Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the good in 2008

Every year has its rough spots and challenges. This year the Anchorage biking and outdoor-loving community sure had our share. It was one of the coldest summers on record with lots of rainy days. Two people were seriously hurt by two different brown bears in my favorite park leading to an exodus of park users and a trail closure. Politically, Alaskans had to do lots of explaining to friends in the Lower-48 after our governor became a vp candidate. Some politicians went on trial and to jail.

But, looking back there were plenty of positives in my 2008.

I went to Italy with my aunt.

I rode my snow bike lots, especially with Jon.

Jon helped me build wheels for my single-speed project.

I got a new distributor for my book.

I skied with my friends, Jo-Ann & Corinne.
We had more snow in one day in April than we ever expected! (That's maybe not necessarily good, but it gave us something to talk about.)
I biked with my friends, the Alaska Dirt Divas.Jon & I hiked.
Skinny bike trails were built by Singletrack Advocates.

We didn't get rained on during my birthday ride.

My friends & I had three sunny days in a row for our biking overnighter at Eklutna Lake!

Jon & I flew south to experience summer.

Our candidates won! (all but one; sorry Ethan)

I still have health insurance!

Jon and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.

The journey continues.
I wonder what 2009 will bring,
Adventures and quests.
Small discoveries and joy.

May you share it with friends.
May you remember to get more photos
of you with your sweetie.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

cold hands, warm hearts

Eric and Jennifer met last year at the ice carving competition. Just over six months later they got married. Their wedding, coincidently took place on our 10th wedding anniversary -- yes, the day Jon gave me the pair of pigs. Sure, that's a short time to meet and get married but when it's right, it's right.

Today they were downtown at Town Square Park carving their new creation in a prominent spot above the skating rink when a local reporter approached.
Eric carving ice into water.

The couple told the story of their sculpture then told her how they'd met. I could see the reporter's interest. How wonderfully romantic it is to return to the place where they met and enjoy the activity that brought them together. Single-digit temps were chilling most people and a gaitor covered Jennifer's smile, but that kind of happiness could melt the ice in the rink.

Jennifer carving a salmon.

The carvings should be done by Sunday evening for the judging. I think I'll check 'em out again.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

christmas in the garden

Snow was falling this Christmas day. It was mostly quiet but we made sure to fit in some outdoor activity. Since I'm off the bike and skis for a bit, we went out together -- I had my snowshoes and Jon had his boots and gaitors. If we have any holiday tradition at our house, above all it is that we get outdoors to do something.

We've had several snowstorms in the last few weeks with no wind or warm weather to blow or melt it away. The trees are bent by the weight of the snow, some of them crushing fences, others leaning against neighboring trees, still others arcing over until their smallest twig-size branches hit the top of the snow that is on the ground.

Jon listening to the gurgling creek.

We were in the Alaska Botanical Garden, wandering on the nature trails, then on the creek ice. Nobody else was there, though we did watch a moose munching on twigs inside the garden. A couple years ago the garden installed a perimeter fence to keep the ungulates out. But with all the trees that were knocked down in the windstorm two months ago, I'm sure there are places where the fence has been toppled.

Garden-variety moose munching branches on a leaned-over tree.

It was good being out in the garden on this short winter day with no one else around. As we prepared to leave, we began to hear ravens overhead as they made their evening journey back toward the mountains where they spend the night after a day in town.
Jon rests on a bench.

With the holidays winding down and my hand making a steady recovery from surgery, I hope to be back on the bike in maybe another week or so. I can probably ski sooner. Either way, it'll be good to get back into some sort of consistent exercise schedule after a couple months of commitments to other things. That'll be a good way to start the year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

shops they love

my commuter w/SnowCats, studs and poagies

Back in September Jon was interviewed for an article in Bicycling Magazine. He talked about winter cycling and the equipment that makes it easier for us to ride year round. While we were on vacation in October a photographer stopped by to take some shots for the story. We weren't sure when the story would appear, then the emails started.

People from Chicago, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Toronto -- the list keeps growing -- had received their January issue of the mag. Now they were looking to make their commutes better, warmer, safer. Many had never heard of studded tires and handlebar poagies, then here we were, this family-owned shop in Anchorage getting a little attention from around the country and from our neighbors to the east. Each day a few more emails and phone calls. People wanting to talk about riding conditions and how much daylight we have (not much right now). People very appreciative that we could help them out.

It took a few weeks for us to get a copy of the issue and overall it's pretty accurate as far as the equipment and the recycling go. Jon hopes to not be called out as a fraud when people learn that he doesn't commute every day as the article stated. I imagine him saying he commutes "most every day" and having that key modifier dropped. Oops.
Jon arrives at work wearing his homemade face mask.
Judging by the beardcicles, must be around zero out.

There's lots of competition among shops in Anchorage, especially to get the limited winter market. Through the article, the shop's customer base just ballooned to include much of North America. I think that's pretty cool. It's also cool when our longtime customers come in and say they saw and liked the article. It validates what we've built over the last 10 years. It also makes a very slow time of year just a little more interesting.

Monday, December 15, 2008


frosted tree at
the Beartooth Theater Pub

A good film, like a good trail, makes me want more. Maybe not more of the movie, but to take off where the film left off. One we saw at the fest was called "Carrot Cake Conversations." Filmed in Singapore, it follows the characters through one night and early morning as their paths intersect and carrot cake is consumed. It wasn't a spectacular film, but it held my interest. One question raised: are there carrots in carrot cake? A little search revealed that the answer is "no." Daikon radish? Yes. One site explained that the Chinese characters for carrot and radish are very similar. I don't know anything about that, so will take them on their word.

