Showing posts from April, 2010

Getting to know you

It's only my third day in Anchorage, and already I feel a mixture of triumph and guilt. Although I did get my most important resume package sent out and met with one editor, I really haven't settled in to start much of the work I promised myself I would start. So far I have a good excuse. It's not that I'm a bad self manager (cough, cough) ... it's just that I need to spend a little time getting to know this city.

And there's really no better way to get a feel for a city than by bicycle. On Wednesday, I honestly couldn't have told you where my house was in relation to downtown (and was yelled at by a taxi driver because of this.) By Thursday, I understood the triangle shape of the city, where many important landmarks were located on this triangle, and how to use bike paths to navigate the northern and central portions of town. By this afternoon, I could locate a multitude of different parks and major arteries, and already feel like an old pro of Anchorage (O…

A place to get lost

A hot and heavyset fog hangs over the coastline. I ride along glistening sand but the ocean is nowhere to be seen. The cloud blanket can't be more than a few dozen feet high and I can still feel the blistering sun on my skin. I only have a couple of hours to ride before I have to be at the airport, so I ride as fast as I can muster on the missionary bike with the bouncy tires and blistering seat. Since I can't see the ocean, I turn off the Pacific Coast Highway and veer up the bike path along the Santa Ana River. I have this vague idea that if you ride far enough inland in Orange County, you hit mountains, or at least hills. The fog dissipates into a gray haze and the path turns to dusty gravel. The river corridor is lined with sun-faded houses and exotic-looking crops. Multiple signs warn me not to drink the irrigation water. I ride beneath freeways and skirt the edge of massive industrial complexes. The river itself fades from flowing water lined with grass, to stagnant wate…

Weekend in California

So how do an urban girl and a hopeless outdoor junkie spend a weekend together in Los Angeles and Orange County? Our skeptical family members were all curious ("So, um, what exactly are you guys going to do?") I was open to suggestions ("Disneyland? Shopping in Newport Beach? How can I refrain from looking like one of those bored kids in a department store?") My sister was willing to compromise. ("I found a few suggestions on good hikes, but I'm not doing anything that takes all day.") There's just something about having a childhood in common, though. No matter what you do, you're going to spend the whole weekend laughing.

Afternoon at the Los Angeles Zoo. Sara and I both agreed the dancing harbor seals were our favorite. (Me: "I used to see these outside my office window in Juneau. But ours weren't nearly as talented.)

Walking around Hollywood. (There were forays into clothing stores that contained no trace of bicycle jerseys or run…

Farther south

One of the advantages of life in Alaska is that it makes everything in the Lower 48 seem so inexpensive. $1.79 for a Pepsi? You gotta be kidding me! (You know, because I'm used to paying $2.69.) Fifty cents a pound for oranges? I'm gonna buy eight pounds! (Never mind that I'm leaving this place in three days.) You know what else is cheap? Air travel! No one believes me. I once paid nearly $300 for a one-way commercial airline coach ticket from Fairbanks to Juneau (two central cities technically located in the same state.) Down here, you can jet cross-country for $149 if you catch on a good day. When I looked into the logistics, I realized there was no good reason why I shouldn't drop a few more hundred miles south to visit my little sister at her new home in Huntington Beach, Calif.

This is my baby sister, Sara. She'll be 23 years old next week. She's four inches taller than me, with the long legs that both my little sisters got and I always wa…

When it rains in Utah

Compared to Southeast Alaska, the weather in Utah is so boring, except when it's not. As much as I've lamented the frequent lack of UV light in Alaska, the truth is I'm inclined to feel sun-fried much faster than I feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder. And as soon as my lips are blistered to the point where I can't even eat medium salsa without crying (and believe me, I try everything - from slathering my lips with SPF 60 to continuous applications of SPF 30 chapstick - and they still burn) ... I start to wish for a few clouds.

But the clouds weren't particularly welcome on Wednesday, when I was going to meet up with a couple of my Utah friends that I had yet to see, to go mountain biking in Draper. "I don't know about today," my mom said when I told her about my plans. "It's going to be wet."

"What you guys think of as wet is not wet!" I exclaimed. "Maybe you get rained on for a minute, but you're dry before…

Sojourn in the desert

It seems there is much I could write about my long weekend in Southern Utah, from frustration with my inability to get over an irrational fear of water to the one-year "anniversary" of my relationship breakup and some of the thoughts I had about that. But sometimes the time to write just isn't there, and it's necessary just to sort through the vacation photos and sigh happily about recent good times.

