Saturday, December 10, 2005

Refrost

Date: Dec. 10
Today's mileage: 33
December mileage: 132.2
Temperature upon departure: 32

"I haven't been that terrified on a road bike since we left Missouri." What thaws must freeze, such is the code of Alaska. Geoff and I headed out East End Road today, giddy to cycle 17 miles of rolling hills on the newly exposed pavement. Mostly ignoring the closer-to-freezing temperature on the bank clock in town, we parked the car at the Homestead Restaurant and began the long climb toward the ridge. We pedaled upward, about 3.5 miles and 1,000 vertical feet, until the ice on the road was so thick that our back wheels started spinning out. Geoff stopped just shy of McNeil Canyon Elementary (which is, incidentally, the highest-elevation school in Alaska) and posed a very good question that I hadn't thought much about at 8 mph - "what's this going to be like coming down?"

And I meant what I said to him once we returned to the safety of sea level after white-knuckling the brakes down that ice sheet. Geoff opted for faster - less likely to fall. I opted for slower - less likely to hurt as bad should a likely fall happen. We both came down unscathed - but, man. I felt as cold as ice at the bottom, and not because I wasn't dressed for the weather. The last time I was so scared on a skinny tire, I was trying to outrace freeway-speed traffic on a narrow, shoulderless stretch of U.S. 50 in rural Missouri. All of Missouri is a crap shoot if you're on a loaded touring bike, but at least the roads don't ice over often down there.

We took advantage of our surging adrenaline to ride another 26 miles around town and out the spit. It was a good day and I'm happy for this short window of road bike freedom, but I think I'm going back to the studs.

Well, tonight I get to go to a Contra Dance. (I'm a small-town journalist. Don't ask.) I just learned that a Web site called the Outdoor Bloggers Network has nominated Up in Alaska as one of a couple dozen up for "Best Outdoor Blog of 2005." I don't know that it's really a fair nomination, seeing as this blog has only been in existence since November. But, for what it's worth (and I'm not quite sure what it's worth) you could surf on over and cast your vote, if you want. The site is weighted pretty heavily toward the hunting and fishing sector, so your vote might be my best chance. The site is located at http://www.heartlandoutdoorsman.com/blog/