THE BIG RIDE ACROSS AMERICA 1999
Rachel Pilley - Rider #82
JOURNAL - PART 8
JULY 24 -JULY 31
SANDUSKY, OH - WASHINGTON, DC
The rain stopped last night sometime after I had bunked down and fallen asleep. It took me a while to settle my mind regarding the rain because it was coming down so hard that the zipper of the tent was leaking and we were getting a bit of a puddle near the door. After all of the use that my tent had gotten this summer, and all of the ultra-violet light that it has been exposed to the fabric has stretched a bit and the door is sagging in which encroaches a bit on the foot room at the bottom of the tent when it is raining as hard as it was last night.
The rain made for cooler sleeping temperatures last night and I felt like I got a really good rest. We got up at about 6 am and my body felt refreshed and ready to go. We left camp at 7:30 after a really great breakfast and a huge plate of pan-fried... Yummy!
We jumped back on the highway and made our way out of town. We followed Route 2 along the shore of Lake Eerie for most of the morning and it was a truly beautiful ride. Once again I was amazed at how quickly we make our way out of the urban areas of town and back into the quieter surrounding areas. Today, being that were within 50 miles of Cleveland, we never did get rural though, we made our way along the road and admired the beautiful houses on the waterfront. Being that it is Saturday morning, the road was really quiet and it was nice not to have to worry about the traffic. As we rode along we saw lots of people out walking in the cool of the morning. They were all waving as we passed by, and one jogger running towards us yelled "Yeah!, Yeah!, Yeah!" with his hands up in the air.... I guess he had heard about our cause.
Checkpoint was at mile 37. The mornings ride had been so pleasant that I didn't feel like we should be stopping so soon, but nonetheless, we pulled into Miller Road Park situated right on the lake shore for our usual stop. Cyclists occupied one part of the park while a wedding party got set our chairs in anticipation of an upcoming ceremony. The setting was very lovely. We walked over to the edge of the park and hopped the fence so that we could stand out on the bluff overlooking the waters edge. The waves were lapping the shore below us and as I looked out across the water I felt as though I could have been in Mexico or Hawaii.
Back on the road again we kept along the lakeshore until we reached the town just outside of Cleveland. I didn't think anything of it until we encountered a police officer that was calling to us telling us and directing us up and onto the bridge. I guess that there had been some kind of detour and the Police had been exceptionally helpful in assisting the ride organizers in changing the route and directing us riders through it. Thanks Guys!
As we crossed the bridge over Rocky River we very quickly found ourselves in the downtown core of Cleveland. Just minutes previously we had been riding in the sunshine, but now we were in the shade of the tall buildings that towered around us. Once again I was thankful that it was Saturday morning and that we didn't have to negotiate the downtown streets of Cleveland with weekday traffic. We made our way through the downtown business core, and then found ourselves in an older, more run-down part of town. It reminded me of Vancouver where the business core and the skids are separated only by a few short blocks. It was an area that I was glad to pass through without having to stop for anything.
Next stop on the agenda was the Cleveland Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. We pulled up outside and then went in to see what it was all about. When we found out that the admission fee was $15 we contented ourselves with looking around the lobby, gift shop, and having our photos taken outside. I'm not much of museum person, and neither of us is that interested in music trivia and such, so we couldn't imagine paying those admission prices. Back outside I tried to contact my Dad. Yesterday was his birthday and I have been unable to get in touch with him to wish him a happy birthday. My parents are travelling in the interior of British Columbia right now and they didn't have the cell-phone on.
Back on the road we followed a bike path along the shore of Lake Eerie some more and then wound our way into the Chase Western University campus. We stopped in University Circle at a small deli and had a drink and pastry before. From what we saw, it was a nice campus, with a number of shops, art museums and such. Outside of the Museum there was a neat statue of The Cancer Survivor, which Scott said that he has seen before. Supposedly the sculpture is supposed to represent people moving through time and the fight with cancer. I thought it was pretty neat.
After we left the University district, we rode through Little Italy where Scott and I split up for a bit as we had some independent shopping to do. I had to find my postcard from Ohio, and Scott wanted to purchase some pharmaceutical supplies. As we left Little Italy we climbed a hill into the absolutely gorgeous neighbourhood called Shaker Heights where we had a water stop at Lisa Klausner's (the ride photographer) mother's house. The streets were broad with a wide meridian running down the centre. The houses that lined the curvy streets were all set back a ways behind well manicured lawns. The Klausner house was nestled in amongst huge trees that provided us with great shade while we met Lisa's mother and sister, enjoyed a few goodies, and then made our way the remaining 10 miles or so to camp.
Tonight's camp is in the Chagrin Falls Polo Fields. Pitched our tent in the middle of the field, then showered, changed and had dinner. As the evening has progressed the weather has turned for the worst. The winds are picking up and many riders had to run to their tents to secure them down so that they wouldn't blow away. Even the large tents had to be re-secured down. My tent? ..... Scott and I are keeping it down by sitting in it writing in our journals, but the light is beginning to fade and sleep is on our minds. Tomorrow is a short day with only 56 miles to cover.
Day 42 - July 25
Chagrin Falls, OH - Canfield, OH
It was another later start this morning. Scott and I were lying in the tent until about 6:30, reluctant to break our cuddle and have to face the world again. The storms that have been rolling in each evening have made for better sleeps where we actually use the sleeping bags on top of us rather than strictly lying on top of them. We packed up camp and then hit the road knowing that breakfast was a 7-mile detour off the route. I was dreading the ride to breakfast because I have found that my metabolism is working so fast that if I don't eat relatively quickly after getting up and moving, I start to feel nauseous from hunger so I wasn't sure if I would make it 7 miles on an empty stomach. Fortunately for me, however, the seven-mile detour off route ended up being 3.5 miles there, and 3.5 miles back.
As if having to detour off the route by 3.5 miles wasn't bad enough, the morning started off with a 1/4-mile, 9% grade right out of camp. On cold muscles it wasn't an easy thing, especially with my knee beginning to ache already. That first hill out of camp was undoubtedly the worst, but it was by no means the last. The rolling hill came one after the other all the way to breakfast, making 3.5-miles feel more like the 7 that I had originally expected. As a matter of fact, the hills stayed with us all day. The route map even mentioned that we would have long rolling hills today.
When we finally made it to our breakfast location I was relieved. We were eating at a restaurant this morning, and guess what was on the menu... Yup, you guessed it... scrambled eggs. Actually, this morning breakfast was excellent. There were sausages, bacon, lots of juice and all the other good fixings. Breakfast was so good that we stayed quite a while and didn't get moving until after 9 am.
I think that part of the reason why we were so long over breakfast was that I was not to eager to get back on my bike and ride another day. My knee was aching and I didn't want to face any more rolling hills. When we finally went outside Scott took a moment and raised my seat height by a quarter of an inch. While it has not eradicated the pain, it has helped to alleviate it to some degree. It sure is amazing that as little as a quarter inch can make such a big difference, but I suppose that when you ride your bike for 6 hours a day, doing approximately 84 revolutions a minute, the repetitive motion adds up really quick and the slightest adjustment can have a big impact.
