I’ve recently returned from my overseas adventure. I’m not quite ready to tell the details of that story yet but let’s just say that my experience was “interesting.” That’s as detailed as I can get at the moment; I’ll get there though. For now, though, I can tell you about one of the super fun things I did while I was on the other hemisphere.

After a tortuous several weeks of administrative BS in the city, I was really happy to get to my site in Catarman on Samar Island. I immediately went out to identify a bicycle source. I hit the jackpot at my third bike shop. They didn’t have bikes for rent, but seeing my disappointment, the bike shop’s owner invited me on a 30K bike ride the next day and offered to lend me a bike. One of the best ways to get to know a place is to ride a bike, and one of the best ways to make new friends is to join a gang of locals to ride bikes, so I was in. “What time?” I asked. “6am” he replied.

The blurry biker gang approaches the 3/4 mark of the ride. We’re blurry because the photographer was facing backwards on his bike to take this picture. And we’re a little blurry from exhaustion, but in a good way.

That was good enough for me, and I was ready and waiting at the shuttered doors of the bike shop the next day at 5:45. The tropical rains were sprinkling down, and when the ride leader showed up he said that the other riders were “afraid of the rain” so he didn’t know if they were all coming. But I’m an Alaskan, you can’t scare me with weather, how bad can rain be?

Well, I found out how bad rain can be, when the skies opened up like a fire hose for a half hour. All I could see was the wheel in front of me. I was soaked like I’d never been soaked before, and even felt a little chilly. Probably one of the weirder things I’ve had to do is stop for a hot chocolate break during a bike ride near the Equator. “Here I am, taking a break from Alaska,” I thought as I sipped the steamy beverage, “and I’m freezing. As usual! So unfair.” Pretty entertaining.

Also entertaining was the fact that the 30K distance only covered the first leg of the ride. I’m not sure if it was a language barrier issue, or whether they didn’t want to scare me with the fact that the Saturday bike club was in fact a long distance bike club, and we were to ride over 140K. Not 30K. I wouldn’t have been afraid of the distance, but since we left in the rain at 6am and I’d been told we were going 30K, I’d not brought much food, had no money with me, and zero sunscreen. This resulted in having to borrow a lot of money for food over the course of the day, and in obtaining a truly wretched sunburn. Yep, we started in the pouring rain, and finished in the unrelenting sun. It still took most of the day to dry our clothes from the rainstorm in the morning.

At the post-ride coffee stop, I tried to ride one of the kid size bikes at the house. It was a harder workout than my own full size bike, and made for this entertaining picture. I am posting it here in large part because it shows how bad my sunburn was. Thank goodness someone lent me arm covers or else my arm would be as red as my hand.

The bike ride was, as they usually are, a bright spot in the proceedings. I was super impressed with the number of women and men who were into bikes there. It was a blast and if anyone heads over to the Philippines, you should hook up with that bike club for a ride.

Part of the peloton takes a break on the beach. Everyone was highly entertained by my red legs.

Thank goodness for bikes, they always improve matters, don’t they?

And now I’m back in Alaska. Transitioning from winter to tropics to full winter is also a challenge. It was a victory just to find and organize my basic avalanche gear to get out into the backcountry yesterday. To complicate matters I tried new gear, too. Probably not the best plan (see below).

Who’s this rookie? “Oh man, I’m too hot. Let me take off a layer. OK, all layers back on. Oh shit, I forgot to put my transceiver back on. Dammit, have to take off all these layers again to put it back on. I wish I’d not worn an extra pair of tights. How much can I unzip these leg vents? Not enough.”

Nothing like feeling like a beginner again. Not only were my clothes inappropriate for the weather (rookie), my ski boot was giving me a blister because I’d just rebaked the liner after having shrunk one of them in December by leaving it near the heli exhaust vent (newbie) and I forgot that my leg vents were open when I knelt into the snow for a hand shear, filling my pants with powder which subsequently fell down into my boot (gaper). I even picked a poor line on the way down after pointing my partner down a better one, missing the best snow and having to traverse around to find a decent aspect (fool).

Step *ow* step *ow* step *ow* How did we evolve to be such a high level animal yet so easily laid low by a tiny thing like a blister? But who cares, look at that view!

As I gimped up the ridge, I knew the blister would limit me to one lap. But, as usual, the views were amazing and “I get to live here” ran through my head as it always does in the Alaska mountains. It was a great way to reset my brain and body back to North and Winter. Pretty much everything is a learning experience, isn’t it?

Now that’s more like it.