Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Robyn's 2022 NorthStar Adventure: Rolling Home (Missive 9)

NOTE:  This is the ninth, final missive for Robyn's 2022 NorthStar bike-packing adventure from Deadhorse, Alaska, to Whitefish, Montana. The eighth missive can be found at

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slideshow of photos from my "after-ride" from Bruswick, ME, to my home in Burlington, ME, can be found at

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Missive No. 9:  Rolling Home

9/18 -- From an Amtrak Empire Builder Window, part 1 

WoodsWoman and I are aboard the Empire Builder, eastward bound. As I look out the window, I see my Northern Tier journey of two years ago rolling past in reverse. We are on the Hi-Line of Montana between Shelby and Malta, towns I remember well from 2020. 

I seriously thought I might need to bike the Northern Tier back east at least part of the way. I camped wonderfully at Glacier for five nights before riding over to the Bicycle Retreat in Whitefish on the 11th. I was scheduled to depart on the Empire Builder on the 15th. I was blissfully unaware of the rail strike threatened for the 16th. My rude awakening came in the form of an Amtrak alert when I reconnected to the Internet at the Retreat: my train had been cancelled. I called Amtrak in the morning and must give credit to the agent who worked for over an hour to reschedule me for Sunday the 18th. There was still the real threat, however, that this train also would be cancelled if the railway workers struck on the 16th. That's when I began seriously to entertain the idea of biking east. Given that Amtrak and the Northern Tier run parallel across much of Montana, I could board the Empire Builder somewhere on Montana's Hi-Line once the strike ended. Typical of my feelings at the end of these summer journeys, I was vaguely sad when the strike was averted. As happens with through-hiking backpackers, epic bike-packers find themselves holding on to their journeys, not really wanting them to end. I comfort myself with the knowledge that I still have my 4-day "after-ride" to look forward to in Maine when I ride from the Amtrak station in Brunswick to my home in little Burlington. 

It's time to sum up the summer. Although shorter, this year's NorthStar journey was more challenging than the past two summers on the TransAm and Northern Tier. Riding the Dalton Highway in Alaska required careful planning, in particular as to food. Like through backpackers on the Appalachian Trail, I had to prepare several weeks worth of my own dehydrated and commercial freeze dried foods, dividing up the food into weekly increments that I mailed ahead to the infrequent post offices along my route. Only when I reached Whitehorse, YT, did I begin to rely on restocking at stores in towns along the way. 

Camping in Alaska, Yukon, and also on the Cassiar Highway in British Columbia was of the wild type. The good side of this is that my nightly accommodations were free. The down side is that wild camping with no facilities is labor intensive. In the north it often seemed that I was spending as much time on camping as I did riding. Put an exclamation point on that for rainy days that were an every other day event in the Yukon and northern British Columbia. Only when I reached the Yellowhead Highway did I find conditions similar to those in the lower 48 U.S. states. 

The Brooks Range in Alaska, Top of the World Highway in Yukon, the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, and Road to the Sun in Glacier National Park: those are the highlights that will long leave an imprint on my memory. The Brooks Range of mountains and Atigun Pass in particular left a lasting impression for their rugged beauty combined with their northern isolation. Comparatively few tourists, let alone bike-packers, venture that far north on the most northerly road in the US. 

Solitude. That was another part of the northern experience. I had no cell signal at all in the north and fell almost completely out of touch with current happenings in the world. My only line of communication was a Garmin InReach Mini device that I used to send a daily text message through the Iridium constellation of satellites so that my sisters and son would know my whereabouts. 

I enjoyed the solitude. It gave me time for reflection, time to look back on a life that now, let's face it, is more in the past than the future. The quiet of the north allowed me to make peace with that and with my post-retirement life. No one cares that I'm fluent in Russian, have decades of experience in Russian-Soviet affairs, or worked many good years on Hubble Space Telescope. No one cares about the memoir that I have put through three re-writes. No one cares, that is, except family and close friends, many of whom are reading these lines. I now enjoy the peace and freedom of being a has-been. That's not a bad place to be. 

Freedom from the Internet comes as a corollary to the solitude. In days when I had a connection, I was struck by how little I had missed that I considered at all important. As many of my readers know, last winter I instituted what I call my "no Internet Thursdays." I may expand that to more than one day per week this winter. 

After three summers on epic bicycle journeys and doing most of my local transportation on two wheels in Maine, I'm questioning why I bought a car when I retired. It sits in my garage with the battery disconnected most of the time and rarely gets driven more than once a month. When I'm on WoodsWoman, I experience a fork-not-taken in the development of human transportation at the start of the 20th century. For a short time at the end of the 19th century, the bicycle appeared to be the future. What would the world be like today if the automobile had not displaced the bicycle? Perhaps the crisis of climate change would not be as severe as it is today. 

Moreover, as I have written elsewhere, the bicycle gives us a more intimate relationship with the world around us. Not insulated in a temperature-controlled womb with an engine, we experience the landscape and weather fully much as all humanity knew it before the automobile. It gives one an appreciation for the hardships humans had to overcome on a daily basis. 

Moving beyond the personal, I was struck by how much more international Canada feels as compared with the US. I met many more international tourists there than I am used to in the US. Other cyclists I met and sometimes rode with came from the UK, France, Germany, and Australia. 

At the same time, Canada is not immune to some of the ills that are rampant in the US. I saw this most in Prince George, BC, which has a homeless and street crime problem on a par with that in many U.S. cities. 

9/19 -- From an Amtrak Empire Builder Window, part 2 

We're approaching Milwaukee, WI, as the first leg of my train journey nears its end in Chicago. There I transfer to the Capitol Limited that will take me as far as Pittsburgh, PA. Altogether it will take five trains to get me to Brunswick, ME. 

So where will I ride next year? I'm thinking that will be Adventure Cycling’s Cascades Route together with a part of the Western Express and the Grand Canyon Connector. This had been my plan for this year before Deadhorse entered the picture courtesy of Bianca, a young bike-packer I met at an AMC lodge in the Maine North Woods last January. When Bianca told me of her plan to bike from the Florida Keys to Deadhorse, I told her, "Bianca, you have changed my life or, at least, my summer." (Bianca started that journey in March and reached Deadhorse when I was somewhere in the Yukon.) 

If I do ride the Cascades Route next year, the question is whether I should ride south to north or north to south. I'm thinking the former, starting early in the spring before Arizona is too hot. I have some research to do. Stay tuned. 

9/21 -- From an Amtrak Downeaster Window 

We crossed the border into Maine a half hour ago. Summer doesn't end until tomorrow evening, which means that I will have spent one day and a few hours of summer in my home state. When I left in June, it was still spring. As I tell my neighbors, I am the opposite of a snowbird, someone who spends her winters in Maine and travels in the summer. Does that make me a "sunbird?" 

The Downeaster is the last of five trains that have taken me to Maine from Whitefish. It's been almost 80 hours since I boarded the Empire Builder. That was the luxury part of the journey. I had a full bedroom and was able to relax. I had a roomette on the Capitol Limited from Chicago, but having to be up for a 5 a.m. arrival in Pittsburgh meant I had only a few hours of sleep. From there The Pennsylvanian took me to New York City and the last Northeast Regional of the day got me to Boston shortly after midnight. Both of were sit-up trains. From Boston's South Station I rode WoodsWoman a short distance to the HI Boston Hostel and got a few hours' sleep before riding over to North Station and boarding the Downeaster. 

In short, although Amtrak is the easiest option for anyone traveling with a bicycle, I'm exhausted. I'll be checking in to the Relax Inn, my "cheap motel of choice" in Brunswick -- for two nights to recover. 

9/22 -- Relaxing at the Relax Inn 

It's just a cheap motel, but it has become part of my bike-packing tradition. I first stayed at the Relax Inn in 2020 after riding some 80+ miles from Northport to Brunswick as part of my "Bike Around Maine." I spent a night here again in 2021 before starting the after-ride on my way home from having ridden the TransAm. Now I'm back for the third year in a row. 

I could not have chosen better timing for a rest day. A heavy rain is falling, and I'm happy not to be riding in it. The forecast for tomorrow and the following days looks much nicer. 

I have just come back from lunch at the Brunswick Diner with David and his extended family. I first met David on the July 4 weekend in Fairbanks, and it happened that he is now visiting family in Maine. This, too, in a way, may now be a tradition -- a tradition of meeting again someone I first met on the summer trip just before I start my after-ride. Last year that person was Kelly who took me on a bike tour of Seattle. This year it is David. 

Finally, the Brunswick Diner is itself a tradition. In 2020 I had breakfast here with Lily, whom I had met in 2019 on the Northern Tier in Vermont. I had expected only to do a "Bike Around Maine" because of COVID, but Lily posed the question, "What is more socially distant than riding a bicycle 6+ hours a day and camping?" That question was the impulse that saw me riding into Anacortes, WA, two months later. If not for that breakfast with Lily at the Brunswick Diner, I would have stayed in Maine. 

Brunswick and tradition. That's what is going through my mind on this rest day as the rain falls outside. Tomorrow I begin the after-ride that will take me back to my little home north of Bangor.  

9/27 -- From my Own Front Porch 

I rolled into my own driveway late yesterday afternoon. Three months and ten days after leaving, I am home. My NorthStar adventure of 2022 has ended where it began in little Burlington, ME. 

