Growing pleasures, less pains

I could never give my child up for adoption, which I just did professionally when I resigned from my position as editor, publisher and advertising manager of Florida Trail Riders Magazine, a position I’ve held for about five years. Now my baby’s new parent is using the wrong “your,” forgetting apostrophes and doesn’t even have a Facebook page. The Facebook page I started for the magazine has more then 3,500 likes, the Twitter and Instagram have an active following and I’m walking away…The worst part is I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down who say they’re sad to see me go: “I feel the magazine is a real mag now.”

It’s harder than I thought.

“Back when it used to matter.”

My pleasures are much greater now. I’m learning my way around the Salt Lake valley, as one of my friends put it: “as far from us as she can.”

My Florida license scored me a nonresident offroad permit: $30 for the year.
My Florida license scored me a nonresident offroad permit: $30 for the year and it’s good in other states, too.
Fiesta loves swimming with the ducks.
Fiesta loves swimming with the ducks.
Taking the girl to the top.
Taking my girl to the top.
Getting used to having the apartment gym to myself!
Getting used to having the apartment gym to myself!

So I know it’s real

I had to buy a couch before sitting down to publish this first blog post since moving to Utah. The couch I found on the online classifieds looked clean and comfortable enough for me to pop in a DVD, lean back, kick my feet up and grab the MacBook that’s tethered to my phone while I’m working from home, finishing off some leftover work from Florida while also preparing for the new school year.
Yesterday, I met a fellow high school teacher while cleaning up the classroom from last year’s Yearbook teacher. She teaches health and P.E. along with coaching girls soccer, assisting with boys and more that I can’t remember. She mentioned the big role I was taking on and how she would be there if I needed anything. Then I stopped by to talk with the ladies in the office; one reassured me that she could tell by my “aura” that I would fit in great around there.
I was beginning to worry when I couldn’t find an available apartment that accepted dogs with a garage within my price range. Even though I’m forking over more than I expected, I’d rather be safe than sorry living in a nice neighborhood less then 10 miles from school. (Note: dumpster diving still occurs around 3 a.m.)
The elevation here in South Jordan is around 4,800 feet, which makes running hard at first and took some time getting used to after sitting on my tail for more than a week driving here.
I made the 3,000 mile trip in just over 7 days, stopping to split time in St. Louis, ride dirt bikes at some of Missouri’s stellar offroad state parks and 4th of July at the Lake of the Ozarks. Then, it was off through Kansas City, which I learned is actually in Missouri, and a full day’s driving by great green swaths, beautiful sunsets and giant windmills. I stopped in Colorado near Pikes Peak to ride some of the most epic single track I’ve ever seen or thought existed. Then, the last leg consisted of the gnarliest drive on Interstate 70 through Colorado to Utah in the rain, with a stop for some wild art and picked up some ‘rado swag. I was impressed by the mountains and roads on the way, and the 75 mph speed limit, which was both liberating and scary in some spots.
Colorado captivated me with sights like this one at a rest stop in Vail.
Colorado captivated me with sights like this one at a rest stop in Vail.
The Rocky Mountain Raceways Motocross park sits next to a drag strip by another speedway.
The Rocky Mountain Raceways Motocross park sits next to a drag strip by another speedway.
I put in a few laps for practice at the motocross track in West Valley, Utah.
I put in a few laps for practice at the motocross track in West Valley, Utah.
Crowds covered the stands both nights of the weekend race.
Crowds covered the stands both nights of the weekend race.

DSC_0620More photos:

Thursday practice – Friday and Saturday racing

Posted by Number One Productions LLC


I started my journey west yesterday, driving more than 600 miles from Asheville to St. Louis where I feasted my eyes on the 630-foot Gateway Arch just as the clock said midnight and counted my 12th straight hour of driving, save for gas, bathroom and coffee stops.