I found recipes and a little history of the food and wondered if I could possibly make this popular dish. Let's add that to the to-do list, the non-cooking girl told herself. Then on Saturday as I talked with some friends they mentioned the food malls in Singapore. "Did you have any carrot cake?" I asked, wishful. They had, and now I'm dreaming of a new city to put on my list of places to go.

That's just one of the beauties of film. It can take us to a different place, time, or culture. It can inspire our senses, remind us of times past. It can make us wonder. It can also answer questions we didn't know we had.

Like a movie we saw on Friday which reminded most of the audience of a time they remembered as it recounted the story behind many of the hit records from the 60s. The Wrecking Crew is about the studio musicians behind hundreds of albums produced in LA during that time, including what we've heard called the "wall of sound." As a Generation X girl, I've grown up hearing this music because that's what was on the radio or the stereo. They were the songs of the Boomers and they permeated our lives for a long time. Still do. Like many people, I didn't realize how many groups did not perform their own music.

After watching the film, the song resonating in my head is Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman. Wow, what a tune! I have a version performed by Michelle Shocked with Freddy Fender & the Texas Tornadoes that's pretty great but c'mon. Is there a voice like Glen Campbell's out there? And now that I know the story of the bass player, Carol Kaye, who came up with the opening riff on that tune, it adds another dimension to the song.

Now that the film festival has come to a close, I can get back to the holiday-time chores, look forward to the new year and see if any airfares inspire me to book a trip someplace warm. Maybe I'll even get those Christmas cards addressed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

it's film fest time!

through the steam on my lens

Today I had the day off and since the snow had been falling since early last evening, I headed out to the park for a ski. I was the third person on one of the trails, after a snowbiker and a hiker. The park was mostly silent as the snow insulated the park from most road traffic noise. A few birds, their songs unidentifiable to me, flew through a meadow. I haven't been doing any biking this past week. I have a good reason, though.

Each December for just over a week, Jon and I put aside any bike commuting aspirations, delay addressing holiday cards and beg off work early so we can take in the films at the Anchorage International Film Festival. This is the eighth year of the fest which brings in features, some classics, documentaries, shorts and animation. Local entries are included in the "Snowdance" portion of the program.

The festival is a movie-going buffet for us since each year we get the all-films passes and hope to pick the best films and see the most we can. This year, I'm not as obsessive as I've been in previous years. One movie per night can be enough... but not always. Tonight, it's the Bear Tooth at 5:30, then the Museum at 8. If you're an Anchorageite, you should check out the second half of the fest. If you're a filmmaker, hey, submit something for next year. I'll go see it!

Monday, December 8, 2008

let's review: 08 concerts

Friday evening we went to a concert with some friends. The opening act didn't get me too excited. My mind wandered to the best concerts I saw this year. Anchorage gets smaller acts, but we also occasionally gets some big names. Heard of that Sir Elton John fellow?

The shows I most enjoyed this year were a few I mentioned in earlier posts: the Carolina Chocolate Drops (returning in May '09!), Trombone Shorty and Hamell on Trial. Each act was incredibly different in styles and material. But they shared one thing: energy. When I go to a concert, I've probably had a busy day but I don't want to be lulled to sleep (it's happened... a few times). I want something that makes me want to move; and sing and shout. I also want something that makes me feel. That makes me laugh and cry. To paraphrase Hamell, I don't want someone who just goes halfway.

After the second half of Friday's show I'll add another artist to the list of performers I would see again, Dan Bern. He's been to Anchorage a few times and we have one of his CDs, but I wasn't that familiar with his work or his performance style. He's a story teller with the sometimes mischievousness demeanor of a little boy who's just said something clever or naughty. Very funny and with a range of material from his own works to classics like "House of the Rising Sun." Even though it was getting late when he wrapped up, I could have stayed for another hour listening to him.

Thanks to Corinne & Paul for treating us to this show. See you next time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

goodwill to all

I made it almost to work in a mostly pleasant commute. The sun, though behind the clouds, was rising. The temperature was in the high 20s. My route was almost entirely ridable. The pedestrian signal at Lake Otis and O'Malley was working again.

The most nerve-wracking part of my ride was upon me. The short stretch on Huffman Road between Gregory and Huffman Park Drive, then the shop. I had a clear shot with a green light, keeping just left of the soft snow off to my right. I was in the traffic lane, because I am traffic.

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A car passed me just before the underpass, getting very close. We got to the next light at the same time, me in the right lane, him in the left. That's when he powered down his window and yelled at me, asking why I hadn't moved over. He answered his question by calling me a f*ing idiot. Then he kept yelling until the light turned green and he sped off. I pulled off my mitten with my teeth and flashed him a peace sign. I tried to find him after he pulled into the business park. No luck but my adrenaline was going.

I was working on what to say, and kept thinking about it as I let myself into the store. Now, every one of us has those days when we say something that we wish we could take back or rephrase. And I've even yelled at people on my commute, usually to let them know I'm at an intersection they just rolled through... But on my commutes I've never experienced quite this level of verbal assault. Someone asked if it made me mad, but that's not the word for how I feel. Confounded. Shocked, saddened.

Just because this guy couldn't wait two seconds to get past me and had to try to tear me down with words, I've let him control many of my thoughts for the day. But it's reminded me that I should try to remember that every person I encounter has other things on their mind; other things going on in their life and I should try to be patient with them. Because I don't want to be that guy.

What if I'd found him? All I had wanted was a chance to say "peace on earth; goodwill to all."