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1000 Americans: Jay and Debbie, Midway Services

August 15, 2008 by  
Filed under 1000 Americans

_MG_0433-Debbie-Jay-1000Americans

“I went fishing with my sister one day. Day was my one day off in 26 years…”

“So what gun did he use on that bear? That’s stupid. A wounded bear is dangerous.”

“if you want to stay for the night, you can camp or you can stay in the old bus in the back. And the price is… free!”

“The rangers have no idea about the real people living here. I have never seen any of them in our store”.

“I like biketravellers. They are not as snotty as those guys with their half-a-million-dollar motorhomes”.

Some quotes by Jay, a wonderful guy. Stop by, one mile NE of Slana town, midway on the Tok Cutoff highway. They have a great general store, with very good prices and selection and are just a pleasure to be spending some time with. Debbie gave us a big chunk of halibut, she had caught it herself a week ago. Still ‘small fish’ compared to the bear, moose and other wildlife she had shot. Not just to kill like some part-time hunters, but for food or protection.

Oh, and people can stay for free in the great bus, turned into a campervan.

Thanks so much, jay & Debbie, you are wonderful.

1000 Americans: Jack Reakoff, Wiseman, Alaska. About oil drilling in Alaska.

August 15, 2008 by  
Filed under 1000 Americans, Friendly people, Go green

_MG_9996-Wiseman-Jack-reakoff-house

‘I have been living in Wiseman since 1971, when I was 13. I have to go to Fairbanks to get supplies every 3-4 months, but hate it.’

Jack Reakoff is one of Wiseman’s famous faces and voices. he seems to know a lot about a lot and works part-time as a tourguide, showing busloads of tourists around Wiseman and telling all about its history. Whenever there is a radio discussion about a current topic, Jack calls in and he has been featured in books, videos and guides. he sells fur from animals he hunts and traps and beads to make necklaces and jewelry.

He has a clear opinion about the oil industry and the thoughts behind the pressure to start drilling in the last remaining wilderness in the arctic:

‘It’s all political. Due to new drilling methods there is actually more oil in the North Slope available than there was when they started drilling a few decades ago. But they have to lower the output, which serves them for several reasons: firstly, the pipeline will not break. It is old and corrosion has lowered the maximum pressure that can go through. Read more

1000 Americans: 8 Ball, Wiseman, Alaska

August 15, 2008 by  
Filed under 1000 Americans, Friendly people

_MG_9998-8ball-close-cabin

8-Ball, is one of the 33 inhabitants of Wiseman, Alaska. He had worked on the pipeline and has climbed some mountains in the area. He set us up with a cabin for 2 nights and even gave us some fresh lettuce, with dressing! He is the new owner of the Wiseman Trading Post, the old general store slash museum.

‘Yes, the General Store is mine. I bought it a few years ago, when the guy owning it moved out. I am not really using it, but wanted to prevent some tourist company buying it and making it into a tourist attraction.’

What is his real name?

‘8 Ball is how they know me and what I answer to, and it is how I am in the phonebook.’

Only when checking his store, I notice a small card saying to whom checks to pay for t-shirts and souvenirs can be written out to. Apparently the bank does not know ‘8 Ball’. Next to the card is a jar and a sign stating: ‘We use the honour system, please deposit the money for what you bought in the glass jar’. Below the packages of chewing gum that are marked with 30cts is a little note: ‘The gum is 30cts. Only got 25? Close enough’

‘Yes, I have no time to stand in the shop all the time. if people really want to take anything without paying for it, they can have it.’

Just when we were cycling out of town, we heard an engine behind us and 8-ball appeared on a small 4×4 vehicle that every Alaskan seems to have nowadays. 8-ball stopped besides me.

‘I forgot my manners. As you were going to Coldfoot for some lunch, I just thought, maybe I can make you some soup! Do you want some?’

The we did something that biketravellers normally never do: we turned him down.

‘Thanks for the offer 8-ball, much appreciated, but you already have done so much for us. We have to go.’

1000 Americans: Beth, from Bend, Oregon

August 15, 2008 by  
Filed under 1000 Americans

_MG_9994-Bethany-wiseman

Beth works for one of the tour companies in Alaska and visits Wiseman regularly. I noticed the tattoo aroudn her wrist: a bicycle chain with a tooth.

‘Yeah, I crashed hard one time on my bicycle and lost some teeth, this is to remind me. I run a Bicycle coop in Bend, Oregon. We try to promote cycling, repair bikes and teach about road safety.’

