Alaska 2018 - I only celebrate my birthday every 60 years

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Ozarks Rider, Jun 26, 2018.

  1. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    Thank you! If I can provide any other information or answer questions for you or anyone else, glad to help. I haven't been listing specific information about accommodations, everyone has their preferences, but I have that if anyone is interested.
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  2. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 19—————Dawson City, YT to Whitehorse, YT__________330 Miles / 530 km

    July 17 - Day 19_NeedReDo.jpg
    ***Sorry about the quality of the map. I will try to replace when I can.***

    Most likely due to my influence, and a little bit to do with waking up to a soggy morning, Dan and I reluctantly started the day after one of his fine brews (coffee this time) and getting suited up with ATGATT. Much easier to do from hard accommodation than a tent I will say though! Rather than go into town for breakfast first, we packed everything up and planned to catch breakfast in Dawson City on the way down the road.

    Doug, the owner of the place we were staying at, stopped by to let us know that he had heard the Demptser Highway was closed due to rain making the road impassable in places. Exacerbating what would already make things tough sledding, was a festival that was going on which had more people needing places to stay and traffic getting stuck everywhere. The best they could do at that point was keep more people from heading up until they got things under control. We were headed south fortunately so this wasn’t a problem for us.

    Heading into Dawson, it reminded me of a 1969 movie with Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, and Jean Seberg called “Paint Your Wagon”. Old guys, help me out here. Very funny movie (if you can get past Clint Eastwood trying to sing) dealing with a small town that sprung up from the gold rush. Dirt roads, wooden sidewalks and clapboard houses-that’s pretty much downtown Dawson City. Our host recommended the El Dorado Hotel for breakfast. Because it had rained most of the night before, the roads were pretty sloppy. We located the hotel for breakfast and hitched our bikes to the sidewalk. Inside we were readily identified as motorcyclists so that provoked a welcome discussion between us and a few others of the same ilk. One had just come down the Dempster before they had begun closing it. He said it was a mess and also commented that in his opinion, the first 60 miles/100km were the best scenery of the road. Take that for what you will if you’re considering going up that way. Also met a German couple who had purchased a bike in Anchorage and were riding to Atlanta, GA so I gave them our home address in case they needed a place to stay on their way across.



    By 1pm we were on the road. Off and on rain but nothing too bad. We were told to look for a place about 150 miles/240 km down the highway for cinnamon roles and coffee, but we looked before and after that for quite a ways and never saw anything fitting that description. Not to say it wasn’t there of course. Saw a motorcycle stopped on the opposite shoulder so I slowed down to see if he was having trouble. Turned out he was watching a small bear that was off in the field and we watched him for a few minutes ourselves before moving on. Somehow my camera was stuck on filming in slow motion which I didn’t realize until later. Of all of the highways and byways that you can take in Canada and Alaska, the Klondike is in my opinion probably the least inspiring from the standpoint of scenery however.

    Greater priorities were afoot, as it was nearly 8pm when we arrived in Whitehorse and we were headed for the “Klondike Rib & Salmon” restaurant. Even at this hour we were on a 30 minute wait! Well worth the wait my friends. We were taking full advantage of the extended daylight leaving Dawson City at 1pm because we had a little farther to go to get to our lodging for the night and it was way out of line to go there before eating. Back to dinner! Knowing a little better how big the meals were, I suggested to Dan that we have a starter to ourselves and then split the dinner. This would also leave room for dessert! We sat next to two charming women who were on a cruise, train, bus, etc. trip. I insisted that they join us for dessert because it was the birthday of one of them. They refused, they resisted, but not because they didn't like the dessert. Eventually I was able to get them to take a bite which I considered a minor victory. They were headed to Dawson City the following morning by bus…wow…I suggested that they bring something to read for the trip. I asked if they were going to try the “Sourtoe Cocktail”, but after describing it, I assure you they were not! Too bad.



    For whatever reason, I had meticulously planned our stops for each night and secured accommodations, but my perpetual shortcoming appears to be that I always forget to get the address or directions commensurately organized. I called Paula and she got an address and phone number to me and we called to announce that we were still coming but would be on the later side. We were going to be staying in a verifiable yurt this time. I located it through Airbnb which I use a fair amount. I have had great success both in the prices I have paid and the accommodations themselves. It was located south on Highway 2 which is the road you use to go to Skagway. It was backtracking a small amount off the Alaskan Highway that we would be taking the next day, but turned out to be well worth it. We arrived at about 10pm. It is a family run operation with a main house and about a half dozen cabins and a trailer or two I think. A little disheveled in the back, which doesn’t seem the least bit out of character for many of the places in the area, but we managed to find our way back through the trees to the yurt. Very cozy, and a view that is amazing even though we didn’t have the best weather possible. It overlooks Cowley Lakes and was beautiful. The owner was delightful and very accommodating.

    Not much to do at this point but head for the bed. Breakfast provided in the morning.
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  3. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 20—————Whitehorse, YT to Snag Junction, YT__________280 Miles / 450 km

    July 18 - Day 20.jpg

    Woke up to overcast and drizzle. Getting to be a little too commonplace for our tastes but nothing to do about it. Hopefully the day would get a little more sunny as we ventured north to Snag Junction. Not sure what we were in for at the place I found online but the owner sounded nice and they welcomed all motorcycles. I could have slept another couple of hours and just lounged around drinking coffee looking at the view, but breakfast was provided so we made our way to the main house.

    Breakfast was indeed provided! A very nice spread modeled after European breakfasts laid out by a charming 9th grader who was more intelligent than Dan and I combined. Her mother still wasn’t feeling well so it fell to the daughter to take over. She did a great job. Yogurt, fresh fruit, meats and cheeses along with coffee. A short while later a mother - daughter team who was staying in one of the other cabins came in to eat as well. They were probably in their 40’s and 60’s respectively. The daughter was an English teacher along with her husband in Vietnam, and the mother was originally from Germany but had just retired after being a major catering chef in San Francisco. We talked about world events and such for 90 minutes but then realized that we had to get going and the owners probably wanted their house back! As we made our way to the door where we had respectfully removed our shoes and placed with the others in the mud room area, I looked around and couldn’t find mine. You will see from the picture that my Crocs almost find themselves because they have a very loud pattern that tends to stand out. How in the world of wonders could I have misplaced them? Then I look down, and mom has them on-for whatever reason. She didn’t remember putting them on her feet, but there they were! Had to take a picture of that. Dan took advantage of the opportunity to avail himself of the stylish outdoor plumbing before leaving. The shower curtain providing the perfect touch of decor.



    We had toyed with the idea of stopping by Takhini Hot Springs on the way north, but that didn’t pan out. We went by it on the way down from Dawson City but it was too late. And for our trip north, we dragged our feet to the point that we didn’t really feel like stopping either. One liability to ATGATT is that to stop to swim it becomes a major production to strip down and find a place for everything. Then get dried off so you can get dressed for the second time that day and drive in the rain while trying to stay dry. Oxymoronic at best and too much bother. North we go.

