Alaska 2014: Hotel Budget Zero

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by jfman, Jul 18, 2014.

  1. jfman

    jfman Long timer

    Joined:
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    I would like to dedicate this report to the great people of Alaska. The folks in Alaska are amazing and the truly best hospitality I have encountered. If you took away all the famous roads, mountains, glaciers, bears and moose, Alaska would still be worth visiting because the people of Alaska are simply a great gang and will make you feel like you belong in that great state.

    Before you read: This report does not include a ride to Deadhorse or even the Arctic Circle, if you are hoping to see a manly beast on an amazing machine counquer the mighty Dalton, please quit reading now. This 24 day trip is about traveling to and around Alaska on a budget and more precisely an hotel budget of exactly zero dollars.

    In this report you will notice that the rider takes detours, runs out of gas, drops his bike and stops in unusual places. I partly blame these events on my newly acquired GPS system.

    I got it the day before I left and I was not too familiar with its functions yet.

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    DAY 1 and DAY 2 (Montreal to Washburn Marsh National Park)

    Travel tip for this part: Watch out for deer in Michigan

    An odd time to leave but I left from Montreal at 9pm on thursday. I wanted to travel thru Montreal and the Greater Toronto Area at night to avoid congestion. So I go to Toronto at around 2-3 am and I snapped a few pics of the GTA area then I got back on the 401/403 towards Michigan.
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    I ended up pitching the tent maybe 2 hours away from the Us border off the 403. Rode 5 minutes to a secluded spot on what appeared to be an untraveled/abandoned ATV trail.

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    Waking up the next day, surrounded by a big cloud of mosquitos I packed up and headed towards Michigan. After a pay bridge crossing and a 45 minute wait the border, I headed towards Chicago. Something motorclycle travelers need to know about Michigan and that there are a lot of small deer around these parts. By far the place where I had to tap the brakes the most for beasts. They are some little tiny edgy deers too. Road condition is similar to my home (crapish) and theres a lot of debris on those roads (tire threads and tar snakes peeling off etc..)

    I got to the Chicago area and after I saw a sign for a toll ahead I remembered that I left my loose petty US cash at home, so I pulled off the highway, right into East Chicago. Got a little lost there trying to find an ATM and get back on the main highway. Not the best place in the World East Chicago and it smells like welding fumes all over I guess from the foundries(?)

    After that detour I headed back on the road towards Fargo where my sister lives. I only made it an hour past Madison Wisconsin where I pitched the tent at a Washburn Marsh National Park.

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    #1
  2. jfman

    jfman Long timer

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    DAY 3, 4 and 5 (Fargo, Beartooth Pass and Yellowstone)

    Travel tip for this part: More Beartooth, less Yellowstone

    I left the campsite at around 10 and made it to my sisters place in Fargo around 2pm. My sister was hosting get together around a campfire in Fargo so naturally I went to purchase some supplies in town. That is when I found out that Fargo has some screwed up economics you guyz.

    Small pack of wood cost me 20$ and a 1.75liter bottle of whiskey cost 12.97$. Now I know how they stay warm during the winter over there.

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    Her coworkers are a great bunch; we had a good time and stayed up until the early hours of the morning. I ended waking up verrry late and left town even later as I had to go fetch some automotive silicone glue to fix the air mattress I had slept on. One of her big dogs had jumped on the inflatable bed and had poked a hole in it. After that fix I headed west towards Montana. I rode all night and finally made it to Beartooth pass as the sun was coming up. I was still very awake so I decided to ride the pass as the sun was rising. If you are traveling thru this area, Beartooth Pass is not to be missed. Amazing and changing views at every curve. It also has some side roads that are dirt. You can probably spend the better part of a day there checking out all the little side roads.

    This picture was taken at the hill at the Northen entrance of the Pass(HW211)The sun had not risen yet.

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    I rode up to the top of the pass where the temps were below freezing.

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    Once you start coming down again you can see Beartooth lake on your right. On the day I went the water was perfectly still and it made for a great shot.

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    Then coming down the pass I spotted a few elks and as luck would have it they ran off in a field that had a dirt road going up it so I followed the pack up the dirt road for a little while.

    Youtube video coming later

    Then I followed another road going to a lake where I met a guy from Utah that was taking some pictures. Unlike me, this guy actualy knew how to use a camera.

