traciwentling

Inspiration Day

Reflections of my Adventure

Beautiful view out my front door...

Beautiful view out my front door…

Ralph Waldo Emmerson wrote:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”

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My ride-mates

My ride-mates

What in the world gave me the idea that I could ride nearly 3,000 miles; some of it more of a physical challenge than I thought possible and days and days without shelter other than my tent walls at night…

Sleeping in a ditch in the Yukon Territory

Sleeping in a ditch in the Yukon Territory

It is human nature to forget the pain of something. I believe God gave us this ability to forget so that we can move on to what is next without fear. In giving me the Grace I needed for each day, He also gave me just enough strength that I needed for that same day. No matter how absolutely spent or how sore that I was at night, He gave me what I needed to do it again. His healing of the body overnight is an awesome thing that no one on this planet can explain.

We climbed it!

We climbed it!

Patience, I had to pray for daily. Often, in dealing with different personalities and people with different moral standards, a good deal of patience was required on everyone’s part. A profound truth that I have discovered is that there is only one thing in this world that a person can have complete control over and that is how we react to situations. Even if that reaction is at first dishonest to our heart, we still have control over what is reflected out towards the rest of the human race. In many cases, our first reaction to a circumstance is not what we feel days later anyway.

Just one of the many amazing bridges crossed

Just one of the many amazing bridges crossed

I look back and peruse the thousands of pictures and it helps me remember the thousands of moments of joy and awe of nature as displayed by God. From the full orchestra heard only by me while riding the Columbia Icefields to the beautiful lyrics imagined in my mind while meandering along a lazy rural back road filled with the stories of the folks who live there.

Colombia Icefield

Columbia Icefield

Along the Icefields Highway

Along the Icefields Highway

A back road in B.C.

A back road in B.C.

Along a back road in B.C.

Along a back road in B.C.

From the awesome vistas of Mt. Robson or Mt. McKinley to the massive views of the multitudes of running rivers or the still waters of the lakes.

Mt. Robson

Mt. Robson

This is Mt. McKinley!

This is Mt. McKinley!

The Bow River

The Bow River

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

From the green grass or tall sweet clover in which I could pitch my tent to the small cafe where I could order a pancake.

Marabelle loves sweet clover...

Marabelle loves sweet clover…

Great little cafe out in the middle of no where

Great little cafe out in the middle of no where

From the rugged danger felt and seen while riding through the Yukon Territory to the scenery of the untouched mountain tundras of the same.

Preparing for the inevitable?

Preparing for the inevitable?

A rare day that many of us rode together for awhile

A rare day that many of us rode together for awhile

From my best riding buddy Sue to the surprise encounters along the way.

Sue, a few miles down the other side of Sinclair Pass

Sue, a few miles down the other side of Sinclair Pass

Grizzly and her cubs

Gertrude Grizzly and her cubs

Millie the Moose

Millie the Moose

Hey, I know this gold panner!

Hey, I know this gold panner!

These are things I will remember and hold in my heart even if the elusive memory of my mind might fade away someday.

Double rainbow while still in Montana

Double rainbow while still in Montana

Thank you to each and everyone who commented on my blog. Words of encouragement coming in from the outside kept my spirit high and you just can’t imagine how much those words meant to me.

Mabelline and her Click-Stand.  My most valuable pieces of equipment.

Mabelline and her Click-Stand. My most valuable pieces of equipment.

In every regard I am glad this Adventure is over as I have no desire to ride on. For now, I have no yearning to see more. My home state of Kansas, complete with the heat and wind, feels comfortable to my soul. And lastly, may I not be remiss in thanking you for lifting me to The Lord in prayer and for the encouragement of my loving and faithful husband, John. I am home sound and safe and acclimating to my wonderful life as a wife and mom and “Grammy”.

I bid you adieu…until my next big bicycle adventure begins to tickle my fancy 😎

Your blogger at work

Your blogger at work

Stats of this 2014 Adventure

Total miles: 2,880
Total ascent: 98,588
Total riding days: 47
Total rest days: 9
Average miles per riding day: 61
Total nights spent in my tent: 54
Total nights spent in a cabin/motel/hostel: 6
Total peanut butter sandwiches: 67
Total days away from home: 70

P.S. Did you know that the tree line in Alaska is only at 2,500 to 3,000 feet while the tree line in northern Colorado is about 10,000 feet? Did you know that a beaver can weigh 100 lbs in Alaska? Everything gets more and more extreme the further north we go on the globe…

PPS: This is Lindsay, the dog who ate my orange shirt 8-/

Yep, she ate it

Yep, she ate it

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Denali National Park to Anchorage (August 13, 14 & 15)

Playing the Glad Game

Here comes the train to board!

Here comes the train to board!

All aboard!

All aboard!

