Wednesday, May 31, 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, there's a part of me that feels strangely out of place. Strange because I'm a former hot-climate desert dweller and tourist from the 'burbs. But out of place because the Alaskan in me was baptized by lonliness and winter.

A few days ago, I had the interesting experience of watching twilight turn to dawn without any transition into night. I kept waiting for stars to come out as the clock clicked away the wee hours. But after a while, I realized that it was no longer becoming darker - it was becoming lighter. Within a few minutes of that observation, the orange glow of sunrise crept over the north-eastern horizon.

And as I marveled to myself about the earth's skewed axis and the way it creates an amazing juxtaposition of time and place, a larger voice in my head told me I really need to start getting more sleep.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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 with my ride. Really.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

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 unless you're standing there, on top of the mountain, looking out over the colorful sprawl of the Salt Lake valley. Some hikers like to spout off the numbers: One-way distance: 3.75 miles; Elevation gain: 4,060 feet; Elevation at peak: 9,026 feet (Low, but still surprisingly free of snow.) For them, the reward is in the journey. But I like to take a picture of what matters: the view.

There are varying degrees of effort one has to expend for a good view. This second shot, an overview of Chugach State Park, only took a dead-sprint from Gate B62 to gate B28 in the Denver Airport to catch a connecting flight to Anchorage. Then there's the other extreme - the weeks of hard mountaineering one as to go through just to see the top of the highest point in North America - Mt. Denali - as Geoff's friend "Ed the Head" did on Thursday. But there are perspectives that you work and claw and fight for, and then there are perspectives that matter.

Ed was set to visit us upon his return from the peak; we haven't heard from him since his accident, and it's hard to say now if he will come to see us. But there are the views that life saves only for the luckiest and most humbled - perspectives hidden even from those who stand atop the highest peaks or within the deepest wilderness. I have a feeling that Ed's seen the full 360-degree panorama.

Friday, May 26, 2006

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, when the event actually arrives, you lose control early on and have to spend the rest of the time groping your way through the darkness, running on little more than adrenaline fumes. I really admire my mom.

And I'm happy for my sis, who was really a great bride (how can brides continue to look stunning after 12 hours of nonstop social hurricane? I don't know. But they always do). Before the wedding breakfast, Lisa was idling her car in a parking garage when an old woman whipped around the corner and smacked her head-on, putting a huge gouge in the bumper and causing my baby sister to spill an entire vase of water all over her dress. A lot of brides would let something like that ruin their entire wedding day, but Lisa took it really well. I admire that.

And me, well, while I was pedaling around Alaska, I missed out on all of the months of planning and agony that actually went into the wedding. All I did was show up on the red-eyed flight, dizzy and dazed from two Dramamine and exactly zero hours of sleep, and march through the motions. I am a total wedding slacker. But I did get a lot of comments for the fact that I was wearing a dress and stumbling around in high heels. I didn't think I was too fargone to pull off those kinds of formalities, but I guess in many of my relatives' eyes, I am.

And you know what? That's OK. Maybe someday I'll get that mountain top wedding after all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

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, buds on branches and blazing streaks of green creeping out from the dry, yellow groundcover. The emerging colors and smells give new life to old routes, and now the miles are just flying by. I only get three months of this. Believe me, I'm going to cherish every minute.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

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 that can reach 50 hours a week. I have my part-time, freelance projects that I tend to push on the backburner. I have to change the cat litter box once in a while.

So, even for me, it can challenge to carve out time for a bike ride. So - how to make the time? The best thing I ever did for my free time was move to an apartment that didn't get TV reception of any kind. I have nothing against TV. I actually like it. But not having the option to watch forced me to give it up cold turkey. I've been virtually TV-free for a year and a half. I even have to option to watch network channels now, but I don't. Truth is, I don't even miss it. I highly recommend this lifestyle change.

