Now what?

Reflections after two afternoon beers and two evening margaritas…

Gloucester harbor (same image is on the gym floor at the high school)

We arrived in Gloucester, waited for Tony to arrive, then headed to the beach with our police escort. Returning to the high school, we showered and changed. My former co-worker, then boss, now neither, just friend, met us at the school, walked down to the beach for the ceremony, then dropped off a few beers for me. I soon headed into town for dinner and to await our cruise.

I ate at the Minglewood Harborside. I admit I was attracted by the name. After a lobster roll with Parmesan truffle fries, I had crème brûlée and coffee before heading to the wharf, just a few feet away.

Server’s t-shirt
Based on a 1920s song first recorded by Noah Lewis

I sat at the wharf, looking out over the harbor. A cover band was playing, close enough to hear, far enough to not be overwhelming. I reflected on the last nine weeks and saw other riders drift by occasionally.

I alternated between “yep, we’re done, time to go home” and “holy shit, what have I just done?!” I looked at the other riders and thought, “No one looking at us would guess what we just did.” We are ordinary people who just did an extraordinary thing. We rode our bikes across the continent. To see us walking down the street, you would not guess that. We do not look like elite athletes. We look like the people you see on the street every day. We are the people you see on the street every day.

Despite spending a few hundred miles in the COVID bus, I rode a bit over 4000 miles. Coming close to flying home from Wyoming to recuperate, recovering enough to climb Teton Pass within a week of contracting the disease, and riding about 3000 miles after that made this trip special in an unanticipated way. I wouldn’t have wished for that, but I don’t regret it. I learned something about myself and others in the process.

At the appointed time, we boarded the boat for “a three hour tour”. We cruised the harbor, out past the breakwater into the ocean, then back again. We drank margaritas. We chatted, knowing that we would never see each other again. We shared, for the last time, this incredible experience. But we didn’t talk about it as an incredible experience. We talked about it as our daily life for the past nine weeks – the way you would ask your partner, “how was your day?”

In the morning I will pack up one last time and board the van one last time for a trip to Logan Airport. On Wednesday, if plans don’t change, I’ll meet Ed and Jerry as Ed drops off our bikes and my duffle bag, and we’ll toast the end of this long, strange trip with a beer on the Union Terrace.

Then it will be time to start this new post-retirement life.