The inside of our train car

The inside of our train car

I suffered a little separation anxiety as I let Mabelline get loaded next to Sue’s bike in a crate bound for an out-of-touch railway car somewhere nearer to the engine. The Alaskan Train was only the second train I have ever been on. The first was somewhere in Colorado for a very short ride when our kids were very young. This ride was 7 1/2 hours long and I was worried about my motion sickness, so took a dose of Dramamine. Thus…I slept on and off for the first five hours. Every time I would wake, I would think I was hungry and would eat something that I had stashed away. First, a Butterfinger Bar. Second, my pbj. Third, my turkey and cheese sandwich with a bag of Doritos. I drank two plastic bottles of orange juice and a Coke. I’m pretty sure I ate five or six Oreo Cookies too, but I wouldn’t swear to it. THEN…we got an open call to eat supper in the dinning car, so four of us dined on roast beef and mashed potatoes. So I slept and ate…slept and ate…slept and ate…slept and ate… Good grief!

Scene out the windows

Scene out the windows

Looking out the glass windows at Hurricane Gulch

Looking out the glass windows at Hurricane Gulch

The good thing about having to get up out of my seat to move to the dining car, I became aware of the open air window between the cars, and it stood there for about 30 minutes finally blowing the remainder of the fog out of my brain and allowing me to wake up for good. It was also at that location that I was able to snap some great shots (absent the glare of glass) of the stunning scenery that we had been passing all those hours.

Hanging out the opening between the cars

Hanging out the opening between the cars

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OMGosh, it's Richard!

OMGosh, it’s Richard!

As we pulled up to the train station, I said to Sue, “my gosh, that person standing there looks like Richard”. Sue looked at the guy standing just outside the door of the station and we both said in unison, “that IS Richard!” Richard, who left out group on July 5th, took a much shorter route and arrived in Anchorage on his bicycle just a couple of hours before we arrived by train. Because he knew our schedule, he came to greet us and it was very good to see him again. Unfortunately there was no time to dilly dawdle, as Sue and I were on a mission to gather our belongings so we could find our hostel since it was already 8:00 p.m. A quick hug and goodbyes to all our fellow ridemates and we mounted our bicycles and headed out.

Mark, Traci, Sue, Nelson.  Time to say goodbyes...

Mark, Traci, Sue, Nelson. Time to say goodbyes…

The Anchorage Backpackers Hostel met our meager needs (even if it is about the crumbiest hostel we have ever stayed). We pulled out our sleeping bags and our own pillows to protect us from their semi-looking clean sheets. It was Sue’s turn to tackle the top bunk and I was too tired to laugh out loud at her clumsiness to climb the steps up. I was NOT too tired to laugh out loud in the morning as she attempted to climb down facing out rather than facing in towards the bed. I wish I had had my camera handy.

We found a trendy breakfast cafe called the Snow City Cafe on the internet and headed there for breakfast. We had to wait about 30 minutes to be seated, but the breakfast was good and it was a cheerful bright cafe which was good for our moods. The good coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice might have helped too.

Snow City Cafe

Snow City Cafe

After breakfast, we made our way to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and ended up riding almost 30 miles round trip. The trail followed the shore line of Cook Inlet on the right side of us heading out. At the beginning of our ride and to our left were nice homes with a view to die for, but soon the trail headed into a beautiful forest like none I have ever seen. The floor of the forest was covered in plants with huge leaves and beautiful red berries. Rain threatened, but we never really got wet, although I was constantly cold since I was way underdressed for a cool weather ride. Heading back to the city, we rode to the bike shop and left the bikes to be disassembled and boxed for the flight home.

Chugach Mountains over Anchorage

Chugach Mountains over Anchorage

Double K barge in Cook Inlet

Double K barge in Cook Inlet

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We are learning and using the Anchorage bus system to get around the city. Right now we sit at the beautiful municipal library and try to make all our logistical arrangements for getting back to Missoula. We took an extra day here so we wouldn’t be rushed, but now we are both regretting it as we have too much down time. Making the most of it and playing the Glad Game.

Raw beauty of the Gulf of Alaska...  Pic had not been enhanced or retouched

Raw beauty of the Gulf of Alaska… Pic had not been enhanced or retouched

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Days 57 & 58: Denali National Park (August 11 & 12)

Your trusted blogger in the field

Your trusted blogger in the field

Nothing to do. Yea! It’s a good thing!

Sammy terrorizing our camp

Sammy terrorizing our camp

This morning I tried to sleep in just because I could. I had no plans. Everyone except Nelson and I were scheduled to jump on a very early morning bus ride to Wonder Lake. As it turns out, my tent is pitched too close to the breakfast table and I was awakened early and heard everything said for the next hour or more. After the time had come and gone for everyone to be on the bus, I heard the familiar voices of Sue, Nelson, Mark and Giovanni. I wasn’t surprised that Sue had decided not to go since she didn’t feel good, but I was surprised to find out that Mark and Giovanni also decided not to make the long bus trip. So five of our team are gone with high hopes of seeing a great view of Mt. McKinley and I…your trusted blogger, will not have as much alone time as I originally thought.

