Showing posts from August, 2007

Lucky day

Date: Aug. 30
Mileage: 83.4
August mileage: 987.9
Temperature upon departure: 58
Rainfall: .05"

A couple of nights ago, there was an eclipse of the full moon. Then there was a meteor shower. A couple of planets probably aligned in strange ways, too, because somehow, against the odds, I talked Geoff into going for a bike ride on the road today. And not just any ride on the road - an 80-mile ride on the road, complete with a forecast calling for a 90 percent chance of showers and a south wind that could knock a person off their bike - which at some point was going to have to be fought head on.

"It will be so fun to ride to Echo Cove," I said. And, of course, he didn't believe me for a second. Geoff would ride a mountain bike to the ends of the earth, but put him on skinny tires without any camping gear attached, and he becomes bored within fractions of a mile. As we left town with the south wind pushing us along at 20 mph, no pedaling required, he said "maybe we should…

Running the gauntlet

Date: Aug. 29
Mileage: 51.1
August mileage: 904.5
Temperature upon departure: 57
Rainfall: .04"

It's exciting, setting out to ride a bunch of 50-mile days in a row. But I am becoming a bit tired of the ride out the road, so today I put together a tripod route to mix it up a bit - North Douglas and back, Thane and back, Lemon Creek and back.

The Thane spur is my favorite road route in Juneau. However, I'm pretty sure I can count the number of times I have ridden it this summer on one hand. There's only one reason for this: The Gauntlet. Now, I have ridden Moab's Slickrock Trail. I have descended a muddy Resurrection Pass with no brakes. And I can say that no ride I've tried is as scary - or dangerous - as downtown Juneau on a five-cruise-ship summer day.

It's downright exhilarating in a what-just-happened-back-there kind of way. Hundreds of starry-eyed pedestrians who have spent days being herded around a boat and stuffed with food spill out onto the sidewalks. Mo…

Gunning for 1,000

Date: Aug. 28
Mileage: 41.8
August mileage: 853.4
Temperature upon departure: 57
Rainfall: 0"

August has been full of beautiful days that make me wonder ... is this the last day of summer? The last day of sun before the rainy season really sets in? Last year, August and September brought blocks of wet weather that had to be measured in weeks. Those long stretches of gray brought a sameness to the days ... as though not even time could pass through the thick fog. Then one day I woke up to the sun blazing high in a blue expanse I couldn't even recognize, and there was snow on the ground. Winter came, and no one even warned me.

But today, today was the last day of summer. Unobstructed sunlight failed to even warm the temperature above 60, giving the air a crisp, autumn-like taste. I spun through the school zone clocking at least 5 over the speed limit, nodding at sullen-faced teenagers as they shuffled past with their eyes locked on text messages and lips wrapped around energy drinks.…

I miss that soggy feeling

This coming Saturday is the date for the 2007 Soggy Bottom 100. I spent most of the summer swinging wildly between definitely entering this race and definitely not entering this race. Somehow, I ended up at the latter extreme. It is probably a good thing. It's still travel money I don't need to spend; vacation time that could probably be better used elsewhere. That doesn't change the fact that I'm feeling remorse right now about blowing it off ... that last big gasp for my 2007 season, now nothing more than a whimper.

From an athletic perspective, it's hard for me to think of 2007 as anything more than a small disaster: a disappointing showing at my "A" race in mid-February, followed by months and months of chronic injury and immobility that dogged me throughout my mellow, competition-free summer. It's disappointing because I felt like I had a good thing going after 2006. I even entered a 24-hour solo race before I realized they were supposed to be one…

Signs of fall

Date: Aug. 26
Mileage: 34.5
August mileage: 811.6
Temperature upon departure: 52
Rainfall: .03"

The first sign of fall has settled on Juneau. I remember living in places where the first evidence of fall was a cloud of visible breath in the chilled morning air, a dusting of white powder on the mountain ridges or a single yellow aspen leaf in a sea of green. But in Juneau, I think the most prevalent sign of early fall is widespread salmon stink. Having reproduced and then died en masse, their rotting carcasses choke the rivers and line the shores, where they're haphazardly dragged over trails by bears and tossed into the road by seagulls. When I hear the crunch of brittle bones beneath my wheels and breathe in the suddenly omnipresent aroma of city dump, I know the first snow flurries are not far away.

I am now approaching day 10 since I returned from my bike trip, and I have yet to gain back the feeling in the tip of my left pinkie finger. I'm beginning to become a little worrie…

Cold, but it's my fault

I've wrapped myself in every spare layer I could find at the office ... the spare socks in my desk drawer, the neglected-but-dry dress shoes, the mildew-scented cotton hoodie that was stuffed in my trunk. Seems nothing can cut the edge off this blue-lipped chill. It's the kind of cold that doesn't come off ... August cold.

It's always difficult to figure out how to dress for hours of activity in the rain. Do I go for minimum layers soaking wet, or multiple layers soaked in sweat? I've become pretty good at estimating the insulation I'll need for my exertion level in biking. Guessing how much of my own heat I'll generate is much harder to do when I'm hiking.

