How Cycling Through Winter Can Connect You to Nature (Jessica Cherry, writer, editor and climate scientist)

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Jessica Cherry Humans Outside podcast

The deep, cold, dark winter of the north is a unique experience that both challenges and inspires. On the one hand, it shows you things about nature and about yourself you’d never see in the long hours of warmer daylight. On the other, it carried a depth that at times feels insurmountable.

Among the winter enthusiasts and survivors are cyclists, people out there riding their bikes through, on and over the ice. They are part of a rich history of people not just exploring the Arctic under their own power, but leaning into the experience despite all the odds. In today’s episode writer and editor Jessica Cherry talks about the experience of cycling through Alaska’s winter. Listen now.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:56] Jessica Cherry’s favorite outdoor space

[3:45] How Jessica became someone who likes to go outside

[6:21] Jessica’s personal connection to cycling

[9:42] What is a “fat bike?”

[17:01] About Frank Soos

[18:58] The experience of recreating over winter in the arctic

[21:01] The surprising sound factor

[24:56] What people miss by not going outside in the winter’s darkness

[28:36] How being a climate scientist changes how Jessica experiences nature

[33:09] What Jessica learned from her book, Wheels on Ice

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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside even for a few minutes is always worth it. I’m your host, Amy Bushatz and here at Humans Outside, we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while hearing from fascinating outdoor minded. As a journalist for 19 years, I’ve let curiosity be my guide. After my husband’s injuries from military service, we started looking for a better way to live. That’s why we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve personally spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single. No matter what to explore, how nature can change my life.

Amy Bushatz: Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.

Amy Bushatz: The deep, cold, dark winter of the north, like what we have here in Alaska, is a unique experience that both challenges and inspires. On the one hand, it shows you things about nature and about yourself you’d never see in the long hours of warmer daylight. On the other, it can bring with it a sad, heavy feeling that challenges even the strongest among us to question exactly how much more of the deepest days of winter they want to deal with.

Amy Bushatz: And among the winter enthusiasts and survivors are cyclists, people out there riding their bikes through, on and over the ice. Many of these cyclists are using specially designed bikes called fat bikes, and they are part of a rich history of people not just exploring the Arctic under their own power, but leaning into the experience despite all the odds.

Amy Bushatz: Today’s guest, Jessica Cherry, is a climate scientist for NOAA, commercial airplane pilot, and separately, a writer and editor who recently helped compile a book of essays about this Alaska cycling experience. Wheels on Ice combines a few previously printed essays about cycling during the Gold Rush era in Alaska with newly printed essays. It’s a meandering read of inspirational adventure and insight, exactly how a book of cycling essays should be. Jessica worked on the book with Frank Soos, the 2014 Alaska writer Laureate, who was killed in a solo cycling accident out of state in mid 2021. Jessica is going to talk to us today about understanding and appreciating spending time outside in the dark winter of the North, cycling in Alaska, and what we might be missing by avoiding the darkness.

Amy Bushatz: Jessica, welcome to Humans Outside.

Jessica Cherry: Thanks, Amy. It’s great to be here with you today.

Amy Bushatz: So we start our episodes imagining ourselves in our guests favorite outdoor space, like we’re hanging out, having an in-person conversation somewhere outside that you love. Where are we with you today?

Jessica Cherry: Well, even after everything Mother Nature has thrown our way this winter in Anchorage. I still love Alaska in the winter. I’m talking to you from my home in, in West Anchorage. I’m glad that the light is starting to come back.

Amy Bushatz: Yes. We all are glad about that. Yeah, so you’re not very far away from me. You’re in Anchorage. I’m in Palmer. We’re about maybe an hour drive apart ish. Depends on how the beautiful roads are. And it is the winter while we’re recording this, it’s actually a very nice day outside. It’s like 20 degrees, balmy.

Jessica Cherry: It is .

Amy Bushatz: Okay, so talk to us about how you became somebody who likes to go outside. Are you from Anchorage or Alaska originally? How did this become a place that you love?