It was one of those mornings when the miles just didn't seem to pass very quickly. Mind you, I suppose that adding and extra 7 miles in for breakfast didn't help. Nonetheless, we were more than 20 miles into the day’s route when we stopped on the side of the road to drink a juice box that we had brought with us from breakfast. Twelve miles later, we had to stop again because my rear tire was a little low. We were passing through a small town and stopped in the shade of some trees on a large lawn of a corner lot house. While I was pumping up my tire the lady of the house came across the lawn carrying two tall glasses of ice water. We talked with her for a while and I found that I was truly fascinated by the life that she has led. She was probably somewhere between the ages of 28 and 32 and she said that she had two kids and had been married for eight years. She was amazed at what we were doing because she said that she had never left the area in which she was born. While on the one hand I was struck by how provincial her life has been, to grow up in small town America, marry, have kids and never leave, I was also jealous in a strange sort of way. While I don't think that I would ever want trade my travelling experiences I do think that the simplicity of her life is somewhat romantic.
After talking for about twenty minutes we were back on the road again. Five miles further along we stopped at Subway for lunch. By the time that we were ready to leave, my tire was flat again. We stopped to repair the tube, but had difficulty in determining what the cause of the leak was. This is typically not a good omen, as the offending object will likely cause another flat in short time. Sure enough, that was the case this time. Within five miles we were stopped for a third time, but this time the flat had been caused by a staple. While the staple had caused this one, I was convinced that it had not caused the previous leak, but deemed that the previous leak had been caused by a worn out tire so we repaired the staple punctures and then rotated my read tire to the front, and vice versa so. By doing this I am hoping to get some more mileage out of my tire. As the drive chain of the bike is attached to the rear wheel, that tire experiences significantly more friction than does the front. While my rear tire was looking pretty bald, my front one appeared almost new. Hopefully rotating the tires will minimize the number of flats that I get from here on in.
The rest of the day's ride was uneventful. Checkpoint was at mile 40, which and it stuck me that they had possibly been the slowest 40 miles of my ride. I have noticed that the towns and cities are taking on a new look as we travel further east. They seem to be more run down and I am not sure if this is to be attributed to the route finding, that the towns are much older, that the surrounding industries are depressed (isn't this area the old steel factories of the twenties and thirties?) or simply that we are encountering less and less rural areas as the town and cities are beginning to blend more together. Whatever the cause, the traffic is getting more consistent and the streets are getting narrower, two factors that are not too desirable for cyclists.
We finally arrived in camp at Canfield Fairgrounds around 3:30, the usual time despite the reduced mileage, and pitched out tents in and amongst all of the buildings. The shower truck was out of order when we first arrived as they were having problems with the pilot light so we lounged around in our cycling clothes waiting for dinner. Mindy (IL) and Dave made their own shower of sorts as Mindy had bought a sprinkler that was in the shape of a cow, and the hose gets attached to the tail. When the hose is turned on, the water pressure makes it swish back and forth and Mindy and Dave danced around in the spray like a couple of kids dancing to the rhythmical swishing of the water. While I didn't partake in the activities myself, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the two of them have derived such pure and innocent pleasure out of it. The shower truck was back up and functioning after dinner and I got cleaned up then and then returned to the tent to socialize with Gwen and Walt Brown (AZ), Sylvia Colt (CA), Pete, and others.
While I was socializing, Scott was off making telephone contact with home. He had called to check in and received some bad news that he has been laid off from work. Scott had arranged to take a three-month leave of absence for the Big Ride and was planning to return home in mid August to resume his work responsibilities. Now with this news, he is unsure of what he will do and is a little concerned about it considering that he has just agreed to buy some property up by his parent's place in Northern California. The future remains uncertain for Scott but he is trying to remain positive about it and is thinking that his initial plans to kick-off his retirement with the Big Ride may actually wind up being the case.
Day 43 - July 16th
Canfield, OH - Indiana, PA
Today was our last century day. The route map officially called for 99.8 miles, but as I have learnt only too well, "mileage may vary", and today it did. We pulled into camp after having clocked 103 miles. A true century. In addition to the high mileage, we also climbed a lot today. While I have heard two different figures for our cumulative elevation gain day (5,800 ft and 7,000 ft) either one of them helps explain why I am so tired tonight!
The day started off after a night of sleeping under a lamppost. When we had pitched the tent it had been light and we had not noticed the lamp post about 10 feet away from our tent. Once it got dark, right around the time when we were trying to go to sleep, the light was shining so bright into the tent that it was bright enough to read by. While we were too tired and established to relocate the tent, I draped my towel over the outside of the tent in an attempt to diminish the amount of light coming in. It helped to an extent, but certainly didn't black things out.
We got up a little earlier this morning in anticipation of the long day ahead us, but even at 5:30 in the morning we might as well have been considered stragglers. On these big mileage days, people like to get an early start to make the most of the cool of the morning and to buy them some extra time in case they need it. We packed up and headed in for the usual breakfast of scrambled eggs before making our way over to the bike racks.
When I got my bike off the rack I was dismayed to find that I had another flat tire. I took the tire off and checked the inside but again was unable to find the penetrating object. At last I decided to get a new tube and to buy some new rim tape in the possibility that these flats are being caused by a spoke end. That may very well have been the case, as I didn’t have any more problems today.
We started out on the road this morning riding with Chris (IL), Brian (IL) and Ramsey (FL). Although the route was a little hilly I was amazed at how well we were keeping up with these three. We don't usually ride with them because I quite simply can't hold their pace for long. After about seven miles, however, Scott and I decided to drop back and ride at slower pace. Even though I was feeling really good at the time, we realized that we had a long day ahead of us and thought that it would be foolish to wear ourselves out too early on. Plus, Scott had been worried all morning about how my knee would hold up throughout the day and I didn't want to push it.
A few miles further down the road, at mile 12, we crossed the border into Pennsylvania. ALA representatives, volunteers and some of last years Big Riders were out to greet us and present us with a commemorative coin. We said our thank you's, filled up our water bottles, took the usual photos and then moved along.
Pennsylvania didn't take long in showing us that she is the host of the Allegheny Mountains. It seemed like the hills started up again right away. The road that we were first travelling along also didn't have much of shoulder to speak of. We road along on that for a few miles before turning onto Hwy 224 which was a full fledged four lane highway. Highway cycling is not a lot of fun as the traffic moves along so fast with little or no concern for cyclists, but there is one advantage to be spoken of... they tend to be graded a little more gently than the back roads.
