Thursday, July 01, 2010

Jill Outside

A slow realization about just how limited my time really is, compounded by frustratingly unhelpful research on Web site development tips and tricks, has led me to concede that I wasn't going to be able to complete a new Web site before "Up in Alaska" got really stale. So I settled on a blogger template makeover with the name I wanted to give my new site - "Jill Outside."

In thinking about giving "Up in Alaska" a new name, I decided I definitely didn't want to tie my blog to a region. That mercifully cut out the obvious but rather lame "Down in Montana" (which doesn't make much sense, anyway, since most Americans still think of Montana as "up.") But in the end, I did tie my blog to a region - a rather large and ambiguous region - "Outside."

In Alaska, the term "Outside" is used for anything and everything that is not from Alaska. Therefore, if you don't live in Alaska, you live "Outside." I like the implication of a displaced Alaskan, exploring the wider world.

And, of course, there's the less esoteric meaning, and the overall theme and scope of my blog - being outside, as in the Great Outdoors, playing, thinking, working, suffering, hoping, dreaming - living.

So there you have it - this blog's new name. For now, it will stay at this arcticglass blogspot url. I still have a lot of work to do on the sidebar, but once I am done, it will be even more vast and hopefully just a tad more user-friendly. I could go through and delete links, but I like to have them all at my own fingertips. I believe that's the point of keeping a Web log.

So besides redesigning my Web site, and of course working five days a week now, I have been mountain biking. Yeah, that's pretty much all I do now - mountain biking with new groups and learning new trails and making pasta and going out for pizza and burritos with other mountain bikers. Right now, I am riding a mountain-bike stoke as wide as the Montana sky, which has been incredible for my state of mind during what would typically be a jarring transition to a new place. It is also probably the reason why my legs feel like shredded wheat right now; but that is probably good training for Trans Rockies. The following are pictures from my Wednesday and Thursday rides.

One of the most awesome things about working for a company like Adventure Cycling is that literally everyone I work with is passionate about cycling. It's really quite incredible; I go to work in the morning and there are three cars in the parking lot and a couple dozen bicycles propped around the courtyard. I admit I can be lazy about the process of bike commuting sometimes, but my work environment makes it almost intolerable to drive to work. As it is, I haven't even touched my car in an entire week. But beyond being just transportation cyclists, my co-workers also genuinely like to ride bikes - some quite a lot. On Wednesday, my co-worker John offered to take me on a "tour" of one of his favorite routes.

It turned out to be the tour of bears. While riding up the singletrack of the first pass (oh yes, we climbed two passes), we saw a rather large black bear pop its head out of the brush. It lowered itself and stood back up a couple more times, then crossed the trail and circled all the way around us before sauntering out of sight.

We crested the pass and descended down a long, flowing strip of singletrack before climbing back up a gravel road toward a ski resort, where we saw a smallish bear cub down a steep embankment. We stopped and held our breaths, and watched him dig around in the woods for several minutes, but we never saw mom. You probably can't see the cub in this picture; I'd crop it if I had a photo editor, which I don't right now, but the cub is that black thing in the center.

We crested our second pass right at sunset, to a view of the valley bathed in warm light. I'm 10 for 10 now on spectacular sunsets during evening mountain bike rides. It's enough to give a person a downright unhealthy addiction.

And addicting it is! I only got about four hours of sleep last night, then felt like soggy shredded wheat all day long, but still decided to rally for the Thursday night group ride another friend had told me about. This one was the co-ed crowd full of local racers, so I expected a fast-paced ride, but luckily a lot of the guys were fresh off a 24-hour race last weekend, so the ride was relatively lax.

That didn't stop us from riding 25 miles and climbing more than 3,000 feet in the process. It also didn't save us from the brutal hike-a-bike to connect one logging road to another a couple hundred feet higher.

Missoula mountain bike culture really is impressive. My group had nearly a dozen people show up for the ride. Then just as we were coming down the pass, we encountered another large group going up to another nearby high point. Suddenly, there were nearly two dozen mountain bikers gathered on a fairly remote logging road somewhere high above Missoula, on a Thursday night no less. When I lived in Juneau, I don't think I ever encountered two dozen different mountain bikers over the course of a year. Suddenly being surrounded by so many of my own kind has been nothing short of a culture shock.

Another pretty sunset, another impressive view.

I wonder if this ever gets boring? Somehow, I doubt it.