Sunday, June 29, 2008

we're not alone

I ride there. So many of us ride there. Sometimes alone, sometimes with a group. So when I found out this morning that a young teenage girl participating in a 24-hour bike race was mauled by a brown bear on a local trail, I was horrified. I know some of the young racers and their parents. I've also encountered bears on or near this trail. I've stopped in my tracks to see which direction a black bear was going to step.

Just a few weeks ago some runners were charged by a brown bear less than a mile from where this morning's attack occurred. A few days later I saw the warning sign when I went riding and certainly biked with heightened awareness. But I didn't turn around. I always believe I know what I'm getting myself into. We all do, otherwise we'd never venture out.

Now the ranters on the local newspaper website are pointing fingers, placing blame for what happened. It's the parents; it's the bike club; it's the city; it's fish and game. Come on! It's wildlife. It's nature. It's habitat. It's Alaska. Are you going to sit indoors or go hike or bike? Are you going to not fish on the Russian River because of a mauling there a couple years ago?

This hits so close to home, and not just geographically. Anchorage's biking community is tightly connected. My friend was the first person to arrive at the scene to help this young girl. He has training in first response. I'm sure it was very hard for him because he's known the young cyclist since he coached her in skiing when she was only six years old. He expects nightmares (and I'm sure she will experience them as well).

But he's not going to stop biking these trails. Most of us won't stop. Maybe I'll call a friend next time I want to go on a ride, though probably not. My main fear right now isn't as much the bear; it's that a vigilante will decide to go "hiking" one day in Bicentennial Park just to check things out, bringing his powerful gun for "protection." I won't be surprised to find out the bear has been killed this way, in "defense of life or property," as our laws allow. I just hope no one else gets hurt by either man or bear.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

not much here

Have you known anyone who talks incessantly, even if they have nothing new or insightful to say? They may start to ramble and even become incoherent... well, that may involve a little imbibing I suppose. You just want to stop them before they embarrass themselves.

The web allows any one of us to blather on via keyboard. Fortunately, we can just click away from a site and spare ourselves reading through someone's manifesto. Or we can sink more time into it and wonder where the hour went.

I'm wrapping up a week of trying to go daily. Trying, because it didn't quite work out that way. Yesterday, I worked on a post. But I didn't have anything insightful and coherent to say... note to self: maybe hold off on the red until you're done editing... I was a little disappointed and momentarily thought I could complete something this morning on my day off. But no. If you got nothing, you got nothing. (Besides, I'm still trying to read The Odyssey which is quite enjoyable.)

Thus, the experiment ends with a sigh and realization. I could have relied on posting photos on the days that I couldn't make something work, but that feels like cheating. The idea is writing. Writing, for me, involves lots of editing. That's the part that makes it all work. Yet the editing takes time. So, best to skip a day than to post something lame. Now, back to the weekly-ish, whenever I feel I have something to day.

But before we go:
I had a good ride this evening with the Divas. It included Brown Bear trail - still in awesome shape - and some other singletrack. I'll fess up now: I got a new bike this winter: a new full-suspension from Giant (same brand as my last one). It rides so sweetly on the trails - floats over things; handles well. Here's my new little trail buddy on Brown Bear last week. Subtle but powerful... remind you of anyone?*Thanks for reading.

*part of my difficulty with my late night posts is that I'm a Craig Ferguson fan. Listening to the monologue instead of doing my homework is quite the challenge.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Yeah, just over two miles from home. Rear tire. Changed the tube. Biked home & got the car. Drove to work.
Defeated again by the litterbug, drinking-while-driving people of Anchorage. They probably are the ones trying to run us off the roads or squish us like the annoying bugs of the traffic world we are. (I shake my fist at them and the behemoths they drive!)

OK - I feel a little better now. Ahem...

Here are some things I like:
This bridge on Black Bear Trail crosses a narrow stream. I love the quietness of it when I allow myself to stop and take a breather from a ride.

This web appeared one evening on our deck. Jon had to duck and step around it to get to the grill that evening. He tossed a mosquito into the web and the spider quickly wrapped it in silk for later. The next day the web was gone.

Monday, June 23, 2008

no backup plan

I imagine most people have experienced a moment when they're headed out the door, they look at something and think, "ah, I don't need that today. I'm fine with what I've got." Then, when they realize they want it, they can see just where it was when they closed the door and left. The image is imprinted in their brain.

As I rode to work this morning, I noticed that telltale softer ride that comes with a deflating tire. Pulled off the front wheel, found the glass, replaced the tube and started pumping. Regret #1 I had my most mini of mini pumps instead of my larger, faster Topeak Road Morph. Sigh...

After finally getting enough air in the tire to ride, I reinstalled the wheel, packed up my repair kit and stepped back onto the pavement, prepared to skip my pre-work errand and get to work on time. But the rear tire was flat now! Regret #2 I had no patches.

