21 December 2015

Gratuitous Dog Pictures

A month and a half. Oops. Ideas for posts have flitted through my head but for the most part they're either belly-aching (I like to keep the negativity to a minimum on the internet) or broken records (there are only so many ways to say, Happy happy joy joy). I could write an ode to technical outerwear and how nice it is to stay dry and warm in winter conditions. I could write about how I had to get creative entertaining myself outside because the snow refused to fly...but that's so two weeks ago. Now we're getting 3-5 inches a day, which has lead to very enjoyable days in the backcountry and at the resort. I could write about how scared I am of avalanches. Weird early season weather gave us and most of the west some very unstable layers that we'll have to contend with for at least the next month. But I don't want to get too far into that because my family is already unnerved by my snow pursuits. Understand this: I am very timid and at the slightest whiff of elevated danger, I'll happily settle with in-bounds skiing. The experts talk about varied risk tolerance and mine is way over at the low end of the scale.

My parents are divesting themselves of the bakery, and I'm so happy for them, but between that and the disturbing threat of loss of mountain bike access, Brevard is feeling less and less like home. (And it doesn't snow there.) This past year I paid attention to current events again after almost a decade of being an uninformed wastrel and my god there's some scary, sickening stuff going on. It almost makes me want to crawl back in my hole.

So instead of talking more about any of those topics, here are some pictures of my dog,

Sophie finds bike vanity pictures a little odd but as long as I promise to take her for a run around the neighborhood, she doesn't give me a hard time.

Sophie loves playing in the backcountry with her best friend Darby the pocket-sized golden retriever. When it gets cold she wears her pink coat, which is both cozy and fetching.

Sophie can't contain her excitement when I go stir crazy sitting around the house and decide to go for a fat bike ride.

This is my most recent addition to the quiver. Surly Krampus 29+, cheap, heavy, and bombproof. Great for the daily commute but it's not quite a fat bike so powder riding is very challenging.

At this point we're basically living in a Christmas card.

And yeah, the turns have been pretty darn phenomenal.

05 November 2015

First Snow

The dog has been a handful. I wander around under my own dark cloud. This morning it isn't raining, only a gentle snow. I text the boss: Coming in late. We go for a run on Rush Hour. The ground is crunchy. My joints ache from too much biking, not enough running. I think, I want to buy waterproof running shoes. The dog bounds up and down the trail. We pass T-Race riding with her dogs Rippin and Chillin. Our greetings billow like smoke from our mouths. My brain turns off. For the first time since April, the dog does not want to go in the creek afterwards.

Back home, I drink lukewarm coffee and feed the dog pieces of apple. I put on lots of layers and ride to work. I am very pleased with my appropriate clothing choices. The factory is chilly but I am wrapped in a bubble of good humor. I tell my fellow barmakers, Whenever I am grumpy, tell me to go for a run. We are chatty and cheerful. We sass the boss. He always wears a wry, bemused face around us.

They leave. I continue making Tram Bar. The new barmaker comes in at three. She is still quiet and bright-eyed, not sassy. Soon, I think. I subject her to my favorite financial podcast. She claims not to mind. I finish and pedal home in the dark cold. The road is very slightly uphill. I am sweating through my puffy and my beanie sags over my eyes. I see the stream of headlights on the highway from Jackson. I think, I would never ever ever ever choose to be in a car in that long line rather than here on my bike. 

I look at pictures on Facebook of friends skiing. I download a surprise collaboration album from Big Boi and Phantogram. I let the dog out. She goes to the neighbor's yard where the viscera of an antelope freeze in the grass. I stand under the street lamp, watching the snow's silent barrage. The first fall is the most beautiful. I think, This particulate from the sky dictates my happiness for five months. 

09 October 2015

On Vanity

These girls! Mountain bikers with their artful side braids, trendy matte visored helmets never awkwardly tilted, never exposing unseemly forehead. Their logo'd raglan three quarter length tees look suited for playing sandlot softball but hug curves and wick moisture like butterfly wings. Their shorts are tailored but not tight, never gaping above kneepads, never riding down in the back to expose undershorts or the dreaded crack. Even at the most unflattering, posterior-widening, torso-shortening angles these girls look perfect, "shred-ready" but approachable. You want to buy them a beer and ask for their number. Even if you are a straight girl.

These skier girls. Winter outerwear presents a more forgiving profile but I still get it wrong. Certain colors and brands scream "I am here on my bi-yearly ski vacation from Florida." I don't want to scream that, or even whisper it. These girls with their bug-eyed reflective goggles and be-stickered helmets, artful side braids again poking fetchingly out from their protective headwear. Uber-technical shell jackets, dirty on the elbows from 100+ days of riding lifts but still appealingly color-blocked with contrasting zippers on trend for this season. Pants that are neither too tight (poser? tween?) nor too baggy (boy butt? ski bum saddle bags?). Even the way these girls stand, on skis or at the bar, natural, unselfconscious, athletic. They probably do yoga in the off-season. Photographers love these girls.

I will never be one of these girls.

My ass is too large to be disguised by light breathable bike shorts.

I always miss the memo on this season's outerwear trends.

I don't own goggles or sunglasses that hide my eyes, which always beseech the viewer: am I doing it right? Do you approve?

My side braid is never artful.

But maybe it's OK. I still get to experience the lifestyle that these girls represent. Even if I will never look as cool/effortless/beautiful while living it.

05 October 2015

The Gravel Pursuit

Two weekends ago now, the Petervarys put on the inaugural JayP Backyard Gravel Pursuit, a 60/120 mile gravel grinder in Island Park, ID. Tyler was out of town so I took Sophie to have a sleepover with some of her best friends at SegoHaus and snagged a ride north with Gary, a fellow gravel grinder. We joined up with a solid Teton Valley contingent at the campsite and after some pasta and beer I had the best night of outdoor sleep I've had possibly ever, thanks to perfect temps and a massive thrift store Coleman airpad. 

The 60 mile start line
All pics courtesy of JayP
We started at eight. I coveted the other bikes. Most people these days are either riding modern cyclocross bikes (disc brakes, big tire clearance) or actual gravel grinders* (mountain bike geometry, huge tire clearance), but I am still on Deutschbike, who is perfectly engineered to goreallyfast for 45 minutes on a dry cyclocross course. Whatever. I spent my whole bike budget on the fun stuff.

*I just realized I used the phrase "gravel grinder" to refer to an event, a person, and a bike. It's so utilitarian! 

