Sunday, August 31, 2008

your american dream

I watched Barack Obama deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night. We were eating dinner a little late, as usual, when Obama reminded us that it was the anniversary of Dr King's address at the Lincoln Memorial. How fitting it was that he then quoted the famous address.

To speak of dreams and promises; to speak of always moving ahead, yet not forgetting our personal stories and struggles. Barack Obama is of my generation, yet he exudes the optimism that many in my and the next generation often lack. He's demonstrated a commitment to help other people; to bring to light injustice and help make it right.

I set down my fork as he continued his address, moved by what he said. I repeated my current political mantra, "please" several times. Please, can we just make it happen? Please can people overcome their biases, their hesitation, to recognize that this man offers incredible promise for our nation? For everyone in our nation.

I feel such pride at the thought that we can elect him and change the course of our nation. And I started thinking, what's my American Dream? What does Rose want to do next? Is she doing what she wants to do, and if not, what's holding her back?

What holds any of us back (besides losing our health benefits)? Fear of not being good enough; of not succeeding. But what if we try? What if we take that step away from our comfort zone and start truly pursuing our dreams? Because maybe we are good enough. Chances are, if our ideas and skills are strong, we will succeed. And there's great beauty and satisfaction in reaching our goals, especially when we weren't sure that we could. What's your dream?

hey readers!

Local author, Andromeda Romano-Lax, has posted an interesting question on her new blog The question was posed before the latest political news: Gov. Palin as vice-presidential candidate. And now that Palin is on the Republican ticket, can we still hope that Obama will come to Alaska? I've already decided that if he does I'll take the day off work and if everyone from the shop wants to see him talk, well, we should just close the shop so they can.

Must it be that our three electoral votes are guaranteed to go to the GOP? Sigh. All the more reason to get that Obama sign for my yard. Oh, so, I guess now you know just a wee bit about my politics... more on that later.

Meanwhile, if you head on over to Andromeda's site, you can post your thoughts on your favorite book about Alaska. For my readers from outside Alaska, the choices listed to date are among the best of books to learn more about our complex state. I'll post my favorite soon. After all, if you post, you could win a prize! Happy reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

at the state fair

We cut out of work early on Tuesday and headed to Palmer for the Alaska State Fair. We had tickets to see Ralph Stanley and his band play, so decided we should leave a little time to stroll and snack before meeting our friends for the show. The fair is one of the best places to people watch. People let down their guard. Walk around looking a little disoriented. Allow themselves to eat lots of fried food, and have their hair styled and dyed in a rainbow of colors:

Working his booth.

First, we checked out the animal barn. Saw cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, goats and sheep. The local 4-H was selling tickets to raffle a pig, so I bought a couple $1 chances. That would sure fill the freezer, though mostly it helps out the kids.
Not these kids, but human kids. These are pygmy goat kids.
a milk crate in their pen.)

People working their booths offered an array of goods, from t-shirts to pottery; original jackets and bags; beads and even saunas. There were booths for the political parties too. We stopped by the booth for our maybe (please) future prez, Barack Obama.
He'll address the Dem convention later this week - meanwhile, see him at the fair.
(Volunteers and staff at the Obama booth.)

The show was good - and it seemed like all the musicians truly enjoyed working together. They shared some jokes among themselves and with us they shared a selection of tunes that spanned Ralph's 60-plus year career.
Still singing and playing at 81.

It was cool and a few sprinkles fell, but it was a pleasant evening to be outdoors. We strolled the grounds for awhile after the show before driving back to Anchorage. The rides were lit and the exhibits were starting to close. Then we spotted this gem:

Dogs playing poker I've seen. But this is the first time I've seen a kitty and a mouse playing chess. I don't know if the artist is making a statement about the intelligence of cats & mice, but I think chess may be harder than poker. And that cat sure looks like it feels superior.

Friday, August 22, 2008

sweet singletrack

Jon and I headed out to Bicentennial Park this afternoon to ride the trails (OK, he also planned to pick mushrooms). After climbing up Spencer Loop and making our way up Llama, we rode the new STA singletack from just below Prospect Heights to where it returned to the Gasline.


