Sunday, November 29, 2009

Biking to Colorado Creek Cabin for Turkey

Temps: 0 to 20 F
R/T mileage: ~31
Awhile back Dick and Sarah invited me out to Co Creek Cabin in the White Mtns for Thanksgiving weekend. I decided to bike out to the cabin which is a 14 mile fairly flat trail.. but the trail had not been groomed by BLM yet. Started a couple of hours ahead of Dick and Sarah so I could get a head start to the cabin, as I was expecting to have to push quite a bit on the trail. The first half of the trail was a breeze - totally rideable until I reached a long stretch of tussocks, which exposed punchy ground all around them... on top of that, it was pretty balmy, near 20 degrees.. so the snow seemed to be a little bit soft because of that.
After the tussocks, riding was on and off, but mostly turned into pushing, especially up the hill at the end. Sarah and Dick caught up to me about 3/4 of the way in.
The last stretch before the cabin was windblown with very soft snow. Even with deflated tires only short squiggly lines led into snowbanks on the side of the trail. :-) Surprisingly, I managed to not take a dive into the deep snow this time! Haha.
By the time I got to the cabin, (cough, 6 hours later, UGH! i am out of shape!!), Dick and Sarah had it warmed up and had the turkey and sides warming up. :-) Here they are during a mean game of spoons.
Friday night we had some really cute puppy visitors. Some folks were snowmachining/skijoring out to Wolf Run but had missed the trail and came across our cabin. I almost kept one of the puppies for myself, they were so darn cute!! Hence, why I cannot go to the animal shelter because I would most likely come home with one.

Here is a picture of the Colorado creek cabin the next morning. We had awesome weather - unfortunately it was cloudy at night so no aurora. :( My dream will have to live on and not happen quite yet. "Patience young grasshopper".. yes, yes I hear you.
Saturday I decided to head up the, uhhh, "trail" to get a feel of what the White Mountains can expose a biker to. Dick took some photos of me trying to ride. They are below.
photo courtesy of D. Flaharty
photo courtesy of D. Flaharty

Man, I love this time of year. As long as I'm able to get out to places like this I am happy. We were so lucky to have such mild weather, too, and little wind for the area.
I pushed up the ridge a little ways to get a better view of things.
Awake to take in the view....
These trail markers show where the trail is supposed to be. The sastrugi was pretty sweet even though it made biking nearly impossible. A fluorescent sunset graced me over the white land, illuminating the sastrugi on the ridgeline.
On the way up I could float on top of some areas but then would come crashing through a foot and a half in other areas.
Sunday time to rock and roll out of there. I left at 11am figuring there would be some walking to do.
But lucky me...
...had INCREDIBLE trail conditions!!!! I was so excited and knew it was going to be a good ride when I was able to ride on the trail that I was stepping through on Friday. Thanks to the snow hardening in the cold! The uphill on the way in, turned into a massively FUN downhill on the way out. I actually had to brake a few times because I was getting a pretty ridiculous high speed going down and we all know I'd be the first to endo into the snow.
The sky had fogged up and began to snow lightly on the way out. Couldn't ask for much else except some aurora. ;) On the way out, I intercepted some skiers from the UAF Outdoor Adventures group- just four of the guys who work there. Stopped and chatted with them for awhile and they gave me some jelly bellies - yum, thanks! They were out at Wolf Run with the puppy-people and had heard there was a biker but sounds like they were wanting to visualize that so good thing I caught up to them. ;)
With the ride taking me about 2 hours and 45 mins to get back to the car, Dick and Sarah finished just 10 mins after.
Enough said.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tires that don't shred to pieces.

High today: 4 F
Low today: -9 F and dropping
Well that's a sight you don't see everyday.. unless you are out on the trails around Fairbanks this time of year! I have been wanting to get a picture of a musher crossing the road since I got here.

Today Heike and I went for another ride at lunch time to test out my newest tires, WTB Weirwolfs (apparently all the cool winter riders in town have them.. meh, I should have started there instead of experimenting.) They pretty much rocked my socks off and I got to notice how different the Snowcats make floating on snow. Not that the trails are very soft right now since we haven't had new snow in weeks, but put that pressure down and you are not skidding around! Faster ride today but I am still very out of biking shape. I have been told it should not take long to come back. I like that my mountain-bike-turned-snow-bike is almost as light as it was as a xc bike. I can carry it easily and pushing it is not so difficult. Load some survival gear on there though and I bet it's different. :-)
Happy to be out in the sunshine!
Heike plows down Miller Hill snowmachine trail - one of my fav downhill snowmachine trails to go down in Fairbanks. You can get hauling pretty fast on it. Today it was a little more sluggish than I remember because it hasn't been highly used yet, but still a blast. We made a loop that I didn't know existed and came out really close to my place. Exciting that there is a short 1.5 hour loop to ride so close to home!

