Thursday, May 29, 2014


I like my solitude. While I enjoy spending time with my family, I also like being alone. Working on a project or out in the woods or on a river or lake. I like getting into that zone where my thoughts can just wander where they will and I lose myself in the miasma of memory and the here and now.

There have been times when I kind of come to and have to ask myself just how I got to where I am. Which is a bit scary when you've just ridden a challenging section of single track, like that climb up out of Long Lake on the north side, where there's the rooty, techy section, and have no recollection of actually doing the riding.

This happens to me much more when riding road or paved trails, places where the mind can truly turn off. And it's always been this way for me. When I was young, 12 or 13 I had a Huffy 10 speed. It was my first geared bike, an adult bike. I rode that thing all over town - any bike being my key to freedom. The road bike gave me even more freedom because I could ride it longer and faster than I could a BMX, which is what I had prior and after.

I would often ride for hours on that bike with its blue plastic seat embossed with a grid pattern as if it were quilted leather or something. I would literally ride laps around the town - for hours on end. By myself. Just pedaling. It was good times.

I'd get into a trance where I would just pedal and that was all there was in the world - the movement of my legs up and down.

I'd often get home and not know exactly where I'd been or how long I'd been gone. One day, though, this disembodiment led to a new experience. I'd been riding for an hour, probably. It was a cool day out, a bit damp, so I must have been heading back home. Anyway, I'm riding along and the next thing I know, I'm on the ground looking at the sky and wondering just how I got there. The bike was nowhere to be seen, but I knew I had been riding.

My head hurt and there was grit in my mouth - I later found out it was the remains of a couple of chipped teeth. My knees were bleeding, as were my palms. My head hurt. I slowly stood and noticed a parked car directly in front of me. I also noticed my bike tire poking out from the rear of the car. I walked around to behind the car and noticed that my front wheel was a bit bent and there was a blue mark in the center of the bumper from where the tire had hit it.

I concluded that I must have hit and flown over the car. I had no recollection of it at all. I suppose I could say that hitting my head on the pavement is what caused me to blot out the moments prior to hitting the parked car. That makes sense. If it weren't for my tendency of going blank while on the bike prior to this event, I would agree 100%.

There have been other incidences where I've wrecked in some way due to being 'in the zone' while on the bike, though they are further and further apart. The iPod helps with keeping me at least somewhat present most of the time. And I suppose grown up worries also keep me from completely disconnecting. And the memory of waking up lying on the road also helps to keep me a bit more focused on staying present.

But one of the big appeals of riding is that it allows me to get away from the cares and worries of the day. I can worry on the big questions in an indirect manner. It's a good thing to get some distance, right? There is always a balancing act to my riding (ha!). I have to be present enough to not get myself killed while also having enough distance from the voices in my head to actually mull over the things that are gnawing at me at any particular time.

Is there some greater metaphor there that I'm missing?


Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Sha-la-la. Sha-la-la-la. Something, something, something. Words. To express something. Happy Tuesday. Day after a holiday weekend.

Interesting how the day after a long weekend feels like a holiday itself in many ways.

Example: This morning the bus, when it arrived at Trunk Road had one person on it. Trunk is the last stop before Anchorage. Normally, there is a handful of people. Not today. Just one.

Example: Normally when I arrive at work at 6:02, there are a smattering of people in the cubes, getting stuff done. Today - it's a ghost town. As I look out at the parking lot now, it is still quite vacant.

Hell, I didn't want to come in today. What with the long weekend and the pain of waking up caused by the smoke in the air still causing lungs and head to ache, it would have been easy to go back to bed. Alas, I've a training session to put on today, so I kinda need to be in the office. Though at this point my system is being such a POS that I might as well have stayed home.

I got out on the boats a bit this weekend with the fam. A canoe and a kayak. 16 foot and 13.5 foot tandem, respectively. Good times. Back when we lived in South Dakota I would often take one of them out before heading to work. We lived just a block from what is one of America's great rivers. I spent a lot of time paddling big water. It was awesome fun. I got to see faces of the river that most people never did - like when the dam was closed all night so the water's turbidity settled out and I could see nearly to the river bed 12 feel below my boat. Not something that you normally see on the big muddy.

