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Fairbanks, Alaska to Tok, Alaska

posted Jun 21, 2009, 4:35 PM by Paul Gareau   [ updated Jun 22, 2009, 10:30 AM ]
G'day mates! I've been riding with a couple Australians, so it seemed appropriate to start my post that way. Come to think of it, I haven't heard them use that expression, but I'll go with it anyway. Let me begin at the beginning though..

(Click here for an overview of my route so far.)

Monday, June 15th
Prep Day at Billie's Backpacker Hostel

Monday was my preparation day, but since I put my bike and trailer together right after arriving, I didn't have a whole lot to do. I went into town with another bike tourist, who had just ridden down from the Arctic Circle. She was a sports medicine doctor from Wisconsin, and unfortunately I can't remember her name. We stopped at a camping store in town, where I replaced one of my fuel bottles and pumps. After that we went separate ways, and I had a good breakfast at a diner right next door.

Back at the hostel I talked to Joe the caretaker for a while, and I bought two bottles of bear spray from him for only $5 each. Sweet. Next I went to a huge grocery store named Fred Meyer's and stocked up on enough food to get me to Tok. Later that night Michele was hanging out in the hostel reading and we ended up talking for a couple hours. She's the one I split a cab with from the airport, and like me she's unemployed and taking advantage of it by traveling as much as possible. Her trip plans range from doing trail maintenance to working at a Buddhist monastery. She also aspires to hike the Appalachian trail.

Tuesday, June 16th
To Salcha River State Recreation Site (site)

My first day on the road! I took my time in the morning and didn't leave the hostel until noon. Getting all my gear in or on my trailer was a challenge, and I ended up having to use my day pack to carry some things, including my bag of bagels and my sneakers. 

While I was riding out through Fairbanks, a truck pulled away from a stop light too fast, and about a dozen sheets of plywood slipped off his trailer into the road. He didn't realize it and drove off, but a bunch of people quickly got out of their cars to clear the road. I wondered if that would have happened back in Mass. As I was leaving the driver came back and I helped him reload his trailer.

I did a total of 46 miles, and the road was surprisingly flat with a wide shoulder. The weather was about mid-60s and perfect for riding. Just like all my riding in the last week, it was very remote with only a few roadside businesses along the way. 

The campground only had about 3 sites total and the host let me camp at a picnic area which was closer to the river and all around a better spot. I was resting in my tent when it started raining, so I jumped out to throw my tarp over all my loose stuff. Not far from my tent, a girl was sitting under a tree eating her dinner. Her name was Marta, and she was driving around Alaska during her week off. I learned she was an ocean mapper from Washington state, and she's done a lot of traveling all over the world. That night she sang and played the Ukulele for me and the campground host as we sat around a fire. We walked around and talked for a while, and were later entertained by a bunch of kids camping on top of a cliff and throwing rocks, and the campground host going up there with a gun to scare them away. I got to bed at around 12:30AM.

Wednesday, June 17th
To Quartz Lake State Recreation Area (site)

I woke up at about 5:30, and made myself go back to sleep until 6:30. I hung around for a while, then had breakfast with Marta and packed up. While we were eating, a small front end loader that was repairing the parking lot backed into someone's boat. Never a dull moment at this campsite... I was on the road by noon again. It was a little cloudy during the day, and there were a few loud thunder claps from just North of where I was. There were finally some climbs, but there was nothing big. I got a few pictures of a big bull moose, eating by the side of the road. I passed an air force base and was surprised by how much air traffic there was. Just before getting to camp I got caught by the rain, and sat under my rain fly for a while until it passed. The camp site was 3 miles down a steep road, and I wasn't looking forward to climbing back up it the next morning. 49 miles total.

Thursday, June 18th
To Gas station/Store/Cabins

Another good riding day. There was still not much scenery other than thick wilderness on both sides of the road. My plan was to camp at Clearwater Campground, just beyond Delta Junction, until I saw a sign saying it was 8 miles off route. I stopped at a B&B just beyond the road and asked if there was anywhere else to stay. The woman who answered the door said she "doesn't go down that way", which was funny because they are on the only road in the area. They wouldn't let me camp on their lawn because of liability concerns, and recommended camping behind "Adam's Rib" which was supposed to be a few miles down the road. I went a few miles down the road and the next person told me to keep going and that it was just a few more miles. I never saw it, and couldn't find any wild campsites near a water source, so when I came to a gas station with cabins, I decided to stay there. I camped a little ways up an access road near the cabins, and neither of the people at the gas station knew what to charge me, so I didn't have to pay. Pretty good deal. 35 miles for the day.

Friday, June 19th
To Berry Creek - wild campsite

Someone must have taken my bike out for a joy ride, because it had a flat first thing in the morning. My cassette had also worked itself loose, so I fixed both of those things before setting out. I am really glad I got a hypercracker before leaving. I'd have been in trouble otherwise. If you bike tour in remote areas - you need one too. 

Within my first hour on the road, I looked back to see a few other bicycle tourists on the horizon. I stopped while they caught up, and found out they were Robert and Emma from Australia, and that they're riding from Fairbanks to California. We rode together for the rest of the day, and found a great wild campsite on Berry Creek. They both eat what I call "gourmet" meals while touring, and let me borrow some of their ingredients. Since I had forgotten to buy pasta sauce, having some for a change was really nice.

Robert and Emma had met an Argentinian named Axel who is also biking the Pan Am. I wonder if I'll meet up with him.

35 miles for the day.

Saturday, June 20th
To Moon Lake State Recreation Area (site)

We were on the road by about 9:30, which was my earliest start of the trip. We stopped for a while at the ghost town of Dot Lake, which didn't seem to have any residents, but there was a small church and a nice outhouse. The scenery was the best of the trip so far, with huge, jagged mountains, and rivers. Pretty spectacular. 

Robert and Emma are both world travelers and are interesting people to travel with. I hope to keep in touch with them during and after the tour.

We camped at Moon Lake, which was the nicest state campground I've seen so far. Quiet, wooded and on a nice quiet lake - what more could you ask for?

41 miles.

Sunday, June 21st
To Tundra RV Park in Tok

Today was a short day, and we planned to do all our riding before breakfast. The ride into town was a little farther than expected (20 miles) and we were all pretty hungry by the time we arrived. I had a huge breakfast of French toast, sausage and hash browns, then we went over to the visitor center before settling in at camp.

Robert and Emma haven't decided whether to take the Northern route through Canada from here (which I'll be doing) or the Southern route which would be shorter. Today might be my last day of riding with them.

I'm thinking about taking a canoe trip from Dawson City up to Eagle. It's very tempting. I'll have to figure out if I can get to Dawson in time to do it before Chris arrives, or if we can both do it during our rest day(s) after biking down from Inuvik.

20 miles.

That's all for now!