    The rain tapered off by the time we got to Haines Junction so we decided to stop in at the Chinese restaurant there and have lunch. I was starting to get to know the place being my second time there! The weather this time, unlike when I initially came through with Keith, was beautiful and the mountains were stunning. This is the benefit of getting a second chance through an area, either by staying a few days, or coming back at another time. Totally different take on the scenery. And the weather held for the remainder of the day so we had a really nice ride past Kluane Lake. Stopped for some pictures and because my camera still had not been discovered on slow motion setting, I have a short video of Dan swatting bugs that looks more like a dysfunctional bird trying to take flight. Enjoy.



    I was getting pretty tired as the day was closing out so thankfully our accommodation at the Yukon Discovery RV Park was mercifully 21 miles/33 km before Beaver Creek where most people stay. Amanda, the proprietor who is originally from Ireland and lives in Vancouver in the winter, bought this place about eight years ago. She and her mom run it with some seasonal help and one local I think. She has the place fixed up very nicely and has worked extremely hard under difficult circumstances to do it. She has RV sites, cabins (some with kitchens) and canvas enclosures as well as tent sites. We had a simple cabin without a kitchen which was fine because we had no real food anyway. Dan procured some beer and we took much needed showers as we hadn’t had that experience since leaving Tok a few days ago. Dan smelled particularly bad which is why I always had him ride behind me…which I would live to regret a few days later.

    Dinner and breakfast were available so we ordered what we wanted for dinner and headed in to the main building after showers. Felt much better about life. The dinners were remarkably good. I had lasagna and it was very tasty. We were pleasantly surprised. Spent a little time talking to Amanda and getting her story on how she obtained the place and all the work that had been done. Being so far away from Beaver Creek was a slight disadvantage because that’s where everyone thinks to stop before the border, and the Yukon government won’t let her put up more than one sign for marketing. Having seen Beaver Creek, it looks a little tired and Amanda’s place is very nice. She has several construction and army relics from building the highway as well as other artifacts that she has collected.



    IMG_20180718_203643438_Dave dinner.jpg

    IMG_20180719_101403600_Dave Amanda showing map.jpg

    Great meal, long day. Time for bed!
    MizzouRider and BC Biker like this.
  4. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 21—————Snag Junction, YT to Delta Junction, AK__________348 Miles / 560 km

    July 19 - Day 21.jpg

    Awoke to glorious sunshine for the first time in several days! An absolutely beautiful morning. Dan was at the coffee pot bright and early as usual. I enjoy coffee but have no obsession with it, but I can drink it until the proverbial cows come home if someone else is making and serving it. After that we headed into the dining room in the main building for breakfast. Amanda, the owner, passed by at one point running room service to the cabin next to us. She is an extremely hard working person. They offered us the option of bacon and eggs even though it wasn’t a regular menu item for some reason. We gladly and politely accepted.

    Not an early start, about 11am, but refreshed, showered, and ready to cross back into Alaska in about 53 miles/85 km. We spoke to Amanda after breakfast for a bit and encouraged her to reach out to the motorcycling community as a stopping point because her place has a little something for everyone and is in a beautiful area. Not far from the border crossing and you can always stop in Beaver Creek on the way up to get gas and whatever you need from their store. Stopped for the obligatory pictures just before the port of entry. I had been through less than a week before but it was Dan’s first trip through here. The crossing this time was without trepidation for me, and I think Dan even managed to glide through without the threat of a full body cavity search.



    It’s not a bad ride to Tok and then Delta Junction from here but also not the highlight of anyone’s trip. Hit Beaver Creek for gas and watched birds that I think were some form of crow, but were the size of a friggin rooster, work the parking lot. They weren't going to eat out of your hand, but they knew the market and how to approach close enough to where there wasn't any doubt you were supposed to be feeding them-NOW! More than likely we stopped for gas in Tok but I didn't commit that to memory and we didn't run out of gas so... We made it to Delta Junction about dinner time so we stopped at a restaurant in town and called to get directions to our Airbnb…because someone had once again neglected to do this in advance.My phone had sketchy service so I had not been getting phone calls for awhile. Cell service at Amanda’s in Snag Junction is another sore point she has had to deal with. Personally I am ok with being unplugged, and I can use my InReach if I have to get a message in or out regardless of cell coverage.

    S10C0048_Alcan headed to Delta Junction from Tok.JPG

    Turns out that our original destination had encountered a problem when the hosts had a death in the family and weren't going to be available. However, she was very nice to arrange alternate accommodations for us and provided contact information for Plan B. We called and got directions, finished dinner, and headed for our night’s stay. Although we managed to get what turned out to be very close, my Garmin couldn’t seem to pinpoint the address. It was telling us that it was in between anything that looked like an appropriate dwelling, and when we kept going it said we had passed it. Turns out we just needed to go a little further and around a bend and we were there. Where we were lost though, was some of the very rare farmland you’ll find in Alaska according to our hosts, because it is one of the very few places that actually have some soil that isn’t hampered with frost heave. Look around Yukon and Alaska, you won’t see much vegetation coming out of the ground besides the native tundra.

    As you turn off the main road and head down the driveway to the house, you initially pass by a fairly nondescript landscape of the usual trees and such. But on the last turn when you approach the house, there is an incredible explosion of color with flowers everywhere. And not just flowers, billowing and flowing pots and hanging baskets that are absolutely beautiful. Score! We were told that the price would be the same, but I’m not sure that’s because it would have been anyway or we were given a deal due to the circumstances. Either way, score! We were greeted by the owners and two really cool dogs. I always gravitate towards dogs when I travel because I miss ours and wasn't going to see them for a couple of months. They are our constant companions and go to work with us every day. Many of our clients travel so they look for the hounds as soon as they come in our office.

    We were sharing an L shaped room upstairs that was a little tight but no problem. A full and twin bed- and this time I got the bigger bed per Dan’s generosity. Got cleaned up and took a tour of the property. More flowers, greenhouses for food, cabins out back, a very enterprising setup and the hosts couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating.



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  5. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 22—————Delta Junction, AK to McCarthy AK__________280 Miles / 450 km

    July 20 - Day 22.jpg

    It’s a lot easier to get up in the morning when yummy breakfast fragrances are wafting up the stairs into your room. It was 8am and we were ready for breakfast, but we were pleasantly amazed at what was waiting for us. Blueberry pancakes, eggs, hash brown potatoes, juice, coffee, incredible bacon, and plenty of all of it. The most incredible breakfast of the trip!

    There were a couple other guys there and Dan and I didn’t know who they were exactly. We were the only ones upstairs, but turns out they were defense contractors who were working at Allen Army Airfield Base just south of Delta Junction and staying in the cabins out back. Good guys who had been coming up there for awhile and were telling stories of what winter looks like up there. In a word-COLD! The liabilities of exposure are no laughing matter and they use this base for severe cold weather training amongst other things.

