Biking to the Arctic Circle: Adventures with Grandchildren

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Creative Enterprises, 2000 - Sports & Recreation - 239 pages
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"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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The third day we crossed from Indiana to Illinois

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About the author (2000)

Born in the small Southern Illinois town of Lawrenceville in 1935, Allen Johnson grew up leading a quiet life of sand lot baseball, fishing, camping out, delivering the evening paper and day-dreaming. After college he realized he could live out his early daydreams. His job as a communications engineer with the U.S. Air Force gave him the opportunity to travel and travel he did. In the past 40 years Allen has flown over 5 million miles including circling the globe five times, driven nearly one million miles and flown over the Antarctic and the North Pole. Allen met and married his wife, Gloria of Chester, Illinois, while studying electrical engineering at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. After receiving his degree, they traveled to Boston where he worked at the Bell Telephone Laboratory designing microwave radio systems. After two years in Boston, they and their two children, Donald and Judy, moved to Dayton, Ohio where Allen worked in an Air Force research laboratory designing and flight testing aircraft radios. After 37 years in the same job, Allen retired in 1996 to spend more time with his family, five grandchildren and two great-granddaughters. Allen's work with the Air Force provided the opportunity to travel extensively. Taking advantage of his professional and personal travel he has chased polar bears across the Canadian Arctic, ridden camels across the Australian Outback, bicycled across Sweden, Canada and the US, kayaked the 40-foot high tides in the Bay of Fundy, skied on the Arctic Ocean in Greenland, swam with sharks in Mexico, jogged the Great Wall of China, climbed volcanoes in Hawaii, hiked the remote mountains of Argentina's Terre del Fuego, biked 4,000 miles from Ohio to Alaska and driven elephants through the streets of New Delhi India. Mr. Johnson chronicles his adventures in articles in the Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Sumner Press, Outdoor Indiana Magazine, American Airline's Magazine and numerous special interest journals. Allen has written twelve books.

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