Friday, July 25, 2008

Manchester to Portsmouth - The Finish!

Last evening we had a last meal together. It included Barbecue chicken, pork, and pork ribs with coleslaw and baked beans. Pat, Allison, and Mark were there to enjoy his event with me, as were family members and friends of others riders.

There was a full agenda for the final evening together starting with introduction of the guests who were present, then proceeding with Route RAP and instructions for the ride to the Atlantic, dinner, Individual rider statements and reflections of the experience, and finally ending after awards and a small gift were made by the ABB staff to each rider. It was a nice wrap-up to the experience and preparation for the climax of this event.

It was very different last night as I shared a room with my wife Pat and this morning when I woke at 5:45 AM to prepare for the final ride. Sharing the room with three others as I did on this tour was a logistical challenge that required patience and flexibility.

Rick and I left the hotel together this morning as we did on many mornings of the tour. We soon caught up with others that had left before us. Everyone was riding at a relaxed comfortable pace. As we pedaled along the route we collected more and more of our fellow bikers. It was like a school of fish as we worked our way toward the Atlantic. We made a few wrong turns on the route. Everyone was just following the bikers who were at the front. As we went through the small town of Exeter, my family caught up to us in the jeep and took pictures of us as they passed, and then stopped ahead and took more photos as we passed them. It was a real thrill knowing that we were about to accomplish our goal, and that my family was here to share the final day, and to take me back to my home base.

All of the bikers had been instructed to gather at Rye school where we would wait until all had arrived. We had a final group photo taken before we formed up into a parade group to be escorted by local police the final 3 miles to the ocean. We were arranged in groups of four with our honorary leader Shuresh Kurjah in front with Steve Foley who he always rode with. Next to them were Jose Campos, and John Douglas the most mature of this group of teenagers at 69 years young. The rest of us filled out the the formation. I was on the third row back on the right side and next to me was Rick Tangard my roommate and frequent riding partner. Next to him was Piet and Hetty Meurs the couple from Netherlands.

We all followed close behind the police car traveling at a slow pace of maybe 10 or 12 mph and taking up one lane of the road and extending maybe 100 to 150 feet long. Another police car brought up the rear. As we proceeded toward the Atlantic I began to smell the salt air of the ocean even before I could see the ocean. As we neared the planned arrival point at Wallis Sands State Beach the police sirens walled. Chills swept over my body as I was feeling the enormous undertaking that we were about to complete.

As we rode into the parking area an explosion of celebration began. It was like the cork had just been released from a bottle of champagne and the bubbles were overflowing from the bottle. Riders were being hugged by their family and friends. I was so happy that some of my family could be there with me. Riders were dashing through the sand with their bicycles to get to the water for the traditional wheel dipping. I took my bike and walked into the water with my bike shoes on and dipped my wheel over and over. I let the waves surge over my feet and my bikes wheels. I was feeling the enormity of what we had just completed. One of the bikers jumped into an incoming wave still wearing his helmet. It was an ecstatic feeling of completion.


We had said our goodbyes and wished each other well starting last evening and continuing through today’s ride and arrival at the Atlantic. I was ready to go home.

After a few final photos with the ABB staff, I rode back toward the hotel to get a shower, change into clean dry clothes and depart with my family for home.

There is no doubt that this cross country tour has impacted me in many ways, some of which I don’t fully understand. Off and on I have felt overwhelmed with emotion. I plan to take some time to re-acclimate to my home environment and then I will post final reflections of the tour entry.


Anonymous said...

Jay, what a great and memorable experience for you and the whole group of riders! I have enjoyed following your progress through your written descriptions, the photos, and the times I spoke with you by phone. I am just thrilled that your experience was so positive and mind-expanding for you. This is the type of experience that you will always remember and will continue to benefit from in subtle as well as apparent ways for many years to come.

I know it must have been very special to have Pat, Allison, and Mark there to experience the last evening and day with you.

Ron said...

Jay. Your description of the final ride was vivid and emotion-filled. Reading it gave me the chills as I imagined the salt-laced air, the police escort, the siren sounding, and the run for the ocean shore.

Thank you for writing daily entries in your blog so that readers like me could live your journey with you.

Welcome back home to Richmond. I hope to see you on a RABA ride one day.


Marianne said...

Jay you accomplished what you set out to do.

It must have been one of the greatest times in your
live dipping the wheels of your bike into the

Hope to hear the story from you once more
over dinner.

Marianne and Phil

Anonymous said...


Congratulations. I have enjoyed following your journey!

Bob Briscoe