The middle finger in a mitten

20111218-013932.jpgThe city’s waterside multi-use trails and the bellicose, rutted roads are an exact juxtaposition of one another– Anchorage is both heavenly, and heartbreaking. When one bike best wrangles the roads and the other, the trails, I’ll be gambling with which bike to roll out the door all winter. There are further subtleties: new snow is seemingly what the Pugsley was designed for, while old snow– melted, refrozen and restructured– is more challenging, behaving more like sand. Above freezing, everything is a leaden, slippery mess, back below freezing, it becomes ice. And then, some trails are broad, well-traveled and groomed for skiing; others are natural singletrack constructed of ski tracks, post-holing snow boots, and the occasional Endomorph tread, now immediately recognizable. Some trails are glorified sidewalks–deemed bike facilities by the city– and routinely neglected, except when snowplows slough brown slurry from the roads. That brown stuff is uniquely un-tractionable. Of course, some “bike trails” (sidewalks) just run out, and once again I am part of a three lane drag race with pick-ups, racing, surely, to the Home Depot or home, or some such place of exceeding importance. I’m starting to think that I am homosexual or short on intellect– at least, so I’m told by passing traffic, daily. I’m also regularly told that it’s illegal to ride a bike in the road. Luckily, the middle finger inside a mitten is an innocuous gesture.

The challenges of the varied snow conditions and the wandering trajectory of the creekside trails is welcomed, considering the serenity afforded by the city’s greenway trails. Access to the trails may be barricaded by towering snowbanks, and moose make traffic jams, singlehandedly, but it’s likely to be all yours, with nobody to call you a “fucking idiot”, or worse. Bridges, tunnels and lights– these facilities are top notch.

Lael and I made a loop of the city today, with a few mixed errands in between. We managed about 30 miles at less than 10 psi, mostly off pavement. It was an enjoyable, if physically challenging ride; we’ll trade burning quads for fuming tempers anyday.

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