On the bike again...

This past week, I straddled my Vanilla Bicycle again for the first time since September. I've been on my Bridgestone, but not my touring bike since I completed my trip. It's been overhauled and is riding like a new. Breaking in a new seat is incredibly uncomfortable, but something that has to be done. The weather is getting better and it's time to be on the bike everyday… whether commuting, doing errands or riding with friends. And, I'm looking forward to doing some mountain biking this week after work.

Most importantly, I'm sorting through the 100s, if not thousands of artifacts related to my trip. Photos, gifts, certificates & awards, tokens, quotes, blog posts… anything that spurs memories and allows me to grasp the moments I experienced. I'm doing this because I'm working on a book. It may take years to complete, but it's the next journey I've already begun. Stay tuned!

Leadership Lou; Best of Leadership Summit Reflections

As a business owner and someone completely immersed in the school health field, I find myself straddling two incredibly different worlds. K-12 schools are a completely different beast as compared to the business community, but both are incredibly important to the work I do. 

-The core of a great city are its citizens and there's nothing more vital than education." -Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer

-The core of a great city are its citizens and there's nothing more vital than education." -Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer

Nine years ago, as I found myself starting a business with a masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction, I realized I had a lot to learn in order to run a business. And, over the years I've learned an incredible amount about running a business, leadership, managing people and growing with intention. Nine years later, I've sustained a business in a world where most schools still don't prioritize the health and well-being of their students. But, I'd say we are making progress. 

Designed to replicate the energy and commitment to community that happens through our programs, the Best of Leadership Summit is a one-of-a-kind event offering professional and personal leadership development for all who attend. If you want to be on the pulse of current issues, reconnect with the region’s most dedicated and influential trustees, plan now to join us at the Best of Leadership Summit.
— http://www.leadershiplouisville.org/our-events/best-of-leadership-summit/

I attended an event by Leadership Louisville, an organization I heard about within my first week moving to the city. Yesterday's event was the first ever Best of Leadership Summit. It fulfilled my needs in many ways. Surprising to me, the event addressed both the education and business fields. Education came up in most of the presentations I viewed. I guess it's difficult to talk about our vision for Louisville and a thriving community without addressing education. I was thrilled to be introduced (by Mayor Fischer) to Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Donna Hargens and have an opportunity to not only share what I do and what I can bring to her school community but also advocated that healthy kids learn better. She said, "I agree." I commended her support of the JCPS Health Committee that I sit on and I'm happy to see that a value under the district's mission statement includes, 'partnerships among schools, families, and community are important for the health and well being of our students'.

We have to focus on educating the mother first.
— Family Scholar House, Cathe Dykstra

I had the opportunity to present "Do Something Extraordinary", a presentation around my 4,197 mile solo bicycle journey across the US this past summer and lessons learned that relate to being a strong leader. It appeared to be well received and many seemed inspired by what I said. 

In education, we have to invest in new teachings.
— JCPS Board Member, David Jones, Jr.

I left feeling inspired by leaders, educators and champions that live locally. I gained knowledge of what is going on in my new community (and why) and met amazing people from all different organizations, government agencies and businesses. From the technology world to media to venture capitalists to politicians. I ran into people I've met over my 5 months here, allowing that feeling of community I so want to be a part of my life. I commend Leadership Louisville for a fabulous event AND creating opportunities in a one-day conference for networking by scheduling 30 minute breaks throughout the day. What an idea! Bravo!

One of the most rewarding parts of the day was the post- celebratory/continuing the conversation meet up after the event at Sidebar with 6 of us. We had deep, meaningful conversations, literal handshakes across fries and drinks to collaborate on events, programs and local opportunities. A promise for UofL basketball game invitations next season and scheming on how to make this a stronger community; "The Best' as Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says!



Do Something Extraordinary

This afternoon I have the privilege of speaking at Leadership Louisville's Best of Leadership Summit on my bicycle journey across the US this past summer, lessons learned and how those lessons relate to being a leader in your field, a champion in your work, a family member at home. 

More to come, but I hope you are able to attend and listen to stories from my 4,197 miles solo journey and learn how to balance work and play, consider who's on your team, use humor, how to be vulnerable, how to focus on the journey, not the destination and how to celebrate success! See you at 3pm today!

Writing Coach

I was connected to Amanda at Polished Pear Creative through a colleague (they are related) and I'm feeling it's serendipitous that our lives have crossed passed at exactly the right time. I was inspired to write more when the momentum of hundreds of regular readers of my daily bike blog over 90 days this summer took place. I would love to continue to process my own journey personally but to inspire and share the story with a larger audience. Amanda and I officially partnered today to continue this journey of writing, sharing and processing the amazing event I experienced riding solo 4,197 miles. 

If a book comes out of this process, great! Short stories? Awesome. But, the process itself will be amazing and will just build my skills as a writer, reader and speaker professionally. This is very out of my comfort zone, so here I go again… being bold and courageous and pushing myself beyond what I think I'm capable of doing. This past summer was a physical & emotional challenge. This will be an emotional & intellectual challenge. Let's see what the end product may be… whatever it is, it's not the destination, it's the journey.

Jess' Super Bowl Commercial Rules

Ok, since this Super Bowl isn't really holding my attention, here are my arbitrary commercial criteria if I were to be in charge of the NFL… which would be impossible since I'm not even a football fan. But, I figure I should do something in between the commercials. I love watching sports, but football? No comment. 

All Super Bowl commercials will...

  • never use talking animals (pigs, bears, etc)
  • be 30 seconds max
  • make me laugh until I have an asthma attack or cry until I have tears
  • not advertise upcoming movies
  • use cute kids

And finally, the station that is awarded the Super Bowl should have a contest (applications scored using a scoring rubric, of course). Winning organization gets $1 million to film a 30 second commercial and airing commercial is no cost. The organization needs to improve the lives of a certain number of Americans. Winning organization does not have the ability to pay for an advertising spot themselves… How cool would that be? 

