Archive for the ‘Adventure Cycling’ Category


For the first sixteen miles my teeth were cold, cold enough to make them ache a bit. But that small pain could not wipe the smile off my face, even as that smile caused the pain. Spinning along the road in the 45 degree sunniness, cold teeth were simply a byproduct of  my cycling happiness.

The road is flat, or nearly so, from Missoula out to the tiny hamlet of Clinton. Our turnaround point is really just a Conoco station along I-90, famed among the bike club members for its hot coffee, fried chicken and corn dogs–all satisfyingly greasy fuel for the self-propelled.

Riding out with a dozen other Missoulians on Bikes I had taken my accustomed position, at the rear of the pack. The gracious ride leader John, who “sweeped” me along, entertained me with stories from his 37 years in my new home town. The conversation included–as so many of my recent ones have–a common Alaska connection. He told me of riding the train from Fairbanks to Denali to Talkeetna; I regaled him with stories of bringing cruise ship guests up from Whittier on that same conveyance. We agreed that late May is the perfect time to visit–no bugs, few tourists, great weather.

I thought to myself, “those sessions at the gym are really paying off!”, as I whirred along at 16 miles an hour. Then we reached Clinton. And standing outside, stretching and having a snack with the group I became aware of the breeze. From the back. Unless I was facing towards Missoula; then it was coming from the front.

“This can’t be right” I thought to myself in confusion. “Sharry’s not here with me. How is it we have a headwind?”

For the last sixteen miles my teeth were cold, and again they ached a bit. This time it was from grinding in frustration and grimacing in pain. It turns out that the road from Clinton to Missoula is NOT flat, not even relatively so, at least not if you’re bucking a headwind. What took a joyous hour going out consumed more than twice that coming in. But. Still.

What’s that saying? A bad day of fishing beats a great day of working? Yeah, just substitute the activity. Today’s cold teeth were just fine, regardless the cause.


Read Full Post »

The very picture of happiness

The very picture of happiness

You know how it is, when you wish and work and wrangle for something you are convinced is your heart’s desire? Your positive thoughts, like an arrow, shoot straight from your heart to that all-consuming objective. Swoosh–miss; swoosh–grazed it! Swoosh–SMACK–bullseye! Snoopy-like dance of joy with ears in the air and a fat grin, whoop of exultation and a rush of adrenaline. On October 30 I got the telephone call that set me to dancing, that is changing my life.

Perhaps you read, a few months ago, about my Dream Job? It’s official; I am moving to Missoula and joining the amazing group of folks at Adventure Cycling Association, as part of the Tours Department team. The company offers more than 80 bicycle tours in 2014. I will join Arlen, Darrah, Lydia and Mike, shepherding these trips from Advertising copy to Zeroing out the last of the invoices. (I know, that was a real stretch…) I have a company email address and some business cards waiting for me–it must be true! I am beyond excited.

But one should always be careful about what one wishes for. Since the reality hit home I have been vacillating between “Wahoo!” and “What was I thinking?” The former is self-explanatory. The latter is a result of saying so long to family and friends-adopted-as-family; of the triage required to select what comes with me right now; of the madcap dash to winterize and button up the house. The over-arching mood is one of joy and excitement, but mixed in with all my hurrahs are the “darn, I’ll miss them” and “wow, I never did climb the Butte” wistfulness. In other words, a mixed bag, just like all of life tends to be. Not unalloyed joy, but joy, nonetheless.

And so I ask you friends to think positive thoughts for our journey of 2500 miles; maybe your concerted will can hold the snow at bay and prevent icy roads or buffalo collisions. No harm in trying, anyway. Wish me luck! Dream job, here I come.

It all has to go in here...

It all has to go in here…

Read Full Post »



Ever since I first read about them in the Adventure Cycling newsletter “Bike Bits”, I have wanted to go on a bike overnight. “What’s that?” you ask? Well, here’s what BikeOvernights.org has to say: A bike overnight is a short bike tour where you start riding on one day, stop and stay the night somewhere–a campground, a bed and breakfast, your cabin on the lake–and then ride back the following day–or maybe the next.

It can be the beginning of your love affair with short bike trips to interesting places or a gateway drug to long distance touring; any way you look at this, it’s a barrel of fun.

Right now husband Tom is not cycling. However, he loves to camp and to fish and is enthusiastic about sharing a tent with me even after decades of marriage. So when I proposed a bike overnight to Finger Lake three weeks ago he was gung-ho. “I’ll drive the truck so we can have the big tent and the canoe. I can carry the wine too–do you want me to bring the bedrolls or will you be using your panniers?”

I’m used to hauling my stuff, so I opted for panniers; after all, Finger Lake was only 12 miles away and it was a beautiful day. It took me about an hour and a half of smell-the-roses pedaling and a short, steep final uphill to arrive in Paradise–or what passes for it within that distance from home!

