We were thrilled to be leaving the Paxsom Lodge. We had one good climb to the top of the Richardson Highway, and then it would be basically 80 miles down the other side. Woohoo! As we climbed higher and higher, several things were apparent. First, a swarm of flies can keep up with a cyclist going 4.5 to 5mph! They weren’t biting…just annoying! More annoying because they seemed more interested in me than Roland, who was 15 feet behind me!
Second, it was getting prettier and prettier. The hills on each side of the road were turning beautiful shades of orange and red, the sun was shining and all was good with the world. It truly was inspiring!
As we reached the top, we could see it was raining in the distance. We could see Summit Lake approaching on our left. This calm lake stretched for about 5-6 miles across the plateau at the top, with the beautiful red and orange hills on either side. The Alaskan Range had finally poked its head from out of the clouds in the distance, and the contrast of the colorful hills in front of the giant white mountains was stunning. To top it off, clouds were drizzling rain off at the far side of the lake and a beautiful rainbow had taken flight just beyond the hills in front of us. I have to say, this was the most spectacular view of the entire ride and nearly brought me to tears. We cruised alongside the lake, where it had obviously rained minutes before, but was now dry. (I was so entranced, I couldn’t even remember where I was going!)
The descent down the other side was equally spectacular. As we pressed close to the base of the Alaskan Range, the colors and rock formations were breathtaking!
As we continued down the canyon, enjoying the rollercoaster ride alongside the river, we could admire the mountains on either side of us. All too soon, we had arrived at our next control, the Black Rapids Lodge.
We walked our bikes up the dirt driveway that lead around the lodge and to the front door. The view when we walked in was breathtaking (notice, I seem to be using that word a lot)…it was the picture-perfect spot to look at the mountains down a long canyon. Two lovely young ladies greeted us and asked us if we were hungry. The menu was soup…chicken noodle with homemade noodles and russet potatoes or Caribou beef, both made from scratch with homemade bread. It was tasty…really tasty…I had two bowls before getting the bill for $31! It was worth it. We filled our bottles, pet the dog, enjoyed the view one more time, and then headed back down to the highway.
The 38 miles to Delta Junction went by rather quickly. We left the lodge and hit two short climbs, followed by a long 4-5 mile one that brought us over the foothills into the next valley. From the top, it was all downhill as we raced the incoming storm to the control. We won, just barely.
At Delta Junction, we ate a bit, swapped out gear from our drop bags, and pressed on into the possibility of coming rain. It was 48 miles to the next control, and then seven to our hotel. The first 30 were rain free, but further along I could see the storm clouds brewing and lightning crossing the sky. It looked like I was going to get a chance to try out my rain gear.
When all was said and done, it was pretty mild rain. Descending some of the hills at 40mph could be a touch painful as the water stung our cheeks, but the roads were straight and smooth, and we could let the speed go. Roland, in particular, was quite fearless in the rain (he deals with it more than I do), and outran me on the descents a few times (few people can say that).
By about 10:30, we had arrived at the Midway Lodge…it was time to EAT and get dried off. The owner offered to throw our clothes in the dryer (very nice), and I enjoyed a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup, followed by a grilled cheese sandwich. Although the owner smoked like a train, the company was pleasant and we were enjoying a nice meal together.
Once finished, we hopped on the bikes with dry clothes (the rain had stopped), and rode the quick 7 miles to our final destination, the Salchaket Roadhouse. They had agreed to leave the key under the mat of room 3 so we didn’t have to disturb anyone when we arrived. The room was small but clean, with real, full sized towels. It was 12:30 (we were only a half hour later than planned) and we had been on the road for 32.5 hours, covering 322 miles. We set the alarm for 4:30am and were asleep the moment we hit the pillows!