Showing posts from May, 2010

The Great Hot North, part 2

Cyclists are prone to wedging themselves into groups. I am not immune to this tendency, this need to define myself as a cyclist. Am I a mountain biker? Well, not entirely; I ride a lot of pavement. Am I a snow biker? Only in the winter, and even then, only part of the time. Am I a bike commuter? No; I do use my bike frequently to do errands. When I had a job, I rode it occasionally to work; but I still own a car, and I don't make a lifestyle out of commuting. Am I an endurance racer? No; I enter races because they make for fun rides, and train for them because I like to ride, but I haven't been in structured training since I stumbled off the Great Divide nearly a year ago. So what am I? I am a cyclist. This I know.

I often refer to myself as a "bicycle tourist." To me, this means I travel around on my bicycle. Sometimes I travel overnight, sometimes I travel long distances in a day, and sometimes I travel short distances to somewhere completely new to me. I prefer pla…

The Great Hot North

I am in Fairbanks for a brief biking and lounging trip. I was hoping to do a three-day combo dirt/pavement bikepacking trip, but other obligations require that I stay within cell phone range. I decided to come up to Fairbanks anyway to visit some friends and check out the riding around town. My friends think it's a funny destination. "No one in Anchorage comes up to Fairbanks to ride bikes," they told me. It's true that Fairbanks has large, rolling hills instead of craggy mountains, and it's either dusty or boggy with great black clouds of mosquitoes. But then thunderstorms roll in from the south and fill the expansive sky with color, and the rich green birch leaves flutter in the breeze, and the hills roll toward the remote and wild horizons of Alaska's deep Interior. It's a beautiful place. It reminds me of my time riding the Great Divide through southern Montana. I like it here.

The first night I arrived in town, my friend and I sat near the deck chatt…

Weekend Olympics

Voluntary unemployment is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you never have to work. The curse is that you always have to work. I spent the hours of 12:45 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning working on an article that was due "Saturday morning" because I managed to burn up the entire day Friday organizing belongings, chatting on the phone, and then going on a hike. Then, when my roommate asked me if I wanted to go see "Alice in Wonderland," I thought, really, why not? On my desk, I have a list of "actual assignments" followed by "definite goals" followed by "maybe projects" and the whole thing keeps getting longer. Meanwhile the weekend comes, and everyone is going out to play, and I feel so much guilt about joining them.

The Friday hike: I slogged through slushy snow and soft tundra up the Rabbit Lake valley and then climbed up to Ptarmigan Pass. After looking at the map, I had wondered if Ptarmigan Peak (ahead) was climb…

The World You Love

When I feel I need space to reflect, I go to the mountains. It's not that I'm more perceptive or smarter in the mountains. It's actually the opposite - my quads are on fire and my throat is sore from breathing so hard and my feet are numb from hours of wallowing in slush and my eyes are fixed on this scary-looking traverse up ahead and these things fill out the entirety of my attention span. But it's in this head-spinning malaise that I occasionally look up ... at the sky, at the clouds, at the mountain, and say, "Ah, I see."

I'm looking for space to think. I pull out a map. Where can I go that will fill up the better part of an afternoon - a place secluded, and scenic, and even challenging, but not so challenging I either can't do it or succumb to blind anxiety while thinking about it? The map is a blank document to me. I don't know any of these places. They're all completely new, unknown. I feel a fluttering of excitement. I can go anywhere…

Blog interview

Recently a guy named David, who works with a T-shirt company called Adayak, interviewed me for a people feature on the company blog. I've had my nose to the grindstone since I got back from Denali and haven't had time to do much else, so I hope he doesn't mind if I post the questions on my own blog.

Your hometown is just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. How did you end up in Alaska?

I'm the worst kind of cliche for an Alaska woman - I followed a man here. My former boyfriend talked me into moving up in 2005. We traveled through the state in summer 2003 and both fell in love with the landscape and the culture, but I was reluctant to move up because I feared the cold and isolation. I remember saying to him, "What in the world am I going to do all winter long?" That was before I discovered snow biking. The relationship didn't work out but I'm glad living in Alaska - and loving winter - did.

Where did your passion for cycling come from? Did your family encou…

Pictures of Denali

On Friday, I traveled with my friend Carlene up to Denali National Park. As we packed up her car in Palmer, I realized that I forgot my camera - actually forgot my camera. I debated driving all the way back to Anchorage to retrieve it, but decided two extra hours of travel when we already had a late start was not worth it. I did remember an old digital camera that I keep wedged in my the trunk of my car for camera emergencies. Its lens is heavily scratched, so not only do most pictures end up blotchy, but it has a difficult time focusing. Also, it had no memory card. I stopped and bought one in Wasilla, and headed for my long weekend in Denali.

We arrived, set up camp, and traveled into the park in the evening. It was after 7 p.m., but the sun doesn't set until after 11 and twilight lingers throughout the short night, so our late arrival didn't stop us from going on a hike and an 18-mile bike ride before our 1 a.m. "dinner." In this photo, Carlene is expressing her …