I'd often take the boat out after work and on the weekends as well. I boated more than biked then, I think. It was amazing to be able to get out on the water and just get away from the town any time I wanted. There were endless channels and coves to explore upriver and down. Being on the river became a big part of who I was at the time.

Then we moved to Alaska. Lots of water here. Lots of water. But I've found that I don't paddle nearly as much here. There's lots of water, for sure, but it's different.

First, I'm not a big fan of lake paddling. It seems pointless unless it is a dang big lake. Part of what I like about paddling is exploring. Paddling a lake feels anathema to exploration. It's a closed system. There are lots of lakes here.

Second, I no longer have two cars as in the past. River paddling generally means that one needs a way to get to the put in and back from the take out. It's a bit difficult to run up stream.

Third, it's often hard to find road accessible rivers here that are appropriate for the type of paddling I do. Not into whitewater. Don't want to be one of those silly people who seem to get themselves dead each year on our rivers.

That said, while out on the water yesterday I was able to reflect on the similarities between biking and paddling and why it is that I like them both so much. The biggest similarity is the repetitiveness of the activity. You get into a rhythm where you don't have to think about anything other than that next peddle or paddle stroke. Zen.

I think I'll need to reassess my thoughts on lake paddling. There are just so many within biking distance of my house that I think I really need to make a regular thing out of it. Build up the bike trailers to haul a canoe or a kayak, strap them to the bikes, and go.


Oh, and dipnetting is getting ever closer. Good times there. Best get the trailers sorted for that. Along with my nets and other necessaries.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mr. Grieves

I've never quite understood the desire to keep things new - the effort required to make something not appear as if it has not served its purpose. A blinding white pair of sneakers, a ball cap with the tag on for eternity, a bike that never has any dirt on it. I just don't get it.

That's not not to say that I don't believe in maintenance. I do. I wipe the bike down after most rides, I clean and lube the chain regularly, and I try to keep bolts torqued and cables adjusted. But I ride enough that my bike always looks a bit ragged, a bit worn, and a bit dirty.

I get many comments about my bike looking well ridden, a polite way of saying it looks rough. And I take this as a compliment. My bike is like my hammer or my screw driver or my truck - tools that I use to accomplish a goal. And tools that ate well used show their age. Tools that are quality tools last under the pressure of daily use. Those that are not don't last.

It always makes me a bit sad when I see a bike that looks like its never been ridden. The tool is not being used as intended. It is being a users as a show piece.

So, in this season of bike rah rah, get out there and ride. Use the tool for its purpose and let the tool show some of that use.

And avoid white sneakers. That's just bad fashion.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


A work in progress poem to share with y'all. This town is not a cyclist's dream lately. Wildfires have made it difficult to breathe. The mornings are haunting. It's not like being foggy, this smoke world. 

A pearl-silver blanket. 
Smoke from fires
reeks the air, fouls the lungs. 
Is this the end?
Wind birthing itself
in the heat of burning, packing  sinuses 
with the scent of camp fire -
so comforting and nostalgic initially,
blooming painful as it scours 
all other scents from the world.

Sunrise is beautiful
through the particulate. 

Everything tastes like fire.
Everything is gray.
Every breath painful.

Miles away, this is just a taste. 
This obscuring of the world. 
My eyes bleed from this.
My heart aches, 
stutter-steps through the day
so worried about the conflagration, 
the making of
plans gone up with the tongues of flame
that proclaim to the sky and the sea that
man's plans mean nothing,
we are prisoners of nature.

I cough out another chunk, lungs black
like a Virginia miner's; all my years of hard living
didn't inoculate cells to withstand this.

If the sun went out I'd see 
the hell glow to the south, would see 
the flames swim like
salmon up the valleys and coulees.
Could watch from afar and wonder
at the restoration of destruction,
the myriad ways the phoenix rises.

Flame is a universal sign of rebirth?

I want to watch it all burn away, burn to 
the ground, burn out
not fade away.

It's not that easy. 
The burning is difficult.
Even on the periphery 
it hurts.

Bit by bit the ash forms and falls,
compounds convert to carbon, 
atoms fall away
leaving black sooty residue.
Every memory tainted, 
painted in watercolor
washed away, ghost images of the past,
maps of a life drawn years ago,
the roads have somehow 
in this place, 
this land on fire.

