Thursday, October 29, 2009

how to describe

I've been trying to write an essay about some experiences I've had biking the Lost Lake Trail, particularly the first and most recent times I rode it. It's been tough putting in the details of the story and I'm not quite sure why, but sometimes when I shift into the essay form my writing can get stiff and too factual, less descriptive and visceral. Then on Wednesday, as the concrete workers in the garage below me scraped and dragged their floats and trowels against the drying concrete I remembered a few moments along the trail.

 looking back at Lost Lake and smoke from forest fires

How can I describe
emerging from a sweaty climb
where I've pedaled my bicycle
so slowly on the needle-covered trail
that I am no longer outrunning the mosquitoes
and biting flies
that I thought were done tormenting us
for the season,
emerging through a break in the trees
to a cut bank
where the trail curves around a knoll
to feel the breeze that has traveled from the ocean
into the gulf and up the bay, over a mountain pass
until it washes over me and dries my sweat?

And how can I describe
the moment I witness
the trail winding and dipping before me,
disappearing over a hillock
only to emerge beyond a tarn
as it draws a line along
and over and between
the contours of the high pass?

And how can I describe to you
the relief of removing my
salt-stained jersey,
shorts, bra and socks
before stepping precariously
over rocks unexpectedly smooth
or sharp
to ease myself gently
into one of those tarns
perfectly warmed by the long summer days' sun,
one inch at a time,
water over ankles, calves, knees, thighs,
until plunging under?

Then to surface,
feel the breeze raise bumps across
my skin before I sink,
water washing over my shoulders
water surrounding me,
as I tilt back my head
into the cooling, still water
clear water left over from winter's snow
spring melt
mixed with sweet rainwater?

How can I describe this to you?

Monday, October 26, 2009

bicycle friendly anchorage

The news that Anchorage has earned the title, Bicycle Friendly Community (at the bronze level) from the League of American Bicyclists and is the northernmost city to do so was announced in the local paper over the weekend. I received an email about it the day before and it got me wondering, beyond the recognition, what does it mean to live in a bicycle-friendly community?

Anchorage got the award because of the work of several groups, including the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage (BCA) and the Alaska Injury Prevention Center which have led education campaigns in the local schools, held bike rodeos and offered clinics to share cycling tips with commuters. Maybe you've seen the PSA the Injury Prevention Center has run on local t.v. stations.

The Municipality has also been working on a Bicycle Plan to identify ways to design better roads for cycling/utility commuters and designate specific routes as bike routes. I've participated in planning meetings and it's been a slow process, but the result should be a blueprint for road designs that include more bike lanes and better signage - part of the educational component. The tough part of helping work on a planning document is watching new roads and intersections go in where the opportunity to build bicycle-friendly roads that will link us to existing routes has been passed up because of budgets or a lack of understanding of cycling and pedestrian issues. For example, mention roundabouts to some Anchorage-area cycling commuters and you will receive an earful about how the traffic designers have failed to understand the dynamics of bicycle commuting and continue to insist that we be relegated to the sidewalk whenever traveling through them.

Returning from a trip to the fancy bread store on Saturday.

Not all the ducks have flown south... yet.

Meanwhile, in thinking about what makes a bicycle-friendly community, my thoughts inevitably turn to my own cycling experiences and the stories I've heard or read from others. Cyclists getting hit by cars. Teens, adults. At intersections or along roadways. Intentional or accidental. I've heard lots of stories and it usually comes down to a few things that we, as bicycle drivers (a term used by the League), need to understand: people in cars don't see us, and when they do suddenly see us, they can become hostile. Why? Maybe it's because we've startled them.

I've told people for years the thing to remember when riding on the roads and streets or when crossing intersections is that you are invisible. Nobody sees you. When I approach an intersection, especially when riding on a multi-use path, even at a light where I have the walk signal, I assume the driver will not look for me and if they do make a cursory glance to the left and the right, they still will not see me. I'll approach slowly, sometimes yelling "Hey!" That's when they become startled and make their right turn on red to get away from the biker because I am scary and dangerous (hard to believe because I can also be charming). This is one reason I don't like riding on street-side multi-use paths: drivers don't stop at the intersection with the path; they stop - maybe - at the intersection with the cross street.

Lots of drivers don't even realize that some of the laws that cover cyclists on roads and paths have changed in recent years. In a recent letter to the editor, a writer said she thought cyclists were required to walk through intersections! That wording was, thankfully, removed from our vehicle code back in 2005 yet drivers continue to cite it as a reason for them not stopping and even hitting cyclists at intersections. While the letter-writer made a good point about cyclists not being visible enough, some of her assumptions are just wrong, like that we don't have the same rights as vehicles. In many places we do.

