Vietnam 04/10/2011Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: dien bien phu, heat, jungle, mountains, sapa, tam tron pass, vietnam
Vietnam is hot as balls. Seriously.
Granted, I don’t have a lot of experience in the tropics. Before this trip the closest I came to a jungle was a palm tree at the Regina mall.
As far as ideal temperatures go, I’m a lot like margarine, and now that the sun is screaming down I’ve nothing to do but melt.
But you’ll never hear me complain. Vietnam is incredible, and even though it’s kicking my butt, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
Case in point: the ride from the border to Sapa, a 35 km climb that would make John Wayne tinkle in his chaps. It took me a day and a half, mostly spent doubled over my handle bars, panting and dripping.
But I had every reason to keep going. The higher I rode, the better my view of sweeping rice fields, terraced in a lazy ascent up the same mountains whose peaks disappeared into the clouds. I followed, amazed.
And on that narrow misty road, I fell in love with the hill tribes of the country’s northwest. H’mong, Dao, Tay – all of them in fantastic colours, waving hello, wearing smiles that stretched from their faces to mine.
I haven’t stopped grinning yet. After a full week in Sapa I pedalled over Tram Ton Pass – Vietnam’s highest – and descended into the oven of the lower mountains.
It took me five sweat-soaked days to bike to Dien Bien Phu, and no doubt the ride would have been hell if not for the hospitality along the way. In every town I had invitations for shade and tea. Kids handed me fresh fruit while old ladies fussed over my water bottles.
The only words I know in Vietnamese are “hello” and “thank you”. Sometimes that’s enough.
I’ll spend one more day in Dien Bien Phu before turning west and cycling to the Laos border. My legs can use the rest, and honestly, I’m not ready to leave the country just yet.
Every day I spend in Vietnam, I feel my energy returning, my faith in this trip being restored. They’re easy things to lose, hard to come by when they’re gone.
I’m only thankful that I’m heading in the right direction once more.
Tian Shan 12/20/2010Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: blizzard, camping, china, kazakhstan, mountains, tian shan, winter, xinjiang
Things changed after Uzbekistan. Nightfall became something ugly, the darkness was interminable. I couldn’t sleep. The sounds I’d always ignored now echoed through my tent, squeezing my throat tighter against a pounding heart. My nerves were shot.
Kazakhstan didn’t help. I’d only been in the country a few days when a car skidded to a stop in front of me. The driver stumbled in my direction until his nose nearly touched mine. He was yelling.
I remember wondering why liquor never stinks until it hits someone’s mouth.
When I turned away the man grabbed my beard and nearly pulled me off my saddle. I pushed his hand back, but when I started pedalling he threw me into a guard rail, bike and all. I think he startled himself sober because he just stood there gaping at me sprawled on the road.
I dusted myself off and biked away. I never saw the guy again.
There was no sense to be made of it, no lesson to take away. The randomness hit me harder than he ever could. It’s tough knowing that careful isn’t good enough. Sometimes strength or smarts don’t count for much. The world spins on dumb luck – the only thing we control is whether we want to take a ride.
I did when I left. Now I wasn’t so sure.
I thought about packing it in, boxing my bike and heading home to hide. I’d be secure in the road behind me, rolled into good days and bad, bound with all the faces in between. No one could take it away from me.
But that can’t work, at least not for me. I go crazy unless I have something to fight for. A chance to sit around and reminisce certainly isn’t it. I need the promise of what lies ahead, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to hand it over to some worthless thugs.
I made a choice that night. I will never go looking for trouble, but the next person to bring it will find all they can handle in me. I cut a branch from a tree and carved it into a billy club. It’s been strapped to my handle bars ever since.
I’ve only had to use it once, and perhaps that’s the strangest story of all. One night, after crossing the Chinese border, I heard a terrible crash in the woods. I squinted through the firelight until five figures emerged from the shadows.
