"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.
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!
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.