Long flights are always intimidating, but South America isn’t bad, right? It seems like it’s just a quick trip down the coast from L.A., especially if it’s been a decade or two since you (I) got a B in geography class.
My trip was not so easy, with a delay from LAX that snowballed into a missed connection in Houston, a 24-hour wait until the next flight, followed by the expected day-long layover in Buenos Aires to get to San Luis.
All said, the journey was 75 hours door-to-door, but I’m no rookie: I’d packed spare underwear in my carry-on, as well as half of a Trader Joes (including a sizable bar of chocolate). The airline gave me a night at the Hyatt, complete with meal vouchers, so I basically lived like a king.
While my poor teammates spent hours crammed in a plane, my trip was broken up nicely, with a night at the Hyatt in Houston, a pleasant cruise on the recumbent spin bike at the gym in the hotel basement, and an Uber trip to Waffle House for breakfast (yes, smothered, covered, etc). I even had a travel companion in Jon Hornbeck, who also had the misfortune of flying from LAX.
Jon only had a carry-on, so while my gear was held hostage, he was able to supply some bib shorts at the gym (minor breach of contract on my part, but Castelli and Vaughters were understanding, and George Hincapie offered me a free week at his hotel in Greenville for my 75-minute endorsement). (That last part is a lie.)
After three days of bonding with Jon (and sharing his chamois), we’re friends for life, and I’ll be best man at his wedding (if we don’t get married to each other), but now I’m rooming with Andre Cardoso, so by the end of the week, BFF status might have shifted toward this Portugese hero, who didn’t know I was taking a picture while he flossed or whatever he’s up to.
This trip was a metaphor for my long journey to Garmin, then to Cannondale, with a year on Optum (now Rally) in between. Everything is green argyle instead of blue, but otherwise, it feels like I went out to lunch and it took a year. I’m back at the Tour of San Luis, which is chock full of great memories from my time in the leader’s jersey in 2014.
Everyone keeps asking each other how we’re feeling, how training has been going. Since we haven’t raced yet, nobody really knows.
“I won the group ride in Simi Valley last week, Alex. I’m ripping right now!” I promised.
I don’t expect to land the one-in-a-million lucky breakaway like I did in 2014, but I’m excited to build some new memories this year. Somewhat less excited for the trip home (where hopefully my house hasn’t been invaded, if we’re continuing the Homer metaphor).