The Finish Line
It has been two weeks since I left Reid and the Team. All I could do in this time is what everyone else has been doing, watch the Internet. InReachTracker, Facebook and the occasional message all tell me how Reid is fairing. I feel the agony, the sleepless nights. I miss the warm welcome of the generous people who have hosted the Team at the towns that that pass through, providing a welcome meal and bed and listening to the story of Eagles Wings. The days count down and finally there is one day to go. Monday, a business day. Tracking Reid over the weekend shows him eating up the kilometres, he will soon be home, when will he arrive? On Monday morning I talk to the boss. We know Reid will come home some time during the night, the regret is that having a day off on Tuesday is not an option. The compromise is a late start to allow me to spend time at the finish line.
Home and off to bed. How bizarre, going to bed so early. I know this is not a luxury Reid and the Team have as they power up the Pacific Highway. The truth is that I do have to go to work the next day so sleep deprivation is not an option this time. Text messages back and forth and we know that Reid is expected in around 5:00am. The alarm is set for 2:30am. It is a long drive for me to Victoria Point and we need to be there early to set up the area outside Bike Nirvana for the welcome home celebrations. It was like being a child on Christmas Eve. The excitement and anticipation of the next day made sleep hard to come bye, yet sleep I did and a quick breakfast before I left. In the mean time my lovely wife was having trouble sleeping and sat watching Facebook as she waited for her sleep to come. What did she see but Chantelle and Sierra meeting Reid on the road at the Gold Coast. Her sleep deprived mind thought that Reid was meeting his two ladies at the finish line and that I had slept through the whole event. Not the case. Off I go and arrive at Victoria Point at 4:00am.
Preparations had already started. Bike Nirvana had already opened and were setting up. A man from ABC Radio was getting ready for the outside broadcast. Spencer Howsen from ABC Radio has been following Reid for the whole trip with regular phone hook-ups every Friday. Spencer will be doing a live broadcast of Reid's arrival home. Other Team members arrive and we start to get ready. The word is out that Reid will be home at 5:30am. As the clock counts down, supporters and well wishers start to arrive. From the handful of people who saw Reid off 37 days ago, there are now a couple off hundred here to welcome him home. Television cameras, newspaper reporters, politicians, but most important, Reid's friends and family.
The minutes count down and all eye are on the road. A shout goes out and we all turn and see Reid turning into the road leading to the finish line. A paper banner is strung across the road. Reid rides closer. Around the roundabout, through the banner and into the arms of Chantelle and Sierra. The tears were flowing, not just Reid's but everyone around him. TV cameras and photos galore as this historic homecoming is recorded. 37days, 1hour, 18minutes. A new World Record and the story of Eagles Wings is thrown into the world's media. An amazing feat by a humble man. All done for the vulnerable children in southern Africa. In later interviews Reid confesses that there were times when he just wanted to quit and go home. However, it was the orphans and the vulnerable children in Zambia, living in extreme poverty that kept him on his bike. My hat goes off to my fellow Team members who have stuck with Reid the whole way through this amazing and crazy adventure.
The celebrations continue and as Reid gains his composure, congratulations, hugs and photos abound. The Member for Redlands, Peter Dowling is on hand to add his congratulations and to record the time that Reid arrived home. We hear him talking to Spencer Howsen thanking him for being the only media outlet to follow Reid all the way through from start to finish. Later Spencer takes some time to chat with Reid on-air. As they talk the crowd is unnaturally silent as that hang on every word and listen to Reid's story. The Mayor for Redlands City, Karen Williams, presents Reid with the keys to the city, or in this case in a digital world, the Swipe Card to the city.
As I say my goodbyes and head home for my work day, the crowd has not diminished. The morning will end with a Team breakfast at Harvest Cafe across the road from Bike Nirvana. Enjoy the accolades Reid my friend and then go home and sleep for a week. We will convene again on Saturday for the official "Welcome Home Breakfast" at the Redlands Sports Club. Here we will hear Reid's stories of this epic ride as well as the work of Eagles Wings in Zambia.