The Final Blog: Ride Complete!
Sorry to leave everyone waiting for this final blog! It's been a busy week, with my return to work and a few medical appointments to get the ankle sorted. Oh and sleep, epic sleep not in a sleeping bag and not followed by 10 hrs on a bike the next day...!
The headline news is that the ride has been completed! I've only gone and solo ridden a push bike across the USA!!!! 5000 KM in 31 days, including 3 rest days. This gives a daily average distance ridden of 180 KM.
This feels like a decent achievement.
The final day of the ride (Sat 15 Apr) has to go down as my favourite day of cycling ever. Not so much for those final miles specifically (although I did finally get a tailwind!), but more because it was an opportunity to reflect on the tremendous effort that I'd put in for the 30 days getting to that point.
Day to day during the ride, I was pretty focused on taking each hour in turn. When you take on big expeditions like this, you have to break them down into much smaller, manageable chunks of time. If not, your mind becomes completely overwhelmed. Or at least, my simple mind does!
Prior to my final day of riding, I'd never let myself assume I would successfully finish. I never doubted my physical fitness, I trained extensively for this challenge. But, there is always the possibility of being hit by traffic at any point, or with it being in America, the possibility of being shot from a passing pick up truck by a guy with a mullet downing Bud light whilst listening to Dolly Parton at full volume.
Post lunch on that day, I allowed myself to assume!
During those last few hours, I began recalling moments from the cycling mega month I'd just completed. The nights I'd spent 'stealth camping' in the laundry rooms of budget Californian motels seemed like a long time ago. Because they were a long time ago! And that's the point, 31 days is a long period of time to spend cycling a bike.
I'm not sure I will ever cycle further in my life...
There have been plenty of highs and lows along the way, it's been a very long road! The road felt particularly long in Texas, because it's massive and the headwind endlessly punches you in the face. That is a prime example of a low.
However. The highs and general epicness (not a word!) massively outweighed the tough times. America is a stunningly beautiful country, with scenery on a scale that we simply do not see in the UK. Some of the sweeping views I saw along the way will never leave my memory. There was a near constant, seemingly endless, wild backdrop to most of my riding days.
Blistering deserts, high mountains, endless prairie, rolling hills, dark thunderstorms, humid swamps, lush rainforest, freezing snow. Even a tornado! A full orchestra of conditions.
And then there was the warmth of the people. If the landscape provides the scale, it's the people who provide the granularity. The context. Interacting with the fantastically varied humans of America was incredibly enriching, the stories and viewpoints I encountered along the way were fantastic/very random! The US of A is a country full of characters, no wonder Paul Theroux has written so many books....!
Aside from the lad in New Mexico who tried to steal my bike, the people have been overwhelmingly kind and generous. Americans are never afraid to interact, even more so when an idiotic Brit decides to wear skin tight clothes and pedal from coast to coast across their country. I am forever grateful for this warmth, memories that will last a lifetime.
As I rolled up to the Atlantic Ocean beach in St Augustine, Florida, my end point, many emotions were floating around my head. The main one was, 'I cannot wait to stop riding my bike!', closely followed by the thought, 'Maybe I should just launch said bike into the ocean once I get there?!'.
Joking aside, it felt great to finish this expedition on behalf of both Dan and I. There were some 'touch and go' moments in the desert last summer, with Dan coming extremely close to not returning to his family. Quite stressful. I'm glad the right things were done at the right time on that day, or else the outcome would have been very different. Dan is recovering well, and will be back to long rides again very soon now.
Together, he and I have managed to raise over £23,000 for the Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), to enable the amazing mental health support this charity provides to serving personnel and their families. 100% of these funds will go directly to the charity (as much as I would like to use them to buy myself a new ankle...!). This is an important point to make, as many expeditions use a high proportion of funds raised (often 50%) to cover their personal expedition costs. We did not do this.
If you think all this pedalling is worth a few quid going to this epic charity, the fundraising page will remain open for a further month www.justgiving.com/starsandspokes - thanks!
The only thing left to do now is thank everyone for following along! The comments/messages/donations/hosting/dinners bought/riding alongside/general banter has been incredible. Way, way too many folk to mention by name, but I'm eternally grateful to every single person who assisted in any way, none of this would have been possible without this support. Humbling stuff.
Perhaps my journey has inspired others. I hope it does.
There won't be any more blogs now, and I will look to close down this website in the coming weeks. Likewise (for those who have also been following over in social media land), I'll be ending all the content over there in the next week or so also.
It's been mega!