Friday, September 27, 2013

At least it isn't snowing...yet

When it rains it pours, or so the saying goes. And it's been raining again this week. Which, I guess on some levels is better than snow and ice, though I am hesitant to say that I prefer fall to winter.

In popular culture the Morton's catch phrase has come to mean that when something bad happens, it tends to follow that many, many bad things will happen and that minor annoyances can become big disturbances.

That's the run of my week. Minor annoyances becoming nearly overwhelming. You see, when it rains, it pours.

It started on Tuesday, this metaphorical and literal rain. Tuesday morning. I head out to the garage to load up the bike and cut out for the day. I go out to load up the bike and as soon as I start wheeling it out from its parking space, I could feel the familiar and stomach churning creakly crack of deflated rubber slapping pavement.

Now, in my old age I've gotten pretty darned adept at changing tubes. I was able to, in less than two minutes, swap the tube and get it pumped up to a ridable level. That said, I still ended up hitching a ride half way to the bus stop to ensure that I didn't miss it.

Not a big deal. I make it to work and back again without issue. I check the tire when I get home and things are looking good. I adjust the pressure to roll a bit fast the next day.

The next morning I wake up and head out the door and things are fine. The tire's still full and life is good. Well, apart from the 40 degrees and medium heavy rain, but even that's not going to dampen my mood.

I get on the bus and it is uneventful. I ride contented in the knowledge that all is right and good.

Yet when I get off the buss and pull my bike out, I feel that same sickening feeling. Flat. Again. WTF?

I pump the tire with my little portable pump, thinking I can limp to work and then worry about fixing the tube once there - you know, out of the rain. Nope. Not so much. I can hear the air escaping over the sizzle of the rain on the streets.

I know what I have to do and it pisses me off. It's just not the way I want to start the day. The rain is getting harder. It's in the low 40s, and my quote unquote rain jacket is soaking through.

To make a long story short, I patch the tube, get it put back in and take the requisite twelve point two minutes to pump the damned thing up to enough pressure to hold my fat butt off the ground and hustle to work through the rain and cold. I get to work just as the rain turns from a steady heavy drizzle into a cloudburst downpour - drops the size of silver dollars pounding the ground all around me. Doesn't matter one way or the other. I'm still soaked and not looking forward to work.

Let's move forward to the next day, Thursday. Thursday starts out auspiciously enough. Yes it's raining, but it is closer to 50 degrees than to 40 and I am wearing full rain gear so I'm not too bothered by the weather.

I get to the bus stop and realize that I have forgotten both my ID card and my badge for work. My ID card is what gets me on the bus, but I'm not too worried, as the drivers all know me by now. Rather they know my bike, so that might as well be my ID. And I'm not worried about my work badge. I can get a temp. But it's a bad sign. I don't forget things in general. Not for the commute and work day, that is. Well, there have been occasions when I've forgotten my underwear, but that might just be a fetish my subconscious is trying to tell me to explore or something. Who knows?

So I get to Anchorage and all is good. It's still raining, but not hard. The bus is even a bit early. So I load up and hump it to work, only to realize as I pull onto the campus that, Oh shit, I don't have a lock. I'd taken it home the prior day, against routine, and completely forgot that it was not in my bag.

I work at the building owned by a multi-national corporation who has so much security on premesis that they give tickets to people they catch talking on their cell phones while in their cars in the parking lot. They give tickets to people who don't wear their seat belts. They have cameras throughout the inside and outside of the building and they pay people to watch those cameras 24X7. Yet bikes get stolen from the rack right in front of the building. While it is not a regular occurrence, it happens enough that the company has taken to putting up reminder posters throughout the building to lock it or lose it. Seems maybe security is looking for the wrong things.

At any rate, I couldn't just leave my bike sitting out front all day unlocked. So I did what anyone would do. I grabbed a cable lock, made it look like it was locking my bike to the rack, went up stairs and changed and waited until the store across the street opened so I could get a lock for the day.

Needless to say, just the week of bike commuting was a challenge and a pain. Not to mention all the other stuff going on in the rest of my life.

That said, the ride home yesterday ended on a high note with some great views of the mountains.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On the art of escape

Almost daily when I get into the elevator I get a comment in the vein of "oh its <insert inclimate weather phenomena here>. You ride in this?"

