Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The First Month By the Numbers, and Kindness

We've been traveling for a month, and what a month it's been!  Here are some facts:

Miles biked: 942
National Parks experienced: 2
Flat tires: 0 (fingers crossed...)
Money spent: $607 (by Danny, including an expensive new saddle and rain pants)
Grizzly bears seen: 5
Total time spent watching TV/movies: 27 minutes
Stops for pancakes: 6
Bird species seen: 64 
Holes in the tent: 6

I had thought, this being Alaska and all, that the most amazing part of this first segment would be the wilderness.  The Arctic tundra, the Brooks Range, and Mt McKinley and the Alaska Range are pretty tough to beat.  And the wilderness has been incredible, but most memorable and surprising has been the kindness we've experienced from people.  Bike touring brings out a good side of humanity; people realize that you have what you need to survive, but not much more.  Our friend Sarah, who is currently riding across the US, recently wrote about the kindness she has experienced along her tour, even after being consistently warned about the other people out there.  Here are some of the "other" people we have met:

Andrew and Anna from Fairbanks, who took us into their home for a number of days, spent countless hours helping us repair our bikes and review maps, fed us all kinds of incredible food until we were full (not an easy thing to do), took us canoeing, and introduced us to the city.  All while being busy grad students.

The manager of the Clear Sky Lodge (unfortunately never got her name) who made us hot chocolate even though it wasn't on the menu, let us use their grill to cook quesadillas, then refused to let us pay.

Al, who stopped in the pouring rain on a very rough stretch of road and offered to give us a lift, then loaded our bikes in the boat he was towing and dropped us off down the road.

John and Maureen from Anchorage, who shared their campfire and wine with us then drove many miles out of their way so we could spend July 4th in Talkeetna, where they gave us shower tokens, bought us dinner, showed us around the town, and then drove us back to the main road the next day.

Jeff and Sarah from Anchorage (John and Maureen's son and daughter-in-law, incidentally), who opened their home to us, took us out to dinner, and offered to let us stay as long as we liked.

Nancy, the campground host where we stopped one night, who offered us free firewood and her good water, then helped us pay the fee when we didn't have enough cash.

Karen, Brandon, Marco, Martin, and Chris, who gave us their extra backpacking food, shared their fantastic pizza dinner with us, and offered to let us stay with them if we pass through San Francisco.

Heidi, a Park Ranger from Wiseman, who spent many hours helping us plan our trip into Gates of the Arctic, invited us to stop by her place when we finished backpacking, and undercharged us by at least 50% on the things we bought at her store.  A wonderful young lady working with Heidi gifted Tam a beautiful necklace, which Tam has not taken off since.

Ashley at Yukon River Camp, a very friendly waitress who gave us free pie and salads.  (Randomly, she applied last spring to work at High Trails!  I would hire her.)

These are simply the people who stuck out in my mind.  So many more, like the bus driver who charged us for only one fare even though our bikes were taking up at least ten seats, have helped us out in small ways.  I can't even express how much this incredible kindness and generosity, a side of humanity I've never experienced in this capacity, has added to this trip and to our lives.


  1. Congrats on your first month, both of you! You're off to a great start. I'm so glad everyone is treating you with such kindness. Of course you deserve it, but it's nice to see that side of humanity! Sending you a big hug and lots of luck. --Your armchair traveling companion

  2. Thanks Rosalie! We're sending you a big hug back.