Fatigue is setting in. Comfort and intimacy are forming within the group. Conversations are shifting from what-do-you do to sharing thoughts and having practical fun. We are all way past small talk.
Sitting at the campground over oatmeal and coffee, covered from head to toe in DEET and mosquito jump suits, our conversation shifted to mosquitos and our mosquito-phobias.
Tom’s ex-wife loved to torture them. She would blow against the mosquito net to attract them via her carbon dioxide emission. They would furiously try to poke their proboscis through the net and she would bend them. She was fascinated watching them struggle to straighten themselves out. Joe, the explorer type, uses binoculars to watch the mosquitos at mega-life size. Jesse was simply impressed that they could be one inch long in Alaska.
We were in Alaska's mosquito paradise, so there were plenty of them for everybody to find their own methods of enjoying or torturing them.
Along with the mosquito swarms that may just appear, we also had plenty of bees. On my way to Glen Ridge, bees and other insects bumped into every part of my body: elbows, legs, face and arms. And when a bee hits your face at 19 mph it hurts like a small stone!
After a short stop at the Black Bear Lodge, we arrived at Glen Allen, which was a dry (and pieless town) so we had to booze up a bit before entering. It would be our rest stop for one day to recover and take care of basic needs such as doing laundry and sleeping.
Cooking Duty And Good-Bye Andre.
Phil and I were in charge of cooking dinner tonight. In my panniers I had now the thawed salmon and halibut from Maple. We were not sure how to cook that much fish without a proper stove, grill or oven. We unloaded our bikes and ventured back to Glen Allen’s little town center to see what we could find.
Phil was in charge of vegetables and I settled for wrapping the salmon in a salt crust so I could toss them into hot coals in an open fire pit. Both of us were stressed about feeding 15 hungry people. To him the challenge was cooking for that many people, while for me it was not having a proper stove and kitchen. After a couple of hiccups, discussion, and heated moments, we served dinner two hours late.
It was our last night with Andre, who joined us a few days ago. He became 16 and an official member after we met him a up a few nights ago at the bar. From Brazil, he was cycling on a self-contained tour back via Canada, the continental USA and central America.
We were sad. Over the last few nights we have gotten used to the comfortable familiarity of meeting him at our campgrounds - sharing laughter over drinks and meals. He has the most beautiful and contagious smile with sparkling white teeth that I've ever seen. He would be perfect for a Colgate commercial ;).
It started to rain toward the night - our first rain since we set out on our tour. Rain is unusual for Alaska and the season.
I fell asleep immediately after dinner from exhaustion. The last thing I remembered was spraying myself with DEET and listening to the mosquitoes buzzing around my tent. In my semi-delirious state, fueled by my irrational fear of mosquito bites, my mind wandered thinking about what might happen if one got trapped in my sleeping bag. How many times can a mosquito sting before dying? I fell asleep listening to Billie Holiday.