In other news, it's that time of year -Thanksgiving! Hope everyone has a nice day and gets to spend time with loved ones.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Mechanical Disaster of Trial and Error

High today so far: -8 F and rising
Low today: -33 F

Well today was interesting. I had more mechanical problems on my bike than ever before. Big mistake: Putting an old (but never used) tire on the back wheel. Why? Read on. Ben and Heike came over and we started riding from the cabin, since the FCC winter ride was not happening due to the cold. This was the first time I rode with them, since I just met them last weekend.. and I am hoping they will want to ride with me again after the hassle my bike became today! We connected Miller Hill to Miller Hill extension, something that I knew was possible but wasn't sure what "no trespassing" sign to risk, and what narrow trail to take. First thing I did wrong was decided to become confident and go fast down the snowy road, and completely wipe out. No biggie, wiping out on snow is not a big deal, you barely even feel it. But I felt kind of silly for going so fast on the snowy road. Ah how quickly our securities can be wiped out, literally. ha ha.

Then, I let too much pressure out of my front (fat) tire. It was fine, no problems with flats since the tire is glued to one side of the rim, but I was just unable to get rolling. Thank goodness for pumps. Heike in her stylish gear and matching bike riding through an ever-familiar part of the Goldstream trails.
Ben enjoying the ride.
Apparently everything I own is black. Next time will trade a black gaitor for my pink one.. or the pink hat. Layering today was perfect, not too warm or cold. As you can see, the trails can use a little more snow.

Everything was fine for a few miles until I noticed that my back tire was very wobbly. And I don't mean just out of true, but really wobbly. It was kicking up large amounts of snow too.. flinging it in every which direction. I ignored the wobble until we got out on a trail parallel to Ballaine Rd.. where all of a sudden pedaling became terribly difficult. When inspecting the back tire some more, I realized that the tire had disconnected from the rim. What the crap?! I have never seen that.. nor had Heike or Ben. The tire was not flat but it was not connected like tires always are. So, needless to say I decided that it would be a good idea to ride the road the rest of the way home.. since it would be faster rolling.
Sunset on the Goldstream trails.

So then, after flying down Ballaine hill (of which I will never cease to be amused on, even when it is well sub-zero cold), I realized that my tire had come off of the bike rim. With Heike's help we got it back on, but then as I tried to ride again it just fell off again. I decided to just keep riding because at this point we also noticed that the knobs on the tire had been completely ripped off within the last 2 hours due to the cold.. so the tire was completely shot. Then the tire just ceased up because it came off again and got stuck on the brakes. Wow.. Alright then I guess I am not riding anymore! At this point I was about 2 miles from home so decided just to walk the rest of the way. Heike had offered to grab my car and pick me up but eh, it really wasn't that far and deep down inside I wasn't rushing to get back inside. The whole fiasco was pretty ridiculous that I couldn't help but laugh. While walking back home, a very nice young man in a subaru stopped and asked if he could help.. which I debated for a few seconds whether to take a ride.. but decided not to. I kind of wished I would have, because this young man was even good looking.. but my pride decided I wanted to walk. How funny our egos can be sometimes huh? Even in 15 below wrecked bike tires. So if you stumble across this - thank you nice person for asking if I needed help. And thanks to Ben and Heike for prepping some hot chocolate for when I got back to the cabin. :-)

The good thing about today's ride, besides the kick in the face that I am way out of shape to the point that my legs were burning, is that my feet were happily warm. I think we have figured out this losing feeling in the feet thing. Maybe. This is good news. Early last winter I was barely able to go for a 20 min ride without serious issues.
A very destroyed Maxxis high roller tire after a 3 hour ride at 15-20 below.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wrapping up field work

High today: -25 F
Low today: -34 F

Overnight last night and this morning I did my last weather balloon launches for my grad study. I am very excited that this is over - I enjoyed the field work but it is nice to not have to be flaky on people and to be able to plan trips more than a few days in advance... not to mention feeling like I can now crank through this thesis thing. It is due in early/mid-February but the sooner the better so I can play (hopefully) come March. For my last set of launches I had a few visitors.. Patrick stopped by for the first launch and Brittany and Oliver came for the second launch bearing hot chocolate (yum!). It was an interesting night with 2.5 hours of sleep after a very long day, I fell asleep inbetween the 5th and 6th launch... Literally curled up on the floor, set the alarm clock on my phone (which wasn't needed since the computer beeped at me when it wanted me to do something), and napped for 30 mins and had vivid life-like dreams during it. That was the first time I actually slept during my field work. Why not though.. it is nice being able to master the power nap.
Brittany and Oliver being silly

