The Lost Coast Experience 


What is isolation? That is, in the physical sense. My friend Vince told me of the Lost Coast before I departed on this expedition and that it was well worth the experience. He rode it a couple years ago as a destination bike trip. He however missed the extension of this route which continues out of Honeydew on the Kings Peak and Usal roads for another sixty miles. We were curious what this whole thing was about. So, as a common phrase Alexia and I pass back and forth, “Gotta go to know.” 

The “Lost Coast” was named after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness and related geotechnical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast. This sounded very intriguing to us and with a bit of grit (literally and figuratively) we would reap the rewards. 

Day One: Being sent off with Snickerdoodles from Marc and Leah Daniels of the Mind’s Eye Coffee Lounge and Manufactory in Ferndale, we hit the ‘Wildcat’ (Mattole) Rd. For six miles up and around and switch-backed until it seemed like we summited only with one, maybe two more miles of meandering. It was, at this point, the most grueling hill I’ve ridden. It’s a real real mindbender when coming upon a turn with the thought of it leveling out for just a bit but seeing the road serpentine 2-3 more switchbacks. After viewing a mountain lion, petting horses, and enjoying lunch by Bear River, we were greeted with the worst hill right outa Capetown. Not long, but steeper than before. The descent to the coast put the brakes into hyper-over-use; gravity and weight put the heat on. The creek at the bottom of the hill was on private property and access would have been a long walk back from the beach. As we road along the Coast, we came upon Jesse, a surfer and grower. I asked if he had another board, which he did back in Petrolia. He was coming back in a couple hours and would bring it. He also mentioned that the Driftwood Shack we were standing by was built by his buddy, was secure, breaks the wind, and is seldomly used. “Feel free to stay in it.” So, Alexia and I filtered water from a nearby stream and set up camp. Jesse showed later with a 7’6″ and we surfed the slow and heavy waves next to Old Man Rock. He invited us to see his grow operation the next day if we crossed paths in town. Alexia and I were so beat we crawled into our bags around 7:30. As the clouds cleared the stars came out in force and the Milky Way spread from the horizon of the Pacific Ocean across the night’s sky.


Day Two: The coast road from the shack was lovely but short lived. The hills began to Petrolia. Although we didn’t run into Jesse, the cool little town with it’s Post Office/ General store, Fire Dept and little cottages reminded me of Ward, CO. One road in, and out. Tie-dyed sheets hanging in windows, worn out vans, stray dogs, and the ever-present scent of ripe bud in the air. More hills on to Honeydew with the thought of camp and rest in the very near future. Once there, the general store had thirty+ people hanging out to get on trimming jobs. A few provisions in tote, we biked to Honeydew Creek campground which resembled a run down gypsy village. There were people from Spain, Germany, Wales, England, US, Czech Republic, Argentina, France and quite a few dogs. When the money to be made trimming bud is so great the calling for this work ripples across international currents. 



Day Three: After we spoke with a group of trimmers about wages, work conditions, their homes, pinky was filled with Mr. Nice and we were on our way up, yet again, another gnarly set of hills for six miles. We took the right on to Kings Peak road for another twelve miles. This decision was the beginning of the treat; it was unpaved, rutted, dirty, dusty, steep switchbacks, and loose gravel. It was an everlasting twelve miles of the smell of pot! If only technology could capture smells. We made it to the top of the junction at Shelter Cove Rd when a local guy said “if we haven’t been there we should stay for the beauty, but be careful on the road down, it’s steep and traffic doesn’t expect cyclists.” You could light his breath on fire from the alcohol. He then passed us on the way down honking his horn. The brakes took a beating again in the near two mile, 1900ft descent. Another man, Tom Kopf, stopped us and said, “Holy shit, now that is an adventure!” He offered his yard for us to set our tent, but after chatting for a short while he offered his spare bedroom and shower. 

Day Four: In Shelter Cove and giving ourselves a Day Off. Although we rode through town to a couple of the natural attractions, we chilled for the most part. We had coffee and croissants at the Fish Tank. Here, I read an article in The Surfers Journal about one of the last great watermen, Bud Hendricks. During one of his escapades he was asked by a guru, “Who are you?” His response, “I’m an Abolone hunter, shaper, Marine, Schooner pilot, Matador, bronze sculptor, bird photographer. “The guru stated, “That’s what you are!” Bud thought for a moment and said, “I’m a human being.” I’ve been intrigued with old guys like him. I also pondered what is it to be a human being? I often ‘do’ and seldomly ‘be’ so does that make me a human doer? This has been an ongoing thought and struggle of mine for years. 

