Wednesday, December 20, 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.