All these things that I've done
It's been 4 days since we arrived in Half Moon Bay. My state of mind is pretty blank right now. As hard as it is for me to believe that I am back home after being on the road for 2 months, I can barely believe that I biked across the country at all.
So here's my last blog post, for now. Who knows, depending on how long my funemployment lasts, maybe I'll have time to do a rider expose or two.
The last few days of riding were brimming with energy, excitement, and anticipation. Every morning's route meeting got progressively sillier, our mid-ride singing grew more rambunctious, and we celebrated the last of everything - the last mountain pass, the last host presentation, the last rider of the week award, the last laundry day.
During our several rides after Tahoe, I realized the true love of cycling that this summer has instilled in me. Perhaps my enjoyment in the last week stemmed from the feeling of homecoming, and from the familiar landscapes of yellow hills and oak trees that brought back memories of my hometown in Sonoma County. Familiarity aside, I do think my desire to ride and keep riding has grown since the beginning of the trip. Back in West Virginia, my "good" days were any days that weren't bad; basically, any days without getting lost, flat tires, and extreme physical exhaustion. Two months later, with a wider spectrum of experiences and a greater affinity for my bike, I am sure that my last week of Bike and Build was great, not just not bad. On our last day from Palo Alto to Half Moon Bay, pedaling up a well-ridden climb and finding ourselves alongside seasoned cyclists, I felt like one of them. I consciously enjoyed the scenic ascent, the physical challenge, and the reward that came from each pedal - a big improvement from my prior self, who either dreaded or just tolerated the climbs.
On our penultimate ride day, we had a special lunch stop at the home of one of our riders, Todd, in Pleasanton. The Detweilers, all ginger like Todd, were so hospitable and graciously welcomed us into their beautiful home with home-smoked salmon, bagels, homemade turkey sausage, fresh fruit, and other mouthwatering food that reminded us of what we had been missing our entire summer. It really started to feel like home, and seeing Todd with his loved ones made me even more excited to see mine.
The last day, to be honest, was a whirlwind. A fuzzy euphoria of people, places, interactions, and, most notably, emotions. (I admit that the celebratory champagne and beer may have contributed to the blurriness.) The ride up to and along Highway 1 was absolutely gorgeous and my group of girls (with whom I rode almost every day) cherished every mile. At the top of our very last climb on Kings Mountain, we stopped in Alice's Cafe and Restaurant for a quick bite and lingered for awhile at our last lunch stop, dancing and singing a little crazily to Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears as onlookers and motorcyclists watched curiously. Under the warm sun and blue sky (quite rare and lucky weather for the coast), we descended into Half Moon Bay with the Pacific on our left.
We waited for our two sweep riders to arrive at our host before heading off to the beach to see all of our friends and family, so that we could have one last moment together as our group. Even amidst our antsy excitement, there was a noticeable air of sadness and nostalgia as our trip came to a close. Our leaders all said a few words, Stan sang us a hymn, and we wistfully stood together, cherishing the last time we would exist in the close, unique, and indescribable community we created over the past 11 weeks. Like high school, college, and summer camp, our experience together was fleeting, but our newfound perspectives and friendships are much more enduring. In all honesty, I hadn't thought I would be so sad, but in those last few minutes, I felt pretty bittersweet.
With our last hurrah and getting stuck for 10 minutes at a traffic light that wouldn't turn green, we ended up being an hour and a half late to our own welcome party. Oops! We rode for the first and last time as a huge group of 30 riders to the beach, first seeing our names written in chalk on the road and then seeing our loved ones cheering us on the street and into the parking lot. I felt like I was winning the Tour de France - so many iPhones and cameras pointed at us! We greeted our friends, lined up to dip our front wheels in the Pacific (remember, we dipped our rear wheels in the Atlantic in Rhode Island), and then just plunged into the waves. Everyone just started hugging each other and singing Ain't No Mountain High, and we FaceTimed Melissa, our fellow rider who had to leave early in Nevada.
It was so wonderful seeing faces I hadn't seen in months: my mom, my wonderful (ex)coworkers Meghan, Goldie, and Julia, my uncle, aunt, and cousins, and of course, Michael! Hugs, smiles, and happiness all around. It was simultaneously very weird and not weird at all to see everyone. I loved seeing my friends with their families and friends, many of whom we had all heard about already. We drank champagne and beer and tequila (thanks to Grace's friend), ate good food, and told lots of stories. It was a new experience having to explain to outsiders different concepts and things that were so innate to our P2C group!
That night, after our family and friends left, we had a BBQ and bonfire on another beach with some Bike and Build alumni. Nothing too crazy, since we were all tired from the day's festivities. Kaitlyn, Emma, Beth and I had one last night sharing a hallway on our Thermarests, laughing about who knows what before drifting off to sleep. The next morning, we got breakfast with everyone before parting ways. Instead of goodbyes, I chose to go with a casual "see you later," which I preferred. And luckily, Emma, Kaitlyn, Sarah and I were quickly reunited in San Francisco over the next two days, making it a slower and easier transition to post-B&B life.
Back in the "real world," it felt surreal to drive in my Prius, to walk in the mall, to not be wearing spandex all the time, to have many clothing options, to see so many other people who were not riding across the country. Life on Bike and Build was definitely simpler, mostly in a good way.
It's hard to say what I took away from Bike and Build, but if I had to make a list:
- I learned how few lyrics I knew - I could never sing more than a couple lines of all the songs we sang on our rides!
- I gained confidence that I can pretty much do anything. As cheesy as it sounds, I knew every day that I would finish the ride, no matter how mentally and physically challenging it would be.
- I realized, for probably the millionth time, that less is often more.
- I earned a deeper and greater appreciation for my country and for my hometown.
- I also discovered that most people you will meet, anywhere you go, are nice, friendly, and eager to help others. I don't think I had the opposite assumption coming into this trip, but I often found myself surprised at the kindness and generosity of complete strangers.
If I had to choose one piece of advice from this trip to live by, I think I'll try to remember the words of wisdom Natalie (Bike and Build's program director) gave us, which encompasses all facets of life: our careers, goals, relationships, etc.