I love journeying for the contrasts and the last few days has certainly provided in bucket loads. From the rolling hills of Pennsylvania and the solitude of the bike to the skyscrapers and hubbub of Manhattan, NYC. Mind and senses overwhelmed somewhat!
A break in the weather last weekend gave me the confidence to commit to busting out the miles to NYC with some big days and miles. With team mate Rebecca and her son Harry already in town and heading home on Saturday morning, and local helper Phil O’Brien (who I had never met before) flying out Thursday evening, I didn’t want to miss them. One of my oldest pals Claire had also flown out and was waiting for me.
I rode some big days through Pennhillvania (now renamed as such) enjoying the warmth and tailwinds – both rather novel after recent months – either whizzing along valleys or rolling or crawling up and down hillsides according to grades. Having had Hercules’ brakes bled in State College I could now hurtle down hills with the balance shifted in favour of confidence rather than fear and would no longer have to use my foot to skid along on the tarmac to slow myself down or walk Hercules down the steep (often very long) downhills. Meanwhile streams rushed down roadsides as snow melted and slumped off roofs and dripped off doors. Where I had seen white for months through fields and along road edges, now brown grass was appearing.
So too were animals, foraging and chattering. Water, not just just ice, raced down streams or visibily flowed down rivers. I saw more people out walking or children playing than I had in months. I even met some bikers. For my own part it was a novelty to strip off some layers and enjoy air on my skin rather than covering up top to toe. It really felt like spring was here – beautiful riding conditions and I grinned a lot, happy to be alive and nearing the goal. At the same time, I got emotional thinking back on the last 6.5 months of riding and all the wonderful people I had met on the way, the ups and downs, the landscapes and skyscapes – everything.
On Wednesday I woke up with a head cold, snot monsters running riot and feeling rather rough. But I had a big day to ride – 125 miles to put me on the New Jersey side of the Hudson river, ready to ride into the city the next morning. I kept switching off my alarm clock as I felt so rubbish, and eventually got pedalling at 10.30 am.
I pedalled until 5 am the following morning after one of my favourite days (and nights) of riding, in spite of the snot. If there had been more time I would have spread it over a few days, camping in some lovely places. Even so, a starry night and big orange moon always make good riding company.
I stopped to talk to people, shared food and stories with others, enjoyed the awakening of spring and the feeling that life is being refreshed as the sun powers it. The tiredness only really hit me after pedalling over the Hudson River into the city, to be met by friends old and new and some folk from the local branch of WaterAid – one of my supported charities.
I have been in NYC a few days now, kindly hosted by Holiday Inn, topping up on sleep and rest and time with friends. The contrast of the hubbub, noise and volume of people in the city with its towering sky scrapers against my recent months of pedalling (mostly alone) through North America is huge and at times a bit intimidating.
Yesterday we took the train to Coney Island to the beach and walked in the freezing waters of the Atlantic. The last time I had salt water on my feet was Alaska – the Pacific, 6.5 months and a winter ago.
The next week is a mixture of admin, talks and friends before I ride the final 400 miles up to Cape Cod, Massachusets from where I shall begin rowing in early May. Happy Socks is already on her way, having been packed up into her container at the beginning of the month by Team L2L at home.
So for now, thanks to everyone for following along, supporting from near or afar in whatever capacity that might be. This is definitely a team effort.
I would love it if you might be able to donate a wee bit to my supported charities CoppaFeel!, JubileeSailing Trust, MND Association and WaterAid here:
Thanks and thanks,
Sarah and Hercules
Recent thanks to: Mike and Roni Sellers, Freeze Thaw Cycles, Glenn and Karon Edwards, Holiday Inn Lower East Side, Hudson River Park Pier 84, Phil O’Brien and team at W42St, Massage Envy MidTown, Team L2L here and home, Rob Eustace, Ryan Wagner, WaterAid USA.