Tuesday, September 30, 2008

words aren't adequate

September 26, 2008

The trip to Eklutna Lake and the Serenity cabin leave me struggling for words. After a cold rainy summer, we didn't know what to expect this past weekend. Geared up for rain and cold. Firewood hauled to the cabin to ensure we wouldn't shiver together on the benches. Then we had Friday. Saturday and Sunday. All brilliant crisp fall days.

Jo-Ann on her three-wheeled recumbent

Bear scat filled with highbush cranberries.

hiking up-valley, toward the glacier

leaves vivid yellow
water on the lake reflecting mountains
sky and trees

five women pedaling
stopping for photos
or to take in the view
exclaim again how fortunate
how beautiful

meeting other riders
our friends
exchanging grateful words
at the gift of sunshine
and friendship
and a helping hand
a joyful smile

burdens are lifted
rising like steam from our breath
pulling gear
not so heavy
as I make my way to a welcome escape

not many days like these
the ones we wait for
grasp for like a rope to safety

the beautiful days are oh so much sweeter
for having endured all the grey
we appreciate and celebrate them
I broke out in song

Near the end of the trip; stacked rocks caught my eye

I don't know who balanced the rocks, but enjoyed this surprise by the shore.

more pics on alaskadirtdivas.blogspot.com

Friday, September 26, 2008

destination: serenity

Eklutna Lake in August

I'm heading out of town this weekend for a couple nights at the Serenity Falls cabin at Eklutna Lake. Ten of us will be riding out - some today, some on Saturday - to stay at a rustic spot tucked in a glacier-carved valley. No electricity, no running water, no wifi. Just the heat of a wood stove and good friends. I think someone mentioned wine, too.

We'll pack our gear on our bikes and trailers for the 12-mile ride along the Lakeside Trail. It's mostly gravel, and is one of the prettiest places to do a fall ride. The colors in Anchorage are at their most brilliant, so I hope it's the same at the lake. The forecast calls for nice weather and Anchorage woke this morning to fog that quickly burned off to give us clear skies. We feel pretty lucky today!

While in the park, we hope to hike closer to Eklutna Glacier & do some exploring. Hiking in the sun sure sounds lovely.

Monday, September 22, 2008


In Alaska, we're keenly aware of the changing seasons as they are reflected in the weather and the calendar. We start thinking about fall as the fireweed blossoms reach the top of their stalks, followed by the termination dust, usually around the time of the State Fair. We measure it in rain and in temperatures, in ripening berries and produce. In snow creeping down the mountains.

The summer of 2008 is now done. The end of the season is finally marked on the calendar. Fall equinox, the day when we have equal daylight and darkness, took place today. Though it is a little off here at our latitude. The sun set before 8pm, which for the rest of the country must seem very late, but for me it's another marker as we race around the sun on this little planet. A headlight for the commute home. The chill in the air as the clear skies let loose the sparse warmth of the day.

Jon and I have an end-of-summer tradition. We do a bike ride on my birthday. Most years I take the day off with him, but the schedule didn't work out that way this year. Since Brad had such a great time mountain biking with us last weekend, we thought it'd be fun to do a ride after work, kind of a shop ride for my birthday.

On Sunday, despite watching storms stalled against the mountains on the east side, we decided to head that direction to check out the new singletrack trails in Bicentennial Park. After climbing up the trail at Hilltop (the downhill ski area), we briefly watched a storm make its way across the area as we hung out in the sunshine. Then, up to the as yet unnamed STA trails for some sweet singletrack riding.

Scattered showers

These are trails that will put a grin on your face! They are twisty and undulating with views over the city and into meadows. For a short time, I could hear the roaring water from the Campbell Creek gorge before the trail looped back toward the Gasline. The leaves that have been falling from the trees under the pounding of rain carpeted some stretches with yellow.

Jon, Brad & Peter ready to keep descending.

The new trails have been a few years in the making, from the idea to the equipment hitting the ground this summer. Sharing them on a ride with friends just about sums up the mountain biking experience for me. Because no matter what other activities I do, even among the other kinds of biking, I'm a mountain biker at heart. Road biking has never made me grin like this.

So, thanks to everyone at Singletrack Advocates, the trail crews, advisers, Parks & Rec planners, contributors, and especially Janice for making it all happen. As they say at IMBA: "Where would we be without trails?"

Thursday, September 18, 2008


When the clouds broke Wednesday
snow was again dusting the peaks above Anchorage
the sun appeared and brightened the leaves made yellow
by the cold and cleansed by the rain.

Ducks near the bog were feeding
fattening for a long flight south.