The weather gods smiled on me for the four days of my after-ride. Day 1 took me to Gardiner, ME, where I spent the night with Kevin, a very welcoming WS host whom I first met last year. Day 2 took me to Canaan and the country home of my friends Mark and Greg and their four dogs, not to mention their relaxing hot tub and Mark's as always sumptuous dinner. Day 3 brought me to Bangor, where I stayed with Kelby and Dan, two young cyclists and WS hosts recently relocated to Maine from the West Coast. The final day saw me riding up Rt. 2 along the Penobscot River. Last night for the first time in over three months, I slept in my own bed. 

Even though I know from the last two years that returning to "normal day-to-day life" after a three month bicycle journey comes with a disorienting sense of loss, that does not diminish the emotions. The sense of loss is complemented by a strong "not yet wanting to deal" with accumulated tasks and the minutiae of that "normal day-to-day life." Today my energy is sufficient only to complete this missive and then retire to my hammock. It's good that I'm leaving for Maryland at the end of this week to spend ten days with family. I can put off my return to "normal day-to-day life" that much longer, live in my memories of this summer, and begin dreaming of adventures to come. 

How far have I ridden since reaching Glacier National Park? My log shows 283 miles. I'm rounding that upward and donating $30 in support of independent Russian journalists at TV Dozhd'. Please consider joining me in this support to a talented, brave crew of journalists who continue to report uncensored news in the Russian language. An independent press is even more important today, now that Vladimir Putin has announced his "partial mobilization." You will find donation links at Thank you to all who have joined me in supporting Dozhd'! I know that several of you have. 

(For anyone keeping track, my odometer shows 5535 km since I rolled out of Deadhorse. That's 3459 miles. As I wrote above, that's shorter than my transcontinental trips of 2020 and 2021, but these were more challenging miles.) 

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Daily Log

Friday, September 23, 2022 -- 5627 km cum - 50 km/day

Saturday, September 24, 2022 -- 5691 km cum - 65 km/day

Sunday, September 25, 2022 -- 5771 km cum - 80 km/day

I'm writing on Monday morning from "The Grindhouse" in downtown Bangor after spending the night with Kelby and Dan, a wonderful newlywed WS couple who relocated from Oregon to Maine a year ago.  They treated me to dinner and a bedroom for this, my last night on the road.

Friday's ride was a repeat of last year's ride from Brunswick to Gardiner where I stayed again with WS host Kevin.  I left Brunswick late as I waited for the mail and a replacement for my mirror that broke as I loaded WoodsWoman onto The Downeaster train in Boston.

The train trip from Whitefish to Brunswick was uneventful but exhausting.  It took five trains in the course of four days to get to Brunswick.  I was lucky at the last minute to get a bedroom on the Empire Builder to Chicago; they had been sold out for weeks.  I had a roomette on the Capital Limited to Pittsburgh, but a 5 a.m. arrival ensured that I didn't get much sleep.  (I would have preferred to go through to DC, but there were no bicycle tickets available beyond Pittsburgh, likely due to the popularity of riding the C&O Canal and GAP trails in September.)  I sat in coach on The Pennsylvanian to New Yourk City, where I was happily impressed by the new Moynihan train hall.  I was impressed in the opposite way by the "bicycle closet" on the NE Regional train to Boston that required me to remove WoodsWoman's front wheel and hang her from a hook by her rear wheel.  Whoever designed this closet was not thinking of bike-packers.

I arrived in Boston at 12:15 a.m. and pedaled over to HI Boston where I had reserved a bed in a women's dormitory room.  The humorous moment of this short night came when I stepped out to use the bathroom.  I had left my key in the room and was scarcely dressed.  I had to ask a young and obviously embarrassed young man to go the the front desk for me

On Saturday I rode in what was a new direction for me to Canaan to spend the night with my friends Greg and Mark.  Although I saw Greg a year ago, I hadn't seen Mark since before COVID.  Although they still have their house in Bangor, they have, it seems, moved to Canaan for good.  Mark, amazing cook that he is, prepared an amazing dinner of chicken fricassee and biscuits.

Jumping back to Brunswick, I nearly forgot to mention that David, whom I met in Fairbanks, took me out to lunch on Thursday.  He has a niece in Falmouth and happened to be visiting her.  In fact, he came with his niece's family and a friend.

One thing should be clear about this year's after-ride:  I have been well fed.

That brings me up to date as I finish my coffee at "The Grindhouse" with Beatles music playing in the background.  Fifteen minutes from now I'll begin my ride to Burlington on this, "my last time on the road."

Monday, September 26, 2022 -- 5851 km cum - 80 km/day [Writing on Tuesday, September 27]

Three months and ten days after the start of this NorthStar adventure, I am home.  It's Tuesday afternoon, and I am sitting on my porch watching a gentle wind sway the tops of my norwegian pines.  I am home.

I am also in shock.  Even though I know from the last two years that returning to "normal day-to-day life" after a three-month bicycle journey comes with a sense of loss, that knowledge does not diminish the emotions.  Combined with the sense of loss is the feeling of helplessness and of not wanting to deal with three months of accumulated tasks and the standard minutiae of that "normal day-to-day life."  Today I'm doing my best not to deal.  In a way, it's good that I'm leaving at the end of this week to spend ten days in Maryland.  I can put off my return to "normal day-to-day life" that much longer.

That said, my final day of riding from Bangor to home could not have been better.  The day was warm and sunny with a hint of autumn colors beginning to show.  There was even a slight tailwind.  Moreover, I proudly broke the law by riding the shoulder of I-95 from Hogan Road to Kelly Road, taking a video to use as part of my advocacy to remove the prohibition of bicycles on interstate shoulders in Maine.

I rolled into my own driveway at 5 p.m., picked up a Hawaiian pizza from Rick at the General Store, took a long hot shower, and watched an old, old movie, "The Great Race."

I also had my best night's sleep in many weeks.  As shocking as the return to "normal day-to-day life" may be, I was sleeping in my own bed with nowhere to rise early and ride to in the morning.  The everyday tasks of that "normal life" can wait a few days longer as I dream of what I hope will be new adventures to come.

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Robyn's 2022 NorthStar Adventure: A Spectacularly Glacial Finish (Missive 8)

NOTE:  This is the eighth missive for Robyn's 2022 NorthStar bike-packing adventure from Deadhorse, Alaska, to Whitefish, Montana. The seventh missive can be found at The ninth, final missive can be found at

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slideshow of photos from my ride from Jasper, AB, to Whitefish, MT, can be found at

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Missive No. 8:  A Spectacularly Glacial Finish

It has been two weeks since my last missive, so long that I sent a placeholder missive when I was in Fernie lest anyone worry that something might have happened to me. My silence was due to one reason only: the spectacular nature of my final days in Canada and my equally spectacular return to the US through Glacier National Park. It's been quite a two weeks in all good senses. 

If there is one adjective to describe the past two weeks, it's "glacial." Add to that "spectacular" and you have my second adjective. 

My route south from Fernie took me down the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park. On the second day I climbed to the Columbia Icefields, for the first time in my life actually seeing glaciers, not just viewing them in photos or videos. The majesty of these flowing rivers of ice is beyond my ability to describe in words. I experienced a sense of awe all through my climb that continued as I stood on the viewing platforms at the Icefields visitors' center. From the exhibits at the visitors' center, I also came to understand just how fast they are shrinking. The Columbia glaciers feed rivers that flow into the Arctic, Pacific, and Hudson's Bay watersheds. The fate of those rivers is tied to the fate of the glaciers. 

Add to this that I ended these two weeks in Glacier National Park in Montana. Despite the name, there are no glaciers today in Glacier National Park. Rather, the spectacular topography of the park was carved by glaciers that once were. Of all the national parks I have visited so far, Glacier is my favorite. I fell in love with the park when I first visited it while riding the Northern Tier route to Washington State in 2020. I knew then that I wanted to return, and I chose it as the endpoint for this summer's journey. 

"Glacial" and "spectacular:" those are the adjectives that describe these two weeks. 

But there is a third: "human." These two weeks were "people weeks," the opposite of the solitude with which I began this journey in the far north. 

Most of all there was Bakhtiyor and his wife Nargiza. Bakhtiyor was our long-serving Scientific Affairs Specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. His background is in water resource management, and he taught me everything I know about water politics -- and melting glaciers -- in Central Asia when I worked with him in 2008-10. Bakhtiyor and Nargiza later emigrated to Canada and now live in Calgary with their two children. They drove out from Calgary and treated me to dinner when I reached Castle Junction just beyond Lake Louise. 

My choice of accommodations along the Icefields Parkway also made for a people experience. Instead of tenting, I stayed at wilderness hostels operated by Hostels International of Canada. "Wilderness" is the key word, as these are primitive hostels without electricity or running water. (An exception is the hostel at Castle Junction that has both of these amenities and showers and a laundry to boot.) Sleeping arrangements are dormitory style with shared kitchen and bathroom. In short, they are a great place to meet other travelers. In the course of four hostel nights, I met young travelers from France, Germany, and Belgium in addition to from the US and Canada. Most of all I should mention Marco from Calgary. He was riding a Brompton folding bicycle down the Icefields Parkway, and we were together in hostels for two nights. Marco is only the second Brompton rider I have known, the other being Rupert, my bicycle buddy -- and also accomplished writer -- from my time in Romania. 

Staying at hostels led to another trail magic experience. I had climbed halfway up to the Columbia Icefields when I realized I had left my bear spray behind at the Beauty Creek Hostel. There was no way I was going to ride back down and repeat a hard climb. "I'll just have to buy it again," I thought. 

