Today’s the day!

683 days ago I took this photo.  Someday

Tomorrow I start the last 560 miles.

To say that everything has changed is not quite accurate.  The only constant thing this whole journey has been the bicycle.  In ten days I will take another photo that perhaps to a certain extent will mirror this one.  But believe me when I say, everything has changed.

I am better and stronger.

I have changed industries in which I work.

The indiscriminate hand of death has taken several friends and more than one of my friend’s parents or other loved ones.

I have moved and made more friends.

I saw a psychologist about my severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and have learned how to manage the triggers and attacks such that I rarely have panic attacks anymore.

The next 559 miles probably won’t change me much. I think I will have Dawn take a picture at the 559th mile and see if I can see how much change happens in that last mile.

Ultimately, though, the picture above is the change.  The moment you start down the road that terrifies, challenges, and thrills you all at the same time is the moment you change, and not the last.  I have become the person who “does this”; the person who can. Today is the day I leave to complete the destiny I began 683 days ago, galvanizing the change.

Someday and The Power of Moments

Tomorrow we fly out.  My memories of the past almost two years are seared deep into my mind, and it feels like forever ago that we started this odyssey, which brings to mind a book I listened to called, “The Power of Moments”  by Chip and Dan Heath.  (I highly recommend this book, by the way – it’s on Audible)

The Heath brothers captured for me the “magic” of making time move slower.  Make more “moments”.  If you think about it, when you’re young time moves super slowly.  Every day is an event, a learning experience, a milestone.  You looked forward to every new event, every experience, every birthday, holiday, or thing you learned, and demonstrating your progress as you grew.  Think back to your last “super memory”.  Something that will be burned into your memory For. EVER.

What if I told you that the more of those you pack into your life – and the more you make other’s events memorable for you – even the small things, the slower time will move?

If you really think about it, most of us stop making “our own” memories shortly after we have children, if we have them.  We make our children’s memories important.  We remember when they walked and talked; we go to their baseball games, concerts and recitals; they have birthday parties  and dress up for Halloween, and graduations and weddings.  We make our beds and do our laundry and vacuum the floor.  We go to work and do our jobs.  We wash the dishes.  We get our hair cut.  We shave.  We mow the lawn.  We shovel the walks.  We commute.  We can do all of that almost without thinking. We go year after year after year creating one, maybe two memories a year for ourselves.

Time flies because there is so much time spent in our routine that we don’t remember what we ate for dinner last night, we don’t remember the last truly fun thing we did – or if we do, it was so long ago that when we realize that it was the last thing we did that was fun, it’s actually last year or 5 years ago or 10.

So what do you do?

Start by paying attention to your “Someday” list.  I harp on Someday a lot, I know.  But I truly mean it.  Are you going to do it, or are you just going to talk about it?  Because if the memory at the end of your life is how much you talked about it, that’s what I call regret.  What’s stopping you from doing it today?  What’s stopping you from making a plan to begin working on it today?  The memories I have made even in the planning of this event have shaped not only my ability to accomplish it, but the direction my life will be going forward.

Work at making moments for others as well, throughout your journey.  Attend the play you know they’ve been working on.  Bring them flowers on a day you know they least anticipate it.  Send a card, a letter, an emoji text, a Facebook post on their wall not on their birthday.  Smile at a stranger in the grocery store. Talk to people, and genuinely listen when they talk back. Be kind. You making a moment for them out of something that may be their routine makes it memorable, and it will endear you to them forever, even if they never know or ask your name.  And it will make your moments last longer.

And yes, show up 100% when your big dreams beckon you, saying, “Someday is today, my love. Let’s ride.”  Put in the work.  All of it. Ride like your hair is on fire, and enjoy every minute you can. You’ll never forget that moment – even if the moment took two years to complete – that you and your dream meet at the finish line.  I suspect my dream will hang out with me for the day, and then like so many of my friends have already done, as soon as we get home ask, “What’s next?”

By the numbers

Ordered some groceries not available in stores to be delivered to the Walmart close to where we will be starting this morning.  I was more nervous about this whole thing yesterday than I am right now, which is odd for me.

Two weeks from this morning I will have 17 miles left to ride on Saturday, the 20th.  All told when I complete this, I will have come 3,800 miles in 693 days (62 riding days) (roughly the distance from Lisbon, Portugal to Murmansk, Russia through Austria). I will have climbed 102,264 feet cumulatively, which is the equivalent of Everest 3.5 times.  Between training and on route miles I will have ridden a bicycle 12,804 miles – 51.4% of the circumference of the earth (lol – 459 miles shy of the full circumference of Mars!) I estimate that I get approximately 100 miles per gallon of water I drink, and I will have gone through five sets of tires, three pairs of cycling shoes, three chains, three pairs of sunglasses, countless hydration tablets, seven bottles of sunscreen, 35 pounds of epsom salts and 12 tubes of chamois butter.

Totally worth all of it.

Before this last stretch I need to let y’all know that I’m no better than any of you.  I put my mind to what I wanted to do, worked out a plan, and set out to do it.  Was it a big deal?  Um, YEAH! But whittle it away and you, too, can do whatever you want.

Don’t wait for Someday.  Don’t wait until you’re ready.  Do it.  Today.

Six Days out

We fly out in six days.  I’m on the bike in seven.  I woke Randy up in the middle of the night last night and told him we forgot the bike at my grandma’s house (both my grandmothers have been deceased for 10+ years).  Since I was a very little girl I have had poor sleep patterns/habits – doubly so as exciting things approached like birthdays, Christmas, or field trips, (any trips, really). This is no exception, and as much as I try to remind myself that I am still several days out, I’m running over lists in my head of things to remember to bring, what things are going to look like, and what I’m trying to finish at work and home before leaving.

