Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Change, and Thankfulness

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Today, I drove from Driggs to Salt Lake City, where I'll spend the long weekend with family.  Throughout the rainy, 4.5-hour road trip, my recurring thought was simply: wow, I'm glad it's this Thanksgiving and not last.  This year and not last year.  This "place," and not wherever I was then.

I've kept the content of my blog somewhat superficial lately, mainly because I haven't known how to publicly communicate all the major changes I've experienced.  Plus I'm polite to a fault, and haven't wanted to offend or hang anyone out to dry.  But it's time to put it out there, from my own perspective.  I'll throw in some recent scenic Driggs and Teton Valley Idaho photos, but this post will essentially be an introspective rant of sorts.  After all, I've been maintaining this blog for five years now; it's my platform to fill how I see fit, and I owe you honesty as readers.  So grab some turkey and maybe even a little Brandy, and settle in.

Headline: I was married for 18 years, but went through a bumpy (are they ever smooth?) divorce this past spring. I have new respect for all of you who have endured this yourselves. It's brutal, and we didn't even have kids.

In spite of the underlying love, it didn't end well (do they ever?). I should have handled it better, and I'm dealing with that. But I've also tried to maintain some dignity, and grant others the same. We all have problems, and don't need to live each others' drama. It serves no purpose. Ultimately, we can only move forward. I will always love her, and wish her well. 

(eat some turkey, drink some brandy) 

There was some mid-life crisis involved, no doubt. Three years ago I sold the business (R.U. Outside) that I founded and ran for 18 years.  The timing was less than ideal, but with the economy & real estate sales crashing, I needed steady income with less risk for our little family. R.U. Outside had become part of my identity, and suddenly wasn't anymore.  It was a huge adjustment. As part of that whole process, I was hired by Canadian-based Baffin to turn their website into a retail vehicle while also opening a flagship store for them in Park City, Utah.  They covered the cost of a condo for me, and we planned to go back-and-forth to Driggs to make it all work.  I was excited for a new chapter with a larger company. 

I went back to Driggs once or twice a month.  She came to Park City once every two or three months.  It was a difficult chapter, and we grew apart.

(more turkey & brandy)

Change is hard.  Really hard.  Especially when you've been with someone for over twenty years, and your identities have become intertwined, inexorably. You do the same things, eat mostly the same food, know the same people, have the same memories, share the pain and love. Parting ways is going to be trying, whether amicable or not. And it's difficult for those around you to adjust as well, especially in a small community.  I've definitely learned who my true friends are (thank you), and aren't (oh well).  My brother Mark, parents, cousin Brent, and buddies Joe, Mike, Tom, Eric & Tim have been lifesavers.

We're not the same people at age 45 that we were at age 25. We change and evolve, as we should. Those around us do too, but sometimes not at the same pace or in the same ways. 5% of marriages last for 50 years or more...the rest don't. It's not wrong or right, it just is.

I moved out last November. We went to couseling all winter, which revealed a lot about us both personally and as a couple. Our marriage was often good, but we couldn't mountain bike our way to the "great" stage. Kids didn't happen, for better or worse. Our primary issues were respect, control, putting each other first, and getting on the same page financially. We didn't get there.

I'm now living alone in a nice little home in Ski Hill Ranches, between the towns of Driggs, Idaho and Alta, Wyoming.  I look up at the slopes of Grand Targhee, watch the sun rise over the Tetons every morning, and have 360-degree views of the most beautiful valley I've ever seen, which I'm fortunate enough to call home. I've taken up fishing again, and have also done a lot of solo bike rides this year, rich with thought. I have a great job, working with solid people internally plus salt-of-the-earth customers from Driggs to Boise.  

(time for pumpkin pie)

I'm also seeing a gal now who compliments me, cooks, rubs my feet, likes kids...and challenges the hell out of me. Melissa is a fellow lefty, writer, and triathlete. I love taking care of her, and we connect without agendas. Life is finally feeling good again.

It's a new chapter. 

As Democritus said back in the fifth century, "happiness dwells in the soul."  May we all let it shine. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oktoberfesting, Driggs Style

It has been a stellar Fall here in Teton Valley, Idaho.  And this on the heels of a nice, long, warm spring & summer. I talked with a longtime local horseman last week, and he said it has been the longest trail riding season of his life here...which is 60-plus years.  Impressive.

We'll need good snowfall this winter to replenish all area reservoirs after such a dry summer season, but that's off to a fairly good start already. Grand Targhee got its first dusting of white stuff a couple of weeks ago, and it's only just begun.

