Our final day began with a 4:30 am alarm and a 5:30 am start time on the road. With 127 miles left to San Diego and our friend’s house, Adrian Plante, Ray and I had our hands full as we worked hard all morning against a 10 – 20 mph headwind to climbed out of the hot desert (95 degrees) floor (197 feet below sea level). With a miscalculation on how long it would take us to reach our next town (Julian, CA), Ray and I both ran low on fluids and had to pull over on the side of the road and lay down in the shade of a road sign for a half hour to let our bodies cool down. Laying there face up in the sand looking at the clouds float by, it was not hard to feel that the finish line was an elusive goal, but we once again gathered ourselves, dug deep, and continued our push forward. An hour later, completely out of water & gatorade, and still working our way up and out of the grips of the dessert heat, we noticed the trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which Ray had hiked back in 2003 and established what was then the world speed record (83 days) for the 2,600 mile hike from Mexico to Canada. While others have since run the trail faster with complete support and help getting supplies, food, and shelter along the way, Ray’s record still stands as the fastest unsupported crossing of the PCT. I was fortunate to have spent 13 days (365 miles) with Ray that summer on the PCT between a section of the Mojave Desert and the High Sierras, but only now having seen the arid mountainous conditions in which Ray had to hike through alone do I have a complete appreciation for the courage and determination he had to draw upon to make it through the first 555 miles of the PCT all by himself. There simply is nothing out there on this part of the trail other than rocks, sand, and catus. His book, The Fastest Hike, is a must read for anyone who has not read about Ray’s hike!!! After stopping and looking for a possible water cashe near the trailhead, Ray and I left the PCT, and pedaled another 100 yards before encountering a gentleman and his disabled pick-up truck on the side of the road. Fortunately, for him, CA has an elaborate Call Box system along this section of the highway, so a tow truck was on its way to rescue this guy and his new purchased truck, and fortunately for us, he also had a large jug of ice water in the cab of his truck which he was more than willing to share with us. The Road Angels provided for us once again and continue to look out after us!! Refreshed and hydrated, we thanked this gentleman for his generosity and wished him good luck with his vehicle. It made us feel even better an hour later when we saw the tow truck pass us going in the opposite direction towards the stranded motorist, who, despite dealing with his own adversities, had the heart to take care of two strangers on bikes in need of some water. This new lease on the day enabled us to get to a remote store in the town of Banner, CA to fill up our water bottles and rehydrate. Banner, CA sits around 2,000 feet above sea level and at the foot of our last mountain!!!! The road leading up the mountain twists and curves its way up to the town 0f Julian, CA at 4,250 feet. The tourist town of Julian is more recently known for its delicious pies (probably where the “pie in the sky” saying comes from!), but in its hay day, was a bustling gold mining town. But more importantly, to me, it signified my last major uphill of the trip, and with only 67 miles left in the day, it also meant that Ray and I would be spending the majority of our last 5 hours pedaling downhill!!!! Needless to say, a wave of emotion came over me yesterday as I descended one final time out of the mountain and towards San Diego. The temperatures began to drop significantly and the landscape turned from brown to shades of green. For the first time in 37 days, I actually felt as if we were going to finish our cross country adventure. There was still plenty of work to do before we were done for the day, but we could sense the finish line ahead and pedaled with increasing excitement as we clicked closer and closer to the end. With only 12 miles to go, Ray and Peter pulled off to the side of the road for one final break and to answer nature’s call. Much to Ray’s surprise when he looked down, he noticed a rattlesnake less than a foot from his left foot. Proving once again that this trip isn’t over ’till it is over!!!
