Archive for June, 2011

Day 5

Distance travelled – roughly unknown. I think about 74 miles, but I had technical issues. The GPS batteries died and wouldn’t record whilst it was recharging and I keep resetting the little bike computer. Damn those fiddly buttons.

But it was a good day for cycling – no rain, but overcast and a terrific tailwind. Still quite a few hills but with terrific wind they were no match for my pumping. (it’s turning into a Carry On film now). The were a few roadworks, which they had to put the bike in the back of a pickup and ferry me through. I’m not complaining as some of them were up steep hills. They didn’t seem that keen to take me all the way to Tok though.

So here I am now in a place called Slana (pronounced Slana) about 65 miles from Tok. And with Tok comes the start of the Alaska Highway for me. After Tok it’s all downhill and downwind with bears and chipmunks applauding all the way. Moose can’t applaud, obviously.

If you’re reading this Pete, then your maps are proving invaluable. I say ‘your maps’, actually the ones you ripped-off from work! Cheers again.

For those waiting for Beard Cam updates, they will now, definitely, be weekly. Starting from tomorrow. There’s not much there yet anyway. Ruggedly handsome, true, but not what you’d call a beard.

The photo is of a kid called Colt who made me a peanut butter sandwich when I stopped at this lodge where I thought they might have a restaurant. Turns out they didn’t, but he was happy to make me a pb & j sandwich (without the j). Obviously, he came outside to be impressed by my bike. He was impressed.


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Day 4

Well that went better than expected. Breakfasted at the roadhouse with Phil and his wife (sorry Phil’s wife, but your name just went straight out of my brain). Then shot off down the highway in fine spirits and made great time and distance. Did about 60 miles/97kms (just goes to show what happens if you don’t have 2700 ft to climb) in about five hours and got to my next planned stop of Glennallen. I say stop, but it’s really just the junction of Highway 1 and Highway 4. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of that on this trip. I got here about 1400 and would have probably gone on after lunch if there had been a diner to have had lunch in, but there wasn’t so here I am in a campsite. Not particularly nice but at $15 a night who’s complaining. Well me actually! For one thing, about an hour after putting up the tent it started chucking it down (I’m writing this inside my little rain bunker now) and another thing; blooming RV’s! Just parked there with their generators going. Nice tranquil camping? Hah!

So I spent the afternoon in my tent watching Apocalypse Now. The horror. The horror.

Hopefully this rain will stop by tomorrow otherwise it’s rain gear, lights and hi-viz all day. Sexy!

I saw my first moose today! From a distance, but definitely a moose. Or maybe an elk. What does a caribou look like? I also keep getting hassled by a chattering chipmunk outside the tent. Little blighter! Why I oughtta…! It’s turning into a Disney movie around here.

Apropos nothing, there seem to be a lot of bees either dead or dying by the side of the road. I seem to remember reading an article about someone doing some research on this. If anyone else remembers or can tell me why this is happening then it would at least stop my brain coming up with outlandish reasons for it. Could be a bee war over possession of the highway and these are the fallen. I’m sure I saw five GI bees trying to plant a flag in the middle of the road.

I’ve just re-read this and noticed I haven’t explained why I stopped at 2pm. Well I was knackered! And whilst I may have made it a bit further I figure that at the moment I shouldn’t push myself too hard. Slow and steady wins the race (anyone know how to do a ‘smug’ smiley?). As it is, my new GPS/bike computer says I’m burning about 4500 calories each day. And I know I’m not replacing it. 4500 calories of decent food is enormous, and I simply can’t eat that much in one go, even if I could get decent food, which is often tricky around here. I may try and find some sort of protein shake/mix. Even trickier around these here parts.

This is one rambling post. That’s what happens when you get stuck in your tent on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Hope everything’s good with you, but feel free to let me know either way.


And here’s a picture of the Alaskan oil pipe. Enjoy.