So, I did the only thing I could - I walked. I had time to think about how the Morph and the patches were at home, right at the top of the stairs where I load my pack for the ride. I also had time to be glad I was wearing my mountain shoes and it wasn't raining. I made it to the nearest pay phone, probably a mile or so away (yes, I'm one of those people who doesn't own a cell phone) at Lake Otis & Abbott. From there I learned that everyone else had biked in today and the shop truck was loaded with cardboard for the recycling center. I'd have to hoof it.

I made it almost to O'Malley Road when a horn honked. Zane had arrived at the shop and was sent on a rescue mission. We stuffed my bike into his tiny VW, handlebars hanging out the window and in just a few minutes arrived at the shop.

I've been noticing a lot of glass on the paths and roads. I see it every day. I have time to ponder it on my commutes - and even more time on the walk... Would there be less broken glass strewn on the paths if Alaska offered deposits on bottles? Five cents? What would it take to get people from throwing bottles out their car windows? If we put a value on it, will they stop throwing?

Truth-in-advertising disclaimer: Dear readers, I began this post on Monday night, but couldn't finish editing it until Tuesday morning. That's why you early birds didn't see it until late Tuesday a.m. The daily quest continues to challenge me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

bike love

Spencer is a new bike tech at the shop where I work. He's a university student, active with the school's bike club. A few of his friends had a hand in creating this work of love.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

summer begins

a sign of summer
along with the longest day
includes the arrival of fish.
salmon return to the rivers of Alaska
and to our freezer

Jon went set-net fishing at Kasilof for two days with our good friends Lynn & Art. It's the second year for this harvest-style fishing for him. They use a boat to set the nets just off shore and haul them in when they have a load. He brought home his limit for our household.

This evening, after work, we spent just over an hour processing about half of them. Jon cut the fish into a few pieces, then rinsed the slime off each one. I wrapped and packed them with the vacuum sealer and stacked them in the freezer. We'll continue the task tomorrow and share some of the harvest with friends who don't fish.

That first taste of fresh grilled salmon marks the beginning of summer. Now it's time to start planning camping trips, bike rides out of town and sip a little red wine while enjoying the tender fish and the long, drawn out sunsets.

Friday, June 20, 2008

shop ride

A few of us got together for a ride after work tonight.
We need a social director to organize this kind of thing
otherwise we just work and work then head home
never spending time together doing the thing that unites us
I have to agree with the social director -
this is what it's all about.

1) Andrea & Tora on Rover's Run
2) Brian @ Campbell Creek
3) Peter shares the trail

Thursday, June 19, 2008

trombone shorty rocks!

I bagged the Wednesday ride with the Alaska Dirt Divas so I could go to a concert. I'd just read about this musician, Trombone Shorty (aka Troy Andrews) in the paper on Sunday. From the description, it sounded like a great show. Without hearing his music I ordered a ticket and biked down to the university to check it out.

Now if you take jazz, R&B, blues, a little hip-hop, rock & roll and don't forget the Funk, wrap it around a talented, energetic guy in his early 20s, add his impressively talented and together band - Orleans Avenue - well, just try to not get into the groove.
The trombone just sang. Everybody danced. Songs morphed. The guitar screamed. Man! I can't describe it except to say it rocked.

After an extended run of high notes on a trumpet, TS said the microphone was smoking. Brash? No. The mic was smoking! I think the high notes broke it... is that possible?

I left the concert after 10pm, buoyed by the energy on the stage and in the house. As I unlocked my bike, I briefly spoke with a couple as they left, equally beaming about the great show. The only disappointment, they said, was that there were so many empty seats. "Lucky us," I said and they agreed. Lucky us.

can a weekly go daily?

Manny said I should post more often. He's bored. Tim (another local biking blogger) is on vacation and there's not enough for him to read. Instead of the morning paper, some folks check out the blogs. I do it myself... does Corinne have something new? How's Tapia's tour going? What photo will Katherine post? Will Pete ever post now that he's left Alaska?

Sometimes I learn more about a friend from their postings than I could have picked up in a conversation. I think it's because so many of them are biking friends so we often stay on subject. The longer we know each other, the more we learn new bits and pieces, the things that make each person more interesting and enjoyable to be around. Now the blog is the shortcut into our lives.

The other day I went to a website that helps you link with old classmates from high school. I don't want to admit which reunion is coming up this year, ahem, but I sent a note to an old friend and included the "shortcut" to who I am today. Of course, it's not a full picture of who I am, but an abridged edition. One where she can get an idea of my lifestyle (since she lives in Barbados I am awaiting her comments). I hadn't thought of the site in this way before. I've viewed it as a tool for writing.

