Today 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.
Shortly 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.
There 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.
Just 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.
It 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.
While 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).
At 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.
After 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.
Wonder 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.