Monday, July 28, 2008

july rains bring

If April showers bring May flowers, what do July rains bring?

For Jon, it's mushrooms. While mowing the lawn last week he found a few small boletes. Now the hunt is on. For Jon is a collector, a gatherer. When nature provides a bounty, Jon will be ready with his mushroom knife or his berry-picking buckets. (August is for berries.) The garage will smell like mushrooms for awhile as the dehydrator shrinks the slices overnight until the season is over.

Biking into work yesterday, for a moment I thought to myself, "Wow, I really pulled away from him on my single speed." Alas, he had pulled off the path to gather some 'shrooms. So, on the way home I rode slowly as he searched for his mushrooms, taking us onto different streets, off the route of the direct commute, where I took time to look around and was rewarded with this:

I like how the sculptor used real antlers to top off the creation.

Standing sentinel over a steep bank along a narrow side street.

Yesterday some of my friends were going to bicycle parts of the Anchorage Garden Tour. I was thinking of them on part of my ride, hoping they had been equally delighted by what they saw.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Rob (Bob), Andrew and Mike with their LHTs

Tomorrow the journey begins for three fellows from Australia. After email & phone discussions and a visit to the shop earlier in the week, they're ready to pedal north toward Fairbanks, get a lift to Prudhoe Bay and ride down the continent to points south.

Whenever someone mentions a cycle tour I want to drop everything and go along... though the Haul Road wouldn't be my first choice... maybe I could just meet up with them in Whitehorse? Would Jon mind or would he like to join in the caravan? I roll the idea around in my head and promise to plan a trip. The list is growing.

This afternoon, after the guys rolled away on their Long Haul Truckers, Jon told me that it reminded him of when we pedaled away from a shop on the outskirts of Auckland, NZ four-and-a-half years ago. After an overnight flight from LA and a few hours assembling our bikes and equipment, we pointed our bikes down the road for our month-long adventure. Excitement, mystery, anxiety, happiness. Hoping I could handle the weight in my trailer. Not knowing where we would spend a single night. It was our first tour but we were as prepared as we needed to be. After the month was up, I didn't want to get on that flight home. I wanted to keep riding.

The years fly by. Work and other commitments prevail. In the silly survey in the previous post I tried to answer the question of what route I would want to ride everyday. Funny how my thoughts traveled back to the islands so far from here as I remembered some of the spectacular days spent on the bike. The riding on the Coromandel, on the warm North Island.
Dipping into the ocean afterward.

The first ride on the South Island on Queen Charlotte Drive.

The ride along the west coast toward Punakaiki, the beautiful backroads from the west coast to the east through Lewis Pass, including the full day of riding in the rain between Rotherham and Kaikora.

Jon soaking up the sun in Ikamatua.
It's the act of pedaling from one town to the next. The people we encountered along the way. The varied accommodations. The wonderfulness of occasionally having a real bath towel and clean sheets. Produce grown ten paces from the restaurant kitchen. As I scroll through the photos I remember even more. It's a beautifully simple way to travel and live. One just has to decide to begin.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I was minding my own business reading Tim's blog when I checked to see who Julie was (besides being the person who "tagged" Tim). I've read some things on her site before. Maybe I should ask her about getting a counter because I have no idea how many people are stopping by for a visit. While on Julie's site, I learned that I was also tagged. Being tagged is kind of validating, like being picked not last for the kickball team. Late bloomers everywhere will know what I'm saying...

On the other hand, now I feel a duty to answer the questions that I had only lightly pondered as I read other people's responses. So, as honestly as possible, here goes.

If you could have any one — and only one — bike in the world, what would it be?
At a time? This is very tough. On the one hand, I love mountain biking on my full-suspension bike, but I would want it to also be winter-worthy and a good bike to take on a long tour. Could I give up any of these, or could I be a serial bike owner? I guess I'll vote for full-susp.

If you had to choose one — and only one — bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why? Some places come to mind. I love the part of my commute that goes through the woods in Bicentennial Park - winter, summer, fall, it's great. Then there are trails I've biked that have their own beauty; in the desert or pine needle-covered forest. The JEM Trail & Gould's Rim in S. Utah stand out.