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    After riding Beartooth pass I grabbed some breakfast here.

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    Backtracked a little and went on to the Chief Joseph Highway. The views are not as spectacular as Beartooth Pass but its a great ride.

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    About halfway thru.

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    After the Chief Joseph Highway I rode west towards YNP. I rode by a dam.

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    Then this....

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    Finally made it to Yellowstone.

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    Now how can I comment without being too harsh? To me YNP felt more like Disneyland than nature. Gobs and gobs of people and a lot of traffic. Anyhting with more than two legs is constantly being bombarded with the clicks of the cameras from the tourists that have decided to stop in the middle of the busy roads at YNP. For my part I felt like the place was a little too crowded and too commercial.

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    I did stick around long enough to watch the Old Faithfull

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    And these colorful ponds.

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    Not having slep for a while, I took a nap at one of the campgrounds in YNP. A quick look at my front fender then reminded me that I needed to head North to make it to my destination so up towards Canada I headed. I made it to Helena (I think) and there I busted thru my budget and got a hotel room for 59$. Goes against the plan for this trip but I really needed a good night's sleep. This would be the first and last time in a hotel for the remainder of the trip.
    #2
  3. jfman

    jfman Long timer

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    DAY 6 (Glacier National Park: Going to the Sun Teaser and Forest Trunk Rd)

    Travel tips for this part: Buy your bearspray before leaving the US and check to see if Forest Trunk Road is washed out before heading out

    One of the roads I really wanted to see on my way to Alaska was the Going to the Sun Road. Unfortunately that road was not open in time for my passage thru the area. I still decided it would be worth checking out the first 12 miles of the road as a consolation prize. Also according to my Butler map of Montana, theres a a little side road (49) that is worth checking out on the way to GNP.

    Northbound on I-15

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    Grabbed something to eat in Browning where I hit 49 where I caugh a micro storm with hail and hard rain.

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    3 miles up the road it was sunny

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    Couple shots from the Going to the Sun Road (first 12 miles arent the best.) I will have to come back one day to check out the rest of it.

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    This is HW17 on the way to Canada (there is a small border crossing that closes at night)

    Anyone knows the name of that mountain in the middle?

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    This is Now Canada interstion of AB-6 and AB-5

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    Somewhere on 507 (I think)


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    I got a little confused and got on 774. After about 10km of dirt roads I ran into a guy parked off the road and he told that was no thru way to Crowsnest Pass from there so I backtracked to 507 and made it to 3 to Crowsnest on where I got on the 40 (Forest Trunk Road)


    That dirt road is wide and in excellent condtion. Only issue is that they were grading it so it was very soft and I had to slow down at times.


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    Rode it for 30/40 minutes. At that point I was beginning to lose sunlight so I started to look for a spot to stealthcamp. Not even a minute after I decided on finding a spot I saw my first bear of the trip. A pretty big brown bear on the side of the road. I caugh him with my contour videocamera so Ill try to add it to this post when I can. Needless to say I rode on for a few more kms past a helicopter pad and found a campground that was full of RV's but was vacant. I rode for another 10 minutes and found one of those campgrounds that work on the honor system. Threw my 20$(cost is 17$) into the slot and pitched the tent. The campground was completely empty with two Trailers but no trucks in sight. I went on a wood gathering trip and lit up a fire and downed a few whiskey/colas.


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    Before leaving on this trip I bought a harmonica. this is going to sound stupid but for some reason I had a vision that one day I would break down on a lonely AK road and would not have anything to do for hours so I bought it thinking I could mess with it then. With a few drinks in my system, zero musical talents or experience and no soul in sight(more on that later) I decided it would be a great time to start messing with my harmonica.
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    Messed with it for about an hour(I am pretty bad) then I went to sleep.
    #3
    greatbeard likes this.
  4. cycleman2

    cycleman2 Been here awhile

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    The mountain in the middle is known as Chief Mountain.
    #4
  5. rick danger

    rick danger Off the wagon

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    You seem to have gone about the same rt. I have planned. I missed the "going to the sun" road last trip because of a forcast for snow. I went west the end of sept. Going to try a month earlier this time. I'm going to try to fill in the gaps from the last two trips of places I missed. Look forward to the rest
    #5
  6. RiderRick

    RiderRick Been here awhile

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    Great writing pics and story telling, I'll ride along.
    #6
  7. doc_simple

    doc_simple Meat popsickle

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    P-Town wit da hipsters
    are you using a camera or a phone camera?

    either way, nice pics! Im in :thumb
    #7
  8. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

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    :clap subscribed
    #8
  9. itspossible

    itspossible never far enough

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    I'm in...
    #9
  10. jfman

    jfman Long timer

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    Thanks!