My answer is generally the same each time: "Yup, every day." And I'm not trying to be snarky or anything. I'm not trying to be all macho or cavaleir about it. Riding bike is just something that I do. I honestly don't think about it all that much - well, I think about it, but I never wake up and ask myself how I'm going to get to work anymore. I just know that I ride bike because that's what I do.

But I'm not a perfect bike commuter. I still run errands with a car. I still have moments where the two mile slog from the house to the store is just too much to think about doing on bike.

Yet I do choose to bike for transportation in many instances. Once I thought that I was doing it for the environment. Then I realized that while I care about the environment and try within my means to do right by it, I'm not riding a bike because I am some eco-warrior.

Then I thought I was making a political statement. I'm not. When it comes right down to it, I've realized, I ride because it makes me feel like I am a kid again. Some of my fondest memories growing up involve me and my bike. The Huffy BMX bikes, the Huffy 10-speeds, the borrowed 3-speed Sears city bike. It didn't really matter to me what I rode, just that I could ride.

I remember one particular instance where the bike was cemented as my escape of choice. My parents were in a bad way. Money issues and the like. Lots of heated arguments. Just not a comfortable environment to be in. The upside was that I was a bit invisible so for once I could pretty much come and go as I wished. As much as a twelve year old can come and go, anyway.

On one particularly bad day I snuck out while they were in the midst of some argument that wouldn't solve anything and I hopped on my Huffy Nitro and rode the two miles to where a bunch of new houses were being built. I think I chose this route because I knew that I there were some great dirt piles to ride on there and being the weekend, it'd be quite.

Immediately I felt like I was free when I started peddling, riding with no hands and just being in the moment. I got to the construction site and rode through the buildings and jumped the dirt piles. No helmet, no pads or special shoes or clothes. Just a kid on his bike.

Hours later I returned home and nothing had changed, but I didn't care. I was at peace. I can still remember exactly how I could feel the difference between heat and cool on my face as I rode under the naked rafters and the alternating sun and shade lit on me. I remember the feeling of sweat running down my back. I remember feeling so blessed to take an ice cold drink out of the hose of a neighboring house on the down low when no one was looking and I was so parched.

There is an element to that escapism in every ride I take. I know that once I get on the bike within a few minutes that the meaningless stuff I worry about will vanish for at least the time when I'm riding. I know that even when I feel like I don't want to be on the bike, that my legs and back hurt that once I am actually underway that I will forget about those aches and pains and just go with it.

Escapism. I don't bike tour, though it appeals to me. I don't do epic rides. The most I've ever ridden as a single shot was 60 miles and that destroyed me for days. But being out in the elements everyday, connecting with the thing around me allows me to escape for a brief moment.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sleepwalk Powder

I've just today realized one big challenge with commuting over 35 miles to work. See in Anchorage the weather is different based on what part of town you are in. We lived on the east side and it was generally colder there than elsewhere in town.

Now compound that by 30 miles and you can see the challenges that exist. I can leave my house and it can be in the mid 30's and dry and get to Chugiack where it is raining to beat the devil and then get to Anchorage where it is lightly snowing and the wind blowing from the north west.

So the biggest challenge is how to dress or how to make the decision, any way. This morning I was just about perfect for the valley portion of the commute. Got to the bus stop feeling comfortable and not sweating to speak of. But by the time I got a few blocks from the bus in Anchorage I was wishing I had another layer on both top and bottom. Granted, the temps were quite similar to the valley - 36F, but with the addition of the wind, my merino jersey and REI Windwall shirt layer were just not cutting it. And the wind wasn't even blowing that hard. The joys of late fall/early winter - the body takes a while to adjust to the changing temps.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hey Ladies!

There's been this new rider in the mornings lately. Not sure where she get on at, but by the time the bus gets to Trunk, she's out. Nearly snoring. No big deal, a lot of riders do this. But this morning. Oh this morning she ruffled a few feathers.

The left of the bus has a sideways bank of three seats together. She was laying across all three, sound out. There's a few folks who like to look at these seats as their own in some way and they didn't seem too pleased to need to find a new home today.

I'm just happy she didn't get drool on my bike.