Soon after this realization, I turned off the road at a viewpoint. As I stopped, I heard a woman speaking Russian. I asked, "Откуда Вы?" ("Where are you from?") The woman was Ol'ga traveling with her husband Sergey and college-age son Grisha. They are Ukrainians now living in Canada. We started speaking in Russian. They asked all about my trip. When I mentioned that I had left my bear spray behind, they insisted on driving me back to the hostel to retrieve it. Saving a traveler in their moment of need from a problem of their own creation is the very definition of trail magic. Огромное Вам спасибо Сергей, Оля, и Гриша! (Great thanks to you Sergey, Olya, and Grisha!) 

These were a busy but happy two weeks with so many impressions that I can't describe them all. I can't conclude, however, without mentioning the Lions Club breakfast I went to after camping at the Wasa Lake Provincial Park. John, who was selling tickets at the entrance, refused to charge me when he saw me ride up on WoodsWoman. My breakfast was his treat. A certain buzz started to circulate in the breakfast pavilion about the woman who had biked all the way from Alaska. A singer who was providing live entertainment sang "North to Alaska." 

So here I am at my end point for this NorthStar adventure. I am camping at Glacier for four days, just soaking in the Glacier experience and relaxing after riding more than 3000 miles. On Tuesday I will ride 30 miles over to Whitefish, where I will stay for two nights at the Whitefish Bicycle Retreat. (I first stayed there two years ago with my Brazilian bicycling friend Leandro.). On Thursday I board Amtrak for a trip on multiple trains that will take me as far as Brunswick, Maine. From there I have a final four days of riding ahead of me before I reach my home in little Burlington. You may expect a final missive from me, my epilogue and summation for what has been an epic summer. 

How far have I ridden since my last missive? My log shows 595 miles. I'm rounding that upward and donating $60 in support of independent Russian journalists at TV Dozhd'. Please consider joining me in this support to a talented, brave crew of journalists who continue to report uncensored news in the Russian language. You will find donation links at Thank you to all who have joined me in supporting Dozhd'! 

My luck has held with the weather as I rode under clear skies these two weeks. The only exception was my crossing of Logan Pass in Glacier, which was covered in cold mist at a temperature of 0C (32F). Even that I consider to have been a lucky break, as the forecast called for rain. It seems I paid my rain dues in the north.

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Daily Log

Sunday, August 28, 2022 -- 4533 km cum - 88 km/day

A good 55-mile first day of climbing up the Icefields Parkway.  Spectacular Alpine views.  Along the way I met Marco, who is riding a Brompton folding bike.  We're checked in together at the HI Beauty Creek hostel for the night.

Monday, August 29, 2022 -- 4589 km cum - 56 km/day

Today I climbed to Sumwata Pass -- pushing WoodsWoman up 2-3 km of the way -- and rode through the Columbia Icefields.  This may well be the exclamation point on my summer.  I don't think I have ever experienced anything as spectacularly beautiful as what I saw today.  It's the first time I have ever seen a glacier with my own eyes.

I also had my third encounter with trail magic today.  About a quarter of the way into my climb, I turned into a view point.  As I did, I looked down and realized I had left my bear spray at the Beauty Creek hostel.  At almost the same time, I heard a woman speaking Russian.  I asked, "Откуда Вы?"  It turned out to be Оля from Ukraine traveling with her husband Сергей and college-age son Гриша.  They asked all about my bike travels.  When I got to my bear spray sob story, they insisted on driving me back to the hostel to retrieve it.  That's trail magic, a miraculous intervention when one scarcely deserves it.

I am checked in for a second night together with Marco.  (We met on the road on Sunday.  He's riding a Brompton folding bike.)  We're at the Rampart Creek hostel.  My "shower" was a fully clothed dip into the creek followed by a dry-off in the hostel's sauna.

In short, this was a very good day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022 -- 4655 km cum - 66 km/day

Another climbing day over Bow Mountain.  Not as scenic as yesterday but still pretty, especially at Bow Lake where I stopped for a beer (!) and a snack.  I'm at the Mosquito Creek hostel tonight, some 24km short of Lake Louise.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022 -- 4719 km cum - 64 km/day

Thursday, September 1, 2022 -- 4831 km cum - 112 km/day

I'm out of the Banff & Kootenay National Parks and back to a 50+ mile day -- in fact 70 miles -- for the first time since Jasper.

On Wednesday I left the Mosquito Creek hostel early and had breakfast at a cafe in Lake Louise village.  (The young man at the counter was Egor', a Ukrainian refugee from Bucha.)  I then rode up the steep hill to Lake Louise itself where the views were impressive despite the crowds of people.  How different it feels to be in a tourist area after spending so much of my summer in the remote north.

I arrived early at the Castle Mountain hostel -- the most luxurious hostel yet with electricity, running water, and laundry -- but the highlight of the day was dinner at the Stone Mountain Lodge with Bakhtiyor and his wife Nargiza.  They drove out specially from Calgary to take me to dinner.  It's hard to believe that fourteen years have passed since Bakhtiyor and I first worked together in Tashkent.  I'm so glad that they emigrated to a better life in Canada.

Today was a sandwich of two mountain passes, Vermillion at the start and Sinclair at the end.  In between was all downhill.  (I took a break for nearly an hour at Vermillion Crossing, where I met a fitness cyclist from Banff who was doing an "out-and-back ride.")  I'm camped tonight at Dry Gulch Provincial Campground just to the east of Radium Hot Springs.  This is my first camping night since Mt. Robson.

It is September 1.  My train reservation from Whitefish is for September 15.  This summer's journey that once seemed, in the good sense, endless, is approaching its end.

Friday, September 2, 2022 -- 4939 km cum - 108 km/day

A hot day with a persistent headwind finds me at the Wasa Lake Provincial Park.  It was a long slog despite an early start and breakfast in Invermere.  Add to this that Rts. 93/95 do not have dramatic scenery.  They are just roads.

That said, this campground has showers, and I was able to buy a single beer.  It's a good end to a long 68-mile day.

Saturday, September 3, 2022 -- 5055 km cum - 116 km/day

I hesitated at doing a third big mileage day in a row, but in fact this turned out to be an easy and downright pleasant day.

The day started with a delightful Lions Club pancake breakfast at Wasa Lake.  John, the ticket seller at the community center entrance, insisted on treating me to breakfast.  I sat and chatted with Dawn and Ivan.  A local singer provided musical entertainment replete with a rendition of "North to Alaska."

The ride itself was not as hilly as I expected and was much more scenic than yesterday's despite a planned burn near Bull Mountain.  Moreover, a wickedly wonderful tailwind pushed me flying up the Elk River valley into Fernie.

I'm checked in at the Raging Elk Hostel in "sleeping pod No. 12."  I'll take my final rest and laundry day here tomorrow before turning south to Montana.  I've already showered and am now enjoying a light dinner and an IPA in the hostel's pub.  This hostel has a pub!  Imagine that!

All in all, this day unexpectedly turned out to be one of my best.

Monday, September 5, 2022 -- 5127 km cum - 72 km/day

Today, unexpectedly, was the easiest riding day of the summer.  I left Fernie shortly after 10 a.m. and was checked into the Travelodge in Blairmore at 2 p.m.  That's forty-five miles in four hours, in part because this was my "Fargo Day," a day fueled by a good tailwind like the one I remember outside Fargo two years ago.  Just how strong is something I realized a few times when curves in the road had me riding into the wind.  It almost seemed a shame to stop riding so early.  However. . . .

There has been a change in my route.  The border crossing on Chief Mountain International Highway is closed.  On Saturday evening I happened to check the Adventure Cycling forums.  It's a good thing I did.  That's how I learned about the closure.  AC has a detour to the crossing at Carway, but it adds some 80 km -- a day's ride -- to the normal route.  And so. . . .

Instead of a 3-day ride into the US, I have a 4-day ride.  If I were willing to do long 70-mile days as I did last week, I could still be there in three, but the ends of the first two riding days would leave me in the middle of nowhere with no campground, hostel, or hotel.  And so, I will enjoy these shorter days and a few cheap motel nights.

Early in today's ride I felt tears welling up.  "Last Time on the Road" is beginning to play in my head.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022 -- 5256 km cum - 129 km/day

Scratch what I wrote about shorter days.  I checked the forecast and saw that rain is predicted to the north of Glacier on Friday.  I do **not** want to attempt to cross Logan Pass in the rain.  And so, I pushed right through Pincher Creek, my intended short destination for today, and kept going a full eighty miles to Cardston, where I'm at the Flamingo, truly a cheap hotel at less than $100 CAD.  The wind was a hindrance, not a help today, but the terrain was almost flat.  This part of Alberta feels like a northern extension of Montana's Hi-Line.  The Icefields of last week are but a memory

I'm only 25km from the border.  Tomorrow I'll be in Montana.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022 -- 5321 km cum - 65 km/day

So close but yet so far.  I am in Montana and in Glacier National Park (GNP) at the Rising Sun campground after a 65km day that left me far more exhausted than yesterday's 129km.  Why?  Wind.  A strong, gusty headwind that at times felt gale force.  This was particularly true from the Canadian border to Babb.  I had to pedal hard **downhill** and push on the flats, not to mention the uphills.  I feel lucky to have made it to Rising Sun.