That's why bicycle drivers must understand that even though we have the right of way, that doesn't mean the automobile driver knows it. A friend of mine who bikes and also drives a motorcycle puts it bluntly when she mentions people not knowing the rules of the roads: "You may be right, buy you're dead right." Point taken. If motor vehicle drivers do know the rules, would they care? Many won't. But, some do.

They're the ones who slow down and stop when they see me, then wave me through the intersection before they pull through it to make their right turn. That reminds me of another letter in the paper from a road construction flagger. People were cursing at her for a road being closed when it wasn't closed the day before. I'm sure she felt a lot like a cyclist. She was impeding their flow; getting in their way; taking up space where they wanted to be, slowing them for a few minutes. But people are selfish and self-absorbed. All of us. Not just people in cars, but people on bikes, too.

We are important. We are superior because we're riding our bikes to work or the store. We've committed ourselves to a certain lifestyle. The driver is superior, too. They are driving the car they worked hard to buy and they pay for these roads and they are committed to their lifestyle. "Get a car!" they might yell. "Get off the road you f***ing idiot!" *Sigh* But I have a car at home that I worked hard to buy. It's almost five years old and has just over 18,000 miles on it and I try to only put gas into it once a month. I like to see how long I can go between refuels. When I do drive, I consolidate trips. Sometimes I feel like I'm banking fuel credits for vacations or local road trips. That's how I prioritize things. But they don't know that.

On my jaunt around town Saturday, I came across the street with my name!

The League, in one of their documents that helps teach safe commuting, points out that bicyclists are vulnerable: "We have the same rights as operators of vehicles but because we don't have the protection of a steel cage we are much more vulnerable when on the road. That means that we should be cautious how we exercise our rights in the face of overwhelming force." The first letter writer talked about rights but she didn't talk about responsibilities. Each of us, on foot, astride a bicycle, driving a motor vehicle has a responsibility to transport ourselves in a way such that we are aware of our surroundings and do everything we can to not injure ourselves or others. Hopefully we don't leave people cursing in our wake. If we can go through a busy intersection with a wave, a nod and a smile then I'll call Anchorage a bicycle-friendly community. Our citizens have a long way to go.

As a parting thought, in the context of awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama with optimism for what he hopes to accomplish, I'll accept that Anchorage could be a bicycle friendly community if its citizens wanted it to be so.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

not so bold

Just over five years ago, I was staying at Across the Bay Tent-and-Breakfast across Kachemak Bay from Homer. The first afternoon there, some of us were walking along a rocky tidal zone looking at rocks and sea life when a small plane glided down and landed between the shore and a home just down the beach. When the plane took off again, I watched as the pilot accelerated, then gently rose up into the sky. It was so graceful and looked so easy. It didn't look scary at all and at that moment a part of me wanted to be inside the plane.

Frosty leaves and clover

Our friend Scott has been a pilot for many years. We met several years ago when he was shopping for a new bicycle. Over the years we've talked bikes, commuting, clothes (I talked him into trying wool) and flying. He was the first one to share with me the saying: "There are old pilots and bold pilots but there are no old, bold pilots." For as long as I've known him, Scott has invited me to go flying in his small (4-seater, I think) 1983 Maule airplane. He's offered to do gear drops on the Resurrection Trail, invited Jon and me to fly to a wilderness lake with our bicycles for some remote winter cycling. He loves flying and wants to share it. But sometimes his visits to the shop seemed to correspond closely with recent small-plane crashes. I would bring up a crash and he would explain what had been done wrong. The conditions that contributed. Wind, route choice, pilot as spotter. Mistakes that should have been avoided. For all these years I've avoided getting into a small plane.

View Larger Map
This past Saturday, Scott stopped by the shop and Jon suggested he call me at home. The weather has been unusually beautiful this October and he was planning a short trip to Talkeetna with a brief stop at Willow on the return trip. I thought about it. I tried to not think about it. I hemmed and hawed until it was stressing me out, but I told him I'd let him know in the morning. A plane had crashed in Denali just a few days before. I couldn’t help but think about that. When Jon got home later in the evening I told him I wasn't going. The house remodel is enough stress, I told Jon. I didn't need the added stress of something I saw as completely frivolous; a joyride. This was no time to test my nerves.

