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 Day away

Day 71 - Aug 12, 12:38pm
51 miles. Santa Rosa, CA to San Rafael, CA

Don't quite know how i got off count with my days but figured i might as well correct it.

Am writing this listening to one of my favorite new songs, Shooting Stars(Kris Menace Remix) by Bag Raiders while OVERLOOKING THE BAY! Can't remember the last time i felt like this. Its an intense combination of calm, exhaustion, and appreciation all before what i know will be one of the most unforgettable days of my life tomorrow.

Today was the last real day of riding and i topped it off with Dennis all day(the birthday boy!). What an awesome guy. Imagine the purest mix of energy, sincerity, and goodwill all rolled up into one pirate imitating bundle of bearded goodness. Enjoyed discussing the merits of gas station food and also touched on how for the past two months we're technically physically unlike normal humans. Kinda like having mutant powers! like Wolverine! Except not really. Actually not at all. But its been fun being able to blindly consume 5,000 calories daily while its lasted.

Had lunch at a horse stable today which was really cool since we got to pet them and all. Gosh they're so beautiful. The only problem was this dog Sam who kept raiding our lunch and legit ate one of Anne-Lise's sandwiches while she was turned around. What a cutie though.

Dennis, Larry, and I finished out the day spectacularly riding through some really cool and bicycle friendly towns. It was just the right level of traffic to make for safe yet exhilirating highway. We caught 3 yellow lights on this one circuit highway and for the most amazing 30 seconds had this entire three lane strip to ourselves as we flew by at 30mph. Also, first palm tree sighting! The bay area is wonderful and you can't help but get a great chill vibe from here. Coming up on our first glimpse of the boats docked in the bay was obviously amazing. While riding, it was mindboggling to think that wait, we're actually here, as in we can be at the bridge in an hour if we wanted. Can only imagine how crazy it will be tomorrow.

When we learned the pool was closed, a gracious church member brought us to her very spacious house to use her pool and showers which was so nice. The shower was one of those full glass ones, which we lovingly dubbed "the octagon".

The Presbyterian St. Luke's church here is super kind. They have the most awesome patio overlooking a part of the bay and made the best chicken and pineapple shish kebabs. After dinner we all went around and said our highest high and lowest low of the trip. It was really interesting to see the overlaps and differences between people's comments and how they related to mine. Even more fun though was the singing we did thanks to the accompaniment of the 4 church members playing their guitars! Nothing like a fuzzy sing a long to reflect on how much we love each other.

As if it wasn't getting mushy enough, we all gathered afterwards to distribute commemorative bracelets of the trip. They were made by cutting up our sweep capes into 32 pieces which definitely carries a lot of symbolism of us caring and watching out for each other. Such a great way to literally carry a piece of the trip with us. Am very happy with that choice. It worked by each person picking someone to complement and then giving them a bracelet, then that person would pick someone else, etc. Do that a lot on FOP and i sometimes dislike how it can feel contrived but i was super glad to be able to share some words about Larry, since I've shared a really genuine bond with him more than almost anyone else on this trip.

Fun, Larry and Dennis shaved their beards finally today and its actually scary how unrecognizable they are. I decided to keep mine, as much as im beginning to look like Abraham Lincoln to see how it fits into the real world. Man what i would give for a haircut right now...

So yea, this is it, i look forward to tomorrow being filled with as much laughter, tears, and joy as possible. We deserve it. This is our day our bridge and our time.

Life is really just one connected series of adventures i've realized, (or at least id like it to be) and one exciting part of tomorrow's celebration which i think may be undernoticed is the joy of knowing that with the closing of this great accomplishment, it only means that there is now the potential for many others now open to us.

Welcome to Wine Country

Day 69 - Aug 11, 9:59pm
71 miles. Davis, CA to Santa Rosa, CA

Gotta love sweep. Today i had the honor of bringing the broom with the lovely Anne-Lise Caroline Cosart (watch the pronunciation!) To be totally honest one of my favorite things on the trip is taking breaks for reasons out of my control like road problems, flat tires, etc. Its sorta like oh, there's nothing i can do about this so i might as well just chill out, awesome! Take that as your whole day and you have sweep.

In the morning i decided to check my voicemail while chilling and happened to discover that BRIANNA GOODALE's AWESOMENESS KNOWS NO BOUNDS! aka she just happens to be visiting family in San Fran(yea ok Bri, whatever you say) and will be coming to greet me as we enter the beach. That brings my personal cheering to a grand total of 1! The wonderful Ava Tramer was unable to make it which was a huge bummer so this is a really awesome treat. Not sure when else you'll find me jumping up and down at 6am gleefully yelling in my spandex. I even temporarily forgot about how nasty the oatmeal i was eating was.

Major props to Subway yet again for pulling through with food for me and Anne Lise. We caught six folks eating an awesome breakfast at a diner a little further and ate our sandwiches there. If you've read anything from this blog at all, you can't help but be familiar with my somewhat irrational calorie needs. Well in case you aren't acquainted with them by now, just know that it took all of 10 seconds between the time that i downed an entire foot long subway sandwich 13 miles into the day, and the time when i began scavenging my teammates plates for leftover pancakes. Unfortunately there was only one remaining.

The day continued smoothly and generally uphill into lunch. Anne-Lise is super cool and really fun to talk and ride with. Get such a good vibe from that girl.

Around mile 59ish the major climb for the day started. It was intense. The topo map on the computer this morning was all sorts of funky colors when depicting the grades. Note to readers, seeing purple, aka 12% grade on any topo map is not, again, not a good sign. We started climbing and aside from losing half our body weight in sweat, were totally loving it. Its just such a rush to be able to conquer something so ridiculous as a hill like that and i can easily see myself enjoying, no, needing to do something insane like that on a weekly basis back in real life. The descent was again treacherous but I was more used to it and found that once i began trusting myself to navigate the breaking and turning i could relax and have fun with it which was great. Fearing for your life is not necessarily the best sensation to have going down a hill.

