When: April 19, 2022 | Where: Tybee Island, Georgia
Miles Cycled: 3,330 | Days on the Road: 120
I finished. On April 19th, I wheeled onto Tybee Island, just south of the mouth of the Savannah River. Without fanfare, I glided down the last mile of US 80, which had been my off-and-on path since I’d first laid wheels on it leaving El Centro California, a month into my “ramble.”
I felt calmly satisfied. I knew I had completed what I’d set out to do. That it had been hard. That I had exceeded the physical envelope in which I’d slowly sealed myself over the years prior. I’d rediscovered parts of myself… and uncovered… or maybe created new parts.
I had left home in the aftermath of much trauma. Trauma that haunted me through many hundreds of miles of solitary endurance. I didn’t bury the trauma, but I had managed to find a place for it in the patchwork of my experience that I could live with.
It was quiet on Tybee, a summer beach destination not yet emerged from hibernation. My thoughts and feelings were shared with no one as I pedaled the last mile and a half to the end of the highway.
Passing the end of US 80 — the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway — a short trip through a residential neighborhood brought me to the final turn that led to a boardwalk.
Julie had passed me coming over the bridge, and was parked and waiting where the asphalt ended. We each filmed my approach from opposite perspectives.
I’d met Julie more than 3 months earlier, in Palmdale, California, and she had travelled to meet me at several places along the route. Most recently, we had met in Montgomery, Alabama, where we celebrated her birthday, and she had followed me for the final 300 miles. The trek had started in isolation, but had been a shared journey for most of the way. Seeing her there at the finish line, the completion of one journey was inextricably joined with the beginning of another.
We walked Juan Sebastian out over the sand together, and she filmed the ceremonial dipping of the tires in the waters of the Atlantic. We would spend the following week sightseeing and making our way back to Montgomery, where we had booked our flights home.
At some point during the course of the trip, wrestling with whether to post my exploits on social media… perpetually aware that I hadn’t maintained my story through “Lemuel’s Ramble” as I’d intended, I came to realize that I needed this to be a mostly private experience. At least in the short term… while it was happening, I needed to undergo the struggle for myself, without the implied external commitments inherent in sharing it.
Of course I shared it with Julie… and a handful of my closest friends and family tracked my progress. But it was my journey. The things I needed to prove were things I needed to prove to myself and nobody else. I’d lived my trauma alone, and whatever validation I needed was internal.
Nearly 2 months later, typing on my phone from a boat in the Seychelles, I’m beginning to feel like sharing. I’ll save the story of how I end up in the planet’s remote places for another time, but as I rest here, surrounded by beauty, I’m pondering the ways in which my journey might help shine a light for others.
I had a lot of time to think and feel on the road. I think some of those thoughts and feelings may have value for others. I’m going to set about slowly figuring out how best to do that now.