I called my friend Rene who lives close, and invited her to share a glass of wine, conversation and a spritz of mosquito repellant. This season the bugs have been horrific but easily deterred. The three of us sat up til nearly midnight in the wonderful Alaska summer twilight, laughing and talking, and in the morning Tom and I feasted on the fruits of his previous afternoon’s fishing foray. Trout for breakfast–YUM!

Finger Lake Fun!

Finger Lake Fun!

And just this Thursday we ventured a bit further from home. While Tom took the truck, duck boat and motor, I mounted my laden Terry bike and spun up the Parks Highway 29 miles to Nancy Lake. By the time I left in the mid-afternoon the completely cloudless skies had grown some thunderheads. I got sprinkled on a few times, but at 80 degrees I welcomed the cooling effect.

Nancy Lake sunset

Nancy Lake sunset

I’ve found that I love the solo riding. Yes, I miss my husband’s company. Yes, I really like the companionship of a couple of friends or a touring group. However, since I have to ride alone so much of the time I have grown to love it. No time pressure; stop for ice cream? Sure! Take pictures of the massed fireweed along the highway? I spent about a half an hour doing so.

But the best thing of all is the evening–the tent, the companion, the canoe, the loon cry. The journey is excitement; the destination, repose.



Read Full Post »

This morning's ride is cancelled...

This morning’s ride is cancelled…

“Bikes are a right livelihood.”

–Scot Nicol, founder of Ibis Cycles

For several years I have dreamed of making my living, somehow, in an activity that relates to cycling. Aside from applying for every position I am even remotely qualified for with Adventure Cycling, I have not really done much to make this dream a reality. For Adventure Cycling, I would be willing to uproot myself from decades in Alaska, haul the detritus of all that time to Missoula, and once again begin to build community. And believe me, I know to the bone just how wrenching that uprooting and rebuilding process is.

Robin Bylenga, my hero!

Robin Bylenga, my hero!

If I wanted once again to be my own boss, own a business, work my sit-bones off, there is always a bike-related opportunity. There is a whole crop of new, woman-owned bike shops springing up in the Lower 48, and Pedal Chic’s Robin Bylenga really epitomizes why they are successful. Women are woefully under represented in the cycling community. I won’t patronize a shop where the mostly male employees look at my short little cylindrical self and automatically steer me to a trike or cruiser. I know more than one woman who is so intimidated by the steel-calved, Lycra-clad image of cycling that she won’t even consider a bicycle as an addition to her gym membership. Bylenga is changing that, one lavender two-wheeler and stylish helmet at a time.

I believe cycling is a natural for women, where the camaraderie, the deep support and encouragement traditional in the biking community is just waiting for our embrace. When we make it our own, we really can have it all–on the bike path with orange cruiserthe 5  year old on training wheels and the baby in the trailer; in the triathlon with the new orange Schwinn Mother’s Day gift; screaming along the Woman Tours Southern Tier ride with a mag tailwind and a huge grin.

Enduring this tortuously delayed spring in Alaska I dream of acquiring a CyclePub and going into partnership with Arkose Brewery  here in Palmer. Or modifying my old knobby-tired rambler as an Ice Cream Bike, which might actually be self-defeating, since I would probably eat up all the profits. As I sit writing this, on May 18, I stare out at the freshly fallen three inches of snow, with “Jingle Bells” grinding an inescapable loop through my brain. Missoula is looking better and better every flake that falls.

Read Full Post »

“It is the unknown around the corner that turns my wheels.”
Heinz Stucke, on the road touring since 1962

When I read this quote by the most amazing cycle-traveller in the world, I was immediately transported back to 1965, when, lying in my bed at night I would listen to the radio til I fell asleep. Petula Clark’s Round Every Corner infused me with a sense of adventure, restlessness, and hope. Being only 14 however, I could not figure out just what to do with that inspiration.

These many years later I realize that I have actually lived much of my life inspired by the desire to see what’s around those corners. I interrupted college  to fly off to Lake Tahoe with a highschool friend; I’d never been more than 150 miles from my hometown before then. I bought my first car and drove across the U.S.–twice! I moved to Alaska–my god, ALASKA!–which my parents are still trying to fathom.

My husband didn’t have to try very hard to get me to subscribe to his philosophy of “Let’s Leave Tonight”, a wholehearted embracing of the spontaneous. We’ve never been big into planning, which has its own pitfalls. But we’ve managed to have some mighty good times  by doing the unexpected, the unplanned. Our favorite Mexican vacation is to fly into our destination without a hotel reservation, then explore the Zona Touristico for a little family owned, Spanish-only posada to settle into. Our best road trips, by bike or car, involve the unexpected connections we’ve made by exploring around those corners, being open to the cosmic Possible.

Heinz and Petula have it dead right. “What’s the use in cryin? Happiness is lyin’ ’round every corner!” Let’s leave tonight.

Let's Go!

Let’s Go!

