Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Trees Always Win

I sat just below the trail and gazed at a pristine valley in front of me last weekend in the middle of a lazy fall ride I joined in on after much debate within. I love Kenosha to Breck. It was my first overnight bikepacking trip three years ago. On every previous trip, I have felt alive, inquisitive and free. I imagined wings on my back and reverted to my ten year-old self at some point every time. Why, then, was I just sitting here with a blank semi-stare, clearly NOT present? I am not sure where my mind was, just not there. The trail was like the Cherry Creek mall on the weekend before Christmas. Hoards of people.

I thought of taking a picture of the parking lot and shoulder of 285 that looked (sticking with the mall image here) like, yeah, the parking lot at Cherry Creek. And I thought about taking a picture of the trees. But I had no desire to replicate the 50 or so pictures I had seen posted on Facebook the day before. Yawn. So, instead, I took a picture of the results of my short standoff with an Aspen tree on the descent to the parking lot:

Why did I just post my bruised shoulder? Yes. As humans we want to share, talk and laugh about our triumphs and follies. And it has become kind of fun to show "damn, I was lucky but check this out" pictures. I love it when it involves voice and facial expression but I also know that the world and life and social interaction is different. That I accept and feel fine with.

But my own, personal struggle that bothers me is the ever-lingering (almost annoying) desire to take a picture to let everyone else know what I am doing. Why do I feel this?

Where has this demon been lurking and why do I let it steal the moment from me? If I don't share my view of the yellow trees between Kenosha and Breck, is it not as valuable? Is the current moment not satisfying enough? Am I looking outward for validation that yes, indeed, I am having fun?

I honestly don't even want to take a picture, maybe in this case because I have seen so many already, yet I feel an (urge? habit? duty?) to do just that. Isn't that strangely approaching an addiction-like definition? Is that addictive part of me taking away from what I strive/love/yearn to do--be present and aware? Instead, I am distracted by the part of me that wants to record/share it. Wait, then am I even actually "here"?

Whoa. Slow down, Cowgirl. Calm the brain.

I closed my eyes and looked deep inside. I tuned out the voices, footsteps and noise from all the people passing by, laid back in the grass and took about ten deep breaths. I opened my eyes and watched the white clouds above me and the black mass of clouds approaching from the west. My nostrils felt the slight tingle from the cool air of an approaching thunderstorm. I just lied there for about 20 minutes thinking of, well, nothing really.

Then I sat up and saw so much more than a bunch of yellow trees. I saw intricate details and patterns in scars on the trunks, I saw the color gradients on individual leaves as well as entire stands. I saw and inhaled and felt each second as it passed. I thanked God for the opportunity I had to be exactly where I was at exactly this moment and the light it brought to my soul. It took effort to bring my mind to this place but I was instantly filled with joy that I was still capable. Nature brings me here when I let her. I am fully aware, free of distraction, free of expectations and truly cherish the gift of simply being, living and existing. I want nothing more. There is nothing better.


And that, is the main reason I quit Facebook. My addictive tendencies are stirred enough by social media that they steal the present moment from me. Similar to the way worry, stress and exhaustion functions to do the same thing, I can't deactivate my "worry, stress and exhaustion accounts" (heh, wouldn't that be cool?), I can only manage them and reduce them. They have been part of my existence since I was old enough to worry about an upcoming spelling test in the first grade and they will always be around. Those I know very well, I know their tricks and tendencies. They are old demons. I know the punches that will knock those bastards silly. But this newer demon, ahhhh, he pulls some sneaky shit. He tries to steal my mountains by keeping my brain occupied with recording the moment. Thankfully, I can learn ways to knock him to the ground by hitting 'deactivate account,'

This is not a brand new battle for me. I have been fighting it for almost 4 years but it has grown a lot in 2014 and I have just chosen to write about semi-recently. If you have read my blog for a long time you may remember these as well as many thoughts from the Tour Divide postings:



The above are just the published version of my struggle. Some who know me personally have engaged in lengthy conversations about it, know the issue weighs on my mind and have watched me swear off it only to gradually slide back. I told my roommate about two weeks ago that I could feel a Facebook hiatus coming on and my target date was October 1st. Yesterday, two days earlier, I socked the demon in the mouth.

I have learned it is in my best interest to not use the word never, but I am pretty sure this will be quite a bit longer than a 30 day hiatus like the three times before. And (all of you reading will applaud this) I am done talking about it. But I need to do some last minute processing, which is the reason for this post.

