HTFU

28 Apr

Look closely at the weather condition - it's bullshit

Look closely at the weather condition – it’s bullshit

 

I didn’t include one very important acronym in my last post.  It wasn’t technically an oversight, I decided not to include HTFU for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it’s really not mine to share.  Those who follow the Velominati recognize it as rule #5.  The “rules” are an often quoted set of principals which all road cyclists must follow.  They are clever, they are hilarious, and the prevelant through the bike blogosphere.  Geargals once said “Everytime someone quotes the rules, I kick a roadie”, and for that, I apologize to the poor Alaskan roadie who just got nailed in the shin.

HTFU is harden the f(*& up.  It’s the  thing you do when common sense says to stop or rest or take a day off because it’s a 60 km/h headwind from the north.   Similar to FOMO, it’s the complete ignorance of any logic.  But, instead of being fuelled by others, this idiocy is fueled from within.  HTFU is also a powerful tool in the world of FOMO.  When a friend appears to be waffling for all the right reasons, just tell them to HTFU, so you don’t have to wallow in poor decisions all by yourself.

 

For some reason I can't seem to clip in.  And yes those are cross-country ski boot covers.

For some reason I can’t seem to clip in. And yes those are cross-country ski boot covers.

 

So why bring up HTFU now?  Apparently, I’ve hurt HTFU’s feelings by ignoring him; and now he’s determined to enact his revenge.  The month of April has been a HTFU month for biking.  Bike rides to date have featured: hail storm, snow storm, wind storm and below zero temperatures.  I have been forced to develop systems of layering that have me leaving the house looking like deformed sausage.   I have coated myself in embrocation cream, only to freeze on the road and rush home to a warm bath.  Do you know what happens when you get into a bathtub with embrocation on?   Imagine thawing out frozen chicken thighs with hydrochloric acid. It’s not fun.

So I’m finished.  I’m not going to HTFU any more this Spring.  I will not ride my road bike through slush and snow.  I will not grind out kilometers in sub-zero weather conditions.  Instead, I will fly to California and enjoy some sunshine and short sleeve t-shirts.  See ya later suckers – and enjoy HTFU-ing without me.

 

Road riding isn't quite as much fun when you can't see the road.

Road riding isn’t quite as much fun when you can’t see the road.

I GOTTS FOMO

7 Apr

 

As a bureaucrat, I am a seasoned acronymist.  I can easily go an entire paragraph with only a smattering of definite and indefinite articles to string together my train of acronyms.  While this is a skill I’ve perfected in the office, it has begun to creep into my personal life.  The two most common acronyms in my life are GOTTS and FOMO.  Because of FOMO, I often have GOTTS.  And GOTTS isn’t enough to overcome FOMO.

GOTTS is Grumpy Over-Tired Training Syndrome.  It’s the thing that transforms you from a fun, enthusiastic cycling enthusiast; into Lance Armstrong.  One day you’re leading Dirt Girls rides, the next your threatening your fellow riders and seeking out any medical means of staying on top.  The trouble with GOTTS is that is very difficult to self-diagnose.  Your friends and family will have no problem identifying that you’ve got it, but by then you hate and distrust all of them, so their concerned warnings fall on deaf ears.

After alienating my friends, and scaring my dog; I am finally able to recognize my condition when one of two things occurs mid-way through a bike ride.  Either A) I begin to believe that my husband, sister, mother or father are dead; and as soon as I get home I will find out.  This is usually precipitated by hearing the siren of an ambulance, or getting a “sign”.  The “sign” is usually a stick, a tree, a leaf, or some dirt – all things that in a GOTTSless universe would be considered routine occurrences.  OR B) I begin to believe I will die on my ride and no-one will attend my funeral.  Notice that the tragedy is not actually my death, but the fact that no-one shows up at my death party – the true nightmare of the extroverted Type-A.

In an ideal world I’d be better at anticipating GOTTS, but unfortunately, I have such a nasty case of FOMO that it’s hard.

