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Showing posts from November, 2006

Cold in Utah

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Date: Nov. 29
Total mileage: 24.0
November mileage: 251.9
Temperature upon departure: 15

Seems like it's cold everywhere. Just when I was lamenting the way the sunny tropicalness of my Utah vacation has been cut short, I checked out the West Juneau Weather Station to discover a record low of -12 last night and about 15" of snowfall today. Yikes.

Plus, I have a cold. It has been lurking all week and I have been generally ignoring it. But all this dry air and elevation finally caught up to me today when the mercury dropped into the teens before noon. I set out for a two-hour ride that I had all mapped out in my head before I left. I popped in a cough drop and headed up Wasatch Boulevard on my friend's midget mountain bike (I believe it has a 15" frame.) I was only about 10 minutes into the real meat of the climb before I started wheezing. "This is insane," I thought. "I haven't been doing much riding, but I shouldn't be this out of shape." I cut …

Other stuff to do in snow

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Today was a day to help teach my youngest sister how to snowboard and steal a few gleeful powder runs in the extra space of a resort day, the space that I usually reserve for eating lunch and going to the bathroom. My two sisters and I decided a week ago that snowboarding at Brighton would be the perfect sisterly outing, and somehow we picked the perfect day to do it (if your idea of "perfect" is a near-whiteout and 15-degree temps.) But what we did have was plenty of famous Utah snow - piles and piles of crisp, dry powder so indistinguishable from the blizzard-stricken terrain that I would occasionally blast through mounds as high as my waist, emerging from the swirling cloud of ice jolted but not slowed. I took a few swims, but the snow was so light and airy that it was easy to stay afloat, skimming the silent surface on my rental hovercraft. Even my newbie sister got the hang of it early on, and a good time was had by all.

It's days like these that cause me to take sto…

Pictures of Zion

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I took a trip to the desert.

My parents first brought me here when I was just a small child.

I have spent many miles of the many years since trekking the length and depth of this land.

And still it awes and confuses me.

Most people know that "Zion" indicates a promised land, but don't know that the word "Kolob" indicates the place closest to heaven.

I believe everyone chooses their own heaven.

I already have mine picked out.

Gone home

Date: Nov. 25
Total mileage: 15.0
November mileage: 227.9
Temperature upon departure: 42

One of my favorite authors, Thomas Wolf, is given credit for coining the phrase "You can't go home again." I think about it every time I come home to Utah, when I struggle with the cognitive dissonance caused by the fact that I can, and all too easily.

I think this actually happens to a lot of people, because those who thrive on change can find the things that don't change slightly unnerving. So when I go to my grandparents' house on Thanksgiving Day, with the same early 70s cottage wallpaper I have always looked at, and the same mashed potatoes in the same bowl on the same table, and the same picture of me at 16 years old on the wall, and suddenly one of my cousins walks in and she's 10 years older than I remember her being, well ... it feels like ... unraveling.

But this is Thanksgiving for me. I easily become unraveled when the life that's my life now and the life that w…

Time for a vacation

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Date: Nov. 21
Total mileage: 15.0
November mileage: 212.9
Temperature upon departure: 18

This seems to happen every year. The onslaught of winter arrives hard and fast. I have a minor freak-out and do something nutty like buy tire chains or decry the beautiful barrage of snow. There’s a short period of confusion when I wonder how in the world I ever learned to steer in powder or spend less than 30 minutes dressing to go out. And then suddenly, without even focusing, everything becomes clear. Images of green leaves and flowing water fade into the recesses of my memory, and the monochrome world in which I move becomes a place of beauty and ease. I throw the tire chains in the trunk, slap on random pieces of clothing, and go for a bike ride.

I’m finally completely comfortable with winter. So it’s a bit funny that I’d pick this time of year to take a vacation home. No self-respecting Alaskan heads south at the beginning of winter. But it is Thanksgiving, which is at least a semi-legitimate hol…

I stop being such a wimp

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Date: Nov. 20
Total mileage: 36.0
November mileage: 197.9
Temperature upon departure: 19

The first rays of the 8 a.m. sunrise nearly filter through a mass of featureless gray that has become the sky; it's nearly cold enough to ensure hardpack and it hasn't snowed in nearly four hours, so it seems like a good morning to ride.

