Monday, November 16, 2009

The Gypsy Life

At what point in your life do you say “I want to live out of a backpack and a car when I grow up.”? I don’t remember aspiring to that, but that’s where I’m at now. Five weeks ago I packed my laundry basket with clothes and a race bag with my competition gear and got in the car. This was to be an epic road trip full of bike racing, some eating, Redbull, bike racing, Clif Bars and more bike racing. Our car had enough equipment to supply a small pro team, and the collective value of said equipment was definitely worth more than the Yukon. You know you’re a bike racer when the stuff on and inside your car is worth more than the car itself.

First up was SoCal for our track national championships. Going there we drove south through Arizona and New Mexico, which was really like Dante’s 5th ring of hell. Not even kidding, it was 115° at 11am wherever it was that we were. I don’t even know, nor do I really care to know. While in central CA we spent the night at a college house with a friend, and let me tell you, I didn’t miss out on anything by skipping “real college” to ride my bike. We slept in the garage (seriously) on a couch and a futon with beer and mystery stains on it. I laid there on top of a sleeping bag with all my clothes on and debated leaving my shoes on incase of a late night escape. It was horrible. The next morning we didn’t even brush our teeth- we just grabbed our backpacks and left.

From there we (another para-cyclist Matt and I) came back to Colorado Springs basically to repack the car and grab different bikes before heading on to Chicago. We drove through the night through the heartland- Nebraska and Iowa. If you’ve seen one corn field, you’ve seen middle America, just repeat that image for 1000 miles. Chicago is my hometown, and I was looking forward to being back. We were greeted by my mom, our dog and the “backup meatloaf” my mother decided to whip up for us just incase we needed a meatloaf sandwich when we got in at 1am.

The whole point of going to Chicago was for Superweek, or Stupidweek as more people call it. It’s 17 days of road and crit racing in Illinois and Wisconsin. (A Crit is a type of road race on a ~1 mile course, usually 4 corners in a urban area.) I was registered for 11 races, nine were pro races and two were amateur. When the pros tell you that you’re racing too much, you might be racing too much. But hey, what else do I have going on? Nothing, so I might as well right? Christ, I got my butt cooked well done and handed back to me on a silver platter every day for the first week. It was terrible. Both Matt and I had similar racing experiences. Finally after about 4 races we found our legs and started racing well. It was as if someone flipped a switch and turned our legs on. Towards the end I actually ended up with a few results to write home about, and a little bit of money to boot. By this time we’d spent more time in the car than either of us had spent at home in 6 weeks, and we showed it. At the races everyone knew who we were because we were the crippled kids, and the slowest ones, and the loudest most obnoxious people around. It was fantastic, and neither of us cared. We had sleeping bags that we’d unzip in the middle of the parks on our courses and take naps, make gypsy sandwiches on the tailgate of the car, take water bottle showers parking lots, and I actually debated washing my hair in the sink of a deli bathroom somewhere in Wisconsin. How we became such degenerates so quickly, I don’t know.

Superweek ended and it was on to the next leg of our journey- Milwaukee, WI to Bend, OR. Yes, Oregon is on the other side of the country. 36 hours in the car, 30 spent listening to 60’s on 6 on XM (If our brains were filled with knowledge rather than all the words to every song on the radio, we might actually not be as dumb.) and 6 hours watching movies later we arrived in the middle of nowhere- Bend, OR. The racing in Bend went well for me, finishing 2nd (always the bridesmaid!) in the time trial and qualifying for a spot on the Road World Championship team.

I’ve tried to keep a tally in my head of the hours spent in the car, and I think we’re over 145 hours, and over 8000 miles on this epic journey. We’ve been through deserts, plains, mountains, valleys, the ocean, old roads, new roads, a dead horse on the highway, elk, sheep, cows, corn, soy beans, nice people, mean people, toothless people, dumb people, and had a blast along the way. It’s so good to be home now.

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