June 24, 2017 photo by Nicholas Carman at The Bicycle Shop in Anchorage, AK
I set the date for June 24 to begin my summer project– to ride all of the major roads in Alaska. My bicycle didn’t arrive until the morning of. Nick put it together. I was at work that day at The Bicycle Shop, but mostly I was just getting ready for the trip. I strapped my sleeping bag and tent to the handlebars, packed clothing in the seatpack and tools and food in the framebag. I ripped out enough pages of the Milepost guidebook to get mile by mile from Anchorage to Denali National Park and Deadhorse, 1,000 miles away. In the shop, we have a wall sized map of Alaska. I spent hours staring at the roads and where they deadended, staring at the names of the towns and the texture of the mountains. And after I go up to Deadhorse, I’m going down to the three hot springs north of Fairbanks, and then I’m coming back to work and then I’m going to Nome. There are three major veins out of Nome. I’d spent enough time staring at the lines on the map. I had to see them.
That Saturday, we closed the shop at six. Friends and family met to ride me out of town. Alana from Anchorage GRIT, my middle school girls cycling mentorship program, was there. Anne Marie and Catherine, my first babysitter’s daughters, were there. Joshua, my five year old nephew was there. Maryann, my best friend growing up, was there. Christina Grande, my other best friend was there. Nick was there. Rue wasn’t there– she was in Chicago, flying back to Anchorage in two days and planning to drive out to Cantwell to meet me so that we could ride the Denali Park Road together.
We set out at seven to ride sixteen miles to the Eagle River Campground. The sun was high in the sky and it stayed that way all through the night. Summer in northern latitudes is unreal. You don’t need lights.
We had a fire and cooked and ate. Meriddy Littell, a sage nine year old, taught Joshua how to light his stick on fire, turn it to coal and draw on rocks.
The next day, my parents picked up Joshua. The rest of the group rode back to Anchorage and Nick and I continued on, north to Palmer, over Hatcher Pass to my parents A-Frame cabin in Willow on Crystal Lake. My family and Chrisina and her mom met us there.
The next day, I rode north alone.