Hanging out in the laundry mat because it was the warmest place to be this morn

Hanging out in the laundry mat because it was the warmest place to be this morn

Glacier Run Off quilted wall hanging by artist, Ree Nancarrow

Glacier Run Off quilted wall hanging by artist, Ree Nancarrow

It’s cloudy and rainy and cold some of the time and at other times, the sun sneaks a peek and I rip off my coat and still it in my stuff sack only to stop and bring it back out a few minutes later. Such is the nature of this sub-arctic climate. Four of us walked a mile or so up to the Visitor Center/museum just for something to do. I spotted this most beautiful quilted wall hanging that I stared at in amazement and adoration at the intricacy of the piece. We walked to the little on-site cafe hoping for pancakes, but instead had to settle for pastries.

Not alone after all

Not alone after all

Rain in Denali National Park

Rain in Denali National Park

Tonight we went to a talk given at the amphitheater by Park Ranger, Jeri. She spoke on “a year in the life of a moose”. We learned more than that though. We learned that the floor of the Boreal Forest is 90% covered in Stair Step Moss which fixes the Nitrogen in the soil. This, in turn, allows all the plant growth even though there is only an average of 10 to 12 inches of rain per year in Denali National Park. Rain stays on the ground rather than draining into the soil because of the permafrost. The trees that grow in the Boreal Forest survive because they “harden” during the nine winter months. Green up in the Spring can happen in one single day.

Jeri the Park Ranger

Jeri the Park Ranger

During the spring, the moose birth their babies (usually having twins each weighing between 25 and 35 lbs); during the summer, it is feeding time with food literally only available for 12 weeks (babies must gain approx 450 lbs to make it through their first winter); autumn is rutting season; and winter is all about survival. The author of “In the Company of Moose” (Victor Van Ballenberghe) coined this phrase concerning a moose’s winter survival: “Live if you can and die if you must”.

The growth of a male moose’s antler is directly related to the amount of sunlight they receive. A moose has no upper teeth in front; can see 180 degrees; and its hearing is its best sense. A moose can stay under water for a full five minutes and can live up to twenty years.

Morris was about 200 ft away when I got the pic taken safely out of the bus window

Morris was about 200 ft away when I got the pic taken safely out of the bus window

It was great to learn all these facts, but what was REALLY amazing was that we had another “small world” encounter. The ranger started by asking us where we were from and I suppose that might have been one trigger, but then we mentioned that we had bicycled here from Missoula, Montana and a woman across the way asks if we know “Traci”. I spoke up and said I was Traci and she said she has been following my blog. She explained further that a friend of hers from Hutchinson, Kansas gave her the blog address. That person who lives in Hutch is Carol and who I actually have never met, but she is friends with a good friend of mine, Mary (whose husband, Wes, races with my husband, John). So…sitting at a ranger demo at Denali National Park in A-La-Ska…I meet someone who has been following my blog. Is it a small world or what!?!

Now,,,let me tell you more about this woman and her husband, Donna is a photojournalist and has bicycled extensively herself and is the author of two books. She and her husband live in Colorado and are here at the exact time and place that I am. If I had taken the bus tour to Wonder Lake, I would have missed meeting in person this wonderful couple. Just another awesome moment orchestrated by God.

Tuesday

Oh ya...I got on s bus.  Go me!

Oh ya…I got on a bus. Go me!

After breakfast, Sue, Mark, Nelson and I decided to take a bus tour which would allow us to see another glimpse of Mt. McKinley. I was worried about my motion sickness, but I did decide to give it a try. They sell Dramamine around here at the stores, but it is the kind that makes me drowsy and I didn’t want to sleep through the trip, so I braved it hoping for the best. The trip was well worth it because we saw a huge bull moose from about 200 yards away, a grizzly and her cub, AND the mountain. The driver of our bus, said it was pretty rare to see all three in such a short ride. I did get queezy, but my stomach settled down after we unloaded. We then went for a hike to see the train bridge (we’ll be crossing over tomorrow on our way to Anchorage) and a walking suspension bridge. These activities bring us to about 4:00 in the afternoon. We are waiting for the other five of us to return from Wonder Lake and we will have one more celebratory meal together. Tomorrow as we board the train, it will be the last time we see Wally as he will continue on his long long bicycling trip to finish up in about ten more days.

