Two cyclists embark on adventure ride from Kivalina to Kotzebue – The Arctic Sounder

September 12th 6:45 pm | Alena Naiden

Alaska is never short of outdoor adventures, but only some go beyond good exercise and beautiful scenery and turn into trips focused on local history, culture and bonding.

At the end of last month, two Kotzebue friends, Frank Lane and Kris Rose, rode their fat tire bikes almost 80 miles from Kivalina to Kotzebue, enjoying the summer Northwest Alaska coast full of colors and wildlife and exchanging knowledge they have. Rose shared with Lane his experience of planning outdoor adventures, and Lane told Rose stories about his home and the history of the area

“I would tell him when we were at Battle Rock: ‘This is where my people from Point Hope battled with the Noatak people.'” Lane said. “The history behind the whole coast — you know, the people that lived there.”

For Rose, learning about the history and the culture of the place made the trip much more meaningful — “kind of like looking at a picture versus looking at a picture with a caption,” he said.

“That was really amazing to do that with Frank because he knew it all, and I could tell that it all meant a lot to him,” Rose said. “Other than that, it would have just been, you know, some good exercise and some beautiful scenery. But with that, it was really special.”

Rose grew up in Palmer but moved to Kotzebue in 2010, originally as a teacher and now as a fire department employee. He and Lane worked together during Search and Rescue operations, but the two really met and started planning their trip when Lane saw Rose crossing a lake on his fat tire bike in winter.

“I just started talking to him and, you know, we put two and two together,” Lane said. A few years back, Lane attempted to walk from Kivalina to Kotzebue, but seeing Rose riding, he thought about how much time a bike can help save on such a trip. … It was both of our ideas coming together.”

Lane bought a bike at the beginning of the summer, and the two men started getting ready for the trip. They took off from Kivalina on Monday, Aug, 22, and made it to Kotzebue Friday, Aug. 26, seeing belugas, porpoises, bears, and chum salmon jumping in the water along the way.

Some spots of the trail were perfect to ride, while others were soft, and Lane and Rose needed to push their bikes through them.

Crossing the fast Anigaaq current, sleeping in cabins, conex and in a tent, bikers rode about 20 miles every day. But on the fourth day, the headwind was stronger than 35 miles per hour and waves were too tall to let bikers ride on the coast: soaked and tired, they needed to go around bluffs.

“I think we only made it about nine miles that day,” Rose said. “It wasn’t anything we couldn’t do but would have preferred for that to not happen.”

While for Rose, this wasn’t the first adventure of this kind and scale, Lane enjoyed his first long fat biking trip. Born and raised in Northwest Alaska, Lane is 59 and is working hard to stay active, despite — or because of — his asthma. He runs and rides his regular bike in summer, snow machines in winter and is now excited to use his fat bike more.

Lane’s father was a runner even in his 60s, he said, and had a big influence on him.

“He would always say, ‘When you get older, you gotta keep moving. You can’t stop moving around — you’ll get soft. You don’t want to get soft,'” Lane said. “I’ve been retired for like five years now, and I’m more active.”

Rose become another inspiration for Lane. As an avid outdoorsman, Rose showed Lane the secrets of packing light, and while the two were on the trail, he supported Lane and helped him during difficult stretches.

“I would take any trip out there with Kris,” Lane said. “He’s a real go-getter, and, you know, he set the bar high for me. … It was tough, but as I said, Kris would always be there and wait for me and help me a lot.”

The bikers stopped in several places and villages, including Sisualik, where Siikauraq Tukumiq caught a glimpse of them.

“It was so great to see these guys and hear of their adventure as they passed through Sisualik,” she said in her Facebook post. “They are doing what people dream of doing. Such an inspiration.”

Besides the thrill of an adventure, crossing the terrain was an experience close to Lane’s heart. Since he was 10, he would head that way with his grandfather on a snowmachine, seeing family members in various places on the way.

“I go to Point Hope every year and I see the terrain all the time, but it’s all white and it’s all the same,” he said. “I wanted to see it as it’s in the summertime, you know, when you really get down to it — I mean, really take a look at it. That’s been one of the things in life I wanted to do.”

The scenery astounded Lane, but he also noticed the changes happening to the area.

“I was overwhelmed to see all that there’s hardly anybody out there anymore that are at the camps anymore,” he said. “That’s one thing I recognize because it’s too expensive to live out there in the country. But it’s really, really, really beautiful.”

After the two bikers made it to Kotzebue, Lane felt like he was “drunk on fresh air” and breathing easier than before.

In fact, the next day after he got back, he ran a half marathon in Kotzebue. Now, his mind is on more biking adventures — for example, riding from Point Hope to Kivalina to finish the whole trail along the coast.

“I think we’re gonna do more trips,” Lane said. “I’m sure we’re going to do that — now that I had a taste of it.”

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