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North to Alaska!

North to Alaska!

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North to Alaska!

140 Seiten
3 Stunden
Feb 24, 2016


This book takes you on a 3,200-mile bicycle expedition from Missoula, Montana to Anchorage, Alaska. You'll read about my 73-day bicycle tour that was filled with adventures including a grueling ascent to Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, a scary standoff with a black bear in the Yukon, a daring dash through a forest fire, and a harrowing ride over the Top-of-the-World Highway.

Feb 24, 2016

Über den Autor

Jim Hendrickson is a retired Professor of Spanish and English as a Second Language. He speaks English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese. He has taught elementary school, high school, adult education, community college, college, and university in seven states. He worked as a Teaching Fellow at Harvard University, a Senior Fulbright Lecturer in Bolivia and Chile, and a Language Consultant for the United States Peace Corps in Belize.  Jim has received many teaching and publishing awards including the Distinguished Faculty Award at Lansing Community College in Michigan, the Stephen A. Freeman Award for authoring the best article on teaching techniques to have appeared in a professional journal in 1980, and an award for writing the best article published in The Modern Language Journal in 1978. Jim has traveled in over 150 countries and is an avid long-distance tour bicyclist. He has cycled extensively in the United States, as well as in Europe, Africa, Australia, and on various islands in Oceania. He has presented over 500 travelogues in many schools, churches, libraries, museums, senior and community centers, city auditoriums, as well as on radio and television shows, and has been featured in numerous American and international newspapers. Jim has published more than 60 foreign language textbooks including The Spice of Life (Harcourt), Our Global Village (Harcourt), Poco a poco (Heinle & Heinle), Intercambios (Heinle & Heinle), Nuevas dimensiones (Heinle & Heinle), and Nuevas alturas (Heinle & Heinle). One of his best-selling books, Poco a poco, has been reconfigured into a best-selling book, Plazas: Lugar de Encuentros (Heinle & Heinle). He is also the author of another best seller: Spanish Grammar Flipper (Christopher Lee). Jim has also published articles on psycholinguistics in Foreign Language Annals, TESOL Quarterly, The Modern Language Journal, The Canadian Modern Language Review, and Hispania. Jim has published the following thirteen travel ebooks about his adventures and misadventures: Like a Leaf on a River, North to Alaska!, Vagabond on a Bicycle, Travel is my Passion, Shalom, Israel!, RVing to the Land of the Midnight Sun, Heaven on Earth, Around the World in Thin Slices, South Pacific Odyssey, My Endless Pursuit of Travel, Baja Adventure!, Strange Tales of Jefferson County, and Footloose in Southern South America.

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North to Alaska! - Jim Hendrickson



I wish to thank the following friends who proofread the manuscript of this book for errors such as typos, misspellings and punctuation, and who gave me countless suggestions on ways to improve it: Judy Davis, Greg May, and Bill Weir. Thank you so much for your hard work, perseverance, and patience!

I also want to thank Rita Toews, who designed the beautiful cover of the book.


Getting Ready

I took my first long-distance bicycle trip when I rented an old no-gears bike from a train station in Eindhoven, Holland for two weeks—for only 18 dollars (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all monetary figures in this book are in American dollars). I strapped my medium-size backpack to the rear rack of the bicycle, pedaled it around the Netherlands, and stayed in hostels along the way.

My second bicycle trip, called the North Star Expedition from Montana to Alaska, differed dramatically from my short bike trek in Holland. This journey would last 2.5 months—from early June to mid August—and included camping out every day, cycling with a small group and a tour leader, preparing meals in camp, and following a carefully planned route. The Adventure Cycling Association, headquartered in Missoula, Montana, offered this exciting expedition.

Moreover, this second bicycle trip was much more expensive than my first one. Apart from the $2,600 registration fee for the North Star Expedition, I spent $3,000 on what I needed for that journey: a Bridgestone M-2 mountain bike, Ortlieb waterproof panniers, an assortment of bicycle tools and spare parts, a two-person Sierra Designs free-standing tent, a 32° sleeping bag, a self-inflatable air mattress, a complete wardrobe of cycling clothes, a Minolta autofocus 35mm camera, and ten rolls of film.

One month before the North Star Expedition began, I spent several days packing, unpacking and repacking my four panniers. I attached them to my bike, and secured the camping equipment to the rear rack with bungee cords. When I first mounted my loaded two-wheeler, I lost my balance and nearly fell off. Over the next few weeks, I took several shakedown rides around my hometown and soon rode my pack mule with some skill and self-confidence.

As my departure day drew nearer, I had a few doubts about the expedition. I wondered, Am I in sufficient physical condition for this journey? Will I make it over the Canadian Rockies? What will I do if I have an accident? Will bears attack me? Will I survive this bicycle tour? I followed a practical philosophy that addressed all these questions and calmed my nerves: Just take your chances, Jim. Go with the flow.

In the first week of June, 1994, I loaded my bike, my gear and myself aboard a Greyhound bus that transported us from my home in Bellingham, Washington to the North Star Expedition starting point in Missoula, Montana. I was headed north to Alaska by bicycle!


At the Starting Point

After an overnight ride with several rest breaks, my bus pulled into the Greyhound station in Missoula at ten o'clock in the morning. I claimed my boxed mountain bike, panniers and camping equipment, and carried them to the back of the bus station where I reassembled my steel horse. I loaded my gear onto the front and rear bike racks and pedaled several miles to a KOA Kampground, the meeting place for the North Star Expedition. The warmth from the sun and the sweet smell of the fresh mountain air made that short ride pleasant.

