Showing posts from May, 2006

Forgot camera again ...

Date: May 30
Mileage: 43.4
May Mileage: 472.1
Temperature upon departure: 58

... so I'm posting yet another Utah shot, with the Twin Peaks dominating the Wasatch Skyline. I travel so light now that the point-n-click regrettably must be left behind so I can make room in my seatpost bag for lesser things ... spare tube, patch kit, tire levers. These days, even the Power Bars stay home. To tell you the truth, I kinda miss wearing a winter coat.

While dodging the endless parade of RVs and the kite-wielding, roller-blading traffic around town, I thought there are a lot of reasons why I miss winter altogether. The white silence. The solitude. The sunsets. Of course, there's a rich beauty in all of this drenching green and a pleasant camaraderie in the sudden surge of energy - not to mention the fact that it's warm, and that should make any breathing human being happy. But as I pass the bleached tent city now sprawled across a mile of beach, foggy with campfire smoke and commotion, th…

I ain't scared

Date: May 29
Mileage: 21.1
May Mileage: 428.7
Temperature upon departure: 61

This isn't shaping up to be so bad a month, mileage wise, even though it feels like I haven't invested near the bike time that I have in previous months.

Still ... I haven't been training at any kind of a level even close to to what I had originally hoped for. That's OK. After all, I really only have two distant hell-days to face in a summer full of hiking and barbecuing and halibut fishing and scenic tours. In one month, I have the 24 hours - and, well, 24 hours is 24 hours no matter how you slice it up, right? In two months, the Soggy Bottom 100 - 10,000 vertical feet. If you break that down, that's about two vertical miles in 100. On one hand, I could obsess about the gut-wrenching switchbacks and tear-inducing drops of the Resurrection Pass trail. Or I could instead - through the magic of statistics - iron it all out for a gentle average grade of 2 percent. I feel better already.

I'm OK…

I did it for the views

Date: May 29
Mileage: 30.8
May Mileage: 407.6 (inc. 19.4 on May 24)
Temperature upon departure: 67

My dad likes to participate in the well-tread ritual of calling home from the top of a prominent peak. Like drink 'n' dial - this is hike 'n' dial. He usually lands an exasperated comment from my baby sister ("You calling from some peak again?") or a utilitarian conversation with my mom. Still ... there is something cathartic about sharing that triumphant moment (or covering up failure with a little white lie, as we overheard from a group in retreat just shy of the peak: "We're at top. It's beeeee-autiful.") So, as we stood atop Mount Olympus on Friday afternoon, he dialed a quick call home.

That's something I love about my dad. Even though no one else in my family is remotely interested in clawing their way up a 65-degree slope strewn with loose scree, he still tries to include them in the reward. Of course, it's impossible to understand un…

Utah, again

Quick trip this time around. Just enough time to see my little sis get hitched, then it's back to Alaska tomorrow. The wedding activities were actually a lot of fun. I always thought I'd be much happier getting married on a mountain top or even the Luv Chapel in Vegas, but Lisa's wedding actually made me rethink the whole traditional reception thing. I don't think my mom feels the same way. She actually sewed every dress in the above picture (my dad called them the most expensive bridesmaid dresses ever made. It makes sense. How can you put a price on four weeks of nonstop sewing? You can't.) In fact, watching my Mom try to decompress after the gifts were packed up and the cake was stuffed in movable containers was frighteningly reminiscent of my emotional state after my first 24-hour mountain bike race. When I think about it, weddings and endurance races are actually somewhat similar - you plan, you organize, you work and sweat through months of build-up. Then, wh…

Spring, for real this time

Date: May 23
Mileage: 39.6
May Mileage: 357.4
Temperature upon departure: 57

A couple of weeks ago, when we still had several feet of snow in the yard, Geoff said the sure sign of spring would be the day we could see the tops of the backyard fire pit benches poking out from the crust. In less than 14 days, spring did even better - stripping away an entire winter's worth of snowpack and leaving behind only dry grass, wet firewood and the recently exposed debris of a long, stagnant winter. The yard looks awful. But is sure is warm.

I've felt surprisingly strong during my past several rides. I suddenly have all this extra pep and push, and the only reason I could think of is that the rise in temperature has allowed my body to put more energy into the actual pedaling and less into the whole staying warm effort. Just like my car's gas mileage goes up a few miles per gallon every summer, warm air seems to have a similar effect on my riding.

