The End of a Journey

12 08 2010

The guys climbing to the summit

Mileage: 58

After saying good-bye to the Burnt Hills High School and the small crowd that was present that morning, the five of us bikers were headed down Lakehill Road on route to Boston.  It was emotional because we knew that in only three short days we would be finished with our journey.  Even though it was going to be nice to be home, it was such an amazing summer and we weren’t ready for it to end.   

Off we went, each sporting a new Maroon Burnt Hills athletic shirt; thanks to Bob McGuire.  We had flashbacks of running on these roads for years during cross country.  Four years ago, long hours were spent on these roads which infused a bit of excitement as we each thought about some of the most vivid memories that took place here.  After all, cross-country is what brought Eric into Colin’s, Alex’s and Joe’s lives.  It felt like it was yesterday that we were running and talking to Eric.  Now 6 years since we ran with Eric in high school, we were biking next to Kevin Zagorda heading towards Boston.  Both Eric and Kevin are extraordinary individuals that we have been so fortunate to have in our lives.  It was comforting to know the area as we headed towards Round Lake.  Although, that quickly changed, for soon after none of us knew where we were.   

It was nice having Paul there with us.  We were able to catch up with him more even though we had just seen him in Boulder, Colorado a month before.  We again talked about stories of Eric and other friends and family.  In discussion of Paul’s many talents, the idea was brought up that he should attempt juggling while biking.  While this may sound like something from the circus, we all concluded that he could have done it if he really wanted to.  Along the ride he started to do some other fancy tricks that were hilarious.  For example, he started swimming while biking by doing the butterfly and crawl stroke.  He would have fit in so well with us this summer!  It was still wonderful to have him with us for the last three days.  When we were busy goofing off, Kevin was busy out in front pushing the pace.  We weren’t completely surprised how good of shape he was in, but, even the hills didn’t seem to bother him.  You could tell he was enjoying every aspect of the ride.   

We were in three states today; which only happened one other time on the trip.  We started in New York and then were in Vermont for about 8 miles before ending in North Adams, Massachusetts.  It was a gorgeous ride, we were so happy with the route Kevin picked for us.  We couldn’t believe it but we got into North Adams around 1 O’clock.  Brittany was still home in Burnt Hills editing and uploading pictures to the post which meant we had some time to kill.  After relaxing for about 30 minutes we checked out the weather and saw that a storm was coming.  We had a couple of more miles left to get to the campsite but we didn’t want to get caught in the rain so we decided to stay inside a recording studio building.  Finally after the storm passed we headed to our campsite where Brittany met us.  There we took showers and headed back to the town to get some dinner.   

The 6 of us decided on a diner since they usually have a variety of food that was sure to suit the appetite of each person.  It was nice to be able to all sit down and talk without pedaling or swatting mosquitoes.  However, we were a bit distracted by a table of kids next to us.  One boy was about to finish eating his 6th hamburger.  Only in America would you see kids peer pressuring another kid into eating all 6 hamburgers. 

On the way back to the campground Kevin bought a couple six packs to celebrate.  Since we hadn’t had a beer since Nevada, the bottle opener was no where to be found.  You never know what will get your creative juices flowing.  Paul discovered a decent sized rock to open a few on while Alex learned that Bandit’s leash doubles as an opener.  Paul, being too strong for his own good, not only took off the bottle tops but the rim of glass as well.  Colin attempted to drink from the broken bottle but quickly learned that was not the best idea as he cut open his lip.  Paul then recommended drinking the beer from a bowl, something few people can say they have done!  It was such a great ending to the day as we sat and talked while enjoying a few cold ones.  There was discussion about the climb that was going to take place the following day since Paul and Kevin hadn’t cycled up a mountain before.  Paul thought that in order to lessen the pain, Brittany should wait for them at the summit with cupcakes.  With each of us growing tired, we retreated to our tents for a good nights sleep.   

Mileage: 70

After sleeping soundly at our secluded campsite, we were up and going by about 9.  This morning Paul made us laugh a bunch of times.  Colin and Brittany usually tie bandit to his lead on the tree in the morning so they can pack up.  It only takes him seconds before he is all tangled, even if there isn’t another object around.  Paul, seemingly still sleeping,  looked at Bandit and said: “Do you know the word REVERSE.”  We aren’t sure if it was because it was so early in the morning, but we couldn’t stop laughing.  Also, you may be familiar with Joe (AKA: Serial Sneezer) who can sneeze anywhere from 2 to 8 times in a row.  Paul had never heard him do this before and casually laughed and said “Pshh, nerd sneeze.”  The way Paul said it had us laughing yet again.  It was nice to have some new humor on the trip with Kevin and Paul, they both were entertaining.    