Tomorrow I cross Logan Pass and end my journey at Lake McDonald.  The weather forecast:  rain.  Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, September 8, 2022 -- 5398 km cum - 77 km/day (Writing on Friday, September 9)

I've done it, surprising myself by pedaling all the way up to Logan Pass.  The climb is easier from Rising Sun that from Apgar, and I had a good tailwind.  Still, this year, unlike in my ride from Apgar in 2020, I was carrying all of my weight.  Forgive me if I say I'm as pleased as punch with myself.

But it was downright freezing at Logan Pass.  I mean that literally.  I overheard a ranger say that it was 32F (0C).  Although the predicted rain did not materialize -- thank goodness -- the tops of the peaks were shrouded in mist.  I quickly changed into warmer clothes, but still I shivered as I ate my celebratory "I climbed Logan" snack.  Unlike two years ago, I did not linger at the pass.  Still concerned that there might be rain or even snow, I knew I needed to get to a lower altitude.  I did not strip off my warmer clothes until I descended most of the way down the Road to the Sun.  Only when I stopped for a second snack at the Lake McDonald Lodge did I truly feel warm.  At long last the sun had come out.

I am camped at the Apgar campground near Apgar village.  Remembering two years ago, I went first to the more distant Fish Creek campground, the only campground that was open in 2020.  On the long climb out of the village to Fish Creek, another cyclist named Dave caught up with me and chatted, also taking one of the few action shots I have of me on WoodsWoman.  Imagine my unpleasant surprise when I reached Fish Creek:  the campground was closed for the season!  If I had paid attention to the various campground directory signs I had passed, I would have known.  And so, I returned to Apgar, arriving as the sun was setting.  Joan, one of the volunteers, checked me in for five nights at $2.50/night, my cheapest camping other than for my free wild camping up north.  Cameron, a cyclist from Chicago, was my company at the hiker/biker for my first night, but he was gone in the morning.  I now have the site to myself.  It feels so different from the overflowing hiker/biker of 2020.  What a difference a month makes.  In 2020 I was here in August.  Now it's September.  And it's "fingers hurt from the cold" chilly in the morning.  Still, what a joy to be in GNP again!  To date, this is my favorite national park.

I'll be here through Monday.  On Tuesday I'll ride over to Whitefish and stay for two nights at the Bicycle Retreat, another reprise from 2020 when I was riding the Northern Tier.

As in 2020 and 2021, I am overcome by the strange mixture of joy, exaltation, and melancholy.  I still have my "after ride" in Maine to come, but this year's journey, the most challenging yet, is coming to its end even as I hold on, not quite willing to let it go.


On Friday I had my closest wildlife encounter yet.  I had gone into West Glacier to do laundry.  I went there by walking on the road.  On the way back as the sun was getting lower, I decided to use the hiker/biker path.  Mistake.  I was talking with John loudly on the telephone when I caught sight of a large elk with a full set of antlers.  It was perhaps 150' ahead of me just off the path.  It was eyeing me and did not look happy.  I stopped.  Then I started to retreat.  I turned to look back several times.  The elk had moved onto the path and was still eyeing me even when I was some distance away.  It clearly did not like having me on "its" territory.  I ended up retreating a long way back and returning to the campground the way I had come, by road.

Sunday, September 11, 2022 -- 5433 km cum - 35 km/day

Monday, September 12, 2022 -- 5445 km cum - 12 km/day

A short but hilly "fun ride" up Camas Road on Sunday was followed today by utilitarian riding to the post office in West Glacier to mail home my Ursack, camp stool, papers, and "just now purchased" souvenirs.  I likely could and even should have mailed more -- e.g., much of my cooking gear -- but that would be yet a greater sign that this summer is ending.  As in 2020 and 2021, I'm holding on.

On Saturday I walked to the campground and picnic area at Fish Creek where I camped in 2020.  Unexpectedly, I experienced a misty-eyed nostalgia for 2020.  It was my first cross-country trip and my first time at Glacier.  There were so many of us at the hiker/biker that year!  This is where I first met Leandro.  Strange that I should feel such nostalgia for a time only two years in the past.

Last night I made my first and only campfire of the summer.  I had good company for the evening in Brendan, a backpacker who had just finished hiking the Continental Divide Trail

Sadly, smoke from forest fires is obscuring the mountain views this year.  Nevertheless, I am so happy that I have been able to return to Glacier and spend a few days here.  May this be not my only return.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022 -- 5499 km cum - 54 km/day

Today's was an easy 34-mile ride over to Whitefish where I am staying at the Bicycle Retreat.  I am the only person here.  It is an appropriately quiet, secluded, "stop above a hostel" accommodation at which to conclude my third summer visit to Montana.

Sigh.  If there was one disappointment at Glacier this year, it was the smoke.  I rose early this morning in hopes of seeing the sunrise over Lake McDonald.  I never glimpsed the sun.  The smoke at the horizon was that thick.

FLASH:  Amtrak has canceled almost all trains west of Chicago due to an imminent threat of a freight rail strike this Friday.  What I do now is something I don't yet know.

Friday, September 16, 2022 -- 5520 km cum - 21 km/day

Whew, the strike was averted.  I have been re-booked on the Empire Builder for Sunday.  If it had not been averted, I was seriously considering riding east on the Northern Tier until the strike ended.  I was even getting excited at the prospect.

The bad news is that the Bicycle Retreat is completely booked for a private event tonight and Saturday.  Thus today's short ride was back to Whitefish where I'm in a "cheap" $200+/night motel.  If I had realized there was a state park with a campground, I would have stayed there.

But in good news, I upgraded from coach to a bedroom on the Empire Builder to Chicago.  Someone must have canceled.  I shudder at the cost, but in this instance I don't care.  This summer's NorthStar adventure deserves a luxury finish.

Saturday, September 17, 2022 -- 5567 km cum - 47 km/day

Today I was weightless.  I mean weightless in the sense that I rode with almost no weight.  My destination was the Walmart in Kalispell to buy a new watch after having ruined my current one by forgetting it was in my pants pocket when I did laundry at the Bicycle Retreat.  With no weight to speak of, I felt I was flying to/from Kalispell up and down rises and, on the way there, into a slight headwind on U.S. 93.  The return was even better on the nearly flat Whitefish Stage Road through scenic farm country under warm, sunny skies.

I celebrated my last day in Montana with a beer and a hot dog with pulled pork at the Piggyback BBQ.  What a good last day in Montana this was.  Tomorrow, to train!

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Robyn's 2022 NorthStar Adventure: Alberta Bound (Missive 7)

NOTE:  This is the seventh missive for Robyn's 2022 NorthStar bike-packing adventure from Deadhorse, Alaska, to Whitefish, Montana. The sixth missive can be found at The eighth missive can be found at

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slideshow of photos from my ride from Kitwanga, BC, to Jasper, AB, can be found at

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Missive No. 7:  Alberta Bound

I have arrived in Jasper, AB, after a week and a half riding east and south on Canada's Yellowhead Highway, aka Highway 16 or the Trans-Canada Highway. Let me start by complaining that this is my least favorite road this summer. Why? Heavy traffic on a two-lane, 100 km/hour road with long sections of deficient shoulder or no shoulder at all does not make for pleasant riding. That traffic includes a large number of logging trucks. I am more than just a little happy that the Trans-Canada Highway is now in my rear view mirror. 

Well, OK, let me soften that to complaining about just the section between Houston and Fraser Lake. That was the worst of it. After Prince George the shoulder is better and traffic is less. Also, crossing the Rockies at Yellowhead Pass is less nerve wracking than the crossing through Marias Pass on U.S. 2 in Montana. Traffic was again heavy there, but the road and shoulder are excellent. Camping with views of Mt. Robson, Canada's highest peak in the Rockies, is another highlight I will long remember from this summer. 

There were perks to riding on Highway 16. In addition to cell signal and towns with food stores, I enjoyed my first two Warm Shower nights, first with Judy and her family in Telkwa and, three nights later, with Jolinka and John near Vanderhoof. Nights with WS hosts are one of the nicest perks of long-distance bike-packing. Good food, excellent conversation, and a warm bed -- not to mention a warm shower -- make for a good night. 

I also had a good, free night at the municipal campground in Fraser Lake where I met Stephanie, a young woman who took an eight month leave of absence from her job in Vermont to drive and tent her way around North America. We splurged together that evening at a Mexican restaurant in town. 

At the Slim River rest stop between Prince George and McBride, we had a veritable bike-packers convention. Camped with me that night were Becca and Rob from the UK. When we awoke in the morning, we found that Ian had joined us during the night as he rides from Florida to Deadhorse. Add to this a second Ian who was traveling in his van and who made french toast for all of us in the morning. Bike-packing doesn't get much better than this. 

I should also mention John and Lisa at the B&B where I stayed in Burns Lake. It turns out that Lisa is herself a bike-packer who has completed many long distance trips. 

Having ridden 573 miles since turning on to Yellowhead Highway, I'm rounding upward and donating $60 in support of independent Russian journalists at TV Dozhd'. Please consider joining me in this support to a talented, brave crew of journalists who continue to report uncensored news in the Russian language. You will find a donation links at Thank you to all who have joined me in supporting Dozhd'! 

How much longer do I have on the road? I estimate 400 miles to go to Whitefish, MT. With a few rest days thrown in, I believe I will be there in about two weeks. My journey is not over, but the end is within sight.