Minor changes help, too. Another thing I don't do is cook ... much. Granted, I do have someone hanging around that is more than happy to cook up a fresh halibut dinner for me. But when I lived alone, I ate a lot of salads and sandwiches and cold cereal. I survived. And I didn't have to spend as much time doing dishes or grocery shopping.

Ask yourself small questions: Do I really need to make the bed every day? Am I really the type of person that needs eight hours of sleep every night? Can't I just feed the cat twice as much every other day? If I sold my car and bought a faster bike, wouldn't that actually save me time? Maybe I can get one of those automated voice activation systems to answer the phone.

All it takes is small changes. Soon you, too, can carve out 20 hours a week to ride without people even noticing or thinking you have a deeply embedded problem. What's that? You think that these suggestions are sign of a deeply embedded problem? Well ... hmmmm ... I guess I should probably get some sleep now.

Monday, May 22, 2006

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 the hand-pulled tram that crosses the glacial creek.

All told, we probably hiked seven or eight miles. I was really impressed with the kids' stamina. I was braced for the worse, hiking with twelve 13- and 14-year-olds. But for most of the trip, we old folks had to practically jog to keep up with the kids. One kid even shared his dried mangos with me after I made the very juvenile mistake of forgetting to bring a lunch.

But the most interesting part of the trip was the actual field-trip aspect. You know. Education and stuff. It's amazing, really, how dramatically the area's ecology changes across just four miles of open water. The Homer side of the Bay is relatively new, with stair-step hillsides, spruce forests and mud bogs. On the south side of the Bay, the steep Kenai Mountains jut straight up from sea level. The face of the landscape changes in equally dramatic succession - beach grass climbs into old-growth cottonwood groves which change to ponderosa and spruce forests and finally to alpine tundra. Above that is the Harding Ice Field, which spits out several glaciers that are currently in dramatic retreat. The point where I stood to take this photo was buried beneath hundreds of feet of ice as recently as 50 years ago. Believe what you will about global warming, but Alaska is melting.

I couldn't complain too much about global warming today, however, with the sun out and temperatures rising comfortably into the mid-50s. Today was the first day all year that I rode with just one layer of clothing. Maybe someday I'll even be able to ride with actual skin exposed, maybe even pull out my bike shorts from the dusty cardboard box they've been stuffed in since I moved here. I can dream.

Friday, May 19, 2006

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 to play.

Ever see that movie, "Insomnia?" I kinda wish I hadn't.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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 offered good breakfast and some semblance of an airstrip, so to Dell we went.

We killed a few hours over greasy plates of comfort food (I think I just had toast. Nothing robs me of my appetite more than flying, except maybe a 24-hour mountain bike race.) Upon leaving the diner, we were unpleasantly surprised by horizontal sheets of unseasonable snow - and thick clouds - whipping across the valley. The storm was moving quickly to the south, and there seemed to be blue sky behind it. The pilot decided we could ride this little patch of good weather home.

I'm not usually afraid of flying, but I distinctly remember taking one look at that blowing snow and telling my friend that I was going to thumb it home. "It'll be fine," she said. "Herb (or whatever his name was) is licensed to fly instruments down" (whatever that means.)

We took off into the backside of the storm, climbing through light fog until we reached the narrow eye. Clouds were swirling all around us, and Herb announced that he was going to climb to 8,000 feet to get well above any, well, mountains that could blindside us without warning. As we circled upward, more clouds encroached. Herb announced that he was going to fly above the storm, but all I could see were mountains of rolling white water vapor stretching beyond my field of vision.

Upward we circled, the engine growling, the plane lurching in cloudy turbulence, me clutching my earphones with every expectation that the next words out of Herb's mouth were going to be "Mayday! Mayday!" I began to notice deep shivers rolling through my body, but not until my teeth started chattering did I realize that I wasn't just nervous - I was cold. The sharp air tore at my throat. I glanced over at Herb's swirling altimeter ... 13,700 feet ... 13,750 feet .... 13,800 feet.

