Riding home

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Before pulling up to the Croom Motorcycle Area this past Sunday, I would’ve bet the place would be deserted as temperatures climbed toward 90 degrees before 9 a.m. But as I stood in line at the gatehouse waiting to renew my OHV permit, I saw that the price increased from $60 to $80 for the year and realized the CMA is still the best training in town, open 7 days a week with 2,600 acres and miles and miles of natural rough terrain. At the window, the park ranger called me a “lovely young lady” as I paid for my 2016-2017 sticker, which made me smile since I was wearing a baseball hat and no makeup. Driving down to the day use area where most of the dirt bikers park, I recognized a few bikes right away.

“What are you doing here?” one of the guys asked as I parked. 

“I’m home now,” I told him and we chatted for a few minutes as I geared up.

In the woods later, I passed a few bikes and quads including a father/daughter duo coasting down the trail. I started doubling whoops I would have normally rolled and realized I could combine the technical skills I gathered while riding out in Utah with the speed I needed to blaze the 26-inch-wide mostly flat Florida sand. Then I remembered I was still running hardpack tires, which I decided were really good training in high-speed sugar sand. The best part about Croom, even though I grew up riding these same trails, is that it always feels like returning home. I’ve ridden in several states, from Utah to North Carolina, New York and Nevada, and there’s just something about being in the Withlacoochee woods. I finally get to be myself, even just for a few miles. 

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” – George A. Moore 

Work well

I survived my first Monday at my new job and celebrated my one week anniversary on Tuesday. It’s been a quiet start so far in what’s being called the “off-season,” since Supercross, Arenacross and Monster Jam are off, (but I did just start seeing Monster Jam copy coming through.) If the entertainment world is anything like racing, there’s no such thing as an off-season – we’re always working on something. The production team has been super helpful getting me caught up to speed while offering me a warm welcome, spanning from 5 feet away to two cubicle aisles down, or across HipChat from Illinois at the former global headquarters. So, in between learning the in-house CMS and memorizing all of the brand abbreviations, I’m keeping a custom .doc handy of the most common legal disclaimers along with a daily spreadsheet of the jobs I’ve completed – it’s helpful to know the volume and which piece I worked on. I’ve also started a list of ideas I have for creating content…but more on that later.

The work is meaningful and can get pretty intense once I’m in the rhythm – it seems like there’s this endless queue of tasks – but I get to set my own pace and that’s one of the reason why I love copy editing: I’m never at work wishing I was somewhere else; I’m always where I am, just focused on the ferocious hunt. It’s a lot of checking and re-checking since, as one of my colleagues put it, “It’s kind of against our nature and our job to completely trust what we did before.”

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One of the perks of my new position, besides all the moto swag and feeling valuable, productive and busy at work, is the prime location, which is 4 miles from my downtown Brandenton apartment and less than 8 miles from my best friend from high school’s house. It’s nice to have an after-work workout buddy and even better when her fiancé, who also works with me, joins us, so we get to talk shop sometimes, too. Just the other night he was called to announce the new Ringling show, “Out of This World,” not “the same old circus,” and caught the next flight to Los Angeles. “Good thing to have on your resume,” I told him, to which he replied, “I don’t plan on working anywhere else.” Same.

Being in the circus is not just a job, it’s a culture- a way of life so deeply ingrained in most of the performers they have no desire to ever leave. This culture is free of detachment, laziness and mediocrity, and bursting with collaboration, precision in all the things and heartfelt appreciation for their audience. – 7 Values We Can Learn From the Circus.

On with the circus

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One of my off-road racing buddies now working as a motorcycle stuntman commented on my new job assignment, “Welcome to the circus!”

Pulling into the global headquarters for my first day on Tuesday,  I stopped before a security guard who confirmed my name on his sheet of paper. “You’re the last one,” he told me. I was still at least 5 minutes early. “Perfect,” I said and we caught smiles. He told me to drive down to the next stop sign, which involved pulling into a tight circular turnoff. “You sure can drive that big ol’ truck,” the second guard grinned. I told him my name and he peeled off my nametag sticker. On I went to visitor parking and then to the lobby where a friendly receptionist confirmed my name before offering me water or coffee. I declined, still staring at the #1 on the jersey of a replica Ryan Dungey and KTM hanging from the ceiling, and found a seat near the door by another new nametag. Everyone walking in smiled in greeting. Then I recognized my supervisor who stopped to shake my hand and welcome me to the team. His energy excited me, along with everyone else’s; it’s fun to go to work. The morning’s orientation included videos with a variety of visuals and footage from the circus, ice skating performances, monster truck shows and Supercross and Arenacross races. Naturally, I felt drawn to the racing action with epic shots of big air and crashing or bloody noses (during the safety section).

Our near mile-long walk around the facility toured rehersal halls, another dirt bike hanging from the ceiling, office spaces and a showroom with thousands of costumes organized by shape, size and circus. 

