Thursday, June 27, 2013


Thursday is the new Friday. Well, at least part of the time. Normally I work a 4X10 schedule, but recently I've started working for a client who requires that I work every other Friday. Not a big deal, the change, but I do miss having every Friday off. Especially when the fish are running.

The commute last evening as well as this morning was nothing short of standard. No interesting people. No big challenges to overcome. Just a good commute all the way around. So, I'll talk about fishing a bit here instead.

Dipnetting, to be precise. The plan is to take this weekend as a wash on working on the house and head up to the Copper River to see if we can't fill the freezer for the winter.

This presents a number of challenges, though. First - we have one of our two freezers currently full with fish that we need to jar for the coming year. Second - who knows if I'll be able to find all our gear. I know where the nets are and where the rope is, but I have no idea where the life vests are, where the fillet knife is, where the bonker is, where the stringers are. Third - time is short. We won't get to get out of Palmer until late afternoon or early evening on Friday, at the earliest. It is then a three or more hour drive to Copper. Ideally we will get our limit and head out by late Saturday night so that we have Sunday to recuperate and pack the fish away before I have to go back to work on Monday. Then there's the fact that the house is in disarray still.

About the house... So, we bought it as a repo and as far as repos go, it was in decent shape. However, there are lots of little things that we want or need to do to make it livable for our family, not the least of which being putting down new floors in the upstairs. We've decided that we want to go with a nice light-colored hickory 3/4 inch hardwood. This is a spendy proposition. Couple that with the other work we need to do, such as painting walls and trim, and other sundry tasks and it is a recipe for the house being in disarray for some time. Which will continue to lead to long days and short nights even as the seasons start to turn.

I'm okay with that, though. That's what I signed up for when I decided to purchase this house. It'll be a slow process, but it'll ultimately be a fun one.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Big wheels go on the bus

Day two riding the bus. I'm tired. I didn't want to get out of bed this morning. I'm sure it is due to the fact that since Friday when we moved in, I've been up and working 18 hours a day. There just doesn't seem time to sit and think much. Which makes the bus ride fairly relaxing.

First, I need to just state for the record that I really thought my first day of bus commuting yesterday was going to be my last. It was a glorious Alaska day - sunny and warm. I bolted out of the office just before 4 and headed to the bus stop in downtown, just cruising. I pushed it a bit when I realized that I could possibly hop on the 4:05 bus if I hauled my ass down the trail, but quickly realized that if I were to do that, I'd end up getting there just as the bus was getting ready to pull out and would likely upset my fellow riders by holding them up while I loaded the bike.

So I just cruised the rest of the way, still making the ride with time to spare. When it is beautiful out, it's not bad waiting for the bus to come. I mean, it's summer! What's not to love?

As I get ready to pull my bike onto the bus, the driver gets out of his seat and let's me know he's going to teach me how to load my bike and then I'm on my own from that point forward. He takes my bike, runs it up the aisle, bashing other passengers with my panniers, and man-handles it into the rear exit door space before tightly bungie-ing it to the door so it won't fall over. Getting it off at the end of the ride was a bit of a trick, as it just fits into the exit space and requires some maneuvering to disengage. With the bike there, my hands are free so I could, if I wanted, take my laptop with me and use the ride to work. But who really wants to do that? I do think that as winter comes along and the ride to and from the stop starts taking longer and I start teaching again that I will likely have no choice but to bring work with me rather than a book.

All was good until, just past Eagle River a driver ahead of us stopped short due to a clogging of the highway. The bus driver must not have been paying attention as well as he should have and had to slam on the brakes. The folks in the side-facing seats were thrown forward and into each other and the rest of us got a nice little wake up call. Fortunately we narrowly avoided rear-ending the car ahead of us, but I'm sure the driver was more than just a little freaked seeing a huge wall of steel and glass come to a stop just inches from his rear end.

And the people on the bus are always interesting - the couple, maybe married, maybe not, with the man sleeping hunched over with his head on the woman's lap; the older lady crocheting a blanket for someone special or maybe just passing the time the only way she knows how; the middle manager types thumb-typing the whole way on their Blackberries or iPhones; the construction workers with scuffed boots and weather beaten skin; the guy who looks homeless, but probably is a prospecting millionaire. There are multitudes of untold stories there.

The ride home last night convinced me that I need to simplify my riding kit. Normally I roll with two panniers - one for clothes and one for my lunch, coffee, a rain jacket, my tool kit, and anything else I think I might need for the ride. In the winter the ride kit grows to such a size that I strap on a Revelate Viscasha bag where I store tubes, a bit of grub, an extra puffy jacket, extra gloves and hat, a lighter, and other detritus. In summer that kit seems a bit extreme, but even more so now that I need to be aware of the limits of the bus and getting my loaded up ride into the bus without bashing other passengers and worked into the exit aisle.

