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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.

The Selfie

23 Sep


Today was one of those fall days too good to ignore.   As soon as the first mug of coffee was gone, I was scrounging for a riding mate.  But my enthusiasm was no match for busy schedules and  broken bikes, and after a couple hours it became clear that today would be a solo ride.

I don’t mind riding alone.  I usually leave some detailed instructions on where I’ll be going,  download a couple new podcasts and happily pedal away.   I miss the company, and the courage that comes with knowing that someone’s around to get you to the hospital if required; but mostly I miss someone to help with the picture taking.

My bike wife is the queen of the self-portrait.  I have watched Jenn whip out a camera while sitting on the handlebar of my snow bike as we slide down an icy pathway.  I have waited on group rides for Jenn to catch up, only to discover 3 days later through a Flickr update that her delay was due to a series of photos capturing her journey over a particularly scenic ridge.  I have sat on the side of a trail as Jenn built a camera stand out of twigs, moss and rocks; all while apologizing for not replacing the tripod she lost 4 years ago in Carcross.

Unfortunately, I do not share Jenn’s talents.  After downloading 57 photos from my spectacular Yukon River ride, I have discovered the following:

In 63% of my self-portraits, I am absent:

At least the rafters made it into the frame.


A perfect selfie, if there was a self.


In 24% of my self-portraits, I am checking to see if I’m in the picture before the picture’s actually been taken:

I think I got it this time…oh f@#%$


In 9% of my self-portraits, Starbuck is stealing my thunder:

As if there aren’t enough photos of him…


In 4% of my self-portraits, I am in the frame, but unrecognizable:

Thwarted by the sun


In reviewing my particularly bad batch of self-portraits, the Mr. casually mentioned that there is a remote control that came with the camera.   Maybe there’s hope yet…


I Wanna See Your Peacocks

17 Sep

Panorama of Bennett

I had been avoiding my summer illness with great success, until in a moment of weakness I finally allowed it to catch me.  On Saturday morning I woke up with a throbbing throat, and a bad headache.

Thankfully it is mid-fall – which is the ideal time to realize you have done exactly none of the “summer fix-ups” that were mandatory pre-winter activities.  The fence is still being tethered together by 2 pieces of rope, held up by a bike rack, with a 73% chance of keeping Starbuck from escaping.   There is also 20 bags of recycling that need sorting and a kitchen wall’s worth of drywall to go to the dump.

The other great thing about fall is that it gives you a preview of winter light – in other word it’s the time you get to realize that 97% of your lightbulbs are burnt out.

Sick days are perfect “work days” and armed with sweatpants and tea, the Mr. and I got most of the must dos done; which made Sunday all the better.

When I got up on Sunday morning with limited throat irritation, I gleefully surmised that my diet of echinicae and vitamin C scared away the black lung.  With this conviction, I called bike-wife and we arranged a Carcross date.

Originally, we had planned a shuttle day, but half our crew bailed, and it’s hard to shuttle with only 2 people.  So, we took advantage of the company and planned  a different sort of day.  Instead of up and down fun, we picked a bit of an adventure – a longer ride up the gravel road, with big view payoffs.  It was the perfect ride for bike-wife, who is always keen on a good picture or 12.

We were not disappointed – the climb up the hill turned out to be just enough time for the grey clouds to clear way for a bright blue sky.

It's so Pretty

Fall Colors on the Bridge

Mossy Green

And we did it all in typical classy fashion – in our matching Shredly Peacock Shorts. The only thing as bright as the landscape.

I wanna see your peacocks


In a rather unsurprising turn of events, it tuns out that the black lung wasn’t actually gone.  In fact, it took advantage of a desperation for another play-date and attacked with full force on Monday.  As long as it leaves for the weekend, I might be able to manage to rest.  It’s a shame that the weather is looking so good.

The Cottonwood

26 Aug

As the summer weekends flashed past, I’d almost given up hope of squeezing in a Cottonwood ride.   It seemed like every day off work was solidly packed with other commitments, and other adventures.  When plans to go down to B.C for a weekend fell through, there was a suddenly a big beautiful gap just looking to be filled with an epic ride.

