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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Am I There Yet?

Yes! My second to last day is finally here. And, wanting to stay grounded in my goal versus the media attention and interviews I’ve had this week (5 of them- Good Morning America, Journal Inquirer, Hartford Courant, Ithaca College View, Westerly Sun) and the celebrations and parties. I mean, I’m looking forward to celebrating but I’m concentrating on being in my mind, in my space and feeling good about it all. Yesterday’s ride was 55 miles from Smithtown area to Southold NY. It was congested and busy for most of the ride. Long gone are the days of solitude and the sounds of birds. Other than the traffic, the North Fork was pretty with farms and vineyards. The headwind was strong most of the day and even after feeling rested after my break in NYC, I was still tired. I never got my groove on yesterday.

I stayed with friends last night. Chris is a friend from Ithaca (he went to Cornell and I went to Ithaca College) where I went to school and his wife’s family has a home in Southold, only 15 miles or less from the Orient Point ferry to New London. Jean-Marie, Chris’s wife was there when I got to her folks home at 3:30. I met Jerry, her father and got settled, showered and crashed for an almost 2 hour nap! I haven’t been napping much on this trip, but because it’s the end, everything is taking more effort. A friend who called last night told me, “I think it’s because you know you can start to feel tired.”

After meeting Marie, Jean-Marie’s mom, we picked Chris up from the train he took from the city. Chris, Jean-Marie and I walked to a local dinner place. It’s so nice to eat seafood again, by the way! Didn’t really eat it throughout most of the middle of the country. My energy level was low, but I still really enjoyed reconnecting with Chris after so many years and meeting his awesome wife Jean-Marie! We walked home to the sound of crickets and distant voices from other homes and I fell fast asleep around 11. I woke up at 3am to use the bathroom and didn’t fall back to sleep until 4. My mind was racing. I know how overwhelming ending tomorrow is going to be. I want to breath and relax and feel and celebrate and embrace the end of a 23-year dream come true.

Chris, Jean-Marie and I

Chris, Jean-Marie and I

After Jean-Marie made a delicious breakfast, Chris and Jean-Marie cycled with me a couple of miles towards Orient Point (thanks to you both for cycling with me!!). I rode the rest of the way, feeling more relaxed than yesterday. I hopped on the ferry, excitedly awaiting touching ground in Connecticut, the state I grew up in. I saw the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, which I would soon cycle over and thought about all the times I’ve been over that bridge in my life. Probably starting as a baby. And now I see it through the eyes of someone that biked to it from Oregon.

I got off the ferry, cycled over the bridge and headed towards my friend Alison’s. Alison is a close friend from college and lives in Stonington, my destination for tonight. She lives with her husband T (short for Terrance) and her kids MacKenzie (6) and Max (4). They have been following my trip each day and I know Max keeps asking each morning when Aunt Jess will be here. He even made me a map when I started my trip so I didn’t get lost coming. I’ve sent them postcards from almost every state! So, I’m very excited to pull up to their home today at 5!

Max's map, so I wouldn't get lost.

Max's map, so I wouldn't get lost.

Gerry, Marie, Chris and I

Gerry, Marie, Chris and I

Comments...

Some donation comments I've received recently. Thank you all so much. Only 3 more days to go! 

"Jess - You are a rockstar!  A pickle-eating, bike-peddling rockstar who has powered herself across 4000 miles in one freaking summer.  You're almost there!  Enjoy these final few days, these final few ice cream shops, and the lifetime of memories you're creating." - Jennifer Gabriel

"For someone who is almost at the the end of your journey you were such a ball of energy! Great to have had a chance for you to meet us in New Hope. Best of luck to you!" - Chuck DePalma

"I had wanted to wait until you were a day away but after hearing your voice tonight... I couldn't wait!! Many hugs from Kentucky!" - Melissa McDonald

 "You are truly an inspiration!!!" - John Henry Ledwith

"Thanks for following your dreams and for your passion to make a difference for our kids - giving them a promising healthy future!" - Valerie Snyder

"Jess you are AMAZING!!! You are such an inspiration demonstrating your commitment to your passion...personal health and wellness for all!" - Susan Berry

Love is Meant to Make Us Glad

Reminder #1: Atlantic Wheel-dip at Charlestown RI public beach around 2pm this Saturday. Party at my parents beach cottage at 315 Ram Island Road, Charlestown (after wheel-dip). For more information/questions, email my mom Elin at elawrlaw@sbcglobal.net

Reminder #2: Donate! We are so close to my $25,000 fundraising goals. As of now, we are at 81%, or $20,285! AMAZING. Can we get there in just a few days? 

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I had an absolutely fabulous time in NYC. I loved the saying on the mirror at the Ace Hotel, "Love is Meant to Make Us Glad". I felt the love in New York, and I'm so very glad! Thank you to everyone who made my NYC layover on this adventure an amazing stop.

Yesterday, my new friend Paul and I met up with my cousin Evan and his girlfriend Emily (and Paul's friend Johnny). There was some awesome ping pong playing happening. It was way too short a time to see my cousin Evan because I just love hanging out with him, but hoping I see him in a couple weeks when I'm back in NYC for work. I just want to say to Sue Telljohann or John Henry-Ledwith... I did NOT get injured this time. But, I'm ready for ASHA this year in early October in Myrtle Beach Sue and John... just saying.

Some ping pong action! 

Some ping pong action! 

After ping pong, Paul and I met my other cousin Julie for dinner and I quickly faded. It was a long day starting with Good Morning America. But, it was great to spend time with Julie and thank her in person for the GMA hookup! I woke up this morning ready to be back on the road. I needed to figure out the most efficient, safest way to get to Long Island. I decided it was to go by cab. I told an employee at the Ace, Mac about my plan to get a cab for the 14 miles and he agreed with me that this would be the best way to go. I told him I'd be back down after I packed up. I came down and apparently Mac had already chatted with a cab driver who ended up waiting to take me. I found this out after spending some time with AJ (cab driver) on the ride. I gotta say this... NYC was all about chance meetings. It was incredible. There were two people I was just supposed to meet. AJ and Paul. And, it's just awesome how people come into your life. AJ was awesome. On the way from Ace to Queensboro Community College (where I wanted to be dropped off to bike the 35 miles to my destination today), AJ and I had a great conversation. I sat in the front since my gear took up the back part of the jeep. AJ was intrigued and inspired by my story, but I was in turn inspired by him. I never would have guessed AJ to be 23 years old. He was so well-spoken, soft-spoken, calm and kind. His customer service skills are impeccable. He heard about my trip when he arrived at the Ace looking for a customer going to the airport. When Mac told him about me, AJ waited. I think he waited for over an hour. Amazing. AJ is currently in college (wants to be a nurse), writes poetry and he drives a cab to make ends meet. He and his brothers lost their father 2 years ago and assumed a mortgage. They are all working on paying it off and as he said something like, 'my social life has suffered as a result. But most importantly, I need to be in school and work.' Hats off to AJ. These are the people that I meet that inspire me. They are driven and resilient and want to be secure and stable and they do it the respectable way. But it's hard. Very hard.  AJ and I chatted about the stereotypes and racism he feels as an Indian man in America. He was born in the state of Punjab, India, but I heard no obvious accent, so assumed he was from here (see? stereotypes!). He is proud of his ethnicity, but feels at times judged and even said is judged poorly by women he meets about being a cab driver. As he said, 'I'm a cab driver, but I'm educated and in school and want to be a nurse." Our conversation diverted to talking about fear. Fear related to what holds people back from accomplishing something - fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of vulnerability. AJ pulled up this 1 minute YouTube video while we were at a stop light. "Your fear is always about what's going to happen next, which means your fear is about that which does not exist." -Sadhguru

AJ, my cab driver

AJ, my cab driver

I had chills. I shed a few tears. Who is this cab driver? How and why did he come to be part of my journey? Because he was supposed to be. At the end of my ride gave me his number in case I'm back in NYC and need a ride somewhere, a big hug and after I gave him a generous tip, he told me meeting me (and the tip!) made his day. AJ, you made mine.  

