Day 9: Delta Junction to Salchaket Roadhouse - Alaska Loop 2015 - CycleBlaze

July 20, 2015

Day 9: Delta Junction to Salchaket Roadhouse

Today should be an easy day, so there is no hurry to get moving. I got up before 8 and got breakfast at the supermarket across the highway. None of the restaurants in Delta Junction serve breakfast.

I got on the road after 9, going northwest from Delta Junction on the Richardson highway. 52F, light drizzle, but the forecast calls for no rain.

Log cabin under construction next to a giant electronic billboard that scrolls Bible verses.
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Until now the Richardson highway had no rural houses and no rural farms or industry other than the pipeline. Now the highway looks more like a rural highway in the lower 48, with frequent private crossroads leading to houses in the distance. Still rural, but now sparsely populated instead of un-populated. I also started seeing occasional trash for the first time.

Not sure what this is. It looks interesting, maybe old.
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Traffic was moderate but the road has a good paved shoulder. After 15 miles the highway crosses the big muddy Tanana river. The most interesting sight is the pipeline crossing the river on a suspension bridge. Fascinating.

In the morning I saw two southbound bike tourists. I wonder if they're doing the epic Alaska to Argentina tour?

Alaska Pipeline crossing the Tanana river.
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I will follow the Tanana river downstream to Fairbanks. The river flows northwest to the Yukon river which then flows west to the Beaufort Sea.

Richardson highway and pipeline crossing Tanana river.
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The landscape is now hilly, not mountainous. I'm far north of the Alaska Range and far south of the Brooks range.

Still Boreal forest.
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The road is remarkably level for the first 22 miles, but then the hills begin. Hill 1 climbs 450 feet to a distant river view. Hill 2 climbs 100 feet to a clifftop river view. Hill 3 climbs 350 feet to a forested summit with a very distant river view. Hill 4 climbs 200 feet with no view.

Braided Tanana river from hill 2.
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The Tanana river is a good example of a braided river. The river valley is miles wide, but the river only fills a small portion of the river valley. The river forms a constantly shifting braid of water and islands.

Tanana river from hill 2.
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The road also passes several lakes. Harding Lake is the biggest, with many vacation homes. Another major difference is that the Richardson highway now has power lines. These houses are on the grid.

Harding Lake.
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In one place the road was shut down for 3 miles with a pilot car leading 1-way traffic. They let me pedal through on my own. The only thing going on was a single signpost being set in concrete, held up by a front end loader obstructing one lane.

Something different from the usual fireweed. The invasive dandelions are spread by cars.
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During this tour I have seen many interpretive signs about the Klondike/Alaska Gold Rush even though I haven't been in areas that played a prominent role in the gold rush. The signs were all put up in 1996 to celebrate the centennial of the Gold Rush.

One of many roadside interpretive signs about the Alaska Gold Rush.
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Today was mostly cloudy all day. There were periods of sun but only for a few minutes at a time. High of 65F. Today also seemed to have fewer insects.

Straight ahead. The center line rumble strip started in Delta Junction.
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At 5:03 PM I rolled up to Salchaket Roadhouse in the rural community of Salcha. When I made a reservation in February they said they have a restaurant. But the restaurant is closed now because they can't hire anybody to run it. They still have a store, so I bought a frozen pizza and the owner heated it up in the oven at his house.

The Roadhouse has two rooms for rent for $90/night. The rooms are small, have two twin beds, but no fridge or microwave.

Home for the night. They have 2 rooms for rent. Restaurant closed due to lack of workers.
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The sun finally started shining brightly at 9:30 PM. The temperature rose to 70F, warmer than it had been all day. The sun was still shining on the window when I went to bed at 11. Kind of surreal to be cloudy all day but sunny late at night.

I was surprised that today's route is relatively populated. Very different from the southern 2/3 of the Richardson highway. I can tell I'm approaching a city.

Today's route has hilly segments but the majority of the route is nearly level. Flattest day since day 1. An easy day of pedaling, even with a mild headwind. Tomorrow should be even easier.

Distance: 57.0 mi. (91 km)
Climbing: 1521 ft. (461 m)
Average Speed: 10.0 mph (16 km/h)

Today's ride: 57 miles (92 km)
Total: 421 miles (678 km)

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