The cabin

Lots of families have them, especially in places like Maine and Minnesota and Alaska where glacial lakes abound and summer is precious.  My residence for a night, this cabin is a snapshot of life several decades ago.

The homely subtleties abound, including the lineup of hats advertising local bars, chainsaw manufacturers, and trucking companies.

A thick pot of coffee served with pork and beans start the day.

Remember that one time…

The draw has always been the location, and the lake’s crystal waters.

The midnight sun saturates the northern sky across the lake.  Linger on the deck, the sun hanging in the sky.

Midnight.  Denali and Mt. Foraker peer above the horizon.

Never dark this time of year– 2:30 A.M.

Absent the familiar bedtime cues, we roll into bed midway to morning.

Looking ahead:  There are only a half-dozen major highways in the state, but this area has a few interesting unpaved spur roads.  The Petersville Road extends about forty miles from Trapper Creek (mile 115 on the Parks Hwy) toward the south side of Denali National Park and accesses the historic Cache Creek Gold Mine.  The Denali Park Road, further north, reaches ninety miles westward on the north side of the Alaska Range to Kantishna.  Further north, the Stampede Trail reaches westward from the Parks Highway in a narrow finger of state land, disintegrating into multiple game trails, surrounded by Denali NP on three sides.  Across the Teklanika River on the Stampede Trail is the famous site of ‘the Magic Bus”, where Christopher McCandless spent a reclusive season as made public in “Into the Wild”.

The Denali Highway leaves the Parks Highway toward the east, and will be my eventual escape route out of the state.

Bike to everywhere, every day

Gainfully unemployed, I had plenty of time this morning to hunt Bike to Work Day feed stations.  One popular station on the Chester Creek Trail was stocked with bacon, courtesy of the Spenard Roadhouse; cinnamon rolls from Great Harvest, and vouchers for a free beer at the Midnight Sun brewery this evening.  Bacon in the morning and beer in the evening and bikes all day.  Bikes every day.  Bike everywhere, every day.

Lael receives her bacon.  Lael saves her bacon for later.  I wrapped my bacon around a cinnamon roll and ate it immediately.

Backpacks, old Rockhoppers and high visibility clothing all made a good showing.  Two matching riders breezed by on a 5 speed Schwinn Twinn on C Street, while a late 80’s Sierra with a 16 inch tall stem took the bus.  A carbon Ridley cross bike with tubular tires shared a resting spot with an old Bridgestone MB-1.  The purple Pugsley with the smooth tires and the “racing” handlebars confused at least two people.

Open source touring

Open invitations all summer– I’m leaving in a week without a definite plan.  The nearest thing to a plan even sounds too grandiose for me to swallow, or to share.  Nonetheless, you’re all invited.  I’m hoping to meet some of you this summer between Alaska, Alberta, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Viejo Mexico.  In the next six months, I will be in most, but probably not all of those places. You are invited to suggest new routes.  You are expected to offer a shower and a host in a faraway city; perhaps a cousin or college friend that lives amidst the spiny midcenter of the west.  Most of all, you are invited to ride bikes with me for a time.  I’ll be riding alone for a period, and Lael will be meeting me later this summer.  My schedule is wide open so if you’ve got a schedule I can work around, I’ll make it happen.  Want to bike the Canada or Montana portion of the Great Divide?  How about the Colorado Trail in July or August?  The Kokopelli Trail and assorted Moab area routes?  The AZT?  Baja on a fatbike?  How about the Copper Canyon?  Maybe you want to knock down some miles on the AlCan next week.  The sign up sheet is here.

What are your summer touring plans?

Go looking

Days more than twelve hours, especially when gaining daylight, are optimistic. The losing days of fall and winter with less than twelve hours create well-defined constraints. In Alaska, the sun is awake for 16 hours and we are gaining day. Now is the time to leave home. Now is the time to go. This is the touring season.

I leave in a week, although my bike as I’ve planned it is incomplete. My bags are not packed and I hardly know where I am going, but I know that being on a bike in a week is right. In usual fashion, I’m “putting the cart before the horse”. Decide, then describe. I make decisions based upon a whim or a whiff of curiosity. Later, I define the details. Decide to get on the bike, buy the plane ticket, or quit the job first– then, figure out the details as they become relevant.

May 1st marks the day that the snow is almost all gone, 16h 17m 12s of sunlight, and almost six months since arriving in Alaska. I am drooling over long summer days, and working indoors repairing bicycles for others isn’t really doing it for me. My experience on the Great Divide Route last summer has me looking for more.  In a week, I’ll go looking.

South

Cracked skin knuckles from washing hands in Dawn and Gojo a dozen times a day, repairing broken axle Mongeese and other sub-bike shop bikes, ridden hard all winter.  Next, assemble a twenty five pound full-suspension twenty niner.  Everyone drools over themselves, picking it up with two fingers by the saddle and handlebars.  “I guess it’s neat”, is my usual response to these kinds of things.  I’ve freed myself from the reigns of Sheldon and Grant and Jobst and Jan, but I’m still not swallowing 25 lb. twentyniners with a single fork stanchion and a proprietary stem with only one aftermarket option.

Not much outside time these days, but plenty to come.  I’ll be warming my face, heading south into the day’s sun.

Dry pavement

One of our first casual rides of the year, in which we leave without a destination and find our way home at our leisure, because it’s not that cold out any more.  On the heels of a snowfall record is a sunny 50F degree day.  Dry pavement abounds, bordered by snowbanks and dotted with isolated puddles reflecting evening light.  We’re back to riding normal tires again; Lael’s got 26 x 2.0 Schwalbe Big Apples and I’m on a worn out Schwalbe Marathon and and old Continental Top Touring tire.  Tires, like sleeping bags are highly personal and infinitely fascinating to me.  I’ve used many sleeping bags and many more tires.  It’s nice to wear normal shoes again, and to ride on dry pavement without the chatter of studs.  As the snow melts, dirt and gravel are left as ashes in it’s place.  Sidewalks and shoulders are uninspiring moist dirt paths for now.

We use this ride as a planning session for the near future and and are satisfied that making plans while riding bikes in the amber light of the falling sun is appropriate inspiration for we have in store.

Technicolor breakup

An Iron Curtain of hard won snowbanks and solid ice parking lots are failing in the face of forty degree days and sunshine, and some old fashioned ice chipping. The banks are falling like dominoes, calving into mud puddles, and retreating as fractured icebergs. As if a switch was flipped, the weather got warm and the nights have barely refrozen the day’s melt. Studs chatter on pavement and fenders are a necessity. It’s almost time for regular town tires again. To most locals it’s called breakup season, but to cyclists it’s fender season.

I’m exercising a new camera in a scene of mud puddles and micro-icebergs. By surprise, it’s a really beautiful time of year. An exciting new project is in the works; check back on Friday.

Ride at night

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Light til 9, but we still ride in the dark. A group of eight met in the Jodphur parking lot at Kincaid for some sinuous singletrack, some of which is groomed by Herculean riders pulling a worn automobile tire. Lights, bikes, fat tires and friends; Fatbacks, Mukluks and Pugsleys.

After racing around the woods in circles, I raced the fifteen miles home in sub-zero temperatures for a midnight dinner.

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