"How high does this thing go?" I yelled into my mouthpiece, gasping in the thin air and the realization that I was uncomfortably close to being as high in actual atmosphere as I had ever been ... without the benefit of slow acclimatization through hiking.

"About 16,000 feet," Herb yelled.

His wife, sitting shotgun directly in front of me, turned around and ominously shook her head. Her face said everything about Herb's machismo and the nonchalant way he was leading us to high-altitude oblivion.

As we reached the pinnacle of our climb, my mind when very dark. No deep, life-affirming thoughts revealed themselves. I didn't even have enough sense to properly pray. All I did was ramble the "Lord's Prayer" over and over in my head - and I don't even come from that kind of Christian background. But that's all I had.

I've lost track of most of those long, foggy, dark minutes. I don't even remember how or when we got out of the storm, but somehow we did. In fact, the only thing I remember after the Lord's Prayer is climbing through our last cloud on approach to the Idaho Falls runway, and how unbelievably happy I was that I could see that strip of pavement. So happy, in fact, that I still access it as one of my great moments of joy when life looks especially bleak.

I still maintain that the flights in which you think you're going to die are better than the flights in which you wish you would.

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 warmed up.

I can already tell that these months of almost endless daylight are going to seriously cut into my sleep habits. How can I resist riding when I'm just hitting my energy peak, the evening sky is at its most scenic and I have an entire sleepy little town to myself? That dosen't change the fact that I still have to be up and at work by 7 to 9 a.m. every day. No matter. It's light then, too.

Monday, May 15, 2006

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 into the hot and humid afternoon and begin search for escape. I make my way to four dead-ends and three increasingly suspicious airport cops before I find what I believe is the only pedestrian exit at LAX. I walk in a nearly straight line down Century Boulevard for an hour and a half without ever completely leaving the wasteland of airport sprawl - hotels, synchronous palm trees and endless parking lots. Every restaurant, every storefront is nestled in unwelcoming concrete fortresses. By the time I make it back to the airport, the bottom of my feet burn with sidewalk blisters and it's time to catch my next flight.

Flight 8252 Los Angeles to Anchorage leaves at 9:30 PST. It begins with snack service. Flattened granola bar and 3 more ounces of Diet Coke. I pull out the cheese and crackers my dad packed for me and suck down a few Jolly Ranchers. At 10:30 PST I drift to sleep. At 10:35, the turbulence hits.

You know what's the most unnerving sound in the world? Those seatbelt-sign dings in a plane that is jolting violently back and forth. You know what's the second most unnerving sound in the world? Broadcast reassurances from "your captain speaking." You know what travels the least well in the stomach of someone prone to motionsickness in a rickety plane dancing through the night sky? Diet Coke and Jolly Ranchers.

I can't sleep, so I watch the blackness roll by. Around 1:00 a.m. Alaska Standard Time, a soft light reappears deep on the horizon. I can't tell if we're approaching sunrise or catching sunset. It doesn't matter, because it makes me feel better.

At 1:45 a.m. AST I land and make my way to yet another airline. My flight is set to depart at 6:35, so I pull out my sleeping bag and sweater and sprawl on the floor. Another passenger, bound for Kodiak, parks himself close by and commences with a virtual opus of snoring. The airline persistently, and loudly, broadcasts the time every half hour. I'm awake for every one of these announcements.

At 6:50 a.m. AST the plane pulls up. It looks like it just stumbled in from a bear viewing trip - stunted body, pointed nose, wing props spinning in an uncomfortable idle. The plane, in fact, seats all of 10. Only five board. The captain looks back from the open cockpit and rambles off the federal regulation rules. We take off into the morning fog. I scan the broken clouds for quick glimpses of the barren landscape I left behind while pouring through the last unread words of my tattered, soaked Sunday LA Times.

At 7:45 AST we land. I gather my 39-kg backpack (as weighed by Era Aviation) and head for work. I feel like 24 hours have passed. In fact, 20 have. There is no rest for the weary, no comfort for the economy traveler.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

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 experience in any way. It's just hard to spend the entirety of four days locked in wonder.

