Thursday, April 15, 2010

Coming Home.

Home is where my heart…and all my crap is.  Whether it is a pack-full or a giant van-full of crap, it and my location, designate any given space as my home.  These “given spaces” have changed quite frequently over the last six years with time spans varying from one night to one and a half years.  While I thrive on this impermanence, its nice and necessary, every now and then, to have a place to fully unpack at.  Although I was not hired until about three weeks before moving in, the journey to my latest semi-permanent home started two months ago.  Of course it has been unfolding forever, but I’m talking about this current leg of the "trip".  

After returning to Chicago from Guatemala, I had no solid plans.  I had applied for the job I currently have, but was waiting to hear back,  Three weeks of catching up with friends and taking care of the boring minutia (i.e. taxes, banking, dentist, etc...)  was long enough in the Chicago area, so I decided to hang in Denver while waiting to hear about the job.  Having given Billy (my old Blazer) up for adoption, I was now carless and determined to get by without one.  I arranged to rent a car to move all my stuff out to my Aunt Ginny’s house in Denver, and then go from there.  

This plan changed, however, one evening when I received a call from my Uncle Mike,  offering to give me his family’s old van!  I was elated.  I knew it would be perfect for my intentions.  And I had had a dream about the van!  I picked it up a few days later, tricked it out and headed out.

2000 Dodge Ram Van
217,000 miles when I received her
I call her Mama, short for The Mothership

Mama likes to take it slow...real slow, which isn't generally a problem for me. After a one-night, very pleasant layover in Des Moines with my friend, Nickie, I made it to Denver, where I spent about a month.
In Denver I had a healthy balance of doing a lot and doing a lot of nothing.  I fasted for a couple of days, ran on the road, ate lots of good food, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day,  helped a raw milk lady at a farmers market,   biked on the super-nice paved biked trails of Denver, hung out cousins, traded a chart reading for yard work, had Mama’s rear end reconstructed, got to know some distant relatives, ran on some trails, celebrated my birthday, visited a cabin in the hills, read about parasites and pollutants, had a really fun Easter, ate lots of gluten-free baked goodness, met up with an old friend, induced a dog to vomit, watched that basketball game everyone was excited about, painted some baseboards, and had hours of fascinating conversation with Ginny.  The weather was consistently beautiful for a couple of days at a time, then 1-2 days of dumping snow, then back to beautiful.

During this time I found out I did get the job.  I had anticipated starting the journey westward a few weeks earlier, but got held up trying to get Mama’s rear end fixed. 

As usual, the timing worked out better than I could have anticipated.  According to the forecasts I would have a nice window between storms to get to where I was going.  After a run on the trails near Red Rocks, I headed up to my old home of Leadville and spent one night with my dear friend, Wizard. 

view of Mt. Elbert from Wizard's front yard

The next day I had a nice slow drive over Tennessee Pass to I-70, through the magnificent Glenwood Canyon and into the stunning desert.  I arrived in Moab just as the sun was setting,   The town was hopping, this Friday evening, with all the mountain bikers that had zoomed pasted Mama and I on I-70.  From the center of town, I followed Kane Creek Boulevard out about five miles to where it meets the Colorado River.  I found a very specific parking lot in which I would spend my first night in Mama.  
home for the evening

Mama is very comfortable and very spacious.  I slept great.  Good thing I did, because the next morning, in that very parking lot, was the start and finish line of a trail race!  I ran the 8.64 miler in the 1st Annual Amasa 10k and 8.64 mile races.  

This was the coolest course I have run a race on.  The loop was incredibly beautiful, super-technical and tons of fun.  I whoo-hooed quite a few times while running.  The course was one mile on a dirt road, a couple on a gnarly jeep track, and then the rest on the famous Moab slickrock singletrack.  Stunning views of red rock, the Colorado River and the majestic La Sal mountains kept tempting my eyes to veer from the trail. 
Finish line of race

After the race I stopped in town to collect my third place prize (a scoop of ice cream from a local ice creamery), enjoyed it, and headed out.  I took the new-for-me, scenic, Route 6 to I-15 before meeting up with I-80 in Salt Lake City.  Westward!  I don’t mess around much in Utah.  It was slow, easy driving but I was beat from the race.  Half-way through Nevada, I called it quits for the night.  I pulled into a rest area and slept very well for ten hours.  

