August rolled by as the horrible answer to the prayers we had muttered silently in July. That's what happens when you get what you ask for. Like making a deal with the devil, after all the smoke and heat of July, the Fairbanks breathed a collective sigh of relief as the rains began in August. Then we tried not to curse as the rain continued through the rest of the month. August was almost as bad a month for riding as July was. You just needed a rain jacket and lots of degreaser instead of a respirator. September was rushed to say the least. The weather was great, 60s during the day and 40s at night. The trails were great and if you weren't worried about getting shot by folks out to fill the freezer with moose for the winter, there was some fantastic riding to be had.
Every year I wait for morning temperatures to drop down into the low thirties, and when it finally happens, the rigid fork goes on the commuter. This year, my timing couldn't have been better. I spent last Sunday afternoon swapping forks on both my wife's and my bike. Monday morning saw a commute filled with huge fat flakes of snow that had me wishing I had remembered a set of goggles. Tuesday of the same week, the skies were clear and the temperatures colder. Winter, I felt, had finally arrived.
When you trail ride in the winter in Fairbanks, you start to get excited this time of year. Noyes Slough, the original path of the Chena River some hundreds of years ago, is now mostly a brown streak of sludgy mud and stagnant water. If I was into kayaking, it might be cool that it was so close to my house. As it is, it is a great place for my dogs to swim, provided I have a hose to remove the muck from them afterwards. Considering the beaver dam, loads of water fowl and slow moving water, I wouldn’t swim in it for a brand new bike. Every year, usually right around Halloween, it becomes useful to me. Noyes Slough might be my favorite place to ride. Light snow machine traffic keeps the snow packed enough to be rideable almost all the time. It is right in town, but sometimes, you’d never know it. You are just as likely to encounter no one as you are a group of people getting drunk around a bon fire.
Of course I realize that my mind is probably romanticizing a bit. But what can I expect? It’s someplace I haven’t been able to ride for a good five months now. My mind has turned it into the best trail ever in its absence. Just like when May finally rolls around I’ll remember the Ester trails ten times better that they really are. I know this and I still can’t wait for the end of the month.