I’ve been through some rough stuff lately and have been mostly hibernating in my hole, waiting to recover. Today I felt a bit more like myself and despite the temperature in the thirties, the siren song of the bike was too much and I launched myself on the inaugural first training ride of the year. Um, training? I don’t train actually. I just ride. This really wasn’t the first ride of the year so I added the “training” thing in there to make it sound more formal. So, fine, it’s the second ride of the year. The first ride of the year was with my friend Ted last weekend. That was a fun ride; we saw a herd of elk running back and forth across the road, saw some nice scenery, and Ted wasn’t even too bothered when I balked at riding on gravel roads and wanted to turn back rather than descend a big hill that we’d just have to climb back up later. Ted is rad.
Lately I’ve been missing Alaska a lot. I told Ted that I felt like retreating back to Alaska, back to the familiar things I love and miss, like spring skiing in Turnagain Pass, backcountry skating on frozen lakes, and yes, even bar-and-restaurant hopping in my beloved downtown Anchorage. I miss my friends and I miss old times. I miss hunting and fishing and harvesting my own food. I miss my house and my washer and dryer. In Alaska I know where things are and how to do what I want to do. The things that made me decide to take a walkabout from Alaska are fading from memory and now I just want to go back. I think part of that feeling is because I’m now in an unfamiliar place and doing all the things I like to do is really hard because I just don’t know where to find them, and I don’t have all the requisite partners in place. Ted says that I just have to “find my substitutes” for the things I miss about Alaska, and he is right. Ted is not only rad, but he’s also wise. You other Durangotans know what I’m talking about.
I may be homesick, but I’m not stupid. I know that if I were in Alaska, I’d be chafing at the long, cold winter, and I’d be bored of skiing by now and I’d be jonesing to ride my bike. So I decided to take advantage of one of the things I can to in Durango that I can’t do in Anchorage, and ride my road bike in winter. I got the bike out and the following words escaped my lips: “It’s only a 25 mile loop.” This is indicative of how far I’ve come on the road bike in one season. A year ago, 25 miles would have sounded impossibly far to my MTB-attuned senses. Now, it’s a regular length ride that I don’t even bring food for, and had to actively force myself to even bring water. Maybe I’m not a good road biker after all…heh.
The ride was really nice; a country road winding along below red cliffs on one side and a river valley on the other. I again saw a herd of elk (not too unusual here in Durango I admit) and enjoyed the tunes cranking on the iPod as I zoned out and soaked up the sun. The traffic here is actually mostly civil so it never feels like you could be killed at any second when you’re riding on the road. I still can’t conceive of road biking in Alaska, where I had to tint my windows limo-dark to reduce the woman-driving-alone road rage/stalky behavior. People there try to kill you if you’re in a car; if you’re on a bike it’s open season. Not so in Durango. Drivers here are decently accommodating, and give bikers lots of room. It was actually relaxing, not usually something I associate with road biking. I was feeling all right, just not 100% myself; like it or not, Durango is an alien landscape to this Arctic girl.
When I dropped down to cross the valley, suddenly, inexplicably, my spirits soared. I instantly felt better, felt like I was where I belonged, and I caught a glimpse of the self I hadn’t seen in a while. What on earth….? A quick look around revealed the cause – the river had that green-blue tinge of glacier water, the color of Alaska rivers, the color of the rivers of my homeland. I broke out in a broad, idiot smile as I gazed at the river; for just one moment there I was me, in my place, a place I understood and knew. I was home.