Date: Jan. 7
January mileage: 183.6
Temperature upon departure: 29
As far as bicycle riding goes, 2007 is going really well so far. I figure I put in 14-15 hours this week, just on the bike. Since I'm not counting New Year's Day (and who has the energy to do anything on New Years Day?), I'm on pace to have a 200-mile first week. This morning, we had about 3 inches of new snow and patches of actual sunlight. My ride took me through five miles of deliciously difficult trails around Dredge Lake.
The best part about this first week of January is how diverse all of my rides have been. I started the week on the road bike and moved to dirt singletrack with Sugar. The past three have been snowy bike path jaunts with snippets of trail riding. Despite a parking lot full of cars, I just couldn't stay away from Dredge Lake today. The area is a tight network of trails cutting through a glacial moraine. I've been dying to try it all winter, but I'm afraid of receiving dirty looks from skiers (the trails are not groomed, but that doesn't make cyclists any less evil. Never mind that the skiers' unleashed 150-pound dogs make a lot more postholes than I could even if I tried.) Today I threw caution to the wind, looked both ways to make sure nobody saw me, and slunk toward a low-traffic side trail. Snowshoers had set up the surface nicely, and after about 20 minutes of steady cruising, I was hopelessly lost in a snow-drenched maze.
Another great part of this first week of January is the unexpected bursts of joy. They hit in subtle moments, moments when I am shimmying my handlebars away from the powder pull, when my thoughts are stripped of miles ridden and morning headlines and uncompleted projects, and my senses are engaged in nothing but the intense focus of flotation. With a mind bleached white and a perspective to match, a snowdrift throws me sideways and I narrowly miss hitting a sheet of thin ice. I slip off the bike as though waking from a dream. Where am I? How did I get here? Raising my head toward the river, I suddenly see Alaska as I did the first time I woke up in this state - stepping out of a tent into the loneliest wilderness, muskeg flecked in the soft gold of 4 a.m. sunlight, a jagged black-spruce treeline slicing through eternity.
It takes a minute to come back to frozen, winter, Southeastern reality. The trail continues forward and I am not lost. I am right where I have always been.