Monday, March 07, 2011

I pack up my belongings and I head for the coast

"I move on to another day
To a whole new town with a whole new way
Went to the porch to have a thought
Got to the door and again, I couldn't stop
You don't know where and you don't know when
But you still got your words and you got your friends
Walk along to another day
Work a little harder, work another way."


- "The World at Large" by Modest Mouse

Last June, when I was anticipating a move from Anchorage to Missoula, I went for a 140-mile bike ride in an effort to make peace with life as a drifter. Seeking and embracing change is a big part of who I am. I move, I discover, I grow, and I move on. Anchorage held an unbelievable amount of promise, but the allure of change prompted me to take a chance on Montana. I left Alaska believing maybe I would find "my place," the place that would entice me to finally settle.

There are several reasons Missoula didn't quite work out; it wasn't just that I found a boy and dismantled my whole life for him. Although the boy, of course, was the overwhelming motivator for my recent move, he wasn't the only reason. It was starting to become apparent that I didn't quite fit in in Missoula. I regret that I had to leave a few truly great friends behind, not to mention some gorgeous terrain that I barely skimmed the surface of, but I knew that sooner or later I would need to choose between the few strands of potential woven into Missoula and the incredible potential of further developing my relationship with Beat. He couldn't move to Missoula for me. Even if I were completely dedicated to my life there, there were still no options for him. The ongoing joke in Missoula is: "How many Missoulians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Only one, but twelve will apply for the job, ten will be electricians and eight will have doctorate degrees."

I of course have no idea what the future will bring, but I sincerely believe I won't ever regret this move. I certainly don't regret moving to Alaska for Geoff, even if, in the end, neither Geoff nor Alaska became a permanent part of my life. It was still the best thing that ever happened to me. I strongly believe this is the right next step, the next best thing to happen to me.

This move probably seems to have come abruptly, but it has been a longer time coming than this, as most of my friends and family members suspected. The window opened after Susitna. There was no longer a need to stay so I packed up my stuff. It didn't take long — one of the benefits of moving around so much is you never have time to accumulate a lot of excess stuff. I can still fit most of my life in my 1996 Geo Prism, although my life is heavily weighted in a single direction these days. Inside my car this time were two people (Beat was out for the weekend anyway and gave up his return ticket to help me drive down), one annoyed but increasingly accepting cat, and five — yes five — bicycles. Also some clothing, outdoor gear, a few dishes, and miscellaneous items. All the important stuff was in there, or stacked on the roof, Beverly Hillbilly style (I even kept the bike box for Beat's Fatback. It did not survive the Biblical rains of the Sierras.)

We left Montana on Saturday afternoon, bound for Salt Lake City. (My parents took this recent move surprisingly well. I think my many years of drifting has worn down their defenses.)

I can't say I felt a whole lot of emotion about leaving Montana. I really didn't spend enough time here to get attached, although I imagine I'll be back as frequently as I can afford, to visit my friends, ride some epic logging road loops with Bill in the Bitterroot, hike some goat trails in Glacier National Park with Danni and Dave, and finally climb all three of the Lima Peaks.

The drive of course was grueling. Turns out a 15-year-old car with 191,000 miles loaded to the brim with gear — and with wheels and a box stacked like a sail on the roof — can't move faster than 70 mph, and that's only on steep downhills, with a tailwind. Geo was at the limit of his endurance, but he motored along, just like he always has, ever since he was a young buck of 38,000 miles and I loaded him to the brim with camping gear and hit the road for my inaugural drive across America, back in 2001.

We blazed through many of my old stomping grounds — Idaho Falls (2004-2005), Sandy, (1983 to 1998) Salt Lake City (1998 to 2003), and Tooele (2003-2004 ... the place where my cat Cady was born.) Then we kept on going west. I told Beat all of my stories of my experiences in the Oquirrh Mountains, the Stansbury Mountains, Skull Valley, the Bonneville Salt Flats, Wendover, Elko, and the Battle Mountain rest stop where my family was stranded for half a day after the car transmission died during a vacation to San Francisco in 1989.

The farther west we traveled, the fewer experiences I had to share, until we crested Donner Pass in a wet snowstorm, I told Beat what I knew about the history of the place, and held my breath for the newness and strangeness of California.

