Of Moose & Men....an epic journey to Alaska and the Top of the World

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by SpecialAgentNancy, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. seatec

    seatec Dutch Transplant

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    Great write up. One thing though. The Cowboy hanging on the wall is not John Wayne but Clint Eastwood. In some states you could be tarred and feathered for making that mistake. ;)

    PS. DO I see a MS RT pro in your hands?
    #41
  2. SpecialAgentNancy

    SpecialAgentNancy & your little dog 2!

    Joined:
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    Ooops. Was watching a John Wayne movie last night, can't believe I did that. Hahaha.

    yes it is. a lovely piece of expensive equipment....still not sure if the pro is worth the cost for what it does (and doesn't do)
    #42
    Lucky Explorer likes this.
  3. SpecialAgentNancy

    SpecialAgentNancy & your little dog 2!

    Joined:
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    Food is so important. Just as important as gas in the tank. So I started the first official solo & longest ride 450+ miles early with some poached eggs and chicken fried steak.

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    Then a couple well-intending riders walked in and started to tell me about how bad the road between Haines and Tok was. The road was ripped up to high holy hell with specifics like it was grooved in many sections, soft-filled potholes and lots of dirt and gravel. I began to feel disappointed by all the reconnaissance I'd done around mounting my TKC's upon arrival to Alaska in my original thread on ADV where many vehemently asserted that I could run street tires and mounting my TKC's too soon would just wear then unnecessarily.
    It's not just that knobbies will give you better traction in dirt and gravel but that the probability of a flat goes down too when you encounter those sections. So I'll tell you this straight out now that I have 4 international rides under my belt and 1 Alaska ride. I regret not mounting my dual sport TKC's upon arriving. You never know what will happen and how the road conditions will be....some called my experience bad luck but curious how I've never had a flat in over 6 years and I usually ride 8,000 miles on a trip and I always run knobbies.

    Moving on with the story.
    I left the cafe with increasing fears about the day ahead. I had a long way to go alone and didn't know the roads and now these well-intending guys had just convinced me I was in for a rough go. I pulled over to collect myself just outside of Skagway when 4 dual sport riders roared by me. I set to following and within a couple miles got the attention of the sweep. We hit a few patches of hard packed dirt and small gravel (kids play) and I kept up with them at 60mph+ during these sections. When we all arrived at the border crossing, I noticed they were all running better tires than me, mostly TKC.

    The leader of the pack, Roger, came over and extended his hand and said, "You are welcome to join us for breakfast in Whitehorse, we'll make sure you get there safe". I felt such relief. I took position of sweep and we stopped at Emerald Lake for a photo.

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    My bike is in the back on the left.

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    We rode fast and hard. Usually between 70-80 mph. It was faster than I like to go but I wasn't about to back out of my first lifeline. We made it to Whitehorse in just under 2 hours.

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    True hobbit style, I had my second breakfast. Pesto, prosciutto, cheese scrambled eggs.

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    We sat for an hour exchanging stories of car restorations after I told them of my 3 year project on a 68' Mercury Cougar XR7 that I am currently working on. Then I looked at the map...shouldn't have done that but like you've learned already, I'm very organized and know where I'm going. All I could see is that the section I'd ridden with these guys was a tiny part of the total ride I was still facing for the day. Compound that with how fast we rode and I was doing the math in my head and thinking, no way in hell I'm making Tok today. The boys were headed to Dawson City (not for D2D) so I said my goodbyes and thanks and went outside. As I was gearing up, a guy stopped by with his truck and handed me a card. Seems he serves the motorcycle community when it comes to tires and proceeded to tell me how bad the road was between Haines Junction and Tok just like the other fellas. That was the LAST thing I wanted to hear.
    My father having raised me to be a good son, mustered my courage and got on the bike and decided, to hell with it, I'm going for it.
    Right outside of town, I saw a fox on the side of the road and it bolstered me as this was the first official Alaska wildlife sighting I'd had. I rode almost all the way to Haines Junction and stopped at this gas station, having made the decision to gas up every time I could at a half tank or less.