One goal of this site for 2008 is to get me to write... did I tell you I'm a writer? I've tried to post at least weekly as a way to compose something and complete my thoughts. It's a writing exercise without the writing circle. So, when my friend Manny said I should post more often, I suggested that if I posted every day, it would just be boring. But here you go - I'm going to take it as a challenge. I will try to post something relevant for a week straight. A good photo w/caption counts - it's my site, I make the rules buddy. But, remember, it's keeping me from reading The Odyssey.

Just one picture of who I am:
Here I am with my Aunt Anna Mae at the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Isn't she great?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

share the trail

I was off work today so went for a little ride before doing chores like mowing the lawn, etc. So few people on the trails in midday. I hit a little singletrack, detoured around some soggy spots, then made my way to Brown Bear Trail. A sign at one trailhead reminded me of how the trail got its name.

I know I can't ride every piece of this trail and since I was alone I was a little less inclined to try some of the trickier obstacles. Still getting used to the feel of the brakes on my new bike, too. But I rode more of Brown Bear than I remember riding last year and the trail was super buff thanks to good design and lots of volunteers with Singletrack Advocates.

I didn't see any bears, but this little camouflaged bird came into sight just after I stepped over some roots. The spruce grouse didn't take off when I pulled my camera from my pack or as I got closer to her. Only after I hopped back on the bike did she fly up into a tree, her wings sending up a little puff of dirt and scattering some of last year's leaves.

As I was leaving the park, I saw this lone wild rose on the side of the trail. Yes, it's mid June in Anchorage. Wildflowers are blooming, the sun is setting after 11:30 and the salmon are starting to run. This is why we live here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

what's it gonna take?

At the gas station across the street from the shop, I see the numbers go up almost every day as I ride in on my bicycle. I have a car, but I try to limit my driving so I only have to fuel it once a month - that's the goal, anyway. I live about nine miles away and mostly enjoy my commute. It's my way of saving fuel and staying relatively fit.

I know it's not realistic for everyone to commute by bike and the bus system in the Anchorage area is not always as direct as people would like. Still, we can make choices to save on fuel by limiting trips, especially short ones or trips for one item from the market. It's called planning.

Politicians want to find ways to make the prices go down - at least that's what they say. What they're really thinking, I don't know. But rather than increasing supply, which, of course is limited, we need to focus on demand. As individuals, we need to decrease our demand. To ride-share, to be conscious of each trip. And to rid ourselves of low mpg vehicles.

Every time I get cut off by an SUV or have one blast past me, full throttle on a hill, I just shake my head. Another drop wasted. We're responsible for this. The only people I feel bad for are those who are just scraping by already. Elise Patkotak expresses it well - and boldly - in her Daily News column. I wish I was as brave as Elise. Say it, sister!

Here's Jon in my car - I think he's crying because this truck is taking up two spaces in our parking lot.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

and your little dog too!

One of our customers, Ted, was in the shop the other day with his little buddies. Sugar and Tuffy (I think are their names) were pretty content in their shopping panniers. They hung out, allowed us to hold & pet them & were very well-behaved - my favorite kind of dog.

I'm surprised at how many people are taking their dogs biking with them - in baskets, on leashes, in backpacks. The animals seem content to be with their humans & vice-versa.

Years ago, a German woman showed up at the shop. She had fully-loaded panniers and was pulling an empty BOB trailer. Her traveling companion was a cattle dog. She told us the dog ran next to her much of the time but when it got tired, climbed into the BOB for a ride.

The mechanics changed out her fork, and we invited her to spend the night at our apartment before she headed off to the Kenai. A month later a customer told me about the funniest thing he'd seen: a cycle tourist pulling a dog in trailer headed to Homer. Yep. People love their dogs. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

sign of the season

I think these are the bears Jon saw on his commute a week or so ago. He saw them in a clearing just off the Lynx Trail. The sow reared up, the cubs climbed a tree and Jon kept riding. I keep wondering when I'm going to see them... and hoping they'll be traveling away from me.

Still hard to believe it's June with all the cool weather. I forget, is this normal?

Waiting for work to slow down and the trails out of town to dry out. Time to think about rides and hikes in the mountains. Jon & I are hoping to do some backpacking this summer along with the bike riding. I got some new hiking boots a couple weeks ago so I'm ready when it's time to hoist a full pack onto my back once again.

One of our favorite places is Kesugi Ridge in Denali State Park. Last time we were there was in 2005 when we hiked part of the route with our friend Janis. We camped for three nights, did day hikes. Janis picked mushrooms and we all picked blueberries. We also encountered a brown bear and cub. Though we've hiked the north end of the trail a few times, we've never done the thru-hike. Maybe this year. I'd really love to check out the southern leg of the trail. Guess I'd better start hiking.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Things found on my commute

First, Sir Elton comes to Anchorage.
Are Sigfried & Roy next?

...a fish needs a man like
a tiger needs a bicycle.