After five miles of dodging people and puddles I finally felt awake. I caught Gary and together we blew apart the woman who had been stubbornly sitting on his wheel. Then we hit pavement, a long unexpected climb with a civilized grade. Long gentle climbs are the one thing I truly love about road riding. Every hill crest brought another incline and I was overjoyed, because the more miles of paved uphill there were, the less of a disadvantage I'd be at with my tiny tires and inadequate brakes. I was reeling in dude after dude (ok, so there are two things I love about road riding) and I was on fire. At this point I was counting every unhatched chicken I could lay hands on. Victory, victory, I thought in time with my pedal cadence. 

Then, after the climb, on some unremarkable flat gravel section, I heard psssshhh.

Shit. 

Fixed the front tire pretty quickly (for me) but half the women's field had passed me, looking strong. I settled in for the chase. The feeling of invincibility had disappeared. 

During the grind I didn't forget to look around. We mostly traveled through nondescript lodgepole pine forests but sometimes the course surfaced above the trees and the views were breathtaking. The cobalt sky graced a lush green valley dotted with bright gold aspen groves and surrounded by slate gray peaks. 
Yeah, that view
I came through the aide station for the second time, still sitting in third with eight miles to go, still in no man's land. The next stretch was insulting: very slightly uphill in kitty litter gravel with a headwind. I followed all the other tire tracks as they tacked all across the road on the hunt for firmer ground. 

A huge pick-up came barreling toward me and as I concentrated on holding my line in the soft shoulder, I blew through an intersection. After riding five more miles to the highway without seeing a finish line, I turned around, shattered. I castigated myself when I realized there had been no tire tracks on the road for the entire last stretch. Back at the intersection, I saw an arrow that I'd passed. It was being buffeted by the wind, but to my right was another course marking reassuring me of the turn. I followed and saw lots of tracks again. Whew. 

Unfortunately, I had no idea that the finishing stretch was the same as the start, and that I was following the morning's route deeper onto the course. I had apparently absorbed nothing of the first ten miles because nothing looked familiar. But I started feeling deeply uneasy as I continued traveling south with no sign of the finish. Without any idea of why the arrows had led me astray, I started looking for a road that would cut west toward the highway. It was several miles before one appeared though, and I was too nervous to backtrack, because I was out of water and didn't have another spare tube. I had to stop several times on the never-ending ATV road and rethink the steps I had taken, but they still seemed sound. I knew I was going west and I couldn't be more than five or so miles from the highway. While on my first wrong turn I was cursing and sprinting, this time I was more pragmatic, knowing if I didn't figure out a way back I would truly be up shit creek. 

Finally after six agonizing, thirsty miles of second-guessing myself, I found a paved road and an RV couple who gave me directions and water. I was another seven hilly miles from the lodge but it was paved and I had water, beef jerky, and a tailwind. 
JayP's Backyard Pursuit (left) vs. Julia's Backyard Pursuit (right)
I mashed back into town feeling strong and happy. I had to check in with all my worried friends and just managed to catch JayP before he went out looking. I felt like a huge asshole. He'd told us the night before: bring two spare tubes and bring the course map. But I'd thought since I was doing "the casual distance" that such warnings didn't apply to me.

We stuck around to cheer on the other participants who were still rolling in, the hardmen who raced the 120, the gently stoned recreationalists who relished every lovely mile, and the midwestern family of four on fat bikes that had rallied and finished the 60 with smiles on their faces. Seeing their perseverance and good attitudes humbled me, and I decided a little less swagger and a little better preparation would probably serve me well in future endeavors. (But how many times have I learned that particular lesson, to no avail?) 
Riding in fall is the finest
At the racers' meeting the night before, JayP had said, "This is the inaugural Gravel Pursuit, and when this race gets huge, you will be able to say proudly, I was there for the first one." I absolutely believe that is true, because despite my foibles, it was a beautifully designed course and a flawless event. 

16 September 2015

Vignettes

Cool things have happened but while I had a half-written blog post for each floating around in my head, time passed and my thoughts dissipated into the ether. So instead, the past month, fast and dirty:
Beer paired dinner
Pic courtesy of Katie
After our incandescent experience last year, and with everyone's cellar close to overflowing with sexy beers, some of the brewery staff and various significant others decided to have our own beer paired dinner. We each brought a course and several exciting beers to consume in the best possible company. The fact that I can recall each course a month later speaks to the fineness of the meal.

Appetizers were bruschetta with chevre, sage, and balsamic-reduced onions with a rich "triple Tripel", and rare elk backstrap in a summer roll presentation with an herbaceous pale ale. Next was grilled peach, almond, and peppery arugula salad with a piquant selection of wild sours. Then over-the-top potatoes au gratin, the smoky bacon enhanced by a smooth porter on nitro. The main course was short rib sliders on a parsnip puree with extra horseradish, paired with a couple big brassy barleywines. We retired to the garage for a while to play ping-pong, let dinner rest, and drink lighter fare: week-old IPAs from one of the best breweries in the country, some delicate Berliner weisse, some easy-drinking pilsners. Dessert was salted caramel brownies with ice cream and the big guns came out to play: the bourbon barrel-aged quads, barleywines, and porters with their individual boxes and heady backstories. Dinner lasted a languid six hours, and we lined up thirty dead soldiers to photograph; hundreds of dollars worth of beer and a priceless experience.
The folks, doing the only touristy thing I permitted
Pic courtesy of Debs
I had been looking forward to my parents' visit for a very long time and it did not disappoint. As I'd hoped, they drove through Jackson from the airport, and having seen the kitsch shops and faux old-timey wooden sidewalks, did not require me to waddle around all the crowded hotspots with them. Instead of being tourists, they just fell easily into my routine: lots of reading, mountain biking, taking my spoiled little dog on runs, cooking great dinners, hanging out at the pub. We had some uncharacteristically late boozy nights talking about beer and life and real estate. Debbie was every bit the financial advisor/fount of wisdom I needed her to be, and Bill provided running commentary on, you know, everything. They met most of the really important people in my life and came away (I assume) with a much better understanding of why I can't pry myself away from the middle of nowhere Idaho.
Attempting to charge
Pic courtesy of Grand Targhee
Instead of racing Pierre's Hole again, I turned my sights on another Targhee race I knew would be less well-attended and that offered an obscene pay-out. It was a 25 mile XC and a long DH and the combined best placing on the same bike won the overall. I felt pretty good about that. Bill decided to race the XC too, to my delight, and finished strong, an impressive feat on a tough, high-altitude course, on an unfamiliar bike, after an extremely stressful summer. My fields were small and a little short on competition but I did spend the first half of the XC duking it out with a couple ladies. During the DH I had little confidence in a win after my humbling enduro experience but had a clean, fastish run and got to stand on top of the box for both races and the overall.