The Cottonwood trail is an 83 km hiking route from Mush Lake Road (across from Dezadeash Lake) to Kathleen Lake.  The trail includes about 2400 m of climbing, spread out over 2 passes; the Dalton Pass and Cottonwood Pass.   It’s a long day, but can be well worth the scenary.  Here’s a guide to the ride:


Km -30


Start the ride  with the unmistakable sound of rain falling on your 2 man tent.

Go to Kathleen Lake Lodge, which opens up at 7 am, for a pre-ride feast of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and coffee.  Meal is usually served with a side of: “You guys are crazy – but I hope you have fun”.


Km 0

Park the car at Mush Lake Road and begin the pre-ride routine of dressing, undressing and redressing.   After exploring all routes of procrastination, start riding.


Km 16.5


Fly down the Mush Lake Road .  Believe (falsely) that this will be a quick ride.  At some point, wonder what you are going to order at Frosty Freeze – banana or chocolate milkshake?  Then hit the Cottonwood trail sign, and a double track path that goes up, up, up.


Km 21.5


After 5 steady kilometers of climbing, pull out that piece of pie you ordered from the Kathleen Lake Lodge.  It may have suffered in your bag, but you aren’t finished climbing, it’s pissing rain and it’s cold – a squishy pie is the best thing you’ll have.


Km 26.5

It Starts to Clear


The unrelating climb is replaced by some fun up and down through the pass.  It will feel like fall, but everything will be bright and green; with the occasional patch of lupins.   Your camera will be wet, but it makes it look like a cool instagram, so that’s okay.


Km 33

Time to Warm Up

Cross the first big river. Holy crap is it ever cold!  To figure out which path to take, watch all your friends cross and assess whose shorts got the least wet – follow them.  On the other side surrender to the elements and try to warm up.  There’s no way to get dry, but it’s better to be a warm wet before starting a descent.

Steamy Shorts

Watch the steam come off everyone’s shorts, this will be highly amusing – especially when you’re mildly delusional from not eating enough.  Eat more food.


Km 35.7

Down we go

Things are looking up, you are warmer – and starting to enjoy some sections of singletrack descent.  Don’t worry, your delusions of all downhill will be shattered by a steep hike a bike.   Be careful on this steep climb, your shoes will fall off at least twice, and you will somehow get your bike caught in between two trees on your back and be temporarily stuck.


Km 39.3

Start of the Singletrack

Bike High Fireweed

Cottonwood Valley

You are through the second pass and onto the best part of the trail – Cottonwood Valley.  The only problem is that everything is so beautiful that you will want to stop every kilometer for more pictures.

Fireweed is as high as the bike, which means most of the time you will watch your friends helmet heads bob float above tall green stalks.  You will then  hit the fields of fire (weed); bright oranges and reds will distract you, and you will probably almost endo because you are staring at the colors instead of watching for rocks..  As you slowly lose elevation, each field will get redder and redder – you are coming back to fall.


Km 46.6

Bear Evidence

You are now into long stretches of meadow, and although the short grass makes for long views – you will get that funny feeling that you’re being watched from afar.


Km 49


You will turn onto a mining road – look up and to the left, you can see the relics of Johobo mine up in the mountain side.  This would be a fast and furious section, but there are several downed trees that slow down the ride.   After crawling under the 10th tree, you’ll tell yourself that you are going to start doing yoga again.  It’s a lie.


Km 57

Louise Lake

Down you land at Louise Lake – and she’s a beauty!  There’s still lots of downed trees, but Parks Canada seems to have some interest in having them cleared for next year.  Although they are a nuisance, they aren’t so bad as to ruin the ride.


Km 67

Crossing Victoria

Time to cross Victoria Creek again – thankfully she’s warmed up a bit since the last time.  Although it’s fast and flowing, at least it’s not an ice bath.  One of you “friends” will throw rocks to  splash you while you cross – maybe it’s time to find new friends.


Km 71

Kathleen Lake

First encounter with Kathleen Lake – a new rock slide means a short walk through the lake.  The trail along the lakeside is in bad shape, but it’s brief.  If you get too cranky,  just look left, because the view is spectacular.  There’s lots of flattened rocks to skip in the water and the odometer suggests that you’re getting close to the end.


Km 75

Goat Creek crossing – the final river to ford.  Where’s my beer?


