Into Istanbul

Trip Start Jul 04, 2013
Trip End Aug 29, 2013

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Flag of Turkey  , Istanbul Province,
Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 50. Our final riding day and Liz's 60th birthday. What a day - a physical and emotional roller coaster befitting the end of our epic journey. 2300 miles without rain (except a couple of nights in camp). 2300 miles with only a few flats (several of us made it with none at all!). 2300 miles with only one injury requiring medical attention. 2300 miles with no drop-outs. 2300 miles with no serious mechanical difficulties. 2300 miles of sunshine, coffee, shared pastries, friendships forged and fortified, perceptions changed and gratitude instilled and enhanced.
We left Durusu Park this morning and headed for the forested hills that separated us from the Black Sea. On the way, we happened upon a Starbucks - our first since Vienna. I squealed with delight - after all, we'd been in Turkey for 3 days and not only had we not found the fabled Turkish coffee, but it seemed we were doomed to Nescafé for the duration of our trip. We fueled up on the real stuff and headed for the hills.
A beautiful winding road led us under ancient aqueducts and tall trees provided shade as we alternately climbed what seemed like long, endless ascents only to be gleefully forgotten on the fast, picturesque descents. After our final descent, we made our way through an increasingly busy village street to the final thoroughfare along the Black Sea. Our tour leaders were at the ferry dock to greet us with a banner, snacks and champagne. After celebrating amongst ourselves and taking the requisite finish-line photos, we boarded the ferry to take us to the European side of Istanbul and our hotel, the Ortakay Princess Otel.
While on the ferry, I had time to grasp the reality that I had indeed "accomplished" what I'd set out to do - ride from Paris to Istanbul. But it didn't feel like an accomplishment and still doesn't. It just feels like I spent 7 weeks doing something I love to do with the added benefit of meeting some fantastic people and experiencing parts of the world in a way that few people do. I must admit, I felt very sad about the sense of finality and shed some tears while pedaling the last kilometer. But I was reminded that this is but one journey, hopefully just a chapter in what I hope will be a colorful life story. AND I have a few days in a vibrant, beautiful city so there IS more adventure to come.
Shanny threw us a beautiful goodbye dinner tonight in a lovely dockside restaurant, Poisson. The area is bustling with activity and I am currently listening to Turkish dance music from a wedding reception that's occurring below my hotel window. I DID get that Turkish coffee and it was even better than I dreamed - truly liquid pleasure.
And so tomorrow I will immerse myself in the sights, sounds and smells of what promises to be a fantastic urban expedition. And perhaps the Garminator will give that poor overworked device a little rest....;-)
More to follow...
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