Thursday, 31 October 2013

Day 24 - Here I stand.....

I thought I would start todays blog last night as im not sure what state im going to be in, should I get to the pier in 1 piece. So to make sure I say everything I wanted to say and risk boring you all, the first half of this blog is reflection of the journey the night before.

Part 1

First and foremost this ride has been for the people whose names are on my prayer flags. They are family, friends and people I have never met but all have been tied to me and shared every step of this adventure with me. They are (in no particular order) :

Dave Spragg
Mitch Dooley
Stevie Collins
Vera Collins
Peter Collins
Peter Sirett
Marija Milinkovic
Eric Ray
Gordon Wilson
Anne Wilson
Tom Lloyd Twitchen
Hazel Rolf
George Rolf
Richard Tankard
Irene Burns
Kamila
Laura
Sue Jones
Melanie Sykes
Harris Shryock
Darren Clark
Viv Pugh
Norman Winn
Mickey Collins
Scott Weten Kemp
Kelly Lick
Frances Catt
Ken Owens
Ladda
Reuben Graham
Mike Peters
Monica Thompson
Irene Wyeth
Damien Blake
Tinie
Gwen
Denise Falcus
Irene Mulloy
Henry Mulloy
Annabel
Sam
Mandy Setterfield
Judith Brown
Sara Williams
Urszula Smith
Jean Kavangh
Una Quinn
Jill Yates
Celia Wilson
Melvin Wilson
Paul Wilson
Jean Ford
Sandie Ford

I described this journey in the beginning as solo and unsupported, and in so much as I have been physically alone, it was by no means unsupported. I cannot name everyone who has commented on my blogs or donated as I would wish to, but special thanks go to (again in no particular order):

My family - Thank you for your support of all things crazy
My work mothers - for putting up with me and messages of encouragement
Mickey for his phone calls when I have been low and general motivation, you are an official legend
Mike and Jules Peters and family for the inspiration, encouragement, and music!
Dave Spragg - for friendship
Emma Dunne, especially for phone call when homesick
Beki and Randy - for friendship and support
Joe Silva- for being awesome and the support
Kelly dooley creek - for organising help and support
Louize and Mark Evans - for shorts and showing me the Grand Canyon
Monica Thompson - for letting me crash unexpectedly
Faith - for taking interest In a stranger and the journey
Buscot ward - for cake eating, climbing the stairs, support and helping to provide a great place to work
David Vieira - for kindly donating the gig venue
Helen Simons and family - for welcoming me and helping getting me organised at the scary beginning part
Rob Rushing - for sharing, support and swabbing fun!
James Chippendale - for your enthusiasm and support.
Sophie Franklin - for being the best kind of best friend.

Everyone who has sent messages of encouragement, support, inspiration and donated... could not have done it without ya x

So thats the Oscar Speech out of the way.....

Together we have raised over £3800 and hopefully more from the gig..
I have cycled over 2300 miles, burnt 96000 calories (at best guess), renewed my faith in humanity and made new friends.

My favourite part of the ride (excluding the finish) has been sitting at the edge of the painted desert, breathing the air and listening to the wind.
My worst day is a toss up between headwind day in New Mexico and headwind day in Arizona.
I have learnt that I can keep going long past the point where I thought I was done for.
I have had 2 real scrapes with injury or worse but have siezed many many opportunities to really live.
My fingers do not work properly and my foot is screwed up.
I have lived every minute, breathed every breath and taken in every heartbeat along the way

Love Hope Strength Foundation together with delete blood cancer swabs people for the bone marrow donor list to help save lives... if you have enjoyed this blog, please consider Getting on the list - it takes 5 mins and you could help save a life... please go to www.deletebloodcancer.org.uk to get a home kit!  If you have not donated to the ride and feel able to contribute, please go to www.justgiving.com/Route66LHS and help get the total to over £4000!

LHS was founded by Mike Peters of The Alarm and James Chippendale. Both are legends and Mike never ceases to amaze me with his boundless energy and enthusiasm. He is my inspiration and his music has kept my pedals turning round day after day. Huge thanks to them and Jules Peters for allowing me to be a small part of the whirlwind!

Finally,  please note that anyone could have done this... YOU could have done this... you can do anything you want to, you just have to make the choice...

Part 2

It was kinda wierd packing up this morning, knowing that this would, if all went to plan, be the last day of this journey.  I had everything ready to go for the moment it got light as wanted to get through the pass before traffic got really bad.,
As I set off, the usual heavy legged feeling was there, but I tried to tell myself that they had felt like that every day at the start. I was still worried about my back tyre, convinced I had a slow puncture but it felt ok, but I was cursing myself for not changing the inner tube as a precaution.

I followed the frontage road, looking for the freeway entrance that would then take me through the hills and when I found it, hopped on. The first problem of the day struck... the shoulder was closed for two miles and by closed I mean walled off not just coned off, so I was actually in a lane... not a good plan at all... if I was to survive today, I had to find another way. I pulled in at the works entrance snd chatted to the foreman, who directed me to a side road that had just been retarmacked, saying that it led back to the mojave freeway, which cut through the hills surrounding LA and is the only way through. Result ... smooth, fast, all good. Didnt last long though and before long I was back on the freeway.