    Fantastic weather this morning as well as we made out way back through Delta Junction to catch Highway 4 south, also known as the Richardson Highway. If you are fortunate enough to take this section when the weather is nice, you are in for a magnificent treat. First a stop at a gas station/C Store so Dan could see if they had a phone charger cord. He had forgotten his in the yurt the day before, but good news as the host of the yurt was very kind and returned it to Dan's home. Wasn't helping at the moment however, but he was actually able to find one to my surprise and we were on our way.

    SAM_0561_Field near Delts Junction B&B.JPG

    This is really one of the most incredible highways in my opinion, certainly one of the best. There is also quite a bit of the pipeline visible and obtainable with roadside pullouts. We stopped at one of the bigger ones and sized up the apparatus. By the end of the trip I will have hit both ends, about 800 miles / 1287 km running from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. The stretch between Delta Junction and Glennallen was a beautiful ride. We stopped several times to take in the scenery.

    DSCF1009_Pipeline KEEP OFF.JPG


    As we came around a corner there were three adventure bikes parked on the side in a parking area and they were taking some pictures or videos. As we passed them, I stuck out my hands and mugged for the cameras. A little further down the road, I suggested to Dan that we pull over in case they were also headed south and we would shoot some video of them going by and see about exchanging the media. We stopped…and waited…and waited…and then it occurred to us that they might have been headed north instead, and I said it would be classic that just as well were getting back on their bikes they would come by. Almost happened like that. Had time to turn as we were walking back to our bikes and got shot of them going by. A while later, they were pulled off the side and flagged us down to swap addresses. We did, exchanged pleasantries, and then we started south again assuming that they would be riding behind us. Which they did for a little bit, and we were traveling at a very conservative speed, but they just trailed off. We thought that we would see them in Glennallen but they never showed up. Emailed them and no answer. So much for those pictures unfortunately.

    We were ready for a break and fuel in Glennallen. Stopped at the big station but it was overrun with tour busses that had just unloaded so we pressed on a little closer towards town. We came across this little fuel stop / convenience store that was a very interesting enterprise. I can’t believe the only picture I have is of Dan waiting for our pizza. Their store is this amalgamation of a little food kiosk (that makes pretty good pizza by the way) and then rows and rows of what it would look like if you put a Dollar Store on one train, and every garage sale in America on the other, and then ran them head first into each other. There were items on those shelves that might possibly have been older than me. But a great lunch and not crowded. We took our time and enjoyed eating outside. By starting the day a little earlier we had the luxury of stopping and enjoying the day. Who knew?

    The turnoff for Chitina, AK snuck up on us because we didn’t see any mileage sign for it. Just all of sudden-“TURN”! You cover about 30 miles / 48km of paved road to get to the town before setting out on dirt road. There is a card lock there if you need fuel before heading out. I don’t know if you can purchase fuel in McCarthy. The dirt road is a recovered rail bed and occasionally you will see these weird things barely above the road grade that look like concrete sticking up with a well worn nub of a spike. Those are apparently the remnants of the previous roadway long ago. We never had any issues with tires or saw anyone else that did-not here at least.



    McCarthy was our destination for the day and we had 60 miles / 96km to cover on dirt to finish up. This was Dan’s first time to ride on dirt and he did a great job. We kept up a reasonable pace and there were times where the washboard surface is pretty rough so going any faster would have just abused the bikes and us. It was a Friday and there wasn’t a lot of traffic to deal with on the road, but when you get to the bridge to go over the river it starts getting much more populated. The bridge is interesting because the only vehicles that can cross it are bicycles and motorcycles. Cars must either stay on the other side, or we were told that you can buy a $400 season pass from the guy who owns land that is capable of accessing the area and drive in from another direction. There is also the option of coming in by airplane. When you walk across the bridge, there are vans that run back and forth and will take you the next few miles into town unless you want to walk the rest of the way, which many do. Dan and I buzzed across with panniers clearing the barriers no problem.

    Now comes the more challenging part of the ride, albeit much shorter. The water crossing which we were told was the result of some industrious beavers who keep making a dam somewhere that causes a 40ft/12m long and 18”/.46m deep river. I wasn’t worried about it too much. Cars, vans, and trucks go through there all the time, so I figured it would be tapped down pretty much. Well, except one truck. I have no idea what happened exactly, but a white full size pickup was starting very gingerly to cross and right at the water’s edge they blew out a tire. We looked at where it happened and couldn’t figure out what they could have run over that would cause this. Oh well. I had already crossed first when this happened and all went fine. I waded back across to help Dan both in steadying his bike and steeling his courage. I clearly failed in my initial attempt in fortifying his resolve that he could do it because he asked me if I wanted to ride it across for him. A perfectly natural instinct, but I wasn’t going for that. So when we finally managed to get going, after a parade of various vehicles coming from the other side just plunged through without acknowledging us, Dan was ready and off he went! I was going to steady him from the back but he got moving faster than I could follow him so I just watched him sail across to the other side. First water crossing: Success! Unfortunately my camera shut off just as he started so no evidence. But it did happen!

    We found our lodging easily enough. A little spur road that ran off the main drag that continues on to the Kennecott Mines. We would explore that the following day. The cabins were relatively new and very cozy and we were shown around by the male half of the husband/wife team who owned it. There was propane for heat and running water inside, an outhouse around the back, and community showers down past a few other cabins.. Plenty of room while still being quaint. McCarthy is a small basically one street town which was about a mile from us that seems to mostly cater to a 20-30 something outdoorsy crowd. A few places to eat, not much in the way of entertainment, but we were still full from our afternoon pizza so we decided to forgo a proper dinner for some granola and water we had with us. Dan was pretty dusty from riding behind me the last part of the day, but the beds were really comfortable and we were too tired to even make it to the showers.



    Turned in early to sleep.
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  6. VETJET

    VETJET Saved My Ass in 2018, Pun Fully Intended! Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2015
    Oddometer:
    171
    Location:
    Benton, Arkansas
    I wish I were leaving out to Alaska tomorrow, the end of July seems so far away... I am enjoying your information.
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  7. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    No matter how much time you spend planning, or the duration of your trip, it will be over way to fast! Thanks for following!
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  8. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 23—————McCarthy AK to Valdez, AK__________180 Miles / 290 km

    July 21 - Day 23.jpg

    Chilly morning augmented by the fact that we left a window open. The cabin had nice comfy beds and heavy comforters on them which are all the ingredients I need to hibernate for as long as possible while Dan makes coffee. If either of us shared the other’s proclivities, we would either never get out of bed, or on he other end, be two over-caffeinated goofballs. Life is all about balance.

    Despite not having much in the way of an evening meal the night before, surprisingly neither of us were starved this morning. But we did need some sort of sustenance so we packed up and headed into McCarthy in search of a restaurant. We were told there was someplace to eat at the Kennicott Mine but figured something simple in town would do. We planned on heading up to the mine afterwards before getting on our way to Valdez.