The plane, affectionately named "Baby," parked at Lake Hood.

So, when Scott called Sunday morning to see if I was going to go flying, I calmly asked, "What time?" Jon stood in the bedroom looking at me but he didn’t ask what changed my mind. I'm not sure exactly what changed my mind, but one rule I try to follow is this: Don't make decisions at the end of the day. That's why the term "sleep on it" exists. Because we make better decisions after a night's rest. Our heads are clear and it’s easier to be reasonable. I guess Sunday seemed as good a day as any to finally put this fear, this hurdle, behind me. Like the remodel, do it before another winter sets in.

 Okay, I'm ready as I'll ever be!

Jon couldn't join us on the little jaunt so Scott asked if I wanted to bring anyone along, for moral support. I didn't feel like calling anyone, especially on such short notice, but there was more to it than that, as I’ll explain later.

 Lake Hood and the Chugach Mountains.

When we took off from Anchorage, from one of the big runways at the international airport, I mostly felt alright. Scott explained the process and why we were taking off at the big runway instead of the small gravel strip near the float plane lake - for a smoother takeoff. We quickly rose above the houses and trees, gaining altitude as we headed north across the water.

 If we had a Bridge to Nowhere, it would span that narrow part of Knik Arm.

We flew over ponds and lakes, rivers and bogs. Cabins, roads and trails. I tried to relax, taking photos and enjoying the view from the small seat, my arm against the door. Just a few miles from Willow, we hit a little turbulence. For a pilot, it would be nothing. For me, it was "can we just go to Willow today?" so Scott changed our course. We'd be on the ground in five minutes, he said over the intercom. Then the air settled down, the plane stopped its slight bounce and I felt like I'd wimped out. "We can go to Talkeetna," I said. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to make it to our destination. Scott again modified the course ever so slightly and we continued north.

Pilot Scott Christy flying the Maule called "Baby"

The sky remained clear and blue. The mountains were in view as we got closer to Denali and the surrounding peaks of Denali National Park and Preserve. Scott briefly explained how winds will come down every valley. How the heating ground can cause turbulence when it meets the higher, cooler air. He made radio contact with Talkeetna and soon we touched down on the paved strip in the small town that is the jumping-off point for flight-seeing and mountain climbing on Denali. After anchoring the plane and having a short visit with the air traffic controller, we strolled toward town for lunch and to collect spruce cones* while I told Scott my rule about not making decisions late in the day. I’d had time to think as we flew, so I also shared with him some of the ideas I had about my relationship with, my reactions to, fear.

When I'm afraid of something, I don't want to talk about it. Maybe it's because some of my fears don't seem rational to other people and talking about them with non-fearful people can be embarrassing and hard to articulate. Any pilot you talk to about a fear of flying will tell you that you have a better chance of getting hurt in a car accident or a train ride than in a small plane. Scott had told me I had a greater chance of getting hurt while riding my bicycle in Anchorage and that probably is statistically true. But facts and figures mean nothing when you are the one something happens to.

That morning as Jon left for work and I was leaving to go fly, I told him that if anything happened, be sure to say: "she did not die doing what she loved! She wanted to live to be 100. She died doing something that really scared her!" Then I added: "And you better put that in my obituary." I would never say that before hopping on my bike or driving off in my car. But that is my level of fear. (I'll admit I've had similar thoughts when flying on commercial jets.)

Besides not wanting to talk about my fears, I don't want people to witness my fears. I told Scott that when he said I could bring someone for moral support, I thought only briefly about it but didn't want anyone else along because overcoming this was something I had to do on my own, without a crutch or an arm to squeeze. Thinking about it later, I realized that I don't want someone who's perfectly comfortable doing something checking in on me all the time to see how I'm doing while saying "this isn't so bad, is it?" I mean, that's what parents say when they force you to eat something you don't like or take you to get shots. I guess I prefer facing my fears without witnesses asking me if I'm doing okay. I want to go it alone - just me and my head full of thoughts. I’m the same way on my mountain bike and have seen this in customers who haven’t ridden bicycles in years: we don’t want to have any witnesses to our nervousness or failures, but when we succeed, we are happy to report back that we did it.

Denali and Foraker, under the wing, on the return flight.

After lunch, a stroll around town and a stop at the Talkeetna cemetery, we took off to the north so we could bank left and get a good view of Denali as we turned to the south. Soon we were landing on the gravel landing strip in Willow. With tundra tires it wasn’t that rough, kind of like my fat tires on the snow bike. We strolled around the perimeter of the strip, looked at other planes and searched for elusive spruce cones*. We waited for another pilot to do a touch-and-go, then took off for the final leg home.