Again, this is a personal struggle I need to come to terms with. I have some work ahead of me. It is a habit and habits take time to break. I still want to talk about the places I love and I still want to write about them, but I have to make my heart right with it. I need to live/pedal/run/climb/explore/laugh/cry/play for me. Me. Like I used to when the thought of posting something did not even exist. I need to rid thoughts of "Oooooh, that would be a good profile or cover photo" and the term "blog fodder" from my brain. Live first, document second. I am not judging anyone, I am explaining my own issues that plague me. If you relate, you get what I am saying. If you look at it differently, that is fine too. There is no need to agree on this as everyone is completely entitled to their own relationship with social media. The point of this is to reiterate to myself that I need to look within and slowly untangle my grey matter from this habit/addiction/demon--whatever the term is. Maybe someday I will be right with it, but until then, I think I have some internal exploring and realigning to do.

But for now, as humbling and embarrassing (yet cathartic in a way)as it is to admit: I know that it steals my present moment and brings (crappy-to-me feeling) urges to record it, share it and have it acknowledged. And for something that brings such things: I have two words:


Especially when it involves the mountains, trees and trails of Colorado.

Oh, here is what Wheels had to say about the whole matter:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I Quit

I found this in my unpublished post list tonight. Its not a letter from my dog (yes, I am having fun being silly with this), rather it was one of those that I started, thinking I had something to say and a direction, but it just kind of fizzled out. Tonight, I revived it and wrote the ending:

The early morning sunlight grinned at me as I rounded the turn and started up Marshall Pass. I thought of the previous day's miles and memories, the absolutely shitty, laborious plodding through a sandy stretch leaving Del Norte, I remembered Carnero Pass's beautiful climb and anti-climactic summit. I thought about meeting Bill, my new favorite photographer ever; the heat going over Cochetopa Pass and the fantastic conversation with the good ol' boys from Durango (and their horse!) at the top.

photo credit: Bill Baca
I thought about my previous climbs to Marshall Pass and smiled even bigger when I looked down and saw my feet clipped into the pedals. Ride Foose's Creek to the top and then fly up the 4% grade on the road and you will know just what I mean. 

Winding up around the turns, climbing in the cool morning air, knowing the screaming descent into Salida that awaited my tires--my mind was clear, my legs were being cooperative and amicable partners and my soul floated along through the trees. The Tour Divide elicits these storybook portrayals everyday for at least a few hours, usually in the early mornings and late evenings. My brain leisurely waltzed through today's storytime and began thinking back to the maroon Honda Ridgeline I saw stopped along the river south of Carnero Pass the previous day.

The driver stepped out and pointed a camera with a lens longer than my arm across the river. I glanced over to see nothing really and stopped to inquire as to the subject of the photo.

"That Golden Eagle trying to fly off that rock."

"Ahhh, now I see him...Wow!"

"Where are you headed?"




Questions about my bike, setup, route and the night's destination ensued and I learned that Bill was an avid mountain biker in his day. And a very lucky one as well....

While training for the Leadville 100 MTB race, he decided to go on a 20 mile ride in the area where I was headed over Carnero Pass. Rolling along through some Aspen stands, he stood up off the seat to pedal and an Aspen tree fell, clipping the edge of his seat and completely destroying his rear wheel and tire. 

After Bill completed his story in a much more lively and descriptive manner than my short summary above,  I shook my head, blinked a couple times and felt my jaw dropping in amazement. How many people do you know have survived a tree falling on their bike? How many trees fall on bikes? What are the odds? And had he not stood up at that exact moment, I never would have heard that story or met such a friendly, cool dude who continued to follow my progress throughout the rest of the journey. But more importantly, think how thankful his kids are that he decided to stand up....

Once I summitted Marshall via the lazyman's route, I turned on the afterburners, turned up the tunes and played speedracer all the way into Poncha Springs. Vrrrrrooooooooom! I kept catching myself making moto noises and giggling immediately afterward. I hit 44.3 mph, which wasn't too shabby for my skeletal self, tucked tight onto the aerobars.

Soon I was at Absolute Bikes and found that it was going to be a while before I could head out, so I went in search of food.

"Are you doing the Tour Divide northbound also?" 

A late thirty-something man in a red jersey, cooked by the sun was sitting at an outdoor table at a pizza place in Salida. I did not see his bike anywhere, but noticed he did not look overly happy and sensed the day had been a rough one for him. I wondered how anything but a smile could grace one's face after the descent off Marshall Pass.