Jessica Cherry: You know, I’ve loved the outside now as long as I can remember. I grew up in Nebraska where my family settled five generations ago. My early years were in the 1970s and eighties when children were more or less feral and just spent hours outside in the backyard by ourselves building forts and looking for meteorites and digging holes.

Jessica Cherry: My parents and grandparents didn’t, they didn’t recreate outside the way that you and I do today, but they all had at least one thing they liked to do outside. I think my mom was a gardener. My dad had horses and did yard work. One of my grandfathers had farms and my maternal grandparents liked to go for walks and bird watch.

Jessica Cherry: I then, in high school from friends, I learned how to go car camping and eventually I went on an at an Outward Bound trip to Colorado where I got to learn a bunch of outdoor skills really for the first time that were relevant, I think, to my life here in Alaska. Then for college and graduate school I moved to New York City and there I spent a lot of time in Central Park and Riverside Park along the Hudson River. We don’t think of New York City as a wild place, but it has a lot of great out outdoor space. And once you’re cramped up in your apartment all day, you’re just dying to get out. . So yeah. And then 2006 I moved up to Fairbanks where I lived for 12 years and now I’ve been here in Anchorage for almost six.

Amy Bushatz: And you work for NOAA down here in Anchorage, right?

Jessica Cherry: I do. I’m the regional climate services director for the satellite branch of NOAA.

Amy Bushatz: Very cool. So we, we are not to blame you when the weather’s bad, right? .

Jessica Cherry: Well, I was a forecaster at the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center for about five years before I took my current position. So I did forecast the the river levels and helped with ice breakup in the spring and summer flooding and looking at snow packs and things.

Amy Bushatz: But that doesn’t make you responsible for the weather.

Jessica Cherry: No.

Amy Bushatz: Which is really the individual I’m looking for. No, I’m kidding. uh, Okay. So we’re here to talk about winter and Alaska and cycling and darkness. What is your own connection to cycling? Because you’ve now co-edited a book that’s just this beautiful collection of almost like, I, I think I would call them adventure essays in many ways about cycling. So what’s your own connection to it?

Jessica Cherry: Yeah, thanks. Well, I biked a lot as a kid. From my youngest days, my, my little brother and I would bike over to the Ben Franklin store to buy candy or we’d go window shop at the pet store, you know, on our bikes. And then as I grew a little bit older, I got what was then called a 10 speed from a garage sale. That was a, a road bike with handlebar breaks, and I rode that around my hometown a bit. Um, Actually I had a couple of uncles who used to race road bikes when they were young, and they’d given my parents a couple of schwinns, which they never used. And so those sat lonely and sad in the garage with dry rotten tires. But when my maternal grandmother died, I got her vintage 1960s Schwinn Cruiser. , and I painted it dark teal sparkly spray paint, and I would sometimes ride that to high school. And and to my job, I had a job at a coffee shop. Um, And in fact, my grandmother had only learned to ride a bike in her fifties for the first time.

Jessica Cherry: Um, And then, then in the nineties, just as I left for college mountain bikes and hybrids began mass market production. And so then I got an early Gary Fisher hybrid that I took with me to New York City, and I’m pretty sure that’s when I got my first helmet too. That wasn’t really a, a thing earlier.

Jessica Cherry: But well those hybrids and they’re upright position, I think we’re more accessible to more people. I learned that I really did love road biking. And so when I got more serious about it, I got a steel framed Bianchi and I would ride that around Central Park. And then in grad school, I’d ride up over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey and then up to Rockland County, New York.

Jessica Cherry: That’s where my lab was, and so I put in some good mile. I think I was about 16 miles each way.

Amy Bushatz: Wow.

Jessica Cherry: Sometimes I’d go a round trip and then sometimes I’d put my bike on a bus. Usually I’d put my bike on the bus and come home , but then, you know, I was putting in the miles, I was in good shape. So I then I tried my hand at racing in the kind of New York City scene where, you know, the women’s field was just like everyone from beginners like me to pro cyclist.

