Final Days – “My Wish” Rascal Flatts

I have now been home for a few days, and have thought often about finishing this last post.  But each time I began, I just could not bring myself to finish it… almost as if by completing the blog post, my journey would truly be over.   Here are my thoughts on the final day and re-entry into my real life.

Our last evening as a group was a celebratory dinner after our ride into St. Augustine.  The excitement of the day still hummed about the room, the chatter and laughter rang through the restaurant.  We had spent 60 days together, yet there was still so much to talk and laugh about.   We sat at small tables and enjoyed the company.   There were speeches and toasts, and laughter.   And there were gifts for the dish washing crew!

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After dinner, I headed out to meet with my incredible welcoming committee!  I am still basking in the warmth of their love and support!  My routine over the last 60 days has pretty much been the same, it was predictable, simple and mindless.   Here I was trying to stay awake after 9 pm and have a couple of drinks.. I did not last until 11! a few pics – not all of my crew!

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Early Friday morning, I looked out the window and was greeted by a sensational downpour.   I was so thankful that I did not have to put on my bike clothes and ride out into it – it proved to be quite a storm.   I did have to go out – but for a different task.  The handover of Sweet Ruby to Carol for a ride to the bike shop for packing and transport home.   There were 13 bikes that were to be shipped home, and about a dozen riders hitching a ride to the airport.   The area in front of  lobby was busy and unfortunately for anyone trying to sleep – was a bit noisy.

image image image imageMy emotions on Thursday were pure joy and happiness, surprisingly I was not as weepy as I thought I would be.   I could not say the same for Friday.   Watching each bike get loaded onto the van symbolized the end of the ride for each of us.   People were saying their good byes and heading back to their lives.   I admit it, I was teary.  I am sure that I will see some of these women again, and with the likes of social media will be able to easily stay in touch.   A diverse group of 30 women – different backgrounds, ages, skill level, personalities all together for one purpose, to bicycle across the Southern Tier of the US.   This was the glue that held the group together – the common enjoyment of riding a bike.  Each with the determination to climb out of bed everyday and tackle the route.   Overcoming weather, fatigue, boredom, bad roads, illness and mechanical issues- each participant rode their ride, and created their own journey.   There were 7 that completed every last mile, there were others that were short one day of riding, others that completed the amount of miles that they wanted to or could do.  Whether 1000 miles completed or 3000+ no one pedaled it for you.  You had to do it all. Congratulations to each of them.

Beyond the riding, there were lessons to be learned about self, life and coexistence.   For me this trip reinforced many things about myself that I already knew.  And not all good 🙂  .    I still have so much to learn, and to do and to be.   With a bit more insight into those traits that make me strong, and an acknowledgement of those things that hamper me I can continue to move forward and enjoy and contribute meaningfully to life – both mine and others.  I thank those women who helped me during the trip – your kind words, encouragement, support and cheers made a tremendous difference to me.   I have spoken of my cycling buddy Tanya in the past and am so thankful that we  were able to ride together for many days.  We laughed, we chatted, we cried, we swore, and we pedaled and rode often for miles and miles without a word.  I believe I have made a friend for life.   Nancy and Carolyn, our SAG drivers shared their cycling experience with us (Carolyn is the fastest tire changer in the land – she could compete against any NASCAR pit crew…), their kindness and their compassion.   Nancy drew the short straw on several occasions and had SAG duty on a few of my most difficult days.  She witnessed the unraveling of Karen Coffey, and yet never once made me feel bad  or diminished.  I am ever grateful.  Carol had the task of herding cats everyday, and she did it with experience, precision and a sense of humor.  Truly a great person. Thank you, Carol.   So many of the others in the group impacted me daily – thank you.

