Monday, January 29, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Date: Jan. 28
Mileage: 25.1
January mileage: 809.5
Temperature upon departure: 30

Tough ride today. I blame the ill-fated bald eagle who found a decapitated deer head in the local landfill. Probably thinking it would be the envy of all eagles, it wrapped its talons around the trophy and took off. What it didn't put much thought into is how much more difficult flying can be when you're hoisting a head that weighs roughly what you do. The eagle banked right into the path of a live power line and bzzzzt ... 10,000 customers in Juneau lost power. (This is a true story. I work for the local newspaper.) And the end result ... I wasn't able to check the weather radar before I went outside.

I've been riding my regular mountain bike with studded tires since Thursday because I'm terrified about taking another dive. It does fine on ice, but is spectacularly inefficient in any sort of loose snow (I can't believe I spent an entire winter riding this thing last year. Swapping out Sugar for Snaux Bike has been like upgrading a low-geared beach cruiser to a road bike and discovering that it is in fact possible to go faster than 9 mph on a bicycle.) But that was fine because there wasn't any new snow this morning ... when I left.

I did a real quick jaunt out to the end of North Douglas Highway (50 minutes! Them's summer times!) Light flurries began falling at about mile 4 and had grown steadily heavier. But it was just after I turned around that I hit the full scope of the storm. I didn't even know snow downpours were possible. The white fury rained down like static on a TV screen. There was no visibility and no distinction between road and shoulder and ocean and sky. Snow like that piles up fast - nearly three inches in the space of an hour. I had to stay as far off the road as possible to avoid the ski-resort traffic. My mountain bike was swerving and banking and bouncing off chunks of ice left and right. I slowed to a crawl, locked in concentration mode and a kind of lightheaded calm that comes of unperceived effort. I didn't understand why I was working harder, but I was. Sweat condensation was building up on the inside of my transparent PVC jacket. Total ride time - 2 hours, 20 minutes. I only had enough time left over to take a shower and slap together a tuna sandwich, but at least I wasn't late for work.


  1. a snow downpour? whoa.. !
    it sounds like you guys are getting way more snow than usual even by AK standards.

  2. I run a Pugsley. Set up a pair of the Surly Endomorphs with sheet metal screws. Used #4 x 3/8" stainless truss heads from the inside out. Best of both worlds...floatation for snow & cat claw-like grip for ice. You could get similar results on any wide mtb tire...say, 2.5" on up. I run mine on packed snowmobile trails here in NYS...near shore of Lake Ontario. Not good if you hit pavement though. Lots of resistance, tough on the screws. Could give you more details, possibly photos if you're interested. BTW...great BLOG. Love the photos.

  3. Jill, I love your blog (though I have problems posting to it from my real site)

    I'm also recovering from a spill on black ice before Christmas. Suddenly I was on a road on a road bike (not the nice cozy gravelly trail) and doing 20mph on something like and ice-rink. The physio tells me the hip is nearly back in place.

    You've motivated me to do more miles again. Starting tomorrow.

    More snowy pictures please, we've had about 3mm here.

  4. Great scenery of Alaska! I miss that place. You're one serious biker. Best of luck!


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