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July 6, 2007 – July 24, 2007 – in and around Anchorage, and my return to Germany:
As my tour has come to an end, it’s time for a brief summary and outline of my plans from now onwards.
Now that I actually made it to Anchorage, I’ve got a few days left in Alaska that I can spend together with my friends here, with travelling around in Alaska a bit in order to get to know this great state a little further, and I will use the time to simply relax from a year in North America full of action and often being a bit too restless.
I will continue (try to, at least) uploading links to photos of my remaining time here in Alaska.
My cell phone provider continues to refuse providing me with reception – therefore I will not be available by phone until I am back in Germany. However, I will be able to go online a bit more regularly and check my emails. So, getting in touch with me by email is the way to go for the next 2 weeks.
Oh, and I can ensure you that I am doing perfectly fine over here: they do have Coldstone Creamery in Anchorage – so, my regular ice cream consumption is guaranteed… that’s probably the reason why I instinctively picked Anchorage as final destination 😉
When talking about ice cream, something else comes to my mind also which some people asked me before: did you I weight? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m sure I gained some weight because of some news muscles, and I did not get the impression that my little belly got any thinner (not that I would care, I have to say). And, how could I have lost weight? During the day I ate what I felt like I needed in regards to calories; but I got a lot of my calories from the not so healthy food such as plenty of chocolate like Mars bars (or Milky Ways, as they are called in the U.S. – finding that out was quite an adventure!). And when I got a chance to and had enough with me or was somewhere where I could buy stuff, I often at A LOT in the evenings (and that’s “a lot” for me, not the average “a lot”). Anyway, I guess that’s my answer to “Have you lost weight?”
And there is a bit of an update regarding my plans concerning the exact date of my return to Germany – I slightly changed my flight date – from July 28 to July 24, 2007. Simple reason: with my initial travel schedule I would have arrived at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday, July 29 – that’s exactly the day when the so-called “Arber bike marathon” is going to take place. That is a fairly popular and famous bike race/marathon/challenge in my home area (the “Arber” being the highest mountain of the Bavarian forest) [http://www.arberradmarathon.de/arber_neu/]. For years already, I thought about participating, however, I was either completely out of shape or not in Germany – and now that I finally am kind of well trained (hopefully enough), I really didn’t want to miss that chance. So I signed up for the marathon on two days ago… and out of 4 options I decided to go for the longest route. 250km, approx. 160 miles. Not really that I felt like necessarily doing a distance that I have never cycled in my life before, however, when I looked into the details of the routes, I had to realize that only the longest route actually goes completely up the mountain road – and you might have found out by now how it is with me and the mountains… I love cycling up on top of them.
Besides that, I’d love seeing as many of you guys in and around Bavaria (since my time in the U.S. “around” got pretty much re-defined into “everything that can be reached by car within 15 hours” 😉 ) while I am back home during the month of August and the first part of September. After that, Leeds and a one-year Masters course are calling me back onto the small island in the west of Europe.
Last but not least thank you for all your support during my trip. It’s been great to see how some of you helped me in making this dream come true… helped me in all sorts of different ways. No matter if it was motivating me with encouraging and critical statements (“I’m sure it can be done physically, but where will you find your food???” “Did you really think about this properly – there are no chips, no sweets, and especially no ice cream along the way?” “I hope that you won’t be eaten by wild animals when you broke down with a problem with the bike in the middle of nowhere.”), or if it was by bearing me talking about the tour and this trip being THE thing on my mind since March or April, or by providing me with “hands-on” support, or if it was simply following this blog and being a little interested in what I was doing there, it all helped, and it’s definitely time to say thank you for that, to all of you!! Dankeschön!!!
