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My Goodness it’s: Atigun Pass atigun pass ATIGUN PASS!

August 25, 2011

The next morning it is raining.  Not a hard rain, just a drizzle.  I eat in the tent, once again using the propane stove as to serve dual functions: warming the tent interior and the water for breakfast.  Reluctantly I break camp and start riding.

But I can not ride.  I am just too tired.  Ahead is a slight hill.  Just a teeny, tiny hill.

It may as well have been Sukakpak Mountain. 

I just can not do it.  I can barely mount the bike.  I am trembling too much.  I have lost my coordination.  I can’t control my right foot.  I can’t make it rise up and engage the pedal.  I just want to quit.  I want to call for help.  I want a trucker to come pick me up.  I want a State Trooper to come pick me up.  I just can not do it.  The wind is blowing hard.  Blowing against me.  It rains harder. Nature wants me to fail.

I sit down and assess the situation.  I have two choices: sit or walk.  If I sit, I go nowhere. If I walk, I am that much closer to my goal.  But the word “walk” is not quite correct.  “Walk” means picking up your feet.  I can just barely do this; it’s more shuffle than walk.  Ok, if all I can do is shuffle, I will shuffle.  I stand up and start.  Slowly. slowly, slowly.  I make it up the hill. When I crest the hill, I see a couple of road workers.  They are perhaps a quarter-mile ahead.  I walk faster.  I walk up to the first guy.  “How’s it going?” he asks.

“I’ve been better.”

He laughs.

Now there’s a slight down-hill grade. I mount the bike and coast down to their truck.  I huddle against a tire on the lee side of the wind.

 Atigun pass is just ahead.  How am I going to do Atigun Pass?  I start planning my attack.  I eat some M and M’s with peanuts.  I just want to give up.  The workers come back: “Sorry buddy, but we have to go.”  We chit-chat; they are marking the road for winter delineators.  “You think you got it bad?”  one asks.  “We gotta walk all the way up to Prudhoe Bay!”  We all laugh, and I start riding.  The wind never stops blowing, but at least it’s stopped raining.

I have a plan.  At the base of Atigun is pump station number four.  I know, from my ride up to Prudhoe,  large concrete weights originally used to help bury the pipeline, sit there.  Using them for shelter against wind I will eat an MRE, rest one hour to gain strength, and attack Atigun.  And that’s what I do.

I ride to the pump station and eat the MRE.  I start waiting an hour.  Occasionally a vehicle drives by, going up or down the pass.  One, coming down the pass, looks familiar.

It’s Barb.

She pulls over, jumps out and we rush and hug each other.  Her passengers pile out, snapping pictures.  I start telling her about the ride.  I can barely hold back my tears.  Heck, I can’t hold back my tears.  But only a couple escape.

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