Day 67: The day of all days… The day we hit the Pacific Ocean!!
That morning, the usual cell phone alarms went off, alerting us that it was time to rise and shine. Knowing that it was only a 27 mile day, people were moving even slower than usual… And I’ve already mentioned here that we’re not a group of morning people.
Scott and McWeens, two of the fastest riders on our trip who always arrive at the host first, had been assigned to sweep that day… Which was sort of ironic and seemed like it had been planned that way. So to start off our morning, Scott, in true Type A, militant fashion, started running around in the high school library we had stayed at that night sounding a blow horn. When he felt that he’d successfully scared the sh*t out of the sleepers and woken everyone up, he stopped the blow horn and yelled “YOU’VE BEEN SWEPT!” It was easily one of the funniest moments of trip, and it set the tone for the shenanigans that were bound to ensue on this last day of our journey.
We cleaned the host site and packed up the van, as per usual. We decided we couldn’t leave without having one last dance party. We cranked our favorite songs of the summer from the van and danced around like lunatics. We did our morning breakdown/shakedown as we always do to get excited for the day (as if we weren’t already!), and then we rolled out for the last time. Coffee crew grouped together and went out for the final morning coffee run at a nearby Starbucks, where we got our last DM-ed morning coffees.
Then we headed out toward La Jolla, where we’d end our long two month journey. I rode behind Abbie for a while, who kept our beloved (but not by all) Snickelfritz, the otter, tucked in her Camelbak.
Soon I found myself riding with Dietlinde, Motherbird, Baron, Reg Ry, Olivia, Laundry Loop Tim, and Daniel.
Tim realized about halfway through the ride that he had a flat tire. Since we were all fresh out of tubes (and I mean COMPLETELY out, as an entire team), we employed the “pump-and-run” method… Which is rather self-explanatory.
At one point, we were stopped beside a car with two older gentlemen inside. They asked Motherbird/Erin where we were riding our bikes to today. It’s funny because we’ve been asked this question nearly every day of the trip. We always answer with the following general outline:
“Well, today we started in ____ and we’re riding to _____. But we started our trip on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and we’ll ultimately end in San Diego, California.”
To be honest, I think we all got sick of this series of questions and answers. When “The Question” was directed to our group, but to no one person in particular, we’d all look at each other as if to say “okay, who’s gonna give the spiel this time?” Often it would lead into an explanation of why we’re doing what we’re doing, what organization we’re with, how long we’ve been on the road, how many of us there are, etc etc. While these questions are GREAT in that we get to spread the word about Bike & Build and the affordable housing cause, the answers become repetitive and begin to sound overly rehearsed.
On this day, answering “The Question” was much more fun than usual.
Motherbird said “We’re going to La Jolla beach, where we’ll be ending our cross-country bike trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean!”
Hearing someone say this out loud sent chills down my spine. Was this really happening? Was I about to conclude the most adventurous, incredible, and life-changing summer I’ve experienced in all my 23 years?? I could feel my sense of pride and accomplishment already beginning to rise.
“Well,” began one of the men in the car, “you just have one hill to climb before you get there!”
Um, excuse me? We’re going to the BEACH, right? Sea level? How the HELL could we be going up a hill??
But climb, climb, climb we did. In true NC2SD fashion. The irony and hilarity of the situation felt like the perfect ending to a summer of passing through as many mountain ranges as possible. We’ve decided as a group that NC2SD may be the shortest ride of all the B&B routes, but we certainly climb the most.
At the very top, we saw our favorite sign for the last time: a sign warning of a 11% grade descent. Perrrrrrfect!
In the middle of the descent, we caught our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. Shouts of joy as well as delirious laughter could be heard among our group. We were approaching the moment we’d all been waiting for.
We had designated a “wait” location less than half a mile from the beach, where we’d all wait for one another and ride to the Pacific as a huge group of 27 riders. When everyone had arrived, we mounted our bikes, and slowly began to roll together. We had a huge American flag that we’d been sporting on our trailer since July 4th in Gunnison, CO, so a few of the guys had taken it off and proceeded to ride in front of the pack, holding the flag out as if we were in a parade.
At one point, Scott sprinted up to the front of the pack (remember, he was sweep that day) shouting “one mile left, f*** it!!!” which made everyone crack up. Our theme/motto for the past 2 weeks has been “two weeks, f*** it”, so it seemed appropriate for him to do that. If he was a front rider for the whole trip, then he should end as a front rider. Fair enough.
As a group, we began to sing the National Anthem. My heart was pounding and I had butterflies in my stomach from the unity, love, and pride I felt alongside my teammates. We were on top of the world, and our energy was contagious. Many people came out of shops and businesses along the street to see what all the commotion was about. Some had their phones out, recording this odd and unexpected sighting of 27 cyclists sporting red, white, and blue and patriotically singing at the top of their lungs. I looked over at Amelia who was unable to sing because she was crying. The emotion of the moment had overwhelmed her. I was feeling overwhelmed, but not to the point of tears. My utter disbelief of what we as a team were about to achieve prevented me from crying. It was exhilarating to take over the road as a group and turn heads as we confidently and proudly rode closer and closer to our final destination.
Although I had envisioned a large beach front, where we’d have to leave our bikes at the boardwalk and sprint down to the beach hand-in-hand, Scripps Beach at La Jolla was nothing like that at all. We walked down a very steep stairway to the water, where there was only about 30 feet of sandy beach. We propped our bikes up along the rocky cliffs, as far away from the water as possible. The beach was very crowded, so even though we felt like this was a personal victory for our group, we were also in a place where we’d have to share that triumph with strangers. It was both nice to have people cheering us on and unfortunate that we couldn’t have a more private ending among ourselves.
When we’d all made the steep trek down to the water, we all looked at one another with excitement glowing in our eyes as if to say “Welp, here we are!!!” In the chaos of the moment, I’m not sure who made the first move, but suddenly we were all running into the water, holding hands as we sprinted the short distance from the rocks that marked the end of land into the Pacific. Our rush of adrenaline prevented us from the initial shock of the cold water. The thick and slimy seaweed that enveloped us was funny in that it disturbed the picturesque ending that we had each envisioned. But to be wading in the cool water on a sunny day in California with all 27 NC2SD’13 family members beaming with pure happiness was a moment of perfection that I wish I could bottle up and keep forever. We embraced one another, sharing congratulatory tears and prideful smiles.
Looking back at all the photos that were taken on that beach, I have flashbacks to the days before my Bike & Build journey, where I would peruse the B&B website for hours on end, seeking photos of a wonderful journey that was still only a hopeful idea in my mind. I would look at “finish line” photos of past teams that had succeeded in what seemed like an impossible journey to conquer. Their vibrant smiles and radiating happiness is what convinced me that I could not pass up this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Now, when I look at the photos of my team, I feel part of the huge Bike & Build family, who are the only other people who can fully understand the extent of emotions felt when you submerge yourself in the Pacific Ocean after such a trip. I feel that I can finally look back at previous Bike & Build teams’ end-of-journey photos and understand their sense of accomplishment and team unity.
We popped champagne, we smoked cigars, we hugged, we kissed, we laughed, and we cried.
The moment was pure bliss.