Thursday, December 31, 2009

As every winter really sets in, my movie watching spikes. I'm catching up on all the good stuff I missed while I was riding my bike, fishing, and getting married.

Everyone that saw (500) Days of Summer told me is was a warm, sweet, charming , and surprisingly deep and insightful story of love and relationships. I genuinely hold these people in high regard when it comes to movies. I was excited to see this at Blockbuster the other day and scooped it up without a pause. Usually I drift down the entire wall of new releases before deciding on a new flick to grab. Not this time. It was at the beginning of the alphabetized wall and I did not hesitate. After watching it, it was...ok. I enjoyed it, and the actors are very charming and perfectly cast. The movie has so much going for it and none of it is bad, though in the end it felt like a creatively organized flavor of a solid romantic comedy. I am told by those that recommended it that I am dead wrong on this. I wonder if I would have loved it much more if I wasn't married? Maybe if hipsters didn't grate on me as much as they sometimes do? Maybe I am just getting older and more cynical? I have always loved Say Anything... and probably always will, but man do I see the cracks in that when I watch it these days. Perhaps you need to see certain things at the right time in your life and just reconnect with those memories in order to enjoy subsequent viewings? I suspect many people would not love The Catcher in the Rye if they waited till their 30's to read it, though I read it in high school and always find those warm feelings drifting back each time I reread it. (500) Days of Summer is not bad, but not the great thesis on modern or hipster love. She doesn't like you. Get over it.

I initially thought Rushmore was a tight little masterpiece and The Royal Tenenbaums came up short, yet with a more audacious reach. I loved them both, but preferred Rushmore. I remember vividly seeing Rushmore on the mag mile in Chicago with Melissa, Jess, and the entire crew. We walked out of the movie giddy with the enjoyment of having seen something truly original and enjoyable. After a handful of Rushmore viewings quite a few years ago I sort of set the movie aside in my mind. It's great, let's let it happily sit in that trophy case. I kept digesting The Royal Tenenbaums and the layers of that onion expanded unceasingly. I was wrong. It had not failed in anything it reached for at all. Like Scorsese or Kubrick, Wes' work really needs a few screenings to unfold. We watched Rushmore again last night and while I still laughed non stop, I saw little cracks here and there. I always thought of Bottle Rocket as the learning experience that produced the perfection in Rushmore. Maybe they both were a big warm up for RT's? I still love Mr. Littlejeans.

I'm planning on seeing A Serious Man this weekend. That is supposed to be excellent. And World's Greatest Dad is on dvd now. Time to catch up.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Texting Fun

I don't often get random texts from unknown numbers, but when I do I try to play ball. Last night around 9:30 I received one from a 907 (Alaska) area code, couldn't find the name in Becky's phone, and therefore decided to respond. The whole back and forth took under 5 minutes.

?:Hey chris...r u and Becky in town for the holidays?

Is it a coworker from my former job planning a New Years party? There are all kinds of people up here that have their families elsewhere. We are a sort of pack of strays up here so parties seem to develop more randomly. I did leave my number with former workers before my last day. Ok, my money is on party. We're in.

Me: Yep. We're here in Anchorage.

?:Cool. I have banana bread.

?:Sorry for the late txt. didn't realize the time in my baking frenzy!!

?:Oh and if u don't like b bread I have mini cheesecakes too.

No party, but man do I like cheesecake.

Me:They both sound very good. Cheesecake is a fav of mine though.

?:Cheesecake it is!!

At this point asking whom it is may be a little late. Cheesecake is coming, though I'm not sure from where or how I will get it. But cheesecake is coming. The details are an uptown problem.

I woke up today not sure where it could be coming from. Hmmm... At this point I don't have the guts to mail back. Let the ball stay in their court.

The doorbell rang at 3 pm and there stood my realtor from a year or so ago. She was great -- just beyond great. And she was now holding 2 cheesecakes. "I'm parked illegally so Merry Christmas!," she smiled and shuffled away. Perfect.


About 6 months ago I had some similar fun, albeit without cheesecake.

?: R u going to kerrys?

Me:Yep. For sure.

?: Kewl. When are you leaving?

Me: In a bit.

?:Who is this?

Me:Kris. Who is this?

?:Anna. How old r u?

Me:How old r u?


Game Over. Phone down. Becky and I stopped laughing and let those texts slip into the ether.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I liked my job here in Anchorage plenty, but work there was drying up. A few months ago they told us it would be wise to look for a new job while also promising to hold on to us as long as possible. They had every hope that something would happen and contracts would be signed guaranteeing work for another year at least. They also promised that if anyone was let go they would be given 30 days notice. Given the economy, that's a very ethical promise. It seems that the east coast branches are doing gangbusters, but the Alaska location (which started the company) is not doing as well. The DoD prefers to do business locally. I guess I can see that. Regardless, the last few months have seen a careful polishing of my resume, a hope that a contract might pop out of the ether, and a careful attitude about dollars being spent. And Hawaii was put on the back burner. Through a priceless recommendation and a few successful interviews I was able to land at a new gig doing the same software engineering I have always done, yet with clients local to the state. It's more stable and the future there looks much brighter. I am very thankful to have avoided an interruption in income and the honeymoon is being booked any day now. Given the economy, I anticipated being out of work a lot longer. I really dodged a bullet and I know I am much luckier than most these days. Sounds like I owe a few Novenas.

A funny epilogue is that after my final day at the old gig I attended the Christmas party that night at Sullivan's steakhouse. Today, the following Friday, I will be attending the new company's Christmas party. Do I know how to time it or what?


I bid on things on ebay all the time, mostly in a completely dismissive way. "If if stays this cheap and I win, then great. If the bidding increases, I lose." I lose all the time, and don't really care. I rarely win anything with this approach, an approach which is really more of a constant litmus test on the weekly price of Mordheim or Necromunda miniatures. Minimum bids do not stand, until this past week that is. I guess everyone is burned out on Christmas shopping because I ended up being on the hook for a pile of great stuff this past week.

Talisman game and Reaper expansion for half price? Check.
1980 Dungeons and Dragons Electronic game for $10? Sure.
Dungeonquest? Yep.
That random, hard to find AD&D solo adventure I had been hunting down? Gotcha.

All at great prices and sure to fill the random holes in my Dungeons and Dragons collection. But man did they all come at once. It's never bad to have gaming stuff show up in the mail like presents though.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I've never had pink eye, though I've seen it in plenty of other folks. Last Wednesday I woke up with one eye sealed shut with gunk and the other full of plenty of gunk as well. After rinsing it all down with a damp cloth I noticed that both eyes were completely bloodshot. The night before only one eye was mildly irritated -- this sucker moved fast. At work that morning I read about pink eye and most of what I read said that treatment mainly masks the symptoms and keeping your hands clean was really the key. You ride it out. So I had somewhat decided to just tough it out before I came upon the nagging fact that it could permanently damage your eye in rare cases. Fine, off to urgent care I went.

