Bike Tour Recap

UPDATE: 7.7.2016 – Dr. Richard Handler’s tour photo album

It never fails that I get misty-eyed when a tour ends. Some came from California, some from Washington, others from Colorado. They’d paid their fee, booked their airfare, packed their bikes (or rented here), jammed their suitcases, left their families and professional lives behind and there I first saw them, down in the breakfast area of the Comfort Inn hotel in Anchorage, looking to me with a sense of wonder, expectant. Eight days later and poof, they’re gone. From leader to lonely heart I went, just that fast.

A long time ago I heard a story on the radio. A missionary was asked how he goes about converting indigenous people to Christianity. The part of his answer I recall is that he doesn’t start by preaching to them right away. He said where possible he likes to fulfill their basic human needs first – food, medicine, security, etc. – as a way to get them to warm to him first, and only then does he deal with their spiritual needs. Bike tours are similar. You have perfect strangers in a strange land looking to you to fulfill their expectations for a fun tour, but instead of jumping right into the itinerary, I find food & drink limbers them up. Happy Wife agreed and thought, Hey, let ’em eat Muktuk!

 

Let’s just say whale blubber is not the seduction I’d hoped for. It did not taste like chicken, though it did have the texture of uncooked chicken. Possibly one that had been left in the sun for an hour or so. Imagine feeding native people gumby erasers and then trying to teach them about Jesus. That’s not going to work!

Fortunately, we’d also brought a cheese and vegetable tray, salmon spread, moose jerky, crackers galore, two growlers of local craft beer, and several bottles of wine. Now that had ’em eating out of my hand. I could have told them anything and they would have believed me. For instance, Hey everyone, the forecast is sunny, warm, and dry the next seven days!

 

In fact, Day 1 was pretty nice. The nicest of seven (6 days riding, 1 day off). Seeing shadows makes a tour leader happy. There were eleven of us in total, plus my trusty SAG (Support And Gear) driver Sally, with Happy Wife providing lunch each day. Day 1 was titled Tour de Anchorage, a beltline ride around Anchorage on roads and trails hand-selected by yours truly. About 50 miles. The lunch special was moose chili, which they all loved except one (she averse to red meat). For her there was tuna salad.

On day 2 we left Anchorage behind and began what was supposed to be a 3-day ride to Seward. Girdwood was the goal for the day, about 50 miles. We got as far as the lunch stop (McHugh Creek), about 25 miles, when the headwind became so fierce (~ 35-40 mph) I decided with that, plus rain ahead, it was not prudent to continue. See those trees bent over? We reorganized the gear in the SAG van and everyone piled in. Some bikes went in the trailer, others on our Subaru. The day was a wash, we drove the rest of the way to Girdwood. Instead of McHugh Creek, we had lunch under the cover of the entrance to the day lodge near the ski lift, listening to the pitter patter of rain and trying to stay warm. Couldn’t have been more than 55o or so. I grabbed my phone and checked the radar. What I saw did not make a tour leader happy. However, our digs that night I was sure would thrill my peeps (I’d begun to feel like their Mother Hen). I managed to get the good guy Alaska rate at the Alyeska Prince hotel, much more posh than is expected on this sort of tour. I figured by morning they’d be eating out my hand, weather be damned.

In spite of the forecast Day 3 was looking good as we pedaled away from the hotel. At least it wasn’t raining. Even when we turned south onto the highway the wind wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the Wildlife Conservatory it was in our face again, although not quite as bad as the previous day, and it had started to spit rain, and get cooler still, maybe 52o? No matter to this bunch, they all wanted to see the animals anyway. We paid the fee and pedaled around the muddy park road. We saw bison and deer and caribou and fox and lynx and even a grizzly asleep on a log

 

Not a frown in the house despite the horrid weather

To say my peeps were troopers this day doesn’t capture it. After that we climbed to Turnagain Pass and had lunch (pulled pork sliders), descended briefly to Hope Junction, and then finished the day with a sturdy climb to Summit Lake Lodge. Still all smiles

During dinner at the lodge that night I looked at the radar again and was sure Day 4 would be a wash. Not so! The next morning it was a tad warmer and not raining, although the sky still had the color of day-old muktuk. I decided we’d take it ten miles at a time, have the SAG wait until everyone passed, and then try the next ten miles, and so on. Before we knew it we were at lunch for the day (~25 miles) and still no rain. Everyone seemed pleased with the venue, and the gourmet sandwiches

BFFs

Ten miles out of Seward, our destination for the day, it started to rain. Not surprising. Once again, no one seemed to care

Later that evening, in the hotel lobby, I discovered one of my peeps is a concert pianist

We also had three retired MDs on the tour, one 70 years old, Richard, another Richard, 65, and Jim, 75. This was the Jim’s 80th (!) multi-day bike tour. When asked where his favorite tour was he said Viet Nam, a tour he actually led, more than once. He’s also toured in countless other countries, but never in Alaska, until last week. I first met Jim on a tour in Northern California. Was proud to have him join mine. Earlier in the day Richard (#1) tried to hook up with a local, though if you ask me I thought she was a bit stiff

Day 5 was theirs to do as they wished in Seward. Also known as a day off. And then it was back to Anchorage by train for them, Sally drove the SAG and Happy Wife, myself, and the Black Dog followed in the Subaru.