 

FOMO is Fear Of Missing Out.  An unfortunately condition that replaces logic in decision making, with irrational fear.  Here is how FOMO works:  Monika suggests that we should fixxie ride up the Skagway hill climb – a 1000+ meter road climb in about 20 km.  This is a horrible idea.  It will be painful, it will be gruelling, there will be 0 net fitness benefit because we will probably cause ourselves horrendous internal injuries and there is a 95% chance it will permanently destroy our friendship.  In a normal world, the correct answer is an immediate: NO f-ing way.  BUT, in a FOMO world you start to think:  What if this ride makes Monika so much faster/fitter than me that we will never ride together again?  What if part way up we come across a herd of beautiful caribou? or better yet a herd of magical unicorns?  What if someone is standing at the top of the climb giving away free diamonds to anyone who rides the whole thing on a fixie.  And suddenly, you are agreeing to the worst idea in the history of time.

FOMO isn’t limited to bad ideas.  In fact FOMO is often as simple as never, ever wanting to say no to a friend’s request for a ride.  Any ride you might miss, no matter how routine, could be the greatest ride of all time.  For that reason, you must go on every ride, even when you are over-tired, and over-trained.   There are a few tricks to try to keep FOMO under control.   After every ride request ask yourself these questions:  1) Is this the only time I will ever be able to do this ride?  2) Are any of the people on this ride suffering from a terminal disease that will prevent them from ever riding again?  3) Would you ever do this ride by yourself when not under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, or crazy friends?  If you answer NO to any of these questions, but still have an urge to ride, you may have FOMO.

Since I am already suffering from a mild case of FOMO induced GOTTS, I will be trying to spend some quality time on my couch, repairing damaged muscles and strained relationships.

Pecha Kucha II: Harder, Slower, Deeper

13 Mar

Pecha Kucha Pack

 

Normally I am a planner.  I like to know exactly what bike route I’m taking, including its elevation profile, expected trail conditions, route features and more.  But, the months of February/March are particularly nasty for us bureaucrats, especially those working in finance.  With work being crazy, I hadn’t had much time pre-trip to do any research, and started my morning on the Denali without any real sense of what was in store.  For those out there considering taking this trip, here’s the Coles notes:

Paxson to Maclaren Lodge: 42 miles

This is a section of trail that is heavily used by snowmobilers, and occasionally piston bully tracked by Alan from Maclaren Lodge.  The trail itself can be relatively soft thanks to the heavy snowmobile usage, but it is reliably packed.  Essentially, Paxson to Maclaren is split into 2 mirrored 21 mile sections.  Starting at Paxson you climb for about 7 miles, enjoy a very brief reprieve, then climb until mile 13.5.  From there you enjoy a fun descent down to Tangle Lakes, and enjoy some relatively flat trail until mile 23, where you re-start a climb that will end at MacLaren Summit.  At mile 37, you start down, finishing finally at Maclaren lodge.  In a Twitterable summary:  Climb, descend, flatish, climb, descend.  This section took us just under 10 hours in both directions (one day one we went Paxson to Maclaren, and on day three we went Maclaren to Paxson).

The Maclaren Summit sign, which is sadly 2 miles from the actual top of the climb

 

 

My favourite sign

 

Maclaren Lodge to Alpine Lodge: 35 miles

There is about a 2 mile climb out of Maclaren Lodge, but after that you are basically in rolling hills.  This section of trail is used far less than the Paxson to MacLaren section, and because of this, the trail is softer and slower.

Jill on day 2, heading towards Alpine Lodge

 

Alpine Lodge to Cantwell : 67 miles

Don’t ask me, I haven’t a clue.

Our ride started at about 10:30 am on Sunday morning.  Within the first meter (or yard for you Yanks), I knew that the 10 mile/hour pace I had imagined in my head was never, ever going to happen.  Within the first mile I knew there was a chance that we weren’t going to make it before dark.  And at mile 7, when we had been out for 2 hours, I realized that it was going to be a LONG day, but we had really lucked out on our planning.  Originally, we had talked about riding the entire highway – at our pace, the 3rd day’s 67 miles to Cantwell would have taken us over 24 hours; and we would have certainly missed our theoretical plane pick up.  Even in our preliminary out and back planning, we talked about trying a 77 mile day from Alpine back to Paxson – we would have NEVER made it.  In the end, we were going to have a long day 1 and 3, but they were doable.  The big day 2 where I thought I might be able to go from MacLaren to Alpine and back (70 miles) wasn’t going to be possible, but an out and back day meant we could go exactly how far we wanted to.  Our slower than expected pace wasn’t great, but all things considered, things were actually working out quite nicely.

