Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bike Friday

Photo courtesy of REI Anchorage's Facebook feed

Tomorrow is the final Friday of the month, and that means two things: 1) June is already over, which is happening way too quickly, and 2) it’s Bike Friday, so you can get free treats if you ride to work in Anchorage.

Leave a few minutes early and stop at one of these stations for a free cup of coffee, a muffin, or whatever. I hate coffee, so I usually stop just to thank the volunteers for supporting bike commuting.

Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage
Location: Tikishla Park (just east of the Lake Otis tunnel on Chester Creek).
Schedule: 6:45 to 8:45 AM
Description: Coffee and treats, of course!

Chain Reaction Cycles/REI/House of Bread
Location: Elmore and Abbott
Schedule: 6:30 AM to 8:30 AM
Description: If you happen to be in the area, stop by the Chain Reaction aid station at the corner of Elmore and Abbott. Treats courtesy of House of Bread. Our location will be open from 6:30am to 8:30am.

CRW Engineering Group CReW.
Location: Tudor and C St – northeast corner near the big red fish
Schedule: 6:30 to 8:30 AM
Description: Stop by for Coffee, Rolls and Water – and other treats to keep you fueled on your way to work. The station is sponsored by the CRW Engineering Group CReW. Kaladi Brothers provides the most excellent coffee.

Alaska Regional Hospital
Location: Glenn Highway Multi-use bike path at Muldoon intersection.
Schedule: 6:30 to 8:30 am.
Description: coffee, water, and snacks.

RIM Architects
Location: G and 9th at the Park Strip
Schedule: 6:45am – 8:45am
Description: coffee, water and various treats.

Greenstar / HSS
Location: Westchester Lagoon
Schedule: 6:30 to 9 AM
Description: Juice and treats courtesy of Greenstar.

ANTHC and Southcentral Foundation
Location: Corner of Elmore and Ambassador Drive
Schedule: 6:30 – 8:30 AM
Description: Stop on by for coffee and snacks courtesy of ANTHC and the Southcentral Foundation.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Home sweet home

Heather and Gina outside Girdwood on Saturday.

I love being passed by passenger trains while riding to Girdwood on a perfect summer day. The windows are filled with tourists who spent big money to come to Alaska and look around. Some have waited their whole lives for this.

And they’re diggin’ the same killer scenery my friends and I ride by all summer long. Every year.

I like how they unintentionally remind me that in a week or two, they’ll all be back in Barstow, Topeka, Tokyo or whatever. But we’ll still be here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

That's a Sinnotty attitude

I wish longtime Anchorage wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott had never retired, because when he was dealing with troublesome bears and moose, he was too busy to dabble in writing columns for a local news website.

As a writer, Sinnott makes a good biologist.

His anti-bike diatribe on the Alaska Dispatch site this week was a sorry piece of work. If you want to read it, you’ll have to look it up, because I won’t be linking to that lame little manifesto. It was an ineloquent rant by a guy who enjoys birding in his spare time and thinks anyone who rides a mountain bike on singletrack is a gonzo-crazed adrenalin junkie who doesn’t really value the outdoors. (We can’t all spend our weekends stalking yellow warblers.)

The column drips with sarcasm, and blames recent moose encounters on Singletrack Advocates for building a new Kincaid Park trail network that Sinnott describes as “a race track in the woods. A moose-begotten motocross.”

Sinnott can be forgiven for having a soft spot for big critters. In his old job, the guy killed enough bears and moose to get damn sick and tired of having to do it. Unfortunately, his usual response to any human/animal conflict became a predictable call for humans to stay away from wildlife habitat.

Sinnott’s advice always reminds me of the joke about the old man who went to the clinic and said, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” so his doctor simply replied, “Well, stop doing that.”

Staying out of wildlife habitat isn’t always practical for anyone who lives in Alaska and wants to hike, run or pedal a bike during our extremely short summers. Besides, moose encounters are nothing new at Kincaid. They didn’t start because Singletrack Advocates built some new trails. Ask any runner, Nordic skier or mountain biker who has used the park for a few years, and you’ll get an earful of stories about close calls

Thanks for your heartfelt criticism of our sport, Mr. Sinnott. And for the touching advice to make sure we have good health insurance policies.

