Falling in Love

I’m in love. Her name is Kyoto.It’s been a while since I’ve travelled. I mean, really travelled. Long flights, trains, backpack style trekking around the world type travel.I had been craving it, but I didnt realize just how much. I’ve changed. I’ve grown. At this moment I am deep into this across the world adventure, and as I sit here on a train eating a delicious bento box, drinking a Kirin, resting my hiking boots on the foot rest of my train seat, I am totally immersed.We, my hubby and I, are just leaving Kyoto. After four days, I didn’t want to leave. But it’s time for the next phase of our journey.Kyoto stole my heart. A piece of it is still back there in those beautiful mountains as we speed away.It all started with a hike up the remote pilgrimage mountain — Mountain of Peace. It continued with a climb up nature’s stair climber on the Fushimi Trail.The crowds thinned as we made our way up the longer route. I pushed my pace to a fairly unreasonable rate up the winding staircases when Golden Boy — with his young skin, shirtless ripped torso and blond hair — thought he could pass me. Sorry about your luck. This little girl with pig tails and a back pack can push until her insides scream with the right motivation.

The rewards at the top were worth it. A meditative space filled with little paths winding through a plethora of shrines.The icing on the cake, the last bit of melting my heart, was the hike away from the crowds, up a deserted path to a peak that looked down upon the bamobo forest and monkey park. We sat on a makeshift bench of logs and relished in the chorus of birds and insects. Nature’s music.After hiking and meditating in the mountains all day, and taking in the sites, we developed a routine of enjoying the amazing happy hour at our hotel.At night we explored the rather inique and interesting areas of Gion and Pontocho. By the end of our four days, we had gotten the hang of finding the more authentic restaurants and Japanese whiskey bars. It was truly amazing being the only white people in a joint.As I sit here on this train, my heart is a little tender. I fell in love with Kyoto. I don’t want to leave. I know I’ll be back.

 

Where Did Julie and Her Bike Go?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything here on my ‘Just A Girl And A Bike’ site. I assure you, I have not gone away. I’m still here. I’m still just a girl. I’m still riding my bike. And I’m still raising money for World Bicycle Relief, one book at a time.

I’m doing lots of other things now too. Hiking has become a big part of my life. My last posts were about some amazing hikes I did in Utah (Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing), and a trip to my local mountains to ride, hike, and sell books (Reflections from the Mountains).

I was still travelling until the lockdown happened. I was lucky enough to get in a trip to Japan and to San Diego before it all happened. I did write some posts, but didn’t publish them. Stay tuned….

I’ve also launched myself onto a path of becoming a fiction writer. This has kept me quite busy – and is the reason that I have not pampered my traveling, biking, hiking, inspirational blog the way I once did. For that I am sorry, and I miss it, but…sometimes you have to focus and you can’t do everything. I am happy to say that because I buckled down and worked hard, I launched my debut novel last January.

Final Track - FRONT

If you like MindHunter, Hannibal, Criminal Minds…you might like my novel – Final Track.

If you like dark crime, horror, and 80s metal…you can check out my new site. KillersAndDemons – a toxic cocktail of 80s metal, ritualistic murder, and raw horror. You will also find the occasional inspirational post there as well (it is in my nature). And, you will find lots of cool stuff – free short stories (right now you get Where’s Benji if you sign up for the newsletter), story time (Creepy Readings with Demon Julie) and a plethora of other cool and fun stuff. Stop on by!

 

Newsletter2Although my ‘new’ creative path seems totally different than the one conveyed here on this site, there are some glaring similarities. I still write inspirational posts – I can’t help it. I still write about my passions (music, 80s, reading, writing) – just slightly different passions than the outdoor adventure focus here. I’m still in the posts, in the stories, and in the website. It’s still me. Just a different side of me.

