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June 22nd, 2003

Tour de Friends Day 4

Once again, it was a restless night, and we were up bright and early with the noise all around us. It's an exciting day to be up, though, as it's the home stretch. We packed our gear, and actually chose to forgo breakfast this morning, thinking it not worth having to trudge through the incredible amount of mud between the gym and the food tent.

I thought about wearing a light jacket to start of the day as it seemed a little cool, but I didn't want to be "riding in" with my jacket covering my jersey. (It's all about the photo op, isn't it?) :-) It was a little cool in the morning, but warmed up as the afternoon came on. I kept journal notes again today on the recorder, but got less disciplined with it the closer we got to finishing.

Well, what can I say? The "ride in" was absolutely incredible. I turned the final corner feeling higher than any drug can make you, and my eyes filled with tears at the wonderful reception. Just an incredible outpouring of admiration and congratulations from everyone there -- from fellow riders who had already come in, to the friends and loved ones of those ridings, to my dear Robert.

We celebrated, and took pictures, while we waited for the rest of the riders to come in. The ideas was that we'd all stay in this area until everyone was in, and then all ride in as one huge group to the closing ceremonies area.

Once everyone was in, we rode in a procession, which was also quite moving. Once into the closing ceremonies area, things got quite wild. Congratulations all around, bikes up over your head for the "classic" picture, and hugs and a great feeling of accomplishment all along. I had asked Robert to stop and buy me a poster board and a magic marker on his way in, so that I could make a poster that said,

Raleigh to DC
Original Riders
Original Tires
Original Tubes
!!!

Joe and I had so many flat tires during our training that this was nothing short of a miracle. As was the weather! We got rained out so many times during our four months of training. On the ride, we hit a light sprinkle, one day, for about 15 minutes. Truly amazing.

To keep our purpose in mind, the banners of names were brought through, here at the end, again. Too many names; too many banners. Bill Brent and a number of others spoke, and as riders made their way back to "everyday life," the place grew quiet.

Robert and I stayed at the Carlyle Suites Hotel on New Hampshire Avenue, as did Joe, Ben, and Dale. We went out for a good meal (no Cliff bars!), and later went to Remington's. Unfortunately, it was totally dead in there, and we didn't stay too long. Joe and I were tired anyway, and looking forward to a good night's sleep in a real bed!

I feel asleep proud of the most physically challenging thing I've done in my entire life, grateful for my friend Joe, and for Robert for all of his support over the last four months. Life is good, and I thank God I am healthy.

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