Sunday, December 20, 2015

A whole new town with a whole new way

On Thursday, Beat and I returned to Boulder for three and a half days — whirlwind days, just enough time to take a few more steps in the next direction. A half foot of fresh snow blanketed the plains surrounding the Denver airport and the temperature was bitter cold, 10 degrees. I dropped Beat off at the Google office in Boulder and pointed the rental car up Flagstaff Road. Winding up the cliffy hillside, I thought of all the ways Flagstaff reminds me of my hometown mountain road, Montebello. Nearly everywhere reminds me of somewhere else. This is how I am — a vast ship full of past experiences, with only a small rudder plunged in the present. I like it this way — living as though my life can only grow larger and richer as time passes.

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.

Leaving the Bay Area, though — the thought does have a hint of melancholy. I will miss it. If you asked me ten years ago, I would have never, never expected to end up living anywhere in California. When Beat and I started dating in 2010, shortly after I moved to Montana, one of my prominent thoughts was that I liked this guy, a lot, but I wasn't sure that I could do life in urban California. Now I'm going on five years as a Californian. The end of December means I have lived in California longer than I lived in Alaska, which is a sobering thought. I can no longer claim Alaska as my predominant storyline — it was just a few chapters — and it keeps fading further into the stern of my life. I've come to accept that reality, and also all of the aspects of California that I love — the redwoods, the trail running community, the flowy mountain bike trails, Rancho San Antonio with its pet deer and familiar views, Montebello, riding my bike to the coast, San Francisco even though I hate the parking and other big-city inconveniences, the Marin Headlands, and the boring weather, yes even the boring weather. Because even as much as I come alive in the frost-tinged air of real winter, who wouldn't miss it being 70 degrees and sunny seemingly every day? (Disclosure: 95 degrees and parched is probably how California will be burned into my long-term memory.)

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. 

30 comments:

  1. Having spent ten years in Boulder, you guys will love it, perhaps a better fit than the Bay area. So much to do, and plenty of aerobic animals to keep you honest. Just get a place to live west of Folsom in old Boulder, not out east in the sprawl.

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    1. We're planning to live in far west Boulder ... in the mountains. We actually have a very amazing place lined up, but I wasn't going to post any details until more is finalized.

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  3. This sounds like a great plan! You guys will love Boulder for the very reasons that made it famous. Who cares if some of the residents are more concerned with their image and lifestyle projection than being on the trail with a foot of fresh flakes. The really cool people are always the ones that don't give a crap about being cool.
    My shortcut still says "Up in Alaska". I never updated it to "Chilling in California". But this summer I may need to update it. "Conquering Colorado".

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  4. I'm born and raised outside of Boulder and still live here. Sure, it's hugely different than it was in the 80s or even the 90s, but it still has charm. You'll like it :)

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    1. One of the rare locals! I was actually born in Denver ... but lived most of my life in SLC. Now I'm one of those irritating Californians crowding in on the mountains. But glad to hear you're in Boulder (I wasn't sure exactly where you were based.) I hope we cross paths on a trail.

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  5. I think you're going to like it. A lot. The Bay Area is stupid crowded, stupid expensive, and just too crammed up with everything. You can avoid the unsavory "smug" element, pretty easily.
    I hope it goes well.
    Merry Christmas to you both.

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  6. Awesome! You'll fit in just fine in Boulder. And you'll be much much closer to the snow - as in right outside your door.

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  7. I think you're going to love Boulder. There's a reason so many great athletes live there, and you can get to a lot of great mountain areas quickly. Colorado is the best (ok, maybe I'm biased, but still...)!!

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  8. How wonderful and exciting! I hope you find the perfect home for both of you where you can enjoy the great outdoors. As far as "fitting in," just remember that real people always find their way to other real people. People just like you in Boulder will be so glad to meet you and share adventures with you. The older I get, I'm finding it is more important to have a handful of real friends instead of tons of acquaintances. Best wishes!

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  9. Anonymous8:43 AM

    gotta do what you love doing otherwise there ain't no point doing it...

    I much preferred not having an anchor to anything but living life freely.

    I much enjoy cycling than anything else, but a living can't be made off of cycling, been there with the pros and seen how they live - debt.
    Its a tough life.

    Balance is key.

    Alaska would be nice and probably cheaper? housing... not food though I suspect?

    Brazil?

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  10. So happy to hear of the move! Been reading your blog from the beginning, wow, what a journey! Boulder is only a short drive from The Black Hills, we love to take guests out for rides and runs in our little slice of heaven if you are looking for a weekend escape from the Front Range!

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    1. Thanks! I am really looking forward to exploring new areas near Boulder.

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  11. Geez. Can Beat smile any bigger? I don't think he likes those mountains!

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  12. I never really thought CA was the best place for a winter lover. Boulder is too crowded for me, but I'm sure it has great opportunities and (somewhat jealous of this) adventure soulmates. Will be looking forward to reading about your discoveries.

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  13. https://www.reddit.com/r/Denver/comments/2xgw8m/transplants_of_rdenver_what_was_the_hardest_thing/

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  14. My friend Cheryl recently moved there and I think you've met Joanna -- she lives there. Seems like a good place for Friends-of-Danni to live if not in my actual town.

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  15. Exciting news, Jill. Congratulation (in advance and with fingers crossed).

    Whitehorse Jenn (for some reason my Wordpress ID never takes)

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  16. I can certainly understand the economic reasons for leaving. The housing prices are staggering and everything else seems 20%-30% higher than the "outside world". I'll miss your Strava tracks and blog posts of new adventures in what has become my "home town". We may just have to do a Fat Cyclist Montebello run next year without you! :-(

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    1. There will likely still be visits to the Bay Area; maybe I can time it for 100 Miles of Montebello next year! There's a lot to miss here, for sure. I may have to venture back to the steep fireroads of Coe one more time just to remind myself what I won't miss. ;-)

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    2. It's often said that people go to Coe to train for the Sierra, and since Mt Whitney is higher than all the Rocky Mountains... Henry Coe State Park as grown on me as a 24/7 place to respect and test yourself, unlike anywhere else in the Bay Area. Best wishes on your new adventures and I'll be sure to buy any new books you write.

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  17. Exciting news. Good luck for a smooth transition.

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  18. If not Alaska, Boulder sounds like a pretty nice compromise. It's got all the amenities, but has some big mountain opportunities too.

    I'm the same way about California. As a winter lover too, it is weird how I don't absolutely hate it living in a place without a traditional winter. This year at least, the snow isn't too far away. :)

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  19. I live above Boulder in the mountains at about 8200'. It's truly winter here - and I ride only my fat bike from November through April or May. You two can find a place to live that you'll love!!! And there are lots of real people. One of my favorite things when I moved here was that I was no longer odd for riding my bike for many hours at a time. Almost everyone does stuff like that - which I find wonderful!

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  21. This is great news for your blog readers (hoping you will keep posting about your adventures)! We may be treated to lots of Colorado eye candy! Congrats on the move and best wishes for your Alaska challenges.

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  22. Can't wait to start reading about all the awesome CO trails you're sure to be exploring!

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  23. Wherever you are can be home if you make it so. Enjoy the new adventure.

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  24. Fun! Big moves are always exciting, can't wait to read about new adventures there.

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