I cannot thank all of you enough — your support, encouragement and love have been incredible.   Know that each comment, text, post, card, and phone call were heard, read and cherished.   There were days that I was unsure if I could go on, there were days that I was unsure if I could get on Ruby, there were days that were mind numbingly boring, there were days that I missed home – my son, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my bed, my routine.   Your words, your cheers got me through each of those moments.   And for the days that I enjoyed, the days that the sun shone brightly, the wildflowers lined my road, the days that I prevailed agains the climb or the wind, the days that I laughed and made new friends – those were the days that I brought all of you along with me to enjoy the ride.  To my send off in San Diego, to Arizona, Texas and Florida – you have come out in droves to offer support.  Hugs from my neighbors (once a neighbor, always a  neighbor…), friends and family made all the difference.  I appreciate your taking time out of your lives to fly, drive and hang out with me.   Genuinely amazed and overwhelmed by all of it!

The gifts of my supportive village did not end there – your generosity and commitment to my charity partner, Make-A-Wish NH was astounding.  As of today we are only a few hundred dollars shy of $18,000.   WOW!   I would like to acknowledge Donna Parker, and the hard working folks at Make-A-Wish for their tireless efforts of granting wishes of children!   The joy, happiness and memories created are priceless – and live on forever.   Thank you, Donna and team.       My heart is also full of love and gratitude for those who have shared their Make-A-Wish experiences with me over the last few months.   When I chose Make-A-Wish it was from watching a friend and her family go through the experience – but what I found was that Make-A-Wish has touched so many lives around me – those that I knew, and those that I have met along the way. For those of you that opened your wallet – I appreciate your sharing your hard earned dollars with Make-A-Wish. There are so many competing needs both personally and charitably that I appreciate your choice and support.

Please know that your donations will go toward the funding of two wishes for deserving wish kids and their families.   Feels good?  Absolutely.

I would also like to acknowledge my employer, W.Capra Consulting Group – Chicago for agreeing to my request for a sabbatical, providing me the time and distance to separate myself from work, and for those colleagues who had to pick up my slack.    I am fortunate to be part of a great organization that values their people, makes work challenging but fun and well, likes beer.  Thanks to Doug, Pat, Terry, Mike….. and my most favorite -Tim, and the entire W.Capra team.

Well, I could go on – but I do need to get to work…but I would like to leave you with this… I am not any different than any of you.  I am your neighbor, your classmate, your colleague,  your friend.   I am  not any stronger or smarter than any of you.   To me, the most important act that you can grant to yourself, is to give yourself permission to think big.  Remove the negativity, remove the excuses, remove the I can’ts – and work on the list of how could I do that?   What would I want ?  How do I get there?     It may take time – years perhaps (my trip was planned for 582 days ), it may take money, ( I saved, scrimped, and made changes to my lifestyle), it may take effort (physical training, education, learning), it may take belief (yours and those around you… and if those around you don’t believe…. keep looking.. there are those will be supportive) and it may take guts.      But each one of  you possess the ability to think big, plan and do.

 

Until we meet again,

Karen

 

RASCAL FLATTS LYRICS

“My Wish”

I hope that the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you want to go,
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window,
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,But more than anything, more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.I hope you never look back, but ya never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you left,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get,
Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake,
And you always give more than you take.But more than anything, yeah, and more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.This is my wish
I hope you know somebody loves you
May all your dreams stay big
E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 55 – “Sweet Emotion” Aerosmith

Palatka, to St. Augustine, FL

45 miles

Grand Total:  3075!!!

OHHHH What a day!!

I nearly skipped to breakfast I was so excited.  I wanted to savor and enjoy every possible moment of the day.   Just as I had done for 50+ days, I packed up my bags for the last time, and hauled them into the trailer.  Grabbed something to eat – admittedly not much- but needed some fuel, as we were riding 45 miles!!   After breakfast I went back to my room and grabbed my bike and helmet – took one last glance around and headed to the parking lot.   I skipped the snack table, and realized belatedly, that I had not topped off the air in my tires.  So maybe, I did not do the same thing I had done every day and this day would be a little different.

