I'm sitting in the airport in Portland with some time to kill before I meet a friend for a late lunch and catch my bus to Astoria. There were a few things that immediately let me know that I was not in New York City anymore. One was the troop of Boy Scouts lounging at baggage claim in full "badged" regalia. The other were all the RVs just outside of the airport's revolving doors.
I have a confession. Aside from forgetting my toothbrush, I was sad to leave the city this morning. Sad enough even to wonder why this journey had ever been so important to me in the first place. It's not like I've lived a life of passion for cycling. In fact, I only took it up recently since the ability to cycle was somewhat pertinent to actually cycling across the country. Even the goal of crossing North America by bicycle in the summer of my 30th year was a harebrained idea I came up with during a brief bout of quarter life crisis when I turned 29.
I was already missing Midtown Manhattan last week when I moved a mere 5.94 miles southeast and across the East River, but I was also just getting settled into a brand new apartment in Downtown Brooklyn that I absolutely adore. Within the last month, I transitioned into a new role at work that I am really looking forward to tackling. Terrence just returned from a 10-month bj League season, and by the time I (God-willing) make it to New Hampshire, he'll be preparing to head back to Japan. I am more bummed than I have wanted to admit about missing an entire summer in New York City. I've been training for less than six months, and my miles over the last month severely dwindled under the weight of other priorities. Can I really do this? I felt like a cliché city girl when it seemed foreign to not pack eyeshadow, jewelry and stilettos in my suitcase. And since my cycling coach shut down my original plan to eat my way across North America in Chinese food - citing that it was not necessarily one of my greatest ideas - I am already craving China Gourmet.
But - as I learned from my parents - I cannot let momentary emotions blur the big picture that I know exists. As Mark Twain famously wrote, "You will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did ..." And to quote Senator Paul Tsongas, "No one on his death bed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time in the office.'"
So before I point my bicycle east, there are a few more people who deserve a shout-out before I begin pedaling and never look back.
Jean. There are several people at our company who deserve a wealth of thanks for their assistance, encouragement and enthusiasm in the pursuit of my goal to spend my 30th summer cycling across North America. You are the main one. Thank you.
Christine and Amy (my former bosses). Thank you for your progressive management styles, for approving my request for an 8-week leave of absence - particularly in the dwindling state of this economy - and for further pursuing opportunities to help me advance internally, despite my rapidly approaching unpaid leave. Peter (my new boss), thank you for your equally liberal approach in nurturing the personal goals of your employees and for having the confidence to bring me on board just before I "clocked out" for two months. I really look forward to hitting the ground running upon my return.
Felix Calderon. I shudder at the thought of where I'd be today if it were not for you, my cycling coach, "master of my bike" (thanks for the reminder, Cristin) and new friend. You are more than just the best pro bicycle fitter in the city and an excellent coach. You are a giant heart. I have so much more to learn from you, and I can't wait to ride with you again this fall.
R&A Cycles. Thank you for never turning down my money. On a more serious note, thank you for staffing the best bicycle mechanics and cycling experts in New York.
Kyle Greathouse. Even though we were delayed by image sizing requirements (thank you to my friend Betsy at Time Warner for sending us the larger image file) and ultimately halted by copyright permissions that we were unable to obtain due to time constraints, your valiant efforts to create a cycling jersey screen-printed with Ellen DeGeneres' "World Domination" flag were above and beyond. I am so proud of you and your company Beautiful Demise. We've come a long way since Cullowhee.
Elizabeth Bolen's boss. We've never met, but thank you for all of the advice and articles you sent by way of Elizabeth. Your enthusiasm for my trip was motivating when my determination dwindled.
Bobbi Baker James. You are the best friend a girl could have, and you and Nate created the best baby a Godmother could hope for. He makes me want to be the best Godmother in the world. Thank you for consistently offering the type of support that provided me with sincere, positive reinforcement or held up a mirror of honesty when I needed either or both.
Bianca Berry. Thank you for teaching me how to cook my first seven things (ever), washing my dirty dishes, embracing my initiatives to "make it a musical day", introducing me to the wonders of the History Channel and for establishing "Apartmental Talk-Like-Sean-Connery" nights. I am really going to miss having you as a roommate and a New Yorker, and I hope all your wildest dreams come true in LA.
China Gourmet. Thank you for your Bianca-acclaimed "best Chinese food in New York City", your competitive pricing, your prompt delivery of "deliciousness" and for helping me pack on the carbs.
Avalon Fort Greene. Thank you for giving me three months rent-free. And thank you for having someone like Neil on staff, who - on Monday - is going to overnight FedEx the mini Ellen flag that I left on the bulletin board in my bedroom. I have my larger one, to wave at each state line, but I forgot the mini one that I plan to put on my bicycle.
To all of my friends that I did not mention directly, you know who you are. You know how I feel about each of you. You know you're with me for the long haul.
And Terrence. I have to thank you again. Just before we boarded our separate flights out of La Guardia this morning, I received your text message: "I want you to know I'm proud of you for chasing your goals. This is gonna be big. Enjoy. Have fun. Seal memories away. Most of all, come back home to me in one piece." You saw the look on my face as I turned to leave for Oregon and knew I needed that.
Finally, to those who read my blog - whether you follow it regularly or check in sporadically - thank you for taking time out of your day to share in my experiences, personal reflections and occasional TMI. The purpose of this blog is ultimately to provide a comprehensive record for myself. Book deals don't generally come along if you're not a Grammy-winning singer or Emmy-nominated talk show host, didn't invent the iPad, or have never had a torrid affair with a political official or Tiger Woods, but there is something somewhat liberating, refreshingly vulnerable and relatively therapeutic about taking your thoughts and just throwing them out there. There is always a risk of backlash and judgment when you open your life in any public arena (particularly when your parents are readers), but the mixture of responses - both positive and negative - can create a new channel for further reflection, if one chooses to embrace the opportunity and ability of sincere self-evaluation. That is what I hope this trip will be for me. So thank you for helping me make the journey.