Being back on the bike today felt like home. And, I wondered what it would feel like to have what feels so right and familiar go away starting Sunday. What will I feel when I wake up? What will I do? What is the next chapter in my life? What have I learned? How have I grown? All I currently know and do is ride 6-8 hours a day with a destination and a journey in between. I will grieve the loss of my goal being complete, but I will celebrate what I've done and cherish the memories. I am ready to finish.

I thought about the states I've cycled through and they seem so far away. Like a distant dream. I want to remember everything, yet it's not possible. I want to remember being in Graff MO and stopping at the only thing in the town (a post office, literally not really a town) and writing my friend Dawn Graff-Haight a postcard since she shared a name with the town. And, while I was mailing the postcard in the post office, which is only open a few hours a week, a guy on a very large tractor pulled up and started to chat with me. We talked for almost an hour. I want to remember the guy who passed me in a car up a long hill, pulled over, got out of his car and crossed the street. And, I thought, great... he's going to give me s&^% about riding my bike. But as I climbed and got up to him, he asked (we were in the middle of nowhere btw) "Do you have a blog? I live in the next town and love keeping up with cyclists going through." I want to remember how strong I currently feel. Physically and emotionally. I want to remember all the people I met and all the things that have made me laugh and cry. 

Today's ride on Long Island was very pretty and it felt like autumn. There were already crisp leaves on the ground and for the first time I heard my wheels make a crunching sound over the leaves while I rode. I thought about time and how this entire summer was spent moving. The snow, heat, hail, rain, wind. And, it's soon autumn. Time for the leaves to turn, die and fall off. Time for this 23 year goal to be completed and become a series of epic memories that fill my mind.

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Dinner out with my cousin Julie

Dinner out with my cousin Julie

Leaving NYC.

Leaving NYC.

It's almost autumn...

It's almost autumn...

NEW YORK CITY!

My awesome cousin Julie!

My awesome cousin Julie!

I'm here! And been so busy... I'm currently in my Ace Hotel room (two nights on Ace, btw!) listening to music, trying to rest but it's not happening. My emotions include a mix of excitement, anxiety and exhaustion. I got into NYC via New Jersey. The night in New Jersey was spent in Middletown at Toby and Dan's beautiful home. I arrived after riding from New Hope PA and Toby and Dan have a gorgeous pool I enjoyed after my ride. I didn't get a photo of them since the next day they left for church and didn't come back before I left! But, I enjoyed dinner with Dan (Toby had a shower to attend) and went to bed early, getting another 9 hours of sleep. I cycled to the ferry in the morning, about 7 miles and sat on the New Jersey beach at Highlands and enjoyed the view of the Manhattan skyline. I'm here! The day was beautiful- just perfect weather and I enjoyed the ferry ride past the financial district up into midtown. I also met another ferry passenger, Paul. Great person! We exchanged numbers for a possible NYC hangout later in the week.

I got to Graig and Ginny's after cycling in Manhattan to their place- what a fun, exhilarating ride! Got to catch up with them and Isla, their awesome daughter. The 4 of us walked over to the piers, had drinks and enjoyed the Sunday afternoon catching up. My cousin Julie and her boyfriend Rob met us all for dinner. I stayed with Graig and Ginny and had a massage scheduled for Monday morning (yesterday). My massage was awesome and my legs finally released a bit. I heard from Good Morning America Live (online version on at 9am after the early morning show) that they indeed wanted me as the guest on today's show! So, thank you to cousin Julie for contacting people you know at ABC and pitching my story. Without your emails, I wouldn't have been on the show! I also heard from the Hartford Courant about scheduling a phone interview for today! So, all that relaxation I was supposed to feel after my massage was replaced with... "Oh my goodness... media coverage!" I packed up my stuff at Graig and Ginny's in the financial district and hopped on my bike and rode to midtown to the Ace Hotel. Yes- my friend and colleague Vicki Crawford with the Clinton Foundation pitched my story to Ace and they offered for me to stay for two nights! I arrived at the Ace, checked in to complimentary goodies and an awesome Ace t-shirt in my room. I got ready and walked (because I need the exercise, you know) the 1.8 miles to Randolph Beer, a location that college friends selected to meet up at. Well, I should say Ithaca friends since most of the people that showed up last night I knew from Cornell and people who grew up in Ithaca. There were some surprises as well! Gia and Seth showed up with Forest (their son) and 4 day old (no joke) daughter, Violet. Yup, Gia and Seth took the subway from Brooklyn into Manhattan with their son and again, 4 day old daughter. Not an adoption situation. Gia gave birth 4 days ago. ROCKSTARS! And, Nick showed up, a very good friend from Ithaca whom I hadn't seen in probably 15-16 years! Cassady and Theo, Suzie and Pat and kids, Chris and Jean-Marie- all Ithaca/Cornell people. Adam came, another touring cyclist I met in person for the first time last night, but we've been following each other's trip via Twitter. So, that was super cool. And, my friend/colleague Kenny showed up and Paul- the guy I met on the ferry came too. Super fun night and felt supported and loved and encouraged. Especially from people I haven't seen in years and years. I feel so fortunate.

I woke up early this morning and walked to GMA in Times Square (ABC Studios). Paul came with me and helped me get my gear over there (THANK YOU!). It was also nice to have a 'buddy' with me to experience being in ABC studios, hanging in the green room and somebody after to celebrate with me. Thanks to my new friend Paul! The experience was exhilarating and super fun. The people at ABC were so nice! Link to the show is here.

We walked back to Ace, dropped off my stuff and had a delish breakfast at Breslin, the restaurant here. I napped afterwards and a group of us are about to meet up and play some ping pong in the city (cousins, friends). It's been a whirlwind, but an amazing time here in NYC! Leaving for Long Island tomorrow...

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Ginny, Graig, Isla and I! 

Ginny, Graig, Isla and I! 

Hanging outside Ginny and Graig's place... waiting for them to come down!

Hanging outside Ginny and Graig's place... waiting for them to come down!

My room at the Ace, equipped with vinyl records and a player. Oh- and an acoustic guitar...

My room at the Ace, equipped with vinyl records and a player. Oh- and an acoustic guitar...

Nick, me, Chris and Cassady

Nick, me, Chris and Cassady

Adam- another cross country cyclist! Way to go Adam- congratulations!!

Adam- another cross country cyclist! Way to go Adam- congratulations!!

Gia and Seth! 

Gia and Seth! 

4-day old Violet and mommy Gia

4-day old Violet and mommy Gia

The Ithaca boyz. They look fabulous, eh?

The Ithaca boyz. They look fabulous, eh?

Kenny and I! I met Kenny through Clinton Foundation

Kenny and I! I met Kenny through Clinton Foundation

Hanging in ABCs green room 

Hanging in ABCs green room 

Paul and I posing as anchor people at GMA! 

Paul and I posing as anchor people at GMA! 

Mind and Body. How it has Changed

Let’s talk a little bit about how my body and mind has changed over the past 2 months, 3 weeks, shall we?

Physical
 
The tips of my big toes are numb. Just the tips. It will go away once I stop cycling so many hours in a day. My shoes are big enough for sure, it's just the pressure for so many hours. My right foot has the funniest callous on it- a straight line about 2 inches long in the arch. My calves and quads are a little more defined and I've lost fat in my thighs and butt (not complaining...)! My stomach and arms are definitely toned and I've lost fat around my torso/ribs. I would suspect I've lost the most fat on my body in my arms. My hands have had no numbness during this trip like many have endured, but I did lose strength in my hands for about a month. That strength is back now. My eyes, brain and balance adjusted within a week on this trip. Because I spent so much time cycling, that whole system (eyes, brain, balance) adapted to the new speed I was going, the new stance I was in most of the day and new angles I needed for vision (head position, rearview mirror, etc). I can't really explain how I knew my body adapted because it's subtle, but when I'm not riding and I move my head fast or look to the side, I have a weird sensation. It's not dizzy or blurry- just a subtle change. That should all go back to normal within a week or two of being off the bike. I feel a fatigue now in my calves, quads and feet. A soreness all the time. Nothing too painful. No sharp pains but just fatigue. It set in about a week ago, so I'm not complaining. My physical body has felt so good most of this trip. And even now- I'm ok, just tired. I'm incredibly proud of my physical body. I respect my body so much. This is my body. Take it or leave it. Yup, these are my varicose veins and my cellulite and my tiny hands (that I've always been self-consious of) and my bunion on my left foot... I'm real. And the best part? This body cycled across the USA. I am more concerned about those (especially woman) who hate their bodies and why. Now granted, I've always been within a 'healthy' weight. So, take this with a grain of salt. But, I mean, is it nice that I'm more toned? Sure! But, you know what's most important...? Wait until you SEE my lungs in those new skinny jeans. Wait until you SEE my heart sporting a new bikini. Then, you will be impressed. You know why? Because that is truly what's most important. My heart and lungs are so fit right now that I've hopefully extended years onto my life and most importantly, quality to all the years I still have.