Ok, it's about halftime. Time to begin watching… 

Life/Work Balance

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Life/work balance is something so many of us struggle with. My transition back into the working world after almost 5 months off to train, prepare and bicycle across the country has not been too challenging. I’ve heard from others that have accomplished a similar goal and the transition has been rough for them. I’ve written already about why mine has been smooth… I’m passionate about what I do and love my work! Something that hasn’t been so smooth for me is getting back into work and maintaining a life/work balance that works for me. 

Granted, within a month of ending a bicycle journey across the country, I did decide to move across the country from Oregon to Kentucky first week in November. I had 1.5 weeks in Oregon to move (work and logistics played a role), and once in Kentucky, waited for my belongings to arrive for another 1.5 weeks. The day my furniture arrived was the day prior to me having to leave for Florida to celebrate grandma’s 95th birthday and then off to CT for Thanksgiving. December and January each year is committed to full time work for Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters conference and to make it crazier, I had another contract that started (with Colorado Legacy Foundation) and work meetings in both Houston and Jacksonville in December. I arrived back home after all this travel this past Sunday and decided to figure out the number of days I’ve actually been home since I moved to KY. I have officially been on the road 44 of the 77 days I’ve lived here.

With all that said, I love what I do and travel means being with colleagues I truly love being with. However, when it comes to eating well, being physically active and establishing and maintaining a routine for sleep, work and play, it gets challenging. I get home this upcoming Sunday from Miami (here visiting family now) and have a full month in Kentucky without travel. During that time, my hope is to establish my routine… yoga, swimming, running, cooking again, meeting people in Louisville. I know once that routine is established, all other pieces fall into place. I feel better- in shape, stronger and more rested!

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Bicycling, Running and Swimming...

It's really nice to be back at work. I know, I know. Most people don't say that. And then I think, I wish everyone was a fortunate as I am. Not only to have been able to take substantial amount of time off work to fulfill a lifelong goal of bicycling across the country, but to love what I do professionally

And, it was a risk leaving my business for 4 months, but it was worth the risk. And, work is coming my way. Good work! Fun work. Meaningful work. To read more about what I do, you can view my school health blog here. I haven't been able to put 5-6 hours of exercise in a day anymore (sadly), but I still exercise regularly and even have two events coming up that I'm excited for. I'm running in a 5K (nice and short!) Mayor's run called "Healthy Planet Healthy You" in January since I'll be in Palm Springs CA for 2 weeks for work. I also plan on being the swimming 'leg' of the Lakewood Valley Triathlon happening in Owensboro in June. I met Danielle (the cycling 'leg) through Warm Showers while on my bicycle trip across the US. It's fun to engage in all different physical activities for me- cycling, running and the sport I'm actually most skillful in, swimming! The team triathlon idea is exciting to me and it will keep me accountable through the winter.

My brain has adjusted back to work easily (too easily!) and having good work come my way has been exciting and fun. However, I did spend quite a bit of time on the airplane yesterday, daydreaming about my next bike tour. When and where and for how long... 

 

Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life

It feels monumental. Maybe because I have my voice back and I'm not sick with a flu or cold anymore. It's probably more so because my moving truck arrives in Kentucky today. All the sh$# I've collected over 16 years, maybe even longer while living in Portland Oregon. The delivery window was 7 days. Today is day 7. I fly out for almost two weeks tomorrow. Yup, it stinks. But, the week was fun nonetheless. You know, being sick on an air mattress directly on a concrete floor? Allows for appreciation of what I have. I didn't complain much. I'm incredibly fortunate. 

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It is interesting how little I need to do what I need to do. A pot, a few plastic silverware, a camping chair and a computer with internet access. My space is ready for my stuff. But, it's just stuff. How does stuff make us happy? Content, comfortable, familiar, nostalgic. I rode my bicycle across the country with a little trailer and was the happiest I've ever been. 

But, I haven't seen a lot of my belongings since March and I'm excited to walk into a place and feel order. Settled. Choices. Be surrounded by art I've selected over the years that means something to me. Art that moves me. 

Today is going to be a long day pointing where I want things and opening up boxes to attempt to unpack in the little time I have until I'm back in town. And, a little emotional. Because I'm here. It feels more permanent then ever. 

Transition

I moved to Portland in 1997, after graduating from college. I moved cross country with my boyfriend at the time, who became my husband, who has since become my ex-husband. I look back at the past 16 years and they are filled with joy and love and happiness. We met great friends in Portland and I've had amazing experiences here. A dog named Oliver I loved and a home that was out of this world amazing. The past few years were hard, devastating at times. Filled with loss and pain and sadness. And sometimes those waves of emotions come back. I miss things in my old life. Stability, security, holidays with someone, companionship… 

But, I know these things will be a part of my life again, no matter where I live. Moving away from Portland doesn't feel like I'm running away from something. It feels like a new beginning. In a time that I'm already in a transitional state, with most of my belongings in storage anyway, it makes sense to move closer to my family and start anew. I'm scared. I'm scared to death. Feeling more uneasy about this then I did bicycling across the country!

Yesterday, Jamie a close friend and colleague in Kentucky, who will be my cross country companion and support as I drive away from this wonderful city a week from today mentioned how he and other colleagues were slightly making fun of me. He told me that he finds it incredible that I was able to bicycle 4200 miles alone (and be pretty much fearless), yet I want someone to drive with me the 2300 miles to Kentucky. It is ironic I guess. But, emotionally, leaving a city that you've called home for 16 years is harder than physically cycling across the US. Having a friend with me will provide the love, support and fun adventure I'll need into this next phase in my life. I told him he may have to deal with some tears along the way and he thanked me for the warning. 

