These last ten days have been all about arrivals and welcomes. Hercules and I started the influx of Team L2L into Chatham by pedalling to the sea a week ago Friday, followed by my Shore Support Tony Humphreys from the UK and swiftly joined by Happy Socks – my beautiful ocean rowing boat. She was fresh from the Atlantic, having made the journey driven by a few more horse power than she will be when I make the return journey with her in a few weeks’ time.
My final week of riding from the sky scrapered metropolis of NYC north and then eastwards along the coast of New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusets (state most likely to be confused by Winnie the Pooh for Owl sneezing) was a soothing end to the journey. That is, except for the various high and non-sided bridges that scared the bewotsits out of me and, though he doesn’t like to admit it, Hercules, too. On one night I slept on a picnic table under a gazebo in a state park, open to the breeze and views of the starry watch for the first time since doing the same way North and West in Canada’s Yukon back in October. As the night sky filled my lungs I struggled to remember the biting intimidation of the winter cold during nights in a frozen tent. On another I slept on the edge of the canal which actually divides Cape Cod from the mainland, making a safer, shorter passage for big traffic travelling between Boston and NYC. I am still looking into the Atlantic bridge, offering a similar USA/UK swift option.
The other nights en route to the Cape were spent with various couple or families, each taking me in from the road to share stories, food and, very luxuriously, gin! I loved it all and rode happy, unpressured by the miles and days between my wheels and the water. Knowing that I was on schedule, that the winter could hold me up no more or create any more uncertainty in timescales, it felt like I was riding free. I enjoyed taking quieter, more wiggly roads and routes than the last 5000 odd miles where I have mostly sought the most direct and fastest routes, for fear of not making the coast in time for the rowing season. One day I took an off road trail through a forest and over a marsh, heaving Hercules through undergrowth and trees getting ready for spring – a welcome treat to be away from any traffic or people. My mind rolled through the miles and memories and stories and faces of the journey since Homer, Alaska, way north and west of us as the wheels carried me east and spring buoyed me forward (except for the crazy snow the day I left NYC).
A few months ago, the idea of the ocean freaked me out somewhat. Maybe it was too many unknowns between me and it – weather and miles and health – , coupled with the fact I had just said cheerio to my fiancee Lucy after two months of winter riding together, or perhaps just my brain’s way of protecting me and pulling the focus back in to the ‘right now’ stuff. That seems to be a good strategy for this journey – keeping the big picture in mind and flicking in and out of the detail ahead as needed, but staying as present as possible in the moment. As I wheeled along the coastline I found myself transfixed by the blue of the sea, mesmerised by it, as though being pulled towards and by it. It felt like coming home, somehow, a feeling that was even stronger when Happy Socks was delivered last week. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in my cabin tinkering with bits and pieces, talking to her all along, as though catching up on all that she has missed since being apart. It really does feel like pulling on your favourite socks or hat – that comforting, familiar fit of one you know so well.
There were a couple of days in the boat packing process where it felt like my head was spinning – I was a proper space cadet as my mind got to grips with the rapid transition from biking to boating. Being surrounded by boxes of supplies for 4 + months at sea is a bit mind-boggling at the best of times, especially when you have been living a few days’ at a time with such limited supplies on a bike. The process of breaking that all down into day bags of food and divided bags of this and that was long but satisfying, and it felt good to complete most of our To Do List while Tony was here. Even driving felt strange (as passenger rather than driver), travelling at speed around an area I was trying to orientate myself in, reminding me that transitions can be a head spin at times.
My body is also transitioning from the bike to the boat demands, with a bit of protest from my perennially unhappy lower back. I have a programme designed by my pal Jess Brooker at home and am now doing a couple of hours per day of cardio and strength work, in and out of the Chatham Health Club gym. This week a sports masseuse will start working her magic on my squealing muscles and hopefully if I repeat all elements frequently enough by May 1st, I will be happy that mind, body and boat are ready for launching. My plan is to float Happy Socks later this week so that I can start plugging some water miles to get my body used to pulling such heavy loads again. Once more I am reminded of the shear strain I am asking of my body by rolling from one phase to another so quickly – thank you note in the post, Body.
As always, I am roundly supported by my fantastic team at their various L2L HQs and the various groups and people we work with to move into the next phase and get this journey back to the UK.
I am super grateful for the recent local support, too. Pleasant Bay Community Boating, Roz and Bill Coleman, John Dickson, Ryders Cove Boatyard, Chatham Health Club, Betsy & Dick Evans, Marj Burjard and Sandy Macfarlane – thank you all for the welcome.
Sarah, Hercules and Happy Socks x
P.S: For Cape Codders, I shall be giving a fundraising talk later this month – watch this space for details. Thanks to all who came to the talks at the Village at Duxbury and Duxbury Bay Maritime School.
P.P.S: Recent TV piece by CBS here.
P.P.P.S: Thanks to all recent charity donors supporting CoppaFeel!, MND Association, WaterAid and Jubilee Sailing Trust. Donate here.