Trying and trying to leave town, although I’ve put off making fenders and wiring my rear light for several days while I tend the lists I’ve scribbled onto the back of receipts and napkins. Planning to be on the road for several months, a few extra days of preparation and planning will help to ensure a reliable bicycle and a smooth trip. I’m planning to ride the Denali Park Road and the Denali Highway on my way out of the state. The Park Road is a 90 mile dirt road into the heart of the park to the settlement of Kantishna. Private motor vehicle traffic is extremely limited as most visitors are required to travel in Aramark-operated school buses, which reduce traffic volume to several dozen vehicles a day on the only road in the park. The unpaved park road offers some of the best dirt road riding and scenery in the entire state, and free wilderness camping permits are issued to hikers and cyclists, who are required to hide their bikes from view of the road and make camp a short walk further. It’s a highly regulated system, but it effectively preserves and simulates the kind of wilderness experience most visitors expect.
The Denali Highway, not to be confused with the Denali Park Road, is a 135 mile connector between the Parks Highway at Cantwell and the Richardson Highway in Paxson. Most of the surrounding land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, including several official campgrounds, which makes this another favorite Alaskan ride. Before the (George) Parks Highway was built in 1971, the Denali Highway was the main automobile route to Mt McKinley National Park (since renamed Denali). The Denali Highway was built as recently as 1957.
I have a short shopping list including a 1L drink bottle for my fuel, some scrap metal to complete a custom taillight bracket, and bear spray. I’ve made a 4″ wide rear fender out of an $8 piece of aluminum from Lowe’s, some coruplast signage promoting Joe Miller’s Senate bid in 2010, and salvaged stays from a Planet Bike fender and an old chrome balloon tire fender. In short supply of the proper tools, I managed to piece the whole thing together with the leather punch on my Swiss Army knife and a Park multitool. The front fender will make for some conversation, as it features Joe Miller’s campaign slogan in four-inch tall lettering. It’s nice to have lights and fenders again. The bike is finished, finally. It’s ugly, and purple and excessively practical, but it’s done.
By now, I’m gone.
Boz Scagg’s song “I’ll Be Long Gone” is a classic from his eponymous 1969 Atlantic release. The album was recorded in Muscle Shoals, AL with the usual cast of Swampers, and features Duane Allman on guitar. Check out the guitar solo on “Loan Me a Dime”, from the same album.