Sunday, December 30, 2007

The New Year

This time last year, Jon and I were preparing for a January 3 flight to the 50th state, so our minds were on the beach and snorkeling. This coming year, no Hawaii. We're looking forward to lots of winter biking instead. But I can't help but think about the trip: Three weeks on Kauai. Hiking, snorkeling, eating and getting tan. A little beach camping.

An intriguing tunnel hike turned into a muddy adventure where the only other hikers we saw were also from Alaska.

But most of the hiking led to sunny places with views of the ocean.

A friend of mine years ago told me that you should do what you love on January first because that's what you'll do for the rest of the year. This New Year's Eve, after a short day at work, we decided we'll head out to the park. A midnight ride through the wooded, snowy trails. I can't think of a better place to be when the clock strikes midnight here in Anchorage than on the trails with Jon and our bikes.

May you do what you love in the new year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

return to blue dot

We woke Christmas day to snow falling from the grey skies. Small flakes landing in layer upon layer on the neighborhood streets and in the yard. After breakfast and opening presents... including my new camera!, we stuck with the plan to go out for a bike ride.

Up to the trailhead and across the mushing bridge to Salmon Run trail. On to the Tour trail, we rode through snow as deep as our rims. We were the first to hit Blue Dot trail, though where we hopped on, there are no blue dots to follow, just a somewhat defined singletrack winding among trees and tussocks, then across the creek on a rickety bridge.

It was a sound-effects ride with "oofs" and screams as I bounced between logs & tussocks on the zig-zag of snow. Blue dot has many offshoots and the one we took dumped us at Elmore where we then made our way to Lynx Trail. It was so much easier going on the trail that'd been trampled down by other trail users.

While stopped to have a look at a moose munching on trees on the side of the trail, we ran into our friends, Jo-Ann & Adam who were skiing. I think they're in training to be Mr & Mrs Claus.

I'm sure if we didn't have the Pugsleys, we'd have been on our skis, too. But we needed to see what the pugs could do. They could go through practically everything. Cool.

Monday, December 24, 2007

full moon christmas eve

Just over a week ago, Jon & I finished building our snow bikes, the Pugsleys. After taking mine on a couple rides, I wanted to bike into work so that we could ride home on the trails on the new bikes.

So, at around 6:30, after stringing some holiday lights on my frame, we left the shop and headed for the park.
From the time we entered the trailhead on Elmore Road until we reached the bridge at the Airstrip we had the trails to ourselves. Even spotted a singletrack with fat tire tracks on it, so checked that out. Moose Meadow, Rover's Run. All were hard-packed but dusted with fresh snow from last night.

Clouds crossing the sky covered, then revealed, the full moon througout the evening. In the trees everything was still. Tomorrow is Christmas Day and we plan to go for a long daylight ride to explore together the winter routes in the park. Because except for our commute, it seems we don't have much opportunity to ride together.

Well, may your Santa bring you the biking stuff you want. And may you enjoy the holiday doing what you love.

Friday, December 14, 2007

bike lanes, then over the river & through the woods

Campbell Creek 7 degrees

I got at email from a local bike advocate to show up for a ribbon cutting this morning. The new Elmore Road - formerly know as the Bragaw-Abbott Loop Connection, among other monikers - was officially being opened to vehicle traffic. The road that connects Tudor and Abbott roads has in-street bike lanes on both sides and we planned to represent commuting cyclists on this opening day. Of course, cyclists have been using the route for a few months during various phases of construction and while awaiting the installation of stoplights. So, while the route isn't as new to commuting cyclists, we still wanted to be represented.

I rode the couple miles from my house in 10-degree temps, along the snow storage easement... I mean bike path... along Tudor Road. The jumbled slush that had been thrown by the plows onto the path made for a bit of a rough ride. At Elmore, ice melt must have been placed on the roadway to melt away some of the snow and ice. Cars were parked in two columns, as if abandoned, on the new roadway. No room for me in the bike lane, I rode between the empty cars to the sight of the ceremony. Found the other cyclist - it only takes two people to start a movement, right?