Jessica Cherry: So it was, it wasn’t, it wasn’t super popular. It was just sort of gaining momentum at the time. . But then I picked up a used titanium racing bike and that’s actually the one I still use here in Anchorage in the summertime. So I’d still am mostly a road cyclist. But I now have been starting to do fat biking on trails just because our road cycling season is pretty short.

Amy Bushatz: So short

Jessica Cherry: and I don’t wanna , I don’t wanna just bike for four months a year. So, yeah. So I’m a beginning fat biker as well.

Amy Bushatz: Can, I mentioned the fat bike in the introduction. Can you describe a fat bike for us? Because I had never heard of this before I moved to Alaska, and when I did hear about people cycling and super negative temperatures, it just kind of blew my mind. So what does a fat bike look like? And how is it different than like a bike that everyone else is envisioning or maybe a typical mountain bike?

Jessica Cherry: Sure. So, So fab bikes evolved from mountain bikes and it was actually this captured a little bit in the book that some of our Alaskaneers, our homegrown Alaska engineers are, were really responsible for coming up with the fat tire.

Jessica Cherry: And this had actually started by welding a couple of rims together and then putting a bigger tire on it. And then slowly evolved into to what we have today, and that’s described in more detail on the book. But Charlie Kelly is one of the authors in the, in our book, and he was really one of the inventors with Gary Fisher and a couple others of mountain biking.

Jessica Cherry: So when he heard about the Iditabike and some of the, the early fat biking here in Alaska, snow biking, he came up to see it and he’s got a real fun piece. He was also a cycling journalist and I think he captures that sort of late eighties, early nineties feel for what the scene was like.

Jessica Cherry: But you know, in terms of painting a picture of what it’s like, um, you know, off trail riding on Tundra or snow isn’t something that I personally do or really recommend to anyone. Not only is it extremely difficult, but in the case of Tundra it’s pretty impactful on the landscape in summertime. Um, I think people think of Alaska as having a lot of wilderness and certainly we do, but our wilderness is actually a maze of trails, both in the summertime and in the winter.

Jessica Cherry: Many of those trails have been used, you know, at least since the late 19th or early 20th centuries, if not hundreds or even thousands of years. You know, and then of course the trail network expanded, you know, as people started doing oil exploration and you know, before that gold mining they had heavy machinery that sort of you know trumped down the tundra and made new trails and places. But a couple of the authors in our book write about off trail riding one in particular, Luc Mehl is a local adventurer. And he attempted a trip near Nulato in, in the interior of Alaska through a burn scar with a friend of his, and it’s just pure misery.

Jessica Cherry: They end up returning to Nulato. They don’t get where they’re trying to go. And so the stories in the book about traveling between villages on the Yukon River, there we have some stories of folks doing that during the Gold Rush. And then a contemporary story of another adventure, Jeff Oatley doing this just a few years ago.

Jessica Cherry: Those riders are primarily on winter trails, existing, that might get packed down by snow machines or, you know, before that dog trails.

Amy Bushatz: Um, and, And the difference between a winter trail and a summer trail is often that a winter trail is over ice or over a part that may be underwater the rest, like in a warmer part of the year.

Amy Bushatz: So it’s typically or often a trail that is only used in the winter. Am I right about that?

Jessica Cherry: Yeah. Yeah. It might be over tundra or, yeah, on the river itself. Right. One, another, one of our writers, Eric Troyer, illustrates the error of even trying to bike on a winter trail in summertime. And it’s just a treacherous mud hole, right? And again, like that not fun. It’s just not, it’s not advised.

Amy Bushatz: Not advised. And the fat bike itself, you mentioned sort of a double tire rim. So the tires are really fat. The bike tends to be very heavy comp, at least compared to other bikes that people are used to seeing. And people use like these giant mitts. What are those known as that you, they’re attached to your handlebar to keep your hands warm. Pogie, right?

Jessica Cherry: Pogies right? Yes. Yeah.

