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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by clintonl, Aug 15, 2013.
This is fantastic. Bravo.
Homer is the end of the road as far as the Kenai Peninsula is concerned. Normally I try and avoid retracing my steps if I can but this time I was looking forward to riding the around the Turnagain Arm again I just found it to be so beautiful.
As I rode up the Seward Hwy I decided to make a brief stop in the small community of Indian, AK. There I met Mary Lou, an absolutely amazing 80 year old lady who has managed her late uncle Jim's crusty old log cabin liquor store for 50 years.
Ok I'll admit I stopped because of a cool faded neon sign advertising "hardcore alaskan gifts". Now Alaska being the wild untamed place it is I was kinda intrigued to see how "hardcore" was defined in their Funk & Wagnells you know? I wandered in half expecting a dumb dudes store but what I discovered was the polar opposite.
Mary Lou greeted me in a pristine beige lace dress straight from the prohibition era, fastidiously applied makeup and lipstick the colour of salmon roe. For the next 30 minutes we had the most delightful conversation about life growing up in Alaska: the winters, the earthquake, and her proudest achievement: the extended fight to save her neon sign from the Feds who wanted it removed to "improve" highway access. "I was prepared to chain myself to it... like Jesus Christ" she said with classic alaskan fervor.
She showed me the most amazing photos of her life with her dad when she was young. Hunting, bootlegging and even some '50s glamour shots of her leaning against log cabins, mining equipment and other alaskiany things. The black and white prints were all satisfyingly dog-eared, cellotaped and annotated in her shaky handwriting. My god. They. were. amazing.
I tried my best to sweet talk her into letting me take a photo of her and her past life however unsurprisingly she held fast and said "No I want to keep it all a secret". She did make one concession though, I could take a snapshot of this shit balls amazing painting of the time she was chased by a grizzly bear.
In the end I did discover how alaskans define "hardcore" It was Mary Lou.
Absolutely amazing shots, waiting for more!
Great report and awesome pics!
As mentioned by many others....amazing photographs
This is excellent stuff, especially coming from a Kiwi!
Seriously I love your sense of humor, its drier than the Canucks humor I think but you can drink it.
Keep it coming.
From an South Efricen in Peroo.
Entering my book as a "Best of..." AK/Yukon ride report. Thank you!
To save backtracking over the AK Hwy and through British Columbia I'd originally planned to catch the ferry from Whittier, AK to Bellingham, WA. I called the Alaskan Marine Highway people before I left in June and asked the standard questions: how much?, how long?, is there a laundry? etc
I remember getting off the phone and laughing at my ignorance of the scale of Alaskan geography when they explained the voyage was going to take six days.
SIX DAYS!!??! I thought, bloody hell that's just one day less than it takes to sail across the atlantic! It wasn't cheap either at $1282 ($735 for the bike and $547 for me to sleep on the deck)
Well it turned out it was moot anyway as that ferry was booked for the entire summer. Booked out in May. Wow.
So plan B was to ride an extra 815 miles to Haines and catch a ferry from there. The ferry journey from Haines to Bellingham was a "brisk" 3 days on the water and slightly more palatable at 815 bucks ($462 bike/$353 for me) I just noticed the milage and ferry cost are exactly the same ha Cosmic!
anyway as it turns out I'm SUPER glad I rode that extra distance to Haines. Not only would I experience more fantastic scenery I'd end up forming two important friendships in my life.
After saying goodbye to the gorgeous Kenai Peninsula I headed up the Glenn Highway to arrive back in Tok, AK home of three don't miss places:
1. Fast Eddy's restaurant (and Young's campground)
2. The Beaver fever cafe (great spot for breakfast)
3. Thompson's Eagle's Claw Motorcycle Park complete with some cool places to spend the night
Now I thought the Yukon shortbus was brilliant but this Alaskan "cabin" had the best minibar ever!
They have really interesting names for the drinks up here: Amytal, Nembutal, Xanax...
Slept like a baby but man did I have some whacked out dreams at 3am.
Next day I pointed the bike down the Alaska Hwy and hauled out of Tok toward Haines Junction. I had mixed feelings about this as I was excited to push forward but part of me knew my time in Alaska was drawing to a close.
I guess I must've had a bad nights sleep or lacked coffee in the caffeine system or something because 225 miles down the road I'd nearly bite it.