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Daily Log

Saturday, August 13, 2022 -- 3576 km cum - 49 km/day

A short 30-mile day by design in light rain to the 28 Inn in Hazelton.  My birthday rest break has arrived.  Last year I was in Missoula, MT.  Two years ago I was in Sandpoint, ID.  This year I'm in New Hazelton, BC.  I've already done laundry, talked with Matthew and John, and gotten Chiese takeout for dinner.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022 -- 3684 km cum - 108 km/day

Wednesday, August 17, 2022 -- 3812 km cum - 128 km/day

I spent Tuesday night with WarmShower host Judy and her family, and thus I had no time to make an entry.  This was my first WS night of the summer.  Tuesday's km/day was actually only about 91 km; the 108 listed above includes 17 km of my fun ride to/from Old Hazelton on Sunday.  My WS night with Judy's family was relaxing and restful.

Today's distance was actually only about 122 km.  I'm not sure where the extra 6 km came from.  Tonight I'm at a very nice but not that expensive B&B in Burns Lake.

Rt. 26 -- aka the Yellowhead Highway -- is my least favorite road this summer.  Traffic is heavy, and the shoulder is deficient at best.  It's not a fun road to ride on.

Thursday, August 18, 2022 -- 3884 km cum - 72 km/day

This was a short day by design to the *free* municipal campground in Fraser Lake.  I had dinner at a Mexican restaurant with Stephanie, a young woman from Montpelier, VT, who is doing an eight month driving/camping trip all over North America.

Friday, August 19, 2022 -- 3955 km cum - 71 km/day

A second easy 45-mile day to Vanderhoof, "the geographic center of BC," where I am spending a WS night in Jolinka and John's guest cabin.

It was two months ago today that I set out from Deadhorse.  My NorthStar adventure has miles yet to go, but it is nearer its end than its start.

Saturday, August 20, 2022 -- 4063 km cum - 108 km/day

Back to a "normal" day, some 68 miles from Judy and John's to the Econo Lodge in Prince George, my first actual city since Whitehorse.  I'll take a rest/laundry day here tomorrow.

I am so glad I stayed with Jolinka and John last night.  We had a long breakfast together this morning on their back porch.  Retired, they have lived internationally in Africa and, of all places, in Hamden, CT.  Like Judy a couple days earlier, they are of Dutch extraction.

Monday, August 22, 2022 -- 4185 km cum - 122 km/day

This was an excellent 76-mile day from Prince George to the Slim Creek rest area where I am camped with Becca and Rob, two British E-W cross-country bike-packers.  They started from Cape Breton Island.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022 -- 4275 km cum - 90 km/day

I was within a kilometer of the McBride RV Park and Campground when I saw a Travelodge.  It was nearly 6 p.m..  I caved for a motel night.  I expect it may my last motel night for some time.

My caving was due in part to my latest start yet, nearly noon, and significant climbs as I approach the Canadian Rockies.

My late start, in turn, was due to the best camping morning I have had this summer,  Ian, our neighbor in a camping van, made breakfast for Becca, Rob, and me.  What a morning delight to have a breakfast of french toast, bacon, and real maple syrup!  Also with us was another bike-packer -- also an Ian -- who had arrived late in the evening.  (He is riding Florida to Deadhorse.)  In short, it was a l-o-n-g morning in the best sense of good food, good conversations, and heartfelt goodbyes with best wishes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022 -- 4356 km cum - 81 km/day

Today's was a lovely 50-mile ride that finds me at the Mt. Robson Meadows campground.  For once I had a good early start before 9 a.m..  I arrived at the campground by 3 p.m. even with time out for photos and a walk to falls where I actually saw salmon jumping upstream.  I'm showered (!) and warming dinner, and it's only 6 p.m.

BTW and FWIW, this BC campground is not cheap: $28 fixed price even for a bike-packer like me.  It does, however, have potable water and showers.  Civilization!

Thursday, August 25, 2022 -- 4445 km cum - 89 km/day

Arrived Jasper, AB, and entered MDT late this afternoon after a leisurely morning at the Mt. Robson campground and an easier ride than I expected over Yellowhead Pass.  Jasper is a resort town, and I consider myself lucky to have gotten bed K8 at the Jasper Downtown Hostel for three nights.  I'll have two full days in this resort town.  Imagine that!

Two young-ish bike-packing guys passed me at a good clip after I crossed into AB.  I was going to let it pass as I watched them pull further and further ahead.  But then I thought, "I wonder?"  I caught up with and rode with them the rest of the way into Jasper.  Seems this 68-year-old grandmother can keep up with young guys from Montreal after all.

Saturday, August 27, 2022 -- 4445 km cum - 0 km/day

I'm sitting in the Bears Paw Cafe with coffee and a bagel on this, my second day off.  I'm looking out at the mountains shrouded in mist.  Rain moved through overnight, and it has turned cooler.  This is not a day for shorts.  As in Astana, fall in Jasper reminds one of its imminence by mid-August.

I'm enjoying my days off by doing the necessary:  resting and doing laundry.  My greatest physical activity has been some strolls around town.  Jasper is situated in a bowl and is surrounded by mountains.  It's "Sound of Music" beautiful here.

Alina, my waitress at breakfast yesterday morning, is an evacuee from Ukraine.  Canada seems to be doing so much more than the U.S. to aid Ukrainian refugees.

Tomorrow I start down the Ice Fields Highway.  I estimate about 700 km (~400 miles) to go.  There are challenges to come in the remaining days, but the end of this summer's journey is approaching.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Robyn's 2022 NorthStar Adventure: Cassiar Highway Trail Magic (Missive 6)

NOTE:  This is the sixth missive for Robyn's 2022 NorthStar bike-packing adventure from Deadhorse, Alaska, to Whitefish, Montana. The fourth and fifth missives can be found at The seventh missive can be found at

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slideshow of photos from my ride from Watson Lake, YT, to Kitwanga, BC, can be found at

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Missive No. 6:  Cassiar Highway Trail Magic

On August 4 I turned off the AlCan and started south on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. For the next 723 km (452 miles) until I reached the highway's southern terminus in Kitwanga, I fell off the grid of cell phone service and Internet. As surely as when I was on the Dalton Highway in Alaska and Top of the World Highway in the Yukon, the Cassiar provided challenges, spectacular mountain scenery, and a touch of trail magic at both ends. 

 Trail magic? It's a term backpackers and bike-packers use to describe something that appears "like magic" just when it's needed. Trail magic came to my rescue at the start of my first day. I had set out from Watson Lake on the AlCan to the intersection with the Cassiar. Only a kilometer or so from the intersection, my front derailleur cable broke. I was in shock. I had not had a derailleur cable snap since my days of winter commuting in snow and corrosive salt some 20+ years ago. Corrosive salt? Then I remembered the equally corrosive calcium chloride used to treat the Dalton Highway. Could that have been the cause? 

I did not have a spare with me. In all the weight I am carrying that includes things like spare spokes, I had not brought a spare derailleur cable. Why not? Because I had used my last derailleur cables when I replaced my shift levers just before leaving Maine. It crossed my mind then that I should carry a spare, but I was out of time. Surely a brand new cable could be relied on for one summer of service? 

So there I was in the proverbial middle of nowhere with a now non-functional front derailleur. I used my tools to adjust the derailleur manually so that the chain would stay in the middle chainring. I grimaced at the thought of 450+ miles and the many hills up which I would have to push WoodsWoman, but I had little other choice. I turned on to the Cassiar Highway. 

Just a few, perhaps five kilometers later, I came to the border with British Columbia. I pulled off the highway to read the roadside exhibit signs. I scarcely had stopped when a northbound cyclist pulled over also. With hardly a hello, I cut to the chase and asked if he had a spare derailleur cable. He did. He got it out and gave it to me. This northbound cyclist was my trail angel that day. Within minutes I had installed the new cable and was on my way. Without this trail magic, the following days would have been far more difficult. (I'm usually good at getting people's names, but this is one instance, of all times, that I failed. In the photos you will see my trail angel as the young man wearing a red helmet covered with mosquito netting.) 

That first day I rode under a beautiful sunny sky and camped at Boya Lake. The next day, however, dark clouds moved in, and a strong headwind kicked up. I called it a day at the Cotton River rest area. With rain pouring down, I assembled my tent inside the pit toilet and then hurriedly staked it down in a clearing before blowing rain could get inside. I cooked dinner under the pit toilet overhang. In the morning I prepared breakfast in the rain and packed up a wet tent.

The sun came out intermittently that day, but I arrived in Dease Lake in a light rain. There stood a motel, and it had a vacancy. I grabbed it. 

Rain, rain, and more rain. It had seemed to rain every other day since I entered Canada. Would it ever end? 

Fortunately for me, it did. After Dease Lake I had nothing but blue skies all the way to the southern end of the Cassiar. I took a room at the Red Goat Lodge on my first night after Dease Lake for a simple reason: it was there. After that I wild camped for three nights on a long stretch of highway that does not have tourist services of any kind. 

It might have been wild camping, but it came with unexpected comforts. At the Bell I rest area, I was the dinner guest of Masud and Salma from Portland, OR. I enjoyed a good evening of warmth and conversation in the comfort of their RV, and we had a long goodbye in the morning. The next night at Bonus Lake I camped next to Maury and Rob, two motorcycle tourists from Terrance, BC. In the morning they set up their camp shower so I could wash my hair. That warm water and shampoo, biodegradable of course, felt downright luxurious. 