Is this everything we ever wanted,
this land so willing to crush its inhabitants,

after the embrace of false comfort? 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Live at the Scala

Moose. They're not that smart. Yeah, they're big, but a bus is bigger. Moose, don't run out in front of a bus.

Brakes checked and they work. Driver checked and passed with flying colors.

Good way to start a Friday?

Normally I don't ride in on Fridays. I either work from home or have the day off. Today, however,  my company is having a BBQ lunch to help kick off the summer bike commuting season and get folks excited to ride. It's cool. A good chance to get together, talk bikes and eat some grub.

I'm coming in to town as I'm the summer commuter challenge team lead. Anyone who knows me knows this is funny. I don't really go for taking leader roles in group stuff like this.

But, they wanted a team captain who could lead by example and, I guess the fact that I commute by bike and bus every. Damned. Day. Is a good example to set?

It's cool, though. I need to do more leadership and organization type stuff.

On a side note- the iPhone keyboard is far superior to the stock android board.

Anyway, I hope to get some riding time in this morning as well. Riding. It's what's for dinner?

In other exciting news…I'm helping to coach kids about cycling up in the valley. Should be awesome fun times. Any excuse to get out and ride a bit more is a good excuse. And my kids will all be involved, so there's that.

I'm actually quite excited about it. Not only the coaching aspect, which is great fun, but also just the chance to share my love of riding with folks and, hopefully, show them that you don't have to have a super fancy bike to enjoy the ride. As cool as fatties are, the Pugsley looks pretty shabby when placed next to a sparkly new FS rig. Hell, last time I was in the bike shop I did a bit of drooling over a really nice Santa Cruz Tall Boy. Capitalism….

Of course, this means I have some wrenching to do tonight - new cables and pads, clean the drive train, etc, etc. I'm hopeful I don't find anything that needs too much work on any of the bikes. 

Good times. 

Pics from earlier this week: 

Prayer flags?


What was a really cool looking moon, but didn't make the transition to the electronic world. Although, it almost looks like a pointalist painting.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Hanging Moon

I had a good commute in to work this AM after a hell of a weekend. It started out Friday night when I decided to go for a ride to check out if the single track was getting to the point of being ridable and knowing that I had a lot to do over the weekend, so wouldn't get time to ride.

The entrance to the trails is 2.5 miles from my house. So I rode to the trails, hopped on and powered down the trail, not riding hard or anything. Get to a trail called College Connector which starts with a nice little down hill followed by a steepish uphill with a bit of a rooty section and off-camber stuff. Not difficult, but you want to be in the right gear going into the climb. Anyway, on the descent I get to the combo I feel comfortable in and just before I lose momentum, start peddling the uphill.

That's when it happens. Not more than a half mile into my trail riding. Pop. Clang. The sound of metal hitting spokes and the feeling of a set of cranks that won't move.

I figure that I might have branched my wheel or dropped my chain or something. Instead, I found just what I didn't want to see. Busted rear der.

I give the bike a quick once over to assess damage and it appears that apart from the busted der and a bent spoke that things are overall okay.

I could break the chain and set the bike up single speed to make it home, but given that it's a brand new chain and the wife is out and about anyway, I decide to just push the bike back out to a roadway where I can meet here, give her a call to come pick my busted arse up, and begin waiting and seething.

I shouldn't be too upset, I've never busted a der before and this one had a lot of hard miles on it. But still, I was not looking forward to putting more money into the bike. I was looking forward to a nice evening ride in perfect Alaska spring weather.

Now I had yet another task to complete on my to do list over the weekend. While I enjoy wrenching on the bike, I prefer to do so when 1) it isn't critical that I get it fixed in order to be able to make it to work the coming week, and 2) I don't have two other huge to do items that are just as important to complete.

The big thing on the to do list this weekend was to get the car back up and running properly. Leaking cooling system. Could be a number of things, but not something I want to be driving for long distances. Water pump, hose, radiator itself. I needed to both diagnose and fix the issue in the two days I had available. Now I had to locate a der in the Valley so that I could fix my bike as well.

Not fun.

So I found a der at one of two local bike shops. The shop I normally go to had a der that would work, but in the Alivio line and I just couldn't see stepping backwards and spending money on something that I know I would destroy in a matter of months, so I went to the other shop and they had the XT der I was looking for. The only problem is that I could've gotten it for 56 bucks cheaper in Anchorage as the big-box sporting goods store that starts with R and ends with I.

