A Bike, a Dog, a Trail System, and Playing Hooky

It is April 29, 2010, and I've had the good and bad fortune not to have work today. For the past few months I have been in the rare situation of not reporting to an "employer" to speak of, having quit my old job and taken on projects on a contract basis from other lawyers. It was my strategy of saving up cash as quickly as possible without the confines of an institutional employer. Since then I've been lucky enough to have a semi-steady flow of work to do for other attorneys, but today, I have none. No suits, no court, no jail visits.

Since having finished law school six years ago, rarely do I have time off without a vacation or visit to family planned. But today is one of those moments, and it also happens to be one of the first warm days in Anchorage this year (about 60 degrees F).

So, after treating myself to a generous amount of sleep, I wake up at 10:00am and sip my coffee. I decide to take on the ambitious task of riding my bike downtown with my best friend Milo. He is a dog. I decide that we will visit the new cake shop downtown. He will not be allowed to eat cake.

Before leaving I check my email, only to learn that my boyfriend forgot his lunch at my place. I decide to go domestic and offer to make a lunch delivery on the red racer.

And suddenly, my ordinary day gains a sense of importance. Like the mushers who rode on dogsleds for hundreds of snowy miles to deliver a vaccine to the inhabitants of Nome, I must somehow deliver lunch to my starving boyfriend at his office three miles from my house. Luckily, I have the red racer (my bike) and Milo to assist me in this new task. I load up the red racer's basket with a package of cooked pasta with sauce, a light sweater, a bottle of water, my wallet and my keys. Then I head for the trail system.

The Anchorage Trail System is a true sanctuary for a small time explorer such as myself. It boasts about 50 miles of paved paths throughout the city, along greenbelts, roadways, and in state parks, all of which are accessible to the public. Groomed for skiing in the winter, cleared for biking in the summer, it offers something for everyone year-round. It is enjoyed by an all-inclusive demographic of Alaskans, from the rich to the homeless, adults to children, moose to dogs. My house is less than a ten minute walk from it.

Off-leash doggies are somewhat taboo here, but since it is mid-day, I suspect few are on the trail who might be bothered by or serve as a source of distraction for young Milo. So, off leash he goes. We cruise through trees, over bridges, alongside a creek--not a roadway in sight for the full three and a half miles.

Milo is a bit out-of-shape today as is typical this time of year, but adamant in running at my cycling pace. His determination is fierce and he ignores passing dogs, children, and gawking adults giggling at the unlikelihood of him keeping up with me. He is an American Staffordshire Terrier but is more often than not mistaken for a pitbull. There is nothing vicious about him as he struggles to keep up with me on my red racer, with his tongue dragging on the floor and his gait resembling a stampeding rhino in slow-motion.

We reach downtown Anchorage and I park my bike in front of my
boyfriend's office building. He joins us and after a bowl of water for the beast and a quick lunch for the humans, we head to the cake shop. On the way, we run into a number of judges I recognize who are attending a conference. They look strange and short walking on the street without their robes. I realize that I too must look strange to them, wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and an Aunt-Jemima-style scarf in my hair, equipped with my vicious attack dog, eating a piece of cake. I feel a little bit like a tourist in this area of town I know so well.

Milo and I leave my boyfriend at the courthouse doors and make our way home. Later our roommate Jill gets home, fully clad in serious sports apparel. She is a modest but hardcore distance cyclist and on numerous occasions has ridden hundreds of miles in the snow in one go. In her low-key way she reports that she just finished a 50 mile bike ride out of town and into the massive Eagle River Nature Center, located about 40 minutes north of here by car. I tell her that Milo and I rode our bikes just far enough to get a piece of cake at the new sweet shop downtown.

Today was the first time in a long time that I felt relaxed in the very town I live in. It reminded me of why I love traveling so much. Free any expectations from a supervisor, an agency director, a client, a judge, parents, friends, and especially from myself, there is a tangible feeling of liberation I have when I travel alone to a new place. In those situations, liberated from expectations, I in turn have no expectations of anyone else. And yet, it is often the case that when I least expect it something positively memorable happens. It is so rare to feel that freedom in the very town I live in. Most of that is my fault. But today I played hooky and simply enjoyed the honor of just being, not a care in the world, like a dog on a walk.

And though I rarely remind myself of this truth, that is more than good enough.


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