Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sucker hole

Date: Sept. 17
Mileage: 28.7
September mileage: 409.6

Thank you to those who wrote encouraging and helpful comments in my post yesterday. I was feeling frustrated and needed to vent a bit. I did wake up feeling better this morning. A hard rain was falling outside and I watched it for a while before deciding, "eh, what does it matter if I ride my bike or don't?" I settled in with a cup of coffee and the usual rotation of cats on my lap and worked on some editing for most of the morning.

I live in a dark basement of a bedroom and have to keep a light on regardless of the time of day, so I was a little shocked when I walked into the kitchen to replenish my coffee right before noon and looked out over the Channel (I should explain here that my building is built into a hill, so while my bedroom is underground, my front room is nearly 100 feet above a great, unobstructed view of the beach and Douglas Boat Harbor.) Anyway, there were streaks of sunlight, actual sunlight, brushed across the water. I put my coffee down, changed into my bike clothes, and rushed outside.

In my two years in Juneau, I've determined that my mood is based on three separate-but-equal factors. First, my environmental factor (such as the struggles with my job or the fact that my boyfriend no longer wants to live in the same time zone as the one I live in.) Then there's the biological factor (such as hormone levels, my extreme dislike of cooking that drives me to perpetuate rather poor nutrition habits, and my irritating cats that insist on waking me up at sunrise every morning.) And finally, the weather. It's kind of sad, actually, that one third of my mood is based on something I have absolutely no control over, but such is life in Juneau.

So even the faintest hints of sun on a September day were enough to drive me out into the afternoon, with just enough time to sprint up to Eaglecrest and back. As I powered past actual shadows and soaked in real UV rays, I hummed to myself that Polyphonic Spree song - "It's the Sun," the anthem of improved moods - and thought about singing out loud every time I blasted through another patch of light where the sun broke through swirling clouds ...

SUUU-UUUUUU-UUUN (Take some time, get away)
SUUU-UUUUUU-UUUN (Suicide is a shame)
SUUU-UUUUUU-UUUN (Soon, you'll find your own way)
SUUU-UUUUUU-UUUN (Hope has come, you are safe)
And it makes me smile

I have a new promise from my boss to take next Saturday off. I have told him it's important to me and I also told him I was going to buy a ferry ticket for a possible bike tour. I have not bought a ferry ticket yet, because I still have some apprehensions that have nothing to do with work. For starters, just a single week can make a big difference in how close it is to winter at the U.S.-Canadian border and all the other areas above 1,000 meters elevation. I can only carry so much clothing and gear on my Karate Monkey, which is the bike I have to use because my touring bike is in such a state of disrepair right now. I'd have to plan for the possibility of snow and ice, carry my minimalist camping gear for emergencies but bank on staying in hotels each night. But I think I can still do it. Ride the Golden Circle in the last weekend of September, starting at 8 a.m. Thursday in Skagway and arriving in Haines in time for the 10 a.m. ferry on Sunday. I will continue to watch the weather and make sure I have nightly accommodations secured (It's likely to drop into the low 20s at night, possibly lower.) But after the fuss and fight I put up about it, I think I have to. :-)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shot down again

Date: Sept. 16
Mileage: 20.3
September mileage: 380.9

I had the perfect scheme worked out to ride the Golden Circle again this weekend, starting in Skagway with three solid days to reach Haines by Sunday morning. I didn't announce my plans on my blog because I knew my employer was going to pull back, again, and sure enough, I got the bad news today.

I was supposed to receive Saturday off as a belated Labor Day. But my replacement pulled out without much notice. Everyone else gets to celebrate Labor Day, the day to honor working citizens' contribution to society, on Labor Day. I can't celebrate Labor Day until my employers decide I'm not needed. I feel like I am the punchline of a real-life Dilbert cartoon, or maybe that Winnie the Pooh character that has a rain cloud follow him everywhere he goes.

I even had the weather report checked out and a fall-back motel called in Haines Junction and a plan to pack up my Karate Monkey with gear enough for rain and a camp out in temps down to 30. The worst part is, my employers don't even understand what they're taking away from me by withdrawing a promised day off. And it's hard to make them understand because in real life I am a terrible communicator. They probably think I spend my Saturdays the way everyone else in the office does, going to Home Depot and checking out the latest opening of whatever five-week-old movie came to Juneau this week. I wish I could show them that by first saying no to Trans Utah and then to the Golden Circle, they have effectively punched a big hole in my livelihood, and I don't have much left besides my job.
Monday, September 15, 2008

Pugsley's first birthday

Date: Sept. 15
Mileage: 25.7
September mileage: 360.6

My bike Pugsley turned one year old today. Although he was conceived sometime in July of last year, he wasn’t fully built up until Sept. 15, 2007. I asked him how he wanted to celebrate his birthday, and, predictably, he blurted out “Week in Hawaii!” I said my PFD check wasn’t that big, and offered him the next best thing - North Douglas beach party!

Unfortunately, we arrived at the wetlands right around the high tide mark, so there wasn’t much beach left to ride. We skimmed the shoreline and bounced over some boulders. Late-morning fog hung low over the water, but across the channel I could see a small window in the clouds around Mount McGinnis, with an unmistakable new coat of termination dust near the peak. “Look, Pugsley, snow!” I said, but he just grumbled. “This is boring. I’m tired. I hate the beach.”

“Ok, then,” I said. “It’s your birthday. What do you want to do?”

“I wanna go tear up some trails,” he said. “You’re always taking that skinny brat on trail rides. I wanna go sometimes, too.”

“Don’t call your little sister a skinny brat,” I said. “Fine. There’s the Fish Creek trail over there. It’s just a mud bog with lots of big roots and stinky fish guts. Your sister hates that trail. It always turns into a hike-a-bike.”

Pugsley’s spokes lit up. “Fish guts?” he said. “Does that mean there’s bears there, too?”

“Probably lots of big scary bears,” I said.

His rear fender started to wag a little. “I wanna go there!”

“Ok,” I said. We followed the delta shoreline beneath the highway bridge and started climbing along the creek. Pugsley enthusiastically took on his role as trail crusher and we cleared a nice long line of roots and puddles before a log grabbed his pedal and threw me sideways. I swore quietly as I crawled out of the blueberry bushes and started guiding Pugsley back down the trail.

“What are you doing?” Pugsley protested, “I can handle this!”

“Sorry, Pugs,” I said, “it’s just a little too much for me. I never said it was your sister’s fault she and I always ended up hike-a-biking this trail.”

“Man, this sucks,” Pugsley said. “What a crappy birthday.”

“Sorry, Pugs. I know it was hard to be born in these inbetween times,” I said. “But you remember last winter, right?”

Puglsey sniffed. “Yeah.”

“Well,” I said, “winter’s coming back. In just a couple more months, the snow will start to fall, and it will be just you and me again. We’ll go play on new trails and have new adventures and we can even come back here to Fish Creek. If the hikers don’t stamp down a trail for us, we’ll stamp down our own trail. What do you say?”

Droplets of rain dripped off Pugsley's frame but his head tube seemed to brighten. “Cool!” he shouted. “But this year, I’m driving.”

Sniff ... My baby’s all growed up.