Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Last Word

If I don't write this now, I probably won't.  It seems a bit premature to be reflecting, because my head is still spinning.  Allow me some final thoughts and ramblings, and then this blog will officially close until the next great adventure.

Remember back when I wrote that this was crazy?  How about the post where I thought 87km was a really, really long distance, and I was exhausted?  I've re-read those posts, and they make me smile.  I shared them with the cycling guru last week, and he thought they were pretty funny too.

I took a risk this summer, devoting 9 weeks (and a million training/prep hours) to a task I wasn't sure I liked.  I like it, I still like it!  I love risk taking, and I'm glad I did it.  

I suppose one of the worst lessons I learned this summer is that you can do anything you put your mind to.  That's a dangerous lesson, and I should probably rephrase it.  I feel incredibly blessed/fortunate/protected/lucky that I was able to ride every day with very little incident (okay, those flats...).  I started a list of the things that could have gone wrong, ranging from personal injury, complete exhaustion, accidents, and bike malfunction.  None of it happened to me, and I was able to complete the task I set out to.  Every Fun Inch.  Praise be!

People ask if the experience turned out to be what I expected.  Of course the answer is both yes and no.  Yes, it was incredible, and I had high expectations.  It was a physical challenge, and an opportunity to see great things along the way.  Seeing creation at 27km/hr was amazing, and even more amazing when zooming past it at 75.3km/hr.  Still so proud of that! Obviously there were challenging days, and I hope that I conveyed those accurately on these pages.  

I thought I'd have more time and space for reflection and quiet time, both on and off the bike.  On the bike I feel as though my mind simply emptied, rather than thought, and I liked it.  I don't often clear my mind. 

I didn't expect to be so challenged by the presence of other people.  I struggled often with the presence of the crowd, much to the amusement of the friends who drew close.  I keep blaming "that awful spring" but also admitted toward the end of the summer that maybe I'm just a selfish hermit when it comes to space and time. 

With regards to the friends who drew close, I didn't expect them either.  Amazing people, and I miss them terribly this week.  Sometimes when I approach an adventure of this kind, I know that I will have to say farewell, and I don't necessarily want to let people in.  And then they just sort of force their way in and you are a better person because of it.  (ahemChristyahem).  

What is the legacy of this journey?  I can think of three very tangible things.  The first is that the generosity of so many ($15 917.83) has convicted me.  I have been challenged to give more generously to a wider range of organizations and to my church.  

The second is a gentle, persistent reminder that the poor are always with us.  It is easy to get caught up in my own kingdom work at a Christian school and forget to be present in my community.  I am still sorting this out, and deciding what that challenge looks like for the coming year.  

The last legacy, or lesson, is that I have an incredibly supportive, and loving church family.  I surprised everyone (including myself) by showing up on Sunday morning after driving through the night.  There were hugs and tears, and so much love.  When we cycled in to town on August 9 I felt like a rock star.  God has given me an incredible church family. 

And so as the t-shirt pictured above reminded me all summer, I did something beautiful.  And now I box it all up, go back to work and dream about my next adventure.  Thanks, all.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 62: I did this

Sweet last day of riding.  Words are almost impossible for this day.  I think the pictures do it justice.

Day 61: the penultimate day of cycling

Friday, also known as Day 61 was our second last day of the tour, but really our very last day.

Soak it in.  We started the day crossing the Hudson on a cool bridge.

After crossing the bridge, we had one last big hike up a mountain.  In the words of cousin Bill the motor bike rider, the hill went "up a long ways, down a bit and then up a lot more."  That was accurate.  Of course, when you climb that high, you get to descend, and descend and descend.

I managed to push 68km/hr on the downhill.  That's a good day of cycling.

My favourite part of our last independent day of cycling happened next.  We'd been playing tag with Marc, Mike, Rachel and Adam, our buddies, all day.  We had agreed that we would stop some time after km 70 for lunch or something, but these things are hard to predict.

Around km 75 Julia and I happened upon Rachel standing at the edge of a parking lot.  She had taken the time to purchase ice cream, cones and a scoop, and found this beautiful spot for enjoying.

This seems as good a time as any to comment on the beautiful people in this picture.  These are my people, the ones who put up with all my moody crap all summer long, and still love me enough to enjoy ice cream in a gazebo on our second to last day of riding.  Of course there are others who have made this adventure special, but there's something about these five.  Adam (blondie, the kid, everyone loves Adam) has an incredible sense of humour but uses it with integrity and kindness.  Julia (my other half) loves people and wants everyone to be included and feel welcome.  Mike is quiet but when he speaks it's worth listening to.  Marc is incredibly loyal and gives great advice about all things Sea to Sea.  Rachel is intensely passionate about so many things, and loves to share stories with others.

We toasted our ice cream cones and then headed in to camp for our last tenting adventure.  

Days 59 and 60

Wednesday and Thursday passed in a bit of a haze, looking back.  More of the same beautiful, rolling scenery as we continued along Lake Champlain and the Hudson river.

Julia and I continued our slow-ish riding, wanting to take it all in...and not kill ourselves on the hills.

This was the view as we climbed into Albany, NY.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Day 58

We have been spoiled by the flat terrain basically from Illinois to Montreal.  That all changed today. 

As you can see from the elevation picture, we climbed a lot, and descended just as much. That means our elevation stayed basically the same, but we rode hard.  

I wish I could say that it felt easier than 7 weeks ago in Colorado, but I'm not sure it did.  I must be stronger though, right? I do think my climbing strategy has changed, and we focused on riding steady, not on heroics, all day. 

We averaged 20.3km/hr, and my maximum speed for the day was 65km/hr.  there was some debate at supper about whether this was the hardest day of the tour.  I'm personally not convinced, I think day  16 or day 37 would be top contenders for that prize.

Fortunately we had beautiful scenery all day long, which definitely made the day go quickly.

Day 57: back in the good ol' US of A

On Monday, after a not-really-relaxing day off in Montreal, we headed back to the US.  We rode south fm Montreal and crossed basically in the middle of no where.  It's odd to cross the border on a bike. 

Welcome to New York!

Upstate New York is incredibly beautiful, and our ride took us along Lake Champlain. We stayed at Au Sable Chasm park, which was just magnificent.

Along the way we rode past this funky park.  Check out the last supper.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Jour 56: the real reason I biked from LA to Montreal

It's very possible I've been talking about this sandwich since I made friends on this trip.

As we approached la Belle Province I talked a lot about my favourite little restaurant in Montreal.

Today we were bused in to the city for church.   Ryan randomly met up with a college friend at church, and as we were discussing lunch, I asked him if he had heard of café Santropol. And because he's a good 30 something Montrealer, it was his recommendation for lunch as well.  

14 of us ended up together ordering funky sandwiches and milkshakes.  Santropol, I'm sorry I haven't been by in 4 years. I'll try to do better in the future.

That pretty much sums up our day of rest - wandering Montreal, and eating good food.

Oh, and this happened to Billy D's tent too.  

6 days left.  Crazy of a different kind.