————-

Now there is a real biker-chick! Thanks for making the world a bit greener, maybe others can follow in promoting cycling.

Day 32-34: August 12-14 2008: Tok Cutoff to Tok: About sun, mountains, lost pants, life in a bus..

after we woke up in our church, we noticed that it was actually dry! Not only that, but the weather improved during the day. Oh, how life is so much easier with some sun. I know we will curse it later when in the heat of central America, but for now it was very welcome.

We passed quite a few roadhouses and motels, that were either closed for the season or closed altogether. Seems that the combination of higher gas prices (increasing the costs for the generators and heating) and lower number of tourists (also partly because of higher gas prices) already has put many businesses out of business. Still some smaller business like the Cappucino house at the Gakona Junction seemed to survive. Shame that most clients never leave their car and stop to talk with the friendly ladies that run the wildly decorated place. Louise warned us for the many wild bears that were on the coming stretch and showed us some photos of a bear on the side of the road that apparently was not afraid of humans at all, taken a few days before…

We had stopped for some internet at Gakona Roadhouse, a nice historic place in a beautiful setting. It was comfortable to stay there, but the late evening sun convinced us to go a bit further and so we managed to see the beautiful sunsets over the Wrangell-StElias national park, with its 2 dominant peaks (from this side) Mt Drum and Mt Stanford. Read more

Day 27-30, 7-10 Aug 2008: The Denali Highway! About rough roads, cold and more..

August 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Alaska, Friendly people, North America, Trip reports

We both had a very strong love-hate relationship with the Denali Highway. It is a bit over 200km/130mi long, but 80% of this is unpaved. Sometimes tougher than the Dalton, wilder than the Denali park road, and wetter than the Netherlands :). ladies & gentlemen, we offer you: The Denali Highway in pictures, with some words as well…

It started out ok, with some nice roads from Cantwell, but soon the gravel came back with full force. Ivana had a bad day, so I just stayed away from her; I bit on front or a bit in the back. That is usually the best thing to do, when one of us has an ‘angry day’, when all roads are terrible, the legs won’t work or rain seems to hit you every minute. I was actually enjoying this road a lot.

It was nice to be away from the main traffic again. almost no people live here, rental cars are not allowed to drive these roads and trucks have nowhere to go to here, so all cars you see are travellers or hunters. All of them wave back when we wave at them and many stop for a chat. The landscape is simply stunning: from high mountains (even though most were hidden in thick, rainy clouds) to taiga forests and age -old glaciers. We cycled through valleys, crossed big rivers, saw al kinds of wildlife and met friendly people. We got rained upon, almost froze our hands and feet, downhilled in the dark and found cyclists’ heaven, all in a few days. Almost too much to process. Pictures do not do justice, but I will share a few, together with some short stories from the road: Read more

Day 22-25: August 2-5: Huskies, bears, moose & beer: Denali park!

August 2: Resting, Denali info & Huskies

We woke up late, still exhausted from the previous 2 days. It was nice to relax again, while catching up on some work, emails and laundry. In the afternoon we checked out the visitor centres at the beginning of the only road into the park. The Denali park road (not to be confused with the Denali Highway, which we will cycle the next week), is a dead-end road that goes on for about 90 miles. It is forbidden for regular vehicles (cars, RV’s) after mile 15, but cyclists are allowed, as long as they pay the park fees. There are special camper buses that can take two bicycles as well as a lot of backpackers and it is actually cheaper to take that bus to the end of the road than a regular tourbus.

We decided that we would catch the Camper Bus into the park and then cycle back down the road. There are two options to camp along the road: you can reserve a paid spot on one of the 3 or 4 official campsites or you can go ‘backcountry camping’: The wilderness areas next to the road is divided into different sections and you can get a free permit to hike and camp in one of the sections, as long as there are still spaces, as they limit the impact on nature.

This is a great way to see the park, you can meet bears and caribou on every corner. The sections where there are known families of wildlife, like bears with cubs or a fox-den, are closed off for camping and hiking. We reserved the bus out and two sectors for backcountry camping, so we could stay in the park for 3 days.

Read more

Day 14- 21: July 24-Aug 1 2008: Fairbanks to Denali park via North Pole!

August 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Alaska, North America, Trip reports

July 24 – July 29: resting & recovering in Fairbanks

We spent almost a week in Fairbanks, relaxing and catching up on resting, washing, shopping & working. Besides the overwhelming abundance of We were pleasantly surprised food-wise on two occasions. First the day after we arrived at Ericka’s place, they celebrated Miles’ b-day and we were invited to share the pizza, coke and pie and meet some of their family.

