I got some sleep and stretched before starting the task of wheel repair and taking off towards the Arctic Circle. The beginning of today's ride wasn't that enjoyable because I was constantly worrying about my wheel and spokes and if they would hold up. I still had two missing spokes on the cassette side and I couldn't get the wheel trued enough not to wobble just a little. But it turned out to make it through the day just fine, so as I rode on, I became more relaxed.
I came up on Grayling Lake, a nice scenic area. There was a float plane on the shore and two guys had just been dropped off after a 16 day trip in the bush. One had found a large Caribou skull with huge antlers. He said they were common around that area as there are many Caribou. I talked with those guys a few short minutes until the mosquitoes forced me to push on. Not too much farther down the road near the public outhouse were 3 motorcyclists, 2 from Germany and 1 from Japan. They looked straight out of Mad Max, all leathered up and rugged, but I imagine I don't exactly look clean cut. They were nice and I talkd to them about their road ahead to Deadhorse and told them where they could see some wildlife. They gave me some info about the roads through Canada before we parted company.
My nice paved road ended and turned back into gravel, just then it began to rain, but not very hard. I came up to some construction and they wouldn't let me pass. I had to put my bike in the back of the pilot car. They took me 10 miles South and then I put my bags back on and rode out of the rain and began to face some steep inclines. I passed Cornerstone Rock and then hit another construction area. The flagger was a familiar face, Brian, a guy in his 40's who I'd talked to earlier on my way North with Bill and Rosie. He informed me that I'd have to wait a half-hour till 7pm when construction stopped or take the pilot car again. I told him I'd rather enjoy the fruits of my laborthis time (going downhill after working hard on the incline) and I'd wait. He offered me food and I fixed up a couple tuna sandwitches with his mayo. I had some cheese and crackers and a granola bar. He also set me up with water, which was great because I had just ran out.
Brian and I talked about touring some more until 7pm rolled around. I was getting a little cold as my sweat was getting cooled by the wind and he was finished with his long day of standing in the road, so we said goodbye and I rode downhill to the Arctic Circle BLM Wayside. Surprisingly there was only one other car there looking at the sign. They remained in the safety of their vehicle and out of the mosquito swarms. They were circling my head viciously. I had my picture taken by the sign before they took off. I added to the graffiti behind the sign and put "Wagenheim '02" before heading South towards Beaver Slide.
Beaver Slide was an extremely brutal incline about 2 miles long at a 9% grade. I took aout 6 breaks going up it and it was about 45 minutes before I reached the top. From the top of Beaver Slide there was a spectacular view of the Brooks Range with the sun shining behind them. I took a few pictures before sailing downhill.
Again, the wind resistance chilled my sweaty body and I had to slow down a bit. But the view was nice and I enjoyed my slow descent. I was pretty tired and out of water so I decided to stop at the Kanuti River to camp. There was a car parked there. I met the campers, two brothers from Joy, Alaska and a girl from Wisconson. They were fishing on the river and had set up camp up river with their boat. I talked with them for a while and they gave me some fishing tips. They showed me what they'd caught so far, some pretty big Grayling. I was glad to see them because if I'd caught one, I wouldn't have known what it was. One guy even gave me a spinner which was cool because I don't think I have the right tackle. So I broke out the fishing pole for the first time and we smoked some pot before they took off up river to their camp. I continued fishing and started to enjoymy peaceful surroundings. I was very happy. I am glad to be here. I noticed some birds flying around the bridge and after a closer look, I saw that there were a bunch of nests under the bridge and the birds were feeding their young who I could hear hungrily chirpingfor their next mouthful of bugs.
I got a few nibbles on the line, but didn't land any big fish, so I went back to camp and started cooking dinner. I put on some soup and went back to fish while it simmered. I finally caught a fish, a small Grayling, but I decided it wasn't worth keeping so I tossed it back. I ate bean soup and chili (from a can Brian had given me) and began to think about my trip. I think I might be rushing through a little fast. Maybe it has something to do with how vulnerable I feel out here with none of the amenities or conveniences I'm used to. Also, I think my wheel problem got me wanting to get to Fairbanks quickly before I run into another episode like last week. Well, I think I'm going to have to work on relaxing a bit more and enjoy this time up here because soon there will be more people, more cars, and less light. Then I'll be wishing I was up here with nothing but vast land around me. (49 miles)
Picture: Looking back on the killer incline of Beaver Slide. Enjoying the nice view of the sun behind the Brooks Range from higher up.