 

 

104385072_1005311676549685_2396385641008336064_nI was recently interviewed by an author I totally admire (Daniel Willcocks) on his podcast called Great Writers Share. I’ve posted it here so you can have a listen. It was eye opening and quite refreshing to see that no matter what I choose to focus on or to write – I am still Julie. Now, I’m not Just A Girl and a Bike – I’m also Bon Julie, Demon Julie…and who knows what other Julie’s are lurching within 🙂

Listen to Great Writers Share | with Daniel Willcocks

It’s been a long journey. Stay here for more outdoor and travel adventure blogs. Come along with me at KillersAndDemons for dark tales of crime and horror coated with 80s metal, or follow both – whatever suits your taste.

Stay tuned for some good memories from a fascinating adventure in Japan last fall.

Reflections from the Mountains

I’m back from a very full two days in the mountains. After a solid two days of non-stop adventure, my heart is full of gratitude. Living so close to some of the most beautiful mountains is absolutely amazing. Every time I make the trip out, I come back feeling renewed and alive. My being feels open. My soul is infused with a energy and a sense of peace and calm.

The trip was oriented around a fitness expo, paired with the Banff Marathon. The expo itself is a beautifully run little event. People from all over the world come to run through the mountains, participating in the full marathon, half marathon, or 10 km run. The expo is set up such that participants come through to pick up their race packages, and have an opportunity to peruse the vendors. I have been fortunate to be able to be part of this as Just A Girl and a Bike for several years now.

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It’s always exciting to sell a book, of course. But, the conversations I end up having and the connections I end up making are what really stick in my mind. All sorts of people with a wide range of experience show up to run. I find myself relating whole heartedly to those who have never done this beforeor have nervous energy all over their face. I love that I can relate, talk to them, and perhaps even help them to focus their minds and their energy.

This year, after talking to a lady who was quite worried about the run, she said to me, “Thank you. I really needed that.” She walked away with a smile. Now, that made my heart sing.

So, not only did I sell some books, and selling books means more money raised for World Bicycle Relief, but I talked to many amazing people. And, I made a connection that could turn into a wonderful opportunity to encourage girls to be confident, seek the activities they love, and find their whole selves. Yes. I’m excited.

Now, of course, being in the mountains, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to get in some activities. I LOVE activities. I went up early the first morning and snuck in a bit of cycling. I was able to do a short, sweet loop up to Lake Minnewanka, with enough climbing to get my heart pumping.

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On the way up, I saw about eight or so mountain sheep, with babies! On the way down, I rolled right by two moose munching away at the gras on the side of the road. What an experience. These animals are truly magnificent, majestic, and have an aura of calm about them. I was even able to sneak in a side trip to Johnson Lake, adding on a couple more km and a wee bit more climbing.

I just felt SO good to be on my bike, surrounded by mountains, the fresh air kissing my face, and the essence of nature infusing my soul.

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After a long second day of talking, interacting, and being ‘on’, I unplugged by hiking aggressively up a series of switchbacks to the top of Sulfur Mountain. The peace and quiet of nature, the smell of the trail, the fresh air, and the earth, and the general calm that clings to the air on such a trail, absolutely refreshed me after expelling so much energy.

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Of course, I was happy to be home, in my own bed, back in my sanctuary. And now here I sit, writing, reflecting, and feeling happy and full of life. What an amazing place to live, so close to such mountains. And what a wonderful path I have been taking on by sharing my own story of facing my fears.

Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing

Angels Landing, a plateau at the peak of a red rock face, perched in the heart of Zion National Park.

2.5 miles of strenuous hiking up multiple series of switchbacks, including Walter’s Wiggles, takes you to the landing point where some will stay while others scramble to the final landing. Two long series of chains bolted into the rock with steel poles provide a safety net from the 1000 foot drop offs.

I wasn’t sure what the trail would really be like. I knew the distances. I knew the height gain. I know what it feels like to hike up long, steep descents. I have done some scrambling. But I wasn’t sure what these chained sections would be like.