Overall the whole day was just gorgeous. We were in famous Napa Valley and rode through beautiful vineyard after vineyard with just the right amount of rolling hills. The hill in the second half was in a totally shaded forest that made for the best riding ever, especially when the downhill eased up and let us go comfortably at 20ish mph.

Things are definitely getting a little tense at points with people's peeves getting to a breaking point and with everyone kinda just losing a general sense of responsibility with so few days left. For me on this trip, personally its always been a point to not get myself worked up for too long about anything. there's just so little time here and its not in the least worth it. I like to think that the same goes for life in general. It sometimes boggles my mind how so un-chill people can be about the most ultimately meaningless stuff. Different folks, different strokes i guess.

Final day of riding tomorrow. I realized im gonna miss this so much, especially in the libraries in the middle of winter i assume. it just really hit me today how lucky i've been to basically have this be my job for the past 2 months despite all of the occasional complaining. As much as I'm ready for it to be over, it's pretty nice to be leaving on that note of realization and appreciation.

The Faceoff: P2SF vs SC2S

Day 68 - Aug 10, 1 day late
61 miles. Auburn, CA to Davis, CA

23 miles of bike paths! Finally, an easy day. Rode with Meryl, Julie, and Lara along the most awesome bike paths for just about half the day which was incredible. It felt more like a bike and build reunion rather than a real day. I couldn't help but wonder "why aren't i miserable yet?" The mental break which the path offered was really clutch. Hanging out around tons of our cycling brethren rather than our motorized counterparts was delightful.

Now that i've pretty much mastered the handless cycling i figured it was about time to take it up a notch. I've been itching to try for a while, and today i finally gave in and tried to juggle(I'm pretty experienced) while riding my bike. After a couple of rogue apples flying left and right i held a solid pattern and even switched into a mills mess! which is a crazy arm crossing pattern. The only unfortunate part is mine and Meryl's approximately 6 failed attempts at capturing it on film. I mean its not like i did it just so i could have people know about it...

Came to this decent retro style commercial strip and had some Greek Fries at the Spud Shack, which had a pretty cool concept of having just dishes of french fries with different countries as themes.

Immediately got a good vibe from Davis, especially since we're staying right next to the college. Its one of the bike friendliest cities in the country and even has bike symbols on the trash cans! Almost everyone had a bike and there was so much good infrastructure. You could tell how engrained it was in people's way of life there. Davis and other cities like it are testaments to how effective and practical cycling can be in every day life. Its really possible. Especially in NYC and other cities there tends to be such a hostile attitude between bikers and motorists. Sure there are assholes on both sides who perpetuate a negative cycle but i truly feel that its the poor bike infrastructure which keeps pitting the two groups against each other. Hmm, the gov't splitting its citizens into two seemingly different camps and having them bicker. I'm sure glad that doesn't sound familiar... Fortunately there are many strides being made by advocacy groups and govt to make biking more mainstream and part of every day life as it should be and already is in places like Europe for example.

At the host i took a sweet nap listening to my chillout music which i haven't done in a while. Unfortunately i woke up a little off when people were being loud and when i went to eat pasta(what i had been looking forward to all day literally) i found that all the cheese was gone. Dono why but i was actually ready to punch someone. We spend so much money on stupid snacks and chips and we can't even have a single can of cheese to eat a real pasta meal like civilized humans. Thats at least what i thought at the time and i couldn't believe, nor control unfortunately, how catastrophically it destroyed my mood. Some food and good music later i managed too blow it off but its still kinda scary how much it just takes over me like that sometimes.

Then came the time of judgement. It turns out that the South Carolina to Santa Cruz route was staying in our city tonight and we were meeting up for some festivities. The first of these was an epic relay race consisting of eight activities representing a day in the life of bike and build ranging from packing up your sleeping bag to downing breakfast to hammering nails. Dan M gave us an initial lead and yours truly took over for the tire pumping. Please imagine kneeling down and having 64 sweaty insane bikers huddling around you and screaming their lungs out. Easily the most disorienting 20 seconds of my life. I've been to calmer rock concerts. Of course that tire didn't stand a chance against my up and down thrashing. Average roadmorph pumping time: 2 minutes. George's time: 20 seconds. Yea, i thought so.

It was a frantic stretch but team P2SF pulled out a stunning victory by a mile. It was honestly such a silly and ridiculous event but it felt awesome to win. Of course crazy screaming, jumping and psyching out ensued. Glorious.

But that was only the day's activities. At night we rejoined in camraderie for the Bike and Build wedding where saw Hillary leave our nest to join up with Meghan from their group in gender neutral matrimony. Yes, tears were shed but the ceremony was nothing short of beautiful with our very own kilted Colin Hood leading it. Of course the result of such an event was 64 outlandishly and probably inappropriately dressed kids all in the same place each trying to garner more attention than the next. Yea, fun is an understatement. Steven as the best man sure had a mouthful to say and show for Hillary.

While it was definitely awkward to interact with them as expected we chilled in smaller groups at night and had some fun conversations. Highlight was Sean trying to casually draw out of them how many mountain passes they had climbed and at what elevation. Hearing about the few 9,000 footers they had done compared to our several 11,000 ones probably completed Sean's life right then and there. In general, 'm always skeptical of inter-organizational groups mixing like that because the awkward dynamic is just inevitable. I think overall though the in-group, out-group differentiation ultimately makes each group bond with itself more which i guess is valuable in the end. Either way, who doesn't love awkward interactions?

But more importantly, guess who's sweeping tomorrow!