Ride to Mexico

Crossing the USA Border: Ride to Mexico

Thanks to Samrat’s visit, I enjoyed four star accommodation and drove around Hollywood and Los Angeles hills for two days. Samrat, who lives in Chicago currently, and I have been friends for 16 years although this is the second time I am saw him in the last 14 years. After our studies in Mumbai we both left India and went different directions but our latest meeting felt like the intervening years hadn’t happened at all. This was a big distraction from my bicycle tour.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Time for some Indian meal with Samrat

Time for some Indian meal with Samrat

There were several towns between Los Angeles and San Diego and mostly flat roads. This stretch of California is noticeably wealthy. I felt a bit out of place being on a bicycle with trailer and tent. I camped for a night at Doheny Beach State Park which had a hiker/biker site between the toilet and railway track – so considerate of them! Their attitude towards bicycle tourist at the kiosk was no better. Caravans and those in the car were given priority and even a smile. Meanwhile I was asked to move over to the side and interrogated to check my identity. Apparently the hiker biker camp sites is popular among homeless and the park has a rule to not permit any person for more than a total of two weeks over a period of twelve months. They had to make sure that I am not one of them. At the very least they could have done this a bit more politely. Equality in front of law is in the american constitution but equal attitude towards all is not it seems.

USA-Mexico border for pedestrians

USA-Mexico border for pedestrians

Hollywood sign

Hollywood sign

I stayed in San Diego for three nights to collect some more gear for my bike since it will be difficult to get spare parts for my bike once I leave the USA. I met Eugene on my way to San Diego who was also heading to Mexico. My San Diego Warmshowers host Johan rode Eugene and I to the border. At the border, the turn-wheel for pedestrians is not cyclists friendly (check the picture). I had to undo my trailer and get everything across in one go! It’s a highly secure one-way area. Luckily Eugene was there to help me. Visa process was not straight forward either. But the lady at the pedestrians crossing was helpful, she took us to the motor vehicle crossing point where we could pay and get the tourist visa straight away. From there we cycled towards Rosarito. The language, new culture and a very different infrastructure to the one I was in for the last few weeks and friendly people, gave me that lovely travelling feeling.

Entering Baja in Mexico - Eugene in his signature pose

Entering Baja in Mexico – Eugene in his signature pose

I will be cycling in The Baja Peninsula in Mexico for the next three weeks after which I will cross into mainland Mexico. I am going to need plenty of water to cope with the desert conditions here. I plan to buy some more water bottles tomorrow!

Pacific coast ride: Part III

Pacific coast ride: Part III

Many thanks to Mik from Warmshowers who let me stay in his apartment for a week in San Francisco when he was away for work. I was so pleased that he trusted me and allowed me to stay in his apartment in his absence. I am also grateful for the lovely south indian meal by Guna and his family. I enjoyed meeting them and their friends. My taste buds were treated with unlimited amount of traditional food notably masal vadai, rasam and kuttu. I also went to the Tamil music concert called Saral in San Francisco where I met several Tamil folks. I haven’t been to a Tamil music concert for more than 15 years, I felt like I visited Tamil Nadu for few hours. Many thanks to the Bay Area Tamil Mandram for giving me this opportunity.

Downtown San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco

Los Angeles was approximately 500 miles away and I had 12 days to get there; It felt good to have more time than needed. There was a world of difference between Northern California and Southern California in terms of cycling. The scenery was great; the whale watching tourist in every corner of the hills watched me gritting my teeth to climb up the steep hills. Unlike them, I did not have to stop to watch the whales I saw plenty of these and other sea creatures from my saddle while riding.

The cliffs and the undulating road

The cliffs and the undulating road

Surfers paradise

Santa Cruz – Surfers paradise

Certainly it’s holiday season, every campground was full of families with kids. All these are tolerable but the ‘promotorist’ attitude was not (promotorist – people who assume motor cars have the right of way). There were plenty of campgrounds along the coast and they varied greatly in terms of what they offered. Some of them had everything (hot shower, flush toilet, drinking water) like those in Oregon, but others were nothing more than a parking lot. In campgrounds that were right in the centre of the city like Veteran memorial park in Monterey the hiker/biker sites was used by some people who were neither hikers nor cyclists. I would not recommend taking kids to these campgrounds. On top of this some campgrounds like, Kirkcreek campground and Gaviota state park had no water at all, not even drinking water. However, the camp store had water to sell, 3 USD for a litre (seriously?).

