Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Doomed - Part 1

I forget how much I love listening to books while I make my daily rides. Just getting lost in the stories. Its amazing.

A good narrative is an amazing thing. Its able to draw you out of yourself, allows you to experience things otherwise impossible, and teaches you something about the world and yourself.

I read a lot, too. Its something I've always done. And I think on the whole it is a good thing. But what if you are the type of person who is never quite satisfied with what you have? What if you wish your life were more like the lives you find in the books you read? What if you found it hard to distinguish reality from the narrative that you want to be true for yourself? How would that affect your life and the lives those you love?

I ask because I've found myself wondering just how other's view the world in relation to themselves. Case in point. I am nearing 40. But the mental image I have of myself still has me at 18. In my head I am still young, skinny, and invincibly stupid. I don't at all feel like an adult, even with the mortgage and the kids and the career. I don't feel like I should be just as close to death as to birth, nor do I feel like I've done most of the things that I promised my 18 year old self that I would do.

I don't think I'm coming up to a mid life crisis or anything. I've felt this for a long time. I've often thought it would be interesting to ask my father about this, about whether he feels like he's got his shit together, because in my eyes he always seemed to know just what he was doing and what was important to get worked up over and what to leave be. But maybe that was just hiding his own sense of 'what the hell am I doing here? Where's the instruction manual?'

So maybe this is a common thing, this feeling of not knowing what one should do, this feeling of not being grown up, this feeling of being completely bat-shit lost in the world. Maybe some just fake it better than others, or maybe some are just able to keep the storyline they want their lives to follow a bit more true to the life they are living?

All I know is that these are the types of questions that sometimes vex me as I peddle from here to there, feeling both as free as a child over summer vacation and as confused about my place in the world as anyone who has ever lived.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sweeter than you

Ever have one of those days when you just know it's going to just not end?

I've been having a lot more of those lately. My daily calendar continues to have more appointments than I have time for and still I have more work that needs done. Its overall a good problem to have, I guess.

Today though. Whoa. It started with the AM commute. Windy. The type of wind that swung around to being a headwind no matter which direction I pointed the bike in.

Then there were the drivers this morning. Drivers - when a cyclist sticks his left arm straight out to the left it is signaling that he is going to turn left not that he wants you to hurry around him and make the left hand turn first, almost taking him out in the process. Just sayin'

Follow near death with a day of back to back meetings and, well, frankly Mr Shankley, I'm read for bed. But no, I first Have to race from work to the bus stop after being in a meeting until 4. That said, I think may have PR'd the ride. Left the parking lot at 4:07 and made the bus stop at 4:19. Not bad for a fat guy on a fat bike with some nasty icy conditions in places.

But now I'm on the bus. I'm on the way home and the sun on my back feels quite nice. But when I get home I have more work to do before
I can sleep. And tomorrow doesn't look to be much better in the way of busy-ness.

Though maybe if I'm lucky I'll be able to sneak out a little early and get some trillions time in before heading home. Give myself some time to decompress a bit.

I was talking to my boss today and he was so stoked that when he went out last night on some of the trails I showed him and when he got a bit turned around and asked a passerby if he knew what trail they were on and was told Paper Plate  he knew that trail name and approximately where he was. It was amazing to see that mixed look of joy and excitement on his ace as he talked about exploring new trails. I imagine that must be how I look quite often. A big, hairy kid beaming with the joy of discovery.

Good times.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Voyer

Oh what a glorious weekend. I hate for it to be over now. I really ignored all of my responsibilities for three days and just enjoyed time in the saddle.

It started Friday with a Knik river ride. I'd made tentative plans with a gentleman from work meet up and ride out with him, but it didn't work out so I decided to make the ride on my own.

I'd never ridden the river before and wasn't quite sure where to put in, but had heard that Hunter creek was a good starting point to cut out some miles. I got started there and followed in some other tracks, but quickly lost them and kinda lost myself. I ended up out of the main creek bed and in a swamping no clear path to the main river channel.

I was quite discouraged and wasn't looking forward to back-tracking, so I followed a snow machine trail that was, unposted, private property. This eventually led me back to the road where I rode back to the car and started the drive home.

On the way I decided to pull off at a river access point and check it out. I pulled out the bike and headed up river. I didn't make it to the glacier, but the sun and scenery made up for it. And now I know how to get on the river easily, so I can give it another try.

On Saturday I got to head out to Moose Range for some riding. It was a bit of a last minute decision to go and it was windy so I wasn't really feeling it at first. But as I started getting warm-up, it just became more and more fun. I rode some snow machine trails off the main trails and rode the ski trails, which were amazing riding. Firm and fast. What was strange to me is that I was the only person out there. On a Saturday the place is usually packed.

