Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs – 212 miles
After the downpour of rain on our way into Fairbanks and that entire evening, it was so nice to wake up to clear blue skies and sunshine. We only had 60 miles to go to our next hotel stop, but there were a few side trips planned for this day!
First we rode over to the Large Animal Research Station and learned about musk ox and reindeer! I had no idea this could be so interesting and the guide that we had was very personable and super knowledgeable about these animals, their habits and their history. While we were there it suddenly started to rain very hard and thankfully there was a shelter for everyone to duck into. I thought we had gotten the rain out of our system the day before but I guess not. Thankfully this didn’t last long and the sun returned quickly!
Our next stop was the Alaska pipeline which was actually kind of cool to see. I imagined it to be much larger than it is, so that was a surprise for me. I was also fascinated by the informational signs that told about the history and how the pipeline is maintained. This is definitely something you won’t see in the lower 48!
After that, we still had time to burn so we took a detour to a nice, twisty paved road for some fun riding. This was the first time that the group started to split up a bit where the faster riders took off on their own. I’ve been struggling with how to write about this and finally decided that I’m going with my perspective and not speculate on what others were thinking. I don’t want to be unfair to them and I honestly don’t know what other people thought about this day.
For me, this was an uncomfortable 50+ miles of mostly being alone in Alaska on a road I am not at all familiar with. I overheard one rider say to another that the two of them had been doing 100 mph for a while on that road; I believe the speed limit was 65, but I know it was not more than 75. I know I was doing in the 70-80 mph range and when I felt unsafe, I slowed myself down to where I felt more in control. I have always been taught that everyone needs to “ride their own ride” and I reminded myself of that many times that day. It reinforced, again, that I’m done with group riding. If I’m going to be alone, then I’m going to be alone.
After a gas stop and the group coming back together we headed down the last road that would take us to Chena Hot Springs for the evening. This road, we’d been warned, had damage and places where the road would dip and heave due to road construction and freezing temperatures that cause the asphalt to buckle. Once we were on that road, where there were no turn offs to get lost on, everyone was able to take off on their own if they wished.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why this bothered me and I have realized that I prefer group riding where we look out for one another and the group stays together. I felt very alone in an unfamiliar place and I was not as comfortable with it as I’d like to think I would be.
Once we checked into our hotel and got unpacked a little it was time for dinner. The resort was quite nice and I wish I had more energy left from the day; I would have liked to spend some time enjoying the hot springs. As it was, I could barely keep my eyes open and this introvert was tired of people for the day. I went back to my room after dinner and was asleep before 9 PM. It turns out that extra sleep would come in handy because while I couldn’t have known it, the next day was going to be long and eventful.