    After a quick trip up and back on Main Street, we found a place called The Potato and pulled up out front. There were a bunch of people gathered around and it turned out to be a 10K race or something like that. There were several dogs roaming around that belonged to various participants so I visited with a few of them while Dan and I ordered some breakfast burritos and coffee. We surveyed the surroundings as we ate but the two motorcyclists finishing their coffee were of no interest to the audience, and I’m not running 10K unless something is chasing me…and I can definitely run faster than Dan!

    As we headed back to our bikes there was a park ranger eyeing our bikes. I thanked him for his watchful vigil but felt it really wasn’t necessary based on the crowd makeup. We laughed and laughed. Actually, he said, he was interested in the bikes and was thinking of getting one. This lead to an interesting conversation regarding what his role was in the park. McCarthy as it turns out, is private land inside the national park. So in this case, even though he did not have any jurisdiction in the town, the race that was warming up would be run through park land so they would be involved if someone was to be injured. Not only that, if you are injured in a national park, all of the resources necessary to provide recovery and medical attention are covered 100%!

    After breakfast we headed for the 4.5 mile / 7km long road to the Kennicott Mine. Another beautiful day. The road up is all dirt but an easy ride, much the same as the road from Chitina to McCarthy. The mine has a fascinating history which I won’t go into here but there is plenty of information on it with a simple Google search. The “trailings” which is all of the material separated from the copper in this case, fills this vast expanse of land below the mine. I don’t know why it struck me as so eerie but it looks like some uninhabitable lifeless planet. We walked around for a bit and read the exhibits for 90 minutes or so and then decided it was time to put it into the wind again.



    Dan had been dreading the water crossing all morning. Not sure why because he did a great job going across it the first time and especially considering he hadn’t ridden on or off road all that much. I wasn’t worried about him making it through. Worse case scenario is we pick the bike up and dry off as we make our way back to Chitina. As we got back into McCarthy, we stopped so that I could attach my 360 degree camera on my top case. You know, just in case I got rear ended, for insurance purposes. But what would be the chances of this? Small dirt road, virtually no traffic to speak of, just two buddies riding their motorcycles up to a water crossing the we both knew was there…

    As we come up about 150 feet / 46m short of the water’s edge, I “slowed to a stop”-not to be confused with “anchoring the brakes”. There was an ATV crossing up ahead and I didn’t want to have to deal with him in the water so I figured that I would wait until he cleared it. I stopped, then one thousand one…one thousand two…I hear Dan on the radio make a noise akin to panic of some sort, and BAM! I feel my ride side case take a direct hit and then see Dan wobbling off past me trying to regain his composure. What in the hell just happened?! Looking at the video, there is only one conclusion: Dan’s cat-like reflexes (and by cat-like, I mean his cat Whiskers, and by Whiskers, I mean his DEAD cat Whiskers) simply didn’t register that I was stopping for some reason and rather than hit the brakes-he hit me. Dan was of course apologetic and I certainly knew it wasn’t intentional. My aluminum BMW side case was no match for his Motoquest Pelican case and it basically sheared off the locking clasp that holds the case to the frame-now sitting in the middle of the road. I love Dan like a brother, still do, but I needed some immediate anger management intervention. So, I walked over the side of the road, got a good healthy FU@#! out of my system, and began the process of strapping the case behind my seat. And this was all kinds of stupid because I later remembered in Valdez that I had a ratchet strap with me and eventually put the case back in position securing it with the strap. In the meanwhile before that light bulb came on, I was a bit cramped on the seat for the day.

    I went across the water without issue, then coached Dan across. He did a fine job. Although the rocks weren’t too bad, it certainly wasn’t smooth on the bottom as you can see in the video of him. A white knuckle approach would have had him dumping the bike but he did a great job getting across. On to cross the skinny bridge without incident and then to Chitina. Dan was now exercising extreme caution by staying so far back that our Sena’s were almost beyond range. Say something? No, best to leave it be. The ride back seemed to take no time at all which wasn’t the case the day before. Just that little familiarity of what we were in for today made time go much faster. Dan stopped at the card lock in Chitina to put on gas and I started to call Touratech to see about ordering a new latch before I realized it was Saturday and that wasn’t going to work. I also noticed that a holder for my ear plugs-and the ear plugs themselves, we missing from the clip that holds them onto he front of my pants. I never wear the plugs off road so I lost the whole thing. My name and address were on the case so maybe someone would find them but I assumed they came off along the trail somewhere and that was that. Not worth going back to look for.







    Off to Valdez once we got back to the Richardson Highway. My original plan had been to spend the night in Valdez and then take the ferry to Whittier which is just south of Anchorage. A relatively short ride north after a seven hour ferry ride and we would be home. My wife would be arriving in Anchorage tonight so she could have a day to rest up from her flight and we would catch up with her late Sunday afternoon. Great plan, IF, the ferry was running that next day, which you can probably tell from this that it wasn’t the case. I missed it by a day. So the option was to either go back and rework all of the reservations and time tables for the week, or just ride back up the Richardson Highway to Glennallen and head south to Anchorage-which we ended up doing the following day.

    The last 40 miles / 64km of the Richardson Highway is worth the entire journey from Glennallen. You go through the Thompson Pass and pass by the Worthington Glacier and if you’re fortunate enough to have good weather, the pass offers some spectacular views. There are also two waterfalls past that called Bridal Veil and Horsetail that are beautiful. Also the remnants of a train tunnel if you want to get out and walk around/hike a bit. Into Valdez to find our Airbnb which we did with a little confusion. We were supposed to have two single beds in the room but they were made up into a king. Not only was sleeping in the same bed with Dan a deal breaker, but I hear he’s a spooner, so after a call to someone who oversees the place in Seattle we managed some additional linens and the day was saved. After that, a long overdue shower to wash off two days of dust was in order which felt really good. There was a guy staying there who was a friend of the owners, and he was living proof (fortunately for him) of the generosity of the search and rescue benefits of hiking in the national parks. He was rehabbing a gash in his knee from a mountain climbing accident and had been rescued off the mountain and then taken by air ambulance to Valdez for treatment. We offered to bring him back some food because he was pretty much house bound and the condo was not inhabited other than guests so there wasn’t any food to be had. He was very appreciative.

    We were up for a good fish dinner of some sort but we picked a stinker of a restaurant that managed to combine marginal food with a touch of customer service which said “we’re off in an hour and don’t really give a crap”. Splendid. It was however a very nice evening with blue skies and a comfortable temperature. We walked down to the docks to look around and of course discovered a myriad of restaurants that would have been superior choices for dinner in every conceivable fashion. Oh well. The savior of the evening was our discovery of an ice cream stand and a call from my wife Paula who had just arrived in Anchorage.



