The Arizona National Scenic Trail is 800 miles of singletrack, stretching from the Mexican border to the Utah border and traversing most of the state’s major mountain ranges. With initial development in the 1990s, the hiking trail passes through several wilderness areas, requiring bike detours. The current bike route is 827 miles, including a 24-mile required bike portage through the Grand Canyon (wheels can’t touch the ground).
I was born in Anchorage, Alaska, as was my mother. My grandfather was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, as was his father.
Alaska became a state in 1959. It’s a complicated and very beautiful place. It’s home.
In 2017, I rode all of the major roads in the state— about 4,500 miles, a mix of gravel and pavement. By land, Alaska is huge— twice the size of Texas. The road system is very limited, many places are isolated. I wanted to ride my bike to connect as much as I could. I set out in a series of trips— riding for a week or two at a time and hitching back to town to work at The Bicycle Shop to fund the next leg. For the most part, I rode alone. It was a lot of freedom and I had the time of my life.
Reflecting on my rides later, I wanted to go back to share my experience. Both with Rue, the love of my life, and with the public through photos and videos. This is something I have thought about since the fall of 2017.
Top 11 finalists for the “Lael Rides Alaska” 2021 Femme-Trans-Women’s Scholarship
Design a 1,000 mile Alaska bike adventure, tell me about your plan and yourself and how you’ll make it happen this summer.
With the help of Cari Carmean, Natsuko Hirose, Kailey Kornhauser, and Abigale Wilson, we’ve selected 11 finalists from the 126 applicants. It has been extremely encouraging to read about women from around the world that want to take on this challenge and have so many unique approaches. I am honored to share a few of their stories. This has been a hard year for everyone. While highlighting positivity, there’s always an undercurrent of endurance and reflection. These are bold stories of perseverance, of finding connection, learning about ourselves and what truly matters.
I’m thrilled to share that we have the capacity to give out two full scholarships this year to outfit two different adventures this summer. Thank you so much to our generous and thoughtful sponsors.
The winners will receive either a complete Specialized Diverge with Easton carbon wheels or an adventure bike built up by SRAM, Revelate Designs bikepacking bags, Big Agnes camping equipment, PEARL iZUMi apparel, a premium subscription to Komoot, a Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM GPS, a $300 gift card for Competitive Cyclist, Rene Herse tires, an Ergon saddle, a year subscription to Bicycle Quarterly, Trail Butter, Hydro Flask hydration, and a $1,500 travel stipend provided by Easton, and the Radavist will also kick in a $500 travel stipend for one of the finalists.
Now’s the really hard part– we have to choose two winners. Announcements to come later this week.
Read on below for the first of three posts showcasing the 11 finalists…
Alaskan summer energy, at its height, seems endless. You don’t need lights because the sun never sets. Schedules are mostly irrelevant— ride late, sleep in, take breaks, or never stop. It’s all possible.
Then the dark starts eating into the day. In late August, we start losing minutes that cumulate into hours over weeks. It’s hard to adjust. Night returns. And maybe that’s part of what makes it so special. That fleeting feeling of freedom that leaves, but not forever.
We continue our Lael Rides Alaska series with a beautiful story from a series of rides on some of Alaska’s islands. Check out more from this series in the ‘Related’ column below when you’re done reading this entry. Enjoy!
Staring at maps in 2017 on my mission to ride all of the major roads in Alaska, I was drawn in by a few remote destinations with more extensive road networks, specifically Nome, Kodiak Island, and Prince of Wales Island. In that summer, I made it to Nome and rode the three roads out of town— to the native village of Teller, to the river that leads to the historic gold mining town of Council, and to the active mining road that ends at the Kougarok River for a total of 230 miles.
I put my bra back on and brush my teeth and walk from the dorm room past the pool table salon to the restaurant and out the door to my bike. It’s four in the morning and still dark outside. It’s a new day. I’m ready to ride. Rue is on her computer waiting at a table and follows me out.
Coming off a week of downtime after one of the most tumultuous years of our lives has brought clarity to this annual retrospective. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect as Covid-19 gripped the global community and changed life as we know it. We looked to our new home in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the surrounding areas for inspiration, pinged our good friends for their penmanship, and listened to communities that have been underrepresented in cycling. What resulted were a lot of articles that tackled some big issues and the realization that we still have a lot of work to do.
I’ve spent the past few weeks mulling over our content and have compiled a list of some of the most meaningful and fun pieces from the past twelve months. Read on below for a selection of memorable moments from 2020, in chronological order…
Time Trial on the Arizona Trail 300: The Trail is Always Available
I started thinking about riding the Arizona Trail again while Rue and I were hiking it in November. We took a $5 FlixBus from Tucson to Flagstaff, walked one mile down Historic Route 66 and got on the trail. It took us a month to walk to the Mexican border. Walking was my mental recovery from a summer of racing. The Arizona Trail is a 789 mile hiking trail across the state. With a bike, it’s a hybrid– mostly riding, but a considerable amount of pushing too. It’s hard. It took me 270 miles of walking to start dreaming about getting back on the bike. I remember the moment– we were hiking the Gila River section and my mind started tracing the curves of the trail with bicycle wheels. And it hit me, what if I rode the Arizona Trail with a bigger, more capable bike?
Editor’s note: this is a long piece, but I wanted to leave it mostly unedited to maintain Erik’s voice, and all are encouraged to ask Erik questions here, just 24 hours before he departs for the North Cape 4000. So feel free to ask away and hopefully he’ll have time to address any questions you might have!
Wednesday / July 11 2018 / 04.22 am / Orlando International Airport / T-16 days to NC4000
Dehydrated and wrecked after canceled flights and a week on the road hunting Tour de France in cars, being off the bike completely for eleven days while eating shitty gas station food. The longest ride I’ve ever done is two weeks away and I’m lacking the fitness I wish I had enough of to relax about it at this point. Gear is not dialed and there’s a lot of questions without known answers right now. I’ll use this piece as a checklist, trying to get some answers for myself and to give you a picture of what’s in my head right now as I write this on a plane from Orlando to San Francisco, but first some context and a SWOT, a thing I tend to do when shit’s about to hit the fan. When this is published in two weeks from now, we’ll be on our way to the start in the north Italian city of Arco on July 28th.