God be with those who explore
In the cause of understanding:
Whose search takes them far
From what is familiar and comfortable
And leads them to danger or terrifying loneliness.
Let us try to understand their confronting or
Unusual language; the uncommon life of their emotions,
For they have been affected and shaped and changed
By their struggle at the frontiers of a wild darkness,
Just as we may be affected, shaped, and changed
By the insights they bring back to us
Bless them with strength and peace.
This week for me begins with a tale from 2006 and my first days leading for BACKROADS. The prayer from above has stayed with me and in my pocket since 2006 and it never fails to remind me of who I am and what I do. As many of you know, I actually led cycling trips one summer before I decided to start my own biz with Antonello.
I was training in the south of France when this story took place and it led to a subsequent snoring story with my good friend while cycling in Tuscany a month later.
Snoring is a disease, and certainly there are methods to curing the suffering, and certain sleep dysfunction caused by the insipid palsy that affects so many in the tremors of the deep night. Whilst in France I was confronted with 2 sleeping options as I moved my things into the Provence leader house near Carpentras.
A. I move upstairs to a large room with 3 or 4 other people whom I did not know, and face the challenge of walking up a flight of stairs that forced me to continue ducking until I reached the upstairs landing. Keep in mind I had just gotten a concussion that week from not ducking far enough under a trailer door as I exited carrying a pile of bike gear. This was pushing my number of lifetime concussions closer and closer to Troy Aikman territory and I had even grazed my head on the low ceiling above the stairs just a couple of days prior while at a return to Europe party in the house.
B. I move into a room with one other guy, a friendly Canadian fellow named Claude (Clode) who had been leading trips for several years. The choice seemed so apparent to me I quickly ushered my things into the room with this bundle of esoteric knowledge; Claude. The funny thing was; I went in with my gleeful bags of bouillon cubes, chefs knife, and far too many clothes, while the others in the house were looking at me as if I had just chosen Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in the 1985 NBA draft. To those in the know, Claude the gentle while awake, became Claude; destroyer of all things, when sleeping.
However, I was undaunted as I was not only going to avoid further head trauma, I was going to once and for all wean myself from the habit of being a light sleeper. No more was I going to be fazed by erratic night noises including faucets, crickets, and flatulent girlfriends. Nevermore was I going to be left awake and contemplative of nightly suicide because of bright clocks, partially open windows, alcohol induced tremors, nothing. This Claude guy was going to show me the way to a real respite, and the white whale of a full night’s sleep would be mine at last.
Sadly, just as Ahab spit his last breath at Moby Dick, I too was left grasping at the frayed elastic of my boxers and battening down the hatches of blankets over my head to endure the rampant and unpredictable squalls of snores cast upon me by the now malicious and hateful Claude. By day, he was a resource for all things Backroads. He was the inspirational traveler to Vietnam (cheers Claude, I made it!). He told me of cheap accommodations in Saigon (where he was likely evicted after each night his unsuspecting proprietors heard the thundering tsunami of snores). Claude brought hell with each breath, and on night 1 I felt as though I had been assailed by not only Claude, but some silent arriving interloper delivering a second death blow of unique sound interspersed with the initial insonorous launch. How could anyone claim to be asleep and make this kind of noise?
Then it turns out, to my sad surprise, that Claude is one of the legendary snoring ventriloquists. While rare, they can be spotted at times playing hold’em with the Yeti at a Lockness casino. Claude, had mastered the art of delivering a deep inhaling snore, coupled with a migrant, pitch shifting, exhaling snore which bounced around the sonic register as to appear to be coming from all sides. I mean this guy was like BOSE technology on snoring.
Needless to say, my egocentric side forced me to ride out the wave and blame the subsequent next day eye-bags on too much vino and too late to bed.Yet I knew the truth was lying 5 feet away while my short-statured colleagues were resting easy in their upstairs cave of tranquility. I loathed them all and prayed for some relief on night 2 of the onslaught. After a Tet offensive-like barrage in the first 20 minutes of tossing and turning I finally rose to my feet, blanket in hand, and made my way to the couch in the living room, only to find a sleeping colleague had beaten me to the punch which sent me back to sleep apnea hell for the remainder of another long night. I was told in the morning that the sofa would be free should I venture that way again; and I did, every night until the troll guarding me from crossing the bridge to sleep-town decided to spend the night away…on my last night in Provence.