As I pulled out from Bonus Lake that morning, Hugo and Alicia, two cyclists from France, were passing by on their way to Argentina. With Montana as my end point, I'm modest by comparison. We leapfrogged each other that day and met again in Kitwanga the next morning. 

Somewhere between Cotton River and Bonus Lake, the vegetation around me changed. My eyes were frequently looking upward at the Cassiar Mountains and later at the Coastal Mountains to my west, but a moment came when I realized the trees around me were no longer those of a northern forest. More and more deciduous trees had appeared. My surroundings now had more in common with New England than with the tundra of the Dalton Highway's coastal plain or the boreal forest south of Atigan Pass. 

It was in Kitwanga at the southern end of the Cassiar that trail magic struck again. There is a diner at the intersection with the Yellowhead Highway, aka Highway 16 or the Trans-Canada Highway. I had scarcely leaned WoodsWoman against a wall when I heard a voice exclaim, "That's a Rivendell Atlantis!" The voice belonged to Greg, a bicycle mechanic who is living a van life as he travels all around the North American continent. It's rare that anyone recognizes a Rivendell. Anyone who does is serious about bicycles. Greg is exactly that. 

I told Greg my derailleur story. As it happens, I had wrapped many feet of excess cable around my seat tube because neither I nor my trail angel had a cable cutter. Greg got his tools, cut the excess, capped the cable, and gave me a spare "just in case." 

That is the story of my week and a half on the Cassiar Highway. I spent my last night in the RV park in Kitwanga. The next morning I turned east in the Trans-Canada Highway. After so many weeks off the grid on remote roads, I am back in the land of cell phone signals, frequent towns, food stores, restaurants, and cafes. I'm taking two rest days at an inexpensive motel in New Hazelton, BC. After all, according to my birth certificate, August 15 is my birthday. Time to sleep in a real bed for a couple of nights. 

Being "off the grid" for so much of the past two months has brought home to me even more strongly how little one misses when one does not have Internet access. I just spent a half hour deleting accumulated e-mails. Only 3-5 e-mails in the course of a week and a half had any importance. 

In tandem, I have come to appreciate quiet and solitude even more than I did already. I've told my tale of woe of camping in the rain and cooking dinner under the overhang of a pit toilet. Let me now add that I enjoyed my dinner that night as I listened to the rain falling all around me. 

Lest you think that I turned totally quiet while riding the Cassiar, let me disabuse you of that thought. Music makes hill climbing much easier. This was show music week on my mp3 player, and I was singing along with much if it. I've been through "Company," "Man of La Mancha," "Damn Yankees," "Godspell," "The Golden Apple," "The Fantasticks," and many others. "The Impossible Dream" is a perfect accompaniment to climbing hills into a headwind. My singing voice may have helped scare the bears away. For the entire length of the Cassiar, I saw only two small black bears.

Having ridden 482 miles since Watson Lake, I'm rounding upward and donating $50 in support of independent Russian journalists at TV Dozhd'. Please consider joining me in this support to a talented, brave crew of journalists who continue to report uncensored news in the Russian language. You can find donation links at . Thank you to all who have joined me in supporting Dozhd'! 

Do I have a rain song for the week? Of course I do. This one is from "The Fantasticks:" .

How much longer do I have on the road? I'm not riding to a schedule, but I'll hazard that I'll reach Whitefish, MT, about a month from now. I'll write again from Jasper, after which I'll turn south through Canada's national parks and reenter the US at or near Glacier National Park. At least that's my plan such as I have a plan.

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Daily Log

Thursday, August 4, 2022 -- 2868 km cum - 113 km/day

A good 70-mile day from Watson Lake to the Boya Lake campground on the Cassiar Highway, but it came with drama.  For the first time I can recall this century, I had a front derailleur cable snap on me.  Was it the calcium chloride on the Dalton Highway that did it?  The rain?  Or both?  I don't know, but it broke right at the derailleur.  And I had not brought a spare with me.

The break happened just before the turn onto the Cassiar Highway and just after I had spent ten minutes chatting with Mary and Burt, two Florida cyclists traveling from Deadhorse to South America.  The only thing I could do was fix the derailleur to the middle chainring and go on.

Trail magic happened less than twenty minutes later in the person of a young Vancouver cyclist traveling north on the Cassiar.  He had a spare cable and gave it to me.  Without him, my next several hundred miles would have been that much harder.  Trail magic happened today, and I hate to say that I don't even remember my trail angel's name.

Friday, August 5, 2022 -- 2929 km cum - 61 km/day

Headwind and rain.  That's why this was a short day.  The morning's warm sun gave way to rain and wind in the early afternoon.  I'm camped in the rain at the Cotton River rest area.  I set up the tent inside the pit toilet and then carried it outdoors and staked it as quickly as I could.  I'm warming dinner under the overhang of the pit toilet.

My only really good news of the day is that I used a pay phone in Jade City to call ahead and reserve a motel room at Dease Lake for tomorrow and Sunday night.  After a day like today, I already need a rest day.

Saturday, August 6, 2022 -- 3024 km cum - 95 km/day (writing on Suday the 7th)

It rained most of the night.  I packed up the wet tent and prepared breakfast under the pit toilet overhang.  By the time I was done, the rain had stopped, and the sun was coming out.  Hurray!  And the wind had died down.  Double hurray!

Thus the first 2/3 of the ride down to Dease Lake was wonderful.  I got to enjoy the Cassiar Montain scenery that was obscured in the rain and mist the previous day.  But it didn't last.  As I took my rest stop at the 40-mile point, the clouds thickened, and the rain returned.  So did the wind.  Thus for the last twenty miles of the 60-mile day, I was in my rain gear again.

I am **so** happy that I used the pay phone in Jade City and called ahead to reserve a room at the Northway Inn.  Taking a shower after the previous night's wild camping was deliciously sweet.  So was the bed.  Today's tasks are laundry and drying out the tent.

Monday, August 8, 2022 -- 3112 km cum - 88 km/day

A shorter day than I expected due to hills -- mainly after the Stikine River -- and lots of roadwork, in particular as I got close to Iskut.  There was so much loose gravel that I couldn't ride through much of this stretch.  I had to walk WoodsWoman **downhill**.  I had thought I would go twenty miles further, but when I saw the Red Goat Inn and that it was already 5 p.m., i grabbed the moment.  I even have a simple room for the night, although I did have to cook dinner on my camp stove.

So yes, the day was shorter than I expected, but it was a good day nonetheless.  Most of all, there was no rain :) .

Tuesday, August 9, 2022 -- 3221 km cum - 109 km/day

A solid 68-mile day in good weather (and headwind) to the rest area by the Bob Quinn landing strip.  I think this is the first night in this entire trip that my camping site is sufficiently non-buggy for me to wipe myself off and change clothes before sitting down for dinner.  I feel so much better just being semi-clean on a camping night for once!

At a rest stop along the way I met a retired couple from Tucson.  They sometimes go to lunch at the Voyager!  I'll have to tell Mary and Bill.  Also -- Twilight Zone moment -- they knew Laurie and Ray Meininger.  I'll have to tell Nat.

Today's good day should allow me to do a shorter day tomorrow and enjoy a meal at the Bell II coffee shop.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022 -- 3329 km cum - 108 km/day

Thursday, August 11, 2022 -- 3437 km cum - 108 km/day

Three almost carbon copy 67-68 mile days in a row.  Amazing.  I'm camped tonight at "Bonus Lake."  There is a picnic table, but that's the only amenity that raises this above a wild camping site.  Motorcyclists Rob and Maury were already here when I arrived.  Father-daughter pair Martin and Nalene arrived later.

I didn't write yesterday because I was the evening RV guest of Massoud and Asalem, a doctor with his activist wife.  Living in Portland, OR, they are of Pakistani heritage.  I spent a wonderful evening in the glow of their hospitality at the Bell I rest area.

Friday, August 12, 2022 -- 3527 km cum - 90 km/day

The ride down to Kitwanga was one of the easiest in some time because, well, it was more down than up, in particular the last 10 km.  I was at the intersection of the Cassiar and Yellowhead Highways by 4 p.m., and that's where the thought of going further fell apart.

It started in the good sense with Greg, a bicycle mechanic living the van life.  He saw me roll up to the store at the highway intersection and exclaimed, "That's a Rivendell Atlantis!"  I was happily shocked that anyone would know an Atlantis from the sight of someone riding it up to a convenience store.  We talked for I don't know how long.  He snipped off my excess front derailleur cable, capped it, and gave me a spare.  Trail magic again!

Then I went into the convenience store, bought drinks and pizza, and settled down with my cell phone that had a signal for the first time since Whitehorse.  My first order of business was to reserve a hotel room in Smithers for three nights starting tomorrow.  There were none to be had.  Every hotel is fully booked.  Apparently there is a golf tournament in town.  In despair, I reserved a room in nearer Hazelton instead.  I started down Highway 16 with the idea of camping at the provincial park just short of Hazelton and then moving to the hotel tomorrow.

Then common sense kicked in.  It was already 6 p.m..  There was a headwind.  I backtracked to the RV park in Kitwanga instead.  I'm glad I did.  The forecast is for rain overnight, and I have set up my tent under a gazebo.  I've showered, and I have a load in the wash.

I had a good time with Maury and Rob this morning at Bonus Lake.  Rob even set up their solar shower so I could wash my hair.