Mental/Emotional
Many of my friends have posted or texted that I am their hero. About a dozen people wrote this and I'm inspired that they are inspired by me. I'm no superwoman (although I wish I had Superwoman's outfit...). I'm a normal (ok, kind of!) person with a goal. I had many discussions with others doing a similar trip. Money plays a role in doing something like this. Taking time off work, saving money. But, I think what holds people back more so is fear. Awhile ago I posted that people ask me two questions when they meet me and want to add a third I've been getting in the eastern part of the US:
1. You are doing WHAT?
2. Are you traveling ALONE?
3. Aren't you scared?

For the third question, I always turn it back and say, "Scared of what?" Just because I'm curious what people's fears are for me.  Most people say, "men" "rape" "getting your stuff stolen" "crazy people". So, what's amazing is that MY biggest fears are/were, getting hit by a car while someone is driving intoxicated or texting, injury/falling while going downhill and losing control, getting eaten in bear country even though I took the correct precautions and hung my food, fatigue so intense I'd have qui... oh! I don't say that word. Different fears. I'm not going and getting drunk in the local bar and walking to my tent alone in a small town where people are watching my every move. I mean c'mon! Now, I know those fears people have for me exist. They are not impossible. However, the likelihood is quite minimal. Fear really keeps people from doing so much. They don't let their children walk to school. They don't apply for a job that seems out of reach. They don't want to travel to a different country for fear of not speaking the language. They don't wear something fabulous for fear what others think. I have fears... trust me. But, this is the year of living bold and courageously. I don't want to be 90 in my rocking chair with regrets. So, I plan on wearing a Brazilian bikini to my 20th High School Reunion in Connecticut September 28. Just kidding everyone- don't worry! But I will see you there! My mom recently emailed me after the Mom and Dad post and wrote about a conversation she had with my beloved grandfather whom we called Poppa. He was 98 when he died a few years ago.
 "I remember asking Poppa the last few days of his life if he had any regrets and he said “no regrets” .  I hope that is how we all feel in the end." -Mom

I feel emotionally stronger, more independent, empowered and proud of myself. I'm not lonely. I learned how to ask for help. I learned how to be vulnerable. I learned how to share through writing more about my experience instead of just miles, speed and what I ate for dinner. When I was tired or frustrated on this trip I danced (if you haven't seen the videos, look back on my FB page!). Humor helps a lot. Yesterday I posted on FB: "New Jersey headwind is killing me. Reframe: This ocean breeze is delightful". I mean, you have to use humor. It helps. Sometimes, you feel insecure because other cyclists can be incredible critical. "Why don't you get up earlier each day to leave?" "Why do you have trailer?" "Why are you taking that route?" And, you just state why you made the decisions you made. It's simple. And, that is empowering. You have to make the trip your trip. This was my dream, my goal. Some days (only recently), I ask myself, "What the heck was I thinking? Who's idea WAS this?" It was mine. I'm steering this ship. And, I'll make it to shore. 

My brother Dave made me 5 volumes of music mixes and one of the songs with lyrics that most resonates with me is Wake Me up by Avicii featuring vocals from Alex Blacc. 

"Wake Me Up" by Avicii 

Feeling my way through the darkness, Guided by a beating heart, I can't tell where the journey will end, But I know where to start

They tell me I'm too young to understand, They say I'm caught up in a dream, Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes, Well that's fine by me

So wake me up when it's all over, When I'm wiser and I'm older, All this time I was finding myself, And I didn't know I was lost

I tried carrying the weight of the world, But I only have two hands, Hope I get the chance to travel the world, But I don't have any plans

Wish that I could stay forever this young, Not afraid to close my eyes, Life's a game made for everyone, And love is the prize

So wake me up when it's all over, When I'm wiser and I'm older, All this time I was finding myself, And I didn't know I was lost, Didn't know I was lost, I didn't know

Spiritual
 
Something I did in about 50% of the homes that I stayed in was say grace with families at meals. That is not something I usually do. I found it quite nice to say thanks for food, company, family, health each night. To whomever! G-d, Jesus, Mother Nature. Am I a more religious person as a result of this journey? No, I don't think so. Is it quite impossible to not believe there is something bigger than me out there? For me, yes. Is it G-d? Not necessarily. I saw signs in things. Like the butterflies that pushed me up hills and seeing daisies in certain places that inspired me. Noticing things that made me laugh and motivated me to push harder. People I met. Is it science? Religion? You see, it doesn't matter to me. Whether I'm seeing signs that are a coincidence or a higher power's concoction is not actually what is important to me. What is important is the guidance and strength I felt as a result of the incidents. I know people prayed for me while I have been on this journey (thank you). And I know that I've wanted to stay safe and healthy on this trip. Whether it was my own decisions that kept me safe (I want to take responsibility for that, by the way), or a higher power, energy that helped keep me safe and healthy doesn't matter to me. Maybe it's a combination of both. Either way, we are here on this earth. And, what's most important to me is to love and live. To the fullest. 

 I'm proud of myself. This is my body and mind and it cycled across the country. 

Cops, $40 cash and Cyclists

Day 81, 66 miles, total = 3997 miles

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m sick of eating. Completely disgusted by it. Maybe it’s the fatigue. I’m hungry yet nothing sounds at all appealing. I eat what I know I need to for recovery and strength and energy. But, I’m at the point where I’m tired, hungry and sometimes nauseas while eating. Pregnant? Nope, impossible.  Unless somehow sitting on a bike seat got me pregnant.

I can’t even remember where I left off, but I know that Thursday's ride through Pennsylvania was quite beautiful. I camped Thursday night at French Creek State Park. I got there and the heavens opened up as I selected the perfect campsite. I mean, I got soaked. It actually felt amazing. Who cares? I’m almost done. Although my seat did get wet. Which meant yesterday I slathered myself with chamois butter. A bit more than usual. Now that both of these first two paragraphs have to do with my crotch, maybe I should move on… blame it on the exhaustion if you’re offended.

After the torrential downpour, I set up my tent, showered and cooked the only food I had- Ramen and a packet of kidney beans and rice. And, I had an apple. I had no energy to bike or walk the 2 miles within the State Park to the concession stand at the pool. I knew once I ate and got everything organized, I’d fall fast asleep. I slept over 9 hours (I always sleep better in my tent) and it didn’t rain again. The temperature was perfect. I slept in my sleeping bag liner and didn’t even need my sleeping bag. Nothing really dried out, so last night in New Hope PA, my clothing and tent aired out in the motel. Back to yesterday morning- I woke up at 6am, made hot tea and my last packet of instant cream of wheat, ate a banana and was on my way. I had hoped for fresh legs again, but no such luck. My legs hurt from the start. That’s when I made the video I posted on Facebook about being inspired by the donations coming in and all the texts and emails of support I’m receiving. It’s incredibly helpful. I’m almost there. And, a lot of it is mental. I know I can do it. I only have 5 days of cycling (if you don’t count the 10 miles on Sunday to the ferry and 20 miles on the last day). Here's just a sampling of texts that happen to come in yesterday, some from people I haven't heard from on this trip. Some from people I hear from regularly. Sorry if your text is below and you meant it to be private. I'm just so inspired by these, I wanted to share.
 "Go Jess go! Sending you some love during your last (sore) legs of the trip!" -Megan Hansen
  "Keep pedaling!" -Jered Bogli
"Thinking of you helped get me through my 22-mile training run this morning. Anytime I felt exhausted, I thought of you and how you biked to the White House. From Portland. You are amazing and just wanted you to know that you're pushing me in my athletics feats all the way across the country. Ride on, Jess." - Jen Sotolongo
 "Hang in there. Amazing, amazing accomplishment. For a great cause and fulfilling a lifelong dream. It's freaking awesome. And, on the bright side of burnout, at least it's close to the finish and family and friends are at the end. Could have felt this way in Wyoming!" -Jamie Sparks
 "PS. You are awesome!" -Evan Lawrence