Gateway to the west
Gateway to the west

I’m glad I was able to get one more ride in the Western North Carolina mountains before setting off; Pops and I rode a few miles around the Wayehutta OHV Park outside of Sylva this weekend, until it started raining and traction was hard to find. In Florida when it rains, it’s usually a welcome sign, at least if it hasn’t been raining everyday. The wet cools you off and loams up the sand, which there’s more than enough of. But in the mountains of WNC, when it rains it’s like riding on ice. There’s no traction and it’s hard to tell where the rocky mountain ends and the dirt begins.
I just tried bouncing from rock to rock but we had to be careful due to these “catch pits” that the forestry has developed, Pops said, “So they can have zero run off into the river.”

This makes the tree huggers happy not to have run off from the riding are. It was sketchy riding by because if you get off trail and hit one, you’ll end up on the opposite bank with your front tire stuck in a 6-foot hole. Day over.

We pulled up to an almost empty parking lot, except for one truck with a side-by-side parked next to it and a couple sharing a sub under the pavilion. The guy was quick to complain that “they had the trails all messed up” and must have blamed it on Obama three times before I stopped listening. “Ever since Obama got in there,” and “Obama came in there and messed everything up.”

After those guys took off, the volunteer ranger showed up to check on things and he told me “they spent $160,000 in the park this year,” making the parking lot bigger and safer removing trees and doing trail maitenance. It reminded me of the quote: “Believe half of what you hear and all of what you see.”

Trails to ourselves
Trails to ourselves

Today’s plan is to ride at St. Joe State Park in Park Hills, MO.

A safe space

I wish I could have live-tweeted the digital producer retreat Wednesday at the Open Works co-working space in Greenville, but that would have put an end to our private, invite-only “safe place.” A lot was said that couldn’t be repeated. 
One thing I did tweet was favorited by Post-It Notes because we made a joke about the giant stickies we started filling up with our strengths and weaknesses. We noted more weaknesses than strengths, which was fine because that’s what we were there for: to recognize and improve our digital production experience for ourselves and our audience. 
My boss prepped the six-person team with a few speaking points and told us, “You don’t really need to bring anything except your good ideas.” Of course, I started a list right away and came prepared with nearly two pages of ideas separated into quadrants based on topic.

“She’s got like a whole notebook,” one of the producers noticed. “This ain’t my first rodeo,” I laughed. 

Setting up for the digital producer brainstorming session at OpenWorks Greenville.
Halfway through thr day of brainstorming, we had filled up five giant Post-It notes.
Halfway through the day of brainstorming, we had filled up five giant Post-It notes.
Taking a walk after lunch in downtown Greenville.
Taking a walk after lunch in downtown Greenville.
The Greenville News building, where the compant has been since 1931, will soon be torn down and the newspaper will be relocated.
The Greenville News building, where the company has been since 1931, will soon be torn down and the newspaper will be relocated.
Fall's Park on the Reedy is one of downtown Greenville's main attractions.
Fall’s Park on the Reedy is one of downtown Greenville’s main attractions.
@downtownmelissa captured the crew chilling above Fall's Creek.
@downtownmelissa captured the digital producer crew chilling above Fall’s Creek.

My ideas included more short video pieces on timely topics like man-on-the-street interviews and also adding live coverage (of sports, meetings, concerts or festivals) through social media apps like Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat. There’s potential for a regular series like “What’s on your desk,” that would give readers a sneak peek into the newsroom. Companies are using Snapchat to deliver breaking news or tease new content. With filters, time, geolocation and drawing capabilities, media can provide a real-time, raw human connection with readers. I also continued to advocate for a newsroom Instagram account as another way to connect with readers through behind-the-scenes photos from around the newsroom especially. Lots of brands use Instagram not as a way to get clicks on the website but to let people in on the news through a different format and to get more personal with readers. Instagram can also help the newspaper find happenings around town or breaking news.

