The car crawled up the icy road as I reminisced about recent bike rides up my favorite oak-shaded street in California, then slapped myself back into the present and the precarious road conditions. I pulled into a snow-covered parking lot and strapped on my snowshoes, breathing in fiery cold wind and an air temperature that, judging by the stinging sensation in my nose, had plunged to something around zero. Low clouds were just beginning to lift, letting in a stream of golden sunlight. A beautiful day for a slog.
One trail wasn't yet broken, and I chose that one, wrapping around Flagstaff Mountain before continuing across the road and up a steep gulch toward Green Mountain. These are some of the most popular trails in Boulder, but with a foot of fresh snow and a subzero chill, almost nobody was out. I had to break a wider trail over the one post-holing track in front of me. On top of the peak, the wind was fierce. The half liter of Diet Dr. Pepper I'd poured in my Camelbak — because I forgot to stop for water — had long since frozen, and the one jacket I brought with me — because the Front Range isn't so cold — barely staved off a menacing chill. I looked across the white plain that didn't quite remind me of anywhere I've ever been, and slipped into a barrage of imaginary scenarios that nonetheless felt real, because they represented the future.
Over the past six weeks, Beat has moved toward transferring to the Google office in Boulder. While nothing in life is a hundred percent certain, we've taken a number of big steps toward this move, and this weekend we flew out to Colorado to look at potential houses. Beat has begun the transfer process, and it's looking very likely that we will move to Boulder after we return from the Iditarod Trail, probably in April.
It's an exciting prospect that's been a long time coming. We've been talking about leaving the Bay Area for a few years now, and while we'd both prefer to live somewhere in Alaska, realistically, until Beat reaches a point where he wants to retire, Alaska isn't our best option. There aren't many tech jobs up there, and my own earning potential in the journalism field doesn't begin to make up for the gap. We still consider Alaska a "someday" destination, but as a compromise, Boulder is pretty fantastic. Everything about it fits our lifestyle well, and the cost of living, while not cheap by any stretch, is still less expensive than the Bay Area.
When chatting with friends about this potential move, I've heard the expected reaction about — "Oh, Boulder, so snooty, and everyone there is an Olympic athlete or professional cyclist and it's difficult to fit in." I don't necessarily doubt this, but it's also not terribly important to me that I "fit in." I'm sure I'll find my way to my people if they're here, probably in the same ways I've made a handful of friendships almost by accident in the Bay Area, which — news flash — is also full of cliques.
Five years is a healthy chunk of life, and I'm going to miss it. But winter and mountains is what I value most, and I'm lucky that Beat agrees. Some of the houses we looked at this weekend were alarmingly fantastic — almost surreal. Neither of us have ever been homeowners. Home ownership is another place I hadn't pictured myself, because I prefer to remain unanchored. But there are many appealing aspects to this, and I also see it as a journey, in its own way. It's a lot to swallow right now, when a part of me would love to have nothing more to think about than Iditarod planning and book projects. Still, when opportunities rise to the surface you have to jump in — life's taught me that much.