Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cold in Utah

Date: Nov. 29
Total mileage: 24.0
November mileage: 251.9
Temperature upon departure: 15

Seems like it's cold everywhere. Just when I was lamenting the way the sunny tropicalness of my Utah vacation has been cut short, I checked out the West Juneau Weather Station to discover a record low of -12 last night and about 15" of snowfall today. Yikes.

Plus, I have a cold. It has been lurking all week and I have been generally ignoring it. But all this dry air and elevation finally caught up to me today when the mercury dropped into the teens before noon. I set out for a two-hour ride that I had all mapped out in my head before I left. I popped in a cough drop and headed up Wasatch Boulevard on my friend's midget mountain bike (I believe it has a 15" frame.) I was only about 10 minutes into the real meat of the climb before I started wheezing. "This is insane," I thought. "I haven't been doing much riding, but I shouldn't be this out of shape." I cut back the effort but after only 200 more yards I could hardly breathe. I jumped off my bike and dropped to my knees in the snow, wheezing, coughing, and spitting up all kinds of unpleasant gunk. I sucked at my camelback but it was already frozen solid. And just when I had made up my mind to turn around, my coughing subsided, my throat cleared and I felt more awake and alive than I had all day. And with the blaze of cold sunlight streaming over the whitewashed Wasatch mountains and crisp snow clinging to the pavement, I situated my balaclava over my face and finished my ride.

I know if I end up with bronchitis or the flu, I probably deserve it. But I think I am going to beat this cold, ride it out so to speak. I spent the night with my parents and sister, walking around downtown Salt Lake and looking at Christmas lights. My mom's and sister's terror-stricken faces as we stepped out into the "crazy cold" was almost as entertaining as the twinkling trees themselves. I told my mom she would never survive if she ended up in the upper Midwest or, heaven forbid, interior Alaska. She didn't disagree. Someday she and my dad will retire somewhere warm. Then I actually will be able to take tropical vacations from Alaska during the winter rather than just settling for a place where the low is 6, not -12.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Other stuff to do in snow

Today was a day to help teach my youngest sister how to snowboard and steal a few gleeful powder runs in the extra space of a resort day, the space that I usually reserve for eating lunch and going to the bathroom. My two sisters and I decided a week ago that snowboarding at Brighton would be the perfect sisterly outing, and somehow we picked the perfect day to do it (if your idea of "perfect" is a near-whiteout and 15-degree temps.) But what we did have was plenty of famous Utah snow - piles and piles of crisp, dry powder so indistinguishable from the blizzard-stricken terrain that I would occasionally blast through mounds as high as my waist, emerging from the swirling cloud of ice jolted but not slowed. I took a few swims, but the snow was so light and airy that it was easy to stay afloat, skimming the silent surface on my rental hovercraft. Even my newbie sister got the hang of it early on, and a good time was had by all.

It's days like these that cause me to take stock of my hobbies, in my continuing quest to make sure the bulk of my time and energy is going into the right one. After all, I have more than a few friends that are crazy dedicated to skiing, those who wheel their lives around it, who are (or at least were) willing to be "bums" for the cause. So I turn my focus from those eight perfect powder runs between the entertaining snowboard lessons, and rechart the day as a whole: wake up at 7 a.m.; drive to the ski shop to get fitted for a board ($16, at a 50% discount); Drive to the mouth of the canyon; catch the skibus ($6 round trip); buy a day pass at Brighton ($40); board board board board; wait for the ski bus; buy a $4 coffee cart drink while I'm waiting; wait some more; cram into the skibus with a full load of wet, lethargic people; sit on the bus as it inches down the canyon for 45 minutes; and leave the mouth of the canyon just in time to drive through rush-hour traffic all the way home. And all of the sudden, all I have left of my perfect day is about $70 less than I used to have and sore knees.

Don't get me wrong. It was a beautiful outing. Plus, the sisterly time is priceless. But, at the end of the day, I have to say that I'm still glad I'm a cyclist. And I sure hope all that fresh Alaska powder settles in and hardens up before I get home.

Pictures of Zion

I took a trip to the desert.

My parents first brought me here when I was just a small child.

I have spent many miles of the many years since trekking the length and depth of this land.

And still it awes and confuses me.

Most people know that "Zion" indicates a promised land, but don't know that the word "Kolob" indicates the place closest to heaven.

I believe everyone chooses their own heaven.

I already have mine picked out.