Talkeetna cemetery where propellers mark some pilots' graves.

As we were flying back toward Anchorage, my thoughts briefly turned to the trips I’ve wanted to take but that I’ve not done because they require getting in a small plane, much like the little Maule we were flying in. A backcountry trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Gates of the Arctic; Lake Clark and Katmai. I started thinking of visiting these places. The small plane opens up so much more territory. So many places in Alaska are just not accessible to people who don’t like to fly in small planes. I don’t want to be afraid and I suppose I was ready to take this step; it just took the right timing, a persistent friend and the ability to trust the pilot. It was a big leap for me. That doesn't mean it won't still make me nervous. And I will need my distractions, especially for the landings.

Fire Island

Our fair city

On the approach back to Anchorage, as we again crossed the waters of Knik Arm, I put the camera on film mode and started shooting. I held the camera steady as I shot the view of Fire Island to the west, then the city to the east. I kept filming as we descended over the Coastal Trail, past Wisconsin Street, Spenard Road, then banked right as we got closer and closer to Lake Hood. That was when I thought: he remembers he took his floats off, I hope. Then beyond the lake, across a road I saw the small dirt landing strip. A car drove by. Our nose centered before the runway as we glided lower and lower until the big tires touched the ground. Once again I was home on the sweet, sweet earth!

Setting a course for home.

*About those spruce cones, Scott is a guest lecturer in a biology class at UAA and collects spruce cones from around the state which he then has the students measure and plot on a map/graph. He needs enough intact cones from each region for a good comparison but I imagine people near the airstrip in Willow were wondering where we were going with that grocery bag when we parked the plane and went searching for cones.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


When I was trying to write an essay in McCarthy in August, I had to get outdoors by myself to think. Just down the hill from the old hardware store the river was flowing fast. I was drawn to the rocky shore where I discovered someone had placed stones to look like a Mr Potato Head. It inspired me to begin stacking rocks.

sorry... can't get mr rock-head to rotate

Rock stacks can be trail markers, cairns to help you find your way. They can be joined by mortar to make a fireplace and chimney to warm a home. A wall, holding things in or keeping creatures out. They can be art. A process. A meditation. Before I started stacking the rocks, I selected some that were flat, some that were rounded. They had to all work together.

And when I started stacking these rocks out on the creek bank in McCarthy, I began thinking about my house. I thought of my sloping floor and about how things need a solid foundation. If a foundation isn't sound, it doesn't matter what goes next, the structure will eventually fail. My tower was somewhat precarious, and a more skilled rock stacker would have made an arc. Instead, mine reminded me of a temple, with a shelf for leaving offerings of smaller rocks. I talked for a bit with a passerby, then returned to the hardware store, my notebook & pen and the various activities in each room.

I returned to my rock stack a couple hours later. The water had risen with the day's rain. It was still standing. I thought it was because I'd built it well. But by the end of the evening it had been toppled by the rising water and I imagined the rocks tumbling downstream in the silt and mud-filled torrent.

Just over a month later, Jon and I learned that part of our foundation needed to be replaced. The concrete blocks under the front of our garage had deteriorated to the point of not even being recognizable as blocks.  It was unexpected and set us back several days, but when we started the process of expanding the garage and fixing the rift in our floor, our contractor mentioned there would be surprises. This is just one of them. We told him to do what it would take to make it good; to make it last. We expect to be here for awhile.

missing block & sunken concrete

Jon applies sealer to the concrete.

days like these: contrast

On Monday, my friend Maggi coaxed me out of my house for a bike ride. I'd already gone on a short run earlier in the day and was just sitting down for a little lunch and planning to do all sorts of productive things. It was sunny and in the 50s, one of those days where if it was September we'd say, "There aren't many of these left." But it's the middle of October, usually one of the wettest, coldest, and most get-me-a-ticket-to-somewhere months there is in Alaska.

So I ate half my lunch, changed into my biking gear and pedaled to the trailhead. No clouds in the sky. No wind. No icy spots lurking under the slowly-rotting leaves. While waiting for Maggi, a reporter with her cameraman from a local TV station showed up and asked if I use the park much. Then she said the Rover's Run trail was officially opened that day. Oops. I rode it just over a week earlier when I noticed the barriers were gone. After all, it is October. After giving them my opinions, Maggi and I were ready to get going.