At a glance he looked in my eye and told me that I certainly had an infection, but also that it was not pink eye. So they tested me for everything under the winter season banner of possibilities. Negative on strep throat, H1N1, pink eye, etc. I walked out with a Rx for some antibiotic drops and a promise to come back for the results of the eye gunk culture in a week. The eye drops then zapped it within 24 hours.

Well, it looks like it was strep after all, though it never made it to my throat. A round of antibiotic pills should kill it for sure.

I always try to not touch my face when I'm at the gym, and I do often wash my hands after leaving the weight room. It has to have been from one of the plethora of people there that use the barbells.

I got off light -- Becky's the one that had swine flu. No complaints here.


Is Maui the best island to hang around for a week? Are any of the islands really bad? I doubt it. We'll be fulfilling a typical Alaskan lifestyle trait by heading "outside" to our 50th state this winter.


I am currently knee deep in the final 2 seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street. I had plowed through the first 4 back in Madison after getting my wisdom teeth yanked, then put the last few season sets aside just to avoid burning out. The years have passed and the snow is here and everytime I head to Blockbuster I think about grabbing the first season of The Wire. I've never seen it and I'm told it will change my life. I want in. However, the little voice in the back of my head keeps reminding me that I need to finish the other, precursor Baltimore cop show that I have already paid good money for. Fair enough. I love Homicide and I really see a lot of Chicago (and any other decaying, northern, industrial city) in its depiction of Charm City. Homicide may seem a necessary stop off on the journey to the Elysian Fields of The Wire, though it is a perfect destination all on its own.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving was a simple, happy affair in Chugiak, AK. Thanksgiving up here usually involves the Packers at 9am along with plenty of Rainier beer. We missed the Packer game this year due to our focus on the smoker puffing away in the yard. I brined 4 large salmon fillets with a very basic brine. It was my first attempt at brining so I didn't want to overcommit to too many fish. Also, I just don't have the fridge or garage space to really lay out numerous trays filled with marinating salmon. So it was a test run, accompanied by a plethora of Vitamin R. My measly 4 fillets ended up tasting delicious after a 10 hour smoke in 125 degree temperatures fed by cherry and alder chips. Next time I'll have to ramp for more volume. No worries. It's not so much that smoking is a big production that takes a great deal of labor, as much as smoking takes 8+ hours, therefore demanding you to be in the general area for the entire day.

The conclusion is simple -- I need a smoker sooner rather than later in life (I suspect later is the probable choice, as the townhouse doesn't really allow smokers on our meager decks). Let's put that high on the 5 year plan.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Man V Food

I guess I am a fan of Man V. Food on the travel channel, though I don't feel like it. I always end up catching up with the episodes sooner or later, and I always end up disgusted at the end. Also, most of what he eats is not necessarily something I would like to eat. Why do I like it? My appetite for grease is long dormant. I guess I just enjoy the idea of a new city being explored down to the back room of a kitchen with some local chef. And it has been fun to watch the host noticeably plump up over the last year.

Well, the show that aired yesterday was in Alaska, so that made it all the more interesting. Oddly, they spent 66% of the show in Talkeetna. Cool town, but really? I had been to the breakfast place before, but I only bought some of their great bakery. Why didn't they show that? They have a very good bakery there. I haven't had the caribou burger at the other Talkeetna joint, but now I really want to do so. I'm not taking on that silly, huge burger that he did -- I'll just get a single, thanks.

He ended up at Humpy's right here in Anchorage. I'm not familiar with the challenge (it seems fairly new), but I am plenty familiar with Humpy's. I really dig the place, but for some reason Becky and I haven't made it there in a little while. I'm sure that will change now that the bug has been placed in our heads. I am not taking on the challenge though (It must cost over $100 -- 3 lbs of crab meat, plus everything else!?); I'll settle happily for the Bill's Way Halibut burger.


It was only -4 this morning! We're warming up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It was -10 this morning when I started my truck, but happily the timer on my heating block did the trick. It kicked on at 3 am and warmed up the fluids for a safe start at 6:30. It's still flippin' cold though. The radio nob barely wants to turn, and this is just a warm up for the winter to come.

This morning I did pass a cycling commuter geared up with a light, studded tires, and lots of layers. Right on.

Once I arrived at work I spent the first hour chatting in the dark as the power was out for an hour. It is the last frontier after all.

The sun is out for the last few hours of daylight now and I can see the buildings and vehicles belching steam. It's almost time to leave for the gym in the 5 degree sunshine. We have almost 6 hours of daylight right now, and we ought to enjoy it because that number is retreating everyday.


Little Shoppe of Horrors is streaming tonight (and every Tuesday night) from 10pm to midnight (CST) in Madison, WI. Great show, great host. It's my Tuesday night destination.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Catching up

As of 8 days ago, we now have snow. There is only about 6-10 inches packed down so far, but the temperature is well below freezing so consider that snow a permanent base. This morning at 6:30 am I started my truck in -3 temps, but thanks to it being plugged in all night it turned over like a champ. I just need to dig out the timer so I can avoid having the block heater on all night. I'm told 3 hours is the golden number for maximum benefit in cold starts. It's only going to get colder this week.


I removed the seatpost and front wheel from my Orbea and placed the entire operation in the crawlspace. It's just not fun to have the whole bike in the dining room all winter. If I do get some riding in this winter it will be on the cyclocross bike anyway. Still, it is a sad note to sound. It is also a chance to hit the Elmendorf pool for lap swim a little more often. And the treadmill. I feel like I need to plan on the triathlon again, shave 10 minutes off my previous number, and power through the winter.


With the advent of freezing temperatures I have been painting more than ever lately. My Vampire Counts Black Coach is almost finished. I just need to base it properly and take some pictures. Gaming nights on Fridays are a reliable good time every week. Winter in Alaska is settling in.


Moon is a very cool movie.


I am pretty hooked on Scrabble on Facebook these days. Send a game request along, please!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fred Meyer is the main grocery store up here (along with Safeway). It's an excellent grocery store that also has a the equivalent of a Kohl's and a good sporting goods store in it as well. Oh, and a good jewelry store. And my bank Alaska USA is inside as well. It really has everything, yet doesn't have an enormous footprint. And the prices and quality are very good. Everybody goes to Fred Meyer.

They have fabric shopping bags available for purchase ($1), though I think I ended up with some free ones thanks to a few coupons a year ago. The idea is to encourage their use over endless plastic bags, and to push this end they give you a nickel for ever bag you use in your purchase. Not a lot of money, but free money nonetheless.

Now, I can be a cheap bastard about many things -- in truth, about as many things as possible. However, I don't blink when it comes to special occasions, vacations, or bike parts. When it comes to most other things, I try to save money whenever possible. "Will this sale/coupon give me a little more money for Warhammer models, a comic book, or a nicer wheel for my bike?" Little things add up.

