Friday, December 31, 2010

And Then ...

It’s December 31, 2010. The last day of the year in which I turned 30 years old and spent my summer cycling across North America.

A lot of my friends have lamented turning 30. And it had me wondering: when did getting another year of life become a bad thing? Even if it's the aging process that we specifically dread, I could bet that anyone who dies young would gladly trade wrinkles and grey hairs for extra years.

There’s a feeling I had on the roads between Astoria, Oregon, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was a sensation in which the days were undefined, separate, distinct. I didn’t think in weeks or months, but solely in “new days”. Our routes took us out of blurred hotel parking lots and into unfamiliar territory. There was no doubling back to a point of origin. Every length of road and approaching bend was a blank canvas, drawing itself ahead of us in rays of color and light.

That was exciting.

There was no empty feeling that sometimes lingers on Sunday evenings as another weekend winds down. It was not a cycle of inconsequential, sluggish Monday mornings, followed by a week mirrored in monotonous routines. There was no TGIF.

That was refreshing.

Time had no symmetry on the road.

That was nice.

How do I get that feeling back?

That's the million-dollar question.

I received an email from my friend Monique recently. It read: "Do you still enjoy your days instead of rushing through them? I know that was an important key on your cycling tour."

"I'm trying," I wrote back, to which she responded with a sad emoticon.

"That's life," I replied. I paused and stared at my fingers resting on the keypad and then I typed: "It's hard to hold onto."

Some of my fellow cyclists from the America By Bicycle "Across America North" tour mentioned gloomy notions of returning to our separate realities. But while our extended vacation from the normal day-to-day was a fully-supported cycling utopia of sorts, I try not to let myself view the experience entirely euphorically. The elements were not always pleasant. My body developed a variety of chronic ailments. The hotel beds were not always comfortable, and since I was sharing triple-room accommodations with two other cyclists, I was on a creaky rollaway every third night. It was the hardest, most physically demanding and muscularly excruciating thing I’ve ever done in my life.

And it was the best.

Now that it’s over, I feel myself lingering on good memories, like watching soft breezes roll fields of wheat in glistening waves or listening to a lone hawk cry majestically as I reached a mountain summit. But I have to purposely recall the difficult moments, like the sudden hailstorm in Rapid City or the sweltering heat on the day we rode into Sioux Falls or the torrential downpours the morning we cycled into Minnesota. Or the way my leg muscles burned on mountain ascents in Oregon, Wyoming, South Dakota, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. I don’t want to unrealistically romanticize the overall experience because the beautiful moments strengthened me spiritually and the hard times strengthened me mentally. Both have equal value.

And since it’s been over, it has been a whirlwind trying to re-settle into my "real life." I returned to New York City in the best physical shape of my life, yet the emotional disorientation left me feeling unsure of myself. We had been prepped by the ABB staff to anticipate some mild depression associated with the readjustment of endorphins when we suddenly stopped cycling 60-100 miles a day. However, I was caught off guard by the amount of anxiety I felt in returning home. It was even slightly overwhelming to look into a closet and have to think about what to wear instead of just throwing on padded lycra shorts and a jersey.

I’ve been at work for several months now, and it has been harder to transition back into a role as a proficient executive assistant than it was it become a capable cyclist. Returning to the office, I was rusty. And it showed. Lots of little mistakes and more than just a few big ones. It's not that I could no longer see the value in my role at the company, I just see so much more beyond that now.

When I arrived 20 minutes late to the office one morning, rushing along the congested streets and into one of Manhattan's high rises, I glanced nervously at my watch. It was 9:20am. I suddenly felt a lump rising in my throat and felt my eyes misting over.

On the road, 9:20 meant that I had been cycling for three hours, watching a golden sunrise paint the horizon in dramatic layers of yellow and orange. Sunrises lasted longer on the road.

Here, in the “real world,” 9:20am meant that I had raced out of my apartment without eating breakfast, scrambled with a disgruntled mass of commuters through the subway tunnels and city streets like a ping pong ball, and was feverishly checking voicemail and skimming emails for anything that might have required attention 20 minutes ago. There was no sunrise.

