Friday, July 6, 2007 – day 30 (Palmer – Anchorage)
Distance: 49.6 miles (79.9 km); OVERALL distance: 1,748.2 miles (2,813.5 km)
Average: 16.9 mph (27.3 kph)
Weather: 17°C – 22°C, some clouds, mostly sunny, bit of tailwind
One more night of sleeping… and there it was, the very last day of my tour – I was pretty optimistic that I could do those 40 or so miles that where left in one day.
Perfectly enough, after all these days of clouds and rain and wind, it turned out to be a beautiful day with only a few clouds, nothing serious at all. The Chugach mountains ahead of me, I cycled along Knik Arm that led into the Cook Inlet and at the very south of Alaska into the ocean then.
Cycling just went perfectly well. The little bit of tailwind combined with a little bit of downhill let me almost race towards Anchorage…
… until there suddenly was this big bang while I was going down a hill along the Glenn Highway that suddenly wasn’t empty, windy and in the middle of nowhere anymore, it was two-, later on three-laned with a lot of traffic. So, there I was standing, on the hard shoulder, trying to figure out what just caused that noise. I though it came from the front part of my bike – but there was nothing. When looking towards the rear section of the bike, it very quickly became obvious what has happened: a flat – completely flat – tyre. Exactly 20 miles before the end of Glenn Highway, maybe 15 miles before the city border, maybe 27 miles before the end of my tour, a puncture. I couldn’t believe it. Everything went so well all the time, and then on my last day cycling…
Well, I didn’t have a choice – I started taking off all my luggage right next to that busy highway (which easily can be imagined as a highway like anywhere else in the country [ok, well, maybe not New Jersey, but other than that…], I turned my bike upside down and took the wheel off the bike. The real funny part about that story: only half a mile before that I saw a little sign saying: “Pedestrians and bicycles prohibited” – that sign was nowhere before, so being on the highway already I had not chance to find out about that earlier (it probably was prohibited all the way from just after Palmer where Glenn Highway crossed with Parks Highway going up to Fairbanks; also, there was not really an alternative route other than side roads that would really have slowed me down and would have been anything but a direct route). So, I stood there, always kind of waiting that in a second the first cops would come around a give me a $1,000 ticket for illegally cycling on the highway (driving 84mph instead of 65mph on a highway by car cost me $250, so that would probably the US police’s way of punishing cyclists…). Anyway, the reason for the puncture was more than obvious: a big, rusty nail, half of it outside the tyre, half of it, as I would find out a couple of minutes later, inside the tube. So, I simply replaced the whole tube, had to realize that even the inner rim tape was slightly damaged by the nail, so also my good, old duct tape was of use once again, and soon I was finished with the repairing and ready to move on. The wheel definitely did not run very smoothly anymore, it felt quite bumpy actually. But I couldn’t be bothered to check into that in detail, nor did I feel like standing any longer than necessary on that busy road.
I made it to Anchorage without any further incidents. Not that I ever saw a sign saying something like “Welcome to Anchorage”, but it was clear, I was there. The city has a population of approx. 500,000, but seems to be way more spread out than e.g. Calgary that has 1 million. It was an endless cycle through the roads of Anchorage, and entering from the north east and my friends being at the south west of the city did not make the whole thing shorter. But I like city cycling, even with a heavy bike. At exactly 2:30, I arrived at the cabin where my friends live – and exactly a month after I started my tour, I arrived in the city that has once been sooooo far away. What a feeling, what an amazing feeling.
My friends, however, decided that me being in Anchorage is ok, but I shouldn’t spend too much time there – so they gave me 1.5 hours to unpack my panniers, re-pack stuff into a rucksack, take a quick shower, and then they put me into their car and off we went, to Denali National Park for the weekend. My friend Lucy working during the week, and one of Lucy’s friend being in Anchorage for visiting obviously meant that the weekends needed to be used for trips – and Denali, an amazing National Park, was the plan for this weekend. I never regretted that I went. It was gorgeous, despite not so good weather on Saturday. But the nature up there, just 4 hours north of Anchorage, combined with a strenuous hike on Sunday up Sugarloaf Mountain made the whole thing pretty much fun – and even now I feel my muscles that weren’t that much used to hiking anymore… but Lucy’s friend was in extremely good shape, and obviously I couldn’t let him go up that mountain faster than I did.
Sunday late afternoon we left Denali again – and since then I can truly say: I AM IN ANCHORAGE!!!
Motto of the day:
“Anchorage!!! 30 days, 2,813.5 km or 1,748.2 miles, ascents, descents, hot and cold weather, sun and rain, head and tail wind, adventures and ‘normal’ things, sore and trained legs, north and south (but mainly west), sleeping bag and beds, mosquitoes and bears, kilometers and miles, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, Alaska, forest, mountains, lakes, the sea, rivers, creeks, puddles… and so much more… an amazing month on my bicycle that did really well is coming to an end… and I will never ever forget what I’ve experienced. Next bike trip in… from… to… across… who knows…”