Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 72 of 72

Day 72 - Aug 13, so many days late
18 miles. San Rafael to ....San Francisco!

So its been a wild, blurry, fun filled few days but its only right to make this journal complete. How to even describe today...

It started out with another first alert, my first time ever sleeping outside without anything over my head. The result of that was opening my eyes to a beautiful blue sky with the moon dead center, couldn't have asked for anything better. As would be fitting to the biggest day of the trip, the breakfast did not disappoint, all 5 trays of it. While the host couldn't give out the secret recipe, enjoying the mixture of cream cheese and french toast made was good enough for us.

We spent the morning doing lots of final bike and build logistical stuff with Kristian including cleaning out all the gear, trailer, van, etc. Yea, some jobs were definitely more desirable for that than others. Our slew of ceremonies for the day kicked off with our final state check off of California, completing our 18 state list. We then rolled out 32 strong to an entire guitar wielding ensemble of church members seeing us off with song. Man do i love these guys.

One of the major things we were excited about today was finally having the whole group ride together. I rode up ahead and looking back, it was so exhilirating to see this huge coordinated snake of bodies making its way through the streets. Granted we probably took 30 min longer with all the waiting we had to do for each other but it was well worth it for the number of turned heads once we started rolling through towns. Highlights included what can only be described as Carlie's outrageous circus ringleader extravaganza on wheels. Noodles, balloons, confetti, spandex, streamers, you name it. I wouldn't have been surprised to see here leading an elephant while she was at it. And then there was also Noah's ridiculously ironic and loudly popped flat tire within oh, the first .3 miles of riding. Talk about great starts,

We did hit some hills which were a bit more annoying to climb in a paceline but overall the riding was chill. Before the bridge we passed a small town with a beautiful view of the San Fran skyline across the bay, our first real glimpse. It even rivaled the sea lion that popped up right there next to us.

Now the bridge itself is a whole different story. The whole climb up the entire road was stuffed, like sardine style, with two lanes of both heavy bike and car traffic. Not so comfortable. Seriously how many people can you possibly fit on a road at once. As we neared the bridge we noticed that 99% of the bikers were riding the same bike model with the same tacky saddle bag. THEY WERE TOURISTS ON RENTAL BIKES! On top of everything we saw that only one of the two bike lanes on the bridge were open, meaning it was at double capacity.

I don't really want to hate on the tourists, as they have as much of a right to enjoy the bridge like this as anyone, but dammit at that moment i didn't really care to ride the climax of my 4,100 mile journey along with all of Eastern Europe there. Finally made it to the middle of the bridge for a breather and got our celebration in there as well as my first ever cigar to mark the occasion.

Yea, and since you're wondering, the bridge is HUGE! So magnificent. Especially with it being such a symbol of this trip ever since the beginning, the bridge appearing suddenly and emerging to its amazing height from behind a cliff isn't something that can be forgotten. While there were definitely yells of joy, a good number of people including myself could only manage silence. Thinking back i think it was out of a sort of respect and admiration, not only for the amazing structure itself, but for the harrowing tear and joy filled journey that had taken 72 days to lead us right to it.

The best part of the whole crossing though was that it really was 32 strong since we had MIRANDA! who was being pulled in a bike cart by Sean across the bridge only and down to the beach. It was the perfect compromise to get her to finish with the group and we couldn't have been happier to have it end that way. Plus, it was totally hilarious seeing her chilling out in an obviously undersized carriage giving sean way more work to do.

Unfortunately didn't have any time to buy tacky but necessary souvenirs since it was time to head to BAKER BEACH! We started going down some wierd dirt trail that we found actually needed to be hiked for a while and then down some weird staircases before it got back to a paved road. It was kinda hilarious to see us literally a mile from our glorious finish heaving our bikes over some godforsaken beach trail like headless chickens. Soon enough we were back on track and as i promised myself up every damn uphill of this county, the very last time i pedaled on this trip was on a glorious downhilll right into the parking lot. Looking back at the sexy paceline of riders streaming in was just way too super cool to even handle.

What happened next as we pulled in I can only try and humbly describe. But i think i speak for everyone when i say it was the most magical, euphoric event of my life yet. I can barely even write this without having my eyes swell up a little.

We ride into a throng of 90ish parents, friends, family with banners, posters, pictures, maps, you name it in hand, but most importantly their cheers. We literally entered 32 strong in single file and i was about third all the way up front. When we entered the mass there wasn't a single one of those 120+ people who wasn't screaming at the top of their lungs. Right where the sand started, parents we're holding up a ceremonial banner for us to ride under and i remember it was that exact moment of crossing where i couldn't hold back my tears any longer and my body became consumed with euphoria. Hilary and I tried to lead the charge to the shore on our bikes but soon found out when we fell on each other that bikes and sand don't go too well together. We barely avoided getting trampled on by the other eager riders and charged the beach bikes hoisted, still screaming like blood thirsty berserker vikings. When everyone was lined up we did the dipping, except this is the point where all the excitement i'm describing may have led me to do more than just dip my bike. Yea, it would've helped to know that saltwater on bikes is a big no-no before doing that. I probably screwed it up a decent amount, but hopefully not, we'll see. At least ignorance was bliss at the time.