Yet my cycling tour had been a “real world”, too. A very real one that was beginning to feel more and more like a fantasy every day. Returning to my New Yorker life, I felt buried in a mass of metal and concrete in my beloved city. While standing at the copier machine, I often glanced out of our office’s sprawling windows and looked for flags lining the Hudson River so that I could gauge the wind direction and speed. I snuck peeks at my fellow cyclists' tour blogs and online photo albums in between assignments, reminiscing about the summer in between phone calls and emails. Whenever I was a passenger in a car, it took awhile to stop staring at the edge of the road, assessing how I would navigate the potholes and debris on the shoulder if I were on a bicycle. I yearned for the click of cranksets and the hum of spinning tires. I missed the unfamiliar road. I missed the thrill of the unknown. I missed my roadmates. And sometimes I wondered, “Did I really do it?”

I still look at Maddy, idling in the hallway closet for the winter, and it's incredible to realize that I crossed North America on those two wheels. When I first got home, the achievement seemed to cast a lackluster across the other areas of my life that had previously held more significance.

New Jersey Mark alleviated some of the commuter stress in a place where I had once delighted in the New Yorker cliché of pounding the pavement in stilettos, dark glasses shading my eyes from the sunrays bouncing off the steel towers of Midtown, a Starbucks latte in one hand and a designer handbag slung over my shoulder. He drove into the city one day and brought me a used cruiser. An old, rusty, clanking bicycle that I absolutely adore. Within 24 hours of receiving it, I was cycling over the Brooklyn Bridge and into the streets of Manhattan, transforming my morning and evening commutes into my favorite parts of the day.

I could have created an entire blog featuring cycling commuters. There were men in three-piece suits, women in wool skirts and knee-high boots. Baskets, baby seats, brief cases, messenger bags and bells. I even saw a man in a pinstripe ensemble, toting a woman in a blazer and pencil skirt. She was standing behind him on rear axle pegs with her Louis Vuitton purse hanging across her back. The novelty of my transformed commute lasted until mid-November when the winter temperatures made it inconvenient and uncomfortable to cycle 4.5 miles in office attire.

However, my love affair with the city was firmly rekindled as the winter months approached - thanks largely in part to the cruiser from New Jersey Mark. That and the fact that simply living here increases the likelihood that old friends will be in the city at some point - and often sooner rather than later - just because it’s New York. In the last three months alone, in addition to New Jersey Mark, I've seen Toronto Mark, Joe, Canada Jeff, Andrew, Sandy, Leo, Margot and Gary - some of them more than once. And not all of them live in the northeast - or in the country for that matter.

For all the things I love about New York - all the things that brought me here on a whim and that I hope will keep me here for many years to come - there is one aspect of the energetic, fast-paced city that drove me to find an adventure like cycling across North America. Or - really - it was the final straw in a driving force that was propelled by the passage of 30 years that have gone by in a wink.


I don’t want it all to be over so quickly. I don't want it to pass insignificantly.

And time is not more fleeting anywhere else than in the hustle and bustle of New York. The day after I dipped Maddy's front wheel into the Atlantic, I could feel the seconds hasten as soon as I caught my first glimpse of the city skyline. I hadn't seen its bold, jagged outline in nearly eight weeks, and I'm hesitant to admit that I was slightly intimidated by the sights and sounds that had only ever electrified and comforted me. I knew I would not - and could not - retain my renaissance of routine life here, but there is one thing I won't do ...

I will never again grumble about long days as if having a long day is a bad thing. Hard days, sure. Those are inevitable and shamelessly “admit-able”. But I'll never respond to inquiries on my emotional state with: "I had a long day."

Similarly to lamenting birthdays and aging, when have we ever really yearned for short days that fast-forward the moments of our lives in a blurred, speeding reel? Especially for those in nations of privilege - where so many illusions of entitlement exist - time is entitled to no one. To not take advantage of the opportunity to simply enjoy the time we have is the biggest waste of all, particularly if we are blessed enough to live relatively comfortable lives. Whether we recognize that fact or not, boredom is a choice. We - especially Americans - essentially must choose to be bored. And I choose not to be.

