Frithjof, standing by the trailer is one of our guides. He's from California originally, but is now pretty centered in Alaska.
Our other guide is Steve. He has been in Alaska for 8 years and grew up in Iowa.
There are only 6 riders on this tour. Jackie lives in Colorado, although she was born in Wisconsin and lived in Michigan for 10 years.
Phil (left) is from Cleveland and Connie and Clark live in Virginia. These four, along with Dianne and me, will be riding together the next 6 days.
After loading the luggage we went back into the hotel and had breakfast and a pre-ride meeting. Walt came in to meet us all--he is the founder and owner of Alaskabike. He's going to meet up with us later in the week.
We started out in the van, driving several hours. We passed through the Chugach Mountains, and could see the Talkeetna Mountains ahead of us. There was an extensive forest fire in this area earlier this summer, and the evidence was all along the roadside. By this time we could see the Alaska Range off to our left.
We stopped in Wasilla for "bladder synchronization" but did not see Russia, contradicting Sarah Palin! Dianne bought another pair of sunglasses in Wasilla--if you've been reading this blog very long you'll know that on every bike trip she misplaces her sunglasses, buys another pair, and then finds the original ones. (I know she has a drawer at home FULL of sunglasses). Our next stop was the South Denali lookout. Mt. McKinley was shrouded by clouds, as it is most of the time. Our guides told us it has its own weather system.
We stopped again at the North Denali lookout where we got our bikes fitted up with our own seats and pedals. From there we finally rode our bikes; by then it was 12:30 PM.
The ride was beautiful and I was overdressed! I wore long bike pants and a long sleeved jersey because the weather report in Anchorage said 54 and rainy. It was in the 70s and sunny!
We had wonderful clear views of the Alaska mountain range on both sides of us. The terrain was rolling hills, long climbs and long gradual descents. Fireweed was in bloom everywhere.
Steve had told us to watch for igloos, and I rolled my eyes. Then I saw The Igloo! It was built to be a tourist attraction and hotel, but never opened because the independent Alaskans who built it did not check building codes, and by the time it was inspected for potential opening, it was finished and not legal for habitation.
I could see the rain behind us, but we did not get wet. We stopped for lunch at Hurricane Gulch, where the river ran far below us.
There was a stretch of dirt and stones for about 2 miles, the only warning a sign stating "pavement break ahead". What an understatement!
There was another stop at Mile Marker 201, which Steve said was the official end of today's ride. Phil, Clark and Jackie had gone on ahead for bonus miles, but Dianne, Connie and I had a snack and got in the van.
We picked up Clark and Jackie about 8 miles after we got in the van; Phil was long gone. Then we got stuck in traffic stopped in a construction zone. We waited there for well over an hour before we moved forward, with cars stacked up behind us as far as we could see. Phil arrived at our destination about the time we got stopped, making us all wish we'd stayed on the bikes! We passed the time telling funny bike tour stories--this is a nice group of people.
Finally Frithjof ran up to the head of the line to find out what was going on--it turns out they are paving a section of road ahead of us and apparently decided it would be more entertaining to stop traffic than to let us pass on the adequately wide dirt section alongside the new pavement.
We arrived at The Perch around 7:30, making dinner pretty late. There are small cabins and a restaurant and absolutely nothing else for miles. Moose families lead the guests to the cabins and the restaurant. While we were stuck in construction Phil was here watching real moose across the road. Darn. I have yet to see a real live moose on this adventure.
We all walked up the hill to dinner at the restaurant, which was superb. The tour pays for all of our food and snacks, except for alcoholic beverages, espresso drinks and menu options that do not have a listed price. I think that is very fair.
Not such a clear photo, but here we all are: Phil, me, Steve, Frithjof, Jackie, Dianne, Connie and Clark. I limited the amount of liquid I consumed during and after dinner due to the steep ladder I would have to use to get to the rest room in the middle of the night. Wow!