Back on the AlCan Highway and heading straight east and sometimes even northeast towards the 37 or also known as the Cassiar Highway. The going on this stretch was long, not very scenic and rough. We hit tons of downpour rain, headwinds, and horrible chip seal pavement that on steel framed bikes chatters you until you feel like your teeth might just fall out onto the pavement. On the second day, the going was so rough and the weather so cold, we made it only 20 miles in 3 hours and when we stopped to take a snack break, we were shivering so bad Ville finally decided we pull over at a small camp and rest stop near a river and pitch our already soaked tent under a large tree and try and dry a bit. After resting a while and waiting for the rain to subside, we came out of the tent to find an Israeli kid cooking food on a cook stove and while we were chatting a bit, an RV pulled up and the man yelled out the window, "Cooking some hot food in about a half an hour!"
This is how we came to know Dana, Chris and Sonny from Montana. They invited us into their RV for an enormous pot of spaghetti, salad, bread, and lots of beer. We had such a great time chatting about traveling stories and shared hours of laughs. Dana was a soy and corn farmer who is now retired and he and Chris love to travel the world. The next morning when Ville was up to cook oatmeal, Dana came by our tent and said, "I wouldn't eat that stuff if there was eggs and bacon available." And man, they stuffed us with food! When we thanked them a million times over, he insisted that we needed a lot of help. I think he was referring to the mental kind and I whole-heartedly agree with him. After sending us off with a massive ziplock bag of pasta and salad, we headed on up the road waiting for them to pass us. By evening, we came across the Rancheria Motel/Restaurant and decided to get out of the cold and rain and have a hot drink to warm up.
There we met Linda and her husband whom Ville thinks looks like Paul Newman. They were super kind people that love cyclists and support the Texas 4000 (cyclists that go Texas to Anchorage every year fundraising money for cancer) and we ended up getting a room for the night to dry stuff off and clean up a bit. Thanks a million Linda and Paul Newman for the hospitality! Back on the road the weather was grim, but there were blue skies in the distance. Finally, we popped out of the clouds, hit sun, and had a fantastic tailwind driving us on at speeds up to 25 mph at times. Then, the coolest thing ever happened! Dana, Chris and Sonny drove by us waving and pulled over to say they were making sandwiches up at the next rest stop. We were so excited to see them again (it is just fun getting to meet great people and then when you get to see them again it's such a great addition to the day of cycling). Dana and Chris, we want you to know, you are the sole reason we are surviving so far and not wasting away, because after we left you, both of us have barely kept any weight on and we thank you for caring enough to push food on us like our own parents would. We talk about you both often :)
By the end of the day, we had finally hit Highway 37 and the start of the Cassiar. At the junction rest stop, we met a woman and her friend at a rest stop who after hearing of our adventure, gave Ville her latte! Thanks again for the pick me up :) Real quick we realized that this road was going to be different, not brushed on the sides, no shoulder and sometimes a center line. Awesome meandering curvy road that would be spectacular in a sports car or motorcycle, a lot more steep ups and downs on a bike. Coming down a steep hill we ran smack into a momma black bear with 2 cubs. We stopped and she started to come towards us, but my sexy Scandinavian Stallion (who looks way more like Skelitor these days) protected me. We made ourselves big, made noise, and she took off with the cubs.
The next few days on the Cassiar were scenic but it was hard to enjoy it with gale force headwinds and scattered showers. Riding into headwinds feels like you have a car tire strapped to the back of your bike and your pulling it up and down all the hills. Not many miles logged, but lots of output. We rode through Good Hope Lake (there was very recently some terrible stuff that happened there and we were a bit on edge, but look it up if you want to know more), Jade City (we got soda and candy bars and helped to rescue a bird that flew into the store), and camped by a beautiful river wrapped into some huge mountains where a German couple gave us cups to make some of our hot tea.