We decided that since Rover's was officially open, what the hell, we should ride it. I was glad I remembered my fenders because, as expected, the trail was littered with mud holes and slippery spots. Unlike last time I was on it, there was no ice. We hit the STA trails, which, also as expected, were well-drained and not muddy, before dropping back down to the Campbell Tract via some wider ski trails, the Tour and Lynx trails.

Good thing Maggi called me. Sure, I was getting ideas about a quilt after having visited the Earth, Fire and Fibre exhibit at the museum with my sister. And I still needed to get my comments in on the Chugach State Park trail management plan. And I still needed to remove the license plate from my car and bend it back into shape after someone backed into me last week at the film fest. But those can wait until foggy, rainy days like today. Making a big loop around the park on a sunny day in October with a friend who loves being on her bike, you just shouldn't turn down an invitation like that.

around 40 & falling apart...

Now, with rain falling and work on the house done for the day, I can finally think. It's our second day where the power for the upstairs, the main living area, is fed by two extension cords from the downstairs; and the kitchen sink drain awaits a new, non-rusted-through pipe. A day where Jon has just ordered our new doors and the third & final support header has been hoisted into place. Each day I can watch the progress and each day we are one step closer to having a level floor and solid walls that will keep out the winter chill. Each day I'm relieved that the temperatures aren't dipping too low and when the crew comments about the rain, I remind them it's not snow. Then we talk for a moment about how unusual it is and I realize it's the least depressing October I can remember, aside from the ones when I've had a ticket out of here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

muscle memory

When I was in middle and high school, I played in the school band and in some ensembles. Sometimes, amidst the cacophony of a piece, I could hardly hear myself among the other French horns, the trumpets, trombones, timpani & all the other instruments in the room. It hardly seemed important that I entered at the right time or even if I played at all. At other times, during quiet pieces, it was much more noticeable if I missed my cue. I had to pay attention.

When I became a high school junior, I moved from third to first chair, not because I had improved that much but because the two people above me had graduated and I was "it." I remember Mr. Ebbers, the band director, telling me that he was depending on me. He also assured me that I was ready for the position. That I could do it. Of all the teachers, Mr. Ebbers was the one who I most did not want to disappoint. Not only was band the only class where I had individual instruction, it was also where I felt most at ease and most competent. Even important.

By the time I was a senior, I had earned my first chair. I had tried to be good about practicing in my free time, but of course, one can always do more. I did know that people depended on me, so I certainly worked at it. By the time I graduated, I thought I would major in music. Several years later, I settled on English as my major and, sadly, I was no longer the French horn player I had been.

You have to practice to keep good at anything. Certain muscles have to be used repeatedly so they stay limber and remember what to do. A few years ago I took up the mandolin, and though I'd not played my horn in ages, my brain saw the fingerings on the frets as valves on my horn. It was very strange the way the instruments began overlapping in my mind and it took awhile to learn to think in different keys and to think in strings. But I loved the sound of it as I played each string and tried to play songs from memory. I haven't played much lately, but just thinking about it makes me think it's time to get those callouses going again.

Playing a musical instrument, biking, knitting, writing. They all take practice and they all take thinking. But some of the best moments can come not when I'm trying to think something through, but when I just let something happen. Like when I realize the notes I've just played make up the phrase of an old Beatles tune, or when my mind drifts and suddenly I'm farther down the trail than I thought. Or when one word or idea brings on a wave of clarity I had not anticipated when I first touched my fingers to the keyboard or placed my pen on a blank sheet of paper. Sometimes, we have to not worry about thinking and just feel.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

stupid human tricks

It’s Sunday evening and on the third day after David Letterman announced to his audience that he’d had affairs with women on his staff, not one of my Facebook-using friends has mentioned the would-be scandal. And I say “would-be” because unlike the people he has included in his jokes and monologues over the years, he approached the revelation differently. He admitted he’d had sex.

And that is where the departure began in his approach to what sounds like a stress-filled month where the former boyfriend of one of the staffers with whom he’d had an affair tried to blackmail him for (cue Dr. Evil) two million dollars in exchange for the man not writing a book or movie about the liaisons.

Letterman, on Thursday night’s show, took matters into his own hands before the rest of the media and critics could even begin speculating. He avoided the awkward wife-by-his-side denials that have plagued politicians over the last several years.

He did not claim that he did not have sex with that woman. He didn’t proclaim to have a wide stance or a sudden urge to hike the Appalachian Trail. He did not run away to sex-addiction therapy. He didn’t deny and then admit. He self-effacingly told the audience that, difficult as it was to believe, he’d had sex and that when the truth came out it would be embarrassing for the women. I bet.

