Monday, September 22, 2008

Not that heavy

Date: Sept. 22
Mileage: 25.1
September mileage: 526.0

I loaded my bike today with food and gear and set out to see how she handled. I quickly noticed the extra weight on climbs, but, as usual, started to forget about it as I coasted along the road in the crisp fall wind. I love packing up my bike with everything I need to live. There’s freedom and joy in the knowledge that I could ride to the end of the day and just keep going.

So my preparations are nearly complete for my spontaneous fall Yukon tour. I am starting to feel pretty nervous about it, which is a good thing. To me, being scared is a sign of a worthwhile adventure. The weather forecast for the area is calling for highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s with a moderate chance of precipitation on Saturday. I am hoping any precip falls as dry snow flurries if it falls at all. If I run into freezing rain, I may have to turn back or hole up for a bit.

This trip is the same route I rode in 48 hours in August 2007. During that trip, I clocked the distance at 371 miles. This time, I will have 72 hours between ferries to complete the tour. I also will be riding the route backwards, due to the only ferry schedule that worked out for me. It will be fun to see the Golden Circle from a whole new perspective, but I do have reservations about riding from Skagway to Haines. For starters, the climb out of Skagway gains 3,000 feet in 11 miles, as opposed to the same elevation in about 60 miles out of Haines. With all of my extra bike weight, that probably amounts to two hours of climbing in the red zone right out of the gate. Then I still have nearly 100 miles to ride into Whitehorse over the rolling hills that follow the headwaters of the Yukon River.

Day two will be the Alaska Highway, with mild rollers, more traffic, and, as I learned last year, very little water. When I rode this stretch in August 2007, I encountered temperatures in the 90s, oppressive sun and a steady headwind. What a difference a year and a month can make. This time, I will be happy if temperatures are in the 40s; happier if it’s dry; and even happier if the stiff wind is blowing in that same general direction.

Day three will likely be the longest and most remote stretch of the trip. I’d honestly rather get this leg out of the way on the first day rather than the last, when I haven’t seen a weather report in three days and have less options if I need to turn back. I will be watching the sky closely as I distance myself from Haines Junction, because I don’t want to be caught out there in a blizzard. Once I round the summit of Haines Highway, I’m nearly home free. It’s a quick drop back to the U.S., followed by a nice, flat meander along the Chilkat River that I’ve ridden several times before.

So that’s my tour. I have to overnight on the ferry on Wednesday, and I set out first thing Thursday for the hideous climb into Canada. I’m nervous! I know from experience that once I settle in, I’ll likely feel happy and content, with nothing to do but sleep, eat and ride my bike. But the days leading up to a big ride are always hard.


  1. Highs in the 40's and lows in the 20's. On a bicycle is beyond nerve wracking, rate it terrifying.

  2. Hey Jill, got your comment on my blog - don't think I'll be home Friday in the day, but if anything happens on this stretch, feel free to drop by. My door is always open for wayward cyclists! Listen for the barking dogs! Email me for details if you want more info (stacie AT northwestel DOT net.), I can give you my phone # too and friends in the Junction just in case.

    It'll be cool, and not too rainy. There is a nice CHILL in the air around here right now! The plus side - no bugs!!!!

    For water - remember, Stony Creek - about 10km after the Takhini Bridge. Tasty good, clean water. Also - watch out for the elk on that stretch. They're pissy at this time of year... lol

    Good luck! I'll be watching out for you on the road!

  3. Jill, are you going by yourself? You are amazing! I'm so glad we've become blog friends, even though we couldn't be more different. I'm excited to hear about your adventure.

  4. I cannot wait to read about and see pictures of your tour. I am sure you will have a great time. It is nice to socialize, but solo adventures are good for the spirit too. Enjoy each moment. Good luck!

  5. Awesome, glad to see you've got another long ride target for the fall. Have a great ride!

  6. Have a great one. You are amazing!

  7. Good luck! Can't wait to hear about your adventure!!

  8. What an adventure. I can't wait to hear the details.

  9. Jill,

    Are you riding clipless on-road or do you ride on platforms? I was thinking about your climbing comments, and thinking, geeze, if she's riding flat pedals (as makes sense in snow riding), she's wasting all that extra energy she could be using on the up-stroke!

    Just a thought.

    BTW- I think your photography is getting better and better. Looking forward to the pics from this expedition! Do you post to a photosharing site, too (eg Flickr)? I was thinking, I'd love to see your stuff a little bigger, and with slideshow browsing… you could then embed them back here on the blog… just another thought!


  10. Good luck! Sounds like a wonderful adventure!

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  12. Solo tent tours are great. Just you, your bike and the road. All the "stuff" gets left behind. Just be sure to set up your tent where no one can see and keep your cell charged.

  13. Jill, I hope you have a great time! As they say in Ireland, "May the wind be always at your back"!

    I won't bite on the careless troll that briandigital dropped (inre: clipless/clipped), but it's damn difficult to keep my digital mouth shut. Mmmmph, MMMMMPH!

  14. Have a great ride. Be safe. We love you!

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  16. Good luck to you Jill. Enjoy the heart of autumn. Download some Sigur Ros before you'll be stoked.

  17. Thanks to all.

    I briefly considered clipless pedals, but they're completely impractical for a tour like this. Long days of low temps require something warmer than neoprene booties. I'm going with my winter hiking boots and wool socks. Plus, you can't walk in clipless shoes. Touring requires a lot of walking around (I mean, you don't spend the entire time on your bike.) Nope. I maintain my dislike for clipless pedals. I did relent and put the pedal cages back on, though.

  18. Can't quite figure out asking about pedals would be considered trolling… I'm just a clipless rider and can't imagine losing all the extra go. But I'm not a distance rider and I don't ride in the arctic, so I hadn't considered the issues you raised. That's why I asked.

    Some people are really touchy about bike parts, eh?

    And what kind of troll puts comments in his posts?

  19. that fourth-to-last word should have read "compliments" not "comments"

  20. I loved your blog!! I also ride bike in Brazil and I confess that I am jelouss of such wonderful views!! I do have amazing places here as you can see in my picasa (, but the snow gives a touch of dream to them. Keep the good work so bikers from the other side of the globe can take a ride with you. :)


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