I completed my ride on Sunday, July 17th. I posted photos of myself at Yorktown, Virginia on Facebook. My non-Facebook friends may be wondering if I ever made it to the finish line and survived. I need to finish the story of this great adventure.
Virginia was made for cyclists. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which overlooks the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley is not open to commercial traffic, is a dream to ride. The route continues onto the quiet roads of the Piedmont, along the James and the Roanoke Rivers — rolling through lush, green countryside — past Civil War battlefields (I was surprised to learn that 80% of the Civil War was fought in Virginia); old plantations; the immaculately-kept mansions and estates of Presidents Jefferson and Monroe and into a number of quaint college towns like Lexington, Ashland and Williamsburg with their beautiful campuses. I felt like I was in a living history book.
And the weather was fantastic! As we here in Canada head into the cooler days of fall, I will look back and think fondly of the days of waking at 6 a.m. with the temperature already hovering around 74 degrees, and heading out in shorts, a jersey and sandals. It did get hot by
midday, but the breeze created while riding, plus the many big shade trees along the road made for very pleasant riding.
Also, I have to note that people in Virginia keep their dogs tied up!
My dog bite experience has provided me a bit of a window into the US healthcare system. Since my initial rabies shots in Wytheville, I have had follow-up shots in Charlottesville and Virginia Beach — each one taking up a half day. If it weren’t for my insurance, I would have had to pay a minimum of $300 for each shot. And you don’t see a doctor or nurse until the billing people are satisfied you’re covered.
I was getting anxious to finish my ride. On Saturday, July 16th, exactly two months from the start of the ride, we reached Ashland, just outside of Richmond. When the ladies at the campground learned that I was about to complete a cross-country bike ride, they gave us the site for free!
One last, long push!
At 158 km, the final day was a long one. Beginning 40 miles west of Williamsburg, the route went onto the Capital Trail, a gorgeous bike trail alongside the highway. There were dozens of cyclists out for a Sunday spin on the cool, shady trail. And the final push
to Yorktown, over the beautiful Colonial Parkway, actually felt like the end of a marathon– coming in to the stadium for the finish. I ended my 10-week journey where the end of the Revolutionary War, in 1781 is commemorated — at the Yorktown Memorial.
From there it was off to the waterfront to dip my front wheel.
We celebrated with a bottle of champagne and take-out ribs from Scoot’s Barbecue, then spent the next day at Virginia Beach (actually, I wanted to spend the rest of my life in Virginia Beach!) before beginning the long trek home.
We arrived home safely in Calgary on Sunday, July 24th.
Some parting thoughts
Completing this trip was the fulfillment of a long-time goal and the memories will be with me for a lifetime. Small things made each day a memorable one and I can say that not a single day went by that I did not experience joy that brought a wide smile to my face. I had a lot of time alone to think and reflect on my life.
In his book, Stumbling Into Happiness, Daniel Gilbert talks about peoples’ ongoing desire to find happiness in their lives; how (and why) it so often eludes them. I find happiness every time I climb on my bike and begin to pedal. These past 10 weeks have afforded me an up-close view of a most wonderful country– from coast to coast. Even more, they have affirmed for me the kindness, neighborliness and goodness of people everywhere. From the guys who pulled Myrna out of the ditch on the Blue Ridge Parkway (that’s her story to tell!); to the gals who loaded up poor Joe and his bike to take him to a hospital; to every truck driver who waited patiently behind me while I slowly made my way up a blind hill; and to every passing motorcyclist who floated me a”low five.” Maybe there’s something disarming about being on a bike, or taking on a big challenge, but people everywhere have been just wonderful.
People ask how Myrna and I managed to spend 12 weeks cooped up in a tiny van. I can honestly say we loved it — 85% of the time. I am lucky to have had Myrna and Basil as my support crew, and travelling in Priscilla was an awesome way to go. One of Myrna’s jobs was to pick up local microbrews along the way, and keep it on ice in the cooler. There were times she failed in her duty, and the only choice was Budweiser or Coors. In my opinion, Bud Light is about the worst beer on the planet! Moose Drool rules!
Many people have told me I am an inspiration to them. I hope that’s true, in that I believe that anyone can complete this trip if they want to — it’s just a question of how long it takes and what their objectives are.
And now, back to the laundry . . .
I have a few days to catch up on chores here at home before heading out to Minnesota for a Family Bike Trip in Paul Bunyan country. WooHoo!