Shifting Gears: From the Valley to the Mountaintop

Peter is one of those foundation friends that was so much a part of my early childhood --a partner in crime to the many scars I still wield on my elbows from homemade ramps and street hockey summers.

I once put a baseball through his kitchen window and our elementary claim to fame had a lot to do with scaling and jumping off the highest extensions in the schoolyard. We even got scolded for attaching carabiners to our jeans to better expand the possibility of extreme swing set tricks.

I’m sure you know the friend.

And I’m sure you know that sometimes, whether you like it or not, people come and go and times change.

There was never a distinct point where he and I grew apart but sometime toward the end of high school I ran into my friend Peter and hardly recognized him at all. He had a thousand mile stare like you read about and frankly I never thought Peter would climb back to the peace and sobriety he’s found today.

This is the redemptive story of my friend Peter and his ride to the top. 

Most people are shackled by the dust of their past, but Peter made a home in it, changed gears and has grown into a living, breathing story of success; a story that reminds us that we don't have to give up when things get rocky.

Bikes have always been a fundamental part of our friendship, wouldn’t you say?

Bikes have always been the center of my life, when we were kids they were our means of transportation, fun, and exercise

I think the last time we really rode together you destroyed your knee in the desert...

That 13th birthday changed my life. Your dad greeted me in the ER as I was rolled in on a wheel chair. I knew it would be difficult to get back on a bike after tearing my ACL. Just the fear of re injury is what banished me from riding again. I was dedicated to baseball at the time so I stuck with that sport from then on after 6 months of physical therapy. A year later I tore my ACL in my other knee jumping for a wild throw at first base and gave up sports altogether. 

All I wanted to do was numb myself, but eventually it stopped working

How did experimentation and casual partying go south? 

Through my childhood and teen years I always told myself I would never go down that path. At 17 I got in to my first serious relationship with a girl and we stayed together for 2 and 1/2 years. When we broke up it was the worst emotional pain I had experienced and totally turned the tables. I drank alcohol in high school at parties but it was never really that great for me. I started smoking pot within a few days of the break up and it was a perfect match for what I needed. I no longer cared about the past or felt the pain of the heart break. It snowballed from there and it became my life. All I wanted to do was numb myself, but eventually it stopped working. I got involved in another relationship a few months later and she introduced me to the rave scene. Next thing I knew I was taking LSD, ecstasy, shrooms, and smoking more pot then I ever thought possible. 

Did you ever miss an active lifestyle in those years of haze?

It didn't phase me one bit. I had lost about 35 pounds from the heavy drug use on the weekends, and my appetite wasn't the same. All I cared about was getting high. 

What happened when you were hospitalized?

Still to this day, the most horrifying experience of my life. I took an eighth of shrooms one night with some friends and they turned on me. Bad. I was scheming and plotting that the world was against me, and there was nothing anyone could say to calm me down. Every single person in my life was suddenly a part of the grand design I created in my mind and they wanted my life. I spent a week in a detox center and it spiraled out of control in there. I was restrained, medicated, and an entirely different person. None of the treatment I received helped until I saw a behavioral Dr. that put me on abilify, which restored my sanity and my life. I learned that I needed to change paths and quick. 

I was so clouded all the time I couldn’t read the signs.

When did you wake up and take a stand?

My stubborn self wanted to get to the bottom of what I experienced so of course I started smoking pot again. This backfired and I experienced the same thing 3 times in a row, returning to the medication and getting back to my normal self.  The 4th time around, at 22, I could smoke pot and live a "normal" life, which consisted of going to work, playing Call of Duty, and eating pizza 4-5 days a week. This kept me content for a while until I realized my girlfriend at the time had been seeing someone else behind my back. I was so clouded all the time I couldn't read the signs. I was done the day of the realization, moved out of the apartment we were renting and stayed away from pot for 9 months. 

Was there any backtracking or relapse?

 I relapsed countless times. If I could guess I would say it's around 20. Each time I attempted, I gained power over the lifestyle and figured out what to do and what not to do. It taught me what made me want to use and when I was more susceptible to going back. Ultimately I had to create a reward system.

Each time I attempted, I gained power over the lifestyle

Where does riding take you metaphorically, physically and geographically?

Riding became a serious part of my life about a year and a half ago and flipped my life in the right direction. When I got on my first mountain bike it felt like I was 4 all over again, just getting my training wheels off and ripping around the cul-de-sac for the first time. A feeling of complete freedom. As I progressed I found myself on a more expensive, and better equipped bike every month or two. I've now been to California, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and all over Arizona to find the best trails to ride. I'm in the best shape of my life and am always gaining endurance as long as I can keep myself out of the hospital from pushing myself too far on my bike. 

These people are a different breed

What does the riding community mean to you?

 I traveled around the valley trying out all the different trails, and even got my friends to tag along and they too - got the mountain biking bug. I've met some of the best people through mountain biking. Not because they like to ride bikes. These people are a different breed. We share the love for the universal feeling of freedom and fun riding provides. When I can wake up knowing I can go ride my bike with my friends today or this weekend, I have something to look forward to. Something I can look forward to that doesn't involve numbing, forgetting, or escaping. I can get on my bike and appreciate this incredible body I was given and the beautiful places I can go discover on a whim. 

I have something to look forward to. Something I can look forward to that doesn’t involve numbing, forgetting, or escaping.

How do you go about setting up buffer zones and steering clear of your vulnerabilities?

After years of getting in my own way I set up some boundaries for myself to keep my life pointed in the right direction. I'll have a drink or two every now and then but I will never drink in excess. It keeps me from making any poor decisions that might lead to relapse. 

10 Pieces of Advice for Entry Level Riders?

  1. Make some friends at your local bike shop. These guys are in it for the love of riding and are more then happy to share anything and everything you could think to ask about the sport. 
  2. Go get lost on a trail. The best way to get to know them is not by map, but by making a few wrong turns and meeting some locals along the way. 
  3. Get to know your equipment. 
  4. Don't be afraid to go out and ride with others that are more experienced.
  5. Strava! Get the app to see what other locals are riding in the area and to see your progression. It will count your miles, elevation, calories. And much more. 
  6. Safety. Crashing is inevitable as a beginner but will teach you what to do and what not. Helmet, gloves, and knee pads are a must. 
  7. Nutrition. Drink water before, during, and after your ride. Gels and clif bars will become your new best friend when your muscles feel like quitting. 
  8. Ditch tubes, these are for backup. Tubeless set ups will keep you on the trail longer, and improves handling. 
  9. On anything technical and steep lean back. If you go over the bars, you're not gonna have a good time. 
  10. You're not Lance Armstrong, just go out and have fun. 
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5 SouthWest Trail Meccas

 Hard to pick just 5 but if I had to-

  • Sedona
  • Moab
  • Black Canyon City
  • Flagstaff 
  • Phoenix

What other outdoor hobbies keep your life in the light?

Anything that can get me out of the gridlock and in to nature. Hiking, fishing, and off-roading are also very enjoyable for me. 


Final advice for anyone that has been or may currently be on a similar path?

Never give up. If you want something bad enough there's always a way to get it. 

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