Showing posts from December, 2006

2006 in reverse

Date: 30
Total mileage: 21.0
December mileage: 476.1
Yearly mileage: 5,547.5

This year I resolve to see more beauty.

What's your New Year's Resolution?

Becoming rusty

Date: Dec. 28 and 29
Total mileage: 57.0
December mileage: 455.1
Temperature upon departure: 38

I have to be honest. I'm struggling. Struggling with motivation. Struggling with a disparity of location ... when I lived in Homer, I didn't enjoy my job much, but at least I had a satisfying cycling hobby to fall back on. Now, I enjoy my job more, but ...

It's my weekend. I thought I'd take advantage of Geoff being away to put in some longer miles, but I do what I find tolerable. Yesterday, tolerable was about three hours. Today, with a daunting Wind Advisory extended to 9 p.m., I decided to head north. After about two miles I realized that there wasn't any point in pedaling - my gearing only goes so high, and the wind already was pushing me along at about 25 mph. That didn't bode well, but I decided it would be a great workout going home.

I had, simply, no idea what I was turning around to face. Hurricane-force blasts stole the breath right out of my throat, leaving me g…

Happiness is frozen and dry

Date: Dec. 26 and 27
Total mileage: 43.0
December mileage: 398.1
Temperature upon departure: 26

Today, for the first time in the month of December, I had real, actual, nonfiltered sunlight in my eyes. For three beautiful miles around the north corner of Douglas Island, I actually had to squint as the unobstructed sun slid over the tips of the mountains. It was one of those famous partly sunny sinkholes that open up between the weeks and weeks of dripping gray. From these momentarily clear skies descends colder air ... refreezing the puddles, slush pots and soft snow. On days like today, I can go for a two-hour ride wearing a single layer on my legs and just two on my upper body and feel toasty warm. And I'm so excited about being dry, the pedaling doesn't even feel like work.

I finally sent in a check for the Susitna 100 this afternoon. I know I decided to do it a couple of weeks ago, but this is really the point of no return (which is why I put it off until the end of the month.) …

White Christmas

Date: Dec. 24
Mileage: 13.0
December mileage: 355.1
Temperature upon departure: 36

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I enjoyed two of the 24 Hours of "A Christmas Story" on TBS with friends, and ate two wonderful turkey dinners. When I say wonderful turkey dinners, I mean I pretty much just ate turkey and cranberry sauce (and some cocktail shrimp and cheesecake.) I don't mean to disparage my hosts' cooking, but I adore turkey and tend to think of potatoes and stuffing as lesser filler. And when there's tons of it available, I wait until the line has moved through and people are focused on their own food; then I protein-load with a big pile of white meat. I love the holidays.

I went for a short ride before work yesterday. I didn't really enjoy it. To be honest, I haven't enjoyed biking much for a couple of weeks now. I usually look back on it fondly after the ride, when the blood is starting to return to my extremities, bringing with it that oh-so-satisf…

Cyclist, frustrated

Date: Dec. 23
Mileage: 17.0
December mileage: 342.1
Temperature upon departure: 33

Today I went for a short ride. Words have not been invented to describe the unpleasantness of it.

Sleet is a word I might use, but it doesn't exactly do justice to the ice daggers that tore through the air, piercing exposed skin like millions of hot needles.

Windy is a word I might use, but it doesn't really describe the terror of leaning my bicycle 20 degrees this side of vertical as 55 mph crosswinds threatened to toss me off a 100-foot bridge without warning.

Slippery is a word I might use, but it in no way conveys the oil-slick sludge gushing down the pavement, giving my tires traction equal to that of an aluminum saucer and turning my single rear disc brake into an icy grip of death.

Wet is a word I might use, but it doesn't explain how, despite wearing the equivalent of a garbage bag suit, I still had to wring out my underwear after an 80-minute-long ride.