The views on the Denali were even better than expected.  It was amazing how small were in such a majestic, mountain setting.  There were moments when someone would be riding a couple hundred meters ahead or behind me and they looked like a little spot of colour on a giant white canvas.  If the stunning vistas weren’t enough, there were plenty of furry creatures to spark your interest.  We almost literally ran into some moose, along with catching a glimpse of another 6 running at Tangle lakes.  I thought the moose were pretty cool, but then we came across a herd of caribou that ran across the trail in front of the Jills.  The hillsides were peppered with the animals – hundreds of them hanging about (a questionable location to be lounging considering it was right inside the “Federal Subsistence Hunting Area” sign, a zone that appeared to be well used, if the blood droppings on the trail were any indication).

 

Jill Missal enjoying the caribou view.

 

Even though day 1 was long and we finished in the dark, we were also lucky enough to finish on the doorstep of MacLaren Lodge, our home away from home for 2 nights.  Our cabin was warm and comfortable; and Allan, Susie and Sean were awesome hosts and kept us well fed (Susie even had a breakfast burrito delivered to me via snowmobile on day 3).  Their puppies Koda, Jackson and Bandit kept us well entertained.

 

Maclaren Lodge – you MUST stay here if you do this trip.

Our little Lake Cabin at Maclaren Lodge

 

And of course there was the company: Jenn, Jilly-Ho (Jill Homer) and Jill Missal.  The four of us are our own little Pecha Kucha pack.  And like any pack, we all bring it to it something a bit different.  In fact, perhaps it’s true what they say about dogs and their owners – maybe we bring to the group some of the same qualities that our own dogs have.

I’ve never actually met GearDog, Jill Missal’s canine companion, so I’m going to have to admit up front that a lot of this is just what I imagine GearDog to be like based on some photos and some stories.  GearDog, like Jill, is a Search and Rescue expert; a well trained dog that knows its shit.  I imagine as an avalanche dog, GearDog is also very brave.   Without Jill, I think we may have had to turn around at mile 8 when we encountered a moose on the trail.  None of us knew what to do, and although I was willing to partake in Starbuck’s favourite trick (bark when you are far away from the thing that scares you, but back away if it comes anywhere near you) that was the extent of my contribution.  Jill suggested we get close together, and slowly approach the moose making noise to try to get it to move off the trail.  We all agreed and decided to ride together towards the moose (although our definition of “together” was sending Jill 20 meters ahead of us while we played chicken shit behind her).  Thanks to her, our day 1 was a success.

 

Jill moving moose, me cowering behind.

 

In a lot of ways, I’m similar to Starbuck out on the trail.  I love being outside, I’m happy to keep moving for several hours – but you’ll hear an audible whine escape my lips if I’m asked to sleep on anything but a duvet pillow-top.  And, like my dog, I’m a bit obsessed – for him it is sticks, but for me it seems to be bikes – wanting to ride even when a chafed vajayjay and sore knee suggest it’s time to stop.  For anyone who’s heard my tales of Starbuck and his penchant for biting his friends, that you’ll just have to ask the other girls about.

 

I LOVE my bike

 

It’s important that I clarify a few things before comparing Jenn to her dog Mingus.  First off, I have no evidence to suggest that when I leave a room, Jenn rips apart the blankets and dry humps the bed.  This being said, I didn’t actually check the rooms at Glenallen or MacLaren to confirm.  Secondly, I have never detected traces of poopsicles on Jenn’s breath and I’ve never seen her troll the outhouse for snacks.  But, like her dog, Jenn has a special way of just looking more excited about life than anyone else.  With Mingus it’s the way his little knobby tail frantically waves back and forth – with Jenn it’s her way of celebrating each new view with equal excitement (even when I think it all looks generally the same).  Jenn has one other trait that is a bit Mingus-like.  When you’re out with Mingus on a walk, he’s never usually beside you, he always seems to be hanging a couple meters behind.  He never actually falls further back, he just seems content to enjoy himself at his own pace.  Unlike Jenn, Mingus doesn’t operate a camera that produces photographic proof that while the rest of us our riding Jenn is taking jumping shots.

