We all agreed that it would be a good idea, and the right thing to do, to meet at a cafe 4 miles from our final destination on our final day; no speed demons and no slow tortoises to be seen, but instead we would cycle the final 4 miles to the ocean together, just as we started in Yorktown, 83 days ago. Now, in an ideal situation, we would have all timed our departures perfectly so that we arrive around a similar sort of time, so as Mike and Jeff are not waiting for everyone for 3 hours. This worked rather well as we agreed to meet at 10.30am, however, unbeknown to us, this little cafe was thriving; full of hungry customers and with one waitress!! After an hour of waiting for our breakfast, we finally all set off for the ocean, some of us more ready than others, with Mike waiting in the cafe for 2 hours!
As we rode our bikes for those last 4 miles, it was as though every one of us was in a state of complete bliss; forgotten were the hard times and the controversies and even the heat, the hills and the mosquitoes. All we could do now was to embrace our last miles together in the realisation that this was ending and that we may never see these wonderful, amazing, brave, strong people again. The people that have belonged to our group for 12 weeks, through thick and thin, who have experienced the same things but in different ways and whom all have the uttermost respect and gratitude for each other. We have achieved something outstanding together and many tears of happiness surfaced in those last few miles, amongst all of us. Doing the TransAm is a Love/Hate kind of relationship. At times I really wanted it to end but now I felt as though I was losing something; losing these people and friendships I have built.
Before we reached the Ocean however, we rode along the Alsea highway, thick forests carpeting the hills on either side. And then came the cyclists best friend, something we have encountered several times in our travels and somehow managed to come out unscathed, just. Chip and seal. Basically when the yellow coated transportation departments chuck a load of tar on a seemingly serviceable road, and then a thick layer of gravel and give it a little press down just enough to pass for a road again before leaving. So then comes little old cyclist. Clouds of dust spew up, gravel mounds to sink into, and missiles flying up at your face as trucks hurtle past! Seven miles is a long way. I guess it made the sight of a tidal river, and then the smell of salty air and then the glimmer of the wide bluey green Ocean even more special.
The Pacific Ocean is not quite what we had imagined. Hawai's palms, cocktails and flower garlands are a world away from the clouds, cliffs and spray of the Oregon coast. Beautiful though and the wide white pristine sandy beach felt good between our toes as we held our bikes aloft and then dipped our wheels in the water. Unfortunately it was not just our wheels - Robin in his excitement had put his bag down just as a wave pummeled the beach - cameras and salt water do not mix. Coast to coast - every inch. DONE!
1) Kansas is windy but Wyoming is even windier.
2) There are 4 types of potentially deadly spider in the US; 2 species of black widow and 2 species of brown recluse. ALWAYS, check your shoes.
3) DO NOT underestimate the force of mother nature and her wild weather systems; do not try to beat it but respect it because it IS stronger than you.
4) 'RESTROOM' is the most appropriate term to use when asking to go to the toilet in the US, although the Americans agree that you certainly do not 'rest' in a restroom.
5) America is NOT, I repeat, NOT flat, at all.
6) Cycling gives you strange tan lines.
7) There is always someone who is doing something far more extraordinary than you are.
8) There are hundreds of nasty dogs in Kentucky and they WILL kill you given half the chance. Carry pepper spray.
9) Missouri has a great deal of vineyards and wineries. Drink wine and be merry!
10) In 1997, Washington DC's christmas tree came from Walden, CO.
11) 50% of North America's antelope population live in Wyoming.
12) There is absolutlely no Net 10 mobile phone network in the whole state of Idaho. And some of Oregon too.
13) Robin and I can spend all day every day together on a bike and not come home divorced!
14) And most of all, anyone can do anything if they really want to.
My mum always tells me, "the mind is a powerful thing and you can overcome anything if you work with your mind to help you accomplish it". Even pain, my mother says, can be diminished, just by thinking that it's just not hurting. This is the best thing my mother has ever said to me because this is how I can accomplish these amazing things.
One other lesson I have been taught, is not to underestimate yourself. If someone close to you believes in you, then it makes it all the easier. Just give me a break please Mike, before you talk me into signing up for an Ironman.
Thanks so much to all who have donated to www.justgiving.com/bikeamerica