Another view of Mt. McKinley

Another view of Mt. McKinley

The last person I want to introduce you to is our tour leader, Wally Werner. He is a software writer by trade, but he is also the President of the Adventure Cycling Association. This adventure for him began March 20th when he dipped his rear wheel in the Gulf of Mexico off the most southerly point of the Florida Keys and he won’t be done until he dips is front wheel in the Gulf of Alaska. His trek will have logged him well over 6,000 miles. Go Wally!

Wally Werner

Wally Werner

Some miscellaneous and random facts and trivia for you:

You might find it interesting that in this group of ten riders, we have three distinct pronunciations of the word “pannier”:

The Canadian amongst us pronounces it: pan-yea
The Seattleite amongst us pronounces it: pa-near
The Kansas amongst us pronounces it: pan-yer

Here are some interesting facts about Alaska: 1) It is one-fifth the size of the United States which makes it larger than Texas, California and Montana combined 2) There are more than 3,000 rivers and over three million lakes here 3) There are more active glaciers and ice fields in Alaska than in the rest of the inhabited world 4) Of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S., 17 are here in Alaska. There are 19 peaks over 14,000 ft and Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America is over 20,000 ft.

I hope to have some great pix for you after tomorrow’s train ride 😎

Suspension bridge we crossed on our hike

Suspension bridge we crossed on our hike

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Day 56: Nenana to Denali National Park (August 10)

We made it! Whew!

We have arrived!

We have arrived!

Sue woke up this morning with a full-blown cold/flu and it was a mighty long day (a steady climb all day) for us making it to Denali National Park. It was supposed to be 67 miles of riding, but instead it was 55 miles of riding the bikes and 12 miles of riding in pilot cars. It is the law of nature, I suppose, but the pilot car/truck is always just leaving by the time we roll up to the front of the line and therefore, we wait. Today, I would guess that between the two road construction sections, we had to wait 30 minutes. During that time, we have to completely unload the bikes so they are light enough to lift into the bed of the pickup. Then, of course, it all has to be put back once we get to the other side. If we were still in the Yukon, they would have said “good luck” and had us ride through.

Road construction 1

Road construction 1

Road Construction 2

Road construction 2

Most people would not care, but just in case you were wondering, pilot vehicles are pig sties! From plain old dirt and filth to old nasty pizza boxes and every empty beverage container possible, you will find it all in a pilot car. Then, of course, you have got to worry about how the bikes are holding up riding unsecured in the back. The most common worry is whether the derailleurs might get bent. This is just another event in the day of the life of a touring bicyclist.

Nenana Visitor Center

Nenana Visitor Center

We had three sections of road leading into the park today where the one-lane traffic was controlled by a stop light. This can be a scary proposition because you will always get sandwiched between cars and the ones behind you will have to drive your speed and most drivers do not appreciate your predicament. I always try to ride as fast as possible to minimize the anger, but it is inevitable. Fortunately, although there were three of these sections, each were fairly short.

I KNEW Sue didn’t feel good when we had the opportunity to stop for a second breakfast and she didn’t want to stop but then not five minutes later, I stopped for a ten second Chamois Butt’r application, and she had pulled out a sandwich 😎

Caribou hunting season opened this weekend, so we wonder if some of this traffic we are experiencing has to do with that fact, but it was an obvious fact that the majority of the traffic was leaving the park rather than heading into it. This was good. We stopped and asked strangers to take our picture at the DNP sign and reciprocated with me taking a picture of them with the most expensive camera these hands have ever held. My goodness, it was so heavy I was in fear of dropping it!

Drying out my rain fly on the highway

Drying out my rain fly on the highway

We found the Riley Campground and spotted Nelson and Mark who both arrived before us and got our tents set up. Ever since arriving back into the U.S., I have been able to use my own phone rather than a calling card at a pay phone. I called John to tell him we made it and it was so so wonderful to hear his voice…

Rather than cooking in camp, most of us rode the the two miles back to the Nenana Gulch tourist strip to have a celebratory pizza dinner. By the time we got back to camp it was almost 10:00 p.m. but of course, the sun was still shining.

What a day! What a day! What a day!

P.S. Stay tuned for more posts because although this was our last day of riding fully loaded, we are still in this amazing park for two more days and then we have a train ride to tell you about and two full days in Anchorage. Still more A-Las-Ka to come!

Nenana River just outside DNP

Nenana River just outside DNP

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Day 55: Fairbanks to Nenana (August 9)

Rested once again…

Sue snapped this one of me heading into Chicken a week or so ago.

Sue snapped this one of me heading into Chicken a week or so ago.

A pleasant locale to air out some unpleasant odor

A pleasant locale to air out some unpleasant odor

We didn’t make it to the State Fair and instead opted to clean the bikes. There was a hose and bucket just sitting there and I didn’t even notice it at first, but when I came out of the hostel to get something off my bike, Mark was busy cleaning his, Sue was cleaning hers, and I felt the pressure to work a little on Mabelline. One thing led to another and she looked much better thirty minutes later.