I headed south late Friday night with my friends Chris and Becky. The plan was to float the rapids in Westwater Canyon with about a half dozen other people. The more I tried to psych myself up to do it, the more I felt low-level panic gurgling up from my gut. And it wasn't the good panic like the kind you get before a big race. It was debilitating panic like the kind that makes you feel dizzy and incapable of simple movements. Basically, I'm afraid of moving water. I have been for most of my adult life. It hasn't improved one bit over the years. I need help, …

Day at the Bird

I headed up to Snowbird today with my friend Jen. Jen and I go way back. I met her the same day I met my college boyfriend, Mike. It was the fall of 1998. I decided to join the University of Utah's environmental club, Terra Firma. Jen floated into the meeting wearing a little sun dress. I kinda wrote her off as one of those "out there" hippy chicks. Then Mike walked in, and that was the end of me noticing anything about Jen. Over the course of several tree plantings and loosely-environmentally-related trips to the desert, I began to realize that Jen wasn't a hippy chick at all, but more of a ski bum. I eventually moved into the house on D Street where she lived - a crazy post-college flop house that housed as many as 10 people at the time and was often referred to as the "commune" or the "Terra Firma House." Jen was always coaxing her childhood friends from Syracuse, N.Y., to come out to Utah and visit her, and two of them decided to stay. One of…

Right place, right time

During the three days I spent in Southcentral Alaska last week, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Temps in the 40s, sunny, no wind. I felt a bit reluctant to leave it all behind for April in Utah - the one (and only) time of year this state is even the slightest bit wet. But when I talked to my roommate in Anchorage today, she informed me that the city had been inundated with a 10-hour blizzard that left 6 inches of snow, with 4 more expected tonight. It was all I could do to bite my lip to keep from saying, "Ha, ha, guess where I am? 70 degrees and sunny! One day after a spring snowstorm that's keeping the mountains quite pretty. I'm going to go ride some singletrack!"

This is Ashlon. He's my Facebook friend who's letting me borrow his bike (his old bike. The new one is completely pimped out.) We had never met face to face before Sunday, but because we share a common passion for cycling, we got along like old friends. He recently moved to Sandy from West…

Spring storm

When I was a kid, I loved April snow. It always came after a bunch of 70-degree days coaxed new colors out of the shadows. Spring painted the grass with vibrant greens, buds opened up on the trees and daffodils sprouted from sweet-smelling mulch. Then, suddenly, almost without warning, I'd wake up one morning to a fresh coat of winter.

Adults liked to stand at the window and complain loudly, but it was like Christmas morning to me. I'd rush outside into the moist air, infused with the same sharp coolness as a glass of water full to the brim with ice cubes. The cold made me feel alive, and I'd often break out in a run along the wet sidewalk, trying not to disturb the pillows of snow that covered the bright green grass. I'd bend down and grab a handful of wet powder, letting it drip through my fingers. I'd return the seashell-shaped snowball to the grass and giggle about the novelty of it all. April snow wasn't just unique and fun; it was a completely different wa…

Leaving spring behind

My first two days in Anchorage were an exercise in overcoming disorientation. On my bike, in my car, standing in line at Starbucks - if I drifted off into daydreamland for even a few seconds, I'd be rattled awake by sensory overload. Smog! Traffic! Moose! Strip mall! Traffic! Where am I? Smog! I thought I'd have a lot to do, but since I knew I was traveling to Salt Lake City soon, there wasn't much I could do. I admit I wandered aimlessly. After two hours of bike wandering on Friday afternoon, my knee started to bug me again. At the same time, the weather was amazing, low-40s and sunny, and I was feeling stir crazy to get out, even though I was already out. "I'll go for a walk instead," I decided.

I don't really know where to go walking in Anchorage. I Googled the name of the one mountain I could remember, just because it happens to be the most-hiked mountain in all of Alaska - Flattop. "At least there will be a good trail to the top," I though…

Go Anchorage

I arrived in Anchorage on Wednesday evening. For all the times I have visited here, I still have no concept of the layout of this "big city." I drove in increasingly larger circles for nearly 20 minutes, looking for my new place. The street I live on is called Juneau Drive. It's fitting.

I arrived at home just as the setting sun cast its pink light on the Chugach Mountains. It only took me an hour to unload my car. By midnight, I had my room mostly arranged the way I will probably keep it. In four hours, my whole life, transferred. This is who I am, and for the most part I love living a somewhat transient, simple lifestyle. But I also must cope with the uncertainty and perpetual disorientation of it all, which is where I am right now.

I set out on my bike for most of the afternoon Thursday, trying to get a sense of the place. The greenbelt trail system is mushy with slush and soft snow, but for the most part still rideable with my "skinny" studded tires on my K…

Tok to Palmer

Skagway to Anchorage really isn't that long of a drive — it's about 700 miles, and can be done in a day by a motivated person behind the wheel. I'm managing to stretch it into closer to four days, much to the chagrin of my cat, just by stopping to visit old friends and new places.

I managed a short bike ride in the morning before I had to check out of Tok, and then it was time to rumble southwest. After my trip from Skagway to Vancouver last year, I've decided that April is a wonderful time of year to travel the Al-Can Highway. The pavement is clear, the sun is out, wildlife is abundant and the road is almost devoid of traffic.

I was driving down the Glenn Highway on Tuesday, thinking I was making better time than I really needed to be, when I saw this mountain that looked like it would be a fun thing to climb. I'm assuming this is Sheep Mountain? I'm not entirely sure, but it was the most prominent geographical feature in an area called Sheep Mountain.

The mounta…