FAIRBANKS — I took part in the bicycle ride to Chena Hot Springs Saturday, a 62-mile jaunt from The Dog Mushers Hall to the end of the road.
I rode almost all of the way by myself. I have a hard time accepting the notion that it makes sense to “draft.” That appears to be a process in which you stay close enough to the person in front of you that you can exchange hugs. It’s like tailgating, but it’s acceptable in cycle circles.
My powers of concentration won’t allow that. My mind veers from one thing to another and won’t abide a straight line.
That’s not conducive to riding in a pack, which requires the single-mindedness of a NASCAR fan and an aversion to touching the brakes. Plus, as one of the slowest riders among those who did the entire course, the only group I could find consisted of me, myself and I.
Before they pulled ahead, I did spend some time riding with Fred Raymond of Raven Cross Country, who has ridden or provided on-the-road support for this annual race since the early 1980s, and Geoff Wool, who took time out from Hot Licks to ride the course.
About 10 of the most energetic youngsters in the Chena Hot Springs Bicycle Classic passed me going the other direction, cheerfully heading back to town about an hour before I finished, determined to ride more than 120 miles by late afternoon.
I did hear after the race about a couple of accidents involving riders whose wheels touched and whose bodies went flying. After washing off cuts with water from the bottles they carried and brushing off gravel, the riders continued. One of the bruised bicyclists was left with a shirt that appeared to have been run over by an “orbital sander,” a two-wheeled scribe said. Thank God for helmets.
I rode back to town in a Suburban with guys who couldn’t remember exactly where they narrowly avoided becoming part of this accident. We spent several miles staring at the road for signs of bike tire skid marks to honor the occasion, but to no avail.
I’ll say this, the road from Two Rivers to Chena Hot Springs is smooth as a tabletop this summer, thanks to the road work of last summer.
It was a beautiful day and there was no smoke, which made for perfect conditions for the 300 or so riders who rode from 7 to 62 miles. I think it took me more than four hours to go the distance, though I have a habit of never remembering finishing times.
Forget that Hoka Hey business. This was a good day for a ride on the venerable course, an event that goes back to 1982 and the days of Campbell Sports.
I want to thank the Fairbanks Cycle Club volunteers and the major sponsor this year, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
Several miles from the end, I passed a daddy and a little girl named Madison, who might have started at Angel Rocks or Granite Tors. She was pedaling on the slow side.
“But daddy,” she cried, “my bottom hurts.” Out of the mouths of babes.
One of the most interesting things I saw along the way was a moose feeding in a pool of water off Chena Hot Springs Road. I stopped to take a breather and a photo.
I wondered how long the animal would keep its head underwater in the search for submerged food.
The munching moose was in no hurry, endorsing my approach to the day’s journey with a watery stare when it came up after 25 seconds to take a breather.
BURNOUT: The aged light bulb in front of Johnny Albright’s picture at Samson Hardware burned out last week. There have been a few bulbs across the decades, but not many. The bulb was always on at the old site, now the home of the new Chena River bridge construction project.
The construction on Phillips Field Road has created a temporary access problem for Samson’s and other businesses along that road, but you can still get there from the Peger Road side.
Speaking of the bridge, it needs a name. Something other than the Barnette Street Bridge would be nice, given that E.T. Barnette was a scoundrel.
Dermot Cole can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 459-7530.