Sunday, May 28, 2006

Extra dry weather = Wildfire

Went to Anchorage yesterday, which is about 50 miles from where I live in the Valley. Went to REI, pickup up 2 light-weight sleeping bags, self-inflating sleeping pads, little cookset and a small single-burner camp stove. I got panniers from Nashbar in for Bikeboy #1 and myself the other day. $35 each set + $16 in shipping and they were here in a few days. I would love to get a Bob trailer, but can't afford it at this time. Another item on my wish list (hint: my birthday is in July!!!!! Gifts/donations welcome :) I would love a work stand, an Alaska Fireweed Jersey, road clipless pedals for my road bike - :)

**** and I brought our bikes, yes he actually has been riding with us!! He has a 20+ year old Cannondale, which was my 1st experience with a quality bike and got the desire to awaken and stir. We were done shopping and headed to downtown Anchorage to ride the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. I've only run 5K races on it, so haven't been down it very far. The day was sunny and beautiful with light wind. We headed out about 5 pm and about 15 minutes later, stopped at an outlook (the trail runs along the coast of an inlet of water, only a few miles or less so from the other side)when we noticed the smoke plume rising from Pt. Makenzie area, which is considered part of the Valley where I live because one must drive out and around 60-70 miles from Anchorage to get out there. The Valley is growning as Anchorage runs out of room so this area is being looked at for development. It't not too far from Big Lake, Houston, Wasilla area where people live and I work.
Then the wind picked up, suddenly and drastically, up to 30 miles/hrs. We were being pelted by sand, leaves, etc, hard to see and we stopped and watched the wind increase the fire within minutes. The wind was blowing the fire towards the coast line and away from civilization but it was amazing to watch it grow and grow. A sense of dread sits in the pit of the stomach. We call home, no one there even new what was going on, the wind was blowing it all the other way. We call my parents in Anchorage who live on the upper hillside. They said it looked like Anchorage was on fire. We stopped for some Thai food, the kid there asked us if Anchorage was on fire, no, we assured him, he was relieved.
Part of Alaska's uniqueness is we don't have many escape routes. There's only 2 ways out of everywhere, to the left or to the right, since there's only 1 main road that run through most every town. From Anchorage, you can go only north or south, Wasilla is basically the same. Palmer actually has 3 routes, north, south and west. One of Senator Ted Stevens' "bridge to no-where" isn't to nowhere at all but a bridge from Anchorage to Pt. Makenzie, where the fire is right now, lessening the drive to Anchorage and giving another escape route - (It's a very political subject and I am FOR the bridge in this area and that's enough of my opinion).

The wind continued to roar all night long. I live close to the Palmer Airport and they air-tankers fly over my house, they actually use it as a reference from the air for positioning, we were told by a air-tanker pilot. Sometimes it sounds like they are going to crash into us, they are soo loud. Last night was so windy they were landing in the direction they normally take off, much quieter. They are supposed to start up again and the wind has died down so we are expecting a lot of air activity. It's pretty cool watching these planes fly over. I will try to get some pictures of them.

The fire is still spreading and not contained yet. The cause is not yet known.

I had a really good riding week, more miles than ever before. I rode at lunch every day, 10 - 16 miles depending on the wind (going 27 miles per hrs when it's at my back, 6 miles per hr when I'm heading into it - uhhggg). Add my weekend rides so my total riding was over 100 miles for the week. The shoulder protests but Advil beats it into submission.

I rode round trip from Palmer to Wasilla for the 1st time on Friday, got a little sunburn on my arms and chatted to a few people. I met a guy, Tom or Tim on a Novara road bike with aerobars, chatted for a bit. I told him nice to meet him and to say hello if he spots me riding again, he said he could tell when he's not wanted, I told him that's not it, I'm not a fast rider and I was struggling to keep up with him and was about to pass out. He chuckled and said his goodbye and off he went and I slowed back to my normal pace. Chatted with another couple guys, guys are more chatty than women..go figure, most women seem too serious or too focused to chat. Of course I notice the calf muscles of these guys as they zoom off ahead of me. They are like big softballs, just huge. Thighs also, lots of power. My legs aren't like that and I wouldn't want them to be but I would like MORE POWER! I was told by a dr. I have small lungs. I am a huffer and puffer for sure, especially going up a hill.

I wish everyone an enjoyable Memorial Day and the wind at your back.


George said...

Hope everyone is okay up there. Usually when you think of Alaska, you think snow and ice not wildwires.

Be safe:-)

Michelle said...

We are safe, thanks George. Most wildfires are left to burn themselves out if they are far enough away from civilazation. This area was burned before a few years ago, but more towards the town and took out quite a lot of homes. This part of Alaska is semi-arid, so we do have to be careful when there is less than normal rainfall. The weather is turning, hopefully we will get some rain soon.