We stayed on the highway until about mile 50. While it was a relief to be off the busy road, I was sorry to be leaving the gentler grading. We came off the highway in a town called Butler, where we stopped at the Burger King for lunch. While we were in their, the older couple (60's) sitting at the table behind me started to ask us why there were so many cyclists coming through town. When we told them what we were doing they were very impressed. The gentleman explained to us that he had done the MS 150 mile ride last year and that he was really interested in what we were doing. As they were leaving they gave us a $20 donation and told us to enjoy ourselves. One more, of countless examples of the kindness of people.
Eight miles further along the road we pulled in at checkpoint half way up a steep grade. I marvelled at the poor planning to force us to pull in and stop when we were in the middle of a climb, but I suppose it is where the gravel pull-out was and they didn't want to continue on to a more suitable location. While the usual spread was laid out, we didn't eat anything as we had just left Burger King a few miles back so we filled up with some fresh water and moved on.
The hills continued. They were pretty steep, and long. We did get some good speed on some of the downhills, but they were never long enough knowing that we would only be going back up again. As the day progressed and we were getting more and more tired, the hills seemed to be getting worse. We were well into the heat of the day and we were sucking back lots of fluids in an attempt to stay hydrated.
At mile 88 we stopped again to get a bite to eat. We pulled in at a little cafe that had obviously been a house in years gone by. It was a really neat little place where we walked in the door and found ourselves standing in a hallway; and we then had to enter the little dining room off the hallway. While we were enjoying a hamburger that we were splitting, two local guys came in and started questioning us about what we were doing. They were truly amazed that anyone would ride their bikes 3250 miles. It was truly beyond their comprehension.
We left the cafe with about fifteen miles to go. I was getting tired and my knees were beginning to ache pretty bad. We had lost the tail wind that had helped to push us along a little bit earlier, and the remaining miles became a real grind. With eleven miles remaining we pulled off the main road and onto a back, tree shaded country road. It was absolutely beautiful and quiet, not to mention shaded by the thick cover of deciduous trees overhead, but the miles of the day and the cumulative elevation had worn me out. My knee was aching so back that I dropped back, and fought to hold back the tears. With 1.2 miles to go we turned left onto Blue Spruce Road and were confronted with one last 3/4 mile hill, and it was steep. Determined not to let the day beat me, I shifted into my granny gear, buckled down and made it up the hill with many words of encouragement from Scott. We then enjoyed a steep descent back down the other side into Blue Spruce Park. As I was coming down, though, all I could think was that I sure hope we don't have to climb that hill back out of here tomorrow morning.
True to its name, camp tonight is right by a lake. Unfortunately, however, it is not a like that one would want to go swimming in as it is too shallow and there is lots of slimy green algae in it. Nonetheless, it is a very picturesque site and Scott and I managed to find a tent spot down by the water amongst the trees.
The shower truck was not working again this evening as they are having more boiler problems. There were a lot of very grumpy people milling around and finally the ride organizers made arrangements to have us shuttled 7 miles into town to shower at the YMCA. The ride into town was not fun experience. We packed a dozen hot, stinky, and tired cyclists into the vans and drove the 15 minutes into town. It seemed like the longest 15 minutes of my life as the temperature in the van rose and rose with little or no airflow. I was tired and grumpy from the hard days cycle; the shuttle experience did nothing to improve my mood. The ride back to camp when we were all clean, refreshed and feeling somewhat human again was a much better experience.
Back in camp, dinner was served and it was definitely lacking. Tonight was one of those nights when I am particularly glad that I am not a vegetarian because dinner didn't include one vegetable and was not very well rounded. The shortcomings of dinner, however, were made up for by
The Pennsylvania ALA people are here with us tonight. They greeted us with ginger beer and snacks as we pulled into camp and then later on this evening they lit a campfire and had the makings for smores. It was nice to sit around the campfire and roast marshmallows while Scott and a bunch of guys had a rock-skipping contest across the lake (Scott won). While we have been camping just about every night for the past 43 days, tonight is the first time that we have had a campfire and I have really felt like we are camping; it was nice.
Now it is time for me to start thinking about resting my weary body. I have taken a couple of ibuprofens to ease my aching knees, and I am thankful that our last century is behind us and we only have 66 miles to go tomorrow. Five more days of riding. The countdown is on.
Day 44 - July 27
Indiana, PA - Hollidaysburg, PA
Another one of those mornings when I wake up early, at 5:30, but don't get moving until about 6 am. Breakfast was catered by the same people as last night’s dinner, and it was as equally disappointing. As it turned out, breakfast was just about gone by the time I arrived and beside there being some scrambled eggs, which I passed on, I had to make do with four sausages. I would have been in real trouble had it not been for Jim (VA) having a box of Cherries that he was prepared to share with me. I guess that he is also sick and tired of the hit-and-miss breakfasts and has decided to take matters into his own hands. Thank God for Jim, this morning!
My fears about the ride out of camp came true. The hill, which we had descended down yesterday afternoon, was the very same one that we had to climb first thing this morning. I don't like having to work my cold muscles that hard, but I was pleased at how well I made it up the hill. I was hopeful that today would be a good day.
After that first hill out of camp we were right back into the rollers, but the morning was cool due to some high clouds providing us with some shade. As always, though, they were sure to be gone soon enough. We made our way back through Indiana and then out into the rolling landscapes beyond. The roads were winding and relatively traffic free, which made for nice riding conditions.
Approximately 20 miles out we pulled in at cafe in the town of United to replenish our energy stores after the disappointing breakfast in camp. We weren't the only people who had the same idea as we saw four bikes leaned up against the outside of the building as we pulled up. Sure enough, Big Riders were already inside and more were yet to come. It is funny how we have a tendency to hone in on these small eating establishments and virtually take over the place. Anyway, I was thankful to get a hot and hearty breakfast inside of me, especially in light of what was to come.
The rollers just didn't let up today. They came one after another, but unlike yesterday they were punctuated with small rests in between. You know the hills are getting steep when their grade is noted on the map and the word "CAUTION" is written on the route map before each of the major downhills. None the less, the miles passed under us relatively smoothly and I wasn't feeling like a slug. There were a couple of major hills today which were tough, but I got up them without too much discomfort or strain on my knees. The second hill was supposedly the summit of the Allegheny Mountains at 2,400 feet, and appropriately so, checkpoint was there.
Immediately upon leaving checkpoint we had an awesome 11%, 2-mile descent. It was such a treat to be whizzing down the hill like that that I almost forgot about the hardships that we had endured on the climb up. As always, all good things must come to an end. We reached the bottom of the hill and found ourselves in a town called Ebensburg where we stopped for an ice-cream cone before tackling our last lengthy climb of the day. Talk of the crew members had forewarned us of this dreaded last climb, but as we steadily made our way up it I was encouraged to still be feeling pretty good: no major knee pain to speak of. The worst part about that last hill was that it was long and a little windy so that you couldn't tell where the was and allocate your energies accordingly. When we finally reached the top we pulled in at Jim Barrett's water stop. He had a couple of lawn chairs sitting out so we sat down to chat and rest before pushing on the last few miles into camp.