"Yep, I am. How is your ride going?"

"Ehhh, it kinda sucks."

"Really? Was Marshall not a good ride for you?"

"Marshall? It looked really steep on the map so I took Monarch Pass to get on some pavement and had to walk my bike for miles. I finally got so tired and pissed off that I slept somewhere near the top. I hate all the cars, I feel like I am putting myself in danger everyday and its just not fun...How long did it take you to get through New Mexico? I was hot and miserable and felt like it would never end."

"Five and a half days."

"Shit. It took me eleven....but I am just touring. I have all summer off, so time doesn't matter."

"That's great that you have all summer, I would love to have the time to spend a day or two at some of the places in northern New Mexico and near Horca. What a surreal, beautuful and magical area, huh?"

"Not really. I just had to push my bike all the time. I mean, it was ok I guess, but I don't really know why I am out here, I planned for so long and am not sure why I am doing this. By the way, is that all the gear you have?"

His voice was rough and I could sense a slight aura of anger in his words. Trying to lighten the mood a little I made myself the butt of a couple of humorous minimalist jokes that did not even elicit a return smile. Whoa, this dude was really in a hole of miserable. A deep one.

"Yeah, I am weighing in around 40-41lbs depending on how much food I have on board."

"Hmmmm, do you ever push your bike?"

"Not much so far."


"Well, I don't stay in hotels, I don't shower and I don't even stay in campgrounds. That's my rule."

I had to turn my head away and cover my mouth, pretending to clear my throat so he would not see my smile and so I could stave off laughter. "Hmmmm, I see, but what prompted you to make that rule for yourself?"

"Because I can."

Wow, that was pretty much my cue to wander down the street to another place to eat. This guy didn't want to casually chat, he wanted a sounding board. I opened my mouth and took a breath to form a polite exit excuse and then stopped myself. This was the first cyclist I had encountered since I saw Big Dave in Cuba as he blew by. As unpleasant and gruff as this guy was, something told me that I should accept his offer to sit and eat some lunch. Maybe it was my fascination with understanding the psychological workings of people who choose to ride the GDMBR and their motivations, maybe it was just my intuition telling me to be a kind ear or maybe I needed a good example of a bad attitude to avoid.

I took off my gloves and helmet and sat down. The midmorning sun was beginning to heat up and as rough and dirty as I surely looked even having taken a shower since I started, he looked pretty exhausted, sunburned, windburned and harbored a fulltime half-scowl on his face.

"I wonder if you would enjoy the ride a little more if you took a shower?"

"I don't know, this is just not that great. It's not what everyone says it is. It's really hard and I am tired of pushing my damn bike all the time."

He pointed at my bike.

"Really, Jill, where is all your stuff? And your wheels are bigger than mine. But I am not SPOT-tracking and I don't stay in hotels or shower, not even a campground. I have all summer off to do this, I have a great job."

Whoa, where do I even start in replying? I played the positive/pretty places card. "Wasn't La Manga Pass a beautiful descent? How did you like the views from Brazos Overlook? Did you eat good food in Platoro?"

"I have pushed my bike so many hours. I think it may be too heavy...."

The negativity continued for another ten minutes. I let him vent his doom and gloom, offering only subtle and kind suggestions of ways to be more comfortable and allieviate his misery, getting only anger-filled justifications for responses. Having been in very similar gloom/fatigue holes, I empathized, but was secretly relieved when my food came. I wished him luck and headed for the bike shop with my right hand on the handle bar and my left stuffing my face with food.

I saw Mr. Angry three more times before the Canadian border. Once a few minutes later at the bike shop as he was starting out for the big climb out of Salida. I saw him again about three hours later on the climb pushing his bike. I offered all the genuine encouraging words I could think of and pedaled on, figuring I would never see him again and silently hoping he would lighted up the 85lb menagerie he was pushing (no exaggeration, as I saw it on the scale at the shop in Salida!) and somehow find some happiness in his journey.

A couple weeks later in Whitefish, MT at a street festival, my jaw dropped. How in the world could he have gotten here so quickly? Yes, I had a major mental collapse in Pinedale which put me in a deep, dark, shit-filled gloom hole and lost an entire day, but there was just no way.....

I smiled. "Hey, you are almost there!"

"I finished."