Today I dressed minimally for the West Glacier Trail because I decided my knee is strong enough now for uphill/level-ground jogging when the trail isn't too technical. And since my whole aim is to go as hard as I can, I figured I wouldn't need all those layers weighing me down.

All went well unt…

Another perspective

Date: Aug. 23-24
Mileage: 47.6
August mileage: 777.1
Temperature upon departure: 57
Rainfall: .55"

Our friend Amity from Palmer, Alaska, is visiting us right now. She is the first friend from Outside (Juneau) that we actually talked into coming to visit. She had never been to Southeast Alaska before.

Yesterday we backpacked to the Windfall Lakes public use cabin, a backcountry luxury spot complete with a canoe and a propane heater. We made pasta with pesto sauce for dinner and it was about the worst thing I have ever ingested (a combination of salt overload, MSG, starch water and more than a hint of melted plastic from the cheap bowl I was eating it out of.) I opted to eat it rather than pack it out, even though I had already packed in two magazines, a huge edition of the Seattle newspaper and two cans of Diet Pepsi (hey, you have to have priorities.) We floated on the lake for a while while Amity "fished" and Geoff and I were rained on. It continued to rain the entire night.…

Geoff and me

Date: Aug. 22
Mileage: 22.1
August mileage: 729.5
Temperature upon departure: 53

So Geoff bought me a copy of "24 Solo" for my birthday. I found the film entertaining enough, but I think Geoff took its motivating message to a farther extreme. Ever since we watched it, he has been scheming about adding even more events to his already overfull schedule. And since the place we happen to live is the isolated hamlet of Juneau, Alaska, I think it may be safe to assume that he's going to be gone, well ... all of next year, at least. Happy birthday to me.

I keep trying to tell Geoff that I am really not interested in following him into the madness. I don't actually want to live homeless in the scorching heat of a Mountain West summer. I don't want to subsist on sponsor snacks, or train eight hours a day, or set out to ride a sub-24-day GDR. That is really not my bag. That is way beyond my bag. That is a bag that belongs to a climber on Everest compared to my K-Mart bookbag. I…

Mellow hikes and bikes

As I was rolling into Skagway on Friday, I remember feeling on top of the world, still stoking a decent reserve of energy, and thinking "I could keep doing this ... tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day."

Who knows? Maybe I could have kept going at that rate. But it's funny ... when you set these specific goals for yourself, your mind says "time to stop," and your body says "OK. Stop I shall." And that's it. It's like irreversible shutdown.

So the past few days have been a lazy sort of slog through the fog. I don't have any residual soreness from my long ride, but I think my mind is just tired. I went out for a short ride yesterday and just couldn't amp it up. It never hurt ... it just never had any fire. Also, similar to the week after the 24 Hours of Light, my job also has chosen an inopportune time to became particularly high-stress. There isn't much left to me but fumes; I feel like I burn those well, but a high-performan…


Date: Aug. 20
Mileage: 20.7
August mileage: 707.3
Temperature upon departure: 63

Today's my birthday Late twenties, and still I feel Like I'm just starting

Golden Circle

Haines Highway, Day 1

As I was cinching up my saddle bags at the Haines ferry terminal, a woman broke away from a guided rafting group to talk to me.

"Are you all alone?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Really? Just you?"


"Wow. You must be brave. Or crazy."

And with that she laughed and walked away. She never asked where I was from, where I was going, or even what kind of gear I had stashed in my bags. The only detail she seemed to care about at all was that I was alone and on a bicycle in Southeast Alaska. Apparently, that was enough information for her.

As I pedaled along the cracked pavement toward town, it hit me. I really was alone. All alone. And for the first time in my life, I was striking out on an adventure with no one to rely on but myself.

I let my doubts wash over me as I worked my way along the flat road lining the banks of the Chilkat River. Even where Alaska is paved, it can feel stunningly remote. I remember describing it to …

Greetings from sunny Skagway

Date: Aug. 15-17
Mileage: 371.5
August mileage: 686.6
Temperature upon departure: Scorching
Inches of rain: 0"!!

My pinky fingers are numb, so it is hard to type right now.

I am killing some time in Skagway while I wait for my ferry. I rolled in at 12;51 p.m. this afternoon. I left the Haines ferry terminal at 12;38 p.m. Wednesday, which means I ~almost~ made it in 48 hours.

It's true, though, that 48 hours and two days are not the same thing. I divided this ride into three pretty equal days ... 140 on Wednesday, 120 on Thursday, 110 today.

I might have made my self-imposed time cutoff, but I stayed up late hanging out at a Whitehorse barbeque and slept in ... a little. (It was still as dark as the massive dark night when I left at 4;30 a.m. Yukon time)

Everything went about as well as I could have hoped for. Wednesday and today were two of the most beautiful bike rides I have ever experienced. Thursday doled out the heaping helping of suffering I was hoping for at least a dose of - 1…

Yukon Ho!