For Facebook, I thought it would be a good idea to post Facebook-only video; for instance, what didn’t make the cut and short recaps from reporters about their stories. I also suggested us asking our readers for content using hashtags like #tellasheville or #tellcitizentimes that we could run in print or online. USA Today does a great job of curating user generated content (UGC) with hashtags like #tellusatoday and photo galleries for the top reader photos of the day.
We ended with discussion of not “thinking too much like a newspaper,” and how some reporters are still worried about inch count instead of writing “the story that it’s worth.” All in all, our more Post-It Notes were full of creative ideas and I feel rejuvenated to bring more consistency to the online production (and more embedded tweets.)

The road to Brown Mountain

Not many things are better than looking out the backseat window on the way to go riding in the Western North Carolina mountains with your dad and boyfriend for the day.

Barkbuster buddies in three colors heading to the
Barkbuster buddies in three colors heading to the “Land of Mystery.”

Saturday rides are new to me so it’s not quite the same vibe overall waking up Sunday morning as far as on the news and around town. But since I’m working the Sunday producer shift at my job, I’m left to take the ol’ girl out on Saturday, which is like a Sunday to me in that I’m off Fridays, too.

Through the dog’s nose prints, you can see for hundreds of miles, driving east to Brown Mountain.

Last time at Brown Mountain was a little too slick on some of the offcamber single track, and everyone’s assuming it will be like that again today.

Driving to the offroad vehicle park, the interstate curves tightly down and around the ridge so I volunteered not to drive my truck, especially loaded down with three bikes. It’s way too beautiful outside to take my eyes off the scenery surrounding me, or the abundant Subarus with sometimes funny bumper stickers, sick road bikes or kayaks.

I spotted a dirt bike heading the other way toward Tennessee, which reminded me today is the motocross national at Muddy Creek. We thought about going to that but anyone would rather go ride than watch, especially if you ride, even if the race is less than 100 miles away and both your dad and babe have never been to a national. I would also go just to watch Chad Reed because he’s making a comeback, but I’m not really into forking out money for a ticket and I’d rather go riding, anyway.

Talent speaks for itself

When news broke yesterday that all 19 women who attempted to become the first class of female Army Rangers failed to complete the requirements, I didn’t even want to read the 398+ comments on this USA Today story, but I did. I knew what most would say – that women can’t rise to the same standards as men because of our “lighter bone structure.” Women aren’t “built to do a man’s job.” One comment summed it up: “Even the highest level women athletes in their chosen sport cannot complete with men in the same sport.”

I beg to differ, guy.

Women compete against men in professional motorcycle races, and they win sometimes, too! Elena Myers was the first female to win a professional road race in 2011 and Shayna Texter is the only female to ever win a professional flat track race. (She and her brother Cory will be the first sibling duo to compete in the X Games later this month. Read more, here.)

I’m new to the whole flat track world but I’m intrigued that professional flat track racing doesn’t separate the females from males (at the professional level) as do (all?) other sports. In fact, there are husbands and wives who race against each other. This last weekend at the Sacramento mile, Nichole Mees was the fastest qualifier in the first session, which earned her a front row start. I have always thought women were just as capable as men in terms of talent and ability and I’m so thankful that flat track racing proves me right.

“That’s the cool thing about this sport. The guys don’t look at me any differently. If they had to bump me out out of the way or take me out or whatever, they are going to do the same thing to me as they would their male competitors,” Nichole said.

Freedom to choose

I spent my Memorial Day off from work counting my blessings by riding the mountainous trails in my dad’s backyard. I’m thankful for everything our veterans have done to provide for this country (and continue to do) so that I can have the freedom to say and do whatever I want. I will say, my bike’s not running right up here in the 2,500+ feet of elevation so I couldn’t make it up all of the hills in the back 40.

I learned in this Citizen-Times editorial why the date for Memorial Day was chosen, “not because of any specific battle but because plenty of flowers to place on the graves would be in bloom.”

I keep a memory of what Memorial Day’s about from my childhood when my uncle Joe came home from Operation Desert Storm in the early ’90s and my family wrapped the trees in the front yard with yellow ribbons. I’m pretty sure my mom still has one or two of his MRE – meals ready to eat – in her cupboard, if I ever “misbehaved.”

