For days 50 and 51 we were drowned rats getting into Brattleboro Vermont and Manchester New Hampshire. Probably the best days for heavy rain as nothing was going to stop the building anticipation of the finish. We are all in good shape, so even when Mother Nature threw everything at us — rain, headwinds, steep climbs, even cold — it no longer seemed to have much psychological or physical impact. It is interesting to note how 80 mile days with 5000 feet of climbing seem like a “normal day”. Certainly wouldn’t have been 40-50 days ago.
At the beginning of day 52 Ole called me over and said he had noticed something funny on my rear tire. The tire is a softer Vittorio Rubino Pro that I had put on as a spare when my gator skin kept having flats. At first I thought it was sand stuck to my tire, but it turned out I had completely worn through the tread to the next layer, a fabric layer, on about 1/3 of the circumference. Pretty amazing the tire had not punctured. So we left a bit late as I changed over to the Gator Skin tire that I had as a spare; it had suffered two flats after riding through a bad semitrailer tire blowout. Gene and I had both carefully inspected for wires; we had found three but thought we had them all.
The final day looked threatening at the start, but as we closed in on the Atlantic Ocean the clouds started to disperse. We were promised a police escort to the beach for the last three miles, but the policeman who started out with us suddenly turned on his blue flashing lights, did a U-turn and drove off — presumably an emergency. We didn’t need a police escort to feel an increasing thrill as first the sight and then the smell of the ocean overwhelmed us.
Matt, who lives in Boston, had arranged for his family and a few friends to personally greet us with signs and a very nice picnic lunch — really a nice gesture on the part of the family. Diane had bought a bottle of champagne in Exeter and we shared it on the rocks next to the beach. Dozens of people who were on the beach came up to talk to us to find out what we had done, why we had done it, how we felt, etc. It was a memorable finish.
We rode our bikes to the hotel, and just for fun, rode a few extra miles to cross a bridge and touch Maine, the 14th state. As I got back on the bike, the back tire looked squishy, and sure enough, it was going flat. I made it to the hotel with one Gator Skin headed to the trashcan.
The last night we had a wonderful dinner at a seafood place in Portsmouth New Hampshire, which I must say is one of the nicest little seaside towns I have visited. It was a perfect way to end – wonderful seafood and conversation. We played through the X-America playlist and talked well into the evening. The 11 people who had committed to the full crossing had all made it, only a little worse for wear. There was less exuberance and more a deep but quiet sense of achievement. Realistically we all knew we would not see each other again, certainly as a group.
Playlist. On the second to last night Matt adapted the song “You’re Gonna Miss This” by Trace Adkins; it’s a country song that most of us had never heard before, but on the final night we played it a couple of times. It captured the sentiment very well — there was a sense of melancholy that it was all over; that we would all have to return to our complicated lives and adult responsibilities.
For the last night, we all agreed that Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” captured our sentiment. It was the end, but each of us had travelled each and every highway, and done it our way.