Monday, November 30, 2009

Lightin' up

I was walking through the office this afternoon when I asked a woman about the red Christmas lights she had strung along the top of cubicle walls near her desk.

"You don't like them, do you?" she replied.

Damn. Shun a little holiday silliness here and there, and next thing you know, you're labeled a curmudgeon. I explained to her that not only did I like her flippin' lights, I have some pretty cool ones on my bike, too.

Not being superstitious, I'm not into the whole Christianity thing that's so prevalent this time of year but, hey, we're deep into an Alaska winter. It's dark out there. We had only 6 hours and 9 minutes of daylight today—a loss of nearly four minutes over the previous day. And we'll keep losing light for another month before we bottom out.

A few extra lights on the bike make commuting in the darkness a bit nicer, and make me a little more visible to motorists in the process. Even if they dent my curmudgeonly image.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

He meant to do that

"I meant to do that."
—Pee Wee Herman, to the boys who saw him
wreck his bike in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure."

"Hey, get a shot of this," Leonard said as he eased his bike up to the edge of a steep drop into a snow-covered boulder field this afternoon. The only thing missing that would have made it a classic redneck disaster setup was, "Hold my beer."

I snapped a photo as he quickly put both feet on the pedals to complete the shot.

Then he started rolling, and there was no turning back. My first thought was of broken bones or shattered teeth, and how we'd deal with that at Eklutna Lake, where we were several miles from the parking lot, and very alone. We hadn't seen anyone on the trail for hours.

When he hit the narrow beach, my thoughts shifted to the very strong possibility he was going swimming—at 20 degrees Fahrenheit—and how we'd warm him up in the middle of nowhere.

Just as I yelled, "BAIL! BAIL!" he skillfully stopped at the water's edge. When he got back to the trail, Leonard swore he did it all on purpose.

All I know is that it was either a ballsy stunt, one hell of a survival ride. Whatever. I declined his invation to try it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Retreat

The Lollipop Girls in their colorful jackets.

Changing plans at the last minute has never been my strong suit, but sometimes it just has to be done. Today’s ride was planned for Powerline, but things started looking grim as I drove up Toilsome Hill. The trees were starting to lean, and snow snakes were blowing across the road.

A skier in the parking lot at Glen Alps told me she had abandoned her outing because “the wind was blowing me all over the place.” It was time to punt. Between cell-phone calls and on-road interceptions, we re-routed four cars to the lower Hillside, where the trails were firm, the winds were calm and the temp was an ideal 18 degrees.

It was an all-fat-bike ride, including Julie’s freshly built Pugsley. Something tells me that girl’s gonna be smiling all winter.

It was a great daytime snow ride. And it came just in time, because the weather guys say ...

Monday: Highs in the mid 30s to lower 40s. Northeast wind 10 to 15 mph except east wind increasing to 45 to 60 mph along turnagain arm and higher elevations with possible gusts to 80 mph by mid-morning.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cold, hard data

I was thinking ahead to tonight’s cold ride when I came across this 1920s-era image of two men in Washington, D.C., reading the weather report from a government kiosk in a park across the street from the Washington Post building.

Old photographs are great for illustrating how things have changed, especially in the area of information technology. Back in the day, everyone knew that weather observations and forecasts were at least several hours old before the public got access to them.

When I want to check the weather before a ride, I just click a button and get temperatures that are updated every five minutes from points all over Anchorage. And I don’t rely on a forecast that’s 8 or 10 hours old; I watch a web site that changes around the clock. For the real-time temperature on the trail, I check a digital thermometer that hangs from my handlebar.

All of these things are a great benefit when choosing clothing layers and the timing of a ride.

But when I know the ride will be taking me past the Campbell Creek Science Center—consistently the coldest spot in town on really frigid nights—I could do without the constant reminders that the temp is going to drop from zero to -10 along the Salmon Run trail.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I went for a trail ride Sunday night when the temperature was dipping below zero. I took no pictures because my camera died, and then showed no signs of life until it had been back in the house for 20 minutes.

The temperature is predicted to bottom out between zero and -15 during Tuesday night's ride.

Don't expect pictures.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Go Roll a Fat One

Yesterday’s winter storm blasted Anchorage with high winds, coated the streets in ice and rolled this snow wheel through my next-door neighbor’s yard. At 2 p.m., the snow outside my office window was blowing horizontally, so I’m still baffled by how any of it ended up on the ground. The weather was just nasty. It seemed like a great evening to go home and drink beer.

So, naturally, after the storm mellowed out a bit, I went for a night ride with The Grouch.

It was our first snow ride of the season, and the trails were empty. In most areas, ours were the only tire tracks in the loose, sugary snow. The trails are now covered and waiting for some Endogrooming. Another foot or two of snow should soon smooth out the roots and get the winter riding season fully under way, but there’s no reason to wait.

If you’ve got a fat bike, it’s time to get out in the snow. After all, in another five months or so, it’ll be gone.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All taped up with no place to go

When real life gets in the way and keeps you mostly off the bike for a few days, even a simple ride to work can be a genuine pleasure. I've been in one of those stretches lately. Squeezing in a quick commute qualifies as a success.

And now that the morning temps have dipped into the teens, I've realized just how efficient all those cooling vents are in my new helmet. I got a pretty good case of ice-cream headache this morning, and it's not even truly cold yet. At five below zero, it would be excruciating, so I had to break out the duct tape.

Come springtime, I'll probably need a bunch of Goo Gone to get all the tape gunk off my helmet's plastic shell, but it'll be worth it if a little wind blockage keeps me from feeling like someone's driving a railroad spike into my skull.

Now all I have to do is keep riding.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I sometimes wonder about the influence mountain biking has had on my life. I’ve never really socialized all that much with other people my age who are married with kids, because they tend to not ride much; most non-biking activities bore me; and my wife still has a hell of a time trying to figure me out.

And now I’ve spent this week looking at Halloween party pictures that friends and relatives have posted to Facebook. They all appear to have had a great time, and seem thrilled with their wild antics. I scan their photos and think to myself, “Hmm. Well, I guess that could have been fun.”

The problem is, I went to a party that involved two hours of riding in the dark, followed by a big fire, beer, partial nudity in sub-freezing weather, and an array of minor injuries. It was freakishly good time.

Maybe my perception of fun is warped, compared to that of most people.

Hmm. I guess I can live with that.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Borat on a bike

Hallo! My name is Borat. Welcome to my home.
Please to come with me and I
introduce you to my family and friends.

This is mah wife. Her face look like dis
all tha time because she love me so much!
She proud that I come to America
and have much success.

This is my sister, Jamina. She village slut.
She talk on phone and say to man,
“Please to take peekture of my vahjeen, yes?”

This is famous American president
Ronalda Raygun. Bad, bad man.
He ruin my home country. I spit on grave of his.

My cousin, Leo. He go to prison,
but home now. Always playing
with weiner, he is. That why he go to prison.

Meester Butt. My neighbor. My sister
spend much time with him and love
his nose very much. I try to learn why,
but she just smile and no talk.

My other neighbors. I feel not so good for them.
They never know women for to make sexy time.
Not even with my seester, Jamina. Always together,
these men, but they happy.

I must go now. Weather is cold and mah wife
very angry when I shrinkage. She say,
“Borat! Keep warm! I want sexy time!”