Interim – Introduction and Adventure 1

It’s the in-between time – the time between rides. It’s a year or less of work and trying to put away as much money into investments as possible. It’s time to rebuild the touring fund. It’s time to top up the emergency fund. It’s time to assess how to make the big leap into the unknown at the end of the job contract and leave all the comforts of office work behind. 

I used the Unscripted tour to see how my body could cope with physical stress; to see how well I had really recovered from the 4+ years of illness and how much abuse my guts could take before they rebelled. I learned what I needed to do and some things I need to work on/change. So now is the time to refine it and use the time in civilisation to really get my body in exceptional physical health before heading off again. 

And so I’m lumping all the rides and adventures I manage to undertake over the next 9-12 months in this Interim journal. It will chronicle whatever I manage to do in the meantime, while I’m putting away the cash. 

Really this interim period is a bit like how I see the disconnects in my life:

**There is a disconnect between my personal and professional lives.
**And there is a disconnect between my old American life and my Australian life. 

 I ride the thin edges of these disconnects. On one side I see one form of me; on the other side I see another.

It’s an odd feeling. I get it all the time when I’m working – my professional life is so far removed from my personal life. I feel like I live two different lives. I am a different person in my professional life – a quiet, calm collaborator that’s easy to work with and always follows through. I’m conscientious, punctual, kind, very organised and I approach everything with a can-do attitude. I get things done. 

Well, I guess we know what we are doing on Tues and Weds each week, lol.

On the other hand, in my personal life, I”m not afraid of risk or uncertainty. I guess so many things have happened in my life that were out of my control that I, perhaps, don’t approach my personal life with the project mgmt skills I utilise in my professional work. These days I’m just super flexible and take things as they come. 

I don’t care much about career and don’t approach the future with the level of organisation and conscientiousness that I do when managing work for other people. I just map out the direction I think I want to go and then go for it. The four years of sickness has reinforced my perspective that you need to go do what your heart tells you to do NOW and not wait for some time in the future. Age and health will force your dreams into smaller and smaller boxes as you get older (I’ve seen this time and again in retired folks), so go do the things you really want to do now while your physical and cognitive health present no limitations. 

My personal life came to work early in the contract, just so the guys could see where I am each day. I work on the top floor of a city building and we have great views. We can even see the snow up on Bogong during winter. The guys never came to work again… and no, those aren’t my paper files, I do EVERYTHING electronically these days.

I also ride that disconnect on trips back to the US to visit family and friends. Again, I feel like I’m two different people. When I return to the US, there’s this creepy ‘salmon swimming home’ feeling – like I remember who I was in those places I visit and I remember what it was like to exist in those environments. But it’s been such a long time since I was the American ‘me’ that I don’t relate at all to the present America, and the culture shock is full and real. I always feel a tug from the past that claws me back in time from my present self whenever I visit.  So much has happened in the 22 years I’ve lived overseas that visiting old friends, family and places I once lived transports me to this in-between place that is neither here nor there. 

In the end, I’m not meant for domesticity, and I feel most at home when I have no home other than a tent. America has not felt like home for quite a long time. And in Australia, I’ve lived in Albury/NE VIC for 20 years but it really feels like it will always be a ‘home base’ but not really a home. 

So I’ve been riding the disconnect with the job contract I started in May. And I’ve been riding the other disconnect the past three weeks while visiting my parents and a few friends in Colorado.

On our drive to Sydney – A Rainbow Connection – we thought it was a good omen for the trip. And it was… even though I flirted with Cyclone Hillary – timing my US arrival with the first tropical storm in a 100 years to hit CA – it was the smoothest flights and connections I’ve had in years (the return flights and connections were even easier!!).

I paid for the petrol for Nigel to drive us to Sydney to catch our flight, even though it is easier to just fly. This allowed Nigel to visit some friends and family – he’s lost an auntie and three uncles in the past 18 months. He’s also got a cousin in a very bad way and one of his childhood friend’s wives struggling with cancer… so he needed to go touch base with everyone and I was happy to help with the cost of getting up there to make it happen.
Ahhh… the crew all stretched out and hanging in the shade at Copper Mtn after 48 hours of being squished in the backpack while travelling to America. I took a shuttle from DIA to Copper this year so that my parents wouldn’t have the stress of driving in/to Denver or Colorado Springs. It worked out really well.

