I got a late start out of Baker, Nevada, and coasted the slight downhill toward the Utah border. A feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment overcame me as I had made it to my third state. The landscape grew increasingly colorful and rocky, a welcome contrast to the prior week of seemingly endless yellow desert on the Loneliest Road in America. My parents stayed behind to take a cave tour at Great Basin National Park as I rode across the serene landscape.
Similar to a routine I had established in Nevada, the day consisted of an hour or two of climbing up each peak, followed by a pleasant decent into a valley as I watched the next peak grow closer and closer until the burn returned to my legs as I resumed climbing. I had learned to love this pattern of work and reward. At one point I found myself taking so much pleasure from the reward section, weightlessly soaring into a valley, yelping and howling at the top of my lungs which then erupted into uncontrollable laughter, joyous tears streaming, as I hit speeds above 40mph. "Whoooo!" echoed off the mountains, and I glanced around with mild embarrassment, but there was not a soul for miles to laugh at my moment of uninhibited joy, except the unamused gazes of grazing cattle. Utah brought richer visual rewards than Nevada, as each summit revealed taller and more vibrant mountains in the distance. As dusk enveloped the landscape, I arrived in Milford, Utah, where I enjoyed my last meal with my parents at an authentic Mexican taco restaurant before they headed back home to Arizona.
No words can explain my gratitude for their help: first rescuing me from the snow in the Sierras, then guiding me safely through the remote Nevada desert. I have commonly made references to their "tough love" approach when I was at the peak of my homelessness and addictions, but often fail to mention the years before that: the interventions, loving lectures, bailouts before they finally hardened themselves to the reality that I would not change unless I became intrinsically motivated to get sober, which meant detaching from me until I was ready for help.
Despite all their efforts, it was my poor choices, stubbornness, and denial that ultimately led me toward homelessness. Every parent with an addicted son or daughter knows this tug-of-war between enablement and support.
When they first talked about coming out to help me on my bike trip, a familiarity arose to those "bailout" days. Once again, they abandoned their active lives to help get me out of another mess, just like the hundreds of times in my jagged past. That guilty feeling soon vanished once they arrived to save me from the snow on Carson Pass and the remoteness of the Nevada desert. I recognized how much had changed between us since my days as a homeless and hopeless alcoholic. They were proud of what I was trying to accomplish with this ride, and willing to selflessly help in any way they could.
As they prepared to head home, I recognized that they were helping with the ride because of their love for me, but also because of the impact their help could have on other kids. Their help, after all, could save other young people from the trap of addiction by helping fund a new recovery home, saving other parents from the pain and loss that they had experienced—the destruction that goes hand-in-hand with addiction.
The following day was a planned rest day. My parents dropped me off at the Milford Day Spa and spoiled me with a parting gift of a sports massage before heading back to their lives in Phoenix. The therapist, Scott, who specialized in sports massage and had worked as a team massage therapist for the Cardinals, skillfully kneaded out the knots in my back and legs with special attention to my Achilles, which had been bothering me for over a week. Dr. Caldwell, a chiropractor at the spa, was so moved by the motivations behind the ride that he took a look at my injury for free, and taped it with KT tape. I handed him a card, and after reading my website and blog, I received a call from him with offers for food and shelter along my route. It was yet another example of the random kindness that has been so abundant on this trip.
My Uncle Don had made plans to leave his busy life in Scottsdale, AZ and take the baton from my parents by providing a SAG wagon through Utah. SAG, for those who are wondering, is a cycling term referring to driving a support vehicle behind a touring cyclist and according to a Google search, refers to "support and gear," or "support and grub." He had taken pity on the thirty thousand feet of elevation gain that Utah presented me, and selflessly volunteered to help so I wouldn't be slowed down by the weight of my gear.
Don arrived at dusk with a warm hug and a truck, which he referred to as The Pack Mule. He had thoughtfully loaded it with various essentials: hot dogs, cans of soup, tents, cots, camping chairs, firewood, cook stoves, lanterns, and a care package full of biking parts with a new pair of shorts, allowing me to retire my pair that I had fixed with duct tape after my bike crash in California.
As a child, I always admired my uncle Don. He’s very masculine and confident — a real man’s man. He wears aviator sunglasses, puffs cigars, and excels at fixing and explaining anything mechanical. When he speaks, he projects a certain brilliance and charisma that naturally draws everyone’s attention in the room, perhaps a trait that stems from his years as a Southwest Airlines Captain, or those spent as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. He is now happily retired, spending lots of time with his grandkids or working on model trains, among his many other hobbies. I was excited to spend some time catching up with him, and deeply grateful for his help getting over the mountainous terrain of Utah.
