Date: Sept. 10
September mileage: 244.0
Temperature upon departure: 58
Geoff has been out of town for 10 days now, and it shows. The cats, which are used to taking advantage of Geoff's and my opposite schedules to come and go as they please, are no longer on speaking terms with me - their current jailer. Instead of meows, I get cold glares when I come home, even after I pull out the Whisker Lickins.
There also is nobody around to do the grocery shopping. One could argue that I am not incapable of buying my own groceries, but I figure, why should I spend a perfectly bikeable hour pushing a wobbly-wheeled cart around a store when there are perfectly edible calories still sitting around the house? That Costco-sized jar of olives, that bag of lil' hotties chili peppers, that freezer-burned loaf of bread. Are these things not food? The shopping can wait.
I used to make myself big salads for lunch, with fresh tomatoes, mixed greens, red peppers, feta cheese, pecans, bagel chips and ripe plums. I have been reduced to eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches for the past three days, and even now I am down to the dredges of peanut butter. Today I came home from that hardest ride I've done all month ... full speed out to North Douglas, red zone climb to Eaglecrest, into the wind home ... and gobbled up my lunch. That dredge sandwich on stale bread just didn't hold the way I hoped it would.
So I mined the cupboards. I pushed aside Geoff's Power Gel packets, that ancient bag of trail mix and stale corn chips to discover a Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bar stuffed in the darkest corner of the shelf. The wrapper looked like it had been taken for a swim at some point, worn white in the corners and crinkled beyond legibility, but it was chocolate! I tore in.
The thick, waxy block crumbled as I chewed it but didn't dissolve. I choked a little on the chocolate dust and held the bar up to the light. It too had white lines across the surface and was cracked and crumbly. "How old is this thing?" I thought. "Where did it come from?"
I mined my memory for its origins. Shortly before we moved to Juneau, I urged Geoff to stop buying candy on account of my extreme sugar addiction that can't be controlled. He complied, and since then I've been sneaking fruit leathers and spoonfuls of jam to get my sugar fix. I initially assumed this chocolate bar moved up from Homer. But how did it escape me all this time?
Wherever it came from, it was pretty disgusting now. I moved to toss the whole thing in the trash when I suddenly recalled an image of a stack of chocolate bars stuffed deep in the pouch of my bicycle frame bag. All around them I stashed the things that would be consumed shortly ... the peanut butter and jam sandwiches, the fruit leather, the trail mix. But the chocolate was my safety food, only to be eaten in a dire emergency, a life-or-death situation. That's the way it stayed, pressed into the deep freezer of the Susitna Valley in February, slowly crystallizing and hardening as we travelled together around the lollipop loop of the Susitna 100.
That was the time my inner furnace flickered; I remembered the way my teeth chattered as I chewed, putting every ounce of faith I had in fuel, cherishing every precious calorie I was carrying. I thought about the value this chocolate once held and couldn't bring myself to toss it. I took another bite.