I was fortunate to have dinner with my college boyfriend’s mom and uncle (and his partner)  on the day I arrived in Denver. I really enjoyed time with them – his mom is so interesting to talk to because she is thoroughly across current events, politics and world affairs and can talk about them from a perspective based on an extensive knowledge of world history. Thanks, Catherine, I’ll look at several conflicts with a different understanding now….

And Evan’s 77-year-old uncle is pure inspiration – still competing in mountain biking and nordic skiing and working two days a week (for ‘fun’ and contribution to society, not because he needs the money). He stays in top condition all while managing a rare kidney disease that was supposed to kill him a decade ago. His motto, “there’s nothing I can’t do – I just might be slower and need to manage the hydration differently”. He also says the secret to maintaining ability is: “if it seems hard, do more of it, those are the skills you are going to lose if you don’t keep it up”. Thanks, Ken, I’ll think of you when I need to push myself to get out there after a long day at work. 

I also had several weeks with my parents. We got in a couple short hikes, managed to do my dad’s favourite alpine walk, and explored Copper Mountain a little bit. (Next year I think I might spend a bit of time there so I can get in some hiking and biking before heading down to see my parents).

Hiking down Chickaree Way at Copper Mtn.

We spent time finding places for the guys to float. I found a kayak that was absolutely perfect for Kermit for $1.25 at the cheap-o store. It was a fantastic low cost investment.

After this traditional float at Twin Lakes, Kermit went for his first paddle and surprised us with how well he went!
Frantz Lake – Salida.
Arkansas River, Salida.

We tested it out a few times in gentle waters, and after adding a bit of ballast for stability, he was out there  tackling the Arkansas River.  

I purchased Verne a jet ski with Kermit’s kayak, but Verne didn’t fit, so I asked my dad if he could turn it into a race car. And so, with his fantastic engineering skills, my dad built Kermit a quarter midget sprint car. 

Two of my favourite hot rod hoons. Everyone in town knows the sound of my dad’s car as he cruises the streets of Salida.

We tested it out at the skatepark as a proof of concept car trial. To ensure that Verne didn’t feel too left out, my dad attached a flat board to some dolly wheels and we strapped Verne to that. 

The guys had a fantastic time, but I think the person that enjoyed it the most was my dad. He looked so good up there on top of the ramps lining the guys up on the bowl edge and sending them down the near vertical drops.

Last year, when I stayed in Colorado for 10 weeks, I knew it was the right decision to spend that chunk of time with my parents then. I could foresee that future trips would see us only able to look at the mountains rather than spend time recreating within them. And yes, that was the right decision. We’re really already to that point – where my folks can’t do much hiking anymore. I hadn’t really expected that this soon, but it is what it is. At least they live somewhere beautiful, with good weather, so the great outdoors is there if they want to engage with it. 

Hiking the Beaseway.
Kermit fooling around on our Beaseway Hike – this is for Greg, the only human I know over 50 who can still do headstands.
Monarch Crest Trail.
Lunch cafe on the Monarch Crest Trail – I was trying out a new 50 SPF hoodie this day – I like it, but don’t think I would in temps over 30C.
On our way back to Monarch Pass. The peak in the background on the right is Taylor Peak – a thirteener I did last year with my guys.
Since my folks have a low activity level these days, I tried to go for some early morning hikes on the S-Mountain trails to wake my body up after a full winter of pretty much no activity, lots of sitting and lots of office hours. I was rewarded with a few nice sunrises like this one – taken from my parents driveway at about 7300 ft, looking up to those 14,000 foot peaks on the other side of the valley.
The August supermoon, blue moon about to set.

I spent the last few days catching up with two of my uni friends – it’s hard to believe that we’ve been friends for 29 and 27 years, respectively. It was fantastic to see them and find out how life is treating them. We have all grown so much in that time, and they both have achieved so much in life. I do miss them and wish I could see them more often, but it’s that whole disconnect thing: my life is in Oz, and that temporary suspension of time when I visit the people and places from my past, can never last. After a bit, it’s always time to go home and back to the life I’ve built over the past 25 years. 

