Wednesday, December 14, 2005


So they tell me Mt. Augustine's about to blow. It's rated "Code Yellow," for what that's worth (just like the United States has been in a code yellow terrorism alert since, well, since the British were coming.) This photo is actually Mt. Iliamna. It could be Mt. Redoubt. I don't know. What I do know is - I live near a lot of volcanoes. And one of them, they tell me, is about to blow.

I never really thought about volcanoes before I moved to Alaska. An active volcano is something that belongs on a tiny tropical island, somewhere deep and warm and surrounded by chanting natives hoisting a screaming virgin up the face. No one told me that Homer was surrounded by these things - one big geothermal hug.

So I came into work today, wide-eyed and clutching the Anchorage Daily News with a shot of a big, steam-spewing cone on the cover. My co-worker just laughed at me (she has lived in Homer since the beginning of time, or at least since 1986 - the last time it blew its top.)

"It's not so bad," she said. "It just gets really foggy and dark, and everyone stays home for a couple of days."

"You can't even go outside?" I asked.

"Oh, you can go outside. Just try not to breathe too much."

I wonder what it would be like to ride a bicycle in a few inches of fresh volcanic ash. I imagine it would be a lot like riding in powder snow - airy, slow and locked in ethereal silence. It would probably be really enjoyable ... except for the not breathing part.

Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of the still-available oxygen in the air to ride my bike today. I did manage a good, sweaty 75 minutes on the elliptical trainer at the gym. I feel it was an accomplishment only because I managed to ignore a leering bodybuilder that entire time. But I do have a deficit of cycling mileage that I owe - and this makes me very happy. I want to thank everyone who's helped me out in my miles-for-dollars Susitna 100 bid. I am close to my goal, and with any luck I'll be able to file my application to the race toward the end of this week. In answer to Fritz's comment yesterday, I am good for every mile. Come wind, ice, blizzard, or the most horrifying condition - rain, I'll bike it. I have until Dec. 31, so bring it on!