I found more tough windy inclines and rough road today. The latter proved to be fatal to my finishing the last 83 miles to Fairbanks. My rear wheel had held up the last couple of days just fine, but when I started hitting some rough downhill, I broke a couple more spokes. The rim just couldn’t take it. I actually thought it was over much earlier in the day, but before giving up so soon, I sat down and put in the last couple extra spokes I had. My rim was still severely bent so I started loosening the spokes. As I did that, I must have taken some pressure off the right areas because the rim straightened a little. I tightened up the spokes a little and it still looked Ok, so I packed up my stuff and hoped for the best as I continued my way South.
My goal was 60 miles today, 60 tomorrow and I’d be in Fairbanks. I think my legs were starting to feel the pain of about a week straight on a bike and the last few days of killer inclines. If I was going to hit 60 miles today, it was going to take me a while for sure. It wasn’t long before my rim and spoke problem returned. The tire began to rub on the frame again so after a few miles and a couple tough climbs, I sat down for some lunch and bike repair. I tuned the spokes again which seemed to do the trick when the bike was flipped over, but when I put my 215 lb frame back on it, the same rubbing problem occurred. So I figured I’d try to get as far as possible with the current situation until it got worse. I made it all the way to mile 5 of the Dalton Highway before breaking another spoke. Now it was time to stop.
Six missing spokes and who knows how many more that were about to go. My back tire had already rubbed the paint off my frame. I took all my gear off and flipped over the bike. I made a sign, “Fairbanks, Broke Bike L” and stuck it on my trailer. Rafael, a pipeline security guard who I’d spoken to yesterday at HotSpot Café stopped to check on me. He insisted on giving me a ride down to the North Country Mercantile on the Elliott Highway, just South of the beginning of the Dalton Highway where I first met Bill and Rosie who drove me North to Pump Station #3 a week earlier. Rafael said there would be a little more traffic down there from the Elliott Highway’s southbound traffic. I was just happy to be a little further down the road and near some snack food and water.
I suppose I could be disappointed that I won’t end up riding the rest of the 80 miles to Fairbanks, but I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished North of Fairbanks. I’ve seen what I believe (so far) to be the most beautiful parts of Alaska: the Arctic Tundra, the Brooks Range and the beauty South of it, the awesome wildlife, the rivers and streams, and the roller coaster “hills”.
I know I might have been able to fix my spoke problem early if I had had the right tools (a chain whip to go along with my cassette tool), but you really can’t prepare for everything and I am happy that nothing too serious went wrong with my bike or health. I’ll be looking forward to a few days of rest in Fairbanks before continuing my journey. I know I still have a lot more of Alaska to see and am excited for what’s next. Now, if I can only get to Fairbanks! (38 miles)