John W. & I made our way to the front of the group, next to television cameras, to watch officials declare the road "open." It took about a half-hour for all the talk to end and the ribbon to be cut into segments to commemorate the new roadway. We waited a bit, then were the first to "drive" the road.

I wonder: do we really think that more roads will mean people will drive less? Certainly this connection will cut a couple miles out of my drive to visit friends on the Hillside, but I don't know that a shorter commute for people means they won't just drive more often or drive farther to do something else. My wish is that this addition of a road with bike lanes and a recreational path will mean more bike commuters. Prove me right, Anchorage!

After riding the new section of road, John & I parted at the BLM. I pointed out the new Lynx Trail to him then made my way back through the park toward the Campbell Creek. This is my commute and I'll take this anytime I can instead of riding on the streetside paths. Give me the woods, the overflowing ice on the creek, the muffled traffic sound and the view of the mountains that's not filtered by vehicle exhaust.

Tudor bike path.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

snow, no snow

Today, finally a little snow is falling in Anchorage. The media has been crying about the low snow conditions for a couple weeks. Even I'd like to see a little more snow fall, but last Friday, I took advantage of the conditions to go for a little ride on the ice.

I met my friend Jo-Ann on the Campbell Tract where all the trails that previously were covered with slush had turned to ice. In some areas it was rutted, but mostly fantastic conditions.

The Campbell Creek was high; overflowing its banks, but hadn't yet flowed over the trails. Salmon Run, Moose Bone, Rover's Run and Lynx Trail were fast and slick & Jo-Ann really appreciated her new studded tires. It was great to get out on the bike after having been knocked down by a cold, then distracted by the marathon of film watching - the Anchorage International Film Fest. Even the short daylight hours didn't deter us (thanks Cateye).

Now, after a few days above freezing, I'm ready for the conditions to get cold so the best riding of the year can continue. I hear people have been hitting the mudflats... better check that out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Shopping traits of men and women

If a woman needs a new derailleur, she goes to the bike shop and buys a derailleur, a jersey and some socks.
If a guy needs a new pair of cycling shorts, he drives to three shops, looks at derailleurs then goes home and orders a derailleur online.
OK, sometimes he buys local, but if I had a dime for every pair of shorts that is being worn out there that really shouldn't be (I don't have to describe them to you, do I?), I'd buy myself the sweetest mountain bike on the planet and have enough left to retire so I could take a trip around the world.

So, this year, get your favorite cycling dude a new pair of shorts. Then place the old ones in the bottom of the trash bin where he won't find them. Oh, yeah, cut them into little pieces first.

We all thank you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


So, here was the scene in October as we checked in at the kiosk at the Ted airport:
We got in line at the self check-in. Placed the bike boxes - yes, standard cardboard boxes - on the scale.

Attendant: are these bikes?
me: yes, or you could say fitness equipment :-)
jon: kinetic sculpture :-)
End of conversation. I see Jon is holding his credit card in hand, awaiting the ding of the airline fee. Then, she attaches the baggage stickers, shows us where to sign, then directs us to the TSA oversize check in. Hmm. We take the bikes to the TSA guy and he asks a couple questions, then pushes them through a door. Done.

We start walking toward our gate, prepared to go through security to wait for our flight to board. Wow, we both are looking at each other, we just saved $100! That's a good way to start a vacation.

Thanks, airline gal for being so nice.
Hope you don't get into trouble.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

desert to snow

Just over a week ago Jon & I were riding a desert singletrack in sunny 70-degree weather. The 22-mile trail in southern Utah was the final ride for our mountain biking vacation and road trip. We climbed, descended and swooped along trails that were at times rocky, but often just smooth routes among the thigh-high bushes and low cacti.

There was little shade and we drank all the water we had with us. The salt lines where my water pack met my back were etched on my shirt. I told Jon the ride took more out of me than a 40-mile ride on Ressurection Trail.