 

Stolen from Jenn’s flicker page – so this is what she was doing…

 

Here comes the most difficult comparison because Jilly-Ho doesn’t have a dog, so instead I’m just going to completely make one up.  Jill Homer is through and through a husky.  Not a fancy, prancy show-dog husky, a true-blue sled dog husky.   There is no doubt in my mind that she could keep moving for days, or perhaps even weeks; surviving on whatever she needs.  In a husky’s case this would probably involve foraging for garbage and small rodents.  For Jill, it’s foraging for Sour Patch Kids and frozen salami.   If there had been no lodge on the Denali Highway, I imagine we would have eventually come upon Jill curled up nose to tail in a snow bank; or sitting with her nose pointed in the air, smiling at the sky.

Jill in her element

In the end, it really is the pack that makes Pecha Kucha good times.  So a big thanks goes out to my fellow lady friends for 3 days of adventure.  You can read their version of events on their respective blogs:  GearGals, Jill Outside and for all her pics Jenn’s Flickr.    I’m excited about Pecha Kucha III – Let’s Get Wet; our potential beach fat bike trip.  What they don’t know is that I’ve got a secret weapon – I’m part labrador.

Pecha Kucha 2013: Denali Highway

9 Mar

My bike at the start of the Denali Highway

After 2012′s successful Pecha Kucha fat bike adventure, it was decided that an annual international snow bike trip should become a tradition.  Since the Canadian contingent played hostess in 2012, we decided to head north to Alaska for our 2013 ride.  After reading about another cyclists adventure on the Denali Highway, we decided that Denali would be our next Pecha Kucha adventure.

Logistically, Denali Highway has both challenges, and advantages.  The great thing about the Denali highway is the 2 lodges that operate along the 135 mile highway that goes from Paxson to Cantwell.  Although we pretend to be hardcore, we aren’t crazy enough to want to winter camp if it can be avoided.  The lodges also supply food, which means a lightened load on the bike.

The challenge with the Denali is that it is a point to point that involves a lot of coordination if you want to have vehicles at both ends.  In order to avoid an entire extra day of shuttling cars from Paxson to Cantwell and back, we tried getting a plane pick up in Cantwell.  Unfortunately, the quotes were astronomical and so we ultimately decided on an out and back.  This meant we would not actually ride the whole highway, but maximized our time on the bike, and minimized our time in a car.

The plan was to leave Paxson on a Sunday morning and ride 42 miles to MacLaren Lodge.  On Monday, we’d do an out and back from MacLaren to Alpine Lodge, which was 35 miles down the highway, ending with a 70 mile day (with the easy option to turn around at any time).  Finally, Tuesday would have us ride back to Paxson.

Our adventure started in Glenallen on Saturday night when we all reunited for the first time since Pecha Kucha Mountain.  With 4 bikes and 3 days worth of gear, we quickly obliterated the hotel room in an explosion of bags, clothes, snacks and general debauchery.

Explosion of gear and sour kids.

How much stuff can you cram into one hotel room?

On Pecha Kucha weekend I often muse about how within our group of 4 the stereotypes of American and Canadian are easily blurred.  The quietest of the 4 is definitely Jill Homer, and it’s a three-way tie for the loudest with 2 Canadians in the running.  Notice the Canadian bikes are a lot less subtle than the American ones.

The Canadian bikes – note the neon green and blue

The US bikes – note the grey and black.

It was a early night, with plans to be up for 6 am in order to make the 150 km drive to Paxson and the start of the trail.

The start and finish of our trip

Paxson Lodge is a great highway hotel/diner/cocktail lounge.  It’s nothing fancy, but everyone is super friendly and they make a mean breakfast.  Like most who encountered us along our journey, Paxson folks were a bit surprised to see bikers among their regular sledding crew.  And I must admit, as more and more sledders showed up in the parking lot, I was starting to wonder if I’d chosen the wrong vehicle for this journey.

Hmmmm…which one of these looks faster?

As we did our final packing, the lodge cook/front desk man/bartender did ask me “Are you usually this disorganized”, to which I responded “Absolutely not, we spent hours getting ready last night, so we’re actually way better organized than usual”.  But, eventually the last snacks were stuffed into bags, and we were ready to hit the road.

Before we headed out, we were left with a very kind offer, that in retrospect may have been a little bit more like a warning: “When you girls leave MacLaren on Tuesday, call me.  If you aren’t back here by 7:00, I’ll leave a key for you at the desk, and some food in your rooms”.  At the time we almost laughed – of course we’d be finished by 7 pm – but it seemed like a kind gesture by a concerned man, who hadn’t seen a non-motorized winter attempt.  Unfortunately, a few hours later, I began to realize he may have been more right than I had wanted.