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Day 3

What a day! This cycling is hard!! A never ending climb out of Valdez which got me to about 2700ft/823m. All made slightly worse by being overtaken by a 60 year old on a carbon road bike. His whole bike weighed about the same as one of my rear panniers! At least the ride down the other side was fun!
I had to push hard just to make 55miles/88kms. I’m now in a fairly basic cabin on the Richardson Highway. I was so knackered I just needed not to camp and get some decent food inside me. As it turned out the place isn’t fully open yet, but the new owners said I could eat with them. Bless ’em! And they’re going to make me breakfast tomorrow. Hurrah!
I’m still on course to make it to Tok (pronounced Toke, around here. Bless our colonial cousins!) in five days, but I’m going to have to average about 55miles/88kms. Doesn’t sound much, but when you’re hauling 30kg of stuff and 16kg of bike up long, steep climbs, it’s a lot! Having said that I’ve only just started so I should be doing longer days soon. I’m full expecting to have to crash for a few days in about 7-10 days time to let my body recover for a bit. Looks like it’ll be in the middle of nowhere at this rate.

Psychologically I’m fine. The flat and downhill cycling is just plain exhilarating around here and totally keeps your spirits lifted. Truly spectacular scenery. The uphills are still in the same scenery, but you can only look a few feet in front of you and grind your way out of the hell! If you look up you see the next three miles of dead straight rise. Demoralizing. But, hey, I chose to do this and it beats working! And anyway when you get to the top there’s the downhill to enjoy. And the beer and the massage stations. Well maybe at the top of the next hill.

Oh, have I mentioned the continual daylight? it’s weird. You think it’s about 7:30pm and it’s actually around midnight! Bonkers! If I was a lot fitter it would mean I could cycle far further, but I’m not, so I won’t.


A view from Horse Tails Falls looking back the way I’d come. This is after the huge climb to Thompson Pass


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Day 2

Another glorious day. In fact I think all the locals a slightly confused by all the bright sunshine! Not much cycling, but then it’s the adventure we’re after, isn’t it?

The photos say it better than me, so in order we have…

1. Ben Gorelick – Mountain guide and cheese shop owner.
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2. A photo of Portage Lake. Mmm, pretty!


3. Then Whittier side if the tunnel. The other side has no jokes at all. copyright M Robershaw


4. The ferry didn’t leave until 1445 and I arrived at about 1000 so I thought a quick bit of kayaking was in order.


5. On the ferry to valdez.


6 Valdez. The gap between the two mountains just to the right is where I’m headed tomorrow. And it’s about 20 miles of 8% gradient 😦


7. Beard Cam – Day 2. May make this a weekly thing.


Also, check out the new and improved TrackMyTour section. You should see an up to date map with my locations. It’s all a bit new but I may be able to figure out how to add images to each ‘pin’. Exciting developments, I think you’ll agree!

From now on the updates may become a bit more sporadic, but I’ll write them anyway and there may just be a massive download any time I can get a wifi signal.


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Day 1 cont/d…

I need to organize myself! No point in writing a blog about cycling if I haven’t done any cycling!

So it’s now the morning of day 2 and I shall now tell you what happened yesterday. That seems to make sense to me.

A beautiful day’s cycling. Flat, sunny and with magnificent views. Could you ask for more? Oh, how about a tailwind too. The cycling gods were smiling down on me. I got circled by a pair of bald eagles! I though they only occurred in National Geographic. I got to Portage lake and guessed that the cafe and gift shop might be the one that Ben and Jaya own, so I popped in and there was Ben! Jaya’s on a trip in Spain which is a shame, but maybe I’ll catch up with her if I get to Coyhaique.
So I’m now camped out the back after having a shower and loading up on some chicken salad yesterday evening. For those of you excited about bears, then bad news – none last night. Although I did put all my food and toiletries in the shower block for safety; they obviously aren’t interested in a middle aged man wrapped up in a tent. “Once you take off the wrapping, the insides are delicious”!
Once the cafe opens I’ll grab some breakfast then head off to Whittier and catch the ferry to Valdez (pronounced Valdeeez around here). I’ll probably camp there tonight, but it’ll be a short trip today if I do. But there’s not much further on for about 70 miles. So might as well tackle that with a full day.


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Day 1

It’s raining! Right, that’s it the whole things off.

But seriously, I’m all ready and even keen to get going. The bike is looking and feeling great, I’ve switched to the serious tyres (Marathon XR’s for those who want to know) and the horn has been fitted. Moose don’t like the horn.

Some stats – the bike weighs 16kg
I weigh 73.5 kg
The panniers weigh 26kg
And that all adds up to… anyone? Anyone? That’s right; too much, but I intend to lose weight and after the first hill so will the panniers.