While we were stopped, a guy pulled up in his car and hopped out. He began asking if we were associated with the Tour-de-Toona race and when we told him that we weren't he began to ask a bunch of questions about our cause and such. He happened to be smoking a cigarette while he was asking these questions so I pointedly told him that we were riding for the Lung Association and suggested that he put out his smoke. He dove back into his car and re-emerged with pad, paper and camera: he was a journalist and he figured that he had just hit on a story. We stayed and answered his questions before reapplying sunscreen to each other’s backs and then pushing on into camp. He said that he will have an article in tomorrow’s paper so we will have to make a point of checking it out.
The last few miles into Hollidaysburg were pretty much all downhill. We had a little bit more up after we left the rest stop, but in comparison to what we had just come up, it was nothing to be too concerned about. After that, it was a long, steady downhill coast into town. As we pulled in, we stopped at the local Safeway so that Scott could try to purchase a lithium battery for his cyclo-computer, which has been acting up the last couple of days. Unfortunately, there were no lithium batteries of the right size available. Back outside we sat under the eve of the store and drank an ice-cold soda each and I made a phone call home to my friend Patti before we rode the last couple of miles through town and into camp.
The Rotarians catered tonight’s dinner, and it was excellent. With my stomach full and my journal written, it is now time to relax and enjoy the company of these good people who we will only be sharing company with for another four days. How bittersweet that prospect is.
Scott got his 7th flat of the ride (I've lost count of how many I have had).
I was half way through the day when I realized that it is my wedding anniversary today. When I finally did realize it, I felt very strange. I think it felt so weird because I am now divorced and I have moved on in my life. Funny how things can change so drastically in a short year.
Day 45 - July 28
Hollidaysburg, PA - Mifflintown, PA
The day started off well today. We got up at about 6:30 after lounging in bed for half an hour or so. Breakfast was great as the Rotarians fed us again this morning. What a difference it makes to have a good hearty breakfast in the mornings. We left camp at about 8 am under cooler, overcast skies. It was going to be a good day.
We started out riding through rural areas up and down long rollers. We were making our way through a valley basin with beautiful old trees growing along side the roads, and large farms spreading out to the ridges. Even though we are in the shadow of the Allegheny Mountains I had the feeling that we were making our way across the plains. Being from the west coast I had never really experienced the plains before like I have done on this trip, but I was surprised at how rarely we were in wide open country. There always seemed to be bit of a hill, a glen, or a cluster of trees giving the terrain some character. That was how it felt riding through the valley this morning under the cover of patchy hazy clouds. The whole east coast, Pennsylvania included, is going through a heat wave and drought season. I am sure that these farms and hillsides would normally be a lot greener and lusher, and I am sure that the unseasonable dryness is part of what has made me think of the plains.
We continued along Hwy 22, which was a little busier than we would have liked, but occasionally the traffic eased up for long enough to allow us to ride abreast for a while. The rolling hills started up again after the first 10 miles or so, and kept with us for much of the day when we weren't climbing even steeper grades. Before I began this ride I had been worried about making it over the Rockies. We were encountering them so early in the trip that I wasn't sure that I would be conditioned enough for them, but in comparison to these Allegheny and Appalachian Mountain ranges, the Rockies were a piece of cake. The roads through the Rockies took a gentler grade and meandered their way slowly up. These roads, however, seem too drive to the bottom of the hill and then go straight up them only to get to the top and then come straight back down.
At about mile 25 we passed by the Lincoln Caverns where many riders stopped for the guided tour, but because of our late start, Scott and I kept on going. The cool of the morning cloud cover had long since burned off and it was promising to be another blisteringly hot day. The humidity clung to us like wet clothes and hung over the landscape shrouding everything in a smog like haze. We kept moving from water stop to water stop as the temperature rose to above 100 degrees. It seemed that every time I went to get a drink from one of my water bottles, I couldn't help but drink the whole thing. Water was becoming a concern. Each time we stopped we filled our water bottles, drank a full one, and filled it again before seeking out any small patch of shade in which to rest. We were drenched in sweat as we made our way up the long climbs and we thankful for any shade that covered our path.
At one point we encountered a particularly steep climb that had me standing on my pedals using every bit of energy and weight that I had to propel me forward. The hill was so steep that I didn't think I was going to make it without falling over due to lack of forward motion. Thankfully that particular hill wasn't much more than a couple hundred yards, and the last half of it was in the shade. Shortly after that, we were navigating another hill when we passed by an old farmhouse with a beautifully manicured lawn. Near the edge of that lawn was an old cast iron bathtub sitting there, as though it was waiting to be taken away with the trash. I just happened to be ready for a break and the bathtub looked like a comfortable place to kick back and relax for a bit. I hopped off my bike and jumped into the tub just as Rusty drove up and then stopped to take a photo.
Throughout the day it seemed as though we were steadily gaining altitude until we finally hit the descent of the day. It was a long descent where we were able to get up a really good speed, but sure enough, it came to an end all too soon. At last we pulled onto a backcountry road that followed a river. We were riding up on a bank in the thick shade of hardwood forest, but the rolling hills stayed with us. That last ten miles into Mifflintown were tough. We stopped a few time and rested on the steep hillside right next to the road before pushing on for another couple of miles. At last we came out of the trees and found ourselves in Mifflintown, a quiet older industry town right on the banks of the river. The town reminds me of an old English coal mining community. The buildings are all brick and the front doors are right off of the sidewalks lining the narrow streets. As we rode through town and over the old iron bridge I expected to see a couple of kids with scraped up knees running down the street kicking a soccer ball as their mother leans out of one of the windows looking straight down on the street and barks an order at them to come in for dinner.
Once on the other side of the road, we had another series of short and steep climbs away from the river and up to Juniata High School perched up on the hill. When we arrived in camp we picked out a spot for the tent in the shade around the backside of the gymnasium. It was so hot that I went for my shower immediately after getting the tent set up and I felt much better for it than sitting around in stinky, sweaty clothes. The Pennsylvania ALA representatives were here to greet us again, and today they were handing out ice cream... Yum! We had a dinner of hamburgers and corn on the cob, and it was great. I had that we would get a lot of corn on the cob while on this trip, but tonight was the first time and I loved every kernel of it.
After dinner, Doug Cragg (Cnd/CA), Stan Smith (OR), Scott and I all borrowed on of the Ride vehicles to head back down the hill and into town. We went on the pretence of picking up some sundry items in the local pharmacy, but as will all true Big Riders, it wasn't long before we were off in search of a bar. We found the pub and walked inside only to be walking into a cloud of smoke. Thirsty for a cold beer we ordered on round and answered the question of the locals as to where we were from and what we had been doing. When we told them what we had been doing they were suitably impressed, but not so moved that they put out their cigarettes. After one beer we had had about as much as we could take so we purchased a six-pack and left to find a smoke-free environment. Outside again we situated ourselves on a park bench along the bank of the river and we enjoyed our beers as we watched the water flow by and we enjoyed the cooling temperatures of the early evening.
