by sara dykman
Did we tell you we finished?
It has been two weeks since we arrived in Arcata, CA and completed the bike49 loop. But it hasn’t felt like the end until today, with the five of us spread out across the country. Before, when people asked us how it felt to be done I would shrug and say some standard response about how it had not sunk in. Honestly it felt the same, sure we were not bike touring any more, but we were still together most of the day, still biking, still camping in backyards not our own, and still traveling around together.
But let’s back up. After we bombed down Fickle Hill (my favorite hill) into the town where we had grown into bicycle advocates and good friends, it was time to call the trip officially, unofficially over. Officially bike49 was complete; we could pack up our bags, exchange high fives, and head to new- if not greener- pastures. Officially we had pedaled 15,325 miles through 49 states in 391 days. We had shared our adventures with over 7,000 students around the country. We had patched 79 flat tires. Unofficially, however, bike49 was not over.
Officially we were done, but unofficially there was still much to be done… We still had to celebrate. We rented a car and headed down to Sacramento where Tommy and Aaron’s family threw us a grand party. We were no longer bike touring, but we were still eating our meals together, still cheering and quarreling like brothers and sisters, and still riding our bikes. We were still bike49. When the party was over we went our separate ways and bike49 was complete. Today when I woke up, my bike49 buddies were in different states, and I was about to start another adventure- work.
From Sacramento, Matt and Alyssum carpooled out to Colorado, putting off work for the time being in favor of mountain biking adventures. He has become intent on writing a book about the yearlong experience and looks forward to using the “transition” period to get started. In the Fall he will return to Arcata for a semester to finish his degree. After a few weeks in Colorado Alyssum will return to the college town as well to work at the local bike store (see after a year we still all love bikes). Tommy and Aaron are going to spend the summer in Sacramento and then head to Croatia with family to visit their roots. Throughout the trip Aaron filmed about 50 hours of video with the goal of editing it down and producing a short documentary. And I took the train out to Glacier National Park to spend the summer studying amphibians in the park.
It is exciting to start something new, but I still feel the loss of bike49’s completion. For so long I had this goal, this vision, to hold onto. Before the trip, I could use the idea to motivate me and planning gave me excuses to talk to Aaron, Matt, and Tommy frequently and always with no lag in the conversation. On bike49, the goal of moving forward, moving towards another state, gave me a purpose and a goal I could achieve. And bike49 made finding adventure easy; every day we were put in new and unpredictable situations. So now bike49 is done and it feels like I have lost something.
But while I have lost much, I have gained so much. The last year of biking has given me stories to hold onto for the rest of my life. Meeting the people of this country has given me humility and respect. I no longer underestimate one stranger’s ability to help another stranger and then become friends. Seeing the wild, undeveloped lands of this country has given me another reason to fight for the protection of these wonderful places and make choices as I live my life that help our Planet. Bike49 has taught me about public speaking, about soliciting sponsors, and about making a website. Bike49 taught me how to live, 24 hours a day, with the same handful of people, and still be friends. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had, the friends that have shared in these adventures, and (of course) the 49 states.
Speaking of 49 states, I have a bit of unsettled business with 13 of them. In September I broke my ankle swinging on a swing, and had to miss 13 states. Granted many of the states are small (Iowa to Rhode Island), I still want to ride my bike through them. So for now I will spend my summer in my favorite mountains, studying my favorite animals, and then sometime soon I hope to continue on part two of bike49: bike13. I hope to continue giving presentations at schools, writing blogs, and posting photos on bike49.org.
So for now I want to thank everyone that has supported and made our dreams come true. A big thanks to our sponsors (see the bottom of our website) for all your wonderful (and sometimes delicious) donations. Another thanks to folks from every state we have met that have helped us with a bit of everything: a meal, a place to stay, advice on the roads, a donation, an opportunity to speak at a school. The opportunity to make friends with so many wonderful people made a year long bike tour not only possible but worth it.
Thanks again for your support. Until our next ride.
Sara and the bike49 team