Showing posts from August, 2006


In my last post, I admitted my faith that winter will come to Juneau - or, at the very least, the mountains above Juneau, and wow ... I haven't received that much of a comment lashing since I called Alaskans entitled.

I know it rains a lot here. I know that what snow does fall is wet snow. But - as long as it snows one in a while and the temperatures occasionally drop below freezing - wet, shallow snow can be the base of ideal snow biking conditions. But, I concur. I wasn't always so blindly optimistic. The first time I rolled through Alaska, as a tourist in the summer of 2003, Geoff, two friends and I spent four days shivering in the rain shadow of a run-down campground near Thane. After that mini-trip, we had very little - but nothing good - to say about Juneau in our trip blog:

"Juneau's a depressing town really, that has hardly anything going for it other than government jobs and cruise ship business, but we're making our best here and things certainly could be …

Almost Septembrrrr

Date: August 28
Mileage: 19.5
August mileage: 352.9
Temperature upon departure: 55

This whole relocation thing sure is time-consuming. I feel like I've lost an entire month, and not in a good way. Among the things I didn't do in August 2006:

*Eat at a real restaurant (i.e. one that doesn't start in "Sub" and end in "Way.")
*See a movie (unless snipets of late-night B-movies on cable TV count)
*Play with my cat
*Cook a meal (It's true. When you consider the first point, I'm sure it's not hard to imagine how substandard my diet has been this month.)
*See live music
*Throw a barbecue
*Go for a hike that didn't end with me in a puddle
*Go for an over-50-mile bike ride that didn't end with me in a puddle

Also, for a summer month, 350 total cycling miles are a little bit sad, especially when I consider that my mountain bike sat dormant all month long. I spent about an hour this morning lubing the moving parts and trying to figure out how mu…

Home at last

Date: August 25
Mileage: 32.1
August mileage: 333.4
Temperature upon departure: 55

Tomorrow marks week 3 since I "moved" to Juneau, and I have finally moved to Juneau. I just signed a lease on a little apartment in West Juneau - decidedly less cool than my place in Homer, but private, well applianced, cat-friendly, and it includes my own yard and garden. And, well, it's a roof. Which is much better than I can get for $300 a month at the Mendenhall Lake Campground. And it's on a island. I've never lived on an island before. Now I can fantasize about the bridge getting washed out and having to call in stranded. If we get much more rain, that fantasy may not be far from reality.

I feel like my three weeks of homelessness helped instill a grizzled sort of sourdough strength that probably would have taken me much longer to develop if I hadn't been ripped so clean of my comfort zone. Those first 10 days in a tent were a baptism by immersion, quite literally, to life in …

Missing Homer

Date: August 23
Mileage: 21.1
August mileage: 301.3
Temperature upon departure: 54

Another day, another ride, another road silt shower.

The air is saturated with rain so light it doesn’t fall, and mist so thick it doesn’t settle. Low-lying clouds roll down the mountainside like ragged curtains, ripped into powder-puff patches by the tree tops. Riding out Douglas Island on a day like today is like looking through a windshield with the defrost turned off - squinting at a ghost world masked in featureless gray. But in that otherworldly way, it’s beautiful.

Water spalshing up from the road hits my face, so I look forward until the mist stings my eyes. I close them for several seconds, open to check for road hazards and close my eyes again. The darkness feels oddly liberating, like diving underwater to suddenly find yourself breathless but weightless. I open my eyes for little gulps of light, but I savor the thrill of riding stretches of this remote road blind.

So it hits me as a little surprise …

Few roads

Date: August 21
Mileage: 33.4
August mileage: 280.2
Temperature upon departure: 57

This morning before work, I rode out near the end of the Douglas Highway. I had to turn around about 11 miles in due to time constraints, and later learned I was only about a mile from the end.

This means that, having lived here only two weeks, and having ridden a total of only about 250 miles, I have now pedaled nearly every stretch of nonresidential road in the area. All I have left is the 8 miles of the main road that I missed when I crashed out Friday, and the one mile at the end of Douglas. As I looked out at the cross-channel view of town today, I began to form a realization of just how boxed in I really am here in Juneau. But at the same time, I feel grateful that what I'm "boxed in" by is thousands of miles of untrammelled wilderness. So, if I can box in some time, and if I can unpack some boxes at a (still crossing my fingers) new apartment, I hope to hit the trails real soon.


