Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride, 20-26 August 2000
What an adventure!!!

AAVR Main     Day 1    Day 2   Day 3    Day 4   Day 5   Day 6    Day 7

Aug 24th, Thursday - Day Four, Gulkana Airport to Sheep Mountain Gravel Pit, 77.5 miles (AKA, the longest day of my life)

I'm finally cleared to ride!!!  Which is a good thing because I was starting to climb the wall not being on my bike with the rest of the riders.

I forgot to mention, yesterday was my tent-mate's 21st birthday, it certainly was a day he'll never forget, and yes, Brian rode every inch of every mile yesterday in the snow and freezing weather - ah, the joy's of youthful energy!

It has been so cold at night that I've been sleeping in sweat pants, socks, and a sweatshirt, all while curled up in my super cold weather rated sleeping bag.  After waking up this morning I put on my ‘Pillsbury Dough-Boy' cycling outfit.  To keep warm while riding this is what I wore every day (you'll understand why I look fat in all my photos):

Feet: Warm cotton socks, gortex rain proof socks, cycling shoes, shoe warmers over cycling shoes.

Legs:  Cycling sorts, cold weather cycling tights, warm-up pants, then rubber rain pants.

Upper body:  Super thermal base layer, cycling jersey, jersey vest, arm warmers, warm-up jacket, then rain jacket.

Head:  full balaclava or ear warmers, then helmet & glasses.

We really did look like Pilsbury Dough children on bikes, it was rather amusing.

The morning Ride flyer that we received at breakfast started out with "Ready to Climb...There are a few really nasty climbs today, Conserve your strength, take your time and you can make it through the day." However, they went on to say the view from camp that night would be "probably the finest on the ride...a fair trade for missing the final episode of Survivor".  Of course that meant getting to camp, which was 77.5 miles and 1,500 feet in climbing away.  The day started with mile after mile of climbing into a strong headwind.  The views behind us were amazing, to see what we had just overcome was very inspirational, well, until we reached the ‘top' of the mountain just to realize we'd been climbing out of a valley - the real mountain climb still lay ahead, very humbling.

About 3/4 way through the day it started to rain, and rain hard.  I stopped to put on another layer of clothes because the temperature had dropped (it was probably in the high 40s) and took off my cycling glasses because it was impossible to see out of them.  I decided to wait a few minutes to see if the weather improved, it didn't so I got back on my bike and kept riding.

Fortunately the rain stopped after a while.  We kept climbing and after a while I realized we were riding at the level where trees stop growing, above us were bare mountains and the cloud line was not too far up the mountain.  I wasn't sure why no trees grew up past there, I thought the regular elevation tree line is a lot higher up, it was a strange sight.  At camp someone mentioned why the trees stopped growing — we'd hit the permafrost level and the trees aren't able to grow permafrost.  That was certainly a warm and fuzzy moment.

I usually stop to take a lot of photos along the route, but this day I was so wet and so cold that I only stopped a few times.  By the time I reached camp (a lovely gravel pit) I was a tad delirious, I think I was just to the point of exhaustion and had to keep saying to myself, over and over, ‘I'm ok, I'm ok, I just need a hot shower and food and I'll be okay'.  A hot shower and food was exactly what I needed and I felt a 100% better.

The Gravel Pit was probably out coldest and wettest camp of the entire trip.  There was snow on the mountains just above us, the winds were really strong, the rain kept coming, and the gravel pit retained no heat from the sun (well, I guess there was sun somewhere above all the rain clouds).

I set my shoes on the ground underneath the exhaust of the bus, they were soaked so I desperately needed to dry them before riding the next day.  I did, however, learn a very valuable lesson from my experience today.  It is best not to dry any item of clothing that will go anywhere near the head in the exhaust of any sort of engine.  I think the balaclava head warmer that I was wearing had made me sick toward the end of the day, I couldn't understand why I kept smelling exhaust where there were no vehicles around me - I was smelling the exhaust from the night before.  From then on I chose my clothes drying locations with much more care.

AAVR Main     Day 1    Day 2   Day 3    Day 4   Day 5   Day 6    Day 7


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