2018: A Year In Review
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2018 was a year of many ups and downs. Like 2017, this year was all about change. Some of it is good, some of it not so good, but all of it is part of my story for better or worse. I was on the go for much of the year from Central America to Alaska and lots of states in between. I didn’t travel outside of the country for fun – only for work – but I did get to experience several new mountain biking destinations, which were awesome! Read all about my 2019 below.
Were I Was
Spring | costa rica, panama, california, arizona, mexico
Summer | utah, california, oregon
Fall | alaska, california, colorado
Winter | california, arizona
2018 in Detail
After ending 2017 on a high note with an amazing trip to Colombia, I found myself (once again) transiting the Panama Canal on the NG Quest for the umpteenth time. Don’t get me wrong, the Canal is cool the first time you go through, but after the 3rd or 4th, or 25th, it’s a little dull. There are only so many times you can get excited about watching a lineman throw rope to a guy in a little dinghy floating in the lock.
After my contract in Costa Rica and Panama, I booked a few nights at an Airbnb in Panama City’s recently renovated Casco Viejo – the Old City. Casco is actually pretty cool. It’s got modern vibes and tons of great restaurants and bars. I spent the next three days eating and drinking my way through the old town.
From Panama, I flew to San Francisco where I visited my brother and sister-in-law and brand new baby niece! Eve was born on February 21st and instantly stole my heart – all 2lbs of her. She was almost two months early so Will and Louisa had to stay in the SF NICU for several months while she got big and strong enough to return to the Eastern Sierra. She’s almost a year now and doing just fine. I can’t wait to be the fun aunt and take her on adventures around the world.
From San Francisco, I flew down to LA and boarded a ferry to Catalina Island where I had landed a two-week housesit with a pair of adorable Bengal cats. I explored everything around the little town of Avalon, but I would love to return with my bike and do a little bikepacking trip across the island to the village of Two Harbors and out to the rugged Land’s End.
Truthfully, though, my time on Catalina Island wasn’t the happiest. I was feeling the loneliness of traveling solo for over a year and not having a home or job prospect and ship life was wearing on me. I had been relying on the ships as a good-for-now plan, but I knew I didn’t want to keep falling back on Lindblad. I needed a change.
My housesit on Catalina Island transitioned into a housesit in Marin County – one which I’d done before and was excited to return to. The house is a beautiful secluded wooden custom rambler on top of a ridge near Fairfax. I was in charge of three dogs – one of which was a 1-year old Australian Shepherd. We went for lots of walks… I also had my mountain bike with me and explored the singletrack in China Camp and Camp Tamarancho.
I returned to the Eastern Sierras after my stint in Marin and was surprised to find that Adam – a good friend for over a year – had broken up with his girlfriend. Adam is the kind of guy that you just want to be around – energetic, charismatic, fun, and a very talented mountain biker. I had had a secret crush on him from the minute we met and now the feelings were mutual. He had recently ended a three-year relationship (with a girl I’m still friends with) and we both agreed that there was a mutual attraction between us and we should ‘see where it goes’. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want to destroy our friendship, but I eventually caved to the hormones. I should have listened to my gut.
In March, Adam and I and a few friends headed to Sedona for a mountain bike trip. I had been to Sedona before, but not to bike and it instantly became my favorite place to ride. So many amazing trails and the views are absolutely stunning! If you’ve never been to Sedona before, you won’t be disappointed. After a week of fun red rock riding, I sent my bike home with Adam and flew directly from Flagstaff to Baja for a three-week contract on the NG Sea Bird. On this particular itinerary, we took the ship up north to Magdalena Bay where the gray whales give birth to their babies over winter. They’re known as ‘friendlies’ in these waters because they come right up to the side of the pangas. This contract was one of the best ‘friendly’ encounters I’ve ever had.
In April, my friend from England came to visit and we embarked on an epic west coast road trip. Amy had never been to the States before, so I wanted to show her all the goods. We started in Sedona (where my mom lives) and spent a few days exploring some of the hiking trails around town. Then we did a full-day excursion up to the Grand Canyon, which I had never visited before either. It is quite grand! We hiked halfway down the Bright Angel trail to the 3-mile resthouse before deciding that three miles back up to the rim was all that we wanted to tackle.
