No matter how many times I set out for a winter fat-bike trip I can never fully quell the pre-trip jitters. As we flew to Nome I couldn't help but imagine all the potential worse case scenarios - frostbite, overflow, deep snow, lost or forgotten gear, etc, etc. Once we landed and began to assemble our bikes outside the airport, in the warm sun, with glove-free hands, my uneasiness subsided and the excitement began.
Not ten minutes down the trail out of Nome we ran into Bob Jones, from Kettle Falls, and his partner Josh. We played leapfrog with the two of them in 2014 as we biked the Iditarod north and they snow-machined. Bob has followed the trail north, during the race, for many years and is something of a legend. In Nome we'd seen Monica Zapa and both these encounters brought us right back to this place - the Iditarod.
Our trail has been beautiful, if windy, which, is to say it has been damn beautiful. We've had plenty of calm too, but punctuated with intense and fantastic wind. Riding for hours on end with every inch of skin covered, looking at the world through rose colored goggles, for me, creates a calm state of mind. While the world around me screams and shouts I find an inner peace and clear focus.
In no time, Kim and I have fallen back into our rhythm of being on the trail. When the wind howls we communicate with quick hand signals - thumbs up or thumbs down. Camp chores switch each night from cookie to wood getter and the variety keeps us fresh. We cook, we eat, we sleep, and we ride. Sometimes we stop to chat with fellow travelers, share trail information and hear and tell stories, but mostly we ride our bikes.
Our bikes are the perfect bikes for this kind of trip - big tires with studs and the ability to carry the gear we need. Our shelter is the perfect shelter: it has a stovepipe hole and within it a small wood burning stove. Our clothing and sleeping gear is warm and our food is both delicious and nutritious.
We are now in Koyuk. Tomorrow we will leave the Iditarod trail and head north over the Seward Peninsula. Arriving in Koyuk is significant in that Kim has now traveled the entire Iditarod Trail under her own power. She has joined a small sorority of women who have accomplished this fantastic undertaking and I am incredibly proud of her. As far as I know, no women have done what we are setting out to do next, at least in modern times.
We are still on the winter side of spring but I imagine we'll soon be riding into spring-spring and maybe on into summer-spring. The days are getting longer and when the wind is down the temperatures are lovely.
If all goes well, we'll post again from the other side of the peninsula.