One more day to go. It’s bittersweet. I’m excited to have accomplished what I had always wanted to do. I’m sorry to see it end. I’m enthusiastic to reconnect with people, my life, and my work. I’m sad that my days won’t be consumed with the wonder and discovery that comes with cycling through new towns and meeting new people. I’m thrilled about producing more each day than a road kill count and a blog. (I can’t say that I’ll miss counting dead things…) I am eager to incorporate into my life the myriad of lessons that I’ve learned. And I will keep asking my question: “What do you love about your job?” and documenting my discoveries for all of us.
Today was a great second-to-last ride. I rode 57 miles up a few more Pennsylvania hills, through many towns, over a bridge, and into New Jersey. Justin and I had a hard time finding a “Welcome to NJ” sign, so we improvised with a license plate. I then rode up and over the Musconetcong Mountain (I added a few pictures for those of you who still think of Newark when you think of NJ.) It was jungle hot again today, with temperatures at 100 degrees with humidity to match. As I climbed almost 4,000 feet in this humidity, I sucked down water before it boiled in my water bottle.
On one of my breaks, we stopped at a farm stand and met Tiffany who is a farmer at Central Valley Farm. She is responsible for planting, harvesting, and selling the farm’s fruits and vegetables. What she loves about it is being outdoors and knowing exactly where her food comes from. In addition, because she loves to nourish people, she loves to teach them about the food. On the farm, she feels like she’s part of the family, and she has contributed to their success by helping the farm become more organic.
On another break, I noticed Ed sitting in his waste disposal truck. I intentionally suspended my assumption that garbage collectors couldn’t possibly love anything about their jobs, and instead approached the truck with curiosity. Ed has been a garbage collector for 18 years and what he loves is his customers and the relationships he has created with them over the years. In addition, his boss fosters a team mentality at the company and rallies the team to want to be number one. And when new people join the company, Ed loves mentoring them on how to be successful and enjoy it. Throughout our conversation, Ed beamed with personality and authenticity, and once again I was thrilled that I had suspended my assumptions.
Rob (my husband) and Chuck (my biking buddy) took the day off of work on Thursday to cycle my last day with me. And to surprise me, Jack and Carly (my awesome stepkids) took the day off of summer to cycle the last 2 miles with me. Until then, they’ll ride in the RV entertaining Justin and cheering us on during breaks. Another biking friend, Stu, graciously drove all of them to our campsite tonight for a last cook-out and s’mores celebration. With that kind of loving, it will be very easy to transition back from my suspended reality.
I’ve been compiling a list of lessons I’ve learned over the past 9 weeks to help me process the end of the ride. Here are a few more to add to the list that I started on Day 61:
- Bad weather never lasts long; good weather is all how you define it. I’ve been rain-delayed a few times in the mornings. And a few times I’ve had a storm come out of nowhere in the middle of the day and derail my ride. Each time, the storm never lasted more than a few hours. And as long as there’s not hail, lightning, or a dust storm, I always say it is a great time to ride.
- Communicating expectations is the key to staying alive on the bike and in relationships. Cars hate cyclists because we can be unpredictable. I resolved early on to communicate my expectations clearly and relentlessly using my arms, not just my hands. Going up Carson Pass in Tahoe, I literally waved my left arm up and down to signal to approaching cars to watch out for me because there was no shoulder to shield me from them. And since then every time I needed to move into a lane, I emphatically pointed to where I was headed. Similarly, I discovered that whenever Justin and I hit a rough patch, inevitably one of us had forgotten to wave an arm or point.
- While climbing mountains is gripping and volatile, the true test in life is persevering through the flatlands. (Thanks Kat for reminding me of this great lesson!) People have consistently expressed awe that I could scale the Rocky Mountains. It is true, cycling through Colorado was challenging and also my favorite state – it was breathtaking, intense, and romantic. But that’s not everyday life, that’s called “drama.” The true test for me was Kansas – the monotony of the flatlands. Mile after mile of cornfields and wheatfields, with no change in the elevation or the scenery. That took more perseverance than cycling up the side of a mountain.
- Wind is a fair weather friend. At my back, it is my best friend, making me ride fast and look powerful. Totally exhilarating! But in my face, it is deflating and at times demoralizing. Making me push so hard for so little mileage. I much prefer scaling mountains to fighting wind.
- There is hope for the next generation. Many people predicted Justin would not last. That he would bail instead of keep his commitment, especially when he discovered quickly how not-so-easy it is to work with and live with me. Justin proved them all wrong. Quitting never even occurred to him. (Killing me, on the other hand, is another story…). With Justin I got to know a young man who is passionate and optimistic about life and the planet, who looks for the good in others, and who is determined to make a difference with his work. Even Emily, Tony, and Matt, the three kids we met in Nevada who are Justin’s age, are not going to settle until they make a difference in this world with their work. Knowing people like this will be out there influencing change makes me a little more hopeful for the future.
Day 67 miles: 56.51 miles
Total miles: 4,162.56 miles
Day 67 ascent: 3,566 feet
Day 67 descent: 3,980 feet (my current elevation is 163 feet. Hard to believe I was at one time at 11,300 feet of elevation at the top of the Continental Divide!)
Total interviews: 106
Destination for Day 68: The Atlantic Ocean