Yesterday was a trip to town to ride. My colony decided to put together a little fat bike event for employees to come out and give it a try, eat some food, and team build. It ended up being the perfect day for it. Warm, sunny, and fast trails. We rented ten fat bikes for people to try out and I led folks on tours of some of my favorite single track trails in the area, mostly the social trails that pop up each year. The ones that aren't really social trails, but not really sanctioned trails yet either.

We got a lot of folks interested in winter biking, I think, and I got a lot of good miles in. Though this morning's commute was a big tough as the legs were definitely feeling the three days of big rides.

I love this time of year!

Until the End of the World

Has the world gone topsy-turvy?

I like to read because their slant is usually so apparent as to be laughable. But then I saw the article linked above.

I'm not sure their slant here. Fox is certainly not an outlet that would advocate alternate transportation options, so what gives? Why the breathless article about something that, at its base, everyone who drives already has some grasp of?

My guess is it's just a slow news day, but what if this is the start of a new cycle wherein Fox News connects the cost of operating a car with Obamacare and how if we didn't have Obamacare it wouldn't cost so much to drive?

Could happen.

It is Fox News, afterall.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Heard About You Last Night

I cant say that I have much to say today
seems my words have all run dry again.
The miasma of blank thoughts swimming
tadpoles behind my closed eyes,
I tried once to capture the feeling of pre solstice
dark and cold, early December mornings
sneaking through a world that still sleeps
and every time I fail. There is no way to speak
the magic of those moments alone
before the sun bursts and the world's concerns
come crashing in yet again.

I often get asked what it is that draws me to biking. Why doing spend hours and hours riding this funny machine in all kinds of weather and why don't I just ride in summer like normal folk. And I tell people the I prefer winter riding to the summer in many respects. But I can never quite convey the sheer joy of the dark and silence of riding in the December world. The carelessness of riding a new trail after a fresh snow when you don't have to worry about falling because the snow creates a soft crash pad on which to land.

Some folks get it, of course. Skiers and runners- the people who spend lots time outside in the winter already. But a lot of people don't. And even if I were a better writer, I don't think I could capture the feelings I get being out there. I guess you just have to experience some things for yourself to really understand them.

So get out there this weekend, rent a fat bike or just ride the bike you already have and spend some time in the world, preferably before the sun rises and see if you can understand what I'm trying to say. I swear I'm not crazy.

Just a little nuts.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Naki Kyotu

Frugal cycling. Guess I try to be as frugal with cycling as I can. Just like with any other 'hobby' activity, the companies market a cornucopia of must have gear that no cyclist can be without...until next season when the newest must have item hits the market.

Out of cheapness, frugality, or just plan being broke I've been able to avoid most of the temptation to buy the newest doo-dads and instead have been able identify what I really must have, adapting something to the use for a while and then later buying a specified product, when it makes sense.

Lights are one important accessory when riding in winter in Alaska. I started bike commuting with a cheap, dim light on my handlebars, something you'd get at Wal-Mart that is really meant as a safety light, not something to actually light your way. This I added a camping and hiking headlamp that he'd had for a few seasons. And it worked. Well, enough that I didn't run into anything. I couldn't really see all that well, but my route was somewhat lighted, so it wasn't a huge issue. Then my route changed and my needs changed. So I found a bright flashlight and adapted it to my needs and got a new headlight that was brighter. And this worked for a time. Now my needs have changed again and I have purchased a powerful, bike specific light.

One does have to wonder if I would have saved in the long run by going with the bike specific light I have now from the start. I suppose, but for me the whole point was to start bike commuting to save money and had I bought everything that the companiestold me I needed to buy to commute by bike when I fist started, I would not have been able to afford the startup cost.

I'm also quite opposed to specialization I want gear that I can generally use for other activities. I don't want to spent 300 bucks on a pair of winter cycling boots that aren't good for wearing while hiking or standing out in the cold and helping at a ski meet. There are exceptions, of course. A bike helmet generally doesn't have use elsewhere. Chamois are nor good formula else than riding, but when I can, I try to go for the multiuse items.

So what's the point I'm trying to make here? Just that is possible to star cycling for transport without making huge investments in gear first. It is possible to really enjoy cycling year round with a minimal investment. You don't need multiple bikes and a different set of clothes every weather combo. Just go for it and see.

And, by the way, I'll be chatting with the guys from the sprocket podcast tonight. Exciting times

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Observer

Talkeetna. Interesting little town with some nice easy riding. The snow was beautiful, the weather near perfect, and the mix of snow machine trail, Bush sacked lake crossings, and road made for an amazing 2.5 hours of riding while my oldest skied the 50k Oosik Classic.

