Monday, June 23, 2014

We Love You Elliot Highway, June 20th 2014

We've camped just off the road on a pipeline service road.  At 7:00AM we are jolted awake by trucks zooming by.  A guy stops to tell us that bigger trucks will be coming soon, so we pack up our gear as fast as we can.  It's just in time; as we roll out, a giant truck rolls in.  Figured that we would choose to camp on the only service road that they are actually using. Tired but alert for the moment, we're excited to start biking on the paved Elliot Highway. The morning ride has ups and downs but all are more gradual than the awful hills of the Dalton. More passenger cars start appearing among the trucks. We make it 20 miles before we have to pull off the road and take a break. We end up sleeping for 5 hours, exhausted from the night before. When it starts raining through the mesh of our tent we pack up and keep riding.  Just down the road we find a little shop with snacks and tourist stuff.  It seems to be the only establishment in a small 'town' called Joy.
the wonderful store in Joy
The people working there are very friendly and tell us all about other travelers that have come through. As we eat giant double chocolate chip muffins, our friends Daniel, Katrien and Manu roll in! They tell us how they almost hit a giant black bear who was crossing the road as they were coming downhill! We stay and talk for awhile, and learn that 43 miles down the road is a truck stop with amazing pie.  We decide to keep biking and try to get there.

What follows is what can only be considered a fairytale ride.  The road is paved with dense forests on either side.  It's warm and breezy enough to keep the mosquitoes away.  The rain is gone; only a few white clouds dot the sky. As we ride from 8:00PM-12:00AM, we experience the full beauty of the sunset and the midnight sun. At first the road brings us up and down, but the grades are far more gradual than the Dalton and we make good time. High on sugar and loving the beautiful weather, we feel like we're flying. Then the road starts going downhill and we coast for mile after easy mile. The last 3 miles is straight uphill, but at the end we find Hilltop truckstop where we are able to fill our water bottles and pitch our tent. We're 16 miles outside of Fairbanks and tomorrow is the solstice!

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