"Holy crap! Did you trade your bike for a motorcycle?" "Or a rocketship?" I tried the make-a-joke approach but the same scowl that I saw back in Salida still prevailed. "Did you have a cold Canadian beer in Banff?"

"No, I am only riding border to border. No sense in going to Canada. I am catching the train outta here in an hour. I took some highway detours. Just wanted to get this over with so I can say I did it."

I stood in the middle of the food vendor trucks and tried to pay attention to the conversation, but I was pretty much done. He was no happier than when I first met him in Salida, so I let him vent all his disappointment of the journey once again. When he finished, I smiled, congratulated and complimented his effort with the friendliest and kindest words I had and just walked away.

To. Say. I. Did. It.

I thought about those four words and wondered to whom he was going to say he did it? To himself? To his family and friends? Students? To Facebook? To his blog? He was clearly miserable the whole trip and would not take a shower or change a bike setup that he disliked having to push up all the hills. This guy was tough as hell. He held strong to what he set out to do but suffered the whole way and took paved roads to make it easier. Not knowing him and going off only what I observed and heard in conversation with him, I kept wondering if he would have finished if no one had known he was riding? If he had no one to tell of his showerless month of riding and camping, would he have finished it? Would he have held fast to his rule or would he have made himself more comfortable and found some enjoyment in what he was seeing along the route?

My thoughts returned to this guy as I pedaled the days away and my mind wandered here and there. I had never encountered such a genuinely unhappy cyclist. It was totally foreign to me. Sure, I have seen many riders in pain and agony from fatigue, but it is all a bit tongue-in-cheek, because in a weird, sick way, we all love the suffering we inflict upon ourselves. Those who truly hate it quit racing. I think that's what puzzled me a great deal as well: the guy was touring, NOT racing, and suffering like a dog. But, as I mentioned before, I do not know him, so my only conclusions are based on inferences.

Running across this guy and his words "To say I did it..." kept haunting me and I chose to elaborate so extensively because it relates directly to a recurring issue I have yet to make right within myself. Miles and miles were spent pedaling and thinking about my ongoing struggle with and social/relational challenges in the

                                             I SHARE THEREFORE I AM

world. I do not have the personality type that will ever see social media as "real life." It does not sit right in my heart the way we connect and communicate. I need words, emotions, facial expressions, laughter that I can hear, not laughter I see written as LOL. Yet I do it. Everyday. Whether I want to or not, I habitually log into Facebook. I get completely bored with the overly-enhanced pictures and wonder about the compulsion to make real life pictures better. I eventually get tired of the constant noise and deactivate my account, but anywhere between two and four weeks I am back. Why?

Time to get real honest.

I, too, feel some sort of compulsion to share. It exists. I share because I want to tell people what I am doing.

I questioned my heart for many miles on that topic. What the hell have I become? Why did this compulsion arise? Why does it feel so wrong yet I do it? Why do I ignore that feeling and do it anyway? I ultimately wished I could find a culture where sharing every aspect of our lives was done through human interaction instead of electronically. Ha, yeah right, Jill. It is 2014, not 2004. I thought about how when I started this blog and joined Facebook, my brain was different. It was not a habitual thing to post and record my life to put on display. I honestly wanted to use them as a memoir of my own and to inspire people to chase big dreams. Because, hey, if a complete no one from nowhere can make a run at some crazy dreams that fuel her inner fire......

But somewhere, somehow, someway life is becoming this:

Yeah, I laughed too. But then it hit home pretty hard.

My quit date is October 1.

The personally negative (addictive) effects I experience and am acutely aware of everyday, yet for some reason choose to basically ignore coupled with the degradation of my friendships and relationships far far far outweigh the good things social medial has brought.

Yes. There are good things. Many.

But not enough anymore.

I checked and I joined Facebook in July of 2009 and I immediately wished I had back just half of the time I have wasted. I don't want to wish for time back ever again. I don't want to struggle with it anymore.

I want it gone from my thoughts. I want to deepen existing relationships with the beautiful, inspiring and genuine people I know the old-fashioned way. I want to continue to do epic shit and not feel a compulsion to post a picture of it. Call me an old soul. Call me overly-sensitive. Call me an over-analyzer. All I know is that my heart is not right with me having a Facebook account.

And I must listen to what it says.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Advice From the Wisest Old Lady I Have Ever Known

From The World According to Wheels (a collection of letters written to me, Jill, by my 13.5 year old black lab as I navigate/pursue a maddeningly beautiful existence):

Ok, what the.....??

