Alright friends, this is it. This is my last post.
We left the little town in New Jersey where we had been rescued and returned to the trail where I had suffered my crash the day before. You might be asking “why would they return to the very trail that led to the worst crash so far on this trip?” You’re absolutely right in questioning that choice because about thirty minutes after we started on the trail, Andrew’s bike sunk in the sand and he swerved once again. With the swerve I was hit and, this time, sailed headfirst over my handlebars.
It was awful, and it was the appropriate time for it to happen because, again, right after the crash it started to rain. However, this time it didn’t downpour, it just solidly rained. It rained all day. For the four and a half hours we spent riding through the rest of New Jersey. If the river had not left me soaking wet enough the day before, this rain was capable of doing just that to both of us.
The rest of the day the cities were left looking dreary through the rain and our spirits had been dragged to the gutter. Finally, after forty five miles of terrible weather we stopped at a dock to wait for the ferry we planned to take into Manhattan; the last thing we needed to do before we were officially on vacation from our trip. The moment we passed the gate leading to the parking lot of the dock the rain stopped falling. It didn’t come back for the rest of the day. It might have been a sign of positive change were we in the right mood, but we weren’t at this point, and it was just a weather change that no longer mattered.
We paid, we ferried, and then we got on our bikes and rode the last mile and a half to the Lower East Side apartment building where Andrew’s friend lives. We unloaded our disgusting gear from the bikes and brought them up the six flights of stairs to her apartment. When the dirty and wet stuff we had been carrying for over three months was resting against her wall and taking up a tenth of the square footage of her home, we came back down and locked our bikes to a tree. The rest of the night wasn’t much of an evening other than quiet contemplation and sleep.
The following morning brought a nail-in-the-coffin announcement from Andrew when he looked out the window and asked me in a panicked voice if I had moved my bike. I hadn’t. We rushed downstairs and found my bike lock cut and my bike gone. The shock of our discovery brought us to the rooftop for sparse, somber conversation. The trip had taken a sudden turn in the worst direction within a two day time span. We had no real time to consider what had transpired because there was a train we had to catch so we could get out to Long Island and meet up with Ellen, our friend Alex’s mother that we planned to stay with. We bungeed some gear together, threw my bags over Andrew’s bike and walked the two miles to Penn Station. It was a loud walk. The city is loud and crowded as hell, but we were quiet as we navigated cars and people.
We did make it out to Long Island and have been in New York for the last two weeks. Though we had toyed with the idea of figuring out ways to continue the trip, I made a decision for myself after a few days that I would not try to keep going. I’ve chosen to stop my cycling around the country for the time being and return home to Iowa until something else can be figured out. I’m financially broke and someone took the best quality bike I’ve ever owned at the lowest time of my trip, but I will say something to combat this being a remorseful end to an otherwise enlightening journey.
This trip: the places I’ve seen, the accomplishments achieved, the memories I’ve made, and the friends I’ve been graced with throughout are not now and will never be anything I wish to change. Things happen how they happen and though I’ve been moping plenty since all the shitty events suffered, I wouldn’t take anything back.
I want to personally thank each and every person we interacted with on this trip, even the douchey bros of Florida’s panhandle. Anyone that spoke with us or hosted us or gave us money for no reason is, in my eyes, a character in a story that I am happy to say I could never make up. I want to thank the friends that told us how amazing they think Andrew’s photos are or how fit they think we are or that they are inspired by us. I don’t think any of the flattery we received during this trip was truly deserved, but it was the encouragement we needed when times were tough or lonesome.
If you read this blog at all, thank you. If we heard from you in the comments section or on facebook, thank you. If you spent even a moment hoping for our safe arrival to our next destination, thank you so much. There was something that never once failed to be said to us by the people that chose to take us in, “stay safe.” No matter who it was that opened their doors to us, by the end they always seemed earnest when wishing us well for the future. Everyone we heard it from seemed genuinely hopeful that our trip would continue unimpeded. I’m sorry that it hasn’t, but thank you endlessly for the sentiment.
So, what is there to take away from all of this? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll never know. For now, I’m willing to hold on to a thought that may not seem encouraging to other people, but gives me a perspective I’m proud to have; this trip was not very difficult.
Any big hill, all the wind, any popped tube, any near crash or full crash or close call with a car was a difficult, but not impossible time. People regularly told us that they would never be able to do what we’re doing, but that’s not true.
We met a man that was finishing the last section of the perimeter of the country, something that became our goal over time. He had done it over several trips and years. He was also completing this trip with only one leg. He peddled slowly, but he kept pedaling. Together, he and his wife were creeping across the Southern United States with subtle determination. They were inspiring in a way I can’t picture myself being and that’s enough to keep me motivated to say I’ll return to this dirty fucking city at some point to continue and eventually finish my own perimeter ride.
It’s probably best that I stop going on about this and finish out in the style I hoped to finish out in, humble appreciation. This was a journey that will prove to be important even if I tried to deny it from seeming so. I’m thankful for an opportunity to have been a part of it and to have Andrew as my riding mate. I’m thankful for the experience, no matter the way the events felt during their time. I’ll end this post with a brief email conversation between myself and Jeff Vallee, a photographer who rode across the country with his friend Heath a couple years ago and created a blog that became an inspiration for this trip.
I’m not sure how you feel about emails from strangers so I will say that I understand if you don’t care to read or respond.
My name is Caleb and I’m on a cycling trip with my friend Andrew. Our trip and blog were both encouraged partly from your own trip and blog and so I wanted to share it with you. Andrew does the photography and I write.
I also want to thank you for sharing what you saw and experienced along the way, it’s made an impact on plenty more people than us.
His response that came about five minutes later:
Fuck ya! It never gets old to hear of unpretentious people setting out purely for the sake of adventure and new memories. You’re in a very very small club.
I’m not sure if you read the next thing Heath and I did, but we went up El Capitan with an amazing person named Timmy Oneill. Recently he sent me this:
“Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” Eleanor Roosevelt.
Heath and I will be rafting the entire grand canyon next winter. I hope you guys keep up the spirit of new experiences and DO NOT GIVE UP! And don’t forget to have fun. Go swimming, eat good food, get drunk, and if you’re single, find some ladies.
They caught a bug for adventure that I intend to keep for as long as possible. I’m not sure if it will last or not, but his words and all the other encouraging words that strangers freely gave us will always be with me. I’m thankful beyond my rambling words, so I’ll stop them by saying one last time. Thank you all.