Feeling the finish

Posted July 14, 2011 in Canada, Cross-Canada 2011, Dear Diary

Soon I'd turn northeast and the wind would push me. For now I was climbing my last hilly, gusty challenge, 50 kilometres from St. John's.

How would I feel when I ended my ride? I hadn't been sure for the first 88 days of my trip. I pondered the question one last time—and I figured it out.

It would feel like finishing a great book.

I recalled the characters as I pedalled. The motherly cafe owner in Newfoundland who gave me a discount on breakfast and made me a free sandwich for the road. The chill bike-shop employee in British Columbia who directed me to a fantastic cappuccino. The cook who lived beside his traincar restaurant in New Brunswick and ambushed me with a plate of strawberries. My Grade 6 teacher who brought me breakfast and lunch in Nova Scotia in return for a poetry recital. Friends and family who said the right thing, always.

Hundreds of people had swirled around the protagonist, and the book wouldn't be complete without each one.

Obstacles vanished as the end approached. Our hero's chain wouldn't snap, his tires wouldn't deflate and nobody would steal his bicycle.

It once seemed like a book without resolution, but that changed.

The protagonist hadn't accomplished most of his goals. He hadn't sold stories on the road, he'd never applied for jobs and he'd barely finished the tracking website he'd intended to code before his trip began. He hadn't even thanked all his donors. He hadn't thought through the life issues he'd meant to think through. He hadn't discovered himself. His future, which had started as a to-do list, seemed even less predictable than before.

This book didn't have a stale moral like “tend your future” or “manage your tasks.” The message was the opposite.

Live one day at a time.


Trust your impulses.

These are hardly epiphanies, but I gained a new perspective. I'd been whipped by wind, submerged in rain and subjected to the words of strangers, whims of road crews, mistakes of other drivers and fatigue-hewn gaps in my own alertness. And I made it anyway. This final-day chapter summarized the entire book.

The road turned like pages as I sailed to the end, letting words and ideas and gusts flow through me. You don't need to focus on every word at the end of a book, because the words are mere shadows of the deeper meaning. A final chapter is like a goodbye kiss, reminding you of everything important, why it mattered and why it's okay to let go.

It lasted hours, but it could have been seconds.

I arrived in St. John's.

I closed the covers and paused in the bliss between a perfect book and an untamed library.