The tour ended through the mechanics’ shop with dozens of monster trucks in various stages of production. “They share everything but the engines, which are built in North Carolina,” our tour guide told us. I imagined walking through a similar fleet of race bikes one day. ❤

New news

The Duke

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve accepted a proofreader position at Feld Entertainment, Inc. and will be relocating back to my home state of Florida in the coming weeks. I am extremely grateful for the chance to teach journalism in Utah and even more thankful for all of the amazing people I’ve met – from students to teachers, friends and riding buddies – and all of the experiences I’ll never forget.

“Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful: Yourself.” ― Alan Alda

To kick off my last few weeks in Utah, I’ve been riding as much singletrack as I can in the Wasatch and Uinta mountains including three days straight at three different spots with three different groups of friends. Then, I spent Sunday at Ogden Cycle Association’s Hot Springs Raceway for Round 3 of the Wild West Series crouched down in the middle of the motocross track shooting photos of friends for free. Ride or die.

 

 

 

Inside job

Today’s the last official school day of the 2015-2016 year so I’m sporting this “Thank You” tank for my ~90 of my freshman journalism students taking their final exam this morning, which is online and hasn’t crashed the internet, yet (yay!)

It’s been about a month since I’ve swung my leg over my motorcycle, so I’ve been taking a “sabbath rest,” in terms of riding, but I was able to knock out a freelance article – my first in a few months – which fulfilled me with a sense of self that I used to have and was missing. Ever since I started writing – I started riding before I could write! – I used to love writing in my diary about my epic dirt bike adventures breaking wrists and crashing. In high school, I developed my storytelling skills in Yearbook class and started learning about photography. Then in college, I started covering the dirt bike races for FLmx magazine and…the rest is history. Journalism has always been a way for me to connect my passion for storytelling with my love of the dirt biking community. I was reminded of this just the other day when one of my colleagues shared this inspiring Pulitzer.org story, “My family was my journalism school.”

Journalism rescued me from my fear of living small and disconnected, gave me a way to feel useful, and I came to understand how my family prepared me for the work.

Hammer time

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The only thing better than riding on Sunday could be watching supercross champion Chad Reed pounding out a few laps right in front of you. Sometimes, you “go ride” just to watch, especially when your BFF is leading the way with her man and their two kids under 3. I spent this past Sunday at Florida Track and Trails in Punta Gorda for the first time. The 1,000-acre outdoor adventure park, which opened last year, is a motorhead paradise and exactly what I didn’t know I was looking for, with everything from a floating trampoline in the middle of a man-made lake, a white sandy beach, three motocross tracks (pro, amateur and beginner), one-directional offroad trails and a drag strip.

I knew it was going to be a good day when my girl and I got to gate and picked up a different color wristband than everybody else was wearing. Score! Once the boys headed out, I started the longer-than-normal hike through the sand over to the track.

“You’re walking over there?” my friend asked. I wanted to snap some pics, even if I only had my phone camera.

There’s just something about watching one of the world’s top supercross racers dropping the hammer on a monstrous local track in The Middle of Nowhere, Florida. The best part was heading back to the beach afterward and soaking up some sun.

“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself.”

Silt up

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I guess I’ve been riding too much lately – 5 times in the last month – because I blew my bike up on Saturday at the WORCS race in Mesquire, Nevada. I entered the Women A class and was able to finish one lap in 10:52.926 – 2 minutes behind the leader’s 8:49.492 . The Women Pro class, which started with A on Row 1, turned sub-8 minute laps. So my first WORCS race didn’t count because I DNFed. But I came around the second lap screaming through the wide open silt bed of whoops – more than I cared to hit – and I was getting really good power, the motor revving a little high, and then I heard a loud noise, the rear wheel locked up and I coasted to a stop and white smoke poured out of the bottom hoses. I guess I got lucky because the bike didn’t lock up or launch me flying; it just sputtered for a few seconds and then stalled.

With a sinking feeling in my stomach and a knot in my throat, I tried pushing down the kickstart but it wasn’t moving, so I pushed the ol’ girl up against a tree and started the long mile walk back to the pits. So that’s what a blown engine feels like, I thought. Really depressing.

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Hard work playing off

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I love teaching but after yesterday’s tour around software giant Adobe’s 280,000-square-foot campus located just south of Salt Lake City, I was contemplating a change in careers all because of the amenities offered at the company’s four-story facility, which employs around 1,500 in one of the most flexible work environments – you can head down to The Bunker to play video games if you’re ahead on your work, organize a game of pool or ping pong with your colleagues or hit the gym like the true workaholics who bring a laptop down to the cycling workstation.

Touring the current building, just the first phase for Adobe as there’s plans for two more, I admired the rock-climbing wall, deluxe employee cafe and yoga room. The building, which is open 24/7 for employees, is actually two separate structures in case of a seismic event since Salt Lake sits on the active Wasatch fault; there’s almost a whole other building underground.

Along with flexible hours and kick ass amenities, the interior design is just as creative as Adobe’s suite of innovative programs, namely InDesign and Photoshop, and focuses on employee health and well-being with open “floating” workspaces, vivid colors and the least amount of doors and walls that encourages employees to interact and collaborate out in the open and not sit behind a computer in their cubicle all day. There’s a stellar 360-degree view of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains from just about anywhere, providing another reason to use the stairs around the magnificent 44-foot tall floor-to-ceiling glass atrium. The biggest perk? A service desk for you to drop off your dry cleaning or schedule an oil change for your car, since these things can take away from your workday and Adobe wants its employees to be more effective in all aspects of their lives.

