The Last Ride… NEVER!

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Well it was the last ride of our journey, but certainly not the last ride ever. Many have asked if we wanted to take a break from riding when it’s all said and done. We say, “Heck no! I can’t wait to get back to thinking that a 10-mile ride to work is a long distance.”

We began our last ~300 miles from Greenwich, CT. We had stayed with Rex’s Papa’s brother, John and his family, at their home in Greenwich over the past week. We were afforded a two-day NY stay thanks to Dave Alford’s gracious donation towards the B4B team. We spent two nights in Times Square, which was a story in itself. Two nights in a row, neither time trying, and we were out and about in the NY lifestyle till well past 4 AM. I don’t know how the city does it, but it just keeps you engaged. 

Leaving family is always difficult but we had something to look forward to instantly… a tour of the ESPN studio in Bristol, CT. Huge thanks to Mark Simon, baseball stats guru at ESPN, for setting us up with a tour.

As is a dream of every fan of everything ever, you want to see how the major sports network puts it all together. It was interesting and we saw Mike Ditka, Scott van Pelt, Jesse Palmer, Eric Mangini and Eric Allen all up close, but we were only able to get a very small glimpse of the actual studio. It seemed that sitting in the same spot as Stuart Scott in the studio was what the tour was built around. Since we weren’t able to do that, the tour left a bit to be desired.

Personally, I’m not as big a fan of the guys who do the talking, as I am a fan of the guys who do the walking. We were also mentally comparing it to our recent stops in NY and at Cooperstown. Cooperstown wins. 

Nonetheless, huge thanks to Mark and the whole ESPN crew. And we got to eat in the ESPN cafe!

We spent the night in a local watering hole watching the Broncos on Monday Night Football. Some Chargers fan tried to wise-up and talk trash to us as the final seconds ticked down in a loss. Local watering hole, blubbering drunken idiot and nachos as big as the table… solid night in Bristol.

But it was our night’s sleep that was the real fun. 

Bristol has NOTHING in the way of a campsite to post up at. Nothing. No Best Western hotels, which is all we looked for because we still had about $70 left on our gift card. And we kept asking locals about a State Park that was 8-miles outside of town to the west, and they seemed flabbergasted at the claim of a park in the area. We were striking out.

We figured,

Well this is one of our last night’s camping, let’s take a chance.

So, we found a local park in Plainville, CT on our Google Maps. As we approached the park in our support vehicle, we noticed there was no gate blocking us from entering and no parked cars to disturb. Good start. Driving through the parking lot shaped like an L, we came to the turn and saw two baseball fields bordering the parking lot. Well how poetic would that be? Sleep ON a baseball field on one of our last nights of our baseball tour?! YES!

We unloaded our tents, sleeping bags and excitement from the truck and started setting up. We hadn’t even finished setting up our tents before two police cars came swarming towards us with lights blaring. Bleh, that lasted a whole two minutes. Dang it.

We approached the police car, looking sheepish and defeated. They asked us our business and we told them. They were pretty intrigued right out of the get-go about what we were doing and what we were up to, but still mentioned that we could be ticketed for trespassing. 

We understand officers. We are very sorry. We just wanted to sleep on a baseball field. 

Yeah, well apparently riding your bicycle across the country works for something. We also tried to describe how there was nothing for camping anywhere in the area. We had nowhere to go.

As we shot the crud with one of the officers, the other one was walkie-talking with home base. We were lost in the discussion with the officer we were talking with about riding bicycles across the country when all of a sudden the other officer interrupted us with a “You guys will be out super early in the morning right?” We thought that had to be a good question and started to get excited again. 

As the walkie-talkie officer finished up, he came over and seized the moment from all of us. We smiled as we awaited our sentencing.

Here’s the deal: you’ll be able to stay here for tonight, on the account that you will be out of here as the sun rises. You can sleep over there (points) in the open space. No ruckus and early exit. Deal?

Deal! We eagerly shook hands and thanked the great and understanding officers of Pleasantville. It’s great when policemen can be helpful and understanding of a situation. HUGE thanks to them. 

We scooted our half-put-together tents on over to our new location and fell asleep happy with humanity.

We woke up on the other side of the bed though. It started raining just as the sun was coming up and didn’t stop the entire day. Whew, we were over this. No more rainy rides. It’s refreshing to know that when you are home, and it’s raining, you don’t HAVE to ride. And then even further, when you do ride in the rain, you know that you will be home shortly and will be able to take a nice hot shower, put on warm clothes, and have a warm beverage. We, had rarely been afforded that luxury all summer long. No more rain!

It didn’t matter, we had a rainy ride and it was miserable. Classic. But lucky for us, we did have that $70 of Best Western dollars left. We emptied the account on our last night’s stay in a hotel. We relaxed that night with a couple cold beers and some detoxifying time spent in a sauna. We mentally celebrated our last night before a ride. It wasn’t a real hoopla or woop-woop fest. It was bittersweet to tell ya the truth. Something that we had done for the last 5+ months was finally coming to an end, and I don’t think any of us were completely ready for it yet. But, the next morning when we woke up, and Rex’s family had driven out to our hotel in Framingham to meet us, the end took a whole lot more shape.

We had arranged for Rex’s mother to drive our support vehicle for the last 20 miles into Boston and Fenway Park. That way, all four of us could ride together for our last ride.

We definitely went at cruising pace. Bicycle cruiser pace, not road bicycle cruise pace. We stopped at a random park and popped a bottle of champagne to toast to our accomplishment. 

We hopped back on our bikes and road through the heavily university-clad city of Boston. As we neared the city our target started to appear in the distance, the large Citgo sign. If you know Fenway, you know the Citgo sign.

We rode down Yawkey Way and straight up to “The Teammates” statue. Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doer and Ted Williams. We rested our bicycles up next to the statue, lined up our four bottles of champagne and absorbed our surroundings. We had made it to Fenway. 

We popped the corks and sprayed each other with champagne right then and there on Yawkey Way to celebrate the end of the Summer of a Lifetime.

It didn’t feel like I thought it would feel when we packed up our bikes for the last time. I thought I’d be more sad, or more elated. Instead, I just felt like it was the end. When we had said we were going to do this for the past three years, many doubted us. We always talked a big game, but there was something in all of us that doubted a piece of it too. I mean, riding 11,000 miles, putting on 30 baseball clinics across the country and catching a MLB game at every stadium in North America is ridiculous! When we had actually finished it, it was one of those “Now what?” moments.

Whatever it is, it is possible. I know that.  

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