Teton Region High School MTB team (some of it, anyway)
Pic courtesy of Todd
Last weekend saw the first ever Idaho high school mountain bike race (hosted in Wyoming, ironically). The kids on our team are not only great riders, they're also some of the coolest, friendliest, most positive kids I've ever had the pleasure of hanging out with. We scored a good number of podiums, all from the middle-schoolers and underclassmen, which means the team is only going to get stronger. Almost two hundred kids participated and the atmosphere was full of infectious stoke. I was really happy to be a part of it. 

Now it's forty degrees and raining, with all reports indicating snow on the peaks. I am more than happy to put a great summer to rest and sally forth into winter.

12 August 2015

It's Not All Butterflies and Rainbows

For the past year our landlords have kindly given us the pleasure of paying thousands of dollars to live in a 600 square foot apartment above a garage, but the main house recently went on the market and when we begged to go month-to-month until it sold, we were brushed off.

I thought when we were on the hunt a year ago that the rental situation was dire, but this year the supply has dwindled even more, the demand is higher, and prices have skyrocketed. We've followed every possible lead (along with every other responsible, fully-employed twenty- and thirty-something couple in the valley) and best case scenario, we'll be homeless for a month, house-hopping and depending on the kindness of our friends. Assuming our current best option doesn't fall through. Worst case, sign a Draconian lease in an exorbitantly expensive place outside of town, figure out how to cope as a one-car family, and hope the landlord lets us pack the house with ski bum friends in similar straits.

I don't care how small my home is but I want a permanent non-mobile place where I can keep my toys safe and prepare the same breakfast every morning. I love our tiny apartment and I love the neighborhood. It's a themed subdivision but the theme is so appealing: energy efficient houses filled with outdoorsy people, where everyone waves to each other as they bike by and friendly dogs run amok. Buying a home has never been so attractive but we're just not quite there yet. It's not the immediate fix we need and even if we were to start the onerous process, there's a low likelihood we could afford the house we want.

My worries have spun around in the rock tumbler of my brain until they're smooth and hard and invulnerable. Anxiety has my chest in a vise grip. Yesterday I felt too tired and sad and stressed to go to high school mountain bike practice so I just simmered in my unhappiness on the couch instead. This morning a coach sent out an email chiding everyone--apparently I picked the same day to flake that most of the other coaches did. This added some nice guilt and a heightened sense of obligation to my stewpot of unpleasant emotions.

I went for a run hoping to alleviate some of the choking anxiety. I followed a little guerrilla trail that I'd never explored before. The wet itchy grasses slashed my thighs and I felt leaden with hopelessness. I could barely muster up the energy to yell greetings at the megafauna that was undoubtedly hanging out nearby. ("Hey moose! Go away moose!") At a downed tree halfway up I halted, nonplussed, and had a big ugly cry. Even this small obstacle seemed insurmountable. Sophie stopped terrorizing all the resident squirrels and chipmunks long enough to come see if I was ok.

Eventually I got bored of standing still and kept going uphill, still crying a little. I got to the top of a minor ridge where the trail petered out and I studied some of my favorite ski lines across Stateline Canyon. They look steeper in the summer.

I started running downhill and all the bad thoughts that had been clinging to my brain got jostled around until they let go, leaving my mind serenely empty for the first time in a while. It wasn't much of a workout, and my legs developed little rashes from all the vegetation, but I got twenty minutes of mental silence. I guess sometimes that's all you can ask from a run.

03 August 2015

The Grand Enduro

The morning was really hot and the sun intense as I stood in the long registration line at the Grand Enduro, squinting and wearing my knee pads loose around my ankles because that's how everyone else's were. I was feeling antsy because I knew there'd be no time for a warm-up and the first stage went right off the lift onto the Traverse Trail and Sticks'n'Stones, a real ass-kicker. 

It's easy to make fun of enduro racing but after I registered, I found myself caring really hard. It was a new discipline for me, on home turf, that challenged newly acquired skills, i.e. going downhill. I studied the course, talked strategy with friends, and stalked the pre-reg list trying to glean some confidence. 
Targhee is the tits
Pic courtesy of Fisher Creative
The first stage, like I said: ass-kicker. Sticks'n'Stones rewards smoothness, flow, and good body English as you ratchet your pedals over a couple miles of square-edged rocks and pray you don't slam the back wheel hard enough to flat. I was conservative and timid with a bunch of the Cat 2 guys buzzing past me, but I saw at least half of them again as they repaired flat tires next to the trail amidst the wildflowers. 

The first stage was over, smooth. There was a crew of riders clustered at the end so I stopped, uncertain, and asked an official if I could go ahead. "You can do whatever you want in an enduro." 

Mellow pedal. Stage 2 was a quick smilefest down Colter's Escape, fast and curvy. Then I sat at the bottom and prepared for the 38 Special transfer and what I would consider the Queen Stage. The climb was long and hot but I soft-pedaled happily and chatted with a couple locals.I love not racing uphill! I thought as I took in the incredible views. I had left the bro brigade behind and the field was spread out. Stage 3 was Peaked Trail and Andy's, a long descent speckled with climbs. The uphills were long enough that I sat down and mashed like an XC racer instead of standing up and charging like a DH racer. 

Another stage finished, still no mistakes. Tyler and my Sego friends spotted me in the woods and started hollering. I pedaled up to them grinning and full of happy words. Tyler was shocked. Bike racing usually makes me grumpy and unpleasant, but I was having a wonderful time. I did the quick climb to Stage 4. Micheal, my favorite crusty mechanic, was there and I said, "This is the most civilized way ever to race a bike! Stoke levels at an all-time high!" I did Stage 4 with little ado, fun forested singetrack with occasional rock drops. I greeted some more friends at the base, ate a Tram Bar, used the facilities (so civilized!) and hopped on the lift for the final stage, Buffalo Drop and Bullwinkle. The liftie said there were only five dudes in front of me. I wish that was an actual indicator of race success. 

