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Biking to Alaska

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Day 46: Lazy Saturday

Posted by Alan on 4th August 2007

77.13 mi

It’s a cold morning, but that is just fine with me. Sleeping with the rainfly off worked pretty well and there are hardly any mozzies on my tent considering how many were swarming around it when I went to bed. I pack up everything in my tent and put on my mosquito proof raingear before even setting foot out of the tent. I walk back to the gravel parking lot of the rest area to eat breakfast. I don’t want to hassle with my stove, so I try eating instant oatmeal with cold water. I’d seen Ben do it, so I thought I’d give it a try for myself. It actually worked pretty well. The oatmeal re-hydrated just fine and I was able to wolf down three packets (just pour the water into the little envelope of oatmeal) before hopping on my bike.

I knew I didn’t have far to go before another of these roadside campgrounds, so I waited to eat more until I could have a decent hot meal. I came to a place called Dawson Peaks after 20 miles or so and paid two dollars for a shower. That was the best two bucks I’ve spent in a while. After cleaning up I went into their restaurant for some food. I ordered off the breakfast menu and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. I had a good cheddar omelette, some very tasty home fries and a piece of the best rhubarb pie I’ve ever had in my life. If you ever come through here, do not pass this place by. They also had free wireless internet, so I sat there a while catching up on email (I got a jury summons, ha!).

The next town, Teslin, wasn’t far away and I stopped there to do some laundry and to buy some groceries. There was free wi-fi again at the campground where I stopped to do laundry, so I looked up train schedules from Seattle to Portland and San Francisco and then home to Denver. I doubt I’ll have time to ride my bike all the way home from Washington state, and taking the train should give me a chance to visit a couple friends before I head home.

I’m not making great progress on this Saturday and I finally get back on the road to put in more miles before the day is through. I’ve got 160 miles to go from Teslin to Skagway. I feel really tired on the bike and I eat a little to try and get my energy up. I stop again at the next business I pass to buy a couple sandwiches, a couple fruit turnovers and a bottle of Coke. I’m hoping the caffeine in the coke will give me a much needed boost. It does help a bit, but my legs are still feeling the strain of almost 2900 miles in 6.5 weeks. During the last few miles of biking I realize it’s a Saturday night. I then realize it’s only been two weeks since that night in Vanderhoof when I went to see a movie. It’s hard to believe it’s only been two weeks. I actually go over all the places I’ve camped since that night to make sure I’m not missing a week. I then go over all the places I’ve stayed on this trip from the very beginning up to last night. It’s been quite a trip so far and I’ve still got a month and a half to go! :)

I arrive at a provincial campground just before sunset and find an empty campsite. This one is overlooking a lake, kind of like last night. The bugs aren’t nearly as bad here though. I cook up some mac and cheese and read a little about the towns of Skagway and Seward in Alaska. As I sit in my tent and write up these thoughts in my journal, I hear several wolves howling in the distance. Very cool! Oh, and I almost forgot. This morning I saw some kind of cat on the edge of the highway ahead of me. It looked like it had a short tail (about six inches?), and it was the color of a mountain lion. I’m not sure exactly what kind of cat it was. I wish I’d gotten a photo or at least a better look at it, but it was cool to see a cat in the wild nonetheless.

P.S. My mom did a web search on that cat and it was probably a bobcat I saw. I’m pretty sure it had a white-tipped tail as bobcats apparently always have. Now I’d like to see a mountain lion!

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Day 45: Insanity

Posted by Alan on 3rd August 2007

91.49 mi

IMG_0794Highway Madness: an abnormal psychological condition brought on by riding a bike into a headwind for prolonged periods of time. Manifestations include yelling yourself hoarse at the STUPID wind, cursing the DAMN bugs which won’t leave you alone, hating the lousy Yukon government which apparently can’t build a smooth roadway to save their lives forget about paving a shoulder for god’s sake!!!

Oops, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, let’s start with the morning before I get to the ugly afternoon, shall we? I decided to make another fire this morning to help keep away the bugs and to heat water for my oatmeal. I wasn’t in much of a hurry and got on the road just before 10 AM.

This part of the Alaska Highway is pretty uninteresting. The scenery isn’t much to look at and there aren’t many roadside businesses where I can stop to buy food or fill up on water. I thought the Cassiar Highway would be the most remote highway I would travel on, but this section seems even more remote. I stop for lunch at a cafe/RV camp/motel. This is a small and somewhat run-down place, like most of the businesses I’ve seen on the Alaska Highway so far. They don’t even have groceries for sale so I eat a quick lunch and get back on the road.

