Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Still forever changed

I finally took him out today, the 2004 Ibex Corrida "Luxe Tour" bike that I call Roadie. Our rides are few and far between these days. Today I pumped up the tires from 10 psi - that's how long he's been sitting. I'm generally just a phone call away from listing him in the freebie classified ads, but every time we go out for a ride, I can't remember what about him made me think he was such a junker. He's a perfectly competent bike. I want to believe in him.

Also today, I picked up from the bike shop the 2008 Surly Karate Monkey that I call KiM. After dropping her off a cliff on Monday, I had to get the brake lever fixed. I also had them swap out her suspension fork for a rigid one. This weekend, I'll outfit her with skinny tires and my bikepacking gear, and shore up Roadie with a few new cables, brake pads, and a rack, all in preparation for the grand fall tour, the Golden Circle. I hyped up this trip enough to convince fellow enduro-nut John Nobile to come all the way out from Connecticut. I told him he would experience "real Alaska" (even though 90 percent of the route is in Canada), complete with wind, cold rain and maybe even a little September snow. We're setting out to relive our Tour Divide glory days on some of the most remote pavement you can find in North America.

Doing all of this started me thinking back to the Tour Divide. It's been exactly two months since I returned to Juneau. It's amazing to me it's only been that long. It feels like I've been "off the road" for ages, settled back into the mainstream of my life like I never even diverged from the flow. Still, little changes from the summer linger. A few ways I am different:

1. Every time I walk into a gas station (often to pay for the gas I just put in my car), I still find myself "casing" the place for bike fuel sources, zooming in on the Snickers Bar inventory and gummy candy selection, checking to see if they sell cheese curds and rare pieces of fruit. I find myself doing this even though I can't buy any of it, anymore. (Sigh.)

2. I'm significantly more fearless than I used to be. Take today: My friend offered to take me to one of Juneau's old mine sites, where you can wander three quarters of a mile into the slimy guts of a mountain. Pre-Tour Divide, the very claustrophobic, eternally dark thought of that would have sent shivers down my spine. But now, such an activity sounds very appealing, and I can't wait to try it.

3. Since July, I have yet to complete a ride that seemed either "long" or "hard" in my mind, even as different body parts screamed at me and told me otherwise.

4. Every time I zone out on bike rides, I "come to" with a jolt of that same panic I used to experience when I realized I hadn't looked at my maps in a while.

5. I still haven't switched out my iPod playlist, and I keep willing Cat Stevens to pop up between the Bad Religion and Modest Mouse.

6. I've developed a habit of stopping and staring off into the distance for a few seconds, for no reason at all.

7. I can't shake my monstrous appetite. Wish I could, but I've already gained back the weight I lost in the Tour, and now I spend most of my time being hungry.

8. I'm completely annoyed by how much stuff I own, and, yes, it still all fits in a one-room apartment and two car trips of a Geo Prism.

9. I'm less convinced than ever that adventure can't be a long-term lifestyle.

10. I've planned little, but I dream big, and these days, I dream in color.