Thursday, June 26, 2014

Warmth On A Cold Day, June 25, 2014

We wake up around 8:00, but only to put the fly on the tent because it has started to rain.  It's around 12:00 when we actually roll out.  Just two miles down the road is the small town of Nenana, which apparently means "a good place to camp between the rivers."  It's situated between the Nenana and Tanana rivers (both flooded).  The town is famous for its Ice Classic, a guessing game started back in 1917 where people would predict the date and time the ice goes out on the river.  Back then it was $1 a guess; now it's $2.30, and you can win thousands of dollars for guessing right.  The small visitor's center seems to exist primarily for the purpose of selling these tickets.  Outside the visitor's center is a giant replica of the tripod that is placed on the river with a clock to mark the exact time the ice goes out.  We don't spend long in Nenana, and after a short stop at the local gas station to fill up on water, we're riding out of town.  The road is gloriously flat and paved, but it's cold, raining hard, and we have a headwind.  What we had expected to be an easy day turns into a struggle.  Around mile 25 or so, we see a beautiful blue sign indicating food and lodging ahead.  Hooray!  We ride into the Clear Sky Lodge, soaked and half frozen to our bikes (yes, the name seemed a bit ironic).  Here we meet some wonderful people who make us giant glasses of hot chocolate with whipped cream, and garlic bread, and don't charge us anything.  They also let us use their grill to make quesadillas!  The warm food is amazing and rejuvenates us.  
A few miles down the road, we reach a construction zone and meet a flagger named Ray, who tells us we must ride across in the pilot car.  Ray is super friendly and lets us play with his husky puppy while we wait.  The puppy is incredibly adorable, and getting to play with her makes my day.  

The lady driving the pilot car is also quite friendly and gives us Doritos and fireball candies as we drive the two miles of construction.  After our ride, the weather turns bad again.  It's windy and raining hard.  A few miles down the road, we reach another construction zone.  No one is working on this one because of the awful weather.  We start moving slowly over big chunks of gravel, giant potholes, and lots of mud.  Then we meet Al, a friendly guy from Palmer towing two boats he had just gotten at an auction in Fairbanks.  He stops and offers to give us a ride.  Cold, wet, and not excited to ride on the crappy road, we accept.  The road is in bad condition pretty much all the way to Healy, so Al gives us a lift right to the 49th State Brewery, which multiple people had told us about.  I don't feel bad about getting a lift, because if the construction crews had been working, we wouldn't have been allowed to ride that stretch anyway.  Plus, this trip is supposed to be fun, and sometimes it's more fun to hang out with a nice guy in a warm truck than bike on a road filled with flooded and muddy potholes.  
At the 49th State Brewery, the hostess immediately takes us inside to a pair of seats on the edge of a warm fire.  It's absolutely delightful.  The brewery looks like it was once a warehouse, and now it is wonderfully decorated with typical Alaskan things: a moose head on the wall, a large taxidermied grizzly bear with a cowgirl riding it, beer bottles, and wooden tables crammed with people.  It's nice to be inside such a warm and happy place.  We have drinks and an amazing quinoa/black bean burger, a salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and a triple chocolate mousse cake.  Alright, dinner was a bit of a splurge, but I think it was worth it..  If you're ever in the area, we highly recommend both drinks and food found at this brewery.  We're not much of beer drinkers, but we highly enjoyed our Solstice IPA.  Afterwards, we walk outside to check out the bus from the movie Into the Wild.  Since we've both seen the movie and read the book, it was very interesting to see the bus that was used, as well as see some of Chris' original journals and pictures.  Reluctant to go back into the neverending freezing rain, we pay $4 to stay at the nextdoor campground.  It's still raining, and weirdly, it's getting dark out.

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