2004 Stanley Cup Final, Game 7 at the St Pete Times Forum. The Lightning open the 3rd period with a two goal lead, both off the stick of Ruslan Fedetenko, and are just 20 minutes away from raising the cup for the first time in franchise history. They had a grueling and stunning game 6 victory to force the game seven. They just need to finish. At 9:21 of the third, Craig Conroy scores a power play goal to pull the Flames within one. From our perspective in sections 316 row G, the next ten minutes took an achingly and excruciatingly long 2 hours. Time stood still.
There is no comparison to the grueling intensity of the playoffs and riding a bicycle everyday. But I can tell you that the last day of a relatively short 62 miles to finish the trip took an achingly long time. The day starts with a sourdough Belgian waffle and great conversation with our Inn host. Our primary topic turns to our only children... adventurous and independent girls. Theirs is a 33 year-old hot spot firefighter in California and ours a 23 year-old Rhino keeper recently from South Africa. It does not take long for me to get antsy to get on the road. Soon the bike is packed and off to Bar Harbor.
Headwinds and rain in the morning are my escorts along route 3. It feels like I have covered about 40 miles when a honk forces me to glance to my left at a blue Subaru to spot 80 year old mom and dad passing me on the road. I just top the climb and I see them parked on the left and unadvisedly crossing the busy highway to greet me. I would shout to stop them, but I am out of breath and more specifically very happy to see them. Our greeting is fantastic, but short-lived as there is pedaling to be done. At that point I note that the progress has only been about 26 miles. Tick. Tock.
The rain ceases about noon to allow me to drop the rain gear. The ham sandwich from a general store is quickly eaten to keep the day moving. Still 30 miles to go. Tick. Tock.
I must admit that I note very little of the scenery today, with the exception of the wild blueberry fields passed along route 176. They lie low across the landscape in stark contrast to the rocks and forest.
Ellsworth is just 23 miles from Bar Harbor and it is downhill to Trenton and then back up hill just after Mount Desert. Now one more climb and 8 more miles.
With minutes left, Nikolai Khabibulin, the Lightning goalie, deflects a shot across ice into the path of an on-rushing Flame who sees an open net and the puck on his stick. Khabibulin is flying across the crease as the shot goes off and is later quoted as thinking "please hit me, please hit me...".
The climb is slow, but the speedy downhill past Cadillac Mountain puts me 1/2 mile out at last check. I say to my intimate friend and trusty steed that has carried me almost 4000 miles. "Just get me home...."
To quote Khabibulin, "..and it did."
I arrive on the tip of Bar Harbor to whistles, cheers and photos from my parents, brother Blake and my wife Brenda. There is a banner that had been signed by family and friends at AFI. Typically preferring to be more under the radar, I admittedly relish the moment. After I FaceTime with my daughter to share the joy, we actually hangout for a minute and talk with a small crowd who has gathered to investigate and several of whom have given donations. Two of them have adult children facing special challenges and share in the energy. It is the perfect ending.
We have raised over $12k dollars and it is not over yet. There is a bit more to come in and I will be entering the road donations over the next few days. Thanks to all for your support and generosity. Wish you could have ridden along, it was awesome.
I am going to blog for a couple more days with stats and other tidbits I want to memorialize. So those of you that are reading these will know to look for them. For now, I am going to celebrate by resting.
Moose Search: Clean sheet. Zip
Song in my head. Kool and The Gang; Celebration.