So, that's it. Above is the finish line they made for me on the driveway in San Jose. There was also a line of tape that I broke as I rode through. A really nice ending.
A map, not quite to scale, of my route. Don't be fooled - I did in fact go through West Virginia.
A blue ribbon can make anyone feel special.
I don't know how best to write any sort of epilogue or finale or summary of the trip. I never really got that "hooray, I've done it!" feeling, not even as I literally crossed the finish line. There was happiness and relief, but not a sense that I had accomplished a goal as of that moment. My brother put it a good way:
If we choose to do things that we enjoy doing, then it is each moment (or most of the moments) that add up to the excitement/fun/rewarding experience. So, finishing things can often be more melancholy than expected if it means that you are now done doing something you enjoy. Of course, finishing things usually forces us to look back on what we've just done, so that can be a fun time to relish in the memories and experiences along the way that were enjoyable. I think finishing the trip without a huge rush of 'I did it' might be a really good sign that you've been biking because you enjoy biking and having the experiences along the journey, rather than having been biking for the purpose of being able to say 'I biked across the country'.And I guess that's what it comes down to. The stated goal was to "bike across the country", but it was the fun and adventure of the whole summer that I enjoyed, not simply the conclusion. There would have been something missing if I had fallen short of the ending, and was not able to claim that I had "biked across the country", but the experience would have been far less had I, say, put my head down and zoomed west as fast and direct as I could, as if the only important thing was to reach San Francisco.
And that's why writing a conclusion only 6 days after finishing feels odd. If you've followed along, you have a pretty good sense of where I've been, what I've done, and how I've felt about things and people and places along the way. So, a literal summary of the trip isn't needed. What I've really done this summer is give myself an enormous trove of experiences that I can draw from for years to come, and it will be a while before I'll be able to look back and determine how, as a monolithic entity, "the trip" has effected me.
Enough philosophy! Compiling those lists was fun because it forced me to think back and remember all the different highlights of the summer. And that was just a handful of categories. I can turn this into some sort of game. Come up with a category, and I can fill it in from the trip. Worst campsites? Best skyline? Meanest convenience store clerk? Favorite river? They'll all come pouring out.
I would thank people here but I'd certainly forget someone, so I'll stick with general categories:
Thank you to everyone who bit their tongue and didn't tell me this was a terrible idea and I shouldn't do it.
Thank you to everyone who read this blog - pretending that I was sharing my trip with all of you helped to keep me sane. The fact that people were actually reading continues to astound me.
Thank you to everyone I met on the road, whether you put me up for the night, biked with me, gave me directions or shared a conversation.
Thank you to everyone - I could never have done it without you. Seriously - friends and family were so supportive, strangers were so impressed, people everywhere were kind and helpful. I'd have run out of gumption if you didn't help keep me going.
Is it too cliche to end with a cliche? Here goes!
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!