I like not wasting whenever possible also, so I'm all over the reusable bags. They're very durable as well. However, it seems that most cashiers make a concerted effort to not key them in when ringing you out. They want to make you verbally whine for your stinking nickel. In truth, I doubt they really care if they maneuvered Fred Meyer into an unexpected nickel profit. Yet it sure feels like they do. More times than not I have to remind them at the end that my $20 sale needs to be reduced by 15 cents. Sometimes they roll their eyes, but I quit caring about that a long time ago. If they want to encourage this good behavior, get consistent with the policy. If I'm going to eke out an extra trade paperback here or there, get on the ball. All those nickels add up to spokes and tires and handlebar tape. Their shame will not work on me.

Friday, October 23, 2009


People up here are winterizing their boats and motor homes. In Mt. Greenwood Tom is draining his Harley and getting it ready for a long rest. I'm triaging my bikes and shuffling the needs and wants into a Spring '10 wish list.

The Trek cross bike has been through a war zone. It is 3 years old and has 3 years of racing in it, and most parts are still original. That is impressive, but also telling. It tells me that I should not sweat it that the frame is scratched everywhere, the rear wheel only stays true for about 20 minutes after it is adjusted, the shifting is suggestive at best, and the brakes are left to merely apply a general soft friction to the rims. The bike was a great deal, has served me well, and was actually welded and constructed in Waterloo, WI. That is cool. I wish it had a sharper paint job, but that is a small complaint. I really want a steel Lemond Poprad or a Gary Fisher Presidio, but how can I justify the jettisoning of a Wisconsin made friend that still has life left in it. I spin stories of putting it out to stud as a commuter, but I don't believe that is fair. It can stay filthy and maladjusted in my garage all winter and when the long days of April start to appear I'll take it down to Chain Reaction for an epic tuneup and a burly handbuilt rear DT Swiss wheel. I'll show the Trek some love and it will shine again next cross season. I still want a Wisconsin made steel cross bike (Lemond/Fisher) though.

My Orbea road bike is entering the off season a little less wounded. It has that overall sloppy, loose feeling, which an April tuneup will happily fix. I don't think it needs the large influx of parts ($$$) that the Trek does though.

So I'll do my usual fall mail ordering of parts, tires, chains, and handlebar tape to take advantage of the year end sales. The snow has not fallen yet, but it will any day now. It's sad to see the bikes being put away for a nap, but unfortunately the trails in Anchorage are groomed for cross country skiiing (unlike the plowing and salting they receive in Chicago/Madison). Come April the bikes will emerge shinier and faster.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I’ve never been particularly fast in cross races, but I did have my fastest season this year. And, I have finished stronger in each subsequent race this season, which says something. It’s usually easier to finish higher earlier in the season when more new riders show up for the first exposures to the sport. At the end of the season you’re left with the people that are much more serious, and consequently much faster than me.

The race on Saturday was in a 55 degree rain (thanks, El Nino!) and had 3 long segments across the beach. By the start of the race, all of the practice laps had turned the beach into an enormous deep and long sandpit. It was brutal, but how could a cross race be any different?

I started off towards the rear and kept position for the first 25 minutes. As the race went on more and more people started to just dismount for 2 of the sandpits (the third pit was fairly firm). The main stretch of one pit was a cavern that was not even navigable on the first lap so I carried the bike through that one. The other pit was doable if you reached really deep and had your gear selected properly before you were in the pit. After those first 25 minutes I decided that I was not going to dismount for that pit, and quickly found myself passing a few people here and there in those moments. This was the last race of the year and the sand had already turned my bike into a grinding cement mixer, so I embraced the rain and mud and filth and tried to put all I had out there.

I picked off a few more riders on some of the flats and barriers and only was passed by the lead pack. I held my own in my little group. I came nowhere close to winning, but I finished the race on a personal high note – one that gives me a good deal to build on for next year.

I enjoy the book A Separate Peace, particularly the small kernels of wisdom it contains about social behavior. Phineas is fairly close to a perfect friend in many moments. I am thinking specifically about the scene where he jumps in the pool, swims all out, and finds that he has broken the school record. He and Gene are the only ones there and he has Gene promise that this record will remain a secret. They know, so who cares if anyone else does?

The results on the cross race had me only riding 6 laps, whereas all the people I passed were marked at 8 laps. I lost of lot of points in that slip up, and I know I counted 8 laps while I pedaled. So I’ll take a cue from Phineas and just keep that one in my pocket for myself. I know it may nullify my altruistic intentions by announcing that all here, but I don’t think too many people read this blog. Also, who wants to hear somebody whine about their race results so instead of finishing the bottom quarter of the field you can finish in the bottom third? Big deal.

It’s a great book, and now I want to reread it (again). And with some off season work 2010 can be an even stronger cycling season. Good plans all around.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Cyclocross race has its own pattern and heartbeat. If you have a chance at winning(which I do not), the first lap is a high intensity chess match of positioning. If you get snaked or end up behind someone slow or crash prone, it is almost impossible to climb back up the field. The first lap is also almost completely adrenaline. You settle in actual breathing in the second lap. Given the pacing and tension in the first few laps as you angle for positions and attempt to settle into a sustainable pace, I end up with random songs or thoughts stuck in 5 second loops in my brain, not unlike a scratched lp or cd. Everything is immediate and quick and there is simply no room for thoughts or songs to develop beyond their main point or hook.

For the first 3 laps all I could think of was an endless loop of the refrain to Judas Priest's "Painkiller." I don't really love Priest, but they are catchy enough to give me a chuckle now and again. By the second half of the race I actually settled into complete thoughts, though I was still left with a need to rewatch "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" from 1986. It's simply amazing and frightening at the same time. Completely hilarious, and the Priest songs kind of rock. It is below across 2 youtube clips and totals 17 minutes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The weather was not optimal, but it was not as bad as it could have been. It could have easily snowed. It varied between 37-47 degrees, was cloudy, and intermittently rained. While never terribly comfortable, it never became too uncomfortable to not leave the truck. The park was full blown orange and red, with the spruce the only green to be found.

The scorecard (in order):
2 Bull Moose
A single grizzly eating berries
A snowshoe hare.
A sow and a cub atop a mountain ridge digging furiously. Dirt and rock flitted through the air. The image was striking and crisp as it framed itself on the ridge with overcast clouds in the background.
Sheep everywhere, all the time.
A half dozen Ptarmigan in what seemed like their full white winter colors. This seemed a bit early, but maybe we just don't want to accept that Denali will be covered in snow within weeks.
A single wolf walking slowly in a small yellow clump of grass. After watching for a few moments in binoculars the other 3 bedded down wolves came into focus. 4 wolves!
2 large Bull Moose and a nearby Cow, which was wearing a collar of some sort. The bulls were very close to the road and quietly stood still as the shutters clicked away.

After a 10 hour round trip to Kantishna we were ready for dinner, a warm campfire, and a good night's sleep. Even though the chilly weather obscured the mountain and we did not see any of the seemingly ubiquitous Caribou, it was a beautiful day in the park and how disappointed can you be when you had the chance to observe wolves?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This coming weekend is a big one. A few months ago we won Denali road permits – Becky on Sunday the 20th and me on the 19th. Normally the single gravel road in Denali is accessible by National Park tour buses, thus avoiding the congestion and bumper to bumper traffic found in Yellowstone, particularly in places where animals are visible or close to the road. In Denali the bus ensures that the roads never become Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It’s a good system.