In high school, I spent a semester volunteering in a nursing home in Weaverville, North Carolina. I have a vivid memory of an old woman laying in her bed, staring at the ceiling, laboring to breathe. As vivid as the image is, it had been nearly forgotten until I was cycling alone and letting my mind wander on a road in Wyoming over a decade later. And suddenly, I imagined myself in her place, a prisoner in my aging body, perhaps recalling a lazy afternoon 40 or 50 years earlier in my life. And I swear that I nearly felt myself yearning for some generic, lazy, boring day as if I could no longer experience the comfort of it.

It was an epiphany.

I don't actually know if that old woman in my memory was harboring such regrets, but I know that I don't want to near the end of my life and realize that I did it all wrong. Some of it - sure. But not all of it.

Before I chose the manner in which I would honor my 30th birthday - and long before that Wyoming ephiphany - I only knew I wanted to start filling my life with things I wouldn’t normally do. Things that are a little nuts – like skydive or swim with sharks or move to New York City without an apartment or a job or, say, try to cross North America as a novice cyclist with minimal training.

Even then, I prepared as much as I could in the year leading up to my 2010 transcontinental journey (as I had also done in the year leading up to my 2006 move to New York) because I choose to seek thrills as often - and as responsibly - as possible. Monique calls me a calculated risk taker. Let's face it, I'm not going to "live everyday as if it were my last".

But my desire for thrills was most clearly defined on day 23 of the tour when I was browsing a rack of greeting cards at the famous Wall Drug in South Dakota. From that day forward, the words of Neale Donald Walsch etched themselves into the fabric of my journey and the very essence of my existence: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

That sentence essentially summed up exactly what I had gone out there to do. Thrills - even the relatively responsible ones - don’t frequently reside where it’s comfortable.

The conclusion of my cycling journey - and even the self-reflection and personal insight I discovered along the way - did not bring all trials and suffering to a final resolution. There are still anxieties. Discomforts. Cranky mornings. Rough days. Sleepless nights. Worries. Dilemmas. Obstacles. Heartache.

The pattern of my life will not likely circle back in agreeable symmetry the way it often does in movies and novels. Unlike a great story, it's not the ending that is the most important in a great life, but rather it's the fact that we existed at all.

This isn’t “Eat Pray Love”. I didn’t sail off into an Indonesian sunset with Terrence in a happily-ever-after moment - though he did propose along a rocky shoreline in Portsmouth about five hours later (I said yes). UPDATE

And at the end of my cross-country cycling tour, America By Bicycle's mantra proved right. The worst day on my bicycle was better than my best day in the office. It made me more aware of what's valuable and what is not.

At the risk of sounding like a self-help guide to finding inspiration and motivation: seek pleasure when appropriate, relax and reflect when you can, try not to fear failure, recognize mistakes as soon as possible, and appreciate the days you are granted regardless of circumstance. Ninety-nine percent of the time, bad times could always be worse.

Find something that lengthens your days. That makes you savor time. That lets you feel moments. Even if it's something small and only lasts for a moment. Take that moment to recognize that you exist - even when battling frigid winds on Eleventh Avenue during the weekday commute to the recesses of Chelsea or facing a barrage of unending emails in a sterile cubicle.

And sometimes when I’m in the crowded subway, trying to turn my face as far from a stranger’s armpit as possible, or I’m arguing with Terrence about trivial couple’s woes, or I’m tackling a mountain of paperwork on my desk or standing on a 60-person checkout line at Trader Joe’s, an image from my cross-country journey or a funny moment with my roadmates will sometimes emerge in the chaos. And I smile.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Maine Dedication

Before this journey began, I had hopes of what I would find on the road between Astoria and Portsmouth. Challenges. Personal fulfillment. Adventure. Extraordinary moments.

I tried to keep my expectations of the tour very vague with the overall goal to just be. Just be for 50 days and see what happens.

"You came out here to just be," Mike Munk said to me on Day 47, "And somehow, you became."

But there was something else that I would find that I had never even expected.

Somewhere between Oregon and New Hampshire, I forgave myself.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 50: Manchester, NH, to Portsmouth, NH

Today's Mileage: 61
Average Speed: 13.5 mph
Maximum Speed: 32.6 mph
Moving Time: 4:29

I thought this blog was going to be more about what I saw along the way, but it ended up being more about the people who saw with me along the way. Fifty days ago, there were 50 people whose existence was irrelevant to my life. Now I can't imagine not knowing them.