In camp I met four fellows who formed part of our 12-rider group. Jan, a 33-year-old man, hailed from a small town in Belgium where he delivered mail on his bicycle. He complained of intense pain in his knees, possibly due to overexerting himself on a bike trip that he had just completed in southwestern United States. Jan decided to remain at the campground for one week to allow his injured knees more time to heal and planned to catch up with our group in British Columbia.

Roy, a 56-year-old retiree, had spent a month riding his mountain bike and pulling a small trailer containing his gear from his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Missoula. In addition, he had done quite a bit of bicycle touring in the United States.

David, a 60-year-old Israeli, was the oldest member of the group. Over six feet tall, a lean, muscular and very strong rider, he had already cycled 2,300 miles from Washington, D.C. to Missoula on his Trek touring bicycle!

When I met our expedition leader, a fun-loving, middle-age man whom I call Little Chuck in this book, I wondered how he could possibly lead a bicycle trip from Montana to Alaska because he weighed at least 75 pounds too much for his height of 5 feet, 8 inches. But when he told me that he had ridden that distance the past four summers, my doubts vanished immediately. Little Chuck's knowledge of the route, his experience in bicycle touring and camping, and his excellent leadership skills would quickly earn him considerable respect from everyone in our group.

The day after I arrived in Missoula, my entire group gathered at the Birchwood Hostel where we stayed for two nights. Apart from Roy, David and me (age 51), the oldest riders were two retirees in their mid-50s: Maurice from Indiana and Big Chuck from California. The youngest members of the group were in their 30s: Jan from Belgium, Warren from Wisconsin, Pete from Massachusetts, Jeff from North Carolina, and Kelly from Arizona. Only two women booked the North Star Expedition: Kelly and Little Chuck's wife, Rindy, who would join us later in British Columbia. All of my fellow group members had quite a lot of experience in bicycle touring, bicycle camping and bicycle maintenance—except me, but I intended to learn a great deal as our journey progressed.

Little Chuck organized a 28-mile shakedown ride to help us determine whether or not we carried too much weight on our bicycles. If so, we could lighten the load by mailing home extraneous items. Because it rained during most of that ride, I was able to test the effectiveness of my rain gear: a Gore-Tex rain jacket, a Gore-Tex helmet cover, a pair of Gore-Tex gloves, waterproof socks, and rubberized shoe covers.

The test revealed some interesting results. The socks were not waterproof, but they did keep my feet warm. The shoe covers hindered an easy insertion of my bike shoes into my pedals. The gloves were too warm and my hands quickly became clammy inside them. The rain jacket and the helmet cover scored as my most effective clothing for inclement weather.

With the shakedown ride behind us, we cycled to the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters where we met Greg Siple, the co-founder of the organization. In 1975, Greg and his wife June completed the Hemistour, a bicycle trek of 18,000 miles from Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina. En route, they conceived the idea for an official bicycle tour across the United States to celebrate the nation's bicentennial in 1976. Later they founded Bikecentennial—now called Adventure Cycling Association.

In the evening Little Chuck and David prepared supper in the hostel kitchen: chop suey, salad, cookies, and apple juice. Big Chuck and I washed the dishes. During our bicycle expedition, Little Chuck assigned cooking partners to each group member on a rotating basis so that every person would eventually cook with a different rider. The two cooks who prepared supper one night served as the clean-up crew on the following night.

During the trip, each rider in our group had to carry at least one item for preparing or serving food. I chose to carry the pancake turner and all the knives and, for that reason, Little Chuck named me Hero of the Revolution.

At the hostel my group members and I made last-minute preparations for our upcoming expedition. Some riders made minor adjustments on their bicycles and others sent home bicycle gear that they deemed nonessential for the journey. I bought one last item: a tire pressure gauge to help me maintain 80 pounds of air in my tires. Several riders put spare parts and tires in a group box that Little Chuck mailed to the post office in Hyder, Alaska, where we would arrive in about one month. Having decided that I would carry everything I needed aboard my two-wheeler, I contributed nothing to the box.

Everyone looked forward to the following day when we would officially begin our bicycle expedition to Alaska—come rain or shine.


Missoula to Waterton Lakes

I got up at six o'clock the next morning, looked out of my hostel dormitory window and saw the sun slowly rising above the Rocky Mountains. I looked forward to another sunny June day—an ideal one to begin a bicycle trip to Alaska.

Breakfast consisted of oatmeal with milk, apple juice, plus coffee or tea, a typical meal almost every morning during the North Star Expedition. All our meals were nutritious, easy to prepare, inexpensive and, most importantly, tasted good. As my fellow riders and I ate heartily, we chatted excitedly about our upcoming journey.

After breakfast we hauled out our bicycles from the hostel’s basement and propped them upright on the lawn. As we loaded our bikes with a wide assortment of panniers and camping equipment, we looked forward to the expedition and reaching our destination 3,200 miles to the north: Anchorage, Alaska.

We all watched Roy, the first member of our group to leave. He mounted his trusty mountain bike and pedaled slowly down the street, pulling his two-wheel trailer fully packed with all his gear. I waved and wished him well. Next, I mounted my own steel steed and began pedaling the first strokes of a million-stroke journey. As I left, Little Chuck and Kelly applauded and cheered me on. I felt proud and privileged to be part of this long-distance ride to a distant state that I had never visited. Ten minutes later, I arrived at the official start of the bicycle tour: Higgins Street and Broadway in Missoula. From that corner, I headed out on Montana Highway 200, following a detailed Adventure Cycling Association map provided to each expedition rider.

I followed that highway as it snaked up through the valley of the Big Blackfoot River. As I pedaled higher and higher into the mountains, I marveled at the gorgeous scenery that engulfed me. Thousands of evergreen trees blanketed the mountain slopes from the edge of the highway to the summits. Soon a kind of peace overcame me

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