I have to experiment, explore and breathe a bit of life into this blog. The fact is, I am really bored with it but want to continue posting. Thus, I am taking a small hiatus from aiming bunch of cliched adjectives and clever one-liners in your direction, opening the lid of my soul and dumping it out through my fingertips and then pasting a buttload of pictures (which I still refuse to enhance with technology) of my bike with hopes of inspiring you to do what you think you can't. 

Don't get me wrong, my utmost hope when I began this blog is exactly that and it has not deviated one bit still today, but I just need to do something a little different for a while. So, let's see where it goes. There probably won't be a ton of explanation as to what I am talking about or the premise behind the randomness, but I am betting you will relate in some way (or you won't). Either way, feel free to laugh at me.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

More from the Journal....Very Random

June 30, 2014

As I look at my bank account. I feel like Harry Dunne: "I spent my life savings turning my van into a dog..."

July 4, 2014

I saw the fireworks over Seeley Lake tonight. I am writing from my "pent(out)house suite" at the Nordic Trails trail head. Sleepy but restless as I mull over the fact this state has taken ahold of my soul a bit. From Red Rocks Pass and the Centennial Valley to Seeley Lake, there has been no part of Montana that I did not feel myself wanting to further explore and stay longer.

Serenity is the concept my brain and heart kept playing with today as I rode. Serenity. The rivers, lakes and mountains exemplify the word like no other. The mountains do not hold my attention and lust like those of the majestic kings of Colorado, but they call with a softer voice--comforting and peaceful.

I ride without lights--in complete daylight--until 10pm. I drink in the cool pockets of air, I smell pine up high and fresh cut hay down low. The people of this land live with a great contentment and reflect a simplicity that is alluring. 

Could a move to Missoula compete with a return to Durango this fall? I think I need to find out.....

July 5, 2014

While waiting for my precious and steaming hot French Toast breakfast at Pop's Place the next morning, I looked out the window, then looked into my heart, grabbed a napkin and my pen. 

Here is what came out:

Note: After I got back to Denver, I did return and spent a week in Missoula. Me being me, I had to see. I had to explore the possibility of moving to Missoula even though I can't see myself calling anywhere but the San Juan mountains my true and permanent home. 

Missoula is an incredible place. Great people, small town feel, good culture, community, fishing, biking, hiking, you name it. And I could live in Missoula. 

If Durango, Colorado did not exist.....

June 24, 2014

Rawlins, WY.

My Wandering Jew died here....I loved that plant. Funny the little things that I remember. Each place I have been to along the TD brings back many, many memories. Mostly good. But not this one.....

Little did I know the plant and my marriage would share the same fate. Looking back, I think I kind of wondered. You know what they say about hindsight.....

Wow, that seems like an eternity of lifetimes ago.....wonder where he lives now? Haven't thought of him in probably 5 or 6 years. It took Rawlins to stir the memory.

Funny life is. sometimes.

(Ok, I will give you the backstory: Rawlins was where we (myself, my ex-husband and his son) stopped to stay the night on our move from Eugene, OR to Denver 9 1/2 years ago. We had a horse trailer packed with our belongings and it was freezing cold. I knew that the plant was going to freeze overnight but there was no way I could get to the tub to bring it into the motel. It did. I tried to save it but no luck. I got a tiny start a couple years ago from a friend in Silverton. It is currently thriving in my kitchen window.)

July 7, 2014

I have no words to write. None. Already written them all in my head and I am too lazy to jot them down. The Canadian Nazi Border Patrol lady is ridiculous. Don't let her get you down. Setting my alarm for 2am and will be climbing Galton Pass to see the sunrise from the top. 

I found this in a magazine at the Grocery Store in Eureka. It speaks to me. I like dares.

Dare to Be

When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.

When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light.

When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.

When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway.

When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back.

When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some.

When you’re feeling tired, dare to keep going.

When times are tough, dare to be tougher.

When love hurts you, dare to love again.

When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.

When another is lost, dare to help them find the way.

When a friend falls, dare to be the first to extend a hand.

When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile.

When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.

When the day has ended, dare to feel as you’ve done your best.

Dare to be the best you can –

At all times, Dare to be!”

