jdrocks Rides 2013: CO, WY, MT, Canada, and Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jdrocks, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
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    By the time I hit the sack, I had more or less given up on trying to figure out how the time scenario was to play out as I changed time zones, except it was very late local time, and very early in the Mid Atlantic. So, I got a couple hours sleep, got up at 4AM in Valdez, added four hours, and it was 8AM in Virginia…write that down, ‘cause it looked like a damn long rocky road home. Yeah, no freakin’ kiddin’, did someone say Zekes?

    I was packed and gone in minutes, forget those socks I’d been wearing for 10 days, tossed ‘em in the trash lest PITA file a complaint about some bomb sniffing dog being forced to sniff them. I didn’t see another human being in the motel, not even at the desk, damn, I should have brought a big ass towel down to wipe off the bike. Anyway, I was on the loose, looking at the journey, and in full flight. The ferry system had a check in regulation to make sure you showed up with plenty of time to spare, but it must have been from the prehistoric era when the ferries were loaded with RVs or other space eating vehicles, because I was the only vehicle present and accounted for when I got to the terminal, everyone else ignored the reg, slept in, hold that boat, be there in a minute or two.

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    There was a mist over the water, no wind, but always something to look at for those interested. After checking in with the terminal employees on duty at this early hour, one half awake, the other half asleep, sorry, no WIFI at the terminal building, and yes, traffic was way down, I could walk around a little, check things out.

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    One of the few vehicles there was a pickup driven by a 20 something gal who turned out to be the attendant for the old guy passenger, very frail, but still a twinkle in his eye that said “Hey buddy, will ya look at this cute young girl I’ve got on my arm”. They were on a big looping road trip from Alaska, out through Dawson and Whitehorse, then back. Looked to be a journey through time, a retracing of certain steps, the last waltz. He’d chosen his dance partner wisely, the girl was both very attentive and very kind. Genuine kindness can’t be faked.

    I got a visit from one of the ferry girls checking on the vehicles boarding this morning, and when she said that the fuel can would have go in the paint locker on the ferry if full, that was all I needed to hear, and emptied it into the main tank.

    Some commercial fishing boats were heading out, looked rigged for seining, but I wasn’t 100% sure what they were after.

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    The folks at the counter in the terminal said the ferry was sailing on schedule, but there were not many vehicles in line until 30 minutes to departure and loading was started, that’s when the scramble to get to the ferry apparently started. Vehicles were arriving until the very last minute, some of the drivers in a panic, never fails. I was first to board, the bike was parked in the corner and strapped down, not optional on this longer trip, and I was able to make my way to the upper deck, looked like most of the passengers were Euros, maybe a few Aussies…and some others, damn, it reminded me of the airports, there were zombies on the ferry too. Weird mofos, no doubt, lucky there was only a partial load.

    I walked around on deck, glad it was a nice morning, and I was even more certain that this was the way to go, mark it down in the jdrocks route planning guide, especially since I had been on different routes previously. As a matter of fact, I’d been on parts of the ferry route previously, both fishing and touring, so I found what I expected, just more of it, spectacular.

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    The ferry zigged and zagged to dodge small ice flows from one of the glaciers, much receded over the past 20-30 years, can’t scratch the paint. Seals were hauled up on most accessible rocks, to far to get a good photo.

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    I had a front seat in the main cabin, great for scenery both port and starboard, maybe take a nap, but there was a 400 pound Sasquatch snoring so loud that the noise from the ferry’s diesel engines was lost in the background. He was also itching and scratching, fumbling around, and I knew one thing for certain, my local country sheriff would arrest him on the spot for doing that kind of stuff in public. Nobody, and I mean nobody, was about to go over there and wake that dude up, me either…I had ear plugs, but no bear gun.


    (To be continued…)
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  2. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:punctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--> Some of those Euros must have burned up a couple camera cards during the trip, good for them, some had pretty fancy gear. The docks at Whittier came in view, easy to spot with that cruise ship tied up. Actually, the cruise ship itself was bigger than Whittier, looked to be a smaller version of Skagway, oh boy. I asked one of the locals about what happens when passengers don’t show up when they’re about to sail “First we check the bars, then…”

    A bow picker style landing craft was hauled out in the main parking area, waiting on repairs, or a season to start.