It was raining and wet this morning, but as I was making my way to the edge of down town, I noticed the moon shining bright. The picture does it no justice, but it was a bit awe-inspiring the way it wasn't there and then was and then wasn't again. Maybe it was more due to water on the brain. Can't be sure.

Think it's time for a new summer tire?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


So I was in a pissy mood yesterday. Not sure just why. Seemed like the weather or something was bringing me down. Maybe it was almost getting run down before work by some fool who was clearly going to run the sign, which did allow me plenty of time to stop, but the idea of it just stuck in my craw.

Maybe it was a whole host of things, not the least of which is simply feeling overwhelmed with things that must get done and never feeling like I have the time or desire to do them. I'm just checked out. I really need a break from the daily grind.

Fortunately, I've just put in my request for the week of Christmas and New Year's off. I find this is a great time to get away from the office as there isn't much going on anyway, and the kids are home so I get to spend some time with them.

I'm looking forward to it. Looking forward to just unwinding a bit. I figure I'll need it. The semester will have wrapped up and the new one will be on the upswing. I should be finishing up on the project I'm on now and moving to a new one after the new year. There's something that is just right about taking a break around the solstice.

Until then, I'll just have to keep chugging away at things. Hopefully work can continue to be challenging and fun over the next few weeks and months.

Hopefully the darkness doesn't get to me too much. I just checked the weather and it looks like there is probably a nice chill in the air - 46 degrees at 2 PM. Before we know it winter will be here.

On to transport, right? So what's new in the way of transport news and reviews.

Two things. First the Valley Mover is bringing on a number of new AM bus options in October. This is brilliant. As the weather turns I worry that I may have a hard time making the first bus of the morning. Right now if I miss it, it is an hour wait for the next to arrive. Not a huge deal when the weather is above freezing, but once it gets cold... well, that's another story.

Beginning in October, if I miss the first bus, the next arrives just 20 minutes later. And if I miss that one, there is yet another bus another 25 minutes later. This makes me happy. My biggest challenge as a commuter using the bus is feeling the pressure to make that connection to the point that I often over compensate and leave earlier than I really need to.

Item two? Koki panniers. Don't waste your money on them! I'm on my second set. A warranty replacement for the first pair. I've written about this before. I've written about how the first set fell apart and how the I broke the mounting hooks. Now the bags themselves are coming unwelded - the bags aren't sewn, but are fused either with glue or heat, not sure which, to attach the various components. On one bag the fusing is all coming undone. Why can't I just get a bag that works?

Monday, September 16, 2013


There's been an interesting discussion lately over on the commuter board at MTBR about what makes one a commuter.

This has gotten me thinking a bit about commuting and how bike commuter isn't the best term for what I do. Yes, 90% of my riding is standard commuting - to and from work. But I also use the bike for transportation of other sorts. Maybe another 3 or 4% of my riding is doing things like running to the store to pick up ingredients for dinner or what have you.

Then there is the remaining of my riding, which is recreational. Generally, though, I use the bike for transportation to the trailhead before I begin recreating.

Then I got to thinking that maybe we just like to define things too much anymore? Everything, action, activity, thought, concept, approach has to have a name, a taxonomy. We no longer ride our bikes. We commute. We ride trail. We ride road. We are roadies. We are Freds. We don't walk. We hike. We trek.

If we don't have a name for some activity, how can the manufacturers market gear for that activity to us? That seems to be the heart of things - the ability to be marketed to. We have to categorize everything in order to be a valid market segment.

On Saturday night I rode my bike to Walmart to return a Redbox movie and pick up a few odds and ends. That was clearly not a commute. It was a fun ride, but not really a recreation ride. So what was it? Does it matter?

I'm always trying to get past this strange need to categorize myself and the things I do. Instead, I just want to ride my bike.

But in order to advocate for the bike as viable transport, it is necessary to call myself something, I guess. So I'll be a bike commuter in order to push forward the agenda.

One way I'm working to push forward the agenda is by creating a starting point plan for my company to make alternate forms of transportation more appealing to our employees. To support this plan, I've enlisted the help of a GIS specialist to make me some maps that show where our client's offices are in relation to our office to show that if the company provided some loaner bikes, we could likely get folks out there and riding when going to many of our client sites.

I think the next step is to generate a map with all of our employee's home locations on it so that we can see where they live in relation to the office and use that as a way to generate customer travel plans for those who wish to give bike commuting a try.

