Monday, December 24, 2007

Hints of Christmas

Date: Dec. 23 and 24
Mileage: 30.2 and 25.1
Hours: 2:30 and 1:40
December mileage: 553.0
Temperature upon departure: 39 and 34
Rainfall: .11"

This is the third year in a row that I haven't been home for the holidays. Instead, I work right through them ... Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, all that time lingering among the ghost crew at the office while the people with priorities, the people with families, disappear into warm-looking homes. Geoff and I don't make a big deal out of Christmas (we don't even exchange gifts), and the rest of my Alaska family is comprised of two cats who only understand that this is a dark and foreboding time of year. Our good friends, who are Jewish, took pity on us and organized a potluck tonight. We will be joining a few other holiday orphans for a Christmas Eve dinner of mac 'n cheese, salad, and if I am lucky, some kind of fudge.

My lifestyle has evolved such that Christmas sneaks up very quietly, hiccups quickly, and flutters away. So it wasn't surprising when nothing felt very "Christmassy" when I headed out into the gray predawn or my morning ride. Even the decorative icicle lights, which my landlords last year left glowing until June, hung dark against the house. The weather has warmed up again, and has otherwise been very windy and fairly dry. It makes for less than exciting biking, definitely not the kind that feels like Christmas biking, and I had to push hard to log a few decent miles before I had to be at work.

As my studded tires clacked on the wet pavement and my quads began to burn, I thought about Dec. 24. Right about now, I thought, my entire immediate family is probably gathering at an overcrowded movie theater for a holiday matinee, probably a feel-good PG film, or maybe that Fred Claus debacle. If I were there with them, I would be able to wrap up the Marmot rain jacket I bought for my dad rather than hoping the U.S. Postal Service actually delivers it in time. "Next time we go hiking in the Grand Canyon," I'd say, "you won't get soaked." Then there would be dinner - probably a half dozen of those baby chickens my mom likes to call Cornish Game Hens, and ribbon jello, and sweet spinach salad. We would watch "A Christmas Story" and eat peanut butter balls until our eyes started rolling toward the back of our heads, and then we would move on to hot-fudge sundaes. There would be a suburban tour of Christmas lights in there somewhere, and new pajamas, and the quiet hustle of parents with three grown children and no grandchildren, perpetuating the ritual of Santa Claus.

As I tilt my head back and imagine Christmas Eve, I can hear the roar of a truck barrelling through the slush behind me. I'm way over in the shoulder but I pull over even further, and I can tell this guy's still right on top of me. I turn to him just the truck passes me. It's all but straddling the white line, and in the face-soaking spray of sludge coming off the wheels I hear the driver yell out his open passenger-side window, "Merry Christmas!"

Merry Christmas to you too, buddy.


  1. And I'd thought that the Grinch had changed his evil ways! That Bugger!

    Sorry to hear about that cold hearted incident Jill ... it couldn't have happened to a more undeserving soul such as yourself. He will have his day, by golly. His next victim somewhere up the road was probably a large man in a red suit unloading gifts for the orphanage. Santa will make him pay and pay dearly.

    Anywho, wonderful post otherwise about your Christmas recollections. Make sure you get your fudge allotment ok? You do deserve that :)

  2. Hi Jill,

    I've been sitting here catching up with my reading of your blog, and your reflections on Christmas away from "home" have touched me deeply. I won't go into my own story of many years spent far from home, except to say that I share many of your feelings and remembrances.

    This has been yet another kind of "holiday season" for me, with a storm that blew through here a few weeks ago cutting off our electricity, water, and phone service for over a week, and while I survived relatively unscathed, some friends weren't so lucky, and they're still working on recovery. Less than a week later, some very dear friends, an elderly couple, lost their home to fire. And then, another friend, quite young, suffered a medical episode and fell into a coma. He just woke up today, and now it looks like he'll have a decent chance to recover. With all this going on, I've hardly had a chance to think about "celebrating" the holidays in any traditional way, but at the same time, I've seen friends come together to help and support each other, and this feels like Christmas enough for me. Friends are family too.

    It wasn't that long ago that I discovered your blog, but I'm so glad that I stumbled upon it. Alaska is my next destination that I hope to call "home", and though I don't need any additional inspiration to make the move, I've certainly enjoyed reading your words, following your progress, and drooling over your beautiful pictures.

    You don't know me, but you've given me, and I'm sure many others, a wonderful gift, and I thank you for it. Keep writing, keep working towards your goal, and I wish you well in the Iditarod and beyond.

  3. Jill-
    I couldn't help but feel my eyes well up with tears as I followed your nostalgic memories of Christmas. There was no ribbon jello this year. No Christmas movie. No dad's grand tour of Christmas lights on Wasatch. And the worst part, there was no you.

    It's really kind of sad how much Christmas evolves as we age, isn't it? 10 years ago I would have been tossing and turning in my bed waiting for Santa at this hour, and being able to see you tomorrow morning with some serious coaxing you out of bed... opposed to staring at a computer screen, wide awake at 2 AM, wishing I could see you in a few hours.

    It's just not quite the same anymore, but remember as you work through this Christmas Day that you have a little sister back in Utah that misses you so much it almost hurts.

    I love you Jill.
    Merry Christmas.
    xoxo Sara

  4. A joyful Christmas to you Jill from Oklahoma.
    @ yahoo dotcom

  5. Merry Christmas, Jill, minus the truck-splashed slush. That photo doesn't look much like Alaska.

  6. Jill - Merry Christmas. Hey, you might want to check this out:

    That would be more than a bummer 150 miles into Iditabike.

  7. Merry Christmas Jill

    I've been a lurker for quite a while. I can empathize with your story, I'm unable this year to have Christmas with my whole family and it's been tough knowing we've had some great holidays together, but this year won't be one of them.

    Out of curiosity what is the picture of?

  8. the picture is great!

    hope you're doing well....

  9. I love reading your blog. Makes me think about why I love riding. It should make me less of a complainer when it's dark at 4:30PM and under 30 degrees . . . but it doesn't.


  10. Hello Jill, is looking for cycling enthusiasts interested in testing and providing feedback on our product. Lobie is an iPod accessory designed in part to provide a safe MP3 listening experience while cycling. If interested, we will send you our product free of charge and to keep. Visit for product information. My name is Tom Dean and I can be reached at Thank you. PS. Please accept our apology for contacting via your blog comment box as this appears to be the only method of inquiry.

  11. Thanks everyone for the comments. And thanks, Sara! I really missed you guys too. I hope you had a good Christmas.

    The picture is an old military building near Douglas. I'm not sure exactly what it was built for, but it is normally at least halfway under water. The tide was pretty low when I took my Pugsley out last Tuesday (Dec. 18), and I was able to ride right up to it.

  12. Jill,

    First, a Merry Christmas to you, and as someone else said, NOT the slushy-almost-kill-you type. The picture brings to mind Lord of the Rings… it reminds me of a watchtower or something. I can't quite place it, but it's an awesome shot!

    I've been reading your blog (albeit in fits and starts) for about a year now, and I have to tell you that you're a constant source of inspiration for me. Thank you so much for sharing your life, training and struggles with all of us in the blogosphere and I wish you and Geoff success in the Iditabike!

  13. Uau! Amazing photos. Happy new year from Cape Verde (ten little islands in the Atlantic)


Feedback is always appreciated!