Our bikes back on the sand, there was nothing left to do but charge the damn Pacific ourselves. Cold, no. Freezing, no. Mind-numbingly chilly, YES. As if we could even register that, it may as well have been 70 degrees for us. Thereafter ensued the wildest thrashing, and splashing and hugging and dancing and crying and singing you've ever seen. When the group spontaneously broke out into the self worth song(which i've tried to explain how meaningful it is to me) I was so emotionally overwhelmed that all i could do was just stand and watch the beautiful mass of 31 crazy riders in front of me. All the parents had run down to the beach to follow us and must have been having a ball watching us.

With this group accomplishment in hand, it was also time to settle a more personal one. One that Carlie and I had been slowly but surely pushing towards since Colorado. Yea, the pushups. Three days prior when i realized i could do 80 consecutively, I firmly made up my mind that when i hit that beach i would immediately and no questions asked pound out what for me once seemed impossible, 100 consecutive pushups. ( i mean when else am i going to be that hyped up on adrenaline ever). The whole trip has been about stretching and pushing ourselves in all sorts of dimensions, often farther than we ever thought possible and for me to be able to do this, crazy biking accomplishment aside, would be really big in my life.

Carlie and I found each other, popped this crazy energy goo, "Rocktane"? and hit the sand. We made sure to find Julie before we started so that we could expressly asssign her the task of cheering us on when we started to waver. Well the first 80 were decentish. And up to 90 hurt pretty bad. And i basically screamed all the way to the last ten, but right then i broke those damn triple digits and thats all that mattered.

Ryan Ellis' mom graciously provided mini champagne bottles, half of which was spent pouring on each other, and as if that wasn't celebration enough Lara's Mexican mom prepared the most legit kickass guacamole ever. CHUACAMOLE! The crazy romping had simmered a little and by now it was more of an amped calm that was settling over us.

We eventuall headed to the picnic where a fantastic spread had been prepared for us courtesy of the parents and ate ourselves silly. Then it was a short 2 mile ride to the apartments we had rented. To be short, San Francisco has hills. Lots and lots of steep ones. They easy probably average like 15% each. And the terracing makes them just so intense. Oh yeah, and they're everywhere, in every direction. It was actually pretty fun to pump up a few on our way to the host. Can't imagine how great it would be to train here.

The host is like 4 bedrooms for 32 people so that made for some fun crawling. Its actually really cool to be in our own flat like that MTV Real World Style and be able to take a break from dealing with hosts for one last time.

At night we headed over to the Fort Mason Center by the water for our reception as arranged by the super proactive Noah. Most of the other trips have way lamer endings compared to this. It was chock full of all the parents, some new wardrobes, and BRI! She unfortunately couldn't be at the beach due to an interview but more than made up for it(kinda?) by showing up the day before but also by erecting a giant sign on the bridge that morning saying in bright glittery letters, "Way 2 Go George!" Unfortunately it got taken down before we got there, but her photo evidence sufficed. Gotta admit it would've been just a little nice to show off like that in front of the other riders...

I realized i couldn't even tell one story to Bri without going on three other tangents to different stories. Talking in depth to an outsider for virtually the first time all summer really drove home what a crazy, adventure filled summer its been, and how hard it is to explain all of the subtle wonderfulness that was our trip. We later presented the leaders with framed signed pictures of our first ever group shot in Prov before moving on to having R.Farr and Paige announce the winners of the superlative vote. Wasn't sure if i enjoyed hearing the actual results more or seeing them hand out paper plates as prizes for the contest. The night was then capped off with Ryan Ellis showing us an amazing 20 min video he had been working on all trip which really chronicled the trip super well. The second half was a total surprise and blew the crowd away. Can't say what it was, you've gotta see it for yourself. It was the perfect encapsulation for our trip and just what we'll all need if and when we get those hurtful nostalgia pangs in the cold un-bikable months of winter.

So yes, basically the most epic day of my life. And yes, finally the end of this trip. But not of this journal. I remember talking with Hilary how this trip can be a great jumping off point for many rather than just another experience. So along those lines I'd like to wrap up with a solid post that extends beyond just chronicling and also provides some direction for my future life after bike and build. I won't be able to remember every memory every day, but some lessons learned here and there should do just fine.

1 comment:

  1. george, this sounds amazing. congratulations. i'd love to hear more about it from you one day. hope all's well.