Where are you based and what do you do?
I am based in the mountains of Missoula, Montana, USA where I work with the Adventure Cycling Association. We're a non-profit organization with the mission to inspire, empower, and connect people to travel by bicycle. Adventure Cycling does a number of things: we create and map routes for long-distance bicycle travel (such as the notorious Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and the TransAmerica Trail), advocate for safer conditions and regional support of bicycle travel, and lead bicycle tours all over the USA (and a bit in Canada). I've worked in several capacities in the organization over the last three years, but I am currently a Tours Specialist in our guided tours department.
While I dreamt about having such a job for a long time, I took the long way to get here. In my former life, I was a librarian for sixteen years and lived in Chicago. I reached a point five or six years ago where I was ready for a big change, though, but I wasn't sure what the next steps where. It struck me that I didn't really need to know those next steps right away, so I decided to leave everything behind and do the one thing the made me happy until the rest worked itself out -- so I got rid of almost everything I owned and rode my bicycle across the country on the TransAmerica Trail. Over three months, I biked over 4,300 miles (6,920 km) across ten states and found myself settling in Missoula where Adventure Cycling is based. And after a bit of kicking my foot in the door at the organization, things did, in fact, work out in the end and now I'm excited to be able to help other people get out to also experience the joys of bicycle travel for a living.
What are your favourite ways to get outside?
We are spoiled for options to get outside here in Missoula, so I try to out into nature as often as I can. Just out my front door, I can go on a mountain bike ride and feel away from everything in just a few miles, there are hiking trails in every direction, and I've even started dabbling in trail running as just another way to get out (having never intentionally run any sort of distance on purpose, this is a new world to me and I'm enjoying it!). It's hard to pick a favourite since they all provide different experiences and feelings of satisfaction in the end, but I would have to say my favourite outdoor activity is camping. Being able to immerse oneself outside, sleep on the ground, and wake up to the sunrise and sound of the birds is one of the most rejuvenating things I know.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
My fondest earlier memories are from high school, age 16-18, when I started hiking on a regular basis. I grew up near a large state park along the Illinois River and would often retreat into the woods to walk and read and clear my head. Later while living in Chicago, I began riding bikes as a form of transportation and commuted all over the city. In 2008, I began getting out on multiday bike + camping trips and I was hooked. Since then, touring by bicycle has been a major part of both my life and identity.
What's been your favourite trip or adventure?
That's a hard one to pick. Bicycling across the USA over three months? Riding 10 days on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Banff, Alberta to Whitefish, Montana? The bicycle ride that I just took through West Virginia that was also part geneology project was also great. Even the mini adventures out my front door are special -- I am able to load up my bicycle, ride 10 miles into the nearby National Forest and camp in what feels like the middle of nowhere, then load up and ride into work the next morning after hitting a coffee shop along the way.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
I would have to say my Grandmother, Marcella, was a huge inspiration, at least in terms of bicycling. She learned how to ride a bicycle at the age of 43 and it was her life for the next thirty years. Every day, she'd get out on a 20-mile ride - the only things that would stop her were sleet, unplowed snow, and winds over 25mph. Every vacation for her and my grandfather involved biking places. My only regret is that I didn't begin to appreciate cycling personally until a decade after she passed away, so I never got to ride with her. I know she's out riding with me in spirit, though.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your well-being and mental health?
Most definitely. I often catch myself in bouts of fairly high anxiety, especially in winter. While it might take an extra boost to get myself to go outside during these times, I always inevitably feel better once I do. Even if it's for just a quick hike, taking time to walk slowly and breathe in the natural air is a nice reboot. As mentioned above, camping is my favorite way to really snap myself out of routines and restart my internal rhythms. When I'm feeling blue, combining a bike ride to go camp somewhere is my best antidote.
Do you wear your FINDRA when you're not outdoors?
I do! In fact, I wear my FINDRA gear as much as I possibly can. The tops and accessories that I have are part of my everyday wardrobe, which is one of the reasons I love the brand so much. It's hard for me to feel comfortable in most technical activewear, so the fact that I don't really have to think about what to wear when I get outside is a relief and then when I am out hiking or biking, I'm always comfortable since it already feels natural.
When did you discover FINDRA and what's your favourite piece?
I discovered FINDRA about two and a half years ago. I'm a big fan of Lee Craigie and saw so many photos and videos of her in the Marin top and had long admired it. When I stumbled across a reference and web link to Findra website and saw the products, I was so excited to have discover the brand - and even better that it was one with such love for both the outdoors and creating natural, ethical product.
Again, it's hard to choose my favorite piece since I wear them all so often, but I really love my Caddon cowl top this time of year. It's thin yet so warm and cozy, and I appreciate the long sleeves for my super long arms.