Date: Jan. 31
January mileage: 501.3
Temperature upon departure: 11
Well, it's the end of the month. Geoff already pointed out how close I was to 500 miles yesterday, so I had to go for it. Just had to. Why put so much emphasis on an arbitrary number (and, due to some guestimation during one ride, not even an exact number)? Why not 497? 481? I don't know. We're irrationally drawn to even numbers. Anyway, it got me out for a healthy 40-mile ride after work today. Plus, it beats going to see the latest Hillary Duff movie at the singleplex.
It's funny, actually, because I was not feeling good when I first set out in the blowing snow. I got out of work late and then had to spend 20 valuable daylight minutes changing a flat on my back tire (the valve tore. Tube creep is one of the perils of running bicycle tires at low pressure.) Snowfall was light, but there was a fierce headwind out of the east sending drifts everywhere. Plowing through the accumulation made for slow progress. But as I pedaled along, my mood began to improve. So I dropped off the ridge and made my move.
I spent about four hours on the bike today, navigating the unplowed roads, charging through snowcovered trails, and on (rare) occasion, coasting with a strong tailwind down reasonably clear roads. Most of that time was under night skies, and I finally burned out both my head and tail light batteries. But with all this trail riding I've been doing, even averaging 10 mph felt unbelievably fast. I can't wait to feel what it's like to get on a road bike again.
Someone asked me the other day if I could squeeze in some road rides to rack up my mileage. And I thought - roads? What are these roads that you speak of? I'm guessing the person was refering to a dry surface, generally smooth and covered in pavement. Such luxuries do not exist in Alaska in mid-winter. Even plowed highways are almost entirely covered with a thin layer of packed snow and ice, and usually a fair number of snowdrifts, for weeks on end. The gravel roads (of which there are many) might as well be packed snowmobile trails. When it snows, they might as well be an open meadow covered in moose-trampled powder. No one in town even dreams of running their vehicles without studded snow tires. We bikers feel the same way. I did get a few runs in on my road bike during an extended thaw in December, but it's looking like it may be a while before that happens again. For now, roadie sits on the trainer, dejected but probably thankful it doesn't have to incur the frozen abuse my Gary Fisher endures.
Sure, I miss riding my road bike. But, then I have days like today ... pounding through snow drifts on the Spit bike path as freezing spray splashes up from the Bay, facing the blowing blizzard and sucking up subzero windchill. And the best part - I'm feeling kind of good. Maybe even enjoying myself. After all, I think, I have this whole place to myself. I feel toasty in my winter gear anyway. I only have a few more miles to go and I may even get there.
Who needs summer?