I received this today from a colleague in Atlanta via Facebook, "You are fearless and amazing. I could never just pick up and move like you are doing. Also, your bike trek was incredible. I enjoyed following your daily posts." And, another colleague in Arizona who recently purchased her first road bike texted me, "I don't know how you went across the US… I channel you when I ride." I know I've inspired many of my readers on my bike journey. And for that I'm glad.

This last week is filled with errands and packing and seeing people I love dearly. The fear and anxiety is there. I'd be lying if it weren't. But I know I can do it. If these legs can cycle 4,197 miles, my heart and mind can be strong enough for me to relocate. 

 

Recognition

I honestly never though my dream from my teenage years would bring this much recognition. I mean, raising over $22,000 to fight childhood obesity is the focus and the press and awareness has been just awesome. I mean, why not bring more awareness and education to the epidemic? 

When I was invited to the Kentucky State Board of Education Health Committee meeting, I accepted. I was in Louisville anyway, so an hour's drive to Frankfort to the Department of Education to see the Coordinated School Health Team and attend this meeting sounded great. What I didn't know was that Jamie Sparks and Vicki Greenwell put together a slide show of photos from my trip to share with the committee- I was initially mortified. But it all made sense... they awarded me a certificate signed by both the Commissioner of Education and Commissioner for Public Health!  How the heck they got those two signatures... I have no idea. But, what an honor! Jamie even remembered where I entered into KY and left (it's on the certificate) and my mileage.

Not only did it feel great to be recognized, but I loved the meeting that followed. See my school health blog for an update on School Health in Kentucky! http://www.cairnguidance.com/blog/  

Kentucky Coordinated School Health Team: Vicki Greenwell, Jamie Sparks, Stephanie Bunge, Todd Davis

Kentucky Coordinated School Health Team: Vicki Greenwell, Jamie Sparks, Stephanie Bunge, Todd Davis

The certificate!

The certificate!

Healthier Generation Hero

Monday I was recognized by Howell Wechsler, the CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation as the first Healthier Generation Hero, an award they plan to give annually. When asked just a week ago if I was able to attend the annual Healthy Schools Program Forum hosting by the Alliance in Little Rock, AR, I was told I was being honored, but assumed it was for my bike ride across the US and the money I raised for them, over $22,000 to fight childhood obesity. I didn’t realize it was for my genuine passion and work in the field of school health. The Healthy Schools Program (HSP) is an annual event that recognizes schools around the country participating in the Alliance’s 6-step process to create healthier school environments. These teachers, administrators, school board members, school counselors and other local champions are present and recognized for obtaining bronze, silver or gold status, an incredibly difficult feat.

Since I didn’t realize I was invited for my dedication to school health and for exemplifying the Alliance’s mission to combat childhood obesity, I was struck by the introduction given by my colleague and friend Howell. As Howell mentioned my accomplishments in the field in school health nationally, I was touched by his recognition and support of my work, as well as his charisma and emotion surrounding what I do. I was in disbelief that I was getting an award. I got my first standing ovation of my life and it felt great to be celebrated among over 250 school health champions, the people working everyday to implement and advocate for making schools healthier places for students and staff.

Howell briefly interviewed me and I was asked to say a few remarks. I received direction to inspire these champions to go home invigorated, to keep the momentum of their work going as they deal with competing pressure of test scores and AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). I had a few days to write something up and started writing a few days ago with talking about being a middle school teacher and having students that were homeless or food insecure (unsure when you’ll get your next meal), but decided against talking about my past as a teacher. After a day or two of processing and talking to a few mentors and my family, I decided to talk about the life lessons I learned on my bicycle ride across the US. What did I learn that might help these educators feel empowered, sustain programs and reflect on their work? Then, the writing came easier. I talked about 5 lessons learned.

1.     Having a sense of humor

2.     Creating a balance of work and play

3.     Building relationships

4.     Asking for support and help

5.     Enjoying the journey

I told stories about how each of these key lessons learned played an essential role on my adventure. I shared photos and even a video. And, then I received my second standing ovation in my life. WOW! Exhilarating. I never knew my 23-year dream would bring me recognition like this. I set out to genuinely accomplish a personal goal and here I was inspiring others. Coolest thing ever.

The Bucket List

My mom has been telling me since I finished my bicycle journey that I have to watch The Bucket List from 2007 with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The Netflix DVD arrived yesterday morning so we watched it together last night. In the movie, both men are being treated for cancer and sharing a room.  Both of them have been told they have a year to live. With news like that, they develop a bucket list; a list of items they both hope to accomplish before they die. Jack Nicholson’s character is loaded with money and the two of them take off on a wonderful journey around the world hoping to… laugh until they cry, see Mount Everest, kiss the most beautiful girl in the world and observe something magnificent.

If you were told you had 6-12 months to live, how would you spend it? Would you have regrets of how you've spent your life so far? Would you feel ashamed of how you treated others?

Why wait to start living? Riding my bicycle across the country was the one (and the only) item on my bucket list. I’ve been asked, what’s next on my list. I responded with, “I don’t have anything.” After watching the movie last night, I decided I needed to write down goals and dreams I have to formalize my bucket list. It’s my list, so I can edit it and add to it as I please. I encourage you to do the same.

In the movie, Morgan Freeman’s character asks, “Have you experienced joy in your life?” and, “Have you brought joy to others?” How would you answer that?