I stopped about 10 miles into my ride at Ridge Restaurant and had a big breakfast since the instant cream of wheat wasn’t going to sustain my long day. A woman walked up to me and gave me $20 because she saw my banner on my trailer in the parking lot. Again, I might be blaming how tired I am, but I totally forgot to get her name. I did give her a card and hoping she’ll read this and contact me.  My mom saw my FB video and was concerned about how tired I seemed and offered to come pick me up and drive me into NYC. I said, nope, I can do this. I’m not the kind of tired that I’d fall asleep while biking. It’s more of an overall fatigue and I know I’m ready to be done. I continued on to Valley Forge PA, obviously of historical significance. It was the site where the Continental Army spent the winter of 1777-1778 during the Revolutionary War. It’s a gorgeous area and even better, a great bike path begins here and I took that all the way to Norristown. It was wonderful to be on a bike path since I’m so tired. It was a nice break from cars and stopping and starting at stop lights and signs. It was motivating to see so many cyclists and runners and walkers.  Other cyclists made me feel like what I’m doing is normal (well, kinda). It was tempting to jump on a train and take it into NYC, but nope. I can do this. I can ride. Good thing I have an irrational fear of trains. I’d rather bike to NYC...

I stopped in Ambler, PA to have a peaceful lunch and find something, anything I could keep down. I found a deli and was eating and typing this blog and all of a sudden a customer and the owner of the deli starting yelling at each other. The owner asked this customer to leave because she didn’t intend to buy anything and assumed it was ok to just walk in, plug in and sit and work on her laptop.  He asked her a few times. The customer, an African American female (dressed very high class, by the way) was calling the owner of the deli a racist. They had a yelling match as he told her she had to leave, multiple times. She refused. So, she called the cops because she felt she was being treated unfairly and he called the cops because he has the right to refuse service, or in this case, ask a customer (who’s not even a customer) to leave. I continued to eat my lunch and begin this blog post. When I was ready to leave, I walked outside to my bike and trailer and two police officers had showed up and were talking to the woman and owner separately. The owner and I started to chat and the police officer asked me if I witnessed the altercation. I said yes and gave an official statement. Even gave them my DOB and donation/bike trip card! Before he left XXXX gave me a $20 as a donation. $40 total today from two complete strangers! I’ll pop another check (good think I brought checks with me!) in the mail to Alliance. Go figure, I’m a witness during an altercation, but get a $20 donation out of it. Ahhh, welcome back to the east coast Jess.

Stars on homes. Love it! 

Stars on homes. Love it! 

I cycled through an area where the 1% live. I thought about the thousands of homes I’ve cycled pass and the variety of styles, economic status and geographic variations of home style and ornaments. By ornaments I mean from wreath style (like in eastern KY, homes had these puffy colorful wreaths I’ve never seen anywhere else) to the stars on homes and barns that started in KY and have been in VA and PA. I love the stars and I’m not sure what they signify. Is it a patriotic thing? I need to look it up.  To more American flags in the south and east coast. To the eagle above the garage. I peek into homes as I ride by and see people reading the paper or watering plants. And I long for the day that I can sit inside in my robe and slippers (two things obviously not with me) and read the entire NY Times. And rest. And not sweat once during the day. I’m envious of those in a home they love to relax in.

Another star on a barn.

Another star on a barn.

Thanks to Alison through Misty I met Bill, Dorian, Donna and Chuck! Thanks for the champagne!

Thanks to Alison through Misty I met Bill, Dorian, Donna and Chuck! Thanks for the champagne!

I posted on Facebook for any connections in New Hope, but I ended up getting a room while at Ridge Restaurant in the morning. Mentally I needed to know I had a place to stay. Some people had friends north or south of here by 10-20 miles, but for some reason New Hope was calling my name. And, once I arrived, I knew why. Quaint, cute town with lots of boutiques and B&B’s, restaurants, ice cream shops and tourists! New Hope PA in on the Delaware River across from Lambertville, NJ. Yesterday officially ended being on any ACA route. It goes north from here and I head to Middletown/Atlantic Highlands NJ to take the ferry to NYC tomorrow. I got to New Hope, threw the tent, fly and ground cover over anything I could in the room. I took my wet clothes and towel (chamois) out of a plastic bag from the night prior and hung them over my bike in the hotel room to dry. I did my routine of plugging in my bike computer, taking a shower, washing my sunglasses, taking my charm bracelet off and washing it, calling my parents to tell them I arrived safely, drinking water, wiping down the hitch to my trailer (it gets gritty) and adding a new clean batch of grease to it, wiping down my chain and re-lubing it and checking my tires. Finally, got dressed in ‘normal’ clothes, not spandex, and walked the mile into town. Beautiful night, perfect weather. I walked across the bridge and stepped into my 13 state (not including DC), New Jersey! I walked back over into PA and got an IM from my friend Alison. Her friend Misty, whom I’ve never met has a friend who happened to bike into New Hope and as having dinner with three other people They wanted to buy me a drink! I was a block away. So, I joined Chuck, Bill, Dorian and Donna as they ate (I eyed an Indian place on my way over) and I enjoyed champagne on them! Thank all of you for inviting me to sit with you and enjoy the evening. I felt human again. Tired, but human. Social. Normal. I said my goodbyes and headed to Indian food for dinner. I actually enjoyed the food (wasn’t nauseas) and my friend Melissa from Kentucky called to say hi. It was great to catch up (and thanks for the donation today Melissa!!) and I left just in time to head over to Nina’s for ice cream. Although I got into Nina’s and again, felt not in the mood. Not in the mood for ice cream? I think my body and appetite is all wacky. Hoping that gets better, very, very soon. Something is definitely wrong if ice cream doesn't sound good anymore.

I walked out of Nina’s without anything in hand but headed over to the river just in time for the New Hope fireworks to begin. And what a show! They go off from a barge in the river and the moon was coming up and it was a gorgeous night full of 1000’s of people on the bridge and along the shores of the Delaware River in PA and NJ. I thought, what a day! What an experience! And, now I get to end my day watching a fabulous firework show. I’m so lucky.

I walked the mile back home, fell asleep and woke up by 6. Only 7 hours of sleep. Still tired, but excited. I walked to McDonald's because it's close, has fast internet and breakfast. It's only the third time I've eaten at a McDonald's on the trip, but wanted to update blog. Today's ride will be about 55 miles, which is a bit shorter than I’ve been cycling. I’m looking forward to it. I'm staying with warm showers hosts.

Yesterday, $780 (plus $40 cash), $820 total was donated to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. At that rate, we'll reach my goal of $25,000. Only $6265 left to go!

THANK YOU ALL. I finish this dream come true a week from today. Join us at the end party. Contact me if you want to be there. 

XOXO, Jess

 

One more star... See? I love them!

One more star... See? I love them!

East coast!!

East coast!!

Pennsylvania riding...

Pennsylvania riding...

Last night camping (I think!).

Last night camping (I think!).

Part of bike path yesterday/

Part of bike path yesterday/

10 miles from Philadelphia. Crazy!

10 miles from Philadelphia. Crazy!

Isn't this blaze supposed to be R2R?

Isn't this blaze supposed to be R2R?

Love, love these old stone homes!

Love, love these old stone homes!

New Jersey state line!

New Jersey state line!

Fireworks over the Delaware River.

Fireworks over the Delaware River.

Weather looking good for next week's finish!

Weather looking good for next week's finish!

