Saturday, December 22, 2012

the big steam

For some reason I woke up at 7:30 am today and couldn't go back to sleep.  There are a handful of days in any given year when, for me, waking at 7:30 am is cause for suicidal ideation, and this was one of them.

I'm on "winter break" from college.  As the last day of our third semester of nursing school approached, the sane students in my cohort (everyone but me) looked forward to the freedom, festivities, and fun winter break can deliver.  I, on the other hand, was very afraid.  When I woke (at the reasonable hour of 10 am) the day after I took my final exam, I felt lost.  No test to study for, no paper to write.  Nothing but a yawning expanse of free days for nearly a month.  Free time is not my friend during the winter months here in Alaska, at least not in Kenai, where I live when I'm not in school.  I don't have trouble with free time during the summer because I can ride my bicycle at any hour of the day or night (what night?) and when I ride my bicycle I'm in heaven.

Last winter I bought a second hand bike with studded tires so that I could ride during the dark months.  Soon thereafter I learned that there is more to winter riding than studded tires.  There's the 30 minutes it takes to layer on long underwear, fleece pants, wool socks, ski pants, a couple of shirts, air activated heat pads in the toes of my snow boots, leg warmers over the ski pants, jacket, neck warmer, beanie, face warmer, helmet, and gloves.  There's the fact that what from the street looks like a plowed bike path is really a potentially deadly trek through the Himalaya; humping up and down even small piles of snow and globs of ice is a lot more work (and more dangerous) than it would seem.  There's the fact that when one breathes through a face warmer, one's glasses fog up.  Over and over again.  And, stopping to wipe them with a tissue only makes them steam up more.

I looked at the thermometer at 7:40 am knowing that unless I could get some exercise today I'd probably wander out onto an ice floe and drift toward the Bering Sea.  For some reason I also considered, albeit only for a millisecond, flying to Las Vegas and finding some cocaine. Colorful, right?  Know what happens to nurses who get caught with cocaine?  They don't get to be nurses anymore.  Not only that, I don't drink alcohol or use drugs, and I don't like Las Vegas because it's too hot.  I've been terminally bored since I came home, and today was the bore-peak.  The thermometer read -16 F.  I stared at it and a single tear rolled from my right eye.  The sun wasn't going to come up for hours, and even then, would be making only a brief appearance.  I was screwed.  Way too cold to ride.

Once again, my sister Linda talked me back from the edge.  I called her and made my case for rushing out and buying a stationary bike (maybe $250).  Sounded perfectly reasonable to me.  She reminded me that I have a stationary bike at my place in Anchorage and that I'm only home for a couple of weeks. "So?", I thought.  What the hell does she know?  She then suggested that I see if any of the local gyms had day rates.  I sulked.  That would be so much work, calling around to the gyms!  Spending $250 on a piece of exercise equipment sounded a lot easier.

I hung up and called the gym.  $10.30 (I know, weird number) for one day gym usage.  Drove 8 miles to said gym, swapped snow boots, gloves, and full length down coat for gymlike attire and got on the bike.  50 minutes later, soaked with sweat, the world was a very different place, and still is as I write this.  The snow sparkles, the temperature is "brisk", and the big steam that rises from the ocean when the air is -16 is a glorious phenomenon instead of a horrifying reminder of how cold it is outside.

Ah, the joys of whipping up a cocktail of seasonal affective disorder, boredom, and a little bit of plain old cranky.

Only 24 days until school starts again.  Not a moment too soon.