Lately, newspaper mentioned cheap airfare.
I've got to fly to Saint Somewhere.
I'm close to bodily harm. ...
This morning I shot six holes in my freezer.
I think I've got cabin fever.
Somebody sound the alarm.
—"Boat Drinks", by Jimmy Buffett
April 15. Is there any day more loathed by the average American? Yesterday I had to mail Uncle Sam a check that could have paid for a couple of really nice new bikes. Instead, Dubya gets to piss my money down a bottomless hole.
But I'm not bitter because it's April 15.
I'm bitter because it's April 15 and it's snowing. Again.
Mother Nature—that bitch—has pushed the "pause" button on my bike life. I'm spinning on the trainer while working my way through the latest cheesy remake of King Kong (hey, I'm desperate and, besides, I'll try almost any flick that has Jack Black in it), and reading bike forums online.
One of the things I've noticed about Alaska-specific bike forums is that people from other states like to post questions and pick the brains of people who ride in a lot of cold, snowy weather—and I mean a lot of cold, snowy weather. Like the kind that lasts until April Freaking 15th. But I digress.
Anyway, these people want tips on clothing, footwear, studded tires, cold-weather lubes, etc. This time of year, those who are planning to visit this summer want advice on where to ride and which shops to use. And that's all fine. Happy to help.
But occasionally, we get questions like, "Dude, I'm comin' up to AK this summer! Any downhill/freeride parks up there?"
I always want to respond, "Dude! No! Thank god!"
I don't, of course. Not because doing so would be rude, but because I'm an athiest and it would be sort of hypocritical to thank a god. I'm also a middle-aged guy who has no business using words like "Dude!"
My point? Yeah, I have one, damn it, but I'm taking my time. Why not? It's snowing! What else have I got to do? My point is ... shit, what was it?
Oh, yeah. My point is that I don't understand the whole downhill/freeride thing. See a few years back, a bunch of guys (screw what Gary Fisher says, it was a bunch of guys) figured out how to build these wonderful, multi-geared bikes that would go up and down all sorts of fun terrain. And it was fun.
I think mountain biking is about sweat, dirt, pretty scenery, tight singletrack, quiet forests, shootin' the shit with your friends, covering lots of ground and seeing lots of country without having to blister your feet during days of beer-free backpacking.
Downhillers seem to think mountain biking is about obese bikes, body armor, unnatural trail features, scarred hillsides and rides on chairlifts. I don't see the appeal.
I once tried an afternoon of riding at a ski area when they first opened their chairlifts to mountain bikers, and it made me feel lazy. It felt wrong. The only real exercise I got was squeezing the brake levers to avoid killing the newbies in Nikes and cotton T-shirts who thought it was OK to stop and chat in the middle of the trail on high-speed corners.
I guess it's a good thing that downhillers are on bikes instead of motorcycles but, except for the noise, it's sometimes hard to see much difference at first glance.
Maybe I'll be less cranky when the snow finally stops.
But I doubt it.