Today I started unpacking, but quickly got more wrapped up in an urgent need to go for a long bike ride. I put my fixie together and headed over to the Google campus to have lunch with Beat, then continued grinding into the wind along the gravel trails that line the San Francisco Bay. It was a strange sort of place, both muddy and dry, and guarded by a fortress of towering electric lines. I watched a chorus of shorebirds rip through the air, breathed the salty air with pungent hints from the Palo Alto landfill, and soaked in a lot of sunshine. The return tailwind was so strong that the fixie almost ripped my legs off. In a space that holds millions of people, I saw very few. I allowed myself to feel some sadness for the end of winter, the end of my time in Montana. And yet, I only saw positive potential on the path in front of me.

I'll write more tomorrow about my plan for California, and what Beat and I have planned for the upcoming year. For now, I will say that, yes, this is going to be quite different. I rode around all day in a cotton T-shirt and a single pair of socks, passing people on the bike path who were wearing down coats (in other words, I'm sweltering in the heat and it's not even hot.) Yes, for the foreseeable future, the snowy photos in my blog will have to come from visits away from home, and the regular photos will probably appear more, well, regular. Maybe this blog will be less interesting. And you're certainly under no obligation to keep reading. But somehow, I doubt it. I am only excited about the future and all of the adventures in front of me. California isn't the end of the road. Not by a long shot.

46 comments:

  1. Each place has its magic and adventures, and anything about you is interesting! I will keep reading. ;)

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  2. Anonymous4:19 AM

    Good luck in you and Beats' future Jill. I just have one question though...how the heck did you fit 5 bikes in a Geo?? Any pictures of that?
    Dave

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  3. Well that took long enough. Over the last few months I have been wondering when we would read about you getting ready to move to California. Good luck on your new adventures as always!

    Logan

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  4. Jill, despite the vicious attacks by some who disagreed with my contrarian view of your move, I truly wish you the best, and only hope for good things on the road that lies ahead. I was just speaking from the hard realities of some similar decisions a long time ago, but hey, YMMV!
    Eventually you'll have had enough of Cali, and then you guys will make a decision. remember, you read it here first.
    I'll look forward to all the news that's fit to print!

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  5. 70 mph is pretty good for a 15 year old, unaerodynamic hatch! Good luck with the move Jill. I am sure California will look amazing through your eyes/lens and I look forward to reading about it.
    That first photo in this post is amazing. Do you mind if I use it as my desktop background, here downunder?

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  6. If you stay outside and keep up the great writing, I doubt you'll lose any readers. The natural beauty of California is amazing. Good luck!

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  7. I like that you're teaching Cady to drive. :) Very Toonces (google it).

    Enjoy the new chapter of your adventurous life. Looking forward to the great photos and stories.

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  8. Hi, Jill, I hope your plans for this year include hanging out with Team Fatty in Davis this July. :)

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  9. Have fun with this new experience. I was very reluctant to leave Alaska for Cali but it is not as bad as I thought it would be.

    There is a lot more A-holers on the trails here. So watch out for that.

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  10. Durango Joe6:34 AM

    Yeah, I know how it is - I've got five bikes too, thinking about getting a sixth. You'll have to dream up a new "hook" for your blog. In Alaska, and even Montana, you could fool yourself into thinking you were one of a kind, but in California, with its teeming hordes, you realize you're just a cog in the wheel. But I'm sure you'll settle in and create a new voice for yourself. Good luck.

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  11. Welcome to the bay area! I look forward to seeing my home turf through your eyes.

    As an aside, when I drove cross-country to move to sf in the early 90s, my stuffed to the gill ford escort (just one bike) could only manage 45-50 mph through the mountain passes. Geo did good!

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  12. That's it. I'm bored already. See ya bizzotch.

    Actually, your pictures about make me want to cry. I am longing for dry trails and warm air. You may have a visitor soon...

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  13. Take it from someone who has lived in eleven states...moving keeps you young (um. I think so. Right?) Someday you will find a forever place, but until then, enjoy. (Oh and I was worried when I moved from AK that my blog would be boring but somehow it isn't (Um. maybe?)

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  14. Welcome to California!
    Have a nice ride!