The next day we went out to see a bit more of Fairbanks and we cycled around the town visiting some places along the way like the lovely Farmer’s market, selling extremely expensive but . There were no video camera batteries for my camcorder anywhere in the city, so not sure if and what I can film before the next big city, which is Vancouver, 4000km away…

At the end of the day we visited the Pioneer Park, a place for tourists and locals to hang out. It is a bit corny, but they preserved and moved some of the oldest houses of Fairbanks here. We noticed a lot of people eating and unconsciously followed them to the source. We ended up at a set of tables, covered with fresh fruit, salad, chocolate cake, chips and meat. Besides it were a few large containers filled with cans of soft drinks, it was biketravellers’ heaven.

Read more

Day 10-13: 21-24th july 2008; Days of hell on the Dalton; from B-day to back to Fairbanks!

July 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Alaska, North America, Trip reports

21st July, a long and tough B-day party!

I went to sleep at the Arctic circle age 37 and woke up being 38, great place for a b-day. The road that Ivana had spotted had a name, which is always bad news. It was called the ‘Beaver Slide’ which could be pleasant in different contexts, but in our case it meant 3km of steep uphill cycling at a 10% grade. The asphalt had ended, so we were back on mud and gravel and the returning rain made it even more difficult.

The rain and hills did not stop all day but still we were in a good mood. Just when we thought we had enough hills, we entered the area which was called ‘The Rollercoaster’ and it deserved its name. We had been warned beforehand by some people as the big trucks cannot slow down on these hills and cannot avoid us well. In order to get up the next hill, they have to go full speed down, else they will not make it.

_MG_0088-Harry-rollercoasterWell, on a fully loaded bike you cannot go down at full speed as you will break it, so we usually start braking at about 50km (30mi)/hrs speeds when on the mud and gravel as there are potholes everywhere. This means that we cannot make it back uphill, and many times we had to get off the bike and push it up.

Just when I was pushing my bike on part of the Rollercoaster, called the Sand Hill, I noticed something moving on the side of the road and I stopped pushing. A large dark brown shape swiftly crossed the muddy road, some 20 meters/70 feet in front of us. Read more

Day 8-9, 19/20th July 2008: Wiseman – Arctic Circle. Thoughts about food, Alaska & angels..

It was time to say goodbye to Wiseman and 8-Ball, even though we could have stayed much longer. He asked us not to tell everybody he was such a nice guy, but we said that we could not do this.

Just when we were cycling out of town, we heard an engine behind us and 8-ball appeared on a small 4×4 vehicle that every Alaskan seems to have nowadays. 8-ball stopped besides me.

‘I forgot my manners. As you were going to Coldfoot for some lunch, I just thought, maybe I can make you some soup! Do you want some?’

The we did something that biketravellers normally never do: we turned him down.

‘Thanks for the offer 8-ball, much appreciated, but you already have done so much for us. We have to go.’

And off we went. The road was not as bad as we had left it 2 days before and soon we arrived in Coldfoot, the leftover from the Pipeline and mining town. Now it is mainly a truckstop, serving Alaskan-sized portions of food. as mentioned, most cyclist do not have epiphanies when cycling. The only deep thoughts that cross our minds are usually either:

  • When can we eat again? I am hungry..
  • Damn, that wind is again slowing me down, when will we get tailwind?!? Is that another rain cloud up there?
  • Should we stop for lunch now and push another mile or two?
  • 20 miles cycled today, so that is 32km, so almost 11km per hour. Seems it is time to stop for a snack, but maybe then it will take too long until dinner..
Truck lined up in Coldfoot

Truck lined up in Coldfoot

As you can see, the thoughts of a biketraveller are mostly about basic subjects: food and cycling, distance and weather. Ivana and I both admitted to eachother that we increased our speed when approaching Coldfoot, making non-stop calculations: ‘Coldfoot is at Mile 175, this is Mile 171, so 4 miles, that is 6.4km. We go 13km per hour now, so almost 30 minutes to lunch. Oh no, uphill, 40 minutes to lunch. Great going down again, only 10 minutes to lunch now.’

_MG_0031-Ivana-Pablito-Arctic-CircleSuddenly we both realised independently a horrible possibility: what if the other cyclist had come to Coldfoot before us and had already bought al the snickers bars!?! Read more

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