Rugged coastline

Rugged coastline

What will happen if I drop my iPhone? I was about to find out. To make it a bit more exciting I dropped it on the highway, my heartbeat must have been twice the normal to watch the cars racing past it but not run over it. I managed to grab it before it went in to pieces. What a miracle, it was working when I turned it on. Later on, I realised that the microphone took the hit. Murphy’s law says all bad things happen on the same day. From google map I assumed the shops were nearby the Veteran Memorial state park campsite in Monterey since it was right in the middle of the city, only to find out later that they are on the other side of the hill! This day was the first day in this trip I felt very frustrated, tired of planning the routes, shopping for food everyday and the phone problem on top of this.

Elephant seal

Elephant seal

I read somewhere that a good sleep generally resolves most problems during touring. The next day I spent two hours in a coffee shop looking at various solutions for my phone problem. I took the engineering approach to line up few solutions ranging from restarting the phone to buying a new phone and I started feeling good, after all problem solving is part of every day life.

Hidden beaches

Hidden beaches

From Monterey I cycled to Lucia about 65 miles. One of the beautiful days, lovely scenery and weather. How coincidental, on this glorious day, I was also interviewed by a Norwegian TV channel for their travel programme, to be broadcasted in October. They asked me lots of questions about my bike trip. I rambled on for some because I was not prepared, I just spoke what came to my mind. A warm-shower was due at the end of the day to wash off the sweat but Kirkcreek campground did not have water although the host was ready to sell bottled water at 5 USD for a gallon. I was not willing pay so I decided to cycle 5 more miles to the next campground. Plaster creek campground had running water but no hot showers. It is for occasions like this I travel with the 20litres foldable kitchen sink. I ended the day with a nice potato curry and rice.

The following day I left to Morro bay about 63 miles away. I had a rest day at the Morro bay campsite, a lovely campsite in the edge of the town. The MSR universal stove is capable of using any type of fuel with an appropriate adapter for each type. I ran out of camping gas for my stove so I decided to try out liquid fuel to get some practice using this type of fuel. Little I knew that I am setting myself for a chemistry experiment. I bought torch fuel from the grocery store which was made up of a mixture of hydrocarbons, mostly longer chain ones I presume. The heat energy from the torch fuel was only a side product. It produced more soot than heat and every attempt to get a blue flame on my stove was futile. I spent at least 45 minutes to clean up everything. The first thing I did on the next day was to find an outdoor shop to get a gas canister and vowed not to use unconventional fuels; experiments are best done in laboratories.

Dan G from iGeeks shop in Santa Barbara fixed my phone in less than 20 minutes. It was a big relief to have my phone working again and to celebrate this I had a big Mexican meal that evening – occasional indulgence is acceptable in cycle touring. The highway 1 finally brought me to Los Angeles yesterday (20th August).  The weather here is fabulous, lovely flat roads and brilliant bike lanes, I am loving this place (Santa Monica to be precise).

Santa Monica

Santa Monica

I hit the 5000 kilometres mark yesterday! The last two weeks have been bit more eventful than I expected, a variety of new experiences and several lessons learnt. I am almost at the end of the USA chapter of my tour, just over a 100 miles left to the border. What’s on the other side?

Pacific coast ride: Part II

After leaving Portland, I went straight to the west coast and stayed on the coastal road until San Francisco (route map here). The pacific coast bike route mostly follows highway 101 in Oregon and then changes to highway 1 in California. This route is quite popular among the touring cyclists so much so that several campsites along the way have special hiker/biker facilities – basically subsidised camping facilities for touring cyclists (5USD). These campsites even have hot showers!

Oregon coast

Oregon coast

Oregon Coastal route

Oregon Coastal route

The sandy beaches, cliffs, sand dunes and the lovely views along the coast draws several tourists so traffic was heavy at times, mostly near the big towns. I met several cyclists who were doing different sections of this route. Steve from Portland had cycled this route 9 times, I made use of his knowledge of the cafés and campsites along the route- many thanks Steve. Jake, Mike, Mathieu and Cayla were some other cyclists with whom I was sharing the campsites. Although we all cycled at different speeds we camped at the same campsites everyday- cyclists party everyday.

