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 http://www.danbaileyphoto.com/.

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.

48 comments:

  1. Congratulations and best of luck on the next step of your journey.

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  2. Montana has to be the closest thing to Alaska in the lower 48 & I'll bet you'll fit in just fine. My guess is that your new job will still find you in some of the most awesome places to ride ever, best of luck in the move & new job, and trust me, you NEVER want to work at Wal-Mart!

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  3. Congratulations on the new job! I look forward to reading your work in adventure cycling.

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  4. Anonymous4:45 PM

    I've been reading your blog about living up north, and have enjoyed it immensely. Now you'll live south of me, and I know you'll enjoy life in Montana!

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  5. Congrats!!! I actually frequent the Adventure Cyling site quite a bit and am planning on doing a tour with them in late August. Funny, but I actually say that job posted.

    Good for you - I envy your courage and think you made a good decision. I wish you the best and look forward to learning more about Montana through your blog (as I have about Alaska)!!!

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  6. Congrats! I tried to comment to you earlier and was kicked out! I was hoping you would participate in my postcard exchange and it is funny that I came back because some of the states I am lacking are Alaska and Montana! In regard to your move, best of luck and I am sure everything will work out for you. You seem like such a together kinda gal! Good luck! Anne

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  7. greetings from a lurker in montana. I have recently moved from one side of the state to the other & am feeling the anxiety of transitions. the opportunities are certainly exciting but sometimes it just plain hurts to do these things...
    best wishes - montana is not a bad place to end up.
    & thanks for putting the journey into words.
    s

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  8. I'm thinking this is a great fit for you. And as an ACA member, I"m thrilled you took the job. Maybe we can meet up when I pass through on my cross country ride in 2011? Congratulations Jill!

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  9. I'm thrilled for you Jill! Your new job sounds wicked and I suspect Montana is pretty damn beautiful too. Congratulations!

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  10. Way to go Jill. Good choice, although I am always partial to Alaska! You are incredibly lucky to be able to combine your best skills and passions into your career.

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  11. Anonymous8:43 PM

    Jill, That is great news that you will be working for Adventure Cycling! I am an ACA member and have also been reading your blog for several years, and I have an autographed copy of your book! You will be a great asset to that organization. Congratulations!

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  12. Wow! I remember when Bikecentennial first started. I ordered maps of one of their Colorado routes. I had to go to Colorado Springs for a meeting, so my girlfriend met me afterward at the Denver airport with two bikes and all our gear and we spent the next two weeks taking an awesome tour of Colorado, with a couple of stops to watch the Coors Classic. Great memories!

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  13. Crap. Bummer. But I'm betting you'll have fun, and I'll put money on a bet that you'll be back.

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  14. I think you are a perfect fit for Adventure Cycling and they will be lucky to have you. You will do a great job and I can't wait to read your contributions in their magazine.

    I am sure once you get settled there they could be an opportunity to do an article or series on cycling in Alaska and then they will need to send an expert!

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  15. Anonymous10:35 PM

    Congratulations! What a wonderful twist in the great adventure of your life. :)

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  16. Freaking awesome! Stoked for you and your next story.

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  17. Jill,

    I think you give Pugsley too much credit for its turn radius. If you were a farm girl, you would know that a farm tractor has a turn radius of ZERO. There are actually separate brake pedals for each rear wheel. You just lock whichever wheel you want and spin around a single point. So Pugsley might have the turn radius of a tractor-trailer truck, but not a tractor. :-)

    Good luck in Montana. Perhaps I should subscribe to Adventure Cycling? Hmmmm....

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  18. Wow - Congratulations on the new job! I hope it works out well for you and look forward to reading about your future adventures :-)

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  19. Congratulations on the new job, the relocation and the never-ending adventures.

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  20. Jill, you'll love Montana! I lived there (Northwest corner near Kalispell) for a year and a half, and one of my long-term goals is to move back.

    What area of Montana will you be in? The state differs greatly from one region to the next.

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  21. Love love LOVE Montana. My best friend lives there with her husband, and even though it's a zillion miles away from us in New Orleans, we go visit every chance we get. It will be right up your alley!

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  22. Anonymous7:09 AM

    RE: Taking the car south. If you decide to drive and are worried about making it, ship everything of value and get a tow bar welded onto the front of your car. Then, if it breaks down, you can hitchhike with your car, at least to a reasonably large town. Anyone who thinks I'm joking hasn't lived up north. I had a friend who had a tow bar welded on after her car broke down while she was headed north. She hitchhiked the 1000+ miles to Anchorage with it. Everyone has a hitch these days.

