[lang_all]A North American Bicycle Journey
I pedalled my way from Key West, Florida to Tok, Alaska. What I wrote in my journal is what I was thinking and feeling at the time, it’s just a reflection of who I am, my own personal opinions, my own perceptions, and written exactly as I saw the world around me at that particular moment.
Why I did it? That is what most people ask, and you know, it is not a simple answer. One of my thoughts was to really do something with my life and truly live. Experience the world around me before I shuffle off the mortal coil.
The story continues from
Alaska – Day 142 to day 159 (August 1999)
Entered Alaska via Highway 9- “Top of the World Highway”.
In Alaska this became the Taylor Highway.
Taylor Highway ended at highway 2, which was the “Alaska HIghway”.
I headed west to Tok.
From Tok I took a shuttle to Anchorage and flew home form there.
DAY 142 Continued… – August 3, 1999
Wooo Hooo, I made it to Alaska all by myself from Key West! That gave me a sense of accomplishment. The guy at the border asked me the usual questions only this time he was confused by my voice. I didn’t sound like someone from North Carolina or someone that was born in South Carolina. He was a bit skeptical and I just laughed and told him that I spent a greater part of my life in Indianapolis. The guy was really trying to test me but was kind enough to bring out a big water cooler for me to fill my water bottles.
From here it was 4 miles all downhill to a place called Border, Alaska. Riding down the rough dirt road with lots of dips and potholes, my speed picked up quickly. 38.5 mph and I see the road turns sharply to the right. I brake and my rear wheel locks and begins to slide so I let up and keep trying to brake. There is a huge drop off with no guardrail, just straight over the edge as I begin to slide into the curve with my right foot just barely skipping the ground to catch me just in case. Whew, just barely made it through the corner and continued flying downhill. The bumps were sending my BOB trailer bouncing around all over the place behind me. Then my walkman and one pannier takes a flying lesson off my bike as I slam into a giant dip in the road. Retrieving my walkman all scratched up and flung open with the cassette about 30 feet from it, I was surprised to discover that it still works! I re-attached my pannier and continued to Boundary.
Boundary consists of one guy that owns a coffee shop and a lady in a gift shop out front. That’s it! I got me an ice cold coke and a muffin, then went down the road near where some RV’s were parked and took my bike back in the brush a bit to camp. Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday and I should be in Chicken, AK to call her.
DAY 143 – August 4, 1999
It’s my mom’s birthday and I’m in the middle of absolutely nowhere!!! They have no phones around here so I will try to get to Chicken early enough to call with the 3 hour difference in time.
Whenever I stopped, a lot of mosquitoes swarmed me and sometimes while riding, they would go up my nose!!! That sucked!!!
There was an old gold dredge in a small river bed that I took a break at.
The sun was hot and the cool water and shade felt great. I rode up most hills at 3 mph to take care of my knees, I refuse to ever push my bike up a hill because I wimped out. Only when I had to, like the time my derailluer hanger broke, I had no choice then. There were some great downhills where I picked up some great speeds. On one downhill, I was cruising at 38 mph and a car was trying to pass me. The car was having difficulty because the bumps would cause it to slide sideways some when it went too fast. So this idiot rode right beside me for quite some time when he was going faster than he should have for this road. That was when I ran right into 2 large dips in the road and got a bit airborne. Since the car was beside me I couldn’t swerve, but fortunately I didn’t wipe out and thought it was kinda cool to catch a little air with my BOB trailer!! When I arrived at the south fork river, I found the Pit toilet to be luxury comp
Before long, I was in Chicken Alaska.
DAY 144 – August 5, 1999
DAY 145 – August 6, 1999
DAY 146 – August 7, 1999
DAY 147 – August 8, 1999
Later I met Guro again and her boyfriend Terje(pronounced Tah dia). We discussed our journeys and Terje shared many of his mountain climbing experiences with me. He made an assault up Mont Blanc from the base in just 14 hours. We also talked about some of the attitudes of other climbers and reaching the top no matter what the cost, even the life of another. Many climbers will just leave their team mate behind and continue on leaving them to die in the snow. Terje had told me about when he found a climber lying in the snow that was left behind to die. He helped him up and walked the guy back to his camp and saved his life. Well we traded many interesting stories and both of them invited me and anyone I want to bring with me to visit them in Norway. I too gave them my info and invited them to visit me sometime.