 

Some more from the 101

Some more from the 101

Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants

In California, the route goes via some spectacular Redwoods forest. The Avenue of the Giants is a 20 mile stretch of lovely tarmac that goes through these giant Redwood trees in Northern California. Riding on this road felt like being in a fantasy world, it was surreal. We camped in the Humboldt Redwoods forest, a lovely campsite right in the middle of the Redwood trees. There were some trees big enough to cut a hole for a car to drive through (see the picture), this was insane. Oh well, I couldn’t resist riding through.

Of the total of fourteen days for this part of my trip, I had rain only on one occasion. One morning when I woke up I realised my front part of the tent was floating in water. I had to either move or pack up and leave. I decided to pack up and cycle in the rain. After a couple of hours of riding in the rain I stopped at McDonalds to get a coffee since I was not comfortable to walk in to an independent coffee shop with my wet clothes and muddy shoes. I thought McDonald’s won’t reject me! On a related note, in San Francisco I noticed some homeless people walk into Safeway (big supermarket chain) to get some food from the deli, although the security guy kept an eye on these people. At least they had a place to sit down and eat some food at affordable prices. This makes me think twice about bashing big chains. Perhaps the social functions of these big chains is not well understood by the urban elites who hate big chain enterprises.

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Drive through tree

Drive through tree

Riding through ...

Riding through …

In the private campsite at Manchester I took a day off to enjoy the hot tub and swimming pool. Later that evening I realised that I did not have an extra day that I assumed. So the next day, my alarm went off at 5am and I started pedalling at 6am since I had to cover two days distance in one. I cycled about 180 Km’s along the rugged, undulating coast line of Norther California and after 11 hours I reached the campsite for the day. I just kept spinning slow and steady. The total elevation gain for the day was 2240 metres. Once again I realised, when the mind sets the challenge the body can handle it.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

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Otis and his vehicle

I thought my trailer is heavy but I met some some cyclists who do more challenging rides. One of them was Cayla who was cycling from Victoria in Vancouver Islands to San Francisco with her dog Ottis who is about 20 kilo grams in a trailer. She had to carry food for him and look after him. It was great to have a pet at the campsites though. Irene was another lady who was cycling with her 8 year old son. He cannot ride independently on big roads so she was pulling him using a kids trailer. On top of this, she was homeschooling him along the way for the last four months on her own. I chatted with her about homeschooling for a while. I felt humbled by the challenge she took on – hats off to her.

After having pedalled a total of 4040 Km’s since I left Anchorage, I am now in San Francisco. I am having a week off here and will resume my journey on Sunday the 10th of August towards Los Angeles.

Many thanks to Warmshowers hosts Stephen, Kenny, and Bob and Marianne who hosted me at McMinnville, Brandon and Eureka respectively during this part of my trip.

 

Pacific coast : part 1

Pacific coast ride Part I: Bellingham-Vancouver-Vancouver Islands-Seattle-Portland ( approximately 820 Km’s – route map here)

After arriving in Bellingham I de-toured a bit to visit Vancouver where I met up with Jayakumar from British Columbia Thamil Cultural society whose family cooked a lovely dinner which included more than 10 different varieties – hospitality as described in some Tamil literature. I am grateful for their kindness.

Vancouver Islands

Vancouver Islands

I was talked into visiting some of the islands around this area so I went Island hopping and cycling to reach Seattle after three separate ferry rides and some 400 Km’s cycling over for four days. Vancouver Islands is an excellent holiday destination due to its pristine beaches and lovely hiking trails. I cycled in this islands for two days, the scenery and the weather of which reminded me of cycling in Cape Town. Even though I have seen some of the British Columbia coast line in the BBC documentary ‘The Great Salmon Run’, to see the tall ice capped mountains rising directly above the sea, for real is something different. However, I did not enjoy the cycling part in Vancouver Islands. The road I took was quite busy, the constant whizzing of motors cars was deafening. After two days and about 180 Km’s I arrived in Victoria. From here I took the ferry to the Olympia peninsula in the state of Washington, USA and then crossed to Bainbridge island via a bridge from where I took a ferry again to Seattle, the home of Starbucks whose wifi comes very handy during my travel.