Date: August 20
Mileage: 15.7
August mileage: 246.8
Temperature upon departure: 59

Today's my birthday
A year of growing older
A day in the sun

Kissing pavement

Date: August 18
Mileage: 56.2
August mileage: 231.1
Temperature upon departure: 57

I'm sure seasoned cyclists begin to treat the experience as almost mundane, but for me, there's still nothing like launching off a bicycle at 20 mph to really puncture a perfectly good ride.

Even the sudden monsoon-like downpour that hit me yesterday at mile 28 of the-only-road-out-of-Juneau really wasn't that bad. It had been raining on and off all morning, and I thought, if anything, the thick drops would at least help wash the layer of glacial silt off my clothing. Deep puddles began forming on the rough and remote road. I plowed through them without even thinking about it, until my front wheel dropped into an pothole roughly the size of the Grand Canyon, completely covered by water. I felt the sickening crunch of the rim meeting the pavement through the now-flat tire. After that, all I can remember is the sequence of body parts splashing down - first my left hip, taking the brunt of the fall,…

I'm joining a gym

I'm out in the Valley today checking out housing. I'm at a library right now to dig up old landlords' contact info, hoping for a glowing reference so I don't get rejected again. I stopped at a bike shop because both my road tires are flat, slashed in several places, so I had to go buy some more patches and new tubes. I think I might have run over a mound of shattered glass, and my tires have about 5,000 miles on them - they just aren't what they used to be. I had ambitions today to ride out to the end of the road, but it hasn't stopped raining, quite literally, for four days straight, and today it's raining hard. I got soaked just vacuuming out my car. I thought it was just a dark cloud over my head, but it turns out it's like this in most of the state. Somehow, that makes me feel better. But I just can't face that soggy chill, water cascading off my helmet, down my nose and over my mouth until I can't tell whether I'm drooling or drowning. …

(small) Stroke of luck

Date: August 14 and 15
Mileage: 13.7 and 4.7
August mileage: 174.9
Temperature upon departure: 55

Today I did a short ride but a decidedly long run. I've had a recent deluge of little annoyances that I attribute to bad luck. The latest involved popping a tube on the Douglas highway this morning, only to learn that my portable bike pump has seized up (probably due to rust or an inordinate amount of road grit.) So rather than hitchhike or shamefully limp my bike down the highway, I stashed it in the woods and jogged five miles back to town. It only took me 45 minutes! It was a short five miles, but still, I felt really good after the run. Probably even better than I would have if I completed the ride.

One flat tire does not a bad luck streak make, but there have been other incidences. The other night, I went to a Laundromat and stuck a load in, which failed to drain completely during the rinse cycle. I stuck to whole dripping mass in a dryer for an hour and did some grocery shopping, but…

Liquid sun

Date: August 13
Mileage: 14.2
August mileage: 156.5
Temperature upon departure: 53

One way in which I am woefully unprepared for this move to southeast Alaska - besides, I mean, not having a home - is my complete lack of rain gear. During the winter I acquired good cold weather gear, but a parka and layers of polar fleece do little to keep out the chill when they're dripping from every square inch. The best things I own are neoprene gloves and booties, so - yeah - my hands and feet are semi-warm. I still have to head somewhere indoors after about 40 minutes because I am

Riding when it's -5 out is one thing, but cutting through the thick, soggy wind of 50 degrees and raining is a whole different kind of chill. While below-zero burns skin and bites ragged lungs, this Juneau August chill seeps into my core, saturating every cell with a deep and heavy cold until it has drowned all hope of ever being warm again. The instant fix for this is a hot shower, but the longt…

Hurray for good news

Date: August 12
Mileage: 15.7
August mileage: 142.3
Temperature upon departure: 51

I dreamt last night that I was back in Utah, pedalling a long-ago sold mountain bike - my old red Trek 6500 - up an impossibly steep slope of slickrock toward the sun. The glare was so complete that all I could see in front of me was a bright blaze of white, and I could almost feel the sweat pouring down my scalp as waves of August heat shimmered off the sandstone. That's about the time I was jarred awake by nearby shouting, only to realize that my pillow had sopped up a large puddle that seeped into the tent beneath my poorly-built tarp shelter. I ran my fingers through my wet hair and looked at my watch - 5:30 a.m. A couple from a few sites down was having a screaming match at 5:30 a.m. Classy. Sometimes I feel irritated about the sketch-mongers around me, but then I remember that I live in a campground and can't exactly be counted above the fringe.