Mom and Dad

I'm so fortunate that...
 -My body is physical healthy and free of pain to do this bicycle trip across the country
 -I can take 3 months mid-career to take this trip
-I'm financially able to do this (a lot of saving $$, trust me!)
-I have a support network of friends and family
 
But, most importantly, I'm fortunate that I have wonderful, loving, supportive, engaged parents. I mean, how lucky am I? I want to acknowledge them because I know many people do not have what I have. I know they think I'm a little crazy for doing this (who doesn't??) but when I asked my mom in the spring if she was worried about me taking this trip, her response was, "Well, of course I'll be concerned while you are on this trip. I'm your mom. But, I'd be disappointed if you didn't do it. You've been talking about this for 23 years." Now, that's support. My parents raised my brother and I to have wings. Wings to do whatever we wanted that would allow us to be independent (of them! Ha!) and healthy and happy. "Live in a place that we'll love to visit" they used to say, never making us feel badly about moving away. "When you move away, never feel you HAVE to come back for holidays. That is YOUR precious vacation time and we'd never assume you'd want to spend that time with your mom and dad. You are always welcome back to join us, but we'll never expect it. You start your own traditions." I mean, cool, right? 

With that said, I promised them (even though I don't think they asked, it was my rule),  that I'd be in touch every day while on this trip. A text, call or email... at least. Once my mom said, "You're always calling!" She didn't mean it to be rude, but it suggests that I came up with the rule that I'm in touch everyday. Just so someone knows I'm safe. Some days I'm so exhausted or busy engaging with other people and hosts that my email is simply, "I'm here in XXX". Some days I call and we chat about my day and I hear what's going on in their lives.  

I can't even begin to count how many times they've sent an email or told me over the phone, "We are proud of you". In my last blog post entitled Proud to be an American, my mom responded with, "I'm proud to be your mom!" I can't even describe how good that feels, even at 38 years old to have your parents say, "We love you. We believe in you. You are amazing." It feels as good as when I was in the 6th grade play and had a lead singing part and they said the same thing. Although I don't think they said, "You are amazing" since I'm tone deaf and had no right to get that singing part. But you get the point... they back me up 100%. They are there for me always. They don't bail. They are consistent and dependable. I don't want to take this for granted because I know people who's parents aren't like this. 

Thank you mom and dad... I'm proud of you guys too. I love you so much. And, I can't wait to see you in Rhode Island and give you each a big hug. And, I'll say, "I did it. And I didn't do it alone. Thank you." 

 

Day 79, 3830 miles cycled, $7845 to go!

Oops. But the Nathan's hot dog was delish!

Oops. But the Nathan's hot dog was delish!

My day off in DC was efficient- haircut, yummy green salad for lunch, a short bike ride around the Mall, and a Nathan's hot dog... which wasn't so successful (see photo). After saying goodbye to Matt, Shailee and their daughter, Asha yesterday, I pedaled north out of DC around 7:30am. I cycled through Rock Creek Park (photo) joining up with Adventure Cycling Association's (ACA) Atlantic Coast Route. I should mention that both the Trans-Am and Atlantic Coast Routes are one of many bicycle route systems from ACA. Check out their site at http://www.adventurecycling.org/

Matt, Shailee, Asha and I

Matt, Shailee, Asha and I

I encourage touring cyclists to do an actual ACA or recommended route because at least local traffic is aware that there are cyclists on the road. You can purchase maps that are incredibly helpful. The maps have a key that let you know what's available in each town you go through, average weather temperatures and topography. Knowing if you need to pack more water and food might not be as important here on the east coast, but in the middle of the country and in the west, that is very important. The Trans-Am goes from Astoria Oregon to Yorktown VA (either direction). I road the entire Trans-Am except from Charlottesville VA to Yorktown VA. The Atlantic Coast route goes from Bar Harbor Maine to Key West Florida (either direction). I will only be riding part of this route, obviously. From NYC, I'll go off route and along Route 1 in Connecticut to Rhode Island.

Yesterday's ride took me from DC into Maryland and through country roads. I saw farms and wildflowers and deer. I saw acorns for the first time yesterday. I did go off route a little today because I ended my day in Manchester MD, where my colleague and friend Brian Griffith lives.  Brian is friends/colleagues with many others I've seen on this trip. Amazing how many colleagues have texted, emailed, donated, cheered me on in some way and even one (Kate Link) is joining me for the last day's ride into Rhode Island. I'm feel so blessed to have so many colleagues all over the country who have been part of my journey.

Brian Griffith and I.

Brian Griffith and I.

Back to Maryland... Brian is leaving his position at the Maryland Department of Education to be a county PE/Health coordinator. He will be missed at the state level, but is a great advocate in our field and super strong at what he does. I saw him last in Charlotte at American Association for Health, PE, Rec and Dance (Aahperd) and he invited me to stay with his family when I rode through this summer. Never invite me... I WILL show up! The 67 miles was over rolling hills, but got here early around 3:30. Everyone was home so it was nice to shower and hang out as bit. Brian's wife is Amy and they have two boys- Tyler going into his second year of college at Salisbury and Jake, going into his freshman year of high school. Brian and I sat for awhile catching up and then we planned my route for today to get back on the ACA Atlantic Coast route. He picked a good route for me- wide shoulders and beautiful area. Amy and Brian cooked a delicious meal (I'm so spoiled with all these amazing meals families cook for me!) and after dinner we took a family trip to The Cow, a place with frozen custard and shaved ice. Ummmm, I was a disaster. I got a twist cone dipped in butterscotch and it was so big, it was melting faster than I could keep up. I posted the video of this on my Facebook page. 

I went to bed early since I'm still not waking up after sleeping 8-9 hours a night feeling fully rested. I don't have fresh legs every morning like I did for two months. I know my body is about done... But I'm so close! I'm not in pain and I don't want to get injured, so I'm being careful, but I've been trying to get into bed by 9. My muscles are definitely fatiguing quicker each day. I don't have 'fresh' legs each morning like I did for two months. I need to stop more frequently to rest. Today was humid, so I was sweating like crazy and the combo of my sweat and sunblock was stinging my eyes. I thought I'd get to Manheim PA today, but I'm outside of Lancaster. I couldn't do more than 50 today. I'm just beat. So, I'm at a Comfort Inn and I'm going to bed, very, very soon.

 

 

Another ice cream cone to replace all the calories burned! 

Another ice cream cone to replace all the calories burned! 

Brian, Amy, Tyler and Jake, hosting me in Manchester MD.

Brian, Amy, Tyler and Jake, hosting me in Manchester MD.

Proud to be an American

The White House

The White House

Sitting on the lawn on the Mall

Sitting on the lawn on the Mall

I'm in Washington DC, swarmed by the memories of my elementary school trips, visiting friends, attending conferences, evening jogs around the monuments after work meetings, museum visits... I'm in DC! I pedaled my body plus 100lbs of gear across this country. Did I really do it? It's not a dream, right?
With less than two weeks to go my rides are filled with recalling states I've cycled through. Memories and sights I've experienced. Overwhelming emotional thoughts of the people who have waved at me from large porches and in seated lawn mowers. Butterflies that flirted with me up hills and birds that swooped only feet away from my front tire. Cyclists I waved to and gave them the head nod headed the opposite direction and cyclists that became a significant part of my trip. Generous people who bought me meals and donated to my charity on the spot. Homemade dinners consumed to nourish my body. Amount of sunscreen I've applied. Amount of bug spray I've applied. Amount of grease I've scrubbed off my body every single day I've had a shower. Amount of times I've skinny-dipped. Number of fawns and cows and horses I've made eye contact with.  It all comes back and brings me such joy. What an incredible adventure. And, I'm still on it. I rested the past two days and I will cycle up the eastern seaboard with energy and finish strong. Emotionally and physically stronger since the last couple of weeks have been hard. I will do it!
Cycling around DC today was exhilarating. I took photos at the White House and near some of my favorite monuments and memorials. I find it incredible that as a female, traveling alone mostly in spandex, I can bicycle across this entire country and feel safe. I'm not only free to do it and travel almost any route I want... But I feel safe doing it. What an amazing country we live in. Road systems that allow efficient travel (except Wyoming! Ha!), potable water accessible at least once a day even in remote areas and the kindest people in the world. And the beauty! The diversity of what I saw... flora and fauna, smells, animals, colors, flowers, weather. Experiencing the weather in such a raw way... being IN it. All day. What do I do when it's hot? I bike, just less miles and I drink more. What do I do when it's raining? I put my rain gear on. Or get soaked. What do I do when it snows? I bike 10 miles and then cry and then the CA Crew rescues me! What do I do when it's cold? I dress in all my layers, get into my tent and snuggle into my sleeping bag. And wake up to frozen water bottles... that will melt within the hour. What do I do when I'm sore? Stretch. Ice. Ice baths. What do I do when I don't feel like riding? That honestly hasn't happened. Because it's my job. I just do it. And everyday is an adventure and it's FUN. I mean more FUN than I've ever had in my entire life. Everyday for 3 months.
Thank you America. I'm proud to be an American.

