30 August 2008 Bike tag

I am sitting here waiting for a furniture delivery, listening to a call-in show on blogs, and pedaling through bike blogs. I'm taking the cyber-journey because Rose tagged me (something I've never heard of before) and it involves a bike quiz. I'm such a casual biker that I'm more than a little intimidated and want to see what the 'real' bikers answered. Looking at other people's blogs and following their favorite links is also a great way to procrastinate and hope that something will come up before I have to face the challenge.

So the mattress sets arrived, I painted the back door, checked work email, hemmed a pair of pants, folded laundry, ate dinner, and went for a bike ride (to get in the mood) and now it's time to play tag.

If you could have any one — and only one — bike in the world, what would it be? I currently have an 18-yr-old touring bike, a 12-yr-old mountain bike with front suspension, and a 3-yr-old mountain bike with full suspension. There are many more options out there that I’ve never experienced (e.g. pugsley, 29er, etc.) I guess for my riding, I’d go with a full suspension mountain bike, maybe with lock-out suspension, and have 3 sets of tires -- mountain treads for the trails, slicks for commuting & touring pavement, and studded tires for winter riding. And can I have someone on call to change the tires at a moment’s notice to switch from one use to another?
If you had to choose one — and only one — bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why? I’m going to copy Rose here just a little bit. I haven’t been able to do it much this summer, but I really enjoy my summer commute to & from work. It takes me through part of the Campbell Tract and Far North Bicentennial Park and then along the Chester Creek Trail. On the Hillside, I usually have the trails to myself in the morning, and surprisingly, often in the evenings, too. Then on the Chester Creek trail in the morning, retired people are walking their dogs and looking so pleased to be outside. Other bikers on their way to work are enjoying the heady smells of the May Day trees or the surge of energy that will help to carry them through another day. I don’t think I’d be able to do the hill up to our house for the rest of my life, but most of this route would be doable for another few decades. (At 70, my dad bikes 100 miles a week!)

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike to ride for the rest of her / his life? Maybe someone without much money and they can only buy one bike? Apartment dweller? Just plain mean?
Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrow-minded? Here, I am completely copying Rose’s answer. She said it so well: “I do ride both, but I prefer riding my mountain bikes. I love riding through the woods on the trails, getting away from the noise and the traffic and seeing a little nature.”
Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent. No, I haven’t. If there was a free demo, I’d try it. But I’ve never had much interest. It doesn’t look that comfortable or stable to me.
Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss? Guilty on the triathlon but not the floss (tho’ I do use it, despite what my dental hygienist might say). I swam, biked, and ran the Gold Nugget Triathlon twice (2004, 2006). A great way to get in shape but my knees don’t like running, I hate being tied to the pool schedule, and there’s so much else to do besides training so the triathlon itself doesn’t hurt too much.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why? This is just about ice cream, right? Not gelato, sorbet, Rabah’s lime & lemon creamy concoctions? If so, I can do without ice cream (and my butt says I should unless I’ve ridden a lot of hills in the previous 12 hours). Now if the question were about pesto and bikes -- that would be a harder choice.

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it. What bizarre twist of fate or parallel universe would make you choose between ice cream and bicycles? The divas just rode Spencer Loop in its entirety. Even though I had a big bowl of pasta with pesto and a salad before the ride, I was hungry half way through. Lots of hills so I’ve just scarfed down (while thoroughly enjoying) a few scoops of Haagen Daaz vanilla with Matanuska Rubie’s Rhubarb-Raspberry sauce. Yum!
You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do? All depends on the circumstances. Usually the bear has seen me first and is already running away when I see it. When I’ve seen the bear but it hasn’t seen me, I’ve stopped, stood as still as possible, grabbed my bear spray if I’ve got it, and waited until the bear has passed from sight. Depending upon which way it has gone, I turn around or continue on the trail ahead.
Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.
Here’s a problem … the few biking bloggers I know have already been tagged. I’m guessing that tag-backs are not allowed in this cyber-game. The funniest bikers I know should be blogging but aren't … so I’m tagging Jamie and Jo-Ann and punting on a third. If J and J answer the questions, I’ll post them.

24 August 2008 Peace, art, and nature in the city

Paul and I pedaled the Anchorage Garden Tour, an annual tradition. Our friend Kathy from Talkeetna joined us for the 25 mile ride through Anchorage neighborhoods and along the Chester and Campbell Creek trails. We strolled through 10 gardens in various parts of town. The theme this year seemed to be woodland oases and art in the garden. I came home with a couple of favorite photos and many ideas on how to add more art to the garden.

And surprisingly, the rain held off until we had seen the last garden! Then it poured on us most of the way back across town and up the Abbott hill.

20 July 2008 Alex loved the garden

We buried Alex today near the vegetable garden and under the birch trees she used to sit below. I designed the memorial marker, Paul built it, and I finished it. It's more of a shrine than a memorial, I suppose, with the trinkets and photograph. We did have a brief ceremony, ending with a Guiness toast and a sprinkling of the brew on the fresh dirt. She liked Guiness and I could never set a glass of it down lower than the counter if she was near.

