The Big Finish to riding across America

Day 28: the finish at Wrightsville Beach, NC: It is done! Heb 12, 1-2. It’s not about bikes, it’s about people.

Ironically, after having absolutely zero mechanicals (bike problems) riding across the USA, the same wasn’t true of my car.  As Alisa drove my Mini Cooper 700 miles from Indiana to meet me at the finish, she called to say “I’m having car trouble”.  At 10pm.  As she sat in a questionable gas station still 2 hours away.  This was not how I envisioned the ride finishing….  She called roadside assistance (for what ended up being a dead battery) and finally showed up at the hotel in Fayetteville about 130am.

June 15 dawned, and I felt a great sense of satisfaction that after years of dreaming and planning, I was about to finish the ride right on track.  I had many doubts about fatigue and who knows what else I might encounter riding across America.  My ride plan was 28 days, but it was just an estimate.  And now I was about to execute the plan in exactly 4 weeks.  Good planning, a bit of hard work, and a dose of luck made it possible.  It was quite an amazing feeling.

Not surprisingly, I had my latest start of the entire ride at 820am after the short night and fueling up for the last hundred miles on a hotel breakfast of waffles.  Alisa waited for another jumpstart as I started to ride toward the coast.  I watched her and my brother, Dan, text back and forth to find a shop in Wilmington.  Dan was such a huge help!  Plus I was watching the weather closely, with thunderstorms predicted.

The last 100 miles flowed easily- flat roads and low traffic- other than a final 10 miles dodging shoulder debris and traffic on US421 that I was prepared for- one last highway stretch.  Here is a shot of the sandy pine forests of eastern North Carolina that I rode through as I approached the Atlantic coast:

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The last hours passed quickly.  My thoughts ranged from my very first century ride in 2002 that I struggled to finish to how 100 miles was now just a leisurely ride in the country.  I reflected on the memories and experiences of the past 4 weeks:

  • The prayer and send off with my wife and SRAM-Indy teammates
  • The anticipation and nervousness as I flew to California
  • The beauty of the California coast
  • The heat and desolation of the Mojave Desert
  • The long days of climbing in the Rockies- averaging 6000ft a day for over 10 days
  • The interesting people I’d met and spent time with- from Pancho Herrera in SLO to Patsy and Kenny Smith in Mancos, CO to Pam & Shue in Kit Carson, CO to spontaneous conversations at rest areas, gas stations, and hotels
  • The seemingly endless prairie and waves of grain on the Great Plains
  • The old friends I’d reconnected with, from my former boss in California to many SRAM teammates to my Remy friends to my incredible family in Indiana, Ohio, and North Carolina
  • Crossing the Mississippi and riding all day with Pat Morrissey- the longest I’d ever ridden with 1 person in my 15 years of cycling
  • The sight- for perhaps 100 miles- of perhaps my favorite mountain in the world: Pikes Peak
  • Road conditions that varied from smooth as silk asphalt to pot holes to dodging bungee cords and pieces of metal on the shoulder to interstates to 2 lane highways to shaded country roads to neighborhoods to small town streets to gravel roads to bike paths to railroad trestles to the scary traffic of the Chicago suburbs to incredible landscapes like the Grand Canyon to nervous mountain descents- the list goes on and on!
  • and so much more!

As I approached Wilmington, the clouds darkened and I attempted to time my arrival with a gap in the storms.  I made a quick stop on the outskirts of Wilmington to call Alisa- who was already waiting at the waterfront- before continuing on.  Then, not more than about 3 miles from the beach, the rain began in earnest, and I turned into a commercial building to seek shelter under an awning (far left of the Strava track):

Capture

With a few minutes to pass, I opened my email to find that my co-workers back in Indy had gathered in a conference room to watch the finish via Quarqnet.  Which showed them that the business I had spontaneously chosen for shelter was… the Wrightsville Beach Brewery!  “Dave, finish the ride.  THEN you can have a beer!”  Too funny.

I called Pat, who was leading the gathering, to share the news of my rain delay.  They had no idea why I had stopped!  Finally, the rain slowed from a downpour to a drizzle, and I texted Pat that I was making a run for it.  I rode through showers as the beach and finish approached.  Writing about it months later, I still get goosebumps!  What a feeling it was!

But never get complacent.  Less than a mile from the finish, I had one final scary moment, perhaps the very worst of the entire ride.  As I rode across the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway and onto the barrier island and the Atlantic Ocean, I encountered metal grating on the bridge deck.  I had ridden across similar many times, but in my excitement I neglected to consider how slick it was when wet.  I fishtailed as I crossed the bridge, with cars following.  If I went down, not only could broken bones result but perhaps much worse if the cars were too close.  I managed to maintain control, get back on solid pavement, straighten up, and began to look for my wife, my brother and nephew, and the path onto the beach.

