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June 21, 2020: Summer Solstice, Fairbanks, Alaska

I woke up at 4 a.m. in a cabin on the next road up from the one I inhabited 34 years ago. I half-walked, half ran to the outhouse; the mosquitoes were in hot pursuit. I sat on the seat and looked up. The sky, visible through the nearby spruce trees, was bright orange. It occurred to me that if a fire ripped through this area, these cabins would be toast.

Returned to bed, got up an hour later, the sky was now bright pink. Went back to bed, got up at 8 a.m. The sky was now slate gray. It was again raining and windy. The spruce trees were waving in the morning breeze.

Alys on Divide Ride at Butte House

I ate breakfast and deliberated for a bit about whether or not to stay and wait out the storm or pack up and move on. I read some of one of the two books that I brought along with me, Konrad Lorenz’s Man Meets Dog. The other is Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried. Then I decided to go for it – my friend Fran’s place is 14 miles distant.

I took my time packing and soon determined that I had brought along what I’ll need to use. However, my load on this day was heavier than usual because I’d brought along a jar of honey for Fran, and additionally, three heavy books. I’d put the additional books that I’d brought by car on the cabin’s empty shelves. I felt good about this – someone, who like me is here for a short visit, will read them. I also made a mental note to send an additional box of books to Suzi and tell her to put them with the others on the shelves.

Yes, everything I have with me has a purpose. This includes three tee-shirts, one being my tattered Ride the Divide shirt, a memento of my having ridden solo from northern Montana to southern New Mexico. This was in 2002. I want people to know that I am an experienced cyclist. I also tossed my VCRS Valley Trash shirt into the mix. I’ll wear this when talking about the Bright Lights Book Project.

I was going to take along an old buck knife, but last night the tip broke off. So I am going to leave it here.

The first day’s ride turned out to be an, ahem, eye opener. I got on my mountain bike and headed on the bumpy dirt road in the direction of Gold Hill Road. Much to my dismay, the front end of my bicycle began shimmying, this meaning that my load was unbalanced. I alternated cursing and swatting mosquitos as I walked to the main road, then got back on my bicycle. It was downhill on Gold Hill Road to the Parks Highway – the bicycle shimmied less, but my heart was in my throat because I was wobbling so much.

I turned right a mile distant, onto the Old Nenana Highway. The one saving grace was that there was a wide shoulder. It was uphill, raining, the next ten or so miles. I walked most of the way.

I didn’t tell my friend Fran about my terrible first day out. Rather, I simply said that I needed to repack my load so that I have less weight in the front. And I also needed to jettison some stuff. I gave her the honey and the books. And I put extraneous gear, this including my bicycle lock, on a chair in her net shelter. Fran then agreed to mail this stuff home for me.

Next: 173. 6/22/20: Ride Day # 2 – Outskirts of Ester to Nenana

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