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    Still dominating the area is the old Buckner Building, a federal government structure broken and abandoned since the big earthquake in 1964, it looks like an award winning example of vintage Russian architecture, might have made the cover of the Eastern Block version of Architectural Digest. Tax dollars at work, it was once the biggest building in Alaska, despite limited access.

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    I still had to get over to Anchorage, didn’t feel like mingling with the cruise ship crowd anyway, so I rode over to the famous rail tunnel, ingress and egress for Whittier, but on a schedule since it operates alternating one way.

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    Had to read the tunnel instructions, of course.

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    Then over to talk with the raven haired Native girl who was supposed to be keeping order in the lined up traffic lanes, except there wasn’t any traffic. Bike traffic in the tunnel was a big headache, and from what she said, daily wrecks were pretty much the norm. “Don’t look down”, and she repeated it only about a dozen times in a short conversation. “Bikes go last, so you don’t get run over”, my my, how very thoughtful.

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    I had a few minutes before the tunnel was open for west bound traffic, so I took a look around that end of Whittier, ya know, get the full experience, can’t miss anything. I’d go spelunking in the Buckner Building, but someone said a bunch of bears had moved in, they couldn’t read the asbestos hazard signs.

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    Pointing the camera back toward “downtown” Whittier, there was an incongruity evident in the frame, at least for me,

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    while the view in other directions was more like it.

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    More tax dollars at work, but someone had to remove a name from the sign, couldn’t have that guy take credit for a new set of taxpayer funded pit privies.

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    By far the most interesting event underway was a scheduled helicopter lift of building materials to some remote mountain location. The operation was flying a prefab metal building piece-by-piece, and things were going smoothly until the ground crew couldn’t figure out the proper way to rig a steel beam.

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    The pilot hovered for a long time, way too long, then landed in frustration, ran over, gave the guys hell, then showed them how it needed to be done.

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    The missing part of the rigging was an improvised kite tail, necessary to prevent the beam from spinning in flight, and they used some kind of fabric bag that had been packaging for aggregate or Portland cement.

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    I watched a Whittier cop give a “Thank you for visiting Whittier” speeding ticket to a car parked in line, then it was time to ride the tunnel, an interesting experience, no wrecks, and I popped out on the other side of the mountain, looked wintry over there.

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    Quite a few cruise ship people were on this side of the mountain, lots of organized activities underway, both land and water.

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    I had to put the camera away, I was going to be getting into Anchorage later than I wanted to be, and was looking for a spray wash to clean up the bike, which was scheduled for a tire change and service. Clean would help.

    Hit the main drag, Highway 1 or Seward Highway, and it was full of traffic, the same as always for me, plenty of law enforcement present. I had already stowed the camera, but got it out again for some photos along Turnagain Arm, tidal flats showing, the windsurfers confined towards the end.

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    Generally north on the last little piece of road to Los Anchorage, this could have been any metro area, same traffic, same stores, blah, blah, and I made my way to the drop off location, no problem, but no spray wash, so I was delivering a somewhat dirty bike although I had seen way worse.

    Got my gear squared away, hung up Mikes tent to make sure it was 100% dry, and also opened up the panniers just for insurance, don’t want any mildew on the gear. Changed clothes for the airport, and I was good to fly. Oops, should get a photo of that Dempster tire, and I got out the camera for one last trip photo.

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    When I arrived in Anchorage, I called my XO and got a price quote on the cab fare to the airport, a modest $9, not bad, called Checker, and after promising the cab would be there in 10 minutes, the dude showed up 50 minutes later. Lucky I didn’t have a flight departure on the clock, and it should have been no surprise that the fare was $17. Somebody hit the fact check switch, that cab might have been driven to the airport via Wasilla for all I know.

    That starting block fiasco set the tone for the race back to the Mid Atlantic. I got up at 4AM Alaska, or 8AM Eastern on Saturday, and arrived at my destination in Virgina at about 3AM on Monday morning. Yes, I had been traveling that whole time, and yes, I was ready to find a bed, don’t set the freakin’ alarm.

