The lights in the ferry terminal switched on at 6 am and I slowly proceeded through my morning routine. Biking shorts. Pants. Jersey. Shirt. Socks. Shoes. Jacket? Not today. And I put the gloves in my pocket. We sat down for breakfast in the terminal and slowly filled our bellies. Bacon. Eggs. Toast. Yogurt. It would be our only meal of the day. As I climbed onto my bike, I paused just as I began to put on my gloves-- I put them away. Today, I wanted to feel everything. Every bump. Every turn. Everything.
The morning greeted us with an island shrouded in mist and such remarkable beauty unfolded before us that every pedal stroke was tinged with a tiny bit of sadness. Without the jacket, I could feel the wind chilling my arms and chest as I coasted down the hills. And without my gloves, I could feel the wheels spinning in my hands and the dampness of the pavement in my fingertips. It was overwhelming. Intimate. Sensual.
School buses passed with children inside. Trucks drove by, spraying a fine mist over me, dotting my glasses. Dirt sprayed up from the road, onto my pants, despite the fenders. Closer and closer. After 100 km, the morning's meal had been depleted and my stomach cried out for more. We stopped and I had an apple, but it wasn't enough. Though I had another one in my pocket, I wouldn't allow myself to eat it. I don't know why. Perhaps I thought that my hopes and dreams would carry me the rest of the way. But it's more likely that I simply wanted to add hunger to the anxiousness and excitement to the flurry of emotions I was already feeling.
A huge hill. Onwards and upwards. Everything was focused on my breathing. Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. And as I caught sight of St. John's, my eyes blurred and I found myself completely overwhelmed. Not now, I'm not even there yet. Yes now, experience it now. And as I kept on cycling towards the harbour, all I could think of was how long I have wanted this. How badly I have wanted this. How many nights I have dreamed of cycling across the country. How much this means to me. How much this means to others. How I wish that I could share this incredible feeling with all the people I know and love. How I wish that I could tell all my students that their dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem, are beautiful and worthwhile.
Down the hill. We gently rolled into the harbour and our bikes came to a stop. We unclipped ourselves from our bikes and stared at the water before us. We're here. We made it. And a calm settled over us. There was no yelling. There was no epiphany. It was simply quiet and peaceful. And it was wonderful. We took pictures. We admired the scenery. But that wasn't enough.
"I'm going in, hold the camera." She looked at me in disbelief. We were already both shivering from the cold winds. I removed my shoes, grabbed my water bottle and leapt into the harbour.
I plunged into the frigid water with a splash. Everything came alive. Every part of my body screamed for heat. I quickly filled my water bottle with the souvenir of salty Atlantic water, screwed on the cap and hurled it up in the air. Remember. I lowered my head into the water and allowed the coldness to envelop me. Remember this moment. I climbed out of the water and stood shivering and numb, dripping salty trails onto the pavement. I could only laugh when I saw that my water bottle had shattered, spilling my precious souvenir water everywhere.
I pulled my cell phone out of my bag and called Jenny. Hello? Her voice. How I've missed her voice. I could barely contain myself.
I love you so much. I'm finally here. I miss you. And it all poured out, through my gasping breaths, the realization that it was over. 72 days. 7,257 kilometres. 160 pounds on June 28th. 145 pounds on September 7th. 3.4 million spins of the tire. 6 punctured tubes. 3 broken spokes. 1 worn down rear tire. 1 bent rim. A new appreciation for Canada. An opportunity to help communities in Malawi.
Thank you for everyone for helping to save lives on the other side of the world. Thank you for reaching out with your kindness, generosity and support.
Thank you for making a dream come true.