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    Saw a couple of Harley's parked out front and decided to make sure I talked to them because if they were coming from Tok they could help me better understand the road conditions and if they were going to Tok, well wouldn't that be like winning the lottery.

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    Turns out they were headed to Beaver Creek and sure I could come along with them. Keith took the lead and Brian rode sweep. I do prefer being the cheese in the grilled cheese truth be told.

    We rode an easy pace to Destruction Bay and had nothing but perfect pavement. I suspect that they were telling themselves that I didn't know what the hell I was talking about and I started to think, maybe all of these guys were playing a very nasty joke on me...but then we finally hit some dirt and wouldn't you know it, got a flat after the first mile of it.

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    Now one of the boys is a mechanic by trade so that made life easier but he was impressed with all of the tools I had and had everything you could need for a tire change. (well except for a tube, I only brought the front tube but did have a patch kit). No need though because one of the only other Tiger XC 800's in all of Alaska was only 15 minutes behind us and Mike from Texas with a lovely accent, pulled up just in time to sell me his spare.

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    I will mention that we were swarmed by a biblical hoard of mosquitoes when we stopped to change the tire, thank god I had repellent. I will also say I did a good part of the work of getting the wheel off the bike and the tire off the rim but I would have never broken the bead if it weren't for these guys.
    Got the new tube in. Put the wheel back on. Guessed at the torque specs and set off again. Real stand up guys....remember they only knew me for about a couple of hours and this happened.

    Made it to Beaver Creek and decided with Kim and Mike to continue on to Tok. This was my 3rd and last lifeline of the day.

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    Mike and I kept complimenting each other on our choice of bike.

    Just past the border crossing back into Alaska, stopped at this beautiful vista.

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    Just how bad was the road? It was far better than most "roads" I've traveled in Romania and Turkey. It was only 10 miles of construction and dirt between Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek. Another 5 miles of dirt before the border and then perfect pavement all the way to Tok. OK OK, well maybe not perfect, this is Alaska after all. Two seasons: winter and construction.

    Pulled into Thompson's Eagle Claw motorcycle camp site around 8pm.

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    Met Vanessa and settled into my bunk cabin.

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    Then I learned, no running water. No wonder her stickers say "I'm not a pussy. I camped at Thompson Eagle Claw". I'd ridden 450+ miles, I changed a tire, I was sweaty and stinky and I wanted a shower so bad I considered walking 2 miles to the other campsite to use theirs.

    But she did have this, er, um, steam hut.

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    She filled the barrel stove, put a pot of water on top and showed me the shower head above and drain in the floor and locked it up behind me so I had it all to myself.

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    I will say that I had probably the best night of sleep on the whole trip that night. I was proud that I'd pushed through and in spite of getting a flat, still managed to make it all the way to Tok. Riding in Alaska isn't like riding anywhere else. You can't just look at the miles and calculate the time....call it a twilight zone effect. But in spite of the hurdles, I'd made it and only had one more day of solo before arriving in Anchorage.
    #43
  4. dksd39

    dksd39 Adventurer

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    Hollywood, FL
    Very much enjoying your RR. Thank you for taking the time as reports like yours are not only enjoyable but also educational for those of us looking to do similar adventures.
    #44
  5. TarmacSurfer

    TarmacSurfer Adventurer

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    Maryland U.S.
    Enjoying the RR :deal
    how is that tomtom gps working out for you?
    #45
  6. highplains drifter

    highplains drifter Adventurer

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    Parshall
    Keep up the great report Nancy! Brings back some great memories. No better road trip than one to Alaska!
    #46
  7. CaptnSlo

    CaptnSlo Derelicte

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2012
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    Location:
    VA
    What a fortunate coincidence running into tire help in the form of the same orange XC! I'm glad you got to the campground just fine.

    Beautiful pics and terrific writing in the RR. Keep it up!
    #47
  8. SpecialAgentNancy

    SpecialAgentNancy & your little dog 2!