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My first attempt at reaching the summit of Angel’s Landing, I had taken the first shuttle of the day from the town beside Zion park. I darted across the park entrance to catch the next shuttle up the canyon. I disembarked at the Grotto stop, along with dozens of other eager hikers. The herd quickly thinned as the climbing grew strenuous. At the top, many other hikers already milled about. The first series of chains wasn’t nearly as challenging as I thought it would be. I stood on the flat section before the second series, looking up at a daunting rocky climb. I wanted to do it. But, all I could think about was the growing number of people, of various hiking abilities, streaming both up and down sections only wide enough for one. The communication was minimal. The chaos was growing. I didn’t feel this was something I should do. Or that I wanted to do under these conditions.

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Chasing Dreams on a Mountainside

Mer Glace Peak 10

A couple of years ago, my husband and I travelled to Chamonix, France. The dream was to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. A 180 km hiking route covering about 10,000 metres of climbing. When we showed up, our excitement was crushed. The snow levels had been high, and the melting process was taking longer than usual. Sections of the trail were closed. Not even guided tour groups were passing through. The Tour de Mont Blanc wasn’t going to happen for us.

Dreams don’t always come true when we expect them to. It doesn’t mean that we should give up on them.

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Orcas Island

We left Friday Harbour on a ferry and headed to Orcas Island.  We didn’t have confirmation of a place to stay that night.  We had contacted one of the few places that may have some vacancy, so we took a chance.  When we arrived, we drove the peaceful, quiet road, easily sinking into the slow pace of everything and everyone around us.  We found the one small ‘main town’ and a lovely breakfast.  How delightful!! The food was tremendous, the view was spectacular, and who knew what the day held?  After our adventures in escaping from the blazing fires in Oregon (Burning Eyes of Fire) we were definitely ready to turn over a new page on our road trip!

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Burning Eyes of Fire

I was SO excited.  We were finally hitting the road!  It had been a while since we had done any travelling.  We had just moved into our first house.  It was a huge endeavour that took much more time and energy that I had anticipated.  The fruits of our labor included an amazing summer in our new oasis.

I was craving some time on the road.  Some time away to explore and be free.  We had a great two weeks planned, packed full of craft beer, cycling, and outdoor exploration.  We arose before sunset.  As we backed out of the driveway in our little Subaru, packed to the brim with bikes and outdoor gear, we were guided by the soft glow of the moonlight.

The summer had been an absolutely terrible one for forest fires.  We were fortunate.  Being in Alberta, and the fires mostly burning in British Columbia, the most we experienced were some minor inconveniences when we had to cancel cycling or hiking plans due to poor air quality.  For those in the heart of it, lives had been changed.  I didn’t realize how much, until we embarked on our exciting little road trip.

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Ode to Ike – Persistence, Positivity, Patience and Presence

Henry Ford Quote

Whether you THINK you CAN or you CAN’T, either way you are RIGHT!!!

My brother was the one that first brought my attention to this quote.  I use it here because it completely describes my grandfather’s approach to life.

Last Cruise

My dear grandpa, Isaac (Ike) Doerksen, finally found a place of peace a few days ago after 103 years of life on this earth.  I don’t believe that there was any part of his life in which he did NOT believe that if he decided to do something, then he would.  The last week of his life was not easy.  As his ability to eat, drink water, and even get up slipped away, my family and I watched this man who had been such a strong figure in our lives slowly decline.  As his physical being lost it’s strength and became a weak shell of what it used to be, I watched in what was nothing less than total amazement as the strength of mind, soul and spirit emanating from him literally infused the entire room.  He didn’t once complain.  When I told him I loved him, he used what he had left to tell me he loved me too.  He often reached for the loving hand of whoever was sitting with him and gave a healthy squeeze.  He displayed such grace right to the end.  And as he did his entire life, he didn’t give up easily.  He simply lived true perseverance as he always had.

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The Bionic Woman Returns – Cinque Terra

 

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We didn’t know it yet, but, we were nearing the end of a several month adventure.  We had left home with hefty backpacks, planning to chase the pro cycling circuit.  We had seen a lot of cycling races, done a lot of our own riding, and had also found many other adventures along the way.  Coming off of the high of accomplishing some big things in my own cycling journey, I think I was in complete belief that I was the bionic woman!!!

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