By the 3rd day we made it through some nasty road construction into Dease Lake and on the way in ran into some old friends from early on in the Yukon, Bill and Leatha. In Dease Lake we grabbed some burgers and they shocked us with paying for a night at the Northway Motor Inn. What a treat! Thanks so much you two for a night of restful sleep in a comfy bed, hot coffee, and clean clothes to head back out in. And if your passing through these parts, the Northway Motor Inn is a great stop! Back on the road, we had a few more days of nasty headwind, (a great stop to find coffee where we met Sandra and Bob who made us coffee at their campsite. Thanks for the save!) lots of ups and downs and then the winds turned and we blew through 85 miles to finish by 8pm at Meziadin Junction. We grabbed soda and bars at the gas station before they closed and sat debating taking the side trip to Stewart and Hyder. So many people along the trail had told us great things about watching the salmon spawn in the rivers there now and driving up to see the Salmon Glacier that we feel like the trip shouldn't be missed, but we have a lack of time and food to make the 80+ miles out of the way so we will see if we can't hitch hike in the morning to see it before we continue on. Thumbs up...
Our favorite part of the journey so far, dropping into Haines Junction, riding the Haines Highway to Haines, taking the ferry to Skagway, and climbing back out to Carcross. If we had to tell anyone doing a tour or adventure in Alaska and Canada what to make sure and see, it would be this section for sure!
After fattening ourselves up on the best bakery food ever at Village Bakery, we headed over the Haines Highway where we hit some pretty spectacular weather and views that were like a never ending fireworks show! Ville had this really great idea to stop at this big lake and take a quick bath and when we parked the bikes and walked down to it, we were mauled by flies and then a super pissed momma seagull came out of no where and dive bombed into the back of poor naked Ville's head! I was so shocked I didn't see it coming either, but she would not let up and kept bombing us until we left. So much for a relaxing swim :)
When we neared Haines, we were blessed with over 15 miles of flying down hill while watching the mountains sour above us on both sides. We actually had to hit the brakes and slow down at the border crossing into Alaska again, and the last 30 or so miles were pretty meandering road that followed a huge swollen river that eventually dumped into the bay. Right before hitting Haines, there was a 20ish mile stretch along the river that was a bald eagle reserve and we were able to see a bunch of the eagles hanging out and watching us ride by, I am sure thinking, "now why the hell would anyone want to ride theirs bikes when they could just sit here on a branch and fish? Idiots."
Haines was awesome! Cool little town, with a very healthy food stalked grocery, friendly locals, and unbelievable views of the bay and massive mountains towering out of the water. We got a camp site on the water the first night in an RV park to shower and catch up on laundry while watching the eagles and chatting with RVers.
We met Nolan and Kyle, guys living and working in Haines for the summer, and we met up with them at the Haines Brewery for beers and Kyle gave us 6 jars of canned salmon!! Kyle, you are our hero! We bought bagels, cream cheese, and feasted!! What a treat. Hope we get to see you both again on future travels. It was really nice to finally get a couple days off to walk around, eat, take off our diapers/bike shorts and feel like real live human beings again. The second night we were able to camp on the water in this very nice WarmShower host's yard, Tracey. The weather cooled off and we were deep in the trees right next to the ocean and share touring stories over ice cream and her picked berries. It was beautiful! Thanks Tracey! We also got a quick tune-up of the bikes by Sockeye Cycles.
The next day we took a fast ferry from Haines over to Skagway (only a half an hour or so ride) and were pleasantly surprised to see 3 giant cruise ships docked with thousands of touristy cruise goers everywhere. It was pretty wild. But we happened into the Sockeye Cycles shop and met some of the coolest kids on the block! Paul and Anna are also living in Skagway working for the summer and let us stay on their couch and took us to Paul's soccer game with all their friends. It was so dang fun! Rare moments that we love so much meeting great fellow travels who help out other travels and make us feel welcome as friends. Thanks so much all the people at Sockeye who looked out for our stuff and helped us out while we were there. I hope to see you also along your many journeys as well!!