This town is isolated. It’s a long shot from Highway 1 and down a crazy steep road. The locals are fishermen, growers, trimmers, painters, construction workers, laborers. Most everyone has done, or still does a mix of all. For the Cali coast the homes are actually affordable, and they’re good sized, most with an ocean view. There is one bar, a Brewery being built, one coffee shop, two to three dining options, a well stocked but pricy general store, and a block from the ocean cliffs an airstrip. It’s quite the thing to park your Cessna walking distance from your front door. 


Day Five: Having coffee on Tom’s porch and contemplating our next step, his neighbors stopped by with more coffee and muffins. They were giving us the scoop on local topics and work in the area. Tom showed and offered us a ride to the top of the hill. Considering the 2.3 miles up, no shoulder, fast driving locals, and not safe conditions to let Fitzroy out of the trailer, we were more than accepting of his offer. We said our “see-ya-laters” and rode to Wailaki CG for a peaceful nights rest. 

Day Six: The four and half miles to Usal Rd was cool, smooth and shrouded in redwoods. Then our world as we knew it changed dramatically. Sure, we could have stayed on the pavement and loop around to Redway, but that was way too long. Instead,  we took the metaphorical ‘Bull by the horns’ and went for a ride. As with anything challenging and worth doing there is usually some glimmer of accomplishment. Yes, when it’s all over, but we just began. And there wasn’t a glimmer of anything but pure grueling, thigh-grinding, body-pounding ruts, rocks, ravines, branches, hills, switchbacks for the next solid twenty miles…and it was enjoyable. Even Fitzroy gave a slight expression of joy while trottting with us. This is isolation, or at least  what our bodily senses were experiencing. Space, cool breezes among giant redwoods, sabres of light, sea and forest scents wafting, sweat, muscle pulses and strains, all moving through a lost and beautiful environment. 




Day Seven: The first seven hundred and fifty feet were a rude “good-morning!” So steep and unconsolidated there was no more pedaling. Pushing, slowly advancing foot by foot, no purchase between Chaco tread and loose aggregate it seemed a relentless attempt. Finally,  a crest in the road. The payoff were nice rollers to the seamlessly never ending down to Highway 1. Here we were met with dump trucks coming and going posing a problem being there was no shoulder. Although nicely paved this is a coastal road along a dramatic geologic divergent zone. There are hills and vistas and views north where we were, and south to where we are going. The Lost Coast is isolated, so much it makes the adventure of the mind, body, and soul worth the challenge, to look deeper inside, push beyond physical limits, and discover some latent mental stamina. 

Oregon


I could probably count how many times I asked Alexia, “Do you want to move here?” but that would be every time we stopped on a vista, shore break, or quaint beach town with a mountain backdrop, which was often, maybe countless times. There is a special kind of intimacy felt here. 


At the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria is a welcome mat with more than one direction to head into the heart of Oregon, whatever that means to you; east along the Columbia River Valley toward Portland, diagonally meandering southeast among swift rivers and hilly forests, or tuck along the Pacific coast heading south with the scent of sea air, pine, fir and spruce, and estuarian richness. We started diagonally with the intention of taking a break at our friend’s Mangalitsa pig compound. However, that meandering route would first introduce us to white-knuckle-pedaling skinny-road logtruck-jousting and crazy-local drivers. 

During our time at the Doss Family Farm, an enjoyable seventeen days, we were able to resupply with necessary items, work a few farmers market, take pigs to market, tend to pigs, put up fencing, taste some fine beers from Kaiser Brewing, and help clean and organize the ‘compound.’ We all enjoyed a departing meal and beer at the Pelican Brewery in Pacific City. And just like that, we were off to continue our ride tucking the Pacific coast south. 

Mangalitsa

Kaiser brewmeister

Kaiser brewmeister



With a new trailer for Fitz, and panniers donated from Ortlieb, we were off but still heavy. I chock it up to living on the road and out of our bikes for the next twenty months. Despite the sacrificial objects left behind, we still like the creature comforts that add weight like small binoculars, tenkara rod w/ flies, camp pillow, books, sketching pencils and pad, wetsuit, and a few extra electronic goodies. 