As we pedaled into the suburbs of San Diego and coasted down some of the foothills surrounding the city, it gave both Ray and I time to reflect on all the magical places we had been and all of the wonderful people who made this trip possible. My wife Andrea provided support and encouragement along the way and helped secure our hotel arrangements every night. Thank you so much for allowing me to pursue this dream, spend time with my great friend, for holding down the fort while I was gone, and for making all of our hotel reservations for us. It was nice knowing that at the end of each day that we had a shower and hotel bed waiting for us in some remote backcountry town. I need to thank Chris Zeoli and his wife Charlotte Tate for their encouragement and advise this winter as I mentally prepared for my trip. Chris was kind enough to pick me up at 4:00 am on the morning of April 28th, drive to Maine to pick up Ray, and then take us both to the tip of Cape Cod (Provincetown, MA) and the start of our trip. Ray and I stayed with some great friends and family members along the way who took us in and norished our bellies and souls. Ray’s sister Roberta and her husband Frank took care of us the 2nd night of our trip when we were in RI. Mickey Wender, the West Point Swim Coach and friend of Peter’s, picked us up at the Hudson River Bridge near Bear Mountain on the 4th night of our trip. The following evening, Pat Rollins, the sister-in-law to Kelly Rollins who was childhood friend of Ray and Pete’s, treated us to some incredible food and conversation near New Hope, NJ. From there, Ray’s friend and colleague at the Naval Academy, Andy joined us and spent the next two days on the road with us. His fresh legs and excitement provided Ray and I with some much needed enthusiasm and new stories early on in our trip. When we crossed the mighty Mississippi River, we got to celebrate this major milestone in our journey at dinner with some of my former swimmers and divers, Jamie (McBride) and Jan DeWeer and Bobbi Heidbreder. Jamie and Jan brought some essential supplies and treats, and the following morning when my crank fell off my bike for the 1st time, Bobbi came to the rescue and picked us up and brought us to the local bike shop. Later that day, in a cold driving rain in New Haven, MO, Ray and I called it quits for the day after only 50 miles of biking. Road conditions, narrow shoulders, bone-chilling temperatures, and an abundance of tractor trailers beat us into submission as we pulled into the local diner where we dried out and warmed-up before calling Cathy Harris, the mom of another Middlebury swimmer, who drove 2 hours from Columbia, MO to come pick us up for the night. After an incredible stake dinner and a good night’s sleep, Cathy drove us back 2 hours to New Haven so that we could continue our quest. A few weeks later, Rob Collier and his girl friend, Kay, drove 5 hours from Boulder, CO to meet us in Kim, CO to feed us lunch and fill up our water bottles as this part of Colorado had no services for 120 mile desert section. After filling us up with food and fluids, Rob and Kay drove back to our day’s destination, Trinidad, CO to hop on their bikes and ride towards us 20 miles so that they could ride the final 20 miles into Trinidad with Ray and me. Their support in this remote part of the trip was crutial as I do not know how Ray and I would have made it through this section without the extra food and drinks that they provided. To all our friends and family members who have provided words of encouragement via this blog, phone calls, and e-mails, knowing that we had so many of you pulling for us and following our trip made getting through the difficult days possible. Thank you for all your support and kind words over the past 5 weeks. They truly made all the difference to us as we grinded out the miles each day. I also need to do a special thank you to my kids, Shiloh, Ellie, and Luke. The highlight of my day was being able to call home most nights and share my stories of the day with you. I love you all tremendously and miss being with you, but look forward to seeing you soon !! A special shout out to Luke’s 1st grade teacher (Ms. T) and his classmates. They have been following my trip and reading the blog updates. I did a class presentation the day before I started my trip and answered a lot of their questions. I’m also scheduled to meet with them when I return to tell them about my trip and answer some more questions. I hope I made you all proud.
While I was gone, back home in Middlebury, many of my great friends on the Middlebury Muffintop Masters Swimming Team took care of my family by volunteering to make dinners for Andrea and the kids a few nights per week. Katherine Branch, Rob Collier’s mom, and Misse Smith organized the master swimmers and had folks cook and drop off dinners two or three nights per week at our house. In fact, Katherine took the kids to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour one Sunday afternoon as well as to the movies another weekend. Thank you all for looking out after my family and giving Andrea some relief from single parenting while I was on the road. You are all amazing!!!!