The damp forest with its
colors and smells
each scent unique to itself
and to this season
I slow down and just breathe.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

if i am silent

I have no right to complain
when the polar bears are gone
when the refuge is spoiled
when women can't choose
when fiction replaces science
when unjust wars continue
when torture is allowed
when families can't pay for illness
when bridges aren't repaired
when sea levels rise

I want my country back
I want to be proud
I want to say we did the right thing
I want to be a better person
living in a just nation
I want to tell you
please vote for Barack


Monday, September 15, 2008

produce market

Each Saturday morning before work, we stop at the local farmers' market. Produce grown in the Matanuska and Susitna valleys is displayed in tents lining a parking lot. We choose our veggies for the week, plus herbs and sometimes bread or cheese. This summer, the brilliant colors of the market offset the often rainy Saturdays.

Freshly-dug potatoes, beets and carrots are some of the best things we find at the market. Basil and cucumbers, peas and beans make our meals more delicious because the produce is grown right here in Alaska. Lettuce that hasn't been shipped up in crates from the Lower-48 tastes so much better in a salad.

Jon and I were both raised in families that had big gardens. I've tried, on occasion, to grow a few things in pots that can be brought indoors before fall. But I'd rather spend my limited summer free time biking or hiking than working a piece of ground. Gardening in Anchorage takes incredible patience and dedication. I think it also takes a greenhouse.

I'll leave the growing to the pros.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

fist full of dollars

Yesterday was the day for which Alaskans have been waiting, and it came a month early to help pay for the rising energy costs brought on by the rising price of oil. Ahem, that's the story anyway. This is how it plays out in Anchorage.

My co-worker told me she heard that at Costco on Friday morning there was chaos as people made the dash for the big-screen televisions. I guess that's so they can watch the election coverage in all its digital glory. TV trumps weatherization in many households.

At the shop, we expected a little more business than a typical damp day in September. And it was busier than usual. Some people had been waiting to make a bike purchase. A middle-school boy was in with his dad, picked out the bike he wanted, filled out his sales slip and handed over his folded-over twenties to pay for the BMX bike. He was pretty happy with his choice and when I asked if he was saving the rest of his PFD he looked at Dad and said he was.

Later in the day, the regular group of after-school 13-year-old boys came in, must have been about five of them. Most without helmets (despite our helmet law). They hung out, sat on bikes, talked, had Tapia (the other salesperson) put the bikes on the scale... these are BMX jumping bikes and they are heavy! Finally, the boy who was shopping decided on his bike and put his money on the counter. Tapia had him fill out the form, rang up the sale, gave him his lecture about tire pressure, etc. and away the gang went, out into the neighborhood. Thing is, there was no parent around, not even one.

I wonder what, if any, discussions these kids hear about the financial choices they can make with our annual windfall. Saving for college comes to mind; so does a helmet. I hope that the parents are making a conscious decision to allow their sons to go over to the bike shop and choose a bike and give them a spending limit. Somehow, though, I doubt that's happening. I can't even picture myself having that much money burning a hole in my pocket until I was... well, an adult. With bills and college tuition and a job.

It's a crazy time of year in Alaska and each person has their story. Hopefully, they can save or spend their windfall wisely.

Brad had his eye on a single-speed twenty-niner for the last few weeks, so that's where part of his PFD went. He'll use it to commute to school & work this winter using studded tires. A few of us went on the inaugural ride with him earlier in the evening. I think we have a new mountain biker at the shop now.
Brad on his sweet new RIG (check out his stylin' socks).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

that's the ticket

Finally, the moment Alaskans have been waiting for... no, the election coverage is NOT over... today Alaska Airlines lowered their fares just in time for our annual "Thanks for living here" check. Anyone who has lived here knows a vacation to warmer climes is more than just packing up the car and driving south. Instead it's a game of who can get the best airfare to their location of choice. It starts with the discussion of how many air miles they have and how long ago they booked their trip.

We don't plan ahead quite that much. In fact, we've just recently been talking about getting out of here for some mountain biking. The disappointing Labor Day weekend was the last straw. I told Jon that as soon as I booked the ticket I'd be a happier woman. And I don't even like to fly. I'm one of those white-knuckle passengers you hate to sit next to. But some things make flying worthwhile. Mountain biking in southern Utah is one of them. Hawaii is another. Overseas: ditto.

This morning I had a new email from Scott McMurren. Then I saw the newspaper ad. It was time to buy. Now it can rain and be gusty and get cold all it wants. In October, we fly into Vegas. Not to spend time there. Just to pick up a rental car and head into the mesas and canyons, the slickrock and sand, the juniper and cacti, the 3.2 beer. Oh, getting carried away, wasn't I? Campfires and a tent without the rainfly.

