Run for the border

When they say The Top of the World Highway, they’re not kidding! I left Dawson on Canada Day morning and spent the next 10 hours sweating and swearing my way up an endless barrage of hills. The scenery was amazing unless I looked between my feet, where the lunar-like road was either cracked beyond recognition or littered with tire-killing stones. Tough going up and tough coming down.

The ride to the Alaskan border was uneventful for the most part. Lots of dust and plenty of vehicles to kick it into my face. Making it all worthwhile, though, was a drop-dead-gorgeous German lady who stopped to give me water and tell me about the scenery. I mostly just nodded and stared at her sun dress.

I arrived at the border at 9:30, which would have been great if customs didn’t close at 9 p.m. Still, I thought it would take me half the night to get there, so I wasn’t at all disappointed about arriving late. It gave me the chance to camp right at the top of the mountain without a single vehicle passing by. I ate my supper on the hillside, watching the sun fade between green slopes and frozen streams. Too beautiful for a picture.

Bicycle beside the Welcome to Alaska sign on the Top of the World Highway.

Crossing the Alaska border!

This morning I woke up around 10, quickly packed my camp and hit the road with a gut full of oatmeal and optimism. I wanted to cross the border and get close to Tok, but in the back of my mind I knew that would probably never happen because the terrain might be tough. And it was.

I only pulled out 75 km today, but I made it over the worst roads I’ve seen so far. The Taylor Highway was no better than the Top of the World, and how I didn’t get a flat tire or a bent rim is still beyond me.  Just one more reason for me to be in love with my bike, I guess!

Fire weeds as seen from the Taylor Highway in Alaska.

The view from the Taylor Highway

One view that really struck me was a burnt out forest with beautiful fire weeds pouring from the ground. The lush valley and winding stream below were unbelievable, and even though I was halfway up a hill I stopped to take it all in.

People often ask me why I bike, how I can be grinning like a fool, covered in dirt with sweat streaming down my sunburned face. The truth is that I’d pedal all day for views like this. They’re sublime – tingling jolts of cosmic energy that hit you right between the eyes. Amazing.

Tonight I’m camped out at a little town called Chicken. It’s a stop on the road for tourists, but the people here are fantastic. The guys in the restaurant made me a towering Swiss cheese hamburger with potato salad and let me use the Internet for as long as I wanted. And just now, a few minutes before closing, they gave me a slice of leftover cherry pie! Ain’t life grand?

One last thing before I go: Thanks so much for all your wonderful blog comments and e-mails. I’m having the time of my life but I often think of the amazing people back home. Your encouragement means a lot, so please keep it coming.

Tomorrow, to Tok. And the road is paved!

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