For a 4 day weekend every mid September the road opens up to public traffic, providing you have sent in your $10 entry fee and been luckily chosen. Last year Becky and I ended up donating our $20. Her brother quit trying a few years ago after only donating endlessly to our national parks service. This year is the big field trip. He’ll be hauling up the fifth wheel and we’ll drive up separately on Friday night to collectively set up camp at the Riley Creek campground. It looks like we will hit 50 degrees as a high this weekend, but late at night it will hover around 32. Thankfully the canvas tent has a potbelly stove in it, which I understand often makes it too hot. That’s a chance I’ll happily take. My nylon tent is making the trip and if need be I’ll use it, but I hope that doesn’t happen. I’ve camped before where we’ve found the previous night’s soup frozen solid in the morning, so I know I could handle 32 degrees, though I’m quite certain that I would rather not do so. Hey, the mosquitoes should be dead come dusk though.

Camping in Denali and being able to take our time snaking through the single gravel vein slicing its way across the vast tundra is a privilege. The snow has not flown yet and we must snatch our moments from autumn before it does.

Friday, August 28, 2009

There is so much to catch up on and so much to rattle on about. I’m finally getting back into the swing of my normal schedule, the house is getting less cluttered by the day, and the crispness is in the air everywhere here in Alaska.

Most importantly, I did get married on July 31st to the lovely Becky! Everything seemed to go perfectly and everyone seemed to have a great time. If something went wrong I either didn’t notice it or our guests didn’t notice it. Perfect. I did almost overdose on pictures with the photographer (though I was more than happy to take as many pictures as possible with family and friends), but that is the price you pay to get a nice album of memorable pictures. The photographer’s pictures are here and my flickr account is full of even more.

Everything has been completed, we’re back in Alaska, the bills have been all paid, and the thank you letters will soon be tackled. Life should be calm and back to normal in time for Christmas.

Through the high times and the low times I never waver in my love for horror comics --the scarier or campier the better. Bring them all on. Given my preference for pre code horror, I am well versed in the EC books, yet always aware that the majority of the other horror comics of the early 1950’s will be forever beyond my grasp, largely due to unavailability and price. Well, thanks to The Horrors of It All blog that has all changed. It’s just simply wonderful that he is sharing his considerable collection of rare comics. Great stuff and worth checking in on every few days.

Wayne always has something interesting to write about, but I call your attention to his recent entries because he has decided to perfectly describe a strange southside journey from a few years back that we took together (along with Scott). We attempted one more peek into the Marquette Park of a passing time to see if kicking the tires of 69th street yielded any Lithuanian mumblings.

Also, he has decided to scribble a bit about my grandparent’s old neighborhood. I spent a lot of time at the intersection of 63rd and California.

The honeymoon was a blast.

If you tackle any shipwreck tours or museums in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, expect to hear Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. A lot. And then a few more times for good measure. We spent a night in Munising, MI and took a 3 shipwreck tour in a glass bottom boat, leaving us at the final wreck with a 20 minute ride back to port. “We’ll just put on some music for the nice ride back.” Yep, you know it. We chuckled because we had already been singing it randomly in the car the previous few days.

Our drive from Munising to St. Ignace was fairly short, so a side trip was in order to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise, MI. We banked on a fun trip and a money shot of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s bell. When we pulled into Paradise (a one horse town if there ever was one) we were annoyed to see that we had to drive another 10 miles north. The side trip better had pay off. After 10 minutes of twisting through the forest we came upon a completely packed, large parking. Our excitement level was way up. Every exhibit, film, and building that housed some of the museum had the song playing. And those exhibits and films were fascinating. When the song would end, there would be 5 minutes of ambient music, which would be followed by the song again. Repeat. Very funny. Ultimately, stops like this on a vacation become the unexpected jewels in your trip.

Mackinac Island was just beautiful and amazing. We rented bikes and it was just … Please go if you can.

Aside from the horror comics, I can always be counted on to geek out on Hemingway anything. So our trip through Michigan had to include a stop in Horton Bay, the place Hemingway spent many summers in his youth as well as the location he wrote about in many of his early Nick Adams stories. We stopped in the almost unmodified general store, snapped a picture of the family cottage on Walloon Lake, and poked our heads into the Red Fox Inn bookstore. Holy cow, the Red Fox Inn was a trip. Historically, it had been a place to get a room and eat a chicken dinner, which Hemingway did almost a century ago. Today it’s a bookstore, though one housed in an interior shell where one can tell that the walls, layout, and furnishings have not changed beyond a coat of paint in the last 80 years. Bookstores have bookshelves lining the walls, but in this case you’ll find tables everywhere with stacked, organized Hemingway books. The place is organized in a way, but at a glance it is sort of a permanent, indoor garage sale. But I was all in, man. The place reeks of what you would hope to find and the owner certainly had the knowledge of all things Hemingway and Horton Bay. His grandfather owned the place and spent a fair amount of time teaching young Ernest how to fish the specific creeks in the area. This guy is the guy you want to talk with when you wander into one of these places. He also was a pretty odd bird, had a very strange way about him, and had a bit of an odor. Becky is infinitely friendlier than me to almost everyone, and she was a little off about him. However, he was extremely polite, helpful, and willing to talk. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to really buy a Horton Bay Hemingway cap, but I decided that I’d surely regret it if I passed so I jumped on that, along with a few postcards that he kindly postmarked with a Horton Bay USPS stamp. Very cool.

As he rang me up I asked if he would mind if I took a picture of the interior of his place. “No problem,” he replied as he quickly scooted to the middle of the room and plopped himself into a rocking chair I didn’t even know was sitting there. I wanted a plain interior picture, but this is what I was getting. Fair enough.

After some chit chat about where we were from he, like most people, had some random questions about Alaska.

“How bad is the winter?”

“A bit colder than the north woods, but much longer.”

“Ah, I can’t make it through the winters up here any more. I have to get out.”


“Nah. I head to the Philippines for the entire winter.”

Quickly, what are you thinking? Correct. Americans do not travel there to do things that are legal in America. My money is on things with individuals under 18.

I finished my first triathlon this past Sunday. It was a spring length and I enjoyed it much more than I expected. I may not enter any longer triathlons, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself in a sprint triathlon again.

I cannot wait for Cyclocross season. As we won the road lottery in Denali for mid September, we’ll be camping there in a few weeks. So much great stuff to do and see before the snow flies.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Please stop saying you are from Chicago

The more distance between the midwest and me, the quicker I'll jerk my head if somebody asks if I'm from Chicago. I was at the gym Saturday wearing a Konerko shirt.

"Are you from Chicago."

"Yeah. Are you?" I warmly responded. Man, Chicagoans way up here in Alaska? Cool.

"Yep. I grew up there." He looks like he's around my age within 5 years.