Onto some October highlights. My longtime buddy Tom visited early in the month, and we hiked up to Green Lakes (Mt. Moran is in the distance). It was an impossibly beautiful Fall day, and we had the trail to ourselves. Solitude still exists around here.  

I biked to the top of Garn's Mountain for the second time this year. At just over 9,000 feet, it's the highest point in the Big Hole Mountains, to the west of Driggs. It's usually under snow by October, but was still beautiful & dry for my ride. I was the only person out there that day, which was almost as amazing as the Teton views.

A mid-month evening with Mom & Dad in Teton Park was awesome. They went for a bike ride on the new paved path to Jenny Lake first, and we then watched and listened to dozens of elk bugling in the shadow of the Tetons.  It's the kind of stuff that sends primordial chills up your spine.

I'm getting occasional time with Bridger, and always enjoy it.  Here he is on a favorite nearby dirt road, walking loudly and carrying a big stick on a perfect Fall evening.  He's 5 years old now, and has matured into a really good dog.

There was also a quick weekend trip to Boise, where Melissa & Michelle enjoyed sublime foothill singletrack and smiles. I like Boise more every time I go.

I've done a couple of CycloCross races this month, as well.  45-minutes of redline effort on what is essentially an extended BMX track - jumping barriers, carrying your bike up hills, and riding 'til your lungs scream while bumping elbows & wheels with fellow competitors.  Somehow, it's the most fun you'll ever have on a bike.

Another October highlight was a Friday evening of Teton High School football.  I wish I had attended more games over the years, but better late than never.  We were undefeated entering this final home game, and that ended against a really strong team from Shelly.  Even so, it was a great evening...and an amazing setting, watching the sunset fade against the Tetons.

And then, there was snow...enough for a snowbike ride, even.  I believe it was the first time I've busted out a snow ride in October, and conditions were great.  We'll be snowmobiling in those hills in no time.  

November will have its hands full, trying to top October.  Happy Halloween!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Late Summer Fun

Summer started early in Driggs this year, and lingered long. It's been a rare season of protracted warmth & sunshine, and with the exception of smoke from forest fires in Central Idaho, it has been beautiful and oh-so-enjoyable. The above photo from an early-August mountain bike ride around Rick's Basin (at Grand Targhee) is typical of the summer afternoons we've savored here in Teton Valley.

Speaking of smoke: I've spent a good deal of time working in the Challis, ID area these past three months, and smoke has become part of life in Custer County. Over 450,000 acres of forest has burned within 60-miles of Challis this summer, much of it beetle-kill trees that were tinder-dry and simply could not be saved.  Much like the Yellowstone fires of 1988, the current Central Idaho blazes won't be contained until snow accumulates in the high country.

Life has continued as normal, otherwise.  There was the annual Star Valley Century bike ride which I did with Melissa, my brother Curt, cousin Brent, M-Russ, Todd Q, and Garth "catch me if you can" Kaufman. It was a beautiful day in one of my favorite places, especially the top of Salt River Pass. 

Post-ride, I enjoyed some time chilling with Garth's son Palmer.  He's four, super-cool, and already riding his bike around the local bmx track.  I can't even imagine how fast this kid is going to be!

So much good fun this summer, it's nice to re-live it now.  A big highlight was the Earth, Wind, Fire & Utah Symphony concert at Deer Valley back in early August, with good friends Tim & Jane. It was big, yet intimate.  Food was delicious, drinks flowed, laughter abounded...and the music resonated. 

There was also the Rexburg Rush Triathlon, less than an hour away from Driggs. I'd considered this race for several years, and finally went for it.  It was a great course that had a surprising amount of climbing on both the bike & run sections, through beautiful Idaho potato fields.  I placed 2nd in my age group; Melissa was 1st overall female, and she waited patiently for me at the finish. Those darn swimming & running things slow me down.

Next up for Melissa was the Ironman 70.3 World Championship race at Lake Las Vegas, NV. I've done some big events in recent years, but this scene dwarfed anything I'd ever experienced. 2,000 of the fittest, fastest athletes on the planet, along with their families & friends. Combine that with Ironman's unrivaled professionalism and the Vegas scene, and you get the was a big deal.  Melissa rose to the occasion, conquered the demanding course and insane 98-degree heat, placed in the top 1/3 overall females, and wasn't even sore afterwards.  I was impressed, and proud.  