Vancouver islands

View of Vancouver mainland from the Islands

I stayed in Seattle for three nights and then rode the famous Seattle to Portland cycle route (202 miles). Coincidentally the Seattle to Portland bike ride was happening on the weekend I arrived. Some people do this distance over two days while some brave souls do this in a single day! I am touring not racing so I decided to do it over three days. The route goes through some nice countryside but nothing dramatic.

The heat wave in Washington was the highlight of this part of my trip. I was warned about the rainy and misty weather in Washington but the weather god had different plans for me. I had 30 plus (degree Celsius) every single day ever since I arrived in the lower 48 states. I was very lucky. On the first day when I left Seattle I arrived in the small town of Rainier where I went to have a dip in the river nearby. It felt like a Caribbean holiday to take a dip in the water, after having cycled in the hot sun – life felt very good. However, I did not venture into the river beyond knee deep water, unwilling to challenge my swimming skills, since my legs were too tired for it.

Crossing the islands

Crossing some islands

I enjoyed trying to pronounce some of the names of the towns in this region (Sequim, Chimacum, Yelm, Puyallup, Chehalis) named by Native Americans I presume; Puyallup was my favourite. This was a welcome change from the repetitive colonial names such as Dawson, Dalton, York.

Sunset from Seattle

Sunset from Seattle

The traffic on these roads (between Seattle and Portland) was not ideal but at least there were lots of cafes and places to eat. I met another cyclist, Ryan Brown on my way to Portland who was going in the opposite direction. The previous night he camped next to Walmart in the town of Lakeview (stealth camping it’s sometimes called as!) I wanted to give this a try. After dark, I put my tent up in the grass pitch next to the parking area behind the hedge. After about an hour I heard a drunk voice. Jeff was surprised to see a tent and wanted to talk to me, I asked him to speak to me in the morning. But he just stayed next to my tent and kept talking, after few minutes I let him continue his soliloquy. As it was getting cold he lied down next to my tent poking his head inside my tent porch. After a while, my tent fly sheet came undone because he was trying to use it to wrap himself to protect from the cold. I ran out of patience and got out of my tent to take the fly sheet away from him. He then ran away. I considered giving him my only jacket but then I didn’t think he was in a state to make use of it. At first I assumed he was a homeless but when I met him face to face I realised he was just drunk and lost his way home! Overall an interesting evening trying to camp next to Walmart. I learnt not to venture into the territory of homeless and drunk next time.

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Seattle

Lewis and Clark bridge that's connects Washington and Oregon

Lewis and Clark bridge that’s connects Washington and Oregon

After all the drama, I only slept for 3 hours. I left early morning on the next day to Portland. When I was about 30 miles before Portland I saw a truck pulled over on the shoulder lane. The driver Chris got off the vehicle and waved for me to stop. He asked if I needed money. I was surprised but he took his wallet out to give me some money. I refused. He is aware of bike touring through his son Chris Junior who was also on a bicycle trip somewhere in New Mexico. I took a bottle of Powerade and a mars bar from him instead. Chris came into my life for only less than two minutes but I will always remember him and this incident. I was so shocked by the random act of kindness that I had to stop for few minutes and digest what happened before I could continue, although my brain did not stop the philosophical inquiry for few hours…

I am currently in Portland which is known for its bike friendly roads and excellent quality food. I am loving the food here.

I stayed with several Warmshowers hosts in this part of my trip and my sincere thanks to Mel, Whitney, Zoé and Laura for accommodating me.

Cycling in Yukon

Yukon Chapter

It took me three weeks and approximately 1915 Km’s, starting from Anchorage, to reach Skagway. A total of 18 days on the saddle, excluding the rest days in Fairbanks, Delta Junction, Destruction bay and Whitehorse (10days in Alaska and 8days in Yukon). In the Yukon, most of the time I was the only one on the road, an ideal condition for road cyclists. The longest distance I cycled on a single day was between Haines Junction and Whitehorse, 100 miles. I was not sure if I would be able to do this, considering the heavy trailer on such strenuous terrain (total elevation gain for the day was xxxxx) however I succeeded, it took me 10 hours.