– Lucy Baranko – for being one of the main reasons why this tour actually happened… without her asking me to visit her in Anchorage at the end of my internship in New Jersey, this tour would have never made its way onto my mind; in addition for being great support before and during my trip, plus for driving parts of my luggage from New Jersey all the way up to Alaska; last but not least for being a great host in Anchorage
– Jens Bergmann – for helping me with the research, for tips and tricks, for regularly motivating me, and for always being available for any sorts of questions
– Robert Broughton – for being my very first point of contact regarding this tour who did not only give me a lot of very helpful initial advice about the route, about the type of bike to use, about realistic time frames, and about a lot more of such basic knowledge regarding a long bike tour which I have never ever done before, he also probably was the one because of whose optimistic approach that such a tour is definitely doable, the idea for doing this tour did not remain a “crazy idea” in my head, but actually came true [http://broughton.ca/bcakfaq.html]
– Cosmic Wheel (bike shop in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey) – for great support regarding all matters concerning my bicycle (initial advice, getting me a very good bike together, and making it ready for the trip including a lot of the extras – all in a competent, patient and friendly manner with reasonable prices) [http://www.cosmicwheel.com/]
– Laura Daub – for being one of the main reasons why this tour actually happened… her being in or near Calgary during the summer made it even more obvious that my starting point would be from Calgary; as well as for being available during my tour – in case of an emergency I knew that she would have helped me in whatever way; last but not least for being a great motivator, always positive about my crazy plan
– Mario Farnhammer – for providing me with a bunch of tips and helpful information concerning cycling in that area, helpful material, precautions, and tips & tricks for along the way a few days before the beginning of my tour
– Daniel Grab – for being one if not the main source for planning the details of my trip (I could use his website for both information about the route and what he experienced while cycling in the northwestern part of North America, as well as for extremely helpful information about necessary and relevant equipment); in addition for providing me with helpful answers to concerns and questions I had during the planning period of my trip (http://www.danigrab.com)
– Annetta Grant – for being one of the main reasons why this tour actually happened… without her asking me to visit her in Calgary at the end of my internship in New Jersey, this tour would have never made its way onto my mind; in addition for providing me with some answers to questions in preparation for my tour, as well as for being available during my tour – in case of an emergency I knew that she would have helped me in whatever way; last but not least for being a great host in Calgary
– Kerstin Jura – for providing me with helpful information regarding “living in the outdoors”
– Hape Kerkeling (German comedian) – for having written this great book about his experiences while walking the St. James way in Spain… reading this book during my tour gave me a lot of extra-motivation, helped me to get through difficult days, and it simply inspired me a lot
– Steffen Link – for being a great motivator and inspirer
– Uschi and Stefan Paul – for providing me with Mario Farnhammer’s contact details as well as for giving me the idea for the title of this blog
– Shane Prosser – for picking up my huge bag in New Jersey and driving it all the way to Alaska; for positively supporting my idea and for being available as point of contact during my trip; in addition for being great to hang out with in Anchorage
– Siemens Iselin intern crew, current and former interns– for being my main contacts during this past year, for being friends, and for giving me the chance to be myself in a foreign environment which made me feel comfortable and optimistic about what I am doing and therefore it was so much easier to make this trip reality; for being there for me when I needed people around me, for listening to my stories even if my bike trip might have become a little bit of a too often mentioned topic during the past months, for giving me all sorts of advise and providing me with help where necessary, for motivating me in person or by emails/SMS from all over the world, and simply for being there for me – how often did I think about you guys and my time with you in the U.S. while I was cycling… numerous times!
to name just a few:
* Tobias Ackermann – for being the most critical supporter of my trip by checking a few days before my departure if I actually thought about the whole thing well enough
* Martin Bäuml – for being a very supportive roommate who accepted both our apartment getting fuller and fuller with bike stuff and who clearly showed me that I am on the right track with my “inform the world about this amazing place on earth – Bavaria! – mission”
* Juliane Belz – for providing me with information about Alaska, for worrying about me, for providing me with updates from the east coast during my trip, and for being one of the four people who got up way too early in order to taking me to Newark airport on the day when I left for Calgary
* Birgit Bußmann – for taking me to Newark airport as well and for making sure that I could finish my Siemens internship with the knowledge that she’ll make a very good successor
* Jens Gehnen – for being one of the four people who took me to Newark airport, as well as for being host to Formula 1 watching Sunday mornings which ensured that I’ll survive the time not being able to watch the races while cycling
* Susann Goldgräbe – for continuously motivating me during the trip, for keeping me in the loop what was going on in Iselin, and for voluntarily getting up in the way too early morning in order to take me to Newark airport with all my stuff – otherwise I’d probably have had to cycle to Calgary also
* Jenny Harris – for the interesting updates from Iselin and simply for being such a kind person
* Philip Hetjens – for helping with some technical preparations for my bike trip, blogging etc.