Heading out of Skagway, we were able to get on the cool little train that wound up through the hills and along the river and ended at the border of Canada, Frasier. From there we hopped back on bikes and pushed on to Carcross and cut over to Jake's Corner where we ran into 2 rad couples who are running the entire route we are riding! They are both from Belgium and have 2 small RV's that the wives drive while the husbands take turns running a marathon each day down the same route, Alaska to Argentina, we are going. Check out their blog at: http://viapanam.be. Ville was busy stuffing his face with a Nutella cinnamon roll when we met them and when I glanced over at Ville his face was completely covered with Nutella. It really is hard to take him anywhere! Not sure why they allowed him out of the nuthouse. Poor guy. :)
Back on the AlCan and heading for the Cassiar Highway. We have about 200 miles before we will head south on the Cassiar and the next big stop will be Smithers, B.C. Onwards and upwards!
Tok to Haines Junction has been epic on all fronts. The weather riding out of Tok was absolutely stunning. The biggest puffy white thunderheads throwing lightening storms and dustings of rain all around us, but for the most part, we stayed dry. And the views of all the massive mountains constantly changing hour by hour was worth all the cycling. On our way out of Tok, we stopped at a beautiful lookout to stretch and a very sweet Swiss couple came out of their RV to check on us. Lydia and Ernst were on vacation traveling around Alaska and Canada in a really sweet small RV (we have decided since being in theirs we will need to have one just like it at some point). They invited us in for beers and Lydia made us a yummy spaghetti dinner! Very kind people who have globe trotting children and were really excited to hear about our adventures. It made me so happy to hear about parents that are able to support their kids in doing global exchanges! The opportunities their kids had were priceless, the experiences something they will never forget and they grew into their own capable people with so much more to share with others now. What Ville and I have learned about ourselves and others cross-culturally is what we believe will bring love, peace, and acceptance in an ever changing world.
Every day we woke to sunshine, and continually moving cloud-cover throughout the day. The roads were gradually rolling hills and only a moderate amount of big climbs. Of course, after the Dalton Highway, everything is cake. Right before dropping down into Beaver Creek, we rode late into the night (daylight is until 11 pm still here or even later so we get long days of riding mixed with breaks) and made it to the Canadian Boarder and Customs. The man was super nice to us and we camped soon after to hit Beaver Creek hard for breakfast. After a quick resupply, which in these tiny towns is super tough to find much as well as crazy prices because they have to truck the stuff in so far, but we have managed. What has been tough, is staying on budget when you ride by a restaurant and you absolutely have to stop and eat everything in sight! Both of us have agreed that the biker hunger has been way more intense than the hiker hunger of the Pacific Crest Trail.
After leaving Beaver Creek, we dropped into a valley of lakes nestled between the Kluane Mountain Range and the NIsling Range. The views were spectacular, and the area is a very necessary stop for thousands of migratory birds, and we were able to see so many all around us as we rode. On a lake stop for dinner, Ville and I watched a bald eagle soar over our heads and fish in the lake in front of us. My Scandinavian Stallion threw off his clothes and ran into the lake to swim and bathe like a fish. And not a soul around!
En route, we met a kind road maintenance worker, Doug, who passed us a bunch on his routes and then met up with us at Destruction Bay, where we discovered a restaurant to have burgers. He offered us his yard to camp in and we again, are so grateful for all the kindness of so many people! And after chatting with another great couple recently retired from Florida at dinner, we were shocked to find they had paid for our dinner on the way out! Random acts of kindness. The next day we met another couple from Indiana on a sweet Honda Goldwing at a rest stop and after taking our pic on their sweet ride (can you believe they refused to trade our bikes for theirs???) they gave us some sodas and headed off towards Alaska. Can't tell you how good two cold sodas taste after sweating on your bike all day! Many thanks to all our Road Angels out there!!!
Yesterday we dropped into Haines Junction, the last 7 or so miles were straight downhill, and with the plan to grab dinner, resupply and get up the road a ways to camp, we discovered a super welcoming and cute little town with a bakery and spectacular mountain views. At the bakery for dinner, we were offered pizzas from a wood fired oven in the back and a gathering of really nice locals that invited us to stay and hang out. One of the couples, Dave and Christina, offered us their yard to camp in and we had some beers on their deck overlooking the Saint Elias Mountains. What a perfect surprise! And we were able to get up and hit up the bakery on our way out this morning towards Haines, Alaska. We will have some climbing to do before leaving Canada for the U.S. again, but will only be a brief stopover. And a very sweet girl Elly has lent us her laptop to use to update our blog. Kind, kind people in this town and very much worth a stop if you are on travels up here, and on the plans for a return trip from us.
