Put me on flat ground and za-zoom! I cleared 181 km yesterday, zipping from Tok all the way to Delta Junction. The road meandered around the Alaskan Range, but except for the hot weather, it was the easiest ride of the trip.
I still haven’t seen a bear in Alaska that didn’t look like a rug, but I have come across a lot of moose. I caught a peek at these two rascals about 20 miles east of Delta Junction . . .
Yesterday was also my first Couch Surfing experience as a surfer, and not someone who explains where the towels and blankets can be found.
The directions came with a long list of turn-at-the-graveyard notes, but after a few extra kilometres of cycling, I found myself at a wonderfully remote property. Lara, my host, was incredibly welcoming, and we discussed books over a cup of rum and Coke while the midnight sun hung low in the sky. Not a bad way to cap a day on the road.
It was only the second time since I left that I slept on an actual bed. I actually prefer crashing in my bag, but a roof overhead is a great way to minimize the chances of being eaten by wildlife. These days, my legs could feed a family of five for a month, so keeping them attached to my torso is job one.
Readers from the school of Sherlock will no doubt see the day-long gap between the time I said I was leaving Tok and when I actually arrived in Delta Junction. The truth is, I didn’t hit the road at all on July 6. I went gold panning instead.
It’s kind of a long story. My initial day of rest got boring in short order, so I went poking around for things to do. I noticed the campground owners were doing some renovations, so I asked if I could help out. By the end of the day I had helped put up a fence, place a fire pit and install a urinal into the bathroom. It looks like all those hold-this and hammer-that summers with my Dad paid off.
After the work was done, the campground gang took me to their father’s house for a homemade vegetarian spaghetti supper. It was an Alaskan shack if there ever was one, but the company and talk around the wobbly table were amazing.
The father, Donald, fought in Iwo Jima as a 17-year-old and later wrote a book called Alligator Marines about his experiences. I didn’t know until mid-evening that he was a veteran, but his collection of WWII military sabres directly opposite his bathroom sink piqued my interest. We didn’t talk much, but he was an incredible guy, chain smoking on his bed and stroking his long white beard when he spoke.
One of Donald’s friends was an animatronics expert from Jim Henson Studios. He was on vacation after wrapping up work on Where The Wild Things Are. I was kind of hoping he’d let me hide in his car trunk and then give me a tour of his workshop down south, but so far that hasn’t worked out.
Neither did the gold searchin’ the next day. The campground gang invited me out to a friend’s claim to try our luck at prospecting. I felt, probably for the same reason I think I’ll always win at bingo, that panning would be as easy as reaching into the river and hauling out gigantic chunks of gold. Not so.
In fact, after two or three hours of back-breaking work, our group of four only managed to find a few dandruff-sized flakes of the sparkly stuff.
Unless one hits it big, I think working the sandwich bar at an Esso service station pays better than gold panning.
Today is a bit off kilter – it’s already 2 p.m. and I haven’t gone anywhere beyond the Delta Junction Library. I’ll leave soon and hopefully get halfway to Fairbanks before day’s end . . .