Day 15: In Alaska
Well, we made it to Alaska. About 5,500 miles for Mark from Forida and about 5,000 miles for me from North Carolina. We’ve seen some great scenery and met some great people and we still have about 4 weeks left in this Great Advenure.
I’m unable tonight to connect to the Internet on my MacBook Pro and consequently will post this short blog using my ancient iPad. I’m hopeful the problem will correct itself tomorrow when we move to a new hotel. If it doesn’t, the blog will likely continue but in an abbreviated format. Stay tuned.
Edit Sunday Morning: I now have a connection. I’m not going to add anything else now, but since it’s going to be raining in Fairbanks when we get there I’ll have plenty of time for an extended post tonight, covering today and some of yesterday. I’m delighted to learn that the problem last night was NOT in my laptop.
Edit Sunday Afternoon: I’m in much better humor now than last night when I first started this post. I was bummed, to say the least, to think that I would have to try to maintain this adventure’s blog on my old iPad. It could be done, but it’s difficult and time consuming to write and post photos from that device.
We departed Haines Junction Saturday fully outfitted in our cold-weather gear. It was 41 degrees when we woke up at 5 a.m. and about 43 when we left the Raven Hotel. But the sky was only a little hazy and we had great views for an hour or so of the snow-covered St. Elias Mountains, a sub-range of the Alaska-Yukon Mountains, and the beautiful Kluane (klu áh nee) Lake. We stopped a couple of times just to take in the view (and to adjust equipment that I always forget to adjust before I start the engine that requires getting out of half of what I’m wearing and then putting it on again before we can head down the road).
I also planned a stop at Kluane Lake to take a picture like the one Marilyn took in 2013. If you happen to have one of my “business” cards, compare it to this one. If not click here to see a 2013 version.
As we rode along the 23-mile long lake constant reminders of the history of the Alaska Highway construction in 1942 lay all around us. We looped around the lake in the picture and rode at the foot of Sheep Mountain (pictured behind me) where the highway was officially completed on a cold day in November 1942 when crews coming south from Fairbanks and crews going north from Dawson Creek met, opening the rough but completed road to never-ending convoys of army vehicles packed with men and supplies.
I’m also reminded of the 1942 history and the early years of the Alaska Highway by the decaying carcasses of trucks, cars, and road equipment displayed or maybe just discarded along the way. Some of the old timers are taken care of by kindly historical societies with an occasional coat of fresh paint and maybe a sign identifying the vehicular veteran of the war, while others are neglected, rusting away to forgetfullness and oblivion.
The day before we started this leg of the journey we were told to be wary of road construction and were pleasantly surprised when we didn’t encounter any. But our joy was premature. We found the torn-up pavement, construction dust and mud, softball sized rocks, and the evil, time-killing, red-vested flagger. That 30-mile stretch of pseudo-road, with three separate delays waiting for slow-moving pilot cars, added an hour to the ride, which began later that usual anyway since we expected an easy day and wanted to eat the free 7:30 breakfast at the Raven Hotel.
One final note before I close out this twice-edited blog post. Everyone needs moments that reel in unearned and undeserved hubris. Just when I’ve convinced myself that I’m doing something special, that I’m on the edge of adventuresome greatness, I find someone who reminds me that what I d0 isn’t so special after all, that pales in comparison to their adventures. Toward the end of yesterday’s ride we stopped at the Teslin Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center about 10 miles inside Alaska to look around. I noticed an odd looking bicycle at the entrance and approached a likely looking 60-ish character to ask if it was his. It was, he said, and he proceeded to regale us with his travels all over Canada and Alaska on that bicycle. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he also pointed out that it folded up and stored neatly in the canoe that he usually towed behind the bike. He spent as much time paddling down Canadian rivers, he said, as he did on his diminutive velocipede. I didn’t get his name, but wished him a safe journey as he pedaled off on the final 26 miles of that day’s ride to Beaver Creek. And then I meekly climbed on my motor-propelled bike and rode humbly north.