While packing up for the day, Joe was going through his bag and found one lone mustache in the package.  It was at that time we lost one of our friends and gained a new one: Claude.  Claude is Joe’s protégé.  As you may remember, Joe wore his mustache over Monarch Pass in Colorado.  While the mountain was not as bad as Monarch, it was still a nice way to conclude the last climb of the trip in honor of mustache Monarch.  Off we went for the day: Colin, Joe, Alex, Kevin and Claude. 

Along the climb we had paparazzi Brittany hiding off in the shrubbery taking magnificent pictures of us.  We stopped at various overlooks not just because we were tired but the views were incredible.  Then, a quick 8 miles later we were at the top.  Without fail, Brittany was at the summit with a few of the cupcakes left over from the fundraising event.  We each toasted our baked goods to a successful climb and good times.  While admiring the view where we could see five different states, Colin thought about how much Eric would have loved to be here.  After talking for a little bit Claude and Kevin decided it would be best if Alex, Joe, and Colin went down the mountain first because they didn’t know if there was a technique behind it.  Thankfully we had no problems zooming down the mountain and it was a beautiful view the whole way down.  

During the ride, we had all thought how impressive it was that no one had gotten a flat tire since we departed from Burnt Hills.  A little ways down the road, Kevin got a flat.    When we stopped, it didn’t take long to find the source of the problem as a large nail was sticking right out of his tire.  It was the most impressive flat we had seen all summer!  Not too much further down the road, Paul also got a flat.  We should have realized that our smooth sailing up to that point was about to catch up with us.  We got off track a couple of times because the Google maps directions that we had were, for the most part, useless.  We had to stop a lot to check Alex’s Iphone or the GPS to see if we were going the right way.  At one point we were riding on a road where bikes were prohibited.  It would have been fine but there was construction taking place which meant there was no shoulder.  It didn’t take long before an officer announced through a megaphone that we were prohibited to bike on the road, it was too dangerous, and we needed to get off right away.  We rode to the next exit and tried to figure out where to go from there.  Paul said we were lucky because one of his friends who also biked across the country received a ticket for being on a road prohibited to bikers. 

We ended our ride at Phillipston, Massachusetts.  Our campsite was in an open field with RV’s and other tents around.  It wasn’t the best campsite but it still worked out.  We were fortunate enough to be staying there on “Halloween” weekend which meant all the kids were dressed up!  Too bad we didn’t know to bring our costumes.     

After the ride, Alex and Joe did some push ups and then Colin joined in afterwards for an ab workout.  We could tell that Kevin thought we were crazy.  While cooking a huge pot of spaghetti, Alex’s girlfriend Megan came to support him with finishing the last couple days.  We were surprised that 7 people, 5 of which biked all day, could not finish two pounds of pasta.  After dinner, Paul showed us his juggling skills again.  We enjoyed it so much in Boulder we told him before we left that he should bring his juggling balls and clubs.  Before we went to bed we took advantage of camping in an open field by observing the bright stars.  We were lucky enough to see many shooting stars as well.  There, looking up at the stars, we couldn’t believe that the next day we would be finishing our journey.  It seemed so surreal.  On the eve of finishing such a trip, many of us experienced a range of emotions.  Although it would be nice to be home, it has been the trip of a lifetime and we weren’t ready for it to end.     

Mileage:  78

Leaving the campsite there was excitement in the air.  In about 70 miles we were going to be in the Boston Harbor and have completed biking across the United States.  It was hard to believe we were almost there.  However, it turned out to be a much easier day than yesterday, since it was mostly flat.  Though, we should have known after yesterday’s events that Google maps were only going to get us in more trouble.  We had to stop multiple times during the ride because we didn’t know where to go.  Around 2 O’clock we had finally made it to Boston.  On the way to Brigham Circle, where Mr. Zagorda organized a welcoming group, we biked by Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  Dana Faber is where Eric had all of his chemo treatments while working on his degree at Northeastern University.  It was very emotional to think that this was where he was fighting for his life and that two years earlier he was walking through those front doors.  As we passed by the hospital, an emotional silence rushed over all of us.  A minute later we looked ahead of us to Brigham Circle and saw a crowd  of mostly orange clapping for us.   

