Monthly Archives: November 2009

Thu Nov 26 09

I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…

-Lester Burnham, American Beauty

My legs always feel different when I pull on a pair of running shoes, peppy and anticipatory, like the slight change in pronation has triggered some happy electrical impulse in my calf muscles. Wake up legs, let’s fly. Sometimes that feeling only lasts a few steps (replaced by knee creaks or shin complaints). More often it lasts a mile or so. I don’t run enough anymore to really feel sharp for longer distances. If I really push the pace, I’ll often get a secondary runner’s high buzz at some point, but I generally don’t push the pace.

In high school, during cross season, my legs would jitter and bounce underneath my desk every afternoon before school let out, ready for the miles. The feeling was magic back then. There were days when it seemed my feet were only just flicking the ground and I knew if I could just go a little faster that they wouldn’t be touching at all.

Those Icarus days are gone, but on the few days a month I still get out, I now love the way running connects me to me. I feel the aches and the fatigue and the burning lungs and the cold on my ears, but those aches also make me aware of parts of my body that I often take for granted and they’re my pains and a part of a life that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Running adds dimension to the world around me. There’s a tactileness, a thickness, to the breeze as it slides across my skin. Temperatures are sharper. The sun warmed just for me or the cold trying to swallow me up.

I went for a run in a cold drizzling rain tonight and let it all flow through me. I ran on gravel and bike lanes with car headlights reflecting off the pavement. Then up into the hills where Thanksgiving warmth radiated through homes with large picture windows and fireplace smoke tickled my lungs. At the top I stopped and looked out over the foggy valley, pricked with light, and breathed in the mist. The cool air nipping at my cheeks and my heart full of gratitude for my stupid little life.

Fri 13 Nov 09

Anchorage, AK! Four days, 2570 miles, on a wintery drive to Alaska. Pretty good.

Today we made it from Whitehorse, YT in one long push of about 17 hours. I drove the Alaska stretch starting about twenty miles east of the border in Yukon (about 11 hours). The morning plan while gassing up in ridiculous cold in Whitehorse had been to stop at Tok, AK (about the halfway point), but we rolled into Tok at about 3:30 PST and decided we could make the last 328 mile run. Made Anchorage at 11:15 local time.

Roads again were ice and snow packed in Canada, with frequent frost heaves added in for good measure. Jostled all morning. Much better condition on the US side. Some magnificent views of flanking Alaskan peaks, even under cloudy skies, for much of the day.

We did hit about 150 miles of snow flurries while crossing mountain passes in AK, again after dark which slowed the pace considerably. Roads were very dicey in the blowing snow. On an uphill climb while I was driving, the twelve-foot trailer we were towing inexplicably seemed to lose traction and began spinning us toward the shoulder (car had been fine, but I felt the tail yanked away). I tried to correct, thought I had it for a second (but probably actually had over corrected), felt the car begin to spin the other way, again corrected and suddenly had no control as we spun into the oncoming lane and came to rest facing the opposite direction we’d been going on the far side shoulder. If you’ve ever spun out in a winter you know the feeling, but believe me, spinning out with a massive trailer tethered to your bumper adds another level of excitement.

Smell of burning tire rubber and heart a-pounding, but otherwise everything intact. Good thing it was November in Alaska and traffic was almost nonexistent. Carefully pulled back across the highway and dialed back our already slow pace another 10 mph until quite a ways down the road when the jumpiness had passed and the flurries had died down.

So I’m sure we missed a ton of Alaska scenery in the dark-driving, but hopefully the gained day in Anchorage will bring a little sight seeing. I fly back to WA on Sunday.

Thu 12 Nov 09

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Even colder.

14 hour day through gorgeous stretches of the Canadian Rockies and a not so gorgeous snow storm. Most of the road today was covered in ice and packed snow, which at first (particularly in the darkness this morning) was a little harrowing, but eventually kind of normalized. Lots of bison lounging along the roadway and a dead moose being feasted on by a bald eagle. We pushed the gas tank to E at one point when one of our intermediate podunk stations that was supposed to be open year-round was not. So, that was kind of exciting, especially as we had just entered a snow storm, making the walking down the road with a gas can idea even less appealing.

The snow really picked up just after we refueled as we drove through darkness to make it to Whitehorse. At times I honestly couldn’t see ten feet in front of the car. A few moments of baffling vertigo where I had no concept of left/right, uphill/downhill, or the speed of the car. Just swirling white streaks rushing at me. Saw a truck go off the road and roll a little ways in front of us.

711 miles to go to Anchorage and two days to do it, so hopefully we can adjust the drive duration a little for sanity’s sake and to deal with the snowy weather as needed.

Wed 11 Nov 09

Fort Nelson, BC. It’s snowy and cold here.

Shorter day of driving today (10.5 hours), but only because there is no convenient place to stop for about 300 miles after this as we head up into the Canadian Rockies. Nice partly sunny weather most of the day, so the roads were mostly ice-free. Fort Nelson really was the first time we ran into compact snow. Roads are getting emptier and emptier as we head north. No real wildlife yet, though we have seen a dead moose and a dead black bear on the side of the road. Into the Yukon Territory at some point tomorrow.

Tue 10 Nov 09

After a long day of driving, I’m in Prince George, British Columbia. Google said 12.5 hours, but with a few setbacks and a slow pace due to trailer hauling it turned into 17 hours. I drove the last 12 hours. The border crossing took all of two minutes. Weather has been great so far, but supposed to be less nice later in the week (it started snowing as we pulled into the hotel about a half hour ago). This was also probably the flattest section of road. We had a few passes at 6 or 7% grade, but nothing like the 10% grades to come. Pretty glad it’s not my car doing the towing up that stretch of Canadian Rockies.