    Joined:
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    I didn't like it compared to the Garmin I used last summer.

    The quirky thing was that it would show the slightest angles in the road which in congested areas might seem like a turn. I felt that it was stubborn when it came to selecting a new destination (hard to explain in exact words) but I had to power it off then back on often to erase it's memory of the destination set.
    #48
  9. grumpybear

    grumpybear Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2009
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    371
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    Rural NE Alberta
    Enjoying the RR. I saw you and the other 4 riders at the junction where the Klondike highway meets the Alaska Highway. I was turning south to head to Carcross for the afternoon.

    The no showers thing at Eagle Claw was a surprise for us as well. Really enjoyed the shower in Dawson the next day.

    grump
    #49
  10. SpecialAgentNancy

    SpecialAgentNancy & your little dog 2!

    Joined:
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    Ah cool!
    I remember that turn and seeing other riders!
    #50
  11. SpecialAgentNancy

    SpecialAgentNancy & your little dog 2!

    Joined:
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    I forgot to mention that after we fixed the flat and started back on the crappy road through Yukon to Beaver Creek (can't believe the alarming lack of pavement in the Yukon) where I bought the boys dinner and drinks in gratitude for their helping me....I saw Dave and Judy parked on the side of the road, waving enthusiastically. I suppose I'm easy to spot with bright pink glow in the dark horns. We didn't stop but I gave them a big wave back.

    Woke up the next morning and headed to Fast Eddy's which came highly recommended for good food in Tok. I ate here 4 times in all.

    Ordered an omelet with caribou sausage. 2nd Alaska animal consumed. Check.

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    Met up with this guy sitting at a table next to ours and turns out he was headed to Anchorage and loved the idea of sharing the ride together.

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    Alaska was constantly impressive. The snow capped peaks jutting straight up into the clouds were everywhere.

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    About an hour outside of Tok, we made a turn and 2 black bears were crossing the road. Mama and baby. I barely glimpsed the baby having already crossed the road but got a nice close up look of the other one. I was so giddy with excitement....in the decade I've been living in California I have never seen a bear. I spend whole weekends tooling around on fire roads in parks, not one lousy bear, ever. I almost contemplated leaving bacon out once when we camped at Lassen and finally, here, the last frontier, Nancy got to see a bear! (sorry no photo)

    We arrived at Eureka Lodge and I ordered some great fried chicken and learned that Alaskan's use Miracle Whip instead of Mayonnaise to make cole slaw. Yuck!

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    Mark (AKDuc) in Anchorage had told me about a place along the road to Anchorage that had amazing pie.

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    I thought this was the place but turns out it was sheep lodge just down another 10 miles. Still it was great food.

    As we got closer and closer to Anchorage I was starting to get stable fever. I knew my solo riding was nearly at an end and while I enjoyed the freedom and flexibility that comes along with that, I was ready to be part of a group again.

    Got to Mark's place a couple hours earlier than expected.

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    The bugs plastered on my bike from just one day of riding was unbelievable.

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    I named my Tiger Gossamer from the looney tunes...because he's big and orange and intimidating.

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    Mark arrived home from work and we went for dinner at a restaurant/theater combo. The building was Art Deco so I was especially pleased.

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    Had some great BBQ ribs.

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    My bedroom.

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    That is Mark's closet and not the rack at a motorcycle shop.

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    The next day was all about Gossamer. Took off both wheels and drove to AK Leather where I finally met Barb.

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    Shipped my tires for $40 and fortunately they arrived just the day before, 5 days late.

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    I washed my boy with S-100, took the Ortlieb bags to the laundry mat and then went to visit the Harley Davidson shop.

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    Then he drove me around the seaport.

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    Got a close up of this tail teddy bear. Mark asked what my little stuffed bear's name was....Grindel I told him. I got him when I survived a snowy pass in Switzerland the previous summer in July on my way to the Grindelwald and the Top of Europe.