I’m off to Whittier today. It’s only about 60 miles / 100 ams apparently and mostly flat so should be an easy first ride.I’m hoping to meet up with Ben and Jaya (mountain guides I trekked with in Patagonia), but it’s all been a bit vague, so fingers crossed. If I don’t meet up with them then I might try and get the ferry to Valdez today and camp there tonight.

A huge thanks again to Ron and Barb. You are the most gracious and generous hosts anyone could hope for. Happy cycling!

These blogs are going to be updated less frequently from now on, but I’ll try and right them every night and then upload when I can.

Day 1 – Beard Cam


Keep the messages coming!

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T minus 1 day

The bike is OK! The adventure can continue. Spent yesterday putting it all back together and she looks fine. She? Haven’t decided on sex or name yet. ‘Old Yella’ might be appropriate apart from fact that the dog of the similar name dies at the end of the film… OK so not Old Yella. Suggestions? And Stu, no probs with the oil. A little came out but nothing to worry about.

I’m staying with Ron and Barb Bliss in Anchorage at the moment. They belong to the warmshowers.org network and if the rest of the people on it are like Ron and Barb then it’s going to be a fantastic trip. You couldn’t meet two nicer or more generous people. I mean, they don’t know me but they are happy to lend me their cars! Crazy! But great. And here they are…


Off in a moment to get the last of the bits and pieces I need for the trip.
The whole idea of using my iPhone to navigate may be in jeopardy. There are no pay as you go contracts for iPhone in Alaska and even if there were there’s little or no coverage outside Anchorage. So I’m trying to find a GPS/navigation app that has maps I can access offline. Anyone got any suggestion?

It’s all coming together and I’m excited to be heading off tomorrow. I hope to set off about 1000 and make it to Whittier about 75 miles/ 120 km away by about 1800. There’s a train/car tunnel to negotiate just before Whittier, and it doesn’t allow bikes, but I’m told it’s quite easy to hitch a ride on one of the ubiquitous UTE’s. If I don’t make it before 1800 it doesn’t really matter as it doesn’t get dark here. At all! 2330 yesterday and it was like early evening. Crazy!

I’ll sign off for now, but please leave comments. It’s great hearing from you and keeps me connected with ‘the real world’!


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Departure Day

The day dawned grey and windy on the 13th June and Bridget and I woke up at about 5:30am and promptly went back to sleep again. We were woken again at about 6:30 by mum bringing us a cup of tea in bed. That’ll be the last time that happens to me for a few thousand miles.
I’d packed everything the night before so had nothing to do but shower, dress and wait for the taxi to take us to the airport. Mum made sandwiches. That’ll be the last time that happens to me for a few thousand miles.
It all felt very final and despite hugs and a few prayers from mum, I was tearful. In fact we’ve all been tearful over the last few days. Me off on this ridiculous journey, Bridget off to New Zealand and everyone else staying in their right and proper place at home. What the feck are we doing!

All went smoothly at Heathrow and I wasn’t even charged for the bike. Result! Hope it survives the journey. Bridget checked in about an hour later and broke a personal record for being the first time she’d checked in first for a flight! That may have had something to do with me making her arrive five hours early for it. Very tearful departure when my flight left. Bridget, if you’re reading this, I’m coming for you! It’s just the end of one chapter and the start of another. Try to prevent your mother from setting you up with a ‘nice Kiwi bloke’!

Just got to Seattle. Nothing to say – it’s an airport. It’s now 3am for me and 7pm for everyone else. Can’t wait to get on a bike and travel at a more human speed. Slightly concerned about the bike box. It arrived on a trolley through the oversized baggage exit with a whole load of other people’s baggage stacked on top. I’ll only know what condition the bike’s in when I try to put it all back together in Anchorage.

More tomorrow…

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Technical stuff

Bike: Thorn Nomad
Wheels: Rigida 32 hole, CSS rims
Brakes: XTR V brakes with DTSwiss blue pads
Tyres: Panaracer Tourguards (may change these to Schwalbe Marathon XR’s)
Gearing: Rohloff Speedhub
Front hub: SON 28 dynamo
Racks: Thorn front and rear
Panniers: Ortlieb Roller Classic – front & rear


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