Here are my added bucket list items:

1.     Dance until sunrise with the person I love

2.     Attend a Soccer World Cup

3.     Live on the ocean someday

4.     Skip rocks on a lake or pond with my nephew someday

5.     Write a book

6.     Travel to Zanzibar

Legit Work Day #1

I walk into a room with marble pillars, gold ornamental décor, floor to ceiling windows overlooking Union Square. I’m definitely not in Eastern Colorado anymore (I’ll stop picking on Kansas). Maybe this transition is going to take some time. I look down at my Bandolino black patent leather pumps and think, ‘these are not my Crocs’. And, I look around the room and see some of my favorite colleagues. The people who pull together incredible philanthropic events that support the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans. And, in a way, I’m home. I can’t even begin to explain the longing I feel for being on the open road. But, I know I need to be here. I am passionate about facilitating today’s event. But, I miss the remoteness of Wyoming and the beauty of Montana. I long for feeling that physical exhaustion at the end of the day. Waking up in the middle of the night and stretching my legs out… slowly so they don’t cramp. Standing up in the morning for the first time and wobbling a little on unsteady and fatigued legs. Do I really miss that? I do. Will the empowered feeling of confidence and freedom persist?

The uncertainty of each day on my bicyle trip was incredibly freeing. Most days of my life I know where I’m sleeping that night, I know I won’t wake up wet from the rain. I know what I’m making for dinner or the leftovers I’ll have for lunch. I know the roads I will drive to get to my daily meetings. The people I see each day I know well, or at least are familiar. On my bike trip, I went weeks and weeks (a month at one point) without being with someone I knew. Sometimes we have uncertainty for a weekend get-a-way, or a vacation, but for 90 days? I had space to think, grieve, heal, reflect, process. Let the laughter flow! Let the tears stream down! I feel recharged and I hope I continue to feel this way for a long time. Even though I’ll need to put on my pumps every once in awhile.

What's Next?

Many reporters, friends and yes, of course my mom and dad have asked me, "What's Next?" Well, let me answer that in a few ways depending on exactly what you mean by what's next. If the person questioning me is trying to get at, "What's next on your bucket list?", I don't really have an answer for you. The bike trip was really the only thing on my bucket list. One reporter couldn't believe my answer. He said, "But people that do something like this always have something next around the corner." I said, "Not me!" I really don't. I mean there are places I'd love to visit and see, but I have no interest in summiting mountains, swimming the English Channel or from Cuba to Florida (how amazing is Diane Nyad?), or riding a motorcycle Long Way Round. Do I need a bucket list? Maybe I do. Maybe I can add writing a book on this incredible experience on my bucket list. But right now, I'm focusing on the next couple of months. 

Where's my bike, trailer and bike shoes? No more... time to work.

Where's my bike, trailer and bike shoes? No more... time to work.

That brings me to those asking "What's Next?" in reference to, what the heck I'm going to do within the next couple of months and when will I ever be back in Portland?   I'm currently on an Amtrak train from Hartford to New York City's Penn Station. I am facilitating an Employee Effectiveness and Wellness Forum for Clinton Foundation's Health Matters Initiative tomorrow at the W Hotel. So, I'm in girly clothing again (it's actually really nice!) without my bicycle, without my trailer, but with makeup and pumps and a suit and jewelry. Paradigm shift. Luckily, I love what I do for a living. The past few days have been spent on conference calls with Suzanne Hidde, HIV Director in WA state, a call with Humana in KY, a call with Inge Aldersebaes in Oregon at OEA Choice Trust related to something I'm presenting at a forum Oct 24 in Eugene and a call with Jamie Sparks in KY related to the pre-conference workshop we are co-facilitating together on a Systems Thinking Systems Changing simulation at the American School Health Association Conference in Myrtle Beach SC Oct 9-12.

Over the next few weeks prior to driving down (YES, I'm driving back to Oregon from CT) to Myrtle Beach for ASHA, I'm spending time with friends and family in Maine, Boston and NJ. After SC, I'll be driving through TN and KY to visit friends and colleagues. I should be back in Oregon by October 23 at the latest to present in Eugene Oct 24! I'll be home for a week before flying to Fresno to facilitate a School Health Guidelines and School Health Index workshop for Center for Disease Control and Prevention. PHEW... see? Life transitions back quickly. My highly nomadic life. I'm hoping to sustain my school health consulting business, so much of the next month will be spent reconnecting with colleagues and networking. 

Does that answer "What's Next" effectively? 

Final Road to Rhode Statistics

Total # of Days: 90 days exactly!

Total Miles:  4,197 miles

Number of Hours Cycling: 373 hours

Total Ascended Feet: 172,862 ft

Average Miles per Day: 56.7 miles

Average Speed of Trip: 11.6 mph

Average # of Hours Cycled per Day: 5 hours

Total # of Calories Burned (probably under-estimate since computer doesn't take into consideration hauling 100 lbs!): 189,213 calories, equilvilant to 344 Big Macs OR 1001 cans of Coke!

Average Temperature: 76.5 degrees

Fastest Speed: 41 mph

Longest Day: 86.5 miles

Shortest Day: 7.8 miles

Number of pounds lost: 11 pounds

Number of inches lost on my body (waist and hips): 12.1 inches

Number of Flat Tires: 8 flats (6 in two days in Western Kansas from the thorns)

Major Bike Issues: None

Number of Times I fell off my Bike: None

Number of Snowstorms: 1

Number of Times Caught Using the 'Natural Bathroom': 2

Number of Marriage Proposals: 1

Gallons of Ice Cream Consumed: None of Your Business

Number of Times I said, "I quit": None

Number of Times I said, "What the heck was I thinking?": 7 (ok, maybe more like 22!)

Number of Times I was Asked if I Was "Packing" (carrying a gun): 4

Percentage of Days I Biked Alone: 95%

Number of Days Totally Out of Cell Range: 7 days

Sexual Harassment Incidences: 5 whistles, all in Kentucky from men in trucks

State I felt the most Welcome by People I Knew: Kentucky, even with the sexual harassment! 

