Commencement

 June 1st was not a fruitful day. This is the day I planned on leaving Prudhoe Bay. My thought and understanding was to get a ride to PB and that it would be somewhat easy. Not so! I said my goodbyes to Alexia, Fitzroy and Shelton and biked out of Fairbanks May 31st fully loaded, as far as Hilltop Truck Stop, about seventeen miles. There I found it disconcerting to find that most truckers are not allowed to carry passengers because of insurance unless it’s a life or death situation. Needless to say, after four hours of trying to procure a ride, Alexia picked me up and we went to the homestead where she would be working for a coupleweeks


We decided it would give me a jump if she dropped me off the next day at the Yukon River Bridge, about 140 miles north. Once there I immediately got a ride with a private contractor who would drop me off at the Gilbraith Lake camp entrance, it was 9:30 pm and as light as it was at noon. I was north of the Arctic Circle; no trees, more intense light, and views of grand beauty in all directions of the Brooks Range and the tundra.


After a very restless night I biked about 20 miles to the top of a hill with even more expansive views, and a place to get a ride. Alaska DOT was resurfacing sections of the highway in an unfamiliar process. They would grade the section in both directions leaving a lengthy pile in the center, a water truck would go in one direction then the other spraying a lot of water, then a truck loaded with calcium chloride would pour that onto the wet surface. This process continued on the same section possibly five times.


Five 1/2 hours went by with no rides. However, some trucks, contractors, and tourists did stop out of curiosity. One very nice contractor, Mark Nichols, and I had a good conversation. His son is stationed at Offutt AFB south of Omaha, my hometown. He gave me the lowdown on the rest of the road to PB, then asked if I would like water or anything. He said, ” better yet, let me give you this!” He handed me his lunch, a massive sandwich and a granola bar. “Better take what you can get.” He left and I walked back to my bike in disbelief, feeling so gracious for this kind gift, I choked up a bit inside.

I decided I had enough waiting around and would bike on. Big mistake! That muck created from resurfacing stuck everywhere including my feet. I was barefoot in Chaco’s and calcium chloride burns the skin. Half-hour later I was lucky enough to get a ride to PB from a couple of truckers. I sat in the driver’s seat of the disabled truck they were towing and viewed the tundra and my future route in the same direction I would be bicycling. They stopped now and then to check on the rig, and asked me if I needed anything. My response, “Preparation H, and a Chiropractor!” The air-ride seat was a test on my rear end, as well as the constant bouncing rearranging vertebrate.


Dropped off at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel, one of two choices. Both owned by the same entity. One room here has a bed, lounge chair, closets, and a TV. Bathrooms and shower rooms are shared by all on that floor. The pay off was the 24 hr cafeteria. Full service with free breakfast, lunch, and dinner and stocked to the hilt with produce, dairy/ non-dairy products, grab-and-go’s, and every non-alcoholic beverage one could think of. I gorged, fueled up, stock piled, and went back for seconds. I showered and had another restless night.

This is the day I start and I have cold sweats and nausea. Should I stay an extra day and heal or pack up and bike on? I started packing fifteen minute before checkout with barely enough rest. I took full advantage of the breakfast options – twice. Milled around contemplating the right time to take off and discussing this with two Aussies who were also heading to Ushuaia by bike. It was 22°, 18° with wind. Finally, at 1:30 we took off. I wanted to grab a couple stickers at the General store so, I told them I would catch up shortly. Leaving PB/ Deadhorse was long, lonely and frustrating. The road, aka haul road, aka Dalton Highway, was deep gravel, rutted, wash-boarded, and not friendly to cyclists. Add to that the trucks and the dust they kick up. The day went by and by 8:30 pm there was no sight of the Aussies. I had ridden past an exploration pit/ camp about a mile when a truck stopped. It was Elsie, the trucker I spoke with at Hilltop days before. She had not seen any other cyclists ahead, nor campers that made me believe they stopped at the camp. I turned around I cycled into the wind to the camp. Sure enough, they were there and were invited to stay in a room. The manager was somewhat reluctant to take in another, but with a grizzly prowling around he felt a bit obligated. So I stayed in a Comex with heat and a very small window. We were invited to eat what ever was available, mainly grab-n-go’s, until the cook gave us the last three pieces of berry cheesecake and a bag of double chocolate cookies. The cooks here were angels and made sure we didn’t go without. The Aussies got two different rides that day. That is why I never saw them, except in the distance, in my imagination.

 

Day one was a quick lesson in biking the haul road. Bike the center until you notice a truck or vehicle in either direction. In that case move to the shoulder and slow down or stop. Stay off the soft shoulders. Stop often and stretch, especially your back, shoulders, and arms because your death grip on the handle bars trying keep the rig on the road, as well as the washboard, is intense.

17 thoughts on “Commencement

  1. I read an article about this last night and became fascinated! I even donated! I’m a weekend warrior cyclist and love to ride but I can’t even imagine. Cheering you on and looking forward to tracking your progress. I noticed you have a Garmin. Is there any chance you can also connect that to Strava so we can follow the ride? Wishing you all the best of luck!

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  2. Excited to follow your progress and I sent you some support on Venmo. Best of luck and keep the updates rolling. What a dream ride. Alvin, I sent you a connect request on Garmin; any change you can also download the app Strava and link it to your garmin (or use as a stand alone). That way we can track your day to day ride progress. Good luck!!

