Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Noise (The Tide)

I was a bit remiss yesterday. I forgot to share that I'm now writing a weekly article for Alaska Commons. Check it out. Check them out. Good stuff over there.

Today there's a couple of interesting articles out on ADN.


The second:

First, I love the fact that our chief of police is out there speaking about this stuff. Where better to get the real dope about how the laws apply in various situations? Also, if the chief is speaking out, maybe it will help to raise overall awareness of cycling as a viable form of transport.

Heck, maybe it will even make the general discussion a bit more civilized between drivers and cyclists. Lord knows the conversations have been heated from time to time.

The second article does a good job, also, of capturing some of what makes biking so magical at all times of the year here.

Maybe Anchorage is making headway. We'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stairway to Heaven

Nothing compelling to report here. It is a beautiful day and I'm stuck inside. It's my wife's birthday and I'm stuck at work. It's not quite noon and I'm already ready for lunch.

It's always a challenge tempering the desire to just bug out and go for a ride on days like today. If I were younger and didn't have so much riding on my shoulders I probably would just boogie out and enjoy the sun.

But I've gone from simple living to complex living. I've got bills. Okay, that's a lie. I don't think I ever really lived simply. And I've always had bills. I'm terrible at resisting temptation. And plastic made it too easy to fulfill temptation. Now... well now I'm working on payback. Not fun. But, it is what it is. Therefore I can't just close up shop and head out for a ride.

Well. I probably could. I've got vacation hours banked and I have most of my tasks caught up. Good enough, anyway.

But, I wouldn't feel right just taking off for the day. So here I am, dreaming of rides I won't take and trying to keep focused on work...

Monday, February 24, 2014


No transit today… Just talk of the joys of riding a bike. Or maybe some transit talk. I don't know.

The first time riding new terrain is always fun. Which is what makes winter riding so amazing. While the scenery might be the same, or nearly so, from ride to ride, the terrain itself can vary significantly from one ride to another. Ice or powder. Crust or hard packed paths. Each time out requires a slight alteration to riding style and approach. And when it's good, it's great.

Friday was one of those great ride days when the terrain seemed fresh and new. I started out the day in Anchorage taking one of the dogs for a quick three mile bike-jour while waiting for the state high school ski meet to start for the day. It was cold and the groomer was out giving us blessed souls some great cord to ride. We rode and ran, but my itch for a ride was not sated.

Later that afternoon, I buttoned up my work for the day and decided to head out to the college and greenbelt to see how the riding was. It was amazing. Where there had been traffic since our most recent snow things had bonded nicely to the ice underneath, making for a solid, grippy surface. I got to ride some trails I've not ridden before, explore some areas I hadn't in the past, and didn't do much pushing at all. The only problem was in the areas where there had not been traffic. The snow was still powdery and loose over top of glare ice. No riding that, but it was such a small percentage of the riding that it didn't even bother me.

The day was prime for riding, too. Sunny. Calm. In the 20s and no one else was around. I spent about an hour and a half out there just putzing around. Brilliant.

Then comes Sunday.  And whoa! It ended up being one of those days that just can't be beat.  We volunteered to watch the GPRA chalet for the day as a way to give back and to be forced to disconnect a bit and relax in a beautiful location.

The morning started with some work - getting papers graded and all. Then the fun began. I decided to ride some of the snowshoe trails instead of heading down to Moose Range. And I am so glad I did. The riding was good but hard. Hard because it was all up hill. Good because the trails were awesome. It was in the mid thirties, probably and I was out there in the sun with a tee shirt on and just gutting it up hill, walking when I had to, then bombing back down the trail.

I got to where the trail stopped being flat at all and went into 'up we go' mode, where I figured I wouldn't  be able to ride much at all, so I stopped to catch my breath and unzip my vest and noticed I had my work phone with me. So, I guess I decided a couple of pictures of the scene would be good.

Clearly, it was one of those perfect days to be out for a ride. Perfect. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wrong Number (Smith Remix)

I love new snow days. Six or so inches fell overnight in the city, giving everything a fresh, new coat of white. Yes, the ride is a bit slower, but it is glorious punching in new tracks in fresh powder.

The world is so much nicer when there is new snow. In fact, as I was riding through downtown this morning, I got a "That's awesome, man!" yelled at me from across the street. Yup, a great way to start the day.

Heck, even the cars were friendly this morning.

Yup, fresh snow is a great thing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Track 4

There's this discussion going on in many circles about what is the best bike for bike commuting. Some folks are adamant that it is the mountain bike. Some, the road bike.

Each side weighs out the pros and cons of each bike and depending on the author's proclivities, the lists line out exactly as the author thought they would.

