Sunday, October 2, 2011

A recap of Day 4 and Day 5, Part 2

Today, Day 5, I had 82 miles to go make up the 459 that are symbolic of the $459 million dollar cut to the state education budget. The final number had been revised since I did my research and found $476 million, as an intrepid Daily Tarheel reporter discovered, so I happily revised my bike ride to match. I think it's important to be accurate about the numbers. As it was, I hit Emerald Isle, spying the ocean, at 63 miles, and still had to bike another 19 by looping up the beach roads and then back down the main highway. Being "done" - eg, hitting the coast, crossing NC - but still picking up those last few miles was a little anticlimactic. I was focused, focused, focused today. My average speed picked up on the flats. I told myself I could stop every ten miles if I needed to - just make it ten more miles - but 15 and 20 miles would slide by before I stopped to sit for a moment and eat an energy bar. By now the countryside was flat, with lots of cotton fields, and the houses I passed often seemed poor and in disrepair. Parts of Eastern North Carolina have a kind of ramshackle beauty that is sad and peaceful all at once. But I didn't notice the landscape as much as usual today. I was counting down every mile.

On Emerald Isle, for the last 19 miles, I flew at first. I felt invincible. Then I changed direction, biking back from the bridge where I'd started, for the last few miles. That meant I was biking into the wind. Everything fell apart at once. Suddenly sitting on the bike hurt worse than it had the whole trip, and my speed slowed dramatically. I was fighting the wind for every last mile. It's like my mind and body knew I was done - or close enough - and just let down. As soon as I hit mile 82, I turned my bike toward a beach access road, stopped my watch, and wheeled my bike up the wood ramp over the dunes to the sand. Irrationally, I thought that my bike deserved to see the ocean after working so hard. I called my mom to come meet me for a celebratory splash in the surf, called my husband to tell him I was done, and just flopped down on the sand, exhausted. It was cool today - I wore a light sweatshirt all day for the first time - and the sand was cool and damp. But the sun was warm. I didn't feel ecstatic or proud or anything, just glad to be done. But there was a sense of completeness, deep in my bones, along with the relief.

I'll be saying thank yous for awhile, but everyone who cheered for me on Facebook, and my family, my mom there every second and others rooting for me and supporting me from a distance: You have been wonderful! Small but meaningful contributions from people along the way were amazing too. The donated brownies, and a hotel clerk who gave us the government rate since I was riding for education. The Islander hotel on Emerald Isle let us use a hotel room for the afternoon for less than half the nightly rate so I could shower before driving home. Strangers who asked me about my bike and how far I was riding heard about BIKE NC and told me what a great thing it was. It means so much to know people believed in me, or in the cause of bringing attention and needed funds to education, or maybe both. THANK YOU.

Stay tuned for pictures in the next few days. I'll be doing a few brief blog posts and perhaps making some follow up plans to the bike ride. Thank you notes for those who have donated will be sent. And it's back to law school and a lot of make up work for me. But I will be thinking about those 459 miles for a long time.

I am keeping the donation link open through the end of the month. I'll share education news, and ask that people continue to help spread the word and consider donating. We've done a great job raising almost $4,000 for three amazing nonprofits, but we can do more.

For now, good night and thanks for following along!

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