    I was exhausted and ready for bed.
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  9. mhrutter

    mhrutter Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    24
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    Best halibut I ever had was at the Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn. Hope you had better luck in Anchorage.
  10. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    This is clearly homework I should have done ahead of time! I would have to say that this was the most disappointing meal we had the entire trip. For the most part everything was fine. Having said that, for whatever reason we were never that bothered about searching out the ultimate food places. That didn’t occur to any of us until much later for some reason.
  11. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,617
    Location:
    Fly over zone
    Just curious, did the bike rental place charge your buddy for and damage to his left pannier?
    I assume there was at least a scratch on it. I’ve heard some of the rental companies can get a little carried away with those charges.
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  12. mhrutter

    mhrutter Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    24
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    I was just lucky, it was a restaurant in the hotel my wife and I were staying. We did take the ferry from Whittier (a saying I heard: the weather is shittier in Whittier, and it was. Some of the worst rain of the trip.). A white knuckle experience was riding a fully loaded GS Adventure two up in the slick strip between the railroad tracks in the tunnel getting to Whittier.
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  13. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
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    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    I’m not even sure there was a scratch from it. No issue on return at all.
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  14. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    The weather there is bad, and the city has a fascinating history precisely for that reason. I cover Whittier in the near future a couple of times. Once the weather was typically bad, second time it was really nice. Stay tuned!
  15. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 24—————Valdez, AK to Anchorage, AK__________300 Miles / 482 km

    July 22 - Day 24.jpg

    Up and out the door around 7am. Our mission was to get back to Anchorage and get Dan’s bike turned in before we incurred any additional fees. I was also eager to see Paula and start Phase 3 of the trip. Although it wasn’t”t raining, it was a dreary morning as we headed out. A lot of low fog that we would run in and out of until late morning. We stopped for fuel and to check my strapping job on the right pannier. In securing the remaining extra strap, I inadvertently created a lovely bow to go down the highway with.

    DSCF1042_My bike before case repair strap.JPG

    The road leading up to the top of Thompson’s Pass was obscured with fog and then up at the top the view was covered by clouds for the most part. Again, one day can make an incredible difference in the views here. It was interesting to see both perspectives however. Coming off the pass the sun came out and it looked like a nice sunny day was ours but then it clouded up again and was still pretty chilly. Eventually it warmed up and stayed mostly sunny to Anchorage.

    Got to Glennallen around 10am and had about two more hours to get to Anchorage. I was getting to know the way at this point. We were headed for the same hotel that we had stayed at a week ago and my lovely wife was there, well rested, and waiting on us for dinner that evening. We would make it uncharacteristically early today! I think Dan was getting a little road fatigue after a week of covering a couple thousand miles and various adventures. Without much of a windshield and especially no cruise control, he was understandable getting tired. I personally wouldn’t buy a bike without cruise these days. If I would have thought about it, we should have picked up an inexpensive throttle lock or some item that would have given his right hand a break. All in all though it served him well.

    Picked up coffee and a cinnamon role at a little portable coffee kiosk in Glennallen. That hit the spot. We made it back down to Anchorage in good time. Dan went directly to Motoquest to drop off the bike and get the return organized. I went to the hotel to meet Paula who was walking back from a local bookstore. I brought my gear up to the room and jumped in the shower. Then I grabbed a shuttle to the airport so I could pick up the rental car. Next was to head to Motoquest to pick up Dan and his gear so we could deposit what he didn’t need anymore in the storage facility. We then returned to the hotel having finished all of our errands for the day so we could relax. We just got the one room with two king beds and figured we could all be ok with that for the night.

    IMG_2738_Dan's clean bike after the ride.jpg

    The weather was very nice, so we were able to sit outside to eat an early dinner. It was actually very warm bordering on hot. Perfect weather to relax and watch the planes coming in to land on the water runway. If you Google "Ted Stevens International Airport", you will see the Lakefront Hotel on the eastern end of the lake that makes up the float plane portion of the airport. There is a long skinny island in the middle that serves as runway/taxiway area. They land right over the top of the hotel and they are fun to watch.

    IMG_2750_Float plane on final.jpg

    Dan and I hadn’t eaten much more than coffee and cinnamon roles all day so we were starved. We caught up Paula on the past week, and Dan wasted no time in outing himself for running into me in McCarthy. Already very old news. Had some beer and it was great to have some laughs and relax. Paula and I went up to relax in the room and get in a nap while Dan offered to do the laundry. However Dan also took a nap when he was sitting downstairs on a sofa. Dan has the enviable quality of being able to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, and under virtually any circumstances. If you have ever been to a hypnotist show, you’ve essentially seen Dan sleep, he just doesn’t wake up thinking he’s a chicken. I had a cousin who was hypnotized to think he was a chicken, but we didn’t talk him out of it because we needed the eggs…



    Finished off the day with a return to the bar/restaurant to have a light bite and dessert before taking a brief walk around the lake area immediately behind the hotel. It was a nice finish to the circuit Dan and I finished and the beginning of new adventures sans motorcycles.
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  16. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 25—————Anchorage, AK to Homer, AK__________221 Miles / 355 km

    July 23 - Day 25.jpg

    Not sure if I mentioned that Dan arriving was Phase 2, but Paula's arrival started Phase 3. We would be spending the next two weeks in a rental car and giving the bike some TLC and a rest. Dan would be with us for another five days and then Paula and I would do the rest. After that, I was back on my own again for the duration of the trip with the exception of whomever I might meet along the way.

    Up around 7am and of course Dan was already out of the room foraging coffee somewhere. Paula and I slowly arose and I began to try and figure out what I needed to drop off in the storage unit that wouldn’t be needed for the next couple of weeks. We had a laundry list of things that needed to be attended to after breakfast but before we could leave for Homer. We didn’t need to hurry, but we did need to check in by 8pm with the touring company in Homer that we were signed up with to fly to Katmai National Park the following day. The formality of signing wavers etc. had to be taken care of the night before.

    The service manager at the BMW dealer in Anchorage had kindly offered to take my bike in on this Monday despite the fact they were closed, because our schedule wouldn’t allow for any flexibility. We had returned on a Sunday and were leaving on a Monday, and both of these days they are closed. The other option was to bring it in when I returned, which I could have done as I had no reservations or time tables for the remainder of the trip. I had rented the storage locker to hold the bike and whatever else, but I never put the bike in there because it stayed at the dealer the entire time. But we did find it useful for storing extra gear so we didn’t have to take unnecessary items in the rental car. That was a huge help. We ended up driving up and down the boulevard between the hotel, Motoquest, and the storage locker looking for where Dan put his motorcycle pants which we finally discovered in his dry bag in the storage locker.



    Dropped off the bike, picked up some groceries, and went to a Walgreens to pick up some motion sickness pills that had been recommended to Paula by a pilot on her flight to Anchorage. Paula was worried that the airplane, boat, and/or helicopter that we were going to be on might cause her some issues, so better safe than sorry. After all of that, we were headed to Homer on the Kanai Peninsula!

