Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday, 12 August 2010 – Tok to Fairbanks – 212 miles

I put some paper towling under the scooter last night to see if there were any leaks caused by the rough road. I was more than a little relieved to see no drips. I checked the oil level and tire air pressure. All ok. Whew!

The quantity of flying, biting bugs is astonishing. There are flies, gnats, midges and, of course, mosquitoes. By the thousands. Swarming everywhere. Biting everything. I was surprised to learn biologist believe that insect harassment is so powerful a force that it drives the movement of caribou herds. It certainly was driving me this morning. I doused myself in DEET, took a few quick photos of the view from my tent, broke camp as quickly as I could and rode into town.

My intention was to stop briefly at the visitor center. I figured they'd have information about the weather forecast and the road conditions to Valdez and Anchorage. I already was thwarted by fires preventing me from riding the Cassiar Highway up from Prince George to Watson Lake. Flooding had prevented (or maybe only delayed) riding the Top of the World Highway on the way from Whitehorse to Dawson City to Tok. With the onset of flying pests, I wanted to find out if any other plague was on the horizon.

The weather forecast was for sunshine and 71 degrees even in Prudhoe Bay. Hmmm. I spoke to the volunteers at the visitor center and to some of the visitors. I listened to their travel stories and their recommendations. Still, I debated with myself whether to take what was probably the worst road (north) in the best weather or take well-paved roads south and save the worst for last, not knowing what the weather may be in the coming weeks. After what I'd experienced yesterday, I knew I couldn't manage those road conditions in the rain. Decision made. Ride north while the weather is good.

As I got ready to go, I saw another scooter - that's two so far. This time I got a photo. Now that's got to be a good omen, right?

It took all of about 20 minutes for the weather to change. Cloudy at first, then a light mist as I crossed the Gerstie River.

I stopped at an historic roadhouse called Rika's Landing. It's on the banks of the Tanana River between Big Delta and Richardson and used to be known as McCarty's. Rika Wallen came from San Francisco to Alaska in the early 1900s beause she thought it would be like her home, Sweden. I can't imagine that it was. But she made this place look like it! The original structure was built by John Hajdukovich, who was from Montenegro. Rika enlarged and improved it by adding wallpaper to the rough walls and a parquet floor to the dirt floors. She built a Swedish-style barn and developed a heating and ventilation system to allow livestock to survive the harsh winters. She wove the wool from her sheep. Her goats provided milk that she made into butter and cheese. She kept chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits and bees. She had an amazing garden that provided fresh vegetables, fruit and berries. She ran the liquor store, fur storage and the post office. Seems like she could do anything and everything - what an inspiration!

the roadhouse (Rika added the front two section)

the barn

the chickens

and, my favorite, the sod-roofed log cabin with the windmill and vegetable garden

more of the garden (the sweet peas growing up the fence smelled heavenly!)

The rain continued, light but steady. I just had to stop to photograph these enormous burl animals. They were in front of The Knotty Shop, a kitschy souvenir shop near Eielson Airforce Base.

The rain was coming down a little harder now. But there was no way I could pass without taking pictures here!

It was getting cold, too. I had to break out the electric gloves.

Sante is HUGE at the North Pole.

The residents must have a good sense of humor - even the street lamps have red and white candy cane stripes!

I finally arrived in Fairbanks, found a nice hostel, had a much-needed hot shower and went to bed.

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