"It's a hot day, but it's the last day," said "Counselor" Tom Carson before he loaded the baggage onto the trucks one final time. The First National Bank Cycle Across Maryland ended Saturday in Easton, and emotions soared as high as the temperature.
A huge celebration at the Sts. Peter and Paul School in Easton greeted exhausted riders as they arrived from Centreville. The euphoria wasn't over the day's ride, which was flat and easy -- especially for those who took shortcuts. Rather, each cyclist had achieved a personal triumph in surviving the third annual CAM-Tour.
Most riders congratulated themselves just on finishing the six challenging days, while others celebrated their 100-mile "Century Ride." Like Rob Bain of Ellicott City, many had never tried anything like this and still couldn't believe they had done it. But for a few, CAM had a particular importance.
Riders by the dozen thanked organizer Pat Bernstein for her efforts, but one stuck in her mind, she related at the closing ceremonies. A former drug and alcohol abuser, he hugged her, then broke down and cried. He explained that CAM-Tour had helped his rehabilitation and gave him tremendous self-respect. Thanks to the support received on the tour, he achieved what he had considered an impossible goal.
Despite the experiences and friendships of CAM, most were glad to be going home. Warm showers and comfortable beds were sorely missed, while overripe bananas and watered-down Exceed sport drink could be forgotten. Besides, just thinking about another day of biking was enough to make a rider reach for an ice pack. Sore knees and minor scrapes plagued virtually every rider, but serious injuries were remarkably absent. Just like Thursday's century patches, the ace bandages were even a mark of courage and survival.
Toward the end, CAM took on this sick kind of humor, as riders relished their pain and thrived in what others might see as torture. People made jokes, not complaints, about leathery PowerBars, sore butts and getting up before dawn to ride 60 miles. Comics had ripe material for Friday night's second annual Talent Show, where Poetic Pat and the Roadkill Rat, the After-Lunch Bunch, and others performed. By audience vote, the 3 Live Crew's "Rapping the Bay" took top prize, earning them an all-expense paid trip to CAM-Tour IV.
Next year's trip will begin in Western Maryland, where riders will encounter the mountains of Allegany County. The route will continue eastward, heading south to Montgomery County and District of Columbia before ending in Prince George's County. Although the course appears to be tougher than this year's, cyclists already were saying "see you next year" on Saturday.
CAM-Tour '91, with all of its ups, downs and flat stretches, may be over, but the participants will remember this vacation for a long time. But let's hope they'll reenter normal life soon: CAM volunteer Larry Stern described his nightmare during the talent show. "I'm going to get this call on Monday saying, 'Larry, it's Susie from CAM-Tour. I can't find my laundry. Also, where's breakfast today? And will the route to work be marked with red arrows?' "
Scott Needle, a senior at Johns Hopkins, filed periodic reports on this year's CAM-Tour.