Amy Bushatz: It’s, yeah. And they keep your, they, I mean, they’re, the concept is keeping you warm.

Jessica Cherry: Right. Yeah. They’re heavy bikes and I, you see people toodling around town with them in the summertime. I don’t know why you do that. That seems like a lot of work. But you know, and in, in winter it’s nice to have studs on the tires too to navigate the ice. It’s been a really icy winter, usually is here in South Central, you know, so you wanna swap out the tires for summer. But you do see people using those fat tire bikes on beach beaches and other types of surfaces where you benefit from having the wider tire.

Amy Bushatz: Two things. First of all, you mentioned Luc and is married to Sarah Histand who is a podcast guest here twice. So people are really familiar with her having heard her podcast episodes here about how to dress in cold weather. And most recently in season seven, about going outside and being super nice to your nervous system while doing it.

Amy Bushatz: And his, their collective instagram posts on Nordic ice skating are what got me out there trying that cuz I had big Nordic ice skating fOMO as a result right?

Jessica Cherry: Yeah, same here. Yeah. I think these two are real influencers for Nordic skating and I, you know, we were chatting a little bit about Nordic skating before we started this recording, and I think in a place like South Central where the weather can be unpredictable, it’s really nice to have a sort of a whole toolbox of different sports you can do in winter.

Jessica Cherry: Sometimes it’s really icy and you want, or there’s no snow and you want to get out there, and Nordic skates are a great way to do that. Sometimes conditions are perfect for snow biking. Sometimes it’s skiing weather, so it’s nice if you can be flexible and just sometimes you just go for a walk with your dog and that’s enough.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, but that’s such a good point cuz it’s exactly what we’re talking about today, which is the value of l kind of leaning into the darkness to recreate.

Amy Bushatz: Hey humans, just a quick break to remind you that if you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the Humans Outside 365 Challenge is a great way to get started.

Amy Bushatz: Cool and exclusive Challenge swag, including a finisher, metal, and decal is waiting for you. All you need to do is visit Don’t get left out. Go to to learn more now. Okay, back to the show.

Amy Bushatz: Before we go much further, I do wanna talk about Frank. Your book is, like we talked about, is a compilation of essays and it was done with the co-editor, Frank, and he was killed in 2021. And so he is not here with us today, but I wanna make sure that we talk a little bit about him. I’ve benefited through his work at 49 Writers, which is Alaska based writer group, though I don’t believe that we ever met, well perhaps off of Zoom. Although I did definitely meet him on Zoom. So can you just tell us a little bit about Frank?

Jessica Cherry: Yeah, it’s nice to talk a little bit about Frank. Frank was a longtime faculty member in the English department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He was a friend and mentor to me and probably hundreds of others. He had a lot of students over the years. , he authored a number of books in different genres. He had a book of essays short stories, poems. He had a collaboration with his wife, Margot class and he was a Alaska state writer Laureate. But most importantly, Frank was a really nice, thoughtful guy.

Jessica Cherry: He was very tall and long limbed and. A fluffy mustache, and he really enjoyed skiing and cycling. And he wrote about those things. He wrote about how important they were to balance his interior life, his life inside his mind and his life staying indoors, writing and reading and working with students. That time outside was what made all of that possible.

Amy Bushatz: Mm. It’s the winner as we’re recording this. And it probably is the winner when people are hearing this . So I wanna talk about the winter today. In the Alaska winter, it’s not something that I could have understood before I experienced it, just how dark and how cold and how the low light hits the tundra or hits the spruce trees, which are these, they look like trees that forgot to grow up. I think that’s the best way I can think of describing them. They’re not very big. They’re kind of these stubby little trees and you look at them and you think, but what happened to make you so small? ? Are you, are you gonna grow up bit later? And they’re not. That’s the size. They’re okay. Can you describe for us how the winter feels and looks in Alaska maybe beyond what I’ve said.