America by way of the Field of Honor in Woodfin, N.C.
America by way of the second annual Field of Honor in Woodfin, N.C.

Busy season

I spent my first weekend living in Asheville doing whatever I wanted: pampering myself to a mani-pedi, walking around with a coffee downtown after spotting my new place of employment, shopping at a local farmers market and Trader Joe’s, checking out a mega church and joining a bikram/hot yoga studio, which I did both Saturday and Sunday. Yes, it was crazy. I overheard two Trader Joe’s employees talking about Asheville and that it lacks the diversity and long-standing culture or traditions that they want. Only time will tell…

The Citizen-Times on Ohenry Ave. in downtown Asheville.

This time of year Asheville’s weather is beautiful and in the 80s but with little to no humidity so it’s not too hot like Florida. I drove with my windows down and it didn’t feel like a blow dryer. I really don’t know how I would get around without my cellphone’s GPS running through my car speakers. It’s kind of hard to navigate these parts and I’m definitely going to get a lot better driving around sharp curves and narrow streets, especially in my F-150 boat. 

The #BeforeIDie wall, a global art project, in downtown Asheville.
The #BeforeIDie wall, a global art project, in downtown Asheville.

I stopped by the Before I Die wall and contributed: Before I die I want to “change people.”

For my first day at bikram yoga, only five people showed up – all men, too, except the instructor. I was impressed since most yoga studios are usually packed with females. Well, Sunday was back to normal with about 30 women and one male other than the male instructor – I counted – packed into a 109-degree room for 90 minutes. I left a lot on the mat that day.

Asheville is a cool, walkable city.
Be biker-friendly!
Be biker-friendly!

For my first day on the job at the Asheville Citizen-Times, I received my press badge, parking pass, toured about the newsroom and introduced myself to most everyone in it. My boss asked if she should introduce me as Jennifer or Jenn and I said I didn’t know. I’m conformable with Jenn but I know Jennifer sounds more professional. I went with Jenn, anyway.

All smiles for my new badge.
All smiles for my new badge.

I’m learning a lot in my new role, including Asheville is not considered the south, actually; it’s a unique place unlike anywhere else, and I think I’m going to love it here.

“What are the vegetarians on the couch doing for lunch?”

Climbing mountains

Later, Orlando.
Later, Orlando.

Go, because you want to. Because wanting to leave is enough.” – Cheryl Strayed “Tiny Beautiful Things”

The only way to make the 10-hour drive (plus gas stops and bathroom breaks for me and the dog) to Asheville more bearable was making sure I was good and sore from riding the day before. So, Thursday I loaded up my dirt bike and headed to the Croom Motorcycle Area near Brooksville for one last ride down the flat, sandy trails – my old stomping grounds and where I started riding when I was in single digits.

croom motorcycle area brooksville no1jenn
My handprint in the Croom cement from the year 2000.

A friend and I pounded out more than 17 miles in just over an hour. After our first 30-minute session, we rode back to the truck for a Gatorade and I noticed a grey-haired rider approaching me.

“You ride pretty good,” he said and I could hear the disbelief in his voice. I laughed, wondering why he didn’t tell the guy I was riding with that he rode well, too, and said, “Been doing it for 25 years…” I imagined he saw us tearing it up though we never ran into him on the trail, or maybe he just heard me reaming out my two stroke when he was sitting there in the pits.


In the woods later, after we stopped for a drink of water from our Camelbaks, my buddy asked if it bothered me when the guy said that.

“Kinda,” I admitted. “Why didn’t he tell you that YOU ride good?

We shared a laugh.

“And why is it still expected that I wouldn’t ride good?”

We talked for a minute catching our breath. He said he could tell I was a little irritated by the guy’s question.

“I just hate how there’s still this gender gap or whatever. I wasn’t raised like that. And we have a woman running for president!”

He nodded before rolling his helmet back over his head.

“As far as I’m concerned, you burned your bra for this,” he said, kickstarted his bike and took off.

A good day burning time at Croom.

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