Once more there was another early start, but having just about turned my alarm off, I almost missed the very reason why it had gone off so early. A few minutes before it was due, I hurriedly put on some shoes and along with Mark, sprinted to the back of the Park where the Lake begins. The sun was about to make its appearance - on our very last day of the Trailblazer tour.
As we arrived at the edge, any of the others who got up as well were nowhere to be seen. Then Mark decided to walk along the edge towards the sun, to get a much better view, and this was where we discovered just how big this Park was, as we passed through many small sections of field, surrounded by big hedges, til I finally chose a good spot to watch the sun appear from over the water and up into the low clouds. There was no cloud in the light blue sky, but as the sun did begin its ascent, a small thin trail of cloud covered its rise only momentarily. The scene looked so much like that morning many weeks previous on that white coated sand of a beach, on the same side of the Continent but a little further down the coast.
There was a wind present as the water appeared a little wavy, and you can easily forget that this was a Lake that I was looking over. Over to the left on the horizon, appeared what looked like a city built on the water, until a nearby information board told me Toronto was that particular city I could see far in the distance.
A truly beautiful, and peaceful, way to start a day. After the sun had made its full ascent and was clear of the water in the sky, I turned back for a shower, and to pack up my tent one last time.
I had taken it on myself to provide the tunes one last time, still on a high from my last go, and when we were all ready, we headed out of the Park, and played our morning song one last time. At this point Todd told me that he'd be glad to never hear the song ever again once it finished! I beg to differ.
It was the last day, but that didn't mean that the drive was any shorter. We were looking at the final 6 hour stint, but I don't think that bothered anyone. Along the way, everyone began reminiscing and going over their favourite parts of the tour. The van was united again, as we all laughed, joked and even probably cried about the past 9 weeks.
Lunch was taken at Panera in some business estate about half way, and Todd gave us a gift of $45 each from the food kitty. He did always say that we would get money back right back in Washington, but it still was a little surprise.
A little further down the line, just outside of New Jersey and at our final garage stop, and after passing the Weiner Mobile, we were treated to the spectacle of Jess having climbed onto the roof of the van, before taking an eternity to make the jump from the back of the van to the trailer. Todd even had to climb up to support her, and also showed off by completing it more than once. Every time she finally geared herself up to take a run up, by the time she reached the edge, she stopped again. Everyone else gathered outside to watch and told her to just jump across so we could head on, and she even started drawing a crowd from the people stopping for petrol and from those in the shop. Eventually she did the jump and after a quick cheer, we all loaded up again, but not before getting Mark to hold his Navajo necklace up so I could photograph how it looked and was tied, so I could do my new one perfectly back home.
As we rolled back into New Jersey, and our 30th+ different State, the final countdown begins, and before long we were on the outskirts of Secaucus, and pretty soon the wonderful backdrop of Manhattan came back into view. That's when I knew that we were coming to the end.
Only being minutes from the Holiday Inn from where we actually began this crazy adventure, Joanna calls out for me to play something a little more cheerful, I think I'm playing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
, but before that can happen, we actually pulled up in Plaza Drive and in front of the hotel for our final stop.
Now came the sad part, the final unloading of the trailer and the goodbyes.
First of all we got a group pose in front of the trailer, then we started saying our goodbyes. Steve, Zach, Sarah, Kylie, Scott and I were staying in the Holiday Inn, so that meant we had to say goodbye to the others.
The guys all kind of gathered round Todd, and I was the first to say goodbye. Despite spending 9 weeks together, and getting so close, all I could do was offer a strong handshake to Todd, before leading Scott , Zach, Steve and Mark all give him a big hug each. D'oh!
Next it was Jess, and having got really close especially on the second half of the Tour, I offered a big strong hug for her. Same went for Sumi, Joanna and Kristina. Annabel was heading into Manhattan and we had arranged to meet up with her tomorrow, and Mark was heading back to us after checking into his hotel - he wanted to finish uploading everyone's photos for our hard drives!
As Todd pulled away with Sumi, Joanna, Kristina, Annabel and Jess, we all headed into the new and improved reception area of the Holiday Inn. 9 weeks earlier, as I first checked in, it was a huge building site, but the difference made it hard to believe this was the same place as before. All that goes out of the window when the same receptionist from 9 weeks before, proceeded to check us all in.
When I got my room, Kylie and Scott followed me, as I was letting them crash in my room that night before they checked into their hostel in Manhattan tomorrow. My room was almost exactly the same as the previous one before the start of the Tour but was facing the opposite wall. Oh and there was a king size bed in this one! I offered it to Kylie and Scott for that night, but they were happy to use the pull out bed on the sofa at the back of the wall.
After freshening up and getting changed, we met the others again in the reception and headed out the back of the complex to Houlihan's
once more for a final meal together. We were joined by Sarah's roommate Emma, who began her Tour the following morning.
One last time the drinks flowed and after finally sorting the photos and hard drives back in my room, passing midnight in the process, we finally said goodbye to Mark - a true legend - and finally went to bed.
And so endeth the second half of the Trailblazer trip. The best 64 days I could have ever spent. And I would do it all over again. The ups and downs, the new friends, and special new relationships I've formed on the Tour.
Now that it was all over, I had 2 full (ish) days in New York before finally flying home.
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