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Today: 52 Miles - AVG Speed: 11.2 MPM - Top Speed: 36.3MPH
Total: 5,447.10

Ok, perhaps I was a little down in the dumps yesterday. With the benefit of hindsight I can see why it was all so anti-climactic. From the very beginning the aim had been to get to San Francisco, and moving the goalposts at such a late stage had meant that I’d forced myself into purgatory pre-completion. I had not finished yesterday. Today, we have.

I was out of the door by 10 o’clock. This gave me three hours to get to San Francisco based on my estimate of a 33 mile trip. The very first issue of the day, though, was the steepest climb of the tour. It was only half-a-mile or thereabouts, but at a grade of 17%. I knew it would be hard as I struggled to control Betty on the descent last night. After being out of my seat in the lowest gear and grinding to the top it hit me that we still had some work to do, but I was grateful for this chore, as to finish the ride with an easy glide to San Francisco would’ve felt too easy. After 20 miles through some hilly woodland we came to an opening. The opening was the Pacific, and California State Highway 1 hugged the coast at sea level for the first 10 miles. A cool breeze hit me, and for the first time in a long time, conditions were absolutely perfect. We meandered around beaches and then up some extremely steep climbs, but the views they offered made all the effort seem worthwhile, not just of this morning, but of the last three months. The only problem was that I had chatted to another cyclist at the top of cliff and he told me I was still 90 minutes from San Francisco. That made me two hours late to meet my mother. Whoops.

Well, we continued along the coast and then into Sausalito, the Mediterranean styled marina town opposite San Francisco. From here I had my first glance of the city. Now the feelings were there. This was what I had been waiting for. Happiness, serenity, the sense of a job done. The ride over the Golden Gate Bridge was the most fitting way to finish. To ride across one of the worlds most iconic man-made structures after months riding through towns and lands barely touched by man hit me hard. 3 months, 5,000+ miles through hard rain, frosty altitudes, mountain climbs, sweltering desert and obscenely beautiful natural parks was nearing the end. It was without doubt the most satisfied I had ever felt from finishing a task. The America’s Cup is currently on in this great city, and as a result it is as busy as I have ever seen the place. Deck-shoed yacht enthusiasts jostled for position to overlook the racing machines around the bay, and the traffic on the roads was just as obstructive. This made the last 4 miles from the bridge to my mother’s hotel a one hour journey and the most intense hour of the entire trip, I had to have full concentration to snake my way through the crowds. The last thing I wanted to do was to crush some rich-ladys pug with thirty minutes to go, that would've put a right downer on the day. I crawled along the Embarcadero to get onto Market Street and after 20 blocks or so I saw the familiar face of Chris and one pale hand raised to the sky. The pale hand of a mother. Smiling and waving with all the joy and relief that only a mother could have at seeing her only son in one, malnourished, ginger-bearded piece. The three of us embraced and that was that. A fitting finale.

Three years ago when the idea first appeared I made a snap decision to go-ahead with it. There was never a question of bravery because I didn’t weigh up the options. It was an epiphanal challenge and, being an impulsive man, I just said "yes" (to myself). There were some delays in getting the ball rolling, but two years ago I set the date and it has remained in place since then. I now realise that all the planning and dreaming has also been a part of the ride. It was more than just cycling.

Some of my friends make a siren noise when I announce a new interest. They call it “phase alert”. These phases have included:

Painting
Ice Skating
Stand-up comedy
Healthy living (smoothies, etc)
Learning French
Gym Membership

All of which and countless more (they really are countless, my housemate kept a journal and he keeps adding to them) held my interest for a short while before I got bored and moved on. Basically, I never complete anything, but at least I've kept true to this ambition. I didn’t ask much from this tour, but I’ve received more than I could’ve imagined. Mostly, though, a passion for cycling that I know is here to stay. Apart from being with friends, riding until exhaustion is my greatest pleasure. The freedom of mind when setting out every day holds such power over me now that I will never stop getting on the bike. I have, at last, a great active passion in life.

If I could just leave you with this: it's advisable never to be too earnest in endeavour. The real thrill is soaking up the lows, mundane and exceptionally beautiful with one ironic eye and the other focused on reality. It took me a few days to learn that what is most important is to step away from the story book and into the documentary. Truth is greater, and far more powerful than fiction. 

