The first day
Not one to waste hours of sleep, I do just that and wake early on this first day of adventure. It’s 9 o’clock in the morning and time to get this day started!
These last few days, my mom has taken to giving me two hugs for every one. We hug, and then we hug again. No doubt, the warmth and love I feel and the memories that I know we both see as we embrace will be what we miss the most. My dad shows it too. He talks about missing me, and I haven’t even left yet! They watched home videos of our family yesterday. I didn’t stick around to see me 19 years ago playing baseball and boating around the gulf coast of Florida. My brother was on his way or just born in the clips, and our family was a truly different family than it is today. We’re on the verge of separation as we each prepare new adventures. Not two weeks after I leave today, my brother leaves for his second year of college at UAF. Once the house sells, my parents will head south to pursue their own new adventure aboard a sailboat.
It’s my mom, dad, brother, and a family friend who also rides a GS seeing me off. I pull the bike out of the garage for photos. Despite the sadness of leaving, the overwhelming emotion on our faces is happiness.
Another round of hugs, and it is time to go. I don my helmet and gloves, almost forgetting the ear plugs and ride off into the rain. It’s 900 miles to Deadhorse, and I want to do it in three days.
My first planned stop is at the north side of Wasilla to visit friends I met in college. Annie and Mike made me promise to see them before riding to Prudhoe Bay. Fortunately, Mike’s in town and off from work. He seems to think Annie is going to cry, but she insists she won’t, and we’re all smiles as I ride away down their driveway that I swear is worse than the Dalton Highway itself.
Tim said I’d find sun past the Alaska Range, and so I make it my first day goal to get the heck out of this dreadful weather. It takes 250 miles, but the promise of sunshine is made good south of Fairbanks, just past Denali National Park. In time for an amazing sunset, I make camp in what resembles a gravel quarry. It’s not a quarter mile off the Parks Highway, and I find an excellent breeze and waterfront accommodations for the evening. The tent goes up first, and I settle down for a dinner of spaghetti.
While walking to the pond for tomorrow’s water supply, I startle a giant moose. It’s clearly taking a cool evening bath right in the middle, about 100 yards from me. We stare at one another, both pausing from whatever was on our minds before, and wait. I take a step for a closer picture and the moose bounds from its spot only to find that the muddy bottom isn’t made for such quick movements. Frothing the water and swimming as best as a moose can swim for the other bank, this animal is definitely not pleased with my need for a closer shot.
It finds solid ground close to shore and gallops through the brush and out of sight. Thinking that I’ve never seen a moose gallop like a horse, I continue to my business of filtering water for tomorrow’s breakfast and coffee. I’m sorry to have disturbed you, moose. You can have your pond back tomorrow.
I turn the lights out on the first day as storm clouds brew in the south around Denali and over the Alaska Range. An anvil shaped cloud has doubled in size since I pitched my tent. Despite the rain it’s sure to bring, the same rain I’m trying to outrun, the giant canvas of white is beautifully painted with the reds, pinks, and oranges of sunset.
Thinking back on the day, I’m proud and happy. Proud of what this journey means to me at this time of my life and happy for the opportunity to pursue it. A lot of people have helped me get to this point; I certainly owe every one of them a debt of gratitude. I dedicate this first day to my parents. As they were the people by my side for so many firsts in my life, It’s fitting that I think of them on this first. Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Dad. You’re the best.