In some ways this discussion speaks to my number one issue with the cycling community. Really, my issue with any specialized activity's community, really.

I don't know who said it, but someone said that we loathe most in others what we perceive most in ourselves. Or something like that, anyway.

What I loathe in so many of the bike community is the seeming need for something better, faster, lighter, newer, shinier. And I lust the same way. I hate it.

Why do we even feel the need to go to the interwebs to ask what is the best bike for bike commuting when the answer is obvious - the bike that you have.

Why do we feel that everything has to be specialized? What happened to the days of the generalist? When you had one tool to do myriad jobs rather than myriad tools that each do one job?

Could this be the fault of our technological age? Our insistence on capitalism as the saving grace of the world? Or is it just evidence of our susceptibility to marketing of both the clever and not so clever kinds?

I am the first to admit that I lust over bikes and bike parts. And if I didn't have a rational wife or a limited budget, I would likely have a new bike for every day of the week. As it is, I feel like I already spend way too much on my bike and upgrading my bike.

That said, I am generally a person who only changes something out when the previous one has died. I've moaned about this before. Forgive me.

I just have a really hard time with the idea of consumption for consumption's sake.

If you get some time, check out this thread over at MTBR. Some interesting arguments. Conspicuous consumption afoot. I'll just keep riding the best bike for commuting - the one that I've got.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

Crazy things are afoot. Teen killers in Pennsylvania claim multiple dozen murders and satanic associations. I have killed more time than any man alive.

New snow leaves a clean etch a sketch for me to write my name in using heavily lugged bicycle tires and absolute silence of thought that only comes when the blood is pumping faster than thoughts are able to form.

Trying to decide how early I should leave to ensure I get home. The bus is a scary place when service is reduced to the bare minimum.

Running errands is the fool's errand in this weather, with these road conditions. You take your life into your own hands, but the back roads are open and bare. We can slip through, untethered to traffic flow, stoplights, gravity.

Click, click, click, buzz. Studded snow tires tap a rat a tat in the grooves cut like sound waves captured in vinyl, disconcerting as the noise dopplers past.

What kind of business is this? Sitting. Standing. Aching back leaning into the wheel of progress that spins, but goes nowhere. What am I saying?

These are not my thoughts.

My head doesn't always spin in circles. Except when it does. Round. And round. And round. I seek the low road, the frozen raven in a tree. These words are animal crackers crumbling at my feet from lack of time spent awake.


The northern lights wake me in my dreams, pulling with magnetic insistence, insisting that every fear is real.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.

Nobody knows the taste of un-toasted oak sawdust on their tongue - eating wood is a sure, but rather slow form of suicide. But so is eating nothing. Or everything. Or some things but not the others.

What if this is nothing more than a simulation of a simulation of someone else's idea of what life is. We are the imagination of ourselves.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


What is my favorite part of the commute? That depends.

Many days it is the time I get to spend on the bus engrossed in a good novel.

Other days it is crossing the Knik River bridge on the way home and watching the fog rise from the water and seeing glints of the glacier in the sun.

Some days it is power from my office to the bus stop on well groomed trails, feeling fast and free.

Other days it is getting to work and having my first warming cup of coffee.

What I don't love is getting up at 4:00 in the morning. What I don't love is that first moment when I step out of my garage and into the 4:38 AM cold. What I don't love is the wind. And when it rains. And when the bus is full or too hot or too cold.

But I love the fact that I can live somewhere that my kids have a good school and teachers that really push them. I love the fact that I can live in a house that has room for everyone and that I have a yard and a garage and if I want to plant a garden I can. I love that I can have this and still be able to commute without driving myself.

Because of this, I really enjoy almost every aspect of my commute. Even those I don't enjoy. I remember when I used to drive to work every day and how frazzled I would feel by the time I got there. And this was in a small city of less than a quarter million. And again, on the way home I would feel the same stress.

I don't feel any of that anymore. There is a bit more stress than when my commute was all by bike. I didn't have to worry then about hitting someone else's schedule, but even that stress isn't much. Or anything I really worry about.

Oh. I love it when I snows.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bones in the Water

Well, seems like discussion I posted here is more than just rumor and speculation.

I'll keep the discussion brief here, as I haven't had a chance to really digest the article, and ADN, apart from their stupid pay wall, aren't always the most accurate with their initial reports.

Cost per trip - 10 to 12 bucks round trip seems right. That would definitely place the per ride cost on-par with the Valley Mover.

Two trips in and out each day. Hey, that makes sense to me. If you can fit 480 people per trip you wouldn't need too much more than two runs each way.

