Home, sweet home. It’s a sentiment that becomes rather muddled when you’re nomadic or when you don’t really feel like you have a distinct place to call home.
The draw of road riding, stripped to its core and rid of the bells and whistles that come from training, racing, Strava-ing, upgrading components, bike maintenance, is where I’ve found my easy chair, my living room, my place. Colorado-born, surrounded by foothills carved with winding singletrack and looming mountain peaks, my existence was mostly (if not exclusively) in the City. My brick childhood house was home. And those elusive mountains…they were just mountains…until I started riding a bike.
The very first time I rode from my doorstep to the top of Lookout Mountain, a benchmark for any Front Range cyclist, I felt I could conquer the world, I felt empowered. My surroundings seemed to shrink and the magnitude of possibility expanded. While I spent countless hours guzzling mediocre coffee and eating sickeningly sweet chocolate chip cookies at St. Mark’s Coffeehouse, my “second home” became a wonderland, a feeling to seek out to return to: home, sweet home. It was somewhere, in some frigid day in the hills logging monotonous base miles, that home all of the sudden felt infinite and elusive and necessary.
I channeled a routine into finding home. Wake up, make coffee, listen to NPR…get kitted up, fill bottles, pack the saddle bag. That routine was the path towards a comfortable feeling. Cranking up the tunes, and clipping in became routine. Riding through the streets of downtown Denver in the early morning, reaching the long stretch of road to the hills just before the sun peeked – nothing about that seemed, or still seems, routine. The gentle morning sun lighting up each switchback on the uninhabited dawn climbs, quickly disappearing into the trees… This was my routine. My version of a 9-5.
Many years of riding in both familiar and unfamiliar territory, taking in the breathtaking scenery, experiencing a kind of fatigue of the mental and physical variety that cannot be matched, and all of the less-than-glamorous aspects that come with sport and the test of the physical self left a feeling of monotony. Much like coming back to the same home day after day.
Hence I traveled for an extended period of time. “There’s no place like home.” Routine left me feeling rather apathetic about pedaling a bicycle. So I lit out. Found new roads. Throwing my leg over my bruised and battered Primus Mootry on the rough, cracked road in the Santa Barbara Mountains I felt a fire that had been sorely missed.
Colorado born, California built I often say. The roads in California are incomparable – the coast is relentless, the mountains are steep and unforgiving. After a sleepless night with a little too much to drink, I faced a plan to ride Gibraltar in Santa Barbara an iconic climb, a common destination similar to Lookout mountain– I had to do it because I knew it was hard. Really, really hard (even if after a solid nights sleep).
Somewhere, on one of the many switchbacks, completely exposed to the beating sun (after a long winter, my body was rather unconditioned for this kind of heat) I put my head down, stood of out of the saddle ignoring the unbelievable burning in my quads and I said, audibly, “I’m at home.” Finding the new, pushing up an unfamiliar place, carving out my own journey. That was home. I’d spent weeks on the road from California up to Oregon and back down again. I was living out of my car, all of my belongings confined to a suitcase and a backpack. It was then that a sense of belonging, a comfortable place was something I knew. It was there that the notion of home was suddenly made clear.
Turning the cranks in circles on my Primus Mootry is home. Grinding up forest service roads, feeling the gravel slide underneath the skinny tires, stopping at an innocuous convenience store for a taste of packaged-salvation, it’s as far away as one might ever get from a mailing address but like a familiar floor creak or a junk drawer or any other marker of comforting place, place that creates belonging, that moment on the bike where the anxieties of should or might simply slip into a natural place of being– that….that is home and it’s a place I’ll return to whenever I’m searching for comfort.
– Addie Levinsky is a writer and a rider based in Boulder, CO. The founder of Treeline Journal you can follow her on Instagram for more glimpses of the wild places she calls home.
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