But, beside the point, right? I got the part. In between getting parts for and working on the car, I spent time working the bike. Lots of fixing going on this weekend.

Anyway, as I install the der I realize that the hanger has bent. The hanger. On a Surly. Non-replaceable. But steel is real and, it seems, real easy to bend. After some fiddling with hammer, vice grip, and square I was able to get it back to near perfection - well, the best I could without a reference to look at - and with only minor cursing. Installed the der and got it nearly dialed in all within an hour or so.

Last night I was finally able to get away and test the fix. And it's sweet. Shifting seems more precise, though I don't have it completely dialed in yet, and the ride is quieter. Nice.

Is a new part supposed to be that dirty already? Oh yeah

Before I know it, I'll have everything but the frame replaced on this dang thing.

I won't even go into the car repair tale. Nothing exciting happened. Just the normal weekend wrencher mistakes and missteps.

Oh, sunrise was beautiful this morning.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Gasoline dreams

Just chilling at the bus stop on a beautiful spring Friday afternoon. Woulda been better if I hadn't had to go to work, but them the breaks.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Here comes the sun

I keep wanting to write about spring but it seems pointless. Hell, if you've been outside you realize its here. If you've had trouble sleeping for the sunlight in your eyes, you realize it's here.

If every other conversation you take part in turns to fishing and, more importantly, dipnetting, you know it is here.

Has friends, that magical time of the year is nearly here - time to go full on fish psycho killer. I can't wait. If thing go according to plan, there will even be a bit of bike riding involved, as there usually is. My trailer is ready and my honky ass homemade hitch is ready to take a pounding as I haul gear and dogs to my super secret hole and haul dead bodies out.

Oh yes, I needs me some fish. The smoked and canned is gone, the plain canned is about decimated as well. The frozen is getting a bit thin as well.

Unlike some, I don't tire of eating the pink stuff. It is the perfect quick meal on the grill when it is sunny and warm, or a comfortable soup base when the weather is shite.

Let's be real though. We only eat the stuff to justify the yearly satiation of our bloodlust. Who doesn't get a perverse thrill out of gilling and bashing a red's head in? And when they taste so good, why not?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


It's been nearly a year since I started commuting by bus and bike. Time to reflect a bit, maybe?

In a general sense, the experience has been nothing but good. I really can't imagine driving this commute every day. Even carpooling seems a bit beyond my comprehension, even though I have a number of folks with whom I could share rides. No, for my personality and lifestyle desires, the combo of bus and bike works well.

I have learned some lessons over the past year, though. First is that just because you are first in line at the stop does not mean you are first in line. There is a small contingent who consistently jump queue. And there are those who actively encourage it. This seems a symptom of the feeling of ownership over the bus, as if it were a personal vehicle, of which I've written before.

Secondly, in winter, when it is 20 below the ride on the bus is going to be a cold one, colder than the bike ride it often seems. An extra jacket or a blanket is a good piece of kit to bring along. Strangely, though, standing at the bus stop after a good ride doesn't start to get cold until a half hour or so has passed and the body's furnace starts to cool back off. That is probably the hardest part of the multimodal commute - first you get warm and then you cool off and, if you were sweaty, its hard to get warm again.

Third, getting ill in the middle of the day is a pain. The bus runs until 9 in the morning and then not again until 2 in the afternoon. So there is a big stretch where, no matter what, I'm stuck here.

Fourth, it might actually be harder on bike components to take the bus. At least in winter. The cycle of freeze and thaw seems to cause more grit to accumulate and more rust.

Fifth, if it is wet out and you are wet, people tend to not sit next to you.

Six, people are creatures of habit. They always try to sit in the same places day after day. That's part of the reason I like to take different busses, just to mess with the seating arrangement.

Finally I've learned that while there are challenges to riding the bus, it is quite doable and even enjoyable. Heck, I've read more novels this past year than I have since grad school and that alone is worth the price of admission for me.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Two things:
1) Your gear don't mean shit. Ride what you like. Like what you ride. That is all. Even crappy glossy magazines are talking about it.

2) I hate it when points are made that are clearly evident, but clearly in opposition to my view of how the world should be. Pictures are nice, but I like words, words. Words.

Oh, and a bonus thing: Flikr - your new linky stuff sucks.

That is all.