    Yeah this year they were working on it late. A shame but a good excuse to go back. :D

    Thanks for the comments.

    Some pics were taken with an iphone 5 but most other pics were taken with a Canon Rebel 2ti I bought just before leaving.
    #10
  11. jfman

    jfman Long timer

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    DAY 7 (Icefields Parkway)

    Travel tips for this part: Lot of LEO activity between Banff and Lake Louise - Prince George is your last "town" before Whitehorse YK


    That morning was a very cold one. Not fully woken up I go out for a morning wee in this desert campground and as I am leaning against a tree relieving the pressure a guy walks right in front of me. I guess his truck was parked behind his RV and I did not see it the night before. So much for my incognito harmonica practice session. He was very friendly and gave me some tips about the ways I had to go. First big tip is that the road I was on is washed out and probably wont get fixed for a while; until the logging company needs it open he claimed. He told me the best way back is to backtrack to the helicopter pad I had seen last evening and 3 kms south of it there is a road called Township rd that goes East towards AB-22.

    Township rd

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    On the way to Banff there was a washed out bridge. Dunno when it washed out but must have been quite some rain. They were hammering new supports in with that machine.

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    I was just busting through the area but I had been told not to miss Lake Louise.

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    So I rented a canoe for an hour (60$) and went to the end and back.

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    This helicopter was hauling supplies back and forth to the Glacier area. I don't know the reason but I was curious. (anyone knows?)

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    Back on the road: The Iceflieds Parkway is a nice drive but not the place to stretch the legs of a literbike. I saw more police that day than the whole previous week combined.

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    Glaciers between Lake Louise and Jasper

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    After Jasper I got on 16 west and rode to about an hour past Prince George where I camped at a power line clearing.
    #11
  12. duckman44

    duckman44 Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Makes me want to go back again now!
    It will have to wait another year or two.
    Have a great time!
    Great story to go with the pics.:clap
    #12
  13. jfman

    jfman Long timer

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    DAY 8 (Into the Cassiar)

    Travel tips for this part: Salmon Glacier is a side trip that is not to be missed (I did it on the way down) Dont pass a single fuel stop on the Cassiar

    Cassiar Fuel stops: South to North: Kitwanga - 158 miles to Bell 2 - 80 miles to Tatogga Lake Resort - 20 miles to Iskut - 52 miles to Dease Lake - 147 miles to Alaska Highway Note: there is a gas station to open soon(next year?) at the Meziadin Junction. Also some of the gas stations I had seen on a map were closed so dont think they will all be open.

    Waking up under the power lines somewhere off McBribe Timber Rd

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    Well despite the title this day starts many miles away from the Cassiar. To be honest HW16 (from Jasper to Kitwanga) is kinda of a boring stretch for this part of the trip. Just enough traffic that you cannot avoid riding in the pack of cars you are following or the next pack that is just a mile up the road. Not many passing lanes either so you have to suck it up.
    The first time you see a road sign with the word Alaska on it you get pretty excited yet you are still so far away from your destination.

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    I dont have many pics of the Cassiar from that day but I have to mention that to me, the Cassiar is a great ride. Very little traffic, zero LEO in sight (I heard of some sightings in Dease Lake) but I did not see any myself. The condition of the road is superb all the way to Dease Lake then the pavement quality drops but if you have a bike with decent travel suspension its still a great ride.

    I filled up at the Taggota Lake Resort at around 7:30 PM and a few miles north of there there was a boat launching spot that was such a great spot to camp that I decided to stop and camp there even though I had a couple hours riding left in me.