Today, in an effort to simplify, I was able to get everything tucked into a single bag. I've also decided to leave some things at work instead of carrying them with me daily, such as my water bottle, underwear, and socks. I'm still trying to decide if I need to carry a rain jacket with me everyday or if I should just take it when it is raining or looks like rain. Last summer, when it seemed to rain all the time, it generally, according to my flawed memory, rained all day rather than starting out as a nice day and then raining later. If that's the case, I shouldn't need a rain jacket unless it is raining. But my memory is getting shorter and shorter with old age and the weather in Anchorage is often quite different than in the Valley. I guess I still have a bit more to learn about this whole multimodal life.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Antarctic Handshake

Wowza! Today is the official first day of my fully multimodal commute via Valley Mover bus and bike.

The process was painless today. Last night I rode the route from home to bus stop just to get a sense of how long it would take me to get there. Last night was 11 minutes. This morning was a bit slower with the weight of my bags, but I was still there in about 13 minutes. I arrived at the bus stop at 5:43 and the bus was there, just waiting to pick up passengers. I worried that it was getting ready to head out and that I would have to wait for the next bus. Fortunately, the driver was just waiting to pick up both the old 5:50 riders for the run that has been discontinued, and the 6:00 riders.

Getting on the bus was awesome. The driver was quite nice and didn't even bat an eye when I asked to make sure that I could bring my bike on board. His only comment was "Those are some fat tires."

So I flashed my UAA Seawolves Faculty ID, pushed my bike onto the bus, grabbed a seat, and settled into a good book for the ride in. The bus ride was uneventful and the total ride time was about 40 minutes.

The ride from the bus stop to work was also uneventful, but the GPS was acting wonky, ticking off the miles way too fast, showing me at 8.32 miles total for the bike portion of the commute well before I even got to work before finally telling me that satellite communication had been lost. The total one way bike portion of the commute should be spot on 6 miles. Strange.

Learned a few lessons:

1) I don't need to get up at 4:30 in the morning during the summer. As long as I get out the door and on the road by 5:30, I can make the bus without too much issue.

2) The ride to the bus will generally have a tailwind, if wind at all. The ride home from the bus at night will be a bit more challenging with a long fairly steep hill right out of the parking lot and the fact that the nice morning tailwind will be a headwind in the afternoon.

3) I need to get a coffee cup that will fit in my water bottle holder - Seems a waste to ride for 40 minutes without some Joe

4) Bring a bungie to strap the bike to the rail so I don't have to hold it.

5) Working from the bus might or might not be possible. I need to look at the seating situation a bit more closely to figure out if I can park the bike in such a way that it allows me room to have a laptop out and still allow folks to get around the bike.

All in all, I'm damned happy that my family and I are back living under an actual roof and that my home no longer has signs like this:

Though, I suppose, the thought of getting eaten by a bear does work as a nice alarm clock. I promise you I was never late waking up in the morning...

Bonus points if you know what the title of the post references.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Oh you crazy beast

So, I guess it is time to provide a bit of background to what started my looking to multimodal commuting as a viable way of life.

My family and I moved to Anchorage, AK just about three years ago. Prior to the move we sold our second car and determined that I would bike commute for work rather than trying to buy another car when we got here. Well, I fell in love with bike commuting. Hard. It's just such an important part of my day anymore. The morning wake up and evening decompression afforded by riding just helps me keep a much better outlook on life in general. And it's kinda badass to be able to come into the office and say "I just rode to work and it's 20 below 0 today."

What we quickly realized, however, is that living in Anchorage means that it is nearly impossible for us to purchase our own home. Well, that's not quite right. We could purchase in town, but with a family of five plus a dog we knew that we wouldn't be able to find something in our price range unless it was a condo, which is not a bad way to start, but having lived in attached housing for the past six years, we wanted something with a yard and some privacy. And we wanted the kids to not have to stumble over each other all the time. Frankly, we wanted something we could not afford in Anchorage. That means that the options open to us were up in the valley or down on the peninsula. The peninsula, meaning the Kenai, was not a realistic option as I do have to work. In Anchorage. The valley, Wasilla and Palmer, was much more realistic. The market was good, the options were there, and we knew we'd be able to find something that would fit our family's needs.

Bonus, the valley has a bus system that makes the run from there to here on a daily basis with a good schedule and easily bike commutable pick up and drop off locations. So we started seriously looking in the valley and back in October found a house that we offered on. Through strange machinations, the prospect fell through so we decided to just rent a bit longer in Anchorage and see what happened.

Then March came along and with it a great property in a good commute location. We rush headlong into the purchase process, which I won't go into here, other than to say that it took a lot longer than it seems to have needed to and with a lot more headaches than one person should be asked to stand. So much so that for the past 21 nights we've been living in tents, our lease expired on May 31 and no closing in sight.

That is all behind us now as I signed all the papers just yesterday and we are moving in today.

