24 May 2017
(written by Dave)
Wow what a day we’ve had today. It all started with a nice brekkie and fresh coffee. The later supplied by Mary, the owner of Snowed Inn. We were a few minutes faster getting started in the morning – perhaps not finely tuned machine just yet, but a little more efficient.
We headed out on the Alcan for the first time with thoughts of traffic and a busy road. Boy were we wrong on both accounts. We saw almost no traffic all day and I’m happy to report that what little we saw gives us heaps of room. Not only that but there is a great shoulder as well. The road today had very few turns but lots of mountains to the south to look at and keep us entertained. We also met our first north bound cyclist – Austin, a medical student at Tulane who is riding from Skagway to Prudhoe Bay solo and light. Nancy looked with envy at his bear canister and his light setup.
Our first stop was after only 12k as we reached the Delta meat and sausage factory. I’m not sure about packing sausages and Slim Jims riding into bear country but that’s what we did. We intended to eat the sausage for dinner but failed on that task as you’ll read later.
We stopped a couple times for views of the mountains, mostly on bridges as that’s the only place where you could see them well over more of the drunken forest trees. The mountains looked pretty big to us (and snow capped) but I’m sure that they are just foot hills to the bigger ranges that are beyond them.
We stopped at a roadside pullout that had a nice covered picnic area for lunch. There lots of moose droppings and it looked like an animal may have been butchered on the tables. Mark was wise to have his bear spray in hand as we walked from our bikes. We’ll try doing a better job of that ourselves as we go down the road. Speaking of moose, we saw two of them today. Both moose made quick exits back into the woods so we didn’t get and pictures but we were excited to see them all the same. They seem to be pretty common around here and seem to like splashing about in the multitude of ponds that we can see off the roadway.
As the day went on the wind picked up. Today was more headwind than tailwind. We were all getting a little tired and lots of discussion came up about what we might find at Dot Lake. We’d heard that there was a school but it is near the end of the school year so we didn’t know. Worst case we hoped to get some water and head down the road.
Wow – did Dot Lake exceed our expectations. Chris and I drew the short straws to go inside while Mark and Nancy stayed with the bikes (as temperatures dropped). Chris and I tried to find the office to register (as you do in any school), asking the first person we saw for directions. It turns out that this was Julie, the teacher, principal and general manager of the site. We asked for water and possibly if there was somewhere that we could camp. Julie greeted us with open arms telling us that we could camp onsite, have showers, get water in the building, join her and kids for dinner and brekkie. She them took us into the kitchen where they were pulling smoked salmon out of the smoker. She insisted we not only try a bit but that we also take a full fillet with us for afternoon tea.
The whole inside discussion took quite some time and Chris and I returned to find Mark and Nancy shivering. We were a bit mean, telling them that we could only get water and that we’d have to head down the road. We kept up the ruse as long as we could but somehow the slab of salmon in Chris’s hands made it very difficult to keep a straight face. We came clean and gave them the good news- there were celebratory cheers all around.
We set up tents in the play ground and started to get cleaned up. Well, at least Mark, Nancy and I did. Chris decided that he’d take Julie up on using her RV (parked next to the school) – so no tent for him. Mark and I didn’t even make it to the showers before the dinner bell rang. We tried to donate our sausage to the Mexican feast Julie had whipped up but she’d only freeze them for our onward journey tomorrow. She had the menu and feast all sorted.
We spent the evening with Julie, her kids and some of the school staff. Mark challenged 13-year old Steven to a couple of games of chess and Chris played a few games of tic-tac-toe with 8-year old Kaylee while Nancy gave her a few hints. The school has 10 kids, K through to 12. Three of the kids are Julie’s. Julie does all the lessons for all the kids. This was her first year out here so that means a good deal of work on her part. Not that she sticks with the standard program either – the kids did silver smithing, beading and pottery along with reading, writing and arithmetic. Lots of creative activities and dedication to the school and the small community here – we were all very impressed. Not a bad place to grow up and learn.
Tomorrow morning, Nancy and I are going to give all the kids our talk on Australia. We have some standard slides that we’ve done before and Julie seemed pretty enthusiastic for us to share our stories. I’m even planning on sharing a bit of my Vegemite with the kids. There are only 10 of them – I’ll see if I can’t find at least one convert.
After the school festivities we’ll head out bound for Tok. The forecast looks a little like today and we have a shorter day planned (under 50). We plan on a rest day in Tok. We’re all feeling the first 150 miles in our legs and looking forward to a break. I’m sure we’ll have more than enough energy – fuelled by our wonderful smoked salmon and Julie’s Dot Lake hospitality.