The End

After 71 days it’s all come to an end. I’m not sure it’s real, though. This could all be just an elaborate hoax and I’ll be called tomorrow morning at 6:15 and be asked why my bag isn’t out at the van yet. On the final ride day, my group talked about what we’re going to miss and what we’re not going to miss. We know for a fact that we will not miss sitting on that saddle in pain every day, various food items like lentils or oatmeal, not always having a bathroom to use whenever you need it, or being self-conscious that the entire team can hear you wheezing as you climb a mountain. But when we started talking about things we are going to miss, I think we all realized it was totally worth it. The feeling of accomplishment you get after climbing another mountain or completing a 113 mile day is incredible. Sitting around the campfire with your teammates singing Story of My Life, or enjoying a chocolate milk at a gas station after a long day of riding are the kind of things that you don’t really think you’re going to miss. I’m going to miss the biking, despite what I may have said every morning for the last couple weeks, complaining that I did not want to be on my bike ever again.

What really makes the things I’m going miss, though, are the people. I rode with some pretty great people, and we were able to all end this ride together. When I thought I couldn’t ride another mile, or wanted to start crying when we turned the curve and the road kept going up, I knew that my teammates were there going through the same pain I was going through. I didn’t need their words to encourage me, just knowing that if they can make it through, I would be able to too, was enough for me. It’s hard to look back on a certain day and say it was the worst, because even when you’re dealing with ridiculous headwinds heading into Cheyenne and don’t want to talk to anyone you’re riding with, a tumbleweed will roll by and get stuck on your wheel and make you remember that you’re not on this trip to have an easy bike ride every day, and even when things go wrong, there is always one thing that happens that makes it worth the struggle. And even if your team wasn’t enough to keep you going for a day, the people we interacted with at the stayovers encourage you enough to keep you going for days. I felt like nothing more than a kid riding a bike, but they treated us as so much more, and reminded us that we are not just riding around for fun. The kindness we received from people was incredible. I don’t know why people would let twenty smelly cyclists get close to them, much less stay in their church or home.  And the strangers we met along the way, like Robin and Tammy Brown, who opened their garage to let us in during a hailstorm before they even knew who we were or what we were doing, I will always remember. The kindness we were shown was absolutely incredible.

The portraits we were able to collect along the ride came from people of many different walks of life, but there always seemed to be a message of hope. The trip took on a new meaning when the night before the ride began in New York I got a call from my mom, telling me that my Grandpa had just been diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly the ride was much more personal, and the fight became more real. It wasn’t until week five that it became a very real possibility that he wouldn’t live until the end of the trip, and I realized that I would never see him again. The last time I saw him he was the same old Grandpa; a little slower, a little more forgetful, but out the bustle of a family gathering, he’d never shy away from a witty comment that reminded me how awesome of a guy he was. But in those seven weeks he was slowly taken away, and I wasn’t there to experience any of it. In that time cancer took over. As much as it sucked to not be there with him and family, I heard the stories of his family and friends coming together to celebrate the life of such an incredible man. When a community is built strong enough, nothing can tear it down. Although cancer took him away from this life, he lives on in so many ways, and was able to inspire me to ride every day.

My prayers on this trip ranged from “please let me not fall off my bike at this stop sign” to “please help me get up these mountains” to “please let me be able to sleep through the incessant snoring that comes with sleeping in a room with 19 other people”. It’s been quite the experience, and somehow we all made it, even with the snoring. You reach a point where you know you can wake up everyone morning and climb those mountains. But it’s not whether or not you can physically do it, it’s whether or not you want to. You don’t walk away from something because that’s the easy or convenient thing to do. Sure, there are hard days to overcome, and a simple call to the van saying you’re hurt or tired would make things pretty easy. But that’s not the point. The point is to fight. There were lots of times where I wanted to give up, but to accomplish things in life you have to push, and you have to put the effort in and try. I’m grateful to all those people that helped us along the way, and all my teammates for pushing me to the end. I won’t remember every day of riding, but I’ll remember the challenges and how I was able to push through. And I’ll remember the good times with my team. The campfires and the sing-alongs, the jokes and the van rides. The amazing views and the excitement of going to a new place every day, and stopping on the side of the road to take team selfies at almost any sign on the side of the road. So thanks to my teammates, everyone who supported me, and every single person I met along the way. There were no regrets with this summer, and I’d do it again every time. It was all worth it. And now it’s time to keep fighting.

Comments (7)
  • ebutler ebutler says:

    This is absolutely great. It brought laughter and it brought tears.
    10/10, would read again.
    10/10, would ride with you again.

  • dan thuente says:

    Thank you so much for your post. I am so sorry for the loss of your grandpa. The fact you lived with that knowledge every day makes this adventure seem all the more important, and amazing. I am Grace’s uncle and have followed the teams journey from the start. I looked forward to the post everyday and have almost felt a sense of something not being complete. Your wrap up I think will let me move on. I will miss checking on the daily status and all of the individual posts with their inspiring if not entertaining messages. Somehow knowing what all of you have accompished inspires me to challenge myself just a little more.
    Thanks to the entire team for their dedication, hard work, perspective and sharing this most amazing journey.

  • Julie Hackett says:

    Wonderful, Kathleen. I, too, have followed and looked forward each day to read Grace’s daily blogs, following your journey through her words, and others who blogged less frequently, but so very eloquently. Now I look forward to hearing about this amazing story from you. Your parents and extended family are so proud of you. And so are your grandparents….all four of them!

  • Debbie Cavalier says:

    Dear Kathleen,
    I have enjoyed reading your final blog. Laughter and tears aplenty. Thank you for taking this challenge and accomplishing your goal, and for your strength and loving words. They mean so very much. With Love.

  • John Knicker says:

    Life. I can only imagine the situations, both physical and mental, that all of you have experienced. For sure, whenever you come across any type of challenges in your futures, you will be able to look back on this experience and scoop out some more motivation and continue on your journeys. If possible, please continue to write about your experiences as much as possible since the details will fade soon. Maybe a book? Short story? Publish for future riders? Motivate patients, doctors, caregivers, family members, etc.? I’d buy a copy. Profits go to I4K? Best wishes to all of you. “Live strong” certainly must have more meaning to you all. Thank you.

  • aknicker Alex Knicker says:

    I didn’t see this until now, as I was in the mood to reminisce some more…I’m so sorry about your Grandpa, I am amazed at your ability to go on with us during that – I hope we made that time better.
    This blog encompasses all of my thoughts almost exactly. Beautifully written – I think I’d do it all again too.

  • Szippancs says:

    omg omg omg i have a really aswmoee idea right you play guitar guessing from the nameyou could play her a songor or you could have massive white cards with your feelings on erm i cant explain look on youtube on the film love actually and you can see how lovely this idea is and she will love it just look at the clip on you tube type love actually in it and it will be there

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