Run September through May. While this makes sense on the one hand, as these are the times of year when folks generally don't want to drive due to road conditions, it seems like AKRR may be shooting themselves in the foot a bit. Mass transit succeeds out of habit. Riders have to be in the habit of using your service. Anything that disrupts that habit will lead your riders to another form of transport. And we all know that recapturing lost customers is multiple times harder than getting them the first time.

Another issue I see is the in-town transportation. For folks who do not work in the downtown core, it can be a challenge to get from the Valley Mover stop to work. Add another 3/4 mile slog up a fairly steep hill to get from the train depot to the transit center to catch a People Mover and you've just disinterested a lot of folks. Also, given the time of year they propose to run, those who might be interested in multi-modal approaches would also be less likely to give it a go. I might view it a bit differently if there were a bus stop near the train depot, but there isn't

In the ADN article, read the comments. They shed a lot of light on the type of arguments that the RR will need to overcome to be successful. They also show the type of misinformation that people have about the various transport opprotunities available.

And the guy who claims that the combined cost of the train and an in-town shuttle would be more than the cost of driving? Yeah, on the surface I'm sure it is. But just think of the wear and tear and maintenance required to be able to drive 70 or 80 miles a day year round. And the guy who thinks that it would require a 5 am to 8 pm day to allow for transport - Not so much. I leave the valley at 5:10 am and get home at 5:20 PM, because I work ~10 hour days. If I were to work 8 hour days I could be home by 3 every day.

Enough of that. Here, have some beardcicle pics - as they are making a comeback.



Christmas present saddle. 

And check out this post. Something he says really resonates with me. It involves ABC's Wild World of Sports and the Iditarod. I remember exactly where I was when I saw that episode. I also remember having a strong reaction to watching those men and their dogs in the wilderness. I can't say that I told myself then, at least consciously, that I would one day see that trail myself. Growing up that was not something that my mind could even fathom. Camping when I was growing up generally involved a pop up trailer, a huge cooler of foods we didn't eat at home, and as much comfort as possible. I call it the Ford method of camping. The idea of packing everything I would need to survive was just beyond my grasp. Hell, it still feels like it is, a bit.

That said, I hope to actually get out and ride a little bit of the trail this winter yet, get a first taste of it. And eventually, I would like to do the Iditarod Invitational. I have a lot of work to do to be able to, but I think it might be in the cards. Maybe.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Closer (Further Away)

Good Stuff - TED Talks

I love me some TED Talks. They make me feel smart just for watching. I particularly like the one linked above. Amanda Palmer interests me. She's a unique individual and she brings up some really great points in her talk. Points that I think many can relate with.

I think it is hard for everyone to come right out and ask for what it is that we want. Of course, Mrs. Palmer focuses her talk on how asking for what you want can help one survive in the music business and create a stronger connection between artist and fan.

I think the idea can be expanded to anything, really. What would happen if everyone simply asked for what they wanted in life? Asked for what they wanted their life to be? I'm not talking asking for a million dollars or a big house. More at the emotional, spiritual, and metaphysical level - World, I want to be content with my life, have beautiful children and a lovely wife, and feel fulfilled in my work. Can you help me get that?

Is this what differentiates people? Some people are able to ask for what they want while others of us don't? I know I don't. And while I have a lot of really great things in my life, I also have moments where I feel completely unsettled and unfulfilled. Though, this does seem to me the nature of the human condition. We all have those moments of being completely satisfied followed by moments of dread that we haven't obtained all we think we should.

Therein lies the issue with blogs and other channels of representation wherein the author is also the sole editor. It's much easier to present that "my life is perfect" vision to the world. And I would guess that this feeds into a cycle of discontent among heavy blog readers - my life isn't as good as the life I see on blog X.

Or, what if people with seemingly perfect lives indeed have perfect lives? And they asked for those perfect lives? It's an idea. Maybe.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


I used to be able to tell you the exact last time that I drove a car to work, but not anymore because, really, is it that important? I used to pride myself on not knowing the current price of gas. I can still tell you the coldest temp I've ever ridden in (-24F). I can tell you where the newest homeless camp has been erected or destroyed along a limited corridor of this town. There are three miles of this city that I am so intimately familiar with that they feel like mine.

It used to be seven miles. Then it was eleven. Then seven different miles. Then four. Now it's three. I know where every bump is at, where the cars won't give you three feet as they pass because they don't have it to give, and which lights won't turn from red to green unless a car pulls up no matter where you place your bike.

To be honest, Anchorage can be a bit of an ugly town, Alaska an ugly state. It's not the views that are ugly. It is the people and the ways that people treat each other here.

