Biking Alaska


Often the best days aren't obvious as they are happening. Those are kitchen gloves on my hands and garbage bags around my ankles. On outdoor adventures, I have a remarkably strong record of bringing the rain.

It's been 17 years now since that August bike trip. I've since been stuck in the rain on countless trails and several dozen runs. Our car's been stuck in the sand while camping on the beach with a toddler in 95 degree heat. We've stood in a crowd suddenly consumed by pepper spray at Trevi Fountain. We've nearly wedged a rental car into the narrow streets of Santorini. And this time of year, I always remember that rainy, late summer ride from Fairbanks to Anchorage as among the first of my happy misadventures.

It was my first solo journey, albeit within a group of more than 1,000 strangers. It marked that breath of freedom the summer between college and the first of my full-time jobs that would start two weeks later. I remember never seeing Alaska by night because I always feel asleep before sunset. I recall crossing a pebbly finish line one afternoon after a 100-mile day, then slowing down and falling over, unable to clip out of my tight pedals. I remember the week-long, near 500 mile adventure (455 miles in the end due to road construction) before the days of Twitter and Facebook and status updates. I remember how good it felt to be an athlete.

Looking back at that photo, I remember how that day cleared my head and soaked me to the core. It's a visual reminder that travel and its misadventures are always a good idea, whether between life chapters or smack dab in the middle of everything and for no reason at all. It may not seem it in the moment, but the trip is always worth it. We always find something new and different out there, kitchen gloves, garbage bags and all. And we often find it in unexpected, heavy rain.