"Me too. Which part?"

"The North West side."

"Ah, cool. I don't know those neighborhoods as well."

"Yeah, Arlington Heights originally. Then Elmhurst."


"What about you?"

"I grew up by Midway airport."

"Oh, so Tinley Park then." It wasn't a question.

I made some good hearted correction, politely reiterating that I grew up in Chicago. I should relax, given that I have a few general rules. If you're within a few hours of Chicago, say you are either from Chicago or the Chicago area. If you're a days drive away, just saying Chicago will cover it. This situation falls into the latter. However, I really don't like people telling me I'm from Tinley.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It’s an exhausting experience. Dipnetting is a 24 hour minimum time and work commitment, and it’s worth every bit of it. Even though after 2 washings my clothes still smell like salmon. Even though my half cab vans shoes were on their last leg anyway, they now reek of salmon and are headed for the trash a little sooner. My watch band is starting to smell like leather again, though just barely. The boat had a cumulative limit of 155 Red Salmon, and we met that limit easily. It was a glorious blur of slime, sunburn, clubbing, and Alaska.

My condo complex has a tight parking lot (for a truck and boat trailer), so I carried my dipnet, cooler, and backpack across the street to the huge Baptist church parking lot at 4 am. Around 4:15 R picked me up and off we went. As we headed down the Turnagain Arm the haze of the forest fires that dot the Kenai Peninsula and interior were unmistakable. You could smell a hint of those remote fires when we made a pit stop at Turnagain Pass. By 8 am we were chipping over the waves of the Kasilof River and approaching the mouth, glimpsing the wide open ocean in front of us. We would work small laps of 10 minutes each as we trolled with the current into the ocean before motoring back into the river. The plan was simple, and the limit was 155. And it needed to be met.

People littered the shoreline with their purchased, modified, or completely home fabricated dipnets outstretched into the ocean as the water lapped into their chest waders. Their vehicles and tents dotted the ridge behind them. The Kasilof had been open for dipnetting for over a week already.

“Alright guys, drop your nets in, “ R announced.

Three nets went in, and in about 2 seconds I had a nice 10lb salmon twisting and flopping in my net. After pulling him in and fidgeting with the net he twisted further and further in, I finally extracted him, cut his gill, and threw the bleeding fish into an empty cooler. I needed to get faster at the whole process, and most importantly find a way to avoid the endless tangling of the fish in the net.

After another half dozen fish I stumbled onto a few keys. I noticed that the majority of the time when you pull a netted fish in, the fish was not excessively tangled. The tangling seemed to increase exponentially as the fish flopped around in the boat. Ergo, close the window of opportunity for the fish by clubbing him as quickly and concisely as possible. A few whacks usually will do the job, but it often merely stuns. You are looking for the death rattle – the rapid lateral vibration down the fish that quickly descends into relaxation. At my top speed I had the net out of the water about 2 minutes while processing a fish. Not bad. Searching for the death rattle is the morbid key.

I never had 2 fish in my net at once, though everyone else did. At 2pm the dirty yellow notepad we had been marking our fish on tallied us up to 155, so off we sped up river looking for a smooth patch of water to anchor up in and get down to business.

As we loaded the coolers to the shore and began the task of clipping the rear fins off of each fish (so they could never be sold commercially) I realized just how filthy we had become. Scales and dried slime speckled our cheeks, blood and scales soaked our thighs, and I noticed the now permanent stain of blood on my fatigues where I had been wiping the gill cutting knife. We rinsed the coolers, gave the fish a quick swish in the river, and loaded back up, leaving a pile of fins on the bank behind us. We’re lucky we didn’t encounter a bear, particularly because nobody was packing.

Off we roared to Seward for processing tables and filleting. While this may have added 60 miles to our day, the ability to leave all of the carcasses in one place and simply drive back to Anchorage with filets is priceless. The filth and smell of our clothing and bodies only stewed further.

I walked into my place at 12:30 am, left a pile of rank clothing right inside the doorway, and jetted upstairs for the shower. At noon the next day I drove to Chugiak to finish sealing the fish in vacuum bags, ending a total of 24 hours worth of work and traveling to catch and process 155 Sockeye Salmon. My freezer has over 50 of them right now, so there will be no heart disease for me this coming year.

My clothes still have a faint whiff of salmon and I never thought I would be so eager to repeatedly witness a death rattle. Alaska is a wonderful, unique place.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I can feel the wedding coming closer, but I am mainly interested in the honeymoon, particularly the drive and tour through the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. Becky and I have been singing improvised, faithful, and comical variations of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I am too young to have any degree of connection to the historical event itself, but it is a catchy song and plenty good as well.

I want to get the biggest bang possible out of the trip, hopefully by absorbing tidbits of information that will add some new angle to the scenery. When I travel around Alaska I am constantly struck by the notion that this is the Last Frontier. It truly is. While people have certainly walked and lived in the vastness of Alaska for thousands of years, it is very easy to view it all as a world with dew still on it. It’s a safe bet to make. If what you are looking at does not have a structure or road on it, it probably never has had one. The trees are not second growth. It’s mint condition so to speak. In Wisconsin, particularly in the south half of the state, I was constantly trying to imagine what it all looked like before the dairy farms sliced it all into postage stamps. This is not some moral judgment -- far from it. It’s just apples and oranges, and I love both. I suspect this cavern will narrow as I read more of Alaskan history, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to place Alaska in a unique earthly prism of largely untouched country.

As I think of the beautiful drive ahead of us through the UP, Michigan, and the Lake Michigan side of Wisconsin, I want to know what happened in those places before we drove through. Where did Hemingway fish and camp? What about all of those Lake Superior shipwrecks? What did they mine there?

I’ve never read The Song of Hiawatha and I plan on doing that before the trip (or at least denting it).

I should yet again reread Hemingway’s Nick Adams Stories, though Becky has never read them. Maybe I can read them aloud to pass the time on our long drives? They seem perfectly suited to that. I cannot wait to tool around Walloon Lake and squint to envision the water and trees as they were a hundred years ago.

C’mon honeymoon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I caught a bit of an Alaskan tan (read: sunburn) last Sunday on the Kenai River while fishing for king salmon. It was so warm you could have fished in a t shirt, which is a rare treat when fishing on a glacier fed river in Alaska. That was very pleasant, but catching zero salmon was not. We did see almost uncountable numbers of mature and immature bald eagles. Summer is here.

I’ve been told by other married men that the gleaming hope in the stress of the wedding process is planning and focusing on the upcoming honeymoon (the “golden parachute” is the exact term I heard). You must thread the eye of the needle and steer towards that trip. In our case the reservations on Mackinac are confirmed, the shipwreck tours on Lake Superior are paid for, and my dad’s Silverado is all but gassed up for our leisurely drive through the northwoods of Wisconsin and Michigan.