Amongst the crowd, there were a bunch of Eric’s friends from Northeastern, aunts, uncles, cousins, Mrs. Zagorda, John Munsey, Megan Reynolds, the Trowbridges, The Utz-Meaghers, and of course Brittany and Bandit.  Mr. James surprised us and tackled the 14 hour drive from North Carolina to Massachusetts with their dog, Hudson.  It was so great to see him and Hudson.  Hudson and Bandit didn’t get a long real well because all Bandit wanted to do was play but Hudson didn’t want anything to do with it.  We hung out and talked for awhile before getting pizza from a restaurant called The Penguin.  It was a good thing our final destination was only 5 miles away because we were all quite full and increasingly tired.  Eric’s friends from college seemed so nice and we were really glad to be able to meet so many of them.  Then, after people started to depart, we figured it was time to move on.   

On our way to Carson Beach, Kevin gave us a tour of Northeastern University and showed us where Eric lived while attending the University.  Northeastern is a beautiful campus.  When biking out of the campus we actually heard someone yell “Are you guys from Burnt Hills?”  We all stopped and turned around to see who it was.  It was Chris Frederick who was two years below us at Burnt Hills.  He actually e-mailed earlier this summer saying how inspiring we are and that he is in the same major Eric was at Northeastern.  It was great to see him, he was so proud of us.  After saying our good-byes we were off to the beach.   

It was a good thing we really didn’t want the trip to be over because, not more than 2 miles from the beach we had a mishap that required Brittany to come to the rescue one last time.  Joe got a pretty nasty flat tire that tore a hole clear through his tire.  We had our doubts that the tire would make it the last two miles.  However, we changed his tube and within seconds it popped again.  We then got Brittany on the phone to tell her we needed her to come and bring us our spare tire.  Of course Brittany just laughed and said “Of course, be there in a second.”  To lighten the mood, Colin made a comment saying: “Well, I really didn’t want this trip to end anyways.  So this is actually perfect!”  Then about 5 minutes later, Brittany called us and asked if the tire was in the car top carrier.  Colin laughed and said “yes.”  It turned out that the keys to the car top were in her camera bag which was back at the beach with her parents.  Colin and Brittany both started to laugh and thought that Eric was toying with us.  He too didn’t want this amazing adventure to be over.  Once Brittany and Lisa (Paul’s girlfriend) came to us, they both commented that we were biking in the wrong direction.  It turned out that getting a flat tire was a good thing, we could still be biking looking for Carson Beach!  At that point it added only a mile onto our route, but, it could have been much worse.  Maybe Eric was just helping us out since we were going the complete wrong way.  Then, after putting on the new tire and tube, a quick change that should have only taken about 15 minutes ended up taking about an hour.  We just laughed about it and decided it would be best to just follow Brittany and Lisa the rest of the way to the beach because the traffic was so bad in Boston.  We were glad to have one last good story before we reached the ocean.   

After making it to the beach we of course had to get pictures of our front bike tires in the water.  We had finally made it!  After taking pictures each of us jumped into the cold water of the Boston Harbor.  We stayed on the beach for a little bit talking and then we were off to the hotel for the night.  We decided that we wanted to hangout in Boston the following day to sight see a little.  After taking showers and relaxing for a little, we walked over to a restaurant and had a great dinner.  It was a really nice celebration.  During the dinner Colin called Steve Walsh.  He was so proud of us for making it and we really wished he could have been there too.  He again said how touched he was for being able to bike with us from Buffalo to Burnt Hills.  The truth is we were honored to have him with us.  Him and his family are truly an inspiration.  To emphasize how well he fit in with us: he made sure to have Colin make fun of Joe for him.  It puts a smile on our face seeing how much Steve was able to grow on the trip.  It is in these moments that we truly feel accomplished, not in how much money we raised.  After hearing about our feat, our waitress was kind enough to give us a cake in celebration of us finishing the trip.  She was so nice we were lucky to have her as our waitress.  After filling our bellies and due to sheer exhaustion, it was time for bed. 


We took our time getting up, eating breakfast and packing the car.  For a while now we knew we wanted to visit the Boston Aquarium upon our arrival, which is what we did. After walking around the aquarium for a few hours, it hit us how tired we were and were ready to head home.  We hit a little traffic on the way home but still managed to get home around 7 O’clock.  It was at that time Colin and Brittany decided they should empty out the car and sort everyone’s stuff.  We were going to vacuum, but it started to get dark so we decided to put it off until the next morning.  Surprisingly, the car doesn’t smell bad and after vacuuming and cleaning everything you would never know that four people and a dog lived in it for a couple months.   

