22 August 2017Tuesday
Today I decide to take dad's mountain bike into town. My primary goal for this excursion is to make it to Blaire's Art Supply Store to get some fixative spray for the watercolor of Sourdough Mountain that I promised to Grandmother. Most of the dirt I rubbed into it while painting has come off by now, but I'm gonna try to save what's left of it with the spray. Grandmother slips me a little cash, as I head into the garage, to help me buy it. She didn't need to do that, but I accept it gratefully nonetheless.
I have to cobble together supplies from what I can find in the garage--I end up using bungee cords to strap a day-pack to the bike's rear rack, and filling an empty Dr. Pepper bottle with water for the trip. I spend a lot of the morning searching (in vain) for a tire pump. While gathering supplies, I keep going back into the house to look at the google maps directions again, in an attempt to memorize them before leaving the safety of GPS behind. Finally loaded up with raincoat, bike lock, notebook, pen, wallet, compass, a letter and a postcard I want to mail to friends back home, the aforementioned water bottle, printed google maps directions, two mandarin oranges, two boiled eggs, and two of those squeezy pouches of fruit and yogurt that I like to carry around when cycling, I head off.
First I try to patronize a bike shop google said was down the street--but though I find what I think is the shop, I can't find an entry door. I give up and head to a gas station instead to fill the tires there as best I can, lucky that the tubes happen to use schrader valves.
I know I'm supposed to turn onto Old Seward Highway, but I forget if it was a right or a left. Good thing I looked at the map a few times before I headed out, so I know that town is north of me. I use my compass to pick the correct direction. In Denver, the mountains on the horizon are always to the west--it is difficult to orient myself here, where going west takes one toward the sea.
I start out cycling in the road. I am used to Colorado, where riding on the sidewalk is not only dangerous, but illegal. People keep passing too close and honking at me here, even though I am as far right as possible. Eventually I give up and move onto the sidewalk. The sidewalks are paved with the same material as the roads; they seem to seamlessly transition from sidewalk to off-road multi-use path and back to sidewalk again. Riding on them is not so bad, even though crossing driveways and side-streets always makes me nervous. Anchorage is much more spread out than other places, though, so there is more distance between crossings, which makes it a little less obnoxious having to stop and yield at each one.
I blast past my first turn, of course. I've left my glasses at home, in favor of using sunglasses, so it takes me a little more effort to read street signs. I'm something like 40 blocks past the turn I needed when I realize the street numbers are decreasing and not increasing. I turn around and start to backtrack to correct the mistake, but decide that I don't really want to go that much farther out of my way if I can help it. Instead, I take an exploratory ramble through some side streets until I find a way to C street, then head north from there. After that it is a pleasant jaunt through lush, wet, forested parks and past quiet industrial areas and hotels until I reach my next turns, which I do not miss...!
The art store is cute, and has a cafe inside. I take a look around everything first, finding myself as tempted as usual when browsing this kind of place. I do pick up a field watercolor journal for future en plein air endeavors, but am able to talk myself out of buying a plethora of things I don't actually need. I find the fixatives and pick out a workable matte spray--partially because it specifically lists "watercolor" in its usage instructions, partially because it is small (I don't need a lot), but mostly because the brand name is my family's name, and I find this amusing. I then ask the barista for directions to a post office while she's ringing up my purchases. She gives me some convoluted directions to a place about 3 miles away that she'd looked up on google maps. I take the address she writes down for me, but when I head out I think I see a UPS store in the distance, so I wander on foot for a block or two, hoping to find some place that sells stamps and a blue post office box without having to go too much farther into town.
I try to reach the UPS store I saw, but after detouring around a construction site and a long gray building, I come across a Carr's, so I go in there to get a book of stamps and an additional snack. I ask them where the nearest post office is, and they point me to one right across the street--no more than two or three blocks from the art supply store. Not sure how google maps missed that one.
After mailing my cards, I drop into a bookstore called Title Wave, which I find on the other side of the long gray building. I wander the shelves, trying to find whatever I'm in the mood for today. Since I don't have my glasses on, I need to be a little more deliberate than usual--browsing for too long would give me a massive headache. I ultimately decide on poetry. When the poetry section yields nothing new or interesting, I wander over to the Alaska-specific section. One of the books I crack open here falls immediately open to a poem about Kennecott, and I think, well, this might be some kind of sign--but the poem itself turns out to be awful. The rhyme is forced and trite, the meter terrible--I can't stomach more than a few lines of it. The other poems in that book are equally horrid. I put it back and peruse a few trailside chapbooks before finally settling on an anthology called Alaskan Art & Writing, copyright August 1981, number 21/22 of the quarterly Northward Journal. It's a poem called "Splitting Wood" by Ann Chandonnet that sells it to me: page 55. I like most of what I read therein and pick it up for $4.95 (no sales tax?) and head back home.
The ride back home is much nicer--more off-road path, less curbside sidewalk. I don't miss my turn onto 104th this time. It is small--barely an alley over some train tracks--so I understand why I missed it the first time. After I pass the gas station where I fill my tires, though, I get lost... can't find the turn into the right neighborhood. I go back and forth over a decently steep hill before I finally have to call dad and get directions. Turns out I'd been second-guessing myself too much after my other mishaps of the day--I couldn't find the turn because I wasn't going far enough down the road. But wandering through neighborhood streets and climbing and re-climbing the hill is more exercise, which I really needed, and it feels good, though I'm getting hungry. When I finally make it home safe, there is spicy sausage and cabbage to eat, and all my errands have been done. All in all a successful day.
Dad picked up the mountain bike for about $100, and it shows, though my complaints are not too bad: handlebars need adjustment, chain needs grease, gears need adjustment, too. Well, and the saddle is awfully uncomfortable, but that's more of a personal preference thing--I found the perfect saddle for me in Dublin years and years ago, and haven't found a better one since. I'm glad I only rode about 20 miles today; I'm too spoiled to the comfort of my Surly Long Haul Trucker, Bike Rothar. I'm not sure I would've enjoyed much more than that.