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Golden girls hit the Alcan

Three friends celebrate a retirement with Alaska-Canada bike trip

Posted: November 4, 2011 - 12:02am
Lin Davis leaves the Haines ferry terminal, riding a small step-through girl's bike. Nothing fancy.  Courtesy of Lin Davis
Courtesy of Lin Davis
Lin Davis leaves the Haines ferry terminal, riding a small step-through girl's bike. Nothing fancy.

This past summer, three of us golden girls, aged 60, 68 and 84, hit the pavement along the Haines, Whitehorse, Skagway Golden Triangle, celebrating my August retirement with a new travel format. Our ingredients: one mountain bike, one old ridgeback dog (our most golden member), one small CRV “Hounda” Honda with a bike rack, one cooler of smoked salmon and halibut, one blue plastic tub of high energy snack bars and one duffle with extra rain gear for anything the Triangle could toss us.

We took turns driving and biking through B.C. and Yukon mountain vistas. Our big bike tires shot us out of a canon and deep into beauty. And the physical exhilaration of peddling our 10-20 mile stretches gave us total goodness of body and spirit. The non-biking person provided car support, water, snacks, iPhone video documentation of the route and dog walks, plus rock-out road dancing, thanks to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Rutter’s “Requiem,” all in high volume encouragement for the bicyclist. Breathing and biking and watching fresh snow on the peaks — it was all an invigorating mix of rain drops, shafting sun, side winds and full hug updrafts on the downhill runs. Now we will always want to bring a bike and take replenishing time on the pedals.

We also practiced making friends with various road shoulder substances. Kathleen Lake to Haines Junction was pure cream of fresh whipped asphalt. The Alcan Highway east of Whitehorse and the Skagway road were the most challenging, given their raised gravel texture. Our bike tires nicely handled the 1 to 2-inch asphalt edge drop-off into sand.

I forgot gaiters and did end up with rain-filled boots during a downpour near Emerald Lake. That uphill and the final cruise into Carcross demonstrated the miracle of modern sock science and boot architecture, as dry feet and dry leather quickly emerged.

For five years I have been a good weather bicycle commuter — downtown to valley, all flat — and had never done a bike road trip. As a replacement person — two knee replacements — I was not sure how big hills would work for me. When I spotted my first really scary upgrade, I resigned myself to walking the bike, if needed. Deliciously, the very low gears carried me up, no hesitation, and the words of an experienced Juneau bicycle touring mentor, Mike Tobin, rolled through me: “Up hills are nice. You shift down ‘till your breathing is easy, and then you have time to look around and notice extra beauty.” Using that technique, the frightening ups melted away.

We arranged lodging along the way and gave ourselves the easement of not camping. The dog loved the Canadian hotels, walking proudly through the lobbies and leisurely checking the food menus. While on car duty protecting the snack tub from outside intruders, she reported a lapse of official responsibility. Ask her about the rice cakes and multigrain crackers.

As we all look for ways to increase our daily exercise and find accompanying nourishment of body and spirit, we three golden ones are happy to report this bike/drive was easy and so very fun. We intend to follow this new vein of gold in our lives.

• Lin Davis is a Juneau resident and life-time walker

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