Day 15: Denali Village to Cantwell - Alaska Loop 2015 - CycleBlaze

July 26, 2015

Day 15: Denali Village to Cantwell

Today will be a short easy day and it was cold and drizzly early in the morning. I got on the road at 10, into a brisk headwind, going upstream along the Nenana river.

Nenana river.
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A great deal of today's route was under construction. Building the Parks highway steadily higher and wider. 5 miles of gravel wet enough to have no dust. Also 10 miles of brand new un-striped pavement. So wide and smooth and clean.

I had several segments of road construction today.
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This grade-level railroad crossing will soon be replaced by half a mile of new highway that is higher, straighter, wider, and has a bridge over the railroad.
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After only 15 miles I had lunch at the lodge south of McKinley Village. Pulled pork stew and an excellent salad.

Nenana River and McKinley Village.
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One hill climbed up to 2400 feet elevation, 200 feet above the river.

Looking back.
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The weather was overcast all day. Clouds fairly low to the ground, so the mountains just disappear into the low clouds.

Looking ahead. I wonder what's behind the clouds.
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I followed the Nenana river for most of the day.

Parks highway and Nenana river.
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Nenana river.
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Near the end of the day I was forced to ride in the back of a "pilot car" pickup truck through a 4 mile road construction zone. They say insurance regulations prohibit bikes in the construction zone. The cruel irony is that riding 4 miles in the back of a pickup truck was the most dangerous thing I did all day. And the 4 miles I wasn't allowed to bike would have been the safest segment of the day, with 30 feet of asphalt between me and the slow-moving machines finishing up the opposite edge of the pavement, and only occasional slow moving one-way traffic led by a pilot car.

Looking down on the Nenana river.
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2 miles north of Cantwell the Parks highway crosses the Nenana river for the last time. The river turns east, along the Denali highway. I will continue south on the Parks highway.

Crossing the Nenana river near Cantwell. My last time to see the river.
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I arrived in Cantwell before 3 PM. Earliest arrival of the tour by far. Bluesberry Inn appeared to be closed, with multiple No Trespassing signs at the front door. So I called the owner Rod, who said he wouldn't have a room ready until 5:30, and that I should have called if I needed a room before 6. So I sat in a little school bus stop for a couple hours while it rained off and on. I went back at 5:30 and still didn't get the room until past 6. But he gave me one of his new deluxe cabins instead of an old motel room. $102, a bargain.

Dinner was at the only cafe in town. They just opened yesterday. A huge roast beef sandwich plate smothered in gravy, with corn on the cob. That'll do. They were probably surprised to see me eat all of it.

Cantwell barely qualifies as a town. About 200 people live in the area. It has a school, but K-12 enrollment is only 15 students and dropping. It has 2 gas stations, a Chevron store, and a cafe. Nobody sells beer.

Cantwell is the western terminus of the Denali highway that several cyclists have raved about. It goes east along the southern edge of the Alaska range all the way to the Richardson highway. 20 miles is paved, 110 miles is unpaved.

Today was overcast all day with occasional showers. The scenery would have been magnificent if the clouds were higher. High of 62F, headwind all day.

Distance: 31.4 mi. (50.2 km)
Climbing: 1229 ft. (373 m)
Average Speed: 8.9 mph (14.2 mph)

Today's ride: 31 miles (50 km)
Total: 658 miles (1,059 km)

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