Thursday, August 23, 2007

Geoff and me

Date: Aug. 22
Mileage: 22.1
August mileage: 729.5
Temperature upon departure: 53

So Geoff bought me a copy of "24 Solo" for my birthday. I found the film entertaining enough, but I think Geoff took its motivating message to a farther extreme. Ever since we watched it, he has been scheming about adding even more events to his already overfull schedule. And since the place we happen to live is the isolated hamlet of Juneau, Alaska, I think it may be safe to assume that he's going to be gone, well ... all of next year, at least. Happy birthday to me.

I keep trying to tell Geoff that I am really not interested in following him into the madness. I don't actually want to live homeless in the scorching heat of a Mountain West summer. I don't want to subsist on sponsor snacks, or train eight hours a day, or set out to ride a sub-24-day GDR. That is really not my bag. That is way beyond my bag. That is a bag that belongs to a climber on Everest compared to my K-Mart bookbag. I like my domestic, balanced life. I like employment. I like income, and shelter, and the ability to purchase food. Geoff seems to think these things are optional.

It's funny, because I think most of our Alaska friends believe Geoff and I originally connected because we have similar "nutjob" qualities and a mutual respect for the other's rabid individualism. But that's really not the case at all. We met because I was inexperienced and naive, and Geoff had this compulsion to do beyond-the-call-of-duty good deeds for complete strangers. It's a good story, actually. And I'm going to tell it, because this is my blog and I'll do what I want. (Sorry, Geoff)

We had a mutual friend who invited me to visit her in upstate New York for the New Year's 2001. I didn't really take the offer too seriously. The next day at work, I was playing around with, one of those Web sites where you name your price for just about anything, but you're held to it if your offer is accepted. I entered an offer for a plane ticket to New York City ("All those Eastern states are small. How far away from Syracuse could it be?") on Christmas Day ("That must be a busy day for flying anyway") for the crazy low price of about $150. Imagine my shock when the offer went through.

At the time, I was 21 years old. I had never flown by myself or even traveled by myself. Only briefly had I ever even travelled east if the Mississippi, at age 15. I had no idea New York City and Syracuse were more than a five-hour drive apart. I had no idea how to find transportation. And I wasn't surprised when my friend said, "No, I can't make a 10-hour trip to pick you up at an airport on Christmas Day."

For a while, I thought I was just out $150. But then my friend told me that a friend of hers who was in Syracuse visiting his family might be able to come pick me up. I had met him briefly on several occasions because he had recently moved to Utah, but I hardly could say I knew the guy. The plane touched down at La Guardia airport at 12:05 a.m. on what was by then Dec. 26. It proceeded to sit on the tarmac for another 60 minutes, waiting for the all-but-shut-down airline to open a gate. By the time I stumbled off the plane, it was after 1 a.m. The airport was so empty you could hear clocks ticking, and I knew there was no way this random guy was actually going to be there waiting for me. But I turned a corner, and there was Geoff, calmly waiting for me in the abandoned corridors of a distant airport on the wee hours after Christmas as though he did things like that every week.

The cold in New York City that night cut deep, close to 0 degrees, the kind of temperatures that drive even the most sleepless cities into darkness and silence. We pulled up into Times Square and parked right on the main drag, the only car to be seen for blocks. Everything was closed for the holiday. All the lights were dimmed, turned off, subdued. There wasn't a single other person on the sidewalks ... no transients, no teenagers, no homeless people, no one. It was a though the nuclear bomb had finally hit and we were the only people left alive in this vast and unknowable city. It felt completely natural.

Geoff and I crawled Manhattan for the rest of the night, talking about the everything and nothing of our lives. I think I could count the cars I saw - all taxis - on one hand. We circumnavigated Central Park as I shivered in my jeans and light cotton jacket, hatless and gloveless, slowly becoming a true solid. The deep freeze settled in so completely that I could scarcely keep enough blood flowing to my legs to continue walking. But I continued walking, because I was so enthralled by the very idea of New York City, and winter, and Geoff.

Can't exactly say it was love at first sight. But it was on those deserted city streets that a younger and much more naive version of myself first planted that seed. At the time, it was my grandest adventure. And it was only a foundation.


  1. I'm going to post the exact kind of comment that will make Geoff's skin crawl. AWWWWWWWWWW! How sweet!

    I think you guys can make it work. When my Jeff and I got together we were often apart for weeks at a time with his racing and race clinic schedule. You guys definitely have that "something".

  2. Man made my heart pitter patty!

    I'll 2nd mallie's aaawwwwwww how sweet!

    Cool story!

  3. Na-na-na-na-NA Geoff likes a girl!

    Oh wait a minute. Nothing wrong with that!

  4. And I've always picture you two sharing a tender dinner moment over a raw moose heart...

  5. What crazy, sweet luck.
    The phrase "grand adventure" reminds me of my brother, who had his fair share of them.
    I foresee many more grand adventures on your and Geoff's horizons.
    (& I hope you know I meant nutjob only in a good way...)

  6. Amazing, how luck/destiny/God or whatever plan there is behind it works these things out...
    Certain things are supposed to happen and certain people, like Geoff and you were supposed to meet!!
    I believe that everything happens for a reason, even though, me might not see it or understand it right away.
    Life is magic that way...

  7. Nice history: I understand you and understand Geoff.

  8. Being just a few years older, I have seen friends pursue "the life" (for us it was climbing) and others like me that settled down and started a family. Those who followed "the life" path seem to have pretty empty and lonely lives these days - their admission - although they have been to more places and have more summit photos to look through.

    As humans we grow up, grow old, and then pass on. I think there is a sweet spot for different phases and activities in our life. You can prolong one phase, but not without cutting another phase short, or in some cases, cutting it out altogether.

    Before you choose to take one phase and extend it to the next level, think about what you will be missing out on.

    Just some of my thoughts. Thanks for sharing yours.

  9. Hey Jill,

    you wrote, "I like employment. I like income, and shelter, and the ability to purchase food. Geoff seems to think these things are optional." You could just as easily be describing my wife Christine and me. She'd agree with you on those things and I pretty much agree with Geoff. And 25 years ago when we were dating and she met my mom, my mom asked her, "so, do you bike?" And Christine blurted out "well, yeah, but not like him!" That's when I knew. She got it. And she didn't have to be into the things I'm into the way I'm into them. And I didn't have to be into her things the way she's into them. But we understand that we each have our passionate interests, the things that we probably can't even explain to ourselves let alone to others. And we both figured out that our lives were better together. We often say that we are co-hermits. And it's worked OK for us. Did Christine ride with me on the GDR? Did Geoff ride with you on your recent trip? Does it matter if someone is 3 feet from you or 3000 miles if you are connected?

  10. kent,
    my thoughts exactly. and i think it's good for jill to hear this from someone other than me.

  11. dude, i was totally going to go with geoff to come get you, but when he came to pick me up i was being lazy and my mom didn't want me to go and he thought you were hot.
    p.s. if you guys move to sandpoint then you'll be able to see him a lot more next summer.
    p.p.s. plus north idaho is the bomb, you would love it
    p.p.p.s. plus i miss you guys


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