* Mandy Kratina – for being one of the very few people who never had any doubt that I will be able to realize my idea and that it is not actually that crazy
* Andre Larberg – for his humorous approach of supporting my tour and for his warning not to get myself into becoming married in one of the mountain villages where people might be seeking for spreading such strong cycling genes that I am carrying around with me
* Ulrike Linge – for lending me her big enough car several times for transporting my bike; without her my bike would still be in the bike shop in Northern Jersey
* Katrin Paul, Corinna Steinweg, Tim Kastellan, Christian Maurer – for motivating me in all sorts of ways before and during my trip
– Siemens Shared Services, International Human Resources Department – for having provided me with a great work environment during the past year and for being positive about and interested in my plans for after my internship
– Ken Stahl (Northern Jersey President of Bicycle Touring Club of Northern Jersey) – for providing me with very helpful information about where to find good bike stores in New Jersey; in addition for providing helpful links, and for offering me to join their club for some rides (and I sadly never managed to get to it)
– Bertl and Franz Zavesky – for sending me a “bear survival kit” a few days before my departure from New Jersey
– People whom I met during my trip – for being friendly, for motivating me, for being interested, for being helpful, for being inspirational
especially Remo Seiler who offered me to pick me up along the way in case my knees had gone on strike completely and to join him for his tour across the north by car
and Dr. Arend Heise who very much inspired me with his cycling stories from and to all over the world
– Numerous people who helped and motivated me (both positively and in a critical way) by phone calls, SMS, emails, postcards, and above all the good, old personal chats that helped me a lot to both getting information from others and for being able to communicate what I felt during the time of preparation for that trip and during the trip itself
– Last but not least, my family… my parents and my sister – for supporting this idea, for being worried about me, for not being too worried to interfere with my plans, for being available all the time during my trip in case something might have happened, for tips & tricks, for being interested in my stories during my trip, and for being my “headquarters” for all sorts of things
I arrived! Friday, 2:30pm, after 30 days, 2,813.5 kilometres (or 1,748.2 miles), my tour has come to a successful end.
After my arrival, I was given 1.5 hours by my friends in order to get ready (i.e. shower and re-packing) – and we left for Denali National Park Friday afternoon for the weekend, hiking and enjoying beautiful nature. Since Sunday evening, we’re back in Anchorage – so I actually AM here now… and will use this week in order to catch up on sorting photos, answering emails… and at a certain point this week I’ll update this blog with all the stories and photos… just give me a little bit of time.
From Anchorage – and from a happy, healthy Martin!
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…”
Wednesday, July 4, 2007 – day 28 (Tolsona Lake – Long Riffle Lodge (Matanuska Glacier)
Distance: 68.3 miles (109.9 km); overall distance so far: 1,642.9 miles (2,644.0 km)
Average: 11.5 mph (18.6 kph)
Weather: 9°C – 21°C, strong & painful headwind all day long, in parts horrible weather: fog, grey all day long, misty, rainy, cold, clouds
July 4, Independence Day, the day I initially possibly, maybe, perhaps, somehow had in mind to reach my destination. That day clearly showed me that I was still far, far away from where I wanted to be. What a day. The fact that it was Independence Day was something I completely did not realize – and I was not surprised that I didn’t as I was pretty much back in the middle of nowhere. But what I did not expect is such horrible weather. Not only was in cruelly headwindy, no, it also rained from time to time and the entire area was just covered in clouds (nothing new, happened before), but in addition also in mist and fog. Horrible!
