In just a few months, Earl Dutchman will pack his bags and begin his long trip north to Fairbanks — by bicycle.
The Mountain View resident has made the ride up three times and the roundtrip twice. He says he thought about it for years before giving it a try. The first trip he took was horrible, “like a nightmare.” It lasted about 72 hours. These days, he says the 360-mile journey helps clear his mind.
There are a few important things to remember, he says. Collect water from the creeks you pass along the way. The amount of water you’ll need for the trip is too great to carry from the outset. Don’t eat too much. You’ll get tired and waste time and supplies.
The first time he made the trip, in 2010, he ran out of food somewhere around milepost 210, so he wrote “Need Food” on a piece of paper that he stuck to his backpack as he rode. A passing driver pulled over to help “not even five minutes later.”
There’s usually rain or wind near Cantwell, he says. You have to keep a close eye on the weather, but all you can really do is pray. Don’t stop to sleep around Denali, because there are too many bears. Peddle through. Between Nenana and Fairbanks are rolling hills. Breaking too soon or too fast will make you crash. You’ve got to keep a steady grip on the handlebars when the big trailers come roaring by on the highway.
There are no bike paths in some places, so you ride along the road. The Alaska State Troopers usually don’t mind — unless you’ve been drinking. It’s better to go in the spring or the fall, he says. There are no mosquitos and more wildlife. The best part of the trip is always coming back home.
“It’s pretty cool, because between Willow and Wasilla you see the Anchorage lights,” he said. “And you think, ‘Wow, I did it again.'”