You know what I love about road biking? How much distance and elevation it enables me to cover during relatively small efforts. Some days, I like a good challenge. Others, I simply want to cover miles, view new scenery, and taste different air. Today I had errands in Palo Alto, so I decided to head to Woodside and point my road bike west. I had three hours, so today's goal was "what can I see in three hours?"
I rode up and over Skyline Ridge and down Tunitas Creek Road, a thin ribbon of pavement wending through the redwoods. The weather was almost unrealistically perfect. I was wearing a thin long-sleeved shirt and a pair of tights, and I was comfortable during both the climb and the descent — never hot nor cold. After seven miles of mostly coasting on a smooth surface amid a temperature equilibrium, I began to have a strange sensation that I wasn't even there — that I was somehow distant from this place, sitting on a stationary bicycle and watching tree trunks stream by on a movie screen.
That is, until I neared Highway 1. I could smell the honey sweetness of mustard fields in bloom, and taste pungent sea salt wafting on a light breeze. The sun emerged from a thin veil of clouds and cast the hillsides in rich light. I rode along the highway until my watch read 1:22, and then turned to find an overlook on the cliffs above the Pacific.
I found a place hidden in plain sight by a rusty old gate and a rough gravel entry. I sat and ate an Odwalla Bar, slowly so I could better taste the infusion of salt and savory ocean air. Waves crashed into the shoreline a hundred feet below the cliffs, distant enough to sound like purring. I watched a solo walker stroll barefoot across the sand. The baby blue Pacific yawned over the horizon, fading imperceptibly into the similarly blue sky. It was a peaceful place, and it made me feel happy, enough so that I could have laid there all day. It seemed strange that I ran a quick errand, rode my bike for ninety minutes, and somehow ended up here. So close and yet a world away.
Still, I only had three hours and a long way to climb, so I set back out toward the mountains. Up and up and up toward the crest of Skyline, then back to Woodside. It didn't seem like all that much work, which is why it was pleasantly surprising to upload my ride stats find out I rode 35 miles with 5,500 feet of climbing. That kind of distance and elevation would take me the better part of a day to cover on foot, but the road bike makes it too easy. It almost feels like cheating — if it wasn't so wonderful.
Just over two weeks ago, I was having dinner with friends in Fairbanks a few hours before heading to the airport. We were at a Thai restaurant with harsh lighting, and I was describing my exercise woes to friends I hadn't seen in a while. The quick explanation is: "I can't breathe when I exert myself, really, at all. It doesn't take much before I start gasping and become dizzy, and sometimes I have to sit down. I used to be able to run entire 50Ks with an average heart rate in the 160s, and now I rarely hit that number before I'm breathless." Corrine, who is a family doctor, looked over at me and said, "You know, your thyroid looks enlarged."
That set off a series of medical visits, and the latest was to an endocrinologist today. I'm very lucky to have good health insurance (thanks Beat!) and medical providers who sympathize with my desire to participate in the ITI, so they fast-tracked me through several tests ahead of the race. This much now …
I intend to write about my week-long trip to the Yukon, but something happened on my "commute" back to Anchorage via Skagway and Juneau, and it's cathartic to write about it. I've written a series of posts about conversations with Thunder Mountain in Juneau, now spread across seven and a half years. You can read the first four parts here: Part one, part two, part three, part four.
The Piper Navajo bucks violently amid swirling flurries, just a few thousand feet over the Lynn Canal. It's just me and one other passenger, and the pilot of course, in this eight-seat airplane. After spending the past week in Whitehorse, work schedules prevented me from driving back to Alaska with my friends. This is my convoluted commute — Canadian friends shuttled me over White Pass to Skagway, where we enjoyed smoothies and a walked around the mostly shuttered tourism town. This small plane will take me to Juneau. I'll catch a jet to Anchorage tomorrow. I had been looking forwa…
One of the reasons we moved from California to Colorado was to live among winter again — to sit by a wood stove and sip hot chocolate, watch snow fall outside the window, and justify having a sauna in our back yard. In eight months, Colorado has given us little tastes — May snowfall and October cold. But today was probably the first day of "real" winter — several inches of new snow fell as overnight temperatures dipped below zero. In the spirit of the "nearly wordless Wednesday" blogging tradition, this is a photo post.
Early morning light filters through fog over the backyard.
Weather station shows 0.9 degrees.
Beat begins his morning commute to work. It proved tougher than he anticipated.
A few hours later, I set out for an afternoon ride. Temperatures had warmed to a balmy 5.4 degrees.