Cold is a word I might use, but the mi…

One way to make a short day long

Date: Dec. 21
Mileage: 60.0
December mileage: 325.1
Temperature upon departure: 32

Today at 3:22 p.m., the northern hemisphere titled as far away from the sun as it's going to get, officially kicking off the winter season. At that time, I was standing beneath a spray of lukewarm water in the shower, wondering how much counseling it would take to get this self abuse out of my system.

I made (mostly) good on my plan to spend the daylight hours of winter solstice riding. It took longer than planned to get Snaux bike up to snuff, but I was out the door by 9:30 a.m. There was about an inch of new snow and it was building fast. I had to wipe off my goggles every two minutes. It was as wet as precipitation can be and still qualify as white stuff - slippery, slow, and cleverly camouflaging the slew of slush puddles left over from yesterday. Snaux bike doesn't have fenders. I was soaked by 9:45.

From there, the blizzard continued for most of the morning. I rode to the end of North Douglas Is…

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…

Get a life

Date: Dec. 18
Mileage: 25.0
December mileage: 250.1
Temperature upon departure: 35

Geoff chided me tonight for making snap judgments and prejudicial statements based on an unfair assessment in yesterday's "Nordic Nazi" post. I was just letting off steam and it is my blog, but I am sorry if I offended anybody. That said, I'm a little disappointed that no outraged skiers shot me an insult-laced comment or two.

The other night, we watched a hilarious documentary called "Spellbound," which follows the ups and downs of eight young spelling champions as they prepare for the National Spelling Bee. At one point, the filmmaker asks one of the 13-year-old prodigies if she has any hobbies besides spelling. She gazes at the camera thoughtfully and says, "Well, I like to ride roller-coasters." She stops and thinks a little more. "I'm a vegetarian and I like to drink coffee."

I thought more about this girl - I think her name is April - today while tryin…

Nordic Nazi

RANT ADVISORY: Anyone who considers themselves an avid cross-country skier should probably just skip this post.

This morning, I agreed to go cross-country skiing with friends up at Eaglecrest, a (shudder) groomed loop near the downhill ski resort. I have probably been skiing too many times this week for my liking; I was grumpy and a little undercaffinated; and I took a nasty fall while walking across the parking lot, which left my knee swollen and bruised. In every way, I was not off to a good start.

After a long weekend of partying, my friends were somewhat grumpy themselves, and the general environment of parka-piercing winds and sticky snow put us all in a surly mood. So we stomped our way over the trail, collecting clumps of snow under our skis and trying to shake it loose. This created a lot of awkward downhill moments when one leg was sliding and the other was sticking. I was skiing in this one-legged position down the set tracks when I came around a corner and met an oncoming ski…

Get in mah belly

Date: Dec. 15 and 16
Total mileage: 35.1
December mileage: 225.1
Temperature upon departure: 26

I always read with great amusement other cyclists' accounts of mid-ride hunger attacks - knocking on a stranger's door to ask for crackers, pocketing Snickers bars at a gas station or fashioning a bicycle pump into a weapon and using it to hold up the nearest McDonalds. These stories have novelty for me because I don't suffer from this problem. If anything, I suffer from the exact opposite. I have mid-exercise food aversion. As long as my heart's pumping, the thought of digestion repulses me. Once, while sitting near the top of Kings Peak in Utah, Geoff actually force-fed me a cheese sandwich after I had spent the entire day refusing to eat breakfast, lunch or snacks. To be fair, we were huddled under a rock during a lightning storm, and I didn't think I was going to survive long enough to require energy for the hike down.

If a bike ride is long enough, I will (usually) force…

Ski by day, ride by Northern Lights

Date: Dec. 14
Mileage: 25.0
December mileage: 190.1
Temperature upon departure: 30

The afternoon is for skiing at Eagle Beach. The thick crust of old snow holds the sticks to the newly-dusted track, so all there is to do is stab, glide, stab glide, stab. The movement becomes a little tedious after three 2.5-mile loops around a state park, even as distant storms bleed splashes of black over the sky. Geoff seems to think otherwise, especially when he has finally found the perfect wax combination for his Rossignol classics. I ride some No-wax No-names, at about half the speed, and I consider it a triumph if I do not fall flat on my back (Atop a snowshoe-stomped ice patch, I was not so victorious today.)But we move and glide, taste the sweet rot of birch leaves that have somehow escaped the suffocation of snow, and I guess there are Zen moments in here somewhere, somewhere between the boredom and the terror.