The ride up was serene but I started getting nervous at the top, reviewing the major obstacle ahead: Buffalo Drop. It's a ten-footer that I don't hit but the go-around is a steep loose chute that is easy but committing, and the Third Law of Bike Racing is that if you're going to screw up a line, it'll be at the feature that attracts the biggest heckling squad. 
Heckle crew at Buffalo Drop. If you look closely
you can see Tyler with a cowbell.
Pic courtesy of Mitch
I started the stage and quickly came to the drop, but my line was roped off! I choked out, "Where's the go-around?" and the course marshal pointed right, to a line I'd never seen before. It was a steep, dusty, awkward switchback with some root and rock action in it, and I almost lost my front wheel but rode it out. The crowd cheered loudly and someone even yelled my name. I gave an answering whoop and rode off. The last trail was Bullwinkle, a long series of rocky blazing-fast tabletops and I chanted don't flat don't flat don't flat as I flew downhill. 

I didn't flat. 

Five stages with no mistakes, barely a bobble. I was extremely pleased with myself. I decompressed with a bunch of friends, clustering in pools of shade with our dogs and our beers. Eventually the results surfaced and I went over to peer at the screen. I couldn't understand the numbers and times at first but then felt my ego bubble deflate. I didn't win. Amy the lanky Montuckian beat me by about ten seconds on each stage. Ouch. And there were only two of us so I went from exuberant to...lame. Second of two. The insults piled on as I realized if I hadn't raced Cat 1 I wouldn't even have been on the podium. All the Cat 2 women were sandbaggin' ripper chicks. Double ouch.

I recovered from the massive blow to my ego with more beer and kind words from friends, and by taking over the spraying-champagne duties when Amy didn't show for the podium. 
At least I won the podium...
Pic courtesy of Hannah
Even though I lost, it was the most fun race I've ever done, the organizers did a phenomenal job, and you couldn't have asked for a better venue. Enduro, I think I love you...?

27 July 2015

Floating?

I woke up on Sunday with a bump on my noggin from flipping in a kayak, cuts on my soles from clambering barefoot over pebbled river banks, and incredible soreness in unusual spots like my shoulders and outer thigh muscles.

Saturday was Cellarmaster Max's birthday and he was going to float. He likes to toss my blog phrases back in my face sometimes so we were invited with the acknowledgement that it would mean "giving up a magical unicorn butterfly day." Tyler RSVP'd a firm yes for both of us but then his mom said she was coming into town that day and he opted to go for a ride rather than risk being on the river until dusk. But I was committed. My pride was involved. I didn't even flake when some acquaintances said they were riding the Big Hole Crest. Nope. Floating.

Good job Subaru
Pic courtesy of Andrea
 Andrea and Shannon picked me up and we braved the Pass with two borrowed creek boats strapped to the roof of Andrea's Impreza. She got her river permits in the Park and the ranger handed us a pamphlet about floating the Snake. The stretch we were aiming for, Moose to Wilson, was classified as advanced, with lots of alarming advisories like "fragmented channels, snags, and logjams make for difficult navigation" and "swift current can be dangerous for inexperienced boaters." Don't worry, my friends said, this is directed at the lowest common denominator, and I looked around the GTNP visitor's center at the crush of humanity and felt better. There are indeed idiots amongst us.

Our motley flotilla arranged a shuttle and put in: one driftboat, one raft, two creek boats, one whitewater canoe, and four inner tubes. As my competent friends fiddled with straps and coolers, the bizarre realization dawned on me: I've never been on any sort of watercraft on a river. Yeah, I've paddled and SUP'd and waterskied on lakes before but I've never even tubed on the French Broad, preferring to mock the tubers from shore. My parents were California river rats in the long ago and my dad got into whitewater in WNC but when he suggested teaching me to roll a kayak I heard "trapped upside down underwater" and never again considered river sports.
Could not have asked for a nicer day
I admitted this and everyone laughed gently at me. I got a spot in the driftboat, the driest and steadiest of vessels, and devoured the views as we meandered through the wetlands at the feet of the Tetons. We startled a young bull moose and he splashed across an inlet behind us.

The whole gang!
Pic courtesy of Ashley
Our raucous party stopped regularly to carouse on sand bars and eventually, my nerves soothed by liquid courage, I volunteered to man a creek boat. It was a Corsica, a kayak my dad used to own and love. I remembered a tiny bit from paddling around Laurel Lake but the broad fast-moving Snake presented new challenges. The rapids broadsided and swamped me almost immediately so I dragged the boat to shore, drained it with help, and got back in, vowing to pay better attention. (Jenna is cringing as she reads this because I don't know any paddling lingo.)

And I thought about rudimentary bike skills and how applicable they are to other sports. I don't know shit about boating but I know how to look forward, take a dynamic stance, widen my knees and arms, and engage my core. I consciously hit oncoming rapids on the perpendicular and pumped over waves like they were bumps on a trail. Do kayakers call it pumping? Probably not. But I started riding the water like singletrack with better form than I usually have on the bike (familiarity breeds laziness) and suddenly I was having a blast! I started figuring out which paddle motions were more effective and chasing down the little white riffles that meant interesting water. I kayaked the rest of the way while everyone else got chilly in their boats and I was sad to see the Hwy 22 bridge that indicated the take-out. We had traveled fifteen miles and somehow it was already almost 7:00.
Appropriate
Pic courtesy of Andrea
Then we all grilled out and lounged in hammocks and listened to 90's music and ate birthday cake. A great day. I'm not going to start floating all the time but I was pleasantly surprised that what I assumed would be a sedentary day was an active outing that left me crippled with soreness the next day. Win!
Hammock life
Pic courtesy of Andrea

23 June 2015

Around the Rock

I toed the start line for a local race on Wednesday evening but I was already thinking ahead to Saturday. Ten mile XC race? Nothing new. 155 mile road/dirt ride? Something else entirely.

The race was fine. I got third, same as last year, but managed to shave almost two minutes off my previous time, without going completely anaerobic, on the Stag, a bike six pounds heavier and with two more inches of squish than Lisa. Fitness is a cool thing.

With that race over I could direct my attention to this looming event, Around the Rock: a solstice ride that circumnavigates the Grand Teton. Figure out how to prepare for eighty miles of gravel with literally no amenities (unless you bring iodine tablets). Borrow a bike--a cheap commuter cyclocross bike from Fitzgerald's--with less aggressive geometry and a gentler gear ratio than the Deutschbike. Better to go with possible comfort than definite discomfort, I guess.
Together for the last time
Pic courtesy of Fitzy
At six-thirty we met at the shop, eleven antsy participants. Fitzy said, "I don't like to call this a 'group ride'. Think of it as more of a 'shared experience'." His words proved to be so true.

