“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.”
I have a talent for not making things easy on myself. After getting through Death Valley, I headed West out of Trona. After making it over the Sierras through Walker Pass, I descended down through the dangerous Kern River Canyon and into Bakersfield. Court had flown in for the finish, so I was able to drop my gear. All of a sudden, I was staring at the possibility of my last day riding. But there was a catch.
If I was going to finish this ride, it was going to have to be a century ride. I had made it just short of Maricopa the previous day, leaving me 105 miles with a climb up to just over 5,000 feet over California’s coastal range to finish. And I was standing at 450 feet of elevation. I had done 100 miles in a day twice on this trip, but each time the terrain was flat. Could I do it? I had my doubts.
I turned onto CA 33 in Maricopa and started climbing up into Los Padres National Forest. I put everything that I had left into that damn climb. Legs burning, exhausted, I used every last piece of motivation that I had left. I was able to summit in the early afternoon. I looked up to see that the sun was still in a decent position in the sky. I could do this.
I headed down to one of the most incredible descents of the trip, through the switch-backing road and out of Los Padres to Ojai. I had 25 miles to Carpinteria, the finishing point that I had chosen. I looked to the West and told Court I didn’t like it. I wanted to roll onto a beach with my arms raised in the air. I was staring at what looked like two more steep climbs before the beach, and there was no way that I was finishing in the dark. I had spent enough nights riding in the moonlight. I wasn’t going to do it on my last day. I wanted to call an audible and head to Ventura. Court did what she had to do. She lied and told me it was just rolling hills from there on. What I didn’t know was that my mother, Carol, and my aunt, Susan, were already waiting at Rincon Beach in Carpinteria to surprise me for the finish. They had flown in from New Hampshire the day before.
I climbed two of the steepest grades of the day, rehearsing my definition of rolling hills for Court the entire time. At the top of the second, I saw the setting sun casting an array of colors over the Pacific Ocean. I had done it. I had biked across America. I sprinted down the hill and turned onto Rincon Hill Road, stopping at the cliff overlooking the sea. I saw my mother and aunt. I couldn’t have written it up any better. My weary legs had enough in them to walk the bike down the path and onto the beach. After dipping the front tire, I kept my feet in the water for some time, not wanting to forget the feeling.
I’m too exhausted to accurately sum up this trip at the current time. What I can tell you is that I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I’m not one to get all sappy on you, but I will give you my thoughts in the coming days on the trips itself, as well as some of my favorite places. Thank you to everyone for donating and helping me raise money for a great cause. If you were waiting for me to see the ride through before you donated to MS, pay up!