Stats
Countries: 2
States: 16
Riding Days: 69
Daily Average: 78.8 Miles
Longest day: 200 Miles
Shortest day: 21.2 Miles
Total Miles: 5,347.00
Punctures: 9
Tires: 6 (2 front, 4 rear)
Racks: 2
Handlebars: 2
Wheels 3: (1 front, 2 rear)
Crashes: 1
Beards: 1
Meals paid for by public: 4
On the road donations: 3 (Steve in Kentucky, Diane in Utah and a sexy, cool couple in a jeep in California)

Nutshell
Favourite State: Utah for the scenery and parks, Maine for the people.
Least Favourite State: Illinois, but the storms and humidity didn't help, neither did the ridiculous over-emphasis on Popeye in Chester.
Best Day: The final day for the coastal road and feeling of achievement, but Day 51, Torrey to Escalante was incredible for the climbs, views and sheer diversity in nature from start to finish.
Worst day: You'd think crash day would clinch this, but before the tumble it was up there with the best. The dehydration day was scary, but for total horror, day 6 to Bethel in Vermont was absolutely shit. Never seen rain like it.

Finally...
This has all been in aid of charity. If any of you who have enjoyed this blog - or are just glad it's over - can spare some hard earned cash, you can still donate to mind here.


Thanks for reading,
LC.

Nothing like a quick warm-up before the ride starts. I'm surprised my camera wasn't sweating.
Can we put our feet and wheels up now?
Thanks for the reminder.
 


Sue Richardson
09/11/2013 12:44am

You write beautifully Shaun. This last episode almost made me cry. You should publish your adventures. Look forward to hearing your adventures first hand when you get back. Sue x

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@Tweggs
09/11/2013 1:37am

Congratulations Shaun, what an achievement and experience. It's been great following your adventures over the past couple of months.

It's also been enough of an inspiration to plan a similar trip with my wife - but not for a good few years yet (maybe retirement!).

Keep riding! Bon velo!

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Lee
09/11/2013 1:48am

Well done Shaun. Fantastic achievement.

The link to your Just Giving page is broken - can you repost it?

Lee

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Ashley
09/11/2013 3:45am

I did not expect to wake up this morning, lie in bed and cry as I read your last post.... But there you have it! I'm so proud of you! Now go get me some visine, I have to go to work soon. X

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Michelle
09/11/2013 6:43am

What a ride. Your writing is like a hot fudge sundae. Decadent, a little nutty, and wonderfully satisfying. I agree that it should be contained in pages to inspire well beyond us fortunate folks. Congratulations, sir. Truly.

I forgive you for liking Maine more...

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Bradley Wiggins
09/11/2013 10:35am

Piece of piss

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Peter and Donna Ward
09/11/2013 3:30pm

HOORAY, BRAVO, YOU DID IT - AS A MOM I CAN IMAGINE THE PRIDE YOUR MOM HAS OF THIS ACIEVEMENT AND GETTING THAT MUCH ANTICIPATED HUG!! WE ARE PROUD TO HERE WE EXCELLED IN MAINE - KUDOS FOR OUR PEOPLE. I WILL CHECK DONATION PAGE WHEN WE GET HOME AND MAKE OUR DONATION FOR AN ACHIEVEMENT WELL EXECUTED. YOU WILL DO WELL IN ALL YOUR LIFETIME ENDEAVOURS. PLEASE KEEP US INFORMED AFTER YOU RETURN ACROSS THE BIG WATER.

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Shaun O'Dwyer
09/11/2013 8:04pm

You've forced my hand in response. Lee. Try this one:
uk.virginmoneygiving.co.uk

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Shaun O'Dwyer
09/11/2013 8:05pm

Thanks to you all. This blog has kept a vital connection with you. Without it and you, I'm just a bloke on a bike.

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Ian
09/11/2013 11:06pm

Take a bow, young man.

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Jeff
09/13/2013 6:23pm

Well done!

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Choops
09/18/2013 3:23pm

Amazing. Well done, have really loved the blog. You funny. Huge congratulations, incredible achievement

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Alessia Small
09/20/2013 3:31am

Your blogs have been wonderful and I am so inspired by your journey. Its amazing what you can achieve when you just get up and do it. Congratulations seems so banal but I do mean it. Well done well done and see you soon I hope. Stunning performance. xx

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Jason
10/31/2013 12:26pm

Mate, I know it's now the last day of October and I have finally finished it blog! Amazing, I'm putting you up with Jerry Seinfeld for admiration. Cycling across American has now been removed from the phase alert journal and into the ticked off list (it stands alone, but proud as I do for you!)

See 5 yrs living with me and I knew my Aussie accent would rub off and seeming unknowing become yours!

Love ya bud!

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