Update from the road…

Last few days spent pedaling on mostly pavement, highways. Spruce trees all around, on both sides of the road, except for on the slopes of the tall mountains, where the trees abruptly stop as one at some higher altitude. Remote is the best adjective to describe the past couple of days, though it’s a civilized remoteness, as the roads are all well maintained and every 30-50 miles or so there’s some lodge to fill up water bottles instead of relying on rivers and streams. Good wind and weather most days, though the first two days out of Fairbanks were spent battling headwinds. On those days, the tough days, I pass the last few miles watching intently for every mile marker, counting down to the last one that marks that I’ve gotten to my destination. Heading to Anderson, the destination for the first day out of Fairbanks, this was particularly draining, as all along the road there were spots that looked perfect to pitch the tent, and this is allowed everywhere in Alaska unless the landowner specifically puts up a “No Trespassing” sign. But I had been told that the Anderson campground was nice, and I’m still nervous about bears, so I kept pedaling the 6 miles detour to Anderson city. And it was worth it, since the sky was overcast and the nearly empty campground had a covered pavilion to eat in, so I pitched my tent under the pavilion’s roof and woke up dry the next day. So now I keep that in mind on days when I’m low on energy, and so far all the places that I’ve been told straight up are good have been good.

The Denali Highway was fantastic riding, and I would highly recommend it. It’s gravel for 114 of the 135 miles, and very bumpy and not great gravel in places, but on a clear day the views of Mount McKinley (or Denali depending on who says it) and the surrounding Alaskan range are fantastic. Dark gray and black sides of the mountain taper to white snow closer to their peaks, in great contrast to the green spruce trees everywhere else. When the day is not perfectly clear, these peaks are shrouded in clouds and mist, blocking some of the views, but still good contrast.

Few (maybe, probably lots) of other cyclists on the road. On the Denali Highway a group of around 15 passed me going east on some kind of organized tour, like an Overland trip but for adults. In Gakona I ran into a Canadian couple, Beat and Jacintha, who had ridden north from Argentina and were now just finishing their trip. Lots of good advice from them. A 16 year old from Alaska was also in Gakona, took a week or two off from work to ride around Alaska a bit, had a ton of energy and was channeling it well into the bike, easily besting everyone else’s average speed. Always had something to talk about too, which served him well, he’ll possibly end up riding someday in the Tour de France. Then I heard about a group of three cyclists from Oregon going in the same direction as me but a day ahead. I stumbled across one of them in Tok, the last town before Canada, as they took a rest day here, and we’re heading in the same direction for the next few days, so will probably meet up with them again. All word through the cycling grapevine talks about a fantastic bakery in Haines Junction, Canada, a few days away, so highly looking forward to that.

Will post some pictures as possible. Canada route a little bit up in the air- lots of people recommending taking a ferry through the Alaskan Marine Highway and cutting off large portions of Canada, but others saying just to ride it, as there are supposed to be great views and some town with huge, nice, warm, awesome hot springs. So we’ll see. For now, after Haines Junction, next major town is Whitehorse.


7 thoughts on “Update from the road…

  1. No worries if you can’t respond to individual questions/comments. Just thought to ask and perhaps you’ll be able to incorporate answers in your posts!

    1) How do you talk to the bikers you meet? Isn’t it tough with the wind and (I assume) distance between each biker? What do you talk about?

    2) Is this where the GMC Denali bike gets it name?

    3) Not a question, just a comment. I think you’re an excellent writer, Sam: “On those days, the tough days, I pass the last few miles watching intently for every mile marker, counting down to the last one that marks that I’ve gotten to my destination.” Wow

    • Thanks for all the kind comments! As for questions, I’ll definitely do my best to respond. For now:

      1) The easiest ones to talk to are the riders stopped by the side of the road, or at a cafe or grocery store or something. Usually they’re headed in the opposite direction- the distance between riders headed in the same direction definitely makes it harder to meet up with them. But it’s possible, if they’re travelling in a group or doing consistently shorter days, or if they take a rest day in the only town for miles around then there’s a good chance our paths will cross. Up to now, all of the towns and cities are really quite small, so coincidental meetings are common.

      General topics of conversation include: road conditions ahead, other cyclists on the road, fun things of note on the road ahead. And for sure, we’re always trying to scout out good bakeries or cafes; food is always on our minds.

      2) Quite possibly. Imma say yes, though I have no contact with the marketing department at GMC. This could be a good question to pose to other cyclists on the road.

      3) Thanks! You should check out Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Some good advice there.

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