Getting ready to leave Billie's Backpackers Hostel

Getting ready to leave Billie’s Backpackers Hostel

Alice and Scott drove up and we all went to supper. Do you remember them? While still in Montana, Scot hit his front pannier on something in a parking lot and went down busting up some ribs. It was too painful to ride and he and Alice were the first to have to abandon this adventure. They live in Juno, and took a ferry for six hours to drive some of the highways that we have ridden on the bikes. It was so good to see them again and I’m certain it was bitter sweet for them to reconnect with all of us. They bought us Mexican and margaritas for supper and snacks for the ride today. If you’re reading Scot and Alice, thank you again for all you did for us! Until we meet again…

Who knew we were on a ridge?

Who knew we were on a ridge?

The climbs today were long but gentle and we were rewarded with several different views of Mt. McKinley. There was much humidity in the atmosphere and it was very hard to see it (as is typically the case) but there it was in all its splendor. We didn’t realize we were riding on a ridge until we rode upon a scenic view on the right side of the road. I stopped and took in the beauty as I waited for Sue to finish climbing. She is taking her time and enjoying the last few days of the ride… She has caught a cold and isn’t feeling one hundred percent. I always carry Zicam and I’m hopeful that when she wakes up this morning she will be feeling better.

The typical view of Mt. McKinley

The typical view of Mt. McKinley

Another flat tire for me today; this time a huge staple got me with both sides going through my Schwabe Marathon Plus Tire to puncture my tube in two places. Once Sue and I got it changed and back on the bike, it was apparent that I should have cleaned even more on Mabelline because our fingers and fingernails were saturated in the all too familiar black grease. Oh well.

Reward after a long climb

Reward after a long climb

It wasn’t a long day in the saddle and were happy to arrive in Nenana about 3:00. We spotted a cafe and went in for a grilled cheese and homemade potato salad. A Coke to quench my thirst was just what the doctor ordered. It ended up being a great stop at just the right time.

Roughwood Inn

Roughwood Inn

Antique something or anothers

Antique something?

We are staying at a small, very nice and simple RV Park that has everything a person could ask for including grass to pitch the tents. Supposedly there is internet, but I can’t log on… Ice cream in the office and a Klondike Bar for dessert seemed appropriate. Rain threatened and the wind blew, but here I sit at 5:00 a.m. and it appears the sun is going to shine for our last day of riding fully loaded…

Nelson

Nelson

Is this the last time we will cross the Tanana River?

Is this the last time we will cross the Tanana River?

Bring it!

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Days 53 & 54: Birch Lake to Fairbanks and day off 9 (August 8 & 9)

We’re riding in A-La-Ska!

Sunset at a birch Lake

Sunset at a birch Lake

Sometimes we just have to say it! We have to enunciate every syllable just to make it sound as rare and special that these last days have become. You can laugh if you want to, but one of the things that I have loved about the last two days is that we have been able to ride through a small town part way into our day and get off the bikes and enjoy some time around a table. Everybody gathers as they arrive and linger as long as we dare. Coffee, pancakes and crisp pig (just almost burn it). These are the simple things that can fill me with joy on a long day in the saddle.

At our B2 locale this morning 8-)

At our B2 locale this morning 😎

After having B2 just past Salcha, we continued on the Richardson Highway to Fairbanks. Fairbanks has a population of about 90,000 which includes the Eielson Airforce Base and the Wainwright Army Base. The traffic was intense but we had a wide shoulder and a tailwind (not to mention the last 20 miles of the day was at a minus 1% grade). Our route led us through downtown and Sue and I got in trouble for riding through it on the dirt pothole filled construction site they call Cushman Street. Evidently in Fairbanks, Alaska, it is only legal to ride bicycles on the sidewalks whether you are in a construction site or anywhere else in the city. How in the world were we supposed to know that!?! It was two men working in orange vests who told us to “get off the street unless we have tail lights and license plates”. Alrighty then! Up on the sidewalk we went having to be very careful not to get too close to buildings or too close to pedestrians. It’s a pain and not particularly safer, but it did stop the nasty honks we were getting.

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Somewhere on the ride today, all these law enforcement officials were standing on the other side of the road waiting for a helicopter to land. With nothing else to look at I guess, they were all watching us ride by. I stopped and yelled for them to smile and that I was putting their picture in my blog. This brought on the smiles. As we rode a little further we met a convoy of vans coming with “Law Enforcement Exchange” written on the side. So…interesting, huh? I surmised they were going to be unloading equipment from the vans and loading the helicopter to deliver somewhere inaccessible by road. Even Juno, the Capital City of Alaska, meets this criteria as you can only arrive there by plane or boat. Wowsers, I am a long way from Kansas!