When I awoke on day 50, sixty-one miles from the Atlantic Ocean,  a montage of memories began running through my head as I performed my morning hotel rituals for the last time. Dressing in cycling attire. Applying sun block. Filling water bottles. Loading luggage. Checking tire pressure. Securing my route sheet to my handlebars.

Maddy and I glided leisurely through the hotel parking lot and joined our fellow cyclists for the last 61 miles of our 3,690-mile journey. There was no urgency. No stampede for luggage load. A longer break at the SAG stop and an even longer one at a bakery another 15 miles up the road. There was no rush since we had plenty of time to cycle 50 miles to the "staging area" in a high school parking lot, where we'd wait for everyone to convene before storming the beach.

But even beyond that, we were savoring our pedal strokes, our conversations, our laughter. Mike Munk had said something at the banquet the night before that had resonated with all of us: "This entire group will never be together in the same room - or on the same road - ever again."

I simultaneously felt present and absent. The only way I can hope it makes sense is to describe it as an out-of-body experience. I was there, cycling alongside Andrew and Sandy between Manchester and Portsmouth, but I was also on all of the other roads and miles between Oregon and New Hampshire.

I was timidly pedaling out of Astoria on a cool, foggy morning, trying to keep the 3,690 miles ahead from psyching me out of my saddle. I was wobbling over my first suspension bridge, my heart pounding in my chest, chills tickling the bottoms of my feet. Sandy and Leo were passing me on an Oregon road, and Sandy was chanting, "Gears for Katie! Gears for Katie!" I was making a left at the top of a mountain ridge, marveling at the terrain's immediate transition from pine forest to high-altitude dessert. I was gripping my brakes, feeling my braid whip my back on the twisting descent into Kah-nee-ta. I was balanced on my bicycle, mouth half-open, staring at 62-year old Ellen as she rocketed past me on a screaming decent from Ochoco Pass in The Cascades. I was pausing at the top of Keyes Summit, looking back at how far I had climbed and letting myself cry. I was ascending roughly 2000 feet to Oregon summits at over 5000 feet ... three times. I was watching other cyclists slow down so that Carl could finally have a chance to yell "on your left"; if there was one memory along this trip that should be set to enchanting music that tugs at your heartstrings, that was it. I was looking up at an enormous Idaho sky. I was cycling back to Shoshone Falls with Andrew. My teeth were chattering behind a UHaul truck during a chilly morning luggage load. I was exploring Register Rock. I was cycling in my first paceline with The Thoroughbreds. I was standing along a fence with Alex and Helen, watching a mare give birth to a dead foal in a pasture. I was laughing through swollen eyes at Jay and Billy Bob Nana after my Achilles Tendon became too inflamed to finish Day 15. I was staring up at a road sign for Hot Springs: Population 1. I was nearly falling off my saddle with hysterical laughter over the tale of Featherlegs and Dangerous Dick. I was looking up into the stone faces of our former presidents at Mount Rushmore. I was ducking for cover from a hailstorm with Andrew. I was dodging grasshoppers and shivering with disgust as a South Dakota road began to sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies. I was braving 20- to 30-mph headwinds along a 20-mile stretch of highway with Toronto Mark, Canada Jeff and Joe. Alison and I were singing on a rolling back road half way between the Pacific and the Atlantic: "Oh! We're half way there! Oh! Living on a prayer!"