Km 77

One last look at a beautiful lake – it’s hike-a-bike time.  If you are wearing clipless,  bring sandals/running shoes.  The final 6 km of the trail will be a tough hike over a rock glacier, and then through a maze of un-rideable trails and downed trees.  When you hit this section, you will have some false hope that there is still time to get to Frosty Freeze before it closes.  It’s time to let the dream die – you will spend almost 2 hours slipping on roots, sliding down hills with your bike still attached to you, and generally cursing your existence.  You will ask yourself:  Why didn’t I just get a boat pick-up? (a completely viable option – just call Ron Chambers – he’s in the book in Haines Junction).  Then you will try to convince yourself that this makes you more hardcore.  Then you will trip on a root and want to cry.


Km 83

All done.  You may have missed Frosty Freeze, but as long as there’s a bag of chips and a cider somewhere, it’s all good.  Spend your anniversary doing this every year.

Bike Love





Mt. Mac Trails

6 Aug

Thanks to the hard work of the Whitehorse Trail Crew, the Youth Achievement Center and Contagious Mountain Bike volunteers, there are all sorts of new trails at Mt. Mac just waiting to be ridden.  Unfortunately, there is no map of these trails (yet).  In order to solve this little problem, I have created the world’s most ghetto bike map.  It is not accurate in length – BUT is accurate in location, including entrances and exits.  It is meant only as a resource for people to use if they are wondering how to get to the new trails.

I’ve tried to color code it with RED showing the trails from previous years that were already on the map; and ORANGE for the new trails. (Click on the photo, then click on “View all Sizes” on the top right, you can get a larger version)

Please note that these are NOT the official names, just names that people/I have been using informally.  The official map will have the official names once they have been decided.  Until then, I’m using the names just for the simplicity of explanations.

Sierra's Ghetto Mt. Mac Map

Here is some general information about the trails.  All the trails (except Bouncing Bunny) are bi-directional.  There is a simple rule you can follow – it’s always more fun when you’re going down.  But, guess what – you’ve got to get up somehow, so suck it up buttercup and  make those legs burn.

Below is  the Twitter (140 characters or less) version of the Mt. Mac trails:

Porcupine Ridge – VERY slight uphill going towards Best Chance.  Fun singletrack that takes you along the ridge.

Peak Freans – Great bermy trail that heads down from the 7.5 km Trail and links into Porcupine Ridge.

Mouchet (also called Tristan’s Trail) – Amazing bridgework – fun in either direction, but slightly more downhill heading towards Rocky Canyon from 7.5 km.

Fetish – Takes you up from Rocky Canyon, or down from Birch.  Cool trail gap, and fun skinny (if you are heading down)

Reimer Reason – Takes you down from Sarah Steele to Fireweed Hut.  Cool boulder drops (rolls if you are me), when you’re heading down.

Calypso Canyon – Takes you down from Falun Lookout to Fireweed Hut.  Some fun drops, including a rock gap; and great berms.

Rebirth – Bermy Trail that climbs from the end of the 24 Hours Loop to Falun Lookout.

24 Hours Loop – Beautiful ridge trail that is completely bidirectional.

Bouncing Bunny – Best ridden down from Sarah Steele, just like the name – bouncy.


How do you link them together?  Here are some fun rides:

Big Mac Attack: Dirt Jump to 7.5 km, down Peak Freans to Porcupine Ridge.  Follow the Ridge all the way up Upper Valley, down Katima Trail and Logan’s Run.  Get onto 24 Hours of Light, climb Rebirth to Falun Lookout, down Calypso Canyon, up Reimer Reason, turn left on Sarah Steele to Bouncing Bunny.  Down the Bunny, turn right on the 10 K, take a SHARP right up Birch, turn left on Fetish, down Upper Rocky Canyon, up the bridge on Mouchet and back down to the Dirt Jump park.  This is about 30 km (I think)

Snow White:  Dirt Jump to 7.5 km, down Peak Freans to Porcupine Ridge.  Follow the Ridge all the way up Upper Valley, down Katima Trail and Logan’s Run.  Get onto 24 Hours of Light, climb Rebirth to Falun Lookout, down Calypso Canyon, up Reimer Reason, turn Right on Sarah Steele.  Go down Sarah Steele onto Rocky Canyon (take an almost immediate left to do Upper Rocky Canyon and Mouchet or head straight for the Dirt Park).  Why is it called Snow White?  Mirror Mirror on the Wall, what’s the best route of all?  This trail can be ridden exactly in the opposite direction, especially if you prefer berms to drops.

