The Ride from Hell. No wait, can you square hell?Dan | August 14, 2008
Today was by far the toughest riding I had ever done in my entire life, and Aaron and I unanimously agree that this was the hardest day of the entire trip. When we woke up, it was pouring buckets, the type of rain that soaks you within seconds. What’s more, it was really cold, down in the forties all day long.
Apparently, this road has claimed some lives
The rain continued to pour down on us as we trudged the 88 miles from Border City to Tok. We hadn’t had a decent meal in days, and the road (if you can call it that) was a giant, wet, muddy minefield of potholes and washout. There was nothing in between and nowhere to stop except one sad gas station called Naabia Niigh where we had, you guessed it, microwave chicken tenders. To make matters worse, Aaron’s front derailleur failed and he had to retighten his cable using his leatherman midway.
The road was so bad in some sections that they had to take us across in pilot cars. We welcomed these rides, as they took us off those terrible roads and out of the cold. Here we met one of the more interesting characters of the trip. We had been warned by the german tourist of a few days ago of a “bad man” who was supposedly quite surly. When we arrived at the construction zone, out of the car stepped a large, disheveled man. After getting into the pilot truck with him, he immediately began talking during which he used the explicative beginning with ‘f’ more times than Aaron and I had heard in our lifetimes. Aaron, trying to lighten the mood, offered our driver a beer to drive us all the way to Tok. He replied with, “You’ll $*%&ing have to give me $*%&ing more than that. I’ll get $*%&ing fired and $*%&ing have to scrap $*%&ing to $*%&ing live. You’d better $*%&ing give me more $*%&ing like $15,000.” At some point the conversation got ridiculous, and “bad man” started cursing about the rain and his vegetable garden. “MY $*%&ing GARDEN!!!!” AAAHHH get us out of this car!!!!!!
We were dropped off in what looked like a warzone of mud and road. As we rode by, we could see people in RV’s snapping photos of the “mountain biking” road cyclists. We got drenched in mud and rain, and pulled up to the next pilot car stretch. Here we met a Native American Bernie, who was, in contrast to the “bad man,” quite friendly and talked to us for about an hour about hunting caribou and working up on the North Slope by the Arctic Circle. He inspired us with an unforgettable piece of advice his grandfather had told him as a young boy. “Fight the weather.”
Determined to fight the weather, but not that much, we hopped into the next pilot car. The driver of this car was a really nice girl who was a stark contrast to angry big man. She offered Aaron candy while he sat in the warm cab and I sat outside in the pickup bed. (I actually chose to sit there to take some pictures).
The next 30 miles were a tortuous grind up and down many hills and we finished off our ride into Tok with a long 12 mile uphill into a headwind. Hardest. Day. Ever.
We arrived in Tok completely exhausted and beaten down. We had heard for several days and from several people of an establishment called “Fast Eddies,” and that this was supposedly the best place for food in town. We had actually heard about Fast Eddie’s for days preceding, and from several people. After picking up a hotel room as a reward for the hardest day of biking ever, we ran over to Fast Eddies and quickly (and sort of disgustingly) devoured the largest pizza they had between the two of us in something like 10 minutes.
Tok, a highway junction town, to two hungry beaten cyclists, was a magical paradise. (Laughing, Will assured me, several days later, that Tok is actually a total dump, and that he was amused that our standards were so incredibly low.) Well it didn’t seem like one at the time: there were several choices for eating, many motels, and gasp, a grocery store!!! We still maintain, Tok was a magic wonderland.
Beautiful, wonderful, Tok