Fast forward to this Saturday night. Mountain bikes still in their boxes, I pulled my winter commuter off the wall and aired up the studded tires. Tomorrow, we ride. Woke Sunday morning to snow falling. Not much; I've got SnowCat rims. But it did take awhile - over an hour to pedal the nine miles to the shop. Snow clumped on my glasses - should've put in the contacts - making it a bit hard to see the best line to ride. After watching the snow fall most of the day at work, ventured out again. Deeper, sticky snow slowed the way, but then we got lucky.

Partway up Abbott Road, we stopped to drop something at a friend's house. Returning to the Abbott bike path we saw that the path plow had gone through. "Yeah!" The road wasn't even plowed yet, so we hopped on the trail and headed up to newly-renamed "Elmore Road." Maybe that would be plowed too? Sure enough. Easy going to the Campbell Tract, then a wonderful ride on Moose Track Trail.

There's nothing quite like returning from a biking vacation to find good riding conditions here at home. And while many wouldn't consider the snow to be "good riding conditions," for us it was perfect.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

commuting hazards

The past week was a good one for bike commuting. Despite some misting rain, I managed to ride to & from work several times. The most aggravating part of commuting is when we're riding on the multi-use path along everyone's favorite: Late Otis Parkway.

Several schools line the route and one evening riding home with Jon we noticed cars leaving one of the parking lots. We slowed and watched, looking for that moment of recognition. The first car slowed and pulled across the path and into the street without a glance. Right behind it, another. Then we were at the intersection.

The next car's driver rolled right into the pathway intersection and I pulled in front of her, swerving close to the street (not a smart move, I admit). Jon, on the other hand, aimed for the driver's door and stopped just short of hitting it - an intentional move designed to get the attention of a driver who is being... well... inattentive.

Cars began to stack up behind her as she powered down her window and said to Jon: "I know, I know."

Yep. They all know it's not good to hit a cyclist. It's not good to drive through an intersection without stopping and looking both ways. It's not even legal!

I was lucky all I got was a hit of adrenaline for my move. I've had a few close calls but I'm usually Little Miss Safety First. I promise from here on out to be even more careful. And I wish all the people one my route would promise that as well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Yesterday I hopped on the ol' 29er for the first time in awhile. I had an appointment in midtown before work & didn't want to ride my full-susp. bike. Nor did I want to lock my road bike outside the building. So, I pumped up the tires, wiped the chain and headed out.

I forgot how much fun it is to ride it - it being a Gary Fisher X-Caliber. The tires whirred on the pavement as I made my way along the path in the mid-morning. The sun was just starting to heat the air and the grass was wet with dew and maybe even frost from the night. September morning; about 40 degrees.

Riding home was even more fun. The bike responded positively when I stood to climb, racing the sun's descent. Jon was on his road bike but kept his pace to mine so we could enjoy the ride home together. Just a little Termination Dust (first snow on the mountains) on a few of the peaks. The birches turned yellow almost overnight.

This time of year we ride when the riding is good & sometimes when it isn't. Despite satellite weather reporting, I'm not sure if it will rain tomorrow or be clear and sunny. Today, it's been raining and the wind is picking up, blowing the leaves from the trees in the front yard. It's the season of homemade soup, fresh-baked cookies, fenders and rain gear. It also looks like a good time to book a ticket to somewhere sunny. Eventually.

Tomorrow I have to go to work a bit early - if the rain keeps up, it'll be another 29er day for me. I guess I should thank the rain for that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Eklutna rain ride

It's not so tough riding in the rain if you know you're heading someplace warm and dry. So I ventured out with my friends on the Eklutna Lakeside trail, towing my BOB (Beast of Burden) trailer, something I'll admit I haven't done since touring New Zealand a few years ago.

Jo-Ann had rented the cabin a few months ago, hoping enough people would fill the bunks. Five of us pedaled out to stay the night and three day-trippers endured the rain all the way to the cabin, had lunch and a hot drink, then turned around and faced the rain for the 12-mile ride back! I don't know that I would have done that.

