July 25: The bike ride

Last night after blogging, we took a walk around the hotel. The grounds are gorgeous, well-manicured and sculpted, with great gardens. I appreciate that they label the plants, like a botanical garden. We also found the game room, where Prescott walloped me at Ms. Pac Man.

Today, we woke up late to more rain in Girdwood. This is steady, light rain, the kind that Seattle would be proud of. After breakfast at the giant buffet (it’s included in our hotel package, and it’s an invitation to gross over-eating), we decided that we should take a bike ride. Crazy, but as I said in another post, people in Alaska carry on with their plans no matter the weather.

We rented bikes from the nicest guy in all of Alaska. He let us pet and play with his four dogs, which was so much fun that we almost didn’t go riding. But off we went on the “Gird to Bird” trail, which runs 26 miles from Girdwood to Bird Creek. The trail parallels the Seward highway and the railroad tracks, but you’re separated from the highway by trees and hills for most of the trip.

This was a great ride! It begins along the tidal slough (where spruce trees that died in the 1964 earthquake still stand, devoid of needles, eerily preserved in three feet of mud and salt). The trail then runs along the tide flats of Turnagain Arm on one side and marshy ponds, waterfalls, and the Chugach mountains on the other (in winter, this is a terrific avalanche zone). Eventually the path goes through a forest of birch and willows. Lots of up and down, although the grade was never more than 10%.

We had originally planned a 14 mile trip, but when we arrived at the first turn-around point (7 miles), we were having so much fun decided to keep going. The rain had stopped, and we pedaled on another six miles to lunch at the Turnagain House (bad food, but a really fun waitress). The ride back was incredibly hard; the rain picked back up, and we had a headwind so strong that we had to pedal — hard, in low gears — to go downhill. I’ve never biked in anything like it. But we were fierce and determined (well, I was; Prescott just rides blithely on without needing extra adjectives to get him up the long hills). We made it – 26 miles!

The reward at the end was a trip to the hotel sauna, heated saltwater pool, and hot tub. Lovely! Dinner at the Double Musky, where we had fabulous Scallop Stuff Mushrooms with Rockefeller Sauce, French Pepper Steak (one reviewer has called it “the best steak in the world”), and Sockeye Salmon in orange sauce with a fruit salsa. Good, filling food (the portions here are always enormous) and good company — we had a nice chat with the people from Anchorage at the neighboring table. The poor guy works for BP …

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