― Steve Maraboli

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Entry #9

"The urge to run, the restlessness, the heart of stone I sometimes get, the things I've done for foolish pride, the me that's never satisfied...."
      -Tim McGraw Cowboy in Me

credit: Jason Rich

From the Tour Divide journal, my thoughts from the day's events and pedaling, written at 3am from my bivvy alongside the road, Como, CO. I started in Sargeants that morning and pushed until I found an acceptable power pole upon which to rest a weary bike and beneath, a weary, but thoughtful, girl:

My heart skipped three beats and ferried sideways in my chest cavity. A couple of seconds passed that did not involve inhaling.

Then the hammer dropped.

My hammer.

My internal hammer. The force that crushes immediate emotional reaction for the sake of social comfort for all. I took a deep breath now that I was capable of oxygen intake and pictured the blue-handled Estwing hammer I used to help my dad fix fence with as a kid crushing a small rock into pieces. My mind is complex and makes instant connections when searching for understanding. Some are a stretch, but I was actually satisfied with its current analogy of the rock in pieces all over the ground.

Jill. It is done. It means nothing.

He is unreachable. You have known that for much longer than you will admit. Part of that is your fault and you don't get the forgiveness you requested for this one. Pedal away. Many miles to go tonight still and hopefully there is water in Hartsel.

You are a selfish SOB who has chased your own ambitions to high elevations, remote, hot deserts and absolutely epic experiences and put them before relationships. Unintentional but true. You want it all and you want to be the fastest at it all. You put epic first, everytime, in a fury to prove your strength to yourself.

How many drivetrains, chains, frames, brakepads, pedals, shoes, kits, socks and gloves have you completely worn out in just the last four years? Are you done? Are you satisfied?  Have you heard "I want to do fun things but not at this intensity" and "You are a go-big person, I am too, but not like that" for the last time? Has the deep lonlieness and longing for a genuine connection finally trumped your selfish obsession?

Have you finally realized you are a freak, and always will be, but you can't keep ignoring your human instincts? That it is time to honor and fulfill your need to love deeply, give unselfishly and love a man more than your goddamn bike?

Jill, you already know which force is stronger within you. You need love. You need to belong to someone you adore. You need to share your dream of a tiny house in the San Juans, your little horse barn connected to your little bike barn. You want to drift off to sleep in your backyard hammack wrapped up in a strong set of arms. Waking up underneath your bike on the trail at 3am with your lights still on makes for a good story, but maybe its time to realize this:


You have proved this to yourself time and time again. Is your brain finally satisfied? Can you listen to its lonely words for a change? Are you ready to tackle your true weakness--aka your selfishness?

Are you ready to find some balance, crush the walls around your heart, embrace some vulnerability, bend so every relationship doesn't end up breaking in the end and love like humanity is meant to love? How about making that your epic pursuit?

Live now. Love now.

Bikes and miles don't mean shit if the cost is ignoring your humanity. Time to wake up and stop making the same selfish mistakes. Look at the future that lies before you. Time to stop wasting time trying to reach those who are truly unreachable to you. Forgive yourself and move on.

And sleep.

As I look back and share my roadside ramblings, this is all I have to add today:

Allow balance to happen. It will if you stop and let it catch up.

I bought one of these on my 30th birthday in New Zealand. I am not a huge trinkety jewelry person but it caught my eye after I got to Queenstown after the Milford Track. I bought it to remember a magical place and later found out it means balance. It broke this May. Universe talking to me? Probably. I have both pieces next to each other. I think it is high time to find the superglue. Literally and figuratively.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tour Divide 2014: Memories

The best memories of the Tour Divide come in bits and pieces. The smell of a certain food will take me immediately back to a cozy diner in Wise River, Denny's in Grants, Bode's Store, milkshakes in Atlantic City or lunch in Whitefish, to name just a few. An aluminum horse trailer on I-25 returns my memory to the top of Cochetopa and the conversation with the horse campers from Durango. A certain song I hear on the radio shuttles me right back to all the places I heard it in my ear while pedaling. I wish I could share these with another human, but it is impossible. No one else can feel the surge of emotions and feelings the tiniest thing will trigger. I remember the small, subtle pieces with amazing clarity as reentry into the comfortable, safe, relatively uneventful mainstream lends to a large amount of daydreaming and reflecting. In my musings of late, I have compiled a collection of my favorite quotes. Some are deep enough to warrant more writing and some are just hilarious anecdotes--an interestingly fitting description of the entire journey.