At first I thought they were sheep late for the dinner bell. Then I saw manes and tusks and realized I was staring at wild boars. They sniffed and grunted, closing around me until the biggest one lowered its head and charged.
When I shone my flashlight in its eyes it stopped dead in its tracks. I grabbed my club and ran yelling through the trees, chasing it away. The others scattered in a squealing mess. They were not happy. For an hour I could hear them huffing, circling my camp. But they stayed away.
I wasn’t scared. I get animals – they play by rules, and even if they attack, there’s a certain fairness about them. That night made more sense than dozens that had come before it. I slept soundly. My nerves haven’t bothered me since.
Afterwards I made my way over the Tian Shan mountains, a range that began in eastern Kazakhstan and seemed to stretch on forever. It took me weeks to reach the top. Each day was colder than the last and the gaps between villages grew longer and longer.
The summit was a wasteland. At nearly 3,000 meters above sea level, I saw no trees, not a single hint of life. There was only a thick blanket of snow and a howling wind. The road was iced over so I joined vehicles in a snail’s pace as I walked my bike to the top.
It took me all day to get there, and as the daylight faded so too did my courage. The top of a mountain is a very bad place to spend the night. There’s no shelter, no firewood and the temperature drops much too fast.
I was frantic at the peak. I bundled myself in all of my clothes and started the descent as fast as I could pedal. It didn’t do any good. My shirts were frozen solid with the day’s sweat. I couldn’t stop shivering, couldn’t feel my hands or feet.
But sometimes dumb luck swings the other way. As the last traces of purple disappeared from the snow I spotted a three-building village in the distance. Those on the other side of the mountain had all been abandoned, but I didn’t care. This one was going to keep me warm.
The first building was a crumbling auto garage. I poked my head inside, ready to beg for a corner to lay out my sleeping bag. Instead an old woman put her hand on my shoulder and led me down a hallway with numbered doors. The place doubled as an inn for truckers.
My room had a wooden bed, a faded velvet card table and an old coal stove. I have never been so thankful in my entire life. A star was shining over me somewhere that night.
The next day I cycled 80 km over a plateau, never making it out of the snow or below the treeline.
But I’d been smarter about it. I was dry and wrapped in my warmest clothes – six shirts, two jackets, four pairs of pants and three sets of socks. I camped in a culvert to stay out of the wind. I had no reason to worry.
That changed in a hurry. By the middle of the night the wind became a gale and then a full blown blizzard. Snow whipped into the culvert, covering my tent, pressing down on all sides. I woke up half buried, sure that my tent was going to collapse.
As I opened the door, all the powder that I was going to brush away poured into my tent, falling over my sleeping bag and blanket. I got out anyways, trying my best to push the weight off the tent poles. I was covered in snow by the time I zipped everything shut. I knew I was in big trouble.
There was nothing to do but wait until morning when I hoped the storm would ease. It only got worse. At dawn I found one end of the tunnel completely blocked by snow and the other closing quickly. I dug my way out to get my bearings but couldn’t see a thing. It was a total white out.
My water and cooking fuel were frozen. I had no food and no idea how long the storm would last. If I stayed put, I would be trapped. I needed to get down the mountain, and fast.
Dragging my bike and gear through waist-high snow was almost impossible, but after three trips and a lot of cursing I managed to get everything back on the road. Thankfully the wind was going my way, so all I had to do was get myself in the saddle and steer.
I biked 60 km through the storm, never able to see more than a few meters in front of me. I had to use my boots to stop because my brakes were iced over. My gloves froze around my handlebars.
In all my winters on the Prairies, I’ve never seen another blizzard like it.
Halfway down the mountain I reached a town called Balguntay. The people there wore fall jackets. The earth was wonderfully brown. For the first time in days I saw trees and a river that flowed.
I didn’t have the energy to celebrate. There was no whoop, no fist pump. I just sat on a curb and buried my face in my hands.
