Thursday, November 08, 2007

Five hours of fog

Date: Nov. 8
Mileage: 56.2
November mileage: 213.6
Temperature upon departure: 33
Rainfall: 0.0"

Juneau can be so cruel. Even when the clouds break apart long enough to reveal more than a few fleeting moments of sun (and even that's rare. So rare), high pressure systems tend to build up a lot of fog. In many ways, fog-shrouded sunlight is the cruelest weather of all. You've been told the sun is out. You can sense it. You can imagine it. You can cling to the faith that it is in fact up there, somewhere. But you can not feel it. And you can not see it. In fact, you can't see anything further than five feet in front of your face. And, come to think of it, you're becoming more than a little tired of staring at the patterns made by the frost granules collecting on your handlebars.

So it went for my five-hour ride today. It started out well with a jaunt up Perseverance Canyon with Geoff in the morning. We were able to climb out of the clouds early and ride most of the trail with the sunlight in view, even if the canyon itself was entirely cast in shadow. After lunch I set out for what I was hoping would be 3.5 more hours of fast-paced distance riding. But my legs were feeling sluggish after a week that consisted mostly of hard climbing and weight lifting. I wasn't thrilled to be on my mountain bike on the road when just a few more degrees of warmth would have allowed the road bike. And I was grumpy about the fog. As it became even thicker in the waning afternoon, I became even more grumpy. Have you ever ridden a spin bike all alone in an empty room with four white walls? It was a little like that, except for add the terror of streaming headlights created by drivers who probably have no clue about your existence. Lucky I was on my mountain bike. I spent most of the afternoon bouncing across the snow-covered soft shoulders.

It was not my favorite ride ever. I thought I had until 5 p.m. to ride but I was wrong. Sunset was at 3:53 p.m. today! I had no idea! (curse you, Daylight Savings Time.) I did not have appropriate bike lights (yes, I know I should have been using lights in the fog. But I did not know the fog was as bad as it was when I left the house, either.) I would not have even figured out how early the sun was actually setting if the fog hadn't lifted a little as I worked my way north. I was tipping my head back and reveling in the newfound warmth and light streaming over the Lynn Canal when I first noticed that the sun was low on the horizon. Really low. Holy cow!

I had to turn tail there and ride south like a banshee. Of course I couldn't resist stopping to take a few pictures. It was like I had just been granted sight after an afternoon of blindness. Everything I saw was amazing and colorful and beautiful ... trees, ravens, even the cars that were attached to the headlights. It was so nice to actually see them.

And of course I did that thing where I point the camera straight at the sun. The lens can't quite handle the glare, but I always enjoy the otherworldly images it compensates with. Plus, I just like to take pictures of the sun.

The break in the fog was short-lived, though. The blue sky was nearly gone by Auke Lake, and the fog only thickened up as the sunlight faded away during my frantic ride home. I tried to mash out those last miles before my invisibility became absolute. I will never ride in the winter without a headlight again. Another long ride, another lesson learned.