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  15. How the f^%$ did you fit five bikes in there?

    ;)

    Look on Cady's face = priceless.

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  16. Good luck in your new home. Very exciting. California is an amazing place too, I'm sure you'll have lots of great adventures :)

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  17. Great blog! I'm a new reader here and am trying to add more adventure to my 50-something years and I'm finding lots here to inspire me. Thanks! Anne

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  18. The secret to fitting five bikes in a Geo Prism: (not a hatchback. It has a trunk.) The fixie and Karate Monkey are on the roof rack. I took the wheels and pedals off the Fatback, Pugsley and Element and stuffed them in the backseat. The fat bike wheels and two extra Larry tires are on the roof, along with the front wheels of the Element and Karate Monkey. The rest of the wheels were stuffed in the back seat. Gear and clothing were stuffed in the trunk and spaces between the bicycle. I admit I cheated and mailed some of my stuff ahead of time via Parcel Post. (Surprisingly not that much stuff. I purged most of my "non essentials" — basically anything that wasn't outdoor gear.) I had to leave my snowboard in Montana. Won't be much use for it in California anyway.

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  19. Ooh - you are already there! You know, I have always thought that California is sitting on a pretty fantastic piece of geography. I think it will be a great place to live - for awhile or just for a bit. I'm excited to see where your adventures go next, Jill. I do hope, however, that I'll still somehow get to see you on occasion. Perhaps I'll have to follow you to some of your events planned for 2011/2012. But I'll wait and see what you and Beat have planned for the upcoming year :)

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  20. Life can be an adventure no matter where you are. While I'm sorry to see you leave Montana, I'm excited to see and read what the future holds for you. Good Luck to you and Beat.

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  21. Let me post a contrarian view...

    California is a ridiculous place filled to the gills with total wackos and nut-jobs. Some of these people are Beat's friends. I feel very sorry for you.

    I guess the upside is that, in contrast, Beat may seem even better to you once you've gotten to know the transplanted euro-geeks and (even worse) clearly-lobotomized, California natives out with whom he hangs. (see what I mean?)

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  22. Welcome. Plenty to explore in California and ways to get away from all of the people.
    Maybe I'll run into to you on a run or ride some day!

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  23. Jill,

    You'll love it out here. From someone who moved from snow and ice to Mountain View, I've never really missed it.

    There are fantastic road rides out here. If you ever want a suggestion on routes or a tour, let me know!

    -chris

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  24. Best wishes in your new setting....peace

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  25. Anonymous10:57 AM

    Do you ever miss Juneau?

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  26. We love the picture of you driving with Cad on your lap! He looks very relaxed and at ease! Have a good start in CA. Best wishes.
    Lilo + peter

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  27. I've been following your adventures for a year and have found them to be extremely inspiring. I also have a Geo Prizm which I am preparing to load up and drive cross country (again).

    One of the things that I've decided as I prepare my own bike adventure is that I need to leave myself open to ending up anywhere. Being open to love is an adventure in it's own right. Thank you so much for all of your inspiration.

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  28. I've been following your adventures for a year and have found them to be extremely inspiring. I also have a Geo Prizm which I am preparing to load up and drive cross country (again).

    One of the things that I've decided as I prepare my own bike adventure is that I need to leave myself open to ending up anywhere. Being open to love is an adventure in it's own right. Thank you so much for all of your inspiration.

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  29. I've been following your adventures for a year and have found them to be extremely inspiring. I also have a Geo Prizm which I am preparing to load up and drive cross country (again).

    One of the things that I've decided as I prepare my own bike adventure is that I need to leave myself open to ending up anywhere. Being open to love is an adventure in it's own right. Thank you so much for all of your inspiration.

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  30. I've been following your adventures for a year and have found them to be extremely inspiring. I also have a Geo Prizm which I am preparing to load up and drive cross country (again).

    One of the things that I've decided as I prepare my own bike adventure is that I need to leave myself open to ending up anywhere. Being open to love is an adventure in it's own right. Thank you so much for all of the inspiration.

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  31. I can't believe the Geo made it to California! Welcome to the sunshine sister...when you get more settled I'd love to come up for a weekend trip!