That's one of her dishes underneath, next to a piece from the ceramic bird bath she used to drink from in the garden. I left it out too late into the fall last year and it broke when the water froze. I'm not a superstitious person but that incident did make me wonder if Alex would live to another summer. Hanging near the dish is a yarn 'Eye of God' that I made at a Quaker retreat one month after her death. I was thinking about her quite a bit that weekend. I like to think that she's moved on to another plane where she's keeping somebody's lap warm and licking their eyebrows.

The little kitty is a goofy statue covered in tiny shells. I picked it up from a free table because it made me smile. I tried to give it to a friend who was going through a rough break-up at the time, but she didn't appreciate it and it ended up back with me. Alex made me smile, too, so there the two kitties are together. The shell kitty is wearing Alex's last collar. I found the red heart recently at a gift shop and placed it there for all the obvious reasons.

I planted nepeta (cat mint) at the base. I wouldn't mind seeing one of the neighbor cats drinking from the bowl and rubbing the nepeta. The garden seems so lonely.

19 July 2008 Campbell Creek Gorge

The clouds shrouded the tops of the mountains so we decided to explore our 'backyard.' Rose had mentioned a gorge trail in her New Year's post and I had been curious ever since. We've hiked, skiied, biked, and snowshoed the various parts of the south side of Campbell Creek gorge. Today we would circumnavigate the gorge, using various trails in the municipal and state parks and one mile of the road to a subdivision far up the hill side.

We never get tired of exploring these huge parks in Anchorage. Bicentennial Park, Campbell tract (federal), and Chugach State Park abut each other and are connected by multiple trails. These provide many options for day trips with just a short drive to a trailhead. Today we biked to Bicentennial Park and descended to the Campbell tract. We noticed many single track trails heading off into the woods. Some we have wandered off on to see where they go. Today we speculated about the unknown trails but didn't have time for exploration. Another day, when the clouds are low, gas prices too high, or we're just too curious.

12 July 2008 Decision Point

Here's how bad the weather has been in Anchorage this summer -- we had to go to Prince William Sound for sunshine. On Saturday, all the Anchoragians at the Whittier harbor putting in boats for fishing or kayaking (like us) were giddy with the cloudless skies. The weather service hadn't told any of us that the weather was so good in the Sound. We went down because the winds were going to be light and it was only forecast to rain on Sunday. We couldn't believe our good fortune as we neared the tunnel to Whittier and the clouds disappeared. After the sunny day, we didn't mind the clouds rolling in Saturday evening and the sprinkles on Sunday morning. We had finally found summer in Alaska, if only briefly.

1 July 2008 Coastal Wash

The other day a friend gently pointed out that I hadn't posted anything recently. I wish I could use the weather as an excuse. Today turns out to be a perfect day to spend a few hours at the computer ... no sun reflecting off the screen ... too wet to do much outside unless you're a duck. So I started editing my photos from our trip to Southeast Alaska earlier this month. I'm probably misusing an art term, but I call these washes -- sky and land reflected imperfectly in the ocean.

My life typically feels like an imperfect reflection of how I want it to be ... how I treat other people, my contribution to my community and passions, the artfulness of my existence, how lightly I live on this earth. On the trip I read a small booklet that relates Buddhism to Quakerism. I found the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path* to be very encouraging as a mental and spiritual framework for making my life more accurately reflect my vision of it. The First Noble Truth is that sorrow and suffering exists. To be born, to live, to die, I will have to suffer. Some pain is beyond my control (so try to accept it); some is my own making (so try to figure out how to prevent it). The Second Noble Truth is that the latter suffering is due to desire or craving. I am not very materialistic but I certainly have desires that can make me unhappy.

Sometimes friends give insight that it would take years to figure out on your own. I took some quiz that concluded I was a perfectionist, which I didn't accept because my house isn't the cleanest, I forget to get a haircut, etc etc. So I was saying how the quiz was stupid and my friend John said "you're a perfectionist in that you want everything to proceed perfectly." And I realized he was right. I want everyone to operate in the way that I've defined as correct for a happy society -- to be polite, kind to children and pets, clean up after themselves. Soon I also concluded that my need to control situations to achieve that version of perfection often made me anxious and unhappy (suffering for me) and annoying (suffering for others).

Insight can help you understand yourself but change often comes slowly. The Noble Truths are another way to look at what I already know and have been working on for over a decade -- let other people be, help as I can, but don't think I can control anything outside my own body.

Sometimes controlling what's happening in my own mind and body seems to be beyond my control. That comes back to that first kind of suffering ... whether it be the physical aches and pains from getting older, melancholy on passing 40, or the heartache of losing a faithful companion. These are parts of being human and may be peculiar to the genes and chemistry that make me who I am both physically and emotionally. I don't know which of the emotional sufferings are beyond my control (chemical) and which are self-induced (craving). Which is why the Buddhists would say to meditate and the Quakers would say to seek the Light to answer those questions. In my own imperfect way, I'll keep trying to sharpen that reflection.

* Scroll half way down this page to read the 4 and 8: www.oldpathsangha.org/3.html

28 June 2008 Kake

an old cannery in the southeast Alaska town of Kake ... stories later about our sailing sojourn