We headed out of Palatka and quickly found ourselves making turns on quiet country roads.    We rolled in at 20 for our final SAG- topped off water bottles and headed to the fire station to assemble for our final 7 miles, which we would travel as a group.

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At the fire station we were met by Brian,  our police escort and went over the details of our arrival.   We were also told that a short distance from the fire station their would be quite a bit of police activity as their was currently a “police action” ongoing – as some type of warrants were being issued.  Okay!

We lined up in pairs. Tanya and I decided that we should finish as we started at the end!   I told her that we were not the end – but that we should think of it as if we were dessert!   Being the teacher’s pet/brown nose/kiss ass that I admittedly am – this worked out perfect — right in front of us were our terrific SAG drivers Carolyn and Nancy and riding sweep was our guide and chief keeper – Carol and our talented Chef- Patty.

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Brian led us out and we headed toward Anastasia State Park .  I was enjoying every moment and so excited to see my family and friends.  Plus blowing through all of the red lights was great.

When we made the turn into the park their were several hoots and whoops!  But the  nervous chatter that had accompanied us (and the singing of Happy Birthday to Cathy) had turned into quiet sound of pedaling and anticipation!

I thought I would cry – but I was just so very happy to be completing this most amazing and challenging journey.  Seeing my crazy welcoming committee decked out with balloons and banners and crazy champagne glasses was tremendous!   I could not get off my bike quickly enough   Hugs, taps and kisses all around.

After our greeting we headed down to the beach to dip our tires for our official finish.

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Such a great day.   I will share some final thoughts on my next blog post – not sure i will be able to articulate all of the emotions and thoughts  – but i will try!   And they are sweet!!!

 

Day 54 – “Happy” Pharrell

High Springs to Palatka,FL

74 Miles

Total Miles:  3030!!!!

Today’s song was inspired by a stop at Dairy Queen at mile 73!

There is nothing like a promise of an ice cream to inspire women to sprint 20 miles in 98% humidity after 50 miles!   Along with the cool refreshment, there was an outburst of dancing in the parking lot.   Another patron parked his truck near us, and when he opened the door he had “Happy” blaring from his speakers.  A few of the gang somewhat accosted him and asked if he could leave his door open and not leave until the song was over.   He agreed, and then there was dancing with ice cream in the parking lot.   As is often the case, pictures just do not do it justice – but it was a wonderful moment to behold!

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Another highlight of the day included surpassing 3000 miles!   I am having trouble processing that – but my angry ass assures me that we did do it!

Tomorrow we will have breakfast at the hotel, so this morning was our last “trailer” cooked meal by our chef Patty.  I trained for breakfast.  Not just the bike riding – but breakfast.  I ate oatmeal for 30 days in a row, so that when presented with it , I could choke it down.   Today, I easily consumed my oatmeal. I am now prepared to go back to 4H Summer camp and do it again!

Patty is one of 3 cooks that we have enjoyed.  She is a talented and experience chef and guide.  Each of the three had their own style and talent – it has been a pleasure meeting all of them – Kudos to Sarah, Kimberly and Patty.  Thank you!

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During the ride today, I was not thinking too far ahead, it just seemed like another ride to me.  Mileage to make to move ourselves across the southern tier.  It was not until I arrived at the hotel and started to organize my gear for tomorrow that it really hit me that tomorrow is the last day!

I enjoyed my last dishwashing session with the gang!  I was teasing that I did not sign up for a cycling tour – the brochure that I received highlighted the dishwashing experience, and during the day there was cycling!

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The gang has arrived from NH and I cannot wait to see everyone tomorrow!

We have received our last cue sheet and instructions for tomorrow.  We head out and do the the first 40 miles as “normal” and meet up at a Fire Station about 7 miles out.  We assemble and will receive a police escort into St. Augustine.  We roll rain or shine — and it looks  like we may have rain — I am hoping we can stay ahead of it and avoid a down pour.

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Off to finishing packing and then trying to catch a wink or two!