Actually, that's not entirely true. December, with its long stretches of clear and cold weather, was exceptionally pretty, even though my skier friends whined about the lack of snow. But January thus far has lacked both sun and snow, plunging us into almost unlivable conditions with temperatures in the mid-30s and wintry mixtures of sleet, ice and heavy rain. I was almost lucky to be stuck inside with the flu for more than a week; that alone may have spared me a deep case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. As it's been, I've been riding my bicycle a lot since I came out of my flu haze. (I mean, relative to the beautiful sunny days of December, in which I spent a majority of my time just trying to get up into the mountains via any method possible.) Now that the weather is preventing enjoyable mountain excursions, I have been putting in miles. Good miles. Hard miles. Satisfying miles.
A friend of mine passed me in his car on Saturday and later mentioned the brief encounter.
"I saw you out near Tea Harbor. Man, that looked miserable," he said.
"Miserable? Really? I don't remember it being so bad."
"Are you kidding?" he said. "It was pouring. I think we got more than an inch of rain that day. And it was like, what, 36 degrees? Maybe 38?
"Yeah," I said. "I guess it was kind of wet."
He shook his head. "How do you do it?"
I just shrugged. I've lived in Juneau for three and a half years now, and I don't even give the weather all that much thought anymore. I always check the forecast the night before, and if it calls for temperatures in the 30s with rain (which it usually does), I just don a fleece pullover and polyester long johns, my Gortex or PVC coat, Red Ledge rain pants, NEOS overboots (with sneakers and one pair of wool socks), fleece mittens and a headband. Even with the pathetic fenders on my mountain bike, my set-up allows me to stay dry for one hour, damp through hour three, soaked but warm through hour five, and if it's still raining, after that I have to start racing against the chill. If the rain turns to snow or sleet (which it usually does), I have studded tires, along with my trusty goggles and dry gloves in the bike's frame bag. It's rare these days that I experience even a few minutes of cold-related discomfort when it's 35 degrees and raining. All the clothes and gear I need to ward it off are right there. It takes me five minutes to put them on. Another two to lube my bike, and I just go. It's easy.
To tell you the truth, I kinda miss the challenge.