Once on the road it appeared to be a highway of cyclists and PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) through hikers transplanted due to the Oregon fires. Coastal riders going from Vancouver to San Fran or San Diego, transcontinental cyclists going east to west or vice-versa, long-distance folks going from Alaska to Bolivia, and the diversity of characters hiking over 2600 miles on the PCT starting on the Mexican border heading north, or starting on the US – Canada border letting gravity pull them down were all festering along the Oregon Coast along with us. 

Another beauty of Oregon are the state parks. Five bucks per person and free unlimited hot showers. Well needed and deserved as the days were not necessarily long in mileage, but this time of year it was hot and the hills steep and long. 

Back to this intimacy I/ we have with Oregon. I have passed through my daily thoughts while riding and that is there are few places – States – that really get me jazzed about what they offer in combination of outdoor activities, outdoor work, community, local  and statewide vibe, government policies, cultural diversity, progressive and sustainable methods in craftwork/ farming/ ranching/ closed-circle food systems, healthy and diverse ecosystems, fresh water resources, and  access to land. Oregon, Minnesota, and Vermont are these states. No state is perfect in everything, that would be unnatural, but without getting deep these are the places I have come to enjoy, appreciate, respect, understand, and get lost in. Having spent over two months of the past year in Oregon the thorn of intimacy is deeply set. 

Of ocean and forest

The road west out of Port Angeles was little indication of what our experience riding through the Olympic peninsula would be. Most of the road for the first ten to fifteen miles was somewhat smooth with a wide enough shoulder and without much up and down serpentine motion. However, past Joyce on Highway 112 the landscape changed and was to stay this way. What we did not know were the extra challenges in riding this section, as well as the pleasant surprises. 

This had been day six of pulling Fitzroy and it was really becoming a strain; hills are longer and steeper, he is restless and figits a lot with the slight shoulder, bumps, heat, and fast traffic. We are taking more frequent stops for us to adjust to the hills but also let Fitz out to stretch and run. I’m finding though he gets out sniffs, pees then finds a shady spot to rest. One of these rest spots was a long the Juan de Fuca Straight with the enjoyable scent of sea air and sounds of waves rolling in on the shore. Here I met Mark Ramiro, an Elwha elder who was crabbing off the west Twin River. He described, in his words and feelings, the removal of the Elwha dams in that they were making money and supplying energy to Port Angeles. He said the Kings would come up the river and get worms in their gills and kill them because the water was too warm, but the humpies, pinks, and Steelhead would return in the winter months but not in any great number. The Federal gov’t was pressured to remove the upper dam, they then met with the tribal gov’t and pressured them to remove the lower dam. This all happened and now the river flows freely and salmon have returned. 


At the fishing town of Seiku we were told by a couple local hippies of a secret beach if we took a trail for a mile and half. They said we would have a mile in each direction without many people, if any walking the stretch. And so this is what we found. 

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A hell of a hill greeted us soon after Clallam Bay – six miles of up! Miles and days with no shoulder and logging trucks. Seeing and hearing logging trucks, and chain saws continued to remind me what Melvinjohn of the HOH Nation said in our meeting. His grandmother, and her ancestors, who subsisted on the Olympic peninsula, said ” there is no old growth here anymore, it has all been forested and what we have is, in many places, second and third growth forest.” I cannot be naïve in that we need timber and wood products in our lives. However, we need to drive, or at least encourage the Forest Service, logging companies, and people in general to practice sustainable practices so the long term doesn’t possess such negative results. The mountains around us were completely clearcut without replanting in maany areas. Forestry Policy states that within two years after harvest the area needs to be replanted. We came across clearcut areas that have been devoid of vegetation for at least seven years.



