Well, given that I started the blog nearly nine months ago, I have decided to let myself be the one to finish it with my own final entry.
So, you probably figured out that we’re home. We made it (ages ago), and we are still alive, and we have completed a somewhat clunky transition back into our regular life at home. Clunky, because life on the road was only about eating and sleeping and planning your next meal and bed, and pedaling and pedaling and pedaling. Like the not-quite-stable man I saw biking by in Key West on that first day of the trip, life on the road was about pedaling and pedaling and pedaling. (“I will not get off the bike; I will NOT!”)
Whereas life at home is about stuff. I don’t think I realized this before we did this trip—the extent to which life at home is about things: pieces of paper and pieces of clothing and books and computers and CDs. My return to this reality has been clunky. I don’t like having so many things. I want to get rid of things. I want a dumpster or a garage sale or something. I miss the bike and its simplicity. I miss choosing my clothes from one of two bags that carry five outfits, one of which is for sleep and two of which are for biking. Those outfits were absolutely enough for us. We didn’t lack for anything. And this is one lesson of the trip, for me: stuff—we have too damn much stuff.
Jerry’s done a beautiful job of describing our last days on the bikes. I’ll just add that when I saw Camel’s Hump, that iconic little mountain that’s visible from our town and resides on our shiny Vermont state quarters, I cried. Just a little. Not in a sloppy way. But, as much as the trip showed me that we have entirely too much stuff, it also showed me that I live in the right place. I love where I live, and I felt like Dorothy as I returned to it. (She was a cyclist as well, you might remember.) There’s no place like home.
So we got home and we unpacked (though this took days and days for some reason; I was loathe to put the panniers into the basement). We asked our pets for forgiveness. We walked around our property, taking note of the parsimonious signs of the spring of 2014. We made it to the wedding! We visited with friends. They asked a lot of questions. Here are some answers:
What is the first thing you did when you got home?
- Shelagh: hugged Bondi, our dog. For about three hours. Also the cat, but only for about half a minute, because that’s what he wanted.
- Jerry: walked the yard.
What blog posts did you never write?
- “Gel Flow, My Ass”
- “The Wheels on the Bus Go Over the Cyclist*”
How did people react to you, on the road?
- A lot of people ignored us or gave us a wide berth. They seemed to think we were odd. Not sure why.
- We found it really interesting that probably nine out of ten people who asked if we needed anything, asked where we’d come from and where we were going, asked if we were all right, expressed interest and curiosity, were African American. Not sure why or what this was about, but it was a thing.
- Given the opportunity to talk about what we were doing, everyone was kind and open and supportive. Some people thought we were crazy, but they’d wish us well. These wishes were regionally specific. I think I’ve already said this. In the south, they were much more likely to be religious in nature: “Go with God,” “Godspeed,” “I’ll be praying for you,” that sort of thing. By the time we got to New England, the wishes were much more along the lines of “Be safe,” “Have fun,” “Good luck.” We appreciated every good thought.
Where were the drivers most and least respectful?
- Jerry and I talked a lot about this, because we’d been told to expect certain things in certain areas. And it was true that there were almost no touring cyclists whatsoever in the south. We saw two women with panniers on our very first day out of Key West, and then much later—maybe in South Carolina—a guy who was going to Alaska eventually, but was swinging south before heading west. So not a lot of cyclists in the south. But that seemed to have no bearing on the drivers’ level of caution and respect. People were equally respectful and disrespectful regardless of region.
- Our very worst five minutes on the bikes were in New Paltz, New York, where a record three drivers honked, cut us off, or gestured rudely within a five-minute period. It could have been anywhere, but it was there. I don’t know why, and I don’t really think it had much to do with New Paltz; it seemed like a coincidence.
- * Much more scientifically measurable than the New Paltz driving record was our realization that, over the entire trip, our worst vehicular treatment was by school buses. Do not ask me why. You’d think they’d be careful drivers, with children in their care, but it seems they have their charges installed inside, and they are not responsible for the health or well-being of others. Also, they’re on a tight schedule (but so are UPS drivers and moving vans and city buses, who weren’t notably dangerous to us). So school buses were our worst vehicular interactions.
Who met you at the house when you arrived?
- Our son was home for the weekend, but he’d gone out. We hadn’t told people when we’d get home. Jerry didn’t really like the idea of a welcome party. “We’re not heroes,” he said. And that’s true. But in retrospect, I think I’d have liked a welcome party. Just being honest here. It felt a little anti-climactic, riding down the driveway, just like we were returning from Price Chopper with a gallon of milk and a head of romaine. That said, we did invite friends over that night, and the celebration was great fun, and they showered us with smiles and kisses and hugs and Proseco.
Will you do this again?
- I doubt it. Not in this same way. If it was possible to go back in time and either recommend this trip to my January self, or warn her that she should cancel, I’d whole-heartedly tell her to do the trip; it’s probably the best thing we’ve ever done. But now, we’ve done it. I could see doing other, different bike trips. But I don’t need to ride along the Keys again (just from a biking perspective—not so awesome), and two months is a long time to ask your dog to keep the faith.
Why didn’t you ask for donations, do the ride for a cause?
- Jerry already addressed this one, but I’ll do it again. We were insecure about our ability to do this thing. Not that we didn’t think we could do it; more like we just weren’t sure. Other than buying the maps, we weren’t following any rubric; none of our friends had done this particular ride or could tell us about it. We’d never biked in this way. So we decided not to fund raise.
- Now that it’s over, we are telling inspired friends that they should feel free to give to a cause, not necessarily in our name, but in the spirit of adventure. If you’re looking for a cause, we recommend these, which were important to the families of two very dear friends we lost earlier this year:
- Cochran Ski Area in care of the Williston After-School Ski Program, 910 Cochran Road, Richmond, VT 05477
- Vermont Respite House, 99 Allen Brooke Lane, Williston, VT 05495; and the Department of Pediatric Oncology, Vermont Children’s Hospital, Fletcher Allen Health Care, 111 Colchester Ave., Burlington, VT 05401
Will you keep the blog going?
- No, we won’t. The magic of the blog (if that’s not too self-congratulatory a word) was that the trip created it. The trip is over, and the blog is finished. Though it took me a month to write my own final entry, and many more months to post it—I think because I didn’t really want it to end; also because I can procrastinate like nobody’s business—it’s over now. I’ll miss it, but that’s part of why it was special. That said, I am probably going to be blogging about other things on my website, http://www.shelaughswithoutus.com The new blog there is The Silent G. I hardly ever write blog posts, but I hope that soon changes. Inspiration, I’m sure, will strike VERY soon!
So I think that’s what I have to say. It’s been great fun, pedaling and pedaling and pedaling. I’ve enjoyed writing about it, and knowing you were keeping us in your thoughts and following along on our adventure.
My final bit of advice, other than get rid of some of your stuff, is this: if you have a chance, if you are blessed with the good fortune of having a choice, take an adventure when it comes your way. At times it will probably scare the spandex off you. But that’s what makes it great.