I'm excited by this and once I have had a chance to share the plan with my employer, I'll share it with you.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


There are some mornings that are just amazing. Today was one. First, as I'm heading out of the house I realize that the sky is clear for the first time in weeks and it is dark enough to see stars. Orion's jeweled belt shone bright against the velvet-black of 4:45 AM. Seeing Orion always makes me both sad and joyful.

His arrival means that for good or ill, ready or not, summer is really and truly over and for the next six months he's going to be my constant riding companion. He's a good guy, overall, Orion. Doesn't talk much, but is always there watching with his sword at the ready.

More than anything, it is just nice to see the stars again. It's a strange thing - I clearly remember times camping in the Badlands of South Dakota and laying on the ground seeing what looked like the entire Milky Way while sweating from the heat and humidity. But in Alaska the summer means that the stars disappear for half the year and while they are gone you don't really think about them much until they come back, then you get this strange heart-sick nostalgia, wishing to hell you could follow both the summer and winter constellations, that you could lay out on your lawn in shorts and a tee-shirt and watch meteor showers with sweat dripping down your face.

Seeing the stars also means that the cold is coming, along with some amazing sunrises over the mountains to the east of my office building. The daily cycles of the sun rising and setting are so often taken for granted, but when you go half the year without really seeing them, it takes a toll. In the summer, particularly on weekends it is not unusual for us to sit down to dinner at 9 at night and not go to bed until 2 or after. You just lose track of time when the sun is always up.

In the winter it all reverses and you tend to sink into yourself a bit as the dark falls down and the light becomes tinged ice blue when the sun is out. You pay attention to sun rise and sunset, because, well you're awake when they happen and when sunrise happens at 10:30 AM, it's kinda strange feeling.

Today's sunrise was amazing. Heck, having clear blue skies after having rain for so long, feels amazing. I love it. Maybe I'll have to cut out early and head to the valley, watch the kids race their final XC race of the season, and then go for a bike ride. Just maybe.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Halls of summer

It's raining today. Just like it has been all week. The low-lying lands are ponding quite nicely. My shoes are still wet. The commutes have been cold. The bus is overheated in the mornings, but not overcrowded.

Thankfully, apart from the rain, the road has been uneventful all the way around. A moose here and there, but nothing to note.

And nothing to note is a good place to be. It means that the commute, particularly the bus portion, is becoming just a normal part of my day. In fact, I am starting to get to the point where I automatically wake up at 4, before the alarm even goes off.

As I commute more and more using multi-modal means, I am thinking about and searching for ways that I can suggest my company support and encourage those who want to commute via alternate means. I've discussed this a bit before, but I want to go into more depth here and start to clarify some of my ideas on the topic.

First, my company has taken some good steps already. In our previous building, we had access to showers and indoor bike parking, though not enough of either, which was due more to the lease we had and the fact that there simply wasn't room for more showers or indoor parking.

We've recently moved to a new building with lots of room and through the remodel process, we've been able to start the process of putting in ample showers for those who want or need to use them. One thing we don't have at the new building is indoor bike parking. We have two stout racks outdoors, and they are covered - so a fair compromise. There may be some plans still underway for enclosed parking that is more secure, as there are a lot of bike thefts in Anchorage and, particularly in that part of town. During the day isn't much of an issue, but sometimes there is a need to leave your bike overnight.

What else do I think that my company can do to get more of its employees commuting by alternate means? I read this story about how Texas Instruments has done it, and I think that many of their ideas can be applied to my company.

Two that particularly stand out to me are the implementation of a bike commuting themed chat room on the intranet pages. These become great sources of shared information for all and, particularly as my company farms us out to different companies throughout the Anchorage bowl, can create a good sense of community even when we don't see each other face to face.

The other item that appeals to me is the repair stand. As any regular commuter can tell you, there are times when you have to perform some maintenance whether you want to or not - changing a tube, fixing a broken chain, truing up a wheel. Even just having a place to adjust shifting can prove a lifesaver.

I think another way to encourage employees to commute through alternate means is through a reimbursement program. I ran across a news story a few months back out of Tennessee. One company there pays their employees 4 dollars a day for biking, walking, or taking public transit to the office and 2 dollars for carpooling. Of course, cash is king. That's why we go to work every day, isn't it?