And when we were leaving Dave and Christina's house this morning, half asleep, rolling down the long driveway, Kristen startled a big grizzly bear and Ville got to see it growl and bail back through the trees! Oh boy, our first bear sighting of the trip. And then while pedaling to the bakery, we saw a fox on the side of the road. Guess if your stealth ninjas like us, you get to startle a bunch of wildlife!
***Help friends!! In Tok, and sadly our laptop completely died trying to post an update. We are in need of a small, lightweight, needs a flash drive NOT hard drive (guess this might be why ours died) with USB ports laptop asap. If anyone has one to donate or sell, we would so greatly appreciate it. Please contact us for more info. Thanks friends.***
Hello from Tok Public Library! As referenced above, Ville and I sadly just lost our laptop we have been dragging along with us in the hopes of staying connected and updating as we go about our trip. Somehow it made it through the treacherous Dalton Highway, but on the last long flat stretch it decided to bail. And so it goes! We are on our way out of town, but waited long enough for the library to open to get in a quick post before heading to Canada. Sadly, pics will have to wait until we have a way to download them again :(
Before leaving Fairbanks, Ville and I made a quick visit to some great people and friends of friends, Hank and Marla, who were gracious enough to take us to Hoodoo Brewery, feed us some moose burgers and help us to get our bikes back in shape after the Dalton. Somehow, my rear brake pads had malfunctioned and the wire that holds them in was mangled and the pads were completely worn down and shot. The Dalton. Threw in some new pads, a tightening here and there and back on the road headed for North Pole. Thanks Hank!!
Road was now a real live highway with a big shoulder, speeding cars, and pavement! Real life pavement! And with a bit of a tailwind we flew the 20 miles into North Pole where we took a short brake to visit with our new friends, Alex and Alisa whom we met on the Dalton Highway when we were in the pits of despair trying to dig out the clay from our fenders. Super great people and we really enjoyed getting to sit and chat and catch up with you guys! Hope we meet again in Honduras!
Off we headed again southeast on the AlCan Highway towards Delta Junction. After cycling through on and off rain, we finally camped in the back of a church yard, with only minimal mosquitoes. The next day we rode most of the day through rain, but had a sweet couple stop and give us Gatorade's and candy bars (we must look pretty sad out there riding in the rain) and then another great long break to inhale a bunch of burgers at Delta Junction and on to finish 77 miles and camp in the woods along the road. We woke to more rain and sadly had rain all day, limiting our views a bit, but pumped us to finish the entire 80 miles into Tok to eat and get a motel to try and get out of the rain and wash the mildew from our things. It's not as much fun to take breaks from the bikes in rain.
On our way back on the road heading towards Beaver Creek and Haines Junction for our next resupply. Rain is in the forcast, but *sigh* this crazy carnival must go on. I forgot to mention how many animals Ville and I have had the pleasure of riding up on. Lots of moose, even a few moms and babies! Lots of bald eagles, musk oxes, caribou, and luckily no bears! Early on the Dalton we were out on the wide open plane and along came a lone caribou running down the road past us and headed south. It was hilarious. And then a really special experience when we were on one of the hardest days and stretches of the Dalton, I had begged and bartered with my ancestors and mother nature to please lay off the rain through the stretch that was sure to be the muddiest. While Ville and I were riding our bikes in what appeared to be a cloudy sky that was holding off on raining, we came right up on a huge Great Horned Owl sitting in a tree right near us. We stopped to watch it and it turned its head and stared at us for the longest time. Before we could grab a picture, it flew off. As we made our way up the road a ways further, the owl returned and flew right up next to us on another tree. As we stopped again, went to grab our camera yet again, it vanished. Thank you to my prayers being answered and our friend Carly (Carlys Kids) who was watching out for us.
Well friends, back to the road. Will try and update again soon and will get pictures on here when we are able to again. Stay tuned! And if you see a laptop out there looking for a very nice home on an epic bike adventure, let us know!!