Sometimes I don’t know if I’m doing everything right or making every mistake there is.
Italy east 05/07/2010Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: border, castle, italy, mountains, san marino, slovenia, tunnels, venice
With nothing but tailwinds and sunshine, the ride from Rome was less difficult and a whole lot more interesting than I ever expected.
Crossing the mountains that run like a spine down the middle of Italy was a cinch, though my love-hate relationship with tunnels is once again on the rocks.
The big tunnels – some as long as 5 km – were crawling with mice, and the scream of engines rang in my ears long after I came out the other side. But they save time.
One of the greatest experiences of the trip was visiting San Marino, a tiny republic not far from the Adriatic Sea.
All day I climbed a steep, twisting road to the border, and when I crossed over, sunburned and exhausted, I realized I still wasn’t there. I was somewhere near the bottom of there. San Marino proper is quite literally a mountain on a hill, but the ride to the top was worth ever single drop of sweat.
Perched on a sheer cliff, the historic centre is a walled castle with a jaw-dropping view of the surrounding countryside. I fell in love with the place from the moment I stepped onto its cobblestone streets.
I spent half the afternoon grinning at the horizon, watching the clouds roll by, and when I finally turned around I discovered that I was alone. A bit of rain had sent the tour bus crowd scurrying, so I was free to roam the city and explore the castle in peace.
It was incredible to be in such a spot, fulfilling a dream I had ever since I was a kid. You can keep your churches and statues – I’ll always be a castle man.
The ride north to Venice was flat, so I was able to tick off a pile of kilometres without much effort. It’s a good thing, too, because I needed every bit of energy I had.
Venice is hands down the least bicycle-friendly place I’ve ever seen in my life. Canals and hundreds of foot bridges will do that to a city.
At first I tried dragging my bike around, but after six or seven bridges my knees went wobbly and I gave up, ditching my gear at a cheap hotel.
I spent the rest of the night full of wine, mingling at a bizarre patio lantern party and trying in vain to get to Piazza San Marco. I walked the narrow streets until 4 o’clock in the morning – I never did find the plaza, but I sure had fun trying.
This morning I felt like death, though I still decided to hit the road because the day was too beautiful to waste.
I cycled for a few hours, not far, but far enough that I should be able to cross the Slovenian border sometime tomorrow.
East, east, east . . .
Avanti! 04/20/2010Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: border, genova, italy, monaco, mountains, pisa, rome, traffic
1 comment so far
Italy! It may be scorching hot with climbs that go on forever, but this place is beautiful beyond compare and I’m enjoying every moment of my time here.
I crossed the border after touring Monaco, a mecca for fancy cars and private beaches, where a drink without an umbrella is as close as anyone will ever come to roughing it.
I hated the place – it assaulted my senses, encircled me with horns and brakes and ugly cranes, and all I could do was retreat between the slow-moving tour buses.
The commotion seemed to pursue me across the border, but the pitch changed on the way to San Remo. As I entered the city I realized that Italy is the land of motorbikes. Mopeds. Scooters. You name it.
Everyone, from grandmothers to peach-fuzz teenagers, drives on two wheels, usually like a maniac, and the streaking vehicles make city travel an adventure.
At first I tried to pull over to let the congestion subside, but in Italian cities, that never happens. It’s all traffic, all the time. There is nothing to do but join the flow and zig-zag between buses and trucks like some kind of demented bicycle courier.
It’s a heart-pounding, sweat-in-your-eyes rush, and it’s about as far as I’ve ever felt from the plodding tracks of Albert Street in Regina.
With the craziness of the cities and the steep, wincing summits of the mountains, my rhythm was set, and I darted from Genova to La Spézia to Pisa without incident.
As for Pisa, what a difference a tower makes. The structure is interesting to be sure, but the rest of the city is industry and brown-brick buildings crumbling along the shores of a stinking river.
Glad I went, glad I left.