The miles left are not nothing, but when I broke down the numbers it is substantially fewer miles per day than I did the past two rides on most of the days.

Day One – 39 (getting a late start as we are driving in from Atlanta)

Day Two – 73

Day Three – 88

Day Four – 80

Day Five – 66

Day Six – 57

Day Seven – 60

Day Eight – 59

Day Nine – 17 (almost a victory lap, and I wanted to finish early and “fresh”)

We plan to start dark and early in the mornings to finish around 10 AM local time as the temp heats up.

 

Gearing up

In 8 days we’re on a plane to Georgia, where we will pick up the bicycle from my dear friend, Dawn who graciously stored it for me.

I’m wrapping up the work that needs to be done at my job before I’m gone for 7 work days.

I’m making my list and checking it twice – or thrice.  Or the ninth or tenth time.  I’ve lost count.

My mom is flying in.

Dawn, her fiance’ Freddy, Danise and Rodney (all friends from Georgia) are driving down on Friday to watch the final miles on Saturday morning.

This is getting real, my friends.

The countdown from 560 miles starts in roughly 216 hours.  I’m ready. Bring it on.

 

Gretna to Tennille Friday, Saint George Island Saturday

Big goal today – 114 miles.  I had never ridden more than 102 miles in one day before.  I rode through West Tallahassee and then south to a nothing spot in the road they have named Tennille.

The day was long.  We left the hotel at 3:30 AM.  I was on the bike before 4, with Randy following behind me until it was daylight.  With breaks for food and water refilling, I was finally finished at 3:00 and back in the car racing toward Tallahassee so we could get the bike to the shop to clean up, replace the chain and tires, and get into storage.  I was glad I called them on our way up, because the manager hadn’t noted that I would need overnight service and normally their service department isn’t even there on Saturdays.  But someone had quit suddenly and the service manager was covering the Saturday shift for them, so he made sure it got done for me.  (Seriously, if you’re close to Tallahassee, Bird Legs Bicycles is the best!)

Friday evening we met our dear friend, Dawn Ralston and her boyfriend Freddy at a restaurant in Tallahassee.  They drove down to see us from Georgia, and it was such a joy!  They also offered to store our gear and bike until we came back in April, which we happily accepted.  Saturday they took us to Saint George Island, which until just a couple of days before had been closed since the hurricane.  State officials weren’t even sure if it would be able to be rehabilitated enough to reopen at all, according to another friend living near there.  We also went to Appalachicola and had some delightful seafood.

560 miles left.  One. More. Stage.

Ponce De Leon to Gretna (with a Georgia detour)

More devastation as I near Tallahassee, but it gets less noticeable the more inland I get. I’m unsure as to whether that is due to the higher population getting more money or attention earlier than the more remote areas or if it just wasn’t as bad.  There are still signs all over with phone numbers for lawyers if “you” feel you didn’t get enough FEMA money.  Which hurt my heart almost as much as the wreckage, frankly.  Any excuse to make a buck, I suppose. Had me picturing the hurricane as a “Sharknado”, though.

Chattahoochee, Florida is just across the border from Georgia, so I added 100 yards of Georgia to my route for fun.  Rode in, turned around and rode out.  Certainly a stretch to say I rode “all of the miles I intended to in Georgia”, but it was fun to be able to say I also rode in Georgia on route.

Anyway, it was a long and somewhat arduous ride.  The farther I get during the week the harder my body takes 80+ mile rides, and the more I want to sleep by morning, even though I soak each night for up to an hour.  We had some Airbnb drama at the end of the day with a host who forgot that they had confirmed that we would be staying at their house, and had to book a spur-of-the-moment hotel. Lesson learned, for sure – and Airbnb refunded us the entire payment once it was verified that it was not our fault.

674 miles left.

Pensacola to Ponce De Leon

Between October 7 and October 16, 2018 hurricane Michael plowed through the Florida panhandle, ultimately killing 72 and causing approximately $25.1 Billion in damages.  It was the fourth-strongest landfalling hurricane to hit the contiguous United States, and the strongest storm on record to hit the Florida panhandle.

And none of that information could have prepared me for what I saw four months later.

Cleanup is still underway.  Huge trucks still throughout the countryside hauling debris and tree remnants away to who knows where?  I saw mobile homes literally upside down; ceiling fans with light globes and blades still intact – but miles from any visible structure; acres and acres of pine trees that looked like a gigantic mythical “lawnmower” set at about 15-20 feet high just lopped them all off.  At once it was magical to see how the people have banded together to help everyone and so sad to see the epic devastation from which the people and the landscape may never recover.

I was talking to a gentleman about what they will do in their area. Trees that have stood for decades and were lopped off have to be completely removed.  Families who own the land on which they stood will receive subsidized farm equipment and seed to plant so that the soil will not become unusable wetlands. The scope of recovery efforts and how the people are being redefined is inconceivable to me.  I truly cannot imagine waking up one morning and the weather determining what I and possibly my whole family would be doing for the rest of my life.

At just past Mossy Head (a small town that barely warranted a city limits sign) I crossed the 3,000 mile mark on this journey and had myself another little cry on the side of the road.  It barely feels possible.

The people have been so kind.  Much of my ride today was definitely rural, and everywhere I go people are encouraging and considerate.  Some honk and wave, some will drive completely on the other side of the road while they wave.  There is an occasional rude driver, but for the most part riding is a joy.

758 miles left.