Finally, I need to thank Adrian Plante, our former high school teacher at East Providence High School, dear friend, and mentor to Ray who lives here in San Diego, CA. In addition to letting us stay with him here in San Diego, Adrian escorted us this morning in his car for the final 8 miles of our bike trip down to Mission Beach and the Pacific Ocean. He snapped off some celebatory photos of Ray and me at the finish as well as made arrangements to have our bikes boxed up and shipped back. We’ll be sure to post these photos in the weeks ahead for you all to see. Adrian, Ray and I spent last night in San Diego’s downtown Gas Lamp district having dinner and drinks with my Uncle Bob, and cousins Mike, Steve, Chris, and Annie Solomon and her friend Monique. It has been a few years since I’ve seen them all so I was touched that they all made the effort to come down to San Diego and help me celebrate my trip. This afternoon, once the bikes were boxed and ready to be mailed, Ray, Adrian, and I were joined by Billy Vincent, another great friend of mine from Riverside, RI who also lives here in southern California. We decided to spend a few hours walking around, enjoying the great weather and each other’s company while exploring the animal exhibits at the San Diego Zoo. It was great catching up with Billy and hearing all about he and his family’s happenings over the past few years!!! After Billy’s depature, Ray treated me and himself to full body massages at the local Spa. While our muscles are tender, it felt great to have some of the sore spots worked on and help speed up our recovery process. I had to warn the guy doing my massage that the growths on my behind were nothing to be scared of, but in fact, that I had just pedaled 3,500 miles and that they were caluses. It was an amazing ending to an incredible journey.
All-in-all, we pedaled 3,477 miles. I lost a total of 13 pounds. I saw over 100 species of birds and got 8 new life birds. We saw coyotes, jack rabbits, ground squirrels, Prairie Dogs, Antelope, Elk, Deer, beavers, muskrats, turtles, snakes, lizards, and rabbits. Ray had 17 flat tires and purchased 7 new tires. I had only 3 flats and purchased 2 new tires. We saw temperatures as high as 100 degrees and as low as 34. We experienced sunshine, rain, snow, hail, thunder and lightening, sand storms, and tornadoes. We traveled in 17 states and went as high as 10,985 feet (Wolf Creek Pass, CO) and as low as 197 feet below sea level near the Salton Sea. The big question is, “Why”? The answer is simple. To spend time with my best friend. To see a unique part of this country, and to challenge myself again both physically and mentally to see if I could complete this goal of crossing the country on bike!! In all instances, I was not disappointed. The trip was all that I had hoped it would be. Will I ever do it again? Definitely not!!!! Once was definitely enough. Biking 100 miles a day is demanding. It requires a lot of work and persistency. However, the magical moments and great memories that Ray and I shared are made that much more special knowing that we pedaled our bikes across the country to enjoy the experiences together.
In the morning, Adrian will drive us to the airport and Ray and I will go our separte ways. I head back to Vermont and then to Maine to work at a summer camp, and Ray will fly back to Maine and then on to Thailand where he will run the Phuket Maraton on June 12th, but regardless of the miles between, our friendship knows no boundries. He will continue to be a part of me and in my thoughts. Thank you for the incredible adventure Ray and for sharing this dream with me. Your positive energy and humor pushed and pulled me along these past 3,500 miles. As I told you at the end of our most challenging day into Tuba City, AZ, with the sand storm and 30-40 mph headwinds, “There is no one else I would want to be doing this with other than you.” The thoughts that I was having when I watched our ride from a former adventure cyclist pull away in his pick-up truck was that we were most likely going to be spending the night sleeping roadside in the dessert. Fortunately, we didn’t have to spend the night in the sand storm, but it was then that I realized that I would follow you anywhere, and that you had my back, and I had yours, regardless. This has been an important trip for me. Thank you for making it become a reality. You are an amazing friend and an impressive human being. We didn’t talk too much about our parents on this trip, but I know that they have been on our minds and continued to inspire us throughout the good and tough times these past 5 weeks. I think Dan, Pauline, Roxy, and Bob would be proud of us. Not too bad for a couple of kids from Riverside, eh?