When we got back to camp the second and last talent show of the ride was about to begin. The first one had taken place in Hardin, SD and had been quiet a fun even, but tonight’s was a real hoot. After travelling together for seven weeks we have all gotten to know each other much better so people were a little more forthcoming in their presentations. We were entertained by people reading poems that hey had written, songs, skits, and reflective speeches as well hearing the results of a rider poll on a variety of different topics. All in all it was a good time.
While everybody was watching the talent show, I thought that I would take a few minutes and use the pay phone in the school hallway. As was more than often the case, there was a line-up for the phone, despite the fact that most Riders were watching the talent show. I ended up crossing the school playing fields and walking a couple of blocks over to the gas station in order to place my call to friends and family back home. Now with the talent show over and most of the riders heading off to bed, it is time to think about turning in myself. It is hard to believe that another day of this awesome adventure is drawing to a close and we are one day closer to the end.
Oh... one last thing... when we got into camp this afternoon we saw a copy of the article that yesterdays reporter had written posted on the camp services bulletin board. It was a good article, complete with a photo of me applying sunscreen to Scott's shoulders before we headed out.
Day 46 - July 29th
Mifflintown, PA - Gettysburg, PA
I am going to have to pay more attention to where we pitch the tent these last couple of nights. We did it again and found ourselves within close proximity of a street lamp. Fortunately, however, we were a little bit further away last night and I was tired enough that it didn't take me too long to be able to close my eyes to the light and drift into a deep sleep. There was no lounging in be this morning. We got up thinking that it was 7:15, but a quick look at our watches showed us that it was only 6:15. I guess that the light had made us think it was later than it really was. Having that extra hour of sleep (even though it was only in my mind) did a lot to make me feel rested and revived so we prepared for our day of riding.
After a breakfast of eggs, hash browns, toast and cereal we were back on the road riding out of town on Hwy 333. Right away we found ourselves warming up with the same rolling hills that have dominated this Pennsylvanian landscape, but it wasn't but a few miles into the day that we found ourselves climbing the toughest hill of the ride. While the grade wasn't as bad as some of the hills that we have encountered over the last couple of days, it was still about 8% or so, and the tough part was that it was long. As I am one of those riders who picks up the map in the morning and places it in my rear bag, not to be brought out again until we reach camp that night I was not prepared for this climb. Even if I had read the map, however, there was no real indication on it as to how long and hard of a climb it would be. Despite being under the cover of a thick overhead canopy of hardwood trees and bushes it was a hot climb. At one point I looked over at Scott who was riding beside me and I watched the sweat stream down his arms and drop from his wrist at a rate of about one fat swollen drop every second. That was a clear and visible indication to me as to how hot it was and what a tough climb we were encountering. We made our way up at a slow and steady 5 mph, hoping that each bend in the road would bring us out on the summit, but this hill just seemed to keep on going. Bend after bend we kept on going up and up for three long gruelling miles before we finally reached the top to the applause and cheers of other riders pulled in at the water stop. Likewise, we stopped to refill our water bottles, take a photo in front of the billboard that warned of a steep descent back the way that we had just come, and cheer on other riders approaching the top. Sure enough, everything that goes up must come down. When we departed from the summit we were rewarded with a hell of a downhill. I went on for at least two miles down the winding weather beaten road. While it was a great ride, the weather beaten road surface was alternately in sun and shade so I didn't feel comfortable letting it all out and taking my hands off the brakes.
At the bottom of the hill we came out of the trees and into the open where we encountered more rolling hills. While the scenery was beautiful and the roads were quiet, I was feeling like a slug as I made my way up the rollers. It wasn't long before, however, before we were confronted with our second major climb of the day. Again we were crawling up the hill at 5 mph. This one wasn't as long or steep as the first, but it was out in the open so we had the sun beating down on us the whole way up, and man it was hot! Checkpoint was on the summit of this second hill and we stopped to fill our water bottles, have a few bites of nourishment (which was pretty lacking today) and admire the view of the town of Carlisle below. I guess that this hill was to be the last major climb of the ride and we were largely through the Appalachians. I looked out over the valley below and almost expected to see the ocean. I know that we still have a couple of days to ride before we reach Washington DC, but the Appalachians had been the last big barrier to the finish line in my mind, and now that they were pretty much behind us I was looking to see the end.
We didn't spend that much time up on the summit as the heat was still rising. Scott said that he looked at his cyclo-computer while we were up there and said that the temperature was 110 degrees. The only relief from the heat, although minor as it is, is to keep moving. The wind generated by cycling helps to cool us down as we go. The wind-chill factor (although the term "chill" seems to be out of place in these parts) brought the temperature down to a muggy 84 degrees when we were cycling.
The last 30 miles of the days ride were tough as we fought to stay hydrated. Once again we were moving from pit stop to pit stop where we would stop for long periods to rest in any bit of shade and drink as much water as we could. We finally pulled into Gettysburg at around 2 o'clock and we immediately went into the high school where were are camped to shower and change. (The Cascade showers are still not functioning so it is a good thing that we have been camped at schools the last couple of nights.)
Once we were cleaned up we had a couple of hours to kill before our bus tour of Gettysburg was scheduled to leave so we decided to wander back into town to grab a bite to eat. We headed to Lincoln Square, which is sort of like a large intersection/traffic circle with a flagpole in the middle, where we found Stan Smith (OR) enjoying a burger and beer in a pub. We decided to join him before we all wandered back to camp for the 5 pm departure of the bus tour.
We arrived back in camp with a little bit of time to spare so we hung around camp services while we waited. It seems that as we are drawing near the end of the ride, people are spending more time socializing with each other and hanging out in larger groups than has been the case up until now. I guess that we are all trying to gain as much from each other’s company as we can before this great adventure draws to an end and we all go our separate ways. While we were waiting and socializing I had the opportunity to look at a scrapbook created by Gail Norre of the adventures that the Norre family have had this summer. Chris Norre, the ride mechanic, brought his wife Gail and their four kids -- Elise (15), Nathan (12), Hanna (8), and Myra (5) -- with him on the ride and from looking at their scrapbook they have had a lot of fun. Gail has put photos and trinkets into the scrapbook and had encouraged Riders to go through it and write in comments and sign it wherever they feel it is appropriate. It is was really neat and I am sure that they will all treasure it for years to come. Now, if only I can do something similar with my photos once I get home!
Five o’clock came at last and the tour bus arrived to take us on a tour of Gettysburg. I must confess that I know very little about the American Civil War and the Battle at Gettysburg, so I was really pleased and impressed to find that our tour guide was as good as he was. His name was Mike Phipps, and he claimed to have written three books on the Battle of Gettysburg, and he was able to give an excellent explanation and overview of the Battle that took place on these grounds so many years ago. The tour lasted for about two hours and involved a number of different stops where we were able to file off the bus, gather around a monument or overlook, and listen to his knowledgeable descriptions of what happened. I felt like I learned a good deal without being overburdened or bored with the details. He was an excellent tour guide and I was sorry when we found ourselves being driven back to camp as our two hours had already passed.