Bike lanes! DC

Bike lanes! DC

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WWII Memorial and Lincoln Memorial

WWII Memorial and Lincoln Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

Sunday Funday

With less than two weeks to go! Still have $8200 to raise to reach my goal. I wish I had more time and energy to fundraise... Bt I only have enough energy to bike, eat, sleep, blog and see people. I want to feel more rested than I do right now. I can't sleep is more of the issue. I know I keep complaining about fatigue... I've never been this tired. In my life.

After a nice long lunch break in Louisa VA with Dean, we parted ways again (we've done that since Kansas!) saying goodbye 'for real' this time and I cycled the remaining 30 miles to Spotsylvania to stay with my personal trainer and good friend, Aaron's sister in law. Mackenzie and Scott greeted me and welcomed me into their home with three awesome dogs. A Great Dane named Indy and two Newfoundlands, Taiyo and Sigmund. They made a wonderful dinner and we chatted for a few hours. Great people and loved hearing about what they do. Mackenzie is in private practice as a psychologist and Scott is in the Coast Guard and currently getting his PhD. I tried to fall asleep early, but my brain wouldn't stop and I only got about 6 hours of sleep. I'm overly exhausted I think. I woke up tired but knew I didn't have to bike the next two days. I'm off route now, so Scott brought me on to Fredericksburg and dropped me off at a Starbucks and my friend Matt picked me up 30 minutes later. Matt went to my HIgh School, Manchester HS in CT and is good friends with my brother. Matt and his wife Shailee came to Brasil for my brothers wedding so we became good friends as well. I planned to stay with them, their daughter Asha in their beautiful brownstone in DC for two nights. I haven't stayed with people I know since Kentucky. It was good to see them and get into DC and I took a two hour nap when arrived. I felt better. Matt and Shailee pulled together a Sunday Funday party and invited friends they typically get together with on Sunday anyway. What is amazing is that a few days ago I received the email inviting everyone and Matt included info on my ride and asked everyone to bring $5 to donate to my cause, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. How awesome is that? I feel so loved and supported. Just like in Kentucky when my colleagues and friends all came out to eat and others met me along my route to see me.

Matt's menu for the gathering for Sunday Funday:
Farfalle with artichokes and tomatoes
Mahi-Mahi avocado rolls
Roasted corn and black bean salad
Grilled peaches, vanilla ice cream and homemade caramel bourbon sauce.

And others brought a delicious quinoa salad, peanut butter chocolate pie and cupcakes. Ummmm- YUM! The best part? The people. Everyone was so fun. They do interesting things for a living and they were very curious about my trip. In fact at one point we had a 'panel-type' session going with questions! Many were even interested in seeing my bike and gear in the basement. Again, I love sharing the experience and since I've been so tired and ready to be done, it motivated me to finish. And, we raised another $105! So excited!

I tried to fall asleep early and that didn't work, so I woke up feeling tired still. I think my nerves and anxiety and excitement are all keeping me from getting quantity and quality sleep. And of course today I need to rest, but I'm in DC and want to get things accomplished. I'm here often for work, but I want to get a few errands done. I'm hoping I can get another nap in. Tomorrow I leave for Manchester MD to stay with another colleague, Brian Griffith who works at the Maryland Department of Education. Looking forward to seeing him and meeting his family! Ok, time to get dressed and hit the town! DC... Here I come!

Photos:
Mackenzie, Scott and I
Sigmund and I snuggling
Asha and I in DC
DC party!

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I Just Want to Live When I'm Alive, Bon Jovi

Many people have asked me if I listen to music while I ride. Only when it is safe to. Most of the riding you want to be able to hear really well around bends for vehicles. But, yes, I do spend time listening to music every few days. It's incredibly motivating. The songs that were most motivating, or resonate with me the most are listed below. They have been significant on this bike trip for some particular reason. They remind me of what I've lived and been through in my life, or they remind me of someone else. Or, a relationship I've had. Some are inspirational, some give me chills and bring tears to my eyes every time it plays. Most of the music was given to me from two people. My good friend and fellow Portland Timbers fan, Brian LaVere and the rest from mixes my brother, Dave made for me. Check out some of these tracks. Some you'll recognize, some may be new for you.

Wake Me Up, Aviici
An Angel's Prayer, Roland Clark, feat. Matteo DiMarr (these lyrics are unbelievable)
This is What it Feels Like, Armin van Buuren, feat, Trevor Guthrie
My Head is a Jungle, Wankelmut and Emma Louise
Lift Me Up, Cambis
Nothing Inside, Sander Van Doorn, feat. Mayaeni
You've Got the Love, Florence and the Machine
Nicky Romero's Essential Mix (entire mix!), 4-28-2012

It's My Life, Bon Jovi
I Can See Clearly, Johnny Nash
Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Simple Song, The Shins
God Gave Me You, Blake Shelton
Home, Daughtry
Where My Girls At? 702
Let's Get it Started, Black Eyed Peas
Eye of the Tiger, Survivor
Say It Right, Nelly Fortado

The 'Q' Word isn't an Option

The Wentworth Family's home (Phil, Lori, Megan, Abigail and Elias' home)

The Wentworth Family's home (Phil, Lori, Megan, Abigail and Elias' home)

I hate not having the time or energy to blog every day. Mostly because there are so many details I end up forgetting. Funny stories, thoughts that I think 'I have to write about that!' And if I go days without writing, they escape my brain. These days have been long and tiring. When I arrive at my destination it takes all my energy to shower, eat and engage with the wonderful hosts that have invited me into their homes. By the time I head to bed, I can't keep my eyes open. It's getting harder with the ongoing fatigue that has set in. I'm tired of being tired. I was hoping to train into DC from Fredericksburg tomorrow to get a full 2 days off, but it's not looking like I'm able with all my gear. They need the bike boxed up. I'll have Monday to rest and get my haircut. Maybe treat myself to a pedicure...

