20080728

FINAL POSTING


This cycle across the US has indeed lived up to the reputation of the organisers, America by Bicycle (http://www.abbike.com/ ). Their logistical input was top class regarding mechanical support, route directions, motel and meal reservations, support on the road and dealing with contingencies as they cropped up. 10 out of 10.

MY WORRIES
My worries at the start concerned the day-in day-out cycling; how the body and its parts would cope and how life with this group would pan out.

It was a ‘motley’ group that assembled in San Francisco on May 31…from 9 different countries with ages ranging from 17 to 70. We were complete strangers (apart presumably from the 4 married couples) who were not selected but just presented themselves for this challenge. We would live and rub shoulders for over 7 weeks while on tour. Not only did the group bond into a close unit of friends with each one looking out for the other but our group readily accepted those who joined in at the various rest-days for sections of the trip. Those late-comers commented on this as days went by. The number of e-mails flying between cyclists indicate the friendships that were formed over the 52 consecutive days. As the main group broke up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire invitations to homes, states and countries were issued with heart. So many expressed a wish to come and cycle in Ireland. I’d love to design a 10-15 day cycling route to take in the scenic and historic spots and make it available.

I was lucky that no serious health issues arose over the 54 days I was out on the road. Nothing serious that didn’t clear up in two or three days. Over the first six days my butt was unusually getting progressively sorer. I worried how it would be after seven weeks. But with treatment with hydrocortisone and skin-aid purchased in Wal-Mart in Winnemucca things began to clear up and within 2 days I was as comfortable as if sitting in a car. The slight well-documented problem with my left knee cleared quickly principally by altering my early morning pace. A practice to continue with.Apart from these, nothing. Not even a head cold, thank God. The wettings we got during the last week dried up quickly in the warm atmosphere unlike at home.


I can honestly say that I went to bed each night looking forward to getting up on the bike the following morning. No dog days; no wishing that it would be over soon. In Portsmouth as others were packing up to go home I was lucky on two counts. I had been focusing on two extra days for a long while before and then with Ted and Michael there I never felt alone on the road. From one support team I had just passed into the care of another. As someone said ‘All this long distance cycling is cyclogical’.

REASON TO CYCLE
Having a reason for the challenge outside of oneself was important. Just doing it for personal satisfaction only left space for disenchantment. Many of the cyclists were on a mission for a cause….in many cases causes that had connection with their own or their families lives. For me, Providence and knowing that the children prayed for Sir Richard at assembly each morning was like a tailwind. If things looked dark, I knew they were with me. I just couldn’t let them down. They were rooting for me. after the day’s cycle into Indianapolis fell through and then the day cleared up I did feel a bit down. That evening when Jay put me in contact with Larry, George and Rick that they were looking for a fourth to go back and do the missed 62 miles on the rest day, I really felt that the day was saved. I would have been so disappointed to have left a gap in the trip. It was the prayers at assembly that put Jay my way that evening. Coming down from Portsmouth to Providence with Ted and Michael, I thought many times that here was three chasing down the east coast of the US all for a small (but so important) school in the north-east of India. The internet isn’t the only thing that connects people.

SCENERY
Apart from being in San Jose last August for the birth of Saoirse, this was to be my first experience of moving about here. I was looking forward to seeing the country at grassroots level. I appreciate I didn’t see everything but what I saw really impressed me. California impressed with the high Sierras and my first introduction to the travails of those early pioneers like the Donners. The climbs of California changed to the dry sage-covered deserts of Nevada that gave me new understandings of words and phrases like ‘vast, enormous, as far as the eye can see, straight, flat’. That first view of the salt deserts of Utah from the windy height above Wendover was something else. From Provo in Utah the dried-up lake-bed deserts continued right into Colorado before climbing to the majestic Rockies. At first the green was refreshing before the snow appeared on either side as we scaled Monarch Pass. 11,312 feet. I had never cycled above 2000 feet before this trip. The descent right into Kansas brought on the agricultural element and that was so interesting with grain, feedlots and oil-jacks. And the Greyhound Hall of Fame in Abilene. Missouri was doubly memorable – those endless rolling hills and my visit to Tipperary and meeting Rick Stanford there. The tail end of the flooding in the Missouri and Mississippi was still evident and crossing the Mississippi was the notional half way point. Corn (maize) and soya predominated the scenery through Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Now the state lines were being crossed in quick succession and once Erie was reached on the Lake there was a mental countdown in operation. Now it was vines across Pennsylvania and into New York state. Another local highlight on Tipperary Hill in Syracuse. The terrain began to ripple as the trip moved into New England and the Berkshires with their sharp climbs right up to the second last day ensured that we kept our feet on the ground (but only metaphorically). That final approach to the Atlantic at Wallis Beach was charged emotionally and when Ted told me that he had a friend who came along (Michael Ryan walks up behind me) there was no point in trying to bite the lip and hold back. We had joined the oceans. Down the New Hampshire coast with a tailwind was pure pleasure with the Atlantic as a companion.I had a lot of planning done for the trip down through Boston (many thought I was crazy to attempt it) and it went without a hitch. Mostly built-up areas for those last two days and the constant threat of thunderstorms ahead. At the finish it wasn’t ‘Thank God it’s over’ but rather ‘Thank God that I have arrived safely’. It’s lovely countryside with such variety. I really need to scan back over the thousands of photos to relive it all.