Sometimes you get very lucky in your random dorm roommate assignment in your first year at uni and you remain friends for life. I highly value our life debrief catch-ups once a year and have so much respect and admiration for all that she has done in life, even if it is not a life I would want to lead.

So the travel back home went scarily smooth. In fact, they had to delay our flight out of LAX so that we wouldn’t arrive before Sydney airport’s nightly noise curfew concluded. What is normally over 15 hours of flight time was only 13.30 hours because of a super huge blocking high in the Pacific.

It was unhealthily smoky in Sydney when we arrrived – a very Aussie welcome home. I got a shower in Sydney during my five-hour layover which is always sooo good after more than 24 hours of travel. Please don’t ever remodel out those public free showers in the international terminal!

That big high pressure system meant my flight to Albury arrived 15 minutes early (pretty impressive for a 65 minute flight). And in LAX, SYD and ABX… my backpack was already waiting for me on the baggage carousel when I walked up each time. Thanks, travel gods, I guess I’m still getting karma payback for that miserable 3 months of cold and rain last Oct-Dec 🙂

Now it’s back to spring and longer days. It’s also back to work which should get exponentially busier over the next six months. The summer is forecast to be hellishly hot and dry, so I’m not sure how much riding will get done. I may spend all my time trying to keep my friends’ lawn green and plants alive.

The trees all started to leaf out while I was away. And we are now entering the time of year when you don’t have to plan out when you are going to do your laundry based on breaks in the weather and allowance for three days for everything to dry. You just have to plan around bushfire smoke. However, I have a lot of weeding to catch up on though after 3.5 weeks away. The lawn also gets a weed and feed treatment tomorrow. I really, really am not made out for this domesticity stuff!

Should I do any fun rides over the next 9-12 months, I’ll stick them in this journal.  I’m already counting down the days to the end of the contract and pondering how I’m going to make a very big leap once the work contract concludes.

Hmmm…. there’s still a lot to fill in isn’t there? Let’s say the contract ends sometime between 30 June and 31 August 2024, and there are three weeks in America in Sept, that leaves Oct-Jan for more VIC exploration before heading to Tassie for Feb-April 2025….

12 thoughts on “Interim – Introduction and Adventure 1

  • Thank you (and Kermit) for staging the headstand for me. And, yes, I can still do the headstands 15 years beyond 50 (must be that excellent kinesthetic sense my wresting coach was referring to) although I can’t hold the position as long as I used to. When I was in my 20’s, I could stand upside-down like that for as long as I wanted to–or for as long as somebody dared me to. Now, after about a minute, my head starts pounding from all the blood that has rushed down to it.

    It’s great that you could get back to Colorado to see your folks. Here in the U.S., it would be the rare employer that would give you three weeks off until you’ve been on the job for at least a year.

    You’re right about age and health forcing dreams into smaller and smaller boxes for us retirees. Also, the age and health of family members & pets can have the same effect, as I’ve learned over the past couple of years.

    Thanks for posting the update. I especially enjoyed the pictures of the mountains, the hotrod, and the rainbow.

    • I don’t think I’ve done a headstand since about age 10. Bikes and basketball took over then. You may lose your other sense(s), but as long as you retain the kinesthetic one, you are good to go in continuing to ride into your old age 🙂

      Yes, I have a great boss who was supportive of me taking the time off since the trip was already planned before starting the job. You will note I took unpaid leave and I did do emails and attend meetings while I was away. Over 1/4 if Aussies were born overseas so it’s very common for people to take leave to visit family. Most full time jobs here get 4 weeks annual leave. Since I won’t take anymore significant leave during the contract, that will get paid out to me at the end and make up for taking unpaid leave now.

      Yes, your touring has been curtailed by responsibilities to others. I’m just glad you were retired before needing to help your dad. I’ve worked with so many people trying to do parent care while still working and to say it’s a real pain in the arse is a huge understatement! What help my parents will need when is still a bit of a wildcard but I’m certainly dreading what will be involved….

  • Hi Em
    You seem to have had a good trip, but I already miss your bike trip posts. You live like we all wish we could. Go do your dreams now because of climate change. It may be worse than health limitations later for snuffing out dreams.

