Biking to the Arctic Circle: Adventures with Grandchildren
"Bike to the Arctic Circle? Impossible! There's ice and snow up there. It's only fit for bears and seals", my friend told me when he learned of my plan. Regardless, I did cycle to the Arctic Circle.
As a child I dreamed of traveling the Alaskan Highway. When I started the actual planning, I couldn't convince any of our grandchildren to ride 4,000 miles, but our grandson agreed to bike the Alaskan Highway portion. My office-mate rode the first 800 miles, our niece agreed to ride across Canada and my neighbor rode the Alaskan portion.
Jim and I started from Dayton in May 1999. The first day I had three flat tires, broke a spoke and bent my wheel so bad it wouldn't rotate. I wondered if the Lord was trying to tell me the ride was a dumb idea.
The prettiest part of our lower-48-state ride was biking along the Mississippi River's Great River Road from Savanna, Illinois to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bald eagles soaring overhead, deer peeking out of the wooded hills and tugboats pushing barges up river.
Karen joined me in Regina, Saskatchewan and rode one week. We encountered terrible head winds across Saskatchewan, pedaling 14 hours one day to go 85 miles. The next day we had a tail wind and covered the same distance in 6 hours. In Vegreville, Alberta we saw a Ukrainian Easter Egg 25 feet long and 60 feet in diameter.
Grandson Paul joined me in Edmonton, Alberta. A few days later we biked into Dawson Creek, British Columbia where the Alaskan Highway starts. Once on the Alaskan Highway we were in the wilderness. We encountered moose, deer, caribou, elk, buffalo, mountain sheep, wolves, black bear, grizzly bears, fox, coyotes, lynx, beaver, hares, porcupines, weasels, swans, eagles,owls, ducks and geese.
At Whitehorse, Yukon Karla joined me and biked the final leg of the trip. In Fairbanks I switched to a mountain bike for the 200-miles of gravel road to the Arctic Circle. We spent the night in Joy, Alaska with the Carlsons who raised 23 children in a log cabin with no electricity, running water or indoor toilet.
On 24 June 1999 I biked across the blue-dashed Arctic Circle line, completing the 4,081-mile ride in 51days. Was it worth the effort? You bet!
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