Veteran Parkite enjoys her own tour de France
July 21, 2007
Cheryl Soshnik has ridden a tour de France twice. Not the capital "T" tour, but self-supported bike rides across the pastoral countryside and cobbled streets made famous by that other Tour de France. Soshnik, a longtime resident of Old Town, has adventured all over the Americas, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Whether hiking, biking, backpacking, caving or skiing, she’s always thrown herself headlong into the pursuit of outdoor adventure.
Soshnik was born and grew up in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. The only daughter of Gen and Leo Soshnik, she had an older brother, Bernie. She describes her school years as ‘average.’
"I just survived it," she explains. "I was from a middle-class neighborhood and, quite frankly, my parents didn’t have high expectations for me.
"I was kind of a tomboy and liked playing out in the woods. I honestly don’t know why, but I was always drawn to nature and outdoor adventure."
She describes her first encounter with a bicycle as "unfortunate." "My dad got my brother and I identical bikes. Mine was too big, but off I went down the hill and crashed into my brother,’ she chuckles. "We’d had the bikes about ten minutes and they were already bent up, but they worked fine and we rode the heck out of them."
While not a stellar student, Soshnik thrived in the Girl Scouts. "I loved summer camp and went on my first backpacking trip with the scouts when I was 16 years old."
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Soshnik graduated from St. Louis Park High School in 1967 and left for the University of Minnesota the following fall. "My dad gave me the money for my first quarter and said I’d find a way to stay in school if I wanted to," she remembers.
While at the University, she discovered the "Minnesota Rovers Outing Club," a collegiate group similar to the Park City Mountain Sports Club. "I thought, cool, it’s just like the Girl Scouts but co-ed!" She became immersed in the club, spelunking, skiing, hiking and bicycling to the virtual exclusion of her class work. Nagged by poor grades and an overwhelming lack of interest, she quit school after two years.
Her thirst for adventure remained unquenchable. She moved back home and took a job in the NAPA Auto Parts warehouse two blocks away to support her travel habit. On a mountaineering trip to the ice fields in the Yukon she met Matt, her future husband.
He graduated from the University of Minnesota not long after they returned and the two intrepid adventurers promptly hopped a freight train headed west. "We both had cars but figured it would be more fun," she says. After a summer of hopping freights, hitchhiking and backpacking all over the west, the two were married at Glacier National Park in 1975.
The newlyweds decided they wanted to live in mountain country and soon settled in Denver, where Matt found work as an oil field roughneck. True to form, they abandoned Denver after concluding it was still too far from the mountains. "We followed Matt’s oil rig to Evanston, Wyoming during the big oil boom of the mid-1970s," says Soshnik.
"I could see King’s Peak from our kitchen window. I was closer to the mountains, but the Bridger Valley wasn’t the ideal spot for an outdoor lover, surrounded by sagebrush and cowboys who enjoyed running bicyclers off the road."
The marriage ended in 1981. Soshnik pulled up stakes and drove straight to Park City, a town she’d been told about by friends.
"I finally found what I’d been looking for in Park City," she recalls. An avid downhiller, she fondly recounts skiing down the "Quitting Time" run at the end of a day’s skiing. "It was old and overgrown and full of ‘whippers.’ I’d ski right down to my front porch."
"I took an EMT class and worked with the Park City ambulance service during the winters," she says. "I skied up to 150 days a year back then." During the summers she worked as a cook at a dude ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
the mid-1980s, Soshnik’s evolving career with the ambulance service began to cut into her free time. "I gave up the summer job, managed the service and went from skiing over 100 days to about 10 days a season," she says.
She scraped up enough money to buy a small home on Woodside Avenue in Old Town in 1986. After a 17-year hiatus, she went back to college and graduated with a nursing degree from the University of Utah in 1991. The working grind continued until 1999, when the Park City Fire Department assumed responsibility for the ambulance service.
"Giving up the ambulance was a blessing," she recalls. "It gave me more time to get back into the outdoors."
Soshnik took a part-time job with the Utah Health Department training other nurses to use software to track trauma patients. "I enjoy teaching and learning the software used in the program. I can set my own schedule and work from home," she says. The software developer also offered her a job installing the program and training nurses in surrounding states. The two contract jobs have provided her with income and the flexibility to travel and play.
Her brother’s death from colon cancer in 2004 provided added impetus to play more and work less. "Bernie was only 57 when he died. He figured he’d have lots of time to travel and do the things he loved when he retired," she explains. "He came out to visit during his final months and we went on many hikes together. He made me promise to travel for the two of us."
Soshnik is living up to her promise. She leaves this weekend for "RAGBRAI," an annual bicycle tour/rolling party across Iowa that attracts cyclists from around the world. She also has trips to Greece and Tasmania in the works. It’s what she’s worked for all these years, the life she’s always dreamed of.
She says she still loves Park City, but that Old Town is not the peaceful, colorful community it once was. "I’ve had a wonderful time these last 26 years in Park City. When the development really took off in the area, I’d tell people I just put blinders on as I drove through Snyderville Basin. When I’d get back to my sweet little house on Woodside, nothing had changed. That’s not so any more.
"Everywhere around me the little houses are being torn down and replaced with luxury homes. Construction and demolition trucks are everywhere. You leave your house in the morning for a bike ride and when you come home in the afternoon, the cute little duplex three doors down has been totally demolished and now there’s an empty lot for some new ‘starter castle.’ Nope, Park City is not the same little community I moved into all those years ago. And I miss it." Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer, actor and balloon pilot/instructor.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota; parents Gen and Leo; brother Bernie.
Favorite things to do in Park City: Anything outdoors. She enjoys the Mountain Town Stages concerts at all the town venues.
Favorite Foods: "Pasta Alfredo with pine nuts and interesting salads."
Favorite Authors: Ed Abbey and Jon Krakauer [author of "Into Thin Air" and "Under the Banner of Heaven"].
Pets: "Sir Kitten, a 16-year-old cat that rules the house."
QUOTE: "I finally found what I’d been looking for in Park City I’d ski right down to my front porch."