Rather than just giving a cash reimbursement for alternate commuting, why not offer a sort of Alternate Commuting savings account wherein once a quarter commuting reimbursements are paid out, but are paid out in gift cards to places like REI, local bike shops, running goods stores, or even to the local coffee shop? Cash could always be an option, but there are certainly times when the purchase of a new piece of gear is just what someone needs to keep motivated. By offering the reimbursement in a form other than cash, it can't easily be spent on things like bills or gas. It then serves as a clear reward for the commuting.

And the total outlay per employee isn't that great. If one were to commute by alternate route every working day for the year (I didn't take into account holidays) the total reimbursement at 4 dollars a day is only 1040 dollars.

What does the business get for their money? Reduced absenteeism, fewer health insurance claims, more productive and happy employees, and, from what I hear, there are possibly some tax breaks available. So it becomes a win/win. The business gains and the employee gains.

Another thought, since our employees are indeed all over town throughout the course of the day, often beginning at the home office, then heading to one or more client sites, many of which are within 4 miles of the office, is the idea of having a small number of company-owned bikes and locks that employees can hop on and ride to a client site. With our central location, this seems like a great way to encourage folks to ride during those times when it would be quicker than to walk.

Being that our company is full of map geeks, I think I need to enlist some of them to build me a map with the location of all of our clients so that we can see how many of those client sites are bikable.

I'm going to keep circling around these ideas until I have them firmly cemented into a form that I can use to propose them to my employers. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

And now for something completely different

So, I often go out to Fox to find out what the other side is saying. And the funny thing about Fox News is that many of their stories follow with the British model of titillating and tantalizing rather than impartially informing and educating.

With the whole brouhaha surrounding the Miley Cyrus appearance at some MTV awards show, her name's been hitting the Fox site quite often. I guess she has a new video coming out that is quite, well, racy. Haven't watched it. Don't think I will. However, I read the article about the video and there are a lot of media analysts out there who focus their criticism on how the video does so much to further the myth that the only way to be successful as a female is to do so through sexual presentation and etc., etc.

Yeah, I agree with a lot of what is being said. From the images on the Fox site and the description of the video, I'm sure it does pander to the lowest common denominator and all. But the thing that bothers me about all this discussion is that it's focused on Miley and how she is doing everything in her power to break away from her former Disney self. However, do these commentators really believe that Miley Cyrus has much, if any, input into how she is packaged? Did Miley dream up the treatment for this latest video? (Which, it should be noted, has taken the record for the most views in a 24 hour period of any video in the history of Vevo- which, well, isn't YouTube). Was she the director of the video? Going further? Did she choreograph her MTV appearance?

She's what, 20? I could forgive a 20 year old for confusing being shocking with being tasteless. Particularly someone whose been sheltered by the entertainment industry for the bulk of her life. The frame of reference is not there for most 20 year olds. Even less so for entertainers. The thing is, she's not the architect of her current packaging. Like any pop star, she's surrounded by a cadre of handlers, marketers, and record company execs who are responsible for how she is being packaged and presented to the world.

Our collective outrage over the fact that this young woman is being overtly sexualized to sell a product should be directed at these folks rather than Miley on the whole. Yes, she can make the choice to push back, but really, does anyone in the pop-entertainment world really have a say in how their image/body/voice is used? The issue is deeper than gender representation. It comes down to the fact that pop stars seem to sign over all rights to determine how they are presented - their managers and handlers get to make the determination, always with the admonishment that "if you don't do X your career is over." Yet when X backfires, the backlash is directed not at the managers and handlers and architects, but at the pop star him or herself.

Pop stars are products and each of us are responsible for the way in which they are packaged. When we view a video, read a news story, buy an album - we are stating that this is what we want in our pop stars.

And in this case, what about her father? Someone who knows the terrain of the pop world? Shouldn't he be providing some kind of support and guidance? Yeah, I know kids don't listen to their parents. But the thing is that they do. Has anyone told this product that "hey, you don't have to do these things. You can break from the Disney image without turning into a cartoon of yourself. You can sell records without controversy?

Why are these the things that come into my head when I'm riding my bike? I don't know. Probably best to not dig too deep into it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sugar Kane

Only in Alaska can you go to a local middle and high school and pick pounds and pounds of berries, ride a mix of double and single track in a mixed forest, and run across not one or two, but four different sled dog kennels.