I’ll admit, in the late night television battles (from which I weaned myself when the digital revolution happened this summer) I was always a Letterman person. Yes, he can be annoying. But his Midwestern style of delivery won me over. I’m even old enough to remember when he had a daytime show. So I'm speaking here as someone who kind of likes the guy as a TV personality. Still.

Cheating on a partner when you’re in a committed relationship, whether married or not, is detestable. (I know, some people have open relationships & that’s another story.) Lying about it when questioned directly takes it to a level where I lose much of my remaining respect for a person. Their road to redemption in my eyes will be mighty long. But this guy did something detestable, then he told the truth about it. My brain doesn’t quite know where to file this. But that doesn’t really matter.

What matters is what his wife thinks, what his bosses think and what the women involved think. As for me, now that the Ken Burns National Parks documentary is over, I’m going to unhook the digital converter box and go back to watching You Tube.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

do overs

a sweet ride - my Trance Advanced

I don't like do-overs. I mentioned this in September after I again failed to make a little right-hand switchback that's been taunting me all summer.

On Friday, with the framers busy working on the house, the nail guns and power saws making too much noise for me to think, I let the sunny fall day draw me to the park. Each day, more leaves have been falling to the ground with the mere suggestion of a breeze, covering stretches of the trails and opening up more views of the mountains. I pedaled toward the STA trails.

Now that October is here, the barriers which gave Rover's Run Trail to the bears for the summer have been removed. The gently-climbing trail that follows the Campbell Creek was closed in late May, before it could be opened for the dirt season. Last time I rode Rover's there was probably snow on the ground. Yesterday, some of its puddles had a film of ice no thicker than the caramelized crust on a creme brulee and my tires shattered a path through the ice with similar satisfaction to a spoon on the sweet crust. The trail surface was often leaf-covered and alternated from frozen to a half-inch slick of mud to eight-inch deep puddles. I rode on, over to the STA trails.

check out the new trail signs!

As I began up Drone Lane, I could hear the slimy mud as the tires lifted it off the frozen, hard-packed trail. It's the gooey time of year. I saw ahead my nemesis. I shifted into the gear I thought would be best for the switchback: 1 and 4. I pedaled up, began turning right and stalled.

Okay, I thought to myself. If there is ever a time for do-overs it is now. After all, the riders and bicycles I began seeing coming down the trail were covered with mud from the fast, splattering descent and I had forgotten to install my fenders. So I turned around and rode down, then rode up again. And stalled again. And again.

what color's that bike!?

it looks so easy from here!

What was the problem? I was in the right gear, I just couldn't turn tight enough to make it. Maybe, I thought, I can try again, but this time I decided that if I ended up riding into the ditch on the uphill side of the corner, that would be okay. It's not a deep ditch and I was certainly not going to be riding fast. I rode down again to a small level spot where I was staging the attempts. I rode up and, as expected, ended up in the ditch. Two more tries and I was in the ditch but managed to pedal out. I had to think this through some more.

Next time I climbed, I looked at a birch tree ahead of me, on the outside of the turn. Last winter Randy, one of the STA volunteers, had installed a reflector on it to help mark the trail for night riding. I decided that if I was to make this climb, I needed to veer a bit more to the left before cutting sharply to the right. I aimed for the tree, then turned my bar right, looking up the trail, trying to keep from dropping into the ditch. I rode around the apex, then along the edge and up a few more feet of Drone Lane. I could have kept going. But like a musician who finally plays a complicated phrase, I decided to do it again.
aim for the larger birch, then cut to the right!
(I see flagging - maybe soon we'll fix the grade
where things sloughed a bit...)

And again, and again. I tried to make a tighter turn each time. I must have ridden up and down that stretch a couple dozen times, but I wanted to know that the next time I ride that trail I'm going to know the line just like I know where the letters are on my keyboard. I wanted to know that next time I won't have to think about it as much. That I'll be able to aim the bike and it will know how to make that turn.

Through the process, I remembered my friend Lori joking a few weeks ago when I'd made a tough climb pulling my fully-loaded BOB trailer that I'd shown that hill who was boss (though she used a term I wouldn't use on a family blog). I decided on this corner that rather than dominating it, I had to communicate with it. Talk my way through the impasse until we came to an understanding. Now, I understand that tight bend in the trail. I've made friends with it. We're going to get along just fine.

When I got home, they had begun framing
the new front entrance.