In the beautiful town of South Lake Tahoe, the gentle ring of my alarm clock woke me early. It was Mothers Day, and despite my offer to take my mom out for brunch, she wanted the free continental breakfast from the motel, so I got up early and surprised her with continental breakfast in bed. I couldn't be more grateful to have such an amazing mom — a mother willing to take the time out of her life to come help me with my dream of cycling across America. I thought about how much my addictions impacted her life, and the lives of all of my family. I put her, my dad, my brothers, and my friends through a lot of worrying, heartache, frustration, and disappointment.
I am grateful every day for their forgiveness and support and hope that this trip might save other families from the destructive path of addictions by helping fund a new recovery home for addicted and homeless youth. It is this hope and support that lifts me out of bed each morning to place my sore butt and legs on the saddle for another day of riding.
I loaded my bike and set out for the day, crossing my first state line of the trip into Nevada. I felt relieved to be over the Sierras and onto a new part of the adventure. As the state line whizzed by, the size of the buildings suddenly rose high into the mountain air, the quaint ski town morphing into a miniature version of Las Vegas. I had officially made it to Nevada.
The first part of the ride followed alongside the serene lake, and I found myself awestruck as the morning sun shimmered on the ripples of blue water. Highway 50 then shifted further East, away from the lake. Gradually the shade from the evergreens disappeared, replaced with a desert landscape, dusty yellow and scattered with clumps of sagebrush. The passing cars became less frequent, signifying the beginning of my journey through the remote Nevada desert on what people call the "Loneliest Road in America."
After a smooth day of riding and good night's sleep in Fallon, Nevada, I set off on the longest ride of my life. I rolled out of town and gasped at a sign: Austin 112 miles. For some reason, I had anticipated fewer stretches of climbing in Nevada compared to California, but found myself continuing to climb, peak after peak. As I reached the midway point for the day, everything hurt: my knees were stiff, my legs, back, and neck ached and cramped, and numbness riddled my toes and hands. I was ready to quit.
I thought of the parallels to my early sobriety as I remembered being at Providence House in my first few months after quitting drinking. Every few minutes in those days, I would be confronted with thoughts like this: You should give up. You should just leave this place and go drink. You are a failure, you are a horrible person, you are worthless. You will never make it.
I learned early on to override these thoughts with tools like positive affirmations, prayer, confiding in others, exercise, and distraction. In time, the thoughts became less powerful, less frequent, and my confidence and spirituality developed their own form of power against these attacks. On this journey, even in the worst moments of agony, nothing compared to the trials of those first months of sobriety. As my mind begged me to quit riding, I realized that if I could make it through the mental attacks of those days, I could make it though this.
I hit the 100-mile mark and rain began to spit. The temperature plummeted, and my entire body screamed at me to stop. With each pedal stroke, my mind began to attack me with a voice in my head that I had not heard in years: You should quit! You are fat and out of shape! Who are you kidding, thinking you could do this? You will never make it!
In an attempt to distract myself, I turned my attention to the beautiful mountains behind the fog in the distance, I turned to prayer, reminded myself that this ride might provide hope for others as they are getting sober. I pictured reaching Austin at the end of the day. I pictured crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.
The last five miles into Austin brought a fierce headwind and steep climb. The wind seemed to grab ahold of my bike, trying to toss it back down the road, as if to reinforce the thoughts running through my head: you can't do this. The sun had now set, stealing my visibility and dropping the temperature, strengthening the sting in my hands and toes.
As I reached the last two miles of the climb, I saw my parents' Subaru roll slowly past, with the windows down. My parents hollered and cheered, screaming, "You can do it!" They turned around and rode behind me, illuminating the darkness in front of me with their headlights, their cheers filling me with newfound strength and determination. I pulled in to the motel and nearly collapsed. I had ridden 112 miles with 5000 feet of elevation gain.
I fought off the lure of sleep just long enough to devour a home cooked meal of brown rice, curried vegetables, and tandoori chicken, then tumbled into bed. I felt like I did as a little kid, before my addictions had stolen everything, I was full from my mom's cooking and comforted by their love and support, which I used to dream about when I was hungry, sick, and alone, living in motels and on the streets.