Appie – Dirt Park to 7.5 km turn right and head up Mouchet.  Turn up Fetish and then take the left up Birch, at the second Sarah Steele crossing, turn right down Sarah Steele and onto Reimer Reason.  Go down Reimer Reason all the way to Fireweed Hut.  Turn right at Fireweed Junction down the 10 km.  Ride the ski trails to Rebirth, and turn right up Rebirth.  Then down Calypso Canyon, back up Reimer Reason, and down the other side of Rocky Canyon.

These are only 3 of the rides I like, and don’t even take into consideration the possibilities when adding in Goat Trail.  Have fun!



Father’s Day Lessons

24 Jun

I have been fortunate enough to spend the last 7 Father’s Days with my Dad.  This might not be something special for most, but I live over 2500 km away from my Dad, so it’s not actually that easy.  Thankfully Father’s Day is always celebrated on the same weekend as the Kluane Chilkat Bike Relay.  This gives Dad the perfect cover to come see his favorite daughter without alienating the other two.

Every year I try to do something special for my Dad.  One year, I took him out for an amazing dinner in Whitehorse only to realize I forgot my wallet.   I think of it as the year I gave my Dad the gift of reliving my childhood.  Dad thanks of it as the year I made him buy his own Father’s Day dinner.  Another year, I told my Dad that after the Kluane Chilkat Bike Race we should do a fun 100 km relaxed ride back.  That year, we rode 180 km, mostly into the wind, up a 1100 m pass.  This is the year I gave my Dad the gift of the bonk.   This year, I decided to really up the ante by giving him rain, headwind, and single digit temperatures.

The top of the Haines Pass

The bad weather for this year’s Kluane Chilkat wasn’t a surprise.  It had been raining and cold for weeks, and forecasts were not looking promising.   We agreed that if the weather was bad enough, we would just stop riding.  But, I’ll be honest – I wasn’t sure we actually meant it.

One thing my dad has taught me is perseverance.   One year, the night before a 55 km ski race, my Dad got sick with the flu.  He spent the night vomiting, yet in the morning was eating his oatmeal with the hopes that he could still race.   He only conceded with the oatmeal didn’t stay down.  My Dad’s perseverance is not limited to sporting events.  I remember my Dad volunteering for the ski club, in between going to my soccer games and work.  When people tell me I should just quit or stop because something is hard or frustrating or tiring, I think to myself – Dad would do it.

This was the thought that went through my head after the first 30 km of the bike race.  Despite Gore-Tex socks, and Pearl Izumi booties, my feet were soaked and freezing.  My hands were starting to lose their dexterity. I was wet and I was cold, and I wasn’t too sure how I was going to finish all 120 km of my half.   In a fairly big pack of riders, I was not keen on stopping to readjust my clothes – knowing that even a 5 second break would mean having to ride into the headwind all alone.  I thought that working hard would warm me up, but by 55 km I had started shivering – quaking is not a popular habit in a peloton.  At 75 km, I pulled off the road, and sent my Dad out 40 km before planned.

The view from inside the car

The view from outside the car

As I peeled off my wet clothes (with a friendly 5 year old standing behind me screaming “I can see that lady’s bum”), I was already regretting my decision.  I hate quitting.  Even in the car, while I shook violently with the heat cranked to high, I wondered if I should have just powered through.

After another 40 km, we were about to reach the halfway mark.  This was the spot we were supposed to trade riding.  At the checkpoint, my Dad rolled up to the car and said: “I told them we scratched” and started loading up his bike.  This was when I learned the actual lesson – it’s about not quitting the stuff that actually matters – and hammering through hypothermia and headwinds doesn’t count.  So, instead of finishing a bike ride that would have left us sick and exhausted, we hung out together in Haines, Alaska.  Damn my Dad is a smart guy.

These good looks must be genetic

I wonder what I’ll get him next year…

Bad Day?

25 Mar

Riding the Lake

After the grey sky ride on Wednesday, both Thursday and Friday were bluebird beautiful.  Inspired by the bright sun, we decided to go on a birthday bike ride for Paula on Saturday.  Because Environment Canada was promising a clear, sunny day, we planned to explore the Jackson/Fish Lake area – one of the prettiest spots near Whitehorse.   A spring sun, reflecting off a frozen lake, can mean jacket free riding; and maybe even a suntan.

