Wednesday, August 30, 2006


In my last post, I admitted my faith that winter will come to Juneau - or, at the very least, the mountains above Juneau, and wow ... I haven't received that much of a comment lashing since I called Alaskans entitled.

I know it rains a lot here. I know that what snow does fall is wet snow. But - as long as it snows one in a while and the temperatures occasionally drop below freezing - wet, shallow snow can be the base of ideal snow biking conditions. But, I concur. I wasn't always so blindly optimistic. The first time I rolled through Alaska, as a tourist in the summer of 2003, Geoff, two friends and I spent four days shivering in the rain shadow of a run-down campground near Thane. After that mini-trip, we had very little - but nothing good - to say about Juneau in our trip blog:

"Juneau's a depressing town really, that has hardly anything going for it other than government jobs and cruise ship business, but we're making our best here and things certainly could be worse."
— Geoff, July 31, 2003

"We spent the entire ferry ride parked on plastic lawn chairs in the solarium of the boat, watching the sun set beneath an endless stretch of steep costal mountains. In the red-streaked darkness there was nothing besides the billowing shadows of spruce and slate-smooth water — and then suddenly, lights. Lots of lights, sprawled out along the black shoreline. This is Alaska's capitol. The center of the state's government commerce, and it sits alone, stranded on the southeastern panhandle between mountain walls and the sea."
— Jill, July 28, 2003

Those blog archives can really come back to haunt you ... enough to make me question my current state of sanity. However, while I was digging through the past, I also ran into an entry a week later, where I broke down my top 10 favorite and least favorite things about my trip to Alaska. Number 7 on the least favorite list: "Homer, Alaska" ... right before "Camping at the Juneau Ferry Terminal" (No. 6) and behind "Working for Dave in Haines" (No.8 - and a story I really must tell someday.)

So I wasn't so crazy about Homer as a tourist, either. And yet I moved there anyway. And, after a short time, it was hard to imagine a more scenic, more invigorating place to live.

So it didn't seem beyond reason to give Juneau a try. And who knows? You know what they say about hindsight ... it has this amazing way of glossing over the bad stuff to make room for new experiences.
Monday, August 28, 2006

Almost Septembrrrr

Date: August 28
Mileage: 19.5
August mileage: 352.9
Temperature upon departure: 55

This whole relocation thing sure is time-consuming. I feel like I've lost an entire month, and not in a good way. Among the things I didn't do in August 2006:

*Eat at a real restaurant (i.e. one that doesn't start in "Sub" and end in "Way.")
*See a movie (unless snipets of late-night B-movies on cable TV count)
*Play with my cat
*Cook a meal (It's true. When you consider the first point, I'm sure it's not hard to imagine how substandard my diet has been this month.)
*See live music
*Throw a barbecue
*Go for a hike that didn't end with me in a puddle
*Go for an over-50-mile bike ride that didn't end with me in a puddle

Also, for a summer month, 350 total cycling miles are a little bit sad, especially when I consider that my mountain bike sat dormant all month long. I spent about an hour this morning lubing the moving parts and trying to figure out how much of the "surface rust" is actually irreversible corrosion. I had to jerk the crank hard just to get the pedals unstuck.

But I'm finally getting settled enough to have other things besides moving on my mind. And now that I'm facing a slew of months that end in "brrrr," I'm starting to get excited about winter cycling again. I think this is going to be the winter that I build up a real snow bike, with snowcat rims, large frame, single speed, disc brakes - the works. If anyone out there in bloggerland has an old mountain bike frame with enough room for some really wide tires that you'd be willing to sell, please drop me a line. I still plan to re-fit my studded tires on the Gary Fisher for a good ol' ice bike (for commuting), but my hope is to build something truly trail-worthy to take on the slopes - and, if fortune shines on me, the 2007 Susitna 100.

I'm really looking forward to winter - which probably seems crazy in a place where "winter" technically ended only three months ago. Here in Juneau, I probably realistically have at least two more the wait before winter starts again. But that will give me time to get ready - build my winter bike, sharpen my snowboard edges, buy some new cross-country ski boots ... maybe new skis. Oh yeah.
Saturday, August 26, 2006

Home at last

Date: August 25
Mileage: 32.1
August mileage: 333.4
Temperature upon departure: 55

Tomorrow marks week 3 since I "moved" to Juneau, and I have finally moved to Juneau. I just signed a lease on a little apartment in West Juneau - decidedly less cool than my place in Homer, but private, well applianced, cat-friendly, and it includes my own yard and garden. And, well, it's a roof. Which is much better than I can get for $300 a month at the Mendenhall Lake Campground. And it's on a island. I've never lived on an island before. Now I can fantasize about the bridge getting washed out and having to call in stranded. If we get much more rain, that fantasy may not be far from reality.

I feel like my three weeks of homelessness helped instill a grizzled sort of sourdough strength that probably would have taken me much longer to develop if I hadn't been ripped so clean of my comfort zone. Those first 10 days in a tent were a baptism by immersion, quite literally, to life in southeast Alaska. I lived out in the weather and learned to move with the rain. I learned how the drizzle stung my eyes but the downpour cleaned my skin. I learned the hard way how to construct a decent tarp shelter, how to dry clothing when there were no dry spaces, how to clean up for an office job using public facilities. Even when I moved into a hotel, I still maintained a sparse, minimalist existence - all but the bare necessities locked away in storage or far away in Homer. I lived with the few things I needed, ate what was immediately available and rode my bike for the shear wonder of exploration (because, to be honest, when I just wanted to work out, I took the easy, rain-free option and went to the gym.)

And despite the disproportionately bad luck and numbing displacement that have come to define August for me, I feel like I hit the ground running. After all, it's not supposed to be easy to move to strange city isolated from its own state, which is in turn isolated from its own country. We outsiders have to be flexible to survive out here, or we'll go crazy trying.