This weekend we went to the Houston high and middle schools to check out some berry patches that my daughter identified while she was there on Thursday running a cross country race. Only my daughter would be scoping out berries when she's supposed to be racing.

The wife had me bring the bike. Mostly as her way of getting me out of the house and coming along with them. As the semester at school gets underway, I've found myself in the usual state of near hysteria wondering how I'm going to stay on top of everything I need to stay on top of, which usually means from the time I get up until I go to bed that I am parked in front of the computer grading. Yeah, fun times. But the wife got me out by telling me I need to ride the bike. Always a good ploy.

Just a half mile from the school on what I assume they use for cross country skiing in the winter, I felt as if I had left civilization all together. It was beautiful. It wasn't a lot of trail, a couple miles, all told, but by re-riding sections, grinding some gravel, and some off piste rolling through woods, I stitched together a nice ten mile ride. Not bad.

The wife and kids picked berries while I rode. And I know that the wife'll be upset if I give away the specific area or the specific type of berry, but I don't think it is  big secret as there were plenty of other folks out there picking as well. We ended up with over five pounds on Saturday and the wife and kids went back yesterday and picked up at least another ten pounds. I love this time of year in Alaska. Now I just need to figure out this whole hunting thing so that I can fill the freezer with moose and caribou.

I'm back to the standard and normal commute as of today. The bike is running well for now. I will need to pull off my wheel tonight and check my hub to see if the grease has been fouled out or not after my ride on Saturday through some muddy water. A forum friend has suggested that my seals might be bad - which is a strong possibility - so I want to check them out and see if there is grit in the grease. If so, I'll repack them tonight and find a shop where I can pick up some seals tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What does it all mean

Today's been one of those horrid days when nothing goes quite the way it should. First my alarm doesn't go off, but I was awake anyway, so it didn't matter. Then the coffee wasn't made because the grinder didn't work. Then I couldn't get things packed quite right into my backpack. Then when I go to leave, the hub on my bike is seized. So what can I do? I have to be into town by 9 to teach. I have one bike, no extra bearings, and no desire to try to get greasy before class.

So I drove to town. By myself - one of those fools driving alone in a multipassenger vehicle.

As I'm driving in, I spend a lot of time thinking about the commute, about how much I wish I were in a bus, allowing someone else drive and take the responsibility for my safety. Wishing I was able to read rather than drive. I thought about how much of a creature of habit I am and how 90% of the reason that I commute by bike has to do with the fact that it's just what I do each day - its a habit and nothing more.

There's no great failing in driving a vehicle, is there? Now, don't get me wrong. It's not something I plan on doing on a regular basis. But I'm also not going to be militantly against driving. Not that I really have been. I understand its importance. It's just not the way I want to roll.

So there is my confession. I drove today.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On the importance of turning another year older

I guess I'm old. At least that's what my kids tell me. And, yeah, I guess I am. 38 is getting up there. I never thought I'd make it past that fabled age of 26. Then again, I fully intended to be a rock star with a wicked heroine addiction. But that didn't pan out for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my utter lack of musical skills beyond a wicked air guitar. Not too shabby at air drums either, but...

I was actually thinking about age a week or so ago, while riding home after a great session on the trails. I'd ridden some sections where I'd dabbed before. I'd improved my skills just the tiniest bit. I felt really good. Really strong. And as I was riding that last little bit home it dawned on me that I was quickly coming up on my birthday and couldn't quite remember if I were going to be turning 38 or 39. Then I got to thinking about 40 and how much I feel like I don't have my shit together at all. Not in the least. Especially when compared to my own father when he was 40. I mean he was building his own business at the time. We lived in a really nice house. We'd lived in houses we owned my whole life, for the most part. We weren't rich, but we also weren't wanting.

I'm sure if I asked him, he'd say he didn't have his shit together either at that age. Who really knows what aspirations someone else has? Anyway, I was thinking about 40 and what I want to accomplish before then. And I got to thinking about how I didn't feel close to 40. Particularly when I am on my bike. When I am on my bike at the tail end of a good ride I feel like I am 10 or 12 riding my old BMX bike at the gravel pit of my youth, jumping and skidding out and being free. The bike makes me feel that way most every day, which is why I ride.