Things to pack on such an overnighter: warm, dry clothes, lots of socks, cabin shoes, dry shorts for the next day! Also, no matter how many times you hear that you don't need to bring something, such as a stove or cook pots, or cups - bring them! Besides one very large soup-making sized pot, there was nothing to cook in, so I was happy that I'd thrown in my cook kit. We didn't need the stove, but we may have, so it was good we had it just in case.

We did have a newspaper to use for fire starter, but there was only a small amount of dry wood, so we conserved what we had while hauling in what little we could find, even damp wood we could dry inside for morning or for the next visitors. Next time, I'll tell each person to bring at least one log (if we have a dozen people, that should get us through the night).

The colors were changing almost as we rode, the rain blew at us in the headwind coming from the glacier, upvalley. Arriving at the cabin was a pretty happy moment, knowing we could peel off the wet socks and pants, hang our rain jackets and just hang out and relax.

I did pull out the nalgene filled with wine a little early, but the sun's going down a little earlier these days also. And I certainly wasn't going anywhere - except the outhouse - in the storm. We dined on halibut burritos by candlelight before climbing into our sleeping bags in the cubbie-like bunks.

Listened to the rain and wind much of the night, but in the morning were able to pack and get on the trail with no wind or rain... the rain did start falling again as sprinkles a few miles from the parking lot, then became a full shower as we packed our bikes & gear to return to Anchorage.

I've biked in the rain plenty of times, but to set out in the rain to a cabin a dozen miles in is somewhat of a leap - hoping you have everything you'll need to get through the night. This trip with my friends proved that we can put together an adventure and have fun despite the challenges of the weather. Sign me up for next year!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

racing is dead; long live cycling

Most cyclists I know ride their bikes for fun and/or commuting to & from work. Sometimes their friends will talk them into doing a race or two. Or, they may even convince themselves that this is what they want to do. I've been there. I've done a few bike races, a couple 5-K and 5-mile runs. I even did a triathlon! Yes, my friends had alot to do with it. But once I set my sites on my goals, I was pretty focused on meeting them.

Last year, as I was training for the triathlon, I would do the prescribed workout on the trainer in the garage, then hit the door opener, jump off the bike and take off running through the neighborhood. I took swimming lessons to develop a stroke that didn't resemble a dog-paddle. I followed the regimen. I tried to eat enough to keep up with the training. I was working at least 50 hours a week, but I missed commuting to work. With all the training, I felt like a poseur. A fraud. When people asked if I commuted to work I'd answer, "In theory." I'll admit, I was pretty embarassed!

After the tri - in which I did meet my goal time (yes!) - I missed the swimming but I was also most relieved that it was time to get back to commuting. I was especially happy to return to mountain biking. The dirt trails were about to open and I wanted to ride through the woods with the colors and smells of spring. The bonus from the training was that I felt pretty strong.

But why does it take a race to get so many of us motivated? Testing ourselves and comparing our results to others is such a part of our culture - even beyond the cycling culture. And on the pro-level, we tag people with the name "hero" for winning a race, for turning their life around or pulling themselves up by their cleats. We aspire to be like them; train like them; ride their bikes and eat the same food.

Well, my friend, pass me another slice of Moose's Tooth pizza and pour me a Pipeline Stout. I may get drawn into another race in the future, but for now, I hope each ride and each meal is a celebration. Cheers!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

