Wednesday, January 10, 2007

5.7 Earthquake

Date: Jan. 9
Mileage: 25.1
January mileage: 231.7
Temperature upon departure: 18

This is the second time this has happened to me. During the darkest part of the morning, right before dawn, the bed lurches forward and jolts me awake. My initial reaction is to squint at the alarm clock, 6:49. But the creeks and groans grow louder and the mattress continues to rumble beneath me. So I freeze in position and hold my eyes shut, hoping against a frightened child's hope that if I just pretend I'm not here, it will go away.

But then the tremors subside and the semi-conscious disorientation fades, and I can drift back to sleep with the comfortable assurance that it was only an earthquake.

This was the largest one I've experienced yet: 5.7, but its epicenter was 120 miles north of here. A lot of my coworkers didn't even feel it. My neighbor thought it was a gust of wind ... a 5.7 earthquake ... which I think is a good indicator of how bad the wind really gets here.

Any time Juneau skies clear up a bit, strong wind is pretty much a given. Some of the gusts create chills I don't even know how to describe ... they burn in their intensity. They burn in such a way that when I take off my outer shell, my top-most base layer is coated in ice ... frozen sweat. But I need the shell to block the wind. And so we dance.

Nearly every time I ride out Douglas Island around noon, I see the same pedestrian on the side of the road that I call "Backpack Guy." He saunters down the road with a walking stick and an external frame backpack bursting at the seams with all kinds of gear ... clothing and shoes and canvas stuff that looks really heavy. He walks against traffic and so we cross paths windburnt face to windburnt face, squinting against the icy sting of errant ocean spray. He always just smiles and I nod. I like to think that he's out here training to climb Rainier or Denali or some far-off, scarcely-charted ridge in the Himalayas. That while he's building his shoulder muscles, he's steeling himself against the unforgivable ravages of exposure and elements and cold.

And I can't help but wonder what Backpack Guy imagines I'm doing out here.