From the moment we woke up at the Hanna’s house on Friday August 10th, everything we did that morning carried extra significance. From waking up as a team together for the last time to checking the tires for the last time and suiting up in the neon shirts and bike shorts, everything was meaningful because this was the last time it would happen this way.
The universe as we knew it for the past 3 months was coming to an end.
That wasn’t a depressing thought, but it did make us appreciate what had become monotonous and routine.
We said goodbye to the Hanna’s, the last of several incredible families to open their home to us, and packed into the Grover Rover for the last time as a team.
We arrived back at the park in Fort Lee where we ended on Wednesday night and were pleased to find free parking. How did they know that we love free things?
(That saying has become one of our favorite sayings this summer. We will miss saying it as we expect to use it less when we stop biking across the country.)
It was fitting that while we were in the parking lot preparing to leave that we were finalizing directions and scanning forecasts predicting massive thunderstorms.
We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
It was also exciting because our riders doubled for the day. When we finished in Battery Park, we would be riding eight strong.
In addition to Monica Cady and Hannah Williams, Loosy’s older brother was going to meet up with us, and Jamie borrowed a bike so he could finish the trip with the team.
After finalizing directions, we biked out of the park and started across the George Washington Bridge.
We contemplated the idea of taking a ferry and pedaling stationary bikes the entire way across, but after consulting the official cross country cyclist handbook, we decided that would violate the integrity of the pedal stroke rule we had followed stringently across the country.
While we were biking across the bridge, making sure not to crash into cyclists coming the other direction or run over pedestrians, we looked out at the Hudson Bay. We could only see a couple yards because of the rain and fog that obstructed vision, but we couldn’t suppress smiles knowing that on the other side of the bridge was New York.
When we reached the other side we had 4 blocks of actual riding through city traffic until we reached the bike path. With the confidence of veteran cyclists, we were able to make it to the bike path without being struck by any motorized vehicles.
Once we were on the bike path we would just follow that for the next 12 miles straight into Battery Park.
After a couple minutes we reached Loosy’s older brother John, and after riding a couple minutes with him we ran into Loosy’s parents who were standing on the side of the path with cameras and umbrellas. We were excited to see them, but since unexpected delays set us back a couple hours, we had just enough time to arrive at Battery Park at 2:00 p.m. They left to meet us there and we were back on the path again, every pedal stroke bringing us that much closer to our destination.
Shortly after leaving Loosy’s parents, we came to a poorly labeled section of the bike path and mysteriously ended up in private parking lot with a gate and a security guard demanding to see identification.
We could see where we were supposed to be and as long as the lady would let us out of the parking lot, we could be right back on the path.
Initially she wanted to make us turn around and ride all the way back to where we mistakenly left the path and go around, but Jake was able to convince her to just let us leave, and after hearing that we started our trip in Seattle she finally relented.
Back on the path nothing could stop us.
The rain was still falling and since the path was right next to the street, cars would drive through puddles occasionally sending muddy showers our way.
Before we knew it we were in the city, passing skyscrapers and monuments. We passed 43rd street where we would return later in the day to celebrate at the Heartland Brewery in Times Square. A block away from Battery Park there was construction.
On the bike path.
Even when he’s not driving the Grover Rover, Jamie attracts detours. It is uncanny and patently absurd, slightly thrown by the detour to a bike path, we were able to follow the signs and resume our route to Batter Park.
Our detour brought us in the back way, completely surprising our family members and the other people waiting for us. We then had to bike around and find the people who were expecting us to come in the other direction.
We found everyone’s parents, except for Will’s. Unfortunately, his family had to attend a wedding and couldn’t be there, but his friend Larissa, who he worked with at a summer camp, and her brother showed up to surprise him.
Also in Battery Park was Randy Cole, the man who was there when we began our journey in Seattle. After spending a couple minutes reuniting with family, we had a short interview with Amber Browning-Coyle, a woman who has her own video series on her website ABC Coast to Coast.
There was also a photographer who came to take some photos for the school’s alumni magazine (look for us in the next Gedunk magazine!).
After ending, we were disappointed to find out that we wouldn’t be allowed to put our tires in the water. Fortunately at that time, one of the ships shuttling tourists back and forth to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island was coming to dock right at that moment and it brought a wave up the incline creating a puddle. We all put our tires in the puddle, including Jamie who had logged approximately 14 miles on his borrowed bike, and called it a victory.
We then ceremonially poured the water bottle filled with Pacific Ocean water in the bay. After sitting in our van for 11 weeks it smelled bad and as we watched it trickle out, we felt a sense of mission accomplished.
The only thing left to do was celebrate.
After 77 days, exactly 11 weeks on the road, we had biked across the country, raised over $40,000 , and discovered first-hand the unique community of alumni Grove City College has.
We reached our goal and people simply continue to give. The trip has been over for a week and a woman just gave us a check for $500. This was a unique opportunity to be a part of a movement, of people coming together to achieve something unbelievable and people are still donating so they can be a part of it.
Every donation goes to the benefit of a future student and helps ensure that Grove City will continue to be a place that develops people who will leave this world a better place.
There’s no other way to say it, we’re blessed.
We went to the Heartland Brewery where over 50 friends, family, and alumni gathered to help us celebrate the unique adventure we had just completed. We were excited to see that Jeff Prokovich, the person mainly responsible for making our idea for this trip become a reality, had finally been able to get a flight to New York and made it to the final celebration.
Storms had canceled all flights the night before and delayed several flights the next morning. Luckily, Jeff was able to make it, it wouldn’t have been the same without him there.
The food was great, the atmosphere was wonderful, and surrounded by so many great people, the night could not have been any better.
When the night finally ended, we gathered our belongings from the Grover Rover and said our goodbyes.
To one another.
It was over. Everything built to this moment and now it was here. It was a surreal moment. Loosy closed us out the way we started every day, with a prayer, and then we went our separate ways.
All things come to an end, but if they change you, if you allow yourself to be molded by the experience, then it lives on in everything you do.
We were challenged every day by the kindness of people we barely knew.
We constantly asked ourselves the question, if the roles were reversed, would I do that?
We’re not biking any more, but the memories will last for a lifetime. There will always be opportunities to love your neighbor, to do something good, and in that sense for us, this trip will never end.