Last push to the Atlantic
Willa made me a good breakfast and waved me off on my last day of cycling. My last day! I've been on the road for 98 days and part of the coping strategy has been to not to be think about how far away the end point was. Now it was nearly here I could let myself actually take it in.
In the past couple of weeks I've pushed hard so that I made my flight but also so that my last day of riding would be shorter. I wanted to enjoy it. I had a bit over 50 miles to go today. That'd have been a long day at the start back in California but now it meant I could drop my pace and take in the scenery.
I rode around nice, quiet, back roads through forest and reached the suddenly German sounding Berlin. There was a sign by the side of the road that caught my attention. It was for "Lowe's Variety". This was, in every sense of the word, a sign. I called in to get an icecream. Having walked around the little convenience store I couldn't find one so went to ask at the desk. Imagine my surprise when the lady replied back to me in a broad London accent. It turned out she was a Lowe by marriage - she had married an American - and we showed each other our ID to prove we shared a last name. I enjoyed a warm and funny conversation with her before finally remembering I had a destination to reach so said farewell.
As I approached the suburbs of Boston the traffic worsened and the cycling became less enjoyable. I had bits of Charles River bike trail but that had plenty of foot traffic to contend with too. Big cities are slow going.
I reached Harvard in the afternoon and visited the Center for Astronomy as I know some people there. British astronomer Doug Burke had offered me a place to stay for the night and he showed me around the department. It was cool to see the library where NASA ADS is hosted from. I have used that service so much over the years. It was surprisingly library like. I'm not sure if I'd imagined some kind of massive data centre.
Doug took me to see Jessica Mink who was the local expert on cycling in Boston. Jessica was a name I knew as she'd written software tools I used a lot in my professional life. She said cycling in Boston was awful but told me the best/shortest way to get to the Atlantic so I could dip my wheel in and gave me routing for how to cycle to the airport tomorrow. With Jessica's advice I headed off to the downtown area and across to the Old Boston Harbour.
About a hundred days ago I'd put my wheel in the Pacific. Since then it'd been in the Mississippi and now I was finally at the Atlantic. I just had to get across an almost empty beach. Pushing a laden bike through sand isn't easy, as I remember from Nevada, but I pushed and dragged my bike over to the water. I'd done it! Hello Atlantic. I was suddenly quite emotional. Ten years of wanting to do this trip and 100 days of doing it was finally over.
I was alone. There was nobody to share my emotions with. I hung around the beach for a few minutes until eventually a family walked along and were able to take my picture. They didn't show any interest in where I might have cycled from. I didn't say. In some sense I wanted to shout out loud that I'd just cycled across their entire country - a continent in itself - to reach this beach but I didn't. Instead I rang my dad to let him know I'd reached my destination.
After a sit down to contemplate the journey, and the sudden realisation of how big my beard had got, I got back on my bike and headed back to Cambridge to meet Doug. On the way I got frustrated by runners with headphones running down the middle of the riverside cycle track (not in their own pedestrian lane and unable to hear you due to music). I also got chased by a man who had been cycling the other way but saw my panniers and decided he needed to talk. It turned out he'd studied at the University of Leeds years ago and knew some of my local bike shops. He had suspected I'd crossed the country and gave me a hearty congratulations before riding off to catch up with the other people he'd been riding with.
Doug and his family were excellent hosts on my last, celebratory, night in the US. I'm glad I got to end my trip with them rather than in some anonymous motel.