Mojave freeway has steep descents of 6% where lorries are advised to stop and check their brakes, and there are frequent signs for escape lanes for the lorries... none of this boded well.  To top it all off, the shoulder had bumps every 20 meters. So there I was, standing up on my pedals to be seen better, being shaken to the bone, brakes on to keep my speed reasonable and hoping that I would live to see LA.  Fortunately all the drivers seemed to be taking the warnings seriously and for the most part, drove sensibly.  It was still a hell of an adrenaline rush though.

12 hair raising miles later,I was directed off to the old route 66 road... and it was a true pleasure to cycle... dropping down through the hills in a reasonable road, quiet with just a goods train for company. I really enjoyed it. The road then wound under the freeway to a lovely rural community. Then it was onwards, waiting at the tracks for the train to pass the crossing, and up to the old route 66.

I was burning by this time, the sun was beating down, and I was starting to get stopped by traffic lights which was slowing me down. As my legs had warmed up, the pace had improved and I was struck by the wide roads, with proper bike lanes (UK take note, they didnt stop after 50 meters) and spanish looking villas with immaculate sculpted gardens. The workmen were out with the leaf blowers and hedge trimmers and it was very pleasant to cycle through. 

Up to this point I had been concentrating on not getting mown down, so I hadnt really thought about where I was and how close I was, this was the first time (of several) that it hit me smack in the face.... oh nope, that was the bees or wasps on this part of the road who werent concentrating on where they were going as I got torpedoed by several of them, so much so that I made a concerted effort to keep my mouth shut as I cycled along... I could see the headlines... "charity cyclist dies after being stung at the back of the throat by a wasp with a misguided sense of direction"!  Fortunately the wasp/bee storm was over pretty quickly and I started dropping down through the various towns in the suburbs of LA. 

I liked these places, particularly Duarte, fortuna, Claremont and Arcadia, each with their own personality and feel to them. I thought that if this was LA, I could see why people liked it here. 

The road ran on and crossed over the freeway. A motorbike drew up alongside and asked about my ride, so I explained. He commented on how thin my tyres were,  then wished me a safe journey.  20 or maybe  30 seconds later, there was a clang of something metal, a pop and a rear puncture. I actually laughed at the timing of this and without too much concern sat down at the edge of the road and replaced the inner tube... 45 minutes this time (you may recall it was an hour last time) and as I had been making good progress, I thought I would still be fine for time.

I phoned Beki, just to update on progress and then went on my way, still feeling pretty good. It wasnt to last... as I dropped even further down towards LA City center, I got cut up by a bus and then my front tyre went flat!
REALLY??? It felt a bit like everything was trying to stop me getting to the pier today. So once again, I sat down and repaired the damage. The main problem being that this was my last inner tube and one more puncture had the capacity to ruin everything. I kept the old inner tube in case I needed to patch it up, and although this one took 30 mins to mend, I was now looking at a very long afternoon with 62 miles minimum to go.

As I reached the centre, I was struck once again by where I was and choked back the tears, telling myself I wasnt there yet!  Then a right turn onto Sunset Boulevard and a long drag up to find the turning for Santa Monica boulevard and my path to the pier and the end of the ride.

It was starting to get late and I was getting concerned about what time I would get to the pier,. With punctures and traffic lights I was now looking at a 6pm arrival. I began to get frustrated with the lights as I was stopping very frequently and couldnt hold a good speed because of it. I was aware beki and randy were waiting for me, and didnt want to cycle in the dark much!
I asked some 'cops' on bikes how far and they gave me news of at least 2 hours, which nade my heart sink. 19:30 arrival in darkness beckoned.
I continued on, turned into Santa Monica blvd and got my lights on as starting to get dark. Then the wierdest thing happened... I stumbled upon a zombie, then a vampire, a ghost... the road had been closed for a halloween festival so I spent a few happy minutes dodging pedestrians instead of cars and laughed at the random event on this ride which made the day. It was by now pretty dark and I was fairly nervous, especially as the cops had warned me about the large amount of drunk drivers out on the road.  I cycle in the dark at home obviously but it is completely different doing that in a strange city. I stopped at some lights when a cyclist pulled up alongside, asked if I was ok (musta looked petrified lol) and where I was headed. He then offered to cycle with me to the pier. Which made the last 6 miles much nicer... 2 bikes are better than 1, especially when 1 knows the city and therfore I finished up at the entrance to the pier, alive, unhurt and safe. So grateful to him for doing that...

So I was at the pier entrance.. phoned beki... "we are waiting at the sign on the pier" came the reply... only another 200 meters to go... up the slope and down the other side... to a chorus of cheers and clapping! Beki and Randy had rounded up a load of random english people to see me to the end! What a lovely thought!

No tears... even I was surprised given my recent affliction of crying at every emotional moment. But I was shaking quite a bit...

Big hugs from beki and randy... how absolutely fantastic to be able to share this moment with some friends.
Then it was photo time, although I had ruined all photo plans by arriving in the dark, which made it tricky. With the help of a flashlight provided by a cop, I have a record of me at the end of the road, with the flags!  (I will take photos of the individual flags and names at the gig tomorrow night.)
A phone call from friends on a night shift completed the day!

Food, at an English pub (to help with my homesickness) then to the travel lodge and facebook catch up.
I plan to blog about tomorrow, so the journey is not quite done.

I wondered about how to finish off todays blog, there seemed only one fitting way:

With Love, Hope and Strength.