I’ll be long gone

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.

Half-fat ideas

The Pugsley in two acts this summer. Act I: I roll on 29 inch wheels down the AlCan Highway, and the upper half of the Great Divide to Colorado. Act II: I meet Lael and her “snowblind” white Pugsley in Colorado, and we bump along high mountain passes on the Colorado Trail to Durango, through the San Juan Mountains to Grand Junction, the Kokopelli Trail to Moab, and beyond. The AZT might be in the mix as well as some National Park visitation in the southwest.

The Pugsley is in transition at the moment, but I’m really enjoying this half-fat setup. Previously, I thought that a fat front tire was a nice way to modify an existing 29er to maximize it’s abilities and to taste the fatbike nectar. Now, I’m considering leaving mine this way. In the past, I’ve opted to use slightly larger tires in the front before to improve the comfort of the front end, but never this big. It would really soften the ride and would be plush on washboarded dirt roads and trails. Likely, I’ll drop in a 29in wheel and leave town on that, but Ive decided the half-fat ride is no compromise. It’s both fat and fast in the same bike.

Salsa Cowbell 3 bars are on order, as well as a Nitto M-18 (R-18 would work too) rack that will support a Carradice saddle bag. I’ve enjoyed using the Revelate Vischasa seatpack over the last few days, but the Carradice Camper is almost twice as big, and rides better when filled with heavy items.

Summer is winning the race with spring. Goose Lake is still frozen but reflects a lot of sunlight. If you stand with your face to the sun and you back to the painted white guard station, it’s about 80 degrees over there on a sunny spring afternoon. Stripping down to skivvies, but the lake is still frozen.

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.