Friday, June 04, 2010

Bucket list

I am moving to Montana. I can hardly believe I just typed those five words. That plan was nowhere on my 2010 list of goals, but such is life. Sometimes it whips you around in a flurry of G-Force in a way that's both sickening and thrilling, like a rickety old amusement park ride. You can't wait to get off and then you can't wait to get back on, even as your head spins and stomach churns, somewhere beneath it all, beyond the warbled music and flashing lights, you feel the spark that drives you onward.

I am excited to work for Adventure Cycling. It's a great organization, and there will be many chances to develop my editorial voice while working for the magazine. They're taking a chance on me and I'm ready to prove that I have much to offer to the realm of bicycle journalism. Although I keep a blog that is mainly about my hobbies, the truth is I really value my career. I can't be entirely happy unless I can productively contribute to the swirl of information out there. I came to Anchorage telling myself that I could be happy even if I had to work at Wal-Mart to support my Alaska adventures, but the truth is, I wouldn't be. I'm a journalist at heart, and to combine outdoor adventures with journalism is the dream. So I'm taking a chance on Montana.

There is much I will miss terribly about Alaska: the Chugach, Denali National Park, the Alaska Range, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula ... but even more than the places, I will miss the people. They say people come to - or stay in - Alaska for a reason. These are people after my own heart - people who don't just enjoy the landscape; they love the landscape, in a deep and lasting way that connects us intimately even if we live many hundreds of miles apart and see each other only a couple of times a year. I hope to still visit Alaska at least that often. My family in Salt Lake City is so excited that I will finally live "close" to home again. They don't yet realize that I'm going to spend all of my vacation time up north. ;-)

Since the decision has been made, my mind has been inundated with a panic of details and logistics. How will I move my cat and my belongings? What am I going to do about the 1996 Geo Prism? Take the ferry? Purge, ship and fly? Take a chance on the old car and the Al-Can, knowing the financial backlash will be huge if it gives up along the way? Where will the cat and I live? Where will I ride my bike? How will I make new friends? And what will I do before I go? My time in Alaska is now quite short. I wish I could do all I had hoped to do this summer, but the truth is I won't have the time or space. I have to start thinking up my bucket list now, knowing I won't get to do a fraction of what's on it. This week I mostly had to deal with annoying logistics. I had to spend nearly all day Monday and Tuesday moving from my old apartment into a new one, something that had been planned before the move to Montana cropped up. I did manage to get out for a hike with my friends Dan and Amy. The couple moved to Alaska from Colorado about a year and a half ago. They both urged me to go to Montana. I was a little incredulous. "How come no one up here is willing to tell me to stay?" I said. "Don't any of you people like me enough to try to keep me around?"

It's all in good fun, though. Dan is a freelance photographer and took this awesome photo of me prancing down the snowfield beneath False O'Malley Peak. (I already received Facebook criticism for holding my ice ax in my hand while running down a steep hill. I will just say that it was much less likely to impale me there than it would be when dangling off the side of my Camelback, which is where I usually store my ice ax when hiking.) Anyway, Dan and I had a good discussion about self-employment and freelancing. He does great work! His Web site is

On Wednesday, another fun group of women who call themselves the Trail Tramps invited me out for their "Bikes and Bangers" Wednesday night ride (Some singletrack, much intake of meat byproducts.) They showed me around the Hillside trails, a network of singletrack that is right in town that I had not yet explored, because I have been so busy getting out of town since I arrived in Anchorage. I finally took my Karate Monkey into the shop for an extensive overhaul, so I had to ride Pugsley (my snow bike). On the bright side, everyone gave me an automatic handicap for powering a 37-pound rigid bike up the steep hills (and for being fresh off a 140-mile mountain bike ride, from which I'm still feeling the effects.) But the real difficulty was the downhill trails, clogged as they were with thick tree roots and hairpin turns (Pugsley has the turn radius of a tractor.) I took a solid beating. Oh well. If you return from a group ride with bleeding legs, everyone knows you earned your hot dog.

Then on Thursday, it finally rained. I went for a run on some of those same Hillside trails (I was looking for the Wolverine Peak spur, but got lost in the looping trail network and never found it.) I was loving the weather - the cool, moist air and intense smell of wildflowers and fresh grass. Since I moved from Juneau, I have honestly missed the rain. May and June are dry months throughout Alaska, but this early summer has been particularly dry, and after those 90-degree days in Fairbanks I have been feeling a bit sun-baked. It was refreshing and gratifying to see one day of 53 degrees and raining - almost like being "home" again, wherever home is.

I guess home is wherever I go. And that's OK. Life is a wonderful, wild ride.