Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 50: Manchester to Portsmouth, NH

Final day of 50 miles. The bike wheels have made 3 million revolutions. We set out early for the Atlantic coast in order to assemble as a group at 11.30 am at Rye High School. We made good time and were able to stop en masse at a bakery in Exeter for a coffee and pastry. At the high school we began the goodbyes before the police escort arrived to guide us as a unit to the beach. With flashing lights and sirens, we rode the last 5 of 3,750 miles down to Wallis Sands and arrived to applause and cheers and greetings from friends and relatives, Robert amongst them. Then the ceremonial walking with your bike to the ocean. Hugs and kisses, tears and laughter all around as we said goodbye. My friends met Robert, and then we loaded "The Tank" on to the Honda Civic and pulled out of the parking area, heading for Vermont. We passed many cyclists heading for the motel where they would spend their final night before shipping their bikes and dispersing all over the world, back to their real lives. Robert and I have three days in Jay Peak before heading back to Larchmont. I will write one more blog entry before I close, with some reflections on what it all really meant. Until then, my heartfelt thanks to all the staff, riders and friends who have followed my odyssey across a continent and made it so enriching.

Last RAP (apart from the skit at dinner). The staff from America By Bicycle in front of our Budget Van. These are the people who have guided us across North America, and provided us with moral and mechanical support, and given us the resources and skills to achieve our goals. Debbie, Jeff, Barbara, Jim, Karen and Mike. A big thank you to them.

Day 49: The banquet

Tonight we had the last RAP and the final dinner. Emotions ran high as the reality entered our heads that we had cycled across a continent, and that we would say goodbye to great friends and a certain way of life that we had grown accustomed to. Sandy and "Toronto Mark" hosted the banquet. They took the format from the Oscar awards and everyone present received an award and made a brief acceptance speech. There was a slide show during dinner, some songs, comedy acts that had us cracking up, personal reminiscences and tributes to the staff and friends. The whole added up to more than the sum of its parts and was intensely moving and enjoyable. Other people expressed so beautifully the emotions we were all feeling. It was over by 9.30 as we still have one more day of bicycling.