Jessica Cherry: Yeah. Well, I think for most of us who move to Alaska, the settlers and then stick around for a while, we have to enjoy some part of the winter or you just make yourself miserable, right? So I think getting outside is essential. I lived and worked in Fairbanks for 12 years, and while the interior has a lot of darkness, the light is beautiful.

Jessica Cherry: It comes in every shade of pink and blue, sometimes a little bit green and yellow and the snow muffles the sound. So winter is really quiet in the interior. It’s not very windy there because of the atmospheric inversion that sets up really stable. It’s relatively dry there, so the snow trails get packed down and they’re very pleasant for skiing or fat biking or just walking.

Jessica Cherry: I’ve also worked a lot on the Seward Peninsula, on the Bering Strait, and on the North Slope in Utqiagvik, Prudo and Toolik Lake, and those places are hard packed tundra where the wind can really howl. And blowing snow, it feels both damp and dry at the same time, but again, the extent to which the sky brightens in winter, it’s pretty magical. I think working on the North slope is really like working on the moon. It’s both gorgeous and frightening at the same time.

Amy Bushatz: I am thinking about the way that you’re describing the light and how it is that if we didn’t have the dark, we wouldn’t appreciate the light the same way? Like it’s because of the darkness that you know that light exists.

Amy Bushatz: I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s how I feel around Solstice, that it’s light in a way that I can appreciate because I know what it means to not be light.

Jessica Cherry: Yeah. You know, I mentioned the sounds are really different. In winter when the wind is calm, it can be very quiet. During windstorm, it can be very loud.

Jessica Cherry: In, In the summertime you hear leaves wrestling and more songbird and you hear people tearing down the street on their motorcycles. All of those summer sounds. That said though, I just heard a flock of bohemian wax wings while I was out walking my dog a few minutes ago. But the smells are also really different in winter and summer.

Jessica Cherry: Again, they’re, it’s, they’re very muted smells in, in winter, and then summer the trees are putting out all their pollen and the flowers and grasses. There’s also this feeling of the landscape and the houses in the winter being pan chromatic. They look like they’re in black and white and gray in the winter.

Jessica Cherry: And then in summer you see all the colors. So there are a lot of differences on your senses , but I think the sort of muted nature of winter it helps you listen to the quiet. I think that’s good for your brain.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. People describe the winter as providing, I think just culturally is providing a rest, right. It’s like a resting period. And I kind of feel like we experience that in an extra allotment here in Alaska or perhaps in other places in the north because it’s, there’s a feeling in the summer and when it’s light all the time that there’s just going . There’s no resting, there’s just going, and there’s this, it’s sort of this odd experience to be like, oh man, I think I’m hungry. It must be dinnertime. And to realize it’s 10:30 at night somehow . And that never happens in the wintertime. Right? It’s the opposite where you’re like, oh man, I’m really tired. I wonder, it must be dinnertime. And it’s three o’clock ,

Jessica Cherry: Right?

Amy Bushatz: Wow. Midnight? 4:15

Jessica Cherry: So it’s important to listen to that too. You can’t just go make yourself another cup of coffee in the late afternoon or you’re never gonna get to sleep. You have to, you have to listen to your body’s need to rest.

Amy Bushatz: Exactly and I feel like the winter and the darkness helps teach me to do that in a way that I didn’t appreciate when I lived somewhere with what we would perhaps characterize as more normal sunrise, sun set pattern all year round. The fact that it’s this huge swing has helped me learn to listen. And the fact that I experience this from outside my house by going outside, by spending time with that darkness out in it is something that gives me the ability to understand that in a way that I wouldn’t in my house, perhaps if for no other reason than I have the lights on.

Jessica Cherry: Right. Yeah,

Amy Bushatz: So, what value do you personally find from spending time outside in nature in the dark of winter versus that light of summer and that juxtaposition that we were talk, just talking about? I’d like to give a picture to people of what they might be missing out on by avoiding that darkness. Cuz I, I do think we kind of avoid it, right? Like darkness feels scary, it feels unknown, it feels risky. And so we say, oh, it’s dark time to go inside. But by being out and embracing it, perhaps people are missing out on something. So what do you see in that?