Some of us will no doubt choose to avoid the park during certain parts of the season, while others of us will just keep taking our chances and being as careful as we can. We accept a certain amount of risk with animals just like we accept the risk of falling off our bikes, and the danger of car accidents while driving across town to the trailhead.

We’ll try to avoid trouble, but we won’t cower from it. If we wanted to do that, we’d sell our bikes and take up birding.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Simplicity? What's that?

I thought the concept for tonight’s ride was easy to understand: Street clothes, fat bikes, wine, slow speeds, and no destination. Just riding around. Like when we were kids (but with wine). Hell, I made the whole thing up in about 15 seconds.

But then text messages were sent and phone calls were made.
Julie understands.
My friends were confused. What does this mean? What is Tim up to? Are you riding to a bar? Are you going somewhere to eat dinner? What is this all about? Where are you going?

One person didn’t ask why. Julie’s only question was elegantly simple: “When do we start?”

There was no conspiracy. No big mission. We just poured some wine into water bottles and aimed our bikes toward anything that looked interesting. We
found singletrack in the woods less than a mile from my new home. We saw a moose with twin, month-old calves. We drank some wine, swatted some mosquitoes and found a street connection I’ve been curious about. We shot the shit and indulged in the lost art of pointless, destination-free fun.

I think people tend to forget that bikes can be a great source of simple, stress-free pleasure. Fortunately, Julie hasn’t lost sight of that.

Maybe I need to organize more of these unorganized rides, because fun needs to be had, and cages need to be rattled.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

North Carolina's unofficial state bird

The latest entry into the Fabulous Finger Gallery is a great illustration of why the woman on the left and I are friends. Debbie and her friend Trish rode up North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway this weekend, impressing a couple of guys who asked to have their pictures taken with the “strong biking girls.”

They agreed, on Debbie’s condition that he help them do a flip-off shot. He didn’t even ask why. That’s fast thinking on everybody’s part. Gotta respect that.

Summer’s finally in full swing. It’s good to see the birds flying again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Don't get goosed by a moose

Wikipedia describes moose as “the largest extant species in the deer family."


You’re unlikely to get an argument from an Alaska mountain biker if you just describe moose as “big, tank-like beasts with puny brains and nasty tempers.” One of these hairy buggers can open a can of whupass on any hapless bike rider, especially if the moose happens to have a newborn calf nearby when mountain biker shows up unannounced.

So far this spring, I know of at least five bad moose encounters on the trails at Kincaid Park, and in three of those cases, mountain bikers got roughed up. The latest was my friend Darcy, who was run over by a charging moose just yesterday. When she rounded a turn and saw the moose, it was already homing in like a free safety about to zap a wide receiver on a crossing pattern. Fortunately, Darcy escaped with only bruises instead of broken bones.

A week ago, local wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane issued a warning that “While the trails are a great resource for the community, biking on these trails during spring calving is a very risky activity. Cow moose aggressively defend their calves. While mountain biking has become very popular in recent years, it remains a dangerous activity in bear and moose country. Bikers moving quickly on narrow winding trails through prime moose calving habitat are at an even higher risk.”

Coltrane did what her predecessor, Rick Sinnott, often did when an animal was acting up—she asked mountain bikers to stay off the trails.

Everyone has to make his or her own decision about whether to avoid the new trails built by Singletrack Advocates last fall. I rode them last Sunday and had a good time even though my legs never showed up. My friends and I took a calculated risk and things worked out. Darcy took a calculated risk and got steamrolled. Could have happened to anybody. 

That’s the point.

Make your own decisions, but know the risks. There are a lot of mama moose out there, and they're on edge because newborn calves are to bears and wolves what Krispy Kremes are to fat-asses like me. And some of those cows weigh more than a thousand pounds. Contrary to popular belief, a moose is NOT more likely than a bear to kill you. Fatal moose encounters are very rare, but ass kickings dished out by moose are less of a rarity. And they hurt.

Stay upright out there. And don’t go under a moose.