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    There I met two guyz from the Prince George area that were on a weekend trip. I forget their names (Ian and ?) they were good guyz and they had pretty damn good grub that they shared (I carry alcohol but seldom have anything to eat in my panniers that is worthy of mention)

    The smoke from the campfire was hovering over the lake and could not dissipate because of the mountains. (this is about 10:30pm btw)

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    #13
  14. jfman

    jfman Long timer

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    DAY 9 From the Cassiar to Destruction Bay YK

    Travel tips for this part: A motorcycle trip is a vacation, not a mission. Whitehorse is the only big "town" thru Yukon

    I had an awesome shuteye in that spot and woke up early and ready to eat up the miles.

    But first it was time for a tire change. My old front was done done done so it was time to install my TKC80 front on the Versys and become a real off road bad ass. (sarcasm)

    I am not a religious man but sometimes everything just falls into place. That concrete picnic table was the best makeshift workbench I had ever seen and the day before I found that little piece of 2 by 4 right in the middle of the road. I just stuck that long log under a metal anchor for the picnic table and pryed down onto the 2 by 4 to break the bead.

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    The last shower being in Montana I went into the lake for a quick (make that lightning quick) bath. That water is clear but it is cold. (sorry no pics you freaks!)

    This local guy was testing out his new boat as I was getting ready to leave.

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    Back on the road.

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    I filled up in Dease Lake and I kid you not I ran out of fuel right at the Yukon provincial line. With those side cases, my Versys 1000 gets terrible fuel mileage at 90+ mph. Time to break out the jerry can.

    BTW: When you see the Yukon line, you are only a couple miles from a gas station.

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    Riding thru Yukon I met a lot of riders who were on their way back home. All had two things in common; they had gone to Deadhorse and they were in a big hurry to get back home. Nine days on the road and not even into Alaska yet I decided around Whitehorse that I would not ride up to the top and enjoy myself a little in Southern Alaska for this trip. Less miles more smiles.

    Yukon bridge

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    About two hours below Whitehorse I passed a black truck towing a black boat at about 145km/h. It was the RCMP; they lit me up to get me to slow down(it worked) but they did not pull me over. Thank you guyz got the message; slowed to 118km/h.

    In Whitehorse there was a DUI checkpoint (was today Canada day? Lost track)

    This Dodge truck called it quits about an hour north of Whitehorse.

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    Midnight in Yukon: Those sunsets(we still call them sunsets at this point?) are something youll never forget if you come up here.

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    About an hour before reaching Destruction Bay I decided to start looking for a camping spot. Why do I always see a bear when I am looking for a camping spot?!? I rode on for an extra 20 miles and settled for this spot.

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    Panoramic view

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    I set up the tent, I open up my bottle of Jim Bean and I relaxed in my tent listening to a podcast on my phone. After about 20 minutes I hear: splash, splash splash! An animal was walking thru the water! A little bit bear paranoid, I grabbed my little axe and ran out the tent to check things out. All it was was chunks of ice tumbling in shallow water. What an idiot! I even spilled some booze into my tent for this.
    #14
  15. Jim K.

    Jim K. Long timer

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    We want more!
    #15
  16. pkrip

    pkrip Adventurer

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    James Beam in hand....
    #16
  17. jfman

    jfman Long timer

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    DAY 10 Nabesna rd: Sportsmen Paradise

    Travel tips for this part: Check out Sportsmen Paradise and I hear Tok has a pretty good and affordable motorcycle only campground

    About time! Arriving at the Border I am thinking that it took me soo many riding days to get to this state and it better be good.

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    My first point of interest in Alaska is Nabesna rd.

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    Nabesna rd is a pretty straight and flat dirt road. You do have those big mountains ahead of you that you keep thinking you are going to reach but they are just so big and so far away.

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    You have to cross a few streams to get to the end. This was a dry day the water was only about 3 inches deep. Easy peasy but I dont know how things get when it rains.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/R6vnH837s9Y" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    At the end of the road theres a bed and breakfast and I guess they also organize hiking trip and plane trips.

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    IIRC the owner told me that this plane is a modified piper...?

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    And this is one is closer to stock. Must be a blast to fly in one of those in AK. When I go back to Alaska I will plan a little plane ride no doubt.

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    When you reach the bed and breakfast, you are only about a mile or so from two abandoned mines. The road ends and it becomes an atv trail. There is a little bit of mud in the low spots but not too bad. One mine is state owned and it is to the right. This is the one that I visited. The other mine has a no trespassing sign and the brush is taking over the trail some. I did not check it out because of the trespassing sign but I heard later from locals that the actual owner has not been there in decades and you might as well go and check it out.

