We stopped at the Old Post Office Pavilion and were treated to lunch there at the Greek Taverna, owned by Costas Poppas, a BIG RIDER from 1998. The food was delicious and the portions were generous. It was a wonderful feast that included gyros, salad and baklava. It felt like the Last Supper. I know that I will need to immediately curtail the practice of consuming such large amounts of food.
The Old Post Office was our staging area for riding to the finish line, located a mile away at the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Charlie had lunch with us, but needed to depart immediately afterwards to catch a plane, so only twenty-five of us actually rode to the finish line. We were sent off in groups of two bikes. I rode to the finish line with Kim. We were the third group to go. Dick and Noel went first. They were followed by John, Margaret and Bernie. (Three riders on two bikes as John and Margaret are on a tandem.)
I will definitely miss writing this blog. It has been a labor of love and I want to thank those of you who have been following my journey. Writing this blog has not been easy. There were many nights when I was extremely tired and I often had less than ideal conditions to work in. Your comments and words of encouragement kept me going. I will never know the vast majority of people who have read or who will read this blog. The power of the internet is amazing. This blog has been and will continue to be viewed by people from all over the world.
I am incredibly thankful that I was able to have this experience and there are a few messages that I would like to share:
First, I have had many people say to me, "I could never do something like that".
My response is, "Yes, you could". If this is something that you WANT to do, you CAN do it. It is much harder to make the commitment and to set aside the time than it is to actually do something like this. You can do far more than you think you can - and that doesn't just pertain to riding a bike across the United States - it pertains to just about every aspect of your life.
There has been at least one rider who has done this ride with just one leg and there has been at least one who has done it on a hand bike. There were two riders this year alone who have battled obesity - and won! There have been MANY riders who lived sedentary lives for many years. There have been riders who had smoked for many years. One of the BIG RIDE veterans we met, Fred Husak, had smoked for over 40 years.
You are not too old. There have been many BIG RIDERS who were in their 70's - it's time for someone over the age of 80 to sign up. You can take the time off from work. And your family will survive without you for seven weeks.
Second, we live in an amazing country with amazing people. There are extraordinarily beautiful places in every state and there are kind, generous and supportive people everywhere. There is probably no better way to truly appreciate our country (or probably any country) than on a cross country bike ride.
This experience has renewed my faith in humanity and given me a new found sense of patriotism. When I embarked on this trip, I was disenchanted and disheartened with our country. At the end of this journey, I am truly proud to be an American. It is not our government or our politics that I am proud of, it is the wonderful people who make up the very fabric of our nation.
Third, thanks again to all of my supporters! Your generosity meant the world to me.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
- Mark Twain
Take care. Ride safe. And never forget that every breath is priceless.