Wednesday, July 07, 2010

One year past

At half past 5 on Monday, July 6, 2009, I rode through the sun-baked desert toward a shimmering clump of trees called Antelope Wells, which would make today (Tuesday, although late, still technically July 6) the one-year anniversary of the day I finished the Tour Divide. In this year's race, since the only woman out there is still making her way toward the Mexican border, that means (I think) I held onto the TD women's record for one more year. Hooray! It actually still strikes me as humorous that I have my name attached to something like that - you know, the women's record holder of "the world's toughest mountain bike race" (don't mock me! This phrase just occurred to me and I think I'll use it as the lead in my book proposals.)

But still, regardless of my feelings about my own experience out there, as my dad pointed out, it's still something to be proud of. While this year's Tour Divide progressed, a lot of people asked me if I would ever ride the course again. The answer is "probably, in several years from now, if by some strange stroke of fate I'm in a good position to return when I'm 35 or 40 years old." The better question is whether I'd return to the race, or to an effort to reclaim the record. I of course recognize that my 2009 time is full of holes. I lost full days to mechanicals and injury in Wyoming and northern Colorado. I lost full days to mental anguish and mud in southern Colorado and New Mexico. And, of course, I opted for comfort over distance whenever the opportunity arose. But as I said to John Nobile when we stopped early one evening in Elkhorn Hot Springs, Montana: "This is three freakin weeks of my life. I'm going to enjoy myself." I still feel that way. Maybe more so now than last year. So while shaving days off my time would be easy in theory, it would be much more difficult in practice.

Speaking of this year's race, I was telling my mom about the strange parallels between Kent Peterson's race-ending mechanicals, and my own in the Great Divide Basin. Like Kent, my freehub began sticking as I crossed the bone-dry, remote sinkhole between Atlantic City and Rawlins. Kent and I first experienced our problems in almost the exact same spot, about 25 miles east of Atlantic City. This is just a few miles beyond a historical marker dedicated to Willie's Handcart Company, a group of Mormon pioneers who crossed the Basin in 1856. The company suffered major setbacks while crossing the plains, and dozens of pioneers died when winter caught up to them in Wyoming. had this to say about the Willie Handcart Company:

"The farther west the companies marched the more problems they had with axles and wheel hubs. In the humid Midwest, the climate better preserved the green wood, but as the air became drier, the unseasoned material dried too quickly and cracked."

As I told this story to my mom, she informed me that I actually have direct ancestors who traveled to Utah with the Willie Handcart Company. When my freehub began to fail, I was lucky enough to be able to coax it into Rawlins. Kent wasn't so lucky, and had to push his bike dozens of miles to Jeffery City. Now, I'm not superstitious ... and I by no means intend to imply that the spirits of my pioneer ancestors are out there exacting wheel revenge on unsuspecting cyclists ... but, if I do happen to write one of those "true life" ghost stories someday, you'll know why.

I just returned to Montana from my short weekend trip to Utah. My dad and I were able to get out for another hike on Monday morning - this time one that is arguably the best route in all of the middle Wasatch Range - the Pfeifferhorn via Red Pine Lakes. It's been at least a decade since I climbed up here. The view is as stunning as ever.

Pfeifferhorn is quite the majestic peak, guarded by crumbling knife ridges that are full of fun scrambling.

Looking out toward the Salt Lake Valley and the Twin Peaks, which my dad and I tried to climb on Saturday. If you squint, you can actually see the snow-filled couloir we decided not to ascend. Looks pretty much vertical from this perspective.

The big mountain in the distant center is Lone Peak, which is still listed on some of my early Web sites as my favorite place in all of the world.

My dad and I on top of Pfeifferhorn, at about noon Monday. The elevation is 11,326 feet - the highest I've been since the Divide. And, yes, I could feel the altitude.

Then, about nine hours later, I was here - 20 miles north of Dillon, Montana, making my way back to Missoula. I needed to pee something fierce but I raced past Dillon because I could see pink sunlight starting to emerge below the rain clouds, and I wanted to round the western mountains in time to see sunset. I was not disappointed. A six-hour, high altitude hike followed by an eight-hour drive certainly did make for a long day Monday, but it was all worth it.


  1. The women's record holder of "the world's toughest mountain bike race" - how cool is that!

  2. That first shot is terrific.

  3. Love the new name for your blog, it's so perfect.

    Still ridiculously stunning photos, don't ever change that. :)

  4. Hmmm...the trip to Utah may explain the small red car that passed me just short of dusk Friday in Idaho, the one headed south on I-15, with the bike folded into back seat, the AK plates, and driver wearing headphones.

    Probably feels good to be closer to family, even if you are "outside."

    The spirit in your blog is inspiring. Thanks.