So now the fun really begins. Work on the house. Daily commuting via bike and bus. I'm excited and nervous about the initial bus ride on Monday morning. I ride a Surly Pugsley year round. Big, fat tired goodness. But those fat tires aren't amenable to most bus bike racks. I've talked to the folks at the bus company and they've assured me that I can bring my bike onto the bus, but... Will the driver be cool with that? Will there be enough room to actually do it? These are all questions that will be answered shortly.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The white hammer

Here is me looking stupid.

Notice the glorious sun in the background. That is what I have to deal with on the morning commute. Not a bad way to start a day.

I just want y'all to know I broke my cardinal rule to bring you this image: No Selfies...ever! But for you, my adoring fans, I figured once won't hurt.

I'm still in the infancy of multi-modal commuting, but I get by. I haven't really had anything that could be considered an adventure yet, but I know they are coming. I'm waiting patiently.

However, I did get to thinking about a few things on the ride today. The first of which is the need for photos if I'm going to actually do this whole blog thing. It's a strange thing, but I've found blogs that are only text tend to not have much readership. Might be that we all have the attention spans of gnats anymore.

So, what can I take pics of on my short jaunt from office to office until the real adventures begin? Here's the thing - Anchorage, once you get past the lack of any type of urban development planning and miasma of squat industrial-type buildings, is a really pretty place. We're surrounded by mountains and have some amazing greenbelts around.

Heck, even my fat tires look good on the cracked pavement.

See? Isn't that a thing of beauty? Yes, yes it is. 

Here's another, just to up the beauty of this here post: 

Anchorage is not all a concrete wonderland, though. There are trees and signs. 

And there are creeks.

This is just some of the scenery I get to see every morning. Sometimes there are moose. Sometimes even bear. But it is always good. A bit of nature to put a spring in your step and all.

Last night my son told me that one is more likely to get hit by a car than win the lottery. He then told me I should buy a lottery ticket. I asked him if he thought that was tempting fate a bit. He didn't understand the question. I've never been hit by a car, so... well you do the math. I think I'll wait to play the lotto until I have my first car hitting. Hopefully that's not for a long, long time to come.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Whoa...What a weekend

This weekend was aces. Just aces. Well, until this AM, anyway.

We headed down to Hope Alaska for the weekend. Camping on the beach and just generally hanging around can be a wonderful way to spend the time. Hauled the bike with and did a bit of riding on the Resurrection Creek road - 3 miles of climbing followed by a fast 3 miles of decent before riding the rest of the way into town.

On Sunday, we headed down to Seward for the day and had a nice hike from Lowell Point out to the Tonsina river. Last summer the bridge over the river was rebuilt, taking some of the adventure out of the hike. In the past, when we went the whole way to Cain's Head, we had to ford the river at the delta. No more. Now, you can just walk across the bridge so that the only challenge to the hike is timing the tide to get past the section that is only passable at a minus tide. Still, the time in the woods was enjoyable and the weather was, dare I say it, perfect.

This morning, though, that was the challenge. Up at 4 AM, pack up the camp, and then head back into town where I was dropped off at my office for a quick shower and change before hopping on the bike and riding the short in town route to my customer's office building. Still, the weather was gorgeous, so I'm not going to complain at all.

Things are inching closer to coming together to allow me to start the bike/bus/bike commute, though I don't want to jinx it by relaying the whole story here. Suffice it to say that we've been living hard for a few weeks and have a few more days to go before relief comes around.

Once things settle down I'll have some good tales to tell, some good rides to report, and maybe even a bit of fishing by bike stories. Until then, I'm keeping on keeping on. All I can say is if it weren't for the bike, I'd be out of my head by now.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Welcome, welcome, welcome. Let's be friends

Welcome to Multimodal Alaska Adventures, a blog about the trials and tribulations of being a multimodal commuter in the last frontier.

For three years I have been a 100% bike commuter in the city of Anchorage, riding everywhere, all year long. I've braved temps to twenty below and up to the mid-80s. I've dealt with rain, sleet, freezing fog, snow, moose, and one bear.

Now I'm changing things up in my commute, moving out of the city to a small community 38 miles north, yet will still be working in the city. When I decided to make this move, I had a few options for the daily commute. I could buy a second car and make the twice daily drive, contribute to the crowding on the one highway between Palmer and Anchorage, and generally waste a lot of time and money on getting to work. I could car-pool, which is a better option, but would still require me to drive, and would end my bike commuting. Or, I could go multimodal, using a mix of bike and public transport. This is the option I've decided to pursue.

This option has its downfalls, including the need to be on someone else's schedule to ensure my connection between the two towns. However, it also allows me to continue biking, a total of 12 miles per day, be productive during the bus portion, and is much more cost effective than driving myself.

This blog, then, is a chance for me to record the process, make observations about the viability of multimodal transportation here in Alaska, and maybe serve as a resource for others who want to take the same approach.

Stay tuned. It'll be a trip. I promise.