Arriving in Fairbanks, Alaska after 10 days of cycling and 9 of those spent on the infamous Dalton Highway, our favorite quote by Hunter S. Thompson pretty much sums it up our experience the best,"...skid[ding] in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a ride!" And holy sh*t what a ride it was!
Starting our bike tour of the Americas on the Dalton Highway, mainly because it is the northern most point in Alaska with a road to ride on, was the complete opposite experience than our start in San Diego hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I would have to say it was more like getting helicoptered in and dropped off in the middle of the High Sierras for 11 days to get in shape to hike the rest of the Pacific Crest Trail. Looking back, the decision to stay our first night at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel to wait out our 24 hour clearance to make it to the Arctic waters, and to fatten up on buffets with a good nights sleep, was a good way to start out the journey. Since the area is controlled by the oil companies, it was impossible to actually cycle to the Arctic Ocean, but we opted for the shuttle service the next day to drive us about 10 miles to the ocean where we stuck our toes in the water to kick off our trip!
We arrived back to the drop point late in the day and began our journey riding south on the Dalton Highway. The skies were sunny over the flatness of the tundra that stretched on for miles and allowed us to see for days. About a half hour later the skies opened up and absolutely poured rain on us until about midnight when, still in daylight, we decided to stop and just pitch the tent in the rain. There was about a 25 mile stretch of road under construction we hit and since the crew was gone for the day, we missed the pilot shuttle, and plowed on through the deep gravel. Day 2 brought drizzle all day, which kept us nice and cool, and began to get a little more hilly. It was funny how a semi truck would pass us and then we would watch it for the next 15 minutes as many miles later it would fade into the distance.
By day 3 it set in that I, Kristen, had a full blown cold from the plane, a sinus infection, girl problems, saddle soars, knee issues, a deflating brand new sleeping pad, but in all my misery, we had some absolutely amazing views to look at through our mosquito nets!! We had set a goal to try and ride around 50 miles a day, and were fairly close to hitting our target most days. By day 4 we hit Atigun Pass (4,700 ft.) and hit it at the end of the day being persuaded over by a trucker saying, "better go now while it's not raining!" Day 5 was an epic ride dropping down along the river with sunny weather and time enough to go for a swim and bathe. Early day 6 we rolled into Coldfoot (a small truck stop/post office with some very friendly staff). We sat for hours, recharged batteries, ate like truckers, and washed our faces in the bathroom sink. After prying ourselves from the chairs, we headed back out to power through some miles since we had finally hit pavement and were making some much needed progress.
Day 7, 8 and 9 all blended with lots of beautiful Alaskan countryside to look at when it wasn't completely down-pouring and turning the road to a rocky, sandy, clay mud mess. Out of the 414 Dalton Highway miles, only about 100 are paved. The rest is mainly loose gravel to a packed clay, but when wet it got pretty sloppy and packed itself into our fenders pretty good and for stretches would stop us dead in our tracks to use the tire lever to dig out clay. I had never heard Ville use so many cute Finnish swear words! At least we had each other to try and calm the other down when throwing the bikes off a cliff and walking the rest of the way out sounded like a better plan.
I know what you are saying right now, "Then why in the hell would you do this then? It sounds miserable." Well, because when you are in some pretty challenging and low points in life, that is when some of the most beautiful things happen. Really. When the rain was pelting us in the face and we were completely soaked through, a truck pulled up, rolled down the window, and an older man handed us a bunch of power bars and said, "Looks like you could use these" and drove away. Or when I was the sickest, dealing with bad headwinds all day and lots of hill climbs, a dump truck pulled over and the driver handed us a brown bag full of pizza, sandwiches, and cake. Then he backtracked and drove back by us to take the garbage from us so we didn't have to carry it with us. Or even when the hardest day of hill climbs named "The Roller Coaster" by truck drivers, a truck driver slowed down and handed us a couple bottles of water and kept on driving. The heavy rains we were getting was muddying all the rivers so bad our water filter couldn't get all the dirt out and just the simple gesture of bottled water was such a life saver. And just as we pulled over for a break from digging mud out of fenders, a very kind family from North Pole turned their truck around and pulled over to give us salmon sticks, bananas, and get our minds off our troubles for a while. We are planning a stop over to visit them when cycling through their town.
