Bikes and Books

Yesterday morning by 7 I had already pedaled my bike up to the White Pass summit and back down to Skagway. This morning I'm drinking coffee in bed. I only tell you about my ride to brag. I'm shameless, and perhaps a little crazy. But I have had a goal since I nearly died of hypothermia last year in the rain and snow on the same ride in the same week in May - I probably didn't share that epic dumb move. That day, I knew the way up would be warm, with the huge hill to climb for an hour or two, and traveled light. I didn't think about the chilling descent at all. I also let my ego or competitive nature ( even if with myself) push me up to the summit even as the fog closed in, the rain turned to sleet and the conditions for cycling down hill got seriously bad. I creeped along and was so cold by the time I reached customs that the officer had to take my passport out of the baggie I'd wrapped it in. I asked for shelter and warmth and she told me Skagway was only six more miles and I'd be there shortly. I'd been out there over 3 hours. My hands could barely squeeze the brakes. I tried to plead some sort of asylum, as a refugee from the mountains or something, but US Customs and border patrol denied me access to the building. I lived. This year the conditions were ideal. Dry, calm, 50s, clear except for a foggy summit, and at customs on the way back down, the kind officer read my passport and said, " I have wanted to meet the woman that wrote that book. I like the title Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs." There are posters in town for the writers conference I am here for, so maybe he saw it on one, or maybe he read it? "No," he said, and explained that he missed his wife, who did not accompany him to Skagway for this work, to stay home and garden and take care of their dogs. I told them they were my mother's last words, and he said they were good words to live by. I said that when he reads it, I want him to remember that he saw me on bicycle, on the Klondike Highway, alone, after summiting the White Pass. It felt like I'd taken care of something that needed to be done too. Silly? For an almost 55 year old grandmother to race up and down a mountain just because she may be able to? The Skagway bike shop clerk said his roommate does the round trip in 2 hours, but he's a really strong rider and suggested I plan on 3 1/2. So I thought of my mother, and life and death and what it all means, and realized I could still break 2 hours if I booked it down to town. At the motel door I stopped my timer at 1:59:00. I may never have another chance, when the day is right and my heart is strong to do that, and I'm glad, very glad, I did.

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