I was riding through a gravel section of the Alaska Hwy and lost focus for a second, that vital second that drops you into one of one of those oh-fuck-I-didn't-see-that-coming-and-now-im-travelling-way-too-fast-for-this-shit moments. It quickly snapped me to my senses and as i kept the power on through some deep, loose gravel I saw the sign "Welcome to Destruction Bay" loom before me. I eventually pulled over still laughing in my helmet and thought "um, ok this is probably where I should stop for a rest"
[TIP: The Talbot Arm motel is a decent relatively inexpensive place to say considering its Yukon middle-of- nowhereness.]
Further down the road as I passed through Haines Junction I saw another sign "Check your fuel, no services for 230km" glancing at my trip meter I confidently thought "nooo problem I'm a rolling supertanker right now" Well it's just as well I'm not a pilot because I VERY nearly ran out of gas on that mountain pass. What I'd forgot to factor in was that I was hauling a boat load of gear up a long uphill grade against a massive head wind. Under those conditions the panzerwagen was gulping fuel like it was going out of fashion. I was just lucky that the other side is a gas sipping downhill coast into Haines, AK.
That's two near screw ups today alone. I needed to read the signs and get my act together.
As I entered back into Alaska for the last time via the Haines pass I was paraphrasing the lyrics to a fantastic kiwi song in my head...
The Haines highway is bending
Under its own weight
Shining like a strip
Cut from a sheet metal plate
'Cos its just been raining
As I rolled into Haines on the smell of an oily rag I immediately went to work finding a decent spot to set up camp. I was 3 days early for the ferry so I wanted it to be a good one.
In the end it turned out to be pretty easy. Found a great piece of tent real-estate at at RV park on Main and Front Streets. Waterfront view, excellent water pressure in the shower, a place to wash my clothes and a 3 minute walk to the pub. All the life essentials wrapped upright there. Perfect! Best of all it was run by a super nice couple.
To fill in a bit of time and I went for a hike and saw some nice wildlife along the way: bears, moose, bald eagles and stuff... however to walk down a trail and see one of these majestic creatures in its natural habitat was nothing short of thrilling.
Haines Packing Company
Fishing Cannery work is renowned for being pretty brutal so being a sucker for punishment I kinda fantasied about spending a day or so working in one.
I stumbled across the Haines Packing Company just outside of town supposedly located at one of the oldest cannery sites in Alaska it looked fantastic from a distance. I thought "Yes! This is it. Surely they'd be up for some free kiwi labour"
Well it turned out I was a few days early to help out as the fishing boats were still at sea. By the time their catch was landed I'd be at sea.
Bummer. Oh well at least I got to spend two serene hours at staring at the water eating some of their freshly smoked salmon.
If you have a few hours to kill in Haines and like Salmon make your way out to this place. One of the best memories of the trip for me.
Also if you're into fish and chips (who isn't?) then Big Al's Salmon Shack on the corner of Beach rd and Haines Hwy cutoff in Haines,AK make the most amazing fish and chips I've had in a long time. Great prices as well.
Feeling satisfied that I'd eaten my own bodyweight in fish that day I headed to the local pub. There I'd meet another GS rider who was also on his homeward journey Unlike mine his story was tragically different and I'd go on to form a bond with him that I'll treasure forever
Great pictures, sounds like you had an awesome journey.
Fantastic pictures, great sense of humor mate!. Cheers from Paraguay
What a top ride report mate! Entertaining writing & beautiful pics! Extra style points for throwing in some Muttonbirds I look forward to more.
excellent pictures. Thanks!
The night before the M/V Columbia was scheduled to depart I was sitting in the bar when a motorcyclist wandered over to say hi. He looked a little shell shocked to be honest and after a brief introduction he uttered the words:
"I've just lost a friend"
I thought I'd mis-heard him at first but as he relayed his story to me I could feel my blood run cold.
Alan and his friend of 20 years Roy Ovist had been riding their dream trip around Alaska As they were traveling the Taylor Highway Roy rode a few minutes ahead of Alan's sight. At some stage Roy lost control of his BMW 1200RT and veered into the path of an oncoming 40 foot RV traveling at 50 mph. Tragically he struck the passenger side and was killed.
Alan then lived every motorcyclists worst fucking nightmare rounding the corner to discover the crash scene and a friend who was no longer coming home with him.
