Days 25, 26, 27, & 28: In Fairbanks and Heading Home

ConcernedOver the next 2 and half days I was poked, prodded, and tested by a wonderful medical staff at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Drs. Herbert Day and Carson Webb did a super job looking me over.

The good news, according to them, was that all heart related tests indicated that I had not had a heart attack and my heart was in good shape. The bad news: I did have a very high sodium level, an extremely elevated blood pressure, and some other slightly out of whack blood test results.

The test report was somewhat confusing since I had a very comprehensive examination, including heart stress test, just prior to leaving on this bicycle adventure, and everything was quite normal. As a matter of fact, I had felt perfectly good during our one week ride in Montana and the first week or so in Alaska. Sooooo, the big question was, ‘What had happened to me during the last week or two?’ The doctors told me that the high sodium and very high blood pressure could mimic a stress heart condition, but other than that, they just didn’t know what had caused the rapid change in my body.

Bottom line: Both doctors recommended that I stop the ride, return home, and let my personal physicians try to sort things out.

After talking with Tom, and my wife, I reluctantly decided to take everyone’s advice. It was a difficult decision because I didn’t want to leave Tom high and dry in the middle of Alaska. Fortunately, this problem was solved when we were able to hook up with Menno, our new friend from the Netherlands, as he was currently in Fairbanks. He agreed to modify his route slightly so he and Tom could do most of the remainder of the ride together. My wife was already stressed out as she had to pick up and go to Wisconsin and help her brother through a heart bypass operation, and my continuing the ride would not have been good on her.

Bridgewater HotelWe, and our ‘stuff’, had been staying at the Bridgewater Hotel, in downtown Fairbanks, during our time here. It was a beautiful hotel more reminiscent of something seen along a Florida beach. They were very helpful and provided a secure place to store our bicycles.

Tom, Menno, and IThe hotel was replacing all of their TVs, so I was able to secure several of the boxes and Tom and I boxed up my bicycle and gear for a return flight home. Leaving was certainly difficult for me. Stopping in the middle of the ride was hard, but even more difficult was having to admit that, at age 68, I had started something that I could not finish. On the morning of Day 28, we put my 2 boxes of ‘stuff’ in the back of a pick up truck taxi cab, all three of us said our ‘Goodbyes’, and off I went to the airport. Tom and Menno were heading off the next day to continue the ride.

At this point I need to apologize to those of you who were following my blog during the trip for taking so long to finish the entries. So many of you have contacted me to inquire about the trip and offered prayers of support when learning of my problems, and for this I am eternally grateful. Between my health getting back to normal and me needing to mentally process all that had taken place I was not able to finish the ‘write ups’ until recently. In a followup blog I will discuss some of the follow up doctor findings.

Again, a big thank you to all who contacted me both during and after the ride. Yes, THANK YOU!

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 . . . . .