Words and Photos by Danielle Baker
It took ten hours to get home on Monday. I spent the time cooped up in the backseat of a friend's overloaded car fighting off the assault of precariously perched helmets and other gear. I was suffering from a severe hangover, the kind where it feels like your punished soul is trying to escape through your eyeballs. Solid food was beyond my ability. I passed the time by mentally inventorying the items within reach that I could throw up in and wondering at what angle my head would fit through the childproofed back window without getting stuck. I watched the world go by outside between naps and moments of pure nausea. The long weekend traffic was stop-and-go at points, usually with the congestion caused by line-ups of RV's waiting to go to places like The Enchanted Forest, which boast 350 jolly folk art figurines. It made me feel lucky to ride bikes, lucky that my long weekend Holy Grail involved mountains and really cool people, not gimmicky Styrofoam and overpriced hot dogs.
My hangover eased throughout the trip and finally, four hours from home, I was able to eat solid food, the color started to return to my face and my insides stopped sweating. I arrived home in the dark, left my pile of bags at the door and went straight to bed. My alcohol-induced hangover was gone, but the mental hangover of leaving a fantastic few days of riding, old friends, new friends and hi-fives behind was just setting in. I knew that in the morning I would wake up to my alarm, not the smell of bacon, to thoughts of work, not riding. My fridge would be empty and so would my apartment. There would be no sounds of laughter over half memories of the night before, no smudgy footprints on the kitchen counter where someone showed off his abilities to 'drop it like it's hot'. And it would be slightly less acceptable to walk around with a dirty face and crazy helmet hair. No appreciation would be given to the amount of dust I had to inhale to develop this Betty Davis Eyes voice. Reality can be a real downer sometimes.
After spending a few days with no responsibility but riding bikes, nothing to assume about strangers than they must be great because they ride bikes and drinking beer as an acceptable morning drink, the harsh reality of home, routine and fending for oneself can feel like a hangover. Not the kind that makes you vomit in your helmet bag, but the kind where your soul feels a little heavier than usual. The transition from living in the moment to daydreaming about that moment from your desk is a hard one. Re-conforming to society is challenging; you have to remember that it's not funny to laugh at a coworker when they fall down, women's bikini's are best left for women to wear and sometimes strangers will run away when you try to hi-five them. The awesome bond that you form with new and old friends over a long weekend of riding is lost on the general public. When you are describing the epic trails and crazy antics of your weekend their eyes are glazing over with memories of the jolly folk art figurines they paid $10 to see. Conversations are best left to the commonalities of bad traffic and great weather.
It does not take long to adjust. Only a couple days and we will all be back in the swing of real life, finding joy in our day-to-day and thinking ahead to our next long weekend. This hangover will wear off like any other, our souls will be able to digest a workday again and our expectations of awesome in an average day will be lowered. Slowly the high will wear off and the addiction will fade. We will ease the transition by sharing photos and stories, and accepting new friend requests on Facebook. We will avoid drinking for a few days, give our bodies a break from the physical abuse of big crashes and big days and subconsciously start preparing for our next adventure.
We could never maintain the long weekend; our livers would fail and our legs would permanently cramp. But they punctuate our summers with a few days of complete indulgence. Until the next one there are after-work rides and strangers to chase after. "No, really, don't be afraid, you will love hi-fiving!"