For work, I've been overseeing a lot of nice pavement preservation projects this summer. I help with all digital and print marketing for Asphalt Systems (ASI) , and also do sales to cities & counties in Idaho, from Driggs to Boise.  It's a great job, takes me to beautiful places, and is rewarding on so many levels.  Our sealcoat products save enormous resources - both environmental and monetary.  There is more pavement in the world than any other man-made material; preserving it rather than allowing it to deteriorate (and then replacing at huge costs) can literally help save the planet.  This photo is from the City of Hailey, ID a few weeks ago, where they have been very forward-thinking with their program.  Plus, they have awesome mountain biking trails...

A week after Melissa's Ironman World Championship race in Vegas, I did a local triathlon at Pineview Reservoir outside of Ogden, UT.  I was hoping to make the Podium in my age group at least, but flatted on the bike course.  I still finished, and remembered that racing is about much more than placing high; it was a beautiful Fall day in the mountains, fellow competitors were terrific, I had great support in Melissa...and my mom even came to watch her first Triathlon. 

On a related note: I finally bit the bullet and got a Garmin 500 for my cycling. It records elevation, speed, heart rate, temperature, cadence, calories burned...but you still have to do the pedaling yourself.  And the cool part is downloading to the computer afterwards, and sharing/comparing with other Garmin users.  It took me a few years to adopt this technology, and now I'm hooked.

For all my complaining about swimming, I actually enjoy it (I'm just slow).  I've had a great summer season at the Teton Springs pool, meeting my buddy Joe there at least once/week to workout and take in the scenery.  The pool closes for the season in two weeks, but it's been a good long summer.  Everything is better when done outside, including lap swimming.

I've managed a handful of hikes this summer too, and never tire of the Teton backcountry. Solitary time in these mountains has been invaluable during the past few months, sorting through my feelings during a time of change.  It's my church really, and life is feeling right.  Here's to happy, peaceful trails to all this fall...and beyond.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Here's to July, in Driggs

Every year, I say how much I'd love to simply take the whole month of July off and enjoy the paradise that is summer here in Teton Valley, Idaho. Now that I'm in the asphalt industry, I realize that probably won't happen until I retire...but I sure do enjoy the windows of free time that I have right now.  This photo was taken over the past weekend, on top of Garn's mountain, with good friends Dave & Katie. We mountain biked up and up in the Big Holes, until there was no more up. The payoff was 360-degree views on a perfect summer day, with Tetons in the distance. Wow.

July is hot air balloon month in Driggs.  Plenty of calm, sunny mornings this year made for exquisite conditions, and I managed to catch one on film near my house a couple of weeks ago.  Beautiful, peaceful, adventurous, and fun.

Early in the month, I found myself in other places supporting new friends.  Accordingly, I spent the 4th of July in Lander, WY, and did a terrific road bike ride up above Sinks Canyon State Park.  It's a classic, with great pavement, little traffic, sustained 6% grade, and regular switchbacks that eventually drop you into Worthen Meadow Reservoir.  Wind River Mountain vistas beckon up there, and I'll definitely be back.

July also marks the core month for Victor's "Music on Main" event each Thursday evening.  It's free (donations encouraged at the gate), with impressive nationally-recognized bands (like "March 4th"), food & beverage for sale by local vendors, and the biggest social scene in Teton Valley.  Nothing beats warm summer evenings listening to good live music, in the shadow of the Tetons, with good friends.

What else?  I've been overseeing lots of asphalt-sealing jobs with cities & counties throughout Idaho, dealing with great people and enjoying my work.  We even had a nice day of work around Driggs & Victor last week, making roads more cycling-friendly.  I truly couldn't ask for a better career situation, with a nice mix of sales, e-marketing, and being part of a great team that includes my dad & brother.  Shameless plug:

I also had Podium finishes in a handful of races this past month, including a triathlon, running race, and bike race. I honestly didn't think I'd ever pull off a podium (top 3) in a running race, but managed to do it in my age group with a sub-23 minute 5K at the Driggs Tin Cup Challenge.  It's a good thing someone took a photo, because it might not ever happen again.

In the end, it's all about people.  As many of you know - and if you didn't, you do now - it's been a mid-life crisis year for me: career change, divorce, move, etc.  Change is difficult, and there have been a lot of dark moments...but I had to be true to myself.  I've survived, and am emerging with a new lightness of being, clarity, hope, and happiness.  And I'm hanging out with a gal who inspires me, in every way.  If you know me, you'll see it.  Here I am with Melissa and some of her family, enjoying soothing Lander ice cream cones on the evening of her mother's passing earlier this month. There's something to be said for the ability to muster smiles on a somber occasion.