After Christiansburg, Tony was heading to Roanoke and actually drove me part of my way that day to give me a break. He picked me up at my hotel and dropped me in Roanoke at the public library. And, since he had work there, he had a lunch break and took me to a fabulous place (Hollywood's) for lunch. I had a salad with salmon. I figured I can eat seafood now that I'm in a coastal state! Thanks Tony for the lunch! I cycled the short distance to Buchanan VA and stayed at another warm showers host, Phil and Lori. They have 3 children, Megan, heading to college at the end of this month, Abigail, heading into 8th grade and Elias, heading into 5th grade. Oh! And their dog Bear. Their home is absolutely gorgeous. And, I felt so at home with kids coming and going from camp, parties, soccer practice, mom doing laundry, feeding pets, friends of the kids coming and going! It was awesome and I loved their energy. Nobody in the family was ever home at the same time! I never got a photo, but Megan promised she'd send one at some point and I'll add it to my photo album which includes all my hosts from my bike trip so far. I left their home after Phil made me a great breakfast feeling better after a short day the day prior and knowing I only had 30 miles to Lexington VA. Another warm showers host, Rebecca and Lee's place was amazing! They live on a farm, have a pottery barn (literally, not the store), swimming pool and beautiful home. They have four children, all out of the house now. I arrived and nobody was home so I sat on the swinging bench writing postcards to donors... Yes, if you donate to my charity (Alliance for a Healthier Generation- info on my home page) you get a thank you postcard! Rebecca pulled up with Nathaniel, another cyclist. Nathaniel and Will are traveling across the US, just starting in the east and from Louisville. A couple hours later, Dean pulled up. I've referred to Dean prior, but we met in Kansas and keep running into each other. He's from Nova Scotia and retired. It was wonderful gathering of cyclists and beautiful comfortable home to hang out and rest. And, Rebecca's cooking is to die for! Fresh salad, homemade quiche with tomatoes and basil from the garden and sausage from their pig. Ummmm, yum. And she made homemade ice cream sandwiches. Fell asleep full and happy.
Woke up but still not feeling as rested as I wished. I left by 8 after Rebecca's amazing breakfast with homemade biscuits, eggs and multiple jams/spreads to choose from! I knew the day would be long so I got an early start. Lexington was 4 miles before Lexington to Charlottesville. So, 85 miler. And, the Blue Ridge Mountains was in the way! Quite a climb I had. The first 20 miles were pretty flat. The weather was perfect all day yesterday, which was lucky. About 75 degrees and dry. Sunny. No humidity. How lucky have I been with this cooler weather? And, with those rainy days behind me, I fully appreciated the dry weather. The road followed the South River into Vesuvius. Once you get to Vesuvius, you start climbing. 4 miles up. A steep up. I stopped many times. Two guys passed me before I started to climb and then I saw them get off their bikes and walk once the hill started. Even though the road was windy, they stayed in view for half the climb (2 miles took me 45 minutes) and I assumed they didn't have a triple on their bikes if they were walking. It was actually motivating that I was cycling it and not walking! Empowering. I was a bit slower, but I was NOT going to walk. After I got over the tough part, it mellows out a little, but there's still 25 miles or so of up and down along the Blue Ridge Highway. Exhausting. And, I messed up. Unfortunately I didn't have enough food with me. I was bonking. I had enough water, but not enough fuel. Up one hill, I started to cry. Like lose it. I texted my trainer Aaron and eventually called him and he motivated me through his words. He told me I could do it and I'd feel like I accomplished so much once I finished the day. He told me he was proud of me and that I'd crush the rest of the hills. Tears streamed down my face as he talked. He was hard on me, but supportive. Just what I needed to continue on. About 1 mile up the road, I stopped at a lookout and met Ann and Mort, from Alexandria VA who gave me two Odwalla energy bars. And, as they were doing that, Dean pulled in! He left 2.5 hours after me and caught up. He pulled in and I was so relieved.
Sometimes you feel so alone on this trip. And, I knew he was there. It sounds silly, but within moments I knew I'd be ok. And, after Dean arrived, a few day-cyclists arrived and told us that about 20 miles away, mostly downhill, was a fabulous brew pub. I can do this, I thought. Dean told me he'd join me on the ride to the brew pub. He was my ride angel for the day, for sure. Things were looking up. We pushed on to Blue Mountain Brewery and ate a great 'lunch' at 5:30pm (I'm calling it lunch since we ate again at 9:45pm!). I had a Caesar salad, burger, fries and a brownie sundae. I was so hungry. We both wanted beers, but knew we still had to ride. Dean was going to camp 5 miles up the road, and I had a friends sister hosting me. I texted my host, Sivan to ask if Dean could stay as well. Selfishly it meant Dean would join me on the rest if the 20 miles into Charlottesville. I enjoy his company. She said sure and we finished dinner and cycled the 20 miles. Ending at 85 miles- climbed 6456 ft, burned 4237 calories and road for almost 8 hours, we arrived to a 'Welcome Jessica!' sign on Sivan's front door. Sadie and Talia, Sivan's girls welcomed us with such energy around 8pm that Dean and I didn't know what to do! It was an incredible welcome after an extremely challenging day.
Sivan's home was incredibly welcoming and it felt good to stay at a friend's sisters home (thanks Danielle Turner!). Dean and I had purchased a six-pack of Yuengling beer a mike before arriving at her home and started to celebrate our long day before we even took showers. Talia left with her dad for the night, Sadie went to bed and after showers, Sivan made Dean and I a great dinner. Cheese and crackers, pasta and salad. And cookies. At like 10pm. Celebration! Fell asleep and woke up to Sivan's amazing breakfast spread of bagels, cream cheese and lox (c'mon, she's Jewish like me and I was thrilled!), omelets,  turkey bacon, yogurt and fruit. WOW! Dean and I said our goodbyes after fueling our bodies and headed out of Charlottesville. We are definitely on the east coast. Drivers are impatient. They honk at us. They are all in a rush. It's frustrating and I long for the drivers in Kentucky and Missouri that just pass when it's safe and give you plenty of room. 

Wentworth home in Buchanan

Wentworth home in Buchanan

We're in Louisa now, after 30 miles at a place that sells pie (just had apple pie with ice cream!) with Dean and we are parting ways here. It has been a great week of seeing him and it's always hard to part ways with someone you enjoy cycling with. This trip is about meeting fabulous Americans and Canadians (Dean!) and having to say goodbye. It's always hard because you want more time to stay another day someplace or spend more hours chatting at a coffee shop with someone. But, you must move on.

I'm still tired. I want to wake up and feel rested but it's not happening. So, I cycle to Spotsylvania today (30 more miles and it's already 4) and stay with my personal trainer's sister in law tonight. And, instead of biking the 70 miles into Washington DC tomorrow, I'll bike to Fredericksburg and Matt and Shailee, my brothers's really close friend from High School and wife are hosting me for two nights. Matt and Shailee came down to Brasil for my brother and Cassia's wedding a couple of years ago and I really enjoy them. They have a little girl Asha and that means more kid time!! Matt has offered to pick me up in Fredericksburg tomorrow after only a 15 mile bike ride from Spotsylvania, so I'll get in almost two days off, which I desperately need. I want the last two weeks to be enjoyable and without rest, they won't be. I need to recharge.

Thank you to all of you posting on Facebook, texting, emailing, calling. I'm sorry if I haven't responded, but I have such low energy and need the energy to ride and fuel my body. And rest. I feel your love and support and want to thank you all. Some people hit a wall at the beginning of a trip, some in the middle, some at the end. I'm hitting it now. But, I know I can scale this wall. I'll make it. The 'Q' word isn't even an option.

(Once I have better Internet, I'll add captions to the photos)

View from Rebecca and Lee's bench swing. Outside of Lexington VA

View from Rebecca and Lee's bench swing. Outside of Lexington VA

Virginia landscape while riding. 

Virginia landscape while riding. 

View from Wentworth backyard, in Buchanan

View from Wentworth backyard, in Buchanan

Rebecca and Lee's driveway/farm, in Lexington

Rebecca and Lee's driveway/farm, in Lexington

Rebecca and Lee's pottery barn. They even make their own clay.

Rebecca and Lee's pottery barn. They even make their own clay.

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Rebecca's meal. 

Rebecca's meal. 

From left- Lee (owner of house), Nathaniel and Will (cyclists from Louisville), Rebecca (owner of house), Dean (cyclist from Nova Scotia)

From left- Lee (owner of house), Nathaniel and Will (cyclists from Louisville), Rebecca (owner of house), Dean (cyclist from Nova Scotia)

Blue Ridge Mountain climb. Guys ahead were walking their bikes.

Blue Ridge Mountain climb. Guys ahead were walking their bikes.

Rebecca and Lee's home, Lexington VA

Rebecca and Lee's home, Lexington VA

Dean, riding ahead of me. Blue Ridge Highway.

Dean, riding ahead of me. Blue Ridge Highway.

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Made it to the top of Blue Ridge! A little more climbing to go. I'm looking out over the flat. Very flat terrain. 

Made it to the top of Blue Ridge! A little more climbing to go. I'm looking out over the flat. Very flat terrain. 

Last big mountain climb of my trip! Like, really big climb.

Last big mountain climb of my trip! Like, really big climb.

Rebecca's homemade ice cream sandwich

Rebecca's homemade ice cream sandwich

Dessert at Blue Ridge Brewery

Dessert at Blue Ridge Brewery

84 miles in of an 85 mile day. We are ALMOST to Sivan's home in Charlottesville. We made it!

84 miles in of an 85 mile day. We are ALMOST to Sivan's home in Charlottesville. We made it!

Welcome sign made by Sivan's daughters, Talia and Sadie

Welcome sign made by Sivan's daughters, Talia and Sadie

Excited I made it! Talia, Sadie and I.

Excited I made it! Talia, Sadie and I.

Sivan and I

Sivan and I

Time to celebrate the climb with a few Yuengling!

Time to celebrate the climb with a few Yuengling!