    My mom thinks you are amazing. Thank you for making time to see her. She loves when people listen to her historical analysis! Ken is very proud of you and wants you to acclimate to elevation next year in winter park, not copper. Think about it – it’s humbling to get your butt kicked by a 77 yr old on the trail, haha.

    Keep an eye on Kermit in the kayak, he’s a natural paddler.

    • I had a nice time with your family, even though I was pretty jetlagged. Maybe ken could come to Copper – maybe if some of my other friends can make it, we could have a big party worthy of a ski resort!

      I wish your mom was my mother in law… because mine certainly doesn’t think much of me, even though I have helped her son out significantly over the years.

  • Kermit looks really good in his canoe – stable and in command and it will open up a lot of floating for him.

    You chose the right time to fly – no plane hassles and missed the eye of the storm. From the pictures it comes across that you had a good time with your Parents. Verne’s board went well on the skate park slope. Must have been pleased to outdo Kermit in the racer – I wasn’t sure as your Dad lined it up but it went well. Very well.

    Minding your friend’s house is ideal – I was wondering what you would find for housing with all our rental issues at the moment. OK so you have to get gardening 😬but that’s a lot better than fighting mould or other crap in a rental. As you project ramps up though, so will the lawn and the weeds!!

    I think I mentioned the Tasmanian Trail to you as maybe something to look at riding in Tassie. I read recently that the managing group (which is from the horse riding community) had a meeting to discuss the fact that the majority of users in recent years have been gravel bike / bike packing riders. I thought they would be annoyed but it’s the opposite. The group is looking at how they can make things better for cyclists!! Here is a link to the website so, in a free minute or two, you can dream. There’s also quite a bit on YouTube.

    • Thanks, Tony. Yes, you mentioned the Tasmanian Trail and I’ve read and seen some things about it. I’m not too big on designated trails… too many people. But I’ll likely use it to link up other bits and pieces. I haven’t had a chance to look in any detail though.

      Looking after my friends place is a nice favour but I’m losing time and money being here. If I worked from home it would be better, but I don’t. I did just spend 1.5 days weeding and filled an entire bin but haven’t even really touched it yet. I will be away for 2-3 weeks at a time in Feb, March and April and am worried about how lack of watering will go then. That, combined with how much more money I’m spending on petrol, utilities and garden maintenance than I would be in town makes me think I need to reassess things come December.

      It was good to see the folks but sad to see the decline in balance and ability in just 12 months. At least they live in a gorgeous place as they slow down

  • Em, it’s great to hear how you’ve been doing. Thanks for this post. Sounds like it was a great trip back to the US to visit friends and family. And so nice that you’ve been able to overcome the health issues.
    I really enjoy reading about your approach to life; work hard, but then devote quality time to your personal life. In my life before retirement, it was much more of a daily struggle trying to balance the two. I think you’re definitely on the right track.
    Looking forward to future updates.

    • Thank you, Bob. Very nice to hear from you. I do t know that I’ve got the work/personal life sorted or not. There is no such thing as work-life balance on a day to day basis anymore. Everyone I know works long hours and has too much crammed into their job descriptions. There is also no job security and wages and working conditions continue to decline. So… I’m trying to figure out a different way of doing things, as traditional ways of approaching work don’t lead anywhere these days. With so much work done under contract these days, I’m at least trying to make that work for me. It’s probably all ok for the next 5-7 years, and then I’ll start running into age discrimination. But who knows… I haven’t seen anyone to use as a role model for how I want to live life, so I’m kinda winging it!

  • Hi Em, Thanks for the narrative of your trip to Salida. We enjoyed having the whole crew here for some fun and the requisite chatter they bring. The pictures and videos are a pleasant reminder of the times we spent together. The seasonal beaches have reappeared along the Arkansas River as the water flow has been reduced. Vern and Kermit have floated here long enough to be considered “locals”. Your stay with us is memorable, Love, Dad

    • Thanks, Dad. It was a good trip and I lucked out on the weather for sure. The guys are eagerly anticipating floats and fast cars next year. They seem to forget the super long hours squished on an airplane quicker than I do. I’ll try to keep their float skills up to date here. Love, em

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