the pursuit of blueberries

Mid-August here in Southcentral Alaska and I've been off the bike for a couple of weeks. What to do when not able to ride?
So, for the past two weeks, I've been doing some hikes - even went for a run... once. The first longer hike was on my own on the newly-reopened trail from the end of Canyon Road back to Rabbit Lake. I had a sunny Wednesday off and hadn't been to the lake in a long time. Ran into a few people, but mostly enjoyed the day & just sitting by the lake. I only glanced around for blueberries.
A few days later, Jon & I did a hike after work starting at the same trailhead, but hiking up to a ridge. Waning daylight left us no time to pick berries, but you could call it a scoping mission, because the main reason Jon hikes in August and September is for the blueberries. He'll pick for hours - all day if he can. He can fill a backpacking pack with containers and come home with all of them filled. He will pick til sunset, so focused he gets in his quest.
I did go back to the trail once more with him to pick after work. We each filled one large container before calling it a night. We didn't do much hiking, but we scoured that berry patch!
Then, just this past Thursday we had a day off (one of two, actually, but the first it rained). We packed a few containers and headed to Little Peter's Creek. I'd never hiked the route, but knew the destination. It looked like about a six mile trail each way. On the way up we made note of a few promising spots and continued til the trail disappeared into the tundra. We ate a snack and started picking, each of us making our way along the side slope. In the sun the entire time. Containers filled, we started back, stopping at different berry patches until they played out or we lost interest.
Jon says if a location doesn't look amazing, to move on until you find one that does. I can see his point. You can spend a lot of time picking eight berries off a bush or find a bush that's covered with dozens. It keeps my attention better.
Our final picking spot was where the winter and summer trails were close to each other. I remembered an impressive blue while hiking up and promised I would return to it, but didn't mark the spot. So, moving away from Jon, I strolled along the narrow trail as it wound through roots, trees and berry patches. Picked a few just to hear the plunking sound in the bottom of the container. Did I remember it wrong? Did it only impress me because it was the first patch we had come to? I wished I had placed a branch on the trail to mark the spot so I wouldn't have to wonder.
I stepped over a tree that had fallen on the trail and made my way a little farther when there it was. More berries than leaves on this particular plant. I whistled for Jon to join me, but he didn't hear. I squatted to pick, container on the ground, both hands pulling the berries from under the branches. I looked up and around me trying to be alert for the bears who might be traveling through the area, hoping they were all at the creek catching salmon.
It was quite a haul I'd discovered and some nearby plants were almost as filled, but none quite like the one that first got my attention. Soon the patch played out and, not wanting to get very far off the trail, I joined Jon at his spot. It was eight in the evening - we began the hike just before noon - and we still had about two miles to hike back to the trailhead.
At home, Jon put the berry containers on the scale - about 17 pounds! Time to get out the freezer bags and get to work!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

paddling and pedaling

For our nineth anniverary, our friend Alan invited my husband Jon & me to join him on a short river trip. Just a day trip with pretty straight-forward logistics: Pack up two inflatable kayaks and three bikes plus gear and drive from Anchorage to Portage. Where Portage creek crossed under the Seward Highway, we stashed & locked our bikes and helmets in the brush out of view of the highway. We would use those to get back to the car.

We then drove to Portage Lake visitor center and parked under the bridge that goes to the first tunnel enroute to Whittier. Inflated the kayaks - Jon & I would share the double - donned our equipment, rain pants, pfds. Packed food & beers, etc. It's been awhile since I've been in a boat, but each time I'm in one I enjoy being on the water so much it makes me wish I didn't have to drive somewhere to get to these conditions.

Alan gave us lessons on how to use the kayaks in the creek since we've only been in them in open water. We started by paddling upstream into the corner of the lake that's open to kayaks and canoes. Caught a glimps of part of the glacier before heading to the creek.

So, I think I know how to maneuver the boat and Jon thinks he does too, but we end up out of sync with Alan trying to shout a tip over the sounds of our voices and my paddle splashing the water since I'm not placing it far enough into the water. "An anniversary challenge," I say to Jon. And it is a challenge. To not get frustrated with Jon; to operate this equipment without frustrating him; to laugh when one of us does something wrong and realize we'll get it figured out. For Jon to not get annoyed when I splash him.

Alan offered perspective by telling us that the person in the front understands the maneuvering from where they sit (behind the pivot point of the kayak), while the person in the back understands it from in front of the pivot. To understand the other person's perspective, it would take switching positions. Walk a mile in my shoes; paddle for a while from the front of the boat. Nine years is a milestone. I hope we can continue appreciating each others' persepectives even if we can never really stand in each others' shoes.