 

Part II – Slower, Harder, Deeper will be posted shortly…

 

 

 

5+ Hours of Light 2013

2 Feb

Here in the Yukon you’ll find Midnight Sun roasters (the best coffee in town), Midnight Sun Gift store, Midnight Sun golf course (with after midnight tee times), and plenty of signs welcoming you to the “Land of the Midnight Sun”.   This begs the question:  how the midnight sun managed to so effectively steal the spotlight from it’s twin brother the noon sunset?  There are no cute cafes celebrating an all dark day, no billboards that welcome in tourists with the promise of a 4:00 o’clock sunset.  Are Yukoners just naturally glass half full kind of people?  Or are we all suffering from selective memory.

For every amazing post-midnight ride in the summer, there is a winter day that you need lights at 4:00 pm.  It’s easy to brag about bountiful light in June, but it takes a little more effort to find a way to  celebrate the dark.  In Whitehorse, we do this at the 5+ Hours of Light, the sister event to the 24 Hours of Light bike festival.  Both are no-lights lap races that are based on available light.  

 

It’s 10 am and the sun is rising  (photo J. Roberts)

 

Like its summer counterpart, the 5+ Hours of Light is meant to be held on solstice weekend.  The race is run from sunrise to sunset, which translates to 10:09 am, to 3:47 pm.  This year, we had to delay due to -30 temperatures, even though we ran a mere three weeks later, we had gained 40 minutes of sunlight.   We decided not to change the start time, and instead take advantage of a little bit of extra sunlight to get the course set up.

Getting the course marked (Photo: T. Gonda)

 

For the second year in a row, Biathlon Yukon let us use their facilities for the event.   Not only does this provide a great groomed double track for the mass start.

Elbow to elbow mass start (Photo: T. Gonda)

 

It’s also a great finish line area for intense sprint finishes.

Sam and I talking it to the line (Photo: T. Gonda)

 

But, the greatest thing about Biathlon is the warming shelter, with a nice wood stove and electrical outlets to plug in the essentials.

Basic race requirements (Photo:  J. Roberts)

 

Like all Yukon events, the 5+ Hours is a very serious affair.  Thanks to years of running lap races, the local mountain bike club have become experts in timing and recording.

Recording laps (Photo: T. Gonda)

 

Although the system was slightly compromised by colder temperatures, it was discovered that white board markers e placed underneath the armpit for 2-4 minutes will completely thaw.

There is always a wide variety of riders that come out to 5+ Hours of Light.  As part of the event, local bike shops bring demo bikes for trial which attracts plenty of curious locals who have seen the fat tire marks and want to know more.   There are folks who come out to ride a lap or two, eat some granola bars and enjoy socializing in a bike saturated environment.  Then there are the few who arrive with the intention of riding as many laps as possible in 5 hours and 37 minutes.

This year, I started with the idea of being a casual participant, figuring that as one of the organizers I wouldn’t actually have time to do too many laps.  But, thanks to some stellar volunteers, I found myself with nothing to do, and the opportunity to just ride.  Each time I arrived at the finish line, I found someone else willing and eager to go out for a lap.  By the time I was on the 4th go round, there didn’t seem much point in stopping anymore.

Although,  I’m fairly well-accustomed to lap races, I learned that winter riding is a bit of a different beast.  In the 24 Hours of Light, the only real clothing concern is weather to wear clothes or try for a bonus naked lap.  In the winter, I found myself wearing a different outfit each lap.  I started with a thin jacket and gloves; and ended up in a down jacket with my big fur mitts.  Even though the temperature never actually dropped, cumulative sweat and a course that had large sections of climbing, followed by fast descending made me progressively chilled.

Frosty but warm (Photo: T. Gonda)

 

Adjusting to the cold (Photo: T. Gonda)

 

My biggest challenge in a lap course is keeping boredom at bay.  Re-riding the same trail over and over takes more than legs, it takes attention span.  This is particularly hard on a trail that you already ride regularly.  But, there is something magical about winter and the way a couple of inches of fresh snow can powder the trees like a mini doughnuts.

Grey Mountain in the background (Photo: T. Gonda)

 

And a boring old trail, suddenly becomes a tunnel of snowy branches.

