Monday, February 24, 2014

Portaging.

Stiff, sore, and bleary-eyed is how I woke in Kaltag.




Ambling over to the head and back out to my pile of stuff I met a few people whom felt similarly.  The trail, and weather, had worked us pretty good.








I tend to err on the side of leisure when touring, and the previous few days had been anything but.  Now that I'd left the Yukon and would be traveling on more oft-used trails, I vowed to resume a more leisurely pace.




The mood around town was festive, as you'd expect at this time of year.  School is out across the state during Iditarod, thus the kids are out playing in the snow, harassing mushers for autographs (or permission to pet dogs), even insisting that random bike riders come home for dinner.








After a few casual hours soaking in all that Kaltag had on offer, I hit the trail.  Didn't make it far before all sorts of things, details, clamored for my attention.  And since the previous few days I'd paid not enough attention to those details, today I made it up to them.












Somewhere past Tripod Flats it really hit me that my childhood dream--to see all of The Trail--had finally come to fruition.

I rode slowly, stopped often for snacks, pics, or just to stand and be.  On one such break I took a handful of pics of my bike.  Portraits, almost--the kind of pics you take so that you can post an ad and sell something.  While framing this'n I composed a version of that ad, chuckling to myself:

Snoots for sale.  Full ti, fat wheels, fuel cell chassis, yada
yada.  Highly experienced machine.  Dogshit patina should come off
with a pressure washer.  Oily residue on seat tube and rear triangle
may be permanent.  Will deliver to Nome in a few days.








On another such break I sat down on a burlap bag--trash left by a musher in too big of a hurry to bother--and made an ad hoc list:

-17 years I've been riding on and obsessing over this trail.  A veritable lifetime.

-More than 6000 miles ridden just on the Iditarod.  And climbing!

-South Route, North Route, self-supported, trailers, skinny wheels, fat wheels, single speeds, drum brakes, rim brakes, disc brakes, etc...  I've gotten to see and be a part of a lot of history, and a lot of change.

-Warm and rainy years, cold, high pressure years, deep, deep snow years.  And always the wind.








While roller-coastering through some snowmachine whoop-de-doos this realization smacked me between the eyes:

I'm a few hundred miles from the end of this trail, and although my goal is certainly Nome I could easily, happily call it 'good' now that the big river (i.e. the South Route) is done.  When I started down this path as a boy watching crazed dogs and whip-wielding mushers on TV, I had no idea how all consuming it would, or could, become.  The goal was only ever to see the 'whole Iditarod', and now that I've been on every inch of both north and south routes the job is done.

All that's left is a 'parade lap' up the coast and to Nome.








"Mmmmph!  MMMMMPH!"












Finding yourself mid-pack amongst the Iditarod racers means you're gonna have a lot of company.








Creative storage opportunities continued to present themselves on the Snoots.
















Flat.  Drat.  Backtracked to a shelter cabin and fixed it slowly, patiently, while taking story with the neat guy that already had fire going when I arrived.








Overcast gave way to god-light about an hour before dark thirty.  Thankfully I was there, with camera, to notice.




Yet more company.  I like this kind.




My pace dropped dramatically after dark, yet somehow I didn't feel like stopping just yet.  Too much to see and speculate on to shut 'er down so soon.




Curiosity killed the ___.




I crashed out in the Old Woman cabin for a few hours, sleeping poorly due to all of the commotion inside.  By now I should know *much* better, but when it's late and I'm both tired and hungry it's too easy to duck in when shelter presents itself.

While melting snow I perused the guestbook, alternately smiling and fighting back nostalgic tears at some of the entries therein.