It would only clear up a little bit towards the end, but it was a long way to go to that end. Really not a nice day to be on the road by bike. But well, that’s all part of the whole story, and I tried to accept that I was only able to cycle with 5 mph uphill and without pedaling no faster than 10 mph downhill. It was really a pity as especially towards the end there were great downhill sections.
Also a pity that I missed so much of the beautiful countryside I cycled towards. I think, every mile brought me closer to amazing mountains, dramatic rivers and creeks, gorges, the whole area seemed to become more and more spectacular. Despite the limited view, I was lucky enough to see Tazlina Glacier while I was cycling along Nelchina River.
And just 10 miles or so before I finished for the day, I got stopped in a steep downhill section, just before a 180°C bend – road work. But not a normal road work. Less than 6 hours before I got to that section, a rockslide came down and blocked half of the road (well, when it came down it probably blocked the entire road). Good timing, wouldn’t have wanted to be there when those rocks and mud came down! As after the curve it went uphill again, the roadworking guys stopped cars on both sides of the road and let me cycle all by myself through that section – not that it was really necessary as I caught up with the cars slowly driving ahead of me, lining up at the point where the actual slide was, but it was a nice gesture after such a painful day against the wind.
I stayed right opposite of Matanuska Glacier, a 27 miles long glacier – which one would never ever have guessed. I could see maybe half a mile of it, and the very bottom section seemed to have pretty much melted away.
Typical Alaska: guns & planes in front of the house:
Motto of the day: “Fireworks for the country… for me, not quite yet.”
Thursday, July 5, 2007 – day 29 (Matanuska Glacier – Palmer)
Distance: 55.7 miles (89.6 km); overall distance so far: 1,698.6 miles (2,733.6 km)
Average: 13.4 mph (21.6 kph)
Weather: 9°C – 13°C, cloudy, rain, fog, bearable headwind
Approx. 100 miles to go – and sadly the weather wasn’t a lot better than the day before: grey, foggy, rainy, just not as much headwind.
The first 25-30 miles were challenging, not only because there was quite some climbing involved, it was also in an area completely and closely surrounded by high, steep rocks, plus a windy road without any hard shoulder at all– and in there they had a long road work going on, including areas where they blasted the mountain away to widen the road. In that weather and with these conditions, it was quite tricky to cycle (one could say dangerous, but I’ve hardly ever felt that any of the cycling in my “career” so far has been dangerous… maybe stupid, ok, but again, that’s part of the whole story 😉 ).
But these challenging 30 miles were not only that, they also led me through amazingly beautiful parts of Alaska – stupidly enough the majority enough was hidden behind the clouds. But I saw enough to realize how nice everything was.
Another experience within that section – I met a Moose. After I saw it standing next to the road on the other side, and after it almost ran into the last out of 3 cars driving in the opposite direction of mine, it started crossing the road and the running along my lane, just ahead of me. I kept a safe distance (those animals are huge, even if it was only a female moose) and slowly cycled behind it, not quite sure what to do, so, also not quite sure if I chased the moose or the moose played with me. What so ever, after a minute or so a car passed me an scared it away by honking continuously – and I got the chance to peacefully continue cycling.
And after an unspectacular last 20 miles for the day, I arrived in Palmer, just 40 miles away from Anchorage. The last evening of my trip has arrived. Once more sleeping and then…
Motto of the day: ” ”Pugna almost finitus est” (that clearly is an insider, and also, it never really has been a fight, simply an amazing time)”
Tuesday, July 3, 2007 – day 27 (Grizzly Lake – Tolsona Lake (near Glennallen))
Distance: 86.6 miles (139.3 km); overall distance so far: 1,574.6 miles (2,534.1 km)
Average: 14.1 mph (22.8 kph)
Weather: 18°C – 28°C, mainly sunny, some clouds, light headwind for short time
If I managed to find the right way that day, I basically couldn’t get lost anymore (not that there seriously ever was any sort of issue with finding the route… maps is something that definitely was not necessary in order to find my way). But that day I got to the end of the so-called “Tok Cutoff” on Highway 1, went along the Richardson Highway 4 from Gatona Junction for approx. 10 miles till almost Glennallen, and got onto the last bit of my route, back on Highway 1, Glenn Highway (I think, Tok Cutoff is also part of the Glenn Highway, I think). Glenn Highway then went all the way to Anchorage.