After the honeymoon glow wore off of moving here, it became clear that people here can be really ugly to each other. I first felt it as a cyclist riding for transportation rather than fun. When I first started commuting by bike, I didn't wear the uniform. I wore a mishmash of clothing from the thrift shops - the same as the homeless folks. I might have had a bit more focus with what I wore. But because I wasn't wearing what seems like the cyclist's uniform, I felt that I was often lumped by drivers into the same category as those who are often homeless or inebriated and riding bike in this town - inconveniences whom none would miss if gone.

I had close calls at least once per week with cars and trucks. Usually trucks. With big tires and fake testicles hanging from the rear bumper.

Then my I started wearing more cycling-specific gear - pants with reflectors along the sides, bright orange jackets, etc. And it seemed like the close calls got less and less.

Then I woke up and realized that it had nothing to do with my clothing or looking like a "cyclist," but rather was that my route changed so that I rode less roadways and more bike trails. I still generally fall into the dirtbag cycling category. And I love thrift shops.

Now that I am back to a fairly even mix of road and trail, I have a lot more close calls again. Or, rather, just those events that make me feel less than comfortable - a truck passing too closely, or a car riding my ass to the light and then gunning it around me in the intersection.

I read somewhere that many drivers unconsciously do not see cyclists as human and this is where many of the conflicts come from. I don't know anything about that. Instead, I think that here in Alaska, there are a few things that cause drivers to treat cyclists and pedestrians so poorly and that these things can be extended to how people here treat each other in general.

I'm trying here. Trying to make connections that still are only ideas in my head. Or maybe I'm trying to find answers for what I read in this article my wife sent me:

I don't want to belittle things, but I really think that the same behaviors and attitudes that allow so many in this state to metaphorically and literally spit on the homeless, get violently argumentative about user rights on public trails, run down cyclists and pedestrians, and even deface public schools by tagging them with swastikas or starting their playgrounds on fire are the same types of attitudes that allow rape to be such an epidemic in this state. It is institutionalized here - the victim is to blame.

I hope that I can become more eloquent and cognizant about this topic someday. I just don't know. I just can't get my head around the how and the why. And it scares me. It really, really does.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before

I was detained...

Naw. Not really. If anything, I've been getting places faster this week than normal. It seems like it took me no time at all to get home last night and getting into to work this morning was likewise seemingly faster than normal.

I have no really thoughts as to why this may be. I think it probably has to do with the feeling in my head, caused by a glut of snot in my sinuses, of swimming in the ether. Ephemera? I don't know, man.

Talking of transportation... well I wasn't, but I will. Buses. They are funny things. When the bus arrived this AM, there were two people on it. Two. The day after a new schedule went into effect. A new schedule that axed a bus. Normally the first bus of the day has five to seven people coming in before it gets to my stop, so it is never full, but I've never seen it so empty before. I'm really not sure what's going on.

The 4:30 bus home, though... that one is full as usual. If anything it might even be a bit more full than normal. I had hoped that the change to the morning schedule would move some folks either to an earlier bus or to an even later bus. Not to be.

That's okay, though. No skin of me nose.

In other transport news, there's a private company trying to put together a, what appears to be on demand, bus service - 24X7X365. At least this is according to the flyer duct taped to the bus stop shelter.

This is not something I worry about as the cost of running this service will keep most VM riders firmly where they are - but we'll see. We'll see.

Monday, February 3, 2014


I just want fame.
That's all. Fame. Everyone
to know my face, know my name.

But that's a lie. I want
to be nothing more
than the shadow in the corner,
remembering the times when
we were so poor
that we'd spend Sunday
at Sears, watching the traveling
kitchen utensil pitchwoman
hawking her wares center ring
for the gathered crowd, a crowd
drawn in with the repeated
refrain over the in-store PA of
"Claim your free gift just for watching."
and we would. We would hold on
to those cheap trinkets
as if they were the golden scepter
of the gods. We would walk the aisles
dreaming of all the products we
thought we needed, but couldn't afford.

It seems that we were happier then.
That life wasn't so complicated, that
there was not so much riding on every decision.

Yeah, the bills were still there. The stresses of
putting gas in the car and food on the table. All
that was there, but it was like we knew
that we couldn't afford anything that we
thought we wanted, so we just didn't want.
We didn't want.

How to go back to not wanting, now?

I've got nothing else. I suppose I could mention something about the fact that the Valley Mover started their new schedule today that reduces the AM busses from eight to seven. I could, but I can't say that I saw much of an effect from this change. Yes, there was another fat biker on the bus this AM, but apart from being a bit more difficult to get my bike in and out, that wasn't much of an effect.

More important is that the bus didn't feel any more crowded than it normally does. I figure over the rest of this week things might change as folks from the canceled bus try the other options and come to rest on their prefered bus.

I still prefer the 5:10. It's quiet and I get home at a decent time.