Maybe it was the customs officer’s insistence on giving our bikes and tyres a full clinical scrub before letting us into Alaska that threw me. Certainly it was the first time anyone had ever welcomed me to their country with an offer to wash my bike.
Everyone had told me about American hospitality, but I was seriously impressed. Pulling on his surgical gloves, the customs officer seemed less impressed, but BSE lives long in the memory, and his mission was to remove any traces of good old English mud. I didn’t dare mention that most of the mud was probably collected in the Himalayas, or I thought we’d never get through.
Anyway, whatever it was that threw me in the customs hall, somehow I managed to set my saddle too high. Schoolboy error. And so after eight days of fantastic riding and wonderful people, we’ve been forced to take a five day break to rest my two strained Achilles tendons.
Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse places to be stopped. We’re camped on the shores of Tangle Lakes at the eastern end of the Denali Highway, surrounded by majestic mountains and a vast sky. An icy creek bubbles below the tent (perfect for ankle icing), and yesterday a moose wandered through with her calf. Last night Gary and Lee, two friendly campers invited us to share their delicious catch of halibut. There’s even a cafe up the road with endless coffee and fresh cinammon rolls. It couldn’t really be a more perfect spot to re-group and rest.
As much as eight days riding followed by five of rest might sound like the perfect ratio, our feet are getting itchy and the ankles seem to be on the mend. This trip is all about momentum, and to be deprived of it so early makes us even more hungry to get moving again. So tomorrow we will gingerly head back out on the road, tracking north to Delta Junction before finally begining to wind our way south towards Canada. We can’t wait!
Brunch at the bustling Snow City Cafe in downtown Anchorage – a final feast before the pasta and noodles diet begins in earnest.
After a final frantic round of provision buying, computers are zeroed and our new life on two wheels finally begins.
Dennis was making his way to the weekly Sunday market at Muldoon, and offered to escort us out of Anchorage along the city’s fantastic network of green bike routes. Dennis’ wife was from the mean streets of Streatham, South London.
Bryan and Brenda were amazing hosts to us on our first night out of Anchorage. We feasted on veggie curry and set the world to rights.
Tyre envy. Suddenly our ‘fat tyres’ felt rather puny in comparison with Brenda’s winter rubber. Bryan and Brenda run a vet practice, and commute to work through the woods on their bikes year round, even through the long dark winter. Hardcore.
Not forgetting Missy, Bryan and Brenda’s gorgeous cat. We did think about sneaking her into a pannier before we left…
Not sure if this was for Bedders or the ‘other Sarah’ – Wasilla’s most notorious resident, Sarah Palin.
Once again we were treated to fantastic Alaskan hospitality with Rich, Tina, Pippin and their extended family, who live in the woods near Talkeetna with their 16 sled dogs.
We were even treated to the finest British crockery…
Rich, who has taken part in the famous Iditarod race across Alaska, shows us the ropes on his sled.
Lulu, one of Tina’s oldest dogs and the only Siberian husky.
Trying to escape the mosquitos and cooking at Byers Lake. Rice-a-roni, in case you’re wondering, an exotic and ingenious blending of rice AND macaroni.
X marks the spot. At Rich’s recommendation, we weren’t going to miss Angela’s pizza place, just off the Parks. You never know how far away the next pizza may be in Alaska, so it’s best not to take the risk.
Unfortunately these didn’t pass the pannier test.
Riding the Parks Highway, an endless corridor of green into the Interior…
…before opening out into the spectacular Broad Pass.
At Cantwell, we met James, who was riding from Minnesota to Alaska to raise money for cancer treatment – see www.pedalingforpennies.info. A true hero – Bon Voyage James!
Hitting the dirt of the Denali Highway – a breathtaking and deserted 135 mile route through the wilderness.
Up and down we went along rolling roads…
..with each summit revealing another incredible vista…
…and spectacular campsites.
Twenty miles from the end we reached our current campsite at Tangle Lakes and the heavens opened. Cue our most romantic meal venue so far (chivalrously I gave up the toilet seat when it was Sarah’s turn to eat).
As dark as it gets up here – Tangle Lake at 11pm.
The nearby Tangle Inn has been on hand to offer shelter, warmth, coffee, and amazing cake…
…come to think of it, even after all the river icing, maybe I can still feel those ankles twinging after all…