“Overtime you learn that home is inside of you, not a place so much. And the people around do make it better, but there’s still a quiet comfort within.”
I wrote a post two Sundays ago as I sat and suffered in silence in a hotel room with my back to three members of my team.
I was writing to escape my thoughts. Although I had people with me, I was alone, and I was in my head. I needed to talk to someone but there was no one to talk to. It was probably my least filtered piece of published writing. It was a huge, necessary cry for help. And it worked. A surprising number of people wrote to me with genuine concern and care for my well being.
I sat and cried for hours in the back stairwell of the Cannery Hotel and Casino listening to the distant and depressing sounds of slot machines. I breathed the stale smell of cigarettes and beer. I was dreading the next two months on the road given the condition I was already in on day two. I felt trapped. Alone. Afraid. Likely the most afraid I’ve ever been. Afraid for my life; not for fear of dying, but for fear of living in constant pain. I didn’t want to live inside my own head.
To the people who reached out- thank you. You have no idea how grateful I am. You sent positivity in my direction and it really helped to lift me. I’m not kidding. It was huge. Bigger than you know.
We set out for the drive from North Vancouver on Saturday around 6 am. We made our way to Twin Falls, Idaho the first night. I met my two driving companions around 5:30 that morning, and discovered that the two, fresh from France, spoke about as much English as I speak French (not much). It was a relatively quiet 15 hours in the van.
That night I shared a hotel room with my three French companions (Maxime, my director, is the third who drove the other vehicle). I wasn’t a part of most of the conversation. I got 10 minutes of wifi to say ‘hi’ to my English speaking friends (wifi was $3.99 so naturally I borrowed someone’s phone hotspot for a few minutes).
We set out at 6 the following morning aiming for Phoenix that evening. We were just over 100 miles North of Vegas when the van broke down. As the most fluent in English, I spent an hour playing phone tag with towing companies, garages and my team owner. Eventually I found us a tow to North Vegas, as nowhere closer had a shop that could do the necessary work.
After three hours in Ash Springs, Nevada, we were on the road again, following our van and trailer which were on a flatbed. Six miles later, we were waiting for another tow truck - ours broke down. Another hour and a half on the side of the road meant that we arrived at our new hotel in North Vegas around 8. That night I broke down too.
The van breaking down didn’t cause me to break. I actually laughed about that situation. I didn’t really mind. I would have broken down that night no matter what. I was adjusting yet again to a new life. Over the tremendously disruptive previous month and a bit, I had created the beginning of a new life at home, and I wasn’t ready to leave my support network behind. I have yet to become close friends with my teammates, and at a time at which I need close friends, I felt very alone.
I spent the next three days exploring little bits of Vegas. The first day I rode to the strip and felt like a giddy kid as I laughed at my own excitement. It was so stimulating and exciting seeing the massive backdrop of so many movies and stories - a fantastic distraction. I went into Caesars Palace in full kit with my bike and helmet and sat down at a slot machine.
We returned that night to walk the strip and see it at its prime.
The next two days I spent riding to parks and sitting in coffee shops with Jason, our sprinter from France. He taught me to swear in French.
On Wednesday, we got a call about 10 minutes after I had paid the toll fee for Jason and I to ride through Red Rock Canyon. The van was ready to go and we had to drive to Tucson. We turned around just 4 miles into the 13 mile loop ($2.50 per mile goddamn), and rode to the van. We got in and drove to Tucson.
We met with the team the following morning and a few of the guys weren't in good moods. The negativity was something for which I was ill prepared. Having been more afraid to get the season started than excited on the drive out, this threw me off. What was I getting into? I needed positive and supportive people around me. Otherwise small things hit me with great force.
Over the past week of being in Tucson, things have become better. More on that next week. But for now, a few realizations:
The stress of looking at 2 months on the road, followed by a couple weeks at home, followed by potentially another 6 months of unconfirmed plans on the road scares the shit out of me. The first 7 days of the trip I had a terribly anxious stomach. Never relaxed, always stressed, always at the verge of tears, and it manifests in my abdominal area. Every negative thing that happened, no matter how small, added to my stress. Slowly, I’ve been adapting to a one day at a time mentality. This is new to a guy who is notorious for having a set calendar and daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists.
One day at a time, sometimes five minutes at time, is what will get me through. I’m learning how to live this way.
The second is the quote at the start of my blog. Talking to a friend about the loneliness of travel and the feeling of homesickness I have, she told me that home is a feeling within. To me, this was a profound statement. I’d never looked at it this way. To me, home has always been a feeling. As I had expressed in a column a couple months ago, home was a feeling I felt with my girlfriend. Without her, suddenly I felt I had no home. I went back to Victoria and spent time with friends, new and old, and developed a new sense of home. Leaving that, I missed it, and felt very homesick immediately. But this sudden notion that home is felt within blew me away. It made me smile.
I’m working on feeling at home within myself. No matter where I am, I can and should always be me. This year will be an exercise in learning about, learning to love, and learning to support me. Exciting times!