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  32. I'm so glad you're planning to keep blogging! I know I will keep reading. I'm sure you'll find plenty of adventure wherever you're at.

    I thought you might like to know also that I'm a librarian at the Juneau Public Library and we just ordered your book for our collection!

    Have fun in Cali!!!

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  33. check out:

    http://bikenoir.blogspot.com/

    great pics of the area around Mt Diablo.

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  34. My husband and I just got word this morning that we are being relocated from Boston to Houston. This is a good thing--we even advocated for the transplant. Mostly, we wanted to leave because we just didn't belong in Massachusetts. There were amazing things, but for whatever reason we couldn't put down any roots. Which is a long way of saying: I sympathize, and this post made me cry.

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  35. Koen Delrue3:05 PM

    Woop woop, surprise !
    Hope all works out for you in California.
    And hope you surprise us with a blog that stays interesting.
    But yes, I will miss the snowy pics ;)

    Anyway, have some catching up to do on your blog, cause I wonder what happened to that job with adv.cycling.

    Succes Jill.

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  36. Helen4:18 PM

    Best wishes as you settle into life in San Fran. Like others, I will miss your snowy adventures but know you will continue to entertain and inspire us with your blogs and photography. It will be interesting to see the blend of running with cycling especially as all bikes have relocated. Have fun!

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  37. hi there,
    I don't usually comment on these things, but as someone who lives in san francisco, I am always excited to share how much I love riding my bike here. so a few things:
    1. maybe mountain biking in the sand will help take your sadness of leaving the snowy trails away. golden gate park has a lot of deep sand in the summer. (I really have no idea if it is anything close to the same. something tells me sand is a lot easier than snow.)
    2. mountain biking in the redwoods is...the deal. I would bet that you will love skeggs since you like to punish yourself with climbing. there is a lot of steep climbing there.
    3. road riding in the bay area is spectacular. you've got king's ridge in sonoma, bolinas fairfax road on mt. tam, and tunitas creek down on the peninsula. just to name a few. oh yes, and you can ride all year long (well, I guess you ride all year long anyhow, so that doesn't mean anything.)
    4. uh, if you want to go for a ride, let me know.

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  38. You kidding? Stop reading? No way! :) I highly doubt it will be less interesting. I think we are all looking forward to hearing about your adventures in CA.

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  39. Oh I think you fit into Missoula just fine! We'll miss you. Continue enjoying the adventures of life, enjoy the tremendous variety that is Cali, and all the best to you and Beat!

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  40. Hey: I spent three years living in Mountain View. I can't say they were the best years of my life, but they were very very important in my growth as a person. I am glad I am not there any more, but I miss it too.

    There is a lot of beauty in that place. Get on your road bike and ride up Old La Honda Rd from Palo Alto to the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, through the redwoods, and you will see what the Bay Area has to offer you. Get a wetsuit and go swim at Pacifica. Run along the Stevens Creek Trail at sunset. Take your mountain bike up to Atascadero on a clear day and stand stunned at the view of so much humanity all jammed into such a small place, then shred back down the hill.

    You had to go- you HAD to. You are doing the right thing and making the right decision, but the right decision is almost never the easiest one. Much respect on your continuing journey.

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  41. I think I've moved from being so excited for you to being intensely jealous -- Northern California (with Oregon as a side option) has been my plan for my next move for awhile. Until education jobs begin to pick up, though, I'm kind of stuck here. Thanks for the inspiration to take a leap/risk, though..gives me motivation to fill out those PhD applications (UC Berkeley and UC Davis are on the list), because that might get me where I want to be faster! Best of luck to you and Beat.

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  42. Morning,

    Your lifestyle seems great to me! Go ahead with everything you are doing beacuse it sounds exciting. Good luck with new move, and do please keep us informed.

    Regards from Spain. Antonio

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  43. I would be interested to hear more about why you felt like you didn't fit in in Missoula. We were thinking of moving there at some point, so personal experiences are good to read.

    Thoughts?

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  44. You are an incredible inspiration! Enjoy your new adventure!

    Sarah

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  45. Welcome to California, Jill.

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  46. Oh, I somehow doubt this blog will be "less interesting" with the California move.

    I suspect it gets even better. Good luck with everything. Looking forward to your posts...

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