Labels - we are all getting labeled when we are in a group. Mine were for owning the road, being the last person to leave camp and for ending up in long conversations with strangers. I was proud for my new labels, especially for my conversations! I've met some very interesting people so far.
Robert stood at my campsite entrance with his beautiful collie. The site was an opening on very rough and stony ground between short, scrubby looking shrubs. It felt very desolated. Walking toward my site our colorful and bright tents poked out like small, little aliens from a distance. He watched me quietly while I was approaching. I was going to break down my tent to leave.
He had a warm smile and appeared to be in his late fifties with withered face and white hair. Both of them were extremely well groomed and, except for his clothing, nothing would make me think of him as homeless. The group, though, would refer to him later as the “homeless guy” in a condescending manner.
He shared his simple life motto with me: right, wrong, good, bad. At first I interpreted this in the biblical way and waited for him to elaborate and hoped he would not try to convert me. “Life is very simple,” he explained. “Everything boils down to human respect and our gut feeling - if it's either right or wrong, harmful or beneficial. We feel it before we can accept it. Life is too fast and we don't stop to observe anymore. People reveal so much about themselves nonverbally when we pay attention.”
I left Robert with heavy thoughts about life and humanity while I entered the first of 120 unpaved miles of the Denali Highway.
The loose gravel worried me. I was at 6 mph flat and maxing out at 12 mph going downhill, fearing I may fly off the bike. Once I shifted the gears too fast and almost fell. As memories, I got a few new bruises on my left leg.
We did reach the second highest point of the Denali Highway. Each day it seems as we are reaching another high point with another gorgeous and surreal view on the glaciers.
Our overnight camp was at a sled dog rescue with cabins. The owners, an ex-model and her husband, rescue sled dogs and rehabilitate them. The model used to be a close friend of Lucas, yet, when I mentioned his name, her eyes had a very distant and stand-offish look.
After dinner, across the river from the dog rescue, we met a few locals and played penny poker. It reminded me of one the nights with my friends in Germany when I was 13 years old. It was the perfect ending to my day: being lost in my memories after the heavy start thinking about life.