Yesterday the 4K team made the big splash (literally) into the Pacific Ocean after crossing the entire country on two wheels. I think we were in such awe and shock that tears were impossible. However, after a nice celebratory dinner at Fishermen's Warf, the feeling is bittersweet. The saltwater and sand that was the last of our 63-day 4,000 miles' worth of filth has been washed down the drain and into the San Francisco Bay, only leaving our blaring tan lines and the loneliness of our feet without pedals supporting them from underneath.
Waking up minus 26 other people at my side was bizarre and an unimaginable scenario until now. Although the trip took us to a different place every day, there was still a strong sense of continuity within the "four" chaos. Each morning we circled up and made our dedications, chanted the cheer and found teams for the day. We then took the day 20 miles at a time (sometimes one pedal stroke at a time) and kept it that way until our next host where we again met up and feasted on whatever food was available. From peanut butter to canned chickpeas, no food supply was left unscathed. To a non-4K-er, a bottle of leftover pickle juice is meant to be thrown down the drain, while to others it is a ceremonial drink that is consumed while tackling a mountain in Escalante...only to be puked back up.
Of the entire journey, the desert (Utah and Nevada) was probably where we made or most memorable of connections between teammates. With little food, water and people in sight, it was really up to us to keep each other going. I don't think we realized at the time, but looking back, there was not one day where we went without a ridiculous amount of laughter...and sometimes tears.
Dedications and stories could make me crumble like a cookie left at the bottom of a 4K food bin....especially at our last pow wow on the California coast when the fog was rolling in and one of our team members, Kate, recalled a story that led us all to tears. She told us about the family friend whom she had been riding for all summer, Johnny, and the story of his ability to observe beauty in the simplest of things. (see post titled, "Palm Tree") At this moment, I think we all came to the realization that the end was near and this alternative lifestyle we had been living with a family of 27 best friends was at its end.
Sitting in a bed* 24 hours later, I cannot see the next few days without the endless laughter and companionship that was such a gift over the past 2 months. The patience and love we all cultivated for each other was probably the most surprising of lessons learned over the course of the trip. I think we all came out on the other end with different reasons for taking this journey, while also maintaining our original purpose and dedications.
(On a more personal note) I began this trip in honor of my Aunt Bev and in memory of my high school friend's father who passed away from pancreatic cancer a couple years ago. His sudden death and the immediate whirlwind of changes that she encountered in her life was enough to knock the air out of me. It was a time of realization that life is beautiful and brief and if we are to ever take advantage of our time on this earth it has to be now, at this very moment. I've once again stood up with a dizzying feeling that there is so much to know and understand. There are risks that cannot be avoided in order to obtain fulfillment, and with those risks come unexpected twists and turns that lead you to the most remarkable of places and people.
The biggest of hugs to twenty-six strangers that became family. I love you tremendously.
*note: beds were a rare and wonderful occurrence on the 4K. I have yet to unravel my sleeping bag and air out the desert stink.