So in no meaningful or particular order, here are my favorite bits and pieces represented in quotations:

"Baby, baby don't panic, I know how to cook bannock.."
          -Dean Brody, Mountain Man lyrics. Music was a huge part of some days, and then would be completely absent for a week. Some feel it interferes with their time in nature. I have found some days it enhances and some it interferes. Songs bring memories, and take me to another place and another time.

"So you are not going home with me tonight? I have always had a thing for girls in Lycra and I haven't seen any around lately...."
          -Obnoxious guy in Lincoln, MT I finally had to just ignore as I was chowing down crap food trying to blend into the wallpaper. The Fourth of July rodeo had the tiny town hopping. As I crossed the bridge over the Blackfoot River and into town,  I was met with a fleet of ATV's driven by shirtless 30-somethings with hunting rifles slung across their backs. I felt like I needed to crack a Hamms can, shotgun it, bum a chew and use my water bottle as a spitter afterwards. Ah, loves me some Lincolnites!

"Excuse me, but would you like to join us on the Wise River today? Fishing is good right now and we happen to have an empty spot in the drift boat..."

          -Hot river guide and his equally hot friend I had talked to at breakfast and saw again as I was sitting outside the grocery store swatting mosquitos as big as Montana, and trying to contain my flock-of-seagulls hair enough to get my helmet on. I honestly thought they were talking to someone behind me, but when I turned around and saw only the fence, my jaw dropped to the ground. Turning them down in favor of slogging up Fleecer and that GOD AWFUL climb away from I-15 before Butte was my biggest (and really only) regret. If my time machine wasn't broken, I would go back and spend the day fishing.

"Can I take your picture?"
"Do you have a gun?"
"Are you scared of bears/being alone/the dark?"
"What in the world made you want to ride to Canada?"

          -Every camper in every campground in every state

"Do you want an otter pop? Here, take three..."
          -Firefighter at Beaver Head Work Center. Heaven comes in the most unexpected places.

"This can't be a cheap undertaking, how about helping me through the lunch rush and dishes in exchange for your tab?"
          -Super stressed out, overworked and underpaid bartender I noticed was favoring a bad knee at the Grasshopper Inn near Polaris, MT. I jumped in and helped him pour drinks, feed and clean up after about 35 people. Wow, did that really happen?

"Hey, are you that girl needing a ride out to Cabin Pass? I saw something posted by the bike shop. I would love to give you a ride, but I don't have a car."

          -One of the many awesome, kind and friendly residents of Fernie. This was the common theme as I tried everything I possibly could, short of stealing a car, to get back to Cabin Pass to rejoin the route in time to finish. After some more of the sting diminishes, I will post a detailed and clear account of what exactly occured from Whitefish to Fernie, but after getting back to Denver and being unable climb even 3 miles with the hub that was supposedly "fixed" in Fernie, I can't help but wonder if there was some divine intervention involved?

"I tried to slow way down so as not to dust you out..."
         -Dano, a long-time Missoulian and a very chill and all-around good dude. I saw him again, by coincidence, at Trixi's in Ovando after he passed me on a dirt road about ten miles south on his return from fishing. I spent a good hour of really enjoyable and inpiring conversation. The people of Montana truly make it the gem it is.

"Bout a mile off Old Mill Road, that spot nobldy knows, park the truck and we take off runnin, hurry up girl, I hear it comin, got a moon and a billion stars, the sound of steel and old box cars..."

          -Jason Aldean, Night Train lyrics A song that I always dream of living when I hear it. After a surreal sunset and a bit of refreshing rain, the song came on my ipod on the descent off Priest Pass toward the tracks just as the train roared through. Magical timing.

Speaking of magic. I learned that it is, indeed, everywhere on the Tour Divide. Absolutely everywhere in everything and everyone. Somedays, however, my challenge was lifting up a tired and lonely mind to look for it......

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Into the Abyss...

It's not all rainbows and butterflies out there.

Sometimes it miles and miles and miles of this....soothing or maddening? Depends largely on sleep and calories.  

I found my precious solitude versus deeply lonely precipice in Pinedale, Wyoming. I sat for hours. Paralyzed. Helmet on. Gloves on. Rig ready to roll.

But I sat. And sat and sat.

Absolutely unable to force my self to swing my right leg over that saddle and turn the crank. I tried. I tried convincing, chastising, questioning, teasing, persuading and even yelling at myself. I was floundering along the stony bottom of the great abyss of exhaustion--mostly mental. Ok, so my butt was a little chaffed, but nothing that was stopping me from moving.

Tears came. Tears went. Then they came again. And went.