But, if I'm going to do this route for the rest of my life, it better be easy. It'll be a loop that will take me from my house to the coffee shop to meet friends, then to a book store and maybe a produce market. I'll be in my 80s, so I'll be riding a classic mixtie with baskets and maybe there'll be room to carry an easel because I'd have taken up painting. Part of the route will be dirt and go through a park with a stream. (Let me know if you find this place.)

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride to to do for the rest of her / his life? Maybe some kind of control freak who won't let that person travel... ever. (I'm not talking about my husband; we do travel w/our bikes, just not enough.)

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrowminded? I do ride both, but I prefer riding my mountain bikes. I love riding through the woods on the trails, getting away from the noise and the traffic and seeing a little nature.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent. Ok, I can't deny it. Around the turn of the millennium, our shop carried BikeE recumbents. We had a demo model and I'd hurt my back so decided to give it a try by riding it home from work then back in the next day - about 7 miles or so each way. It had rear suspension so I took it on the singletracks along the Chester Creek Trail. Pedaling up the hills was kind of tough, but I didn't want the shame of walking, so I toughed it out.

Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss? Again, guilty. Here in Anchorage, there are four women's racing events that qualify athletes to earn a Triple-finisher patch. Do three and you get the patch. Do all four and get the patch & a gold start. In 2005, I did three events: Ski for Women, Bike for Women and Run for Women. When I received my patch in the mail along with a letter that said only about a dozen earned the gold star I set my sites on doing all the events the next friends also strongly encouraged me to do it because it would be "fun."

The fourth event? The Gold Nugget Triathlon. I signed up for training, set my goals, took swimming lessons and rode my trainer in the garage and ran through the neighborhood. It really cut into my spring commuting, I'll admit that. The day of the event was hard. I could barely get out of the pool, was not as fast as I wanted on the bike but managed to run fast enough that I met my goal of under 1-1/2 hours (by about 30 seconds), thereby permitting me to say I'd met my goal and don't have to do it again.

I floss every day and have never tried to strangle myself with floss... it's my friend.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why? Ice cream wouldn't be that tough to give up. After all, there's yogurt, custard, gelato, sherbet, creme brule. Now tell me what can substitute for a bicycle?

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it. What is the next great bike technology? It will be think-shifting. Your bike will read your thoughts via a chip in your brain and shift when you want. It will have a bypass if you're not smart enough to know you want to shift. It will also understand and use the trim feature on a road bike and cause a slight headache if you try to tell it to crosschain. It will be made by Shimano and build off their Coasting technology, but lighter.

You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do? Do you mean what have I done? Skidded to a stop, elevated my heart rate, climbed off the bike, backed away a few steps, started talking loudly, maybe reached for my camera (I know that's nuts & I only did it once), watched as the bear walked away. Started shaking head to toe. All, not necessarily in that order.

Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

the odyssey

On days that I don't work at the shop, Jon calls home just before he leaves to let me know when to expect him. The other night the message on the answering machine was, "This is Odysseus. I've finished slaying people, so I'll be coming home now." So, the thing about The Odyssey is there's lots of killing. Slaying with swords, bow and arrows, sharpened branch. All your early weapons. Then, throw in the wrath of Poseidon. Man!

There's also lots of slaughtering of animals, offerings to gods and mixing of wine. Plus affairs, trickery and gods meddling in the lives of humans. News traveled slowly and one could never know if the news was real. (Unlike today when the news is instantaneous and, well, if it's on the interweb it must be true. Right? I digress...)

Mostly The Odyssey is a quest by one man to reach home after many years held captive. By a beautiful nymph, I should add. And his son's quest to find out if he's still alive. And his wife Penelope's quest to hold off the suiters who are eating and drinking all the food and wine in the house she shared with Odysseus.

It's a fascinating read. I loved the descriptions and sense of place and time. (Have a map handy while you read it.) Now I'm set to read something just a little more modern. Maybe something written after the invention of the printing press.

