Final Mileage: 3,727.3
*More blog posts to come after today, faithful followers, so keep checking back 😉*
I have sat here and sat here trying to come up with words to start my blog about the final day of our bike tour: the day we reached the Pacific Coast and officially rode our bikes across the entire United States of America.
It was chilly this morning, and when my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m., I didn’t want to get up.
I didn’t want to get up because, well, it was cold, and I was pretty content in my sleeping bag. I didn’t want to get up because it was the very last day of the trip I have dreamt about my entire life. If I got up and got ready, we would have to start the day, which meant the day would soon be over.
And I know that time doesn’t work that way, but it just seemed like I could postpone it just…
Isn’t it funny how that works? A few days ago I was desperate to get to the coast. I was exhausted, frustrated, hot, thirsty, and just wanted to be home. And today I woke up wanting more time…one more day.
We ate breakfast and hit the road, one last time. It was freezing. I could see my breath.
But it was a beautiful ride. The sun was rising and was casting a pink hue on the foggy Cascades. It gave me peace.
About 20 miles into our ride, we stopped and ate breakfast at a small cafe. It was delicious. Holy hash browns…😍😍😍
Today’s ride felt…different. We were focused and quiet. On the surface, we were trying to get to the bike shop that was shipping our bikes before they closed. Deep down, however, I felt like today’s ride was meditative. I tried to soak in the entire ride, all while reflecting on the trip as a whole and what we were about to accomplish, and the emotions that would come with it.
I was happy and at peace.
I was full of anticipation.
I was nervous.
I was scared.
I was sad.
All. At. The. Same. Time.
So, all I could do was ride in silence, taking in the scenery while attempting to process my emotions.
I was distracted from my deep thinking for a small chunk of time today.
When you’re in a car, tunnels are exciting. When you’re on a bike, tunnels are terrifying.
There’s usually no shoulder, they’re dark, and cars fly through them. They aren’t conducive to safe bike riding.
But this one was special!
Oregon is super bike friendly. There hasn’t been a single road without a huge shoulder, and all of the towns and cities have bike lanes. We have even passed signs stating that cyclists can use the full lane if they wish.
To ensure the safety of cyclists, this tunnel had a button to push. When you pushed the button, the lights on the sign on top of the tunnel would flash, indicating to drivers that there were cyclists to watch out for in the tunnel.
Well……I pushed the button. It didn’t work.
The tunnel reminded me of going down those dark blue slides at Venture River (they terrify me). The tunnel was very dark, there was no room inside, and it descended at a 7% grade into pitch black darkness, only to spit you out on the other side of the mountain.
Masherra and I nervously chuckled.
Oh boy. This shall be interesting.
I decided it would be safest for me to ride in the back since I have a flashing LED light.
We took off. We flew through the tunnel.
A fourth of the way through the tunnel, I checked my mirror and noticed headlights peering through the darkness like a monster.
Do they see us?
Can we get over?
I hope they see us.
They passed us.
Then, two more headlights appear. I hear a slow rumble coming up behind me, and the same thoughts go through my head. This time, it was a huge dump truck.
The cars flying through the tunnel were honking. I honestly don’t know if they were honking at us, or honking because they were in a tunnel.
The rumble got closer and louder. I didn’t have hardly any room to get over. I was honestly terrified. I knew they could see my light…it’s impossible not to…but I was still scared.
A huge gust of wind slapped me from the side and I let out a sigh of relief. It passed us.
As we neared the end of the tunnel, I noticed the car behind me was hanging back.
Thank goodness. They have our back.
We made it out of the tunnel and pulled over on the side of the road. Nervous and full of adrenaline, we burst into laughter. That was terrifyingly insane.
As we neared Florence, I could smell the salt in the air!
I was riding along, perfectly fine, then tears started rolling down my cheeks. They were tears of joy, tears of sadness, and tears of pride. They were tears because, what am I going to do after this? What will ever top this?
I pulled up our location on my phone. More tears.
I tried to refocus, and it worked. I tried to focus on the ride and making good time so we could make it to the bike shop before they closed.
And then there it was: the Florence sign.
Stay calm, don’t cry….there’s still 5 more miles.
We pedaled through town towards Heceta Beach, the closest place to access the ocean. It felt surreal to see the sign pointing us towards the beach.
The road to the beach was twisty and curvy. For 2.5 miles, I went around each curve looking for the ocean. I could smell the salt in the air; we were so close.
And then, there it was.
I didn’t even have time to attempt to hold back my tears, they just started flowing. I was so proud, relieved, and elated, completely filled with euphoria. I was sad, scared, and reluctant, unsure of how I could ever top this trip. Once I dipped my tire into the ocean, my trip of a lifetime would be over.
My entire trip flashed through my mind: all the places, the people, the friends, the trials, the hardships, the accomplishments.
What will I have to look forward to after this?
Crocodile tears flowing down my cheeks, I rolled my bike through the sand towards the ocean. I changed into my Kentucky Strong shirt, because you have to be Kentucky Strong to be able to ride across the nation on your bike.
A thick fog was hanging around the water. As we got closer, the fog lifted. It was as if someone pulled the stage curtains open for us.
Families who were gathered on the beach stared at us in bewilderment as we struggled to push our bikes through the sand, crying and wiping tears away as we made our way to the water.
As I neared my way to the crashing waves, I felt like I was in a dream. The colors were hazy, yet vivid. The seagulls were squawking in the distance, and a cool, salty breeze brushed across my face. I wanted to savor that feeling, so I walked slowly, almost in a trancelike state. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I felt.
Mash and I stood and stared at the ocean as the waves crashed in, and then retreated back. We both simultaneously dipped our front tires into the Pacific Ocean, officially signifying the end of our coast-to-coast trip of a lifetime. We did it.
Still crying, we stood there as the waves came up around us. My shoes were completely submerged and full of sand, but it didn’t matter. I wondered if this was how my dad felt when he completed his cross country tour 37 years ago. I was now a second generation cross country bike tourist. 💚💪🏻🇺🇸🚵🏼♂️
I tried to call my parents and Craig, but couldn’t get a call out. They probably wouldn’t have even understood a word I would have said anyway.
A couple of people gathered around us, asking us what we were doing.
“We just……*sniff*…..rode…..*sniff*…….our bikes…….*sniiiiiiiiif*…AcrossTheUnitedStates….*SSSNNIIFFF*”
They congratulated us and asked us all the typical questions. We couldn’t carry on a coherent conversation, so our answers were all one word answers. They understood.
They graciously offered to take pictures of us, so we definitely took them up on their offer!
I couldn’t believe it. I dreamt a dream, followed it with all my heart, and worked my tail off for it…for in life, you can be one that wishes to do, or one that does.
Some dreams really do come true.