I recently returned to Cambridge Springs, spending two days with my friend Troy on his farm. I’ve been to Cambridge Springs before, and this small town in Northwest Pennsylvania has strong connections to my life changes in the past decade.

My first visit was in 2004. Cambridge Springs is best known for an international chess tournament held in 1904, and my visit was to coincide with the celebrations of the anniversary. I was 400 some pounds in the photo to the right, and was so fatigued from the drive the day before I couldn’t play in the amateur tournament. (Yes, I was too tired to sit at a table playing chess.) I remember sitting on the porch of the Riverside Inn and staring at the landscape and the nearby French Creek. I wasn’t part of that landscape, I wasn’t interacting with it, I was a spectator. I was living, sort of, but wasn’t alive.

Let’s move forward almost a decade. Nine years and a triple digit weight loss on and I’m outside. In the photo I’m riding along the very same French Creek that I once observed from a distance. (The photo is from the Ernst Trail in Meadville, not Cambridge Springs, but its close enough.) Cambridge Springs might be a small town and Meadville only slightly bigger, but they are surrounded by the wonders  and glories of nature. I am a decade older but I’m alive in ways I’d never have imagined back in 2004. Cambridge Springs used to be associated in my mind with the living death of super obesity. Now its a place I go to when I want to get out.