Ale and I really pushed ourselves the second to last day (Tuesday) because we wanted as easy of a ride as possible on Wednesday (the last day). Bob (Ale’s dad) later told us that when he saw that we were still moving (from the SPOT GPS) after it had gotten dark on Tuesday, he thought maybe we were just going to ride through the night. He calculated we would get to their apartment at 3am, so he was preparing to stay up all night. Thankfully, Ale texted him when we eventually found a bed, so he didn’t stay up all night waiting. Before we found a bed, however, we had quite the exciting ride. Living life on the edge up until the last moment…
Ale and I had planned to do an 80 mile day on Tuesday, but for some reason we were taking longer than planned and we were exhausted. It could have been the result of riding on busier roads (causing the heart rate to be uncomfortably high all the time), or it could have been the fact that 80 miles is actually a long fricken way and maybe we should not have been that ambitious. Anyways, after about 65 miles of riding, we stopped at a gas station for some food / bathroom / search of close hotels. At this point it was just about pitch black outside (which is always exciting). We yelped, googled and cheaphotel’ed for 30 minutes on our iphones before we found a Bed and Breakfast 20 miles away. Perfect. We stuffed some bagels down and then got back on the bikes. The road we were on for about 15 miles was actually very deserted which was good and bad: good because that meant the cars wouldn’t hit us; bad because that meant it was scary as hell out there with no other humans around. Also, I should mention that since it was the 16th of October, the organized ambitious households had scary décor all around. There were multiple occasions when I would see a figure far off in the distance and my heart rate and breathing would get faster and faster as I approached and thought of what I would or wouldn’t say to this creepy person out in the dark watching us ride by. Then I would get to the figure and it would be a stuffed witch or a zombie with a pumpkin head. I think my favorite was a dead man raising up out of the lawn. Well played Jersey well played.
With about 8 miles left of the ride, something awful happened, my light ran out of juice. This was a problem for many reasons, the first and foremost = I can’t see without my light. Almost equally important was the fact that my powerful light had become my security blanket at night. I always felt safer with a super bright light that I could shine on Ale’s reflective vest to ensure being seen and not getting hit in the dark. I also decided that my light could be used as a weapon incase shit got serious out there. There were many times I accidentally almost blinded Ale with it, and that was me not even trying (most of the time, haha jk). So I imagined that I could do some real harm if I actually tried to use it aggressively against a bike attacker. (always keep in mind when reading this: I have A LOT of think time, so my imagination flies when I ride) I even practiced stealthily removing my light from my handle bars in one motion and aiming and shooting at road kill or zombies, or whatever my target was at the time.
When disaster (losing light) struck, I ended up putting on my headlight, which was about 1/1000 as powerful as my bike light. I tried to stay close to Ale so I could use hers as well, but I’m just going to be honest here, conditions were not ideal. There were a couple of times I found myself bombing down a hill at about 25 / 30 mph and then I would just completely lose vision from on oncoming car’s head lights. I would remind myself to breath and just pray that I wouldn’t ride off the road. One time I hit a small pothole, which made me wet my pants a little. I then started laughing at the thought of seriously hurting myself or maybe even killing myself on the second to last day of the trip. I could see the headlines in the LG Weekly, “Los Gatos High Graduate Attempts a Cross Country Bike Trip and Bites the Dust Fifty Miles Short of the Finish.”
I then decided that I should stay away from those thoughts, because I strongly believe that your thoughts influence what happens to you in your life. Instead of the slightly humorous morbid newspaper article, I started picturing Ale and myself laughing in a nice room wearing clean clothes and eating dinner. I held on strong to that image until we pulled up at the Bed and Breakfast. The place was NICE. I’m talking way out of our price range and way too fancy NICE A$$ B&B. We didn’t really have any other options, so we just lived it up and called it a “happy last night present.” We put our bikes in the kitchen down stairs after Ale forcefully told the manager we would NOT be leaving our bikes outside. Then we went up to our room, took luxury showers, put on amazingly huge comfortable robes, and ate dinner (subway). We were so excited about the next day and seeing family and friends that we had a surprising amount of energy after a full day of riding. We stayed up watching videos on Hulu and laughing and talking. We then passed out hard and slept in as long as possible the next morning.
When I woke up, I went down to eat while Ale meditated. I brought down my ipad with the intention of mapping out our day. I had promised her I would direct us through Jersey to get to the George Washington Bridge, if she could direct us from the bridge to her apartment. While I was staring at my ipad map trying to figure out the safest most efficient way to the bridge, a young photographer doing a story on the B&B asked if I was a regular here at the place. I just laughed, as every other guest wore a suit to breakfast and I was in my wool PJ outfit. “Um, no, first time here,” I responded. He then proceeded to talk to me about his job and his life and just sat down across from me and grabbed some food.
I was not really in a socializing mood and needed to figure out the route, so I gave short responses hoping he would get the picture and move on, but no such luck. Once he figured out I had ridden my bike across country (thanks to the owner who came in asking if he could get my picture) the photographer had an endless supply of questions… f.
“Oh my God, you rode across on your bike? Did that take like a whole week?” “Did you like run into a lot of rapists and like did you have to bring a gun? Did you sleep or just ride the whole time?” Usually I don’t mind people asking me insane questions like this, but this guy was really annoying me. When I told him that the trip was about 3.5 months, he responded with, “O, why did you go so slow? Did you vacation somewhere for like a month?” I wanted to punch this guy in the face. I calmly explained to him that we went over 5,000 miles and no we did not take a month vacation in the middle. “O, well my friend knows some guy that did it in 5 days, but maybe it’s just easier for guys…” I seriously almost pied him in the face with my cream cheese bagel, but then realized that the bagel was too precious and not worth it.
This continued for a while before Ale came down and I was able to escape. I whispered, “good luck, I’ll be upstairs,” and I literally ran up the flight of stairs to our quiet peaceful room. (every man for himself). Ale told me later that the photographer didn’t ask her a single question and left soon after I did. She laughed hysterically when I vented about his questions and how annoyed I had gotten. She said, “that’s funny, I sat down and started writing in my journal and stared at my coffee and he didn’t even start talking to me.” Lucky.
Anyways, I had successfully picked out a route and had memorized most it by the time Ale finished breakfast, so we packed up our stuff and started to reassemble our bikes. The manager was very friendly and took our pictures as we said our goodbyes and thanks. It was slightly funny that the manager and his female friend perfectly fit the stereotypical “Jersey” look. They were both incredibly orange; the guy had dark spiked hair with every strand in place and was jacked out of his mind, and the woman wore bright tight clothing and had a loud voice that was slightly argumentative.
I kept picturing them interacting with the people we had stayed with in the bible belt and laughed. Our country is just filled with crazy different people. It is absolutely insane to see how much everything changes from city to city / state to state / middle of the country to the coasts. It’s fascinating! Why / how we function as one country, I don’t think I can ever fully comprehend.