The escape of 160,000 farmed salmon from their pen within Puget Sound was the headline in the paper. Apparently, it “was caused by the Solar Eclipse which caused the tides to shift.” I found that interseting in that no other pens, which there are thousands of, did not experience an escape or collapse due to the eclipse. The facts behind farmed salmon, or “fresh Atlantic Salmon” as it’s sold in stores across the county are; they are fed pellets made from by-catch fish that have a higher nutritional value for humans (anchovies, sardines, mackerel), fed antibiotics because they are confined in a pen with the excrement of all the other fish, that excrement pollutes the environment exceeding the radius of the pens as well as migrates upstream, the meat is grey – dyed, color chosen from a color wheel, to look like a wild salmon, and they are omega 6 and 12 deficient, something natural in the wild variety. You choose. But be mindful and purchase in the lightest form of moderation, as either choice has an impact, one of course less than the other.


As we continued south we did the touch and go with the shoreline. At times there were stretches with great views of the ocean, other times we would contend with the fast and heavy traffic either heading to the coast for the holiday or pounding the rush hour grind. All the while, the thoughts of the impact I, We, have on the resources we think are renewable. Clearcutting forests impacts the watershed, riparian habitat, and the spawning streams of salmon. Farmed and even commercail fishing impact our waterways as well as the cultural heritage of the People who have relied on salmon for their food. As with all things, once its gone, its gone for good. Never to come back, and really nothing to replace it. 

Island Life…a picture story



The eighteen hour ferry ride on the Northern Adventure from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy offered a prelude to the coming fourteen days on an island I knew very little about.


The people, many locals of ‘Van Isle’, we met briefly shared their little secrets, the special places we should visit. I got a sense these people looked at us not as tourists, but someone who would actually go to these places and respect them as they do.





Bare in mind this is mostly Northern Van Isle life, not much to do with the southern bit. Here there is a very strong sense of community, pride, hard work, and a lot of ‘Island Time’, or relaxation and fun. The culture, a diversity of Indigenous Nations is pronounced and well respected. The northern coastal people know deep secrets they share with few and, if you’re fortunate you’ll be invited. 

Universal Alignment


The fires were ravaging the BC interior causing road closures and town evacuations, as well as choking out the sun and those who tried to breath. Alexia and I planned to hopscotch from Watson Lake to Prince Rupert then ferry to Vancouver Island to avoid all this. The van, or Universe had us on another path we weren’t aware of at the moment. At Watson Lake campground the van was pissing out hot coolant and steam. This happened two more times in two days until we decided to separate.

We found a local guy to tow the van back to Whitehorse to fix the overheating issue. Alexia was introduced to the Subaru Guru, Mario Ferland, who happended to have a brand new ’92 SVX engine in his garage from which parts could be taken and later replaced. He also loved VW vans. At half the cost of the initial estimate from another garage she was on her way. The thing was we didn’t have any way to connect to know where the other one was. Also, neither of us had cell service or wifi at the same time.


I had biked south on the Cassiar trying hard to get as close to Prince Rupert before we rendezvous to catch the ferry on the 28th. At Boya Provincial Park I met seven cyclists; five were friends who met at random sections along Highway 1, one, Thorin Loeks, singer/ songwriter, from Whitehorse, and a solo female, Shantal, going from Anchorage to San Diego. All rode at different speeds and had their own schedules. I found this to be a bit of an anchor as one does when traveling with others. As it was nice to have someone to share stories or meals with, I had a self imposed daily schedule and pace that was faster than normal. Shantal, the girl doing the solo ride opted to ride with me. The next six days I unknowingly brutalized myself , and probably her, riding 100km+ days, days with some of the most beautiful and dramatic terrain so far, but also cold, rainy, and windy. Each day I never knew of Alexia’s whereabouts nor her of mine. Kinda discouraging. However, it was on day seven I pulled into a rest area to set camp when I heard that unique sound of the van – there she was…again, all things in the Universe are good, temporarily. ​

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The day before the ferry I was getting packed and ready to bike from Terrace to Prince Rupert. I had told Shantal, who had been riding in the van for a couple days, that Alexia and I might meet half way and she would have to stay at her friends and heal herself, or start biking. She was taken a back by this but I didn’t care. Free rides when riding for a foundation and raising money for said foundation when supposed to be cycling is cheating yourself and those who sponsor you. Enough said. What happened next was unexpected…my legs seized. My quads and calves tightened so badly I was on my back on the ground in tears with pain. Karma, doubt it. The previous seven days, definitely. It was now known I was riding with Alexia and that we may or may not see Shantal again. The drive to Prince Rupert was stunning and would be the tops of riding terrain; meandering level roads, the Stikine River, dramatic snow-topped mountains, good shoulder, camping options, and wafts of coastal air. A small personal regret not to have ridden. 