As I was leaving Bonus Lake, I met Alicia and Hugo, two bikepackers from France.  To my own surprise, I quickly passed them and never saw them again.  Although young, they were riding mountain bikes with wide mountain bike tires.  My passing them was a clear demonstration of rolling resistance at work.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Robyn's 2022 NorthStar Adventure: Riding the Klondike & AlCan Entracte (Missives 4&5)

NOTE:  These are the fourth and fifth missives for Robyn's 2022 NorthStar bike-packing adventure from Deadhorse, Alaska, to Whitefish, Montana. The third missive can be found at The sixth missive can be found at

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slideshow of photos from my ride from Dawson City to Watson Lake, YT, can be found at .

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Missive No. 4:  Riding the Klondike

I've spent a week and a half in the Klondike, but alas, I did not strike it rich with gold. If, however, we measure not by gold but by mud and rain, then I am rich indeed for that is the story of my ride down the Klondike Highway from Dawson City to Whitehorse. 

It has rained every other day since I climbed the Taylor Highway in Alaska. Twice I've been in tremendous downpours, and other times I've just been in steady rain or drizzle. I have fully justified carrying my rain gear that during my first three weeks seemed to be nothing more than dead weight. It feels that I have now ridden in more rain on this trip than during the past two summers combined. 

The sky was sunny and the road flat as I rode out of Dawson City a week ago Tuesday. I had no intent of a big day on this, my first post-COVID return to the road. The ride turned hillier after the first thirty miles, but the sky remained clear and sunny. I made camp at a pull-out by Gravelly Lake just across the road from a group of 30+ riders on a fully supported tour. (I introduced myself and would have camped with them but for my fear that I might have infected one or more of them.). The lakeside sunset was gorgeous. 

I sensed the rain overnight in my sleep and woke to a steady rain in the morning. I had remained dry in the tent, but a few spots on the tent floor were wet from puddles that had formed underneath. I hadn't been thinking of rain when I pitched the tent in the evening and could have chosen a better spot. I got up, prepared and ate breakfast in the rain, packed up my wet tent, and set forth in the rain that lasted the whole day. 

Then there was the mud. Three sections of the Klondike Highway are being worked on by road crews during the short Yukon summer. I had gone through two of them my first day, transported by pilot trucks with WoodsWoman loaded in the back. The roadwork section on this second day was significantly longer, and I had to ride through most of it in mud that got thicker and more slippery as I went. Both WoodsWoman and I were caked in mud by the time I got to the end of the construction. Right where the roadwork ended there was a campground and also the rustic Moose Creek Lodge. My choice was clear. I wiped my feet as best I could and stepped into the lodge and blurted out to the first person I saw, "Please, I really don't want to camp tonight. Do you have a room available?" 

The woman to whom I pleaded was Marie Clare. She was my savior that evening. Yes, there was one last cabin available. She checked me in, showed me to the cabin and to the showers, and to an enclosed shelter where I could set up my wet tent to dry out. Later, after I had showered and changed into dry clothes, she cooked a simple dinner that at the end of that day felt like a feast. Her breakfast the next morning after I had had a good night's sleep in a warm bed was my fuel for the next day's ride. 

I needed it! Sunny skies had returned but a headwind had picked up. I hoped to make it 60 miles to the campground at Pelly Crossing, but the headwind and some significant climbs soon convinced me I'd never make it that far. Surely I would have to wild camp at the side of the road. 

But then fate smiled on me. The highway reached a plateau, leveled out, and sooI've been on the Top of the World. I even wild camped there for a night. n started to descend. I reached the Pelly Crossing campground at 7 p.m. 

When I rolled into the campground, there sat Michael, the Australian-American bike-packer I had met in Dawson City. He left Dawson after me but had caught up and passed me as I enjoyed my indoor night at Moose Creek Lodge. We camped together and compared notes into the evening. 

As anyone who truly knows me will confirm, I am not a morning person. Michael was on the road long before me in the morning as I lingered over breakfast and coffee. It was 11:15 a.m. when I finally got going. 

The rain started some fifteen minutes later. I pulled off the road and donned my rain gear. At least it wasn't a heavy rain, just steady. The hills and valleys I passed through were heavy with mist. Then out of the mist I saw a cyclist going the other way who had stopped to admire one of the misty valley views. I pulled over to chat. His name was Julian, and he already knew me by name. Michael had pre-introduced me! An hour or so later another northbound cyclist yelled out, "Hello, Robyn!" Michael's kindness in pre-introducing me warmed my way through the chilly rain. 

As the day wore on, fate smiled again. The rain stopped, and a few rays of sun appeared. I pulled off the road, stripped off the rain gear, and changed into dry clothes. I reached Carmacks at 8 p.m. I saw both the campground and a motel. My choice was clear. Out came the credit card. "Give me three nights," I asked. After four post-COVID days of riding, two of them in the rain, I was already in need of a break. (Also, I needed to pick up my next and last food box from the Carmacks post office that is only open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.) 

Were there moments when I had "Why am I doing this" thoughts? Of course there were. In my working years I bicycle commuted through rain, snow, and even ice storms. In retirement I swore I would be a fair weather cyclist only. I also decided to take up long distance bike-packing. When traveling this way, do I have any control over the weather? I do not. I am going to be rained on some days and complain of my muddy, rainy misery. 

But then I am going to enjoy the comforts of a luxury night in a warm bed and the kindness of people like Marie Clare and my bike-packing compatriot Michael. And I am always mindful that one reason I travel this way is to get a glimpse of how different travel was for the pioneers of the American West or the gold rush sourdoughs of Alaska and the Yukon Territory. To them WoodsWoman would seem like a welcome technological gift from the future. As I grumble through the rain, I am humbled to think how much harder travel was for them. 

I also remember that I have dedicated this summer's travel to TV Dozhd'. Translated, that's TV Rain. Of course I should have expected rain! More than that, TV Rain styles itself as "the optimistic channel." Even as I grumble, I remember that the channel's founder Natalya Sindeeva chose the station's name because rain makes her smile, makes her feel optimistic. (If you would like to join me in supporting TV Dozhd'this support, you can find the donation link at 

The remainder of my ride down to Whitehorse was under sunny skies even if a persistent headwind continued to slow me. On Monday night I had a beautiful camping spot at a territorial campground on Fox Lake. On Tuesday the amount of automotive traffic increased as I got closer to Whitehorse. At 4 p.m. I rolled into a real city for the first time since Fairbanks. 

City? With a population in the vicinity of 28,000, Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon is only slightly smaller than Bangor, ME. The Yukon Territory as a whole has only about 40,000 people. Think of the population of Bangor and vicinity spread over a territory five times larger than Maine, and you will have a sense of just how unpopulated the Yukon is, especially given that 3/4 of the population lives in or near Whitehorse. 

My first stop after rolling into Whitehorse was a pub on Main Street for pizza and a beer. From there I rolled over to the Beez Kneez Bakpakers Hostel. This would be my home for the next three nights, the first two in an upper dormitory bunk and the third in a mini-cabin. Sarah, the owner, is a certified Yukon outback guide, and my cohabitants included outdoor adventurers from the US, Germany, and Paraguay in addition to Canada. 

Unlike my rest break in Carmacks, Whitehorse has been busy-time for me. On my first day I replaced my bicycle chain and cleaned/degreased WoodsWoman as best I could. At the local outdoors store I purchased an Ursack Bear Bag to replace the heavy Bear Vault that I've been carrying, after which I had the good fortune of selling the Bear Vault to a young man at the local bike shop where I also bought a new pair of shoes. So far my shoes constitute the only equipment failure of this trip. The sole of the right shoe had been separating from the top, and the stop-gap repair I attempted using epoxy when I was in Dawson City clearly was just that, a stop-gap. 

My other big task was to get my hair cut. My head had felt like a tangled dust mop all along the Dalton and Top of the World Highways. The impossibility of washing my hair for a week or more at a time told me clearly that, shorter is better. 

Whitehorse and, for that matter, all of Yukon Territory have more of an international feeling to them than my part of Maine. This ties in with my haircut story because Farah, the hairdresser I happily stumbled upon, is from Tajikistan! We switched to conversing in Russian as I luxuriated in having my hair washed and cut. Спасибо Вам, Фара! 

That concludes my Klondike story. Tomorrow I roll east along the AlCan. This will, in its way, be an interlude that takes me to Watson Lake, after which I will turn my eyes southward again.
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Missive No. 5:  AlCan Entracte

274 miles from Whitehorse to Watson Lake in four days -- this was my AlCan Entracte. One of those days was an 88 mile day. How was I finally able to cover distances typical of what I was used to on the Northern Tier in 2020 and the TransAm in 2021? The answer is threefold. 

First comes the AlCan itself. Not much more than a muddy track when the U.S. military cut it through the wilderness in the early days of World War II, today it is a two-lane paved road in this southern Yukon stretch of rolling hills. (Interestingly, the Canadian government opposed construction of the AlCan prior to the war out of concern that it would lead to U.S. dominance in the Canadian North.). As an analog for my Maine friends, it's not too different from U.S. 2 north of Old Town. In short, it's an easy road for a bicyclist to ride on. 

Second was my choice of accommodation.. Although I camped on my first night out of Whitehorse, I got a simple room in Teslin and a modular motel room halfway between there and Watson Lake. Unlike almost every other road I've been this summer, the AlCan has facilities for tourists every 50 miles or so. After all my wild camping further north, I indulged my urge for a diner meal, shower, and bed at the end of the day. That choice alone increases my potential distance for the day by at least 30 miles. Without the overhead of camping, I can go that much further. 