Once back at camp we were shuttled back into town for dinner at the “Moose Lodge”. I have never heard of a Moose Lodge before, but assume that it is similar to the Elks or the Eagles. Dinner was nothing special, so we had our share and then joined a bunch of other Big Riders next door at a local Micro Brewery. We socialized with a whole table of people, I tried “swing” dancing with Marc, one of the Motley Fool.com riders, and we enjoyed good company and some good beer before heading back to camp to get some rest.
Tomorrow morning we are all supposed to gather outside one of the Gettysburg College buildings for a group photo. It will be nice to get a big group picture, as I don’t think that we have all been together for a photo prior to this, and I doubt that we will have the opportunity again within the next couple of days. Hmmm… the reality that we only have two more days left is beginning to set in.
Day 47 - July 30
Gettysburg, PA - Fredricks, MD
It was another cooler night last night that meant good sleeping weather again. We woke up at about 5:30 this morning and lay in bed listening to the sounds of the other riders starting their day. We felt no real urgency to get up and moving this morning for two reasons: we only have 36 miles to cover today; and we can't leave early anyway because we all have to meet for the group photo at 7 am.
After about 45 minutes of luxurious lounging, we finally hauled ourselves out of the tent at about 6:15. Many had already left the camp to head off to breakfast, and others were rushing off to do so. We were not feeling the least bit rushed this morning, to the point that Scott even went off to have a shower before packing up the tent and loading our gear into the support truck before heading back to the Moose Lodge for our breakfast.
Where the dinner last night had been nothing noteworthy, breakfast was great! They didn't serve us scrambled eggs, which in itself was a minor miracle (if I never eat scrambled eggs again, I won't be sorry). The Moose men did me pleased by serving up quiche. What a treat! I was really excited by this and Scott thought that I was crazy. Hey, what does he know, he likes runny scrambled eggs!
As we were leaving the breakfast hall to go off to have the group picture taken, Scott realized that he had lost his $130 US Oakley sunglasses. He was pretty concerned about them, so he went riding back to camp to look for them while I waited in town at Liberty Square. Our lazy morning was beginning to get the better of us! We were already late for the photos and now Scott had ridded off in the opposite direction. While I don't mind being fashionably late for something such as these photos, which would there wasn't a hope in hell that they would happen on time, I don't like pushing that tardiness to the extreme, which I was fearful that we were doing. As I sat there in Liberty Square waiting for Scott to come riding back, I began to feel more and more a sense of urgency. When at last he came riding back towards me, he was not in a good mood. His search of the camp had not turned up his sunglasses. I tried telling him not to fret yet as someone likely found them and turned them into camp services, but there was no consoling him. He sunglasses did turn up later, as suspected. Someone had turned them in.
By the time that we finally made it to where the photos were being taken, it was 7:30 and the majority of riders had positioned themselves on the broad stairs out front of one of the university buildings. As we had suspected, we were none too late. Despite being half an hour late, riders were still trailing in behind us and the pictures were not actually taken until about 8 am. All I can say is that I am glad that we weren't there much earlier, because I found the disorganization of the whole thing quite frustrating. (Mind you, people like us who showed up late only served to exasperate that disorganization). Despite my frustration with the situation, it was quite a scene the see the hundred or so cameras laid out for the few volunteers to snap a shot with each. The actual picture taking took over five minutes because there were so many cameras to be used. When it was finally over, many of us riders broke into smaller groups to take photos of factions within the larger whole. Of coarse the five of us Canadians had to gather together for our photo.
Once the picture taking was finally over, Scott and I headed back into town. We didn't have much mileage to cover this morning so we decided that we would take our time and do a little more exploring of Gettysburg before heading on our way. Before anything, though, we pulled in at an authentic 50's diner so that I could enjoy a morning cuppa tea. We weren't the only people to have the same idea as we found the diner full of other Big Riders and tourists. It was obviously a popular breakfast spot as it was fashioned out of a stainless steel railway car and came complete with lots of atmosphere. I enjoyed my cuppa tea and the leisurely start to the morning before we paid our bill and hopped on our bikes to go and explore a little more of Gettysburg.
Our first stop was at a tourist information booth so that we could get a map of Gettysburg and directions to the nearby covered bridge, and then we made our way to the nearby Rite Aid so that I could find out if my camera is broken or not (the liquid crystal display was flashing "E"). The nice guy in the camera department put my camera in one of those black bags, opened it up and informed me that my film was not rewound and it is likely experiencing some kind of malfunction. I was not pleased to get this news as the camera is on loan from my mother, but nonetheless, I bought an overpriced instant camera for the time being, thanked the nice guy for helping me and left. Scott, on the other hand, had a slightly more successful time while I was sorting out my camera woes. He managed to fiddle around with his cyclo-computer, which has been giving him nothing but problems for the last three days, and get it fixed. Yay for Scott!
At last we were on the road, but not the day's route. It was still early for most tourists to be out in their cars and RV's so the roads were nice and quiet. We explored many of the same areas that we had seen yesterday afternoon while on our tour, and with a little of the history behind us, it was very interesting. We began to make our way through the battlefields, past the groves down towards the river and the covered bridge. Scott really wanted to see the bridge and kept on saying that any ride across the USA would not be complete without seeing two things: an Amish horse-drawn buggy, and a covered bridge. It ended up taking us four miles out of the way, but it was very pretty, peaceful, and worth the trip. With that done, it was time to think about grabbing a bite to eat for lunch and then hitting the road in earnest and getting on route for the day. But first, lunch. We stopped at Hardee's and then made out way out of town at about 12:15... our latest start yet!!!
The road out of Gettysburg was very scenic. We found our selves winding along quiet roads admiring the old farmhouses and barns on either side of us. Some of them were built as long ago as the 1700's. I found that quite amazing being that I am from the Vancouver on the West Coast where nothing seems to be over 100 years old.
About 20 miles into our ride we found ourselves at a small monument, which marked the end of Maryland border. We stopped for our usual photo as Rick pulled up in the truck and started to pull down the route marker signs right in front of us! Wow, we much have been dawdling today. We convinced him to hold-up long enough to take our photo for us, and then pleaded with him to leave some of the signs up so that we could find our way. Without too much persuading, he complied but beckoned us to get a move on.