I swerve across the unplowed street as my gray-faced neighbors dig through mountains of snow. Some are looking for their newspapers, some for their cars, some for their kids. Most regard me with surly grimaces, but the few smiles I see are like a shot of Red Bull. It is early, and Monday at that. I head north beyond the idling garbage trucks, the hulking snow plows, chained-up tow trucks and the cars they're pulling out of ditches. After eight miles, I'm far enough north to be almost completely alone.

Blocks of ice and chunky snow keep me on my toes, but I ride as hard and as fast as the drifts will let me because the cold sweat against my skin feels goo…

Uncle! Uncle!

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Sunday: Snow...Heavy at Times...Windy. Snow accumulation of 12 to 19 inches. Highs around 32. East wind to 25 mph with gusts to 45 mph. Decreasing to 20 mph in the afternoon. Chance of snow 90 percent.(courtesy of National Weather Service)

OK, winter. Good joke. We're all laughing. 45 inches of snow? In a week? In Juneau? We thought it was pretty funny. We broke out the moldy snow shovels and rusted-out plows and all had a hearty chuckle about how you got us pretty good. So why are you still here, lingering, threatening a seemingly unending barrage of snow? I say, winter, there's no need to be a bully. Enough is enough.

Don't get me wrong. I'm on your side. A "winter" person through and through. I can do snow anyway you send it - love the powder for snowboarding; love the wet stuff for snowshoing; love the crusty, icy stuff for snowbiking. But in all things, moderation. Sinking up to my thighs and becoming stuck in wet concrete snow, spinning out on newly plowe…

Monochrome

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Isn't it interesting how uncannily black and white this picture looks? It's not. I uploaded the photo in its raw capacity, with no special camera settings and no photo editing software to speak of. This is how my camera saw the world this afternoon. The more I scrutinize it, the less color I see. Sometimes life is like that.

Four hours of cross-country skiing today - most of it on unbroken trail through deep snow - was extremely hard. I emphasize the superfluous adverb I can go out and ride a bicycle or hike for four hours like it's a pleasant walk in the park, but for some reason that much skiing has me scanning the snow for a final resting place. It doesn't make much sense because I was never working hard enough to even break a sweat. I may have used more upper back muscles than I'm used to, but I'm not sore now. So what gives? Why does skiing cause so much fatigue? I thought maybe I just had low blood sugar, but I don't know. I joke about this alot, but m…

This is just the backyard

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I haven't attempted to ride my bike at all in the past few days. I have a hard enough time walking when I go outside. The district closed school both yesterday and today (which I think is a bit wimpy for a measly two feet of snow.) Still ... they told me it never snows in Juneau. They told me it would be ice and rain all winter long. I know I've only lived here three months, but, looking out my window over my whitewashed backyard, I think it does snow in Juneau. Maybe even often. So I have to wonder ... what does this winter hold in store for me?

I finally took my car in to have the studded tires installed today. I always procrastinate things until they become not only an annoying but also inconvenient chore, so I was more than a little irked when a walk-in showed up five minutes before me and stole my 11 a.m. slot. But my conversation with her was an excellent example of how I think so much more like a cyclist these days.

She told me that her studs were already on rims, and she…

Cat blog

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A few days ago, a commenter asked me about the status of my transient cat, who joined me in Juneau about a month after I moved here. I just wanted to report that the cat who hates to travel (and I mean really hates to travel), and who has lived with me in four different houses across a span of states more than 3,000 miles apart, appears to be happy at home.

It’s kind of a funny story how I ended up with this cat. I’m not a typical pet owner and never really set out to become one. I was living in a little studio apartment by myself in a quiet little town called Tooele, Utah. Geoff and I had spent the day mountain biking in the Stansbury Mountains, and we were unloading a slew of bike gear when this little cream-colored furball streaked into the kitchen through the open door. She had a dirt patch on her face and looked so small and frail that I felt compelled to rifle through my cupboard until I found a can of tuna.

“Don’t feed it if you don’t want a cat,” Geoff said.

“It’ll just be this o…

Big snow

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Date: Nov. 13
Total mileage: 10
November mileage: 161.9
Temperature upon departure: 27

A storm moved in today that has so far dumped more than a foot of snow. It could dump another foot before the clouds move on. That’s great weather for weaving a fleece-blanket cocoon, curling around two cozy cats, and soaking up steam from a big cup of hot chocolate. It’s also good weather for biking.