I’ve made no secret of my fascination and interest in the northwoods of Wisconsin and Minnesota, though I do not completely understand it. Maybe it was simply the largest, reachable wilderness I knew of from my bungalow on the south side? Perhaps that led to a deeper resonance in Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories as well as the Hemingway biographies I devoured? I suspect all of that, coupled with a desire to scoot away from Chicago, led me to Alaska, though I still have an unending soft spot for ‘up north’. Pondering this golden parachute always has me digging out my Bob Dylan “Nashville Skyline” LP and endless playing ‘Girl from North Country.’ I understand it is probably about England, but I like to think of it being about Minnesota or Wisconsin, considering Bob grew up in Duluth. Regardless, Johnny Cash sings on the track and it’s terrific.

Friday, June 05, 2009

We are now just under 2 months from the big day and things are getting busier and busier, but things are also undeniably getting crossed off the list and progress is evident everywhere. The feeling of motion is unavoidable.

I had my suit taken in and it now fits perfectly. I already have a spiffy red tie so now I only need to have the suit pressed and cleaned.

The second bedroom now has a brand new queen bed for guests and the furniture is organized fairly well. Nothing special, but it’s clean and orderly. My folks will be all set on their visit in 2 weeks.

In general, the entire townhouse looks terrific. I put in bookshelves along the triangular wall on the third floor and they really make excellent use of the space. Also, it eliminates the need for a large and heavy bookcase that we really have no room for as it is. And the shelves are modular. Perfect. I should probably retake all of the pictures of the townhouse and put those on flickr.

All of the invites went in the mail yesterday. That is a fair amount of work now marked as done.

The days are long and our spring has been very pleasant. It has already been warmer than the entire last summer. I’ve been getting in a lot of biking via commuting and taking advantage of the 11:30pm sunsets. Far North Bicentennial Park is about a mile away and has a long, paved road through the forest and up the mountain that is a hefty climb. I can usually stay in the saddle the first few climbs, but after that I need to stand and muscle the bike up with my torso. I see moose almost everyday on that road, and very few cars.

It’s time to put my head down again and start sprinting towards the wedding.

Monday, May 04, 2009

10 pm Sunday night I noticed two high school kids rapidly pouring baseline chalk into what must be a senior week prank. Fair enough.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Using my Literature Degree

While digging through some old boxes and placing paperbacks on shelves I came across a handful of Endless Quest and Choose Your Own Adventure books. As a kid I always leaned towards the CYOA books rather than Hardy Boys books, though I have been trying to trudge slowly through the Hardy Books these past few years. I don’t know why, but that’s how it shook out. Maybe the spinner racks at the Chicago Public Library on 63rd street had a shinier display of CYOA books? I can’t remember the Hardy Boys books on display anywhere prominent, and also don’t recall anybody in my life pushing the Hardy Boys books on me. My parents saw me reading CYOA, so they pushed it (my father also read a few out of the piles I would take out every few weeks). I enjoyed those days and library trips a great deal.

I remember owning a few CYOA books, probably from the recurring Troll book orders at good old St Nicks. I didn’t own many, but after all these years the small number has dwindled to a single, perfect choice – The Abominable Snowman. It was a decent adventure, and it consistently fed my random interest in all things Bigfoot. It’s a fun book.

I still have about 10 Endless Quest books though, mainly as a half hearted byproduct of my collection of 1st and 2nd AD&D collection. I am no completist when it comes to Endless Quest books, but I do enjoy them and snag them whenever I find a missing one. Like most things that trigger a kid’s interest, I loved the artwork and descriptive titles. I bought Lair of the Lich and Tower of Darkness at Trost Hobby on 63rd street and read them cover to cover. A year later, in 8th grade, we had a new student that I became friends with -- red headed Larry Tucker. Since Larry missed Confirmation in 7th grade, they lumped him in with current 7th graders, which essentially meant that although he was Confirmed in the spring, he missed out on a party and any surrounding brouhaha. Larry got the shaft, at least in terms of presents. For reasons lost to time and silliness, his parents wouldn’t let him play D&D, so his borrowing those 2 books during school hours was the most D&D he was going to get (at least until he got to high school or older, upon which he probably wouldn’t care at all). Ergo, Happy Confirmation, Larry – enjoy the books as a gift. Larry moved away before high school and life went on. In my mid 20’s I saw those two books staring me down at Paperback Trading in Chicago Ridge and I snatched them up, along with a few others, trying yet again to reach a bit back into my youth.

Now here in Alaska, being well aware of how great Title Wave books is, I have been bitten by the bug to poke into the kids section and ferret out some CYOA and Endless Quest entries. I grabbed some cool CYOA’s, but not the exact ones I really want ed (Ghost Hunter, Mystery of Chimney Rock, Horror of High Ridge, Mountain Survival, Vampire Express, etc.). Unfortunately, most CYOA on ebay is in large lots and goes for more $ than I would expect. I did grab a cool Endless Quest book – The Endless Catacombs. Neat name, and an intriguing cover, which is all I need to flick the switch on the kid in me. I’ll keep checking Title Wave and those missing titles will start cropping up.

All reading is inherently good, correct? Even the stuff that fails to stretch the muscles I built up in college Lit courses? It makes my imagination spin. How is that poor woman going to escape from that crystal tomb?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Today we voted for Mayor to handle Mark Begich's departure. I vote at the grade school a block from my house, and today I was there at 7 am right when the doors opened. In November at the same time the line snaked down all the halls inside the school, but today there were 6 of us. Even though the mayoral candidates are less than stunning, there are plenty of bond issues to decide.

So, after spending 2 minutes voting I walked back to my truck but had to take a longer, indirect arc to it. I never needed to make an effort to walk around 2 Moose in the parking lot when voting in Chicago or Madison.

Monday, April 06, 2009

So I gave up on seeing it in a theater and opted for a rental of Slumdog on Friday. After finding it at the second Blockbuster I checked, we settled in for the latter 2/3 of the film Friday night. It was, very good. No complaints at all, but the soaring accolades escape me. When I think of the best pictures of a given year, I tend to try and answer a simple question: Will I want to watch this in 5 years for a wonderful reminiscence (Fargo) or some additional insight (Unforgiven)? I think Slumdog gave me just enough in a single viewing.

I had a bug to finally catch up with Little Children so I grabbed that at Blockbuster as well. Wow, was this completely overwhelming and impressive. It was everything American Beauty hinted at, but never achieved. What an excellent movie. I will eagerly watch this one again down the road.

After 2 very enjoyable flicks, I ruined it all on Sunday. I went to the cheap show for Last House on the Left (horror flicks should be viewed cheaply at the second run theater). Worthless. To put that comment in perspective, I saw Friday the 13th at the same dollar show and loved it. I'm a cheap date for horror at the dollar show, and this let me down.

Monday, March 30, 2009

It’s not spring yet (or even that close), but I’m doing my best to act like it. It was a few degrees above freezing on Saturday and the sun was fairly bright, so I decided to throw the new tires I had purchased a few months ago onto my cross bike. It felt very warm outside (maybe I am getting acclimated?). I followed that up with the installation of a new Open Pro wheel for my Orbea, still happy to be standing outside, even though the trails are still fairly icy and not ready for riding. Break up will come sooner than I expect though, and both bikes are now ready.