Still no forward movement. I was so lonely and so tired of gravel.

I got out my journal and fire came from the pages. I hesitated a second before posting this as it is a look at my complete mental collapse and I suppose it could be embarrassing and really is pretty personal. But, as I mentioned before, I can't write another traditional race report "tied up neatly with a bow" (MB, you are a wizard with words sometimes!). And I have to say, this was a huge turning point as I found where solitude became loneliness and how I reacted. Anger, sadness, frustration, self-punching....and in the end all I really needed was some sleep (and French Toast). Funny creatures. Funny, funny creatures that choose to bikepack.

So, uh, here goes:

June 27, 2014

What is it I am doing? I don't care to get on my bike and mindlessly suffer down another stupid gravel road. Instead of relishing and enjoying, I am thinking of my GPS, the miles elapsed and still to ride and FACEBOOK COMMENTS....seriously, Jill? You are thinking about Facebook??????? Aaaaaaaaurrrrgh!!

I think constantly about the rain forecast and how getting soaked does not sound appealing. AT ALL. I think about my daily average miles and how they are not up to my standard. I think about the blue and pink dots out there and wonder if I will ever see another racer.

WTF? Who am I and what have I become?

I have become what I despise. My loneliness has trumped my desire for adventure, my yearning to see new places, to be self-reliant/sufficient, wild and free. I surged through New Mexico with a rabid hunger for miles and mountains. Excited. Motivated. Invigorated. The remoteness of the state was uplifting and towns didn't suck the time away as much.

But in the last few days, each town I get to I log in to #$%^&@ Facebook. And see pictures and posts and comments from other racers. I read BS from those who don't do, only talk and talk and talk. Ah, but it is my choice to read all the crap. So why? Why do I read it? Why do I post my thoughts? Why do I feel the need to check back for comments? Why do I feel the need to "share" while I am racing my bike.

KEYWORD: while


Is it a game of can this be topped? Can I "out-epic" you?

When do I rest my mind? Isn't that part of why I am doing this? What about the Triple Crown? Do I even care anymore? Is it that important? Really? Or is it the smell of the hayfields outside Boulder, WY and bonfires shared with strangers from ABQ? Is the small talk with random people who see the weird, skinny girl all alone with a bunch of bags strapped to her bike more comforting? What has this evolved into? What does it even mean to me? Whose journey is this?

I am so damn lonely. Yep, I said it.

Lonely. Lonely. Lonely.

One of my most favorite things to do is to find the most serene, remote and comfortable places to stop pedaling, roll out the bivvy and savor what is around me. But my loneliness (I guess?) drives me to obsess over miles my body is happy to cover but my mind and spirit want to enjoy. I wanted to stay at LaGunitas campground, Brush Mountain Lodge and Cochetopa. I want to share that in REAL LIFE with someone. Tangible. Conversation. Laughter. Not clever captions I find myself creating as I pedal.

Where has real life gone? Is it all a mirage? Can I live it without sharing it?

The lonlieness I feel drives me to share when I would much rather be sharing with a real person I enjoy being with. True story. I do not think about social media when I am "sharing" my adventures and passion in real life.

Ah, what a twisted mess my brain is. I need to sleep.

Monday, September 1, 2014

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Dose of Epic...

I can't.

Not yet.

I have a couple of Tour Divide posts ready to go and all I need to do is hit the "publish" button. But I am not ready to share them. Why? It seems as though my efforts to capture the immensity, the intensity and the poignancy of the adventure in words and pictures, in fact, diminishes all three.

In plain English: They kinda suck.

It will probably take me a couple more weeks, but my thoughts will collect themselves and the dam of words will burst. The entire Triple Crown run has been on my mind since last October, and my mind is tired. As tired as my legs when I bagged the CTR three weeks ago after only a hundred miles.

So here is how I rest, recover and refocus....

Do what I know and love...

Ride to rocks and play on them...

Ride to mountains and play in them....

Find rivers and play on them....

Go to the Arkansas and play with friends...

Play on knife edges....

Climb to the top of more rocks and play....

Use feather power to climb steep stuff to play on....

Try to ride things and laugh when I dab....

Burn things....

Keep burning things into the night and stare at the Milky Way above knowing I get to sleep in...
Go to birthday parties...
Relish every second I get with my family...

Drink Crown with brother and uncle...

"Don't Look Back"

And some stories!
Find places where it snows on Aug 31 and play....