David Freeze: Won’t make it to Anchorage on time? Oh, yes I did
Back in late winter, I had nailed down the fact that I was going to Anchorage, Alaska, on a bicycle and doing so from Nevada.
I knew about Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington, the first part of the route, from previous trips. Alaska would make the 49th state I had cycled through, but I wanted to ride there, not just go there to ride.
It seemed a bigger adventure that way.
My ride began from Carson City, Nevada, about 10:30 a.m. June 4. There was just one goal that day: make it to Doyle, California, to find a place to spend the night.
I remember that like yesterday. But lots of the ensuing ride to Anchorage became a blur. Looking back over my notes and articles in the Post brought back some memories, mostly good and a good many I have previously shared.
I made it to Doyle and found the campground I had identified to be not exactly as described. I spent the night in the back of a pickup eating a day-old sandwich. But it worked, just as most everything else along the way.
My goal here is to share a few extra memories, put this ride to rest and look forward to what is next.
I love little towns and the people I encounter. Two towns that stood out on the trip were Orville and Brewster, Washington. Tok, Alaska; Williams Lake, British Columbia; Biggs Junction, Oregon; and Whitehorse and Destruction Bay, Yukon, are all remembered for good things.
Northway Junction, Alaska, stands out for different reasons.
My favorite town was Dease Lake, British Columbia, partly because the first words said were, “Welcome to Dease Lake, we’re glad to have you here.”
The people I met along the way were more memorable than the towns. They included Juan Jerez, traveling the same route on his motorcycle; Bryan Troll and the Kanters, who gave me much needed water and great conversation; Wayne Eller and the Ramseys, with ties to Rowan County. So many cyclists were pedaling toward their dreams, just as I was.
Officer Williams was a wonderful customs officer at the Canadian border. I made special friends such as Joe Troyer and Ron Kris, who I expect to stay in touch with. I met cyclists from Switzerland, Japan, Belgium, France, Bavaria and Estonia; that’s pretty cool.
The weather never was extreme although those mornings in the upper 20s were chilly. Hail and lightning during two Canadian storms were a good test; breathing miles of forest fire smoke seemed part of the adventure.
One of the most remarkable sights was the miles of burned forests, something hard to grasp.
I loved the snow-covered mountains, wildlife and glaciers, especially the 27-mile-long Metanuska Glacier that supplies its own river.
Some things that I didn’t especially love but that added to the experience were the endless hills, poor roads and dusty highway construction, the swarms of mosquitoes, and the relentless horseflies.
I was not especially fond, either, of the rattlesnakes or the sometimes fierce headwinds.
The price of goods was often double and triple what we pay here.
There were problems communicating even though I had been assured by Verizon, AT&T and Windstream that I would have service most of the time. Just submitting my daily updates and photos was an incredible challenge. At one point, I thought I would have to wait until I was back home to share my stories, until Amanda Lewis figured out a workaround that kept us going.
There is a short list of exhilarating things, too. The grizzly bear encounter has to top the list and seeing big, wet bear tracks at 5 a.m. going down the road.
It’s hard to understand for many, but I love to ride in fierce storms, and for sure a few close lightning strikes added leg energy like nothing else.
Add a hot shower after too many days of sleeping in the woods with no real alternative. Finding a natural spring still running at an abandoned rest area when I had no water left. And tailwinds — never waste a tailwind.
I had a good mix of winds, always OK.
I found the best egg and cheese biscuits and discovered butter tarts and rhubarb cake. It’s amazing how good a Pop Tart tastes when you’re about out of food.
One great joy was the ride from Juneau, Alaska, to Bellingham, Washington, on the Alaska Ferry. I could write a chapter about this nearly four-day experience but will save most of it for a book.
The ferry hauls 500 people and 133 cars and uses the same inland passage as big cruise ships. The ride was relaxing and fun, and my first opportunity for healing. There were great people and plenty of food, and believe it or not, I chose to sleep outside every night.
The Alaska Ferry is a must-do for me again.
Two big takeaways are that nearly 3,200 miles over 39 days is a load at nearly 82 miles a day, the biggest average ever.
I never bought any bear spray.
An even bigger memory is when I met Julien and Frederic Guilliard, from Belgium, at the halfway point and heard, “No way you will make it to Anchorage by July 12.” I said to myself, “No way, huh?” I did it and loved it all.
Prayers helped me cover the challenges listed above. Prayers make those worries go away, even when you must pitch your tent near bear scat.
Rowan Public County and other organizations already are planning talks about this adventure. Look for news on that. And my next book should be out in November. There is so much more to tell.
Thank you to my sponsors and Post readers for everything.
Right now, it looks like March will be time to go to Hawaii and get that 50th state behind me. I hope everyone will ride along, again.
I can’t wait!
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