Snow arches (Photo: P. Gowdie)

 

By the time the sun was setting, I was finishing up my 6th lap, and feeling a little disappointed with the disappearing light and the end up of a great day of riding.

Nearing 4:00 pm (Photo: T. Gonda)

 

If I’m only going to get 5+ hours of light, I want every minute of them to be spent on a bike.

The First Winter Camping

19 Jan

Between last year’s Dawson Overland adventure and the Mr.’s North Canol adventure this summer, the idea of longer bikepacking adventures has been lingering in the back of my head.    Over the course of the summer, the idea transformed into credit card bills accompanied by a cold weather sleeping bags and a bivy sack.   Eventually,  I found myself with a tupperware full of gear and no more excuses.  It was time to put it all to the test, and go out on a mini-winter camping adventure.

First step was packing up all my stuff.  My matching frame bag arrived last week from Porcelain Rocket, but my seat bag and handlebar bag aren’t ready yet, so I borrowed Mr’s.  I managed to fit 2 sleeping bags (both for me), 2 bivy sacks (one for bike-wife, one for me), an air mattress, a change of clothes, a stove, a camera, some food, a mini-speaker and an iPod into my bike bags and a back pack.

 

 

My adventure started on a well packed route beside the Yukon River.  I was surprised how well the bike manoueveured even with the extra weight.   There was very little difference in steering, and unlike panniers, the more evenly distributed weight had less impact on my speed.  Everything was going well until my first major challenge – a large river crossing with open water.  I was worried I’d need to turn around and come back with a pack raft, but thankfully found a decent crossing point, with a makeshift bridge.

 

Happily on the other “right” side of the river, I headed towards the next challenge, a hike a bike section that I purposely chose to check how much more difficult scaling cliffs would be with extra  weight.  I was able to pick out a well established route, with good foot holes for a long climb.

 

The hike a bike was definitely harder then the riding, but manageable even in Xtra Tuffs.   Once at the top of the cliffs, I only had a short distance to my camp spot.  I purposely chose somewhere with a nice warming hut, so that if things went awry I’d have an out.

 

 

It was at the warming hut that I met up with my winter camping partner and bike-wife Jenn.  Before enduring the harsh realities of a -20 Yukon night, we took some time to enjoy some hot tea and chocolate.  Then with the clock ticking away, we forced ourselves to get the bivies set up on flat area we had scouted out nearby.  We were a little worried about wild animals, but managed to keep them on the inside of the hut.

 

 

The evening was a roaring success.  That is as long as you don’t use any official definition of the word success, and instead think of it as attempting a goal, instead of accomplishing one.  Bike-wife and I found ourselves warm enough inside our little shelters, but at about 3 am, we decided that since everything technically worked, we were free to go inside and enjoy the comforts of forced air.

 

 

The morning went surprisingly well.   The warming hut had a coffee grinder, a toaster, and lots of cheddar cheese.  After a good breakfast, I packed everything back into the bags and headed home.  I decided to take a shorter, less scenic route; hoping to catch second breakfast at my house before all the bacon got eaten.

In the grand scheme of things, my first winter camping adventure did teach me several important things.  First, always plan a route with a warming hut or cabin.  There is a big difference between surviving a winter night outside, and enjoying a winter night outside.  I can’t really imagine having a restful sleep on a -20 night, although I am happy to discover I wouldn’t die.  Here in the Yukon, finding adventures that include cabins isn’t actually that limiting.  Second, testing out gear on a backyard deck, 4 km from your house is a far smarter option, then waiting until you are out on a snowmobile trail out of cell range.

Book Review – Age of Hope

17 Jan

Age of Hope is the second book in my Canada Reads series.  It is a novel, written by David Bergen, about a woman in rural Manitoba.   It’s tempting to call it a “coming of age” story, because in some ways it is about coming of age; but presumes that you don’t get there at 18 or 21.

I liked this book from its opening page, when Hope whimsically recalls her first love – who tragically died while showing off in an airplane.  Maybe it wasn’t meant to be a joke, but for some reason, I found it hilarious.  It was also the first insight into Hope’s character – someone who had an interesting way of reacting to the world around her.

