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Beardcicle Chronicles: What’s with All These Crappy Winters?

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It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I am sitting here, looking out my window, wondering what I should do. Rather, I am trying to motivate myself to do something other than going downstairs, plopping down in front of the TV and starting to graze on whatever junk food I can find in the house.

The great meltdown we’ve experienced means that outdoor pursuits are limited. Or, rather, not the preferred ones. I could go for a bike ride. But I’d have to stay on the paved trails and routes rather than riding boss single track that just last week was a picture of winter riding perfection. This week they are all muddy and wet and riding them would be despotism along the lines of what some puppet dictator in the middle east dreams of. And I’m just not feeling the allure of riding pavement today.

Same with running. I could and should go for a long run, but the idea of running along the side of a highway or just on pavement in general does not appeal to me today. I want, no, I need, to get out into the woods a bit. But how to do that when the woods are a mucky mess?

And a better question is when will this cycle of crappy winters end? I’ll admit that I don’t know what constitutes a normal south central Alaska winter. When I moved up in 2010, winter was defined by heavy snow, decent temps, and more snow. 2011 was similar, in my recollection. Then it started to turn into what we see now — low or next to no snow and cycles of cold followed by warm, I even got a thermostat online that I can use with WiFi to regulate these changes. Listening to people talk, though, makes me think that the past few years have not been normal, summer or winter.

It’s disappointing. I moved here partially for winter and now it seems as if winter is gone. No Currier and Ives mornings when the snow and hoar frost cover every surface in a silence flocking of the world. No comfort in knowing that once the snow falls it will stick around until May. No. Now I have to carry rain gear with me year round. I have to face riding in 33 degree temps with rain coming down. I have to deal with salt and road grime that is thrown up from my wheels as each successive meltdown turns the paths and roads into swamps and ponds. Rusty chains and chewed up components.

There is just something wrong about waking up in late November to rain. In Alaska. Or so it seems to my understanding of winter here.

I’m just over it. If I wanted winter rains I’d live in Portland. I want snow. I want temps in the teens. I want the dark and I want the moon to reflect so brightly off of fresh white snow that I don’t need a headlamp to see where I am going. I want, in short, the type of winter that I imagined when I read Ethan Frome (Not set in Alaska, I know) or the type of winter that one sees in movies – fluffy perfection in white. I want, in short, the type of winter that we had in 2010 and 2011. Bring on feet and feet of snow. Bring on days of pushing my bike because there is too much snow to actually ride. Bring on overtime for the plowmen and women and scrambling to find places to dump the snow scooped up off the streets. Bring it on.

I know. I know, change is the only constant and in the lifetime of a person it is easy to view the events of recent years and claim cause and effect relationships that don’t exist or make grand declarations that the sky is falling. That’s not what I want to do here. I just want to complain a bit about the weather and wax nostalgic for what I remember of the past – winters that remind me of some of the best times in my childhood growing up on the plains where winters with fluffy, puffy snow falling from the sky was a rare occurrence and one that meant dropping the normal responsibilities and running outside to catch snow flakes on tongues or to make first tracks on the sledding hill. I want that magic everyday of every winter. I want something that never really existed except in my head.

Phil was born and raised in the Midwest. He moved to Alaska in 2010 and started his bike commuting life then and hasn’t looked back yet. He is primarily focused on how bikes can be used to supplant other forms of transportation, when it makes sense to do so, but he is also interested in how to combine different forms of alternative transportation to create a sustainable and enjoyable commute. Besides cycling, Phil works as a business analyst, is a recovering poet, teaches technical writing, and still harbors a dream to write a great novel some day.

What do you think?