  5. Doesn't it freak you out that complete strangers know what kind of car you drive, where you live, where you work, how to find you at pretty much anytime, and all that? I'm mystified by your comfort with all this personal info on the internet. To each her own; however I can't decide whether this is an on-purpose, comfortable-with-it kind of thing or just absolute blind naivete. Thoughts?

  6. Snowbot ... yup, definitely me. The reason for the headphones is that my tape deck died four years ago, and now I've gotten attached to listening to my iPod in the car. The reason for the bike inside the vehicle instead of on the roof rack is because the bike is worth at least five times what my car is worth, and I want it protected at least somewhat in the event of a crash. :-)

    Anon ... I worked in the newspaper business for 10 years, long enough to understand that privacy is a myth. If someone wants to find me, they'll find me, regardless of what info I post on the Web. I've been blogging candidly for five years and I've never had anything close to a problem with random Internet strangers. The people I've met through this blog have been, across the board, good and interesting people that I'm grateful to have in my life. I recognize there's a small risk, but I'm of the opinion that it's significantly small compared to the good things, and I'm willing to accept it.

  7. Wow, excellent answer to the post by anonymous. I agree with you - there is no such thing as privacy anymore, so I guess the choices are to either live in fear or live life to the fullest and take that small risk. I prefer to take the risk and enjoy life. Beautiful photos again, and thanks for sharing!

  8. Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight
    Serve me the sky tonight
    Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight
    serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon

  9. Very interesting on the freewheels ding in the same spot roughly.... won't think anything of your ancestors unless it happens there a few more times ;)

  10. I think that anonymous have a point, jill.
    It’s your blog on the internet who influence and inspire all that followers.

    Watch the facts…….
    It was you that keep me awake at night, to follow your progress on the Iditarod Trail Invitational and the The Tour Divide.
    It was also you that inspire me to buy a Pugsley.
    And starting to make video’s and photo’s of my own micro adventures with my Olympus Tough cam .

    I blame Internet for finding Bruce, another Pugsley owner, in Scotland. And also that He take me on a excellent trip on the east coast of Scotland.


  11. Hmm - no intention of starting a controversy/ flameout over privacy. I was wearing *my* ipod headphones and had *my* bike folded up in the back of my car, so when someone passed me doing the same, I noticed. Thought: "Hey - someone else with similar priorities." Didn't connect it to Jill til after reading the latest entries and something connected/ flashed.

    And I'll reiterate what I said earlier: the spirit in this blog - which includes Jill's openness and candor - is inspiring.

    Seems to me the real problem is that there's so little of such things elsewhere that Jill's stands out.

    Well, c&%p; I just waded into that controversy, didn't I? :-)

  12. I also agree that the benefits outweigh the risks, and without Jill's openess and willingness to meet others through her writing and her blog, I wouldn't have the KICK ASS Trans Rockies partner I have for this August! (and my wife and I wouldn't have such a fun new friend!)

    Game on...come out and'll know where to find us!


  13. I'm probably the closest Jill came to having a stalker!(at least I hope I am) I saw you one day at a stop light in the Valley and I was going to roll down my window and yell "Hi Jill, love your blog!" But my husband turned on the child locks so I couldn't roll the window down. He thought it might freak you out to have some pudgy, middle aged woman you don't even know yell how much she likes your blog. lol

  14. I'm just back in town from vacation in Nevada, and I've hit your blog for the first time in over a week. I love the new format and the new look!

  15. I love the P-horn. I see it every morning outside my bedroom window. I skied off of it this winter. It's a classic, iconic peak. From the south, it looks innocuous and benign. From the north, it's spectacular.

    Well done.

  16. It wasn't the intention to create controversy - it was just a question. Gah, the Internet - not every question is a challenge, not every discussion is an argument! I just wanted to know how Jill felt about this issue.

    I remember reading a comment in the blog a while back that made me go "hmmm...creepy" and ever since then I've wondered about this topic. It doesn't take much these days to give people ideas, and I wondered how Jill felt about it, hence the question.

    Of course I have had many problems with stalkers and creepy people so I fight to maintain my privacy at all times. Yes, anyone can find anyone else with a little effort, but posting whereabouts, pics of cars, regular haunts, and personal details makes it WAY too easy to help oneself to a little stalking action. For Jill to be traveling alone so much and be so blatant about her whereabouts just seems dangerous. But if you are comfortable, Jill, it's your option of course.

  17. I think anonymous only wishes he had stalkers and creepy people after him...then he would at least have someone paying attention to him and have less time to spend commenting your blog to death...what with all the restraining orders he would be filing...

    It's crazy to think Jill that a year ago we were facing some of the most challenging moments in our lives...and look where we are now. Both in very different places... Figuratively and geographically.

    We love the nitty gritty details sister. Keep them coming!

  18. These area all the great fishing and camping ideas and there must be a group which arranges all these activities and with all the cheap fares and all the search of the new destinations with all the other activities like snowboarding and all the water sports as well.


Feedback is always appreciated!