Wednesday, February 10, 2010

One week of spring, and already I miss winter

Date: Feb. 10
Mileage: 34
Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes
Weather: 37 degrees, mostly cloudy, SE wind 5-10 mph
Details: Tempo ride, intensity 70-90 percent; circuit around Mendenhall Valley area because that was where the sun was shining.
Note: Legs felt tired from the get-go, in a good way. More biking this week than in a long time.

Dear Mr. Marmot,

I bet you were pretty excited when the Alaska Legislature gave you your own day. Now, every Feb. 2, schoolchildren across the state are going to wish each other a "Happy Marmot Day." Frankly, I was excited about this, too. Passing the Marmot Day bill was about the only tangible thing the Alaska Legislature did in 2009. But I am not here to discuss politics. I am here to discuss winter.

As you may know, Feb. 2 was traditionally considered Groundhog Day, and still is Groundhog Day in the other 49 states (you know, “Outside,” that place we Alaskans generally avoid unless it is February and we have booked tickets to Hawaii.)

But what you may not know is that Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog famed for his winter weather forecasts, who has lumbered out of his den on Feb. 2 for who knows how many decades, did in fact still lumber out of his den on Feb. 2, and did in fact see his shadow, and did in fact forecast six more weeks of winter.

Now that forecasted winter is playing out across many of the 48 states (i.e. “Outside” without Hawaii, where it is never winter.) Just Wednesday, the second big blizzard in less than a week buried the most populous stretch of the East Coast under nearly a foot of snow. Conditions in Washington, D.C., were so bad that even plows were advised to get off the roads. They are calling it “Snowmageddon.”

And I am jealous.

You see, Mr. Marmot, since Feb. 2, we here in Southeast Alaska have seen nothing but spring: dry roads, wispy clouds, nearly-blue skies and temperatures in the 40s. Sure, I am enjoying riding my road bicycle during the winter. Yes, it is pleasant to wear a single base layer when playing outdoors in February. I think I am even starting to get a tan on that crescent of skin where my nose and cheeks poke out of my balaclava.

But I miss the snow.

This is Alaska, Mr. Marmot. We like to think we’re special. We like to think we’re tough. We like to think winter in this state was custom-designed to challenge our tenacity and steel our pioneering strength. But this winter has been different. This winter, we strong Alaskans braced to walk on nails and you handed us a cake walk.

Here in Juneau, our February snowfall to date is .2 inches. That’s not 2 inches, Mr. Marmot, that’s point-two. In other words, a fraction not even worth bothering with. Our seasonal snowfall has only been 50 inches, which means we’re currently below Baltimore, Philadelphia ... we’re now below Washington, D.C., for crying out loud. D.C.! The only place where lawmakers are more inept than they are in Alaska.

But I digress. They gave you the day — the special, winter-weather predicting day. Now I think you should do something about it. So here is what I propose. I will come to your den up on Mount Meek. Don’t pretend I didn’t see your furry face up there a couple weeks ago, poking out of the rocks at a time when you were supposed to be deep in hibernation. So, yes, I will come to your den with a big spotlight. Then, when you poke your head up again for another breath of fresh, warm air, I will blast you with so much light, you will have no choice but to see your shadow. And that will be that. Snow will fall. Winter will return. And all will be right in this crazy, new, Marmot Day world.

Punxsutawney Phil gets it.

When are you going to get on board?