Near Delta Junction

Near Delta Junction

At Delta Junction in Alaska, I met a German couple, Holger and his wife, who are cycling to Ushuaia too, but on a shorter timescale than I am. I rode with them for two days until Tok, after which they went to Dawson City while I continued on the Alaska highway. I was glad that I had some company. We cycled 62 miles to Dot Lake on the first day and camped next to a school. We were warned by the locals about a mother and baby bear that were spotted in the area. During the night, I heard the dogs barking but I was too lazy to leave my tent. Holger suspected some visitors during the night, possibly the bears, but luckily nothing happened. After Tok, I was cycling on my own.

Rough roads in Yukon!

Rough roads in Yukon!

 

After 4 days of cycling from Delta Junction, I crossed the border to the Yukon. Canada welcomed me with rough roads. There were several long stretches of roadworks and even when there was no roadwork, the Yukon roads weren’t good for my road bike tyres. There was no tarmac for most part and it was as good as riding on rough gravel. These stones chewed my tyres (see the picture). However, the Gatorskin tyres were able to take this. I only had one puncture in spite of riding on those rough roads for several days.

I met some cyclists going on the opposite direction, some of them were coming up all the way from Argentina (Ronnie and Linda; Alex)! It was exciting and inspiring to meet them.

I got over the fear for bears and started wild-camping, although I slept with my bear spray next to me.

One day on the road, a camper van slowed down to speak to me. The driver asked ‘hey did you see the fox that was behind you?’ I said, ‘a what’ and he replied, “yeah dude, there was a fox behind you and we thought it was your dog!” I am glad I did not notice the fox, that would have caused unnecessary panic. I saw a bear once, but it ran away when a car drove by. I saw another one on my last day in the Yukon. It was quite a poser, it didn’t mind people taking pictures. I took the courage, on the assumption that I could jump into one of the cars that were nearby if it charges, and went to get some close-up pictures. It was all jolly good, the bear went to have a dip in the pool and then ran away.

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 Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Whitehorse is the capital of Yukon province, out of 35000 people in this province, 25000 live in Whitehorse. For a small city, there were many events happening in the city on most days. In Whitehorse I stayed with Warmshowers hosts who spoiled me with coffee, cheese, chocolate and lovely French meals. Jerome, Nelly and their daughter Josephine were very kind. They had cycled from Argentina to Peru in the past and were, and likely are; still itching to get on their bikes. They had their friends over one day and we all had a great time. Jerome helped to move my website from google sites to wordpress – I was hoping to do this at some point and this would have taken several days, but Jerome did it in just a few hours – Thanks Jerome. It was hard to leave them.

Fish curry for Jerome, Nelly and their friends

Fish curry for Jerome, Nelly and their friends

My last day in Yukon

My last day in the Yukon

On my last day of cycling in the north, I had brilliant weather; clear blue skies and some amazing scenery, the reflection of the mountains in the lake made for some lovely pictures (posted here). It was a hard climb to the top of the summit (900 metres) followed by a lovely downhill ride for about 10 miles to Skagway (sea level). In Skagway, I stayed in a youth hostel, Skagway Sojourn hostel where I met some more travellers. Janelin, the lady who ran the hostel was very kind and super friendly, she spoke to William to sponsor my accommodation for the second night, William Cogswell from Maine, was an English teacher at a high school, a long conversation followed, all about high school teaching in the USA and UK. I cooked a fish curry for Janelin and William to thank them.

The third night of my stay in Skagway was with a Warmshowers host, Robert who had cycled in India. His housemate Grant found a place for me too stay in Bellingham (networking helps!). I cooked veg curry for Robert and Grant.

Another lovely day

Another lovely day

The poser on the road

The poser on the road

 

During the Klondike Gold Rush, an event when thousands of men and women on hearing the news of gold discovery, rushed to Alaska to dig their share of gold. Skagway was the port of entry on the poor man’s route and they had to trek a long distance, which included the famous Chilkoot Trail and White Pass. The rich man’s route ferried them quite close to the site. I found the history of this event quite interesting and it raised many philosophical questions in my mind. Along the way I met a small team comprised of 7 members. They were situated in Destruction Bay, digging in search of gold, luckily with permission from the government. I wondered why large mining companies haven’t taken notice of this, but I couldn’t get an answer for this.