Most Beautiful State: Montana

Number of Broken Bones: 0

Number of Bugs and Spiders in my shoes after a night of camping- Too many to say

Kindest State (people I didn't know): Missouri

Treated to a Meal: 3 times

Number of Times and When I was Afraid: 1 time, sleeping alone in bear country

Percentage of Times I Camped: 33% 

Percentage of Times I Stayed in Hotel: 33% 

Percentage of Times I Stayed with a Warm Showers Host or Someone I Knew: 33%

Number of Texts Received Encouraging Me: Over 250 texts

Number of Voicemails Received Encouraging Me: Over 30 voicemails

Numbers of Emails Received Encouraging Me: Over 100 emails

 

What else do you want to know? Email me and I'll add to Statistics Part 2! jess@cairnguidance.com

 

What Should This Year Be?

Many of you have asked if I’ll continue to blog. At this point, yes I will for about a month or so as the transition after taking a journey like this occurs. I hope to post final statistics, my favorite quotes from the trip and update the Photo Gallery soon enough. And, donations are still coming in! We are getting closer! My blog will eventually transfer to work mode at www.cairnguidance.com but with a focus on school health.

If you didn’t get a chance to read about the last day of Road to Rhode, scroll down to the post below this one!

 

Another gorgeous morning sitting on the dock on the pond at my family’s beach cottage. As my mom said yesterday, ‘The pond looks like diamonds from the sun reflecting off the water’. There are subtle signs of fall, but the temperature is warm enough to sweat during a 7am run and go to the beach midday and swim in the delightfully warm ocean.

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It’s been five days since I completed a dream come true and many people have asked how I feel. No post-partum here! I’m relieved and enjoying the time relaxing, taking naps, eating a lot of fruits and vegetables (!), spending time with Mom and Dad, bailing out the boat from the rains we had early this week, going on short jogs, catching up with people, answering emails, opening my mail that accumulated over the 3 months, writing thank you post cards to donors and people who hosted me, signing work contracts (thank goodness!) and processing what exactly I did. It’s nice to go out running each morning listening to the same songs I listened to on one particular Road to Rhode mix my brother made me and NOT be cycling. It hit me that I actually completed what I did in the middle of my run yesterday when a particular song came on and I thought, “I’m not biking anymore! I did it!”

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I’ve also spent the last few days reading cards that people mailed here, and notes attached to flower arrangements. I got a few packages sent to me, including one from my friend Brian in Portland who put together a CD of photos from all of my blog entries and used music from that blog post when I listed the music that was inspiring me. Before my brother and Cassia left, we all sat and watched the video. It was awesome. So much time was put into it. Thank you Brian (and his son Adam!). I also received an incredibly thoughtful package from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (AHG) that had a few goodies in it, but most importantly had notes and letters and cards from many AHG staff from all over the country. I had an opportunity to read through these a few times and I just want to say to everyone who wrote me, “You are welcome! My pleasure for supporting the work YOU all do!” The box was beautifully packaged with ribbons and wrapped gifts and the fancy shoebox decorated thoughtfully with the Road to Rhode  title on top. A great box to hold many of these cards and notes. It’s also a great spot to store the artifacts I collected along the way or given to me by others. Including my charm bracelet, a few other charms and beads given to me after I put the bracelet together, drawings by children, pebbles shaped as hearts, letters given to me before I left that I took with me, and other random artifacts that brought positive energy, support, light and protection to my journey. It’s basically my box of love and support now!

It’s time to bring in the Jewish New Year and spend more time with my Mom and Dad today. If last year was about being bold and courageous, what should this year be?

Best Day Ever!

"The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence." - Denis Waitley

"The trouble with resisting temptation is that you may not get another chance." - Edwin Chapin

-Two quotes on my Mom's refrigerator in Rhode Island

I would have loved to write this the day of my last day of a 23-year dream, but my bed here at my parent’s beach cottage in Charlestown Rhode Island was calling for me after quite a celebration. And, cherishing time with family was number one.  And, I’ve been hibernating. A blog post could wait a couple of days.

Many of you told me that you have enjoyed joining me on my journey by reading my blog posts, tweets or Facebook updates. About 5 people told me on Saturday they are going to miss reading my blog each day and they even shared their daily routine of reading my blog posts.  I am going to attempt to paint a picture of my last day on Road to Rhode to share with you. It was one of the best days of my life, for many reasons.

Kids (and Sage!) painting the lemonade stand for the party. Proceeds went to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. They raised $101!

Kids (and Sage!) painting the lemonade stand for the party. Proceeds went to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. They raised $101!

Kate giving me a foot massage which help calm me and allowed me to just breathe!

Kate giving me a foot massage which help calm me and allowed me to just breathe!

I didn't sleep well at Alison's on Friday night. It turns out I caught some sort of stomach virus in NYC on Wednesday because I had some symptoms of nausea starting that day, but they were faint and I attributed it to fatigue and possibly dehydration. I woke up feeling not so great. But, it was the last day and people were arriving mid-morning and I was going to do this no matter what! I drank a lot of water, ate a plain bagel and only a sip of mimosa. Meredith and Corrie, close friends from Maine went with Sage to do some car shuttling so after the bike ride, they could access their car easily. Kate Link arrived from Vermont. She has been a friend and colleague over many years and she actually gave me a little foot massage while I rested to try and get my energy going again. Josh, a friend from elementary school and his girlfriend Kate came down from Boston and we all hung out at Alison's for a bit, making t-shirts with iron-on Road to Rhode decals and watching the kids (MacKenzie, Max and Braedon) paint the lemonade stand for the party. I was blown away  to think all these people traveled in on a holiday weekend to cycle the last 20 miles with me. At the same time, I felt incredibly low on energy and tired. We took some photos at Alison's, put a speaker in my trailer controlled via Bluetooth with my iPhone, selected a playlist on my iPhone and we were on our way.  Music always makes me feel better! The final leg crew included Chris (Alison's brother), Josh, Meredith, Corrie, Kate and I. 

