Day 24: Fish Creek Bridge to Fairbanks

Leaving Fish CreekWell, burning a day at Fish Creek didn’t provide an improvement on the weather; it was still raining. We woke up about 6:30 am, and after eating breakfast we filled our water bottles, packed up the bicycles.

The good news, as we set out heading on down the road, was that the surface was still mostly asphalt. There was more good news: the mosquitoes were dormant due to the inclement weather. But wait, there is still more good news: in the past two days I managed to sleep almost 30 hours.

Road to Finger MountainThe bad news was the asphalt road surface disappeared after about 5 miles, and we were stuck riding in mucky goo: again. Occasionally there were patches of asphalt, but as the road started up Finger Mountain the surface became mud and the cold rain seemed to pick up even more.

About half way up Finger Mountain hill I finally had to get off and push. I was getting very winded and was totally exhausted. Over the past several days, during stressful riding conditions, I had become somewhat light headed but it quickly went away when I eased off a little. Pushing up this big hill brought on more light headed feelings, and I began experiencing some type of chest pains. The chest pains really concerned me because I had had a heart attack 6-7 years ago and had a stent put in.

At first I would stand beside the bicycle, rest, and wait until the light headedness and pains went away, then I would start out pushing the bicycle up the hill again. Slowly, very slowly, I was getting toward the top, but it was taking longer and longer rest periods. Finally I was so light headed that I had to sit down to keep from falling over. It was at this point that I decided that maybe something serious was wrong. It was only another 100 or so yards to the top, where Tom was waiting patiently for me, but I wasn’t even sure I could make it that far.

Helpful FriendsFinally I was able to stand up and flag down a passing pick up truck. Jim and Mary were driving a fellow worker in to Fairbanks to see a dentist, and they quickly pulled over for me. I explained the situation to them, and they readily agreed to take Tom and I to Fairbanks. After loading my ‘stuff’ in the back, they drove to the top of the hill, picked up Tom and his ‘stuff’, and off we went to Fairbanks. I slept most of the way there and when we arrived the rain had stopped, and the sun was shining.

As soon as Tom and I unloaded our bicycles and equipment at a local hotel I went to the Tanana Valley First Care center to see what was going on with the ol bod.


Day 23: Fish Creek Bridge

Overcast & RainIt poured down rain all last night and is continuing to rain again today; thank goodness I pitched my tent on a high spot. Who would have thunk, based on the weather yesterday, that another weather storm would come in during the the night.

Tom came out of his tent for a few minutes.  After a brief discussion, we decided to burn another day here and let the rain subside. This was a fine idea with me as I still feel very tired and somewhat unsettled. The Exped UL air mattress is very comfortable and my Eureka sleeping bag sure does its job, but recently I have not been feeling rested in the mornings.

It is 60 miles to the Yukon Crossing Campground, and about 50 miles to the Outpost Cafe. Finger Rock Mountain and Beaver Slide, staring us right up the road must be crossed first. Last year we did our riding early in the morning  and tried to find a place to stay by early afternoon in order to minimize riding in the late afternoon heat. We are going back to that routine. Now, watch, tomorrow will be cool and calm. Oh, well, you can’t win them all.

Menno LeavingMenno, our friend from the Netherlands, decided to move on. I feel bad for him because the mosquitoes and chiggers (I am guessing) have really gotten to him. His back, butt, and legs look absolutely terrible. I am not sure that I have ever seen a reaction that bad on anyone. He has been using Deet spray and wipes, but for some reason it hasn’t worked well for him. He is hoping to make it the 60 miles to Yukon Crossing today and see if they have some other solution. As he put it, ‘The bites are really taking the joy out of my trip. I couldn’t even eat supper last night I felt so bad.’ I wish him luck on his trip and  hope something will help him out.

On a trip like this people come into your life, and they leave your life. Hopefully the interaction leaves both a little better off. Every person I meet leaves me with thoughts, ideas, and grateful appreciation for their dropping into my life. One constant in our life out here is the road; it seems to go on forever, always with us and always behind us. In front the road beckons to new adventures yet fulfilled. In back, the road leads to memories of things already seen and people already met.

Deet seems to work better than a product made by Shaklee that was given to me by a friend. Both products don’t seem to last very well once you start to sweat while bicycling. You can always tell when the effectiveness is gone by the number of mosquitoes starting to land on you, particularly the knees. Wonder what people did before there were chemical repellents?

One corner of my sewing job on the netting came loose so I spent an hour redoing it. Those little flying bloodmobiles seem to infiltrate any little opening. I will need to purchase additional thread when in Fairbanks.

It is really quite pretty looking out my tent at the various types of trees, and moss, and lichen. The rain and overcast skies give everything a much softer look. I just unzipped the tent opening 4” to take a picture of the forest and 6 little suckers made it in. The first, I mean very first, thing I do when crawling in and zipping up my tent is go on mosquito patrol. I have found that trapping them between my hand and the netting then wiping my hand down usually does the trick, even though it often leaves a small bloody trail in its wake.

Back to my book. At the moment I am reading ‘Quarry’ by Max Allan Collins. It is about a contract hit man, and the style is similar to the old fashioned pot boilers from the 30s and 40s.

Until later . . . . .

Well, I finished my book and got in a nice afternoon nap: about 4.5 hours worth. I would still be sleeping if it hadn’t been for a young couple with a dog that came wandering through the camping area. They parked their car back by the bridge and were doing a little exploring, I guess.

