Well, as many of you may already know through Facebook, I have finished the ride and I am now home. It was an amazing journey. Many highs, lows and in betweens. Some pain, both physical and emotional, but generally speaking, a great trip and something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
To start off, I guess I will recap my last day on the road. That was Tuesday. I started the day in Ashland, which is just north of Richmond. I was beat. Although I had just taken a rest day Saturday, both Sunday and Monday had been long days with lots of miles. I had a court date scheduled for Friday morning and a flight home for early Thursday, so I had been pushing to get the trip done with enough time to have a day to organize my activities and ship my bike home. So there I was, just 98 miles from the end in good shape to finish in my allotted time, but exhausted, sore and generally drained both mentally and physically. I was ready to get this thing over with and go home.
First things first, I decided to get a good breakfast. Just a little up the street was a Waffle House. Two waffles and a coffee later, I felt ready to tackle the day. I started fairly early. I was on the road by 8:00 and enjoying the change of terrain. Finally some flats!
Things went well for the morning. Although tired and sore, I was keeping a decent pace and tried to take a break about every 10-15 miles. Just often enough to get what I needed as far as nutrition and a rest, but not so often that I would extend the day too much. I also tried to keep the breaks to about 5 minutes. Gotta keep moving!
By midday, I had come about 60 miles and was feeling good about my progress, but I was really feeling tired. The breaks became longer. Not a lot, but I noticed.
When I crossed the Chickahominy River with about 30 miles to go, I felt like the end was in sight. I was on a bike path mirroring the John Tyler Highway and just past the river, the path turned south alongside highway 614 toward Jamestown. This colonial area seemed to be the beginning of the end for me. Not only in terms of nearing the end of my day, and thus the trip, but also in terms of my stamina. I had no desire to keep going.
As I reached the park surrounding Jamestown and then turned onto the Colonial National Historic Parkway, I began stopping at almost every roadside sign. They were very interesting and told the story of the early settlers and their plight with the Indians in the area, but the real reason for my stops was I wanted to stop. I was done.
I made my way slowly along the parkway and eventually to Williamsburg. My intention had been to stop and find something to eat and take a nice break, but I found no place to stop immediately along the route and before I realized it, I was out of town and headed toward Yorktown. With just 13 miles remaining, I decided I would eat in Yorktown as a
After a grueling little ride with enormous amounts of traffic that gave very little room, I finally reached Yorktown! The route took me down through the historic colonial district right along the York River. All the way through the small village at the end of town was the awesome monument commemorating the surrender of the British in the Revolutionary War. It was amazing to see, not only because of the significance of the monument in regards to the history of our country, but also because my map said that the route ends at said monument. I was done with the Trans Am.
You might expect a sign or a banner or maybe someone standing there saying “you did it!”, but there were no such things. Actually, there wasn’t anyone there. Just me. I looked around hoping to find at least one person to ask to take my picture or someone to tell that I had just rode my bike 4555 miles across the country. It was a futile exercise. I was alone.
How anticlimactic is that?! It seems it was a great lesson. This trip wasn’t about the opportunity to tell anyone about what I had accomplished. It wasn’t about any sort of recognition that I might receive. It was strictly about a dream that I had and the completion of said dream and what it meant to me. As I stood there with my bike, walking around this beautiful monument and reading the inscriptions on it, I was humbled. My accomplishment of riding across the country obviously pales in comparison to what people had went through to fight for us to be a free nation. Perspective is key in the realization of
significance. I’ll come back to that thought.
After about 15 minutes, two young guys came running down the road. Out for a jog, they were talking and I felt guilty asking them to stop, but I did. They came over and took my picture and I told them what I had done. They said congratulations and went on there way, as did I. That was the pomp and circumstance! LOL!
Now I had a different journey ahead. Without the benefit of a set of maps to tell me what roads would be good to cycle on or where I would find eats, drinks or a bed, I needed to find my way south through Newport News and Hampton, over(and/or under) the James River and into Norfolk, where I would then need to find a way to ship my bike home and get myself on a plane to fly to St Louis on Thursday at 6:00AM. The trip would be roughly 35 miles, but I couldn’t ride my bike the whole way. Not only is it illegal to ride on interstate highways in Virginia, but you are forbidden from riding on the bridges and tunnels that cross the James River in and around the area. My choices were two, as I saw it.
One, I could ride back up to Jamestown and take the ferry across, then south and east through Norfolk and it’s suburbs to where I needed to go, totaling somewhere around 100 miles. With just 36 hours before I would be flying home and plenty of things to do to prepare for said trip, that wouldn’t work.
Two, I could call a cab and pay out the wazzoo to haul me and my bike to the area around the airport. I chose to pay out the wazzoo.
First I had to find somewhere to eat. After passing through Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown without eating, I was famished and started getting the shakes. I’m not a skinny guy and you would think my body would find something on this frame of mine to sustain itself, but it wasn’t working that way. I needed to eat and quickly.
The first place I found was a gas station along highway 17 about 7 miles down the road. I had the worst hamburger I had on the trip, a honey bun, a king size 3 Musketeers candy bar and a 20 oz Minute Maid pink lemonade.