    The weather forecast wasn’t looking spectacular for the week ahead in Homer and Seward but off we went all the same-in a car! We don’t care about no stinkin rain! A bit of a luxury. Nothing much of note on the way down particularly, maybe because of the weather, and we were glad to have the driving behind us when we arrived. We found the office for the Brown Bear Photo Adventure (a particularly terrible name for a very good organization) but they were a little busy so we looked around Homer a bit which we wanted to do anyway. This involved a drink at the Salty Dog Saloon, and looking through the Fisherman’s Memorial. Then back to get signed in and set for the following day’s trip to Katmai.

    IMG_2757_Homer.jpg

    Then to look for dinner. Located a great place for dinner that was very popular, but they found seats for us at the bar so we wouldn’t have to wait which worked out well. We also wanted to make sure we knew where to catch the plane the next morning so we went to check that out.





    Late random images


    Found our accommodations which were very comfortable and would suit us fine for the next couple of days. Beautiful view of the Kachemak Bay.

    DSCF1044_Homer Airbnb outside 2.JPG

    Another full day with a fuller day to come early the next morning.
  17. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 26—————Homer, AK__________0 Miles / 0 km

    July 24 - Day 26.jpg

    Today’s agenda is to meet up with the tour operator to fly by float plane to Katmai National Park. This is the home of Brooks Falls where bears will gather around a short waterfall to look for salmon coming in to spawn. You can only reach this area by boat (we didn’t see any) or float plane (we saw a lot!). It is a famous destination to observe the bears in their natural habitat and you might have actually seen this place because these falls are photographed and filmed a lot. A couple of observation points have been built. One at Brooks Falls and the other near a gate that spans a river/marsh area where the bears are commonly seen. At least one of the characteristics that make this place unique is that although the observation points are out of harms way, in order to get to them you have to walk amongst the same roads and trails that bears are very likely to appear on as well!

    An early start to the day this morning. We all grabbed whatever we had for a bite to eat and brought along some other food for later. Each of us had a backpack with water and snacks. Made our way to the float plane dock to get our briefing before boarding the plane. They do a good job of giving you an idea of what to expect, and let you know there are things that might happen that you aren’t expecting-so be bear aware and keep your head on straight. Dan and I were last in line for the outhouse before boarding, so I asked Paula to see if the pilot needed a volunteer for second seat and turns out he did. I have a pilot license that I haven’t actively used for decades, so I know enough to be dangerous and enjoyed sitting up front to observe. We left around 9am and arrived at Katmai 90 minutes later. Much of the flight was overcast but there were a few glimpses of some magnificent unspoiled terrain.

    From what I understood, there are a few different shorelines that the planes will roll up to the beach and be tied off. Nothing formal in our case, and because the plane’s pontoons can’t come up onto the beach, we needed to take turns using waders unless you could find someone who would carry you. We did have one family with a smallish child that Dad could transport, everyone else patiently waited their turn to slip into one of the two sets available. There is just a narrow beach in front of a fairly heavy forrest. As we were getting out of the plane and passing the waders back and forth, two or three bears were walking along the shoreline not far from us. Okay!

    DSCF1091_Bears on docking shore.JPG

    From here, we made our way to the briefing area where rangers go over what to do, or perhaps more significantly, what not to do. There is basically a one lane dirt road, and every place that you are going will feed off of this road. You can avail yourself of a small bus that goes back and forth, but what’s the fun of that? You are also cautioned both in the preflight and at the park that bringing food with you is absolutely forbidden. They provide an enclosure that you can leave your entire pack or just anything that is ill-advised to bring with you. But you are fine to eat at the enclosure all you want. There is also a lodge that serves food on the other side of the bridge.




    So after a bite to eat, off we go. They give you a time frame and also warn you that if you find yourself on the wrong side of the bridge when they shut it down for bear sightings, you may miss your flight home. Honestly, as a person who prides himself on punctuality, I never inquired as to what happens next if this occurs. We walked up the road, occasionally having to get out of the way for the transit vehicle to go by in either direction, and made our way to the Brooks Falls path. It’s a relatively lengthy walk, or seemed like it. When you get to the end of the path and winding around the trees, there is a gate that you go through to get to an elevated wooden walkway that leads to a waiting area to get out to the the viewing platform. They regulate the number of people as well as the time you are allowed to stay in order to keep the platform from being overcrowded or people spending the entire day out there. You can sign up again and go as many times as you like providing you wait your turn each time. If no one else is waiting you can turn around and head back out. We waited for about 30 minutes.

    It’s a smallish two level platform and the best views are at the bottom level. Good luck with that. I suppose if you are diligent and a little pushy, you can get down there. Some of the people get a little carried away with seeing the bears or getting that perfect shot (don’t get me started about the people with cameras the size of surface to air missile launchers) and I had to briefly speak to a gentleman who was crowding my wife a bit more than I thought was really necessary. I said it in a nice way, and he was apologetic, all good. After about 45 minutes of jostling and dealing with too many people swarmed in one place for my preference, we made our way back down the trail to the main road.




    Once we got to the roadside, we met up with some people on our flight who had just had a close encounter with a sow and her two cubs! The bears were just sauntering down the same road that we all had been walking down and fortunately kept their heads about them by getting off the road into the woods far enough to remove any appearance of a threat. They had the piece of mind to get their cameras out and we saw the pictures. Cool! People freak out about potential encounters with bears when they come to Alaska and want to brings firearms, bear spray, etc., but from my experience if you stay cognizant of the main safety concepts, a bear is most likely to run away from you rather than attack you. Food smells, a sow protecting her cubs, and startling a bear are probably the biggest things to be very aware of as potential confrontation issues. The first two are easily enough to comprehend, but there were several instances where I saw a bear disappear into the woods just feet away from the edge of the woods and you could not see them almost as if they vanished. If you aren’t making noise and you are downwind, you would be amazed how easy it is to sneak up on these guys. And for every bear you see, there could literally be dozens of other bears nearby that you aren’t aware of. The rangers will tell you that it’s ironic all the people who are in a hurry to get to Brooks Falls to see the bears and pass by bears in the woods just off the trail never bothering to notice!

    SAM_0625_Dave Paula walking trail at Katmai.JPG

    We progressed up the road towards the lodge. Weary of the potential of getting stuck on the other side of the bridge which must be crossed to get to the lodge, we decided it was worth the risk. As we approached the platform at the mouth of the bridge, everyone was being herded onto the highest level to get out of the way of three or four bears that were headed our way. All of these bears are monitored and all rangers are equipped with communication so they can look out for scrumptious tourists. And they take this very seriously. I thought as long as we were on the platform we were good, so I went down one step to be able to see and was immediately hustled back up to the top. You will see a guy fishing in the picture of Dan in front of the bridge gate...yes...he's fishing in the area that they hustle people onto a secure platform because there are bears in the area...looking for fish as well...

    A few bears came by and after an all-clear blessing from the rangers, we were allowed to cross the bridge which is about big enough for two pedestrians to walk side by side. No motorcycles this time! We went up to the lodge which is about 200 yds/ 180 m from the other end of the bridge. Had a coffee and relaxed for a bit. Nice place and I would have liked to spend more time there, but we needed to start making our way back to the plane.