It got down to -35.7 F at the station on Saturday morning. I was staring at the thermometer at one point just egging it on to get to -40. (don't we all start acting funny and talking to ourselves, or moving objects like the temperature sensor when we get tired?) It really didn't feel that cold out. I guess I have figured out how to dress at that weather finally.. in a cocoon of insulated Carhartts and down.
During the last launch, the random balloon that was sitting on the ceiling of the garage decided to make an escape out the door and began to rise.. only to decide it was losing air too quickly and came back. I was thinking to myself as it began to float upward, "FAA is going to kill me. Thank goodness this is the last time I have to bother them." Not that a big giant floating balloon should bother anyone since nothing was attached to it. But still, I had this horrible fear the entire time with field work that I was going to make some poor little airplane come crashing down because the balloon or line got tangled up in its engine. Thank goodness that did not happen.

Enough rambling for now. Come back later for more!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rocky the Rockhopper Goes FATBIKE!

High today: -11 F
Low today: -14 F

About a month ago I snatched a pair of original Snowcats by a tick of luck.. and by luck, I mean within 5 mins of the guy sending out an email about them before about 20 more people contacted him about them by the next morning. If you were one of those people...sorry, but know that they will be very much loved. :-)Rocky the Rockhopper was in the shop waiting for some big fat 2.8" tires. I am like a 5 year old on Christmas morning with these new tires. Unfortunately the 2.8" only fits on the fork of the bike. The back of the frame could not fit a downhill tire.. but still has a 2.4" on the Snowcat rim, which will hopefully be sufficient on the Interior trails. These are no Endomorph tires, but it's the best I can do for now. I think having slightly skinnier tires will actually be good for climbing hills, since the Pugsley was not so great at climbing.. or was it just me? Meh, I'll blame it on the bike for now.Here's a comparision to the regular mtb tires that were on my bike. Quite a difference! I will test him out this weekend. :-) For now I will just stare and drool and think of the possibilities...
Thanks to Kai for being excited about this project, and for MacGyvering a few things to make the tires work!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Celine's 25th Birthday at Birch Hill

High today: 0 F
Low today: -16 F

Today we celebrated Celine's birthday with a ski at Birch Hill and a potluck dinner. Two years in a row she has had awesome weather for her bday. Today's ski was really good, I am getting confident (hopefully not too quickly) with my current capabilities on the skis and ready to bomb down hills again. Not ready for alpine skiing yet but hey it's going to get cold here anyway. It is all about the xc skiing now. It is fun going out on the local trails and knowing so many people out there, too.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Good Snow Pack

High today: -6F
Low today: -21F

You know what I love about Fairbanks?? The whole guaranteed-snow thing. Granted, it could come late, but you are seriously guaranteed some good snow. We established a really nice snowpack this past week with 3 days in a row of snowfall. Locations around town saw anywhere from 4" to a foot, and north of here they received up to two feet of snow. Hooray!!!!
I had one of the nicest skis into work the other day. Something about it was really awesome and peaceful, between breaking trail in moderately falling snow, just to intercept the groomer and ski-track setter halfway there.. and watching the daylight begin to turn the horizon into a lighter hue. Not to mention just being thankful to be able to ski!

Below is the after-effect of our latest snow. It was nice today to be able to enjoy in the daylight, which will continue to fade for another 6 weeks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Welcome Back Winter Once Again.

Mr. Snowman is a good representation about how I feel about this weather. He smiles at everyone skiing by and every flake that falls from the sky. Keep that fluffy white stuff coming. It's good for the soul.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hello Seattle!

Wow I had awesome luck today. After pushing my 51 lb bag through as an "under 50 lb" bag, I got myself into a first class seat (for the first time!) thanks to the kindness of the dude at the desk. (what are their official names?? I have no idea...) If I would have known I wouldn't have eaten breakfast since first class gets a free one. :-) On top of that, I've flown once again having a nice person beside me for every flight. Of the 30 or so airplanes I have been on, I have never sat next to someone on an airplane whom I haven't talked to, even just a little bit. I like it because it gives one an appreciation for how diverse of daily lives we have, but how similar people are that you can at least chat lightly for an hour.
Next stop was Seattle where my buddy from college, Christy, was waiting for me outside of the airport!! I was chauffered downtown to rescue Stef from work for a lunch hour. I was SO excited to see these girls and to finally get out in Seattle proper. Christy and Stef are both very enjoyable to be around with their sarcasm and ridiculous stories. I hadn't seen Christy since..... 3 years ago I guess when she graduated! She joined the NOAA corp immediately after college so she was out of there like a woman with a plan! And of course Stef you know if you've been following the blog while I've been in Fairbanks. :-)
Stef, Christy and I at the Cheesecake Factory in downtown Seattle.

