Alaska Adventure Machine!

Alaska Adventure Machine!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mud Baptism

The rain was pounding on my tent, Arctic Circle rain. The inside of my tent sagged low with water drops, soaking parts of my sleeping bag. In the semi-dawn I debated, would this be a rest day or not? In six days I hadn't taken a break at all. My knees were creaking from the effort and my thighs laced with lactic acid. A break would be nice, perhaps even needed. But could I stand a tent-bound day, while my sleeping bag got wetter and wetter?

I went outside the tent for a peek. Low grey clouds raced past the tree tops, but sort of a quartering tailwind. That was enough to have me eat a quick breakfast and roll my tent up in the rain. It was a soggy mess when I put it in it's stuff sack. The Yukon was 65 miles away, but a truck stop there was supposed to be open until the end of October. Perhaps another chance to dry out my gear? In wet conditions I cycled onto the very muddy road.

All day long I had to battle with the mug clogging my chain, gears and derailleurs. My chain started to hop erratically with the mud and rocks in it. At times only a couple gears would work properly. Even my fenders began to clog up with mud. I seemed the closer I got to the Yukon River the stickier the mud got.

Most cyclist I know are sort of gear heads. Any dirt they get on their bike they clean off immediately after a ride. A fastidious and a bit tech nerdy crowd. Any thoughts of cleaning my chain would have been ludicrous, as it would have been totally mud-clad within minutes again. With grit and grim "lubricating" the poor chain I soldiered on, having my own personal trench warfare experience.
I was nearly at my wits end when finally the Yukon River bridge appeared. The day's ride had been super hilly and the mud exasperating. Within sight of the bridge I ground to a halt, my fenders so clogged with mud that I had to once again clear with my tire iron. Shifting was impossible, I only had one usable gear!


The Yukon River Camp was packed with caribou hunter trucks and boats. As only one of two places in Alaska that the Yukon River is accessible by road, hunters trailer boats there to gain access to remote hunting areas up or downriver. There were easily 100 trucks parked there.

Once in the cafe, finally out of the rain and mud, I regained my psyche. I grabbed a corner booth and unpacked my wet sleeping bag to dry out. I chatted with some truckers and a friendly waitress. As we chatted, it seems that after this job she was headed to the Dominican Republic to work for the Peace Corp. Another interesting personal connection along this road, as I had sailed there by sailboat from Florida within the past year.  So many "coincidences", the world is smaller than one thinks, that's for sure.

The truckers reported that the mud ahead was supposed to not be as bad, but I'd have even more hills to battle. The forecast was for continued rain, ugh!

With no cell coverage to phone home, I begged to use the cafe's office computer to send a quick email home to check-in. The waitress was helpful and let me. After eating dinner, I dunked my bike into the Yukon River to cleanse it of the mud. In light rain, I found a nice grassy spot on the banks of the river to pitch my tent, still as wet on the inside as outside. I'd have to dry my sleeping bag in the morning again before pedaling off.

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