I think I even got some tan lines going. I look forward to heading up that way again soon and putting in more miles in this funky little burg.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Okay, I hate spring. I'm done with it. My knee is throbbing, my arm is bleeding and my head ain't doing so well either. I did see an Olympian out running, though. So that's cool. Then I slowed to make my corner and come up off the bike trails and next thing I know my head is bouncing off the ground and the bike is on top of me. Good times.

I knew it was going to happen, just wasn't sure when. I tend to have some nice crashes in the spring. Normally, though, I know they are coming and can at least keep my head out of it, but not today. Thank goodness for helmets.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


So, I was in Walmart the other night with my wife, shopping for whatever it is that you shop at Walmart for. And I'm walking down the aisle with the canned fish and Hispanic foods. Then I see it. My first time seeing a person wearing Google Glasses.

It got me thinking a bit. See, I've been a fan of technology and connectedness for some time. Since back in the late years of the last century, at least. I was often an early adopter of hardware and sometimes of services. I never had a MySpace site or a Live Journal. But, I saw the potential of email and other forms of instant communications, storing files in a web-based location, etc. etc. Mostly, though, I liked hardware.

At some point, however, I started to step back a bit and question technology and the role that it plays in my life. I mean, I spend my days working on a computer and across a wide variety of networks, yet I try to stay away from cell phones as much as possible. I try to keep my surfing to a minimum and have tried and sometimes failed to stay away from most forms of social networking. I keep many of my files on cloud services and, obviously blog, but I've also tried to simplify by avoiding elements of technology.

And the dude wearing the Google glasses raised a question in my head. At what point do we become nothing more than the servant of our technology? When does the Matrix become real? What if it is already?

How about at a simpler level - at what point does our access to universes of information make it so that we are unable to think, reason, or problem solve on our own? I can't count the number of times I've been in a conversation and have posed a question that the other person could not immediately answer and had that other person pull out his or her phone and Google it. So we have all of the answers at our finger tips, but having the answers doesn't mean we know how to apply them, does it?

Example. My son is interested in all things nuclear right now. Who knows why? Maybe he watches The Simpson's too much. I don't know. But he's continually watching videos on YouTube about how to extract chemicals and isotopes from commonly available materials thinking that he is going to crack the code on fission. Or is it fusion? I think it's fusion, but regardless. He has this world of answers open to him, but he's no clue about safe lab procedures or how to ensure that he doesn't blow up his family or gas himself to death. He has the information, but information does not equal knowledge.

Knowledge is the conjunction of information and experience. So, we now have these little computers we can wear on our faces and get information on any topic we wish at any time. What does that do to our ability to gather information on our own and convert that to knowledge? I don't know. What does it do to our ability to have a real and honest interaction with another person not mediated by all the information in the world? I don't know. On some levels it is terribly scary to think about how close we are to the Matrix and our electronic overlords, how willingly we give up our innermost secrets to the web's billions of strangers. Hell, I'm doing it here. The paradox. And at what point do we realize that all the information that bombards us each and every waking moment isn't helpful, isn't informative, but is just white noise that tries to drown out our ability to discern the real facts and information? Is the information revolution a good thing?

My gut tells me that on the whole it's having more negative effects than positive, but I'm just a neo-luddite. Or something like that. Stinking hippie.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


A new bus a new experience. Sometimes things just roll so fast you get where you're going before you had planned. Normally I avoid the 4:05 bus. Too many people. But when its there and there are open seats, well, I'm not above getting home a bit early.

Transits been a bit boring lately. Just the normal day to day riding. The trails are back to decent and the roads aren't too horrid. But it looks like another big thaw is coming round to give us a taste of spring before it's time.

I have noticed that the warmer weather tends to correlate to a general increase in the number of close calls with drivers. Spring fever, I guess makes horrible drivers of us all.

I remember being 16 and when spring came around he'd crank up the metal or rap and just cruise. But not really cruise, more like drag race every street we could find and pedestrians be damned.

I guess I understand it. I just don't like it. I don't like the sound of angry bees swarming up behind me as the kid in the souped up Suburu races up behind me, passing within inches, or thwarted jacked up SUV with blacked out Windows rolls slowly behind me for two blocks before gunning it around me to make right hand then and almost right hooking me. But these are the risks.

I wouldn't trade them. The spring fever is even more infectious when on a bike and out in the air and sun.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pliable Foe

Drugs. I see so many drug deals going on downtown I should just become a NARCISSISTIC. I mean, every day it seems like I see two or three going down. And I am generally a blissfully unaware person. I don't pay attention to things going on around me.