Finally back to Fairbanks where bare ground stood when I left two weeks ago with temps in the 10s/20s. Now lies a base of 4 inches of snow and sub-zero temperatures. Priorities: wax skis to get to work, transform bikes for winter riding, plan winter trips. Oh yeah, and get back to work. ;)

Monday, November 2, 2009

More Pittsburgh

High today (PIT): 57 F
Low today (PIT): 31 F

Just a few more photos from Pittsburgh. My buddy from college, Nick, came to Pittsburgh to visit from Columbus OH. We roamed around the neighborhood where I went to high school and walked up 42 floors to get to the top of the building. And why would we do such a silly thing? Because we can.When I was little and naive and didn't know where Oakland CA was or anything about it, Oakland to me was this place - a neighborhood in Pittsburgh where Univ. of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon and my high school are located. Can't say that I ever appreciated the architecture in the area until recently.
St. Paul's Cathedral in Oakland.

Earlier in my trip my dad and I made some homemade kielbasi. He has been making it from scratch for a long long time for every Christmas and Easter. I brought back some with me to AK in my carry-on since I will be here for Christmas this year, which began smelling terribly of garlic before I got back 21 hours later. Oops. :-)
Mom smiles at Olive Garden.
Maria came over while I did my last minute, "crap-I-fly-in-a-few-hours" packing.
Here's the babies being loving to each other. Note that Gretchen has probably been wearing the same dress in whatever pictures I've posted of her. She has three of the same dress which serve as her pjs too. I think somewhere in our family genes we like to wear our pjs all the time!

Thanks to everyone for letting me stay at your houses/apartments, special shout-out to my sister Patty who housed some of my friends, and to all of the free dinners and/or dinner dates from near and far away friends!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Central PA.

High today: 52 F
Low today: 41 F

I had originally intended to do a 3-day backpacking trip in Central/Northern PA with some old friends, but by the time I got to State College exhausted from DC, and realized that I still know a lot of people in State College whom I wanted to see, I changed plans to accommodate seeing more people. The first day I crashed Walker building, home of the meteorology and geography departments where I spent most of my time as an undergrad. I am impressed by the memory of my old profs. They are quite the bunch of enthusiastic, love-what-they're-doing kind of people, who want their students to succeed past their knowledge. One of my old profs may be making one of my life dreams (ok.. about 10 years of it at least) come true this May so stay posted and I will announce once things are final. (the mystery! the suspense! Ok so a lot of you know already because I am too excited about the possibility and can't keep my own secrets very well...) Anyway, State College is the one place that I go back to every time and feel happy just getting off the exit for the town. I have no intention of ever moving back, but just feeling so welcome in a town two years after you've left is something not every town has for a person. The younger faces are changing but the permanent ones are always there, cheering you on. Since I wasn't planning on actually being in town for this weekend everything was spur the moment and there were a few surprised reactions which just made my day. We still fit in a 15+ mile hike in 8 hours which was the fastest 8 hour hike I have ever done.. and what I mean is that it felt like we were out of there for only 3 hours! It rained most of the hike and there were not wide open views, but the company was fantastic and ever-entertaining.
Chad, Sarah, me and Aviva. Chad kept it a secret from Sarah that I was here.. her reaction was awesome!A bunch of meteorologists going for a hike in the rain. That morning one said to me, "you guys know it's going to rain, right?" Of course we do!
Jerry, Aviva and Andrew at the beginning of the hike.We hiked through Rothrock State Forest, my old mountain biking trails, and what I think is home to some of the best mtb trails on the east coast. There are lots of rockbeds (given the name), big log jumps, bridges, and varied terrain. I got a little homesick for biking these trails while hiking them.
It rained for about 4 hours of our hike but didn't seem very long at all. What did I do without good rain gear once upon a time?!
Central PA got a crapload of snow a few weeks ago.. anywhere from 6 inches to several feet up in the hills ("mountains"). Because of the heavy weight of the snow, combined with windy conditions, there were trees down every 10 feet in some places. We witnessed one fall mid-hike, which sketched me out a little bit.
Back in town the next day, Eric, Matt and I grabbed some DP Dough, the best calzones ever.. with over 40 different kinds to choose from. If you don't like their combos, then you can get a "construction zone" aka, make your own.
These are my hosts, Jud, Nimbus, and Aviva. You may recognize their smiling faces from their trip to AK in May 2008. :-)
Farewell to you, Happy Valley. It's been fun once again!