We went out for a ride this morning when the storm totals were closer to 4" - enough to send cars swerving all over the roads, but not enough to bog down the bike paths to the point of walking. It's a fun adventure to go out for a ride when the snow is coming down that hard. Familiar scenery disappears behind a veil of white static. And during rare breaks in traffic, with metal-tipped tires disappearing beneath soft powder, the silence is nearly absolute. I, of course, forgot my googles, so I spent most of the ride focused on abstract tracks in the snow.

Every single flight in and out of Juneau was …

Veterans Day 8K

About twice a year, I go for a run. That's enough for me.

On a fluke this morning, Geoff and I entered the Southeast Roadrunners Veterans Day 8K race. I never quite know what to expect at these organized events. But when we showed up at the starting line 10 minutes before the race began, I think I expected to find a little more than two race organizers and about 13 other racers huddled beneath a tiny blue booth.

At 10 a.m., the small group was off, pounding the snow-packed path beneath eye-stinging flurries of snow. I watched the runners disappear behind the first bend, and just like that, I was all alone.

So I continued through the icy forest, thoroughly enjoying my iPod mix and thinking that I probably could run faster than 7 mph - but why kill myself? At mile 2, Geoff passed me hot on the trail of some young guy, followed by the only other woman I saw in the race, a few more men, a couple of old guys and finally, a 9-year-old boy. Then I was alone again and knew I would be for the…

Improbable

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Date: Nov. 7
Total mileage: 18.8
November mileage: 151.9
Temperature upon departure: 39

Geoff and I made plans with friends to go cross-country skiing in the afternoon, so of course I went for a bike ride in the morning so I could actually do something fun with my day.

Not that I hate cross-country skiing - entirely. It's just something that I have spent a year trying to learn, without the benefit of any gained skill. And it's hard to willfully to do something that involves spending half the day at varying levels of out-of-control, usually preceded by horror and followed by pain. But I go and I try to be a good sport, even when the little voices in my head remind me how much easier it would be to just ditch the useless sticks and walk.

We started out at EagleCrest, crossing a muskeg bog and weaving through the forest. I don't remember exactly how many times I fell (and for reasons I'll later explain, I thought a lot about it later in the evening.) But it was quite a lot. One…

Powder suck

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Well, I made good on my promise and went snowboarding today. Actually, I take that back. I went hikeboarding today - meaning I hiked my board up a mountain, and then I hiked it back down.

Nearly two years off a board has washed my memory of the fact that I am really not very good at it. Especially when the condition of the snow is 18" of wet powder atop a base of rocks, squatty spruce bushes, and the spiny, skeletal remains of Devil's Club shoots. It's really too bad, because the day started out so well.

We started at the base of a closed-down Eaglecrest Ski Resort, with temperatures in the low 30s and huge snowflakes falling from a partly cloudy sky. We found a well-packed trail and marched up to the top of the mountain in less than an hour. Staring down at 1,400 feet of vertical, I was giddy - "I could do two more of these today," I thought. And the view from the top was great. Unfortunately, the drop from the top was sheer and we are but novices coming off a lo…

Into the gray

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Standing outside my office, 3:30 p.m. yesterday...

Standing outside my office, 2:30 p.m. today ...

9" of new snow means ...

Not going snowboarding Thursday would be a crime.

I voted for Pedro

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Date: Nov. 7
Total mileage: 19.7
November mileage: 133.1
Temperature upon departure: 22

Wow. I'm fried.

I'm also too hopped up on Diet Pepsi to quite quit the computer yet, so here I am, still - after 11 straight hours of this - watching these election returns trickle by, and blogging.

Newspaper journalists and politicians are alike in that they live for three things - natural disasters, wars and election day. I too got caught up in the ballot-day frenzy, participating in loud whoops and rounds of applause in front of the TV, gnawing on practically petrified pieces of Domino's pizza, updating CNN.com every five minutes, and scrambling in the final, stressful hours of the morning to lay out all of the late-arriving stories. It was a roller coaster of an evening, and I leave it feeling a little despondent.

I expected this. All of the candidates I would have voted for lost - soundly. My vote - had it existed - wouldn't have even mattered. U.S. House Democrats trounced the incumb…

Just vote

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Tuesday is general election day.

Don't forget to vote.

