Long days, short nights. Rain. Gravel. Construction. Stunning views. And some of the most amazing people.
There are a lot of things you don't see when you're watching the live feed - when it's live which I'm sure it hasn't been for a couple of days.
You miss the little puffs of dust or water that tell you the riders ahead have just hit gravel, or puddles, or both. You miss the sudden flashing of taillights that might mean anything from HOLY COW IT'S A BUMP to a herd of bison in the road. You miss seeing a string of 16 motorcycles in perfect formation, leaning into a sweeping turn, with a lake or mountain in the background.
And you miss a lot of the laughter and teasing that happens when 18 guys are stuck with each other for weeks on end. I'v written a lot (mostly on previous Rides - see the comment about long days above) about the camaraderie in this group. Whether it's sitting in the Chinese restaurant in the middle of nowhere, waiting for dinner (and how does a Chinese restaurant run out of fried rice?), or the scramble to help when a motorcycle tips over, the fun never ends.
Even when it's 50 degrees and raining, and the road is 50% washboard gravel, we seem to find something to laugh about. And there's always something new, just around the corner.
We're stopped tonight at what was founded as a workers camp in WWII, when the US Army was building the road to carry supplies and men to Alaska. It's a little slice of history that they probably tried to teach me in school, but standing here, looking at the mountains and the lake, and thinking about hard-living men, hacking a passage through the wilderness, makes it come alive in ways no textbook ever did for me.
I find myself thinking about those early explorers a lot while we ride. What must it have been like for the first surveyors, facing the same wind, rain, and cold we're facing, with the added challenges of figuring out which pass could support a highway; which hills to carve a road into? We ooh and aahh when we see bison or bears on the side of the road. For those early explorers, those were dinner - one way or the other.
We think we're pretty hardy because we can cover 500 miles in a day, no matter the weather. In 1942, t took 10,000 men almost seven months to build the AlCan's 1700 miles. There have been a lot of improvements since then, and believe me, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Tomorrow, we arrive in Fairbanks (after another 400+ mile day), then it's on to the Arctic Circle, and the official turn for home. It seems many of us just can't get enough riding, so some will continue on to Coldfoot, THEN turn for home.
It's already been an adventure, and the scenery promises to keep taking my breath away.
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