I love the smell of willow in the air, bud…

Time to ride

Date: 22
Mileage: 30.4
May Mileage: 317.8
Temperature upon departure: 53

Just the other day, I was complaining to a friend about the difficulties of training for a bicycle endurance race - mainly, finding the time to put in any significant mileage.

"Most weekdays I have about two hours, tops," I said.

She stopped me there. "Wait - exactly how much time do you spend riding each week?"

I thought about it, "Taking into account the weekends, probably 12 to 15 hours. I wish it was closer to twenty."

"Twenty hours?" she said and rolled her eyes. "You might as well get a part-time job." Then she said something about her family that implied that she was too busy having a life do something as frivolous as ride a bike for 20 hours a week.

I do understand that I'm blessed with a lifestyle more frivolous than others. I'm single, no kids, unhindered by debt. Regardless, I'm still not rolling in unmitigated free time. I do have a full-time job th…

Across the Bay

Date: May 19 and 21
Mileage: 26.9 and 65.3
May Mileage: 287.4
Temperature upon departure: 39 and 48

Good weekend - went on my first bicycle ride where the temperature passed 50 degrees, and took my first trip across the Bay. Granted, in order to get across the Bay I had to join 12 teenagers on an eighth grade geology class field trip - but it was still a good weekend.

A teacher at Homer Middle School (who seems to have taken a shine to me after I wrote a series of newspaper articles about education programs at his school) invited me to join a trip to Grenwingk Glacier. How could I say no? It was basically a guided tour of the violent geology still ripping across Kachemak Bay State Park - the gravel-strewn moraines and retreating glaciers. The trip also included a float-by of what has to be the most beautiful coastal community in America: Halibut Cove. And it wasn't exactly a sedentary sit-and-wonder kind of a trip. The teacher even dragged everyone an extra two miles just to play on th…

Sunset ... sunrise

Date: May 18
Mileage: 25.3
May Mileage: 195.2
Temperature upon departure: 42
I snapped a quick picture coming home from my ride today and I thought it looked familiar. So I dug through my archives and came upon this shot, which I took while standing on what must have been the exact same spot on Jan. 14. The cool thing about it ... at least, I thought ... is that today's picture was taken at 10:55 p.m. January's shot was taken at about 10:30 a.m. Of course the mud and shadows of May don't quite match the beauty of January frost and a late-morning sunrise. But there's something about the synchronicity of the two photos that gives me comfort. I'm still trying to adjust to these chaotic swings of daylight. I felt fine beneath 19 hours of darkness, but now twilight lingers well past midnight, my biorythms haven't adjusted yet, I try to wind down for the night, I try to sleep, but my mind and body just want toplay.Ever see that movie, "Insomnia?" I kinda wish I…

Best flight ever

Date: May 17
Mileage: 31.1
May mileage: 169.9
Temperature upon departure: 43

Good ride today - mostly sunny, light wind, late enough to beat most of the traffic (which can be kinda bad, actually, because there are so few through-roads here, and so many more drivers in rented RVs than most towns this size.) The ride was so good that it was completely uneventful.

I'm still taking flack for my whiny airport post on Monday, so I thought I'd counter it with my "Best Flight Ever" story.

It was about this time last year that a friend of mine invited me on a morning joy-flight with some friends of hers from Pocatello. They picked us up in Idaho Falls in their four-seater Cessna, and we took off over the volcano outcrops and potato fields of northeastern Idaho. Our destination was Dell, Montana. Dell isn't really much of a destination town. If you blinked at the right moment while driving up I-15, you'd likely miss it entirely. But according to the Pokey residents, the town…

May night ride

Date: May 16
Mileage: 38.2
May mileage: 138.8 (inc. 17 miles May 5)
Temperature upon departure: 45

I tried to ease back into biking with a loop ride after work today. At 5 p.m. the wind was fierce and traffic was heavy, so I cut the ride short (I am the queen of the "If it's not fun, why bother?" justification.)

But when the calm of evening took over, I begin to rethink my riding routine. It seems a waste, really, to spend an entire ride fighting rush hour when prime time actually falls much later these days. As I unpacked from my vacation and watched soft light descend on the horizon out the window, I decided to squeeze in 15 more miles. It was 10:05 p.m.

