Fairbanks and onwards…

 

We’ve now leap-frogged our way up to Fairbanks. We have Mike, who works with robots in the Air Force’s bomb disposal squad, to thank for our comfortable and speedy ride here, after he picked us up in Palmer and drove us all the way to Fairbanks. There can’t be too many places left in the world where two guys, two bikes and ridiculous load of luggage can get a 5 hour ride within an hour of sticking out a sign made from a pizza box…

One hour later, we were speeding to Fairbanks.

One pizza down and an hour later, we were speeding to Fairbanks.

It’s an exciting moment, as it’s here that the journey really begins. Our off road loop of the Kenai was superb, but wasn’t actually on the route. Now it’s time to get rolling. Daniel has to be in Montana by the end of August, and I need to get cracking on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride to clear Colorado before it’s too cold and snowy.

Our first payed campsite of the trip. Lush grass and a bench included.

Our first payed campsite of the trip. Lush grass and a bench included.

Yes please.

Yes please.

For those who can't do without a hair drier when they go camping...

For those who can't do without a hair drier when they go camping...

From now, we’ll keep riding towards an ever later sunset – I’m writing this at midnight and there’s still plenty of light to read by. Logistically, it seems easier to ride the gruelling Hall Road north to Prudoe Bay, and then try and hitch a ride back to Fairbanks, rather than the other way round. Hopefully enough people will see us struggling away over the next week to offer us a lift when we backtrack – avoiding the $280 ticket for the shuttle bus.

We slept in a Airstream RV converted into a sauna at Adam's houseshare. Strangely, it was Dan's second night he'd ever camped out in a sauna.

We slept in a Airstream RV converted into a sauna at Adam's houseshare. It was actually Dan's second night he'd ever camped out in a sauna. The first time, sometime turned it on when he was asleep!

Daniel's legs, struck by Pushkie, and now blisttering in the sun...

Daniel's legs, struck by Pushkie, and now blisttering in the sun...

When's the last time you checked for sleeping kids?

When's the last time you checked for sleeping kids?

Following a cycleway between Palmer and Wasilla.

Following a cycleway between Palmer and Wasilla.

The journey here was a good chance to see what we have in store for us when we head south to Denali. It’s the scale of the wilderness that’s overwhelming. So few settlements; when they do appear, blips along the endless yellow paint strip that divides the road, they’re little more than a tyre repair shop, a gas station, a few rusty trucks, and perhaps a timewarped motel. “This place has a way of making you feel small,” commented Mike.

Alaskan 'junk'. Love it.

Alaskan 'junk'. Love it.

More classics.

More guzzling classics.

The grandeur was a relief after our ride out of Anchorage, working our way through its ugly sprawl of industrial estates and malls, onto its busy highway. Thankfully there was a cyclepath, even if our conversation was drowned up by the constant drone of heavy traffic.

These kinds of days are the the ugly underbelly of touring, the tedious slogs along busy roads to escape cities, the parts of a long trip we generally filter out from memory, or simply shut our eyes and sleep through on a bus journey. But these segments also lend bike touring its depth; it isn’t just the highlights of a country, it’s everything in between. They’re part and parcels of the highs and lows that, like the roads we follow, challenge us both physically and mentally. Luckily it only takes a small encounter or a breathtaking view to lift the spirits once more – or in our case, a free extra iced bun in a bakery on our way to Wasilla…

Heading out of Anchorage: not the prettiest of rides.

Heading out of Anchorage: not the prettiest of rides, though a little Photoshop helps!

Idyllic Palmer, the breadbasket of Alaska.

Much better. Idyllic Palmer, the breadbasket of Alaska.

When down found this badge on the road (we call them his surogate family) I had a serious case of 'pannier customisation envy'. It's a bike touring thing.

When Dan found this badge on the road (we call them his surrogate family) I had a serious case of 'pannier customisation envy'. It's a bike touring thing.

In a car park in Anchorage.

In a car park in Anchorage.

And the even cooler biking equivalent. I wish I lived in a place that justified owning one these titanium Fatbacks. The tyres are 3.7in wide, and a run at just 5-7 psi for riding in the depth of winter!

And the biking equivalent. I wish I lived in a place that justified owning one these titanium Fatbacks. The tyres are 3.7in wide, and a run at just 5-7 psi for riding in the depth of winter!

From what we’ve read, the Haul Road is both challenging and remote. There’s little to be found along its 400-odd mile length, much of which is gravel, muddy or potholled (for instance, there isn’t a single grocery store). Hopefully we’ll be back in Fairbanks within a little more than a week. In the meantime, thank you for reading and leaving comments – they’re always nice to read. And thanks especially to everyone in Anchorage who’ve offered advice, a yard to sleep in or spare parts to get us on the road – including Alan, Sage, Adam, Eric and Greg. You’re hospitality and kindness are much appreciated.

Alan, infamous for his bike-strewn backyard. Rarely a moment does he stand still!

Alan, famous for his both bike-strewn backyard and wealth of Alaskan knowledge . Rarely a moment does he stand still!

Adam, who sorted us out with everything from bear spray to a spare skewer.

Adam, who sorted us out with everything from bear spray to a spare skewer to a night in a sauna. Thanks!

The coolest door handle to a bike shop in the world? More titanium loveliness at Speedway Cycles.

Winner of 'The coolest door handle to a bike shop in the world'. More titanium loveliness at Speedway Cycles.

3 thoughts on “Fairbanks and onwards…

  1. joannie gilbert

    Bon Voyage and much love from us all in Cannes. Great blog and photos (albeit some of it makes nerve-wracking reading for family!)….Await next installment! Dad, mum, Tam, Justine, Roman, and last but not least, Harper.

    Reply
  2. Maureen

    Hello Cass & Daniel,
    We’re really enjoying reading your blog and looking at all the great photos. Alaska looks beautiful and I feel as if I’m vicariously taking a trip there. Let Daniel take a few photos of you Cass, so you can see yourself amongst the Alaskan scenery.

    Daniel, I went cycling along the Parramatta River the other day and it nearly killed me. So out of condition but was thinking of you fellows and how hard it must be at times.

    Bye to both of you. Love Maureen & Ellie (Daniel’s mum and sister)

    Reply
  3. Chris

    Hi Cass,
    Love the Blog so far! Its really building my excitement for september 12th when Rob and I land in Denver. Just doing all the boring stuff right now like booking flights and buying tents lol.
    Look forward to reading your next instalment!
    Cheers
    Chris (Robert Mc’s Mate)

    Reply

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