As summer draws to a close in the northern hemisphere everything starts to reveal it's hidden colours of Fall. I say Fall and not Autumn, as I am still in the United States at present in the final few days of my great American adventure.
Already the bright reds and golds of the maples have started to appear, brightening up an overcast day. Back in Scotland the trees will have begun to shed their cover and when I return they will be almost bare. On my departure back in mid May the cherry blossom of Spring was still in full bloom, but a full cycle has now passed, and all good things must come to an end eventually.
Speaking of completed cycles (do you see what I did there?), I must pack my panniers and load my bicycle one last time and head for the international departure lounge for a long 11-hour flight home. No doubt the journey home will be filled with thoughts of the adventure:
The strangers we met, all too briefly, who became friends and whose faces I can still see. It feels like we said goodbye just yesterday. If only. They represent the real America to me, their generosity and kindness knowing no bounds as they invited complete strangers into their homes. My life is richer for those experiences and I feel I can say I know, and love America because of them;
The American people as a whole, always interested and excited by our adventure, with their positive outlook on life and a can-do attitude that makes this country great;
The small town diners along the way, with the farmers meeting for their early morning coffee and chat and always with eggs over easy, hash browns and links;
The landscapes that greeted us, sometimes with high temperatures, winds or thunderstorms but always with a renewed sense of awe at the new vistas we encountered from state to state, from the forested roads of Massachusetts to the rolling hills of Wisconsin and the big skies of Montana;
The constant companion along the way in the shape of the mighty mile-long freight trains. The bright orange of the three locomotive engines pulling their load with ease from sea to shining sea. Most of all the sound from a bygone era of their distinctive horn blowing it's tune as it approached every crossing. They kept me awake at night as they rumbled through our camp spot in the blackness of night, but I miss them already;
The simple life of each day. We rose at 5.30, packed our gear and struck our tents, ate our cereal then downed a morning dose of caffeine before pedalling further west to another town or campground to pitch, eat, sleep and do it all again the next day. Life really is as complicated as you want it to be or others make it for you;
My trusty two-wheeled transport that faithfully carried me and my kit more than 4,000 miles. We will go home together to cycle another day somewhere else, but none as great as crossing America.
However, without one other ingredient it would have been incomplete. My best friend Pauline. Always in my mirror or up ahead, sometimes cycling alone for miles but always affected in the same way by the people and the landscapes we encountered. Oh what a great joy it is to have memories but what an even greater joy it is to have someone to share them with.
It all adds up to an unforgettable experience. A dream come true. Our American dream.