We head home in the 2:30 p.m. twilight, and by 3:45 the sky is dark quilt of clouds p…

Caught tagging

Date: Dec. 12
Mileage: 18.0
December mileage: 165.1
Temperature upon departure: 34

I spend a lot of time blogging, but nearly as much as I'd like (And I realize that's as ridiculous as saying "I don't watch as much TV as I should.") So usually I miss out when people "tag" me. ("Tagging" happens when bloggers ply each other with requests for inane information in a joint effort to fill up the slower days). Since I had a fairly uneventful ride this morning, I'm going to indulge in my first "tag:" Six random and mildly interesting things you may not already know about me:

1. My favorite (solid) food is cold cereal. Any kind. It’s true.

2. I am a job hopper. Since 1995, I have worked as a piano tutor, a Wendy’s front line slave (we were sandwich artists before sandwich artists were cool), a grocery bagger, a bagel baker, a 1-hour photo processor, a retail lackey, a custom framer, a reporter, an editorial cartoonist, a graphic artist, a comm…

Snaux bike's first snow ride

Date: Dec. 9 and 10
Total mileage: 31.0
December mileage: 147.1
Temperature upon departure: 32

Just a few blocks from my house is the Dan Moller Trail, a high-traffic route that winds its way about 4 miles up to a backcountry cabin. It's a decent climb and the trail is washboarded by heavy snowmobile use (both not the most ideal conditions for a snow bike). But it is well-traveled and will probably be one of the most consistently rideable trails throughout the winter. And, like I said, it begins only a few blocks from my house. Perfect.

Snow conditions today were about crappy as they get. All of the rain that fell last week is still seeping through the rotten snow, which is too warm to refreeze. So the trail is covered with grayish mush the consistency of a Slurpee, stirred up by snowmobile tracks. Riding on this stuff is sort of like a race against quicksand, where steering consists solely of trying to keep the front tire ahead of the fishtailing back tire. Where you end up - that'…

Susitna Dreams II

Date: Dec. 8
Total mileage: 21.1
December mileage: 116.1
Temperature upon departure: 39

Geoff and I rode out to the local bike shop to collect the finishing touches (for now) for the Snaux bike ... three silver spacers for the fork. With the headset mounted, I took it out for its maiden voyage up and down the slush-covered street in front of my house. It shifted really smooth, and it had great control through the slush piles despite its 2.2" tires pumped up to 35 or 40 psi .(It may just be all in my head, but I really think the extra surface area of those Snowcat rims will make a world of difference. And even if it is in my head, who cares? I'm steering better, ain't I?)
Plus, the bike is really comfortable. It's hard to describe. And I admittedly didn't ride it very far. But it felt like a beach cruiser ... just kick back, relax and enjoy the ride. If this early assessment holds true, it's a pleasant surprise. That's exactly what I want in Snaux bike ... I wan…

Rain ride, noon to dusk

Date: Dec. 7
Total mileage: 40.0
December mileage: 95.0
Temperature upon departure: 37

I left my house a little after noon today and rode until it was dark enough to necessitate the use of red blinky. That isn't as long as you'd think. It's well shy of 3 p.m. these days.