To cap it off Alan got a flat tyre in the Haines Pass and his bike was now sitting immobilized at the ferry terminal. He went on to tell me how someone had offered to tow his bike from the US border into Haines (a distance of 40 miles) for $1000.
Fortunately someone less reptilian in nature helped him transport his motorcycle into Haines But now he was faced with a bike he couldn't ride onto the ferry let alone the 100 miles back to his place.
I said to him I'd be more than happy to help with this tyre and we arranged to meet a few hrs before the ferry sailed to get it sorted. The next day I didn't really have much to do so I decided to ride out to the ferry terminal and take a look at this bike. I was able to fix his puncture and re-inflate his tyre using my 12v pump on the spot. Even though I'd been fortunate to have not needed it so far I was VERY, VERY happy to have it with me now.
I later called Alan to say his bike was roadworthy again and all he needed to do was ride it onto the ferry. He was overjoyed and it felt especially good to be able to help him under these circumstances. I'd later follow him back to Seattle to make sure he got home ok. He and his wife invited me to stay and I spent two really nice days relaxing with them at their beautiful home overlooking the bay.
I hope you're doing ok these days Alan. I often think of what you went through It was a privilege to have been able to help you out in a small way.
That Friday evening I rode the bike onto the M/V Columbia, strapped it to the vehicle hold and rushed up the narrow stairs to stake my claim on deck.
I was really looking forward to setting up my tent and duct taping it to the steel surface, I mean how often does one get to camp on the deck of a ship right?
However I quickly decided to spend the 3 days and 5 nights on a deck chair in the Solarium instead. There you're protected from the wind and rain, heated by sun lamps and presented with a 24/7 panoramic view of all the sunsets, wildlife and views the Alaskan inside straight can toss at you. Best thing of all is you quickly become friends with the small neighbourhood of fellow travelers around you.
The problem with being in a tent is.. well you're ultimately in a tent (again!) stuck out in the weather. As you fall asleep and wake up each day you experience the inside of your tent rather than everything that's going on around you. Worst of all water tends to pool on the steel surface (especially the lower deck) and you can end up living on top of it for days.
The Columbia does have cabins for those that want some, um
"privacy", but seriously I think you miss out on the spirit of the trip by being cooped up in one. The ferry also has a dining room, snack bar (with a microwave to heat up your own food), bar and movie theater showing about 6 movies a day. The toilet, shower and laundry facilities are nice and clean it's kinda like a floating hostel.
Sailing the inky waters of the inside passage
After an early morning stop in Juneau I woke up to find a woman had set up camp in the deck chair next to me. She introduced herself as Leslie and during the course of the voyage we'd end up spending quite a bit of time joking about stuff and generally passing the time together. I'm really glad I ended up on that ferry kindred spirits are rare this world and it's especially nice when one just happens to choose the free chair next to you.
When I grow up I want to wear a crusty old sheepskin lined leather jacket and fly a badarse Alaskan float plane with a grizzly claw on its tail.
Yep that's it. That's what I wanna to do.
Rush hour Alaska.
I thought riding tightly curved tarmac was brilliant but the twisties got quickly redefined for me on that trip.
I'd argue that one just hasn't travelled until you've camped on the stern of a ship that has to pull crazy ivan turns to snake its way through the inside strait often through channels barely wider than the ship's hull. All along the way you're being buzzed by hooded fishermen who aren't slowing down for anyone.
It appeared to me that leaving Alaska was no less kick arse than arriving.
Although I kinda scoffed at how long it took this boat to make its way to Bellingham I was really sad when it finally docked. It's amazing how hard it can be to part ways from friendships that had only formed 3 days earlier.
Goodbye Alaska. You were wild, unpredictable and stunningly beautiful I hope to spend time with you again one day.
But now it was time for me to explore the Pacific Coast of North America
Fantastic ride report! Great pics too.
Thanks for sharing.
Good that you were there and could help Alan in his time of need. Do unto others
+10 and I hope the $1000 guy gets all the "good" karma coming to him.
<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=4 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=alt2 style="BORDER-TOP: 1px inset; BORDER-RIGHT: 1px inset; BORDER-BOTTOM: 1px inset; BORDER-LEFT: 1px inset">Originally Posted by marsrover
Good that you were there and could help Alan in his time of need. Do unto others
I agree! I knew you were a decent guy the couple times I met you, but through this RR I have gotten to know you even better!
Next time we meet I owe you a beer or two!