“I have two rules in life - to hell with it, whatever it is, and get your work done.” - Ray Bradbury
On our journey to LA, there was just one rule: "Eat before you're hungry. Drink before you're thirsty."
By Day 6, I was tired of eating. Damn tired. I felt like a cow getting fattened for slaughter, but I couldn't get fat because I was on wheels all day. So they just kept feeding me. Clif bars, bananas, bagel bites, trail mix...sooner or later everything lost its charm. Powerade, which I don't like to begin with, turned to cough syrup.
Fortunately the road met me with many happy distractions. There was the 80-year-old cyclist who smiled as I passed him, saying something in German I wish I could understand. Later on, a group of pink squirrels passed me.
During the evenings when I had enough energy (and arm strength), I would open Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy. The book is about her lone bicycle journey from Ireland to India in 1963, at the age of 31. Talk about TOUGH. This woman traveled with a pistol, which by chapter two she had used twice (once on hungry coyotes, once on a creep).
I am not so brave. Still, throughout the week I found myself considering the merits of an unsupported ride (this is my first bike tour). The plentiful snacks, medical tents and mapped out directions made the trip a breeze. But with 2,500 cyclists in tow, you don't ever feel alone on the open road. There is always someone to pass. Always another ride on your left. Always another cowbell in the distance.
I'm not shunning those bells by any means. There's just something nice about going at your own pace, deciding when to start and stop, and figuring out where to go next.
Our destination on Day 6 was Ventura. We camped on the beach and took part in a candlelight vigil. The flickering candles and crashing waves were hypnotic. In the darkness, I felt alone for the first time all week. Sixty miles later, this would all become history.
And just like that, Day 7 arrived. I was excited but also relieved. After a week in the saddle, I was feeling fatigued and ready to spend some time on two feet. Our team conquered Malibu's rolling hills and then gathered at the lunch stop so we could ride the final leg together. We took this photo just before getting back on our bikes. In true Hollywood fashion, it looks staged.
As we rolled into Veterans Park in LA, hundreds of people, all clapping and cheering, lined the barricades. Music was playing. I don't recall which song, I just remember an amazing culmination of emotion. It felt like we had just accomplished something momentous. And we did!
Thank you, Brian Kenton Stegall, for encouraging me to do this, helping me train, and pulling me up those last few hills. I couldn't have done it without ya.