That did the trick. By the time I finished everything, I was feeling much better and considered riding on south a ways before I called a cab. But it was getting late. It would be dark in about an hour and the main roads were way too big and had lots of traffic. Not a safe situation. So I called a cab. They picked me up in about 10 minutes and I was on my way to Norfolk.
The cab ride cost me $100. I thought I was going to gag when I had to pay the guy. I came to terms with it quickly. I was safe and done with the trip. Not long to go and I would be on my way home.
I stayed at the Econolodge-Airport on North Military Highway. It was cheap and the
closest thing I could find to the airport, according to the map on my phone. But the neighborhood kinda scared me. The motel didn’t have a lobby, just a bullet proof glass window with a slot to pass documents and key cards. There were no gas stations or restaurants in site either direction. Only a used car lot, a transmission repair place and a seedy looking bar across the road. I went ahead and got checked in, went to my room and didn’t come out. I ordered Domino’s delivery for dinner, showered and watched TV. I also plotted my next moves. I had a plan for the next day. Then I slept. I was out before 10:00.
The next morning I slept till 8:00, but felt tired still. My legs were achy when I got up, but things would get better now that I didn’t have to get up and push everyday. My plan was to ride about 2 miles down the road to an area I determined might be better. According to the map on my phone, there were several motels in the area and places to eat. There was also a UPS store within a half mile so I could ship my bike. I got my things together and headed out about 10.
About a mile down the road, I found a Sonic and stopped for breakfast. Then fought traffic and got to the general area I was looking for. It wasn’t a lot better than where I had been the night before, but a little. I decided to try and save a couple bucks and checked in at the Motel 6. I looked at the room, which was kinda clean, but smelled a little bad, then rode to the UPS store.
On the way out to Portland, I had disassembled my bike, boxed it and all my gear up very carefully and checked the box as luggage on the plane. TSA found it necessary to open up the box, remove everything and put it back not near as carefully as I had first packed it. To eliminate this issue and not have to drag the box around Norfolk and St Louis airports, I had determined that I would ship my bike UPS.
So I sat in the UPS store, disassembled my bike, packed it and most of my things (other than my tooth brush, deodorant, phone charger and a small backpack I had with me) in a box and sent it all off on it’s way to my house. It was about $50 more than I thought it was going to be, but better to pack it and not have to worry about someone unpacking it. Hopefully it makes it home ok!
After stopping for lunch along the way back, I went to my room and watched TV. I ended up falling asleep for a couple hours. Later in the evening, I walked down the street to a gas station for some snacks and drinks, then went to bed before 10:00.
Up at 3:15 AM, I gathered my things for the final time and went to the office to check out. For some reason, as I stood there in the office waiting for my cab to show, I found myself singing in my head, “Now I… had.. the time of my life. And I’ve never felt this way before.” You know the song. It seemed kind of fitting. Finishing up this tour and all and now headed home. In just a minute, the cab showed up outside and I went to get in. To my surprise, when I got in the cab, I heard Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes singing! How surreal! I laughed out loud and had to explain to the cab driver why. How cool.
We headed to the airport and I was WAY early! I got there about 3:50 and found out the ticket counters didn’t open until 4:30. I couldn’t even check in as all the kiosks were down as well. Hurry up and wait.
At 4:30, I got checked in and was able to go through security. I had a terrible breakfast sandwich and waited for my flight.
My flight out of Norfolk left at 6:00 and arrived in Baltimore about 6:50. My first trip to Baltimore was a short one. I got off the plane, hurried along from one end of the airport to the other and didn’t have to wait but about 10 minutes before I boarded my plane to St Louis.
I arrived in STL a little before 9:00, Jeneen picked me up(yea!) and we headed home. Lunch was Hunt’s. What a way to be welcomed home!
Now that I’m back, I’ve been reflecting on the trip a bit. It seems a little silly to try to compare the trip to anything. Yes, it is quite a feat, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. I didn’t find myself while I was gone. I didn’t have any great epiphanies. I did learn that I am capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for. I also learned that I am pretty strong. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. To keep going day in and day out when you are beat up takes strength. I don’t know if this trip will help me along my
way in life, but I do know that I will remember things about it always.
Probably the most significant thing I learned on this trip is to not take life for granted. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I was retired to go on this adventure, like I thought I might have to. We are on this earth for a very short period of time. Many of us shorter than we think we might be. Before I left on this trip, I purchased a RoadID. Its a wristband that has my vital info on it and contact info for my wife in case I am unable to tell someone who to contact in an emergency. The last line on it had space for a motto or quote. I chose “live like you are dying”. You know why? I am. We all are. Everyday we get closer to death. It’s not a bad thing, I realize. Just part of life. We all die, and while I have no idea when that will be, I do know that I am going to make the most of life while I can. No sense waiting. I’m going to run another marathon. I’m going to participate in an Ironman. I plan to hike/run from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon. I want to climb Mt Ranier. My suggestion for you? Go follow your dreams. That’s living. If you wait, you are just waiting to die. Choose to live.
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