Betty & I have breakfast at the Camp’s restaurant, while Bren sleeps. We drive the 18 miles back to our stopping point, Mile 38. It is a good ride, hills are not too steep nor too long. Soon, on top of a ridge, I see the Yukon valley spread out for miles. Both the Dalton Highway and the pipeline wind their way down the hillside and cross the Yukon together. After coasting down to the bridge, I get a couple of pictures before crossing. The bridge is about a mile long with a wooden treadway. I first crossed this bridge about 21 years ago on my way to Prudhoe. Ten years ago on the 4th of July, my canoe partner, Bill Quayle, and I were camped under this bridge. A young German couple was also camped there. I fired the “emergency” flare pistol a few times as we celebrated.
I find the B-Team visiting with Dottie at a Park Service Visitors station just north of the bridge. We learn much about the local area from her. The plan is to bike/drive four miles to the Hotspot Café and have lunch. While there we decide to stay for the night, but first I will bike north for a few hours and they will pick me up and bring me back to the Hotspot. My goal was to add about 30 more miles to the 22 miles I did this morning. It seems that all too often things do not work as planned. After only about 5 miles, the road is very wet, maybe a maintenance crew has a water distributor working to keep the dust down. Oh no, the road is also being graded and sprayed with calcium-chloride . What a slick, gummy mess, it quickly clogs my brakes, gears, chain, the spaces between the forks and the wheels. I have been dragged to a stop. I push the bike a few hundred feet and the tires will no longer rotate. This gook also has gravel in it which quickly lodges into moving parts and stops them. As big trucks come by they throw a wall of this mess about 20 feet on each side of their vehicle. This is not a good situation. In desperation, I pick up the bike, put it on my shoulder, walk across the road and find the nearest safe place to go down the high embankment. While poking and prying with small sticks to clear the mud and rock from crucial parts on the bike, the water truck arrives. Nick gets out and apologizes, explaining that it is called ‘Seven miles of mud”, but it is his job and this mess will dry into a hard smooth surface, like the one I have been on for miles. He said that he asked the grader operator to save me a small strip on the far side that is ‘gunk free”. It would start about a quarter-mile in front of me. In the meantime, I pushed the bike through the undergrowth along the road side until I got to the clear zone. Amazingly, the bike actually works. I stay in this 18 inch wide zone for the next several miles then finally, I reach the end of their current maintenance. I am beat, also nearly out of drinking water! As I labor up hills, I miss my cell phone. If we had cell service, I would ask Betty to pick me up a couple hours early. Up front, I see precious shade, break time. Only a minute later here comes Betty, the car is covered with seven miles of mud. We compare mud stories on the way back to the Hotspot. We decide to enter the café from side road, oops here come three trucks. They pass and we see this lovely now vacant wash-site, it has a short fire hose for dispensing large amounts of water quickly. As I turn it on, Betty drives close. In an instant we have removed a ton of gunk from both the CRV and the bikes hanging on the rear rack. A quick turn and Betty has the other side in place. We surely were not there more than 3 minutes and gone. Back at the Hotspot, shower, dinner, done for the day.