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JD talks about the 75-foot spray-painted mural courtesy of Los Angeles street artist El Mac.

The tour guides JD and Eric work in sales so who better to stoke up a group of high schoolers (and their teacher?) They gave us specific instructions to photograph anything but the “NASA wall,” a dashboard that monitors real-time Adobe analytics from daily hits, returning visitors, weekly and monthly visits. It looked super cool.

JD asked my group why these numbers were so important and when no one responded, I chimed in: “For sales.” Exactly, he said. “The customer is everything to Adobe…OK, why else would these numbers be important?”

Again, crickets.

“To know the audience,” I said.

Another correct answer. Go, teach! We moved on to another talking point and I hung back to ask Mike if those numbers fluctuate when there’s big news. He told me that sometimes the numbers will dive drastically; often they find out about news before the news breaks, like if Singapore goes offline and web traffic plummets, they know something’s happening. I asked if the goal was get to more visits, and while he said yes, it’s really a full-circle experience for the customer in trying to find out what their behaviors are, what they’re predicted to do next and how to better serve them and make more money.

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Interactive screens like this highlight real-time Adobe activity worldwide.
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Green space above the central server room.
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Adobe harnesses heat from the building’s computer servers to warm the atrium.
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Working at Adobe perks: secure parking.
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Editor’s on the Yearbook staff at Adobe for Yearbook Camp.

Supremely singletrack

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Another check off my bucket lust: riding in Moab, Utah.

I rode three times in two days over my Easter Break, hitting the most supreme singletrack and one of the sweetest trails I’ve ever seen. Camping off Dalton Wells Road offered a free and scenic spot in close proximity to this ultimate singletrack – the Sovereign area.

Rolling up the first section, I realized this was no beginner’s ride; actually, this was probably the most technical singletrack I’d ever seen and took all of my power not to die. This trail was world’s apart from the other two trails, which were mostly wider Jeep trails and although still technical, not too difficult for a strong rider – it was more scenic than anything (photo above.)

But this Sovereign trail was (terribly?) tough – a rocky ride through boulder fields, sheer drop offs, step-ups and switchbacks. It was a delicate balance of throttle, brake and clutch control and I thought, this is almost over my head, but at least it kept my interest. The trail, which was also open to mountain bikers, was deserted, thankfully. Surely, it would suck on a bicycle. I was going slow enough on my motorcycle!

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Disneyland of a course

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“It is an essential tenet of Buddhism that we can begin to change the world by first changing how we look at the world.” ― Greg Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

Going into Saturday’s USRA desert race in Lynndyl, Utah (population 106), I felt nervous for my first official desert race of the year, which I thought would be a regular 35-mile race until it turned out to be a 35-mile loop that the leaders would round three times while I toughed two out on a tear for over 3 hours…my poor bike.

After the start, it was a free-for-all battle, and I worked to pass of all those (guys) in my way who were faster in the wide-open sections but slower than a snail and off the gas through the tight stuff. Once I was alone on the trail, I started to fly, riding the dangerous skinny ridge trails, across soggy, off-camber, silt-covered climbs and bar-busting, arm-bruising woods, sprinting as much as I could, knowing I was missing knobbies on my tires, fearing I was going to wad at any moment. But the stars aligned and I made no mistakes on the first loop, which brought me more confidence coming into the second lap.

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Post-race bruises

After the second of three check points on the second loop, the overall race leader lapped me, and I was inspired watching his rear tire wheel tap out of sight. Another leader caught and passed me, standing up the whole time. That’s about when the devil caught me, too: “Why are you doing this to yourself?” “This is torture!” “Why don’t you just slow down, or quit?” “You suck. You’re so far off their pace.”

I heard another four stroke in the distance except it was not approaching as fast. A few long, whooped-out straightaways later, I spot her W on the side numberplate and her long hair. The last thing I expected. I never saw her coming!

She passed me and pulled away as more guys caught up to us, leaving us in a pack while they worked passed. I kept her in sight, waiting fiercely for my window knowing I didn’t want to get beat. Once the desert sand sections ended (briefly), we got into another soft, soggy-bottom trail through these thick bushes, so I went for it, coming in hot behind her and setting up for a pass anytime soon. I’m not sure she realized it or cared because she didn’t try to out motor me. I skated by clean for a few more turns through the brush and then it was back into the whoops. I’m gassed at this point – some 65 miles into the race, so I tried holding on as long as I could, knowing she was back there, and she passed me a few miles before the finish;  I was 17 seconds behind at the end. The worst part was not knowing I was in the lead for those first 60 miles, since that’s just about the time I let off the gas. Lesson learned.

Results: I finished second in my class and 104th overall with a total two-lap time of 3:23:04, 17 seconds behind the leader’s 3:22:47, compared to the overall race leader Joe Wasson’s three-lap time of 3:19:58. (He finished three laps faster than I finished two.)