At campsites and along the road I have been meeting lots of people and sharing my adventure. The kindness of strangers continues: one day when I stopped at a rest area on the side of the road for a snack bite, Carol asked if I would like a sandwich, I had no hesitation, I said ‘that will be nice’ – I must have been very hungry. Her husband also gave me several energy bars, energy chews, and some dry fruits too. I was blown away by their kindness. I thanked them and took a pic of them pumping up my bicycle tyres. Janelin at The Sojourn hostel in Skagway, and William Cogswell who sponsored one nights accommodation at the hostel so I could stay with a roof over my head for a second day; Ted and his wife paid for a lovely breakfast in the ferry to Bellingham. My philosophical inquiry about these seemingly random acts of kindness continues and I hope to come up with a hypothesis at the end of my trip, even though social science is not my specialisation.

I have been cooking Indian food for my Warmshowers hosts using the spices that I carry with me. I get lovely feedback for the same and I hope to continue this for the rest of my trip.

At Tetlin Lake campground it rained the whole evening and night. I cooked something to eat at 1030pm when the rain stopped briefly. My tent held out against the rain very well. Although I saw water running underneath my tent which told me that I needed to identify better spots to pitch my tent. Even though on some days it’s below 5 degrees C in the mornings, I had to grit my teeth and get out of my sleeping bag. It reminds me of how soft I have become over the last two years years; I think, only when you are challenged you realise your capacity. I did not expect this bike tour to be a walk (or ride) through the park, but expecting and experiencing are two different things. I had rain, cold mornings, punctures, rough roads, cloudy and windy weather – conditions that are perfectly natural, but are on the other side of pleasure, after all pain and pleasure are relative.

Sunset

Sunset

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The inside passage route along Alaskan Islands

The inside passage route along the Alaskan Islands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Skagway I took the ferry to Bellingham, Washington. I had to abandon my plan to cycle through the Rockies in Canada since US visa waiver allows only 3 months, which would include my stay in Canada too. I have promised myself another visit at some point in the future to cover the Rockies. The three days ferry ride from Skagway, Alaska to Bellingham, and Washington was worth it. The ferry goes through the route known as the ‘inside passage’ through the Alaskan and British Columbian islands which make for some spectacular scenery, especially the sunrise and sunset, when all the cameras come out.

Ferry ride

Ferry ride

Clouds on the surface of the ocean!

Clouds on the surface of the ocean!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the north (Alaska and Yukon). It was an eye opener in many ways. The vastness and wilderness of the landscape along with the kindness and openness of the people has left me wanting more, hopefully I will return at some point. In the coming weeks I plan to take the pacific coast route that goes right next to the sea in the west coast of the USA from Vancouver to San Diego.

I also have separate pages on my website for route map and gear list.

More pictures here

Alaska

Anchorage to Delta Junction via Fairbanks

Ready to roll

I left London on 1st June 2014 to start my bike tour. Iceland air flew me to Anchorage, Alaska via Reykjavik. I spent the first two days collecting my gear from REI, an excellent outdoor equipment shop in the USA. They seem to take care of their customers very well, answering all the questions patiently, without looking at the clock or rushing around. No, I am not getting any sponsorship to write this. I was very impressed, especially the bike maintenance guys.

There was no time for sightseeing in Anchorage, because I only brought my bicycle from London, so I spent two full days at REI collecting rest of the gear (camping gear, bike trailer, spare parts etc.). Paul Huske from Warmshowers (a web based platform to connect bicycle tourers) met me at the airport and gave all the information needed for a person visiting the Arctic Tundra region who grew up in a tropical country. How to deal with the Bears was a good start.

