Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cyclist, frustrated

Date: Dec. 23
Mileage: 17.0
December mileage: 342.1
Temperature upon departure: 33

Today I went for a short ride. Words have not been invented to describe the unpleasantness of it.

Sleet is a word I might use, but it doesn't exactly do justice to the ice daggers that tore through the air, piercing exposed skin like millions of hot needles.

Windy is a word I might use, but it doesn't really describe the terror of leaning my bicycle 20 degrees this side of vertical as 55 mph crosswinds threatened to toss me off a 100-foot bridge without warning.

Slippery is a word I might use, but it in no way conveys the oil-slick sludge gushing down the pavement, giving my tires traction equal to that of an aluminum saucer and turning my single rear disc brake into an icy grip of death.

Wet is a word I might use, but it doesn't explain how, despite wearing the equivalent of a garbage bag suit, I still had to wring out my underwear after an 80-minute-long ride.

Cold is a word I might use, but the mild statistic of 33 degrees doesn't justify the searing pain my swollen-white feet endured to come back from the numb onset of frostbite.

And so I am left to wonder. Why do I keep on keeping on? These are not isolated weather incidents. These are the hard realities of my climate - more bewildering than even the -11-degree trail rides and -40-degree-wind-chill descents of last year. My plastic suit doesn't keep water out and I am going to have to find another option. As far as my feet go, I am ready to admit the neoprene booties, Vapor Barrier sock and wool sock combination won't work. I am moving right on to the N.E.O.S. overboots, covered by gators, covered by baggier waterproof pants if I can find some. But I feel a bit frustrated. I already dress like an astronaut just to do a daily-routine ride. My next, best option is to seek out an enclosed space. Like a car.

On the bright side, I received a great Christmas surprise today from Shawn Kielty, who also is learning to deal with the wet climes of San Francisco and incidentally is an amazing photographer. He sent me a great camera to upgrade my current digital. It's a Canon Power Shot S70. It also surprisingly came with a waterproof case: So I could take this camera deep sea diving if I wanted to; or, you know ... outside in Juneau.

I feel inspired by Shawn's generosity but I'm not sure where to take that inspiration. I guess I have an extra digital camera now, so maybe I can pay it forward, in a lesser sense of the idea. My camera is a Fuji FinePix 2650. I believe it's 2.1 megapixels. It probably retailed for $14.95 back when it was new in 1987 (just kidding! I received it as a Christmas gift in 2003.) But I'll say this about the FinePix: It has accompanied me across the shutter-choking sands of the San Rafael Swell, over the muddy waters of the Dirty Devil River, through the crushing cold of the Susitna valley in January and inside my waterlogged pocket over countless rain rides. This camera, I'm convinced, is hurricane proof. And it's taken nearly every single one of the pictures that have appeared on this blog.

And it's yours if you want it. I'll just mail to you, with a USB cable, (small) memory card, and even batteries. No shipping payment required. Just shoot me a comment with basic contact information, and maybe a short description of what kind of pictures you hope to take with this humble little piece of ... technology (just in case more than one person replies and I have to choose.) And either way, have a Merry Christmas!


  1. Jeez, I felt bad because I skipped out on a ride because it was below 40 degrees.

    I love reading your blog, but are you sure your mom didn't drop you on your head when you were a baby?

    Riding in those conditions just ain't right:-)

  2. I have a bit of a sentimental attachement to my camera as well. I've had it for 2 or three years and it has been with me in 30 something states and 2 countries. It has never let me down in the dessert of Arizona to the rain forrest of New Zealand. It ha never missed a beat from below sea level in Death Valley to 13,000 feet in Colorado. There's no way I could replace my camera, but think it is pretty cool of you and Shawn to be so generous.

    Today I get to ride about 40 miles to mom and dad's for Christmas. It is supposed to be sunny and 45 here in Wisconsin but I have a broked collarbone so I'm not sure how well the ride will go. Merry Christmas,


  3. I love that picture.

    So tell me, do things really look better through mauve colored glasses?

  4. Character building are words you might use to describe your ride but admit it -- you do it because you love it.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year



  5. Jill, you take the prize for hardcore. I never thought I'd consider myself lucky to live in a very cold place, but -30 C is no problem when it's dry snow. I wouldn't ride in those conditions.

    Merry Christmas!

  6. i love hearing about your adventurous ride from my warm comfy chair here in california.

    keep on, keeping on!

  7. I am inspired by your pictures Jill! Enjoy the camera.

    The waterproof case is only good to thirty feet deep -- so is great if you go snorkeling or drop it in the toilet -- but might not be so good for deep sea diving.

  8. Lest you forget one of the many rules for living in Alaska, always have a backup! This likely applies to cameras as well, and honestly I'd consider keeping it as such - just in case! Let it kick back and relax on your shelf for a while, you might have a friend who could use it if need be. Keep up the rides, it's great to hear from other like-minded and similarly insane Alaskan winter cyclists. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's felt like they'd just gone swimming - in spite of initially setting out to do a short commute to work. Merry Christmas!

  9. (big) Awwwwwww..... I feel for you. Bike rides shouldn't be that tough. I've been reading you for some time but must admit I'm not clear why Juneau.

  10. Ugh, now you've gone an done it! Gone is my excuse for not cycling to work on days like you describe. Fortunately we have them a lot less in Anchorage than you do in Juneau; but we also have a lot more strip malls and less gorgeous green forest. Keep at it. Next time I feel too lazy to do my carbon-emission free commute, I will log on and read your post. Happy holidays.

  11. Looks like ya nailing some mad Alaskan weather but must be worth it for the well quality scenery. Keep on spinning those frozen pieces of rubber and sucking on those endorphins. Looks like ya far better at staying on the bike in cold conditions than i am ..ouch...

    Have a top 2007.

    psychs (from the active brits posse)

    Active Brits Mountain Biking Blog
    Active Brits Travel Blog
    Active Brits Global Extreme One Leg Balancing Blog
    Active Brits Outdoor, Extreme Sports & Adventure Travel Advertising
    Active Brits Hiking & Climbing Blog

  12. hey- i'd love that camera

    I would use it to take pics of my bike (of course!), pics on a few tours that i'd like to do- for example- on a winter bike tour that i'm planning which would happen sometime in jan, and probably on a nice bike tour in vermont, sometime in the spring..and if all goes well, i'd love to ride across america some day, and take pictures all the way...
    I also do a fair bit of hiking and backpacking, and would love a camera to take pics of those adventures..some of which happen in the winter.

    I don't have a blog myself, buyt I'm a faithful reader!

    gspotbike84 AT hotmail DOT com

  13. C'mon, leave the bike home and ride the snowboard! ;-)

  14. Hey, consider trying some snowboarding or hiking pants that would be rainproof yet breathable, campmor has some for about $100. You really need breathable


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