Roads, chatter gritcrunch, washboard record of where drivers aimed, hills that in perception are steeper as you descend the pitch toward them and then in reality are steeper again near the top, lazy steering to stay out of the standing water troughs, roads here along the esker tops, scenery, horizon, isolation, skies to rival any. The Denali Highway isn’t in the park and preserve of the name but pedaling east to west, it aims for it. 130 mostly dirt miles that in other circumstances would be desirable in a day of focus is this time around two, craving and finding in the swings from rainstorm to calm from shadow greyness to sunshine a reciprocal clockwork quiet in hours of cadence. I know I’ve reached the right resolve when there’s an intimation of too much heat on climbs and hollow shivering on downhills and when the sense of setting my jaw against these becomes elusive. I know the road has been a good one when its spatial linearity has enough obscured the temporal and I’m surprised by the late hour when finally it occurs to me to glance at my watch.
I visit a bit with rescued and retired sled dogs at their summer roadside lodging, most sitting or standing on their individual doghouses gazing into the distance or agitating according to the complex sociality between them that I can invade only just as much as they invade ours, not inconsequential but not complete, either. I imagine they happily lose the arid pinpoints of identities when they run, too.
A glimpse of the mountain, I’ll be much closer, soon, then a long chat with Josh and Ellie, visiting and driving an old Fairbanks friend’s Honda crapbox, wild camping where they please, glassing caribou, moose, golden eagles. He says he feels humbled by the Alaska expanse, and I’m twicely impressed by this coming from a Texan. Every hunter I talk to nods a positive appraisal of the fat tires, “damned smartest thing I’ve ever seen on a bike,” one says from astride a four wheeler. Then he is lost in the landscape, I’m back to the road, pelted without malice by tiny raindrops worn as if from falling from a long way up.