I set out with my back to the sun, still perched in a blaze of orange above the tips of skeleton spruce trees to the southwest. The air was so calm I could almost hear its silence, amplified further by the occasional bird chirp or the distant hum of a motor. Traffic was nonexistant. People were in bed. I was just getting wa…

Long way home

Sometimes, I truly believe that airline travel is the bane of modern civilization. Well, that and cell phones. How does something so unquestionably convenient become so inexplicably tedious? I've made the drive from Salt Lake to Alaska ... twice. Once I did Salt Lake to New York on a bike. I'd take these things any day over an equivalent flight.

Everyone has a "worst flight ever" story. I have several. Here's my latest:

I begin at 1:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, drive to the airport, leave a borrowed car in short term parking and check in. I leave the ground at 3:20, heading - confusingly - south for Los Angeles. I receive a packet of salted cardboard and 3 ounces of Diet Coke. Late lunch.

I arrive at LAX at about 4:15 Pacific Standard Time and receive another boarding pass for a flight with a different airline on the other side of the terminal. Scheduled departure: 9:30 p.m. I make the 15-minute walk and realize that I still have five hours to kill. So I step int…

Grand Gulch

I spent the week backpacking through a backward sort of place - once a vast civilization, now wilderness.

Grand Gulch cuts into the Colorado Plateau on a meandering route to the San Juan River. It's a maze of sheer sandstone cliffs, towering cottonwood trees and scarce water - even in May. For some reason, about 900 years ago, many hundreds if not thousands of people decided to make their home here. They built a city of sandstone structures high in the cliffs - most accessible only to the bravest and strongest, but some accessible to anyone with some time to kill and a willingness to drink stagnant, salty water for four days.

This place is so congested with ruins that a hiker could randomly look up at almost any point in the canyon and see something - rock art, a kiva, another symmetrical stack of rocks. In the four days I spent in the canyon, stumbling over a cluster of pottery shards or even a human forearm bone became commonplace - almost boring. Not that I mean to diminish the e…

Goin' back to the desert

Date: May 3 & 4
Mileage: 20.4 & 37.2
May mileage: 83.6
Temperature upon departure: 37 & 35

South wind and bike commuting in the rain, nothing much to do but stare at pavement and daydream.

It's high time to tap-dance barefoot in hot sand and go for swim in the abrasive water of a silt-choked winter. Soak up some of that sadist sun wrapped only in thin cotton and SPF 45. Wolf down burnt spaghetti in a tin cup and wash it down with sun-roasted water. Season my sunburned skin beside the spring-sweet smoke of a juniper fire. Watch the sun set before 10 p.m.

It's time to lay in the the shadow of endless canyon walls. Make sand angels in the wash. Watch clouds drift through a thin sliver of sky. Keep an eye out for coyotes and big horn sheep and eat gummi worms in my tent without fear of bears.

It's time to go back to the desert and go where cars don't go. Go where bikes don't go. Go where even feet shouldn't go but someone's going to make me get on that rop…

$3 a gallon

Date: May 2
Mileage: 26
May mileage: 26
Temperature upon departure: 46

Because of all the bicycle riding I do and the small town that I live in, I don't buy much gas anymore. Maybe one tank a month currently, but summer travel season is about to begin. While I was driving around town today, looking for an auto shop that could squeeze me in for a tire change, I noticed that gas prices have officially hit the $3/gallon mark. Wha?

In three days I leave for a trip to Utah, so I have to catch a plane in Anchorage - about 215 miles from here. I went online and did a little research, and realized that driving my car to Anchorage, parking it for 9 days in the Dimond Parking Lot, and then driving it home will actually be more expensive than simply flying between Homer and Anchorage. So I bought another plane ticket. Now, instead of slogging down the Kenai Peninsula in the middle of the night upon my return, I'm going to be napping through a not-even-long-enough-to-reach-cruising-altitude fl…

May Day, May Day

This bleak photo, which was taken from my back porch at the very recent time of 9:55 p.m. AST May 1, really fails to capture the tiny flecks of horizontal snow whipping across the yard. And thus I, who did everything I could do to make winter my friend, am officially depressed.

On the plus side, the Internet has yeilded some great information about training for 24-hour bicycle races. Most recommend finding a mileage to shoot for, and shape my training accordingly. Unlike my last long race, in which I was just working to finish, I think I will go into the 24 Hours of Kincaid with a little more ambition. Because I'm banking more on my ability to remain in slow motion for long spans of time more than any actual speed, I think I'm going to shoot for 150 miles, or about 13 laps. It's impossible for me to really guestimate possible mileage because I don't know anything about the course. I may end up actually completing way less, but I think it's good to aim high.

Now the o…