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    At the mine looking down at the bike.

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    The mine is pretty cool, worth seeing but the best part of Nabesna rd I had missed on the way up...

    Riding back down I spotted this bar/lodge wich was open; time for a drink.
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    Unbeknownst to me I had just arrived at one of my favourite places in Alaska. This place is simply awesome and the people who run it, Doug and Judy are some of the best folks you will ever meet.

    For this report, I will just say that I was treated like/better than family. I am not going to give you all of the details of this visit because: 1. I dont want folks to walk in there expecting the same treatment 2. You just have to discover this place for yourself, it will be worth it. The best I have even been treated in a bar.

    Leave your phone and your man on a mission attitude with your bike in the parking lot, walk in with a good attitute and you are garanteed to have a good time. Dont forget to bring cash because there is no card machine.

    When you enter you will find these two dogs chilling in the bar's living room. Yes - the bar has a living room.

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    That is unless they have gone outside to chew on their favourite moose leg.

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    This place is authentic and very precious; to me.. this place IS Alaska! I was there on a saturday night and it was pretty quiet. I was the only tourist there wich to me was a good thing. Learned a lot of stuff about Alaska and its people that you cant learn in books or online. All of the patrons were very chatty and friendly. I kept asking dumb questions about all the weird stuff that is in that bar and the answers were always worth the price of admission.

    Some regulars arrived at the bar for a few drinks in this truck: a rolled then somewhat fixed 1970's Ford.

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    Here is a very satisfied patron holding a very special bone.

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    The midnight view from the back of the place isnt bad either.

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    Places and sadly people like this arent going to be around forever. If you feel like you want to unwind and enjoy things at a different pace after traveling all those miles to come to Alaska, don't skip this place over. And if you enjoyed your visit/stay and feel like your were treated right, do the right thing and leave Judy a tip on your way out.
    I would take a stand for this place.

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    In the morning, after breakfast, another customer and myself helped Doug move some firewood with the tractor then I hit the road to my next destination.
    #17
  18. skierd

    skierd Wannabe Far-Rider

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    :lurk:
    #18
  19. Oldone

    Oldone One day at a time!

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    #19
  20. jfman

    jfman Long timer

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    Thanks for the comments. We still got 14 days to go on this report :norton

    DAY 11 (Kennecott Mine)

    Travel tip for this part: If you dont fill up at Kenney Lake Mercantile, you are not going to have enough gas to come back. It's a 190 miles round trip

    I will start by saying that I did not follow my own advice. I passed the Kenney Lake Mercantile Station thinking there had to be gas somewhere on those 94 miles but I was wrong.

    Between Kenney Lake and Chitina it's all paved and then you reach this hole in the bedrock and it turns to dirt for the last 60 odd miles to the mine.

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    The first few miles of dirt hold pretty decent views.

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    At one point I passed an old crumbling railroad bridge.

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    I thought to myself that this camping spot would be perfect for the way back.

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    There are a few wooden bridges I had to cross.

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    Dont drop your camera here...

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    I then rode by a few small lakes.

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    In this particular lake a moose was drinking in the water. At first I thought he would run away on wim but he did not mind human presence at all.

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    Ha he known what I had eaten for dinner the night before I dont think he would have stuck around.

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    When I reached McCarthy there was a pedestrian bridge. Following the directives from my Butler's map I pushed the bike across it then I noticed other riders just riding across it.

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    I finally reached the mine. They are restoring it right now so that is why it looks a lot better than the mine from Nabesna rd.

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    If you look to your left just a little you can spot this glacier.

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    Here is a different view of the mine.

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    The thing that is pretty neat about this place is that you can ride in a hiking trail for a few miles towards the glacier. It's a fun ride and the further you go the narrower it gets.

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    At one point I reached this sign that told me it is time to turn around. Unless you came on a small bike, you dont wanna go further than this point anyway.

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    So it was time for a few snapshots.

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    On the way back out I met a few riders from BC and another guy from California; real nice guyz. One gave me the fuel I was needing to make my way back to Kenney Lake Mercantile. We went on a firewood scavenger hunt for the campfire then shared a couple stories, alchohol and from Sportsmen Paradise, a mason jar of the best smoked salmon I ever tasted.[/QUOTE]
    #20