Peaking outside at 9:00 am on Saturday morning, it became clear, Environment Canada had lied.  The blue sky was grey.  The sun was hidden behind layers of cloud.  The thermometer was suggesting a jackets mandatory day.  It’s not entirely known whether the grey sky was causing foul moods; or the foul moods had clouded up the sky; but needless to say, the group of girls weren’t in the same bright spirits as the night before.  I don’t want to name names, but Jenn was particularly grumpy.  The only group unfazed by the change in weather was our pack of canine companions, who couldn’t care less about the sky – too much pee to smell and squirrels to chase.

We started out on Haeckel Hill.  The ride out to Fish Lake was fairly quiet.  A strong headwind had us riding in a mini-fat tired peleton, which isn’t that conducive to conversation.

Old School Snow Bike

The funny thing about grey skies is that they ruin any beautiful landscape pictures, but highlight things you’ve never noticed before.  When you aren’t looking up at vistas and big skies, things closer to the ground grab your attention.  We traveled through little cabin communities full of buried cars, Yukon decor and lots of artifacts (aka rusty things).

The bright green Yukon Energy sign:

Some new real estate for Starbuck (he’s looking at getting out on his own, and figures a trailer could be the perfect first home):

Looking for new real estate

At Fish Lake, we pulled over for a birthday fire and lunchtime snack.  By this time, we’d accepted that the weather was not going to change.  Pulling down trees, and embracing our inner warrior women was highly amusing; and the 6 packs of Peanut Butter Cups probably helped too.


From our shelter on the lake, we took pictures of passing sled teams, while they took pictures of crazy female bikers.  It wasn’t totally clear who was the more interesting group.



Further improving life was a strong tailwind and a net elevation drop on the way back.  I guess we don’t control the skies with our moods, because at the end we had smiles, but no sun.   Our “bad day” turned out pretty fun, even for Crankasaurus Jenn.

Open Water



21 Mar

Yukoners are unquestionably obsessed with light and weather.  In a place where temperatures vary 75 degrees C over the year (138 F for those south of the border), and daylight swings from 5.5 to 21 hours, this isn’t that surprising.  Normal small talk in Whitehorse is centered around the sun’s comings and goings and the migration of mercury – in an imaginary world of “Shit Yukoners Say” this would be the running joke.

I am no different than my neighbors in this regard; and if you are going to obsess over sunrises and sunsets, the Equinox and Solstice have inflated importance.  Before moving to the Yukon, the changes of seasons meant nothing to me – now I find little ways of celebrating the comings and goings of my favorite ball of plasma.

The Big Race

This year, I celebrated Spring with a ride up Grey Mountain.  Unfortunately, I don’t care enough about the sun to follow its every move.  I had planned for a Wednesday night ride – assuming the 21st of March to be the first day of Spring.  The Mr. informed me on Monday, that the vernal equinox was actually March 19th at 10:14 pm.  I am choosing to ignore this fact.

I expected my ride to be a solo one, but was pleasantly surprised when I stopped at the local bike shop and found out that my friend Paula had just purchased a Surly Pugsley.  I, in all my bountiful generosity, convinced the boys to build it up with some pink grips, thinking this would drive her crazy.  Sadly (or gladly), she actually liked the hot pink accent; and agreed to join me on my ride.


Going up the Grey Mountain Road isn’t the most exciting ride, but it is beautiful.  When planning my Spring celebration, I had visions of blue sky, bright sun and warm weather.  Had I ridden on Monday – on the actual Equinox – this dream would have been realized.   The weather was chilly, the sky was grey; but grey trumps black, and you can’t win them all.

Grey Mountain on the Equinox

Three months ago you needed a headlamp at 4:00 pm.  Three months from now, you won’t need a headlamp at all.  Right now, the sun gives you enough time to enjoy a long ride after work.  The rest of the world might be green with Spring, but I have to admit, the big 12 hour sun is fun to watch gleaming off a snowy landscape.  Only 3 more months until we are in the land of Midnight Sun; and 6 more months until it’s dark and freezing again.   In between there’s lots to talk about.