Continuing with the change motif: one thing that has always attracted me to mountains is their immutability, remaining permanent and unchanged, decade after decade, century after century.  It's been more rewarding than ever heading into the hills around Teton Valley this summer, and absorbing the same views that I have every year for nearly 18 years now, in spite of the changes in the rest of my life.  It simply puts everything in perspective.  This is the top of Pole Canyon on a recent hike, looking south towards Fog Hill.  These mountains have become a part of me, and I'm so glad. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Early Summer Adventures, and Blooming

So, wow, I missed the whole month of June on this blog.  It wasn't for lack of material, but rather a life full of work, change, travel, and good doses of fun to keep it all balanced.  But I really should write more, and chronicle, and share.  Like recanting the evening I spent while working in Challis, Idaho...bikepacking up into the hills with my fishing pole, counting elk, catching fish, and reconnecting with myself. 

Meanwhile, back in Driggs on June 4th, I encountered a frighteningly large pile of Grizzly scat on upper Millcreek Trail (just below Grand Targhee) while mountain biking.  Two weeks later I scared up a small black bear while trail running near the mouth of Teton Canyon.  And a couple of days ago, a hiker was attacked by a black bear on the Aspen Trail.  Walk loudly and carry fresh bear spray out there, folks.

We've had a bit more wind than usual, but nearly every day has been sunny and beautiful.  Snow has melted up to levels that weren't snow-free until early August last year, so backcountry access has been great.  Plus, the farmers got a nice head start on the growing season for a change...and the cycling has been great, like out here by Horseshoe Canyon.

I've been mixing in a bit of swimming for fun, too.  And one triathlon, so far.  Warm days, cool mountain water, beautiful doesn't get much better.

Evening get-togethers with friends are arguably the best part of summers in Teton Valley.  Playing around while the grill heats up, sharing adventure stories, and of course taking in the incomparable scenery.  Here, Melissa shares the fun with Brandon & Sarah's dog Sienna, in the shadow of Taylor Mountain.

Symbolically, local Poppy flowers bloomed brilliantly during June.  Much like hearts learning to re-open, and colorful new chapters.  Here's to summer, my friends...wherever you are, and whatever your path.  Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spring, Actually

It's been too long since my last entry, and the fantastic spring we're having around Driggs, Idaho is partly to blame. It's so nice to be enjoying sunny, warm days in April & May; seems to happen only a couple of times each decade.  High country snow is melting already, creeks are swelling, and the sky is impossibly blue. This didn't happen until July last year.

I took this photo on April 15, riding the nearby South Fork of the Snake River bench trail.  Last year it was June before it was snow-free and dry. Big difference, and certainly makes summer seem longer around here. 

Back in early April, I spent a weekend around Salt Lake City and did a couple of great rides with friends.  I'm celebrating with my buddy Branden here, at the top of Big Mountain.  It had snowed a couple of days before, so the final few miles involved crossing snowfields while climbing a 6-8% grade on skinny road bike tires.  It was like a combination of snow biking, snowmobiling, and road biking. Epic.

The next day I went mountain biking out on Antelope Island with my supa-fast friend Eric.  In all my years, I had never ridden out there...and I was missing out.  The island is loaded with meandering singletrack, which alternately flows and challenges your technical skills. Buffalo roam, the lake glistens, and grins stretch ear to ear.


Work has taken me to the Pocatello, Idaho area a couple of times, and I love their local singletrack. The City Creek area has a terrific network of trails, and spring is an ideal time to take it all in.

Meanwhile, near the Conant boat ramp in Swan Valley, the South Fork of the Snake River is high but manageable. Drift boat fly fishing has begun in earnest, and should only get better in the coming weeks as the water clears up.

In an effort to step up my early season climbing, I did a weekend ride down in Star Valley, Wyoming. It included the iconic Salt River Pass, one of my all time favorites. Come August, it's the site of our annual "King of the Hill" contest during the CASVAR Century.  And in September, it's the high point of LOTOJA, the 206-mile race from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  For now, I just enjoyed the beautiful day in a great place.

Back home in Teton Valley, Idaho, the evenings have been breathtaking.  Area golf courses opened in late April, trails are snow-free up to the 8,000 foot level, and we're all getting after it. There's nothing like summer in paradise, and it definitely arrived early this year.  See you out there!