A pretty uneventful, day biking-wise. Overnight, Chicken Lady had dropped a surprise for each one of us on our bike saddles: a plastic egg containing a candy and a thank you note for having made this ride a success again. I was excited about finishing the ride in a good enough shape and I went all out, averaging 20mph for the first hour. This puts me in front of the pack at the first rest stop. I then decide to skip both rest stop #2 and lunch, in the hope that I would find a nice little spot to enjoy a drink on the shore in Malibu. Sadly, Malibu is a lot less dream-like than the depiction made of it in Baywatch. Though I saw the lifeguard command center from afar, there were no bars or restaurants in sight. It's with an empty stomach and under a weather that made me put me back my arm warmers on that I kept going down on Route 1. I cross the LA county line, then the city line and finally end up on the beachfront, before heading inland. The VA center is only a few miles away, maybe 5 or 6 at most. 20 minutes more. 10 minutes more. "Half a mile to go!" shouts an ALC roadie. Geez. Going left. Last turn.
A few dozen people are already here welcoming riders on this chilly L.A. morning. As I park my bike, I realize there must be only 70 riders who arrived so far but, luckily, William and Nathan have just arrived too. I rush to buy a burger, which I devour on the side of the road, watching other riders making their way in.
I spent the rest of the days waiting for the closing ceremony, which takes place at 4pm. I have more than 3 hours to wait and not a lot to do apart from getting my bike shipped back to S.F. Will and I head out for a wonderful coffee and some pastries in a cafe right outside the VA Center. I then head to the Cannondale tech stop, where I'm second in line to get my bike taken apart and boxed. After getting a change of clothes, I finally head down to the finish line again, where most of the riders have already arrived. The crowd is roaring and cheering for every new arrival. Emotion is getting the best of me and I can't help but shed some tears and feel my heart pounding in my rib cage: it's finally over. I have ridden 900 kilometers on a bike.
The closing ceremony is as intense as the opening one, but is also more joyful. There's a sense of pride for the 53% ALC noobs for whom it was the first time. Exhaustion is also finally getting the best of some of us. It's when you see a 250 lb. 65 year old woman passing the finish line that you realize the human mind is capable of wonderful feats.
At LAX, I was put on standby for an earlier flight and met a few people making their way back home. My and a roadie's names got called and we both head together to the desk. I was just trying to get me a seat on this flight but he was really going for the upgrade. The clerk was just starting to handle our case and he starts going all over about the ALC and how awesome and incredible it was: "can you believe this guy [(me)] biked for 545 miles?".
I was trying to keep a low profile and stay humble but the clerk was genuinely in awe and started jotting down the references of the ride. Despite my post-ride attire (a dirty pair of jeans turned bermuda, flip-flops on dusty feet and the ALC winner shirt) and the smelly filth that was all over me from not having taken a shower in more than a day and having ridden 100km in the SoCal sun, she gave me an upgrade to fly business. w00t.
Once in SFO, we say goodbye and I head out to the shuttle stops. As I'm waiting for mine, a woman who sat next to me starts a conversation, which quickly turns to me proudly telling her about the ride. To which she immediately replied, unimpressed: "Oh yeah, my husband did it a few years back". Grmph. I'm still too high on endorphins to care much about what you just said.