The trail crews have done a great job from designing to finishing the trail. A trail with some flow, some banks, some twists and rollers. This is how a bike trail should ride! And just a few miles to get there from my house. More trails are coming. Time for more people to pony up and make a donation to Singletrack Advocates.

Oh, yeah. Here are just a few of the mushrooms Jon harvested - these were just off Moose Meadow Trail. They'll be yummy this winter in the risotto.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

school's in!

Today, it's back to school for all the Anchorage kids. Wonder how many of them will be riding their bikes since we're having a little stretch of not-rainy weather...

Note to self: be especially careful riding past all those schools while parents and teachers come and go. People are always in such a hurry.

This is about two blocks from Bowman Elementary. I ride past it twice a day and noticed it last week, so I imagine it hasn't been there long.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

women of a certain age

I've never been one for sports heroes. Putting my energies into a person or team who may get me all riled up or let me down has never been high on my list of interests. With the Olympics in full swing, naturally many of us are sitting in our homes rooting for Team America. The media is having a love fest with swimmer Michael Phelps. Meanwhile - if I may speak for women over 40, or those approaching this exciting decade - the one who gets us fired up is Dara Torres.

When I saw her photo on Time magazine, I'll admit to a twinge of jealousy: that body is making it hard for the rest of us. How can I compare to that? I wonder how many other women were thinking the same thing.

Then came the semi-finals. She asked one of the judges to wait while another swimmer fixed a suit problem. She didn't have to do that, the announcers mentioned. But goodwill, grace, talent and dedication, plus a dose of 41-year-old maturity made her stand out as a leader in the heat that she soon won.

Dara took the silver in the final; a disappointment, understandably. But the excitement surrounding her quest will no doubt be amplified as women of a certain age start saying to ourselves, "I can be better. There's no need to stay satisfied with what I have so far."

Reach for more, sister. That's what I'm thinking.

Friday, August 15, 2008

hatcher pass

Jon and I took Thursday off and headed north to Hatcher Pass for a little day hike. We started at the lower parking lot just outside the fee station, hiking up a narrow trail toward a high valley. Ground squirrels ran and ducked away from us as we hiked near several boulder fields.

While I explored the valley, Jon hiked to the top of a ridge. I love looking at the different rock formations we find in these high valleys that years ago were covered by glaciers. How many years did the moving ice push these boulders down the slopes before leaving them here? How much longer did the forces of rain, snow, heat and cold work to split them, leaving them the way they are today?

I listened for hidden creeks, gurgling under the boulders, which form the headwaters for the creek that grows as it rushes down valley.

After our explorations, we met at a saddle just north of the valley, then made our way over the saddle and across some boulder fields to Gold Cord Lake, a clear alpine lake one valley over. Raindrops sent endless ripples across the water, lapping into each other. It was quiet standing in the fresh, rain-soaked air. We heard the cry of a bird high in the cliffs, but couldn't spot it. No one else was at the lake.

Our route back was on the Gold Cord Trail, a replacement of the old trail. Where the old route went straight up alongside the drainage, the new trail has switchbacks and creative rockwork helping hikers cross the boulder fields. It took us to an old mining cabin, insulated with sod. It looped around large boulders, which gave us different views than we would have seen had we been on the original trail. I couldn't help but appreciate the planning that went into making a better trail that more people will enjoy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

it's in the bag

Last week, Charlotte posted the question, "What's in your bag?" Here's my somewhat long answer.

About the bags: My commute is just shy of nine miles each way and includes a couple trails through a large park - the one with all the bears - streets and some bike paths. So, it's important that my pack is comfortable. I never could learn to like the messenger bags except for very short rides.

I travel with one of two packs. My Camelbak if I have lots to carry to work; my aging Platypus pack on lighter days. They're both hydration packs, but for the commute, I prefer to just put a water bottle on the bike. Besides the pack, each bike I ride is outfitted with a seat bag that includes a tube, patches, a multi-tool and a tire lever. My mountain bike seat bag also has a little first aide kit.

Here's what I normally carry in my pack:
garage door opener
sunglass case with extra lenses
prescription glasses and contact lens case
spare camera batteries
lip balm

When I emptied out the packs this evening, I also found:
a few coins
lara bar
empty Carboom package
Hammergel flask
small notebook & pen (inside a ziploc bag)
earband (that one's from fabulous Sheila Moon)

Sometimes I carry clothes, but try to have a few outfits at work. Sometimes a rain jacket, but not usually. Right now the sun sets at around 10pm. Once the daylight decreases a bit more, I'll add my helmet-mounted light to the setup - the battery will go into my pack until April.