Alison, Sage and the kids followed us for a lot of the way to capture great photos, some are included this blog post. We passed the Rhode Island state line and eventually crossed into Charlestown. About 10 miles in we 'picked up' Bonnie Edmondson and Cheryl. Currently, Bonnie and I (and Cheryl previously) are colleagues in the field of school health. Bonnie is the HIV Consultant at the Connecticut Department of Education and I literally heard that morning that they would be joining me for the ride. We became a peloton of 8!

From top left, clockwise: Corrie, Josh, Kate, Meredith, me, Chris

From top left, clockwise: Corrie, Josh, Kate, Meredith, me, Chris

I didn't have much energy on the ride, so I pedaled slow savoring every moment and enjoying seeing loved ones in my rearview mirror. We pulled off Route 1 at the Cross Mills Exit and I saw Alison, Sage and kids taking more photos. What I didn't expect was for my brother Dave and his wife, Cassia to jump out of their car! They ran over to me and I remember saying through tears, "I knew you wouldn't miss this". They had told me they would be in Brazil (Cassia is Brazilian) this weekend attached to a work trip Dave had the past two weeks. But, they came! And, they biked with us. Cassia told to me later that night that she's been following my trip by reading the blog, looking at photos, but it didn't hit her that I actually did this until I came around the bend off the exit. She said to herself, “Wow, she did this alone. Hauling all that gear.” Dave and Cassia rode on the beach cruiser bikes we bought our parents years back. Dave actually mentioned the Hot Sand that made everyone laugh since I had just mentioned what this meant to the group at Alison's in the morning. When my brother and I were little and on Charlestown Beach each summer we had a perfect routine down. We would be in the water for hours (my mom could barely get us out) and then when we would finally get out (to eat or drink, since my mom obviously thought that was more important than staying in the water), Dave and I were chilly. So, we walked up further from the water to an area we called the Hot Sand. We would literally roll in the sand and get covered in it since it stuck to our wet bodies. We would then eat, rehydrate, play paddle-ball, build sandcastles, fly a kite, dig a hole, etc. Once the sand came off, we were hot again and it was time to go back in the water. So, as we mounted our bicycles my brother yelled, "Let's head to the beach. To the Hot Sand!” Everyone laughed.

My brother Dave, Cassia and I surprising me

My brother Dave, Cassia and I surprising me

We were now a peloton of 10. A few yards up we passed the Charlestown Cross Mills Fire Station, a building my father designed. My dad is an architect and works mostly Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut on municipal buildings. Apparently my dad alerted (no pun intended!) the fire station because as we rode by, they had the trucks out with lights on blowing the sirens. We stopped, took some photos and I met Fire Chief Don Rathbone. As the 10 of us pulled away from the fire station, I thought, "Are we ever going get there? This is amazing. It's one surprise after another!" My dad had a printer print Road to Rhode signs that were directing our bicycle route. It made me laugh since it's very "Rick" to do that. 

We turned down Charlestown Beach Road and it literally gave me chills to see my brother in my helmet rearview mirror. We passed the Moss' cottage, the first house we used to rent starting in 1979 when I was 4. We passed the two ice cream places we biked to as a family most nights. I made sure Dave was right behind me so we could enjoy the last mile together. As I've mentioned in past blogs, my brother and I are very close. And, with the addition of Cassia in the family, it's now the three of us that love being together. To have both of them cycle the last mile with me was incredibly thrilling. Tears just kept coming. 

My brother and Cassia as part of the final leg crew!

My brother and Cassia as part of the final leg crew!

As we rode over the little bridge that goes over the salt ponds behind the ocean, we were close enough that people starting to clap and yell, "Good Job!" "Congratulations!" Oh boy... what was this going be like? It was an incredibly overcast day, a bit humid, but warm. I assumed even though it was a holiday there wouldn't be a lot of people on the beach due to the clouds. We got closer to the beach and Alison's kids MacKenzie and Max and Sage and Chris' son Braedon joined the peloton. We were now 13 total! What a support crew!

I pulled up and saw the large banner first. Then, I saw about 100 people just cheering and clapping at the beginning of the sand. I stopped after I pulled up and tried to take it in. I looked for Mom and Dad and they approached me. I hugged my mom and told her, "I did it. Thank you for helping me. We did it." My dad hugged me and I said the same thing. Then, I said, "I made it, with barely a scratch." And, as people yelled and cheered and clapped, I looked around recognizing some familiar faces, but many strangers who obviously got out of their beach chairs to welcome me to Charlestown Beach, a place I spent many summer vacations. I yelled, "I'm not done yet!" knowing I needed to dip my front tire into the Atlantic. As I stepped under the banner and onto the sand, the sun literally came out at that exact moment. Someone yelled, "She brought the sun!" 

RIding up to the beach with all 13 of the 'crew'

RIding up to the beach with all 13 of the 'crew'

I pushed my bike and trailer, refusing help, to the waters edge and paused so people caught up. My brother opened and sprayed champagne all over me and I dipped my tire in the water to a round of applause. I handed my bike to someone and ran into the water. I felt the salt water on my skin, in my shoes, under my gloves, in my mouth. I made it. I made it to the Atlantic.

