New York City
After 324 days away from home and more than 18,000 kilometres cycled on two continents, I was left with just 60 km into New York City. I spent my last night at the Beaver Pond campground in the Harriman State Park. My final meal was a packet of dehydrated Thai green curry that I had carried with me since Perth. It had been my backup meal for the whole trip but I hadn’t needed it at any point. It felt fitting that I should have it on my last night.
My last day started well. I had a long downhill to get back to the state bike route 9 along the Hudson River and immediately paused for breakfast in McDonalds. I didn’t need to be in the city until 6pm, so I could have a very relaxed schedule. I cruised slowly south although I did ride hard for a few minutes chasing another cyclist on a time-trial bike. He seemed to be a little shocked that I was keeping up with him! I paused for lunch in Grand View-on-Hudson before making my way into New Jersey and the western end of the George Washington Bridge.
This was it. The moment I had been working nearly a year for. I could see the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan. It was just remarkable. I had time to enjoy my ride into the city. I crossed the Hudson with a growing sense of what I had achieved. It was very overwhelming. But I still had to get to Central Park. I made my way down to the bikeway along the river and headed south along the water. From there I turned inland on Manhattan Island and made my way past the Museum of Natural History and into the park.
I had time for a quick lap around Central Park before heading to the south-east corner. It was the most incredible feeling. My parents had been in the US for a few days and were waiting there for me. Also with them was Camille. We had met in San Francisco and were able to stay in contact for the whole of the west coast of the USA and across Canada. I was unbelievably excited to see her again. It had been very hard to leave Camille in San Francisco and it was amazing of her to fly across the country to see me finish. Throughout the trip there had been the most incredible moments and I always wanted someone to share them with. To have Camille and my parents at the finish just made it so special.
It’s hard to quite describe the emotions of that moment when I saw my parents and Camille. It had been my goal for so long; not just through the trip itself but through the months of planning. Cycling up to them was the culmination of so much effort. I had come so far and was utterly delighted to be there. But there was also a slightly weird sensation of sadness. I had loved the trip. There were plenty of tough moments but overall, it is was easily the most exciting and fulfilling thing I have ever done. I had loved the freedom to control my life and the simplicity of only really needing food, water and shelter. I don’t think I will ever be able to settle into the confines of real life without having an itch to get out and explore. I hope to have many more adventures in the future and already have so many ideas. Thankfully, the overwhelming emotions were soon forgotten in a whirlwind of hugs and photographs.
We had four days in New York before I had to head back to the UK and Camille back to San Francisco. We really made the most of it doing some sightseeing and enjoying being in such an amazing city. It really is a remarkable place. There were many really great experiences and it was brilliant to share them with Camille. We took in Central Park, the Rockefeller Centre at sunset, the Statue of Liberty and enjoyed a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge to an excellent food market. We even got to have a drink in a bar with a spectacular view of the Empire State Building. My parents joined us for a trip up the One World Trade Centre tower and we had some wonderful evening meals. My arrival into New York was als o timed to coincide with my mum’s birthday. It was great to be there to celebrate it with her and it was pretty special to be able to finish the evening having a drink in a rooftop bar looking out towards the Chrysler Building.
I did find it hard occasionally though, to be in the city and away from the outdoors. It is just so constantly busy and so many people just seem drawn to the bright lights and ignore everything that is going on around them. For nearly a year I had lived with a very basic set-up. Suddenly I was thrown into the middle of the melee that is Manhattan where people seem to lose a lot of regard for basic things like being polite to others. Times Square was particularly challenging for me. The neon signs proclaiming all kinds of things that we must have and can’t live without and people just pushing everywhere.
All too soon it was time to leave. It was very tough to say goodbye to Camille again after such an incredible few days. It won’t be the last trip we take together, of that I’m certain. I needed to get back to the UK. Time was short for me to get home, see friends and family and prepare for the next stage of my adventure; moving to Canada to do a post-graduate degree in Journalism.