Finding Elaine

Sidelined on a highway in Canada with the hazards blinking and check engine light on—not the first time.

Finding Elaine The Prologue to Four Years of Adventure

I never expected to spend the last five years living out of a van, traveling around North America to ride bikes.

After eight years of university, the plan was to lead the monk-ish life of a research scientist, and at most maybe move to Europe for year and get a French girlfriend.

But then I met a drunk named Joe and a beauty named Elaine, and “the plan” went out the window in an ingenuous, chaotic fashion. Adventures, it turns out, are like that.

The detour from conventional city life came about when I was confronted with having to find a new apartment in the dizzyingly expensive Vancouver rental market. The math was challenging; on the fixed and meager income of a graduate student there was no hope in hell I could afford a new bicycle, a season of racing, a vehicle, food and an
apartment. So, I re-evaluated my priorities. Food was necessary, for obvious reasons. The racing and the bicycle were one expense, I decided, and essential for my sanity. An apartment was easily the most costly item in the equation, and also the most frivolous— but if I combined vehicle and apartment, the numbers began to make sense.

I started looking for a van I could call home. After five weeks of scouring Craigslist, I found her. Tan with an orange racing stripe, high top roof, space for bikes, and an asking price of only $5,000. I was in love.

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