Thursday, May 15, 2008


Mexican Mountain, December 2004

Date: May 14
Mileage: 33.4
May mileage: 500.7
Temperature: 39

My computer's hard drive is all full up again. I'm tired of deleting my music, so last night seemed a good time to go through the old photo archive and cull. Bad idea. Instead of throwing away 1,268 of the 1,269 shots I have of my bike in front of the Mendenhall Glacier, I spent all my time browsing the really old photo archive just so I could feel wistful and, well, homesick.

Cataract Canyon, July 2002

Every May, my old college friends converge from our respective far-flung paths for a spring vacation in Utah. Recent upheavals at work, compounded by the two weeks of '08 vacation I already spent just to do the Ultrasport in February, prevented me from joining them this year. I was disappointed about my situation at first, until I learned their plan was a river trip. I generally dislike river trips. Sitting all day in the hot sun, doing nothing, baking, burning, unable to do anything about it because you're stuck on a raft, with the monotony broken only by completely terrifying whitewater rapids, is actually not my idea of a good time. "No thanks," I told them. That was two months ago. Today, I would give just about anything to be sunburned and bored and minutes away from churning over keeper holes.

Outside St. George, Spring 2004

I doesn't help that Geoff is currently having an amazing time on his Utah adventure, bikepacking on all the four-wheel-drive roads and trails that we used to always talk about but never attempted because we were so inexperienced and those places were remote, so remote. Now I have a little Alaska experience behind me, and suddenly those deep desert spaces don't seem so far away - even though they're more inaccessible now than ever.

Dirty Devil sidecanyon, May 2005

I am angry at myself for throwing away the Utah vacation. There is the fact that May time off wasn't really an option this year - but the truth is I didn't try too hard. I feel like there was something I could have worked out with my co-workers, with my savings, with unpaid leave. Did I need a new mountain bike? No. Do I need a week to run my bare toes through warm sand, laugh with the friends of my youth and roast in the desert sun? Yes.

Pelican Lake, March 2004 (Ice fishing is fun)

Sometimes I feel torn between Alaska and Utah, unsure which one is really my home. Even though Utah is the place where I'm from, there are a lot of ways in which it's wrong for me. I wither in any kind of heat, I'm disinclined to return to the freeway and suburban lifestyle I grew up in, and, the truth is, I've fallen in love with Alaska. I like that I can leave my house, walk two blocks, and hike up a mountain. I like taking 1,269 pictures of my bike in front of the Mendenhall Glacier because I like that I can ride my bike to a glacier that often. I like that it's winter six months out of the year. I like the Xtratufs-in-church Alaska culture and the small-town bohemian feel of Juneau. But Geoff, who grew up in upstate New York, typed something yesterday that really resonates with me ... "When you spend time outside in southern Utah, the red dirt just gets onto your body, and then into your body, and eventually into your mind and heart."

Buckskin Gulch, May 2001

Homesickness is exactly that, I guess.


  1. Don't get rid of the photos and music. Just get something like this
    to store/backup stuff.

  2. I always say I feel people sickness but not so much homesickness. I come from the land of cold & dreary corn fields and now that I live in the land of dirt, sand and rocks, they have gotten into my skin & soul in a way that I never expected. I truly love the desert in a way that you can't appreciate without spending some serious time here. If I ever move back "home" I will definitely leave a piece of myself here. I feel so privileged to have lived in a place I truly love at least for awhile. We should all be that lucky. You posts always make me think Jill cause your writing is so insightful.

  3. Funny. I feel the same way about the red dirt here in North Florida.
    Perhaps red dirt has magical powers, wherever it is located.
    The iron in it calls to the iron in our blood.

  4. I miss Alaska. I'm currently baking in 100 degree weather in Northern California, and I can tell you with authority, that it is completely overrated. Keep your chin up. Without the downs there would be no ups.

  5. I hear you girl. I'm from Canada and used to spend a lot of time in the Rockies but for the last 8 years I've been in the USA, from Maine to Missouri and now to Vermont. At least when I move to VT I'll be near the border of my homeland!

  6. Memory is cheaper than time.

    ATMO the only things that might be worth your time deleting are music and photos you dislike and videos (and perhaps clues...).

    For me, loneliness is usually a symptom of adaptation---just a part of being human. I suppose homesickness is similar, but I don't really know because for me "there's noplace like home" (in contrast, I think Dorothy meant there's no other place like home). The thoughtfulness and appreciation it fosters are good things.

    Matt Newlin

  7. "Quit your job and to Utah go you should" - Yoda

  8. You just need a trip back to Utah. I was a stone's throw away from Utah this past wknd, down in Cortez, CO (for a mtn bike race). It'd been a while since I'd been out that way, and it was awesome. Sometimes you just gotta get out to the desert for a little soul cleansing. I could never live in the desert, but need to get out there once or twice a year just to clear the head and gain a little perspective.

  9. I think I know the feeling, Jill. I've gone through some similar stages and am glad to have done so. At, I just now blogged about your blog about it. And I'll second the advice about soul cleansing.

  10. Jill,

    If you can carve out some time to visit Utah, do it in June. June 21st to be exact. Elden (aka, FatCyclist) is hosting a Triathalon/WaterSlide/Bratwust Fest that promises to be THE EVENT of the season. Hope to see you there!

  11. it's funny, as much fun as i've been having down here i've been a bit homesick for juneau lately. i think i mostly just miss you, but also juneau in a weird way as well.

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  13. The more places I go and fall in love with, the more I discover that it makes me simultaneously ALWAYS homesick and leaving me feeling like I don't even have a home.

    I guess I need to stop doing that "Travel like a local" thing, it sinks in a little too much.

    Great blog, keep it up!


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