Sunday, June 28, 2015

Epilogue: With a Little Help From My Friends

Friday morning, for the final departure from the hotel, the Tour Operator paired up riders and assigned us departure times so we'd all meet at the Everett town swimming pool for our last assembly. From the pool, we'd form a a two by two procession to the ocean led by one for the CrossCountry Tour Vans.

There was a lot of whooping and hollering for each departure team. Each team had picture taken with a sign for Boston before the 3. 2, 1 ...  countdown for each team's departure. A bit corny, but I suspect most everyone secretly enjoyed the moment at least just a bit.

Photo Op before take off from hotel

The final leg to Revere Beach was an enjoyable roll through suburban Boston to the Atlantic. Not sure about the others but my mind was all over the place. Believe it or not, but I had only one flat tire the entire length of the 3400 miles and was wondering if today would be my day to mess up my incredible record. I also thought of so many great small moments I had with different people along the way and how much I'd miss them. Thought of the heat in the desert along the interstate, the huge climbs and switchbacks out west... the rollers of Missouri...the gallons of V-8 and chocolate milk consumed, and the innumerable visits to DQ...

I also thought about how I'd need to trim down my calorie intake as I wouldn't be on my bike for 6-8 hours a day. That'll be the real challenge.

Before I knew it we were in Everett at the last assembly site. Luckily, some contractors who were there for some maintenance work didn't mind if we used the facilities' bathrooms. 

 Bike line-up at Swimming Pool in Everett assembly area

Last chit chat before lining up to go to beach

The final roll out began and I began to get a little tight in the throat. I chatted lightly with Will from Great Britain as we rode over the final hill to the beach at around 9:00 AM. We could hear dozens of friends and family members cheering, shouting. I picked out my sister and brother-in-law who I knew would be there but was overwhelmed when I saw my brother from Florida, and my Nephew's wife and grand-nephew from Tucson, AZ, holding posters (Congratulations "Bad-Ass" - I guess they read my blog). Two of my longtime and dearest friends from CT also showed up a little later as did Mike.

After excited hugs and greetings all around, I remembered to take my shoes and socks off and headed across the beach to the surf line with my trusty bike. Oh, the roads and conditions I put that two-wheeled machine through! It's amazing how all the parts stayed intact! Rugged little bugger.
Despite the fact that it had been a cool overcast day with with occasional sprinkles, the sand was soft and the water felt just great on my feet as lowered my wheels into the water. I made it home in one piece.

Had to get collect a bit of Atlantic sand to go with the remaining Pacific sand that will sit on my mantle for a while. I posed for a few pictures but searched out my friends to congratulate them for their achievement and to thank them for sharing their time and stories with me. A lot of smiles of astonishment as the fact that our trip was over was starting to really settle in. We were probably mingling with everyone for close to an hour, sitting for group photo's, and not wanting the moment to end until we finally loaded our bikes onto the truck and into cars before heading back to the hotel.

Around 5:30 that afternoon we gathered at the hotel's lounge for a social hour before heading into a banquet room for dinner. A slide show of the many places and faces we met along the way. My seat was such that my back was to the screen but in hindsight that really didn't really matter as I was able to stay focused on my family and friends - the most important people in my real life - sitting with me at my table.

As expected the tour operator had many nice things to say and was very gracious. One by one, she called up each of the participants and highlighted some of the remarkable achievements they had made and some amazing obstacles some of the riders had overcome just to be on the tour this year. I was privileged to ride with an exceptional group of people.

My favorite part of the evening was when Tracy invited both Matt and I up to get our certificates. She mentioned how we serenaded Maggie along the way from time to time. The room chanted for a song so without any prior arrangements, we looked at each other, swallowed hard, then did the last song we sang which was unbelievably appropriate: The Beatles. "With a Little Help From My Friends". The whole room joined in our ragged A Capella version. It was a special moment. It really told the story of the whole experience for me. We didn't do it alone. We all got through it together with a little help from our friends.

Thanks to all.