- Saturday, July 2
- Denali National Park, AK to Destruction Bay, YT
- 551 miles
Well, that’s it. From here on out, we’re heading for home and the mere thought of the miles we have to cover is mind boggling. We’re up at 5 AM and find a glorious morning for riding with cool temps and dry roads. Of course, it doesn’t last. On our way North to Fairbanks, we hit fog and rain and when we hit a construction zone in the hills outside of Fairbanks, we get some more practice riding in greasy mud and big drifts of gravel. Pablo is riding one handed as he passes us so he can take pictures of us struggling to stay upright. Nice. My God, he sure can ride.
We zip right through Fairbanks which is only 120 miles South of the Arctic Circle and it is amazing to think how far North we truly are on the map. With a subarctic climate, it’s hard to imagine how people live and work here but they do. We drive past the turnoff to the 550 mile gravel road to Deadhorse on the Arctic Ocean where the Prudhoe Bay oil fields are and I know Brother Paul is hearing the call of adventure. It’s in our family DNA and it’s almost impossible to ignore. If I showed any visible interest, we’d be strapping gas cans onto our bikes and going for it. I prudently act indifferent and we continue on until we roll into the town of North Pole, Alaska for breakfast and pictures of Santa’s house, some reindeers and the Post Office for the record. We get back on the road and start racking up the miles. We settle into a rhythm and start speculating how far down the Alcan we’ll get before we call it a day. But as we roll into the gas station in Destruction Bay, back in the Yukon, Paul picks up a flat on his FJR. It’s the exact same parking lot where we fixed my flat tire five days earlier. Spooky.
Paul whips out his trusty plug kit but the tire won’t hold air so the local tire dude is summoned. He takes a look at the tire and rim and pronounces that he has nothing to fix it and then offers to haul the bike on his truck all the way to Whitehorse, many miles down the Alaskan Highway. So we secure rooms at the Talbot Arm Motel and figure we’ll deal with this in the morning but before we retire to the pub, Pablo firmly tugs on the tire plug with a pair of pliers just for grins and it suddenly seats, problem solved.
I’m inwardly relieved as we’ve already put in 551 miles for the day and I know Paul would have gotten right back on the road if we hadn’t grabbed rooms. When he gets that bit between his teeth look, watch out. But he smiles, shrugs it off and we head into the pub. Within, we meet Shelley the bartender, George the cook, and May the waitress, who is George’s wife and an Intuit Eskimo. George explains that May and he live in Aklavik, a town on the Arctic Ocean in the NW Territory where the winters last for 9 months. In the summer, the sun doesn’t set at all. It just circles around overhead in the sky. They come South for 8 months out of the year to Destruction Bay to earn money, smoke, drink and watch NASCAR.
As we drink “jugs”, a.k.a. pitchers where we come from, of draft Kokanee, we learn that May’s name is Persis Inglangasuk and that she’s an American Intuit due to her father being a US citizen. Her nickname, May, is for the month she was born. Once Pablo trades her his pack of Marlboro Lights for her Canadian smokes, she pretty much adopts all of us and keeps buying us more jugs out of gratitude. Turns out that her dad smoked MLs when she was a kid and she’d steal smokes from him. So she gets really reminiscent whenever she can get her hands on them. We end up closing the place down and we walk down to the lakeshore just after midnight. The energy of the place is absolutely magical and delightful.
We discuss whether or not to use the spare day in our schedule tomorrow to recover from this little party but we wisely decide not to as we suspect that there would most likely be an even bigger party the 2nd night. So off to bed we trundle at 1 AM with smiles on our faces after what has been yet another remarkable day.
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