Just about every stretch of highway here has a dirt track parallel to it worn by ATV’s or snowmobiles. When I’m not in a hurry, that’s where I elect to ride. Over a month in Alaska, it still fascinates and glints.
The unspeakable sublimity of Denali, a park where one walks into an extraordinary vast nowhere, just walks without a trail or a cairn, up braided riverbeds to glaciers or ridges or peaks. Or pedals on the road over Polychrome and Sable, tourist buses gone, we momentarily startle each other at 20 feet away, but that relaxes into nodding acknowledgement, this fourth wolf of the day carries on.
Arriving late to this pre-maligned place, disorientation in the false confidence that detailed lines on a map give you crossed with the visceral sensory textures of the streets. Long straightaways of strip mall boulevards giving way to downtown curb rubble, noticeable ratio of storefronts boarded up, everything worn and shabby in a way that might be alarming if you preferred fear. I ride around for two turning into three hours, slowly through parks, over pedestrian bridges empty in the quarter light, statues to WWII bravery, on off on the sidewalk, hello’s to folks sitting with bottles in brown bags, teens in baggy pants and ball caps on bmx bikes.
That night and the next day I admire this America, I really do, a Mexican restaurant where all the kitchen banter is in Spanish, a mint 1973 Cadillac Coup de Ville, a cavernous grocery store still open at midnight, pre-season gridiron on television at the bar serving an Alaskan porter, Nolan’s Inception for a second time on IMAX, a brilliant native cultures museum, a falafel truck with picnic tables near the university run by an Israeli expat where I eavesdrop on conversations about plant neurotoxins, on geomorphology, on Russia. Fairbanks is better than bilious appraisals allow.
I leave for the haul road to Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay, above the arctic circle, tomorrow.