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  23. Anonymous7:17 AM

    That's the right choice Jill. I'm becoming an ACA member just because of you.

    El_Animal

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  24. You will love Missoula. Easy access to riding, should be easy commuting to work it you get the right apartment.

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  25. Congrats on the new job. You're going to do great and find plenty of your new adventures.

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  26. Anonymous12:16 PM

    Your closing comment on this post summed it up..

    In no time you'll discover the best places and folks in MT.

    Congrats on the new opportunity, and I'm looking forward to reading all about it.

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  27. Susan W.3:19 PM

    As an ACA member, I'm pleased to have you joining the organization. I've enjoyed your blog and book tremendously. Congratulations and best of luck!

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  28. Take the ferry! its the best 3 day vacation you'll ever have. Having lived in Juneau, we moved back down south on the ferry. You'll love Missoula its awesome and you'll find plenty of things outside to keep you busy!

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  29. Anonymous5:48 PM

    Congratulations! Time to renew my subscription. Eric has a very cool article this month as well.

    Fat & Hairy

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  30. On behalf of all Montana I saw welcome! We look forward to having you! Yay!

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  31. Love your spirit for adventure! You'll no doubt love Montana and working for Adventure Cycling. Sounds like a sweet opportunity. Nothing comes close to Alaska but it is beautiful there and I know the cycling community is huge there too. Best of Luck!

    Fellow Alaskan, Sierra

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  32. Anonymous9:19 PM

    what a perfect little world you live in

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  33. Best wishes from another long time ACA member, only lately located in Anchorage. ACA's publications are a Big Deal to me. I look forward to your contributions.

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  34. We'll take ya! You are in luck, if you move soon you can be here for what has been a very rainy June. May and June is when MT gets most of it's moisture.

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  35. Todd Temple7:49 AM

    Jill,

    I am so excited for you. A new adventure beckons, and you have "found yourself" with your admission about your passion fo journalism.

    I spent 22+ yrs in the military and every two years we moved. Each new place was fresh and exciting.

    I'll never forget the feeling of going to a new place and embarking on a new adventure.

    Best wishes,

    Todd

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  36. I am moving to Montana. I can hardly believe I just typed those five words.

    You can always come back to Alaska. Many people who've left have. Took me three times to learn. Something about this place gets inside you, pesters you every day you're away. Be safe down there.

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  37. Congratulations. Journalism jobs are hard to get these days, and I can totally relate (as a fellow journo) on the need to stay in touch with your career. This job sounds like a perfect blend.

    I will enjoy hearing about your new backdrop for your cycling, etc., adventures.

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  38. This all reminds me of a song...

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  39. Julie in Alaska10:45 PM

    Perfecto! I love Montana...keep us posted, Jill! This is great and things are coming together so nicely for you. Well done! I agree, work is very important -- it's not only your livlihood, but also your life's work. Enjoy!

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  40. Congratulations
    God is good
    John in Connecticut

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  41. I have been an ACA member for 8 years now, mainly because the magazine is so excellent - now it will be even better! what a perfect fit!
    Oh and from the occasional stories that take place in Missoula, it sounds like a great town to live in too. Have fun!!

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  42. Wow, I am shocked. I have been admiring your photos and blogs for three years now and then my friend (who works at AC) mentioned you got a job there. I was thinking she was just messing with me. I am always citing your tenacity and adventure spirit when ever anyone says that they can't do something.

    So be aware you are sort of a legend within some mtb circles :)

    You will find plenty of places to ride your bike, that is for sure. If you need anything ... I'll be down the street.

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  43. AK is a great place, and leaving is really tough (we left to NM last January). Change is good though!! Good luck w/ the change, and thanks for the great stories, photos, and thoughts over the years so far (looking forward to more!)

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  44. Hey Jill,

    We're looking forward to having you here in Missoula at Adventure Cycling Association!

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  45. Congratulations, I look forward to reading more of your postings.

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  46. Very cool! Long-time reader of the blog, and also an Adventure Cycling member/reader. My dream job, perhaps. Congrats, and will look forward to hearing from you through AC as well!

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  47. Jill,

    Make sure the place will make you happy and you'll make the rest work for you.

    I've moved, I'm back in my element... and now I'm off to have dinner with the director and his wife before they go off to France for 2 years and lend me their house. See - it all comes out in the wash.

    Good luck!

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  48. Jill, from a selfish point of view, I'm happy to hear you'll be writing in Adventure Cyclist. I enjoy that magazine and I really enjoy your writing, so I look forward to seeing more of it. I hope that the change works out well for you personally as well.

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