The house hunt is still coming along, and I'v…

Half century and still homeless

Date: August 10
Mileage: 55.4
August mileage: 126.6 (inc. 15 miles Aug. 6)

I don't know if anyone out there in blogosphere is a landlord in Juneau, but my name is Jill and I have a cat. She's a very nice cat, very personable, and definitely a lot cleaner than any human child I have ever met - and a alot of adults for that matter. Please take pity on me. I'm cold and wet and have only a thin piece of nylon to call my home. Thank you.

For a city in Alaska, Juneau rentals have a surprisingly universal ban on pets. And they don't need to bend their discriminatory rules at all because places are snatched up the minute they hit the classifieds. I love my cat, but she and I may just have to weatherproof a cardboard box for the quickly approaching winter. Yesterday, so many landlords and real estate agents shut me down on the phone that I finally stopped asking them about their pet policy up front, hoping that by meeting me first and seeing how nice and somewhat normal I was, they…

The first days

I don't have much free time or computer access right now, but it seems prudent to let my friends and family know that Geo and I made in to Juneau. We left Palmer and drove, drove, drove through the night. Around 3 a.m., I stopped at a lookout near the pass at Haines Junction and passed out on a bench for three hours before driving the last 100 miles to Haines to catch my ferry. That Alaska highway is really not built for a loaded-down Geo driving in the ungodly hours of the morning. I made it over the endless potholes and gravel patches OK, but I came precariously close to running out of gas when I drove 150 miles without seeing an open gas station — and, more importantly, I ran out of any access to cold caffinated beverages. Still, I gotta hand it to Geo. He's been through a lot, and he's been a good car.

Right now I'm homeless and logging in long training days at my new job. I'm staying at a National Forest campground on a lake near the Mendenall Glacier. It'…

Over 700 miles

23.9 gallons of gas: $82
108 ounces of Diet Pepsi: $6.43
Two-pound bag of generic Fruit Loops: $2.99
Meeting a lone wolf in the quiet Yukon dusk: Priceless

In transit

Date: August 2 and 4
Mileage: 14.1 and 33.8
August mileage: 66.2

One way to make a move involving 1,000 road miles, two international border crossings and a scheduled ferry ride even more exciting is to prolong the bulk of it as long as possible and then scrunch the rest into one super Saturday. Another way to make the move exciting is to do it in this rig ---->

And I sure am excited, because after three days of schlepping around a 10-year-old Geo Prism with a metric ton of all of my worldly possessions, I am currently in Palmer, Alaska, about 250 miles north of Homer by generous estimates. But, hey, my slowness hasn't been in vain. I spent a tourist day in Seward on the wildlife cruise and glacier tour, visited friends in Palmer, wrestled a mad zoo movie crowd to see "Over the Hedge" and finally got a chance to ride the rollercoaster bike path along the Parks Highway. And how could I leave southcentral Alaska without at least once standing next to a Halibut that's ta…

Last ride

Date: August 1
Mileage: 18.3
August mileage: 18.3
Temperature upon departure: 51

Last bicycle ride in Homer.
With a wind chill in August and rain-spattered streets
Pavement I've pedaled down many dozens of times. Maybe 100 times.
Suddenly drenched in a nostalgia I cannot shake, a beauty I never noticed.

I struggle because I want to remember all of it -
The way the trees pinstripe the sunlight,
The tear-soaked plummet to the Bay.

I find it hard to breathe because I'm descending
Something I'll never again climb.

Wavering against the cow parsnip,
I strain to memorize the musty sweet smell in the explosive umbrellas
Unable to forget how each one looks at 10-below
Encapsulated in ice
As if locked inside eternity.

I find comfort in the idea that nothing stays the same.

I may never return.
But I'll never leave, entirely.

When you hear from me again, I'll no longer be a Homer in Homer.
I'll be a Jill in Juneau.