The afternoon's ride was not a tough one, (we are now out of Pennsylvania and must have left the hills behind), but we were riding right in the heat of the day. The whole east coast has been hit with a heat wave these last few weeks, and we have been hearing reports of the death toll attributed to the heat. Of coarse it is typically older and frail people who are dying, but hearing these reports doesn’t do much to ease how wee feel about riding in this heat. Reports that we heard this afternoon have attributed over 50 deaths to the heat and humidity. All that we can do to make it through the miles is to focus on one pit stop after another. Water stop to water stop and keep the fluids going through us. Now that we are nearing the end of this ride, we have drunk so much Gatorade that we are real connoisseurs of the stuff. Without a doubt, Lemon Ice is our favourite flavour now. When we first started, I like the fruit punch the best but after a few weeks of that stuff, it got to b too much. Now Lemon Ice is the flavour of choice for most of us riders because it is the least offensive in that it is sort of like lemon water. The crewmembers know which are our favourite flavours and they try to find it for us out of the supplies. It’s funny that some of them are more often successful than others.
As we were pulling into the outskirts of Fredricks we passed by a camera repair shop so we stopped and went in. The guy inside told me that my camera was broken beyond the point of repair as the back door is broken, the liquid crystal display is smashed, and now there is something wrong with it that it won't take a picture. As I already mentioned I was a little distressed to hear this as the camera is on loan from my mother, but today was my lucky day. They had a camera the same as my mom's, but with the extra feature of being able to set the date, for sale in their used display cabinet. It was more than I would have liked to pay, but considering the circumstances, I purchased it so that I would be able to replace my mom's.
At last we pulled into camp in Fredricks, MD, our last camp of the Big Ride. It was about 4 pm by the time we arrived and I was once again struck by the realization that no matter what the mileage of the day, we don't typically get into camp any earlier one way or the other. Arriving in camp today, however, brought some mixed feelings. Tomorrow we will finish what we began 7 weeks ago. It will be bitter sweet.
Once in camp we were delighted to find out that another that has recently finished a contract somewhat nearby has replaced the Cascade shower truck. While it appeared older from the outside, I was delight to find out, upon stepping inside, that there was music piped into it. We got to shower to the sounds of tunes. Cool! Rather ironic, however, that we get the new and improved truck for the last night of the ride!
After getting all cleaned up and setting up camp, we gathered in the shade of the meal shelter to wait for our dinner. The contractors arrived and began setting up while we all sat around and socialized. We waited and waited for dinner to be served while the caterers didn’t appear to be doing much. Finally someone when up to them and asked them how long it would be, only to have them inform us that not only where they ready, but that they had been ready for half an hour and were just waiting for us to come and line up. Wow! What a miscommunication that was!
After dinner we were all summoned to gather around for a meeting about what will happen tomorrow with our ride into DC. The details were covered a couple of times and then the Big Ride Big Wigs like Rusty were called in to say a few words to us about what a great bunch we have been and what a good trip, etc, etc. When the meeting finally broke up, we gathered into smaller factions again for more group picture taking. The big one for me was to be a part of the EFI group. For those of you who don't know what it means to be an EFIer, it is an acronym that was coined last year to refer to that cyclist who rode Every Fucking Inch of the ride. Tonight I was pleased to count myself in that group, but I felt bad for people like Scott who can't technically lay claim to be and EFIer because he missed 15 miles going into Rapid City because he was so sick he couldn't go on. When I set out to do this ride, I told myself that I would complete every inch of it, and so far, I have. Some days it has been hard to go on, but through it all, with the support and encouragement of Scott, other riders, and family and friends back home, I have persevered and managed to complete every mile of this trip so far. I am proud of myself.
Some time ago, a bunch of riders took it upon themselves to order some cycling jerseys from "Chili Bear". The jerseys are white with a Big Ride logo printed on them and they are available in either the regular jersey or a sleeveless version. While I wanted to order one of these jerseys, I didn't as I didn't think that I could afford one (the jerseys were $60 US, over $100 Cdn). Well, this evening they arrived and were distributed to those individuals who had purchased them. They turned out to be a very nice jersey and when everyone was busy trying them on, I was a little envious. It would seem that more people than not got one, and the plan is for everyone to wear them into DC tomorrow.
Well, after all of the discussions about what is going to happen tomorrow, Scott and I have returned back to the tent and were going to have a quiet evening, but Dave and his brother Al just came over and have beckoned us to go out for a beer with them. Hey, it's our last night of the Big Ride; I guess we can't really pass up the opportunity to go out for some refreshments!
Day 48 - July 31
Fredricks, MD - Washington, DC
Well, this is it! We're finished! I can't quite come to grips with the fact that it's over. After forty-eight days of cycling and five and a half months of fundraising, training and preparations, it's all finished, behind me, over! Wow!
Last night Scott and I went out looking for a beer with Dave and his brother Al, Mary Arnone from California, Ted Ralphs from Texas, and Doug Cragg from California (by way of Calgary, Alberta). We all piled into Dave's little car and went over to the Holiday Inn but when we got there we couldn't get served because some of us hadn’t brought our ID with us. A little frustrated we departed and piled back into the car to settle on an going to Applebee's across the street. There weren’t many people in the restaurant at the time so we had the place basically to ourselves. We ordered some food and a couple of drinks each before cramming ourselves back into the car to return to camp. While it wasn't all that late when we got back, Scott and I lay wake until about midnight thinking and talking about what today would bring.
We got a relatively early start this morning as we had to have all of our bags loaded into the gear truck by 7 am. Fran, the driver of the truck had to pull out early as he needed to ensure that he would be able to find parking for the semi in front of the dorm accommodations that had been arranged in advance. I'm glad that they had the foresight to leave early, because it must not have been easy to find parking for a semi in the crowded streets of the George Washington University District.
As we started the day's ride I was amazed at how much countryside we were cycling through. I guess that I had always figured that the closer we would come to DC, the busier and more urban things would get, but here we were putting in our first 30 miles of the day in rural farming areas. But of coarse, it couldn't be flat rural farmland... no, that would be too easy. Instead we were confronted with more rolling hills, although they were rather gentle. I guess that these hills were determined to stick with us the whole way to the end!
We pulled up at one water stop to find a police officer talking to Harry about cyclists taking pictures in the buff. I got a laugh because Lisa has been talking about getting a bunch of people together to take a nude shot. I guess that they, or at least she, had done so out in the field by Harry's water stop. Scott thinks that it must be a Canadian thing that we all want to take our clothes off and run around. He doesn't seem to believe me that it's not all of us Canadians, just a few of us!
We started to hit the urban outskirts of town by the time we hit about mile 30. As we pulled into the suburbs the traffic got increasingly worse, and the drivers seemed to have less and less consideration for us cyclists. At about mile 34 I was riding along when a woman turned left into a parking lot right in front of me. I had to slam on my breaks to avoid broadsiding her, and it was as much as I could do to avoid the accident. I was really shook up by the incident. Here I had ridden my bike 3225 miles across the country only to be just about hit with the finish line practically in sight. As she screeched to a halt I pulled up along side her and gave her a piece of my mind and told her that she should be more aware of cyclists. I guess that my approaching her shook her up as much as her almost hitting me had shaken me up as she called me "a little bitch" before rolling up her window and driving away. I was so shook up by the incident that Scott and I pulled in at the McDonalds just up the street so that I could settle my nerves with a milkshake.
