Friday, January 13, 2006

Stolen moments

Date: Jan. 13
Mileage: 24.4
January mileage: 188.8
Temperature upon departure: 18

Friday the 13th. I woke up, ate some of that cold cereal that I tried so hard to vilify yesterday and deliberately did not turn on the radio. I piled on layers, hoisted my Camelpak and went for an extended commute to work with Geoff. We rode Skyline, the snowmobile trails, the reservoir. I dropped down East Hill sucking up the wind chill at 35 mph and pulled into work just as my boss was duct taping the front door shut.

My odometer read 12:08 p.m. "So much for not exercising outdoors, eh?" she said.

"I take it the volcano went off again," I said.

She looked at me like I was wearing one of those sandblaster masks that everyone's been hoarding as a hat. "It's gone off three times already," she said. "The first eruption happened before 5 a.m."

She told me there was an ash advisory for 1 p.m. and she was shutting down the office. She told me I could go inside if I wanted to, but she had Saran wrapped pretty much every piece of electronic equipment inside. She told me she was duct taping the door either way. She was pretty much telling me I had a free day off.

"I could probably make it home by 1 p.m.," I said, but she insisted on driving me. We took the long way so we could loop around the Cook Inlet overlook and see if we could catch of glimpse of Augustine's ongoing temper tantrum - but it was just too overcast. The rest of the afternoon I lazed around the house guilt-free as snow fell lightly outside. At least - I'm pretty sure it was snow.

The AVO reported that the wind shifted and the ash advisory was lifted, so Geoff and I ventured out into the ghost town that Homer became. There had been a bunch of events slated for tonight and most of them were canceled - except, for unknown reasons, an impromptu bluegrass jam by the Homer Old-Time Fiddlers at Captain's Coffee and a reading by Fairbanks author Marjorie Kowalski Cole The poor woman drove all the way from Anchorage through an ash storm to host the publicity event on a night when all area residents were warned to stay indoors at all costs. The turnout, for the circumstances, wasn't too bad. I enjoyed the reading because, from my brief interaction with her, I sensed that Marjorie is the kind of writer I would be if I were a novelist - unapologetically twisting actual events until they take on a life of their own (not, of course, that I do that as a journalist.) Her husband talked about their adventures looking for an air filter in the sparsely populated southern Kenai Peninsula, and she didn't seem to care at all that just 70 miles away a molten mountain was belching thousands of pounds of glass shards. She read exerpts from her book and then talked for several minutes about how strange it was that she was the only one staying at her hotel. As it stands, the volcano erupted one more time, the ash never came, and seismic activity continues. Here's crossing my fingers that Augustine decides to call it a decade and give up, and if not, here's hoping that the wind stays at my back.