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  3. I stumbled onto this story and became fascinated. What a journey!! I’m very excited to track Alvin’s progress and vicariously join him while unfortunately sitting behind my desk at work. Alvin, I sent you a connect request on Garmin. Is it possible for you to accept and also to use the Strava app so that we can follow the ride day by day? Best of luck!! Also, I sent you some SAG on Venmo

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  4. Hi Alvin, I sent a contact email as well as this comments section. Congratulations on an undertaking with purpose. If you don’t mind I’ll share your information on FB and also invite readers here to view Maya Pedal on Facebook,& mayapedal.com .
    If you or other bike tourists or volunteers select Maya pedal in Guatemala as a place to visit and support, you find an stable organization using used bikes to make machines for rural Mayan villages where there is no electricity. With appropriate technology of a bike, they make corn cobbers, water pumps, blender bikes, macadamea nut crunchers, coffee bean depulpers and.much more. Feel free to Facebook me for more information. Alvin, best.to you, thanks for what you are doing, and perhaps see you on the road.
    Dave Renfrow

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    • I left Whitehorse, Yukon this morning after a weeklong break. In Carcross now, about a 45 mile day with strong headwinds, and sore sluggish legs. The scenery made up for it though. Tomorrow I’ll try for Johnsons crossing.
      The past week has been filled with First Nation festivals, the 150th anniversary of Canada, WWOOFing at Pelly River Ranch, a visit to Fort Selkirk, meeting with a few elders of the Kwanlin Dun and Gwitch’in, and falling in love with the Yukon.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very cool and thank you for the update. I just put Carcross into google earth so I can see where you are in relation to were you started (and where you still have yet to travel). For those of us stuck at a desk, it’s very exciting to follow you and imagine what it would be like to be out there with you on the adventure of a life time. As a thank you for the update, I’m going to send you another Venmo so that you can have dinner or buy supplies on me! I sent you a connection request on Garmin. If you get a chance please ‘accept’ and toggle your preferences to share information so that I can follow along. I looked for you on Strava but don’t see your name. If you are on strava, let me know your screen name and I’ll check again. Or let me know if you need my screen name. I’ve been spreading the word about you and your trip among my cycling buddies and drumming up support. I think having people follow you on strava would be an excellent way to build a following and excitement and hopefully get others to assist you in funding. I only wish I lived on the west coast and could meet up, offer you some assistance and ride along for a while. But I’m in south Florida so social media will have to do. Keep up the great effort! We are all pulling for you!

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    • David,

      Your generosity is heartfelt and somewhat intoxicating. Thank you!!
      Now between Teslin and Watson Lake with very spotty service. I have a lot of catching up to do on the blog so, when it happens it may be a deluge.
      As for strava and Garmin, I have had an issue through my computer to upload but will try on the Phone.
      Also, your donations are a fantastic start from any individual for the greater goal of the $12,500 we are trying to raise. We still have to get it out there on social media as well as email and texts. There is a donation icon on our site but am curious if it works. It’s through my PayPal account.

      Again, thank you.

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      • Alvin,

        Based on your message I think you are replying to me… my name is Steven. And I’m glad to help. I’ve not tried the donation icon because I don’t use PayPal. I looked on venmo and found you there so it was easier than setting up a paypal account. I suspect your journey appeals to many people for many different reasons… the cycling it what drew my attention and I’m hoping that through Strava and Garmin you can draw a large following from the cycling community. I remember when Terry Fox ran across Canada back in 1980 and he was able to generate a huge following first from the jogging community before he became an international story. Try downloading the Strava and Garmin apps on your iphone. There’s also a setting to link them together so that when you finish your ride, your Garmin edge 1000 will sync to your iphone by Bluetooth which will also update strava at the same time. I’ve been talking about you to my cycling gang and people are amazed and intrigued. Being able to follow your progress daily I hope will generate more and more interest which in turn could assist in the donations. Add to that your blog which provides the detail/color commentary and hopefully many more people will start following and take an interest.

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  6. Alvin

    Great to connect with you now both on Strava and Garmin. Now we get the word out. I set up a ‘group’ on Garmin called the Western Hemisphere Project. I made it ‘open’ so that anyone with a Garmin account can join it and follow you and communicate with you. Of course, you need to join it also. If you have a question on how to do that or sync your strava and Garmin accounts let me know. I’ve been in NoLa for a few days moving my son into an apartment and grad school but I’ll be doing my best to get people to follow you on both Garmin and Strava. I don’t facebook (yea, I’m the one person on the planet without a Facebook page!) so if there are others that do, perhaps they can send links to both your Strava and Garmin threads. And of course, I hit you with another Venmo donation. Thank you for making the effort to connect. Keep going, we’ll be following!

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    • To All: I created a “Group” within Garmin Connect which will allow anyone who joins to follow Alvin’s progress. To join, create a personal Garmin account if you don’t already have one and then look under “groups” for “The Western Hemisphere Project” and join. That’s it. After Alvin completes a day of riding and sync’s his Garmin, his route, distance, location and so on while show up in “News Feed”. And Alvin, I sent you some more Venmo mojo!

      *** For anyone that does Facebook, please pass the info along. Let’s generate some noise for Alvin!

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