Sunday, November 18, 2007

I like my dirt lightly frosted

Date: Nov. 18
Mileage: 39.6
Hours: 3:15
November mileage: 447.1
Temperature upon departure: 33
Rainfall: 0.05"

Mountain biking conditions were perfect today out in the Mendenhall Valley - maybe a degree or two below freezing, with ice-infused mud and sand hardpacked to crunchy perfection.

Riding along the Mendenhall Lake shoreline is usually like a bad dream - the one where you're pedaling in slow motion, and you crank and struggle, but no matter what you do, you just can't go any faster. Today the sand was frozen as tough and smooth as a gravel road. I became so absorbed in the thrill of amping up to 20 mph on a sandy beach that I forgot I wasn't on an actual trail, and nearly face planted over the sandy berms of slightly-frozen streams, more than once.

The trail riding was just as good. I challenge you to dream up a surface that would be more fun to ride across than paper ice - smashing and crackling and coasting as you draw a shattered line over what is normally the softest of bogs. Especially since I have yet to install my studded tires. Weeee!

My year in Homer conditioned me to regard bald eagles as pets, and that notion hasn't worn off even after 16 months in Juneau. This one was eating a moldy-looking salmon carcass when I marched up to take its photo. This picture isn't even excessively zoomed - this is basically where I was standing. The eagle wouldn't retreat for anything but continued to broadcast its irritation with a piercing stare as it tore away at the black flesh. Eagles remind me so much of cats.

The dead salmon was bigger than the eagle, and still the eagle wouldn't share. So much like cats.

Snow flurries, overcast, light wind ... all in all, an ideal day for cycling (for Juneau, at least.) This seems to be the weather trend for weekends ... Monday through Friday are awful. Saturday and Sunday are amazing. Too bad Saturday and Sunday don't make up my weekend. I tend to think of Sunday as "Tuesday." So this trend that seems to work great for everybody else just means I have to consume large chunks of weekday time to squeeze in beautiful weekend rides, but they're worth it. I think if the weather gods ever came to me to make a bargain, saying, "OK, we'll take away any and all rain in Juneau for four whole months. But to make it so, the temperature will never rise above freezing that entire time," I'd make that deal, and I wouldn't even feel guilty.


  1. Great, as always. First picture is excellent.
    Regards from Spain.

  2. Jill, you oughta go into the computer wallpaper business.

    My wife asks me where I get the great pictures on my computers desktop and most of the've taken the shot:-)

  3. I really think there was something to Ben Franklin wanting the turkey as our national bird.... Bald Egales seem lazyish

    Great, great pictures!

  4. Oh wow to the bald eagle pictures. I'm always amazed at how cat-like birds are. The behaviours are so much the same!

  5. hi jill- thought you might enjoy this Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). It's a picture of an aurora in Juneau viewed from across a freezing lake. I was immediately reminded of your blog when I saw it...

  6. Sounds like an awesome ride, and those are some very cool pics. I love the eagle pics. Such a majestic bird... (and her majesty enjoys some good moldy, rotten fish ;-) )

  7. Hi Jill,

    I'm thrilled to have recently found your blog! I've been reading your past articles as well as looking forward each day to see your latest entries. Though I am an avid cyclist (both road and off-road), and I'm happy to follow your cycling progress, it's your writing, and your evolving connection to Alaska that really keeps me coming back to see how you're doing. While others might dream of warmer climes, I dream of Alaska, and hope to be living somewhere along the SE/SC coast in the next few years.

    In addition to my cycling, for the past ten years, I've been enjoying the wonders of the "bicycle of the sea" (sea kayak). You're in a perfect place to discover and enjoy this as well, so I encourage you to enhance your human powered journey with a bit of paddling. Just beware, it can be difficult dividing one's time between two equally compelling obsessions!

    In any event, I love your blog, and will continue to follow your progress; wherever it takes you. Enjoy your Iditarod...and beyond!

  8. You are a BCW (burly cycling woman). Don't hurt yourself.

    And that Franklin and Turkey story was not nearly as serious (on Ben's part), as it usually made out to be. I like the raven, myself.

  9. Jill,

    I came across your site via Kent Peterson's blog and have been amazed with your absolute fortitude and energy. You are an absolute breath of fresh air! The world could use less materialism and more people connecting with nature in such a personal and visceral way. Stay the course - whether you realize it or not you are well on your way to showing others a compelling alternative to living a life of unchecked consumerism.

    All the best,

    Pat Rodden
    Whidbey Island, WA


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