I awoke and set off from Milford, passing through rolling green hills dotted with farm houses, grain silos, and livestock before arriving in Cedar City in the early afternoon.
That night, we stayed in a clean but dated motel. As I stood in the shower, staring at the familiar layout of the bathroom, I found myself haunted with the memories of a motel I lived at for almost a year as an alcoholic, less than a decade ago.
I first lived at the End O' Days Motel about nine years ago, a rundown place in Durango that had been converted into cheap monthly rentals, inhabited mostly by drug dealers, alcoholics, and various other low-lifes. My first month was spent on the floor of a crazy Hispanic guy’s room for fifty bucks a week. He would drink beer and sniff cocaine at all hours of the night, answering the door with a large Bowie knife. One evening, with a crazed look in his eyes, he confessed that he was on the lam for murder and explained that when I fell asleep, he was going to "stab me up into pieces." True or not, I stayed awake that night.
The next day, I decided to use the little bit of money I had stashed away to get my own unit, two doors away, which seemed at the time to be a reasonably intelligent choice. During the first week, I was assaulted by another neighbor for trying to get him to stop beating his girlfriend while on a meth binge. I found protection from my elderly alcoholic neighbors, Larry and "One-Eyed" Jerry, both career hobos, who through experience, were wise to survival in this kind of environment.
I spent my days working at various restaurant jobs and evenings drinking vodka out of plastic jugs by the gallon with Larry and Jerry. "One Eyed" Jerry had a prosthetic eye which would fall onto the ground by midday when his half a gallon of morning vodka had taken its course, and Larry had a stomach like a basketball from cirrhosis of the liver. They would tell me stories about Vietnam and teach me lessons about life on the streets while we chain-smoked and passed around jugs of vodka until I would crawl through the parking lot to my cluttered room and pass out. I spent so many hours in that motel bathroom, hands on the old tile, shaking and vomiting, in and out of blackouts that would last for days, so completely lost and alone, wishing I could find a way out.
I ultimately found a way out, through the help of Providence Network. Although these terrifying memories find their way back into my mind with something as simple as glance at a motel bathroom, I have found peace, redemption, and forgiveness in my spiritual walk, which first began at Providence House. As I dried off my body and stepped out of the bathroom, I found encouragement in the thought that perhaps I had been called to save other kids from the fear, desperation, and hopelessness that I experienced in those days by riding my bicycle across the beautiful landscapes of America each day. I stepped out of the bathroom and the horror of those memories vanished at the sight of my loving Uncle, waiting patiently to go check out the town. He was one of my many family members who had forgiven me for the pain I had caused them in those days.
Cedar City would be my last mid-sized town for a long time, so my Uncle and I took the afternoon enjoying the suburban guilty pleasures of Walmart and Applebee’s, as well as a trip to a bike shop to get thorn-resistant tubes, as my front tire had been perpetually leaking air.
In the morning, I left early for one of the most hellacious climbs of my entire trip, ascending from roughly 5,800 ft. of elevation to nearly 11,000 ft before the midpoint. This was the first day that I realized that I was starting to get used to this cycling thing: waking up each day and pumping my legs 8, 10, or sometimes 12 hours a day. I had learned to detach from the pain and let my mind wander into some amazing places: intimate conversations with God amidst the tranquility and perplexity of nature, listening to audiobooks, jamming out to tunes, letting my imagination drift off on tangents, and spending a great deal of time thinking about my beautiful girlfriend, Brandi. My uncle met me with The Pack Mule in the middle of the day on the side of a mountain to tailgate with some sandwiches and warm soup before I made my way to the bitter cold summit which was lined with banks of snow, but revealed some breathtaking views.
As I stared off at the layered patterns of red rock that had been molded by an unthinkable amount of years, I was awestruck. I rode down the winding mountain road, over rolling hills and past fisherman tossing their reels into Panguitch Lake, finding my way into the cozy town of Panguitch.
This trip has afforded a lot of solitude, and with that some moments of loneliness, but I continue to feel the prayers and well wishes of the hundreds of people that are with me in spirit each day of riding, and find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for all the prayers, donations, and support I have received thus far. I want to thank each one of you for reading, praying, sharing, and supporting this dream of mine to further the lifesaving work of Providence Network.