As Ale and I rode away from the B&B with our orange Jersey friends cheering us on, Ale started singing, “IT’S THE FINAL COUNT DOWN” song. I was laughing for the first 10 minutes, but after trying to look at my phone for direction notes and attempting to navigate us through the traffic, I became stressed and slightly annoyed with Ale’s singing. I kept thinking she would stop when there was a moment of silence, but then she would just start over and belt it out again. Haha, looking back at it now, I think its hilarious and I am very glad she did it, but at the time I was about ready to squirt her with my water bottle.
Ale stopped the singing when we got into a bit more sketchy area of Jersey. She’s got the survival instinct thing going on: don’t sing when there is a chance you could be shot for doing so. As we rode, we both began to realize where the “dirty Jersey” joke came from. The nice neighborhoods we started out in changed drastically and all of a sudden we were in a different world. All the buildings and houses looked extremely run down, and the people walking on the street looked miserable. We rode through insane amounts of glass and trash on the side of the road and I think we saw a total of about 50+ police cars / ambulances within an hour. It was quite exciting! Part of me kept thinking I was in a video game or movie because it felt almost too foreign to be real. I couldn’t believe how much could change from turning down one street. Although I don’t think I would choose to ride through that part of New Jersey again, I am very grateful I was able to see what I did.
To make matters a bit more exciting / dangerous, Ale and I struggled to stay together as I navigated through the streets. I found myself separating from Ale at lights and traffic signs that I decided it was safe to go through and Ale did not. Growing up in New York City with taxis that literally accelerate at you if you cross the street illegally, Ale has a much different perspective on traffic laws than I do. I’m always thinking about how to safely and most efficiently get through a light, so I don’t always wait for the green light. I have tried to explain my logic of “cycling rules” when riding with cars, but Ale is a very dedicated traffic law follower, so she continued to wait at the lights and stop signs (probably a safer decision).
We eventually ended up on the bike path near the water with a beautiful view of New York City. We road along the path for an hour or so, stopping to take pictures and then we would turn to each other saying, “ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod, we are ALMOST there!!!!” Meanwhile I had been texting with my aunt (Debi), cousin (Josh), and sister (Lyndsay), as we were trying to meet up for a late lunch before the bridge crossing. We found a huge Whole Foods, and after carrying a gift card from our friends Bailey and Xanthe for over 5,000 miles, we were finally able to use it. It was extremely exciting!
Debi and Josh drove for hours to come see us, and on their way down they picked up Lynz, who had flown out for “work” and was working in the city. It was so so so good to see them all! I had not seen Debi and Josh for several years and it was so fun to talk and hang out with them! My aunt Debi is one of the few people I have in my life, who I can go without talking to for any amount of time, and then when we meet up its like we never separated. She is fun, hilarious, loving, beautiful, and just one of my favorite people. Josh, her oldest son, is also awesome. I had not seen him for many years and I couldn’t believe how mature and funny he was. He has a great dry sense of humor that reminded me of my 16 year old self (which obviously made me love him more J). And Lynz has always been my solid best friend / the person I keep in touch with the most / my advisor on life / amazing person in general, so having her there was incredibly exciting for me.
Anyways, after we ate, I gave my front panniers to my aunt (which ended up being a woopsies – more on that later), and we decided to meet them at the George Washington Bridge. Unfortunately, stopping on the bridge when you are in a vehicle is impossible, so we settled on meeting them at the nearest parking lot along the bike path (which ended up being a popular cocaine snorting hang out).
Things I did know about the George Washington Bridge = there are approximately 100 flights of stairs one must carry their bike up and down to ride across. This would be fine if your bike didn’t have 50lbs of gear, but sadly, that was not the case for Ale and me. We experimented with different forms of carrying the bikes, but then ended up debagging and re-bagging every flight. Annoying. Thankfully, we were both too excited to really care, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. If this had been any other day of the trip, I probably would have needed an ice cream to decompress after that.
Riding across the actual bridge was incredible! I can’t even describe how happy I felt. It was also sunset and was beautiful and I was just overwhelmed with gratitude for the whole experience.
Sidenote: I forgot to mention an important detail. My aunt and cousin had brought us balloons, so Ale and I thought it would be funny to tie the balloons to our helmet. Funny in theory, in reality… not so much. Riding with a balloon on your head in the wind is possibly the worst idea I have ever had. My head got jerked around in every direction and I was terrified it was going to get caught on something or a bird was going to fly into it or something else detrimental would happen.
By the time Ale and I made it to the bike path it was very dark outside. And surprise, I had left my bike light in my front pannier that I had given to Debi. woops. Again, I just tried to stay as close to Ale as possible and she led us down the path. In all of our riding time together, I had never seen Ale ride as fast as she did on that bike path. I seriously struggled to keep up with her. I secretly thought to myself, “what the f, has she been holding out the whole trip?!” haha. I think she was just incredibly excited to be home and see her parents.
When we made it to the parking lot that Debi, Lynz, and Josh were waiting at, a nice couple who had heard about our adventures congratulated us, as I searched for my light and fixed it on my bike. We said our goodbyes and set off for Ale’s house. Later, I was informed that my family members had been waiting in the lot nervously, as the car next to them was being occupied for cocaine use. Haha, sorry guys, just keeping you on your toes.
When Ale and I finally turned off the bike path to ride along her street towards the finish line, Ale’s excitement had consumed her body and she was literally bouncing on her Brook’s sadle (which luckily had springs). We were both singing and making up songs about our arrival, while we laughed hysterically at the fact that we actually biked across the country, and not only that, but did an awkward “S” across in the most challenging way possible.
We finally reached Ale’s apartment building, which was crowded with friends and family who were cheering and taking pictures of us. I think I was overcome with emotion and excitement because I “over-excited-blacked-out” a lot of our arrival. I just remember being shocked to see my cousin Brooke (along with Debi, Lynz, and Josh), and to see how many of Ale’s friends had come out to support us. It was wonderful. I think a highlight was getting my first hug of congratulations from one of Ale’s neighbors (who she had never spoken to), who happened to be passing and heard what we did. He might have been slightly inebriated, and he was almost more emotional about the trip than I was. He jumped around saying, “INCREDIBLE!!! THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!”
After the street performance, we all crammed in the elevators and headed up to Ale’s home. It was awesome! We all sat in the living room laughing and telling stories, and then ordered sushi online to really get the party going. Ale and I were showered with flowers and presents and I felt like we were celebrities.
I think my dad called Bob, Lynz, Debi, Ale, and me in order to get in touch with me and tell me how proud he was. It was very touching! He kept saying, “I just can’t believe you rode across the #$%^&*@ United States of America!” haha, I told him that really I couldn’t believe I did that either. He also made a point to remind Lynz to take lots and lots of pictures, because usually he fills that role in moments like this. Poor Lynz was ordered to send video and photos every 30 seconds to keep the rest of the family updated. I talked to the rest of my family later, who were equally excited to hear about my arrival and wanted to know all the details. I have such a wonderful family and I am so incredibly grateful to be part of it!
More on my family’s visit to New York following my arrival later to come…