Friday, June 06, 2008

Good day exploring

Date: June 5
Mileage: 53.7
June mileage: 159.2
Temperature: 51

I read an interesting article today about a study that tracked 100,000 undisclosed cell-phone users in an undisclosed location outside the U.S. Besides the obvious ethical dilemmas involved with nonconsensual tracking, the scientists in this study noted that nearly 75 percent of the people being tracked never ventured further than a 20-mile radius from their home in six months. Half the people stayed in a circle little more than six miles wide. I know this is "outside the U.S.," far away from American car culture supposedly, but I wonder how many Americans mirror this lifestyle. How many Americans rarely see the spaces more than 20 miles from where they live?

It's interesting to me because this is my biggest issue with the place where I live. I have a somewhat-smaller-than-20-mile radius to explore, and beyond that, I can't go anywhere that I can't reach with my own two feet (or arms, if I had the courage to paddle out of here) or rather expensive mass transit. There are no roads or trails to lead me out of this place. I'm trapped, and sometimes I feel that way. As much as I love day-to-day life in Juneau, this aspect of living here is difficult for me. Travel was always such a huge part of my life when I lived in the lower States. Nearly every weekend, I set out across a piece of my own radius, back then probably 300 miles wide and sometimes more. It's definitely good that I drive *much* less now, but I still miss those new spaces and adventures. Especially now that I realize bike travel can easily extend into the hundreds of miles, a car wouldn't even be required.

I set out today in a light drizzling rain with my large pack and bike lock, because I had a bunch of errands to run. I picked up a few things and stopped for a lingering lunch, where I read about all those people who aren't trapped where they live and still never venture more than a few miles from home. I hadn't intended to do any recreational bike riding today, but when I stepped outside after lunch, the sun had broken through the clouds and I was conveniently located in the Valley, where all the best trails are. So I set out for a little trail riding that turned into a lot of trail riding, with a big pack, books and a few groceries on my back. It's been so unseasonably dry that the trails were almost dusty, such a rarity here, and I was able to bomb over a several lines of singletrack that are normally too muddy to bother with. The lower Montana Creek trail led to the upper Montana Creek trail, where the dry track allowed me to climb beyond the old road and onto entirely new trail (Windfall Lake?). I followed it for a while, even though it was way beyond my skill set - shin-high roots, collapsed bridges, plenty of cliffhangers and hike-a-bikes that were barely walkable (you know, the kind where you have to hoist the entire bike on your shoulders and hope you don't slip because you are going to tip backward off a cliff with a only a steel bicycle to break your fall.) But it was new trail, and I was really excited about that fact, and when the riding was good it was amazing - sometimes a whole 100 yards at a time.

So after that adventure I had to check out the Lake Creek trail - which is a great winter riding trail but I suspected was nothing in the summer. I was right. The Juneau Snowmobile Club did a great job of laying gravel over the first mile, and after that it just disappeared, completely, into a muddy bog. I slopped over several yards of the swamp to see if more solid trail reappeared in the woods, but in the process was attacked by about 1,000 mosquitoes. I nearly forgot to grab my bike as I sprinted back to the gravel and high-tailed it out of there. But for that short stretch it was fun to see old winter haunts in full bloom.

After that I was in a pleasant mood and hit up my favorite trails, Dredge Lake, West Glacier, etc. I ended up with a fairly long day - hard to say how long after my shopping and the lunch stop, but probably at least five hours of riding. You know it's a good day when you arrive at home, the sun is shining, and your commuter pack is splattered in mud. It helps me feel better about my small space, because within are so many spaces I have yet to discover.

Late edit: Interesting NYT article about the Juneau Road. (Thanks, Fred) For the record, I'm an agnostic about this road. It is an expensive project and environmentally dubious and still goes to "nowhere," as far as state connections go (Skagway is about 800 miles from Anchorage.) I'd probably be more firmly against it on days that I'm not so wistful to leave town.


  1. Sounds like an interesting article Jill. I have been amazed recently at the expansion of my own personal map. As I've been on medical missions and scouting trips, I've probably expanded my circle to 15,000 miles. But unlike you, I probably don't know what is down the trail on the other side of town. Do you think you'll go crazy when you've explored every hidden nook in Juneau?

  2. Here is another interesting article about people from an "undisclosed location!"

  3. jill come to Colorado in aug. Stay in a yurt and do lotsa mt biking. Maybe play with chainsaws :) maybe hit the co Trail

  4. Jill, I saw that article, too. It reminded me of how many people I have met who haven't been far at all. Like a girl from Long Island, NY who had not, at age 18, gone more than five miles from home! A guy in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights who had never visited downtown Alb. (about 8 miles away). Any number of people in Albuquerque who had never been to the state capitol, Santa Fe, just 60 miles up the interstate. Lack of money to indulge in travel is one reason (people without transporation in some cases, but not all), lack of curiosity is another. I think people live in a very small comfort zone, too! You would never understand that one, nor would any reader of this blog. But I have a family member who gets very nervous thinking about not sleeping in his own bed every night! Hard to imagine....Julie

  5. I live in a small landmass connected by road and I enjoy having the connection, even on those days when visitors amke moving around a chore. That would be one reason I wouldn't live in Juneau ( the weather is another!), but I find it odd tha people choose to live in isolation and fele they would be served by a road to essentially, if I read the article correctly, nowhere.I don't suppose many people plan to cycle the JAR.I like my restricted landmass because it forces me to explore more deeply close to home. Every small discover y is made large by the narrow confines of the Florida Keys.

  6. I would like to do a similar study, but car travel doesn't count. I'd bet that the percentage of people who have never ventured more than 20 miles from home by other than driving is in the upper 90s.
    (proud to say that my wife, two kids, and I are in the group that has and routinely does)

  7. Hmmm, they always say there are "lies, damned lies, and statistics". The study is pretty flawed. The article (and the cruddy study) says "nearly three-quarters MAINLY stayed within a 20-mile-wide circle for half a year". How often is "mainly" and how many is "nearly"? Is mainly 80% of the time? 90%? Most everybody lives within 20 miles of their work. I'll grant you that most folks may not go home immediately after work, but most of them won't go far in order to grab dinner or a movie or catch up with friends at the local watering hole. We can also assume that most folks will sleep at their own house at night (or at boyfriend/girlfriend's pad, which probably isn't too terribly far away). So you can account for 5 days a week right there, bam. Now, on the weekends, this person is free to do what they want, right? NAH! What about spending time with family, or going to a friend's house (probably within 20 miles of home) or whatever other social gathering one might wish for (like church, etc)? And unless this person is sleeping in a tent, they've got to come back home at night.

    So, given 5 days a week to work and 2 nights on the weekend to sleep at home, that's 80% of a person's time spent within a 20 mile radius. Does this automatically make this person a homebody?

    Don't get me wrong: it's nice to use it as a sort of introspective tool. I just think it's not fair to make sweeping generalizations made about "everybody else" who stays cooped up in their house all day, every day. They have surprisingly full lives, I'm sure.

  8. well i read your comment and it is really great.



    Wide Circles


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