Friday, April 30, 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 (OK, not really, but at least I can tell a taxi driver where I live.)

All it took was 40-60 miles a day of relaxed if confused pedaling - sometimes in circles, sometimes on roads not all that suitable for biking, but always new to me, and always an adventure. I actually love biking around strange cities. I love the feeling of being completely, bewilderingly lost, and then passing unique and intriguing places as I search for somewhere familiar. Riding aimlessly around Portland and San Fransisco was one of my most effective methods for coping with my relationship breakup last May. Getting purposefully lost in the city also is great therapy for coping with the unsettling feeling of being temporarily displaced from my career.

On Thursday I wandered around the north end of town, finally putting together the Chester Creek greenway (seriously, what is up with all the spurs?) and checked out Government Hill, Mountain View and Muldoon. Then it was on up the Glenn Highway bike path, lost again in Eagle River while searching for a bike route north (how do cyclists get to the Mat-Su Valley? Do they just ride on the highway?) Then I took a nice respite from spastic city riding with a jaunt up the Eagle River Road, a quiet, narrow country road with light traffic.

On Friday I decided to ride around the perimeter of the city. My favorite ride in Anchorage so far has been the Coastal Trail. It's scenic, quiet and only seems to be lightly used, at least on weekday afternoons in April. I have yet to see a single person beyond Point Woronzof, so past there I really crank it up, laying into the pedals in my highest gear and leaning hard into the multitude of swooping turns. It makes road biking feel like riding singletrack (don't worry, I always slow way down if the turn is blind or if I see another person or animal. I understand the etiquette of multi-use paths.) From there, I made every effort to stay as close to the Turnagain Arm as possible. This allowed for lots of fun discoveries - winding through scenic neighborhood streets and riding rocky singletrack trails through parks with my skinny-tire touring bike. Using back roads, I managed to work my way to the Old Seward Highway, and from there jumped on Rabbit Creek Road and climbed up to the foothills, where I proceeded to make my way around the outskirts of Hillside (hilly). Then I raced a bus all the way home on the Lake Otis Parkway.

Now that I'm an expert (ha!) at riding a bicycle through Anchorage, I just need to find some riding partners. I have loads of free time as long as I can keep coming up with excuses not to do the work I promised myself I was going to do. So if you live in Anchorage and have a favorite place to ride, and don't mind showing it off to a newbie who doesn't own a real road bike and may never own a real road bike, because deep in her heart she understands she is merely a simple bike tourist who sometimes likes to play in the dirt and snow ... please get in touch! You can comment here or e-mail me privately at