What I don't carry; well, Charlotte asked about this - I don't carry bear spray and never have, though I'm thinking about it. I priced it recently and it would be $50 for a cannister w/holster. You wouldn't want the spray IN the bag because by the time you reach it, it could be too late. As for the mushrooms, Jon uses a small backpack and puts a mesh potato sack inside for the little treasures. He carries a small knife to cut them from the ground. That's strapped to the hip belt.

So, that's what's in my bag(s). Hope it was infotaining.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I learned at a meeting tonight that Rover's Run trail will be closed. Not "we recommend you don't use this trail," but "we're serious, don't use this trail. If you do, it's trespassing. If we catch you, we'll give you a ticket." It should be announced tomorrow. By the mayor.

So, folks, that's the latest in the saga that is Summer '08. The cold summer. The bear summer. The high gas prices summer. The injured friends summer.

Kevin and Jon on the field.

Good things about this summer: I got to work with a great crew at the shop. Singletrack Advocates is building 8.5 miles of luscious singletrack right here in Anchorage. We started playing bike polo. I learned about Flight of the Conchords. There's still more summer to enjoy. I think on Wednesday, I'll ride with the Dirt Divas. I want to go mountain biking. Oh yeah, that's it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

evening ride

Downtown Anchorage with the clouds stacked up against the mountains.

I set off after work for a little road ride - road and some greenbelt trail. But just four miles from the shop, almost too quickly to detect, I was stung by a bee. The sharp pain in my thigh marked every pedal stroke so I pulled over to check it out. Didn't look so bad, so I continued. One block later I turned around.

I'd just passed the fire station before the bee stung, so headed back to #15 for a bit of help. The guys - Tim and Mike asked if I was allergic, checked for the stinger and gave me ice. We sat around talking bikes and trails for awhile as we made sure it didn't swell much. A little pain killing ointment & bandage and I was on my way. Thanks guys...

I almost cut the ride short, but as the pain subsided, I decided I could do the loop out to the Coastal Trail, then Chester Creek back to the east side. Lots of people were out this sunny evening but I was happy to be away from traffic and enjoying the woods with views of the inlet.

Here it is, August, and I've finally started getting into the road biking groove. Even though I'm much more of a mountain biker, it's nice to go fast and light too. There are so many great ways to enjoy biking; it's a wonder not everyone does it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

never thought i'd say this

I'm watching the Olympics opening ceremonies this evening, but I'm thinking about my ride home.
The usual route on an unusually (for this summer) sunny evening. Into the park on my road bike down the Moose Track Trail, then the Tour trail over the Airstrip Trailhead. I stopped for a moment at the bridge, then headed to the parking lot. That's where the police tape was.

Three Anchorage police cars, a state trooper truck. I asked the trooper what was going on. Of course, I had an idea. And it was another bear attack, just a ways up the trail. I hadn't encountered any signs on the way into the park. The trooper told me officers were combing the woods looking for the bear. Then he collected his gun and other gear and headed for the trails.

This trailhead is two miles from my house. It's part of my commute.
The bridge in the background crosses the salmon stream where the bears catch the fish.

I miss mountain biking by myself on my favorite trails. I don't want to be this nervous making my way through the woods on my commute. I don't know what the solution is to this bear issue but hundreds of Anchoragites are staying away from our favorite park. Meanwhile, this brown bear has taken up residence and is defending her turf and cubs. I have a feeling that if they find her in the woods, she'll be shot. I wasn't thinking this a month ago, but a bear rug is sounding kind of nice right now.

Note: I delayed posting this on Friday evening because I was so darn tired. That's why the link to the local paper is for August 9. I hope that I never face such a situation, but if I do, I hope I can approach it with courage.

Friday night I had three different dreams about bears coming after me on various trails. Hackles up, cubs in tow, me with just a short club to fend one off. In one, I kicked the bear. My only means of escape was a BMX bicycle! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ship creek trail

I knew the Ship Creek Trail grand opening was coming up. I just didn't save the date. So, today I thought I'd take a little road ride - well, mostly a paved trail ride - to check out the new trail.

heading downstream

I'd been on parts of it before, but now the bridges are in and it's mostly done. Just some landscaping and a few more benches to add.

