By Mary Anne Erickson
Wednesday September 17, 2014 – San Bernadino to Santa Monica
The End of the Trail
Everyone was up early packing their bikes and mingling in the guest room of the Hampton Inn – it was a sea of green shirts – the official color of the ride this year and the team shirt for the end of the ride. Many pictures would be taken today of this group of folks dressed in kelly green! I have to give big kudos to the Hampton Inn chain. We stayed in quite a number of them on our journey across the US and they really are fantastic! The one in San Bernadino not only had a lovely cocktail shindig for us on Tuesday night, but the breakfast buffet in the morning was excellent with scrambled eggs, sausage, home fries that weren’t too greasy and of course the obligatory waffles, yogurt, cereal and all the other good stuff you typically see on a Continental Breakfast.
Our meeting started a few minutes late past 8:00, but no one was in a huge rush today as we only had 70 miles to travel to the end of the route (that would take us close to 2.5 hours due to heavy traffic – welcome to LA!) This last meeting was filled with emotion. The energy in the room was just love, love, love. Many people stood up and shared how they were nervous at the beginning of the ride (felt like an outsider, wondered how they would get along with others or be accepted, afraid of the challenges of the ride, and many more). In the end, everyone agreed that the tone Rodger and his wife Sue created (along with great assistance from other leaders in the group) really allowed each person to feel embraced and taken care of.
I certainly felt a huge outpouring of caring when my bag was stolen. One especially kind woman named Linda just put her arms around me and invited me to cry on her shoulder. She promised to pray for me and the safe return of my journal. What a comfort to fall into her soft arms and be embraced by love. This feeling of looking out for one another was present each moment on the road as well. If one of the bikers pulled off to the side of the road, my new friend Gary was at the tail end and would stop to see how he could help. Everyone kept an eye on everyone else to make sure the whole was maintained. They looked out for us in our little gray Echo too and Gary loaned us an extra CB radio he had so we could stay in touch – although it often was pretty hard to hear because of static.
A really miraculous thing happened at the meeting as well. There had been a contest a few nights before regarding the blue box where all the contributions were stored from Chicago to LA – this was the money people added to the overall donation throughout the ride. We were each invited to put a piece of paper in the box with our guess as to how much was raised during the ride. I took a wild guess of $13,000. Rodger went through all the tickets to find the guess that was the closest and guess who won? ME!!! He presented me with a crisp $100 bill as the winner! I took that as a blessing to go forth and buy a new ipad, which was one of the first things I did when the ride ended – thus this blog post is being created on my beautiful new device. Hallelujah!
Rodger divided everyone into smaller groups of five or six bikes for the final push to the pier. They all knew from past years that this is one of the more dangerous legs of the trip for a group of bikes trying to stay together. We tagged off with the last group and our good buddy Gary. I knew he would help us stay close to the group and watch out for us, which he certainly did. Wall to wall cars the whole way in made it very difficult at times to stay together, but we managed to keep it together and felt such a rush to see the shimmering highlights dancing on the blue Pacific Ocean! WE MADE IT!!!!! I’m getting a bit teary-eyed even thinking about it. Who knew this would make such a deep impact on me?
We all parked in the lot next to the vast sandy beach, during a record heat wave in LA – to see people of all shapes and sizes wearing every kind of skimpy outfit. We are definitely NOT in Kansas anymore! We were up the stairs and onto the Santa Monica Pier and made a bee line straight to the End of Route 66 sign – a wave of green shirts spread out all around it – my turn – my turn. Pictures snapping – all sorts of combinations of people with their arms around each other smiling and snap snap snap! One surly tourist from France pushed us all away and demanded the spotlight while he and his partner got their pictures taken there. Boy did that seem different from our state of mind!
We slowly wended our way – sort of in a dreamy state – down to the end of the pier for our last group photo. We had each been given a flower to throw in the ocean in dedication to someone we knew who had died of cancer. I of course took a moment to send deep love and affection to Claudia Ainsley who not more than 6 weeks ago purchased 5 raffle tickets from me in her support of my ride. She didn’t even know at the time that she had cancer. And now she’s gone. I know she was my angel the whole way across the country – so I thanked her deeply for her support and pray she is at peace.
This truly was the deeper meaning of the ride for all who were present. Many tears were shed. All the miles of travel, all the adventure and great times, all the fabulous Route 66 roadside attractions were ultimately for this cause. Our group was so proud to announce its fundraising total to date of $38,777.48 and Jen and I were also thrilled that we topped our goal of $5,000. Our YouCaring site has so far logged in $4,575 and we collected $760 in personal checks made out to The American Cancer Society. People have asked me if they can still contribute and the answer is “yes”. Here is the link if you would like to donate: http://www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/ride-the-relay-on-route-66/212196
And both Jen and I would like to deeply acknowledge each and every person who has given in support of us and our commitment to help find a cure for cancer. We so appreciate your support and it’s been a pleasure having each one of you ride along with us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.