We took backroads to the hinterlands of the northern valley. The first 45 miles of navigation were tricky and while I had written a little cue sheet, I was very motivated to hang on the leaders' wheels until at least the Jackass Meadows road. We were going hard and the groups had already broken apart, but I stayed cranking in the big ring up and down rutted farm roads. The pace was unsustainable but I had a strategy: I will blow up and slow down at some point (soon) so get as far as possible with the help of others.

I was right, of course. As soon as we hit forest service roads with tough climbs and technical descents the lead pack splintered. I ate and drank pretty well but my whole body was already sending out distress signals as I jolted over the washboarded rocky dusty hot road.

On the final technical descent I felt the front tire slam the rim with a sense of finality, and then all the air was gone. I sat down on the side of the road and fixed the flat as mosquitoes dined on my sunscreen-flavored skin and all the other riders passed me by.

I tried to give chase but knew I had lost something essential in those eight minutes. Finally I reached Flagg Ranch, the end of dirt, the beginning of concessions and tourists. Some of the group was still there and I was thankful for their presence. Cyclists with heavier baggage milled around and after eavesdropping I realized we were on the Tour Divide route. Those absolutely crazy people! They do back-to-back rides like the one I was on...for weeks.

I chugged water and ate my salami sandwich and fruit leather and got on the bike again. Everyone who trickled out alone made noises about accruing a peloton and crushing the miles once we hit the park roads. I kept waiting as I struggled through the headwind, but we were too spread out--the promised peloton never materialized. Thus I spent miles 45-145 riding completely by myself, which was so, so hard.

Riding through Grand Teton National Park was crowded, but the shoulder was ample and the feeling of smooth tarmac orgasmic. Of course the park is a scenic marvel but I felt a compulsion not to stop or take pictures, and besides, a cursory Google search will yield much more beautiful images than my shitty camera can.
Seriously, it's really pretty
So I took one picture
Cletus the Crossrip in front of some big rocks
Many hours of pain later I was in Wilson, facing down the demon I had been dreading all day, all week, ever since I decided to ride Around the Rock. Teton Pass. It's not too long (six miles), it's pretty steep (2,500 feet gained), and my god it's daunting after 135 miles. I sat outside the convenience store, ate a Snickers bar and a cucumber of all things, drank a Red Bull, hid my Garmin so I wouldn't have to stare at its devastating readout of "3.5mph...3.2mph...2.9mph...", and saddled up.

Yeah, it sucked.

Then at the halfway point an angel floated up next to me with a cheerful greeting. Matthew was a friend of Fitzy who met up with us at Flagg Ranch to do a long ride and pull along anyone who was struggling. I gasped with happiness just to see someone else, and pedaled a little harder to keep him in sight. And survived! We regrouped at the top, we bombed the descent, and then he gave me the kindest gift ever: he pulled me at high speeds across the eight or so flat windy Idaho miles to the brewery. There are a couple little rollers at the end; he stomped the pedals and I, to my utter shock, answered the intensity in kind and finished 155 miles by blazing into town like it was Tuesday Night Worlds. Earlier finishers and friends crowded the lawn and cheered for newcomers. After I laid on the ground for a minute one of the shop guys handed me a pint and I sat with a bunch of friends who were full of kind words. Best part of the day.

Days later I'm still dehydrated, covered in mosquito bites, sore, and I get ravenously hungry once every three hours. I did not get sunburned, which I am inordinately stoked about. White armwarmers look nerdy on a hot day, but after using them for twelve hours of exposed high-altitude solstice sunshine, I am a convert. I also fueled and drank well; seems like I'm finally figuring that one out. I don't feel any need to embark on that particular adventure again but I'm glad I did it. All the way Around the Rock.

21 June 2015

Dad

A lot of women sense themselves turning into their mothers, experiencing that amused wince when a phrase escapes their lips and directly evokes mom. I more often find myself acting out Billisms, sometimes with delight and sometimes chagrin. The other day I was extolling to Tyler the virtues of our new barmaker (finally!), raving about her efficiency and attention to detail and that specific sort of intelligence that fits the job so well. Without looking up from his magazine he said, "It's like I'm listening to Bill talk."

My parents impressed upon me very salient lessons about quality of life, about worshiping at the altar of nature, about generosity of spirit and living with passion. They've never pressured me with bloated expectations of A Good Education, A Real Job, Grandchildren. When Bill and I used to go on our weekly long runs in the muggy rainforest of Pisgah, we'd end by soaking in a creek, him with a beer cracked, me perched on a rock because my body temperature had already plummeted. That's when we'd talk about everything and the subject of happiness came up often; he let me know they respected me for living in joy and contentment.

Bill was creating me in the image of himself very early on, giving me mountain bike lessons with utmost patience, bringing me to trail work days and participating as a mentor in youth sports (both of which I can do now in the Valley; trail work days happen all the time and the Tetons now have a high school mountain bike team). He taught me to never settle for a long bullshit commute to work, to listen to podcast compulsively (I've finally figured out how to stay informed on current events! And yes, Emily Bazelon is great.), to obsess over fine food and drink, how to work your ass off for no greater reward than personal fulfillment. In the year and a half at my job, I've battled small flare-ups of carpal tunnel syndrome, eczema, and plantar fasciitis. I found methods to beat each issue but it gave me new respect for (and incredulity of) his lifetime of manual labor.

I went through a pretty monstrous phase when I was younger. Bill sat me down once and told me what empathy was, and how it enables us to function as decent human beings in this world. I went on my wretched way but that conversation stuck with me and when I outgrew terrible tweendom, I embraced it and tried to exhibit empathy as much as possible.

Bill, I cannot adequately express your influence on me. Happy Father's Day.

06 June 2015

Ride All the Rides

May was moldering, melting, melancholic. The daily dirge of bike shop and bar small talk was always, the rain, the rain, the rain. Never torrential but perfectly timed to usurp motivation and slicken singletrack.

