In my head I do not think I ever really pictured the finish line. When imagining the end of my three year bike trip, I always imagined the parties, the catch-up drinks & the stories of where I had been and what I had missed. But in reality the most emotional moment is when I crossed the finish line in Reading, Pennsylvania. Crossing the finish line marks the end of my cycling, a line drawn in the sand which makes the present the past and the moment when I went from being someone who was cycling around the world to someone who just had.
My finish line was the town of Reading, PA, a small former industrial town, which is now going through some hard times. As I approached Reading and told people that this was my end goal they would ask me why? There is nothing there they said. But to me it was the imagined american version of my Reading. In my head it represented the people and the place in which I loved, a town which in many people said there is nothing there, a former industrial town, but scratch just below the surface and you will find something beautiful.There is a beautiful river running through it, two iconic bars, hardworking and honest people who are looking to share and smile. In fact there is not too much difference between the two Readings and looking back it made the perfect place to finish the trip.
As I cycled north from across the states of Virginia and Pennsylvania I would often smile as I got ever closer to the finish line. I was excited to finish and I looked forward to whatever was next. I received lots of messages of support not least from my parents who wanted to know where the precise finish line was. In my mind I was going to finish at a large ‘Welcome to Reading’ sign but it seemed there was not an official marker in the center of town so I decided to pick the landmark of the Reading pagoda. The Reading pagoda is a japanese style pagoda built in 1908 which overlooks the town from its perch 200m above the town and is the most famous landmark. The perfect place to finish.
My final campsite saw me camp on a small high next to the road approaching Reading, and even though it was mid april it snowed! Bicycle life was never meant to be easy! I made a tasty dinner of pasta and vegetables washed down with a cold beer and some biscuits and slept soundly knowing tomorrow would bring be to the end of the round the world bike trip. That morning I packed up slowly, ate my oatmeal, and cycled north the final 30 miles. About 5 miles into my final ride, my tyre on the front wheel blew a hole in the sidewall and with no spares I pushed some spare rubber into the hole and hoped it would hold. Bikey was really starting to feel the strain of my bodge style mechanics over the years and I am often surprised how strong the bicycle really is.
Luckily my rubber boot healed for the final 25 miles although it did make for some perilous downhill riding! As I approached Reading, I was greeted with lots of signage to tell me I was getting closer and on arrival I found the city limits and took a big old photo. I had done it, now all was left was to cycle to the Pagoda.
As I neared the pagoda, I was flying and I climbed the 200m hill in about ten minutes, my legs strong, my mind stronger. As I crested the hill and the pagoda came into view I was greeted by the sights of two photographers and as I got closer I was greeted by the amazing sight of my mum and dad jumping up and down cheering me on as I approached. I was so happy to see them and they had surprised me at the finish line. I cycled straight up to them and gave them both big big hugs and it was the most emotional reunion and there is nothing better than to be greeted by your loved ones at the finish line of any adventure let alone one which goes around the world. Tears were flowing as we embraced and my parents said simply ‘you did it’ and I had. At lunch at the iconic ugly oyster bar my parents tentatively asked me if I wanted to cycle to the airport in New York and as I drunk my beer, I looked them both in the eyes and said ‘no’. I had cycled 46500km and did not need to cycle further, I was with my parents and I had had enough of being alone. Let's enjoy the rest of the USA together. And with that, i’ll have another beer!
Buy me a beer!! Thank you
This blog follows my cycle ride from Reading, Berkshire to Reading, Pennsylvania.