Alaska welcomed me with brilliant weather, around 20 degrees C for most of the week, perfect weather to start my trip. Paul saw me off on the bright sunny morning on 4th June. Getting out of Anchorage was quite easy, there was a bike lane for about 30 miles. On the first day I cycled about 62 miles to the town called Palmer where I met Raylene and Kent, my first Warmshowers hosts. They let me pitch my tent in their yard and made lovely dinner. I had a great evening with them. Raylene was very kind and caring. I think Raylene and Kent, as my first Warmshowers host, set the bar high!Quick snack breakBart preparing for the rain

On the second and third day, I was riding on the Parks highway a 360 mile road that connect Anchorage and Fairbanks and goes via the infamous Denali National Park, home of majestic Mt McKinley. As you can see from the video, the weather was perfect and I had 360 degrees video of the snow capped mountains for the next few days.

On the third day, I had the much dreaded puncture on my bike trailer wheel! I had 5 spare tubes and two spare tyres for my bicycle but none for my trailer wheel, so my immediate reaction to the puncture was panic. Luckily there was a cafe two miles down the road where I stopped to fix my puncture. The girl at the bar asked, ‘are you the guy cycling to Argentina’, I said, ‘yes, after I fix the puncture’. You can imagine which one I felt was the most difficult task at that point in time.

I met Bart another cyclist at the cafe who offered puncture patches as soon as he saw my puncture. He was there because he had several punctures the previous day and decided to spend the night near the cafe. It seems punctures unite cyclists. What is the odds of meeting another cyclists waiting with puncture patches, offering much needed hope, something for the metaphysicsts to explain. We became friends instantly and decided to cycle together to Fairbanks. He was going to Fairbanks to work for the summer. Bart bought a bike for 100 dollars and started cycling to Fairbanks, no preparation, nothing. His rain protection gear as seen in the picture explains it all I think!

When we arrived in Denali, there were hotels and Bart instantly decided to stay in the hotel instead of camping and offered to stay in the twin bed in his cabin, (kindness of strangers?).
On the fifth day, the clouds gathered and showered us, I was soaking wet and left me with no other choice but to take refuge in a lovely countryside hotel, Fireweed Roadhouse. I had a lovely evening at the bar, a couple of hours of conversation on politics cheered me up.

One of the key stories that inspired me was that of Christopher McCandlees. I highly recommend the movie and book by the same title, ‘Into the wild’. There is a bus some 20 miles into the trail where Chris lived and died. There are several quotes from his life; the one I liked most is what he wrote on that bus ‘I have had a happy life’, few days before he died. I think that statement says a lot. I wanted to set foot on this trail someday and I made this dream come true. I spent a few minutes there to remember and thank him for being a source of inspiration to live a ‘free’ life.

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I arrived in fairbanks after 6 days of riding, my bike computer read 651 Km’s. My second Warmshowers hosts at Fairbanks another lovely family opened their doors for me and Bart. Duncan Edwards knowledge of the local area and his stories about living at -40 degrees F were amazing. It leaves me wanting to visit Fairbanks in winter.

I had two days rest at Fairbanks and then continued towards Canada. Bart decided to cycle further with me. After leaving Fairbanks on day 7 of my ride, we arrived at Birch lake camping site, 62 miles from Fairbanks, a beautiful campsite that reminded me of Switzerland. I could see the fish at the bottom of the lake, the water was crystal clear. Here I met another teacher, originally from Bristol, but living in fairbanks now who gave me a bear spray (kindness of strangers no.2).

Overall, the start of my bike tour has been fantastic; excellent weather, lovely views and meeting fantastic folks – the way I imagined. In general Alaskans seem to be extremely friendly, almost everyone greets and starts talking. They are all so kind. I learnt so much about Alaska, this place is magical, so much freedom here.

This state is three times the size of Texas and home for just one million people. For instance, there is no need for any planning permissions etc., people can build their house as they wish and most of them seem to do it responsibly and take care of their environment. The sun does not seem to set here in summer perhaps because Fairbanks is just 100 miles below the Arctic circle. I haven’t used my headlamps at all, even at midnight there is so much ‘daylight’. The mosquitoes are also in plenty, a headnet is essential for life in summer in Alaska.

I am now in a town called Delta junction, 100 miles south of Fairbanks, at the beginning of Alaska highway-1422 miles road that goes through Yukon Territory in Canada and ends in Dawson Creek. I am taking a rest day here and will resume my ride tomorrow. This highway, I have been warned is quite desolate and the Bears in Yukon outnumber the human beings by 2 to 1. It is going to be an interesting ride. I wish to see some Bears but not too close…