I Facetimed with the Indy office as Dan took some video- here

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as I walked onto the beach.

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Walking onto the beach with Matthew following (and carrying my shoes- thanks!)
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Dipping my front wheel- well, both wheels- in the Atlantic, 28 days after dipping the rear wheel in the Pacific.  Mission accomplished!

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What an incredible moment!  3600 miles in 28 days, and I had made it!  We took lots of pictures of course, and I did my best to savor the moment, which passed far too quickly.

Amazingly, the storms held off, and it was a surreal moment of soft light as I wanted the time to last indefinitely.  I said one final prayer of thanks just before I headed to the water’s edge, unfurled my TDSU17 banner, and relished the accomplishment.

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The distance to the beach from Fayetteville was 99.8 miles- but I added on my quick ride to the hotel to top 100 miles for the day.  We headed to Autozone to deal with the car repair before saying thanks and goodbye to Dan and Matthew.

As I uploaded my ride to Strava, I added the title above to emphasize what the ride was about: people.  I told my father-in-law, Dan, of a Scripture verse I remembered from long ago, and he helped me with it.  Hebrews 12: 1-2 reads, in part, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us, fixing our eyes on Christ.”  I still have the texts that Dan and I exchanged a few days before I finished, the last that I received from him before he passed away from cancer a few weeks later.  It is a special memory to say the least.

Then it was time for a shower, before a celebratory dinner with Alisa just a few yards from the beach access point where I had finished.

TDSU17 celebration dinner with Alisa
I couldn’t have picked a more perfect ending- nor a better person to share the moment with!

It was without question, one of the best meals of my life.  To be able to share it with Alisa (we’d been married only 6 months at the time) was indescribable.

My phone blew up with congratulatory texts, Strava kudos and comments, and emails- including one from my boss that still gives me goosebumps as I reread it:

“Congrats Dave on your accomplishment!! You have inspired us to dream big, set our goals high and then work hard to attain them. Make a snow angel in the sand for us!”

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I am humbled by the comradery of all who participated virtually and who saw the spirit of why I did the ride.

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I wore this WBR armband 24/7 during the ride to remind myself of why I was doing this.

Alisa and I returned the next morning for a walk on the beach before the long drive back to Indiana.

Do you read into Alisa’s expression- this on the morning after I finished- of “don’t you even THINK about getting on this bike today!”?

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And I didn’t, nor the Saturday and Sunday following.  But Monday morning it was back to work- bike commuting as always.  How else would I get to work?!

And when I did get back to work on Monday morning, my incredible teammates greeted me by wearing their TDSU17 shirts that they had purchased (with proceeds to WBR)!  What a show of support!

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As I finished, I felt great physically.  Not only immediately afterwards but in the days following, I felt certain that I could have ridden harder and faster.  I was often asked whether I would take some time off the bike.  I honestly think that I could have turned around and ridden right back across the country.

Remember: if I can do it- anyone can!

Wrapping it all up, here is my thank you message to everyone who supported this ride.  If you’re reading this- you’re included!

Final TDSU17 stats:

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Garmin summary for TDSU17 (+2 segments- Dayton Part 1 and to the hotel on the last day- logged on my phone)
Distance: 3,601.2 miles
Time: 254 hours, 12 minutes
Average speed: 14.2mph
Maximum speed: 41.8mph- on Day 25 in the mountains of Virginia
Total ascent: 118,900 feet (22.5 miles)
# of pedal strokes: 1,029,482 (that’s right, just over 1 million!)
Longest day- distance: 180.2 miles: Minden to Gretna, Nebraska
Longest day- moving time: 13 hours, 24 minutes: Ludlow to Needles, Arizona (155 miles)
Highest average speed: Day 28: Fayetteville to Wilmington- 17.4mph
Slowest day: 11.6mph: Needles, California to Ash Fork, Arizona
Temperature range: ~80°F: 109°F in Needles, CA (Day 4) to 23°F leaving Pagosa Springs, CO (Day 10)
# of flat tires: zero
Average power: 107 watts
Calories expended riding: 96,575 (3500/day)
Clif Bars & gels consumed: lost track, approximately 15/day
Money raised: $16,558
Lives changed:
112 bikes = over 300 lives impacted

Next up: time will tell!  More coming for 2018 and beyond!!!

 

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