And, believe it or not, I managed to find my way. Got to Gatona Junction without anything real spectacular to tell other than it was still beautiful to cycle along Wrangell-Saint Elias. And despite some headwind, I made it into Glennallen where I stocked up on food – and actually finally wanted to make a proper break to get some food and drink more than I did. But for whatever reason, maybe because this woman was talking to me, being impressed about my trip and telling me in a very excited way that her husband was working in Germany for years, I did not really do anything in Glennallen apart from quickly checking my emails in the library and getting back onto my bike. And I had to realize that even on the 27th day of my trip, on the 20th day on the bike, I managed to get dehydrated and suddenly felt kind of sick and dizzy. Great, I thought, 10 miles to go, and almost falling of the bike, that’s what I need now. But stopping for a while, eating and drinking, and I was ready for the last few miles to the place where I stopped for the day. One never stops learning apparently, even after such a long time cycling and thinking that one knows kind of everything now. I made sure that I drank a lot that evening – which I did… the plan of having an early night wouldn’t really work out… as mentioned before, I enjoyed reading till 3am.
Motto of the day: “You never stop learning.”
Monday, July 2, 2007 – day 26 (Tok – Grizzly Lake Campground (near Slana))
Distance: 71.1 miles (114.4 km); overall distance so far: 1,488 miles (2,394.8 km)
Average: 13.9 mph (22.5 kph)
Weather: 15°C – 24°C, some rain showers, very humid; later on sunny with clouds, no significant wind
With good intentions and the definite plan not to rush it anymore from Tok onwards on the last 330 miles or 550 kilometres, I left around lunch time only and spent a fairly “normal” day on the road.
Leaving Tok on perfectly paved road for the first 10 miles already made my mind calculate again how far I’d have to go per day to maybe being able to make the remaining distance in 4 days… or who knows, maybe even three days – which would have meant I could have arrived in Anchorage on the American Independence Day, something I was talking about before I started my trip: it would be kind of nice to arrive in Anchorage on July 4, being welcomed with fireworks.
But thank God the road became more challenging and it was really unpleasant to cycle for a while due to some rain and real high humidity – which slowed me down a bit and brought me back into reality.
But in general the day was fairly easy going. Some up- and downhill, some head-, some tail-wind, some sun, some rain, and towards the end on the far, misty horizon I could see the mountain range of Wrangell-Saint Elias National Preserve. I never got extremely close to it, but it was always impressive, also because of the forests and lakes that seemed to stretch out endlessly before the mountain range.
That night, I would stay at a campsite at Grizzly Lake (still haven’t seen any Grizzly bears, and also wouldn’t see any that night, just some horses on the other side of a gorgeous lake) in a nice little cabin. Having gotten the Da Vinci Code’s predecessor “Angels and Demons”, written by Dan Brown, I started reading a book I hardly could put away anymore – and as it never really gets dark in this area, I read till after 1am that night despite having had the plan of going to be really early – it wouldn’t change during the following nights. I finished the book in three evenings, by reading until 3am and 1:30am the next nights. Good book, I can recommend it! And I’m definitely back into reading again, hope I can continue doing so a bit more regularly than I did in the past when I’m back in my “normal life”.
Motto of the day: “Down South!”
As you can see by the raw data/facts from day 21 – day 25, I’m getting closer to Anchorage. I’ll provide you with all pictures, stories and more when I have arrived in Anchorage… at this point there are approx. 330 miles (approx. 530 km) to go… I’m optimistic that I’ll make it 😉