September 17, 2014 - San Bernadino to Santa Monica
The End of the Trail
Everyone was up early packing their bikes and mingling in the guest room of the Hampton Inn - it was a sea of green shirts - the official color of the ride this year and the team shirt for the end of the ride. Many pictures would be taken today of this group of folks dressed in kelly green! Our meeting started a few minutes late, but no one was in a huge rush as we only had 70 miles to travel to the end of Route 66. This last meeting was full of emotion and the energy in the room was just love, love, love. Many people shared they were nervous at the beginning of the ride: felt like an outsider; wondered how they would get along with others or be accepted; afraid of the challenges of the ride, and really all the things that make us "human". In the end, everyone agreed that the tone Rodger and his wife Sue created (along with great assistance from other leaders in the group) allowed each person to feel embraced and taken care of.
I certainly felt a huge outpouring of caring when my bag went missing. One especially kind woman named Linda just put her arms around me and invited me to cry on her shoulder. She promised to pray for me and the safe return of my journal. What a comfort to fall into her soft arms and be embraced by love. This feeling of looking out for one another was present each moment on the road as well. If one of the bikers pulled off to the side of the road, my new friend Gary would stop to see how he could help. Everyone kept an eye on everyone else to make sure the whole was maintained.
For the final push to the pier, Rodger divided everyone into small groups of five or six bikes, as this is one of the more dangerous legs of the trip. We tagged off with the last group and our good buddy Gary. Six lanes of wall to wall cars the whole way into L.A. made it very difficult at times to stay together, but we persevered and felt such a sense of triumph to exit at Santa Monica and see the shimmering highlights of the Pacific Ocean! WE MADE IT!!!!! I'm getting a bit teary-eyed even thinking about it. Who knew this would have such a deep impact on me?
We all parked in the lot next to the vast sandy beach, during a record heat wave in L.A. - to see people of all shapes and sizes wearing every kind of skimpy outfit. We are definitely NOT in Kansas anymore! Up the stairs and onto the Santa Monica Pier we all made a bee line to the "End of Route 66" sign - a wave of green shirts spread out all around it. "My turn, my turn". Pictures snapping - all sorts of combinations of people with their arms around each other smiling and snap snap snap! One surly tourist from France pushed us all away and demanded the spotlight while he and his partner got their pictures taken there. Boy did that seem different from our state of mind!
We slowly wended our way, in a sort of dreamy state, to the end of the pier for our last group photo. We had each been given a flower to throw in the ocean in dedication to someone we knew who had died of cancer. I, of course, took a moment to send deep love and affection to Claudia, who not more than 6 weeks ago purchased 5 raffle tickets from me in support of my ride. She didn't even know at the time that she had cancer, and now she's gone. I know she was my angel the whole way across the country, so I thanked her deeply for her support and pray she is at peace.
This truly was the deeper meaning of the ride for all who were present. Many tears were shed. All the miles of travel, all the adventure and great times, all the fabulous Route 66 roadside attractions were ultimately for this cause. Our group was proud to announce its fundraising total to date of $38,777.48 and Jen and I were also thrilled that we topped our goal of $5,000, all to be donated to The American Cancer Society.
After we all sat together for that last picture, we strolled one last time back down the pier to Dan Rice's "66 to Cali" booth for the raffle drawing with Miss 66! (Dan Rice deserves a lot of credit for getting the Santa Monica Pier designated as the official end of Route 66.) There were three winners, but none of them were folks we knew. Congrats to the winners! Many in the group had decided to have lunch together at a restaurant on the pier, but Jen and I had to get the car cleaned up for the final voyage to its new home in San Francisco the next day. We shared a round of hugs with various members of the group and drifted back to the car. The ride has ended.
Both Jen and I would like to deeply acknowledge each and every person who donated to this worthy cause to help find a cure for cancer, and for the support and love of all of you who have followed us on this epic ride on Route 66. With any luck, we'll do it again next year for the 10th and final ride.
Mary Anne Erickson is an artist who has been documenting the demise of our roadside culture for over 30 years in paintings and photography. Her work can be seen at www.vanishingroadside.com and you can follow her Route 66 adventures at www.facebook.com/Rtesixtysix.