I don't know who Pete is but somebody must love him because his name was written in tar many times on this highway

I don’t know who Pete is but somebody must love him because his name was written in tar many times on this highway

We stopped at Creamers Field which includes a creamery as well as a waterfowl migratory refuge. There were probably 100 Sandhill Cranes out in the field quite a ways, but they were the same brown color as the ground and hard to see.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Hey grandkids, is this bear tracks?

Hey grandkids, is this bear tracks?

We landed at Billie’s Backpackers Hostel (but gratefully they don’t exclude bicyclists) and is only the third hostel I have ever used. I’m guessing that most of you have never stayed in a hostel? The things they have in common is that you will be sleeping on a bunk bed possibly with strangers in the room and you will be sharing a bathroom with said strangers. Obviously the charge is much cheaper than a motel.

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Sue and I are reluctantly getting on the bikes to head to the grocery store to buy breakfast and lunch groceries for tomorrow. I say “reluctantly” because we are both incredibly saddle sore. We have to ride the bikes though, because it is just too far to walk. First we must get our laundry done so that we have clean bicycling shorts to wear. It’s all a process…

Someone left a rake for me to use!  No...I am not carrying it on my bike

Someone left a rake for me to use! No…I am not carrying it on my bike

We are considering heading to the fairgrounds this afternoon to attend the Alaska State Fair. Sue has never had a State Fair corn-dog nor a State Fair funnel cake. She’s never eaten a fried goose leg (okay, I haven’t either). Maybe we will find some good barbecue? As long as we can walk there…

Sue on TOTW Highway

Sue on TOTW Highway

Two more days of bicycling and we will be arriving in Denali National Park. Almost everyone has decided to get on a bus and drive six hours each way to Wonder Lake to camp where (if the weather is clear) there is supposedly the best view of Mt. McKinley anywhere in the state. Since I get severe motion sickness when I’m not driving, I will not be doing this and will gladly stay back at camp and relax and read or perhaps hike. Alone time…not a bad thing 😉

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Day 52: Gerstle River to Birch Lake State Recreation Site (August 6)

An extremely great day!

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This morning everyone was motivated to break camp and head on up the road 30 miles because we were actually going through the town of Delta Junction and said Delta Junction had restaurants! Wally promised us breakfast so zoom zoom to get there. The trouble is, our zoom zoom isn’t quite fast enough to get 30 miles before the restaurant stopped serving breakfast. No amount of charm (or just asking nicely) seemed to make any difference in getting the cook to break the rules. So…we all had lunch instead. While we were waiting for our food, I decided to check my iPad to see if they had wifi and EUREKA they did! Not only did they have wifi, but it was super fast so I logged onto WordPress and got all my pictures uploaded and the blog caught up to boot! All in the small town of Delta Junction at the Alaskan Steakhouse. Woot! Woot!

Giovanni captured in a classic bicycle touring moment

Giovanni captured in a classic bicycle touring moment

After lunch, we went to the IGA where our cooks for tonight bought groceries and we carried them another 35 miles where we are camped at a great little lake. Actually, I have no idea how large or small it is, but I have a great view of it out my front door. Now get this…I wasn’t too crazy about this spot because it is right up next to the walking path and I can feel that people are perturbed that I am partially blocking the path; but…Sue and I and Wally were the last ones in today and every official tent site was already taken. Reluctantly, I pitched here and Sue’s is right next to me but slightly off the path. So anyway, I’m sitting in my tent typing (9:30 p.m.) and it begins to sprinkle. I looked out the door to see if I needed to close my rainfly when there is a female moose swimming in the water just 50 feet away! I had my camera right at my fingertips and I took all the pictures I could until she swam further away down the shore line. Sue had just fallen asleep, but I “yelled” in a loud whisper, “Sue! Sue! Wake up! There is a moose in the lake!” She heard me and crawled out in plenty of time to see Milly The Moose (that’s what I named her). I am so excited, I can’t hardly stand it! Woot! Woot!

I took this sitting in my tent!

I took this sitting in my tent!

It's Millie the Moose!

It’s Millie the Moose!

We saw some awesome mountain vistas today of the Alaska Range. One great shot was taken over the Tanana River and the other shot came as the result of ignoring a “no trespassing” sign. We had caught a glimpse of the range through a small break in the forest and we were just in awe, but we needed a better location so we rode for miles with our heads turned to the left trying to spot the range again. Finally a road leading into a junk yard of sorts gave me this view. I wouldn’t be surprised if we missed something beautiful to the right, but we were on a mission to capture the perfect picture. What is really really exciting about this picture (and I did not realize until later) is that it is actually Mt. McKinley or Mt. Denali is what the native Alaskans call it. Evidently it is a rare thing that the mountain top is not in the clouds. S*U*C*C*E*S*S! Woot! Woot!