The next day looked good weather-wise, so Happy Wife suggested we do the Independence Mine climb in Palmer instead of the scheduled ride for that day, seeing as bad weather was forecast to be moving in again, and of the two days left to ride Independence Mine was one not to be missed. So everyone piled in the SAG, the bikes in the trailer, and we were off to Palmer, an hour’s drive north of Anchorage.

The weather held and actually improved. By the time we reached the base of the climb most of my peeps were in short-sleeved jerseys. First time in the entire tour

After nearly 4000 feet of climbing the caribou sliders at lunch never tasted better.

Back in Anchorage, day 6 came in angry and never let up. Chilly and raining all day. Nobody wanted to ride and neither did I. My peeps scattered to do things in Anchorage. Later that evening we had our group dinner to say our good-byes

Left to Right: Tom, Karen, Diane, Me, Sally, Richard, Beth, Jim, Suzanne, Happy Wife, Richard, Dan (SB not shown, bathroom?).

Until next time my friends, here’s wishing you tailwinds beneath a fair sky always…

I… Fall… To Pieces

Happy wife is in Barrow, Alaska for the weekend attending an oncology conference. If you can believe that. I can’t. She texted excitedly to say she may get to eat whale fin tonight! I’m like, don’t worry about saving any for me, dear. Barrow was recently renamed Utqiaġvik, a name I cannot pronounce, and for reasons beyond me. It’s supposedly a “damp” city, meaning no booze, except supposedly you can bring in your own. Who knows for sure, I sure as hell don’t. In any case, I miss her already and she only just left a day ago.

I’m left minding the Black Dog who found another toy in the closet I left open accidentally while in the cellar rooting around for a bottle of wine. He eviscerated it in like 30 seconds and now there’s white fluff scattered everywhere like there was a cotton storm in the house. The backyard grass is high and the dandelions are out of control. Poop needs picked up. There’s something on my back the dermatologist should see. I downloaded books to the Kindle I haven’t even started to read. I have a proposal due at work. The cars need washing. Black Dog needs walking tomorrow. I should load the dishwasher. I need to backup the computer to the backup drive. The Nest needs a new water heater. Speaking of which… FEMA’s breathing down my neck to prove the Nest is in a “preferred” flood zone so we can continue to “enjoy” the preferred rate – $600/year – for mandatory flood insurance. Our dental hygienist of many years died of brain cancer last week. Our good friend in California lost his job recently just before closing on his new house. Our shorelines are eroding, storms are more fierce, poverty’s never been worse, refugees everywhere, racism is on the rise, Trump is president, Alaska is broke and there’s no relief in sight. Even worse – the weather forecast is bleak and my bike tour begins Sunday.

How’s your day going!

I know better, but I still sometimes fall victim to click bait

They’re both wearing scarves. That’s your first clue it’s bogus. Pierce Brosnan would never wear a scarf. The background is slanted to make them look strong, resilient, unaffected by change. They’re like, yeah, California might slide into the ocean, but whatev, fools may care, our portfolio is awesome. But then you read closer… it’s free – Free! So you do a mouse over at first, no harm in that. But that fires a popup to try and lure you in – “Advisors are standing by to take your call. Don’t wait, click now!” Uh huh. Sure. To do what, sell me a scarf?

I’m tellin’ ya, I fall to pieces when this one’s away

Anniversary

Eleven years married today (12.5 practically)

I was not holding my breath. Don’t know why I appear pneumatic.

Went out to eat last night at a favorite watering hole, two forks for dessert

Pinch Myself

Where has the time gone. June already.

The past holiday weekend we ventured to Otter Cove, a twenty minute water taxi across Kachemak Bay from Homer, AK. Nine of us shared a large cottage, five on one side, four on the other.

Some of the first to arrive, getting settled (reminder: clicking pics makes them bigger)

What, exactly, is the dog up to? I’m not sure, but I note HW’s wine glass is dog-tongue high, and empty.

