On the Road: Joe Cruz Treelines Alaska, Pt. 2

If you read yesterday’s post you got a sense for what Joe’s travels and travel writing are like. For us, as bike builders, it’s fun and exciting to work with a rider (and writer) like Joe, because he’s out doing big rides, trying to have real adventures, and we like the idea that our bike can take him there.

Here, in Pt. 2 of his Alaska trip, he and his friends leave Anchorage for the wilderness.

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Sometimes the skies, sometimes the particular and ephemeral snow crystals on your sleeve, sometimes the way the trees that would be imposing and majestic if stood under close up seem like fragile grass stalks against the expanse of ice. Or sometimes Alaska is wholly inside, a sequence of articulate thoughts—libertas, the Michener novel, extraction economy, Seward’s seven million US dollar Folly—alongside textural emotion: fear, towering vertigo, all the promise and potential in being lost.

We catch a ride north to find firmer conditions, end up in Talkeetna where my sister-in-law lives, certified badass Denali mountain guide and search and rescue. We hang out with her and Judy and Joey, ride the race course loop in town at high speeds and in short sleeves. Lael entertains herself lofting snowballs into the river while the rest of us drink some beer as a refuge from good sense. It’s a day spent pedaling in that style where you’ve gone to the trailhead just to do a circuit with good friends because cycling is joyful, where you go as hard as you can up the climbs to see if you might stay ahead emphatically and especially because you’re not racing. Alex with his stupid hat that I’m envious of dominates all the photos I take, I want to throw it in the water behind L’s frosty chunks.

img_3922This heat spell sets some of our plans back, but they were just wispy talk anyway, replaceable by any number of alternative excellent foolish ideas. Nick’s next one for the last couple of days before they leave to the White Mountains 100 is that we should go up to Resurrection Pass, sleep in a cabin and come back down. The parsimony of it is immediately appealing. Carp picks us up in his transcendent old bus as if it makes even the slightest bit of sense, as if we’re being picked up before sunrise for school like when we were kids. I nap through the drive.

Sometimes Alaska is New Zealand or Chile, sometimes Norway and the Swiss Alps with higher more muscular peaks. It’s always the USA though, the implication of commerce in front of culture—once gold, now oil—maybe commerce asculture, gas stations, bail bonds, fast casual restaurants, blocks with familiar B- brands, Payless Shoes and Dick’s Sporting Goods. People dressed unusually slacker slovenly hunting fishing overalls Carhartt double bar tacked two sizes too large, obligatory ball cap as if they’re fedoras and it’s the 1940’s. The irony of t-shirts with angry bald eagles and camo printed on them, made in China.

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This is just an excerpt from Joe’s journal. Read more here. We’ll be sharing more of his adventures here in coming weeks, including his latest expedition, to Kyrgyzstan.

On the Road: Joe Cruz Treelines Alaska, Pt. 1

Maybe you remember in the spring when we built a Treeline SL for our buddy Joe Cruz. We said then that bringing Joe together with that bike would guarantee adventure, and we’re happy to say we were right. Joe is a restless soul. He spends his days teaching philosophy at one of New Englands bucolic colleges, but any break in the schedule, any opportunity at all, Joe will travel, and when he travels, it’s by bike.

The first adventure on his new Treeline was to Alaska, first a quick tour of the area surrounding Anchorage and then off to the glacial north. Joe is a vivid writer. Here are some words and pictures from the trip:

Out of the airplane window, snow ripples bound for the horizon and enough time passes for an epiphany, no signs of human life for unusually long. It’s March so home is seeping away from winter but I’m headed back toward it now, mostly into sparsity and space, woods that aren’t just parcels and rivers that pick up speed to that geologic inertia less compromised by our interventions.

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Anchorage is a place that is not about itself, its arrow of reference points to the mountains on clear days or towards the chop and surf of river and ocean. Wide linear strip mall avenues with cheap block era architecture, low downtown buildings huddled together as awkwardly as a group of strangers not wanting to be left out of a conversation at a party. When I’m driving it in my brother-in-law’s borrowed inevitable ’86 Toyota pickup, it takes longer to get anywhere because the one way streets take you ’round expansive city blocks, but it also takes less time because there is speeds and space, like going twice as fast at a 1/2 time frame rate. It’s a built up environment that isn’t an aspiration but an accommodation of the varied wants or realities that bring people here. Gold, adventure, work, birth, misanthropy, dreams, freedom, land, fear, courage.

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We pitch a pyramid tent by the sinking sun and firming snow, anchoring the lines to our bikes, I draw a straw short enough to put me at one of the edges and I keep waking in the night to a suffocating dream with damp nylon on my face. Nick, who’s at the other edge, points out that one of the advantages is that he and I can just lift the edge to take a piss and that’s a plausible enough consolation. Inside it’s cozy, there’s no end to the eating. Nick and Lael each have used up an entire loaf of bread in making their sandwiches and they seem content with living on those, I seesaw between jealousy and quizzical skepticism for days.

Our hours are upriver and downriver churning on the Yentna, sometimes we spread out and I meditate the blinding white, the pulse of patches of soft snow, the ruts of the snowmachines. Sometimes we’re three and four wide talking, wave at the occasional mechanical speeder, the boys find unopened cans of beer in the snow from where they fell off supply sleds, we’re dehydrated enough to be left loopy after a few deep gulps.

This is just an excerpt from Joe’s journal. Read more here. We’ll be sharing more of his adventures here in coming weeks.