Alaskan Mountain Range in the distance.  Tanana River in the foreground.

Alaskan Mountain Range in the distance. Tanana River in the foreground.

This is Mt. McKinley!

This is Mt. McKinley!

As we were riding today, we could hear fighter pilots in their jets practicing their maneuvers or whatever. We stopped and looked up and we could see that there were three of them and although they were too high to actually see the jets, we could see the jet stream that each were making. The three jet streams were in perfect formation arcing this way and before those would dissipate, there would be three more in perfect alignment arcing that way. They must have been doing “loop d loo’s” and it was so so cool to watch the jet steams come and go and hear the thunder of the engines. Woot! Woot!

I hope Millie doesn’t come ashore right here outside my tent tonight…

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Day 51: Tok to Gerstle River Bridge (August 5)

80 Mile Recovery Day? I don’t think so!

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Today was 80 miles of flat highway with scenic views of the Alaska Mountain Range in the distance. We passed over several large and wide river beds, but the water is at low levels just because of the time of year. I can just imagine how beautiful they must be in the Spring after the snow begins to melt. We rode Highway 2 (also known as the Alaska Highway) through the Boreal Forest while trying to remember what I had learned about it. It is what the Forest is called up here on the top of the world and is made up of Quaking Aspens, Paper Birch, and Black and White Spruce. Sue said there exists a non-profit organization called the Boreal Song Bird Foundation.

Boreal Forest

Boreal Forest

Robertson River

Robertson River

In our fatigue, we were only able to average 11 mph even though it was easy riding. We crossed the Gerstle Bridge and looked at the silty muddy water and was glad that we had an underground water supply to filter water from at camp. Or…so we thought. Looking for a hydrant of some kind, I walked the overgrown areas where there were old picnic tables hidden; (trying to avoid any poison oak or ivy) but there wasn’t one. Wally’s leader notes from the last time this trip was done in 2008 said there was water, but evidently the “water” was right out of the River.

While I was doing that, others began to strain the river water through coffee filters to remove a good share of the silt and then process the cleaner water through the gravity filters. This was a long and painfully slow process. Meanwhile Sue, Vicky and Steve got out some dry bags and rode back along the road two miles to where there was a very small lake to bring some of that water back. While they were looking for access to the lake, Sue saw a couple of guys leaving the area in a pickup and she flagged them down and asked if they knew if the lake water was safe to drink. She told them about our water dilemma and it turns out that at that moment, Sue became the hero of the day. These guys were just leaving work (they do some type of training for a mining camp) and they had access to a locked door of a well house back at the mining camp. The dry bags were given to them and they filled and then delivered them to our camp in their pickup (we all thanked them profusely)! The water still had to be filtered since it was carried in our dirty dry bags, but we got that done quickly while I helped Dee get supper on to boil. Everyone was exhausted but in a cheerful mood and with all hands on duty, we were eating some fine red sauced pasta with onion rolls by 7:00 p.m.

Our water deliverers

Our water deliverers

One small side story is that as it turns out, Dee and I are the only two people in this camp who did not know how to start the stoves. Dee tried while I stood back and watched, but we were not confident that we weren’t going to blow ourselves up, so I ran out to the river and asked Mark to come show us how to start the stoves. Good grief I can’t believe the trip is almost over and I’m just now learning this essential duty.

Alaskan Range

Alaskan Range

After dishes, we all tried to clean up a bit with wet wipes before we suffered total mosquito deaths and crawled into our tents. My intent to write today’s blog was well intended, but I was just too tired and sleepy and by now it was dang cold so I crawled into my sleeping bag and was out like a light.

Have I mentioned that I am a morning person 😎

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Day 50: Chicken to Tok (August 4)

Just a little bit of corny 8-)

Just a little bit of corny 😎

We rode through forest tundra much of the day. It rained steady during the morning and then on and off in the afternoon. It was a 78 mile day and at mile 30, six of us ended up at a rest stop; cold and wet with no shelter and had a little pity party. I had gotten there first and was ready to leave before Sue, so we compromised and I waited a little longer and she got ready to go before she really wanted. The others were not far behind and soon we were riding 7% rollers for the next 25 miles.

Typical scenery of the day

Typical scenery of the day

Around every corner, the weather seemed to change. We would think it was clear and then round the mountain and it’s raining. I wrapped my rain coat around my waist and would pull it up and quickly put my arms through the sleeves as the rain was upon me. The next mountain corner and the sun would find a break in the clouds and it would heat up like a furnace in my coat so I would stop, pull my arms out of the sleeves and tie them around my waist and away I would go. I must have done this a dozen times during the day. I know what you are thinking…couldn’t I just ride in the rain without the rain coat since the sun would dry me out soon enough? The answer lies in the fact that this climate is called the sub-arctic and when it’s cold, it is COLD! It never warms up long enough for the ground to absorb heat, so the temps fluctuate greatly depending on whether the sun is shining.