Now it’s onward to Rome, where I hope to meet my friend Sarah. She hosted me in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, last summer, so to see her again, almost a full year later, will be exciting.
Then . . . I’ve been thinking about what comes next and I still haven’t made up my mind. Rome will likely be my most southern point in Italy. From there I hope to tour Slovenia and Croatia with a possible stop in Hungary. So many ideas, and all I know for certain is that it’s going to be a great summer. Onward!
Encore 04/10/2010Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: border, france, marseille, mountains, pyrenees, spain
Nearly 2,000 km have passed beneath my feet since my last update and all I left behind was wonder.
The roads of southern Spain were a marvel, baked and shimmering under the sun, delivering me to some of the most unbelievable terrain I’ve ever seen in my life. Between blue-green lakes and distant castles I cycled the narrowest of mountain passes, in awe of the world below as much as the sky above.
How it will resonate, I can’t say, but I know the experience defined something within me, something apart from my travels. I’m only sorry that words are all I have to help me share it.
Winding my way up coastal points and down to rocky coves, I crossed the French border in the first days of April. My final descent thrust me through an alpine tunnel, and at the other end were the grind and gravel of the flatlands I know so well.
I got lost in my thoughts for days. Peripignan, Narbonne, Montpellier – they all clicked by and I hardly noticed. It wasn’t until I collided with the limestone heights near Marseille that I realized I was pedalling and stopped wondering why.
People often ask why I left home to do this, and still, after 10 months on the road, the only answer I have is that something was missing. Pouring money or alcohol or people through the cracks only made them wider, more obvious. Yet now, with nothing, I am beginning to feel whole and sometimes all I want to do is rush home to prove it. But in my heart I know it’s too soon, and what scares me is the idea that it always will be.
Enough about that, more about Marseille.
The place is filthy, greasy as the paper in a pizza box, and when I hold it up to the neon lights as I walk the streets, I see all the rich and repulsive flavours that make a city spin.
I passed one-legged skippers and hopeless beggars, Gypsys and gentry and lipstick in the shadows, a soiled drunk who undid his belt a moment too late, ice cream chins and the dreamy song of a carousel, lemon rum ladled from peanut butter jars, fountain cherubs, slick harbours, and, oblivious to it all, there was a puppy chasing a plastic bag through the trash.
It’s been an experience like no other and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it.
The rain in Spain just ain´t the same 12/31/2009Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: basque, bordeaux, border, france, mountains, pyrenees, rain, spain
If the gods were to gather for a winter convention, it would surely be held in Spain. After spitting out buckets of rain in Belgium and freezing my particulars in central France, the Basque region was one of the most welcome changes of the trip.
I´ve been following the northern coastline from the border – nothing but miles of beaches on one side and the velvet green peaks of the Pyrenees on the other. The mountain climbs have been leg-screamers at times, but the descents make them worth the effort. There is nothing like blasting down a winding pass at 60 km/h - you have to enjoy every second because the next might see your guts painted on the highway with a 400-meter brush stroke.
I´m still trying to figure out the Spanish people, which is rather difficult since my vocabulary is limited to ¨I like¨ (I don´t know what I like, but I like), ¨water¨and ¨please¨. So far the folks seem incredibly laid back, kind of like the French without appointment books. But there are definitely two things I don´t like here:
- The Spanish don´t eat soup. I´ve checked every supermarket. No soup.
- Motorists think the frequency of horn blasts is directly proportional to the speed of traffic.
These are just minor annoyances, though, and since the temperature is hovering around 20°C, I´m not about to complain.
Still, I have to admit that a teeny tiny part of me is still in France. I crossed the border just when I started feeling comfortable with the language and culture, and truth be told, I miss it more than I would have ever expected. The cities there were so alive, so vibrant, that sometimes I´d just lean on my bike in the downtown plazas and soak it all up like some blue-eyed sponge, always thirsty for more. Here´s a clip of a random 30 seconds in Bordeaux:
There are so many things I want to experience that I´m starting to realize the only enemy of this trip is time. It´s like a bird overhead, always circling, perched around the bend, and yet never seeing what I see or feeling what I feel. All it counts are these days away.