Jessica Cherry: Yeah. Well, I’m sure all of your guests have similar thoughts. Getting outside in winter is really important for our mental health. We also, we need to stimulate all those senses I just talked about. We need to stimulate our sense of sight and smell and hearing with what outside has to offer, not just the sound of the radio or the TV or the clinking glasses in the dishwasher. I think our eyes actually need to focus on things in the distance, or we just become evermore nearsighted, both literally and figuratively.

Jessica Cherry: I think we need fresh air away from our gas and wood stoves and plastics and our houses. I think we need to remember that we are part of an ecosystem and not separate from it. So for all those reasons, it’s really important to get outside.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So I mentioned earlier you’re a climate scientist. I would think that would give you a special connection or maybe just depth of understanding to what’s, what’s happening out there in terms of just nature itself, but also in how you’re experiencing it.

Amy Bushatz: So I’m wondering how you see that understanding and that depth of knowledge influencing your own time outside, how does that impact what you’re doing, what you’re feeling, what you are seeing?

Jessica Cherry: Yeah I guess when I’m outside, the scientist in me looks for empirical evidence for the ways in which the world works. I like to watch how the tides push sea ice around on the mud flats here in Anchorage. I like to make note of Anchorage’s industries and economy, including land use and development and piles of snow and gravel.

Jessica Cherry: I for whatever reason, I just like watching all that gravel pile up around different parts of town where they sell it or store it at. Because that’s how the economy works here. Yeah. I like to watch people walking and biking through town and doing what they’re doing, waiting for the bus or talking to their friends.

Jessica Cherry: Those are the things you see outside. ,

Amy Bushatz: So about 45 mi miles away from you here in the valley, and for those who don’t know, where I live is known as quote unquote, the valley, as if it is the only one not a valley, the valley. Uh, here in the valley, big wind. We’re proprietors of a lot of wind here and when you talk about gravel pits, I or the gravel piling up, I’m of course imagining the gravel pits from whence it comes, which are nearby me, and all the rocks that blow around in it. But the reason I bring this up it’s almost like free sandblasting on your face. If you’re outside in this, it’s invigorating. Okay?

Amy Bushatz: The reason I bring this up is because when I experience these things outside myself, I feel like I am trying to endure or conquer them, right? It’s like me against the wind or me against the flying sandblasting or me enduring this challenge and coming out on the other side victorious. Is that something that you feel as you’re observing this or and as you’re experiencing this, or do you more feel just sort of one with your understanding of what’s going on and that gives you maybe a calm?

Jessica Cherry: Well, there was a lot bundled into that question, but I think um, I, I think those little challenges or extreme challenges in some cases, but it really, I don’t think it takes very much and the older I get, the more sort of mundane, my little challenges are. I think those are important for keeping our mind and body healthy.

Jessica Cherry: And it connects us to other people. I think it, it gives us better empathy for people that face enormous challenges. People who may be living without a home in Alaska, in some of the harshest weather on earth. Those little challenges of getting outside give us empathy for that experience.

Jessica Cherry: And again, I think it, it places us as part of the ecosystem, part of the environment in which we live.

Amy Bushatz: So it’s easy, as we’ve touched on, for people to avoid heading outside in the winter. You just simply stay inside. It’s very, it’s the easiest thing you could possibly do is not going outside.

Amy Bushatz: Many of the essays in your book are about users who embrace it on purpose, whether that is through, you know, ill fated adventures or maybe not completely ill fated, but they don’t go the way they thought they would go, or they go great. And they get to, you know, come out on the other side feeling victorious and perhaps in a meandering kind of way.

Amy Bushatz: Or they’re out there literally cycling to Nome as part of the Gold Rush. Why it worth doing those things? Why is it worth it leaning into that and embracing it?

Jessica Cherry: I, I think for people who stay indoors and don’t have a lot of physical or mental stimulation, science has shown that they don’t live as long.

