Somewhere along the way, not too far in, maybe Flagstaff or so, I began to realize that this Race Across America was not just about Charlie's dream, or Richard's. It was about mine, too, and my crewmates'. Somehow it had morphed from a thought in my mind that I was helping a friend realize a dream to a feeling in my heart that I wanted this dream, too, and badly.
I wanted to do everything possible to come out of this experience being able to say: I was a part of Team Reaching Heights, a team that did remarkable things, broke the record by 14 hours and did it right, riding a clean race and acting with the highest character and sportsmanship. This will last for the rest of my life, and I am damned proud of it.
This last week has been an interesting one. The team spent a couple of days together in Annapolis ... yes, living that rock star life, but also cleaning out the vans, trading photographs and saying our goodbyes. And now, back home in Cleveland, I've spent the last couple of days telling anyone who will listen that we won our age group, we set the record, we rode clean, we had a blast, man we're tired! (I'm pretty sure that some of them are tired, too - of hearing me talk about it, but I figure they can humor me for another minute or two.) I've traded e-mails and phone calls with my crewmates and had front-yard conversations with Richard.
I've laughed and cried and tried to sleep. I've awakened about every hour-and-a-half wondering why the RV isn't moving, who's on the bike, who's in the back and needs to get up and ready to ride. I am not especially bothered by this weird sleep pattern because now it seems so normal, and also, I'm pretty sure it won't last forever. But one thing will - this experience we've all shared is something no one can take away from us. It belongs to Richard and Charlie ... and Eileen and Jonathan and Don and Johanna and Ken and John and Jim and Lary and me.
I am heartened by the community we created here on the blog, and I say thank you to each one of you who participated by reading and/or commenting. I began to wonder and look forward to what Charlie's mom would say or Richard's sister or Jonathan's dad ... or any number of other people I haven't met but feel like I came to know a little bit along the way.
The blog also enabled me to bring my family and friends along on the adventure of a lifetime. For that, I will always be grateful to Richard for believing that I could do this and to Charlie for going along on faith. Thanks also to my crewmates who tolerated my attempts to stay even-keeled and good-humored, even when those were the last possible landing places for my psyche. Thanks for understanding that I didn't mean everything I said but that I was always sincere in my attempt to bleed every moment out of this shared experience that I could.
I think I succeeded there. I loved many, many moments of RAAM 2009, and I hated a couple, too, but I was present for them all. I had my low pretty early on (first night, in fact) but my highs far outweighed that and will remain in my heart forever.
Thank you to all of you - Team Reaching Heights, friends and family of us all, blog readers and armchair adventurers. We did it, and we did it together.
Here's to us.