    As we approached the bridge to cross, the alert went out that there were bears in the area again so we were ushered back quite a ways from the mouth of the bridge to wait. This of course set off panic amongst the people with cameras with lenses the size of bazookas as they attempted to brush people aside. That didn’t go well with a few others, and some terse words were exchanged. The big cameras lost that battle. We briefly had the all-clear but then had to retreat again and even farther the second time. Somehow Dan got an incredible shot of a sow and two cubs (maybe the same ones as earlier?) which I could barely see. I was towards the back of the pack of people which might have been why.

    SAM_0716_Sow and 2 cubs.JPG

    After the second all-clear we were back on our way unimpeded. Over the bridge and up the trail, we looked diligently as we walked but didn’t see any more bears along the trail. Loaded back up into the plane, a few other bears were spotted down the shoreline but they went up into the woods and disappeared.



    The weather for the flight home was much better as clouds and fog had burned off by this point. We had come out at a lower altitude than usual but came back at around 10,000 ft/ 3050m with perfect visibility. Smooth water landing surrounded by all sorts of float planes along both sides of the shoreline and we were back on the dock shortly after that. Nice trip.



    Late random images


    We headed to a Safeway grocery store to buy a fishing license for our next day’s adventure and then found dinner. Long day and ready for an early bed tonight.
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  18. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 27—————Homer, AK to Seward, AK__________168 Miles / 270 km

    July 25 - Day 27.jpg

    Today’s early morning adventure involves fishing for salmon out of a kayak. The previous evening we went to the local Safeway grocery store and secured permits for fishing and then another specifically for salmon fishing. I think it ran about $50 each plus the cost of the tour operator of course. Dan and I had huge expectations of needing both of our kayaks just to haul the beast…or beasts back to shore, and figured we would invite 20 or so new found friends to help us devour our catch after sending a semi truck worth of steaks back to our respective homes. How could we miss? I know that Paula was quite happy not to be getting up first thing in the damp overcast morning, or to be going fishing, but I can’t say with certainty which one made her happier.

    We met our guides at their boat in a very quiet Homer marina. One was the owner of the tour company, and the other was a gentleman hired to operate the boat that would take us to a property they owned that was a sort of base camp. There was one other couple along who were just going to kayak, but Dan and I, two men of the sea, were headed out for to fulfill our quest for the King Salmon of our dreams!

    As we idled through the marina aimed for the open sea, we encountered a couple of sea otters who frequent the area and float on their back as they prepare breakfast (in this case) on their stomachs. I don’t care who you are, these little guys are very cute. My attempt to snap a quick picture doesn’t do them justice. A short 30 minute boat ride and we arrived at the camp. As per usual, I hadn’t really thought this out as to what we would need for gear so it was lucky that I had on my wind/waterproof pants because I would have been soaked and cold otherwise. The kayaks were open tops and seemed specifically rigged for fishing with holders for your pole and a net. Neither Dan or I had shoes that made any sense but this would only be a problem if we went for an unscheduled swim. They provided life jackets

    Right from the start, Dan is catching fish left and right. The man is a natural. I barely caught one after a while, but neglected to get a picture because I was certain that I would have more on the way. Not so much. None of the fish were suited for eating…and none of them in any way-shape-or form took on the appearance of a King Salmon or even so much as a distant relative thereof. In an act of complete desperation, I did get one picture of me with my lure, which if you don’y look closely and know nothing of fishing, looks authentic. Feeling defeated and humiliated, something I am well versed in, we headed back for the marina having had a relaxing couple of hours just enjoying paddling around beautiful scenery. No complaints.





    Returned to collect Paula and our possessions and then went back into town to grab lunch. Then time to get going for Seward by about 1pm. Not far to go but between the slow traffic and a dreary day, I was really fighting to stay awake. We stopped in Soldotna, AK when everyone was ready for a break and some coffee. Found a place called “Moose on the Loose” and Dan and I split a Road Kill cinnamon roll.

    Made it to Seward and found our Airbnb just outside the main part of town. It was a dump. Originally we were going to be a party of four, so I was looking for something that had two bedrooms. Our Airbnb in Homer was very cozy, this place was a worn out and tired dump. The beds were terrible or we could have made it work for a night, but with another early morning and tired travelers I couldn’t put us in this place. And genius that I am, I had booked it for two nights. So we went into town without dropping off our luggage and looked for a place to eat. Paula and Dan weren’t complaining which I appreciated, but I felt like I had let them down with this place so I was ruminating as to what an alternative might be while we ate overlooking the Seward harbor. I made the senior decision to look for a hotel, and we found one that had one room with two beds for one night. Nothing available for the second night, which actually turned out for the best.

    Long day again and more than ready to sleep at that point under almost any circumstances.
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  19. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 28—————Seward, AK to Whittier, AK__________89 Miles / 143 km

    July 26 - Day 28.jpg

    Started the day early…and it was overcast and rainy, but yes we were actually once again in a new location, gloomy weather seemed to follow us everywhere. Got packed up and hauled our luggage to the car and then looked for a little coffee and something to eat before setting out for the tour operator’s location just up the road.

    While we were doing that, I thought that I would contact the Whittier Inn in Whittier (I’m typing this slowly so I don’t lose you) to see if they would have a room that night rather than the miserable Airbnb or the $250 a night basic bare bones lodging we had the night before. Turns out they had a room with a king bed and a roll-away, the latter would serve Mr. Dan-all for $170! Hey hey! It still meant that collectively we were getting killed on the cost of lodging for two nights because we were essentially paying double, but at least it would be nicer. Paula and I were booked into this same hotel, pretty much the only one in Whittier, and we had wanted to take Dan through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel (Also known as The Whittier Tunnel) which he otherwise wouldn’t see heading straight back to Anchorage from Seward, so it was a much better plan. Winner winner lobster dinner.

    At the tour location we got fitted for dry suits and some shoes that go outside the dry suit so you don’t poke holes in the bottom. Dry suits that aren’t dry are very very cold suits quickly. Grabbed our gear and headed down to the boat in the marina next door. About a 30-40 minute jet boat ride to the kayaks which were staged up the river within easy paddling distance of Bear Glacier. The boat ride wasn’t too bad and it was relatively warm inside. The clouds and fog were still pretty low so there wasn’t much to see. Looked to be a good group along.

    Once we stepped out of the boat, COLD COLD COLD! Here’s a suggestion: Don’t ever prepare for a trip based on the pictures in the brochure or website. Beautifully sunny in the pictures, which I’m sure it can be, but not so in our case. Did I mention it was cold? COLD! I had neglected to bring a hat which would have helped keep in some body heat, and knowing what I do now, we should have had some gloves for Paula who is highly susceptible to frostbite due to getting zapped when she grew up in Rochester, NY. As soon as we got on shore, I felt horrible for putting her in this situation, but she was amazing throughout and was a total trooper.

