Itching in the Interior

July 22nd, 2011

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!

James

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…

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18 Responses to “Itching in the Interior”

  1. Emma Mehmed Says:

    Love it! I remember the adverts for Rice-a-Roni (‘the San Francisco treat’ apparently!) although can’t say I ever partook during my time in America. Looks like you made the most of you unplanned delay. Good luck for the next leg (and those ankles!).

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  2. Sam Wyld Says:

    I am soooo hoping it takes at least six months for you to tire of these amazing updates! A little bit of me is equally hoping we find out either of you is bad at something. LOVE the pics, just stunning. The best kind of memento.

    If it’s any consolation, my heels are really hurting from half a day at Wicksteed Park with Mini, so you’re not alone. Gawd, it’s a strenuous life. Doesn’t seem real somehow, that you’re both so far away. And I am increasingly envious ;o) Hope you get going again with gusto!

    Love yous, big hugs from me and the boys xxx

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  3. Mum and Dad Says:

    Wow! What a lovely write up! Thank you for the update and the gorgeous pictures. It all looks amazing. James we hope the ankles are better and that you are soon fit to take on the next stage. I am really impressed and cheered by the hospitality you are encountering on the way. It makes such a difference. Pity the cheese balls didn’t make it through the panier test – you would both have been snacking all night! Hope you are keeping warm and dry. Love you both enormously and eveeyone is asking how you are doing. We are telling them your news as we get it. How many miles so far? Keep in touch – longing to Skype when you get the chance. Love to both and warm hugs too.

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  4. Margy Says:

    Dear Both,
    It is all so amazing and I have to say quite frightening to me, but I am full of admiration of you both!!! As Mum says, take care, keep warm and stay happy!!
    We are having a “Family Lunch” at 29 on Tuesday 26th, hope weather stays fine!! will drink to your health & sucessful adventure!!
    Much love & God Bless
    Margy xx

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  5. Darren Carlaw Says:

    Glad the ankles are on the mend! A wonderfully documented start to an amazing adventure. You’ve got some beautiful coastline ahead of you. Once you hit Oregon I can recommend some breathtaking beaches. Until then, I’ll be following your blog closely and enjoying the photographs.

    Safe riding. With love, Darren & Elena

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  6. Sinéad & Tim Says:

    Hi Guys!
    WOW!!! those photos are amazing! I’m so pleased you’re meeting lovely friendly people along the way – makes a change with Sarah’s reputation for being a weirdo magnet! ;o)

    I’m surprised one of those huskey’s didn’t end up with you! I bet Sarah was most upset to leave those behind?!

    The scenery looks breathtaking! I cant wait to read and see the next installment of your adventure!

    Be safe, lots of love from Peterborough, missing you both loads.
    Love Sinéad & Tim
    P.S can I put in a Skype request after your parents too! thanks xxx

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  7. Sinéad & Tim Says:

    Hi Guys,

    WOW!! the photo’s are amazing! So pleased you’re meeting lovely friendly people along the way – makes a nice change with Sarah’s reputation for being a weirdo magnet! ;o)

    I’m amazed one of those Huskey dogs isn’t joining you on your trip though! bet it was hard to leave those behind?!

    The scenery looks breathtaking! Cant wait to read and see the next update!

    Be safe, lots of love from Peterborough, missing you both loads.
    Love Sinead & Tim
    P.S can you put me down for a Skype request after your parents too?! :o )

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  8. Whartons Says:

    Great photos, Mark was really drooling over the Denali highway one…
    Right off to make us a nice big pot of Rice-a-Roni. Had been stuck for ideas for dinner tonight :-)
    Xxx

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  9. Edmundo Says:

    Mate, just been to a totally random 40,000 strong festival in a Spanish desert, you’d have loved it. Slept
    in the car, thought of you and Ramone, I reckon we had space. In Valencia en route to Ibiza, likely the only time in the next two years that I won’t be reading this blog with unadulterated envy. You gits.

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  10. Pies Says:

    Looks amazing, I’m a little bit jealous. Looks like you’re having a great time already and keep those updates coming.

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  11. Blanaid Mc Cauley Says:

    I’m full of admiration for you both as we follow you on your wonderful exciting travels. Being in this ‘loop’ feels a wee bit like travelling with you! Continue to enjoy and savour every wonderful experience.
    Travel safe,

    Lots of love,

    Blanaid XX

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  12. JT Says:

    Great report and photos. Daft mistake with your saddle height but it looks like a lovely place to pass the time while you recover.

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  13. The Ells's Says:

    Looks and sounds amazing. Fantastic read! missing you both.

    Chris, Sarha & Oliver

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  14. David B Says:

    Love that the t-shirt made it into the Tangle Inn photo :o ) Looks like it’s going well – stay safe and enjoy. Da x

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  15. James Says:

    Keep up the good work James, glad to hear everything is going well :-)

    Hope you were cranking the sales during the down time with your achilles! No excuses

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  16. The Bowerys Says:

    Looks like you are both having an absolute adventure! Love being able to follow your journey. The scenery looks spectacular. Keep it real mofos! Loads of love, Paul, Laura and Isabella.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  17. Andy Mc Says:

    Looks and sounds great! Keep the updates coming!

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  18. Dinah Says:

    Wow, sounds incredible!!! Can’t wait to read your next update. Its amazing that after all your planning your finally there. Things here are much the same, Rose has learnt to roll over so won’t be long now before she’s on the move. I’m thinking of returning to work, however I’ve got used to this lovely thing called freedom now (I think you guys will understand that statement). It’s great just doing your own thing. Hey hoe, well look after yourselves. Dinah xxxxx

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