conversation of "our last ride" began to set in near the middle of bulgaria. our final day? coming so soon? had everyone on the team had the chance to spend an entire day's ride together? was there that one person who you never really seemed to connect with that you might want to spend a day riding with one on one? push yourself to ride 35k and hour with the man-pod one day? maybe spend the next day taking it easy with the my-knees-are-shot-and-i-dont-mind-walking-my-bike-up-that-enourmous-hill pod?
but what about the last day? what about day 56 of non-stop bicycle? i've ridden with everyone singularly... but i've never ridden with everyone altogether... 20 people riding as one. can you imagine? a school of lime green and tangerine tee shirted fishies flowing downhill through the sea of semis trucks cars and other motors which is the highway into istanbul on the border of europe and asia and the marmara and the bosphorous sea and the golden horn and the blue mosque ayasofia aie aie aie aieeee arrrribbaaaaaa!
well, no. that would just be silly! surely we would be met with death before 20 little bikes could navigate together through a highway. that is absolutely ridiculous! a)in order for a truck to pass us with space to bear, it would have to swerve into the neighboring lane for wayyy too many metres,
b) i've already mentioned that this team rides at different speeds... and c) how would we ever keep track of one another?
how indeed, team?
despite yashar's insistence, we opted to stay in smaller pods for better navigation on the last day. hoever nice it might be to ride all together for the grandure of it all. that morning, yash woke a few of us up around 4:45am for our last chance to watch a turkish sunrise together. we sat in crickety plastic chairs near the fence of the campground. the asphalt on the road outside looked akin to fresh powder on a ski hill, just waiting for the first run.
the sun was golder than gold and brighter than bright. we are riding our bikes to the edge of the continent today.
the morning would reveal a "rolling start"... that is code for the fact that we didn't get our act together and theres no breakfast today, so lets cycle to the nearest grocery store and regroup to pack lunches. my motive for the day, being one of the most vocally opposed to highway traffic people on the team, was to get on the road asap.
after a quick Petro Offisal java a la see-thru lightweight plastic cup, i left camp with dear sabrina, eileen, shawn, david, george, yashar, nigel, chris, and sweet gene. our ride was only 40k and 20k in we crossed paths with our first sight of saltwater since the netherlands. we'd reached the marmara sea unexpectedly, and you should have seen the pace with which we threw down our fully loaded bicycles and ripped off our jerseys for a chance to jump in the sea! a round of cay tea at the closest cafe, and it seemed as though, being halfway through the day already, that the ride into istanbul wasn't going to be all as hectic as i'd imagined. sunrise? rolling start? cay tea and a dip in the ocean blue? holla!
but gala... how nieve you must be. the next twenty kilometers to the airport consisted of a terrain of mostly steep uphill and downhill highway stretches that are so not-like the pat bay highway towards sidney that its hard for me to describe. and besides, i wasn't really looking and it was more like the highway looked like this: woosh. woosh. woosh. woosh. woosh. focus, gala, focus.
which, surprisingly enough, is a lot easier to do when you are by yourself. any maybe thats just out of neccessity, because there is no one in front or behind you to take the blow of the traffic and you really need all the strength you can muster to stay in a straight line... (slightly exaggerated?) but wait, you're thinking... how would you know what its like to cycle alone on a highway into istanbul? well, my friends... because with all good intentions, they sometimes go astray and these sorts of things happen. because despite plans laid, your pod runs into another pod at a gas station on the road and then you randomly all start riding together down the highway and your worst nightmare becomes an insane reality as you realize there are 17 of you all riding together into the 'stan!
now, like i mentioned, we all ride at different speeds, and the terrain was very insane... so after watching us all zip down an enourmous downhill section and begin to climb up the hill waiting at the bottom, with no real place to stop and regroup anywhere around, and just as i started climbing up the other side too, i noticed that a chunk of the team was still quite a ways back, but the adrenaline and momentum was built up inside me and i just had to keep pushing and meet them at the top. pedal pedal pedal. "hey shani, keep it coming! see you at the top!" i manage to squeeze out of my voicebox as my legs spin around and round.
keep going, girl... keep going.
i notice momentarily as i look up the hill that i can't see any of the kids who (are a little bit stronger and) are probably already at the top waiting for me at the gas station. keep going keep going. i look behind: the slower folks haven't caught up to me in any capacity... and i begin to think to myself... i could be alone. i could totally be alone on this highway right now!
and sure enough, i was!
ha! i must leave the net cafe now because im actually in BEIRUT, LEBANNON!?!?!? and its really cool in here, but i bet its cooler outside. but actually, probably hotter... because theres a/c in here. hmm yeah.
ill tell you more about this most epic of last rides in person one day. but you already know that i survived (i rode 10k of that highway alone, ps) and the trip is over and theres all these emotions! ack! and i have muscles! ack!
but i don't want to spoil the next post continuation thing...