    I could write 10 pages about what happened between Anchorage and Dulles International, but I’m faced with time constraints at the moment…however, I do have notes. I also have another bike to build, so the question will always be “Where’s the adventure?”, and not “Where’s the remote?”.



    I can’t close without a special thanks to Mike, the dude who trusted that I would deliver his bike to Anchorage as promised. Thanks for the opportunity to ride, my friend, it was a wonderful trip.

    THE END…UNTIL NEXT TIME.

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  3. MTrider16

    MTrider16 Ridin' in MT

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    Another trip report "in the can" as the movie people would say. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it. :clap

    You report makes me think I think I should take the fast bike next time I go up and ride the ferries back to Prince Rupert. There certainly are a number of roads and options one can take travelling the north country.

    David
  4. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    man, took a long time to finish that report, i was busy with other things. without notes and photos, there's no hope.

    the ferry system allows planning a route without much backtracking, although some riders wouldn't like adding a schedule constraint or two. in previous years, there was a risk of not getting on without a reservation in advance, but it doesn't look like the case now.

    i wouldn't take the fast one, still some gravel up there...of course, "fast" is a relative term.
  5. MTrider16

    MTrider16 Ridin' in MT

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    The Beemer is more suited for the roads than the VFR, but there is a lot of pavement also. I'll have to weigh the options, I don't think it will be a 2014 trip so we have some time to figure out a plan.

    Be sure to save some pics of the new bike build, lots of fans waiting to see what you come up with next.
  6. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    yeah, i need to get going on that build, nothing to ride at the moment. unlike some people i know, there's no early snow on the ground here, more like 90F.
  7. fasteddiecopeman

    fasteddiecopeman Been here awhile

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    So - you 'flogged' the rat-bike...?
  8. MTrider16

    MTrider16 Ridin' in MT

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    No snow here. Rapid City on the other hand has plenty.
  9. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    i keep tellin' ya to stay away from the Blue, so i have no idea what you're talking about. the only thing i have left of the V649HP is a bunch of photos, unless i count the memories. that bike had been some places.
  10. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    you missed out on 36".
  11. CharlestonADV

    CharlestonADV I do my own stunts!

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    Thanks for the RR. I'm contemplating a ride to AK in 2014 and really enjoyed following your journey. Have you put together a summary of travel/route tips?
  12. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    glad you enjoyed the read.

    i've been all over up there, and wouldn't make specific recommendations without knowing more about some of the major variables like rider, bike, objectives, time schedule, and so on.

    i do know how i would ride it up there, but my route is not for everyone. if you have questions, feel free to ask.
  13. MTrider16

    MTrider16 Ridin' in MT

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    :wink: I didn't miss it at all. All the late harvesting around here was happy it missed us also.
  14. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    different schedule down here, combines have been working since the third week in august.

    great weather, no bike, but i'm working on it.
  15. MTrider16

    MTrider16 Ridin' in MT

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    The grain harvest has been taking a really long time here because its been so wet. They should be done and they normally start the last week in August. Beets are always start in October, and the weather is a crapshoot for them. If its wet there are lots of axels and drive shafts in the machine shop.
  16. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    now it's wet here, send it somewhere else. coastal flood watch, but...


    here we go.

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  17. ben2go

    ben2go Moto Flunky

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    :clap:clap:clap
  18. slowpoke69

    slowpoke69 Been here awhile

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    My nephew just got out of jail for cattle rustlin'.:rofl:rofl:rofl

    I didn't have a hand in raisin' him, he'd of known better, I don't play that BS!!
    That's a mans livelihood, lucky his ass didn't get shot. At the VERY LEAST with rock salt!!:evil:evil

    Thanks for taking the time to do the RR, I really enjoy your writing style. Stay safe, how 'bout a link to the new build, 'preciate it.

  19. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    your nephew is one lucky dude, there are still places where he wouldn't have made it to jail...at least in one piece.


    new build posts are still in the V649HP bike build thread, so that link is still good.
  20. david white

    david white Wanderer

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    Wow, when did that happen. Wasn't a bad place to ready for the dempster and avoid the cost of dawson city