And suddenly, it's over.
Everyone was up early again this morning. The church kitchen was open to us and Rodney made a pot of coffee; we all sat in the common area and had breakfast. Everyone was mostly quiet again this morning as we became aware that this would be the last morning we would pack our gear. We took a group picture before we left and hit the road heading east to Yorktown.
The morning was cool, sunny, and perfect. We had a beautiful bike path that paralleled the road for a good part of the 50 miles to Williamsburg. We stopped for a celebration lunch, and then only 13 miles remained.
The route followed the Colonial Parkway, which was a bumpy and busy road, and my thoughts were interrupted by my concentration on the passing cars. Still, I reminisced about the past two months and the thousands of miles we've ridden. I remembered the hectic first day in San Francisco: touching the Pacific, navigating the city, and catching the ferry. California, specifically crossing the Sierras, was such a struggle that I doubted our ability to cross the many ranges that stood ahead of us. Nevada was hot but manageable, and I was encouraged as we slowly progressed across the patterned mountains. When we hit the extreme heat of Utah, I was again overwhelmed by the brutality of the desert, but Colorado was completely opposite and I felt strong as we crossed the highest passes and completed the Western Express. The mental struggle of Kansas was grueling but it made the rolling farmland in Missouri that much more beautiful. Illinois and Kentucky passed quickly and riding through the mountains of Virginia was even better than I had hoped, calling forth memories and evoking possibilities.
I teared up thinking about what a long way we had come, and the feeling was very similar to when I approached the end of the Appalachian Trail...the excitement of completing what I had set out to do, and the sadness of leaving a simple, free lifestyle behind. On my strong days the east coast seemed so close, and on the weaker ones I wasn't sure if I would ever arrive. After we crossed the Mississippi, it felt like the trip was nearly over, yet each day had to be completed, had to be ridden with the same determination as the days in the desert.
George, Seth, and I fell behind the group, and we rode into Yorktown from the opposite direction. We all reached the monument that signifies the end at the same time, and it was an emotional time as we exchanged hugs and congratulations. It was amazing to be able to finish with these other people who have shared the same experiences, and to have ridden with them these last few days. After pictures at the monument it was time for the ocean. The original four--Josh, George, Seth, and I--put our front tires in the Atlantic, still pointing east. We had ridden as far as we could ride.
I carried a small bag of sand with me from the Pacific coast, and my sprinkling of the sand into the water truly signified the end of this journey. I cried at the edge of the water, and I cry now as I remember the emotion of that moment.
The eight of us celebrated with ice cream and said our tearful goodbyes--Andreas will return to Germany, Claudia to Italy, Rodney and Parker to California, Josh to Mississippi, and the rest of us to Florida. We loaded our bikes and gear into the car and drove away, and just like that, the trip was over. Two months of travel and in two days I will be home. It is strange how quickly it ends.
Many people are asking, "What's next?" and I do not have an answer. It is a difficult transition to be thrown back into the "real" world, and I fear this second round will be even more challenging. There is something sacred about seeing life beyond the daily grind, and I wish such an experience for everyone. Reflections will surely come in the following weeks.
62 days - 9 states - 3658 miles