Thursday, August 09, 2007

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 call coffee and watched thick tufts of fog crawl up the mainland mountains. The sun may come out today yet.

I debated the appeal of hiking or biking. As fog clung to view-blocking elevations, I decided I deserved at least one dry day on the bike.

Roadie is extra rickety in dry weather. A steady diet of rainwater has found its way into his headset, his bracket shell, his hubs. Rainwater now serves as his lube and without it, he creeks and groans like an 80-year-old man being dragged along on a reluctant outing. I felt bad about his life of neglect, but I also know that geography combined with my lifestyle means any bike of mine is going to be higher maintenance than a pop princess at a cocaine party. I have convinced myself that life rolls along smoother after you learn to accept the rust and the grit.

Sunlight crept through the fog in sharp beams - fingers of God light that always inject the landscape with quiet reflection. When I lose myself in those moments, I never remember, later, what kind of things I thought about or what inspiration I found. I do remember smiling and waving at a shoulder-grazing tour bus as children pressed their faces against the rear windows. In commute-mode, I let near-misses like that make me angry. But this morning, seeing those comically contorted faces reminded me that we all had the same destination ... the pursuit of wonder.

I turned around at mile 26 and meandered back to a beachside picnic area, where I set my rickety old man of a bike on the ground and shuffled in my bike shoes along the gravel shoreline. Several steps later, I discovered a blueberry patch glistening with dew and not-quite-ripe berries. I rustled through the leaves like a greedy grizzly and began popping the purple orbs in my mouth. A few were so sour they made me wince; regardless, there's something intensely sweet about devouring berries in the wild. Maybe it's the serendipity of finding them, the satisfaction of earning them; maybe there's a hunger that fruit snacks and Power Bars can't fill.

Somewhere, many miles away from that beach, my real life waited. The one with flickering screens, the meetings, the deadlines, the bad news that hasn't even happened yet. And there I was, all those miles away, mildly hypnotized by the calm rhythm of waves as I walked along with blueberry juice oozing between my fingers. It's a place I can escape to every day. It isn't even hard.

My friends always groan when I tell them my schedule. "You work from 2 to 11? That must be awful."

And all I can do is smile.


  1. jill, now that it's more than a week into august maybe you should think about changing your header from "july mileage" to "august mileage" :) you're lucky you have me to correct these things for you.

  2. Dang ... you're right. Maybe I should come home from work now.

  3. Jill, have you ever read any Annie Dillard? Check out the book 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek', it's just luminous. I think you'll find a kindred spirit in her on some levels - not, alas, on the biking front, but certainly the pursuit of wonder front!

  4. Jill-

    Word from one of many enjoying your pics and travels from the heat and dust of Boulder, CO. As an expatriated Brit, I appreciate incessant rain and the mindset required to go ride in it.

    One question... I noticed on the map that the roads leading out of Juneau appear to abruptly stop after about 25 miles... and am pondering how you get in the centuries...?? Do tell.

    Good luck on the Yukon-


  5. Ugh, know the schedule well. Having a social life is overrated.

  6. Damn girl, you found something good out there today. Great prose.

    crap, now I sound like one of your groupies!

  7. Totally unrelated - Ran into this picture and thought of you:
    I wonder if the shield is for cold air or snow flurries. :)

  8. just did a thing

    not sure what it was
    did not take much time

    the last question asked to list a few of my favorite blogs

    without hesitation yours comes to mind

    the others were also cyclists
    but maybe blogs that would only be interesting to cyclists

    your perspective is far beyond your vision as a cyclist
    somehow I think that your writing brings your topic interesting to more than just those interested in cycling or adventure sports

  9. Kate ... Thanks for the recommendation! I'll look into it.

    Mike ... I've become a master of out and back. The road out of Juneau actually stretches closer to 40 miles. I figured out once that by riding every spur in town, out and back, the total ride would be about 150 miles. It's a lot of repetition, but strangly, it hasn't gotten boring yet.

    Dorothea ... I think I know that guy. He has a blog at The windshield would be great on those open frozen rivers they have out west. The wind on those rivers is intense.

  10. Lurker mode off. Thanks for all of pictures and the insight of life from another perspective. Did I say I love your pictures? Anyway I linked ya hoping that others will be able to see that Alaska is not a dark and cold and dreary place that one might envision. Keep up the posts. Lurker mode on.


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