When life hits rock bottom it is often easy to blame yourself...and in doing so, try to change and become someone who you are not.   In my case, I blamed the life that I was living, the music I listened to, the people I worked with, the friends I surrounded myself with, and even the bike I was riding.  In my case, I set out to erase the slate and completely start over with the belief that all my problems would somehow disappear.  Spoiler didn't work.  

Trying to out ride my problems -- July 2010 (Gettysburg National Park)
The original intention of this blog was to highlight and celebrate the joy I experience while cycling, the bonds I form with my friends, and yes...the ice cream that I love to eat.  From the beginning, I realized that winter would come, the trails at the county parks would be closed, and the Pennsylvania roads would be covered with rock salt and gravel.  I had decided, that during my forced winter hiatus, I would go back and tell the stories of the past.  In the back of my mind, I realized that I would eventually come to this point of the, as I sit here watching my cursor blink...I'm not sure what direction this will take.  I guess I'll start here...
The realization that your life, as you knew it, was a farce makes you feel like a drowning man.  You flounder and reach for anything...hoping that something helps.  I couldn't seem to find joy in anything.  My mistaken belief that I need to change who I was led me to disassociate myself from my friends.  I remember, at one point, I got a text from Mark Lentz.  He continuously tried to reach out to me and help...but I wouldn't let him.  I'll never forget the last text he sent me that day.   It simply said "This isn't how friends act."  He was right...but I didn't know what to I just broke off my friendships with him, Glenn, Mikey, and Kristian. That choice was one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made in my life.  The one friend that I didn't push away was Tim.  I didn't tell him what was going on, though.  I had this misguided belief that my problems were my problems and I didn't need to burden him (or anyone) with them.   He sensed something was seriously wrong, but I wouldn't open up.  

Dave Raymond & Tim Sindlinger in Michaux State Forest -- July 2010
Thank God I had quit drinking years before this.  I reached not for a bottle...but for my bike.  I was never as good on a bike as I was then.  All I could do was ride.  It was the only thing that made me feel better.  Ridiculously, I blamed my bike, too.  I associated my new mountain bike with everything that I thought was wrong with me.  So I sold it...way too cheap...and purchased a mountain bike that I hated from the moment that I brought it home.  My 2010 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR was a shadow of what my Epic was...but it got me through this period in my life.  

My 2010 Stumpjumper FSR in Michaux State Forest -- July 2010
I blamed racing too. So, the racing stopped.  Tim and I spend a lot of time riding in Michaux State Forest.  We explored a lot of new area...but in all that time, I never had the courage to open up to him.  We spent a lot of time together but there was always a wall of silence hanging in the air.   I had purged my life of everything that I thought I needed to...but I was miserable.  I didn't realize how empty life could be without the people you care about. 

By July of 2010, I was in total disarray and was unrecognizable to the people who cared about me.  Events had forced me to face the realization that my life would never be the same and that I couldn't hide my problems any more.  Picking up the phone, I called my dad.  I had never opened up to him and even avoided visiting him for fear that he would sense what was going on.  The last thing I wanted my father to think was that I failed...and I didn't want him to feel burdened by my failures.  I asked him if he could meet me for lunch the next day.  I was so preoccupied with myself that I didn't even remember he was having surgery the next day.  I was so ashamed.  By trying to shield him I had actually shut him out.   That phone call; however, was the beginning of a new and stronger relationship for the two of us.

Father & son camping at Rocky Gap State Park -- May 2013
Next I went to see Tim.  I will never forget what happened.  I got to his house and he was in the garage.  He had his tire pump in one hand and his front wheel in the other.  He stood there in complete disbelief as I told him what was going on for the past year and a half.  Then he dropped everything in his hands and embraced me.  We just stood there, in his garage, and cried.  Thank you, Tim.

Tim Sindlinger stood with me on my wedding day -- July 21, 2016
By the fall of 2010 the pieces of my life began to put themselves back together...but not in a way that I had ever imagined.  I began dating my wife, Robin.  She was the one who made me understand that I didn't need to change who I was.  It was Robin who showed me all the good that was in me.  I was Robin who I felt comfortable opening up to.  She opened my eyes to the fact that there was nothing wrong with who I was (and who I am).  She appreciated me and encouraged me to reach out to those I pushed away.  Honestly, I was scared as hell to walk down the hallway at school and talk to Mark.  I asked him to forgive me for not allowing him to help me...and he did.  Our friendship has grown stronger ever since and I consider him to be one of my best friends.  I wasn't as successful with Glenn and Kristian.  Even though we talk to each other, our relationship has never been the same.   I really miss them.

David Raymond & Mark Lentz in Caledonia State Park -- October 2015
As much as this particular time of my life sucked it was vital in making me into who I am today.  The whole time I prayed that my life would get better.  I know now that "better" doesn't always look the way you imagine it.  Life is funny like that.  I never would have imagined that that I would be happy again.  I never would have imagined the amazing relationship I would build with my father.  I never imagined the friendships that I would have.  I never imagined the amount of success that I have with my career.  And I never, in a million years, would have imagined that I would get the girl!  Sometimes it takes the biggest challenge you've ever faced to grow into to person that you need to be.

On July 21, 2013 I married my best friend and became the happiest guy on the face of the Earth.

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- February 19, 2016
White Squirrel will return soon.