And so it ends

The final ride of the Northern Tier is a 33-mile trot from Snohomish, in through the north end of the city. We wake up at the Snohomish Youth Soccer Fields, tear down our tents one last time, zip up our kits, and get ready for the day of days. Our celebrations are uniquely calculated: the cyclists ride rogether down a puzzle of paths to Gas Works Park, which is where we first see the city skyline.

Gas Works Park
Gas Works Park

By the time the riders hit Gas Works, they’ve ridden 4,291 of the 4,295 miles on the Northern Tier. You don’t have to think about navigating the final four miles because the penultimate task for the route leaders is to rendezvous with the team at Gas Works and (literally) lead everyone to Peddler Brewery to present a donation to the Swedish MS Center, quaff beer, and embrace Don, Cassie, family members, alumni, and everyone else who made it out to Seattle.

Being someone for whom a celebration is for is a delight, but helping set the stage is a different kind of thrill. Riding out to Gas Works with Lucas and Joe and waiting for the team was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. We had a gaggle of 31 riders coming down the way, counting for us to take them to one of the most magical afternoons of their lives. We waited, knowing the champage was on ice, the hotel rooms booked, and the Pacific waiting.

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More evidence of tall-person discrimination: forever relegated to only being a head in the background of group pictures.
The mighty Pacific!
We did it! Again!

After the revelry, we lead the team one last time to Myrtle Edwards Park, where our front wheels touch the Pacific. And just like that, the crescendo hits and it is over. It takes 69 days to cycle from Bar Harbor to Seattle, and it takes a few minutes for it to end. When everyone steps over the logs and onto the beachy rocks, they’re Bike the US for MS alumni, and everything present-participle about the trip ceases. And I think the abruptness of the end makes the connection to your teammates, trysts, memories that much more enduring. You never feel like you’re done being a part of the team. I waded in the ocean, knowing I was in a moment I’d surely romanticize and remember both immediately, and years after.

Seattle has only ever seen me in hysteric joy. I had resigned myself to having to wait another two months until Drew’s done riding the Great Divide before seeing him, but he surprised us in Seattle! He’s probably currently gliding south through Alberta (and if you’re reading this, Drew, I expect an equal amount of reciprocated postcards from the Divide). Colin, who is the Brand Historian for Eddie Bauer, took the time to show Joe and I around the company headquarters in Bellevue on our day off in Seattle. We ogled the office and talked about what it’s like being a creative type at a major outdoor retailer, and I left the office hopeful to some day have an interview there. The Pacific Coast team is made up of mostly Northern Tier 2014 alum, and seeing my Route Leaders was a joy. I spent a good bit of the summer explaining to the cyclists that I was merely trying to emulate the bang-up job my Route Leaders did, and seeing Ryan, Duncan, Kevin, Rob, Larry, and Kenny in Seattle was the greatest reunion since when Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent found each other in So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish. I feel like I’m dropping the ball by being home and not riding down the Pacific Coast with them.

Oh, yeah. Home! I am home. Though “home” may be a bit generous because I have no permanent address, no employer, and no sense of where my life is going. And these are issues which may not be soon fixed because my top priority is seeing all the people I love in this city, not, you know, molding my future.

In 2013, I lived with Drew around the corner from Pete, and I’d regularly cycle right past the Bike the US for MS vans in his driveway on the way to class. That was when Drew and I started fancifully talking about what it’d be like to someday ride across the country, but the commitment cutoff was pretty early on. We just let “someday” do the heavy lifting in those conversations. Fast-forward two years, and I’ve just caught a flight home from Seattle, and he’s cycling his way down to Mexico. We, and all of the Bike the US for MS alumni, are lucky.

When you cycle your way into a place, you have more time to see its personality, its quirks, all the weird little details which make it what it is. Now when I think of all the places I’d like to go, I think “Yeah, but can I ride my bike there?” Cheers to Bike the US for MS for showing me the world.

Cheers to the 2015 Northern Team. You made it, and I love all of you. I’ll be hard pressed to find a group of people as fun as you lot. Cheers to Lucas, Joe, Emily, and Ayhson. We may have lost more than a little of our sanity, but we made it, and I’d hug each of you every day if I had the means to. Cheers to my 2014 Route Leaders. I didn’t know what I was doing this summer, but the only reason I managed to get to Seattle was because of the example ya’ll set for me. Cheers to Don and Cassie. It’s one thing to follow your dream to the other coast, but to enable people to chase down their dreams is truly something else. And cheers to you! Thank you for taking the time to scroll down this far. Thank you for donating, for the kind words of support along the way, and allowing me to share the trip with you. It has been an absolute joy.

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