Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 40: Port Huron, MI, to London, Ontario (Canada)

Today's Mileage: 81 (90 including Canada Jeff's detour tour - sometimes referred to as Connecticut Jeff, where he now resides)
Average Speed: 15.2 mph
Max Speed: 31.0 mph
Moving Time: 5:44
On the road, we are cyclists. But when loved ones drop in along the route, our fellow cyclists transform before our eyes into husbands, wives, fathers, daughters ...

Today, I watched Canada Jeff turn into a son.

His mother met us this morning, with treats for the SAG stop, right after we crossed the Blue Water Bridge that connects the United States and Canada over the St. Clair River. She received the official ABB group greeting: "Hi, Mom! My name is [everyone states his or her name in unison]!"

She seemed a bit overwhelmed by the size of our red, white and blue gang and the nearly simultaneous, collective greeting as cameras emerged from jersey pockets and cyclists began to pose next to her. So I was surprised when she asked for me.

"Katie!" a few people began to shout, "Jeff's mom wants to meet you."

"I really enjoy your blog," she said to me. Camera flashes. Smiles. Quick pictures. Fifty people all trying to meet Canada Jeff's mom at once. I didn't get to thank her. So if you read this, Canada Mom - thank you.

I've been staring at my laptop screen for a few minutes now, trying to describe what it was like to cross over into Canada via the Blue Water Bridge. Words like amazing, incredible, staggering just don't create the vision I have in my mind of 50-some odd cyclists, dressed in matching America By Bicycle jerseys, rounding the entry ramps and gliding to the summit of a massive cement and steel structure, bathed in golden rays of sunrise, and descending into another country. It was the first time we had departed from a hotel together and pedaled as a cohesive unit.

On a bridge that is normally closed to bicycles and pedestrians, all of the Canada-bound lanes were momentarily shut down so that we could cross. We hooted and hollered as the bridge authorities gave our group permission to proceed.

"Enjoy the ride!" I heard one of them yell. I felt a rush of adrenaline and a chill ran down my spine. Other than the hum of wheel spokes and dispersed, excited chatter, the world was quiet.

Canada Jeff took video of the St. Clair crossing. I appear on the right at the 2:40 mark and the tandem shows up at 3:05. Ohio John is largely seen on the far left in the earlier parts of the segment beginning around 0:30. And Dave appears at 2:19. Most of the other riders are not readily identifiable.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who hears random movie quotes in their head at generally relevant moments - though they can sometimes be irrelevant as Alex once witnessed when I was packing my suitcase in Sioux Falls and suddenly blurted out, "Stuttering Stanley! Stuttering Stanley!" I hadn't consciously realized that I had said it out loud until Alex looked up from the strawberries she had brought to share with me and Beth and said, "Is that from The Sixth Sense?"

This morning as I looked out over Canada from the top of the bridge, I kept thinking of Toronto Mark's reference to Forrest Gump sitting at a bus stop in Savannah, Georgia, describing Vietnam: "It's this whole other country."

A cheer erupted from the group as the Canadian officials cleared us through customs on the other side. And there were more cheers roughly 30 miles later when Toronto Mark's wife The Duchess arrived at the first - and only - SAG stop of a relatively easy 80-mile day with Toronto Mark's parents and more treats in tow. As I was reaching for more fruit and nuts, I heard a voice say, "Where is Katie?"

Then, a hand reached for mine and pulled me through the parting crowd of cyclists. On the other end of that firm grip was was Toronto Mark's dad - the most lively, energetic 91-year old man I have ever met. Within minutes of meeting each other, we decided we were kindred spirits. Two souls, decades apart, who have a common vision of living, see the beauty of aging, and aren't afraid to set goals they might never reach. The pursuit. That's living. Have you ever looked into someone's eyes and just know that they get it?

"I've been following your blog. I can feel what you write. And I just want to tell you that I'm right there with you." he said. "But I have to ask you ... are your ass and your saddle back on speaking terms?"

I thought back to what one of the Blue Water Bridge authorities had yelled as we began to cross over to Canada. Enjoy the ride. And then I remembered one of my favorite quotes: "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, your body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, 'Woo hoo!' What a ride!'"

Toronto Mark's dad is having a good, long ride. I guess my biggest goal has always been to have a good, long ride. My last goal will be to scream louder than he does whenever it's my own turn to skid in sideways. Until then, skidding by bicycle is not recommended on this tour.

More photos from Port Huron to London:

From the cornfields of Minnesota to the tobacco fields of Canada,

My mother, who regularly checks my blog for grammar and spelling errors, emailed me today with some revisions: "'Too' instead of 'to' in regard to the song Alex mentioned" [She was referring to Juvenile's hit rap song 'Slow Motion'; Thanks, Mom, but whatever you do - do not read any of the other lyrics to that song].

Click here to view my entire photo album of Day 40 [TBA].

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

1 comment:

Monique D. said...

This is one of my FAAAAAAVES!!! :) Love it. Love the pictures. Love how it was written. I felt like i was there. Loved it.