Thursday, April 09, 2009

Good mileage push

Date: April 8 and 9
Mileage: 47.8 and 101.6
April mileage: 391.5
Temperature upon departure: 39 and 42

Sometimes I fell compelled to apologize to my journal for the frivolous way I burn up all my free time. I mean, I consider myself an intelligent person. I have a good job. I have friends. Most of them are even real friends, not just, as Geoff calls them, "Facebook Friends." I have a great cat. I love reading newspapers, even though I work for one. I devour New Yorker magazines. Every so often, I read a book. I've had a variety of hobbies - snowboarding, drawing, going to movies ... OK, not that many hobbies. But these days, I pretty much just ride my bike. I'm sorry.

There's just this thing about me ... I can't really explain it ... I just really like riding my bike. People pass me on the street and later tell me I seemed to be smiling. Everyone tells me this. Do I smile every second that I'm on my bike? I don't know. That's what people say.

It's just that biking is so monotonous and repetitive and sort of pointless. I go out to a random point and then I return to my home. The next day, I go to another random point and then come home. Sometimes I take my bike to work, and then I ride home. Then I go out to the first random point that I rode to earlier in the week, and come home. Day after day after day. What's wrong with me?

Sometimes it's raining. Usually, it's raining. The wind blows hard from the south. Even though the temperature has been above 40, I still have to bundle up pretty warm to help keep my ultra-sensitive toes from freezing. The trails have turned to mush. The roads are covered in goo, but at least they're rideable. There aren't many roads in Juneau. I see a lot of the same terrain. Day after day after day. And yet, I never see it in the same way twice. Sometimes strips of sunlight escape through the clouds and paint streaks of green on the gray-washed mountainsides. Sometimes deer bound along the roadside and waterfalls roar with the weight of spring runoff. Yesterday, I stopped at Auke Rec and saw a man swimming in the bay. His long, neoprene-covered arms cast wide strokes over the smooth water. I watched him for a few seconds and realized he wasn't alone. Sleek, shadowy figures bounded in and out of the bay near him. I squinted and realized the shadows were dorsal fins. Porpoises. The man was swimming with porpoises, or, more accurately, they were swimming with him. Either way, it looked amazing, in a beautiful, terrifying way, and I wished myself out there with them. The man just kept swimming, calmly toward shore, as the porpoises danced around him. I got back on my bike and coasted down the road, smiling.

I was stoked to squeeze in nearly 50 miles before work yesterday. I wanted to go for 100 today. The bike did not make it easy. It was a "bad bike day." I got three flat tires, and at one point had to backtrack five miles to a bike shop to buy new tubes. I sliced my hand clean open on the razor-sharp derailleur pulley spikes and bled all over my patch kit. My rear brake pads finally wore to nothing. My rear wheel skewer kept coming loose on its own, which could have ended badly, but I kept telling myself it was my fault and it wouldn't happen again. Then it would. I was starting to remember why I gave up riding this bike last fall. It has a lot of problems.

But when I wasn't wallowing in a snowy ditch and fumbling with my rear wheel, the miles just flew by. Traffic was scarce and I did a lot of singing out loud. I decided I am a big fan of Clif Shot Bloks. It's taken me a while to come around to them. I used to think they tasted like sugar-coated wads of snot. Now I think they taste like energy-stoking wads of heaven. I like the "cola" kind. They taste like Pepsi.

On the outside, I'm just turning pedals and going nowhere, wearing soaked nylon and splattered in mud, probably with a big dopey smile on my face and Pepsi-colored Shot Blok bits lodged in my teeth. But on the inside, I'm drifting in a peaceful sea, moving freely between the past and present, and absorbing almost obscene quantities of beauty that I could devour forever and never be full.

I'm riding my bike.

I'm not sorry.


