Upon reaching Mexico, we could have turned our bikes around and ridden home – HA! No way that was going to happen. So how to get home?

In addition to oursevles, we had two bicycles and a B.O.B. trailer and all the gear we toted on them. Even if we could have purchased tickets on a bus or train out of Columbus (which we couldn’t – too small) we had no way of getting our stuff home.

We did have the U-Haul which was racking up expenses every day we kept it and every mile we drove it.

We drove to Albuquerque that afternoon with the intention of renting a car and turning in the U-Haul. No towns in southern New Mexico that we had checked had one-way cars to rent.

What we encountered at Albuquerque was the unfortunate coincidence of the big Albuquerque Balloon Festival that week. All the car rental agencies were low on cars because of all the visitors and prices were sky high. We did get a reasonable quote from Enterprise over the internet but when we got to the airport, they had mysteriously doubled the price to $1000 dollars. The other agencies either had no cars or wanted $1400 and up.

We next considered flying. The problem was the bicycles. We had to find someone to package and ship them. None of the bike stores wanted to touch that. So locating boxes, disassembling the bikes, paying for shipping, turning in the van, getting back to the airport – it was too much. We swallowed our pride and rented a car from the double-crossing Enterprise.

But we had a secret plan. The $1000 cost was based on a four-day drive to Wenatchee. What if we could drive it in less time?

We drove to Grants where we had rented the U-Haul. We had to wait until the next morning to turn it in because the agency didn’t open until 9 AM. When we arrived at the U-Haul agency, however, we found a note taped to the door saying the business would be closed for the next four days! We had waited overnight for nothing!

We left a voicemail and the keys and took off for home. How the U-Haul rental costs will finalize we don’t know. But after racking up considerable motel bills in the final days of the trip, Mary was in a rare cost-cutting mood. Our problem was that we would be starting for home on Friday morning and the Wenatchee Enterprise office closed on noon Saturday. We had a little over 24 hours to make it home – otherwise we couldn’t turn in the car until Monday morning – at a cost of over $1000 plus hotel expenses.

Mary agreed to a Lief-style solution: we would make a marathon run for home. No hotel stops. Just drive like maniacs and catch a few winks in the car.

Our rental car was a Ford Focus – a mid-size sedan. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the car averaged 33 mpg for the whole trip with the cruise control set at 70 MPH. Our total gas bill for the 1300-mile trip was less than $100.

We cruised into Wenatchee at 9:30 Saturday morning, raced up to Rachel’s to unload our bikes and gear and raced back down to Enterprise. Total cost for the two days we had the car: $530. We figured we saved about $700 with our little marathon when you consider the hotel costs too.

Now that we’re home and sleeping in our own bed and our brains have had a day to get over all the turmoil of the ride’s closing days, I’m trying to put together a rational perspective on the last two months. When viewed from the rather myopic viewpoint of a few days, what do I think of the experience?

It was certainly a great challenge. Every day was a new challenge. We were challenged by weather and gravity and wind. We were challenged by our own psychological resources.

But was it the great experience I expected? A great challenge successfully completed can easily become a fond memory in retrospect but how does it seem when you’re in the middle of it? I published a picture of us and the Maiwald’s at the top of Indiana Pass raising our fists in a victory salute but elation was not the predominant emotion during the climb. It was more like “When is this going to end?” It was a lot of aching muscles.

Honesty also compels me to admit that there is a limit to one’s ability to appreciate beautiful scenery. We saw a lot of brilliant fall foliage in Colorado but after a few days, once the novelty wears off, it is scarcely noticed anymore.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned is not to expect the senses to be able to absorb unlimited titillation. Seven weeks of non-stop riding might be a little too long.

The other perspective, the predominant one for me, is the notion that life is a collection of experiences, the nature of which is determined by how they are perceived by the individual. A scene in Colorado or a Snickers bar on the trail can be wonderful or mundane – it’s all in the mind of the beholder. The kind of experiences we had on this trail were undoubtedly intense – not uniformly pleasurable or miserable. Look at it this way: there are countless seven-week periods of my life which have faded from memory completely; I have nothing left of them. The last seven weeks will provide a treasure trove of memories from which I will be able to retrieve gems for many years to come.