I was chatting with Margot and Margo about life on mile after mile of a golden prairie. I was struggling in sweltering heat, praying for my rear end and my saddle to come to a comfortable understanding. I was dressed like an employee in a meatpacking plant, braving miles of torrential downpours in my rain gear. I was achieving a personal best as we cycled into Mankato - 100 miles in five hours. My muscles were straining and my bones were creaking after back-to-back centuries. I was trying to get creative with my handlebar positioning when the craggy roads in Minnesota felt like they were chipping away my bones. I was crossing over the Mississippi River, awed that we had cycled there ... from Oregon. I was coasting through small towns and exploring old train tunnels. Maddy and I were boarding a ferry at Lake Michigan. I was giggling as Alex rapped 'Slow Motion' at a SAG stop. I was rolling along a back road, chasing the shadows of clouds, watching the ribbons of sunlight and shadow pass over me and slide up the road, enveloping the adjacent fields and the other cyclists ahead. I was cycling over the bridge to Canada. I was crossing the 3000-mile mark with The Bad Pennies. I was listening to Canadian crickets start their day. I was laughing hysterically with Beth and watching fireworks with Joe and Gerard at Niagara Falls. I was remembering Rickey. I was cycling along the Erie Canal and hugging my parents in Liverpool. I was shooting photos in the rain with my new waterproof camera. I was pedaling through Latham, NY, already missing my fellow travelers. I was ascending picturesque summits in Vermont and laughing at "FM" with Texas Tom. I was standing on the side of the road, watching ABB Jeff, Canada Jeff and Joe fix my first flat. I was listening to Andrew tell the Shakespearean tale of the day during empty segments of lonely roads.

And suddenly, there was an enormous blue ocean dominating the horizon.

Kim told Beth that he was cycling across North America for the third time because of the incredible high he gets when the Atlantic Ocean appears after pedaling nearly 4,000 miles to see it.

"When you see that ocean," he had said, "It's unlike anything you've ever felt. It's a high ... And it lasts for years."

This was the second time in 50 days that we had all cycled together as a group. Our collective mass of red, white and blue America By Bicycle jerseys, led by a police unit, drew spectators. Many stood at the road's edge, to watch and applaud.

And when I saw it - when I saw that ocean - something that I've never felt before filled my entire being. Just like Kim had said, it was unlike anything I've ever experienced. It simultaneously consumed me and set me free. Imagine heart pounding, goosebumps, chills, calm, serenity, peace, noise, silence - all at once. It was such an overload to all of my senses that I felt everything and nothing. I think I caught a glimpse of true, raw beauty. Can something be so wonderful that it hurts?

Pedaling the final mile to the beach, I was looking out over the shimmering waves, watching my entire journey condense on top of itself. All of the long, hard, intense, spectacular days became a flip book of memories. I tried to process that I was staring at an ocean that I had cycled 3,690 miles to see. That I had cycled here from the Pacific. Through Oregon. Idaho. South Dakota. Minnesota. Wisconsin. Michigan. Canada. New York. Vermont. New Hampshire. It was too much. My breath caught in my chest. I cried silently as we pedaled along the coastline.

My mind thinks in logic. Grasping the enormity of this feat is like trying to believe in an afterlife, which is already a tough notion for me to process. But the moment like the one I experienced when I arrived at the Atlantic Ocean made me wonder ... where do all of these emotions - all of this energy - where does it go?

There has to be a place where you can take it with you.

As we rounded a bend and entered the parking lot to the beach, we began to hear cheers. There they were. Family and friends, many holding signs high over their heads or waving flags excitedly. And there was Terrence, arms poised with his camera, capturing our final pedal strokes to the water.

We removed our cleats, sinking our toes into the warm sand as we carried our bicycles to the water's edge and dipped our front wheels into the surf. Matt, our youngest rider at age 17, was selected to pour the ocean water we brought from the Pacific into the Atlantic. Hooting, hollering, laughter, tears. Euphoria.

Ankle-deep in Atlantic Ocean water, I leaned on my bicycle, watching Beth and Teresa splash and play in the surf, diving under the waves, jumping up and down and hugging each other over and over. I was too far away to hear their screaming, but their mouths were open, an expression that accompanies the sound of blissful, wailing joy. I was unaware that as my mind took its own mental snapshots of their moment, Terrence was capturing my moment capturing theirs.

If I can find a way to hold onto it, it will be one of the moments I take with me.

Along this journey, I had hoped to slow down my mornings, lengthen my afternoons and feel moments while I am in them. I did achieve that. I had long days. Refreshing moments where I looked at the time and it was only 9:30 in the morning. Excruciating moments when I could feel every muscle fiber in my legs. Exhilarating moments when I looked back and saw how far I had come. Peaceful moments, where I was all alone, cycling under a huge sky, letting my thoughts fill the enormous landscape around me.