But at the bus stop what else is there to do besides watching the street scenes unfold? And in down town Anchorage that means watching drug deals go down. Which, all and all is better than watching human trafficking. Or prostitution deals. Though those last two are nearly synonyms here. And one sees that happens lot as well.

It doesn't surprise me. Downtowns are always rife with strange scenes. Now, if I could just figure out how to capture theming some kind of tale that would interest others... the white boy meth head with a heart of gold and teeth like rotten coffin pegs. Or the hooked with three kids she's trying to put through Catholic private school.

Transit type stuff? Not so much really. Just standard fare. The busses still run and generally on time. The bike still makes the connections from bus to wherever else I need to be. It is good. It is good.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Other

I wish I would've gotten a picture of it. Twice. In one day.  See, I don't spend that much time in the 'Silver, so maybe this is a normal thing, but twice today I saw ATVs roll up to the cross walk, press the button and then drive across as if they were pedestrians. The same people who's birch about a cyclist riding across the cross walk, I'm sure.

Anyway. Just found it a bit funny.

Rode the hay flats. Amazing good times there. Crusty. Powdery. Sunny. Amazing. Nothing technical at all. Just good fun riding in the sun. My only regret is not having more time to spend out there. Only had about an hour, which is nowhere nearly enough time to really explore the area. I think I'll be going back again soon.

That is all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Ever have one of those days? When from the first moment you know things aren't going to go your way?

Today's shaping up that way. One small annoyance couples wither the next, impregnating the day, gestating a little beast that will turn around some day and eat its mother. Oedipus, I'm thinking. We'll gall today Oeddy for short.

It started with the morning sit down. Picked holy tablet and flipped on the kindle app only to find that my library book, a book I renewed two days ago had been removed from said device. No biggie, as it's just a matter of downloading after getting the link from the library. But the library's website is down. No book for me.

Again, not a big deal. I've got an article about grammar education I can read on my work iPhone. IPhone's dead.

Oh well. I should be working on grading. Open up a student assignment and the rubric sheet I'm using Olympus to realize that the mobile apps I use on my tablet don't allow for the type of commenting or text input I normally do. And because I am in a bit of a mood, I say screw it.

I'm going to take a nap.

At least it's snowing.

End whine.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


I've got nothing today. I'm just tired and ready for the weekend already, even though I'll be working the whole weekend. And I'll be tempted the whole time I'm working to go for a ride. It seems that the Knik river is ridable and the glacier is beautiful. Or so my sources tell me.

Then the following weekend is a road trip and bike ride in Talkeetna. I'm looking forward to this. The weekend after is a winter bike function at work, which should be good times as well, though more work for me. As the only current every day winter rider, I've been asked to provide some info about dressing for winter riding as well as discussing some of the stuff that folks should have along for the ride.

Work, work, work. Speaking of work, go check out my second column over at  Alaska Commons . Good stuff if I do say so. All about beardcicles and stuff.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Like Herrod

Nearly dying has a way of getting one's attention.

That is maybe a bit disingenuous. I didn't nearly die. It just felt like it. Picture this: side street. Empty except for me. I'm in the lane because it's icy. Big truck comes up behind me. I can tell it's a big pickup by the sound of it. I maintain my lane. There's no oncoming traffic. The truck comes right up to me, lays on the horn as he takes my rear wheel and passes me with less than a foot between me and the truck, all the while gunning his engine.

Big trucks usually mean big jackasses if the driver is a jackass.

I love when a gashole thinks its funny to pass in such a way as to endanger someone else's life. Funny ha ha.

I wish I had gotten a picture of the truck, but what would that have done? Nothing. That's what.

The worst part is that it happened early in the ride so the rest of my ride was colored by the anger I felt at nearly being run down.

And the shame for how I handled the situation - by yelling profanities and waving my arm about in a WTF? gesture. But happily abstaining from flying the bird.

At least it's sunny out. A blue bird day for a ride indeed.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Dawn

It feels like April, not March. Riding is amazing. A bit muddy in some places, but fun riding. The sun feeling like a long lost friend returned. But there is something sad about it as well.

March is traditionally the best month for winter cycling as the warmer days mean the snow packs down nice and you can ride in gear that allows you to at least look human while still rolling on terrain not accessible when things aren't frozen.

Not so now. There is far too much bare ground and the trails are going from decent coverage to nothing fast too quickly. Breakup should be decent this year, won't have to spend weeks being soaked on each ride, but... I want the normal March back.

I want to have to wear hats and gloves for the ride and feel that sting of cold on my face. I want snow, damned it. Snow and winter and the fleeting trails that come with it. Is that so much to ask?