Halftrack trails 08/26/2009Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: alberta, bear, british columbia, canada, mcbride, mountains, rain
Bye bye British Columbia, hello Jasper. Gasper. The winding roads and serenity of the mountains are officially behind me, and I find myself in gift shop purgatory – a hub of zombie debit swipes and ascot-clad backpackers.
The detour to Jasper was a sort of litmus test to find if I wanted to make the journey south down the Icefields Parkway to Banff. I don’t.
To be honest, a good portion of my heart is still in British Columbia. The ride east on the Yellowhead was wonderful, a relaxing meander through sweeping valleys and lush farmland that smelled like home. It was so incident-free, in fact, that my mind wandered in every direction for hours. And, of course, that’s when something happens.
I was cycling through the hills near Prince George as black clouds gathered behind me. They mushroomed all day, but since I was facing the sunshine, I didn’t think much of them. Then, in the early evening, Mother Nature pulled a hood over the sky and it sounded like bombs were dropping in the distance. Day became an eerie night and I pulled off onto an abandoned hiking trail as fast as I could. I scrambled to put up my tent, and just as I snapped the last pole together, gumball sized drops started falling and lightning lit up the sky. And the thunder! It boomed through the valley, through my guts, and I couldn’t help but think the next bolt was headed for my tent.
But it wasn’t. Something else was. As the storm slowly subsided, I heard a huge crash through the trees and seconds later a nose in constant suction was sniffing at my tent. I looked up to see a big black nose pressed against the fabric, inches from my own face. The animal then walked to my bike, knocked over my cook pot and then plowed back through the bushes. The next morning I found a huge pile of berry-bear shit next to my camp. And that was that.
Further east, in the Robson Valley, I came to a small town called McBride. It gave me a good vibe from the moment I cycled down Main Street, so I grabbed some supplies from the local market and headed to the Visitor’s Centre for some complimentary coffee refills. True, I don’t drink coffee, but I’m always in the mood for free.
Admittedly, though, I’ve developed a bit of a problem with crowds. I’ve spent so much time alone, in the middle of nowhere, that large groups of people pour glue on my shoes and make me clutch the wall. So I stood there, eyes widening, until a woman gave me a huge smile that must have rattled off the mugs behind me. I turned red and scuffed the floor with my toe.
“Can I buy you a coffee?”
The glue melted and I smiled back. I said I’d be happy to have a cup with she and her husband. I sat down and right away they asked me all about my trip. Where was I going? Where did I start? Where was I staying tonight? My reply to the last question wasn’t up to snuff, I think, and they invited me to stay at their acreage east of town. Juliann and Gerald were such genuinely warm people that I accepted right away and asked that they repeat directions to their place, which I promptly forgot after the door swung shut.
I’m not much good at details.
So, after five cups of coffee and an hour-long conversation with a local cedar farmer, I headed off for the road that starts with an “H”, second house on the right. Or left. And I made it! The road was Hinkelman and the cream house with green trim was just as wonderful as I imagined. It sat under a canopy of beautiful trees and right beside the back door was a candy-coloured garden with flowers I’ve never even seen before.
Jullian and Gerry were the most amazing hosts. I asked where I could set up my tent, and they winked and suggested the guest bedroom downstairs. This, after they stuffed me with delicious food, threw my clothes in the washer and me in the shower. And as I ran my fingers across the titles of Jullian’s book collection, I smiled, warm and content, and realized how lucky I’ve been on this trip. I’ve met so many wonderful people, so many generous souls, and in the end I guess that was the point. It makes all the difference in the world.
