Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Low Bush Cranberry Season

7:46 sunrise
19:59 sunset

Went cranberry picking/dog walking/biking tonight. The snow, unfortunately, made everything really wet. Mingus still likes to eat berries while I pick them which, while cute, is a giant pain in the ass.

I'm hoping to get out again this week since I only picked a few handfuls worth. They're juicy though - and big this year! Can you spot the soap berries in the second photo?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

40% Chance

7:44 sunrise
20:02 sunset

Oh gawd. It might snow tonight. It is the twilight of finter. I am not ready.

Edited to add: Yup, this is what it looked like from our upstairs window on Thursday morning. Blergh!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fading Fall

7:39 sunrise
20:08 sunset

The light is fading so quickly now and our mornings and cool and crisp. Well, hovering around freezing is cool to me, perhaps really cold to you depending on where you live. It has been a glorious out, weather-wise, but I am so very aware that these sunny fall days won't last a lot longer.

We had a fun weekend in Skagway at a cyclocross "race" (and I put that in quotes because we dressed up in costume and casually pedaled around the flat, sandy course) and at home taking care of a variety of outdoor projects. With the weather being so temporarily temperate at this time of year we are hyper-aware of how little time we have to get projects completed.

So, a short post and a few photos - fall colours and house renos.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Weekend of Fall Fabulousness

7:22 sunrise
20:30 sunset

This weekend was a Yukon fall classic. It began on Friday night with my now 4th annual Klondike Road Relay and ended on Sunday with a ride on Mt Lorne to enjoy the spectacular fall scenery.

I've done a poor job of being prepared for the road relay the last couple of years. I blame it on my new found love of bicycles. Even with the loooooooooong summer days, I just can't fit in time for running *and* biking. I think the truth is that I just like my bike more than my running shoes, but the result is the same: I don't train very well for this running event. This year was particularly poor since I was so focused on TransRockies. At least, as team captain, I got to choose my leg and only had to suffer 9km (straight up and over the pass). It poured rain for the entireity of my leg and I plodded my way slowly uphill to finish 40th out of 63 women or 93rd out of 123 people total. But, weirdly, it was still fun and I am already excited about next year.

We were a faster team than we were in 2009 and we completed the race in 17 hours 7 minutes for 54th place overall. Next year I'm bringing the RV back.

Ben at the KRR starting line :
The weather finally cleared on Sunday and I went for a mini-epic (can you have such a thing?) with my bike, 8 friends and 2 dogs up Mt Lorne. It was exactly what I needed - to spend some time out in the incredible colour that is a Yukon fall. The guys I was with were mostly hammerheads so I huffed and puffed my way up the mountain behind them but the scenery was so gorgeous I don't think anyone minded the delay. I'm hoping that we will get a couple more weekends like this before the weather really turns to shit.

On Saturday we're planning on checking out a cyclocross event in Skagway...should be interesting!

Monday, September 6, 2010

5 Pepper Shakers

7:05 sunrise
20:52 sunset

And one salt shaker. Seriously. That's what I unpacked tonight from 2 of the 8 boxes of my grandma's china. Why would anyone need 5 pepper shakers? And why only one salt? Add to that 25 saucers - how many people can you have over for dinner? Although I haven't inventoried it all yet, I think I have full place settings (including things like finger bowls) for 22.

I am finally, 14 years later, adding my grandmother's china to our home. She died in 1996 and when neither my mom nor my aunt had any interest in acquiring grandma's dishes, I happily took them home. Well, more accurately, I left them at my mom's place for a decade. And then, when my mom moved into a smaller place, I stored them at my in-laws' for another several years. Finally, when Ben and I moved back to Whitehorse and bought a house, it was time for my grandma's dishes to come home. I even have an appropriate home for them in this 70s sideboard I acquired last year in Victoria. Doing this sort of nesting makes me pretty happy. I am loving our house as it comes together.

Next the research phase will begin. Aside from the pethora of plates, there are several little, odd shaped dishes that are part of the collection. I am certain that each one has a specific function, but I have no idea what these functions would be. My guess is that the plate/dish on the bottom shelf (furthest to the left and at the front) is for nuts? The rectangle-shaped plate behind it was labelled a "relish plate" but I have zero clue as to what the three little units at the front (bottom shelf) are. I would say soya sauce bowl for the square ones in the middle, but I know that's highly unlikely. And what about the crescent shaped thing? No idea. So dear readers, if you know about these things, please tell me and save me the google research. Thanks.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Middle of Finter

6:58 sunrise
22:01 sunset

It is definintely fall (or as I prefer to call it, finter) in the Yukon. Unfortunately it's also been a bit wetter than usual which makes getting out to enjoy our last month of riding a bit more frustrating. I saw enough rain in Alberta in August - no need to have more of it here.