What now?

Mr. Trowbridge related us coming home to the four hobbits in Lord of The Rings returning home after saving middle earth.  To be honest, it kind of feels that way; what can top this adventure and how can we make these feelings last?  We can’t believe that the trip has come to end.  Sitting hear typing this brings various emotions to the surface. 

The total number of miles we pedaled from San Francisco to Boston was 4,193.  We have learned so much about life and the U.S. from taking part in our trip.  We are so grateful that we have had so much of a following.  This has grown immense amounts since the start of our trip; much more than we ever imagined.  Seeing those Orange shirts at the Grand Union Plaza put tears in our eyes.  From the event, we raised nearly $2,200.  We never thought we were going to raise that much but so many people stepped up to help out that it was made possible.  Once the money is received and put up on our donation site we will be nearing $19,000.  This is absolutely phenomenal.  Our goal before the start of the trip was only $10,000, so we have almost doubled or goal.  THANK YOU.  Hopefully the money we have raised will help to fund a cure so families don’t have to feel similar pain as the Zagorda and Walsh Families.  We are still taking donations and the donation site should be up until the end of September.  With your help hopefully we can double our goal!

We are so thankful that we were able to ride for such a great cause in memory of our friends.  On this trip, we have learned that one of the most difficult things families face is the fear that their loved ones may be forgotten as time passes.  I hope this journey emphasizes the fact that Lauren, Shawn, and Eric will never be forgotten.  They were extraordinary individuals with bright minds and personalities.  We find it strange that people have called us heroes on this trip.  To us, Lauren, Shawn, and Eric are the heroes.  They lived their lives, positively influenced countless people, and fought an awful disease.  It will forever sadden us that so many people will go untouched by these three even though they have brightened so many people’s lives already.  Hopefully, through spreading the stories of their lives they can still continue to influence strangers.  One thing we hope everyone has learned from following our journey and learning about these three lives cut short is that LIFE IS SHORT, enjoy it.  Find the beauty in our world and with the people we share it with and be happy even in the darkest times. 

Where do we go from here?  Each of us will take lessons learned from this trip and apply it to other avenues of life.  As you may know from an earlier post, Joe is going to be leaving us to help the less fortunate in Quito, Ecuador.  He is heading out August 22 and we are not to sure what we are going to do without him.  He is one of a kind and people in Ecuador are so lucky to have him there.  He is going to do wonders.  During the trip, Brittany found out that she officially received a maternity leave position at Elmer Avenue Elementary School in Schenectady.  She will begin teaching first grade in September and will be there until the middle of January.  Both Alex and Colin are currently searching for jobs.  Alex is looking for an engineering job while Colin is looking for something in the medical field.  Both are looking to get more experience in the area of work they desire for their future before furthering their education.  And of course Brittany and Colin are going to be planning their wedding. 

Yesterday, August 11, it was 10 years since Lauren Zagorda passed away.  She was only 12 years old when she left us.  Even though she was so young she had an impression on so many people.  Yesterday, as always, the Zagordas were in our thoughts.  Even after 10 years the emotions they are faced with are unimaginable

Thanks again everyone for such a great following and all of your support along the way: encouragement, help and donations.  We wouldn’t have gotten far without all of you!  Keep checking our blog as we will have updates in the future.

Spread Love and Happiness,

Colin, Brittany, Alex, and Joe

PS:  Always remember those who have positivley affected your life, no matter how small or large the acts of kindness.

Kevin and Colin with a beautiful view

Joe, Claude, and Kevin - the colorful gang!

Cheers with cupcakes!!!

Paul showing off one of his many skills!

Ready to bike one last day.

En route to Boston

Everyone at Brigham Circle - thanks so much for coming!

Front tires in the Boston Harbor after starting in the Pacific!

All smiles

All of us out to eat in celebration!

Nemo! In honor of one of Eric's favorite movies!




2 responses

13 08 2010
suzanne voigt

Mission accomplished! Enjoy the life ahead and cherish all the memories. Best to all of you!

18 08 2010
Tim Brunson

Congrats on completing an amazing and inspirational journey. I am looking forward to having you all speak to our students at Leadership Day – with the hopes that your actions will continue to inspire students to accept challenges. You all have certainly made Burnt Hills proud! Thank you for sharing your trip as well – I’ve enjoyed following along on the website. Talk to you soon!

Mr. Brunson

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