The next day, Jullian and Gerry drove me halfway up an alpine trail so I could climb Mount McBride. I squinted at the treeless peak and realized, once and for all, that the Prairie flats are permanently ingrained in my DNA. The idea of climbing an actual mountain was so foreign to me that I set off with a ham sandwich and a big smile – I figured that’s all I needed.
I got to the top of Mount McBride without any trouble. In fact, it was fun, and as I looked down at the snow on smaller peaks, I found that I was having the time of my life. I peered across the horizon and picked out another ridge, this one a towering rocky mass, and decided I was going to climb that one too.
If you’re looking at the picture above, the peak in question sits centre frame, just to the right of the sharp triangle outcropping. I almost made it, too.
As I made my way up the ridge, I came to a sheer rock face that was impossible to climb. I had to go around, so I shimmied down, and that’s where I slipped. Or rather, the rocks slipped. They disintegrated under my feet and on my back I slid about 20 meters down the mountain. The slope continued beneath me, the angle growing sharper, and then it dropped off, straight down to a rock pile far below.
I dug my fingers into the stones to try to climb back up, but every time I moved I only slipped further down. A few inches at a time, lower and lower, sliding to a free fall. I clutched the wall for about 20 minutes, talking to myself and trying to quell the panic rising in my throat. Eventually my arms started to shake, growing weak, and the time to climb out was now or never.
I couldn’t get any sort of grip, so I slowly pried a rock out of the mountain and put my fingers in the hole. Then my knee and then my foot. From there, I scaled a narrow outcropping back to a tiny perch where I could sit, dizzy and very scared. But the top of the ridge wasn’t far above, and when I made it there I got off the mountain as fast as humanly possible. Mount McBride, far below, seemed like a gift and solid ground a blessing.
Jullian asked me what was going through my mind as I clung to the mountain wall. Here it is: In Endako, BC, I saw a random sign beside the highway that said, “Prepare To Meet God.” Sliding down the rock face, inch by inch, I realized I wasn’t even sure what God looks like. All I knew was that I ain’t it.
The land of milk and honey 08/17/2009Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: bear, british columbia, camping, canada, cassiar highway, hazelton, mountains
The Cassiar Highway is no more. I pounded out 430 km in three days and, on Aug. 14, turned east onto the Yellowhead. Finishing a highway usually leaves me a bit deflated, pedalling aimlessly on new pavement, but this time I promised myself that I’d make it to the first major town down the road – Hazelton.
I arrived just as dusk was settling over the mountains, and I quickly made my way to the local grocery store to buy unreasonable amounts of meat and sugar. Protein and go-juice. The next hour saw me sitting on a curb, munching on a foot-long garlic sausage coil and throwing Oreo cookies into my mouth, one after another.
When the food frenzy was finally over, I had nothing to do but bike around a strange town in the dark looking for a place to sleep. My midnight sign reading skills are questionable, though, and the hiking trail I thought I was following turned out to be a patch of thorny underbrush and rocky ground. After a long day, I didn’t care all that much, and I fell asleep with slashed legs and my shoes still on my feet.
Things are always clearer in the morning. I got myself back on the trail and took an early morning hike to a huge (to me) waterfall in the forest. Normally, I’m white-faced scared of heights, but the falls were so neat that I scampered up the rocks and sat at the top with my legs dangling over the edge. The view was crazy and it occured to me that I’d like to camp right there for, y’know, ever.
Later I got back on my bike and set off for Old Hazelton, which lies just across the Bulkley River. The metal bridge spans a huge ravine, and I took a highlight-reel spill because I was too busy gawking at the rushing water. Not my finest moment.
In Old Town I tried to find the public library, but ended up coming across a Cultural Days festival instead. The food smells alone were enough to draw me in, and I spent the rest of the day eating smokies, drinking beer with German tourists and playing hapless games of bingo. It was a blast – the best possible way to get off the highway for a rest.
At the festival, I met a great guy named Darren who invited me to camp at his place in Two Mile, a small community between the two Hazeltons. It’s such a wonderful spot!