Until the trip, I have projects to work on, rides to do with my friends (including a much-anticipated overnight bike camping trip) and decisions to make about what to bring. And I'll be singing a happier song through it all. Yee-ha!
hey, little buddy, we're going someplace fun!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

fall sneaks in

The chill in the air today was different from the coolness of this summer. It's in the wind coming from another direction, blowing clouds over the mountains that have already been dusted with snow a few times this summer. Last weekend we were in Hope and also drove to Seward. The leaves were turning and the coastal mountains showed termination dust (for those outside Alaska, that's the first snow to dust the peaks, bringing an end to summer and a start to the crisp days of fall).
Rainy day at the small boat harbor; Seward

I watched yellow birch leaves float in a creek along Resurrection Road and we walked on a trail through a patch of changing devil's club.

Near Crow Creek Mine; Girdwood

My friends and I are doing an overnight cabin camping trip in a few weeks and I shiver to think about biking to the cabin the last weekend of September. I'll keep hoping the snow doesn't come early and try to find a way to make sure we can be guaranteed firewood this year. (Last year there was little dry wood to warm the cabin.)

It's with disappointment that I won't do some things I'd hope to this summer. We never made it to Kesugi Ridge. I didn't do half the mountain biking I normally do. Now it's time to plan our vacation and we've decided it should be spent mostly on two wheels and someplace where it's sunny and warm. Southern Utah, Arizona. We'll have to see where the good weather takes us this October. My goal is someplace where I can wear a sleeveless top and feel the sun's rays warming me completely.

After that, I'll be ready to face the rains of fall and the upcoming winter biking in the spirit with which I normally embrace them. It's just too soon to get excited about them right now.

Now, a few seemingly random things I've seen:
Part of a 4-H exhibit at the Alaska State Fair.

In the case of Jon, gone fishing, mushroom picking, berry picking, etc.

Bike shop in Seward - yes, it's in a railroad car.
I wonder how many bike shops are located in old rail cars...

Our friend Tony was using his Travelers check at polo last Friday.
Nice decals!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

dream time

In the dream I had flown to Chicago and was there with one of my biking girlfriends, sitting at a round table in the airport. My co-worker Sam sat between my friend and me. Across the table was Snoop Dogg and a few of his buddies.

Snoop reached across the table and handed me a bike fender. It was beautifully painted in a colorful, elaborate pattern that I wish I could describe. He then handed a gift to my friend. When Sam asked why he wasn't getting a gift, I turned to Snoop, then turned to Sam and started singing:
"He just wants to do something special for all the ladies of the world."

Snoop looked at me and asked me what that song was.

"Flight of the Conchords," I said. "You know, Flight of the Conchords?" this time questioning. How could he not know this song? This band. So, remembering that I had my laptop, I opened it up to pull up the video. They've got to see this, I thought. Then I heard something.

On the other side of the door to the jetway: "Meow... meow... meow." I opened the door and there was kitty.

I woke from the dream to the sound of kitty meowing in the kitchen while Jon fed her. She had been missing when we returned from a few nights in Hope, so we'd gone to bed kind of worried last night. Now kitty was back and safe. It was 6 a.m., so I didn't get back to sleep, just listened to the purring of our little friend.

But, man, I wonder where that dream was going! I also wonder if Snoop Dogg will ever record that song. And I wish I could get that fender!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

name game

I have a few bikes - mountain bike, road bike, commuter, ice bike... but I'm not a namer. I don't name my bikes. Nor my car. The car is the "Xa," because that's what it's called -- much as my friend tried to give it a cuter name.

I've never been a gear namer or a vehicle namer. In fact, I've probably not named anything since I named a few kittens as a youngster. Back when I had a dog, he came pre-named. And our cat, "neighbor's cat," well, we call her "kitty." Does that count as naming?

Some people think it's odd that I don't have a name for my mountain bike and I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me. Am I afraid of attachment? Unable to make deeper commitments? Or, as a psych student tried to explain, maybe they are just trying to put their values onto me and it's unfathomable to them to go through life without naming possessions. Names add meaning, I suppose.

Maybe it started when I got my name. My own name was not my mom's first choice. One of my aunts yelled "Eureka!" when my mom said she would name me "Erica." Then, according to family lore, my dad said "How about 'Rosemary?' That's a good name." It's my mom's first name, making me truly "Second-hand Rose," I guess. I used to pretend my name was Erica. I'd write stories and the main character would have that name. She was somewhat of an alter-ego. But what is in a name but family history? The story from the beginning. The name that's my mom's. The Irish Catholics.

So, here I am with my borrowed name, still wondering who I am. I don't think I have attachment issues, though I do have a mind that wanders. I just think things in life are so fleeting that to name them assumes that I can call it to me as I would a dog or point it out to someone so they'd know what to grab. Things are things. And neighbor kitty will still be called "Skittles," by the neighbors, much as we think it's a silly name for a cat. And of course most cats don't come when they're called anyway. Neither do any of my bikes.

If any psych students or professionals would like to weigh in on this, I'd love to hear...