Life Lately: Big & Small

So much has happened in the last months of spring and into the summer; where to start?

I graduated from Alaska Pacific University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Creative & Professional Writing. The school wrote a featured blurb about me on their website if you want to read it! At this link and scroll down a little. I did not attend the graduation ceremony because Covid-19 finally got me! I successfully evaded it for 2 years, but all good things come to an end. In lieu of the celebrations, I managed to get on my road bike every day and curb most of the symptoms by breathing it out (definitely not supported by science but it worked for me, at least psychologically).

I spent the spring skiing as much as possible. For the first time since surgery, I felt painless, comfortable, fast, and like I was having fun. I jumped in the 10km classic Race to the Outhouse #2 at Government Peak Recreational Area in Palmer, Alaska and snagged the win! And I got to wear my new learngrantwriting.org headband 🙂

My sister, Meredith, and I also went on as many backcountry adventures as we could before the snow melted. We crust skied to Portage Glacier in Whittier, Alaska. It was absurdly cold conditions, but 100% worth it once we got warm Kaladi’s coffee and Kate’s Epic Bites in our bellies.

The corn snow in the front range was really solid this year, too, so we jumped at every chance to get in some touring. We took my gradation pictures on top of Peak 2 and skied down in dresses. I would recommend this, it is surprisingly comfortable and I got lots of compliments; I felt like a snow princess 🙂

When all the snow melted, my roommates, friends, teammates, and I had s’mores and moose steaks in the back yard pretty much every night. I am very grateful to have met and made so many great friends this spring, especially after feeling isolated from everything for the past few years.

And just as quickly as I made all these great memories and connections, I packed my car up to move to Vermont! I took two days to build a bed for the back of my car with scrap wood in our shed, cleaned out my room, loaded my car, had a final Bear’s Tooth pork zucchini tacos with my sister, and set off.

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In 7 days, 5,177 miles, and an exorbitant amount of gas money, I made it from west coast to east coast. I have a lot of thoughts about this trip, it is hard not to when you spend that much time on the road with nothing but your thoughts. Too many thoughts for one blog post, but I will try to summarize the highlights.

I started driving with a simple plan: drive until you’re tired. This made the car bed a vital tool so I could pull over and sleep wherever. Day 1, I drove for 10 hours, 538 miles, and made it into Canada. This was the most beautiful section of the drive and there was more dirt road than I expected. This is such a highly traveled route, I almost expected more of it to be paved. Ironically, the dirt road sections were smoother driving than the paved! I saw so many beautiful mountains, lakes, bears, moose, caribou, bison, porcupines, wild horses, you name it! I finally pulled over when I almost hit a bear because it blended in with the night and pavement. It was very cold night with frost plastering my windows, but I stayed warm and cozy in my sleeping bag.

Day 2, I drove 20 hours, 1,037 miles, and was still in Canada. I knew Canada was big, but I didn’t really grasp the distance until I was experiencing it. I have no logical explanation for why I drove this all in one stint, maybe because there is more sunlight this time of year, but I figured as long as I am awake and alert, I might as well keep going. Through this section, there is a strong natural resource extraction presence. As I entered one such zone, there was a large sign that said this area is monitored by the citizens. There was essentially no state or federal police occupancy. In fact, I did not see any law enforcement from Anchorage to Calgary. That’s 2,000 miles of essentially free-will land. Now, I’m not saying I agree with the Freedom Convoy, but I can understand their perspective of not being used to government control. Like I said, I had lots of time to think.

Day 3 started out promising as I was supposed to arrive at my parents house in the wee hours. However, 10 hours and 673 miles later, I arrived at the Piegan, Montana boarder crossing to discover it closed at 6:30pm; I arrived at 6:40pm. I absolutely would have made it if I was not stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in Calgary, which I had no idea was a massive city! (comparable to Salt Lake City, Utah if you’re like me and have never seen it) After not seeing much civilization for the last few days, I crested a hill to see skyscrapers and was sufficiently baffled. This is also where a man stopped me at a gas station to let me know that I had a bird stuck in my bumper. I distinctly remembering hitting that bird in the Yukon, oopsies. Something that stood out to me, on this section, was seeing litter. There was almost none for the last few thousand miles, and it was a sad reminder that the presence of people was coupled with the presence of their trash.