Follow-up: in the time it took for me to begin this post and to edit it for you, I've begun another book. In a little section I read today, the author refers to the patience of Penelope as she awaits the return of her husband... Ulysses. I know! And she's a journalist! Now, the reason I began reading The Odyssey was: I heard a story on NPR in which they were discussing how to appreciate James Joyce's Ulysses, one should read The Odyssey. So, I imagine the author was making that same connection. And it reminded me that I should finish editing this post. I'm still not ready for Ulysses. But if it keeps raining...

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 21, 2008

bike art

Rae set her bike on the ground for a few minutes this evening. She picked it up just after the sprinkles started, leaving this stencil on the pavement.

manbearpig and other sightings

Jon and I hit some of the trails last night on the way home from work. At the top of Viewpoint, we saw this sign. I saw one of these out at Kincaid last week. Apparently the hunt is still on for manbearpig. No sign of Al Gore.
Jon wonders why he didn't think to post this sign.

Later, riding near the ponds, we were aware of the most recent trail user. Yeah, that's a big one. Glad I was riding with Jon. I started making a little more noise. Especially after I saw a couple piles of scat. Well, find a partner and go for a ride in Bicentennial Park. You'll likely have the trails to yourselves (except for the critters).

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I had kind of a bummer week. I was feeling tired and blue. Maybe it's the weather; maybe I've been dreaming too much about other places I'd like to be (I guess that's weather-related too). In short, I was kind of feeling sorry for myself.

Then Saturday rolled around. For most, that's the day to sleep in, do chores and maybe catch up on some fun with friends. For us, it was a day to be at work early, and also prepare to go to a party after work. Our friends were getting married and, coincidently, it was our tenth anniversary. Still, I didn't feel much like celebrating.

But the card from Jon on the dining room table told me he was looking forward to the next 10 years and I felt a little guilty that my attitude kept me from picking up a card for him... I know; that's how sad I was. Then he asked me to open the curtain over the window that looks out onto the back yard.

And, there they were: Pigs!
Two pigs in the back yard and suddenly I was a little kid.
Pigs! On their little round steel legs and with curly spring tails.
In the tall grass that couldn't be mowed on Thursday because of the rain.
They look up toward the window. I see them and smile.
And I told Jon that if I felt any stress at work I would just think of the pigs.
Kitty checks out the new pet.

We've been ten years married and even longer together. Sometimes I forget to stop and appreciate the many things Jon does. This? How can I forget when he does something that is so perfect?
Kitty appreciates Jon too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

report on Jo-Ann's surgery

My friend Jo-Ann hurt her shoulder playing softball - another reason cyclists shouldn't play ball sports, unless, of course, it's bike polo. She sent this update to our mountain bike club. I must share it with you.

I miss biking with Jo-Ann. Speedy recovery.

Jo-Ann's report (word for word):
1. rotator cuff surgery went well - actually i have no idea since i was knocked out with a hammer; it's true they used a hammer and i'm not even sure it was a doctor who took the hammer to the right side of my cortex. in fact, i'm not even sure it was a hospital. the lobby looked like a dry ice packing shack.
2. after the drugs wore off, i didn't feel pain until the cat jumped on me in the middle of the night. funny thing, the cat looked like an eel. and also, we don't have a cat.
3. i hate eel kat. exclamation point.
4. oh yeah, i have given up shifting based on principal and convenience.
5. i like lists.
6. i don't have nothing to say about biking but i'm not going to let that stop me from typing away with my one good arm which is lame from years of neglect and ridicule from the smarter dominant arm, but lamo lefty says at least she didn't fall on me, i mean she may think she's light, but she's not, and so it goes.

Finally, I saw this on a car at a trailhead last week:mmmm, waffles!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

rabbit lake trail

Thursday Jon and I hiked the Rabbit Lake Trail at the end of Canyon Road. The fog may have kept people away because only a few cars were parked on the side of the road at the trailhead. Walking up the trail into the mist we entered another season.
It's been cool in Anchorage, but along the trail there were still fields of snow. Some alder leaves were just opening. Yes, second week of July.
The lake is rarely so calm.