While we were in McDonalds we got to talking to Randy (one of the crew members who rode last year and lives relatively near me in Everret, Washington). Randy has driven his own vehicle across with the ride and will be returning home within a couple of days. He had agreed to take Scott and my bikes back with him in the back of his pickup truck and then he will meet up with me next week when I get back home. It sure was a relief to come to this arrangement with him, as I was really beginning to dread the dismantling and boxing of my bike for the flight home. Now neither Scott, nor I have to worry about it.
Shortly after leaving McDonalds, the route pulled onto a paved bike path that led about twenty miles through the city into Washington DC. After my experience with the motorist a little ways back it was nice to get onto a designated bike/walk path out of the way of the busy drivers. The path meandered along through many wooded areas with parks and playing fields. The worst traffic considerations were encountering other cyclists coming in the opposite direction. Today, however, just wasn't meant to be my day... as we were riding along a bee and I collide. It hit me on my lower lip, which was slightly open. I guess that it got caught up in between my lips and my teeth and the stung me on my lower lip. I let out a bit of a yelp and then immediately noticed my lip swelling up. My lip went numb and my mouth started to salivate. I was almost drooling as I rode along trying to keep the saliva from spilling over my throbbing, numb lower lip. The throbbing of my lip was making me miserable and made it difficult for me to enjoy the beauty of the bike path we were travelling along. All I wanted was to get to our lunch / muster location before our big approach to the finish line. After my lip swelled up to about twice it's normal size, Scott gave me an antihistamine which helped to bring the swelling back down, stop the numbness, and eventually ease the throbbing.
At last we arrived at the muster location where we were all to meet up, have lunch, and then stage our departures for the final approach into Washington, DC. It was about 12:30 and we were definitely in the later half of the group to arrive. Scott and I dropped our bikes on the grassy knoll and picked out a spot in the shade. It was hot and I was thirsty. Lunch was a special occasion. One of last year’s riders owns a restaurant in town somewhere and he had volunteered to cater lunch for all of this years Big Riders and crew. I don't know what the name of his restaurant was, or what even what type of food they serve, but I do know that lunch was great. We had sandwiches made with real, whole marinated chicken breasts along with cans of ice-tea to quench our thirst. We sat in the shade enjoying our sandwiches and downing about four ice-teas each, and thought about the finish line that was now only a few short miles away.
At one o'clock people started to move out of our muster location in groups of ten. Scott and I were in no real hurry to leave, as we didn't have family for friends who were going to be at the finish line to meet us. We enjoyed the shade and watched as our numbers gradually diminished as each group of ten riders pulled out. Just as I was starting to think that perhaps Scott and I should get ready to head out ourselves, he announced that the had to go to the bathroom. We didn't have our usual trailer of portable toilets set up at this rest stop so Scott had to go off in search of a Johnny-on-the-Spot. The groups kept on pulling out and the numbers were further decreasing. I was getting increasingly anxious, as we had to be out of the muster location before Ron Via as he was to bring up the read, pulling the Burley. There were only five riders left, (myself, Scott and Ron included), when Scott finally returned from his trip to the washroom and we hurriedly mounted our bikes and pulled out along the bike path.
The God's were not with us this afternoon, because not only where we in the last five to leave, but one and a half miles down the road Scott got a flat tire. We stopped to change it and were doing as quick a job as possible, but even so, Ron had to hold up and wait for us to get back on the road again so that he would not get in front of us. Back moving again, not more than one-tenth of a mile further, Scott gets a second flat. Groan! Ron gives us a spare inner tube as we had just used the last good one and would have had to delay longer while we patched the previous tube. And we figured that there was no hurry because there was nobody at the finish line waiting for us to pull in. HA! Now everybody was waiting for us to pull in.
After another mile or so on the bike path we pulled out onto the city streets. “This is it”, I thought to myself, “we must be been getting close now”. As we approached the first intersection where we needed to make a left hand turn there was a motorcycle cop there who blasted his siren to stop the oncoming traffic and flagged us through. Wow! We were being given the Royal treatment and it heightened my sense of excitement and anticipation. As we came cycling down the hill I could see the gathering in front of us and to the left. We crossed the street and were funnelled into the park with people all around. Once we reached the head of the funnel we were stopped and awarded with a medal that was hung around our necks, and we were just in time to turn around and watch Ron Via pull the Burley in behind us.
Within minutes of pulling in, the speeches began, but to my surprise, they were not long and drawn out. While Rusty spoke and the president of the ALA go up and gave a quick speech, I was amazed when it was all over and done with within five minutes or so. After that, we just mingled around, drank lots of water, hugged and congratulated many of the other Riders, and were introduced to some of their families and friends who had come to greet them at the finish line. It was at that point when I was really struck by the wish that my parents had been able to make it out to meet me. Mom had spoken of it on a couple of occasions, stating that she regretted that she was unable to make it, but at that time I had asserted that it was probably for the best as to have her there would have been distracting. I thought that I would have been torn between celebrating the accomplishment with my parents and with my Big Ride family, but when I got there, I was so sorry that they were not there to cheer me in and share the moment with me.
After the speeches were completed and people had had a moment to adjust to the idea of having finished, people started to gather up on the stage with the Big Ride banner behind them to pose for photos. Once again the five of us Canadians gathered for our photo, holding our bikes high above our heads. After that, Scott and I climbed up and had a couple of pictures taken. That was a magical moment, to stand there with my riding companion and friend and to declare our accomplishment by holding our bikes up high.
At last it was time to leave to go in search of the hotel, which we had inherited, in a manner of speaking, from Pat (Scott's ex-girlfriend who was originally supposed to come to DC to greet him). The hotel was in the George Washington University district, and it was a nice older building with lots of character and charm. After getting checked in, we took our bikes up to the room and then called for a cab to take us over to the University Dorms where we would pick up our gear out of the truck. It was only a half dozen blocks drive in each direction, but we were disgusted to find out when we got back to the hotel that the fare was $15 US. Ouch! We had either been ripped off, or things are just really expensive around here.
Back up in our room it was time to relax and get cleaned up. The first thing that I wanted to do was have a bath. Oh what a luxury that was! For seven weeks I have had to bathe in a public shower stall, but this afternoon I was able to kick back and soak in a tub of hot water, in privacy! Hmmm, I don't think that a bath has ever felt so good before, and perhaps it will never feel as good again.
Now that we have had a chance to get cleaned up and relax in an air-conditioned environment, we are about to head out to the Reception that is being hosted by Lucent Technologies (one of the riders works for them). My understanding is hat there will be some appetizers served, and then there will be a slide presentation of Lisa Klausner's (the Ride Photographer) work. What will happen after the reception, I don't know, but I am sure that there will be some gathering somewhere.