Hometown: Lake Forest, California
Occupation: Assistant manager at Rock N Road Cyclery
Time Cycling: 30 years
Reason for Cycling: For sobriety
Our good friend and local legend Parker Boone recently sat down with Riley Missel from Bicycling Magazine to tell his story of how cycling helped turn his addiction and personal tragedy into empowerment and hope.
I used to drink to feel warm and happy inside. Now, I use a fixed gear.
When I was 26, my dad went missing. We were supposed to pick him up for dinner, but he wasn’t answering the phone. My brother and I went over to his house in southern California, and there was an eviction notice on his door. His car, his keys, his passport—they were all there. The only thing we couldn’t find was his gun.
The police searched for weeks, and the bloodhounds tracked his scent all the way up to Whiting Ranch State Park, but lost it. There are a lot of mountain lions in that area, so there was some speculation about what happened. But we never found a body, and there was no communication, so no closure. He just flat-out disappeared.
To cope with my father going missing, I started drinking nonstop. I couldn’t find any way to maintain happiness. I went on like that for two or three years, and I was let go from my job—I was a bike fitter at a bike shop—for drinking while working.
Once when I was coming off a binge, and I hadn’t had a drink for maybe 18 hours, I started violently convulsing; I had a grand mal seizure. I knew at that point that I was physically addicted and needed medical help. I met with a doctor who diagnosed me with severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). My family helped check me into a three-month recovery program, and after that, I moved into a sober-living house.
I didn’t have a driver’s license, so I bought a blue fixie to ride to my job washing and waxing boats at Dana Point Harbor in Dana Point, California. I would ride it all the way from the house near Angels Stadium to the train station, and from the station to the harbor, and back again at night. I’d always loved riding bikes, as did my brother and dad, so these rides brought me a sliver of peace while everything else in my life felt out of control.