I walked out of the water and grabbed my brother and we jumped in. As we hugged in the water I said, "Thank you for being my inspiration." My brother has always been more bold and adventurous then me. We hugged and kissed and got out and found Cassia, my sister in law and grabbed her. Poor Cassia... she's Brazilian, so even end-of-season Rhode Island water is cold for her! The three of us jumped in together and hugged and enjoyed a special moment in the water. And then, Cassia told me I was going to be an Aunt. My brother said my nephew is on the way. It was like nobody else was around. Time stood still as we fully embraced. I couldn't have had a happier moment in my life.

Dave and Cassia sharing their incredibly happy news with me. They had planned to tell me that evening after everyone had left, but decided it was the perfect moment. And, it was. 

Dave and Cassia sharing their incredibly happy news with me. They had planned to tell me that evening after everyone had left, but decided it was the perfect moment. And, it was. 

We got out of the water and I chatted with a reporter and took some photos. I hopped back on the bike with everyone, turned on some tunes and biked the mile or so to my parent’s beach home, passing many friends who were walking from the beach back to the house. I showered as my brother offered to hose off my bike (thanks Dave!) so it wouldn't rust and found clothes that I had shipped to my parents hanging in the closet. YES! I don’t have to wear spandex! I was so tired, didn't feel great, but I was done. It was now time to celebrate with about 75 people who came from all over. The Berte's, Lindland's, Sullivan’s, Bialeck's, Finn's and Hyde's came from Manchester CT. My Aunt Margery, Uncle Peter and cousin Leslie came from Avon CT. About half the people there I had never met but were friends of my parents from RI. The kids set up their lemonade stand and made $101 that will go towards the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The food was unbelievable. Mom and Dad made hamburgers and hot dogs, but people were asked to bring either salad or a dessert. Beet salad, quinoa salad, a cake in the shape of a bicycle (made by cousin Leslie... oh my goodness was it awesome. And meant so much that she took so much time making it!), centerpieces made by Bonnie Lindland with a photo of me, a butterfly on the bike and daisies everywhere. She also made the daisy crown. I mean, gifts and cards and flower bouquets were brought or shipped that had symbols from my journey, representing the fact that all these people had followed the journey. I answered questions, I told stories. People told me their routine about when and where they read my blog regularly. They asked if I would continue writing. I took deep breaths. I looked around taking it all in. I played with the kids and bought lemonade from them. I drank a lot of water but no alcohol since I felt so tired. I told everyone if they weren't out by 8, I'd be either kicking them out or going to bed while they were still partying. Everyone laughed. 

When everyone did leave, the best part of the day happened. I was with the 5 people who are most important in my life. Dave, Cassia, Mom and Dad. We got into our pajamas and we sat around enjoying our time together. It was one of the best days of my life. I accomplished a 23-year goal, I felt loved and supported by so many people and I was with my immediate family. What more could I ask for?

Stay tuned for more blog posts on final statistics on trip, recovery and transitioning after an adventure like this.

 

Leaving Alison's

Leaving Alison's

Rhode Island State Line, last state line photo!

Rhode Island State Line, last state line photo!

Kate, Bonnie, Cheryl and I

Kate, Bonnie, Cheryl and I

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I made it! Charlestown Rhode Island!

I made it! Charlestown Rhode Island!

The emotion... I was ecstatic they were there.

The emotion... I was ecstatic they were there.

My Dad's Road to Rhode signs, along the entire route for us!

My Dad's Road to Rhode signs, along the entire route for us!

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Charlestown Cross Mills Fire Station stop!

Charlestown Cross Mills Fire Station stop!

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Alison's kids joining the peloton!

Alison's kids joining the peloton!

A photo of Mom and Dad (Elin and Rick) before I arrived

A photo of Mom and Dad (Elin and Rick) before I arrived

The banner- the first thing I saw when riding up the beach.

The banner- the first thing I saw when riding up the beach.

Seeing my mom for the first time after bicycling across the country!

Seeing my mom for the first time after bicycling across the country!

Daisies played an inspirational role on my trip. Bonnie Lindland made me this daisy crown!

Daisies played an inspirational role on my trip. Bonnie Lindland made me this daisy crown!

Beginning the 'push' to the water. I yelled, "I'm not there yet!"

Beginning the 'push' to the water. I yelled, "I'm not there yet!"

Pushing to the water!

Pushing to the water!

Pushing to the water... these little girls were so excited about asking me questions and being a part of the end of Road to Rhode! It was so cool!

Pushing to the water... these little girls were so excited about asking me questions and being a part of the end of Road to Rhode! It was so cool!

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The wheel 'dip' into the Atlantic Ocean!

The wheel 'dip' into the Atlantic Ocean!

Champagne!

Champagne!

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As I walked out, I realized my shoes were full of sand and it felt so gross. I was relieved I had my entire trailer with me to put my Crocs on! ;)

As I walked out, I realized my shoes were full of sand and it felt so gross. I was relieved I had my entire trailer with me to put my Crocs on! ;)

Grabbing my brother and jumping in. "Thanks for being my inspiration Dave."

Grabbing my brother and jumping in. "Thanks for being my inspiration Dave."

Walking out before getting 'pounded' by a sneaker wave. No joke! Luckily Dave and I are super strong swimmers and comfortable in this water!

Walking out before getting 'pounded' by a sneaker wave. No joke! Luckily Dave and I are super strong swimmers and comfortable in this water!

Dave, Cassia and I running in! Cassia was yelling, "It's too cold! It's too cold!"

Dave, Cassia and I running in! Cassia was yelling, "It's too cold! It's too cold!"

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From left: Chris, Bonnie, Cheryl, Meredith, Corrie, Josh and Kate

From left: Chris, Bonnie, Cheryl, Meredith, Corrie, Josh and Kate

Kids excited to learn about my trip and Alison and her kids! Amy and Brenda holding the banner- neighbors/friends of ours near the beach house here in RI!

