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  • Mariela Perez-Cabarcas

Day 80: Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Updated: Sep 2

Friday, August 19, 2022

Vacaville, CA -> San Francisco, CA.

73.2 miles. 1909 ft elevation gain.


Hello one last time, loyal readers.


As I write this, our grand adventure across the country has already come to an end. The members of the Spokes crew have returned to their everyday lives. Even Dora the (Ford) Explora' has returned to her Budget rental car home in Massachusetts (Franklin and Maxwell accompanied her on another, albeit much quicker, cross-country journey from SF to Cambridge).


The final day of our trip began like the one before it. Another Hyatt Place breakfast would fuel us to San Francisco. We took our time to leave this morning, examining the bacon and decorating our bikes to showcase our individuality on otherwise identical bikes. We savored the last morning filling of water bottles, the last dousing of our skin in sunscreen, the last pumping of tires. It was the last day. It was bittersweet. 79 days full of adventure and chaos down, 1 more to go. We'd soon set eyes on the Pacific. We'd also soon return to normalcy. No more biking 70 miles a day. No more spending every waking moment with one another. It would be a strange transition.



After around 32 miles of riding through Californian suburbia, we finally set eyes on Pacific-adjacent water–the San Pablo Bay. About 10 miles later we stopped for lunch at a bayfront park, enjoying the shade of palm trees (a novel addition to the types of trees we have seen along much of our trip) and beginning to sit with the realization that there were only 3 hours of biking left on this trip. Over these three hours, I reflected on the trip and how good it would feel to finally cross the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun went down beside us (anyone on this team can tell you that I'm a sucker for a good sunset). In true Spokes fashion, the last 3 hours turned into 5.



The first delay came in our search for a water and bathroom stop. We went to three different gas stations and a coffee shop in our search for a public restroom. Eventually, we found a Whole Foods to serve as our final pit stop before heading toward the bridge. By this part of the ride, my headphones had already died (a tragic daily occurrence) so my music was playing into the wind when my little brother called me to ask about college applications. He asked if I was busy to which I responded that I was "still doing that whole biking thing." Soon I wouldn't be though. I was both excited and sad to be done with this journey. The universe made sure the journey was just a little bit longer.


About 5 miles from the finish line, we crossed through Sausalito, where a couple of cyclists waved us down asking us if we had a tire pump they could use. At this point, sunset was about an hour away so I wasn't too concerned about missing it. My concern grew slightly as the minutes passed and our tiny handpump got stuck on their tire and then completely released all of the air when we got it unstuck. We eventually figured it out and went on our way. I don't think I have ever pedaled so fast uphill in my entire life. We were all anxious to get there before it got dark (we had some important pictures to take at the end after all!).



We finally made it to the bridge entrance where Maxwell, who had been driving, joined us so we could cross the finish line as a team. Once on the bridge, the emotions of finishing had not hit me yet, but the nearly 20 mph wind gusts sure did. The cold and wind didn't matter though. We were so close to being there.



It wasn't until I turned the curve on the bridge's exit ramp and saw the sun setting and a flock of birds flying by like paid actors with the Golden Gate Bridge in the backdrop that the waterworks came. Just moments later I could see a caution tape finish line being held up by some of Maxwell's friends. Many friends and family had come to see us accomplish this great feat. We crossed the tape and quickly hopped off our bikes to hug one another in celebration. Many pictures and a bottle of champagne later, we hopped in the car to head to Maxwell's parents' home for a much-needed home-cooked meal.




The days that followed were full of varying amounts of physical activity. While I took the opportunity to relax and watch some TV, Sophia and Maxwell's mom decided to run a half marathon (Franklin joined for part of it), and Franklin and Maxwell decided to participate in a triathlon! We also took the days after the trip to exchange friendship bracelets and reminisce on the many adventures we had together.



Here is a summary of some of the things we talked about:


MVP: Our 3 foam foldable sleeping pads. Serving as a place to sit during lunch, sleep at night, shelter from the rain, or as a blanket, pillow, skirt, car sunshade, and so much more, these foam pads were deemed to be the smartest and most useful items we packed.



By the numbers (how many of each item we went through over the entire trip):

  • Peanut butter jars: At least 10, some of which were Costco sized!

  • Clif bars: Probably close to 500. Clif bars were a go-to snack pretty much every day.

  • Electrolytes (in tablet or packet form): Also around 500. We were trying very hard to stay hydrated.

  • Chamois Butter packets: maybe 10? We purchased so many of these, expecting to need them everyday, but for the most part, our chamois remained unbuttered.

  • Ice cream outings: No less than 10. One for each learning festival plus every mid-ride gas station ice cream bar plus any other time we were craving ice cream (which was often).

  • State lines: 8. (9 if you count the time Franklin went into Indiana without us)

Our lovely hosts:

(We weren't able to get pictures with all of our hosts so not all are pictured)


I'd like to bring this final blog post to a close by giving a round of thank yous. Thank you to those who have followed our journey from the beginning and seen the ups and downs we encountered in mostly real time (apologies for the chaotic blog posting schedule). Thank you to our many hosts who welcomed us into your homes and showed us great warmth and generosity on this challenging journey. Thank you to all the libraries, schools, and youth centers that gave us a space to share our love of STEM and teaching with bright students across America. Thank you to our sponsors who made this trip possible. And finally, I'd like to express the gratitude I have for getting to share this experience with 5 amazing people. Thank you for the friendship, support, and memories we share. I'm looking forward to the next time we can all ride for some ice cream together.


With love,

Mariela




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