Taking Care of Cyclists and Eagles in the Eagle Preserve
My husband Chip and I cycled out to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve parking lot, and on the way back my rear wheel popped a spoke. It just went "ping" and I wobbled to a stop. Chip, being ever chivalrous (and just like me) saw no reason to cut short his ride, so he suggested I hitchhike the 17 miles home. (Walking in my cleated bike shoes is slow going.) So I waved goodbye and waited. There wasn't a whole lot of traffic. Like none. After about ten minutes one small car zipped past, which wouldn't do, and then about five minutes later there was an old mini-van. I waved and the driver stopped. I explained the situation and he said he'd be happy to give me a lift. We moved some stuff out of the way in the back of his van, took the front tire off my bike, and folded it in. We made introductions. (He is relatively new to town, having lived in Bethel and then Fairbanks before coming here a few years ago, he said). We didn't have to slow down much when we came upon Chip, since my new friend doesn't believe in driving over 35 mph when he's on his way back from a Reuben breakfast sandwich at 33-mile Roadhouse. "What's the hurry?There's so much to look at it," he said waving his arm and veering a little into the on-coming lane. He slowed to show me two cottonwood trees which had grown together. We looked at the swans gliding on a pond. He said it has been a big spring for the migrating birds. I told him the mallards in my neighborhood are thick as scoters. He said there are lots of them in the roadside swamps and channels next to the highway and that while he was driving out to breakfast the week before, a mallard had flown right into the side of his van and died. "That's never happened before, but there was nothing I could do. I felt terrible." He figured it was a shame to waste it, and turned back to retrieve his duck dinner. "But you know, I got to thinking," he said. "I am well fed, and these eagles, well, it has been a long winter." So he left the duck where it fell and waited in his van, watching. "It took about five minutes for an eagle across the river to see it, and then she swooped down, looked at me, and took off with it." I had been a little put out that my ride was cut short, but you know, it turned out to be a pretty good morning after all, and Chip made up for it by riding with me out to Chilkoot Lake after my wheel was fixed.