Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bike America Day 66: The End

Friday, August 17, 2012

Day's distance: 64.85 miles
Overall distance: 3,512 miles

Hi, remember me? About a month ago, I arrived home from a bike ride across the country and I have been putting off this blog post ever since. On one hand I was busy with work and adjusting to normal life again and, on the other hand, it felt like the trip wasn't officially over until I'd written about the final day of it. Now, though, it's been long enough that the trip is over no matter what way you spin it. So here is how we wrapped up our wonderful two months biking across America...

Day 66 began in our motel room in Harper's Ferry, WV. We still had the car but we obviously all wanted to ride into DC together so we formed a plan: my dad and I would set out on bikes and my mom would drive the car all the way home. Then she'd ride to the C&O canal and meet us 15 or so miles from the city.

As my dad and I rode through Harper's Ferry back to the trail, I got a little choked up thinking about the great journey that was about to come to an end. I held back tears and didn't let my dad see me get emotional. We rode for a ways on the portion that was shared with the Appalachian Trail and I was excited to be on it for a while. 

We were making great time and talked about how we could be in DC by 2PM if we wanted to. We wanted to kill time, though, so that Josh and others could greet us at happy hour right after their work days finished. So we stopped at White's Ferry to ride across the river and back. My dad was really into this and I wasn't sure exactly why but I humored him and rode along. We paid $2 each to stand among the cars and ride 5 minutes each way across the Potomac. The ferry is historic and is the only one that exists on the river so that was cool I guess.

We continued on and made it to great falls around 1PM. I was feeling kind of sick with stomach issues and I wasn't in a very good mood. I wasn't sure why but I think it had to do with some kind of grand expectations I had for the trip's finale. I felt like this day should be so magical and instead I had a bunch of stomach cramps and spent too much time in the bathroom. Still, my dad and I locked our bikes and were able to enjoy great falls a little bit.

It was strange to look out at the familiar falls after having seen so much spectacular scenery all summer. You might think the view would have been less impressive compared to the beautiful Cascades, the Clark Fork River, the Continental Divide and the buffalo herds in the Badlands. But it was actually more impressive. Instead of just being a cool site within a short drive of DC, these falls were a tiny piece in the huge puzzle that was our trip across the country. Putting it in that context, the context of our vast and varied America, made it so much more beautiful.

Having driven to her house for the first time in two months, my mom met up with us at Great Falls. We sat on a bench and ate a mediocre lunch which I can't remember. I was still feeling a little crappy and complained to my mom. Josh called me asking what bar we were going to for happy hour and I got upset with him. We kept riding and I tried to turn my mood around.

I felt like the impending moment was so huge and I knew that nobody but my parents (and Josh to an extent) would understand the feeling. I knew that I'd cry and I wasn't in the mood to celebrate with anyone but them. When we crossed into Washington, DC there was no sign but my dad was familiar enough with the trail to know exactly when it happened. We stopped and took a picture of me with my DC bike license plate. It was our 14th and final state. Yes, I'm counting it as a state.

When we got to the boat house where the C&O Canal meets the Capital Crescent Trail, we stopped to use the bathroom. As I walked to the porta-pottie, tears that had been building up all day finally spilled out of me. As we walked back to our bikes, my dad saw me crying and gave me a big hug. We began rolling down the Crescent Trail and I thought about all the hundreds of times the three of us had ridden on that ground before, never knowing that one day it would serve as the landing strip of a bike ride across the whole country.

I laugh-cried most of the way into Georgetown and then we all cheered when we saw Josh standing on the sidewalk snapping our picture. It was a weird feeling that I don't think I'll ever be able to describe. It was some combination of happiness at being home, sadness at the trip's finale, relief that we'd all made it through in one piece, disbelief that life and the dream were real, and fear that I wouldn't now how to resume my life back in DC.

As soon as I hugged Josh and pulled myself together, I was excited to see my friends and felt bad for my negative attitude earlier in the afternoon. I met up with my cousin Sarah and my friend Rachel and we walked to Nick's Riverside Grill on the waterfront.

And, of course, a numbered picture. Lucky number fourteen!

Eric, Kate and Elizabeth met us and we sat around drinking beers and talking. I didn't really want to talk about the trip, though, and felt like I didn't have much to say. How do you pick your favorite moment or sum up such a journey? It was very good to be home but I expected there to be some hard adjusting ahead.

This is a weird photo of my face. Rachel looks cute though.

I'd asked Josh to bike to work so that we could ride home together. We left georgetown around 7 and rode straight to Vace's where we picked up wine and pasta. When I walked into my apartment, it seemed smaller than I'd remembered it. But I settled in quickly and we enjoyed a simple dinner together.

I sat on the couch and cried some more to Josh. I didn't want him to think I was sad to be home because I wasn't. But it was also deeply painful to know that this amazing, once in a lifetime adventure that I'd been so lucky to have with my parents was over and I would never get it back. I was used to a life of biking and I felt like I was in a sort of limbo, not sure I'd know how to get back in the groove of my working, city life.

I wanted to enjoy my first night back so after letting my feelings explode, Josh made me smile and we had a happy night. We walked to FrozenYo and I indulged in very much chocolatey goodness. Among other things, I would certainly miss eating thousands of calories in a day and still losing weight. Then we hung out and I settled in for my first night's sleep back in my own bed since June 12.

I am a little ashamed of myself for taking so long to complete this post. For the first few days, I wasn't in the mood to write, then I convinced myself that, in a way, the trip wouldn't end until I posted a tale of the final day. But then it got to be so far gone that the day's story seemed insignificant and that is silly. I have a lot more to say about this trip and I plan to reflect on it in greater detail in future posts. But I will say that nothing about the trip or that final day are insignificant. It was one of the greatest adventures I've ever been on and I feel so lucky to have done it with my parents. Only now am I realizing what a rare and special treat that was.

I want to thank you all for reading my blog posts through the journey. Your encouraging words meant so much and knowing I had such loyal followers really pushed me to write the important details, the details that might have otherwise been lost, when I wanted nothing to do with a computer. I hope you'll forgive me for so rudely leaving you hanging for the past month after you dedicated so much to reading my posts. Thank you, thank you!!

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading all your posts on your trip, especially this one. You'll be so happy that one day you can go back and read these, and relive all those special moments.