By 2:30 PM I found myself in an 11 passenger van on my way to Anchorage. The lady beside me asked about my bicycle and my ride. She too had been on several rides and looked to be now in her 60’s. Her name was Barbara and we talked for a long time trading stories and discussed some of the exact same books both of us had read. She was very excited to have met me and told me so, and I too was excited to have met her. After about 2 hours into the ride, the bus driver seemed to be looking very tired with eyes barely open. The van drifted into the middle a bit and then the lady right behind him smacked the back of his seat with a book and said “get back over, you’re driving down the middle!” He didn’t say anything and just kept driving. we soon had a break to eat at a small cafe’. Thirty minutes and we had to be done and back on the bus…oh! I’ve become one of them! hoping off a bus and in a hurry. Having to rush like a tourist. Well at least it is only for this 7 hour ride.
There were some other people we had to pick up down the road whose car had broken down. Upon arriving at the Grizzly Store, we saw a couple with 2 small children and LOTS of luggage. There was one empty bench seat and it didn’t look like enough room for their stuff. The lady in the front seat had a little bit of an attitude and said that “they’re not fitting on here!” Geez what a remark to say when a family is stranded way out here. They managed to get all there luggage in and the four of them occupied the seat in the back. I turned to talk to them since I was directly in front of them. I asked about their misfortune and about their vacation. Both of them were pleasant and we had a great conversation. After I told them about what I was doing and my escape from healthcare, I found out that he is a doctor and she is a nurse. They own 3 clinics in Michigan.
By now I am trying hard to not feel sick. The frost heaves in the road this guy kept flying over had been making me feel naeuseous for a while. And with has very bad driving, all over the road speeding while half asleep…. AHHHHHHHHHH I’m feeling “domed” someone please smash my head in with a rock and put me out of my misery.
Soon, my conversation with Ray and Nora was shattered by the sound of “BAM” and breaking glass up front. I turned to see the drivers side door glass falling down and the side view mirror smashed against it while a large 1 ton pickup drove inches by our window. The lady behind the driver immediately slammed her book against the back of his seat and was furious with him for crossing the center line. She accused him of crossing over, smashing side view mirrors with the other guy and was afraid he would kill us all with his driving. The rest of the van was very quiet, no one spoke a word, an awkward silence as the two of them began to argue and he threatened to make her get out and walk. Constant arguing back and forth, both of them had to have the last word in. I thought “come on lady, give it a rest”.
The driver of the other truck walked up and also accused our driver of crossing the center line. He said that his window was also smashed by his side view mirror. After about 25 minutes of waiting for them to exchange insurance information, we were back on the road. And the driver is still driving a little crazy with his blurry bloodshot eyes. This ride seems like it is NEVER going to end!
Continuing on to Anchorage, we continued our discussions and Barbara soon joined in too. Nora was VERY funny and made some jokes about me on this journey. By the end of the evening I had a definite job offer to come work with them and they wanted me to continue with them to Homer. I really wanted to go with them as they caught a taxi to pick up their rental car. But I had to stay behind to get my camera repaired. They are a very fun couple and I know I would’ve had a blast staying with them on their vacation. They told me that if I don’t come to work with them to at least come visit and gave me their address and phone number. WOW I’m sure glad I decided to catch the shuttle to Anchorage and that they had the unfortunate luck of having their car break down.
They drove away in the taxi and it was if some really good friends I’ve known for a long time were leaving. I rode to the Inlet Inn across the street and got a motel room for $75.00, the cheapest in town. The hostel was full and I reserved the next 2 nights there.
DAY 148 – August 9, 1999
Checked out of the hotel
Took camera to Camera Service Center.
I was there last year and had met John. He was still working there and remembered me. We talked a bit and I was informed that since they are the only repair place in town, it might be a few days before they can get to it.
I went and had my film developed.
Checked into hostel and went through the photos I had developed.
Met a teacher that has a one day layover in plane flights on his way out to west Alaska, way out there away from the rest of the world. I tried to sleep in the top bunk. A very noisy guy in the bottom bunk below me had crazy dreams as he kept tossing and kicking the wall and making all kinds of moaning sounds. Weird! … I hated this, couldn’t sleep, I’d rather pay extra to stay in a motel where I could get some sleep. I just hoped the other guys in the room didn’t think it was I making all those weird sounds while dreaming. In the morning I planned on checking out and getting a refund and go somewhere where I could sleep. I did better sleeping in the ditch along the road in the Yukon.