I thank Alan, who was our best man 9 years ago, for the gifts he continues to give to us. I can't stand in his shoes either.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Spring commuting

Break-up is in full swing on the snow trails in Anchorage.
Unless you get to the snow in the early morning, it's now too soft to ride. And if you get there early, it's sure to be bumpy.
Biking in to work yesterday, Sunday, I was surprised that I didn't have to get off my bike to push it across a short stretch of trail. Instead I rode about a quarter mile on the frozen, bumpy trail.
On the way home in the early evening, I had to get off and push. Pushing through soft snow is like pushing your bike in sand. I commented to my partner, "this is why you'll never see me do the Susitna 100!" I'm impressed with the dedication of people who do that 100-mile winter race and the Ultrasport (350 miles), but I don't think I'd want to do either of them because of all that pushing.

You know we're heading toward spring because last week I began riding without studded tires. I pulled out the 29-er and will be biking on that beast until my route is clear and swept - then I'll ride the road bike to work.
My goal this year is to commute to work more - a good goal; I just need to be dedicated and organized enough to get those miles in. We'll see how I do. In case you didn't notice, last week we hit the hundredth day of the year, so I'd better park the car more and start riding toward my goal.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

porcupine and blue dot trail

I went out this morning for a ride in the park. The snow trails are still mostly hard-packed in the woods, but where the sun has hit them for the last few days, they're showing some signs of rot.

I was riding along on one of the wider trails when I came up behind a porcupine as it wobbled down the trail. It didn't look back at me but continued up the trail as I waited, then followed for a few yards. Then it left the trail to tuck itself behind a spruce tree. Its clawed feet didn't even leave tracks on the snow. The color of the quills ranged from dark brown to the color of straw. I could see why it's so easy for these guys to blend into the plants in the park. I made a clicking noise and the porcupine fluffed up its quills, making it look bigger as it held its ground.

I didn't want to bug it too long so took off to continue my ride. That's the second time this winter I've seen one of our more elusive critters and not had a camera on me (the other one was a lynx), but it was nice just to watch it for awhile.

I had planned to just stay on some wider trails but at an intersection with a little singletrack, I stopped to check out the bike tracks. Hmm, I thought, it's the Blue Dot Trail. Named for the blue dots painted on the trees, Blue Dot in the summer is a bumpy, rooty, twisty little knot of trail. I've not spent much time on it because it gets pretty wet & slippery. But today, it was just what I wanted.

The packed snow was only about a foot wide so riding or stepping off the trail would mean sinking almost to my knees into the soft snow. After almost biffing, I lowered the pressure in my tires to get a bit better control. The tires on my snowcat rims held the trail as I wound around spruce trees and crossed the mushing trails several times. One or two bikers had been on the trail before me but I didn't run into anyone at all.

Now that it's warming up, I'm sorry I didn't ride more this winter - I allow too much to get in the way. It makes me wish that this micro-season of sunshine and warmer days with still-hard snow trails would last just a bit longer. Sure I want to get onto the dirt, but it's a long pause between the snow season and the day the trails are declared "open" for biking on the dirt. I'll pull out the road bike in the interim, but I'll be thinking about riding on the Blue Dot Trail for awhile.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Waiting for signs of spring

why am I here?

Hello, Bloggers & Lurkers -

This is kind of strange, putting in writing my view of this world in which I live.
I chose my name because of all my links to the bike community here in Alaska, but that is only one part of me. Here's what's been on my mind:

Two days ago was the 18th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill here in Alaska's Prince William Sound. I didn't even live here yet. I was still quietly living in the Midwest, maybe wondering if that was all there was to life, when the ship spilled barrels of oil on the place I'd never seen.
Only a handful of Alaska's school children were born when this happened. A child born on March 24, 1989, is now old enough to register for the draft. Think about it.

I hope in the coming months to give you an idea of what life is like in the big city in the Last Frontier.

Meanwhile, I've gotta go hug a tree... or a bunny, whichever I see first.