These simple acts of kindness are one of the most special parts of this journey, and the reason we really do these asinine things like riding our bikes from Alaska to Argentina. Meeting these road angels, helpers, characters and such are the biggest draw to why we live for these journeys. There really is so many great people out there and if you take the time to open yourself up and connect, you will be inspired. We are every single day. So much so that we are adding a page on our website dedicated to these such angels of our journey. Some we didn't get a picture of, but they know who they are and we are forever grateful!
Day 10 was, in our minds, to be our last day on the Dalton Highway and only a mere 40 miles or so from the end of the Dalton where it dumps onto the Elliot Highway for 60 or so of pavement and then into Fairbanks. But true to the Dalton, the last 40 miles turned into some of the hardest miles we encountered. Absolutely pouring rain, where the storm clouds actually followed us for the entire 40 miles, horrible mud, pushing bikes up steep hills that climbed to the sky and once we finally arrived at a downhill, a water truck was waiting at the top where he had completely sprayed the road with even more water because they were grading it and where it became a dangerous kamikaze mud slide on the way down. When we finally arrived at the Welcome to the Dalton Highway sign we were almost in tears we were so happy to have made it to the end and as we descended onto the Elliot Highway the rain finally let up and the thunder rolled in the distance as a reminder that we had just ben spit out of the bowels of the beast and a reminder to never return. We both agreed that never say never, but if we do return to the Dalton, we will only do so if Larry and Jerry fly us over it in their chopper :)
Once we hit pavement we met yet another sweet couple that gave us water while watching us struggle again to purify the mud to drink. And after climbing for hours longer, we finally pulled over at a pull out when the sun popped out for an hour or so to drag out all our soaking wet clothes and lay them out on the pavement to dry. A man who was heading back out to his house from resupplying in town, saw us and pulled over to hand us a few sodas and chat about our trip. His name was Doug and he is a gold miner who lives off the grid up in the hills around this area gold mining and pulled a large gold nugget from his pocket he had found the day prior. Doug had some fantastic stories to tell over a few Milwaukee Beast Ices and after giving me, Kristen, some roadside flowers, he dug out a can of stew, mushrooms, fruit cups, and 2 Beast Ices for our dinner that night! What a sweet guy. After cracking his 3rd beer, he hit the road and we packed up and headed back down the hill completely rejuvenated.
Since timing it so close to the 4th of July, we were unlucky to have most friends still gone we planned to connect with in Fairbanks and decided to camp at the Hilltop Truck Stop in Fox a mere 10 miles from Fairbanks and wait for friends to arrive back. Day 11, we rode into Fairbanks and met up with the kindest and most generous couple, Daniel and Margaret, who we had met while camped out at the cafe in Coldfoot and gave us their contact if we had needed anything. Dan picked us up off the road wearing only rain clothes, the only things not completely soaked and filthy, and our bikes were so covered in mud and clay that they were squealing, not shifting properly and brakes barely working. We had tried to wash them in a muddy creek once off the Dalton, but they really needed more help than that. Dan took us back to his home and gave us our own room, hot shower, laundry, and even their car to use to run errands in town!!! We were both so incredibly grateful for the generosity and from a couple who don't even know us. Once they both came home from work they made us a special salmon dinner and helped plan the trip going forwards. Again, we are blessed with the kindness and generosity of beautiful people in this world. Thanks again Daniel and Margaret!
Today we are heading over to some other friends house here in Fairbanks to get some much needed help bringing my Blue Bullet and Ville's ride back to life. Now that are legs are finally getting feeling back in them, we are planning to hit the road again heading south east towards North Pole and eventually Tok in a day or so. Thanks everyone for all the help getting us this far, the well wishes, and support, for without all of you we would be lying in a ditch off the Dalton somewhere. Stay tuned for more crazy and wild adventures!!
K.G. & Ville
In Cuenca, Ecuador. Next stop, Loja.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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