Kids excited to learn about my trip and Alison and her kids! Amy and Brenda holding the banner- neighbors/friends of ours near the beach house here in RI!

My family... who are ALWAYS there for me.  

My family... who are ALWAYS there for me.  

Meghan, a friend I met in Kentucky who now lives in RI drove an hour to come!

Meghan, a friend I met in Kentucky who now lives in RI drove an hour to come!

Susan and Sira Berte (and her son Sam!) came, making the finish incredibly meaningful as well.

Susan and Sira Berte (and her son Sam!) came, making the finish incredibly meaningful as well.

Mom, Dad and I. I wish everyone had parents as strong, supportive, consistent and loving as mine.

Mom, Dad and I. I wish everyone had parents as strong, supportive, consistent and loving as mine.

Josh and Dave, buddies since kindergarten! 

Josh and Dave, buddies since kindergarten! 

The party! Alison and I, friends since college

The party! Alison and I, friends since college

Braedon setting up the lemonade stand! Proceeds went to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. They raised $101!

Braedon setting up the lemonade stand! Proceeds went to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. They raised $101!

Bonnie Lindland's adorable centerpiece! Butterflies and daisies included.

Bonnie Lindland's adorable centerpiece! Butterflies and daisies included.

That's a face of exhaustion and satisfaction that she's done!

That's a face of exhaustion and satisfaction that she's done!

Dave and Cassia, dried out from me dragging them into the ocean!

Dave and Cassia, dried out from me dragging them into the ocean!

A party isn't a party without pickles. Just sayin'

A party isn't a party without pickles. Just sayin'

Greg Plunkett purchasing lemonade!

Greg Plunkett purchasing lemonade!

My cousin Leslie and I. And, her incredibly creative Vanilla Bicycle cake that took her two days to make! And it was YUMMY! Because of it, I choose cake over the ice cream this week... Thanks Leslie!!

My cousin Leslie and I. And, her incredibly creative Vanilla Bicycle cake that took her two days to make! And it was YUMMY! Because of it, I choose cake over the ice cream this week... Thanks Leslie!!

Sam Berte, MacKenzie and Max taking a 'breather' from the incredible successful lemonade stand business.

Sam Berte, MacKenzie and Max taking a 'breather' from the incredible successful lemonade stand business.

Josh Buckno and I, with our Road to Rhode t-shirts that Alison and her brother made for us!

Josh Buckno and I, with our Road to Rhode t-shirts that Alison and her brother made for us!

Meredith and I. We met in 1997 while students at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. We roomed together and had a great semester! We've always kept in touch and she came down from Maine to be there and ride with me. 

Meredith and I. We met in 1997 while students at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. We roomed together and had a great semester! We've always kept in touch and she came down from Maine to be there and ride with me. 

I've Completed my Goal. I'm Done.

For those of you who prayed for me, supported me, donated to my cause, biked with me, celebrated with me, ate with me, hosted me, fed me, hugged me, encouraged me... thank you. I did this trip by myself, unsupported. But, I never felt alone.

As the last of the sweat, bike grease and sunblock from my trip was rinsed off in the shower and swirled down into the drain, I knew the memories and experiences I had will never wash away. 

Thank you all for being a part of this adventure.

More post-trip blog posts to come. But for now, time to celebrate with a ton of people here and then rest.

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Friendship

I think what I feel most right now, on the last day of Road to Rhode is the support and close friendships that means so much to me.
As I approached Alison's home, in the distance I could see Braedon (Alison's nephew), Mackenzie and Max (Alison's kids) waving at me and yelling, "She's here! She's here! The long awaited 'Aunt Jess', the crazy one who biked across the country, the one who sent us tons of postcards is FINALLY here! Because in kid-days, I probably took forever. I pulled up and was overwhelmed with emotion and immediately thought about the day I left Ithaca College mid-year my senior year to spend my last semester of college at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. The memory of hugging Alison so hard and both of us in tears grieving the fact that our undergrad years together were over. Grieving the fact we'd miss each other so much while I was away.
And over the years we've always been so close. Pulling up to her home in Stonington CT meant I was home in a way. A home I'm always welcome to be in. I gave everybody big sweaty, smelly hugs and T rolled my bike up to the house for me. Within minutes Chris (Alison's brother and Braedon's dad) pulled up. And he had a huge Road to Rhode decal on the back of his car! And a few minutes after that, Sage (Braedon's mom) pulled up. I'm with family I thought.
Chris noticed my shifter cable was on its last threads so instead of me spending the time doing it, we quickly brought it over to Mystic Cycle Centre and Apolo there fixed it up! When we got back, Chris decided to clean up my bike (see photo), so I'm ending today with a nice clean chain! I've neglected it for about 5 days! That's way too long...
I showered while T made a feast for everyone. Food was amazing and plentiful and around 8:30, my friend Meredith, coincidently, my roommate at University of Auckland drove down from Maine with her partner Carrie. Meredith is one of my favorite people in the entire world and for her to drive from Rockport to come for one night to ride with me means more than words. We all hung out for a bit and went to bed by 11. Unsure what this morning will bring. There is some car shuttling happening soon and I've been promised a mimosa and we'll cook a big breakfast. Another really close friend of mine, Josh, who I've known since I was 8 years old is driving down from Boston with his girlfriend Kate (whom I've never met- so very excited!). And, my friend and colleague Kate who works at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and drove down from Vermont is riding with us too! Everybody is meeting here at Alison's at noon and we plan on taking our time and savoring every mile of the 20 miles or so to Charlestown Rhode Island!
I feel so fortunate and excited to have such a great crew cycling with me this morning. And now? Let Day 90 BEGIN!

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