Sunday, September 09, 2007

Always learning

Date: Sept. 8
Mileage: 25.1
September mileage: 194.2
Temperature upon departure: 50
Rainfall: 1.01"

Heavy rain today. I am not complaining about it again. I even went out in it. Nearly every piece of rain gear I own was in the dryer after Sitka, so I wore several layers of cotton. I survived. Biking outside is easy. Living outside is hard.

My last post probably made it sound like I had an overall terrible time in Sitka. I did not. It's always more fun to write about the bad stuff, and I definitely had my fair share of mishaps. I didn't even write about the disproportionate number of traffic run-ins I had. I had heard somewhere that Sitka is trying to receive a "Bicycle Friendly Community" designation. Apparently, nobody has told the good citizens of Sitka that news, because in my short time there I heard more people lay on their horns, experienced more near-sideswipes, and had more things thrown at me in two days than I have in a year in Juneau. But, I concur. Sitka also has cold-water surfers, and big waves, and a cool cathedral, and harbor seals, and so many places where, after many minutes of pedaling with my head down and squinting against the rain, I could look up to tiny islands silhouetted against a sun spot and think, "wow, is that real?" Would I go back? I would most definitely go back. Maybe next time I will reserve a room at the Super 8.

My hardship this weekend was the fact that I was wet, and everything I had with me was wet, and with temperatures hovering around 50, my only options for staying warm was to stay on the move or stay huddled in my sleeping bag. I logged over 100 mountain bike miles in a 48-hour period. I also read an entire book. I really didn't do much else, although I would have liked to. But I felt a bit trapped by my situation ... always lingering on the edge of being too cold, sometimes I could only stop long enough to unwrap a Clif Bar before shivers set in. So I'd pedal harder, and fly past an overlook, and fly through town, and think "I'd like to stop there" ... but believed it wasn't an option.

I felt demoralized, but I broke through. In the end, it turned out to be a good experience. Although I didn't intend it to be a "training" weekend, those are the kind of situations I need to prepare for if I'm going to attempt to ride on the Iditarod Trail next February ... staying on the move when I don't want to, heading out into unpleasantness when I don't have to, improvising, and doing whatever it takes to stay hydrated and well-fed (I didn't do enough of either in Sitka, and definitely suffered psychologically for it.)

In the end, I think Sitka turned out even better for my early training than the 371-mile weekend was. I'm realizing more that when cycling reaches the level I'm hoping to take it to, the pedaling is the easiest part. Surviving ... that's the challenge.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi!

    Here you can find great informations about UCI world cup in Maribor
    (Slovenia) on 15. and 16. September 2007.

  3. I totally understand you: you had big reasons to be demoralized. But, at the end, you lived a good experienced.

  4. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
    Except jerks who throw things at bikers - what the hell is wrong with those people?
    So did you like HP7?

  5. Except for the rain, you just described my UP of Michigan tour in June! It was bloody cold and the only way I could keep warm was likewise.....moving or sleeping bag ;)

  6. A few years back I was in Patagonia, Chile, and experienced some of the same cold, wet, camping/cycling you experienced. I promised myself I'd be better prepared next time, especially with regard to keeping dry. Being wet, or having your belongings wet does sap a lot of energy out of you, and makes everything weight a lot more. On a long ride, you need the energy. Your bivy sounds like something I should have tried, but the tent is always nice if you happen to be in mosquito infested areas. I think the next time in very wet climates, I might try using an overtarp stung up high over my tent, just to keep the tent itself as dry as possible. Thanks for sharing even the worst parts of your trip. It's nice to read for other cycling tourers like myself.

  7. Dorothea ...

    I enjoyed the book. I can't really count myself among the Harry Potter Superfans, but all of the books have been entertaining and make for an engrossing read when you really want to escape your surroundings, which I did. It has been long enough since I read the other books that I think some of the plot points were lost on me. Rowling probably did a great job of letting the book stand by itself, but I was still confused by some of the referrences to past events.

    I also wasn't a fan of the epilogue. I understand these are children's books, but that last chapter wrapped everything up in too nice of a package. If you're going to write seven books about a revolution, at least dedicate an epilogue to showing how that revolution changed the world ... don't just show that a handful of participants lived happily ever after.

    Still ... fun book. Really imaginative fiction. Reading HP always prompts me to start reading more novels.

  8. Jill,

    There is an effort to try and make Sitka Alaska's first Bicycle Friendly Community. We even have a trainer coming to town from the League of American Bicyclists later this week.

    For information about Sitka's efforts, please go to We'd really appreciate it if you registered an account for our online forum and then posted information about where you ran into problems with motorists not being bicycle friendly (descriptions of vehicles and drivers also helps). I commute to work by bike and I've never had anything thrown at me in Sitka (I have in Anchorage and Portland), so we need any feedback we can get. Also, this will help us know where we need to beef up our share-the-road education component.

    Charles Bingham
    Sitka, Alaska

  9. I totally agree with you on the epilogue. I felt sadly let down afterwards, and wished I hadn't read that last took me a while to get over my distaste. If I ever re-read the book, I'm definitely skipping the ending.

  10. My only memories of Sitka (from 1985) are being really, really moist. That, and that it was incredibly beautiful.


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