Dean and I

Dean and I

Tired

I'm at the top of the Blue Ridge Highway. I'm tired, but more of an overall fatigue that set in a week ago. My mind and body know I have 2 weeks to go. I'm overlooking the other side of the mountain range. I wish I could see the ocean from here.
I lost it halfway up. Tears and tears. From fatigue and sadness it's all coming to an end and feeling overwhelmed by everyone's love and support... Friends in DC putting together a party with the 'ask' of $5 donations towards the Alliance (my charity), a friends sister putting me up tonight and so supportive even though she just offered to host me yesterday. The Ace Hotel putting me up at no cost in NYC for two nights... It's overwhelming. But I'm still tired.
I'll post about past two days soon enough.

Transient

Day 71. 3,570 Miles Bicycled. I Feel It.

I'm exhausted. The past 5 days I've cycled 301 miles, climbed/ascended over 18,000 feet. It has rained 4 out of 5 days. Honestly, I'm still loving all of it, I'm just tired. It's challenging. Heavy rains mean chain maintenance and cleaning of the bike every day. The gears jump or won't shift properly with all the grime that gets into the drive train. And, the rain washes off the chain lubricant quickly. I have a little hole in my seat and the water has seeped into the foam. For three days I was riding on a wet seat before I could wait for it to dry and  place electrical tape on the hole. A wet seat means that within seconds, your bike shorts are wet, which could mean irritation and rashes. I got a little irritated but my seat is dry now.  I need a new seat, but I'm not going to break one in the last 2.5 weeks of my trip! Wet weather means feet sloshing around as you pedal, and blisters on the feet where rubbing occurs. It means wet gloves and a wet shirt all day. It means the clothes I washed the night prior while showering (when I don't have laundry access) isn't going to dry during the day secured on top of my trailer. My flip flops smell like mildew and are sitting in a hotel sink soaking in water with some Tide. But, rain also means cooler weather, which is welcome. And, it helps put into perspective the dry days! You appreciate them more.

3 year old Sydney, my Angel. Look where she originally put my Road to Rhode sticker? ;)

3 year old Sydney, my Angel. Look where she originally put my Road to Rhode sticker? ;)


The last few days of cycling have been a blur due to my exhaustion, but one thing I do remember from two days ago that I'll never forget. I was cycling on a beautiful road just after Hayters Gap and I pedaled next to a house with a big porch and a group of people sitting on it. I heard a little voice yell, "What's your name?" I noticed a little child near the porch. I yelled back, "Jessica! What's your name?" She said something I couldn't hear, so I decided to stop and say hello. It was 6pm and I told Dean, a fellow cyclist that was with the Wounded Warrior group and broke off on his own and Larry, at Crazy Larry's Hostel that I would be in Damascus by 7ish. I had no cell service in that area and I knew I had to push on the last 25 miles or so. But, this trip is about going with the flow at times, so I stopped. I learned that the little girl's name is Sydney, her dad is Benji, her mom is Britt and Benji's mom and grandparents were: Benny, Rose, Fred and Bessie. They are the Holbrook/Moore family and they offered me water and food, which I declined, knowing I had to get going (I had water and snacks with me). I wish I could have stayed and eaten some food and chatted with these really kind people for longer. They asked me a bunch of questions and I enjoyed Sydney's incredible extroversion, like mine! She's 3 years old, by the way. We took some photos and I was on my way. A few miles down the road, while riding passed the Interstate ramp, a truck ran a stop sign and came inches away from flattening me. After the initial feeling of fear, I continued on and thought about how fortunate I am that I stopped and Sydney stalled me enough so that I'm here today. Timing is everything. Sydney is an angel. There is always risk. I know many of you tell me you are worrying about me every day. But you know what? That could have happened back in Portland. I could have been walking across the street and someone runs a stop sign. I could be diagnosed with cancer and have 2 months to live tomorrow. Do we need near-death experiences like that to remind us not to take our precious lives for granted? To live and love everyday. For the remainder of the 20 miles of that ride, I felt fortunate it wasn't my time. I thanked sweet Sydney for calling out to me. 

Crazy Larry's Hostel- a great place to stay!

Crazy Larry's Hostel- a great place to stay!

I safely arrived in Damascus, a town full of mountain bikers and Appalachian Trail hikers and had an opportunity to catch up with Dean over dinner. We both stayed at Crazy Larry's Hostel in Damascus. The next day, Dean stayed behind for a layover day, and I rode on to Max Meadows. I stayed with Tony and his Great Dane Argos, Warm Showers hosts and Tony met me on his bike about 8 miles out since he was able to leave work early. I treated him to a burger dinner and we bought ice cream for dessert!

Yesterday morning, Tony rode with me for about 13 miles (thank you Tony!) and I met Donald and Marian for lunch. I have never met Don and Marian, but I met their son Jay a few weeks ago in Caneyville KY at Beth and Garry Feltus' home, warm showers hosts I stayed with. Jay was visiting them from the Bay Area and his folks live in Rhode Island in the winter and are campground hosts right off the ACA Trans-Am near Dublin. They treated me to lunch (THANK YOU!) and I fully enjoyed their company. I would have stayed at their campground, but Dublin was a mid-day break for me. I continued on to Christiansburg and got a hotel room near the mall area. In fact, who's excited to see me in different clothes? I am! I walked to New River Mall from my hotel and there was a Dick's Sporting Goods. They had two great bike shirts. So, I'm throwing out two old bike tank shirts that are stained with grease and dirt and sweat and I get to wear two new ones. That's very exciting for me! You may not recognize me in new clothes!

I talked with my brother Dave last night. I'm sure he could hear how defeated and exhausted I am. He told me about his experience backpacking in Africa and trying to make deadlines. Trying to get to places by a certain date. "It's not worth it," he said. "Take your time, enjoy." Tony happened to call and I thought maybe he was just checking in to see if I arrived safely from his home in the morning to Christiansburg. But, he actually offered to drive me to Roanoke VA since he had to be here for the day today. I took him up on it, knowing that I would be skipping about 30 miles of my route. I don't like skipping miles (I did it in Montana due to snow), but I have a Warm Showers host tonight expecting me in Buchanan and I now only have about 20 miles to ride today. I'm currently at the public library here catching up. I'll have lunch with Tony on his work break and then ride to Buchanan. Tomorrow was supposed to be an intense 85 mile day over the Blue Ridge Mountains, but I decided to do 30 miles tomorrow to Lexington VA, stay at what sounds like an awesome farm- with a swimming pool(!) and then ride over the mountains the next day. I don't need to push myself to the point of unhappiness. I want to enjoy these last 2.5 weeks.

Rachel's letter.

Rachel's letter.

Yesterday, I opened a small envelope my friend Rachel gave me at the start of the trip. It says, "For you to open on a day of challenges..." I opened it yesterday. Yesterday's mileage or terrain was not particularly hard, but it was the first day of my over 2-month trip that every pedal pushed seemed like forever. So, I opened her note read it and sobbed tears of joy and feelings of support, remembering all the people cheering me on everyday.

Dear Jess- 
I don't know how far into your adventure you will read this. However, if it is on a tough day, I want to remind you it will pass. If you are wet and/or cold, I wish for you a day break of warm sunshine. If your bones or muscles ache, I hope you know it is your body slowly getting stronger. If you are lonely, I hope you can focus on all the folks who have you in their minds and in their hearts. May the wind be always at your back! You can do it and we are proud of you! Love Rachel

My body is saying, "Nourish me. Let me sleep. Take care of me so that we can end strong and steady. Why rush something you don't want to end? Why speed through something and not enjoy each and every mile on this epic journey?"  

 

Sydney, and the rest of the Holbrook family. Benji, her dad isn't in the photo since he's taking it!

Sydney, and the rest of the Holbrook family. Benji, her dad isn't in the photo since he's taking it!

Beautiful terrain and a rain-break!

Beautiful terrain and a rain-break!

Dead bugs... all over my upper chest. Stuck to my wet body. Sexy, eh?

Dead bugs... all over my upper chest. Stuck to my wet body. Sexy, eh?

Classic. 

Classic. 

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I gave Sydney one of my stickers and her dad took this photo the next day. Apparently, she wanted him to text the photo to me!

I gave Sydney one of my stickers and her dad took this photo the next day. Apparently, she wanted him to text the photo to me!

Argos and me. In love.

Argos and me. In love.

Tony- my Warm Showers host! Thanks for the bike rides!

Tony- my Warm Showers host! Thanks for the bike rides!

Donald and Marian, taking me to lunch!

Donald and Marian, taking me to lunch!