Showing posts from September, 2006

Cause and effect

Date: September 29
Mileage: 31.1
September mileage: 361.7

Thursday: Ride in rain.

Friday: Ride in rain.

Saturday: Sore throat, fever, headache.

Forecast for Sunday: Intervals of clouds and sunshine.


"It's not artistic"

Date: September 28
Mileage: 36.4
September mileage: 330.6

The camera's just wet.

Does that mean I can't love this photo just the same?

According to the West Juneau weather station, today's rainfall so far is 1.34". Not that bad, really. We did a moderate ride in the afternoon that Geoff was not a big fan of. (The backstory behind that is that it took us nearly three hours to get out the door after a long morning, and we were running on little more than a 9 a.m. bowl of cereal until 4 p.m.) Anyway, during the last five miles he complained of lightheadedness and blurring vision, and then dropped me anyway. As for me, I pretty much forgot it was raining after a while. 25 mph headwinds and a 1,200-foot climb will do that. But to be honest, I enjoyed the ride. It wasn't bad. I really should just, as I said earlier this week, suck it up and ride more often.

As for rain gear - it's pointless. Who in their right mind would suit up in a bunch of breathable Gortex and then go…

Bike building

It looks like I may be buying a snow bike! And not just any snow bike - a snow bike in pieces. Pieces that I have to track down, then order, then assemble. It's a terrifying endeavor for someone as technologically challenged as I am. Therefore, I find the prospect very exciting.

The other day Carlos, the proprietor of the Soggy Bottom 100, contacted me about a frame and wheel set being sold by a friend of his in Anchorage. The friend is currently working on the North Slope for two weeks, but if all goes well, I could soon be the owner of a Raleigh M50 DX hardtail frame, a snowcat wheel set with fatty tires and Shimano XT disk hubs, and a Surly fork that "is probably as good looking as (my) couch."

Nice! Frankenbike!

A frame and wheel set does not a bicycle make, but it's definitely a start - and it gives me a chance to customize all the components, right down to burly little parts that will hopefully be up to the continuous freeze and thaw of my southeastern Alaska hom…

Just suck it up and ride

The last cruise ship of the season came to town today, and just like that, the whole of downtown's tourist district is shuttering up and moving out. And I wondered, am I ready for the ghost town? And I ready for winter in Juneau?

Gone too are the salmon, the swarms of splashing fish that piled up beneath the dock outside my office window. At least the fishermen still come, snagging the last spawned-out chums (and bless their tenacity). But they, too, will soon be gone.

And gone are my excuses for not riding my bike in the rain, though I've lined them up like soldiers to knock down every morning I wake up to a drench of gray. Yesterday, a record 2.7 inches fell in a typhoon of horizontal drops. It doesn't sound that impressive until I compare it to Salt Lake City's numbers - where 2.7 inches just happens to be the precipitation average for the months of July, August and September combined.

I wore those numbers like a badge as I suited up this morning to go riding, only to…

Soda fiend

I have a soda problem.

I know it. I admit it. And still, I'm bugged by the people who call me on it.

I was swilling my latest bucket'o'Diet Pepsi when someone (who I prefer to remain anonymous) waddled up to me and said, "Could you find a faster way to get diabetes?"

I had just seen him chow down about a pound of sweet and sour chicken with white rice, but I couldn't work up a snappy yet marginally polite comeback in time so I just mumbled, "um ... it's diet soda."

"So?" he asked.

"So it doesn't have any sugar."

He looked at me incredulously, so I added, "So it's a good way to get cancer, but not really diabetes."

Then he laughed and patted his stomach and said, "Yeah, I have to cut down myself."