After Vitamin I and a good rest my legs were still sensitive yet without the extreme pain and I was able to amble along once in PR. We were there to catch the early morning ferry departure to Port Rupert, Vancouver Island. While there we experienced the Museum of Northern BC with a superb collection of Tsimshian First Nation artifacts, the Flagship Pale Ale from Wheelhouse Brewery to further temper the leg pains and, a special site under the Bear Totem on the Heritage Totem walk. The next day was early and long with a six-thirty am departure and seventeen hour ferry ride. We met a couple from Haida Gwai, Chris, Jacquie and their daughter Aubrey who were heading to Alberta for a wedding. Chris is a tree man, both cutting and restoring the environment that sustains most of their lives. He is also a mushroom hunter which brings in a pretty nice subsidy to their lifestyle. Also, he is a guy rich with local, and regional knowledge and applies it to sustain and enrich their lives. She is an outdoor educator taking at-risk local kids in their own back yard (BC) for up to a month to teach them self-reliance, motivation, team work, character building, and knowledge of their local ecosystem. We look forward to meeting them in the future on Haida Gwai. The ferry unloaded late at night in Port Hardy which left us driving around to find somewhere to park and sleep. Visitor centers have been good to us before so we pulled in, set up and slept. 

Keep on keepin on


It’s been too long since the last post and I apologize for that. So forgive this lengthy update.  Some stats to begin with. Back on the road with 23 days of cycling and 19 days off. In 23 days I have pedaled 1336 miles through Alaska, Yukon and upper British Columbia. And, I have burned 60,042 calories, that’s an average of 2,611 calories a day. My farthest distance was 100 miles – the beautiful day into Whitehorse, which by the way made me think this, as well as many other stretches, is what the Rockies in the lower 48 must have looked like 175 years ago. Obvious how we can really over love places. The day with the most ascent was from Coldfoot, AK to the Arctic Circle at 4389.8 ft. Surprising, being that this section of road in lower Yukon to Liard Hot Springs feels like a constant up and down for miles, and miles.

The 19 days off have been well spent. The first day I had arrived back (3:30 am) was to Sunny Spruce Homestead, north of Fairbanks, the homestead Alexia was working at for 2+ weeks. There, we became part of the family. Not only did we help with chores, but also made dinners, went to one son’s baseball game, and the other son’s BMX race, of which I also competed in my age group. Second place ain’t bad for not racing in 34 years. We took a weekend off to take Alexia to Palmer, AK to recert her WFR, only to blow out our CV joints on the van putting us down to Anchorage to get them replaced. Needless to say she missed her course.  The sense of homesteading appeals greatly to us. Andrew and Tracyann George are not only a wealth of very useful and practical information, they live a very simple and healthy life, from the land with respect to all they take or grow, in a very open and loving environment. Itadakimasu!

Alexia and I had agreed to hopscotch from Fairbanks to Tok. She would drive ahead, explore areas, set up camp, and I would meet her later that day. This was very helpful, and enjoyable to be able to still bike then see her and Fitzroy at the end of the day. It also gave me another opportunity to product test the Highway 61 panniers Frost River had  donated for the ride and feedback of the product. Sorry, no feedback on the site at the moment. Let’s just say they have a specific use.

June 23 was an emotionally difficult day; we separated from Tok River campsite. Neither of us wanted to leave the other but knew I had to bike on and she needed to get to Pelly River Ranch, five hours north of Whitehorse, Yukon to start her next WWOOFing experience. I began thinking more of having her bike with me and asking to join me on this ride, but thought she was happy doing what she was doing. I know it was hurting her deeply to have Shelton gone but not realizing she was really becoming depressed. This didn’t really hit me for another two weeks. I had made it to Whitehorse and instantly fell in love with this small city. The people, culture, sense of community, everything you want and nothing you don’t. Alexia had been able to email and ask me to contact Sue, the owner of the Ranch who worked in Whitehorse during the week. we had connected and I found myself getting a ride that Friday to the Ranch for a three day stay. While waiting for Friday, Catherine, an interested local had emailed me weeks before asking when I would be in town. She wanted to help me, show me around, introduce me to elders and other important people in town, and ask me about the whole ride. She is planning on doing this ride next year and wanted my perspective.

