The wafting smell of burning garbage drifted through the hotel entrance in Latvia; stray cats roamed the streets.

From my window I could watch them hunt pigeons in the town square. I could also see a man with an outrageous mullet, dressed in a trench coat, walk by for the fifth time that day.

On second glance, I noticed the book he was shredding in his pockets, discretely discarding its torn pages as he strolled by. I love going to places I’ve never been – there’s so much mystery.

Another mystery to me was how in the world skiing exists in this place.

So far I hadn’t seen anything but flat, infertile fields with decrepit old barns and stone buildings that weren’t much more than piles of rubble. It looked like World War II ended last week.

Oh yeah, and there wasn’t a bit of snow.

But to my surprise, a 15 minute drive brought us down a side road where we not only found the only hills in Latvia, but also a 2.5 km loop of snow, or ice – it was somewhere in between.

The races here were preparation for the more important races the following week: the Latvian National Championships.

There are some very respectable Latvian skiers, but here my main competition was my teammates and a group of Estonians. Nonetheless, I was going to treat it like any other important race.

I had solid races both days, finishing third in the classic race and second in the skate race the next day. Saturday was an especially good day because Dahria Beatty won the women’s race – I’m always filled with a little extra Yukon pride when we both have a great race on the same day.

Now the important races — to see who qualifies for the next World Cup. Of course, I get sick.

At first it came on slow and I tried to ignore it. Eventually I had to give in and accept it. I ended up blowing my nose for a week straight, instead of racing, so obviously I’m missing out on the World Cup, which is a bummer.

But I can’t help think it’s probably a good thing. Getting sick is a sign that I need a break form all this travel and racing. I’ve been on the road since New Year’s and now I finally get to go home and rest.

Things I’ll be looking forward to are: skiing on real snow and experiencing actual winter, eating moose meat, and seeing friends and family and my dog. Things I’m not looking forward to are: changing my own sheets, washing my own dishes, and other general cleaning that hotel staff have done for me over the past two months.