I’m never going to see Slumdog Millionaire, at least probably not in a theatre. Smaller films take the slow boat up here to Alaska, which is fine. While the western media was fawning at the feet of Slumdog we simply had to wait for our chance to experience it -- something we eagerly awaited. Bear Tooth Theatre is a great venue for second run films, smaller flicks, and great food. About 2 months ago they advertised that Slumdog was coming in March and we happily decided to pass on the full price theatres that had it and enjoy it at Bear Tooth. The food there is excellent and it’s a great place to watch a movie. We watched it come and go from the February first run screens and drove down to Bear Tooth Saturday night at 7:20 for a 7:50 showing only to discover that it was already sold out. Ouch. Bear Tooth is a popular place, but this was a little busier than usual. Hey, the movie is a hit and has a lot of buzz. Along the drive we started to realize that while we had hung around the house all day doing many small, vital weekend tasks, we completely missed the ash that descended onto Anchorage that afternoon. About 25% of the people we drove by or observed waiting in line for the ‘Dog were wearing masks. Once you keyed it on the larger snow mounds the glazing of black ash became obvious. Even though we busted out on the movie, we got a quick, fun tour of Anchorage post volcano. Slumdog is also playing at the other normal discount theatre (sans brew and view option) so that became the Sunday plan.

We showed up early and eager for the 3:20 showing, easily found seats in the large auditorium, and watched the first 40 minutes of a very enjoyable film. Then the film itself broke.

“Folks, we should have it fixed in 5 – 10 minutes”

Time passes.

“It should be fixed soon. At the end please see the manager for complimentary passes. Thanks.”

Time passes. Some people leave.

“It should be another 5 or 10 minutes.”

We were pot committed at this point. We also figured that the people leaving would guarantee the film getting fixed in mere seconds after they left the building.

Time passes.

“Sorry, but we’re just going to hand out passes.”

The lights click on and we wonder if we have a chance at seeing this thing in the theatre. I liked the first third though. Maybe next weekend?

Friday, March 27, 2009

I noticed another chip in my windshield the other day, though thankfully it and its 2 other friends (from the drive up the Alaska highway) have not blossomed into a spiderweb of cracks...yet. It is a very common occurrence up here -- I'm lucky to have made it thus far to be honest. It didn’t cause more than a shrug for me when I identified it on my windshield though. Add a point in the Alaska column.

I have hip waders in the back of my truck almost all the time. Point, Alaska. I also have an empty 5 gallon gas can in the truck bed as well. I’m almost at the end of my first Alaskan winter and I survived with a smile on my face.

So I guess I have enough points to be on my way. I don’t say “snow machine” yet, but I rattle on seamlessly about “termination dust” and personal bear and moose encounters.

There is always somebody around with more winters in their life and a longer beard to tell me I’m a city slicker and I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Just give me some more time – I’m still in training.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Apparently it is the first day of spring, but it was 0 when I walked out to start my truck at 6:45 am this morning. Thankfully I have a block heater, which is worth its weight in gold. That engine starts like it's 60 degrees outside if that sucker has been plugged in all night.


I think I am slowly becoming more Alaskan as the days click by. Listening to the news on the radio this morning I noticed a report about March Madness and the results of U-Conn, but I only heard and understood "Yukon." My brain began skimming ahead to the Yukon river, Fort Yukon, and the Yukon Territory. Do they have a basketball team up there? I wonder what their Salmon run is like? I should plan a camping and fishing trip there this summer. Oh yeah, University of Connecticut -- the lower 48. In a small way, I've lost track of the world.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Aside from going to work and saving like a good little ant, how does one pay for a wedding? By gambling of course! We’ve got 4 tickets for the Nenana Ice Classic and several crossed fingers.

Call it whatever you want, it’s still the Sears tower. And it remains Comiskey Park as well.

It’s hard to come up with something to say about attending the Iditarod in Willow this past Sunday. The Saturday start in Anchorage that makes the newspapers is really a ceremonial start, and certainly has its place. However, the start in Willow on a frozen lake is the real start (they call it the restart). We trudged with our sled of wood and tailgating supplies to a patch in the middle of the lake and set up our operation. Soon our fired roared on top of the ice, though the clear, windless, sunny 20 degree weather was plenty comfortable. People were in a perpetually great mood, while walking around in every type of fur hat and gloves, along with the ubiquitous Bunny Boots. Simply a pure Alaskan party in every way. The crystallizing moment for me came right after we removed our stocking caps for the national anthem. We kept them removed as the loudspeaker crackled a perfect soprano of Alaska’s Flag, ultimately clapping and all rejoicing at the unique place and moment we were in. Alaskans really love Alaska – very few people here find themselves in the great white north by accident. The moment struck me as beautiful, crisp, and alive. I can’t find a recording of that moment on the internet yet, but these kids really nail it. It also helps that it is a really good song.

Eight stars of gold on a field of blue —

Alaska's flag. May it mean to you

The blue of the sea, the evening sky,

The mountain lakes, and the flow'rs nearby;

The gold of the early sourdough dreams,

The precious gold of the hills and streams;

The brilliant stars in the northern sky,

The "Bear" — the "Dipper" — and, shining high,

The great North Star with its steady light,

Over land and sea a beacon bright.

Alaska's flag — to Alaskans dear,

The simple flag of a last frontier.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Most of the time when I'm watching a food tv show that concentrates on a specific city or style of food (The history of pizza, Chicago, etc) and I personally know enough about the place to have an informed opinion, I end up annoyed and frustrated, which means I start talking to the magic box.

Why didn't they go to this place? What about that other, better place? Why do they immediately go to the tourist trap? Nobody that lives in Chicago goes there unless they are carting around visitors. I hate Gino's East. Giordano's is so much better for deep dish. My pockets hurt. I want my bottle.

After the whiny 5 year old takes a break, I usually end up getting sucked into the entire episode and wishing I was eating at Palermo's or Chi Tung. However, lately the tv programmers have been hitting home runs in my little culinary world. Anthony Bourdain's Chicago No Reservations was simply out of the park. He set the tone as one in opposition to the standard tourist slog.

Diners, Driveins and Dives visited Nick and Vito's on the southside of Chicago. I really do miss their pizza -- very thin and not greasy at all. It's almost like inhaling a cracker.