While in town I had met with Sean Smith, Counsel member of the Kwanlin Dun. He had shared his thoughts on where his People were, where they had been, what they experienced, experiencing, and vision for the future. He is a force for alternative energy, both for the town and his People. And carries great hope for the future of his people to become self-reliant, free-thinking, and de-colonized. Our meeting was voice recorded and will be transcribed and uploaded on the interview section of this site in the near future.

Through Catherine I met Joe Tetlichi, an elder of the Ft. McPherson Gwich’in First Nation, also, the Chair of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board (PCMB). He was roasting Caribou heads as part of the Adäka Cultural Festival going on for over a week. Offering me a piece of the cheek, I couldn’t resist, and felt a unique connection as others weren’t openly offered. We met for a more formal meeting after my return from the Ranch. Joe shared what the PCMB does, concerns they have for the herd, as well as his People who rely on the caribou for subsistence. This meeting was video recorded and will be uploaded after editing. Thanks for your patience!

Friday came and I met Ken, Sue’s son. He picked me up then we picked up Sue to head north. We also stopped at the Dempster Junction to pick up James, a young Scottish WWOOFer. Two hundred miles north on the Dempster and 33 mile west sits one of the most beautifully remote cattle ranches. Since the ’50’s this has been in the same family and run as a cattle ranch. It sits along the Pelly River, 3 miles north of the confluence of the Yukon river. Dale and Sue started hosting WWOOfer’s a few years ago in order to help them but also share and pass on their vast knowledge of this type of homesteading. It reminded me of the times I spent on my stepfathers family cattle ranch in Stockton, MO but so much more vast and serene. Alexia and I had canoed to Fort Selkirk, an old outpost for traders, trappers, prospectors, and the Anglicans. Dale picked us up and ferried us to Stepping Stone, their closest neighbor, and layover for the Yukon Quest Dog Sled race. Here, the family had made pizzas in the stone oven, and opened up a jam session with banjo, guitar, ukulele, and violin. Quite the evening along the Pelly. The days spent at the Ranch were long mixed with gardening, weeding, mowing, implement maintenance, cooking, and some exploring. The realization of Alexia’s sadness and depression hit me early on the day I was to leave. It was July 4th, her Mothers birthday as well as the day she proposed to me a year before. I knew she wanted me to stay until the weekend so we could take off together, but I really felt an urgency to go and get biking again. She understood. Even though it appears to make it easier, in reality it was tearing both of us up inside. As Sue and I were heading out I had thought many times to tell her to let me out. She even said “what’s your hurry, this is your trip and you can do whatever you want.” img_0440-1

Back in Whitehorse, I resupplied groceries and got to Wolf Creek camp where Catherine and her friend showed up for dinner, beer, and convo around the fire. I left Wednesday morning for the road again. It was a late start, my legs were heavy and the headwind to Carcross was not one bit enjoyable. It was a 37 mile day which felt like 100. Getting back in the groove of cycling after days off is not as easy as when I was 20 years younger. Those are just numbers and I could care less what they mean. I have SISU, and am determined to live out my 40 yr dream. img_0463

It was the sixth of July and I had made it to Squanga Lake, a beautiful Yukon Campsite. I had set up camp, walked to the lake to freshen up and then eased into a relaxing evening. It was only a 50 mile day and I was feeling good about the progress through the hills. Another cyclist came rolling in later in the evening. He was Richard from Yorkshire, England and also was cycling to Ushuaia, by another route though. Being that I get up and out early I didn’t think we would see, let alone ride with each other. Later that day after a suggested stop at Johnson Crossing for the cinnamon bun, here comes the Brit. At 55, he has power and stamina as long as the weather is faire. We rode together, although not starting out together, for seven days. Making it to Liard Hot Springs from Coal River was a glorious day for me. It was raining, cool, and only 36 miles. It was also the day Alexia was going to arrive from the farm. The funny thing about riding with Richard was the day before was a warm and sunny 94 mile day, I was struggling, he reveled in it. Alexia came in that evening and we decide to stay an extra day to take advantage of wifi and the Hotsprings. All things are good again in the Universe. Except for the 300 wildfires in south and central BC closing all roads on my route. img_0544

 

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.