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    Baby's got new shoes!!!

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    That evening Mark took me to meet his whole family for dinner.

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    It felt good to sleep two nights in one place and get all my clothes cleaned. I had plans for the next 2 days to ride the Kenai but for now, it was sweet, sweet dreams. I made it!
    #51
  12. KLR250NC

    KLR250NC Adventurer

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    North Carolina
    Man, how I miss Alaska. Gotta go back soon. Keep up the good reporting. Looks like a heck of a time.

    What helmet are you wearing by the way?
    #52
  13. SpecialAgentNancy

    SpecialAgentNancy & your little dog 2!

    Joined:
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    Since the weather was cooperating marvelously, dry and warm. I decided to take a few days and ride the Kenai. This riding alone thing is kinda nice....have to admit, I'm getting hooked. I knew the Kenai was heavily traveled so I wasn't nervous about being alone anymore. In Alaska it's not uncommon to ride for 30 minutes without seeing another soul. And this is in summer. Imagine driving in the dead of winter on one of these long, lonely stretches. Yikes.

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    I got an introduction to Charlie in Homer so I headed there first.

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    Courtnay told me that Cooper Landing was her favorite place in Alaska so I headed there for breakfast where I found this wonderful gem on the menu.

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    the Pig Vomit omelet. If you can't read it....A house favorite. Stuffed with bacon, sausage, ham and cheese, smothered in country gravy.
    (Disclaimer: the PVO causes heartburn, indigestion, clogging of the arteries, as well as high blood pressure).

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    It was delicious.

    This character came out of the kitchen and I just assumed he was the cook.
    His name is Bear.
    He lives in a tent down the road.
    Year round.
    Yep, folks. That's right, 50 below, living in a tent.
    He said this in front of the staff and no one blinked an eye so I guess it's true.

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    Stopped along the way to admire the volcanic peaks across the channel.

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    Arrived in Homer and found Charlie's house.

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    Meet his kitty hunter.

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    My cozy room and very comfortable bed.

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    Bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub.

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    He took me to a great lookout of the spit.

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    The photos are a bit hazy from the smoke. Seems some part of Alaska was on fire.

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    Glacier in the distance.

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    Zoooooommmmm

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    Beginning of the spit. Charlie told me all about the fast and serious tide movements.

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    A ship graveyard. Eyesore or cool attraction? You decide.

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    With a sign like this, you can guess what we had for dinner.

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    Delicious fish and chips halibut! (miracle whip cole slaw again...lord!)

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    I was impressed with these buildings built on pylons of wood.

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    I had no idea halibut could get this big.

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    Went back home and had a great night of sleep. Woke up the next morning and went for breakfast. I didn't find a pig vomit omelet so I did the next best thing.

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    Charlie was a sweet, sweet man and really showed me great Alaskan hospitality. Said my goodbyes and headed to the Time Bandit shop for a friend who asked me to get him a hoodie.

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    I bought him a sticker instead. That, I could fit on the bike. All I can say is if I didn't have room for my adventure pumps, I wasn't getting
    him no hoodie. Turns out the sticker was just as bad, keeping it from being bent or crumpled proved to be quite a headache.

    Sighted a fair amount of moose on this road. I've seen quite a few now. They are pretty skittish and fearful of the road. They don't seem to blindly cross the road with a devil may care attitude. Everytime I saw one and had to circle around to get a better look, they were gone. I got photos of this one because I was going pretty slow in this section.

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    Back in Cooper Landing stopped by the lake for lunch at the kingfisher roadhouse.

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    It was mentioned in The Adventurous Motorcyclist's Guide to Alaska, too bad it was closed.

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    The mountains were so gorgeous. Very little snow left. Crowding the road from all sides and as always, vast bodies of water everywhere.

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    Exit Glacier next. This is the raging water coming from the melt. The power of the current is fierce and you can just feel the cold emanating off of it....don't fall in, you might last 30 seconds.