Jessica Cherry: And I think especially as we age, or even when we’re children and when we’re still developing, it’s those little challenges that help us grow. And you know, for some people that challenge is simply riding a bike to work and riding a, a bike to work in America is, is is an adventure. It is actually dangerous.

Jessica Cherry: And gosh, after the three snowstorms that we had a couple weeks ago, three in a row it’s, It’s just now that the sidewalks are getting opened up, that the streets are being cleared, so they have all of their normal lanes available. It’s been very dangerous for people to try to get around town even in a car like the moose don’t have any place to go. So they’re all kind of walking around the streets, but yeah.

Amy Bushatz: It’s kinda crazy, right? They

Jessica Cherry: It is pretty crazy.

Amy Bushatz: They’ve been in unusual places here too, and it’s, it’s a little bit like I, well, okay, I can’t even argue with that. I mean, you gotta walk somewhere and you why not walk here, you know,

Jessica Cherry: And in the first few days after the storms people were just walking in the streets here in the city and sitting on the snowbank waiting for a bus that may or may not ever come, and it was just like we just gave up. We just gave up. Trying to be a fully functioning municipality is, there’s just nothing you could do about it. And the city was behind. They had broken equipment. They had a whole bunch of problems with not enough employees.

Jessica Cherry: I don’t know. Lots of reasons were given for it, but it took a long time and there’s still clearing snow and so getting outside is not easy in these conditions. And then we had freezing rain. You know, you just to be resilient to these challenges, you do need this whole toolbox of different cleats for your shoes and different ways of getting where you need to go.

Jessica Cherry: But if you don’t get outside and you don’t expose yourself to those challenges, you just, your body starts to decay and your mind just goes limp and it’s just not good for you.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah. So many of the essays in your book focus on the winter, but not all of them. All of them though, seem to have a flavor of adventure. So I’m wondering what you learned personally from these stories. You compiled the book. What do you learn from the essays that you picked?

Jessica Cherry: Yeah, you know, I think I learned that everyone has their own story. But in sharing them in this kind of collection, we see the, we see certain commonalities and we see themes emerge. Like, the way that cycling has this ability to transport you back to childhood, even if you didn’t even learn to ride a bike as a child. But it’s a, it just is this huge release of anxiety, it just sort of like blows back behind you as you move forward. And I think it’s that experience which can bring us together. I think that cycling is a fairly accessible activity. You don’t have to be out there riding on a five or $10,000 e-bike. You know, you can, you can really get pretty far on a, on a cheap beater. And we hear about that in a few stories. You know, when I lived in New York City, we’d see these folks riding around delivering pizzas on bikes, right. Delivering Chinese food, delivering all kinds of food. And and there were actually , there was an annual race of of delivery riders. And it, you know, it was a way of celebrating those achievements that just delivering a pizza on a bike in Manhattan, in, in all of its dangers that is worthy of celebration. And i, I think it’s pretty accessible.

Jessica Cherry: We have a lot of people who, again, live without homes in Alaska, and, and some of them get around by bicycle and um, all year round. And it’s, it’s dangerous and difficult and but sometimes that’s what people need to do and, and then we have the other extreme of people who can spend a lot of their income on um, a lot of expensive gear and, and make themselves quite comfortable and everything in between.

Jessica Cherry: And really the stories and this collection involve all of those scenarios. So I, I think that moving through the world on a bike makes us ask what really is possible.

Amy Bushatz: Jessica, thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside today. People can find your book wherever they get their books including at their local book seller here in Alaska. And as I mentioned earlier, it is a really fun collection of adventure focused in many ways, essays that, I mean, has me wanting to get out there and spend more time outside doing something cool like that even than I already do.

Amy Bushatz: So thank you for putting it together, for helping, putting it together, and thank you for joining us today.

Jessica Cherry: Thanks, Amy. This was a fun discussion. I appreciate it.

Amy Bushatz: Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. Help me out by leading a five star rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. It really does help other listeners find the podcast. Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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