I'm not sure we actually communicated at all during the exchange, but he did leave me feeling dull pangs of shame. I couldn't even enjoy the rest of my soda bucket, with those crisp flashes of ultra-sweetn…

Bluegrass 101

Date: September 22
Mileage: 25.6
September mileage: 294.2

If there's one thing Alaska will never have a shortage of, it's live bluegrass music. You can't wheel a cart down the frozen food aisle without bumping into someone who plays in some kind of bluegrass band. I personally work with more than a handful of such musicians. Tonight we went to the Island Pub for thin-crust pizza and ended up spending a couple of hours watching the stylings of a decent Juneau bluegrass band, "Bluegrass 101." Most of the musicians were inexplicably dressed like mod hipsters, dancing around the stage as they shared a single microphone. But in the back, almost lost in shadows, was the female bass player. Decked out like an extra in "Annie, Get Your Gun," she stood with quiet dignity and plucked at the strings as the whirlwind swirled around her. It made me wish I never gave up the bass.

It happened in the seventh grade - a terrible time to take up any instrument, really, let al…


Date: September 21
Mileage: 56.0
September mileage: 268.6

Last long day.

And a window of daylight opens between rain and more rain ... not sun, not dry, but at least the pavement is visible.

We start riding where the city ends and head out the road to nowhere. With a dead end as a destination, there's really nothing to look forward to but simple miles of forest, peppered yellow and steeping in salt-encrusted salmon stink.

Beyond the streams the air smells sweeter than spring, as it often does when leaves start to die and sag on their branches. As most life does when it has better things to do than survive.

Nothing to lose.

We discover these new places ... a totem pole, a Catholic shrine, all sacred in their own ways, in their own place, hidden in the woods where their only chance for worship is knowledge.

Or serendipity.

The road is cut off without fanfare by a single sign with a single word ... END ... but there's a boat ramp and it's already obvious that everyone else out here has…

Here I keep my dreams

Date: September 18
Mileage: 28.7
September mileage: 212.6

If you ever have an hour or 37 to kill, I strongly recommend reading through the bicycle tour blog "Cycling Silk." It chronicles the adventures of several college students crossing western China's Silk Road and Tibet on bicycles ... one of them, Kate, is my friend's cousin or cousin's friend. I don't remember. The connection is distant and I've never met her, but I read what she writes and I feel like I know her:

"On a bike trip, you are exposed to the world around you in a way and to a degree that few other modes of transportation afford. That kind of raw vulnerability has its drawbacks - like choking on the fumes of transport trucks that roar past, or feeling every little bump in the road translate itself into a saddle sore. But in the end the perks take the prize: the freedom to explore a landscape at your own pace, under your own power, and the exhilaration that comes with traveling with all y…

Le (yet another) Tour

Date: September 16&17
Combined mileage: 43.6
September mileage: 183.9

I have an idea for a decent endurance biking event in Juneau. It came to me today as Geoff and I, while tooling around on a short ride, decided to cross downtown to look at a particular house for sale. The city is carved into a mountainside, not unlike San Francisco, in a way that each city block becomes progressively steeper. I flew across the first five blocks (about 5-7 percent grade) ... began to labor at the next two (10 percent) ... started wheezing at blocks 8 and 9 (15 percent) and wavered alarmingly up the last two blocks (judging by hikes that I've done in the past, I'd say these streets easily push 25 percent grades). About 30 feet from the summit stop sign, I glanced over at a cement barrier and became terrified at the thought of putting my foot down - for fear I would slip backward back down the street and over the edge. But I also wasn't sure I was going to make it - I was feeling light-he…

Orca skyward

Date: September 14
Mileage: 32.3
September mileage: 140.3 Today Geoff and I rented an 18-foot skiff with an outboard engine and eight hours of cloudless daylight to motor aimlessly around in. We had this crazy idea that with no experience, no depth finder, no anchor and one halibut pole, we were somehow going to come home with dinner. We headed out to Shelter Island just as the last of the morning frost melted away in a blaze of sun. We pulled in to a place called "Halibut Cove" (which means there's got to be halibut there, right?) and began fumbling around with a bag of still-frozen-solid herring and tangled hooks when Geoff let out a loud gasp. I whirled around just as a massive whale erupted from the surface no more than 200 yards in front of our tiny boat. With a thunderous roar it twisted its sparkling black torso, flashing a white underside and falling headlong back into the water, tail sinking beneath a geyser of white spray. Geoff and I just sat there, still balanc…