I worry that the main focus of Age of Hope is going to be about how well a male writer (and male defender in Ron MacLean) conveys the story of (mostly) middle aged woman.  And while this is indeed impressive, it’s not the real magic of the book.   For me, the magic was in the disconnect between what Hope told you vs. what you believed was true.  Throughout the book there is a difference in how Hope feels about herself, and how people around her view her.   At first I assumed that other people were being mean or judgmental, but throughout the book it began to emerge as a pattern.

This made me wonder:  how hard is it to see the true you?  And is it better to be like Hope, and see yourself better than everyone else does?  Is her name a testament to her spirit?

The other thing I liked about Age of Hope was the love story.   Sure, it lacked passion and drama, but it had all those non loin-quivering qualities that really matter:  devotion, acceptance and loyalty.   In High School, I would have written a passionate essay about how Hope settled because she was a woman of her time  - a husband and family was exactly what society expected of her.  Now, not quite middle-aged, but not quite young – married for almost 7 years, I’d say she had a marriage and a love story that was real and beautiful.

I think that Age of Hope might just take Canada Reads – not only because I thought it was a great book, but because I think it has a very talented debater in Ron McLean.  Although, it’s not my first choice, if I was a betting woman….

 

Book Review – Indian Horse

7 Jan

As a fun game this year, I decided I would play along with Canada Reads.  I have always liked reading, but like most things in my life, I seem to do better at it when there is a goal involved.  I remember as a very young child hitting the 1000 book mark in the Edmonton Public Library’s Summer Reading program.  Getting to fill in the book lists was enough to make me voracious – and the free erasers and pencils meant I spent the full summer with a book in my hands.  I think I still have the bump on my head from when I hit a bus stop sign when trying to walk and read.

If Malcolm Gladwell’s Outlier theory is correct, reading might be the one and only thing I hit 10,000 hours at.  As a result, I am able to digest books like a hot dog eating champion, easily finishing a novel on the 2.5 hour flight from Whitehorse to Vancouver.  When I read, I gorge myself on books.  But, then I seem to hit long blocks of time, where I read nothing but blogs and briefing notes.

My desire for goal oriented reading happened to coincide with 2 short week-end trips.  The first to Portland, Oregon where I was able to collect all my books from the famed Powell’s bookstore.   The second to Miami, where I was able to lie on a beach for 2 days and finish all the books.

My  plan is to participate in as much Canada Reads stuff as I can.  But, I quickly became frustrated with the 140 characters or less limitations of the twitter dialogue.  So, for the first time ever, I am writing a book review on a mainly biking blog.

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese is the first book up for review.  This book is being defended by Carol Huynh who (name drop), I actually knew a bit at SFU when one of my room-mates was on the wrestling team.

The book is focused around the life of Saul Indian Horse, a young First Nations man who is taken from the land and put into a Residential School.  He finds an outlet in the world of hockey, where he demonstrates the same gifts that he possessed when living on the land.

And here is where the spoiler alerts start, so bookmark this if you want to read the book first….

To me, this book was really about the Canadian Dream – because, let’s face it, there’s nothing more Canadian then Hockey.   Despite the fact that Saul had all the skills he needed and was even able to use some of his aboriginal knowledge and traditional skills to enhance his game, the dream was unobtainable.  In the end, systemic racism at every turn meant that talent and drive was not enough

The book left me wondering a couple of things.   Was the Canadian Dream, the all-illusive shot at the NHL, actually Saul’s dream?  Or was Saul happy with a different ending, but trapped in the swell of what everyone thought he should want.  The atrocities of Residential Schools are undeniable, but the intent seems was that First Nation children would receive the education needed to participate/integrate and ultimately succeed Canadian culture.   It seems based on an idea there is one “right life” for all Canadians that involves being able to get a good job, have a nice house, drive a reliable car, etc…  Is the real tragedy, not that Saul didn’t make the “Big Leagues”, but that everyone assumed that it was what he wanted.  As far as I can tell, Saul would have been very happy to stay living on the land with his Grandmother; or even playing hockey on the rez with his friends.

I thought this book was interesting, but there were a couple reasons that it’s not at the top of my Canada Reads list.  First of all, I felt that, at times, it tried to hard.  There was so much tragedy in it, that some of the Residential School vignettes felt more like shock factor than an enhancement to the story.  Don’t get me wrong – I think the truth about what happened to people at Residential School should be told, I just didn’t think it always fit.