Tyler and I escaped to Sun Valley where it was a touch drier, a hair warmer. Busy trailheads greeted us but the usual maxim held true: half a mile in, you're all alone. The inner networks are well-signed and designed to be sustainable crowd-pleasers, but up a little higher, in a little deeper, you reach intersections where the wrong turn* has a whiff of backcountry, the essence of isolation, and you know you could pursue adventure indefinitely over ridges and into coves, on beaten-up ATV trails and through groves of blackened tree carcasses. Such is this magnificent state. The realization came that a map would be a worthy purchase, and I spread it out on the counter and drooled over it for hours.

*Wrong only in that you have a dog, a limited water supply, and a boyfriend who is anti-death march. Wisdom dictates you stick with the predetermined route.
In the burn
Back in the Tetons yet another week of rain struck us dumb and unpleasant. Then Friday brought sun. I went to work beaming, knocked out production fast, hurried home, dragged out the Stag and the boy and the dog. Backyard trails! Pass laps! The next day: hard old school trails with my boss leading and a new shop friend happily tagging along, muggy greenery and unending climbs, log obstacles and rip-roaring descents. More Pass laps in the p.m., narrowly avoiding a violent cloud burst that pressure-washed the mud off our bikes in the parking lot. Sunday: gathering a posse to ride the most beloved trail in the Valley. We all moved slowly up the climb, but after reaching the relatively low-snow resort we turned around and blasted down, scaring ourselves with daring and speed, then relaxed into the creek barefoot with beers, watching the dogs play.

Under the radar, on top of it all
The Pass
Tuesday: a group adventure ride, the organizers trying hard to shake off any recreational riders with the online ride description: "If you don't like hike-a-bike, this ride is not for you. Bring your sense of humor, rain wear, and bug dope." We loaded vans and trucks and drove way up north and east, not far as a crow flies from the northern terminus of the Teton range. Mosquitos swarmed and branches slapped our faces and only the GPS saved us (eventually) from several forays off track, but we satisfactorily navigated the undulating ribbon of old overgrown singletrack from car to car.

Successful navigation through the wilds
Today I had planned to attend a trail work day but felt some umbrage that it was on a trail within wilderness that saw no bikes and plenty of careless, destructive horse traffic. A friend invited me to go ride elsewhere and do some more meaningful maintenance by helping to clear downed trees. He strapped a Husqvarna to his back and still kept up. At two intriguing intersections we did casual reconnaissance up drainages, riding sidehill and shouting at phantom bears in the bushy creek bottoms. On the drive home I queried him about the backyard trails and in a "why the f*ck not" moment, we rode them too, to clear some more trees and so I could get a better handle on the game paths that snake through the hills behind my apartment.

The backyard
I crave novelty and variety and I feel a little envious and petulant when I encounter a blog like the wonderful revelation that is Zen on Dirt, but then I get a good reminder that this valley and this state and this region have a lifetime's worth of adventures and I feel ok about it again.

19 May 2015

Stir Crazy

It's been a couple years since I've faced WNC-style precipitation...

This month has been a great reminder of how demoralizing week after week of drizzle can be.

Before the rains began some of the lower trails in the Valley were free of snow and dry so we all got a fleeting taste of after-work rides in the lengthening evenings and long weekend dirt pursuits. The overall precip totals are nothing compared to the downpours of Brevard but the dry, porous earth has reached saturation point from the daily weather and now it would be irresponsible to brave the rain and send it, Pisgah style. As I've mentioned, the trails here are delicate flowers.

 A quick scan of possible getaways this weekend reveals that everywhere within a five hour radius is getting the same soaking. You'd think I'd be more used to this after twenty years in NC but apparently I've lost my coping mechanisms. Now I just want to drink heavily and post snarky remarks on social media. Apologies in advance.

12 May 2015

Mom

In our family the kids are sort of off the hook for Mother's Day (although Bill still takes good care of her; she got a dropper post for her mountain bike this year). Debbie doesn't expect cliche cards and flowers and while a Sunday phone call is appreciated, she is not the sort to slather on the maternal guilt if the call is tardy or truncated. But I recently talked to her for half an hour about very pressing Grown Up Matters because I have been carrying around the idea of home ownership and worrying it into little pieces like Sophie does with her many bones and antlers. Debbie gave me some insight and a good dose of reality (for example, it is unreasonable to even consider houses over $200k).

Talking through Grown Up Matters with her is always helpful because she is already well-versed on all this stuff and has thoughtful answers; she is a smart and canny woman who is supportive but doesn't hand-hold. I was a little peeved as a teenager to have to pay for my own car insurance and gas while my moronic peers swanned around with their most recent Vera Bradley handbags, but I eventually figured out and appreciated Debbie's game plan. She nudged me and my sister towards financial responsibility and independence very early on but also arranged for us the precious gift of a debt-free college education. Now she helps me negotiate the waters of insurance, credit, and savings without ever entertaining the idea of a parental hand-out.

The folks are coming to visit around Labor Day. I've seen a lot of parents circulate through the Valley, but after a couple days' worth of majestic views and mellow footpaths, my friends get a little bug-eyed, knowing the only form of entertainment left is the clusterf*ck that is summer-time Jackson, where they listlessly browse all the turquoise and leather shops with their non-active families. They get envious and incredulous when I say my parents will be mountain biking together every day and drinking beer every night on the brewery lawn. "Even your mom??" Yep. She has only gotten more adventurous and badass with age.

So happy late Mother's Day, Debbie. Keep on reading voraciously, planning incredible trips to Europe, falling asleep during movies, "liking" posts on Facebook, and shocking employees with your foul mouth. Love you!

12 April 2015

It's Not Fair

Tyler and I were in Boise for the weekend, officially to work a beer event but also to eat at his favorite burrito joint multiple times, see his grandparents/take advantage of their hospitality, and mountain bike on dry trails with the pup.

I stole his Iphone to peruse social media for a second and a notification from a Fitzy member popped up on the team page: this news item. I didn't comprehend it at first and then it hit like a sledgehammer.

They all worked at the company next door to Tram Bar World. I only knew one of the men, and not as well as I would've liked. AJ was our neighbor, and taught our avalanche course in December, and was the best racer of the Fitzy team. He radiated competence and kindness and humor, and wrote riveting trip and race reports on his blog, which I read before I even met him. I don't have any ownership over this grief. I am not his loving family. Once I stuck my head in his house looking for a star hex wrench. He wasn't there but his visiting father, as lanky and trim as AJ, was doing yoga in the foyer. He didn't even mind when my dog stepped all over his mat. That friendly man must be so unfathomably sad. I am not his chipper, involved wife, or one of the dozens of NOLS students that he mentored, or one of the equally mellow but intense skiers with whom he did crazy backcountry tours. Those people have to learn to use the past tense, and deal with the sucker punch of grief every time some little memory surfaces.