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    Parked the bike. Dropped the gear off at the ranger station and sprayed a ton of repellent and started hiking to the glacier. If you've never been up to a glacier, they all post these sobering signs to mark where the glacier was that year.

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    Turned a corner and got my first glimpse of it.

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    At one time you could walk out on to it, unfortunately with the massive snow melt going on, it's no longer stable.

    Got to Seward and found my hostel.

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    Got the only bunk left (top middle) and boinked my head on the ceiling a couple times. (Again)

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    Russ from Seward pinged me on my other Alaska thread and invited me to visit him at the SeaLife facility for a private, behind the scenes tour.

    But before that, rode down to the beginning point of it Iditarod.

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    Meet Russ and this is the lab.

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    He designs these tracking devices.

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    And shoots them at whales and whatnot with these.

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    I won't even show you the scary harpoon looking gun.....

    Here is one of their rescue animals.

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    This gigantic and active crab caught my eye.

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    They also had a cool bird sanctuary.

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    Puffin!

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    Went for dinner on the waterfront where I started to fret about the looming dark clouds in the distance.

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    Had halibut in a curry sauce.

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    The next morning I woke up around 6 since I needed to get back to Anchorage and leave with Mark and his gang to start heading to Dawson...of course, it was finally in the rain.
    #53
  14. nocashnosplash

    nocashnosplash n00b

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
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    Location:
    Ste Anne Des Plaines QC Canada
    Enweiwe Nancy,laisse nous pas tomber comme ├ža!:lurk Superbe RR en passant,
    prend soin de toi.
    #54
  15. Mcgee

    Mcgee Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Oddometer:
    536
    Location:
    Pacific NW
    Nice ride report, been enjoying the ride. Inspiring for me to get off my duff and go riding! Seems all a person does is work! Thank you.
    #55
  16. RobBD

    RobBD Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    377
    Location:
    Perth Australia
    Great photos and report- thanks for taking the time to take us along with you
    #56
  17. SpecialAgentNancy

    SpecialAgentNancy & your little dog 2!

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2008
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    Hahaha

    I met a psychiatrist on the ride. He rode a Triumph too and had a sticker that said "you never see a motorcycle parked outside of a psychiatrist's office".

    Except he parked his bike in front of work everyday.....:rofl
    #57
  18. SpecialAgentNancy

    SpecialAgentNancy & your little dog 2!

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    591
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Dawson City here I come!
    Finally, the fateful day of all the plans I'd put together over many months, the research of the route and places to see along the way, the PM's I'd sent and received that made this trip possible and gave me comforts along the way.
    I hardly slept the night before, never mind banging my head on that cursed low ceiling yet again, it was the dark clouds racing towards Seward the night before that gave me some good nightmares. No matter, I was well equipped and I only had a couple of hours of riding before joining the group in Anchorage.

    Went for breakfast at 6 a.m. at a cafe where I sat next to a table of passengers and the captain of a fishing expedition. Conversations about French-Canadians peaked my attention while I struggled into my rain boot covers. Don't even remember what I had for breakfast (can you believe that???) and went back out to the bike anxious to get underway.

    My spot had been malfunctioning whenever moisture was present. The opposite buttons would light up when pressed. Or the darned tracking wouldn't work at all. I was decided to get a back up spot just in case once in Anchorage. I found out later from Mark they were sold out at REI but Vic had another place to try, BestBuy where I bought the very last one.

    Arrived at Mark's right on time and our first stop was at a wildlife visitor center where I finally got to see Elk and Caribou up close and personal.

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    These wicked looking Moose antlers (complete with part of the skull) were lying around and I suggested we all pose with them....
    Vic

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    Mark

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    And I couldn't even get those things above my shoulders....Lord, just imagine carrying around that weight on top of your head!

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    Passed by the Mantanuska Glacier outside of Anchorage, still a lot of smoke from the fires.

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    Next stop Sheep Lodge for that amazing pie that Mark kept telling me about....

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    Breakfast of champions....

