Thursday, December 21, 2006

SAD ride

Date: Dec. 20
Mileage: 15.0
December mileage: 265.1
Temperature upon departure: 36

I’m beginning to think Geoff has just about had enough of Juneau. It’s strange, because we have so many things going for us here: Three times the annual rainfall of Seattle; more days of 40-mph-plus winds than Chicago; constant temperatures in the 30s from March to February. And no roads out! Clearly, he’s just not looking on the bright side.

That said, it has been a rough month - and isn’t looking to become any better. I haven’t seen the sun since Utah, going on three weeks now. The daylight has whittled itself down to about six hours - and even those hours are only marginally brighter than pitch black. The continuous precipitation has been mostly wet snow and sleet - some rain - and the wet weather creates conditions that make it impossible to keep all parts of the body warm while cycling. IMPOSSIBLE. I am especially having a hard time with my butt cheeks. (Which doesn’t make any sense since my backside is the best-insulated body part I have.) And so even I, who fears long exposure to direct sun the way some people fear frostbite, am beginning to feel a little SAD.

Thursday is winter solstice. I am hoping to do a long ride on the shortest day, but it will be interesting to see how much I can endure. I headed out today in sideways rain for a quick ride before work. I really only had about a 45-minute window to spare, but even that felt like it was going to be too long. The rain blew due north, so I decided to head into it going out and let it push me coming back. I took the road south.

Skirting the narrow strip of road that divides the channel and the mountains, I watched the disorienting dance of whitecaps as they swelled and exploded on shore. As I passed the sheer cliffs, I had to swerve to dodge giant blocks of transparent ice - the remnants of icefalls now gushing brown water. The manuevering was no small feat as sideways rain stung my eyes to the point of blindness. And just when I started to wonder if my 30 minutes of indentured service southward was up yet, a spotted the strangest glimmer of yellow light.

When the rain began to let up, I realized that I wasn’t hallucinating. Amid the liquid crush of gray in every direction was a tiny patch of clear sky. Streams of sunlight pierced the billowing clouds, casting spotlights on the churning water. I felt my legs surge with energy as I pedaled toward the clearing. I stopped looking at my watch and began to crane my neck at orange highlights on the trees, until I passed the sign that read “End of Road 1,000 Feet.” And there, drifting over a pile of dirt-crusted snow, was my own little sunspot.

And so I stopped, climbed over the berm, and stood there, quietly, watching the clearing crawl south and not paying attention to the fact that, 40 minutes into my ride, I was flirting with late arrival at work. It didn't matter. If the road kept going, I would have followed that sun spot all the way to Ketchikan.

Tomorrow, sunrise will happen 8:45 a.m. and sunset is planned for 3:07 p.m. I hope to stay out that entire time. Forecast calls for “70 percent chance of snow with accumulation of 2 to 3 inches, west winds 25 mph, high of 33.” Wish me luck. Seriously.


  1. It only gets better from now until June...I just hope y'all don't have sideways snow when that time rolls around.

  2. It is pretty nasty out there. I did bum a ride home rather than bike on Tuesday after two different people warned me about getting blown off Brotherhood bridge when crossing it. Good luck finding some good juju to keep the spirits up--it does get better from here on out. And there is already about an inch of new snow this morning at the UAS campus!

    The plows have finally gotten a decent job of most shoulders around town, but the ice sheet is pretty sketchy on parts of Egan for sure.

    I'm amazed how thrashed my riding gear has gotten this year--I think it has been espcially, uh.. .challenging, and you are doing some great rides!

  3. Butt cheek warmth may be achieved by placing lengths of duct tape horizontally, slightly over-lapping, across them (the cheeks)from top to bottom, before putting on your base layer.

  4. In southeast, they call those holes in the sky "sucker holes" because you think it might clear up and then Mother Nature closes the hole right back up. Can't you just imagine her saying, "Gotcha, SUCKER." Hang in there. The sunny days in Juneau make it all worth it!

  5. I like the pictures you post. They are well done. I am not sure how those conditions don't trounce your will to workout. You must be tougher than me. :)


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