The first day riding out of Portland was a challenge, being sad to leave my Portland family behind and opting for the more scenic of the options to the coast which also entailed the biggest climb. Alicia took me past the suburbs, wished me fair well and I continued alone. Heading into the Oregon interior again felt like stepping back 50 years and couldn’t help its charming ways, passing farmland and vineyards. I took on a ten mile climb with no water which felt at the same time ridiculous but also nice to be in a situation where water was the biggest concern again. The value of living simply appeared very clear to me, I was looking forward to a quiet week of reading, writing, camp fires, early nights and a step back from the proceeding six weeks of indulgence.
Riding for three months, overwhelming generosity, new faces and friends everyday that would be left the next can take its toll after a while. To stop for a while, get to know a town in a more intimate way and make some connections and friendships that could develop seemed like a good idea. Coincidence drew its straw and the rose city fitted like a glove.
I took five days off and continued to glue tinsel to my crown in the big smoke. Vancouver hardly felt like a big city though, more a steady paced network of very liveable suburbs. It was great to have my first real night out in what felt like a lifetime, laughing with new friends and acting the goat. Ironically I watched a London band I’d been wanting to see for a while. I should probably get my self a Union Jack and get on the English breakfasts, though people seem to be amusingly disappointed that I drink coffee over tea. I had a visit from my Ma who was making her way over to Toronto. She booked us an air bnb pad and we spent a pretty chilled few days taking in some museums, gardens, gentle hikes and of course consuming lots of food and the impressive array of beer on offer. I was happy to connect with my dearest mother, she even indulged me in her selfie debut…
Thanks to Alan who sent my bear snap. I was disappointed to see how cute and cuddly they look here…
It was a relief to be relaxing again in Whitehorse, a pleasant town with a lovely waterfront park spanning the length of its shoulder on the Yukon river. The city and surrounding area seemed to have a pretty active, creative community for such a sparsely populated region. Anthony helped tune up my bike, cooked bison sausages, we hung out and he updated my reading material. I then coasted 40k down the road to stay with Peter and Gilles in an incredible house, right on the banks of marsh lake. Gilles had met Peter in planning a trek through the northern Yukon in the depths of winter, pulling their load by sled. Peter had since welcomed Gilles to stay and work with him and work together building log cabins, they seemed to have developed a great friendship which was wonderful to bear witness to. I was welcome to use the kayak to peruse the lake and fish from the jetty. My abode a sauna cum spare cabin that Peter had built, he’d even built his own houseboat sporting a Cuban flag. Having passed through Cuba many times with his bike, we shared an enthusiasm for the country, planting a seed of some premature re-routing for a revisit.
My arrival in Fairbanks co-incided with the rain. Folk of the city were delighted about this considering the 330 fires littering the state which had resulted in a dense smog over the city. I camped In a hostels garden and spent a much needed couple of days relaxing and talking to other guests. Managing to earn a decent slice of kudos after finishing the dalton was handy and I entered a weekend long eating contest with two likeable young brothers from Chicago who had spent the month floating down the Yukon river in a canoe. They were trying to pick up bikes and head up the dalton and I felt I should persuade them otherwise. I called in on Jeannie and Tony’s on my way out of town. Tony gave me a good rundown on the road ahead and an update on the fires, I met the family and listened to some epic karaoke, stocked up on fruit and biscuits to head east along the Alaskan highway, bumping into some Japanese cyclists delighted to see we were all riding the same bikes.
Off the bat my flight was cancelled so a 40 hour re-routing process and a night in LA left me pretty beat. I flew all the way up the route I would be heading for the next couple of months so looking out of the window it was slightly anti-climatic that it only took 8 hours, mountains are no issues for planes I guess.
My bike and 25 kilos worth of kit and food are now all checked in and I can finally relax a little, fingers crossed they meet me at prudhoe bay as that place seems seriously devoid of entertainment. I’m now getting really excited and am going to eat everything I can for the next 20 hours which I am very much looking forward to. I’ve got everything from water filtration systems to super slime inner tubes. A good supply of the worlds leading anti-chafing cream and I even have travel insurance (a first for me)! A kind lady has picked up my bear mace and camping gas as the general store will be closed when I arrive at 9pm so I plan to set up my bike and make good use of the 24 hour day light you get that far north and get going right away. Had a great weekend of goodbyes which I don’t think will sink in for a while but I feel really lucky to have such a great group of supportive friends and fam. Vvvvvvvvvv. Should be in Fairbanks in 7-10 days all being well, muddy and smelly with the safety latch still on my bear mace ( I hope)!
…..easy for Mr Kuti to say doing his thing in Nigeria. My intention wasn’t to use this blog as an update from the Alaskan department of transport but It looks like this might be becoming the case. There was a balmy day last week and the sun came out, melted the snow and the first 100 miles of the road out of Deadhorse now looks mostly like this.