Yet time does not let you hold onto it.

Even as I attempted in vain to stretch moments by realizing them, those moments still passed. Somehow, 50 days has managed to fit into one, long blink of my eye. And then it's gone. Time is fleeting, no matter what you do to fill it. And that's what ultimately becomes important. How you fill it.

There is a huge world out there. Wide, open and beautiful. Bigger still than what I saw on one route between Oregon and New Hampshire. There's even more to see and so many different ways to see it. It's a shame to spend your life passing it all up. Exploring, marveling, laughing, crying, seeing, hearing, feeling, believing, becoming, living.

Whatever those ways may be, sign me up.

We only get to do this once.

Day 50: In Photos

Click here to view my entire photo album of Day 50 [TBA].

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Across America North:

Day 50: The People

New Hampshire Dedication

We entered New Hampshire, the final state that we would cross on our transcontinental cycling tour. Before we even cycled over the border, I already knew who it was for. New Hampshire is dedicated to Terrence.

The tumultuous, emotional rollercoaster of a relationship that Terrence ended up having with me is not what he signed up for when we became friends in 2002. It began innocently platonic - I mean, he's two days older than my younger brother. Even though our age difference is less than three years, the sibling age reference created little foundation for intimacy.

As a member of Rickey's former college basketball team and a good friend of mine, Terrence held fast in his vigil by my side when Rickey died in 2003. On that first night of the rest of my life without Rickey, Terrence sat in the living room with my roommates all night long while I laid motionless in my bed between brief fits of tears and even briefer moments of restless sleep.

That day, after I received the devastating phone call from Rickey's father and news spread across campus, Terrence was at the foot of my bed immediately after basketball practice. Unlike everyone else who tried to touch me, hug me or offer consoling advice that day, he sat quietly in the evening darkness of my room for what may have been an hour. I can't remember how long. I know that he listened to me cry. That he listened to me breathe. And then he listened to me cry again. I know that just before he left my room and joined the growing group of friends and a few university staff gathering in the living room that he said something I will never forget. I have carried it with me ever since.

The next morning, he peeked into my bedroom just before he left for the team's Canadian basketball tour and continued to check in the entire time he was gone. He called every morning and every night. He sent letters and postcards. And when the team returned a few weeks later, I could feel him reading my moods. He and I still wonder how that innate need to take care of me sprung out of nowhere.

In the years that followed, Terrence willingly made himself my sandbag, and tried to catch me every time the storm of regret sent me careening headfirst. I'm sure there were many eyebrows raised when people perceived that he was filling Rickey's shoes. I never actually heard what words may have churned through the gossip mill of that small college town, but I knew what it looked like. Here was an apparent replacement. The check lists matched. Student-athlete. Basketball player. Tall. Black.

Check. Check. Check. And check.

They even look alike. Not as much in physical appearance as in expression. They have analogous mannerisms. Similar swagger. Down-south Georgia boys with their baseball caps turned back or loosely propped on top of their heads and cocked to the side. College-educated, with the ability to switch between street lingo and classroom vernacular with ease. When Terrence walked around a corner wearing a black wave cap, I often saw Rickey for a split second. And as much as it could sting in those first milliseconds, it was immediately soothing. I found it so comforting that I didn't care what anyone thought. Everything hurt. Bad. I sought relief. Terrence was relief.

Terrence's hero badge and white horse didn't come without burdens. He was often weighed down by my panic attacks, mood swings and misdirected verbal lashings. Over the years, I began to exalt Rickey's memory, glorifying him into a faultless version of selective memories, making him falsely perfect. Erasing his mistakes and the decisions he made that would eventually take his life. As a result, Terrence often endured heated episodes in which he had to firmly remind me that he wasn't Rickey.

Admittedly, our relationship began blindly, hastily. My closest friends warned me that I was jumping in too soon. That I needed to take time to deal with myself. That I could end up hurting Terrence once the sting of losing Rickey subsided. I ignored the risks. So did Terrence.