Read Full Post »

“Riding trails with your dog restores a bond lost in some evolutionary
belch. You travel at the same speed, over the same terrain, neither of
you slowing to compensate for the other. You’re equal playmates with
mud in your teeth.”
–Allison Glock

I’ve been thinking lately about just how lazy I have been about updating this blog. Many reasons occur, none of them able to stand up to any real scrutiny. Then, like an arrow from the Muse, I get my bi-weekly Bike Bits newsletter from Adventure Cycling. Lightbulb; each issue they begin with a cycling-related quote. So will I do also, and see where it leads me. Therefore, this view from the seat of my bicycle.

Faithful Companion

Faithful Companion

Roxie was the fastest dog that my husband and I have ever had. Tom swore she was part greyhound, and not just because she could run. Billed as a full-blooded Labrador when we got her as a pup, she grew up a long-legged beauty with absolutely no use for her nose. You know how, if you’re riding in the car with your retriever, and you roll down the window-even a little bit-the dog will be in Heaven? Not our girl. She insisted on sticking her head right between us, peering out the windshield, intent on whatever it was she thought we were chasing. You couldn’t make her lie down in the back; you would think she was lying on a bed of nails, whining and yipping and generally embodying misery, her own and ours. But boy, did she like to run. Did I mention she could really run?

So, the quote above really brought back memories. I started taking Roxie out with me on the bike path in Valdez when she was just less than a year old. She was far too young to run with the bike, especially since I always wanted to ride the whole 14-mile round trip. So instead, I donned my in-line skates, and away we went. At first she was on the leash-after all, she was young, and not completely voice-trained yet. I worried that she’d be forever tripping me up, questing back and forth across the path, following her nose. She soon proved that was simply not in her repertoire. And she was very smart-it took only one instance of rolling over her toes before she kept completely out of my way.

When I finally felt she was ready to accompany me on the bike, I bought one of those spring-loaded leash holders, the kind that mounts on the seat post or chainstay. Mistake. Have I mentioned that Tom taught her to skijor the winter before? First time out on the bike she must have thought we were just going on a faster, warmer pulling adventure. We both did some major freaking out. All told, we fared much better with a length of rope; I could steer with one hand and hold the rope in the other, and she learned not to get too far ahead. As I said, smart girl.

With both the skates and the bike Roxie and I eventually graduated to untethered travel. Man, would we fly down the bike path, both of us grinning, the wind in our ears and our tongues lolling! She kept one eye out, getting to the other side of the path when I pointed, heeling when we encountered other traffic and blasting through the ponds and wet spots along the entire length of the trail. She was a tireless and uncomplaining companion, a treasured playmate when I went solo on the trail. We’d ride the out-and-back in about an hour. Once home, after a drink of water and a quick nap she’d be back at the door, begging for a repeat.

Boy did she like to run.

Read Full Post »

Husband Tom, BFF Sharry, on an Adventure Cycling trip in Idaho

While I love my cycling partners—my best friend, my husband—and even like them most of the time, there is something to be said for biking alone, even on long journeys.

There is the zone, the long silence of the mind when the rhythms of the body dominate and the pounding of the blood has only birdsong or traffic noise for accompaniment. There is the freeing sense of having only yourself to care for, feed, entertain, encourage. There is the ease of your natural cadence, unencumbered by someone slower, unpressured by someone faster. And there is the satisfaction that comes from meeting challenges on your own terms, conquering them unaided, unsupported except by the memory of your friend’s parting encouragement.

Finding my silent cadence

My first ride up Thompson Pass was one such challenge.  One of the local doctors had committed suicide, a shock to the community. He was famous and notorious there, loved and hated, a man of extremes. White water rafter and author, fanatic cross-country skier and ice climber, he was a disciple of the “quit your whining” school of medicine. His memorial service was crowded and more than 20 people spoke. What moved me that day was Joe Roth, Andy’s friend and fellow physician. “It’s a rare beautiful day in Valdez. What the hell are you doing indoors? Get out there and challenge yourself—Andy would want that.”

I walked out of the civic center high on his missioning.  I’d been riding my bike again after a long hiatus, training for a tour. I had nothing to prove, or so I told myself whenever a friend wanted me to ride Thompson Pass with her. Truth? I was afraid of it. What if I don’t make it? How would that look to my friend, as she powered past me? What if I wanted to turn around midway? Then boom, Andy and Joe kicked my ass and I went home to get my bike.

My only choice for that first attempt was to ride alone. No pressure, no expectations, no responsibility except to myself. No conversation to rob my breath. I took the scenic route around Blueberry Lake, running into some climbers who had taken Joe’s message to heart also. I stopped to watch for a while, then slogged on up the final stretch.

At last

2678–the magic number.  2678–the summit of Thompson Pass at mile 25.5 on the Richardson Highway. Nine miles of 7% grade, another four of flatter stuff before that. It might as well have been Everest for the elation I felt. And the long downhill run after. No brakes, all smiles and cold sweatiness. What the hell had I been doing indoors?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: