Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I started this post a few days ago, with the hope that the situation would improve allowing me to delete it. Today is March 31st, the end of a dismal month... thanks for checking in... and thanks for shopping locally.

If news reports and financial statements are keeping people from shopping, that would explain an awful lot. With just a few days left in March, things at the shop have been pretty slow. Here's a typical March: Have we hired the spring help yet? OK, then, are they trained? Ooh, no. Well, they'll learn by listening and then thrown 'em to to wolves... er, customers. I need a day off. Can I just get one day off and I'll be good as new!? Oh, crap. Another shipment to check in. We'll have to work late to get all this cleaned up! Are we out of those already?

Here's this March: Well, people are applying. Wanna hire some? Probably should so we're ready for April. OK, I'm just gonna push back this order to receive it in May instead of April. Sheesh, where is everybody? I mean, the Tour (of Anchorage ski race) has happened and I know the snow riding is good, but not many people do that. Man, this is the slowest March ever, even compared to our first one open! How is it that the parking lot is still packed with people eating at the Bistro yet we're dead. If they're busy, the economy must be ok, right? Boy, when this season hits, it's going to be just nuts!

Yep. Welcome to your 2009 recession. The gas prices aren't high enough to push people into the shop yet for commuting bikes. The sunny weather and warm temperatures haven't quite shown up, nor have the spring tune-ups that usually kick in about now. And, did I mention, there's a volcano blowing its top across the inlet?

The stress of the typical busy March has been replaced by a twitch in my eye as I worry that business won't pick up and maybe the tough times are hitting Anchorage. On the other hand, maybe it's just a slow start and as soon as things warm up we'll be a bee-hive of activity, getting all sorts of people out on their bikes for what is predicted to be a lovely Alaskan summer. If the ash stays away.

Time will tell, right?
Don't worry, little roadie, you'll go home with someone real soon!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Six inches of powdery-fresh snow last night gave us a dense pack on the ground by midday. Jon got a lift from me into work this morning, having made the decision to go for a ride on the way home. Once home, he described to me the various trail conditions, from plowed pathways to untrammeled trails in the park.

Climbing, he said, was a futile endeavor. After the great conditions we've had for the last couple weeks, he'd forgotten how hard it sometimes is to pedal the somewhat heavier winter bike when the snow is fresh. Upon hearing this, I rushed to the refrigerator to retrieve a slip of paper containing a Bob Roll quote from one of the Tours de France. It was gone, no doubt the victim of ambitious spring cleaning. But we remembered it well as Bob described another pro cyclist's attempt to beat Lance up the mountains: the guy had "hope-induced amnesia."

We've all had it at one point, haven't we?

kitty never forgets how to get out of a tree.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


fat tires on a skinny trail

As I write this, I'm looking out my living room window at snow falling, softening the lines on the birch and pine trees in the neighborhood. It's so unlike the rest of the week when Anchorageites were searching for their sunglasses and trying to get out into the 20- to 30-degree spring conditions while they could. Because, as we know, if we wait until tomorrow to do something, the conditions will change.

Changing conditions are exactly why I'm here in my living room instead of hiking in the front range mountains that border Anchorage. This morning, Jon and I each put a change of clothes in the car in preparation for a post-work hike, but as the day wrapped up and I looked at the cloudy skies and the post office flags flapping in the breeze, I was starting to back out. I wanted to hike in the sun and the morning had almost promised me sun. By the time we were ready to leave, the mountain view was obscured, a sure sign it was snowing up high. Not this evening, he agreed.

Now the snow is freshening the trails where I've experienced probably one of the best weeks of mountain biking I'll have this year. In the last eight days, I was out there four different times riding the hard-packed snow trails, their singletrack defined, weaving among the trees and tussocks. It was a week where I felt physically strong as I resisted downshifting for some of the little hills. Where I rode things that challenged me to stay on the narrow sweet-spot when I could see that other fat tires before me had swept off the curvy trail into the soft snow before regaining control. Where I challenged myself to limit my dabs.

While a part of me is itching for a long road bike ride on the pavement, another part of me keeps saying these are the best conditions of the season, the equivalent to a powder day for a skier. They make me want to ride hard, then rest in a sunny meadow. To watch the ravens arguing with a hawk. Even to smile at the skiers as they watch me emerge from a singletrack they hadn't noticed before. March conditions could last three months and I'd be ok with it, as long as it was sunny.

Jon on the trail with many names (speedway, re-gen, area 51, are there more?)

Friday, March 6, 2009

my ultrasport

this deep and then some all the way home!

Thursday evening was no 350-mile ride to McGrath, but as I steered my bike onto Huffman road, the wind blew needles of icy snow into my face. Hard to see; hard to keep moving in a straight line, I thought about turning around and calling for a rescue ride home. No, I told myself. Just get up the hill to Gregory Street, off the main road before making that decision.

I thought about the people out on the Iditarod trail, trudging, pedaling and skiing through worse conditions. Then I did what I don't often do: I got off the road and pushed my bike along the path which had begun to drift over. When I had called home earlier in the evening, Jon said there was no wind at our house on the east side, but the flags across the street at the Post Office told another story. Now I was feeling the storm's power as I turned my head to my left shoulder to keep the stinging snow out of my face.

Each phase of the nine-mile commute had its own character: busy neighborhood streets were packed down and easy to ride; quieter streets, a little sketchy. The paths on Lake Otis and Elmore had about three inches of fresh snow and drifts on the edges but were entirely rideable because of how well they've been maintained all winter. In the park, my SnowCats and 2.3 studs nestled into fresh Endomorph tracks as I pedaled up the Moose Track Trail.

Happiness comes in simple ways on this kind of commute: when it wasn't a crosswind, it was a tailwind; the light at Tudor Road turned green just for me; and despite all the snow piled above my bottom bracket, I was able to shift into my granny gear for the final climb to our house where Jon and Kitty greeted me.

thank you, granny gear, for working when I needed you...
- at home in the driveway

I doubt you'll find my name on a race roster for a winter event like the Ultrasport or even the Susitna 100. But the racers who challenge themselves gave me inspiration to ride in blustery conditions and to get off and walk when I had to. Thanks.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I like bread. Good, crusty bread that soaks up salad dressing and pasta sauces. Bread for French toast. Bread that leaves crumbs on my plate. Bread to go with soup and a few chunks of cheese.

Years ago, I became acquainted with the chief ranger from the Chugach State Park. I didn't have a permit for a group ride so Jerry left a message on my answering machine. Oh, man, was I in trouble! He was all business, I thought, so I'd better meet with him right away. During the meeting, which I had nervously anticipated, I discovered he wasn't that bad after all. And over the years, I realized he was a good guy who loved the outdoors. When he retired from his job, I also found out he loves to bake. Bread. Good bread.

So, Jerry went to baking school with plans to open a bake shop with his wife right here in Anchorage. Shortly before the election last November, I saw him at a campaign office. The bakery is coming along, he told me. In January, I stopped by the location. Ovens were being installed. Tables would line the south-facing windows. Soon, he told me. Soon.

While I was out of town, the emails started coming in. Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop was open, the free-trade coffee was brewing. Sandwiches were made. Last Friday, Jon and I headed downtown to 14th & G for a taste of the croissants - whole wheat - and for some crusty, European-style bread. Did I mention that I like bread? If you like bread, you should make a special trip to get some. And if you have a passion, you should follow it, even if it takes awhile to get there.

Congratulations Jerry & Janis on your new bake shop!