Man V. Food is my guilty pleasure in the lot. It's usually disgusting, but the host is pretty affable and his joie de vivre is exciting. His St Louis show had him attempting, and failing, to take down 5 milkshakes at Crown Candy. I've had the pleasure of eating their once, and I think I had either the monster blt or something smothered in chili. I do know that I had a chocolate shake, which was just perfection. The place was delicious and legit it every way possible. Maybe that is the root of my inability to avoid getting a shake every time I eat at the Snow City Cafe?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Everyone at my gig in Madison, WI knew I loved fishing, and that fishing along with camping and hiking was what drew me up here to the Great Land. So when the time came for a gracious and generous good bye from the Business Services department at my insurance company in Madison, I received a delicious cake with a large plastic Bass on top of it. As the cake was devoured over the course of the day, everyone decided that I needed to take the Bass with me, to maybe give it some degree of a tour across the ALCAN. I decided that the plan would be to photograph the Bass in as many places as possible to bookmark the long slog up the two lane ribbon into the wilderness before emerging in Anchorage. They chuckled and agreed it was a fun goal. For a reason I cannot remember, Greg's camera was nominated as the official Bass photographer. I had a nicer 35mm camera so I concentrated on the scenery and Greg gambled with out of focus, two handed Bass shots. His pictures made it into my email box today, so here is our meager attempt at a skewed parroting of the stolen and photographed garden gnome so often chattered about as urban legend. I believe the Bass met its end in an Anchorage landfill, successfully completing its journey.

Full set here

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How do you train for a triathlon, even if it is a small one? 10 round trips in the pool, 12.2 miles on the bike, and finally a 3.1 mile jog. I'm leaning towards taking that on in Eagle River, AK May 31st. At the very least I'm training for it, and it's all about the journey rather than the destination, right?

I'm told by those that know that the transition from cycling to runnng is the real stumbling block. Moving from swimming to cycling is merely shifting from upper body muscles to leg muscles. You'll be huffing and puffing for sure, but you'll have those moments to let your shoulders recover. Also, cycling is my strong suit. 12 miles is a breeze. But the cycling to running transition involves moving from leg muscles to slightly different leg muscles, with plenty of overlap in the middle.

So on Saturday we head over to Elmendorf Air Force Base and I try to tear through 20 lengths as quickly as possible with no break between laps. I'm at about 17 minutes right now, which isn't too fast. After a few laps of freestyle I end up alternating breast and back strokes to best control my breathing. I'm hoping to get down to 14 minutes, which seems achievable.

Running 3.1 miles is actually pretty comfortable for me these days. Most days of the week I run at least that amount, though I only work on the cycling transition a few days a week. I'll pedal the trainer for 7 miles or so, get off and spend a minute to wipe it down, and then jump right on the treadmill for the 3 mile run. I usually walk 1/10 of a mile and then start into my jog. I can't wait for the snow to melt enough for me to ride outside and then turn around for a jog. Those will be the real miles. But for now I'll do my training on machines and keep building up my strength and endurance.

Do I train to exceed the distances? Or do I train to maximize my times at those set distances? I'm doing a little of both. I know this is an introductory level triathlon and I could survive it if I had to do it tomorrow, but I want to do it and walk away with a spring in my step and some gas in the tank. Also, all of this training is a great way to shake off any wedding planning stress or annoyances the given day gives me.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I'm a complete sucker for anything Hemingway related, especially if it sheds some new light on his body of work or biography. It just endlessly fascinates me. I feel that at times I see frequent glimpses of my life and experiences in his life and works -- particularly the Nick Adams stories. I happily do not have manic depression, but the stories of time spent in the North Woods of Michigan ring the bell of my summer days in Northen Wisconsin. The resonance continues into the themes he explores, and I just cannot get enough of good Hemingway scholarship and rereadings of the works themselves.

However, most new Hemingway media is a wash at best. This new film seems to be an exception to that though, as Hotchner's information should fuel a precise portrayal. Now who is playing whom?


I'm no fancy boy, but I have really become enamoured with a sharp Filson field bag I received as a Christmas gift from my uncle this year. I carry the thing to work everyday and look forward to hiking and fishing with it as soon as break up commences. Until his retirement a few years ago, he carried it all over the world for 15 years as his carry on luggage, so it is well broken in and also well traveled. Filson came into being to outfit the Alaskan Gold Rush over a century ago and they are still hand made in Seattle, so it is very appropriate that it comes to rest here in Anchorage. I'm sure I'll get a great deal of use out of it before it gets handed down yet again.


It looks like if I ride the Fireweed 200 mile race I'll be without personal car support, and thus without a ride back to Anchorage from Valdez. There are plenty of official rest stops with food and drink, but there is no official shuttle to get you back to the start. Hmmm. I'm looking into some carpooling options but the risk of being stranded in Valdez with only a ferry to take me to Whittier the next day is not something I'm completely comfortable with accepting (at Whittier I would have to ride 60 or so miles back to Anchorage). The 100 mile race option is an out and back loop, so that is a decent fall back plan. I really want to nail the 200 though.
What else can be said. Becky replied with a yes and I am completely happy and blessed. Late summer in America's Dairyland seems to be the plan.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I had read a long time ago that if you drank pickle juice before going to bed you were ensured to have crazy dreams. I believe I tried it a few times, but I cannot remember if anything came of it. I'm not a huge dreamer to begin with, so it might be an interesting experiment to recreate. If I even had a few dreams that night it might be enough evidence of the mystical juice at work.

I can say that crazy dreams come from reading Grant Morrison Doom Patrol comics (#19-53) before bed -- undeniably so. I don't know that these comics stand along side Watchmen as a stand alone graphic story for the ages, yet they are certainly not in place sitting next to superhero trades on the shelf. They stand alone in sheer weirdness, imagery, and mind bending themes. At first glance it may seem to be self parody, but it really is the core of what Grant does best. They are some of the greatest comics, period.The spooky yet welcome dreams of the Candlemaker and John Dandy (along with his floating heads) are something to really stew over.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

It’s hard to get back in the swing of things. I was in Chicago/Indiana for a week and now I’m settled back in the deep freeze of South Central Alaska.

I could whine about how for the last 10+ days we have not broken 0 degrees, but people would chuckle and then remind me that I’m the one that dragged my life up here. Plugging my truck’s block heater in all night at -21 degrees helps it turn over like a champ and blow heat within 5 minutes. I’m surviving just fine, and with the weather going into the single digits if not the 20’s over this weekend, how could I complain?

I could rattle on and on about how the 5:45 train on Christmas Eve that was to take me to Rensselaer, IN was canceled at the last minute, forcing me onto a charter bus that drove around the block once before descending into 2 hours of failed door repairs, only to find myself in the Amtrak office at 9:30 pm being told that the door could not safely close, therefore we would be put up in a hotel in downtown Chicago before being put on the 5:45 pm train the next day (Christmas). After blowing in the Hail Mary call to my folks they ended up scooping me up to have me sitting at the kitchen table eating a delicious salami sandwich at 12:30 am. The story certainly has more detail and I’ve told it a fair amount of times, but I made it home for Christmas in the end so why belabor the emo whining?

It’s frigid here, but we’re gaining minutes of daylight every day. I fought Amtrak, but saw all my family and friends over the holidays. And I brought back my run of Grant Morrison Doom Patrol comics from Indiana to reread. Life is great.

I’m shooting for the Fireweed race this summer – the 200 mile portion to be exact. Thanks to J9son’s coaching help I should survive it. I’ve ridden 200 miles in 2 consecutive days before and I really want to see Valdez and that stretch of Alaska, so why not. I’m throwing my hat over the wall on this one.