Darren and his wife Anise have four beautiful kids, a dog named Luna, gardens and even a shed full of baby chicks! The place is a beehive of activity, but I love how everyone seems to be in a thousand places at once, yet always in the here and now.
Yesterday I took another day off because a bunch of us went huckleberry picking in the mountains. We came back with buckets and buckets of berries, purple fingers and a new appreciation for date-guessing bear shit. One blackie looked up at us from a small creek, but he was interested in having a drink, not us.
Tomorrow I set off again. For now, I’m enjoying this break immensely.
Strong like ox, cold like Regina 07/23/2009Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: alaska, camping, mountains, usa
I don’t know if it’s because I was in the mountains or because it’s been cloudy for days, but summer seems to have taken a vacation of its own. The temperature is hovering around 15°C during the day and I wake up with frozen snot during the night. Let’s hope this is only temporary, because I still have a long way to go before I’m back in the south.
Besides the weather, the trip from Palmer to Glenallen was surprisingly uneventful. Individually, some of the mountain passes were the toughest I’ve ever done, but the range as a whole wasn’t all that strenuous. I eat oatmeal – mountains don’t. Enough said.
On the second day after leaving Palmer, I came upon a huge area of road construction. Traffic was backed up for about a mile and people were hanging out of their windows, wandering the ditches smoking and staring at the Nebraska license plates in front of them. It wasn’t exactly one of the moments that get captured for the tourist brochures.
I don’t like waiting and I really don’t like lines, so I skipped into the opposite lane and blasted straight to the front of the queue. The flag lady thought the spectacle was hilarious, though she insisted that I get a ride in the pilot vehicle through the construction zone. So now, if anyone asks, I will say I rode my bike through Alaska except for five miles.
That night, I camped right beside the Matanuska Glacier. Apparently, some of the locals were charging $15 for tourists to walk on the glacier, which I thought was terribly funny. I’ve spent half my life trudging through snow and ice – I’m not paying a dime to do it in somebody else’s backyard.
The next day was a strange tapestry of hills, wind and Snickers bars. I devoured them all and ended the evening in the hamlet of Tazlina, camping beside a slough called Buffalo Lake. My frozen toes woke me up before seven and I took off for Glenallen shortly after.
I’m wearing my wool sweater at the Copper Valley Library now, and if the weather doesn’t smarten up and start shining, this is where I’ll spend the rest of my day. It’s warm and there are books. Good enough for me.
Grumble, grumble, pace, pace 07/13/2009Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: alaska, camping, fairbanks, forest fire, heat, insects, mountains, usa, wind
For the worst cycling days, think hot, hilly and headwinds. I had all of that today, along with about a hundred bugs that splunked off my forehead as I made my way to Healy. To say I’m grumbly would be putting it mildly.
Some days go like this. Some don’t. Performance wise, yesterday was the best day I’ve ever had on my bike. I devoured the terrain from Fairbanks to Nenana and only stopped for water twice. I didn’t even eat much – it was just me and the hills, and my legs felt stronger than ever.
But today was just a stinker from top to bottom. I didn’t get much sleep last night because helicopters and planes were constantly flying overhead to fight the huge Minto forest fire to the west. Plus, I camped on a set of abandoned tracks deep in the bushes, and though there was no possible way a train could take the rails, I kept having ugly dreams of a locomotive light screaming through my head. It’s kind of hard to get your 40 winks that way.
About the only thing that went right today was my laundry. With $2.75 in quarters and a single serving of Tide, I managed to wring the sasquatch stink that had been permeating my clothes for nearly two weeks. The only drawback was that the Nenana laundromat had Christian talk radio locked down as their station of choice. I couldn’t even find the cord to disconnect the speaker. God wires in mysterious ways.
Tomorrow I need to make up my mind if I’m going to Denali National Park and then on to Anchorage, or just ducking back east and taking the Denali Highway to Paxson. We’ll see.