The kids aren't alright

Date: September 13
Mileage: 23.8
September mileage: 108

Right now I work as a wire editor, which basically means I have my pick of dozens of national and world news articles to run in our local paper. Recently, one of my coworkers accused me of running "too many fat-kid stories." I can't help if all the published scientists are so single-mindedly focused on obesity (well, that and global warming.) I think these reports are justified. They scare me, too.

The latest study is saying that one in five children younger than 18 will be obese by 2010. Not pudgy. Not slightly overweight. Obese. It makes me wonder where these kids find the time to put on all this weight. You can't tell me that 20 percent of the youth population is genetically predisposed.

I guess what I don't understand is exactly when it got so bad. I come from "Generation Y," albeit the very, very front edge of it. But we had video games and Carl's Jr. and 7,578.2 satellite channels. We ate Dori…

What is this bright light?

Image had the audacity to call for "abundant sunshine" on Wednesday. 61 degrees. That's call-in-sick weather. At the very least, I have no choice but to take my bicycle out in the morning.

I haven't ridden much this month, but I haven't fallen off the bandwagon yet. I have become a reluctant member of the cheapest gym in town, also known as "Juneau's #1 Gym." It's a musty old place above a deli and across the street from the high school, where I can exercise to the aroma of sweat and salami while teenagers rifle through my car.

It also is a scapegoat that allows me to groggily nurse a cup of tea all morning before putting in a frantic hour of running/lifting/magazine reading before work. My biceps are looking a little less, well, imaginary - but it's just not the same. After all of the progress I made this year, it is, alas, a place of defeat. So this is my September resolution - to rediscover the joys of bad weather bicycling, and to w…

Sept. 11

I didn't have much time to write a post. Interestingly, I've already told my Sept. 11 story. It's posted here if anyone cares to read about a bright-eyed young reporter trapped at a chemical weapons incineration plant.

Anniversaries, especially uniformly numbered anniversaries, always bring out an awareness of the time that passes. People usually spend anniversaries adhering to some tradition, focused on reflection, or lost in memory. I tend to fall in the third group. I can still feel the numb shock, taste metallic stillness in the sinking air, and see the televised images that I, and every other American, watched in horror as our bright, mundane mornings were violently jarred from their routine. It was a Tuesday. That fact felt important to me.

Every year since, I usually spend some time on Sept. 11 reading the words that people wrote around that date. As we march through this endless War on Terror, I'm always drawn to a quote that my friend sent me in an e-mail two da…

I'm an Alaskan now

I spent the workday filling the newspaper with 9/11 fifth anniversary stories. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Sept. 11 has become a dubious date - but in 2005, it also happened to be the date I "moved" to Alaska. I thought about where I was this day last year, driving across the state line with a vaguely-promised job offer and little else on the horizon. One year went by. I rounded the jaw-dropping vista of Baycrest Hill, settled in Homer, moved to a cabin that received 250 inches of snow over the winter, embarked on my first below-zero bike ride, started entering endurance wilderness races, tried winter camping in April, pedaled by the light of the midnight sun, and gorged on the endless visual banquet until mountain-framed sunrises and wildlife sightings became routine. Then I packed up my life in Homer, relocated to Juneau, and started all over again. That's what happened in the one year it took for me to become an official, state-recognized "Alaskan."…

It's not a habit ...

Date: September 7&8
Combined mileage: 30.2
September mileage: 84.2

I'm beginning to believe that my natural timidness feeds this self-fulfilling cycle of injury. I don't crash my mountain bike all that often (I mean, relatively ...) But when I do, I tend to go big ... head over the handlebars, hitting the ground with some non-limb upper-body part, legs twisted around the front fork. And not because I'm a crazy, out-of-control, ego-fed "go big or go home" kind of a person. No. I tiptoe over everything. I relish in doing obstacles over ... but only if I can do them right the first time. If I fail, I'll run away as far and as fast a I can.

