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Broken by the Dalton

August 17, 2011

I awoke about an hour later.  Not refreshed, just less tired.

While talking with the female construction worker on the hill-top, I asked how far Toolik Lake was.  “About another ten miles.  But you’ve got a lot of hills, and at least one is really gnarly.”

So I stood by my bike, contemplating my next move.  Finally, what I needed to do dawned on me.  I sat down and took off my riding shoes; replacing them with a pair of sneakers.  Earlier in the day I’d fallen.  I’d been attempting a dismount and just could not get my left foot disengaged from the pedal fast enough.  I fell, bruising my thigh, knee and elbow.  It had been the second fall of the ride and I didn’t want a third.  So I traded shoes.

The problem with wearing sneakers was the pedals were not designed for them.  In particular my left foot gave me fits: always slipping of the pedal, twitching, curling up, and in general being a PIA (pain in the gluteus maximus.)  Switching to sneakers showed how radical my thinking had become.  I simply would have never even thought of it on previous rides.

I rode another six or seven miles, coming to a hill that looked tough, but not insurmountable, not gnarly.  I started up.  And then it happened: I realized I simply could not make it.  In all my years of bike riding this had never happened. I ALWAYS conquered the hill.  Brigham.  Old Mill.  Fairmount.  Rabbit Ears.  Loveland Pass.  I might have stopped to take a break, but I beat them all.  Not now.  I had no energy.

I started walking, pushing the bike before me.

Unknown to me Mike, Scott, and Rosella were waiting at the top.  Mike watched as I slowly trudged up and called out to me.

I was embarrassed.  Embarrassed to be seen pushing a bike up a hill.  But I’d been seen, there was nothing to do but go say hello.

The three of them were there courtesy of NASA and University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  It seems that NASA has a lot of spectral data on plant life at these latitudes, but does not know any thing about the plant life itself.  The three of them were working on coordinating the satellite spectral data with particular plant life.  Rosella was working on her Ph.d; Scott and Mike were helping.

(Left to right) Scott, Rosella, and Mike provided me with companionship, dinner, and breakfast. Together they were collecting data for NASA.

Mike took this picture shortly after I walked up to their camp.

Together they had a nice set-up: Each had their own sleeping tent and they had a common tent for meals and socializing.  The three of them were very friendly.   We had dinner and breakfast together.   They told me Toolik Lake was only a mile or so away.  They were wrong.  It was closer to five or six miles.

Perhaps it is poor form to keep talking about how tired I was.  Sadly, that’s the way it was.  Even after a good night’s sleep and breakfast, I was still shot.

In the morning we had breakfast and Mike asked me to autograph a book he bought.  I did, but called him Scott.  Opps.  They had a lot of work to do and I had a lot of riding.  We all started on our ways.

I mounted the bike and coasted downhill.  At the bottom I didn’t even try to ride up, I was too tired.  I walked up.  At the top I coasted down.  The pattern repeated itself many times.  I could only ride up the smallest hills.  I had about 750 miles to go and I was broken by the Dalton.

Next: Toolik Lake.


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