But there are things that I want to do on the bike that are not about freedom. Well, they are, but a different kind of freedom, a kind a freedom I've never experienced. Freedom from fear and self-doubt. See, there is this race up here, the Iditarod Invitational. Pretty famous on the fatbike circuit. I made some off-handed comment once about wanting to ride the race when I was 40 to see if I could break free from the fear of failure, the fear of pain, the doubt of my abilities and etc. Though I don't want to race the course. In fact I don't even want to ride it with the other riders. This is something I want to do completely alone.

But deep down I think I know that I won't do it. I don't have my shit together enough to have a plan in place for training and to save the money needed to cover the expenses of it. I don't have my shit together enough to take the time away from my family so that I can train properly. I don't have my shit together enough to get over the fear of failure. Or else I am just really good at making excuses for why not.

The thing is, the older I get, the more I think about all the things I haven't done because I was afraid of failure or even just too lazy to really try. And it makes me really sick to my stomach. But the bike. The bike seems to be opening things up to me that I had closed off before. Possibilities. I'll never be a racer. Don't want to be. I'll never be one of those people who participate in big group charity rides. I'm the guy who'll be riding everyday because that's what I do. And that riding everyday has given me the time to really think about what is important in my life and what I want from life. I'm still trying to refine those thoughts into a usable form, but I'm getting closer all the time. I'm looking for ways that I can use the bike to break away while growing closer to my family. Unfortunately, they don't have quite the affinity for the bike as I do, though I'm trying.

And some random pictures from recent rides:

And there we be.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


19 miles per hour. That's the highest recorded gust of wind for Palmer today. I'm pretty sure that gust was this morning around 4:56. At least that's when the fattened raindrops started pelting my face with enough force to sting. Though the temps were nice this morning, the head and chest cold made for an unpleasant ride to the bus stop.

I really can't say anything about the commute today. It was good. Peaceful, even. Though the ride on Friday was a bit less - so. See, on Friday I commute to the university. I suppose any change of routine leads to new awareness of one's surroundings. The change in commute route also made me realize just how much I appreciate the off-street paths I get to take almost everyday for my commute.

In five miles of commuting, I was almost hit not once, but twice. The first as I was waiting to cross a busy intersection in the MUP in front of a school. I had the walk signal and as I was committing to the crossing a Suburu Outback comes screaming around the corner, stops to make sure that I have stopped, and then continues to drive through the crossing - completely ignoring right of way.

Now, I know what ya'll are thinking - I shouldn't be riding through a crosswalk. I get it. And any cop would say, in the event that I was hit, that I was in the wrong for not dismounting and walking. Though one could argue that when an MUP intersects with a roadway that the same rules governing the MUP should be applied, i.e., the crosswalk isn't so much a cross walk, but a light-controlled crossing just as if I were in the flow of traffic. But, regardless, I was able to get out of that one without anything negative happening.

On the way back to the bus to head home for the day I decided to take the long way round and come round the coastal trail and up into downtown on 5th street. From the coastal trail, 5th street is a two way, but at J street it becomes a oneway and folks moving east on 5th have to turn right onto J. No biggie. So I turn right onto J into the first lane, as I should. A truck coming west on 5th also turns onto J, though the driver does not pull into the first available lane, but instead crosses lanes on the turn and into my lane, the western-most lane. (J is also a one way) I hear the V8 pull in behind me and rev up before I hear the brakes squeal - the driver obviously didn't see me in my day-glow orange jacket and blinding red blinky light.

I need to get over to the left-hand lane to make a left-hand turn onto 6th. I look back and see the truck right behind me with the driver not really paying attention. I also see that the left lane is clear. So I put out my arm to signal my intent to change lanes and as soon as I do, the truck pulls into the left lane. She pulls into the left lane as I am committed to pulling in as well. She guns her truck and I can feel the whoosh of the mirror as it flies past me while I'm trying to keep myself from being hit.

I don't know if the driver was texting or what, but it's like she looked up and saw someone moving slowly in front of her and decided to race around rather than actually paying attention to what that person in front of her was doing. Could have been avoided had she followed the traffic laws to begin and turned into her own lane from the stoplight. Oh well. Made it home in one piece.

Sometimes that's all we can ask for, I guess.