**On a low note – I had recently done something to my lower back and I was in pretty much excruciating pain during this whole road trip. Driving for multiple hours at a time did not help, so we weren’t able to be as active as I would have liked.
After the Grand Canyon, we headed west toward Santa Barbara. I’m honestly not a huge fan of SB (I prefer a little less poshness), but it was fun to walk the beaches and we found amazing tacos at Super-Rica Taqueria. After Santa Barbara we headed north along route 101, taking in the ocean views and wide-open road. We had to detour around a landslide but taking the Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. over the mountains was one of my highlights of the trip! I’ll never forget the view coming down the other side.
Of course, we had to stop in San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge and eat bread and pastries at Tartine. We actually stayed at the HI Marin Headlands hostel, which was a really cool experience, especially if you don’t want to deal with the chaos that is SF.
From SF, we travel northeast to Tahoe, which was on Amy’s want-to-see list. I personally don’t love Lake Tahoe. Yes, the lake is pretty, but it has become such a tourist trap and the traffic and people take away from the natural beauty.
Then it was on to Mammoth! The plan was for Amy to stay a few days in Mammoth before flying out to LA for her last couple of days in the States. We went out to the hot springs, did a few hikes, and I got to introduce her to Adam and my family.
At the end of 2017, I had applied again to be a Backroads Trip Leader after being sorely rejected in 2016 and in December I was offered a position, which I was ecstatic about! My hope was that being a Backroads Leader would replace my work on the ships and finally be the adventurous and fulfilling career that I was craving for so long. The first step to becoming a Trip Leader was to do a two-week leadership training in Salt Lake City so in May I packed up my things, kissed Adam goodbye, and drove to Utah. The training was amazing but ridiculously intense. We covered everything from bike mechanics to public speaking to building a gourmet picnic lunch.
The final ‘test’ was to put together a three-day mock bike trip where all the new leaders basically orchestrated a real Backroads trip. It was super fun, but a whole lot of work. Then it was time to receive our placements. Some of my peers were sent to Europe, others went to Alaska, others to Glacier National Park or Yellowstone. I was placed in Sonoma Wine and Food country, which I was (initially) super stoked about….
Most of June was spent either on a Backroads trip in California wine country or holed up at the Berkley leader house. At first, I was still riding the high from landing a job with Backroads and going through the Leader Training in SLC, but that jazz soon wore off when I realized that I don’t actually like being a trip leader… and I liked living in a packed leader house even less. All the other leaders were outgoing, loud, and ready to go to the bars at 10pm when all I wanted to do was find my own quiet place and watch Netflix with my noise-canceling headphones on. Also, being based in the Bay area was incredibly hard for me since 1) I hate cities and 2) mountain bike trails weren’t right outside my backdoor.
In July I actually led my first Backroads trip as opposed to supporting one (each trip typically has two leaders and one support leader). On paper, I did great. Guests loved both me and my co-leader and the trip went off without a hitch, although I had a nasty cough throughout the week that caused me – and my co-leader – to get 0 sleep. But it was stressful. SO stressful and deep down, I didn’t want to lead another one. But I also felt like I couldn’t back out right now because I had to prove to Backroads that they did the right thing by giving me a second chance (remember, I wasn’t hired the first time I applied in 2016). So I kept quiet and soldiered on. The next trip that I was supposed to lead got canceled due to wildfires. Sigh of relief.
In August I joined Adam and a couple of other friends in Oregon for a mountain bike trip to Oakridge and Bend. It felt so good to be away from Berkley and the Bay area madness and back in the woods on my mountain bike. I love all types of two-wheeled rigs, but mountain biking is by far my favorite. The trip was awesome. Oakridge riding is world-class and still under the radar and Bend has been on my to-visit list for a while. Truthfully, I didn’t love Bend, though. It kinda has a PNW meets San Francisco feel and I’m neither a hipster or a techie. And while the riding was good, it was a little too cross-country for my tastes. But we went to an amazing Thai restaurant – Wild Rose Northern Thai. It was seriously some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had. And I’ve been to Thailand twice.
