I suspect that just about everyone who reads this blog is also a reader of my girlfriend Jill's blog. Her blog has everything that mine doesn't: Great photos, consistent posts (at least 4 a week most weeks), and great writing. For these reasons she gets about 5 times as many hits on her blog as I do here on mine. Basically she's a blog celebrity. More than once I've had people in the lower 48 respond to me when I tell them that I'm from Alaska with, "do you know that girl Jill who rides her bike all the time?"
So by now I would also suspect that many of you have read Ghost Trails, the book that Jill self published last fall.
Ghost Trails is the story of Jill's 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational race in which she competed in the bike division. More importantly though it's a story of personal development. A look at how someone, who just 6 years ago didn't even know how to ride a bike, become someone in the midst of competing in one of the toughest bike races in the world.
My first response when I read the book was, "gee, it kind of makes me look like an ass-hole." And I'm certain to many random readers who don't know Jill or I personally (see comments on this book review) this is a common assumption when reading the book. Jill jumps back and forth between chapters about the race last year to chapters about events in her life as a young adult that molded her into the person who was then out in the Alaska Interior in the dead of winter trying to "survive" her way along the Iditarod trail to Mcgrath. Almost all of the non race chapters included stories about various camping, biking, hiking, rafting, and road trips Jill and I had been on together, often with several other friends, between 2000 and 2005. Very quickly the reader can notice a trend in these chapters of Jill always being left behind by me to fend for herself in some dangerous situation. This is what bothered me when I first read the book. I thought, "gosh, was I really always leaving her behind?" Of course I wasn't or we would not still be together more than 8 years later. After thinking about it more it made perfect sense to me from the standpoint of Jill writing a story about her development as an individual and not our development as a couple. When she was out in the middle of The Iditarod Trail last winter it wasn't the 3,000 miles that we rode bikes across the country in 2003 in which we were no more than a few bike lengths apart that helped her become a strong enough individual to tackle that race, but rather the 100 or 200 miles on that trip in which we were separated and dealing with our own individual struggles. The 4 days of flat water leading up to Cataract Canyon in which I taught her everything I knew (although she probably only paid attention to half of it) about river safety so that she would be prepared when we got to the rapids probably didn't help her become who she is today as much as the first two seconds did after I flipped the boat I was rowing about 20 minutes into the whitewater. You get the point. This story is about her and not about us. It just so happens that I tend to have been the one there through most of these "personal development adventures" that she points to in this book. I'd be the first to admit that Jill and I have been on dozens of potentially dangerous trips together that were my idea, but, as the book makes quite clear, without these experiences she would not have been out there on the Iditarod Trail last winter tackling something with more potential for danger than anything her or I had ever done.
If you haven't yet read the book and you're interested in doing so you can get it in three places:
-directly from her
-directly from the printing company