I rode over to Mountain View, one of Anchorage's oldest and most diverse neighborhoods. Rode past the street where I used to live - my first apartment in Anchorage. Then down the hill to get on the trail at Tyson Elementary School.

under Post Road

The trail follows Ship Creek through the industrial valley until it reaches a hotel and popular urban salmon fishing spot. I ran into a cameraman from one of the tv stations who told me that the trail had just been dedicated but he thought they should have staged it at a cool bridge he was shooting. I'd agree, it was the nicest (and highest) bridge on the route. It's simple and after crossing it, the trail curves and goes under the bridge. (The largest expense on a trail project like this is bridges. Anchorage loves building trails along its creeks so I think our trails are pretty expensive. I'm okay with that.)

Soon I was in the salmon fishing zone where tourists were milling about. I left the trail at C Street and headed past the railroad to reach the Coastal Trail, then Chester Creek. Another cool day outside but it was nice to be on my road bike and in no particular hurry.

chugach peaks climbers

Here are a few shots of the climbers mentioned in the rabbit lakes post from last week. They shot a video, while I shot them.

They arrived as we were eating breakfast.
We thought they were going fishing.

They stashed the bikes & headed off to the snowfield.

And they kept going.

This was where we last saw them as we headed over the saddle to McHugh. Looks like a fun trip... if you're into climbing.

Monday, August 4, 2008

mushrooms, continued

Part of Jon's Monday haul.

We got together with Corinne and Paul on Sunday night for a mushroom-picking excursion, then dinner. We headed to Bicentennial Park, to a spot just a few miles from the house. Into the woods we stepped with our market totes and pocket knives as Jon pointed out the various fungi pushing through last year's dried leaves.

We didn't know what we'd find because it hadn't rained in a couple days. Many of the mushrooms were filled with bugs or otherwise past their prime. We found a few boletes that were worth keeping and putting into the dehydrator to enjoy in the dark of winter.

We didn't see any wildlife, but were again reminded of the other park users.Corinne checks out the prints - look how far apart the feet are!

At the house Jon grilled some salmon and made a mushroom sauce to serve with homemade pasta. Corinne's fresh green salad and some produce from the farmer's market rounded it out. A little wine; a little food source talk. Someone pointed out we were having our own dinner party ala Omnivore's Dilemma. Living the good life in Alaska has to include enjoying the local food, some of it wild, some cultivated. We're pretty fortunate to have some of it right here in the woods and slopes of Anchorage, free for the picking.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

rabbit lake trail - part 2

Looking back toward S. Anchorage at around 9pm

On the 30th of July we took a one night camping trip to Rabbit Lake. It's a short hike (as you may recall from July 10) we could accomplish after work, set up the tent and be away from the city, though perched almost within view.

I woke at 7am to rain on the tent. Awaking again at 8, it had stopped. Later, the sound of small boulders knocking against each other turned out to be sheep high on a slope on the opposite side of the lake. I watched them for awhile as they made their way along the slope.

We spent the day hiking, first toward the base of the Suicide Peaks, where we watched three climbers working their way up snow patches and scree fields. We then made our way toward the McHugh trail - the approach to Rabbit Lake that comes from the Seward Highway trailhead. We hiked past tarns of different sizes, some with snow still on the water. After reaching a saddle overlooking Turnagain Arm, we headed back uphill toward our tent.

As we were hiking out, we left the cloudy front range mountains and emerged into the bright evening sunshine. Destination: Arigato for sushi. After a day of sparse eating and a few miles of hiking it was great to sit down and be served at our favorite sushi place.

Speaking of favorite places in Spenard, after splashing through dozens of puddles and navigating a couple creek crossings, I must say I love the Aku hiking boots I bought at AMH. My feet stayed dry even when I was walking in a few inches of water and they were stable on the side slopes. Exactly what I set out to find this spring. Thanks.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Jon spotted this one on the way home on Tuesday evening. Look how happy he is to find this gem right near the path. Of course, he's hoping it's new enough to not be filled with maggots.