The lake is almost free of ice - just a few cubes had drifted to where the lake flows out into Rabbit Creek. If we stood quietly we could hear them rattling one against the other in the lake, like ice in a glass of water, as
a gentle breeze picked up and pushed some of the ice into the creek.

Along the hike, we ran into a few people, including a retired gentleman named Lloyd who was lopping off alders that were encroaching on the trail. He relayed a story about driving back to the lake in his Volkswagon over 40 years ago. Before it was a state park. His goal was no longer to get to the lake or summit one of the Chugach's many peaks. He just wants to give back. I was too shy to ask to take his picture, so if you see an older man pruning brush on the trail, tell him "thanks." And tell him I said "hi."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

heckuva guy

The media has been paying lots of attention to our friend Pete since he gave aid to young Petra Davis after she was seriously injured by the brown bear in Bicentennial Park a week and a half ago. Pete was in town to participate in the 24-hour race. We spent a little time with him in the frenzied days after the race, catching up on his summer in the Lower-48.

He heads back to S. Colorado today to do more guiding work. He says he wishes for anonymity, but that's going to be tough with how the national media has picked up on this story. Now, the August issue of Outside magazine has hit the racks in Anchorage. An article by Jon Billman, The World's Toughest Bike Race is Not in France, chronicles the writer's experience biking the 2007 Great Divide Race. Pete dropped out of that year's race after coming down with what he thought was either food poisoning or giardia. Still, the article mentions Pete's other accomplishments and includes two great photos of him. (I don't know yet whether they're available in poster size;-)

Until you can get your copy, here's Pete fueling up for his next lap in the 24. (Sorry, Pete, you were stuffing your face the entire half-minute you were there!)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

chocolate lily

Hiking up toward Hope Point on the Fourth of July I remembered something that happened years ago on Resurrection Trail. It was the first time I'd done the entire route, starting in Cooper Landing and riding to Hope.

Jon and I were with our friends Kim and Alan. I was making my way up a climb when I noticed a smell in the otherwise fresh air. The unmistakable stench of an outhouse wafting through the field of wildflowers. Since this stretch of trail was new to me, I figured we were near a cabin. When I reached the group - waiting for me as usual - they were standing near some of the flowers. Kim offered a suggestion.

You've got to smell this flower, she told me. It's called a chocolate lily and it smells really good. Trusting my friend I pulled my nose to the flower and inhaled; the inhale of one who has just finished a long, steady climb.

Ugh! The beautiful wildflower had the stench of... well, of the outhouse. The odor I'd been smelling as I made my way through the meadow belonged to the sweetly-named chocolate lily. So lovely to look at. So intriguing in its color. Yet so deceiving.

Other plants from the hike:


Our friends have a quiet little cabin in Hope. Out back is an even smaller guest cabin where we sometimes stay. Their place is a couple miles from the Resurrection Trail, a great backcountry ride (or hike). Jon and I drove out of town on Wednesday afternoon, the hottest day of the year - the thermometer finally bumped above 70 degrees.

My ambitious thoughts of getting down there and maybe doing a short ride before dinner soon turned into both of us melting in lounge chairs on a sunny deck, soaking up the rays and a beer. Reading. That was sweat rolling down my back.

For our three-day holiday we were prepared to bike, hike and lounge around. There was lots of lounging. Kind of like this dog waiting for its owner at the Seaview.

One highlight of our trip:
I saw a black bear on Resurrection Trail. I decided to turn around before Jon and he continued on to the Pass. Riding back toward the cabin, I took my time, looked at the wildflowers as they colored the meadows and the sides of the trail. Through an old burn area, blackened stumps fueled my imagination as my gaze swept the surroundings. I started to sing. It was Folsom Prison Blues.

Nearing the ponds, I slowed. That's when I saw the black furry head pop up from behind the low trees across the water. The ears seemed a bit high, but it couldn't be anything else. I tried to keep my eyes on it as I pulled out my camera to snap a photo in time before it ducked back down and out of view. All I got was the landscape. Back on the bike, I started talking and whooping, hoping it would get the message. When I saw two hikers starting up the steep hill, I'll admit, I felt a little safer having a little company again.