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June 23, 2020: Day Three, Heading to Healy

This morning, when asked, the clerk at the Nenana Grocery Store said that she didn’t know how far it was to Healy. She then asked the store manager how far he thought it was and he said 56 miles. This was enough information for me. I used to, but no longer ask, what’s ahead in terms of the hills because most have no idea. Car travel doesn’t at all provide one with this information. And few have ever ridden the upcoming route.

56 miles. I looked out the store window, at the overcast sky. It was going to be a long day, no matter what, because the wind was still coming out of southeast. So all day, I pedaled my ass off, just motoring along, pedal to the bicycle metal. I named my bicycle Trek fra Squalor Holler because she’s my iron horse. I found myself wishing there was

Chris McCandless Healy Buss

no traffic and that I was instead riding Raudhetta fra Alaskastadir. Maybe, someday, someone will decree that the Parks Highway might go interval, and have a week of traffic and then a week of no traffic.

I stopped for my obligatory two lunches at roadside lodges – the first one was closed – I sat on the steps and looked at the painted boards – the idea is that tourists stick their heads through the openings and in this way take on the persona of differing characters. I rather liked the one of the man, on his knees, pulling a dog sled. At the second, a woman proprietor, sitting alone at a bar, gladly filled my water bottle when asked. I later realized that I should have hung out and talked with her a bit. I refrained from doing this because of my own virus concerns.

She did tell me it was then 30 miles to Healy and an additional mile to town. Hmm, I thought. It was 1 p.m. I then had serious doubts that I’d get that far because, even though it was not raining, the winds were quite strong. However, I continued on, having decided that in a few hours’ time I’d start scouting around for a campsite.

It was a long, tough afternoon. My crotch was by now hurting – the pressure from the saddle was causing me considerable pain. So I began stopping at every other mile marker, and there took a short water break. Amazing, how this actually rejuvenated me. In addition, I walked part way up a few hills. The problem was that I continued to have a tough time, pushing off in low gear then rising up onto my seat. Just easier to push the bike, or so I thought.

I was acutely aware of the fact that passing drivers would see me walking – but the best I could do was put this thought out of mind.

With five miles to go, I stopped for yet another break. A car stopped ahead of me and the driver, tall, thin, started walking in my direction. I noticed that he held a tray of snacks in his hand. He kept his distance and said hello, then asked how far I was going. I said to Healy. We talked for a bit – turned out that he was the doctor who I met while doing my EMT training at the Palmer Hospital. He offered me some homemade chocolate snacks, said he’d just come from the Brooks Range and was on his way home.

It dawned on me who he was – Russ, the doctor who was eating rabbit Risotto. I told him this. He was surprised that I remembered this. We chatted for a bit more, then he said he had to get going. This lifted my sagging spirits and made it possible for me to get to Healy.

It took a few stops, one of which was the local Three Bears, but I finally located what I called the Covid Campground, behind a service station. Covid because only one site was taken, by an RVer.

I camped in a grove of pine trees. I could see, a quarter of a mile distant, one of the many buses that looked like the one that Chris McCandless sequestered himself in. Hmm, I thought, he should have instead been bicycle touring.

Next: 175. 6/24/20: Are We Having Fun Yet?

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