I was dealing with my own demons and in no realistic position to contribute positively to someone else's life. When faced with the challenge to be there for Rickey at a time when he needed me most, I had failed miserably and finitely. When acknowledging his problems, I had offered flighty ultimatums. It's not that I feel responsible for his actions. It's that I regret being embarrassed by his addiction. I regret not doing more. Even if nothing had worked, at least I could live with knowing that I had really tried.

For me, failure is not in lack of success, but in lack of attempt. But regret can leave a bruise that is slow to heal, but Terrence helps me live through it and love my loved ones better. Is he my crutch? Maybe. If I'm going to be fair and truly introspective, I have to admit that. But he helped me move forward so that I could walk on my own. And now that I can, I prefer to walk beside him.

So while some may have perceived that Terrence stepped into Rickey's shoes, I know the truth. That he simply picks up the shoes and shines them when they're dusty.

The last state on my cycling tour is for you, Terrence. You've been at the end of everything for the last seven years. I'm on my way. On my own. Glad you're here. Love now and always.

UPDATE: Terrence proposed on a rocky shoreline in New Hampshire a few hours after I finished my bicycle tour across North America. Although our engagement ended in October 2011, we still remain close friends.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Vermont Dedication

Vermont is a small state and quite possibly the nation's best kept secret. It's a place of natural beauty and unexpected splendor.

Authentic. Unassuming. Sincere.

Kevin, you once said that we would be the couples who go the distance and have a great time the entire way.

I hoped you were right back then ... I believe you may have been now.

Brody, I don't think of you and Kev as two of Terrence's best friends. I think of you both as two of Terrence's brothers.

It is rare to find friendships that behold the levels of authentic character, genuine camaraderie and sincere pride that the three of you share. When I think of you - and the few other men you keep close - I am reminded of a famous quote by Oscar Wilde:

"Anyone can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend's success."

But selfishly, I delight most in the fact that you both found your matches in two incredible women that I absolutely adore.

When I think of the six of us, I think of one of Dr. Seuss' rhymes.

Oh, the places you'll go!

And I went through Vermont for all of you.

Day 49: Brattleboro, VT, to Manchester, NH

Today's Mileage: 81
Average Speed: 15.4 mph
Max Speed: 39 mph
Moving Time: 5:23
Blog & Ride Details

Joe recently passed the "no flats" torch to me and Gerard ... and then he blogged about it! The biggest "Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx"! The ultimate flat faux pas! If you haven't had a flat by Day 30, 40 or 47 of your cycling trek across North America, you don't say it out loud! And you don't write about it, Joe!

Individuals or teams who appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated will subsequently be jinxed. It's scientific fact.

And for those cyclists who haven't had a flat by Day 47 of their 50-day tour and are featured on Joe's blog ...

Day 49:

Day 49 also included an optional climb up Sullivan Road, a 10-25% grade mountain road between Brattleboro and Manchester. Sullivan Road used to be part of the route, but ABB recently rerouted the trek at the base of the mountain.

There was a lot of talk about climbing up Sullivan this morning and even more chatter about bragging rights. I can't believe that we are now seeking out mountains to pedal over. If any of the climbs in Oregon had been optional, that would have been a no-brainer for me. A "hell no" brainer.

But now I feel like a cyclist - not just somebody who rides a bicycle. During this morning's ride, Sandy said to me, "As you flew by me on that hill back there, I thought ... New York City is going to be too small for Katie and Maddy ... That was the exact thought that ran through my head."

It was a reminder that my return to New York City was eminent. However, cycling out of Brattleboro, the mountainous terrain kept me in the moment, considering only that which was 10-20 feet in front of me.

As I pedaled along, I was trying to determine if it was even really that important to me to "conquer Sullivan Road". Terrence was waiting for me to arrive in Manchester and veering off route for the climb would add extra time in the saddle, especially since I'd have to turn around at the top and cycle back the way I came to get back on route. Did I truly want the personal achievement and thrill of reaching the top or did I just want to be able to tell other people that I did it?

After all, when something is truly just for you, there is no need to tell others about it.

As I approached the turn-off to Sullivan Road, I made my decision.

More images from Brattleboro to Manchester:

Click here to view my entire photo album of Day 49 [TBA].

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Manchester, Day 49
Across America North:
Manchester photos