I went to Mt Sima on Wednesday to check out the downhill trails they have built this summer. I must say, poor Bea (my bike) is not really suited for rocketing down the alpine. Downhilling isn't really my thing, but it was still a fun way to spend a couple of hours after work.

And of course, all the colours are changing so it was beautiful. I love this season here, even if it is ridiculously short. These shots were all taken from the chairlift.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

TransRockies in the Rear

6:53 sunrise
21:07 sunset

This week I received a hilarious bit of writing from one of my fellow TransRockies riders, Mariesa. She calls it "TransRockies in the Rear" or alternatively, and possibly more accurately, "Being rear-ended by the Rockies." I'm particularly fond of the bit about the rear-enders being like a family motor home rental. With her permission, I am posting it here.

Stage 4 start, from the back of the pack:
Transrockies in the Rear

It all began when the snow started melting. We had to face the inevitable question: what are two South-Africans going to do when they can’t throw themselves down suicidal ski-slopes every free moment? Our first Canadian winter was behind us, an endless summer lay ahead of us... we needed something to live for (or as it turned out, to nearly die for...)

So it came that I was browsing through a magazine looking for some summer inspiration and had a vision, the voice of destiny calling: “The Transrockies Challenge. Find out what’s inside...outside” “7 Days, 400km, 12 000 meter elevation gain.”

In hind-sight revealed to be perhaps not so much a vision as a rather tried and tested bit of marketing magic. That is, if the target market consists of some poor suckers prone to seeing self-induced suffering as an adventure.

That was it, we found our summer entertainment. The rest was straightforward. My husband, Ryan, and I proceeded to do everything in the standard, logical order:

1. Register (and pay in full) for a seven day endurance mountain biking challenge.
2. Test ride some bicycles at the nearest bike shop.
3. Order completely different bicycles from the ones we test rode.
4. Start cycling.

Four months later, while hiking for four straight hours up a relentlessly steep mountainside, we found ourselves truly and deeply perplexed by the following very reasonable questions: “How come we are in the rear?” “And how come the guys in the front are so much faster?”

Here follows an example of a typical rear-enders uphill contemplation (add in lots of huffing, puffing and a fair amount of swear words...)

“Don’t tell me the front guys were able to cycle THIS hill. There is NO WAY anyone can cycle this”

“No way. They probably ran it full speed, their bikes lightly whipped over their shoulders”

“That’s because those sponsored wimps have bikes that weigh less than my underpants. And those are heavy duty underpants”

“They probably inject steroids straight into their nut-sacks at night. You know. Very difficult to detect...”

To the rear-ender the front-ender is a complete mystery, the stuff legends are made of. People you see for about three seconds after the start-gun goes off in the morning, and then again on the stage at night, looking fresh and energetic, receiving awards for what any decent rear-ender would consider as humanly impossible cycling times.

By random default Ryan and I became the expert witnesses (Myth Busters) regarding the abilities of the front-enders. This is because we had the rare fortune to actually see them in action with our own eyes. Due to our brutally honest self-seeding rating, we started close to the end on the Stage 1 time trial. The elite cyclists were started a couple of hours later, assuming that most of the field will have long finished the course by then. Not so.

We weren’t even half-way when they started flying out of the bushes behind us, like apparitions from a parallel (but physically way more advanced) universe. “Rider on the Right!”, and before we had time to stop and un-cleat, we’d feel a rush of wind brush our cheeks and see the circling legs disappear over the top of the hill we’ve spent the last 5 minutes hiking. Their speed and focus was amazing, their ability to avoid and manoeuvre around obstacles. Rocks, roots, me...

I slipped on a wet root and was flopping around in the mud like an upside down dung beetle searching frantically for a patch of non-slippery surface to lift myself when I heard a firm “Stay where you are! Don’t move!” I looked up expecting a gunman in a cowboy outfit. The next moment a front-ender did an improvised bunny-hop over my sprawled body while turning a tight corner in mid-air and disappeared from sight without losing an ounce of momentum. Let alone his balance.

“Trust us”, we Myth Busters would say to our fellow doubting rear-enders: “THOSE guys CAN cycle THESE hills. No problem”.