My other challenge with the book was the descriptions of hockey.  I read the words that described how Saul felt, and how happy the game made him – but I never felt them.  Somehow, they didn’t touch my bones, they just glossed across my eyes.  Maybe it’s because I’ve never played a game, but I have read stories of adventures that I’ve never experienced, where the author’s made me feel like I was there.

That’s my Indian Horse review – please tell me where I’m wrong!

 

Wicked Weather This Way Comes

17 Dec

It’s important that during the holiday season, you take a moment to be grateful. This Christmas I am grateful for the internet. Without the internet, I would have to get my weather updates from a real, live meteorologist. And, if that were the case, I would be in jail right now for assault. I am grateful that the internet maintains a healthy distance between me and whoever is predicting Whitehorse’s temperature trends. I am also grateful that my computer screen is already broken, so punching it makes little difference to the computer – but gives me great amounts of satisfaction.

After an oh so little winter break, cold weather is once again on the horizon. I am fairly certain this weather is 100% my fault. For starters, my first ever printed article appeared in Up Here magazine – the story is, of course, about riding at -40.

 

 

Secondly, my husband’s photo made it to the top 5 of the Skookum Brand photo competition. It is a picture of me riding in -40.

Riding at 40 below

 

You can vote for his picture (#5 titled:  Riding at 40 Below) here: https://www.facebook.com/questions/400877199992741/ and save me from having to buy a last minute Christmas gift.

It appears as though my worldwide popularity has an inversely proportional relationship to the temperature. Which, obviously, makes me secretly crave insanely cold weather. I’m not saying that I have the ability to control the temperature, but basically I think I have the ability to control the temperature. I didn’t have the same advantages as Storm, as my parents weren’t able to send me to Professor X’s secret mutant academy, so I think my powers just aren’t as obvious or easily controlled. This is a good thing, because there’s a 100% chance that I would have joined Magneto and his team of villains.

In any case, I apologize for the cold, and if we can get to around -80 C, I bet I’ll be as famous as Lindsey Lohan.

A Yukoner’s Guide to the SAD

13 Dec

When you tell “Southerners” (anyone South of the 60th parallel) that you live in the Yukon, the most common response is:  “Oh wow!  Isn’t it cold up there???”.  And while they are theoretically  correct, they have failed to identify the true villain of the North.  The weather can be frightful, but it’s more like a boogeyman who pops up every couple weeks.   The really scary thing is actually the light – or more accurately, the dark.  The dark lives under your bed, a nagging presence that slowly gnaws away your sanity.

With only about 1 week until the solstice, we are deep in the throes of darkness – and many of us have got the SAD.  It’s important to distinguish the difference between being sad and having the SAD.  The SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or as we like to call it Season Defective Disorder.   Although the SAD may make you exhibit similar symptoms to being sad, they are not necessarily related.  The SAD can make you cry, even when there is nothing wrong.  In fact 50% of people who’ve got the SAD have already started crying at this point in the blog.

An important characteristic about SAD is that it is like a poison.  The darker the day, the more infected you become – creating a progressively dangerous situation as you approach the solstice.

To fully illustrate the power of the SAD, here is a week by week breakdown of what will make a normal Yukoner cry:

November 1 – A close family friend, or relative passing away.

November 8 – This touching commercial:

November 15 – The emotional scene in E.T where Elliot thinks E.T is dead.

November 22 – Your dog stealing a $10 box of crackers, and leaving crumbs all over the floor.

Starbuck close-up

November 29 -This touching commercial:

December 6 – The emotional moment in Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby becomes paralyzed:

December 13 -  The color green.  It’s existence in this world.  It’s absence from trees.  It’s presence on a co-workers shirt.  Everything about it.

December 20 – Not having coffee.  Having coffee.  Coffee being too weak.  Coffee being too strong.  Liking coffee.  Hating coffee.  Coffee being hot.  Coffee being cold.  Decaffeination. Screw you decaffeination.

So what do you do during this spiral of SAD despair?   Extensive personal research suggests that consuming wine is not actually an effective remedy – and in fact may enhance some symptoms. But, I’m currently exploring the effects of warming the wine and adding spices, to see if that helps.  The only cure so far seems to be the company of friends, who are all suffering from the same epidemic.  Together, you can laugh (or as we like to call it craughing – more of a crying laugh than a  smiling laugh) and dream of sunnier days.