NOTE: Glenn wrote this a few days ago. Today, he landed in Anchorage. -Kid
I startle awake, unsure of where I am or what time it is. The haze begins to clear and I realize that even though it is -12f outside, I am warm, comfortable, tucked into a soft bed with a nice down comforter. It is less than 5 days until I head to Alaska and my nerves are beginning to fray. The thought crosses my mind that soon, very soon, I won't be waking up in a warm bed and it will be a warm day if the temps are only -12!
The planning process for a two-month expedition is always a bit challenging, but doubly so when you are going into what is a very inhospitable environment. The forecast in south central Alaska has been ranging from a balmy 30 degrees in Anchorage to a recent 3 day forecast in Fairbanks with lows of -47, -48, and -49. Preparing for unsupported two-wheel travel in these types of conditions is a bit difficult to say the least.
This is the fourth year of travel for me, and while I have developed a loose methodology for trip preparation, this trip has me a bit more frayed at the nerves than any of my recent endeavors. Trying to balance the need to go light with the requirement that I carry enough clothes and food to be safe has been more challenging than I anticipated. Going from my traditional style of bike packing to a hybrid setup of frame bags and rear panniers has alleviated my space issues and given me some flexibility to carry the additional clothes and food required.
My recent winter expeditions have seen me use nothing more than a bivy and tarp for shelter, something that is not practical with an extended trip through the Alaska outback. My self-induced 'safety parameters' require that I be able to hunker down and ride out bad weather. Carrying a 8-pound traditional winter shelter was out of the question, so I turned to Hyperlite Mountain Gear and asked them build me a prototype shelter that weighs in right at the one pound mark and would be capable of standing up to the conditions I would encounter. The shelter arrived last week and I have only had the ability to test it several times. I stood it up in 35 mph winds and it was solid—still the shelter is unproven and that thought makes my stomach begin to turn a bit.
My route on the ground will be free flowing, opening up the option to go and roam as conditions and circumstances dictate. This type of trip is a dual edged sword for me. Preparing for the trip, without a set plan, creates an over riding sense of angst as my analytical side craves order and neatness. The flip side is that once on the ground, and my two wheels begin rolling, there is no stress, because there is no place you have to be. You can't be lost if you don't know where you are going. It is a liberating feeling once put into play.
I know that on February 1st, when I land in Anchorage, all of the planning, research, second-guessing, what if games and the like, will all be gone. The stress of the planning phase will give way to the excitement and pure joy of the actual trip. I have traveled far and wide, and I know that once the trip begins everything has a way of simply working out. It won't matter that I did not get the flashlight that I wanted; the clothing that I bring will keep me warm, or it won't, and then I will figure it out. I will probably be hungry and tired and sore, but that too is ok, for that is what the trip is all about.
My two wheels will set out on the road or the trail and I will simply make it work. I will get by with what I have. It does not matter what I thought I needed, it will all work out—it always does. That is the lesson that I have learned some 16,000 miles later. It sometimes gets lost when I am not on the road, and that is ok, but when I begin to travel all is right with the world. For it is in that free flowing world of travel, of putting yourself out there, that it is so very easy to let all of the other stuff slip away and just become one with the world. In that world, my experience has shown that everything is as it should be.
Me, my Mukluk, and a desire to see the world.
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Glenn Charles spent his first 40 years living what he thought was the American Dream; he now says he’s living life. Traveling by bike and kayak, he finds new ways to explore the world, meet new people and grow as a person. As he travels 50,000+ miles by human power, he hopes to inspire others to reconnect with nature and lead simpler, happier lives. thetravelingvagabond.com