On day 3 we lost Craig. Backpacking is a strange state of social recreation, especially on a four-day trip. It's not quite enough time to make the dried beans and shredded tortillas in your pack sound appetizing, but it is long enough to to put hikers into the backpacking stupor - some might call it "the zone." You've already spent several nights working on rusty survival skills with the same people, bickering jokingly (and then not so jokingly) about startchy pasta and sore knees. So when you set out on the trail, there seems to be less talking and more rhythm. The result of this by day 3 was stretching our group out for several miles until we had no idea who was in front of the other. By the time we arrived at a possible camp, Craig had been missing for six hours.

While we organized a search, I started having a lot of anxiety. I joined the second leg, down-canyon party. We sat in a clearing near Split-Level Ruin and waited uncomfortably for Bryan to complete the up-canyon run. There was no getting around assuming the worse. And for the first time during the trip, as I waited in the shadow of the perfectly-preserved remnants of a lost civilization and the towering, impassable canyon walls that paralyzed it, I felt so small, so useless against the violent geology and relentless march of time.

When Bryan returned from upcanyon with no news, Geoff and I set out the way we came in a near-sprint, or as close as you can get to running in thick sand. We fully expected to find Craig sprawled out on the trail; we couldn't think of any other reason why it would take him eight hours to go five miles. We ran into him about a half-mile later. He was sweating but smiling, completely unaware of our anxious rescue effort. He told us he took a wrong turn and hiked up a side canyon - for three miles. It's funny how we never assumed the obvious. Getting lost is human nature, even when locked in a canyon. But it's funny how anxiety fades, adrenaline tones down, and suddenly you're seeing this sprawling sandstone graveyard in a different light.

I was happy again to stretch my legs in the sunlight, strenghten my quads while bouldering with a 35-pound pack, touch soft, green leaves for the first time since September and run my toes through the hot sand that I missed so much. Every time I visit the Colorado Plateau, I convince myself I could make a life in the sprawling emptiness. Unfortunately, I'm much better at weathering nine months of winter than I could be in nine months of intense heat and sun. As it was this week, it rained on us all day Tuesday, became cold enough that night to freeze all of our produce and scatter frost everywhere, and fell into the 40s every other night of the trip. Still, it felt refreshingly hot, soaked in sun, daytime temperatures in the mid-80s, which, up in Alaska, I may not see again.

Friday, May 05, 2006

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 rope.

It's time to go back to the desert like I never even left. But I sure do miss it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

$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 flight on a turboprop plane.

I don't know if I should be horrified that it's actually cheaper to fly than drive - or relieved. When you think about it, there are a lot of pluses to the skyrocketing gas prices. Those gas prices have motivated me to get my lazy morning butt in gear and start bicycle commuting to work. They've convinced a lot of other people to ride a bicycle, period ... something many haven't tried since they were kids. My hope is that people will soon discover that they don't have to wait for technology and politicians to sort out any impending "energy crisis." They will discover that they are their own alternative energy source. They'll reunite themselves with all those once-vilified-but-so-missed carbohydrates. They'll trade in their high blood pressure medications and diet pills for natural, old-fashioned shots of dopamine and adrenaline. The suck up some of that sweet clean air, and they'll get themselves to their destinations, with their own power ... be it 20, 200 or 2,000 miles away. The economy will make room for this slowed-down lifestyle, because demand will push it that way. All economy is, after all, is a well-organized way of life.

And people will forget what they ever saw in oil. They'll realize that they had possession of the most valuable commodity all along ... freedom.

Monday, May 01, 2006

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 only thing I need to do is come up with some formula that will translate road-bike training into trail miles (which, as this picture shows, are impossible to ride at the present.) I could ride my mountain bike on gravel roads, but it's still not the same. I think I'm just going to ride my bike, a lot, and hope for the best.