Flew into Vienna on Wednesday. Rode to Slovakia on Thursday.
Flew into Vienna on Wednesday. Rode to Slovakia on Thursday.
On a sunny Sunday morning I borrow a bag from my dad and a bike from my mom and catch the train to Seward. The four hour ride passes mountains and glaciers and streams from one port to another.
In Seward, I eat a pastrami sandwich and start pedaling into the wind at noon to begin my 127 mile ride home.
Two miles down the road, I ditch my pants and fleece by the side of the bicycle path for the climb out of town.
Thirty miles down the road I stop for coffee in Moose Pass. It’s early tourist season in Alaska; little traffic and roadside merchandise is sparse. The offerings are a mix of country and city. Homemade rhubarb pies share shelves with Little Debbie. Everything is monster sized. I pack a snickers and roll on.
Riding a road bike is fun, especially on a sunny day, even into the wind. I listen to music, sprint up hills, sneak nips from my flask and soar free.
I stop for a frittata and a bagel and a juice at a log cabin.
Chilled by sunset, I buy a sweatshirt at the gas station in Girdwood.
Ten miles out of town it is dusk in Potter’s Marsh– as dark as it gets this time of year in south-central Alaska.
I make it home before midnight, my skin soaked in sun and evening chill, my brain and legs a little numb, but happy.
I would do it again, even into the wind, especially on a sunny day.
Kincaid sand dunes
Knik River beaver ponds
Kincaid Bluff Trail, March 2014
There are tracks and tracks and tracks and tracks and tracks and tracks and tracks, all over the world.
Sung as a round. Second person begins when first person sings: “There are tracks and tracks…”.
Song almost never ends.
Anchorage Coastal Plain
Knik River floodplain
Kincaid sand dunes
Alaska RR to Seward, on the way to Resurrection Pass Trail
Spenard Road, Anchorage
Middle Fork Trail, Chugach State Park
Middle Earth Trail, Kincaid Park
This weekend I slept outside and swam in the Knik River. In between, we rode to a glacier.
Earth and sky communicate through moisture. They write their stories in trees and moss, mud puddles and wildflowers, growth and decay. I spend weeks trail riding in the rain through the Belgian woods. My clothes and skin swell. My wool mittens become damp moss growing over my fingers and around my handlebars. Everything perspires. Like bathing in a creek, it is at once musky and fresh, cold and sweaty. They earth layers a story over my skin and into my hair.
Eastern Belgium, May 2013
Bunyan Velo: an online magazine that shares stories about bicycle adventures. If you’re curious, look, read and learn about what we do and who we are.
It’s tempting to merely scan the photographs, but if you take the time to read the words, you just might be delighted.
I am so grateful.
I met Nick because his friend Sam was courting my friend Kyla at the University of Puget Sound. Sam is a little drummer guy with a pompadour hairdo and black plastic glasses. It’s a good look for him and he’s been sporting it since at least 1993. I’ve seen photos. Kyla is a wonderful heartbreaker. They met at Spanish conversation hour, one of Sam’s weekly girl-meeting spots. The relationship only lasted a couple of weeks, but as a result, everyone involved are still friends.
Kyla was one of my four roommates. Living in a three bedroom house from the fifties, our common space was the kitchen. Everyday we’d hook up a boom box and dance to mixed pop CDs for hours– mostly top forty from the ’80s to the ’00s. We loved to dance.
On Friday night, Sam invites Kyla to Nick’s house for a dance party a couple of blocks away. She’d been to one of these parties the week before, said the music was different and the guys wouldn’t bother us, so Erin and I tag along.
We start the night at the Chemistry Club Party. Erin and I joined the Chemistry Club because we thought it’d be really cool. It turned out to be nearly as so-so as it sounds, but they throw great parties. The big hit this time are flaming Dr. Pepper shots– mostly amaretto with a Bacardi 151 floater so you can light them on fire. Inspired, the next fall, we buy a bottle of Bacardi 151 to try and light all of Erin’s 21st birthday drinks on fire. Her birthday is near Halloween, so we buy a cauldron and dry ice and try to make a steaming, flaming witches’ brew. It doesn’t work and the brew tastes awful, but at least nobody gets sick. There are dumber ideas.
That Friday, we have our fill of flaming shots and move on to Nick’s house, a triplex called “The Squire” on Alder Street. The landlords generally rent to UPS students and it’s a college squat. We follow the music, entering the courtyard from an alley. The Squire has a concrete patio with a couple of abused couches and a fire pit. We step through the sliding door and into a small, dim room. Ten or twelve guys spread into the space. Sam sits at a drum set in the corner playing along to vinyl. Different guys seamlessly take turns throughout the night to drum or dance.
The rhythm is intoxicating. At the time, Nick is into Brazilian pop à la Jorge Ben and lot of funky soul. We get right into it, taking up our own space and stepping into the dance. It is an understatement to say Erin is a spirited dancer. I’ve walked in on her gyrating around her bedroom to an earphoned mp3 player, cheeks flushed and soaked in so much sweat it flicks off her hair as she moves. It’s weird and hilarious to walk into that in silence. At the Squire, we’re hooked into the music. Erin’s shaking and I’m moving and Sam’s drumming and mostly we can’t see much of anything because it’s dark.
At some point I do remember seeing Nick buzzing up his own circle. And for a moment, I watch him. He feels music through his whole being, dancing mostly from the waist down. His feet glide with grace and his hips carry the baseline. His torso stays upright, strong through the core and lifted in the chest. He has roots in Ukrainian dance. At one point, he drops back, putting his hands on the ground behind him to kick his feet like the Russian dancers in the Nutcracker. He holds the floor.
I don’t think I spoke a word to Nick that night. We were content on our own.
I see Nick again a few days later and we meet for real while practicing handstands in Sam’s yard. It’s sunny in Tacoma and everyone comes out to play. Nick has a freshly shaved head. It intimidates me. I’ve never seen anyone so confident in their own body. While the rest of us walk from place to place, he cruises away on his long board, doing his own thing.
We kept going to “The Squire” to dance and Nick and Sam started coming to our little red house too. They were game to wear costumes and dance in our florescent-lit kitchen and we were happy with our new friends.
Nick sent us all away for the summer with mixed tapes. Erin and I went to UC Berkeley to take Physics and Calc III and live with my grandmother in Oakland. I dropped out after a week, but kept up the charade as if I was going to school everyday from 8AM to 4PM, so we could keep staying there and Erin could finish the classes. I spent my days walking from Oakland to Berkeley, listening to a walkman and reading Virginia Woolf. Whenever my grandmother asked about school I told her it was great.
I went back to Tacoma in the fall and found Nick sitting on his porch. After a summer of working at the docks, he was golden with sun-kissed hair and skin and an easy smile. I fell for him right there. We spent our first day together scouting the neighborhoods for Italian plums and blackberries. We filled baskets of fruit, sliced it on wooden planks and made jam and pie. I spent the night at Nick’s house and didn’t go home for the next eleven. We’ve been together ever since.
I danced at Nick’s party nearly eight years ago and that may have been the best decision of my life.
I feel like this is the beginning of a very long story.
Half a mile from midtown Anchorage, is the Coastal Trail. It’s only a couple minute ride, but some days it is a world away.