PEOPLE
The people that I encountered along the way impressed with their genuine interest in what we were doing and full of encouragement. ‘Well, good for you’. Not only in what I was doing but I noticed that Americans among themselves were so positive and supportive with not a trace of belittlement. In all situations, restaurants, stores, on the street and road, asking for directions there was a genuine desire to assist even to go out of their way. ‘Put your bike in the back of the truck and I’ll bring you to the intersection’. When they told you to ‘Have a nice day’ I take it now as more than just a mere formula. My impressions of the American people was also confirmed with my experiences with those on the trip (70%). No one was left to fend for himself. Each one of them so interested and so interesting. My experiences didn’t tally with the stereotyped Yank.

PROVIDENCE
Attracting of funds for Providence, Shillong was the purpose of the cycle. Please God , it will be successful in that regard and the children in Providence will have a better opportunity in life as a result. My thanks to those who supported the cause right from the start and who have come on board along the way. I would only love to be able to get across how much every single Euro/Dollar can make a difference to their chances. And once they have an education, horizons broaden and the sky is the limit not only for themselves but for their families in years to come. A pebble cast into the pond at this stage will send out ripples that will continue right to the most distant shore. Those kids are worth every single mile that I cycled and every foot that I climbed. And they did their bit – their constant prayers were a wind that was always going my way.


I find it difficult and unfair to single out particular high and low points. It was not a continuum but a sequence of highs. There’s no part of it that I want to forget. I’d dearly love to switch on that video camera in my head and relive it all again…scenery, people and experiences.

BLOG
Originally I decided to keep a blog (my first blog ever) and thought that it would take just half an hour each evening. It took considerably more but the fact that so many were logging on (more than the number of miles that I cycled) made the task one of interest and a labour of love. It was my homework each evening and had to be done. I felt you were with me every mile of the way. I cannot imagine how it would have been if there was no contact with base (and with so many parts of the world) from start to finish. Days would have been more difficult and the temptation to pack it in even for part of a day would have been greater. I’m thrilled now that I decided to do the blog and don’t regret a moment I spent on it. Credit for that is to you. Comments coming in were so positive and they came from all over – Ireland, England, USA, Netherlands, India, Australia and South America. Would have loved to reply to them all but not possible. But they were of as much interest to me as, hopefully, the daily posting was to you.

My thanks to all who assisted me in the various parts of the cycle (on the road, navigation, support, advice, psychological, at the start and at the end) and to those who did Trojan work in the fundraising aspect.

Regarding ‘blog withdrawal syndrome’ that some of you mentioned I have some possible suggestions for relief:

Using numbers from the cycling totals (adapt the units according to the jurisdiction)
Go for a cycle of 4021 metres i.e 4.021 km ( from distance cycled)
Go for a cycle for 288 minutes i.e 4 hrs 48 minutes (from total time)
Go for a cycle of 25.76 miles. (from height climbed)
Cycle for 11 miles. (from lbs lost)
Cycle for 1300 metres i.e.1.3 km (from number of centuries)
Fix 11 punctures
Cycle through 15 parishes (from number of states crossed)
Cycle through 4 counties (from number of time zones)


You’ll feel the better for it and remember, thank God for the health and thank God for the energy.

3 comments:

Bruce said...

Richard--

Your journey across the States has provided tremendous inspiration. I look forward to your return to California so we can meet before/after another adventure!

Speaking of which, at the risk of incurring great wrath from Sinead & Barrie, might I suggest a ride along the Pacific from the border with Canada to the border with Mexico?

Continued safe cycling!
Bruce.

Anonymous said...

Dear Richard,
Congratulations!! Our journey with you and 40+ new friends will be in our memory and our hearts forever. We will charish all the days that we had the opportunity to ride along side you. Your good spirits, your love of life and your care of others was simply wonderful.
Take care and stay in touch.
Your new friends and
coast to coast cycling
partners,
John and Amy

Anonymous said...

every now and again, an ordinary person becomes exordinary, maybe for a moment, maybe for 54 days or maybe for years. Often the reason is forgotten, it might be by accident or by need, or through a belief something needs to change or someone needs help. It never matters who knows, its the time that person roared and that roar echoes. Its a pure motivation like the call to arms, the vocation, the will to succeed, the need for discovery and so on, that tells us our borders are our own to keep or not to keep. Mr. Walsh you stand tall.