Adventure Cycling's Northern Lights (Alaska) Trip
This photo is one of my favorite memories of the Adventure Cycling Northern Lights, self-contained bicycle/camping trip I participated in during July 1997. I received the following article from one of my fellow riders, Wayne Van Netta:
"Seven of us left Anchorage pedaling south on the Marine Alaska Highway. We were a compatible, fun group on a self-contained Adventure Cyclist 2 week tour. The road, framed by mountains and sea, made a glorious and beautiful start.
At Beluga Point we were haled by television promotion crew for the morning TODAY show. Those who tune in can soon see the show start with 7 lycra clad, grinning idiots shouting "what a difference Today makes" Ahh, fame. At Portage, the first stop, Renee, a chemistry teacher and our group leader, gave camp procedure. I yawned through the lecture on bear prevention. This required all food, including toothpaste, bagged and hoisted high on a tree limb. Christian, a book publishing executive, produced a current edition of the Anchorage paper. Two bear maulings were featured. Have you ever seen a yawn metamorphose to terror? Even dishwater had to be disposed of in park toilets (elegant outhouses).
Cyndi, a Boston pre-school teacher, dumped part of Sue's mess kit you know where. Being the only sanitary engineer (honey dipper), I was chosen for retrieval. I graciously declined the honor.
In Portage we saw our first breath taking panoramas of glaciers. We then boarded a train to Whittier where we transferred for a 6 hour ferry ride to Valdez. This is where the Exxon disaster occurred and is the start of the Alaskan pipe line. Our scenery for the day would exhaust superlatives.
Roads in Alaska are good and major portions have marked bike lanes. Although tall mountains surround you, the grades are reasonable. There are more 10,000 foot peaks in Alaska than anywhere in the world. Our roughest climb was a 30 mile ride from near sea level to snow surrounded Thompson Pass. Frequent camera stops disguised my gasping efforts to breathe as a normal human.
At camp I had planned my tale for the day's heroic climbing effort. Around campfire the subject seldom came up and it was a non-issue. No wimps on this trip.
North of the Pass we followed along a beautiful river gorge with waterfalls everywhere. This was my scenic favorite. On our first night I thought it was in jest when some of our bikers announced their intentions to bathe. This bath was a glacial melt stream. Our third camp was at Blueberry Lake, a mountain tarn surrounded by snow. You guessed it, the hygiene freaks were at it again. At this time. I reasoned that as the only unwashed one in the group, my popularity would quickly reach zero. Macho stupidity overcame common sense and I joined the Polar Bear Club. My friends never missed a good cleansing. Swim wear was not purchased at L.L. Bean. All wore M.N Originals (Mother Nature). If any wish to ask questions, the answer is, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do."
The days passed with constantly changing scenery and sightings of moose and bison. If you walked 50 feet from your tent, you could always find fresh animal droppings. Mechanical breakdowns were few. Sue, a junior college English teacher, had a flat epidemic and Christian broke a chain. That's it.
Cooking was rotated by pairs and I dreaded my turn. My talents lie elsewhere. The lay-over day on the Klutina River was salvation. This raging torrent produced my first king salmon. A BBQ grill and my fishing guide's seasoning produced an Epicurean delight. Most said it was the best fish they had ever eaten. Taa daa! From the opener of cans to artiste!
Bob, at 64, was nearest my age. He is a college professor of economics and sometimes government economist. I hoped that he rode well enough to stay with me and share company. Only later did I learn this former Army Ranger, officer, and paratrooper is an accomplished mountain climber, backpacker, skier and mountain biker. After this trip, he would do a repeated climb on Mt. Rainier. Once he lost all toe nails from a serious weather climb. Another produced a terrible fall where his life hung in balance for days. Yes, we did ride together at times, that is when he decided to slow down.
As we neared Fairbanks, I often rode with Lamar, my friend from Bike Florida tours and the person who asked if I would do this trip with him. I will always be thankful this nuclear plant worker from Vidalia, Georgia, asked me to go."
Tour participants: Sue - Jackson, Mississippi Cyndi - Boston, Mass Renee- Seattle, WA Christian - Big Apple Bob - Pullman, WA Lamar- Vidalia, GA Wayne - Ft. Myers, FL
Front: Wayne, L-R: Lamar, Renee, Bob, Cyndi, Sue & Christian
Adventure Cycling's Page