I have now started ‘Quarry’s List’, the followup to the previous book. It was either that or ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ by Hannah Arendt. The lighter read about the further adventures of a contract hit man seemed the more appealing.

Swollen Fish RiverDinner time: the high point of the day. I decided on Chicken & Noodles, with tea and raspberry crumbles for dessert. In these types of situations the pouch meal system is really quite handy. But first, I had to exit my cocoon to refill the water bottles; Fish Creek is probably a foot or two higher than it was yesterday. I am able to move things aside and fix/eat the meal inside my tent. Unfortunately I will have to exit said tent and enter the real world of mosquitoes in order to put my bear barrel away for the night. So far we have not seen any evidence (scat or tracks) of bears around here but I don’t want to tempt them by having food where I am sleeping.

I think if you are doing a ride like this you must enjoy solitude, or as my dear sainted mother use to say, ‘I like people, but I also enjoy myself.’ Even though you travel with someone else I believe you need to enjoy being with yourself. You cannot talk forever, at some point you must let the silence of the ride creep in and go with the flow. I feel lucky that the sounds of silence are so enticing to me.

Talk at ya’ tomorrow . . . . . sleep tight and don’t let them bed bugs bite . . . . .

Day 22: 12 Miles Short of the Arctic Circle Crossing to Fish Creek Bridge

CampsiteToday was the shortest we have ridden:  13.76 miles. We started somewhat late, 9:45 am, and just never quite got the motors running. Part of the issue was recovering adequately from yesterday’s ride, part of it was the late start, and part of it was the tremendous heat (93 degrees) which seemed to bring out the mosquitoes in more plentiful numbers than usual. When we got to the bridge over the Fish Creek we stopped to fill our water bottles and decided to stay put for the night. Another consideration could have been the steep hill called Finger Mountain was facing us just down the road.

Sharon and JV - Milepost PhotographersShortly after getting started this morning an RV passed us then stopped out in front. Out pops a lady with a camera and a man. Turns out it was Sharon and JV, who are field editors for the Milepost magazine. The Milepost is the one stop directory for all things travel on the Al-Can highway, Dalton Highway, and other major roads up here. They were on their way from Prudhoe Bay heading to Manly. It is amazing how many people from all sorts of countries and walks of life you meet on this road.

Ride to Connection RockThere were more hills today, and one of them was a long slow grade up to Connection Rock. The view on top was stunning, and you could see the road leading up from where we had come and the road leading down to where we were going. Some of the road continues to be well paved and other sections are either dirt packed gravel or pavement with substantial amounts of gravel filled potholes. The gravel sections seem to appear out of nowhere and do not have advance warning signs so maintaining a good speed going downhill can be somewhat treacherous.

Manabe from JapanJust before reaching Connection Rock summit we met a fellow named Mannabe, from Japan. He seemed excited to run into other bicyclists but spoke very halting English, and it was difficult to have any communication with him. After a few photos Mannabe headed north to Prudhoe Bay, his final destination. What an adventurous individual, traveling across the US and up into Alaska by himself and speaking little of the English language.

day-22-arctic-circleIt was 12.7 miles to the Arctic Circle Camp and sign, where we stopped for a brief lunch and some photo ops. We expected a big sign for the crossing to be on the side of the road, however, it is off to the left (when heading south) and up a steep little incline. It seemed a little incongruous to be talking about the Arctic Circle in 90 degree weather, but we have reached this milestone.

Paul on Ural MotorcycleWhile we were at the Arctic Circle Crossing a number of other people came in, including Paul on a Russian made Ural motorcycle w/sidecar. It was military olive drab and looked sharp. They sell about 3-400 hundred of them in the US each year. Paul said they require a lot of maintenance but are easy to work on, and he was enjoying riding on it. Paul started out in Seattle and was heading to Prudhoe Bay, then back to Washington state.

One couple, in a car, stopped to talk a bit. They were from Chicago IL so we had something in common: Margie and I lived about 90 miles away for 18 years and visited there many times. Then there was Randy, who lived down by Mobile AL. He was in a motorhome pulling a red jeep. It was good to hear his southern accent, and we discussed a few things from down that neck of the woods, including my son going to Auburn. Turned out his grandson, 26, went to Auburn, also. Go War Eagles (that was for you kiddo).

Fish RiverAt this point we were in need of water, again, so stopped at Fish Creek, about 1 mile further down the road. The breeze was nice, the water was cold, the day was hot, (I am sure there are many more excuses), and we decided to stop for the day. This will give us a chance to rest up and get an earlier start tomorrow as we will soon tackle a Finger Mountain and then a hill that is fondly called Beaver Slide. Besides, this is a nice ‘unofficial’ area to camp, and there are signs everywhere that others have used this, too.

All of the water in this area seems to have a somewhat weak tea color, much like where we were last night; there must be some kind of minerals leaching in. It all tastes good but we do run it through the filter each time just to make sure.

Fish River CampsiteAfter setting the tent up, filling the water bottles, eating a Spam sandwich, I lay down briefly and woke up 3 hours later: must have been more tired than I thought. With all of the shade trees to block the sun and a nice breeze blowing it is very nice.

Well, I better finish getting things together and get the dinner food out. We decided to get up and get started much earlier. Last year Tom and I started out about 5 am, so we could get our mileage in and avoided the hot afternoon sun. It worked out well. Up here we won’t have to worry about riding in the dark when starting that early.

Butterfly on Solar PanelWonder what tomorrow will bring? Take care . . . . .

Today we did 13.76 miles, had an elevation gain of 1,040 feet, and averaged 3.4 mph including all of the stops.