In memory of my loving parents: Rox-Ellene and Robert.
I never need to look further than my mom for inspiration.
Happy birthday, Mom! Miss you sooooo much!
We arrived in San Diego last night at 6:57pm local time. I told Adrian we would be at his place at 7pm … we were three minutes early after another epic 127-mile push with over 6,000 feet of climbing. We are soooooo happy! Thanks to all supporters and followers. We are grateful. Special thanks to our wonderful friend and host here in San Diego, Dr. Adrian Plante.
To a truly wonderful lifelong friend. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the great trip. Pete is a great person: dedicated, caring, kind, considerate, giving, generous, optimistic, talented, intelligent, thoughtful, disciplined, strong, … Pete is a tremendous role model and leader. Pete is THE Fish out of Water, THE Spin Doctor, THE Doppler Shift, … I cannot sing Pete’s praises enough.
It was my great fortune and priviledge to meet Pete about 43 years ago. Great job on the ride! And, I hope there will be many more adventures in our future. You are THE MAN! You are a STRONG MAN! You are a GOOD MAN! You are an inspiring friend.
Your lifelong friend … Ray “Dr. Adventure” Greenlaw …
Yipeeee!!!! The biker boys made it to San Diego! I’m sorry, I didn’t want to steal their thunder so i didn’t blog last night thinking they would! But they didn’t and I know all of you faithful followers are dying to know if they made it. Pete called at 8:30 est to say they just pulled in to Dr. Plante (their EP high school teacher’s) place. They still had 5 miles to the coast but were going to get up today and do those last 5 miles in the early morning sun. Peter sounded delighted, ecstatic, joyful, jazzed, psyched, thankful, and tired. I’m so proud of them. Greeting them in San Diego were Peter’s cousins Chris, Mike, Steve, Annie, and Uncle Bob. The worlds greatest cousins I must say. Mike flew in from San Fran, everyone else drove down two hours from Orange county. Chris even picked up some decent clothes for Pete so he didn’t look like a pan handler in the city. Thank you Chris!!! You guys all rock. Thank you, Pete was so happy to see you and it meant more than you know to him that you made the effort and time to celebrate this monumental accomplishment.
The 125 miles they did yesterday included alot of dry desert and then from what little i got from Pete up and over the range and down into the more tropical side of things where green palms swayed in the coastal wind. YEAH!!! They ran out of water at some point yesterday and begged some off of a man whose car had broken down on the side of the road. Yet, another road angel. I’ll let them blog their last few days and sign off here by saying to you all, Thank you for following them, supporting them, supporting me and the kids at home, cheering, worrying, admiring, and caring.
One more check on the bucket list. hugs to all, Andrea
Andrea here, talked to Pete after their second to last big day. They made it through a long, hot, dry ride through the dessert today. “Out in the middle of now where” is what Pete said. He said they went by a bunch of the test sights we all hear about out in the middle of the dessert to test military “stuff”. Fences all around sandy fields.
So tomorrow is day 37 and they have 125 miles to accomplish! Peter had his left crank arm fall off again today. Luckily Ray had a tool that could fix it enough to get into town and Peter had watched the mechanic fix it last time so he roughly knew how to do it. Just one more day to hold those bikes and bodies together. Pete has a bunch of cousins coming down to meet him at the end. They are his Uncle Bob’s kids and even Uncle Bob himself might come too! I’m so excited for them to all be together and celebrate the accomplishment of this lifetime goal. I’ll update tomorrow when they make it to San Diego. What a journey this has been for them. I can’t wait to hear all the stories they haven’t had time to write about!