Date: Aug. 13
Mileage: 21.1
August mileage: 315.1
Temperature upon departure: 68
Inches of rain: 0"

"But if something hurts so much, how can it be enjoyable? At the point where physical stress begins to take you beyond what you imagine to be endurable, you enter new territory of understanding, an expanded psychological landscape. ... The pleasure comes when you grasp just what has happened inside your head and spirit. It doesn’t stop when the bike stops, when you reach the top of the col or peel off at the end of the ride, so tired you can hardly think or stand straight. That’s where the pleasure begins. The self-knowledge."

Graeme Fife, "Glory Through Suffering"
I took Roadie out for a short test spin this morning (Yes, I really did wear that T-shirt and those socks. I really am turning into my father.) I was planning to weigh the bike before the trip. But as I huffed and puffed and hoisted it up the stairs, I thought better of it. I don't want that number spinn…

Everything I need

I spent all of what turned out to be a beautiful morning finalizing my touring gear, setting it up on my bike, repacking, adding things to my list, buying more stuff ... in short, not riding. But I think it will all be worth it on Wednesday when I take off from Haines with what seems to be a pretty complete load. It feels heavy, but it's about as compact as I can go with the gear I own and the uncertainties I'm facing - two small saddle bags (one for camping gear; the other for rain gear and extra clothing) a frame bag (food) a seatpost bag (bike repair stuff, first aid kit, and batteries) and a handlebar bag (Everything else. No backpack! Yeah!)

On of the new innovations that I am especially excited about is fork-mounted water-bottle holders. This will allow me to carry ~72 ounces of water on the frame. That amount should be plenty, even with the forecasted warm temperatures. I found a detailed milepost guide to the Haines Junction and Klondike highways, and it seems that neve…

Severe Sun Advisory

Date: Aug. 11
Mileage: 25.1
August mileage: 294.0
Temperature upon departure: 71
Inches of rain: 0"

The National Weather Service issued an unofficial "Severe Sun Advisory" for Juneau this weekend. I guess the NWS feels it's necessary to warn Juneau residents that when that big yellow orb is burning in the sky and outside temperatures are approaching 80 (80!), they can't go outside without sunscreen and leave their dogs in cars and other things that they are able to do 95 percent of the year. Yes, Juneau-ites, the sun is in the sky. Head for the hills.

Today I hiked with Geoff to the top of Mount Jumbo, the highest point on Douglas Island. I think it may just turn out to be our only hike together this summer; now that he has seen how slow I am on the downhills, he will not take me hiking again. I don't know exactly what is wrong with me right now - whether I am out of practice, out of shape, or just a little too self-aware of my tender knee. Either way, it took us …

One good push

Date: Aug. 10
Mileage: 85.5
August mileage: 272.9
Temperature upon departure: 67
Inches of rain today: 0"

Holy cow. It seems like I may actually attempt this 360-mile ride next weekend. I had come so close to talking myself out of it, too. But the bad knee started cooperating just long enough to respark those temptations. And once that fire starts building, it's only a matter of time before it consumes everything, even common sense. I have to put it out, somehow. Might as well do the ride.

This weekend was my final test to see how my body might cope in the long slow burn. My repetitive motion pangs seem to come on as a result of long periods of buildup rather than just one big ride, so to be able to move pain-free through a 50-mile ride, a six-hour hike, and an 85-mile ride in a three-day period bodes well. I felt great today. It seems like I'm probably as ready for a ride like this as I was ever going to get. Time to cool it off a little, stock up on Power Bars, and spend some…

A walk in the clouds

Date: Aug. 9
Mileage: 7.8
August mileage: 187.4
Temperature upon departure: 61
Inches of rain today: 0.02"

The weather forecast called for clear(er) weather, so I went to bed last night believing that today was going to be the day, the day I hiked the Juneau Ridge. So of course I woke up to settled fog and a steady drizzle. I knew that my chances of finding the route up there weren't great, but that didn't change the fact that I was raring to go. I gave it a shot.

I started backwards from Granite Creek Basin because I have been up the Mount Juneau trail before, and it seemed better to make my destination some place I might actually recognize. As I was locking my bike at the Mount Juneau spur, a man passed me and chuckled quietly. When I caught back up with him up the trail, he asked, "Why did you leave your bike back there?" When I explained the loop I hoped to complete - up Granite Creek, across the ridge, down Mount Juneau, bike home. He just laughed again and said…

50 miles before work

Date: Aug. 8
Mileage: 51.2
July mileage: 179.6
Temperature upon departure: 55
Inches of rain today: 0"

I used to be a 9-to-5'er, a standard-issue worker, staring bleary-eyed into my morning bowl of Wheaties and scraping ice off windshields in the predawn darkness. When I fell into the copy-editing side of newspapering, those shifts got thrown out the window - along with my prime-time TV habit, my alarm clock, and any chance of a functional social life with the other standard-issue workers. So what did I gain in return? Sometimes I wonder.

I rolled out of bed today at 8:21 to a face full of daylight that had been up for three and a half hours. In the height of summer, more than five passed by the time I woke up. But I'll never miss any of it. In fact, with as well as I've been sleeping lately, I bid the long daylight good riddance.

I lingered over breakfast for a while - who knows how long, really, as time creeps slowly in the a.m. hours. I sipped the elixir of life that some…