Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Off to paradise

It's that time of year again, the late January lull. This is the time when most Alaskans have grown weary of several months of cold and darkness and book plane tickets to somewhere else, for a week or two of respite. We consider it our right as Alaskans. I think it might even be written into the state constitution.

I think the idea of the winter respite is to go to somewhere warm like Hawaii, and this is the track most Alaskans take. I did this last January - flew to Oahu, walked in my bare feet on the beach, rode a road bike, hiked a volcano. This year, I decided to travel to a place a little closer to my heart - albeit colder, more wintry and hopefully snowier than Juneau. I'm sitting in the Sea-Tac airport right now, waiting for a flight to Calgary. Then, it's on to Banff.

It's a completely frivolous trip. No, I'm not going there for a race. No, I'm not even going to be doing any biking (well, maybe a little). It's a ski trip (yeah, really wish I had practiced that), with a little snowboarding thrown in, and if the skiing doesn't kill me, possibly some good long runs. This trip is all about being outside in the mountains It comes at a bad time for my employer. I feel guilt about that. But right now, I need this winter respite into the wintry paradise of the Canadian Rockies. I really do.

Both of my previous visits to Banff came at anxious, angst-ridden times in 2009. The first was prior to the Tour Divide in June, when I was nervous and extremely uncertain about the prospect of undertaking that race. The second was during my drive north following my completion of the race in July, when I was feeling a lot of uncertainty about returning to Juneau. And both times, just being in Banff was a soothing, healing experience for me. I found clarity and a level of peace during my frivolous, small excursions around that mountain town. I fell in love with Banff. And the whole time, my friends told me, "If you think Banff is great in the summer, you should see it in the winter."

I planned this trip several months ago. But it just happens to come at a similarly angsty time. Only this time, instead of having a big, scary goal or a return to a difficult situation in front of me, I have all of those things behind me and only uncertainty in front of me. You could say I need some time in Banff now more than ever. And I am really looking forward to it.