Yes, Day 7 was the end. I’m back in San Francisco, unpacked, gear cleaned up, and facing going back to work tomorrow, even if only to clean my classroom for summer break.
I started out yesterday thinking I had to ride hard to make it to L.A. by 3:00. But I was in rest stop 1 at 8 a.m. It was clear I’d need to decide which way to go—get to the end early and wait around for closing ceremonies there or cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway slowly. I decided to hang back and cruise since it was a beautiful day and I was close enough to the water to hear the waves crashing. Helped that it was high tide.
Even in relatively slow motion, I was at lunch before 10:30. Luckily, lunch was on a grassy lawn above the ocean, so it was a good place to relax. An hour later I was ready to roll, but we had to wait due to a couple of bike accidents just past the lunch stop. One was a bicyclist unrelated to the ride who was taken out by helicopter. By that point a couple of hundred of us were waiting to ride, so the roadies let us out in groups of 20. Until another accident, this time, one of the ALC riders. I did not hear anything about the outcome of that accident, but know that the paramedics traveling with us helped that rider out.
We had 17.9 miles to go. Yikes! The ride was really about to end. Riding with my tent mate and our tenting neighbors, we dragged those miles out as long as we could. It seemed most of us were doing the same. We stopped for ice cream. We stood in a long line of riders waiting to take the stairs and tunnel under the highway when it was time to leave the beach. Some people suddenly found a need for coffee. We rolled slowly through Brentwood. And then we were at the finish line. Cheered by supporters, friends and relatives. Parking our bikes—for the first time, L.A. riders on one side and S.F. riders on the other. Except for a ride around the block into closing ceremonies, we were done.
I think I was in shock that I’d just ridden over 500 miles in 7 days. I expected to be barely able to stand up, yet I felt I could keep going when I got to the end. So much spirit, support and focus on our common goal of raising money and awareness about HIV/AIDS that I was more energized than exhausted. I also credit the incredible training program led by volunteers who took us up long, steep hills, across endless miles and gave us challenges more difficult than any one day of the actual ride over the past 6 months.
I also learned from the ride how much attitude impacts what I am able to accomplish. One morning I set out feeling a little low, thinking I was nuts to take on this ride. My shoulder hurt, my legs were stiff. Enough, I thought. But I’d determined before the ride that I was going to do every last mile on my bike. I did not want to see the caboose even coming near. So I talked to myself. Put myself through an attitude adjustment; knew it would pass and what do you know--by the time I got to dinner that evening, I was laughing with friends and ready to face a 90-mile day. The only thing that changed was my sense that I could do this. And I did.
I signed up for next year. I’m ready.