I won't be, because I am a L.O.S.E.R. After raving about how much I hate all the bureaucracy that goes into registering to vote, I promised myself I'd do it. Then I put it off, and put it off. Then, finally, I went into the DMV. I waited over an hour to apply for my driver's license, and when I asked for a voter registration form, they informed me that I had missed the 30-day cutoff.

Shoot.

That doesn't mean I can't do endorsements though, for those Alaska voters who were coherent enough to register in the state they live in.

If I could vote for governor, I'd vote for this guy: Andrew Halcro.
Sure, he doesn't have a prayer of actually winning this race. And it's easy for me as a non-voter to say I'd quote/unquote "throw away" my vote on him. But he's a former Republican state representative who got little liberal old me to root for him, so I can't be the only one. Plus, I have th…

Cold on the road

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Date: Nov. 5
Total mileage: 29.0
November mileage: 113.4
Temperature upon departure: 21

I took roadie out this morning for a spin across Juneau. It was a great morning for a cross-town ride, with the sun beating down on streets so dry that the salt streaks crackled, and so deserted that I heard little else. People for the most part seemed huddled in their houses, with the exception of a massive gathering of ice skaters on the (barely) frozen Twin Lakes. As they swirled and scuffed the blinding glare of the transparent surface, I realized I could look right through the ice and see lake grass swaying beneath them. Those skaters are truly brave pioneers of the early winter, I thought. And we're all in this together.

I realized that today was the first time - ever - that I have taken out my road bike in below-freezing temperatures. That in itself is a daunting endeavor, because even the smallest streaks of black ice can take those skinny tires down without even flinching. But today was jus…

Blog appreciation day

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Date: Nov. 3
Total mileage: 41.2
November mileage: 84.4
Temperature upon departure: 25

So "Up in Alaska" turns one today.

This is actually post No. 271. I know what you're thinking. Two hundred and seventy one posts? Deee-yam, that girl needs to get a job. I just want to go on the record and say that I have a job. A very productive, blog-free job. Promise. Blogging is what I do when ... well ... when I should be watching TV. Blogging is what I'm doing when Geoff walks up to me holding some dismantled bike part and I hiss "shhh ... you're making me miss today's Fat Cyclist."

It's funny, because when I launched this thing, I had no intention of penning a daily biking blog. I just thought my friends and family were starting to get sick of all of the attachment-clogged mass e-mails I started sending when I moved to Alaska. I didn't actually think anybody besides my mom and my friend Monika in Ann Arbor would ever browse the thing. But the greatest thi…

Terra Firma

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Date: Nov. 1 and 2
Total mileage: 45.2
November mileage: 45.2
Temperature upon departure: 30

Oh man. I love winter mountainbiking.

Seriously. I wouldn't have guessed it a year ago, when the idea was just starting to drift into my realm of understanding. There's a lot of winter cycling enthusiasts here in Alaska, but I used to think it was just a form of survival rather than an actual hobby. After all, we have a lot of winter here. And not everyone wants to spend six months stuck to skis.

But there's a lot of ways that biking in the winter is - well - better.

Don't get me wrong. Summer is always amazing. It's beautiful, challenging ... and boggy. Especially here in the southeast, but the Kenai Peninsula isn't exactly Moab. The singletrack trails are often a maze of wet roots, puddles and tire-swallowing mudholes. There's gravel river beds, but there's also long stretches of moss that are best compared to cycling across a field of wet pillows. Like I said - it&#…

Hippy Halloween

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I overheard a woman today talking about her kids' plans for Halloween. She and her neighbors got together and planned a Halloween scavenger hunt of sorts, where the kids go from house to house making crafts, playing games and enjoying heart-healthy treats such as carrots. Although I have no objections to their efforts to phase out the sugar glorification that is trick-or-treating, I did feel a tinge of regret for adventure lost to the new generation.

I grew up deep in the 'burbs, where rows and rows of houses stretched uninterrupted for miles. Most of the time, the area was as boring as plaid. But once a year, the pumpkins came out and the neighborhood glowed with endless opportunity. I was 10 or 11 - arguably a little too old for trick-or-treating - when I realized that given an infinite amount of time, the rate of gain also was infinite. But I had but limited time. I had one freakin' night. And I wanted to make the most of that infinite possibility of gain, so my friend a…