in the distance. What in the hell could that be...

FYI – the Snickers, milk shake, and Blizzard count is static today, and after gaining 6 pounds, will remain static for quite some time. As a final gesture, I leave you all with a list of my thoughts and my signature/defining moments from the trip:

List of Thoughts

Anybody who thinks North America is too crowded has never ridden a bike across it.

One hundred miles on a one way cross-country cycling leg feels like 50 miles on a round trip circuit at home.

Does every car have to be hitched to a trailer in Oregon?

Does every house in Idaho have to have 3 dogs? Is it the law?

Wyoming – great scenery, lousy roads.

I never knew that it's:

Or-a-gin, not O-reee-gon
Boy-c, not Boyzee (Boise) Idaho
Doo-boyze, not Doobwas (Dubois) Wyoming
Peer, not Pee-air (Pierre) South Dakota

A prairie wind is not like wind in the East. Somehow it’s way bigger.

South Dakota is the best-kept travel secret in America.

Who knew that Hell’s Half Acre and Minnehaha were real places?

Falling off a bike hurts. A lot. Even more when you fall twice within 72 hours. Yet even more when you fall at 23 MPH.

Regarding our ride: it’s not a miracle, we just decided to go. (I love that quote from Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell in the movie Apollo 13).

Is it possible for time to pass slowly and quickly at the same time? After a trip like this, I think so.

Shame, humiliation, and fear of public failure are awesome motivators.

Is it possible that the entire world can eat all the corn grown in Minnesota?

Wisconsin has the most beautiful manicured farms I’ve ever seen.

Michigan is flat, like in a “pre-Christopher Columbus-the-world-is-flat” kind of way.

By choosing to live in Ontario, I’ve elected to live in the world’s most boring cycling area.

New York is truly a cyclist’s nirvana.

You just don’t realize how much you need family around you until they’re not there.

Vermont is America’s Switzerland. Pretty. Quaint. Charming. Cute. Neat. Perfect.

New Hampshire is a poor man’s Vermont.

Defining, signature moments

Dipping my wheels in the Pacific and collecting Pacific Ocean sand and water.

Having a deer run alongside me near the Pacific coast.

Crossing the bridge in Portland.

The Mount Hood climb.

The mind-bending milkshake at Calamity Jane’s in Sandy Oregon.

The descent into Kah-nee-ta.

Our triple summit day.

Riding on the freeway for the first time.

Our first state line crossed into Idaho.

Our first time zone crossed in Idaho.

Fixing a flat by myself for the first time.

The Pocatello TV interview.

Eyeing the Tetons from a distance.

Climbing Teton Pass and the descent into Jackson.

The double summit day to Togwotee pass, crossing the Continental Divide at 9,658 feet, and the descent to Dubois (brrrrrr).

Cycling through Wind River Canyon.

Being left at Hell’s Half Acre because I didn't stick to the plan.

Seeing my Duchess in Casper.

The whole epic day from Hot Springs to Rapid City – Wind Cave National Park , Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, hailstorm.

Wall Drug’s flat out goofiness.

The 20 mile “highway to hell” of grasshoppers and wind into Pierre.

The Corn Palace and rodeo in MItchell.

My entry (ouch) into Sioux Falls.

The Sioux Falls rainstorm departure.

Crossing the halfway mark of the trip.

My entry (ouch) into Mankato.

The Mankato 5 hour century.

The Mankato hill.

The Rochester rainstorm departure and double flat day.

Back to back centuries.

Crossing the Mississippi.

The trail through Eastern Minnesota that ended at the café/bakery with the raspberry/cream cheese croissant.

The Elroy-Sparta trail and spooky dark tunnels.

My roadside bratwurst in Princeton Wisconsin.

The ultra-relaxing ferry crossing of Lake Michigan.

Tony’s baconfest in Birch Run.

Crossing the Bluewater Bridge en masse into Canada.

Seeing my Mom and Dad by the side of the road near London.

Visits by Audrey, Milt, Peter, Eleanor, Gordie, Carolyn, Vance, Susan, Jamie, Logan, Allan, Esther, and Erin.

Seeing Lauren and Sam (and my Duchess) in Niagara Falls.

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge into the US by myself at dawn.

The deja-vu moment when I suddenly and unexpectedly arrived at the road to Colgate just south of Turning Stone Casino.

Assembling en masse at the Rye Junior High school just miles from the beach.

Dipping my wheels in the Atlantic and collecting sand and water to match my Pacific sand and water as my Duchess cried watching me.

1 comment:

  1. I think I know why you didn't have an obvious "ah ha" moment ... I'll tell you later.