Elevation gained: 3,211 ft/Miles 36/Total Miles: 3,408/ Total Fast Food: 20
I awoke with first light, packed quietly and slipped out trying not to wake my hosts. (D&V – Thank you for the companionship and hospitality. It was a wonderful way to celebrate my last night on the road.) Riding through the streets of Santa Cruz in the misty, early dawn only the gulls and a few solitary fisherman bundled in hooded sweatshirts, were awake to share the morning.
As the sun rose, I met a good friend at a local diner called “Zachary’s” where we enjoyed breakfast and caught up. I’ll to refer to him as “Astro Boy” not only for his striking resemblance to the character of Japanese magna and American cartoons, but because of his strength as a rider. He’s a serious racing cyclist who has offered to serve as my “domestique” as I head on the final leg and over the hill to home. Astro Boy has calves like Super Saver and I’m just hoping he doesn’t fall asleep and injure himself trying to match my tortoise like pace.
We pedal out through Santa Cruz and up into the cool, moist redwood forests of Felton and Ben Lomond. As I ride Hwy 9 and the climb home, I reflect on everything I’ve experienced over the last two months. Unfortunately, these memories are individual ingredients in what is becoming a thoroughly blended neural soup. I can’t recall whether I spoke to that interesting ranch hand in Navasota, Texas or Blythe, California. I’m not sure if that wondrously desolate desert road was in Arizona or New Mexico. The young woman who spoke to me about the challenges of raising her daughter in a small southern town, was that in Louisiana or Mississippi? Writing about it helps, but still the ingredients are blending and increasingly all I’m left with is the overall taste, or “sabor” of the experience.
At the summit of the climb, Astro Boy and I pause to add a layer of clothing to keep warm on the fast descent toward home. He encourages me to lead making excuses as to why I will be faster given the weight of my equipment. I know that this gesture is because he understands that I need some space not for the weight I’m carrying, but for the emotion I’m bearing.
I fly down the hill with almost euphoric abandon. My bike, my legs, my heart and the road are integrated and I descend at speed almost without notice of my surroundings. At the bottom of the hill, I see my father and youngest son who are on their bicycles and waiting to meet me. Deep embraces are exchanged and we ride forward together.
A few miles later, I make my last climb of the ride. The others have fallen back and as I ascend the road to my home, I am surprised by dozens of friends, family and colleagues who have lined the road with signs and ringing bells to welcome me. I’m stunned and emotionally overcome as I bring my bike to a stop and wrap my arms around W.C.C. To all of you who joined me today or by what I have written – thank you. Your support and encouragement has met more than you will ever understand.