Nenana and Natalie Chong

Having been cared for 3 days by good hands, i started the day riding leisurely towards the Parks highway. Riding through the residential areas, suddenly i bumped into the highway not far from the the turnoff to Ester.

From there, the highway climbed in a series of long winding grades. It had enough shoulder with intermittent passing lanes. Soon, there was a view point to southeast with a monument in honor of George Parks, the territorial governor of Alaska from 1925 to 1933.

GUA_7098Nenana valley. View of the Alaska range to the south is blocked by clouds.

Further, the road followed along a sort of ridge from which there were beautiful views of the overlooking bogs, small lakes and creeks, with the Tanana river visible on both sides of the highway.

GUA_7105Parks highway towing facility

On seeing a rest area after 40 miles of ride, I lied down on a bench, trying to make a decision as to how long i should go further that day. Nenana is conveniently located about 10 miles away  with an RV campground. With my mind back at the rest area, I observed a woman walking her two dogs out of the car. Few minutes later, she walked toward me with a question,”Where are you riding from?” After few exclamations, appreciated me and wishing a safe ride, she walked towards her car. As i laid back again on the bench, she stopped the car on her way out, and enquired, “where are you camping tonight?”

“Probably, in the campground in Nenana,”

“Oh, i live one block away from it. In that case, i will bring watermelon. I have two watermelons. One is sweet and another not so good. I will bring the sweet one for you.”

Thank You, i love watermelons, will be there in about an hour or so.”

She drove out, i had my snack and moved on. It was an easy ride on flat road to Nenana, the small native settlement with about 550 people, at the confluence of Tanana and Nenana rivers. Earlier, i heard of Nenana from other travellers, as a cute little town that looks like a “Wild West” village.

Nenana, is a native Athabascan word meaning “a good place to camp between the rivers.” The town thrived as a trading center for Natives of the region and travelers on the vast network of interior rivers. Boomed in the early 1920s, the town is today a hub for the tug boat and barges that provide goods to numerous villages.

GUA_7117The Alaska Native Veterans’ Honor Bridge. The steel through-truss style bridge is dedicated to Alaska Natives who have served in US Armed Forces. I was baffled on hearing that there is no other bridge downstream all the way down to the mouth of Yukon River in Norton Sound.

GUA_7125The visitor center in the sod roofed log cabin at the junction of the highway.

GUA_7121The little tugboat that plied the waters of the Tanana, Yukon and Koyukuk rivers for many years.

GUA_7106Nenana has an interesting annual event since 1917, known as “Nenana Ice Classic.” The event awards cash prizes to the lucky winners who guess the exact minute of the ice breakup on the Tanana River. When the surging ice on the Tanana river dislodges this tripod,  a line attached to the tripod trips a clock located in a tower atop the Ice Classic office, thus recording the official breakup time.

GUA_7109GUA_7112GUA_7113This railroad depot is on the National Register of Historic Places.


IMG_4649The RV Campground at Nenana. 

The elderly couple working at the campground helped me check-in smoothly. By the time i pitched my tent, the lady from the rest area drove in.

IMG_4625Natalie, the lady from the rest area, right on time as promised, with Watermelon, Plums and Vietnamese rolls.

IMG_4627i saw these Vietnamese rolls for the first time.


IMG_4629Natalie checking my bike.

Natalie Chong from Oregon (of South Korean descendant) is on a 3 year assignment to teach at the regional school for the natives in Nenana. She talked about the town, winters, summers, the school, kids and how they play in the cold winters wearing so many layers. I felt glad for meeting such a lively woman and felt nice at my new learning.

IMG_4632Realizing that iam not carrying any protein rich food, she came back with eggs and tuna. She also brought Melatonin for sleep (According to her, most of the Alaskans take these tabs to get sleep in the 24 hour day light of summers).

IMG_4643IMG_4647After Natalie left, this couple made my evening. They shared with me their stories of travels across the world. They brought this doggy from Cambodia. Sadly, i don’t remember their name as i write.


IMG_4652Late that evening, Brigitte, the 59 year old French cyclist, rode in. She is doing all the way from Prudhoe bay to Seattle. Impressed and humbled by her strength.

IMG_4660The next morning, Natalie was ready with breakfast.

IMG_4661She also brought Tuna, Cashew and fried Salmon for takeaway.

IMG_4662More watermelon and Water.

IMG_4672Before saying good bye, she said, “If you meet any cyclist that is going to camp in Nenana, refer them to me, I will take care of them.”

No words to describe her warm heart. May be, such people do not need description. Not only that they remain in the memories forever, their acts too remind how beautiful a life can be through sharing.

3 thoughts on “Nenana and Natalie Chong

  1. Hi,
    We met in the ferry ⛴ to Anacortes, WA. Your trip is amazing, stunning, and it’s a great challenge. I support you on your way !




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