Day 19: Talkeetna to Wasilla - Alaska Loop 2015 - CycleBlaze

July 30, 2015

Day 19: Talkeetna to Wasilla

Today will be a long day. Up at 7:15, breakfast at the Roadhouse downstairs. It has long bench tables and encourages people to mingle. I left the roadhouse sometime before 9.

A mile out of the historic district I noticed an interesting looking playground tucked away in the woods. Having just spent months helping to build a playground, I had to take a look.

Playground in Talkeetna. Note custom themes such as wolves, float plane, and train.
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The Talkeetna playground is larger and fancier than the playground I built. Incredibly, a sign says they built the playground is just 5 days in June 2008.

Still more custom decorative themes such as eagles, mountains, braided river.
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The playground is mostly built with wood and it incorporates design elements that showcase unique aspects of Talkeetna.

No vandalism. The playground is surrounded by a birch forest with a few foot paths.
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The playground even has a child-sized log cabin.
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The children custom-decorated wood tiles that are displayed throughout the playground.
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The day's ride started with 14 miles backtracking on the bike trail parallel to the Talkeetna Spur road. And then south on the busy Parks highway towards Anchorage. Traffic was nearly nonstop, but for 9 miles the shoulder is narrower than any other part of the Parks highway. It will probably be re-built in the next year or two.

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Today I follow the Susitna river downstream in a broad flat valley. Not many mountain views. Tall trees obstruct most of the views anyway. But I crossed many creeks and saw many people fishing. Private driveways and No Trespassing signs become increasingly common.

State Park on a tributary of the Susitna river.
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The most notable thing on today's route is the Willow Fire. The fire has been under control for the last couple weeks but it was out of control for much of June. Started by a reckless homeowner, it destroyed 55 homes and burned 7220 acres of forest. The firefighting effort cost more than $8 million.

Looking across a lake towards the Willow burn.
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Great reflection looking towards the unburned side of the lake.
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The Willow fire burned to the edge of the Parks highway for a couple of miles. I could smell it.

Willow fire up close. I could smell the smouldering embers.
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Soon after the fire a bike trail starts alongside the highway. The bike trail continues for 20 miles until the edge of Wasilla. The bike trail was welcome because the traffic on the Parks highway has been miserable since Willow.

Bike trail parallel to the Parks highway.
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Unfortunately the trail has a major problem. For many miles the asphalt bike trail is adjacent to an ATV trail which is just above the bike trail on a steep slope. ATVs would kick up loose gravel that falls onto the bike trail. The bike trail is nearly always covered with a thin layer of gravel.

Today was a warm sunny day. Gentle headwind. Mostly cloudy in the morning, but partly cloudy in the afternoon. High of 72F. 3rd day of the tour with no rain. No mosquitoes. Wonderful. But still no Denali view when I look back.

Looking back at the Alaska Range I left behind.
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A few miles before the town of Wasilla the highway becomes 4 lanes and the bike trail ends. I pedaled on the wide shoulder past miles of industrial development. About when the industry transitions to shopping centers I turned right to the Best Western Lake Lucille.

In Wasilla I encounter the first traffic light since Fairbanks, more than 7 days ago.
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First view of the Chugach Range ahead, at the turnoff to the Best Western Lake Lucille in Wasilla.
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The Best Western Lake Lucille is a big fancy hotel in a beautiful setting. The lake views are spectacular, but my $164 room faces the opposite direction. The lake is surrounded by upscale homes. One home belongs to Sarah and Todd Palin. I did a Google image search for Sarah's home and looked for it on the adjacent streets but didn't see it. Sarah Palin was a vice president candidate, half-term Alaska governor, and profoundly uninformed Fox News talking head who managed to earn a few million dollars from her brief fame.

View across Lake Lucille from the Best Western.
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Sunset view across Lake Lucille.
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I feel like I'm back in generic suburban North America now. With nonstop traffic and nonstop development, it no longer seems like the "Last Frontier" of Alaska.

Distance: 72.6 mi. (116 km)
Climbing: 1209 ft. (366 m)
Average Speed: 10.9 mph (17.4 km/h)

Today's ride: 73 miles (117 km)
Total: 863 miles (1,389 km)

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