I am gutted with empathy for all of them, and sad that I had finally decided he was approachable and was going ask him to show me the guerrilla mountain bike loop in the hills behind our neighborhood. It feels wrong: someone who went after big ski-mountaineering objectives, someone who was healthy and beloved and influential, felled by something as stupid and terrible and unexpected as a plane crash.

No one in the community is unaffected by the tragedy. Driving back into town, I imagined a pall over the valley. I think this is the part where I should talk about how everyone pulls together and takes care of the bereaved and sees the silver lining but I don't want to say those things, because I think this thoroughly sucks.

20 March 2015

Valley Problems: Too Warm to Ski, Too Wet to Ride

I got so much attention for the last post that I've been resting on my laurels for a month, which sounds better than "I am a slacker and my life is boring." People in real life, people who are not constant blog stalkers like me, would come up to me and enumerate the reasons why I am so a Teton Valley resident. "Julia, you own three bikes." "Julia, you drive a sticker-covered Subaru." "You make granola for a living." "You date that guy," (indicating Tyler in all his mustachioed, Carhartted glory). Yeah, yeah, y'all. I know.

It would appear that I sneezed and winter ended, so seasonal affective disorder has set in. Tyler, with no outdoor outlet, comes home from work frustrated and unloads his unhappiness on the counter like a grocery bag of old fish. I listen and sympathize and we talk about some of the unsustainable elements of our existence here: his grindingly heavy workload, the housing crisis, the labor shortage that will probably hamstring my company's attempt at increased production, global warming. Sobering.

But it's St. Patrick's Day and my bike shop throws a party every year, so we suit up in any over-the-top green attire we can find and ride over to the venue. All the cyclists have crept out from wherever they've been hiding all winter and we greet each other with great cheer. There is a new ski company in town, and before the young owners had even moved here we adopted and/or ingratiated ourselves with them, so when they arrive we all cluster together at a noisy table. People stop and say hi. The Kate makes a surprising appearance and we talk about anything but work. The party is a good representation of my tiny Victor compass rose: beer shop, bike shop, ski shop, Tram Bar World. I bask in happiness.

It fixes my perspective for the time being. Our issues are manageable and the payoff is significant. Being a part of this community and living in a mountain playground are worth the minor compromises we make.

11 February 2015

Nine Reasons Why I'm Not A Very Good Teton Valley Resident

As I might have mentioned once or twice, I really like Teton Valley and feel that it suits my lifestyle well. I even got a dog so I could fit in better. But I realize now that I have certain shortcomings that will forever prevent me from being a true Valley girl.
Warning: gratuitous photo-stealing ahead

1: I don't backpack.
Or even camp for that matter. I just bought my first tent last year. Everyone around here will go spend the night in the woods at a moment's notice. Not me. I haven't figured out the mechanics of sleeping outside and sleep deprivation gives me a gnarly headache. And there are more civilized ways to remove your contacts than by the light of a headlamp, balancing your contact case on your knee while you root around in your eye with fingers that smell like campfire. Also, I don't like walking, particularly with something heavy on my back. Too slow. Fast-packing appeals to me far more, but in order for that to happen I need lightweight gear and a willing partner, and as of now I have neither. 
Typical Teton Valley residents backpacking
Pic courtesy of Ashley
2: I feel pretty meh about Yellowstone. 
Some people treat this like a blasphemy, because it's nearby and a national treasure or something. But A: it's a park, which is code for "no mountain bikes allowed", B: it has no big mountains to speak of, and C: two million visitors annually. 'Nuff said. 

3: Crossfit. 
Oooo, gonna step on some toes here. I would much rather get doughy on the couch while watching Taylor Swift videos than work out inside, and Crossfit, because it's expensive, isn't within walking distance, inspires fanaticism, and is often paired with weird and obnoxious dietary trends, is by far the easiest workout program to hate on. But there are two Crossfit gyms in the Valley. That equals a lot of acolytes.

4: I don't listen to jamgrass/psychedelic rock/"polyethnic Cajun slamgrass"/insert hippie noodling jam session festival music genre here. 
People who live in mountain towns love going to shows and festivals and watching artists perform long-winded solos. I'll tag along, but only if it's free, within walking distance, and very danceable. I will spend money, time, and effort only on shows where I can mouth along to every word of every song in a haze of joy, and Phish/Leftover Salmon/Yonder Mountain String Band/String Cheese Incident do not fall into that category. 
Typical Teton Valley musical performance
Pic courtesy of Idaho Falls Josh
5: I have an aversion to Floating. 
Teton summer weekends are like unicorn butterflies: shortlived and magical. You gotta grab those suckers and hold them tight for as long as you can. The way I do that is by mountain biking or doing other high-intensity stuff. Floating, i.e. joining a bunch of people on rafts to meander down the Snake River and drink lots of beer, is a very popular and common summer activity, but is entirely too sedentary for me to waste a unicorn butterfly on. And let us not even speak of Fishing. 
Typical Teton Valley resident Floating the Snake
(This particular resident probably climbed the Grand the day before this picture was taken. I am not implying that Floaters are inherently sedentary.)
Pic courtesy of Dapper Dan
6: I can't handle my whiskey.
Or any liquor, honestly. I think most activities are improved by a beer during or after, but the hangover I get after a single shot of anything hard is unbearable. Admitting this will probably get me kicked out of the west. 

7: I'm reluctant to go to The Desert.
Everyone goes to The Desert at least once a mud season, to climb or mountain bike. I have no Desert experience yet so my reluctance is unfounded, but these weekend trips always involve at least a ten hour drive each way and Lord knows I'm not traveling that far to rock climb. I'm hesitant to mountain bike there because A: I love trees and green stuff and roots and B: every time I go riding after a six month hiatus it's a scary endeavor and if I ride in The Desert I'm afraid my inaugural crash will be something especially unpleasant like plunging my front wheel into surprise sand at the bottom of a five foot rock drop and performing the mother of all endos. Seriously. This scenario replays itself in my head every time someone mentions Moab.
Typical Teton Valley resident visiting The Desert
Pic courtesy of Andrea
8: I'm not enthused by the frontier lifestyle. 
Good Teton Valley residents garden, have chickens, tend to their wood stoves, and hunt, or at least speak of those activities with longing. I'll be okay without ever bagging the obligatory elk (and it's amazing how generous friends are with their meat when they realize a whole elk won't fit in their chest freezer). For the most part I'm too lazy to take care of other living things, and I include wood stoves in that category because they're almost as high maintenance and demanding as chickens or gardens. Maybe I'll buy a share at the CSA. And then I'll turn up the thermostat. 