Day 4, an open boarder, 9.5 hours, and 555 miles later, I made it to the ranch in Wyoming. Just in time for my sister Andrea’s birthday dinner too! Here I picked up my biathlon rifle (it was easier to ship it than drive it across the boarder), took a shower, and slept in a proper bed for the first time in 48 hours. And of course was showered in kisses from my puppy, Ace! Everyone was bummed I wasn’t staying longer, but I knew if I stopped driving, I wouldn’t want to start again. `

So off I went for 883 miles in 14.5 hours on day 5. It was through Nebraska that I witnessed the most amazing sunset. The wide open sky was painted pink and orange with the moon hanging in the sky for an entire hour. This trip taught me that there is beauty everywhere, even in the flat midwest states we like to make fun of. This is also when I realized that majority of Canada and the United States is rural farm or ranch land. Again, I didn’t truly see the scale of it until I experienced it.

Day 6 was 17.5 hours and 616 miles of hell. This was the first day I really was not enjoying this trip. Being in Iowa was the first time I felt unsafe being a woman, by myself, sleeping on the side of the road because the only place to pull over was a packed parking lot with others doing the same thing as me. My logic may be completely backwards where company made me more uneasy than being secluded. I crossed the Mississippi River and couldn’t even get excited about it. Then, in Indiana, my phone broke! (I sadly lost a lot of the really cool photos and videos I took on this trip and what I do have a really blurry sorry!) My only form of communication and map was now gone. By shear will power or possible divine intervention, I found an Apple store and spent 4 hours trying to get my phone fixed before I gave up and bought a new one. It really put into perspective that one iPhone 11 is equivalent to 11 tanks of gas! I take back every nice thing I said earlier about the midwest.

And finally, 875 miles and 10.5 hours later, I made it to Vermont on Day 7. According to the internet this trip should take 10 days, so I may have driven a little too fast, but myself, my belongs, and my car made it in one piece! Which surprised everyone because Frank, my 2011 Subaru Forester, is a literal sh*t box on wheels. My concluding thoughts on this final stretch is that I dislike New York because they have tolls, everyone who told me I had to try Tim Horton’s coffee is cruel because that was the worst coffee I have ever had in my life, yay my bikes didn’t get stolen, and only eating dried mango and red bull for a week straight did not do me any favors; I was a shell of a human being for a few days after.

I compiled a short and mediocre highlight video which can be viewed on my instagram here!

So, why did I move to Vermont? As I was in my final semester of college, I realized I didn’t want to feel like I wasted my college years recovering from a surgery and that competing isn’t worth continuing. I did not want to give up on my biathlon dreams (read: I didn’t want to work a big kid job yet). I feel like I have only just gotten started and I didn’t want to close that chapter. Basically, I didn’t want to live my life with a big “what if”?” I also had the stark realization I cannot continue pursuing this dream while living in Alaska, both physically and financially. An opportunity presented itself, the Vermont National Guard Biathlon Team, a professional ski team full of Olympians, World Cup and IBU Cup athletes, and generally amazing people. It became a no-brainer I wanted to be a part of this. Joining the military and moving across the country to pursue my goals was big commitment, but I figured I have the rest of my life to pursue a “real” career, so why not embrace this unique opportunity?

When I started this road trip, I had a bit of an identity crisis around Tok, Alaska. It took 400 miles for it really hit me that I am leaving what I have called home for the last 4 years. My friends, family, familiar places. I got misty eyed before I realized you cannot drive and cry at the same time.

I have now been in Vermont for about 3 months, and can say I like it here. My curly hair is an absurd frizzy mess in this humidity, but that is besides the point. Highlights have been celebrating my 22nd birthday with the team, visiting cousins in Maine on the Fourth of July, and a concert with my aunt in Massachusetts; states are so close together over here!

This weekend, August 6-7, is the US Biathlon Summer Nationals (rollerskiing), and I am excited to put a bib on and give it a shot, pun intended 😉 After that, I will return to Alaska and then go to Army basic training. I am unsure how my ski season will look since my obligation to finishing basic comes first, but that is ok and we will just go with the flow. If you read all that, thank you and I am impressed you cared enough to do so!

I hope you have an amazing day 🙂

Oops I realized while uploading this photo the poor bird is in my bumper

My phone and dirty windshield do not do this sunset justice