A headwind picks up around noon, just like yesterday. I put my music on again to try and take my mind off of it. Occasionally when I’m fighting a headwind and struggling up a hill I can’t help but shout obscenities at the wind. It helps, trust me. :) At one point I feel like I must be crazy to be out here fighting this headwind and dealing with this lousy pavement. But I’ve got a deadline to keep in Skagway so I keep on going. Thankfully the “Highway Madness” subsides after a while as I pedal onwards.

The roads don’t get any better and the wind doesn’t improve either. I keep riding until the sun is just below the horizon. It’s around 10 PM at that point and I’ve been on the road for 12 hours. I come upon a rest area and decide to stop there for the night. I walk along a path into the woods behind the rest area and find a nice spot overlooking a nearby lake. It’s really an ideal spot with soft mossy ground. The problem is that the mosquitoes are out in force.

I already have on my rain gear and headnet to keep them at bay so they’re not troubling me too much. “Mosquito madness” is similar to highway madness, but I don’t let them get to me tonight. I decide to cook one of the two freeze-dried backpacking meals I’ve been carrying for emergencies since I left home. It cooks up quickly and you can eat it out of the pouch, so there’s no cleanup. With mozzies this bad, the easier the better. It’s a clear night and so I also decide to keep the rainfly off my tent. This gives me a nice view of the lake (and the moon as it rises) and it also means I won’t wake up to find a hundred mosquitoes hanging out between the mesh inner layer and rainfly outer layer of my tent. I’m beginning to think a single wall tent might be a good idea in mosquito country.

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Day 44: Skagway Shortcut

Posted by Alan on 2nd August 2007

60.22 mi

I pack up all my stuff inside my tent and get dressed into my “anti mosquito” outfit. This consists of my rain jacket and pants, thick socks, gloves and finally my mosquito headnet. I’m reminded of when my dad used to keep a beehive in our backyard when I was a kid. I was wishing I had one of those beekeeper suits this morning. I take down my tent and throw my gear on my bike as soon as I can. I don’t stop until I’m on the road and the mosquitoes are behind me. That’s when I stop to take off most of my rain gear because it’s turning out to be a warm morning.

IMG_0792I eat breakfast on the bike since I couldn’t eat at camp. I must say the scenery is pretty boring and I’m ready to see the end of this highway. There are a few nice looking lakes, but otherwise it’s just pavement, trees, a cloudy sky and not much else. After about 20 miles I finally reach the border of the Yukon. I’m excited to be entering a new province, but also because this means the Alaska Highway isn’t far away. Sure enough, just a few kilometers down the road I see civilization in the form of a gas station and a couple small cafes.

I choose the cafe with the highway department trucks out front, assuming they have the better food. I order a lunch of pancakes, eggs and OJ. After eating I ride across to the gas station to see if I can get a map of Alaska and maybe some information on ferry schedules. I’m toying with the idea of riding to Skagway and hopping a couple ferries up the coast. I’d like to take a break from the bike for a few days and that seems the best way to do so.

The woman working there helps me out tremendously by letting me look at her 2007 copy of The Milepost, which has all the ferry schedule information I need. It turns out I can catch a ferry at 5 PM on the 7th in Juneau which will take me north almost to Anchorage. All I have to do is ride the 312 miles to Skagway before 11 AM on the 7th so I can catch a connecting ferry to Juneau. I better get pedalling!

So now I’m finally riding along the famous Alaska Highway. I gotta say I’m unimpressed. The scenery is boring and a headwind doesn’t help my mood any. I actually put on some music for the first time in weeks to help pass the miles. I come upon a provincial campground in the late afternoon and decide to call it a day since my map indicates the next campground isn’t for another 60 miles. I don’t feel like riding over 110 miles two days in a row. I start to set up my tent and the mosquitoes are pretty bad, but I’m in my “mozzie suit” so they don’t bother me too much. I get in my tent and lay down for a quick nap.

After my nap I start a fire to hopefully help keep the bugs away. I don’t want to use any of my stove fuel (which is just alcohol) to start the fire since it turns out that Ben took about half my remaining supply. Thankfully I’m able to borrow a hatchet to split kindling. That kindling, my lighter and some dry pine needles are all I need to get a good fire going. I use the fire to boil water for ramen noodles as I talk to a few of my neighbors at the campground. Before turning in I read up on sights to see in Alaska and catch up on writing in my journal.

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