Thursday, January 04, 2007

Brand new treads

Date: Jan. 3
Mileage: 21.2
January mileage: 49.5
Temperature upon departure: 36

The latest piece of Snaux bike arrived this week, via USPS parcel post (every single purchase I make on eBay, I beg the sellers not to ship parcel post. I tell them I will pay them the 38 cents they'll save. I tell them I live in Juneau %@$#! Alaska, the end of the line, the black hole of post-office shipping. And every time, they send parcel post and I have to wait six weeks for packages.) This package had the WTB Timberwolf tires I bought in early December. I got a little greedy and went for the 2.7" tires. It's finally starting to look just a little like those big-wheeled bikes I dream about. Unfortunately, the rear tire doesn't fit the rim ... but it could, if I shaved down the outer knobs a little. Has anyone ever tried doing that? If so, what kind of results have you had? And what do you use to cut away the rubber?

Today I rode alongside the beach I biked across the other day. An unusually high tide had devoured nearly all of the sand, and I noticed that several of the shipwrecked boats were missing. They were just gone. Floated away, I imagine. But there was something disheartening about the scene. I find comfort in the rotting permanence of junkyards. They're almost like graveyards - places where you can go to mourn the remnants of forgotten histories. I liked to believe that those boats had washed up after long, fulfilling lives as sportfishing rigs full of shooters and salmon nets and wide-eyed tourists, but in old age and neglect had broken loose of their mooring and washed up on the shore to die. It seemed fitting to me to imagine that they had been there for years ... decades even. Now I realize that these scenes change in a matter of days.

I need to start putting in some longer hours on the bike. What I do now doesn't even really register on the training scale. It's been a while since I've done a ride that really floored me. I need to do one of those. But, man, it's going to be a psychological miracle of I succeed.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Date: Jan. 2
Mileage: 28.3
January mileage: 28.3
Temperature upon departure: 40
iPod cycled through: "Reach for the Sun" by The Polyphonic Spree

The New Year is here and I am through mourning the snow. Inches and inches and inches of rain corroded all of the packed snow, seeped into the glare ice layer and finally stripped the road of all but loose gravel and wet pavement. So I wrestled Roadie out of the closet, brushed off a thick layer of October grit, pumped up the tires and tentatively limped across the street.

I did not want to ride like it was summer. I wanted to believe that streaks of ice threatened to yank my tires out from under me at any moment. I needed the fight and kick of snow to lift me out of the dripping gray monotony. But as the pedals spun almost effortlessly over hard pavement, I watched the odometer spin upward ... 16mph ... 17 mph ... 18mph.

I had been off the bike three days but it suddenly seemed like three months. We tore through needles of rain toward a strip of sunlight slicing through the clouds. I watched streaks of yellow light drift over distant glaciers and leaned into Roadie and our iceless, winterless road. I trained my muscles for reaction and endurance; they know nothing of speed. But Roadie knows nothing of winter, and the miles melted beneath us. And in the subtle transition of moments, iPod chose a good song.

..... "light and day is more than you'll say"
This hurricane pattern's got me down.
..... "cause all my feelings are more"
It's not just the biking.
..... "than I can let by ... or not"
Riding Roadie in January.
..... "more than you've got"
Getting soaked.
..... "just follow the day"
Motoring past 20 mph.
..... "follow the day and reach for the sun"

21 mph ...
..... "you don't see me fly into red"
What of the dead snow and sunless December?
..... "one more you're done"
The sting of sleet on cheeks and eyes.
..... "just follow the seasons and find the time"
Do you know what 70 mph winds taste like?
..... "reach for the bright side"
But I hardly remembered what 23 mph felt like.
..... "you don't see me fly into red"
I can't keep it up but I'll try.
..... "one more you're nuts"
Unending rain is a definite possibility.
....."just follow the day"
But that doesn't even matter, does it?
..... "follow the day and reach for the sun."
Tuesday, January 02, 2007

All is quiet on New Year's Day

I think New Year's is a good day to feel subdued. A good day to feel contrite. A good day to pause at the "2007" scrawled across the front page and feel a little despondent about the passing of time.

New Year's Eve is all about the hunt. What do we keep searching for? I never find out. But I join the masses clawing through the wind-whipped streets, smoky bars and 2 a.m. Samosa stops. I want to believe we're looking for the defined moment, the sharp clarity that cuts a straight line between past and future, that carves away the bad and smoothes out the good. But all I see are the faces, hidden behind lipstick and glitter and cardboard hats. I hear the muddled voices, lost in the white noise. I hear them and see them again.

In 2006 in the fog of Alaska edible-art-induced food poisoning.
In 2005 in the deep snow drifts of the Uinta Mountains.
In 2004 echoed in the distant fireworks over City Creek Canyon.
In 2003 in the company of friends who were about to disperse forever.
In 2002 in the quiet calm surrounding Oneida Lake, New York.
In 2001 in fiery exchanges between week-old friends and lifelong strangers.
In 2000 in a wave of bodies streaming down the Las Vegas Strip.
In 1999 lost and longing in the streets of First Night, Salt Lake City.
In 1998 gasping for air in Portland, Oregon.
In 1997 screeching down I-15 packed 10-high in a 1960s Mercury Monterey.

It's fun to think back to those "Happy New Year" moments and remember every single one at that eruptive minute, remember all of the events that came after and all of the people that slipped away. That as I watched those bleary-eyed faces count down the final seconds, all I wanted to see was time holding still.