Monday, April 07, 2014

Suddenly spring

 Spring is my favorite time of year in California. In this region, spring actually spans February and March; by April it's the cusp of summer, with its heat and parched hills, face-stalking flies, dusty trails, stinging nettle and robust poison oak. But for now it is still spring, and returning from white winter to hills splashed in green has been refreshing.

 Less refreshing is re-acclimating to 80-degree temperatures, discovering that SPF 15 is no longer going to cut it, and sweaty chamois. But, Alaska adventures are over and it's time to look forward to the summer projects, put in more productive screen time, and get back out there in anticipation of the rest of 2014. I'll write soon about my summer plans, but let's just say there is a lot of mountain biking *and* mountain running in my near future. This is to be the year of "forever pace," a grand experiment and one that I'm pretty excited about.

 Trying to pull myself out of White Mountains 100 and travel fatigue resulted in slow-paced plods on Thursday and Friday, but by Saturday both Beat and I were feeling more snappy and rallied for a four-hour mountain bike ride with Liehann. This was Beat's longest effort since he returned from Nome two weeks ago (was it really that recently? It feels like months at this point.) He rode the same bike I used in the White Mountains, re-fitted with 29" wheels. Beat purchased the soft-tail Moots as a mountain bike that just happened to be convertible to a fat bike, and I think this was his longest ride so far on the (decidedly slimmer) beast. He seemed pleased with the handling and agility. It is a great bike.

 Enjoying the spoils of snow biking in sunny California.

 Thirty-five miles and 5,200 feet of climbing in the "heat" admittedly felt tougher than I expected, but saddle time is my current goal, so I joined Liehann for his long ride on Sunday. We planned an 80-mile loop through Big Basin and Pescadero state parks. The winter here was exceptionally dry, but when Beat left Alaska, he took all the bad weather that had been shadowing him for two weeks and brought it home — a whole week of rain. I just missed it, bringing Alaska's unseasonably blue skies and warmth home with me, to enjoy the newly lush trails and hillsides after green-up.

It seemed cooler on the move than it was. Our lunch break in the sun quickly migrated to a lunch break in the shade, huddled in a thin sliver of a fir tree shadow — which was humorous given we were riding through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, offering a lot of places to escape the sun just below the dry and exposed ridge. For lunch I had a sad bread-and-cheese "sandwich" that I cobbled together from a relatively empty fridge in the morning. That's when Liehann pulled out an entire pound of sliced turkey and offered to share. That's an important sign of a good bike partner — the ability to complete a sandwich.

 Blasting down Gazos Creek fireroad. Photos can't really illustrate it, but this is pretty much the best descent ever, at least for a fireroad. Fast and flowing with swooping turns, steep drops, the filtered sunlight of huge redwood trees, cool shade, moss and ferns, gurgling creeks and chirpy birds to complete the tropical rainforest feel of the place. The climb back up Pescadero is equally steep, equally redwoody, and decidedly less sublime. I felt more tired and taxed than I did at any point during the White Mountains 100. But if I stopped my internal whining long enough to consider it, I realized that my legs still felt plenty strong, the head-boiling sensation would fade once acclimation kicked in, and eighty miles is really not so far. It was a big weekend — 115 miles and some 15,000 feet of climbing all told, but not a big deal. In both 2012 and 2013, I returned from Alaska feeling physically downtrodden, a mental state that carried into rough-edged summers. I'm experimenting with making this season different simply by switching up my attitude. We'll see how it plays out, but it's my new mantra: "not a big deal." No need to worry about limits if there are none.

Beat keeps asking about my Iditarod race report. I haven't started it. I'm spending my days with newspaper projects and finishing up the book about Tim Hewitt, as well as working on my book proposal for Ann Trason. With the Iditarod story, I had this idea to spend a bit more time on the writing, polish more than usual, and integrate text and photos in a more dynamic way than the blog allows. Basically, I want to make a small digital book out of it. Beat thinks there might not be enough material there, but I want to have fun with the project — after all, what's the point of writing about your own adventures if you can't have fun with the writing as well?

Since I struggle so much with finishing a full book, I'm considering the prospect of "micro-publishing" to keep the salmon wheel turning. Other authors have tried this with variable success, some slim to none, but it seems worth a shot. I recently did my taxes, and although my books are dwarfed by other sources of income, it continues to surprise me how many royalties they still bring in. This blog, which I spend hours and hours and hours on (for fun; it's my relaxation outlet) pulls in about $1,000 a year through Google Ads. The books, which I spent a few weeks writing years ago and haven't done much with since, still make considerably more than that. It's all chump change in the Silicon Valley, but it's a start. Something I really need to figure out this year, in addition to finding my forever pace, is what I really want to do as a writer/editor/publisher. Taxes make it starkly clear which efforts "pay off" and which ones really are just a hobby. I've never been one to place all or even the majority of my self worth in the things other people are willing to pay me to do, but splashes of honesty are occasionally needed when the things I've been so dedicated to just aren't working. With that said, I maintain loyalty to the downtrodden newspaper industry, and I believe even more firmly in books. 

13 comments:

  1. Jackie12:37 AM

    Can't wait for your next book. The Continental Divide book was amazing because you completed it with a broken heart. How you did it, I don't know. But you're mental and emotional strength is amazing.. In short, YOU ROCK!

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  2. Time to seek a fat advance and head to Europe to ride around and get material for your next book. Well written, and with some hype, it'll sell like hot cakes. The next inevitable step is a series on Nat Geo.
    I'm tell in' ya..... I can see it plain as day.

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  3. Hi Jill,

    Completely OFF Topic: I'm trying to find a blog entry you wrote about winter clothing. Yes, I know it's Spring. Honest. But I find if I don't do something when I think about it, that doesn't get done.

    How do I find that blog entry? If it is not too much bother for you, please post the link here.

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    1. Hi Joe. Not exactly sure which blog you're talking about. I have an entry or two out there about the specific gear I used in the Iditarod, but I'm not sure there's a more general winter clothing article. Lots of stuff on the subject out there, though.

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  4. I'd like to buy an advance copy of your book about your solo (or duo) bike crossing of Greenland.

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  5. Anonymous3:51 PM

    I would love to hear more about your writing, editing and publishing endeavors!

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  6. Jill: sheesh - you're a such a good writer - keep those books coming!

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  7. Books. More books.

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  8. Anonymous11:04 AM

    Love reading your stuff so please keep writing.
    P.S. Your blog roll links seem to have disappeared.

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    1. Thanks. I transferred the blog over to a new url and it seems to have scoured the blog roll. I'll have to re-enter them.

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  9. Anonymous6:08 PM

    I really hope the Ann Trason book works out. Her story should be told and you are the righr person to tell it.

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  10. Oh my, Jill. Look at all that greenery. Is it really spring somewhere out there in the Other world?

    Looks like fun. I look forward to mountain biking again, but for now it's still ski time up here in Fairbanks. (Though, I might dip my toe in the dark side and try a fatbike this weekend!).

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    1. Hi Eric. It's strange for me even coming back here after more than a month in the white and gray landscapes of Alaska in winter. Hope you have a chance to try a fat bike; they're a blast.

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