DAY 149 – August 10, 1999
I went to the front desk and asked for refund for tonight’s stay. After I explained that I couldn’t sleep last night etc.… The girl had an attitude and said I needed to give 24-hour advance notice. But geez I just checked in last night and paid in advance for 2 days, how could I know yesterday morning (24 hours ago) that it was going to be like this. She was a hmmmm….. not a nice person, and would not give me a refund and said it was policy to give 24-hour notice. I asked to speak to the manager or someone in charge because this was crazy. She said, “OK but it won’t do any good. He’ll just tell you the same thing”, as she walked away smugly. The manager came out, and after I explained my situation, he refunded the money that I had paid in advance for tonight, and I was on my way.
I stopped at the downtown deli for breakfast, and looked in the classified ads in the “dogs” section. Nothing there really, so I thought I’d check animal control or the humane society. I really wanted to find a dog to rescue from being put to sleep. And definitely stay away from “puppy mills”.
Leaving the café, I got into a conversation with an artist that was across the street. After about 30 minutes of conversation, the artist invited me to stay at his place. Cool, I thought. He said that he’d be home at 6:30pm and I could call to get directions then.
I rode around town on my bike and went to REI, bike shops, and had a late afternoon lunch at some organic vegetarian place, forgot the name but the food was excellent.
Met a girl there that attempted a climb up Mt. McKinley with a group of females, the Denali Divas. They attempted a very difficult base to peak assault on the mountain, something very few do. Most fly in to base camp at about 10,000 feet (I think?). Anyway, the base adds something like 8,000 or so feet to the climb and is VERY difficult, very few attempt this. And there is a very difficult river crossing to get to the base. The McKinley River is a total of about 1 mile wide and at times, over waist deep.
They have a website of their climbing experience. (This was the same assault that Terje’ and Guro had attempted)
I went to the the artists’ place in the evening and met a young artist, Lucas and his girlfriend Alison, that were there discussing commercial art with “the artist”. Apparently, “The artist” is a mentor for Lucas.
Later, “the artist” and I talked about my ride. He told me about all of his hikes through the Brooks Range, which is an area I will pass through if I decide to go to Prudhoe Bay. He showed me the fragments of a mastodon tusk that was found up in the arctic where I would be riding. “These are over 10,000 years old. They are older than man or any religion…… Religions pale to this”, he said boldly and brashly in his semi-drunken state. While I held the pieces I thought about 10,000 years ago, and realized I am holding something that was on a living creature that was so long ago that I couldn’t comprehend that amount of time, or a world without humans living on it. After telling him about my course in Human Skeletal Analysis and how I studied bone fragments from a dig site dated at 650 BC, he decided to give me a small fragment of the mastodon tusk. He stepped outside with a hammer in one hand and the tusk fragment in the other. Holding the tusk in his left hand he slammed the hammer down one the end of it, creating about 4 small fragments. He held up the pieces and looked at the shapes and studied them for a minute. Deciding to give me a larger piece, he repeats the ritual of slamming the hammer down against it on the concrete. Then he went ahead and gave me all of it. This was one of 2 pieces he had and he gave me one of them, which is now in several smaller fragments. WOW, what a gift! This is something that is far more valuable than money to me.
Come to find out that the artist is currently separated from his wife and is in the middle of a divorce right now. Most of the conversations this evening seemed intense, as the artist can be very intense. He takes any conversation and turns it into a very deep intense conversation and gets very philosophical. Everything I said, he challenged and delved into each little aspect of a statement and analyzed it so critically and in soooo much detail. Man I thought I was a deep thinker and a philosopher at times, but this guy takes it waaaaaaaaaay to the extreme. And the language he chooses to use, it’s constantly “f” you or “f” that.
After mentioning my need to go back and rewrite most of my journal entries, he looked at me and said F@&K YOU! Wow that caught me off guard when he said it so loudly and in my face. He then said “F@&k you for wanting to rewrite it, F@&k you…. Who are you to go back and sanatize it? To write it once and not touch it, you are somebody, to go back and sanatize it you are a nobody”. I went on to explain that I really just needed to fix typos and add the stuff in my original notes that never made it on the net. “Well that’s cool….that’s cool” he said in a calmer voice.
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