Third, there is nothing in particular between Whitehorse and Watson Lake that would cause one to linger. Although scenic, it's a destination-directed stretch of road. 

To all of this I'll add that it rained on two of the four days as attack mosquitoes moved in for blood whenever my speed dropped below 10 km/hour. There was every reason to keep moving. 

And this was a good week! Seriously. I arrived in Watson Lake in an upbeat mood ready for a rest day. As usual, my prime task is laundry. On an equal footing comes food inventory and restocking for yes, tomorrow I leave the AlCan for the remote Cassiar Highway that will lead me south through the mountains of British Columbia. I will be back to camping and my own cooking for at least a week and a half until I reach the town of Smithers at the southern end. 

I did have a serious "only myself to blame" OOPS moment when I arrived in Walton Lake. Having spent my last Canadian dollar the previous day, I headed to an ATM only to discover that my ATM card from Penobscot Federal Credit Union had expired on July 31. Although I am good about checking my credit cards before travel, it had never occurred to me that ATM cards have expiration dates. The expiration date of 7/22 was there, however, stamped on the front. I had never seen it. 

A phone call to credit union was particularly unhelpful. I'll find my new ATM waiting for me in my held mail when I get home to Maine. That's all the credid union representative could offer. Western Union and MoneyGram turned out to be useless as alternatives in this part of Yukon. 

To the rescue came American Express. "Don't leave home without it." Of the four ATMs in Watson Lake, there was one that accepts AMEX. I have a means of accessing cash for the remainder of my travels, albeit with a hefty service fee and interest rate. I won't complain. Once I'm on the Cassiar Highway, I'm certain that any facilities I find will be cash only.

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Daily Log

Tuesday, July 19, 2022 -- 1851 km cum - 88 km/day

I'm finally back riding after my COVID interlude in Dawson City.  I feel well, in fact quite normal despite still being COVID positive, but I took it easy today to be on the safe side.  I didn't leave Dawson until 12:30 p.m.  Tonight I'm camped on Gravelly Lake.  There is a large group with TDA Cycling on the other side of the road, but I'm on this side due to my COVID.  They are just off the Dempster Highway and are headed south.

I should mention my neighbors at The Bunkhouse in Dawson City.  I was in #6.  Jane, a solo traveler, was in #7.  Michael, a solo bike-packer doing a route similar to mine, was in #8.  He also had COVID and sat out a week in Delta Junction.  He likely will catch and pass me tomorrow.  He's a dual U.S.-Australian citizen and has done extensive bike-packing worldwide.

And so, I'm on the road and moving again, albeit tentatively, after my unexpected COVID delay in Dawson City.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022 -- 1906 km cum - 55 km/day

Rain, rain, rain.  And mud.  I've taken a bare-bones cabin for the night at Moose Lodge.  It rained most of last night.  I had to pack up the tent wet.  It rained through the entirety of my ride.  It feels as though I have experienced more rain since Tok than I did in my 2020 and 2021 bike-packing trips combined.

Mud.  I've had to go through three construction zones, riding some of the distances and loaded into pilot trucks for the rest.  I'm actually further from Dawson  -- about 100 miles -- than my ride distance indicates.

Moose Creek Lodge seems to be owned by a French Canadian family.  Marie Claire has been very sweet in getting me settled and in preparing a warm meal.  Showered and with a full stomach, I now look at the day more positively than I did two hours ago.

Thursday, July 21, 2022 -- 2002 km cum - 96 km/day

This day had a good start, a not-so-good middle, but a good ending.  Starting with the latter, I'm at the Pelly Crossing campground next to Michael, my Dawson neighbor, at the end of a 60-mile day that I did not think could happen.

The good start was with Marie Claire and the other good folks at Moose Creek Lodge.  I slept beautifully, got everything dry, ate a wonderful breakfast, and set forth under sunny skies . . . into hills and a stiff headwind.  The hills were particularly bad after Stewart Crossing.  At most, I thought, I'll go forty miles.  But then the long climbs came to an end, and I kept going.  When I rolled into Pelly Crossing campground, there sat Michael who had gotten here two hours before me.  After a good black beans and rice dinner, I can say that what seemed a tentative day at best has ended very well.

Friday, July 22, 2022 -- 2110 km cum - 108 km/day (writing on Saturday the 22nd)

This was my second best mileage day of the summer so far, a good 68 miles in the rain from Pelly Crossing to Carmacks where I am enjoying luxury in the Carmacks Hotel.  In fact, it will be two rest days insofar as the post office won't be open until Monday.  My final food box should be waiting for me there.  I could just abandon it, but truth be told, I need the rest.  Between COVID and rain, these have not be an easy couple of weeks.

Friday's rain was not as bad as Wednesday's,and fortunately it ended before I reached Carmacks.  Michael left well before I did -- no surprise that -- and did me the service of introducing me in advance to Julian and Alisher, two northbound cyclists.  The latter even called out out "Robyn!" when he saw me coming.  

When the rain stopped, I pulled off the road and stripped to change into drier clothes.  I am glad now that I carried rain gear this summer.  Back on the Dalton Highway, I was beginning to wonder why I was lugging it.

Monday, July 25, 2022 -- 2220 km cum - 110 km/day

This was a good day after a restful weekend.  The sun shone, the scenery was nice, and the road was rolling with no big climbs.  I can't say it was easy, however, because there was a strong headwind that only abated slightly near the end.

At the 75 km mark, I had a good break for soup at Brae Burn Lodge.  Tonight I'm camped at a beautiful spot in an **official** territorial campground by Fox Lake.  It's nice to feel that I am returning slowly to civilization.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022 -- 2292 km cum - 72 km/day

I arrived in Whitehorse at 4:45 p.m. after an easy 45-mile ride despite the continuing strange wind that doesn't seem to know what direction it wants to come from.  Once I turned from the Klondike Highway to the AlCan, I felt myself to be in a populated area for the first time since Fairbanks.  There was even traffic!

As I write, I sit in "The Dirty Northern Bastard," a pub that apparently got its name from a D. H. Lawrence story.  I'm enjoying a beer and waiting for a pizza.  From here I will head to the nearby "Beez Kneez Hostel," my home for the next three nights.

Wow, I'm in a city!  Well, let's make that a good size town even if it is the capital of Yukon Territory.  The population of Whitehorse about 75% that of Bangor, which to my mind is more a big town than a city.

Friday, July 29, 2022 -- 2447 km cum - 125 km/day

Actually, from the top of Two Mile Hill in Whitehorse to the campground on Squanga Lake was only 110 km.  The other 15 km were over the past two days in and about town in Whitehorse.  Still, today was a solid and not difficult day on the AlCan.  I didn't start off from the top of Two Mile Hill until sometime after noon and was at the campground before 7 p.m..

Wednesday was a big "to do list" day.  I washed WoodsWoman and replaced her chain.  I bought an "Ursack" bear-resistant bag at the outdoor store and then had the good fortune of selling the Bear Vault for $50 Canadian to Rob at the bike store.

I also got my hair cut by Farah.  Of all things, she is Tajik from Dushanbe!  Мы разговаривали исключительно на русском.

At the Beez Kneez I got to like Sarah, the owner.  I slept on a top bunk in the dorm room the first two nights and in one of the small cabins the third.  At the hostel I also met:

-- Andrea, who was heading out on a 14-day river trip
-- Elyse, a Mainer (!) who is relocating to Alaska
-- Bob, a retired army captain who is doing a multi-month road trip

In short, the hostel was a wonderful experience!

Saturday, July 30, 2022 -- 1489 km cum - 72 km/day

A shorter day by design to Teslin and Nisultan Bay Bridge, where I was able to get a cheap room for the night with shared batch.  I had dinner with my neighbors Rob and Connor, young men working for a geologic survey company.

The coming days are likely to be long with nights of primitive camping.  That's an extra reason to enjoy this night with a roof over my head.

Sunday, July 31, 2022 -- 2626 km cum - 127 km/day

This was an excellent 78-mile day from Teslin to the Continental Divide Lodge that's located just shy of mid-way from Teslin to Watson Lake.  I called from Teslin to secure a motel room here for the night in light of a forecast of a 97% chance of rain.  As the day worked out, however, the rain only started when I was about twenty miles from the lodge.  The rain was light, and it ended before I arrived.  After all my wild camping and rainy days, I make no apologies.  It's nice to sleep indoors when there is an opportunity.  Plus I can ride further.  I was underway from Teslin at 9:15 a.m., nearly a record early start for me this summer.

Almost exactly at the halfway point today, I met Jill and Damian (?) from Vancouver.  Once again, Michael had pre-introduced me.  Seems he is only a day or so ahead of me.

There is a group of Austin-to-Anchorage cyclists camped here tonight.  Their ride is collecting funds for the fight against cancer.

Monday, August 1, 2022 -- 2755 km cum - 139 km/day

This was another excellent day, 87 miles to Watson Lake under a light rain for much of the afternoon.  I had expected the Whitehorse to Watson Lake ride to take five days, but I did it in four.  Выполнила пятидневку за четыре дня!  Ура, ура, ура!  I'm celebrating by checking into a cheap motel for three nights.  It has satellite TV!  I haven't seen television since Fairbanks.

One piece of unexpected bad news:  the expiration date on my ATM card was 7/31.  I found out when I tried to get cash from an ATM.  There goes a significant chunk of tomorrow as I try to find a workaround.