(June 7 – written by Nancy)
Our spot at the campground last night turned out to be a bit noisy, as it was pretty close to the parking lot where the several trucks parked and ran their refrigeration units all night. Dave snored through it but it woke me up several times. It was warm though, I slept in short sleeves for the first time this trip so that was a nice change from the cold nights we have had so far.
We knew we had a long day today so were up early, all packed up and waiting for the restaurant to open at 7am for breakfast. Pancakes never go astray for me and mine were very tasty with an egg on top for some protein. While they look big in the picture, I actually only ate one of them and saved the other one, with some peanut butter spread on it, for our morning tea break. Dave ate his whole breakfast – lots of bacon, eggs and toast.
We were on the road by 8am, with the first challenge to ride across the Nisutlin Bridge, the longest bridge on the Alcan at 1917 feet. What made it a bit scary was that the bridge deck was all grating, so you could see the water down through it. And even though it wasn’t raining, it was a bit slippery and nerve-wracking, especially when a semi passed me as I was mid-span. Dave stopped to snap a photo but I kept riding to get to the other side as soon as I could. We stopped part way up the hill on the other side at a nice rest area with great views of the bridge and the water. A motorhome stopped as well, and we had a nice conversation with an elderly gentleman wearing a WWII Veteran’s cap, who told us about his bicycle trip across the US in 1988 that he did after he retired.
Most of the day was basically a slog into headwinds and uphill. What downhills we did get were dearly paid for in going back up the other side. It felt like we were barely making progress – the wind has a way of doing that to you! We pulled over at the Morely River Recreation Site for a quick break and met a woman with two blue heelers that was driving from Idaho up to see her daughter in Willow in Alaska, a little town near Palmer. When she mentioned she was aiming for Tok today we laughed and said we had over 8 days of riding since we left there! We quizzed her on whether the two roadhouses up ahead as our possible destinations were open – she wasn’t sure but thought that she had seen two that had been closed. Hmmm, not too heartening to hear at that point.
Loosing your head at Morley River
Sometime later we crossed into BC for the first, but not last time – we left later and will be back in a few days. We continued our slow movement forward, uphill, fighting the wind until about 1 or so, when we stopped to share the cinnamon roll that we bought this morning. It was hot as well, so we were actually looking for shade – quite a difference. We dragged ourselves back onto the bikes and continued on until we got to Swan Lake, keeping an eye out for possible camping spots, thinking that perhaps we might just call it a day if we could find something suitable. I had high hopes for the Swan Lake rest stop, given the nice rest stop facilities that we had at Morely River but it was not to be. Just a couple of pit toilets and garbage bins with the stop high above the lake.
We asked a couple of people coming from the direction we were going if they remembered if the roadhouses were open but most seemed to have trouble recalling them though we did hear the same message that we heard earlier – that there were a couple of roadhouses with closed signs. Just after we left the rest stop we came across a roadworker so Dave stopped to ask him what he knew. He confirmed that our first target, the Continental Divide RV Park, was closed but that the second one, Rancheria, was open. So, that became our new goal. Unfortunately, assuming the Rancheria Lodge was near the Rancheria Falls, which was on our map, we had another 40k to go.
We had gone through all of the water in our big bottles so were down to just the water in our water bottles. I started to look at creeks to see where we could stop and get some water but Dave wasn’t yet at that point. This is a difference between us that often comes up – I hate being close to out of water and don’t see why we shouldn’t make sure we have some extra (this wasn’t really even ‘extra’ at that point!) but he figures we’ll just get some when we run out.
When we got to Swift River, where we thought the Continental Divide Lodge was, sure enough the closed sign was up and the area just consisted of some rundown buildings on one side and then what was obviously housing for the road maintenance guys. At this point we had 115+ kilometres and the wind was still blowing in our face. Dave pulled into the maintenance yard and spoke to his friend from road, who was now knocking off for the night. He told Dave that Rancheria Lodge was not 16k from where we were at but actually another 40k.
We figured if the terrain and the winds stayed the same it would probably be after 9pm before we made it – if we did. Then his buddy said the magic words – he had to go up to the Lodge anyway to settle some bills for his crew and would be more than happy to give us a ride! It seemed crazy to pass it up – how often do you get to ride in a road worker truck, complete with hot set (bitumen) in the back and a very friendly guy, John the foreman, to tell us all about the area. He was a kick, and loved the area – he moved into the Swift River area in 1989 or something and lived there all year, even through the harsh winters. He thought it was the greatest place, and ‘other than the cold’, one of the safest places around. He said he wouldn’t want to be in Australia with all those killer things that crawl in your shoes and all of the sharks, and wouldn’t be persuaded that perhaps the bears around here might be a bit scary…
So, we ended up safely at Rancheria Lodge just before 5, and have now had dinner, a shower, set up our tent and are now having tea and sharing a piece of apple pie al a mode. It’s a funky little place but it’s great to be here now and not still out there road. I am more tired today than I have been on any other day on this ride (including our 100miles into Whitehorse) so hopefully will sleep well tonight. Tomorrow we have a shorter day (~70k) to another provincial campground, Big Creek Campground. Fingers crossed the wind will let up overnight.