It’s very hard to describe all of my emotions over the past few days but suffice to say I feel as if I have experienced the full spectrum. On the one hand, I am really excited that in a matter of days I will have the opportunity to start an adventure that has been a dream for nearly 20 years but on the other, it is difficult to say goodbye to those close to you that have been your rock and encouragement over the past few months.
Having said goodbye to Ben on Monday evening, on Tuesday I met with mum and dad in Chichester for an enjoyable lunchtime meal together before leaving for home to load my bike and my CrossRoads duffel bags for the journey to Heathrow. The journey was uneventful but I knew that both Sarah and I were thinking about saying our farewells in the next few hours. Since meeting Sarah in the early 1970’s I cannot recall being apart for more than two weeks, yet very shortly we would be saying goodbye to one another for nearly 2 months. Although with todays’ technology and transportation being 8,000 miles apart may not seem as being overly excessive, not having the person who means so much to you close to hand is very difficult to come to terms with. Much as expected, we both put on our brave faces at departures before I caught the Virgin Atlantic direct flight from London Heathrow to Los Angeles early on Wednesday morning.
I have never flown with a bike before but any concerns I may have had were set aside when it safely arrived in the oversize luggage section at Los Angeles airport. Having met Mack, one of the CrossRoads tour leaders at the airport, we were soon on the courtesy coach to the Courtyard Marriott hotel in El Segundo on the outskirts of LA. The long 11 hour flight had taken its’ toll on both of us so we decided to get an early night leaving my bike re-build until the following morning.
After what seemed like a very sleepless night due to effects of jet-lag, Thursday morning was spent putting my bike together and I was relieved to find that it had made the journey without signs of any damage. This was due to the great work performed by Hargroves Cyles in Fareham in the way that the bike had been professionally packaged for the journey. During the day, people began to arrive from all over the USA, both riders and Crossroads staff. I met up with Chris and Richard, two riders from the UK and we spent the afternoon sat in the hotel courtyard discussing the journey ahead of us. We were all apprehensive but at the same time immensely excited that we would soon be setting off on the journey that meant so much to all of us for a variety of different reasons. Later in the day, Howard, another UK rider arrived and the four of us took a cab that evening to Manhattan Beach for a meal and to view what, in just a few days time would be the start of our journey together. On arriving back at the hotel we welcomed Kevin, the final UK rider to arrive, thus completing the British contingent.
Friday morning was spent meeting many of the US riders in the group before Howard, Chuck and I went to lunch together at the ‘In n’ Out ‘ restaurant a few hundred yards up the road from our hotel. In the afternoon, Howard and I walked to the local bike store for a few last minute bits and pieces before returning to the hotel via a local coffee shop. In the evening we found another local place to eat before retiring for yet another early night.
Saturday morning following breakfast, Howard, Kevin, Mary ( the bagel lady) and I decided to go for a short ride just to check the bikes and made our way to Manhattan Pier which would be the start of our adventure tomorrow morning. We were blessed with typical UK weather, dull, overcast and light rain rather than the warm Calfornian sunshine we have had for the past few days. A stop at Starbucks on the way home and a gentle 12 miles covered, all our bikes performed as expected. This afternoon at 14:00 we would all meet together for the very first time for Orientation, which would be lead by Tracy Leiner, the owner of CrossRoads Cycling Adventures.