Today, Geoff and I went to check out some trails maintained by the snowmobile club, so we thought they'd probably be in good shape. And the trails were pretty good ... a little boggy, but they did build bridges over most of the major streams. On particular stream had a really strange bridge going over it - it shot up for a…

The view from up here

Look fast. It goes quick.

Peak-bagging in Juneau could be a good analogy for life. You toil up the steep an muddy trail, mind fixed on the prize, focused on the trail ... only to look up at some random point and realize that the surrounding world is completely shrouded in fog, you have no idea where you are, and all this time, you've been laboring toward something you'll never have. Good lesson. Disappointing hike.

Not really, though. We hit the Mount Roberts trail late in the day with no real intention of making it to the top. But after we passed treeline, there was always the hope of finding that ever-elusive view. Unfortunately, right about the time we left the forest canopy, we met the cloud canopy. The initial contact point was an interesting sensation - walking into swirling wisps of visibility-obstructing gray vapor, then emerging into a colorful, wide-open sightline. Eventually, though, we were high enough in the cloud that the only things we could see - those things imm…

Settling in, gearing down

Date: September 4&5
Combined mileage: 49.0
September mileage: 54.0

I spent the past two mornings riding the island roads with Geoff. Geoff and I hardly ever rode together during the summer because he was always training for mountain running, and I always insisted on four-hour rides whenever I could squeeze them in. But now we're both in a fitness lull, eager to explore our new home and unconcerned with upping our VO2 Max. For all of that time spent apart, though, we're having a hard time synchronizing our road riding. He can still outclimb me without even breaking a sweat. But today, I somehow dropped him cold on the flats, putting nearly a mile between us before I started to get worried and turned around.

As soon as I can get over my aversion to riding in downpours, I think I’ll begin to appreciate just how great the daily road riding opportunities from my doorstep really are. The route to Eagle Crest Ski Resort climbs 1,200 feet in 5.2 miles on a smooth, scenic canyon road t…

Rubber boots not included

Date: September 3
Mileage: ~5
September mileage: 5

This morning, Geoff and I did a nice hike-a-bike on a boggy trail near Eaglecrest Ski Resort. It was the beginning of what will probably be the slow elimination of many nearby trails - beautiful, unrideable trails. And still, I have this determination to hoist my mud-soaked mountain bike through ever mile of soggy peat until I know for sure. Today's ride, the Treadwell Ditch Trail, had several hundred yards of tentative but exhilarating balance-riding on narrow wooden planks, interspersed by much longer stretches of slimy roots, slick stairways and sludge.

For a failure of a mountain bike ride, though, it was oddly satisfying. This is the first time I've ventured into the thick of the rainforest, dripping brilliant shades of green from every dead tree trunk, sinewy vine and bolder. When I look at this kind of landscape, I can imagine what people must see the first time they step into the redrock desert that I grew up in - it's…

Beautiful day, ugly couch

What is that strange color breaking through the clouds, or those streaks of light shimmering on the water? Could that be blue sky? Sunlight? How easily it is to forget.

My newspaper reported that 29 out of 31 days in August had measurable precipitation. One of those two days without rain was my birthday. The other, I'm guessing, came before I moved here. The climate is going to take some adjusting to, so my bicycling miles are way down. This kind of weather demands fat storage anyway. I have been logging more mileage on an indoor elliptical trainer. I was rifling through the magazine rack today when I realized I had already read nearly every Newsweek with the year 2006 on it, and found myself debating whether to read "US Weekly" or a two-year-old issue of "Self." And, suddenly, I realized that I need to cowboy up and return to a less soul-sucking physical outlet.

Today would have been a perfect day for some much-needed bicycling. However, Geoff and I decided to f…