A view of our digs from down below

Rustic, remote, and for sale. $1.9 million is what I heard. The place’d need some work, for sure, but the potential is there. The large main house (not shown) used to be a restaurant, plus there’s two or three other buildings for lodging, a small cook house, and a separate bathroom building (with shower stalls). Stunning views of Kachemak Bay, abundant wildlife (whales, otters, eagles, bears, fish galore, etc.), and for those with a kayak (the reason we came), endless stretches of coastline to explore

The reason it’s called Otter Cove

He (she?) was undeterred by our presence. Just kept on with his/her ablutions as we paddled by, not a care in the world. Nevermind that we earlier spotted Orcas surfacing a few hundred yards offshore.

It’s great to get away with friends on a holiday weekend, all of them otherwise busy day by day, still working, like ourselves. Unlike me and HW, most of them have kids, who are grown and forging their own way in this world. I know the benefit of having good parents, my own having just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. Who does that anymore?

We were out there for three nights. The weather was variable. A hot shower cost an extra $3 (honor system). Not a frown in the house

Did we eat well? In fact we did. Each night one of three pre-assigned groups was responsible for dinner. Night one was pan-fried (Alaskan) halibut, homemade Anchorage beans, and a medley of vegetables

Honestly, experiencing where we get to live and play, there are times I have to pinch myself

 

Clean Air Challenge

Team Neoplasm Annihilators – Bo, Marilyn, Me, Happy Wife, Kari, John. 60 mile charity ride for the American Lung Association

Only one team flat

The Alaska Range looms in the background.

Lordy

Taken recently, somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland.

Of course that’s just the tip, imagine what looms beneath. I wonder where it’s headed?

Internet Winner

Most tragicomic comment of the week (so far) at one of my favorite blogs

It reminds me of the story of the very elderly couple — the husband 103 years old and the wife, 101 — who shocked the entire rest home by divorcing a week before they would’ve celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary.

Someone asked the gentleman why they were splitting up after such a long life together, and he explained, “We wanted to wait until the children were dead.”

#BlackCarsRock

Mind Change.

Ford Edge.

Nissan Murano.

Honda CR-V Touring edition! Bought it off the showroom floor. Loaded.

Evidently, being Black made a big difference. That, and HW’s 2003 was also a CR-V (she doesn’t care for change).

Upsold us on the paint protection shield, and window visors

She loves it!

Although the vehicle has yet to learn her voice. Supposedly, nearly every feature in the car can be activated/deactivated by voice. Example: “Set temperature to 72o“. The salesman had HW repeat it over and over again during our pre-driveaway training, but alas, never could get it to work. The damn thing kept wanting to call some 800- number instead. If you have the keyfob close by, and do it just right, feigning a kick beneath the bumper opens the hatch. If you don’t do it right, and/or you’re on ice, you may fall on your ass. In small print in the owner’s manual it states Honda is not responsible for these misadventures.

I like that the drink holders are large and readily accessible.

Inaugural drive to the Nest this weekend. Salesman cautioned us about the break in period – keep it under 100 mph on the highway. You should’ve seen the look on HW’s face.

Strange Brew

Something brewing on our kitchen counter. Take a guess. Hint: Vinegar is involved.

At spin class three mornings a week now. Still waiting for winter to bleed out.

What’s spin class like? Here’s a few excerpts from Monday’s 45-minute class

I’d hoped to capture the perky Miss Jen doing the motivating, as she usually does on Mondays, alas it was Mister David instead. You may think we’re seated in the saddle for 45 minutes pedaling as fast we can. We are not. We stand and sit and sway and tap and pulse, and generally try to keep up with the beat of the music and mimic whatever the motivator does. The bike is really just a prop for a full body workout. Every bike has a knob you turn to increase or reduce resistance. You might have heard David say, “Now add some more gear.” (Along with a breathless WTF at minute 5). That means turn the knob to the right. It’s the honor system; you can ignore his command and take it easy on yourself if you want, but you wouldn’t be getting your money’s worth. Pain, you’ll recall, is nothing more than pleasure leaving the body. In that sense it’s like a trip to the dentist, except you’re not on your back.

The last two minutes of every class is reserved for stretching exercises off the bike. A lot people in the class also do Yoga, so they’ve no problem complying with motivator’s command to twist up like a pretzel and “Just Breathe.” I don’t do Yoga so I skip that instruction. It’s not so much I can’t put my ankle behind my head, it’s just I’m not so sure I could bring it back around. Not without crying out for help.

50 degrees and bluesky all this past week, and even warmer next week, so there’s hope. The snow disappears surprisingly fast. I walk around the backyard wearing a poop mitt, picking up easy to spot month-old poops coming out of the thaw. Easy to spot because most of ’em are covered in fuzz. Others are still half stuck in patches of ice in the shady areas of the yard. They break in half when you pull on ’em.

Hard to believe my bike tour is only two months away. Lots to do yet to get ready.