I thought last night, when Charlene was mulling over doing a day ride with me, that nothing would come of it. Turns out, I was wrong. There I was, on the Schmidtkunz’s couch. And there she was, in the living room, working on her bicycle, a Sekai that she purchased in the 1970s. I remarked that the bicycle was older than her daughter Hattie. I had to add that it was a good bicycle, and that it appeared to have many more miles on it. The plan was then for her to ride with me and for Bill, her husband, to pick her up at the day’s end.
I figured that, at best, Charlene would be good for 10 or so miles. She surprised me. We ended up riding 30 plus miles -- finishing four miles from the Matanuska Glacier viewpoint. Charlene rode with a
Charleene by Hick's Creek bridge
double front chainring, which turned out to be hard on her knees. The things she carried included a box of butternut squash soup and a pair of rubber boots. As she said, it could rain. I couldn’t find my ditty bag – I would have given her some arnica gel.
The sky was overcast when we set out at 8 a.m. The Matanuska River, on our right, was chocolate brown in color. I stopped a number of time and watched the rolling waters divide and come together again. Because there was then little traffic, I could hear the water rushing past.
Because it was overcast, I only needed to use my medicated lip balm a half-dozen times. I was judicious because I didn’t want to again experience the excruciating pain that accompanies second degree burns.
The traffic was moderate. I chose to ride this particular stretch, Mile 64 to Mile 101, on a Sunday because the nearly non-existent shoulder is quite crumbly. And, as it was, my heart was in my throat because there was quite a bit of large vehicle traffic, this including semis and RV drivers pulling trailers with ATVs on them. At one point, I do believe that fate intervened. My derailleur slipped and I crossed the road and attempted to fix it in a pull off area. Done, I looked up and saw a fast-moving semi hauling ass around the corner. I knew that if I’d been right there, on the road, at that moment in time, that I would have been toast. I caught up with Charlene who is never one to mince words. She said, “wow, that was close.”
We ate lunch at Long Lake. I had to admit, the soup was pretty good – this is because I had brought crackers along. Alas, I forgot to bring cheese. King Mountain Hill provided us with the day’s biggest challenge. We glimpsed it before we went over it. It psyched me out – I couldn’t imagine my being able to get up and over it. One third of the way up and my bike began wobbling. I lacked the strength to continue pedaling, so I got off and walked. Charlene, behind me, kept pedaling. The sun was now shining brightly. I stopped and applied lip balm.
We started early and quit early. The best part of the day was the five mile downhill ride from Puritan Creek to Hick’s Creek. There was a wide shoulder, the wind was pushing us, and the views were spectacular. This, I thought, is the best of the good bits. Charlene called Bill on his cellphone and he agreed to come and pick her up at Hick’s Creek. He also agreed to bring me additional water. I’d depleted my supply, two bicycle and two Nalgene bottles.
Bill said before parting that the worst of the ride was over – that from Hicks Creek on there was a shoulder. Hearing this, I felt euphoric. I’d been fretting about the shoulderless portion of the road for days.
As we waited, I deliberated about whether or not I should camp down below, in the Nova River Rafter’s camping area, or go four miles more to the next recreation site. When, finally, Bill and Charlene left, I opted to ask at the front office if I could camp on their property. Two fellows, one named Bear and another named Pete, said that I was welcome to camp on the far side of the parking lot, by the river. I could also, they said, use the outhouse. Very cool, there was aloe vera hand sanitizer on hand, and as well, a laminated sheet behind the lou, in which it was said that we women were not to squat on the toilet when doing our business. Hmm, I thought, the river rafter clientele must be very athletic. There was no picnic table in my camping area, and it was a bit windy. However, it occurred to me that riverside camping has its advantages, one of which is that it’s free, another being that there are usually no other campers on hand, and yet another being that there were no mosquitoes. The only fellow who later that evening drove up to the put-in area and stood for the longest time, reading the river. Then, having finished the so called book, left, leaving me, the now soul inhabitant in this area.
Next: July 13, 2020: The Little Nilchina Campground and Recreation Area