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And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness ... 

Genesis 16.7

Growing up in a small, midwestern town, I dreamed of exploring the world, especially the far north.  After I moved to Alaska for college, I had the opportunity but no money and few outdoor skills.  

However, I had a bicycle!

Early one summer, I began what friends called an audacious plan to ride from Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway to Valdez, take the ferry to Cordova and then ride about 50 miles to the Million Dollar Bridge and up the Copper River Highway as far as my bike would take me.  

The first few days of my ride were uneventful, but arduous with my sleeping bag and tent weighing down my bike.  Trails and backroads beckoned, and in my own way I was exploring and discovering the North, taking my time.   As I rode south down the Rich, climbing in elevation, the headwinds grew stronger and stronger.  I leaned into the wind, my muscles straining against the pedals.  Finally, it was too late to continue and time to camp.  But where?  The high plateau didn't offer any protection.  In fact, the ground was still hopelessly covered in several inches of slush, icy water with a thin crust on top.  It was winter in the mountains.

I was cold and hungry.   Too exhausted to continue, I felt hopeless and helpless.  Going back wasn't a good option: I would only face the same challenge the next day.  When I didn't think my situation could become more dire, it did.  Up from the crest of the hill, came two motorcyclists on Harley Davidsons.  My stomach churned.  I prayed.  The two grizzled and threatening-looking men circled me on their bikes and asked if I was lost.  I wasn't:  I was exactly 99 miles from Valdez with nothing and no one around.  The bikers introduced themselves.  I've long forgotten their names, but they came from Oakland, California, and were on their way up the Dempster Highway.  I couldn't help but laugh: they were the ones who were lost!

Intuitively, I began to trust them.  They invited me to spend the night with them in an old prospectors' cabin a mile or so away, off the road.  How they found it I'll never know.  As soon as we arrived, they built a fire, heated water, and made me instant soup and cocoa.  The next morning, after a safe and reasonably warm night, they heated more water to share instant coffee and oatmeal.  

Then, they helped drag my heavy bicycle back to the highway and I started my ride south, down into Thompson Pass, enthralled by the waterfalls.  The motorcyclists headed north.  Hopefully, they figured out the Dempster Highway is in a different country.

My bicycle odyssey was far from over, but angels intervened everywhere, from campers in Valdez who welcomed me to their warm fire; folks in Cordova who found a safe campsite for me; the fish spotters around the Copper River Delta who diverted their flights to check on my safety in bear country; the AMHS crew who fixed my derailer; the family north of Seward who welcomed me into their home and invited (insisted?) me to take a shower; the railroad crew who helped me get around road construction - but it entailed jumping between moving rail cars.  The list goes on.  My adventure was so successful, I planned another long-distance bike trip the next summer!

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