Sweet camera skills while driving.  View from Route 6 heading north,  south of Provo, Utah

I got going early Sunday and made it to Reno by late morning.  After a few errands, I was climbing up into the Sierra.  I am always very excited when get up in the forest-covered mountains away from the dry desert.  While I appreciate the desert’s colorful beauty and its stark contrast to the green and white mountains, I feel like I’m home in the high hills.  Also, it was exactly two years, to the day, that I left the North Tahoe area, after calling it home for a year and a half.  A few errands in Truckee, and I was heading up Donner Summit, home for the evening. I was a bit anxious to get there as it was starting to snow and I was not eager to test Mama’s snow-dealing capabilities. I got to my friend Carolyn’s just as the snow was starting to stick to the ground.

My first reunion with Donner Summit lasted two nights.  It was lovely to get to visit some old friends and super-lovely that there was 7”-10” of fresh snow for my first and only day snowboarding of the season!  What a splendid day.  The conditions were right up there with the handful of best days I had in the two seasons I spent at Sugar Bowl.  My first two runs were untracked perfection.  Absolutely grand.  And extremely tiring.  My back leg was mush after a couple of hours.  I spent the rest of the day recovering in Carolyn’s comfy little abode in the woods.

I woke up the next day ready for my next dose of crazy.  Although it was a bluebird day after dumping for two days…it was time for me to move into the new home.  The heavenly drive around the west side of Lake Tahoe did not pass without incident.  I managed to get Mama stuck in some snow and mud on the side of the road when I pulled over to take a phone call.  Dumbass.  Luckily, my usually cheap self, realized that roadside assistance is well worth the $12 a year.  I was quickly yanked out and on my way, not far from the turn-off for my destination.  As I drove down the five-mile, windy, single-lane road, I was assured, as expected, that this was going to be another one of the special places, my crap and I, would  be lucky enough to call home for a while.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Where are you from?

What may seem like a straightforward question to some, has made me hesitate dozens of times in the last 24 hours.  How do I answer that?  Sure, I'm originally from the Chicago area, but I haven't lived there in over six years.  Whitefish, Montana is the last address I had, but I moved out of there over seven months ago.  Since then the place I've slept the most is in the back of my Blazer, that traversed the west coast over a four-month span.  Then there was a month and half in Guatemala, three weeks in Chicago, and then a month in Denver.  I think that might be too much information for those who are just trying to make small talk with me and the other forty-some odd people I am suddenly living among.
  So, now I find myself in a place where I will most likely spend the next two months.  When I leave here and arrive at the next destination, can I say I'm from the Stanford Sierra Camp and Conference Center on Fallen Leaf Lake, outside of South Lake Tahoe, California?
  That is where I am now.  I arrived early yesterday afternoon to my spectacular new home and place of employment.  I thrive on living in beautiful places and I am fairly certain this place will deliver.  This compound is located on the south side of a good-sized lake serving as the foreground view of the Sierra Crest with the Desolation Wilderness in the backyard.  The north side of Fallen Leaf Lake is just miles from the south shores of Lake Tahoe.  A five-mile, single-lane road is the only way in and out of this little piece of paradise.
  Being the first day of orientation it is hard to gage how the overall work and living situation will be, but in a short two-month span, I can't imagine much that could detract from the awesomeness of the place.  I live in a very cute, very cozy, decent-sized cabin.  The food is good and plenty and is stuff I'll eat.  Outdoor activities are limitless.  And there are potentially many new friends.
  Today I had to write down my "hometown" so that it could be printed on my name tag.  Under pressure, I wrote down Bartlett, Illinois.  I guess, that will work.  After all, that is where the story starts.  And when someone who asks really wants to know, I'll give them the whole story...from Bartlett, Illinois to Stanford Sierra Camp and Conference Center on Fallen Leaf Lake outside of South Lake Tahoe, California.

Do'in It

Finally.  I am making it happen.  A blog.  I set this account up over two years ago and have never got it going.  The thought to share my experiences usually occurs to me when I am facing down time; the same time that I usually feel like I have nothing to share.  But, now it seems perfect.  I'm settled for what for me is semi-permanent...a whole two months, but am also confident there will be much to talk about.  Another day, another crazy situation.