9: I can't grow a beard.
Trust me, I'm bummed about it.

10 February 2015

A Winter Spent Whining

The season has been disappointing thusfar. The snow accumulation numbers don't reflect it but the temperature stats certainly do. Tyler, whose years of ski bum experience give some credence to his armchair meteorology, says, "It's El Niño, this is typical of El Niño, every cycle, and next winter, oh, La Niña..." He says La Niña's name with wistfulness. '10-'11 was the last strong La Niña year and people still speak of that winter with grave longing: "That year, I got so tired of skiing deep powder days...I just wanted sunshine and groomers for a change."

I've finally learned to temper my expectations and now can find contentment, after yet another warm wet spell has quickly rotted the fruits of intermittent snow storms, in seeking out new stashes and savoring the five or eight good turns before the going gets heavy, crusty, or slushy.
A questionable start to a resort day
Pic courtesy of Sam
It helps having friends in town. Sam from Brevard came back out to play with his buddies and their presence motivated me to hunt harder for the goods instead of retiring to the couch in a mid-winter funk. By the time they left I was sore and sated from four full days of skiing. Erica and Alex (Tyler's best friends from his Colorado days and probably my favorite benefit I reap from our relationship) visited this weekend because they live in northern Utah and while I bemoan the state of our snow, we still have more of it than just about anyone. When they come up we always play outside a little half-assedly and then eat, drink beer, and talk shit with gusto. On Saturday we walked the bike path into town with cans of Ranger in our pockets to see a show, the floor packed full of people on weird drugs dancing feverishly. We tried to hang but were all feeling our age by the end of the night.
I complain but it's still really good here
When we went for a ski the first turns were so good we rejoiced. Then the snow got crunchy and I was going too slowly and haphazardly and Sophie scooted in front of me and I plunged my tips into the snow and we both tumbled. She seemed unphased but the blood on the snow told a different story. I had sliced her elbow with my ski edge. Tyler taped her up and she trotted merrily back to the parking lot. When we cleaned and rewrapped her leg and Tyler picked the gauze off her wound while I tried to hold her squirming, resentful little body, he decided she needed stitches. I was wracked with guilt and worry so Tyler had to deal with my histrionics as well as ministering to Sophie. She got three stitches yesterday and was just fine besides a little drunken weaving and minor consternation over her leg bandage.
Sophalope just wants to go downhill already
There is no actual point to this post except, in no particular order, A: I have my computer back from the repair shop and a real keyboard is one of the most wonderful things in the world; B: dog ownership is greatly improved by having a willing partner to share the responsibility and love; and C: life is good, friends are awesome, snow is plentiful, and I don't have anything to complain about.

24 January 2015

Dog Day

The banana shipment hasn't come so I get the day off. The pup, whose name has of course evolved into various permutations (Kiddo, Squido, Hellion, Sophaloaphagus) looks at me with beseeching eyes as I linger over coffee and clementines. We go for a run because one of the main reasons I wanted a dog was for altruistic exercise: a good impetus to get out even when I don't care.

The unceasing freeze-thaw cycle means the snow has an eggshell crust and Sophie, who usually loves porpoising through deep snow, stays in the packed-down track today; crust-wallowing is hard for a little dog. When I break through it scrapes my numb shins.

Deep postholes marr the path for a couple meters; I realize they are hoof-shaped and look around for the moose, hoping he has already crossed the road and gone down to the creek banks. There is coyote scat in the trail and, fascinated, Sophie agitates the snow in the pawprints with her little claws and thrusts her nose deep into the well of scent. The droppings have ice facets growing on them so they're from yesterday but on the way back she stands still, her shepherd ears tense and pointing skyward. I get goosebumps and scan the hills adjacent. She senses so many things I am oblivious to.

At the end she is still energetic; four cold miles wasn't nearly enough, so I pledge to her an afternoon play date with one of the many dog friends we have.
Sophie's "Run me" face

09 January 2015

So I (Er, We) Got A Dog

I grew up in a household of dogs, with grandparents who had dogs, with friends who had dogs. Now I live in a valley where every established monogamous couple, without fail, has a dog. Marriage and children aren't really "a thing" here. Dual dog ownership? A basic tenet of all solid relationships.

Tyler was lobbying hard. He also grew up with dogs. He wanted an animal to sit on his feet and nod when he made a point. He is very maternal. I was hesitant. I have been a dogsitter for years and really love dogs but I prefer them in rationed doses; I love them for their companionship and cuteness, but was never enamored with their high maintenance and dependency. I shelved the discussion until after the holiday trips.
Sophie, née Fizz
Then I saw this cute face on Petfinder, which I was trawling just like my mother did when she was hunting for her new love. Fizz was conveniently located in Hailey, a town south of Sun Valley where we were spending New Year's with Tyler's family. We went to meet her and within five minutes I went from wavering to "I WANT." The combination of my abrupt desire and our landlord's debilitating allergy to prompt communication resulted in a week of tenterhooks, as we slowly negotiated with the homeowners while trying to remotely reserve this cute animal. As soon as we got a solid "yes", I called in dog-crazy to work and drove to Hailey to pick Fizz (now Sophie) up before some other young settled outdoorsy couple could claim her. The quick phone conversation I had with my dad on the way home was gratifying; he seemed to think it was a long time coming and that folk of our clan are destined to be dog owners.

She might very well be the best possible critter the two of us could've found. She's sweet and friendly and easy-going for a puppy, and way smarter than either of us. She was born in May, is some ideal mix of fox terrier and other random bits and pieces, and weighs a muscular, trail-friendly thirty pounds. She has already settled in happily to our tiny household and lifestyle, which consists of walking around town and hanging out with lots of people and dogs. *Warning: this is probably the most gag-worthy and uncomfortable thing I've ever said on this blog.* Tyler is a great dog-owning partner. It turns out that we agree on consistency, tactics, and obedience without even having had the conversation beforehand, and his nurturing nature and short commute mean that he plans to give Sophie the utmost of attention. Theoretically this is indicative of other "lifestyle compatibilities", of which I refuse to give credence or blogspace to. Because I'm not ready to be that grown-up.