  1. Great post. The last part just put it all together so nicely.
    Keep smiling while riding. :)

  2. Jill, I used to get flats all of the time until I changed my tires out for Specialized Armadillos. I haven't had a flat in over 2000 miles. You should check them out. They are worth every penny.

  3. Jill,

    Your words are always bang on and I love how you describe riding the same roads and they are never exactly the same!

    Thanks for sharing your world with us!

    Happy Easter.

  4. That post rocks. I too am happiest when I am on my bike - any bike for that matter. Ride on!

    P.S. - True dat about the Specialized Armadillos - they work

  5. I'm a big fan of the Shot Bloks too. They are soooo much easier to eat on a bike than any gel. They do tend to get stuck in your teeth, but eventually dissolve away. The only problem I have with them is that they tend to make me burp. A lot. But after I get the burps out, the energy they supply is great.

    My favorite flavor is Raspberry, but then that's probably because I'm just a fruity sort of guy. :-)

  6. Mike In WI says,

    Something tells me you're on the trail to new bike ownership.

    Nice ride report, although I will pass on the "sugary wads of Snot"

    Mike In WI.

  7. Hurray! Never be sorry! Will you ever ride your bike all the way to the interior?

  8. I love this post so much. Even though you said you can't explain it, I think you totally nailed it.

    Glad you're out enjoying yourself again.

  9. A very interesting explanation of the joys of bike riding. I wonder if the enjoyment that you get from riding is similar to the enjoyment that long distance runners get from their activity?

  10. Jill, am really enjoying your blog. I rode across the US in 2007 and know what you mean. You can't explain the feeling as it's never really the same and that's when we're happiest. I've been riding for over 35 years and still love it! Possum

  11. Beautiful post. Thanks.

  12. thanks for stopping by...can't wait to hear about your adventures down south

  13. Jill, I rode my bike to work this morning. 11 miles. I found a ride home for me and my bike.

    Of course, I will do it again. And again.

    But MAN, I did 11 did 101, you are amazing.


  14. Thanks Jill I really like this post. I have often wondered how you can do kind of the same thing day after day when I can't seem to find the same motivation. You beautifully explained the joy and uniqueness of each ride. Very inspiring. I hope to develop a "big dopey smile" very soon.

  15. hello happy bicycle person Jill Homer. Suggesting to you is me with this info: the Manali - Leh highway is the highest road in the world. Many happy bicycle persons such as yourself challenge their adventure selves with a bicycle tour of this unique byway. Photos here:

  16. Definitely a candidate for "some of my better posts".

    Yr Pal Dr Codfish

  17. It's people like you that threaten the U.S. economy by finding simple and cheap pleasures in life. You're SUPPOSED to be having your self esteem negatively affected by all the consumer media advertising, and spending all your free time and money shopping for "stuff" to make you happy. Damned hippies !.

  18. I really like this post. You've got it spot on. It doesn't matter what bike you are on, what your average speed is, which HR zone you're in .. what counts is that cycling just makes you happy. Me too. I consider myself lucky to be able to get so much pleasure from such a simple thing.

    By the way, what are you doing with your cat when you go away? I have three so was just wondering. When your book arrived across the Atlantic, it came with a few cat hairs too. I liked that!

    Good luck on your big adventure and I really look forward to reading the posts when you are in Utah.

  19. Great post. I believe that we develop our ability to truly observe and "see" the world by traveling the same places over and over. I think I developed my writer's eye by riding the school bus on the same route, for year after year in my larger neighborhood. I had the same seat-mate that whole time (13 years), too. The more you get out there, the more you see, the more you can see. Something like that. Your photos are great. You got it, Jill. Thanks for keeping on writing.

  20. Thanks, Jill.

    "Sugary wads of snot" - are you in advertising??

  21. Anon 11:47:

    My cat and Geoff's cat are going to stay with a friend who lives in town. We're pretty excited for them ... she has a garage and access to the mountains where they can play and slay voles all summer.

    Sorry about the cat hairs. Those things get everywhere. :-)


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