The last day…I am both…sad…and glad. Just like any “vacation,” the last day is always “out there” until it is here. When you first arrive at your vacation destination the last day seems distant, but as each day passes the last day looms larger and larger. By mid-week, it starts coming into view until finally it IS the last day. What do you do on the last day? Well, there is packing to do, saying goodbye to new friends, making sure everything is ready for departure, and thoughts of returning to your regular life. The last day can be a frantic day and if you aren’t careful it might not even feel like a vacation day. In the days following when you are “back home,” you need to be able to focus on the memories of every day even the last day.
My last day of this vacation has little of that because the last day of a cycling tour means you are still full on. I have things to do and places to go. Home is not on my mind. I am still riding with fervent a desire to make this the best day…the fastest day. Will I ever ride to just ride? Yeah, when I am regularly riding 20+ miles per hour…I guess that answers the question…No, I’ll always ride for the high that only speed can give you. If this is the last day, I want to put everything into it. I want that finish rush which better than drugs or alcohol can ever duplicate.
In September 2009, I rode in a charity ride and the finish line was awesome. There was a crowd of people waiting and they were there to cheer me to the finish line. No, I wasn’t the first across; actually I was probably around the 15th or 20th out of more than a hundred riders. Even the last rider got the same cheer. To me that welcome gave me the feeling of an Olympian winning the gold. That feeling can’t be duplicated. Of course it can be topped though by actually winning the gold!
With all that in my mind, I left at almost 9 a.m. with a desire to go as fast as I could sustain for 30 miles. Yep, the short route for me today. I felt as good if not better today than I did yesterday and with the knowledge that I would only be riding a short distance today I can pour myself into the ride.
Instead of estimating the number of riders I passed, I counted them today. It’s great fun to race against someone when they don’t know you are. The competition is not so fierce.
I didn’t stop for rest areas or anything…well, yeah, I did. I had to stop a couple of times. The first time was when Garmin was directing me one way and traffic control police were telling me another. Look at the map below left… At MM13 the regular route, the one I had loaded onto Garmin directed me to the right. The officers were directing us to the left. I stopped and immediately heard someone behind me yell, “Stopping.” As I said before, I rarely ride with others and forget to let others know what I am doing. I actually went about 10 feet beyond either turn. I apologized for my failure to notify, but they thanked me because they had missed the turn also.
I turned around and started toward St. Marks and then turned around after a few feet and did a “180.” I actually did this 3 times, i.e., I took the right turn and then reversed 3 times.
There was an officer in the middle of the street stopping cars to let the cyclists across. I was embarrassed by starting across and turning around three times, but she never said a cross word to me even though I did that maneuver THREE TIMES. To be clear…I turned around FIVE times. It wasn’t until miles later that I realized where I was on the map. If I had looked at the printed map, it would have been clear to me. The turn to the right was a 5-mile roundtrip jog to St. Marks and back. This route was supposed to be 33 miles, but all the riders that came up at that time, including me, made it a 28-mile ride. Most of them didn’t equivocate like I did which was good, I could count them again!
When I, at last, decided to stop turning around, I took off with 15 miles to go. Along the way, I saw Dave and Jo Ellen in front of me. As I passed, I yelled out, “can’t talk now, I am on a pace to do a 16-mile average.” Dave hollered back, “Go for it.” I didn’t realize it until I had to make my second stop that Dave had latched on. First I had to navigate a bottleneck at the trailhead parking lot which slowed me down. [This is the same trail we started on 6 days ago.] Then I, along with a lot of other riders, had to stop for a traffic light at a major intersection and that’s when I heard my name being called…it was Dave. I had attained the 16 mph average before these slowdowns, but I knew there was still one thing that was going to keep me from keeping that average. Remember the long descent on the first day, I suspected that it was going to be the opposite today and I wasn’t “disappointed.” I had to climb that descent today. At the bottom of the climb, I passed my last riders…number 114 and 115…at the bottom of the hill and I couldn’t see anyone in front of me to pass. I can’t say I flew up the hill, but I was pleased. It is a long shallow ascent of about a 4% grade.
I was home; well I was back to the starting point anyway…the fairgrounds. I lost a tenth of a mile on my average to finish at 15.9. We, and I am including Dave and Jo Ellen, got there before the luggage trucks so we had to wait. The wait wasn’t long and we enjoyed our last ½ hour or so together. It turned out their car was parked about 5 cars over from where mine was parked. I found my luggage and was loading it into the car when I noticed my left front tire was flat. I also discovered I had left the front passenger window open. When I saw the tire I suspected some skullduggery, but quickly dismissed that when I discovered a lot of valuables in the car had not been taken. I called AAA and they were there well within the 45 minutes they promised. My first stop on the way to Sarah’s and Abby’s was at McDonald’s for a Large Mocha Frappe!
Thanks for reading. I guess my next post will be in June if I do the GOBA or Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure ride and/or July for RAGBRAI…Register’s Annual Great Ride Across Iowa.