In the last three days, we have ridden almost 200 miles and have climbed over 15,000 ft. Tonight Sue and I arrived into camp at 7:00p.m. Others got in even later than we did. By the time we set up tents, found what we need in our panniers, showered, ate and did laundry, there was time for nothing else. If I am going to blog on these long days, I’m up way into the night when I my body says I should be sleeping. If I wasn’t a morning person, I’m afraid there would be no blog.

We are staying at the Tok RV Village and it is quite nice! They let us keep the laundry room open until we all got finished and then allowed us to lock up. They kept the kitchenette/bathrooms unlocked for us so we could come and go through the night. We are sleeping on nice plush grass which is the first time in weeks. It is soaking wet grass from all their recent rains, so I’m wearing my flip flops to walk through it rather than get my shoes and feet wet. Burr!

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One bit of history about Tok is that it used to be called Tokyo, but after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, they changed the name.

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TOTW Highway to Chicken, Alaska (August 3)

Alaska! We made it!

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The adventure is not over, but we entered Alaska after riding only 12 miles this morning, and it took us over two hours to get there. It was very hard riding. The good news is that we gained another hour. Alaska has it’s own time zone and I’m now three hours behind the Central Time zone.

Eating breakfast literally on the TOTW Highway

Eating breakfast literally on the TOTW Highway

The Yukon Tundra as seen while riding The-Top-Of-The-World Highway is the most scenic, the most dangerous, the most remote, location I have ever ridden my bicycle. Although we have finished riding the length of the “highway” my mind keeps going back to relive…to experience it again. I have my memories, I have my photos. But…my body could not do it again.

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The final chapter of this Adventure begins today as we entered Alaska. Crossing the border was quite uneventful, as we passed through with only one question being asked of us: do you have anything to declare? I answered that the only thing purchased in Canada was food and I had a sandwich in my bag. She waived me through. Wally was the last of us to go through, and tonight he relayed what happened to him. The border agent looked at his passport and then at her computer screen and said, “Sir, did you know there is a warrant out for your arrest?” Wally said his heart went into his throat, and said something to the effect that that had got to be a mistake. The gal smiled and told him he was under arrest for riding his bike excessive miles. It turns out that Mark put her up to it when he had passed through earlier.

Typical scenery for today

Typical scenery for today

We rolled out of the Yukon and into the United States on the most perfectly laid asphalt I have ever seen. Smooth as silk, all marked and lined with paint, an 18″ shoulder. AND, it was downhill for about four miles. As these things go, all that seems perfect, will not last. When the asphalt ended, there was no warning and we dropped off onto the Taylor (a barely maintained) Highway and had another four or five miles of downhill. Sue was leading and being very cautious, but I still gave the warning, that these tires have been through a lot and are not new. Be careful bombing down hills! A few hours later, I had my first flat (back tire) of the trip going down a steep hill on gravel. I was able to get Mabelline shut down quickly and between Sue and I, we got it changed in short order. I believe it was a pinch flat from riding the tires under-inflated.

Walker Creek

Walker Creek

It’s a small world when Sue and I met someone we both know today. Yep…we are riding down this road with a creek on our right, when I see a couple sitting on a bench on the other side of the creek. Don’t ask me why I stopped, but I did, and yelled across the creek asking what they were doing. The man turned around towards me and says, “panning for gold”. He then noticed my bike and asked if it was a Salsa. I couldn’t hardly believe someone panning for gold would take any notice in a bicycle. Sue turned around and joined in the conversation when the man said that he and his wife both have bikes like hers (Salsa Fargo). The woman gets more interested in talking to us and finds a place to cross the creek and comes over to visit. Sue recognizes her! In 2012, we met them in Winthrop, Washington. They were on bicycles riding the perimeter of the U.S. while Sue and I were just three days into our Adventure of riding across the U.S. We were all camping at the Wintrop KOA. It was raining and cold and we were hanging out in the warm office. A couple of days after that, we ran into them again in Tonasket when we all were staying in a motel for the night sick and tired of being cold and getting rained on. So…what are the chances of two women riding on a remote road in Alaska, running into someone we know while panning for gold? Is it a small world or WHAT!

Bill and Carol

Bill and Carol

Tonight we are staying at a campground in Chicken. Chicken is everything chicken from the menu in the cafe to the chicken statue in front of the campground. We all went to supper and guess what Sue and I ordered? Chicken Pot Pie, of course!

Chicken, Alaska

Chicken, Alaska

Everyone was asleep until a few minutes ago, when a dynamite blast went off. The townspeople didn’t get too excited about it, but it brought a few of us out of our tents. Wow, it was loud and it was close!

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