Thursday, August 25, 2005
Cincinnati Enquirer Article
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Onward, and Towards Canada!
Tok, Alaska. I made it to Tok last night (08/23) and thought that I would update the site one last time in Alaska before I enter Canada. The ride from Valdez to Tok has been scenic, wet and a lot of fun! I met a lot of fantastic people and saw a bunch of spectacular scenery, as well as heard some pretty frightening noises while camped out (a pack of wolves howling will send shivers down your spine, no matter who you are!) At this point I have covered almost 2,000 miles of Alaska—1985.4 to be exact. Everything is now ready for me to enter into Canada and start making my way through their country, then back into the states to find a place to settle down for the winter.
I finished all of my chores and got out of Valdez around 1:00 p.m. on Friday (08/19). Although it was a day later than expected I was happy to get back in the saddle. I cranked the bike swiftly through Keystone Canyon and past Horsetail and Bridal Veil Falls, wasting no time as I made my way towards the climb up Thompson pass. Thompson Pass is not such a tough climb, usually. It’s a constant 6-9% grade with a couple of turns that flatten out the climb before reaching the summit. But because of the weight of the bike combined with the hazy skies from some recent forest fires it was much harder than the times I have ridden it in the past. The elevation is a little tough, sea-level to 2,678 feet over the course of about 30 miles, but not terrible and totally do-able, even on a hundred plus pound bike. On the other side of the pass awaits spectacular views of Worthington Glacier and a bunch of nice descending that provides a relatively easy ride through a low alpine valley all the way through Glenn Allen, Gulkana, Gakona to Tok.
After Thompson Pass there really aren’t any more long sustained climbs. All along the Richardson Highway and the Tok Cut-Off Road the pavement rolls up and down but nothing to terribly difficult really stands in your way, except for the weather. With winter on its way night time is growing longer, shrinking daytime to under 15 hours of usable light. It’s also getting colder as daylight starts to dwindle. In many of the areas that I have been through it’s frosted a couple of times already. Most of the day’s rides were chilly and overcast. There were several periods of rain during the 5 days it took to get to Tok, but in all fairness the sun shone brightly during much of the trip.
A few places along the ride really made this part of the tour awesome. One of my favorite places in all of Alaska to visit and eat at is the Tonsina River Lodge. Some of the best grub and grog and also the friendliest service through out this great state—they welcome all travelers of the Richardson, including the ones touring by bike, and even let you pitch your tent close to their bush-plane runway! Lodging, showers and laundry are among the long list of amenities that are available at ‘The Lodge,’ but perhaps the most alluring thing about the place is the ghost, Charlie, that occupies the old building that stands close by, no shit! Check out their web-site if you don’t believe me, or stop by for a visit and see for yourself. Mark, Shirley, Lori, and Tina always make this a favorite place to stop either going to or coming from Valdez.
Also, a new place that I found that caters to the bicycle tourist is Midway Services. Halfway from Gulkana to Tok along the Tok Cut-Off around Salana is where you’ll find this fantastic little diamond in the rough. Owners Jay & Debbie Capps offer up a lot services that welcomes many different types of travelers. A full line of groceries, gas, hardware and sporting goods are just a few of the services they offer, but the free tent camping or “bus-bunk” dorm beds and free coffee, plus cheap, hot showers and laundry make this a great place for the bicycle tourist! It was an unexpected but much welcomed find.
Well, it’s time to post this thing so that I can get going down the road. Next update will be from Canada. Before I go I would like to thank everyone—friends, acquaintances—for your e-mails. It’s nice to get to a strange place, go on-line and receive a bunch of new mail! I really appreciate the support and enjoy reading all of them and will try my best to respond to them as quickly as I can. Also thanks to Colleen Kane and the Cincinnati Enquire for the story regarding the tour.