“For each kilometer I ride to the south, the greater the chance for the temperature to rise” – I kept repeating to myself until arriving in Coldfoot, half-way point on the highway.
Arriving at Brooks Range, the constant wind calmed and everything that was mostly flat becomes mountainous.
After 233 km the Tundra spreads out in front of you in a sea of mountains known as the Brooks Range. There, in the middle of that massive stand of rock and snow, was the highest point of the highway: Atigun Pass, altitude at 1,422 meters (4,665 ft).
This is also the dividing point of the water shed. From there, all the rivers run towards the Pacific Ocean and no longer towards the Arctic Ocean. There the highway cuts through cliffs and the wind pushes you wherever it wants. This is also an avalanche area. And this is where I felt what I called “The Hand”.
A few weeks before flying to Alaska, I dined with a dear friend in Miami. A guy who’d already traveled the world and the only one I knew who’d already seen Alaska.
When the sun comes out, some asphalt! You can’t imagine my happiness!
At dinner he said, “Alaska is where you go to know God.”
“I think Alaska is the place God chose to put all the most unique and beautiful of creation. If you don’t believe in God, you need to travel to Alaska!”
A little past Atigun Pass, at mile 237, is Chandalar Shelf, the most dangerous avalanche area, with the Chandalar River flowing to the right of the highway. It’s a majestically beautiful place. The shadows make designs on the mountains that are like immense dalmatians, spotted white with snow and the outcroppings of rocks a dark brown, almost black.
There, the wind suddenly died down. I could hear the noise of the occasional truck traveling through the pass a few kilometers from there.
Without the wind, on the ascent, with sun, the temperature went up and I decided to take off a few sweaters and melt some ice to drink. I leaned my bike on a rock and raised my arms to stretch my back and a force pushed me to the ground, I fell to the side, kneeling and looking back of me. It seemed that an immense, invisible hand had fallen on me. I stayed on the ground a few seconds, confused, trying to understand what that wind was.
Right after the wind started to blow but soon passed.
Arriving at the mountains. The oil pipeline is close to the road.
Once, in Spain, while out walking, we had to really lean into the wind to be able to get around. They were really incredible gale-force winds, but nothing like “The Hand”, fast and strong.
After the first incident, two more blasts of wind pushed my bike and me over, once falling on the highway while a truck was coming.
He was a good distance away and moving slowly but he saw me fall. He stopped a few meters ahead in a turn out, right before the start of a descent. He asked if I was all right, offered me water (liquid!!!) and commented that people on the highway were talking about me. He advised me to make the descents while off my bike, motorcycle accidents were pretty common in the area because of the strong winds.
That was when someone announced on his CB radio that there was a small avalanche a few miles ahead. That’s when he offered me a lift. I accepted. I got a 30 mile free ride.
At times it gives the impression of being at the top.
And at times it feels like there’s still a long way to climb.