As our Oregon mountain bike trip was coming to an end, I got a call from my previous boss at Lindblad Expeditions (i.e. the ships). She asked if I was available to take a two-week contract through the Inside Passage from Seattle to Alaska at the end of September. Initially, I said no because I had biking trips scheduled with Backroads, but I thought about it for a couple of days and the idea of leading another Backroads trip just left me feeling anxious and stressed. So… I sent an email to the Backroads office saying that I was done, I quit. I didn’t do this lightly – I knew what havoc it would create for the scheduling team and I felt terrible about not completing the last few months of the season, but I really didn’t want to go back to the leader house in Berkley and I really didn’t want to continue to pretend that I loved being a trip leader. So, I went back to the ships and it felt like the right decision.
In September I also raced my first mountain bike race! I was a bit naive – actually A LOT naive – because I entered in the Pro category and got absolutely schooled. But it was fun and I finished and I didn’t come in last place ?. Read more about that experience here.
Things really fell apart in October. When I returned from Alaska, Adam and I realized that we were not compatible as partners and we parted ways – not on good terms. I was more upset about damaging our friendship than having the relationship fall apart. As a distraction, I headed to Downieville with my brother and sister-in-law for a weekend of super-fun riding. We rode over 50 miles in two days. It was awesome! I had also been concocting a plan to move away from the Eastern Sierra. I was living with my brother and sister-in-law and had basically been shunned from the group of friends I had made when Adam and I had our falling out. So, at the end of October, I moved to Durango. For two days. I had found an apartment on Craigslist, packed up my car with everything that I owned, and sent out a few resumes in hopes of finding a winter job. (I couldn’t get more contracts on the ships until April 2019, so winter was a bit of a waiting game). I arrived in Durango after a 15-hour marathon drive and almost instantly regretted my decision. I didn’t know anyone there, winter was only a few weeks away (I’m not a winter person), the apartment I had found was miles away from town and didn’t have cell service, and the roommate I would be living with was a super jacked cross-fit girl that wore a ton of make-up. The next morning I packed everything back up in my car and drove 15-hours back to the Eastern Sierra. #epicfail.
November was a low month. Adam and I had sorta patched our friendship back up and we went on a week-long trip to Palm Springs, Tucson, and Phoenix with another friend over Thanksgiving. But tensions were high and we did not get along for most of the trip. The riding was fun, though. Mt. Lemmon in Tucson had some amazing DH runs and we rode the National trail in Phoenix, which was a blast.
I don’t have much to say about December other than it was really hard. I tried to keep up with biking down in Bishop and kept busy doing massage work in Mammoth. But I was pretty dispirited about losing my Eastern Sierra friendship circle and having Backroads not be the ‘dream’ job that I had hoped it was. I just wanted Christmas to be over and the New Year to start.
My Year In Numbers
Countries Visited | 5
United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico
States Visited | 7
Alaska, California, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah
Sleeping Situations | 9
Airbnb: 18 nights
Airplane: 4 nights
Apartment: 37 nights
Camping: 13 nights
Family: 86 nights
Friends: 1 night
Hotel: 3 nights
Housesitting: 158 nights
Ship Cabin: 45 nights
Bike Trips | 4
Sedona, Oakridge/Bend, Downieville, Tucson/Phoenix
Days on a Bike | 63
Highs & Lows of 2018
- Backroads Leader Training in SLC
- Holding my niece for the first time!
- Starting a relationship with Adam
- Mountain biking Hiline in Sedona
- Kissing baby gray whales in Baja
- Visiting the Grand Canyon
- Mountain biking Oakridge, Oregon
- Riding the Palm Spring Epic
- Riding Mt. Lemmon in Tucson
- Major loneliness in January and February
- Extreme back pain for much of the second half of 2018. I don’t know what I did, but it was excruciating to stand or walk for more than 15 minutes. Biking was somehow ok, though
- Manny – my brother’s husky – got hit and killed by a car
- Ending a relationship with Adam and losing a good friend
What’s in Store for 2019
I don’t have too much planned for the new year other than heading back to the ships in April for a couple of contracts on the Columbia River and Alaska. I’m also planning on doing a mountain bike trip to Squamish in between contracts, which I’m super stoked about. I’ve never ridden in BC before, but sources say it’s amazing! I’m also hoping that 2019 brings a bit more stability than I experienced in 2018. Maybe a home base of my own, a healthy relationship, a job that is not the ships but still allows for freedom and flexibility… that’s not too much to ask for, right?
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