We had our final ride on the Alaskan Cycling tour this morning. It was a short 34 miler from the Hotel in Girdwood to Bird Point and then onto the end of the bike path in Chugach National Park. After a day off, many of us were looking forward to this final ride. My legs and backside were in much better shape today and I was ready to jump back in the saddle.
Because we were riding bike paths today, I plugged in my earbuds. I listened to the Stones, Heart, Lynard Skynard, etc. I was intending to cruise this one final ride–stretch it out–because it’s unlikely I’ll return to Alaska again.
The ride parallels a shallow water inlet with high mountains on both sides. They are covered in lush greenery, topped with large and small patches of snow. The fluffy opaque clouds surround and drape the tops with a mist type effect, giving the grand view an almost erie feeling. The photos tell the story pretty well.
On the way out, the wind was blowing at our backs, and while I noticed it, I had not realized how strong it was until we turned around at mile 17 to head back. OMG was it blowing!! Apparently some of the others did notice how much it was blowing and headed back after mile 10. The remaining 3 of us (me, Tim and Andy) went the distance, choosing to fight the wind back.
We estimated it was blowing at least 25 to 30 MPH because when we had the wind to our back, we were maintaining about 25 MPH and didn’t feel the wind since we were traveling at the same speed.
On the way back, we felt the speed. At one point I was going downhill in my lowest gear and was still pedaling hard to keep momentum at 6 MPH. I loved it.
Just as an aside, the Backroads guides are always thinking about us, and with about 7 miles to go, one of them was sitting alongside the path waiting. By this time it was just Tim and me, in full working perspiration. He thought we might be beat up by the wind, and came out to inquire about needing a lift back. We laughed, shook hands, and told them we were loving the fun of the ride. Thanks anyway.
Glad we did, because about 4 miles later, a big black bear crossed our path about 100 yards in front of us. He saw us and stopped. We slowed down. He briefly started down the path towards us and then darted into the woods. Interestingly, the guides told us on day one that bears are stimulated to go after bikers because movement activates their tendency to chase their prey. We loved the sighting, but didn’t want to shake hands, so Tim wisely suggested we leave the path and ride on the other side of the road. Good idea!!
Tim and I have been roommates and mutual supporters all week. It’s truly been a pleasure to share all this with him, and it was nicely symbolic to ride this final few miles to finish the day with him.
We get back to the waiting Backroads Vans, and I did a final loop around the parking lot as a reminder of the excitement this week had brought, and as a final lap to soften the sadness of a very special experience coming to an end.
We gathered our gear, ran up to shower and pack. At noon we met for our final lunch as a group. Got some final pics, thanked the guides and bought some jerseys as mementos of the trip. By this time, all 11 of us are pretty close because we have created a common bond through a weeks worth of once-in-a-lifetime shared experiences that will never be duplicated again in exactly the same way.
I find it interesting to note that people seem to form the tightest bond when they have faced great personal challenges with others. On this trip, virtually everyone faced a personal challenge for the first time. Many rode their first centuries and/or accumulated more miles in four days than ever before. Some conquered the steepest climbs of their lives. Others were encouraged to test their personal limits, and found they could do much more than they ever thought. Somehow the people sharing those experiences and bearing witness to great personal achievements form a bond that perpetuates our memories of these moments, even if they never meet again. This group of 11 and our 3 guides created many of these memorable moments, and some day grandchildren will hear about the summer of 2012 in Alaska when…
Tim and I am now back in Anchorage having been dropped off at Captain Cooks to kill the afternoon before our long air trip home. It’s a dark and dreary day and we can hear the Air Force Thunderbirds putting on their spectacular show for the Alaskans at the annual Airshow. Instead of going out to watch, we choose to just quietly sit exchanging photos via our IPhones. Already the reminiscing of the past week has begun.
We are now heading out to find a good brewhouse to toast a great week in Alaaka.
Categories: Travel and Life's Adventures