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    Giant stuffed moose in the greenhouse next door.

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    There was a little drama around Vic's bike loosing a rather important looking part and quite a bit of pushing the bike to jump start it, as well as using my spare gas right before getting to Glennallen. Gassed up at the junction gas station, along with dozen's of other riders all headed in the same direction as us. The excitement was palatable.

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    Finally made it to Tok and this time I got the teepee.

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    We found out from Vanessa on the way back that 49 riders stayed at Thompson's Eagle Claw that night.

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    Shared the teepee with the only other female riders in the bunch. Julia from Germany and Annemika from Holland. That girl is 6'4".

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    Woke up the next morning ready for anything and with beautiful weather, well just a tiny sprinkle, as we were eating breakfast at Fast Eddy's along with at least 60 other riders.
    My dad was in constant contact with me over text (turns out AT&T does have excellent coverage in Alaska) telling me about moving storms and how to avoid them. So we set off and arrived in Chicken early afternoon.

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    Made a deposit here in #3.

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    Had a blueberry pie that seemed to be made out of oil. Well at least Moose liked it. My new stow-away.

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    Clever use of a large bush with a metal chicken head and tail. Real and otherwise chickens were everywhere.

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    Cute saloon. If you weren't riding, you could spend an afternoon here just throwing back beers and watching folks coming and going to the Top of the World.

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    About 40 miles of dirt to the border. Pristine dirt mind you. Very little gravel. No ruts. Hell, hardly any washboard. It was better than most paved roads I'd
    ridden on.

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    Gorgeous clouds in the distance.

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    Then another 65 km of dirt, a little more gravel but still otherwise easy and no rain! Made it to the ferry and waited our turn to cross over. Time to put on the moose antlers I'd made.

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    Unfortunately there was one rather serious bike accident involving an RV and this police car was headed there to help. For anyone who's reading this and has ridden Alaska, I know you aren't surprised but for those of you considering riding Alaska....watch out for tourists driving massive RV's without any experience and hogging the road.

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    They piled the lot of us along both sides of a 18 wheeler with it's caterpillar cargo.

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    It had rained in Dawson City so the ground was this milky, snotty color and slick as hell.

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    Before heading to my hotel, I did a little tour of town with Vic.

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    Found the triple J hotel and told the receptionist that I needed the key to Russ's room that I was sharing. She handed me a key and told me the room was in another annex building so I moved the bike, grabbed a bunch of gear, struggled up the stairs and knocked on the door. The guy that opened the door didn't look like Russ, then as I'm introducing myself, a very suspicious wife peeks out from behind the wall at me....oops wrong Russ. (no photo)

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    Got to the Motel 6 room for $150 a night.

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    Started raining so walked around in the muck.

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    Went to the firehouse.

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    I'm a big fan of Art Deco so I loved this one.

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    Dawson City was just awesome. Just like stepping back in time, only it smelled cleaner than it probably did back in the gold rush days.

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    Snot. And plenty of it.

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    Robert Service's cottage.

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    View of the town below from it.

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    Then to Jack London's place.

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    Bear proof food storage a la 1898.

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    The museum was totally awesome and well worth a couple of hours. They did a good job building sets of how people lived back then, even how the banks set up in tents!

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    I even found a community indoor pool. Headed back to the hotel to get ready for the main event.

    Turns out the fire station guys were grilling the steaks.

    [​IMG]

    Glamorous accommodations.

    [​IMG]

    As midnight approached it was time for the shennanigans to start.

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    It was one hell of a good time!

    [​IMG]
    #58
  19. linksIT

    linksIT nOObie

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    272
    Location:
    San Clemente, CA
    Thanks for the very entertaining report looking forward to the rest.
    #59
  20. kitesurfer

    kitesurfer Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,756
    Location:
    north florida
    Don't take this as the usual leg humper line, but the pink looks very good on you! it amazes me how clean and fresh you look in all your 'pink' pictures, knowing you've been on a bike, in gear, for days!!!
    #60