That's when I found myself wondering: what if the front-enders are as fascinated by the rear-enders as we are by them? I could see them, freshly showered, their bicycles cleaned and serviced, their clothing rinsed and dried, (correction: the front-enders would have enough sets of fresh clothing for seven days. No need to rinse and dry. ) looking up absent-mindedly from their leg massage as the announcer welcomes another poor sod that has been out their sweating it for 9 hours...

“Honestly, HOW do they go so slow? Like, seriously, what DO they DO out there all day?"

So I’ve endeavoured to become the expert defence witness for the Rear-ender, explaining why we look the way we look and why we take so long to do what we do:

The difference between front- and rear-enders is remarkably clear even from the start line. I suspect you can predict with reasonable accuracy where in the field a cyclist is likely to finish by weighing his camelback. The true front-ender won’t have a camelback. They look like Formula 1 racing cars: sleek, aerodynamic, only the bare minimum fuel (standard one 750ml water bottle), no spare parts. They carry only what is needed to barely finish the race, taking the gamble that nothing is likely to go wrong and not planning on being out there very long.

The rear-ender looks more like a family holiday motor home rental: equipped with food and water enough for four days, clothing for all extreme weather conditions and enough spare parts to rebuild a complete second bicycle on the spot, with absolutely no technical knowledge of how to do it.

A lot of time in the rear is spent on the vital task of temperature regulation. Simpler understood as dressing and undressing. Rear-enders generally start the day on the slightly cozy side. It’s not healthy to start off at such great speeds with cold muscles. About five minutes into the first high-speed hill-climb, the sweat starts pouring and, not wanting to lose precious water and nutrients, we stop and start tearing off the layers. Now, we all know mountain weather is a moody little thing, so constant re-evaluation is of the utmost importance. Feeling a little cool? Hypothermia is a killer. Stop and layer up. Getting a bit on the sweaty side? Lose no time, layer down. This also provides great opportunity for networking and trading: “I’ll swap my waterproof gloves for your dry socks. Your arm-warmers for my energy gel...”

The average rear-ender is also a firm believer in investing time at check-points. Bystanders could easily mistake it for a culinary exhibition. Careful time is taken to sample everything on offer, starting at the energy drinks, steadily working your way down the table: watermelon, oranges, peaches, chips, cookies, sharkies and the occasional peanut butter sandwich, all the while making appreciative sounds and comments.

An observant onlooker might notice though, that this is all a great front for the true underlying purpose: the cross-questioning of check-point staff about upcoming attractions. “Any feedback received from the front? Any hills? Is the rest of the road as muddy as it was up to here? (Or did it miraculously not rain on the next 30km?)”. And most importantly: “How far to the next Check point?”

The information from these interrogations proved absolutely invaluable, a great team morale booster. We would be reassured every time that the rest of the road is much less muddy and entirely ride-able, nice rolling single track, mostly mid-ring riding. Hardly any hills.

There should be high-security prisons and lifelong hard-labour for all check-point staff.

“Mid-ring riding! Yeah, if you’re pushing your bike anyway, you can leave it in mid-ring setting.”

Some time is spent doing important calculations of performance, like how long it has taken us to clear a certain distance. A useful tool for this was singing “Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall” counting down one by one to zero. If we had counted down three times and still weren’t at the top of the hill, we knew we should probably be speeding up.

Then there’s of course time spent to pee, time spent refusing to walk another step in the mud, time spent hiding from the hail and thunderstorms and time spent asking ourselves how come we pay for this instead of getting paid for this, and time spent taking photos. (To be totally honest, towards the end of the seven days, less and less time was spent taking photos and more time was spent loudly quoting the sticker on a fellow rear-enders bike, which read: “Fuck the Scenery.”)

And so, the age-old mystery is solved.

The front-enders are in the front because they carry nothing and don’t stop for anything.
The rear-enders are in the rear because they carry a survival pack equivalent to their own body weight and stop for absolutely everything.

Could the rear-enders end up in the front-end if they cycled more and stopped less? Perhaps experience the joy of being back on time to shower, wash their bikes and get a massage BEFORE supper? But they have to be willing to give up the culinary check-point, the dressing-undressing ritual and the endless entertainment of foul-mouthing the fast guys and the check-point staff...

Perhaps the girl who did the Transrockies with her husband on a tandem bike summarised it for all of us, when she said (to some degree of awkward giggling) “I like it in the rear.”