Of course, I didn't see the sun actually set because it rained, continuously, over the entire ride. This picture that I posted today is an old picture. There was no semblance of sunset or sunrise today, and those beautiful piles of snow are quickly becoming a memory amid the sagging snowmen and smoke-colored slush streaming down the streets. The clouds hung low enough that thick fog enveloped the tips of even the shallowest hills. And I tried everything - and I mean everything I have in my clothing arsenal, shy of a plastic garbage bag - to stay dry, and I still got soaked. First I felt the rain dripping down my waterproof pants. It cascaded over the gators I had cinched as tight as they'd go. Then it b…

Almost done

Date: Dec. 5
Total mileage: 23.0
December mileage: 55.0
Temperature upon departure: 36

I am ... or more accurately, Geoff is ... putting the finishing touches on “Juno’s one and only snaux bike” (Carlos’ words, not mine. I think the ‘snaux’ spelling of snow is a dig on the faux way it imitates better bikes such as the FatBike, and the term ‘one and only’ is a dig on the warm and rainy region of Alaska in which I live.) All it needs now is a headset, which is on its way from Singapore. It also has a few things I intend to replace: the fork, because it can’t support disc brakes as it is now (and V-brakes won’t clear the snowcat rims) and the tires, which are currently my 2.2” summer MTB tires, but which I intend to replace with 2.75” mega downhill tires. The new tires will barely (if at all) fit the frame - but if they do, they will be oh-so-floatatious.

I have not ridden the bike yet, but I feel very optimistic about its future. Geoff built it while I was in Utah. While I acknowledge that t…

Rain delay

Date: Dec. 4
Total mileage: 22.0
November mileage: 22.0
Temperature upon departure: 34

Today a warm front settled in, bringing with it the snowpack-decimating rain that drips like acid from an electric blue-gray sky.

It was a sad state for a ride, but I still felt happy to get out. It was a shower of slush and enough ingested road salt to replace any electrolyte drink, but my legs felt strong and my lungs were happy to be back in the humid, sea-level atmosphere again.

I took the above picture yesterday while Geoff and I were skiing along the campground trails. I am getting better on skis. I don't really hate skiing. In fact, it is kind of fun in a simultaneously relaxing and frustrating way. And I stopped to visit my first Juneau home, camp site No. 5:

And as bad as those first two weeks were, I have to say, I'm lucky I moved to Juneau in August and not December.

I am giving myself until Friday to make a definite and binding decision on the Susitna 100. There are a lot of people who c…

Should I do it?

I was crunching some numbers today when I stumbled across a page on the Susitna 100 Web site that I have never seen before, the 2006 Photo Gallery, and discovered what I believe is the only picture taken of me during the entire Feb. 18 race (thanks to Mike Schoder). The number I was crunching was the approximate cost for me to do the upcoming race, on Feb. 17, 2007. Money is the excuse I've been using for my indecisiveness, but the truth is I've been hedging on this far too long.

It's already Dec. 3. And so I must decide.

"It would be cool," I'd say to Geoff. "But would it be $700 cool? Or $800 cool?"

But secretly, I'd be thinking to myself: "Would it be buy a new sleeping bag and bivy sack cool? Take three or four days off of work cool? Fly out to Anchorage in the middle of February cool? Spend the next three months forcing myself on increasingly lengthy, sleet-drenched, Taku-wind-blasted bicycle rides cool? Plod through the sleep deprived ph…

Made it back. Mostly.

Date: Nov. 30
Total mileage: 28.0
November mileage: 279.9
Temperature upon departure: 18

(Today's photo is a picture of Spaulding Meadow as captured by Geoff on Thanksgiving Day. Of all the things I actually remembered to bring back from Utah, my camera was not one of them.)

I was sitting in an immobile plane at the Ketchikan airport, staring at the blizzard-obscured city across the channel and wondering just when my move to Southeastern Alaska went wrong.

Maybe it was the lady from Kenai who sat in the seat in front of me, jabbering joyfully about her epic flight from Anchorage to Seattle to Ketchikan, all in a so-far foiled effort to make it to Juneau. "I just know we're going to end up back in Anchorage," she laughed. "I hope you know people there because this airline (Alaska Air) knows better than to give people hotel comps."

Maybe it was my sinus infection and the unbearable pressure that only seemed to increase in intensity as we sat at sea level - a sensati…