    We loaded into dual kayaks. Paula and I were paired up and she went in the back because it was easier for her to steer. The others with us were a husband and wife and their 40ish year old son, so Dan was paired with the son. A guide to round out the crew in his single, and off we went into the fog and mist. The mist was heavy enough that it was easier for me to remove my glasses to see what I was doing. At this point we were paddling by icebergs that were smaller and a combination of white and brown because they had sheared off of the glacier a while ago and had melted quite a bit. It was sort of eerie because you couldn’t see very far (even if I had my glasses on) and it was absolutely dead quiet. Fascinating shapes which we were told were the literal “tip of the iceberg” because as much as 90% of it was underwater. At any time and without notice, they can turn or shift so staying a healthy distance from them, approximately 20 ft / 6m is imperative to safety.

    IMG_2898_Seward_Iceberg 3 with hole.jpg

    After paddling for a bit, we were happy to take a break on shore for lunch and some warm beverages. We erected a tent enclosure that we could all crawl into to warm up and visit a bit. By the time we emerged much of the fog had lifted so visibility was better, albeit the cold was still COLD. What a different perspective though once we could see better. We were paddling in a lagoon basically, and now we could see that we had been paddling in a counter-clockwise arc. Instead of just being able to see the smaller icebergs near us, we could see massive icebergs that had broken off more recently. One way to tell the newness of an iceberg is by the color. The more blue it has in it, the more recently it has calved or broken away from the glacier. The colors and shapes are incredible, and if you see a small bit floating it is the purest water you could ever find. I heard John Wayne used to have glacier ice sent to him in California for his drinks. True or not, great idea! We stayed much farther back from the Bear Glacier (regulations require a half mile or more distance from the face) due to safety. You really need something to contrast the size to appreciate just how large these walls of ice are, 900ft / 275m (or think 90 story office building) which can’t be appreciated from these pictures. And the closer you are to the glacier, the colder the air temperature, not so surprisingly. Along the way, a seal(s) would pop up to see who we were and what we were up to and then their head would disappear again only to arise along the way later. Trying to photograph them was like playing Whack-a-Mole and I was never able to get the camera out and pointed towards them in time when they popped up.



    As for taking pictures, the best pictures were provided by Dan’s paddling partner Matt who was gracious enough to forward several to us that he had taken with his 35mm camera. I had a waterproof point and shoot Minolta but I had forgotten the floatation piece for it and didn’t want to risk losing it, but Paula had opted for the case they provided for her iPhone so that’s what we used. The neoprene enclosures that went around your hands on the paddle were helpful, but they were tricky sometimes to get your hands into and then your hands froze until you could get them back inside. Paula was struggling with staying warm as it was, so I suggested that I take over photographic duties which she was more than happy to bequeath to me. So what does stupid and near disaster look like? Well, it looks like a gangly dufas turning around and reaching back to take the camera from his wife, and darn near capsizing the boat! In a split second, I realized what I was about to do to us while flashing back to how much I had enjoyed my marriage but wasn’t likely to see our next anniversary at this point, while Paula leaned hard the other way to counter balance. Whew! And I mean WHEW! The guide, who practices for just such catastrophes, thought we were going over for sure. We were chilly and on the cold side, but nothing would have compared to getting dumped in the bay.



    We finished up the paddle with much better weather and by this time everyone had gotten to know each other. We all sort of picked our line for the shore as we got closer and paddled up onto dry land to dismount. Between the weather and the workout, we had a great day and an experience that you can’t do justice to describing in a blog or anywhere else. Now that we were on shore, we weren’t working up any body heat so we were all feeling the chill. The last adventure of this day was a helicopter ride back to Seward. Neither Paula or Dan had ever ridden in a helicopter before so I thought it would be a cool way to finish off the trip. As we were getting all of the gear together they asked who wanted to go first from the group because the helicopter only took three passengers and would require two trips. I paused, not wanting to be impolite to our fellow paddlers, but when they said they didn’t care, we were on board! I desperately wanted to get Paula warmed up ASAP so we made our way for the helicopter and I suggested to Dan that he ride up front. It’s a short ride, especially compared to the jet boat, but I have always liked helicopters and it was an enjoyable ride. Although not the most flattering shot of my wife when we were in flight, I kept it in the edit because it is testimony to how she gutted out the frigid conditions and had a great time as well.



    After we changed out at the tour office, we were headed to Whittier, AK for the night. A relatively short ride but I was gassed and had to fight to stay awake even with a coffee break. Had to hold for the tunnel to accept traffic from our direction but it wasn’t too long of a wait. The tunnel and Whittier have a fascinating history. Very briefly, the town of Whittier was created in the mid 1940’s as a port to deposit troops and supplies into Alaska. Amongst other reasons, part of its significance is the poor typically overcast weather because it was difficult to see from the air most of the time. In fact, it records the highest rainfall of any city in all of North America. The tunnel was created for a rail line but supports only one track, is 2.5 miles / 4km long (longest highway tunnel in North America) and utilizes jet turbines to clear out the exhaust-the first of its kind! I also heard that the rock that was mined to created the tunnel was used to add to Whittier making the shoreline and town bigger. It also is known for basically the entire town living in the same building. So you can see for an often maligned city due to the weather, it’s a pretty cool town and I would highly recommend spending a day there at least.

    The Whittier Inn is also a pretty nice little hotel. Our room was very nice and overlooked the marina and harbor-this is good news and possibly bad news depending on how heavy of a sleeper you are. Interesting to watch the boats come and go, but they come and go at all hours of the night. Putt-putting through the marina isn’t any problem, but some of these boys have some serious horsepower so when they clear the sea wall and lay the wood to it, you are going to know it! There aren’t a lot of them, but the alternative is to be on the front of the property which looks out on nothing in-particular. Your options are pretty limited for dining, especially in the evening, but we had a very nice meal in their restaurant along with the view and wound down the day with some beers and great memories of the day. I don’t think anyone made it much past 830pm and we were fast asleep.
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  20. Ozarks Rider

    Ozarks Rider I'd never join club that would have me as a member Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Oddometer:
    162
    Location:
    NW Arkansas
    DAY 29—————Whittier, AK to Anchorage, AK__________ 60 Miles / 100 km

    July 27 - Day 29_NeedReDo.jpg
    ***Another map that needs to be redone***

    Well this was a sad day but it had to happen, Dan heads back to the lower 48 and his Alaskan adventure comes to an end. I think we jammed about as much as one can expect to in a 14 day excursion. Everything went off without a hitch or was only a mere inconvenience. We started the day in Whittier and I awoke to Dan out of the room most likely looking for his coffee. Paula was still sleeping so I stealthily crept out of the room and went downstairs to find Dan frustrated that it was 730am and the restaurant didn’t offer any service until 8am. Some things in life can’t be explained to Dan…

    In the meanwhile, we decided to wander around Whittier and see what they do this time of the morning. We were surprised that it was so quiet. Not sure what we were expecting, a little hustle and bustle maybe with people going out in boats or coming in with their catches. Not too much of anything happening. Got some pictures of Begich Towers where pretty much everyone in Whittier lives, and you can see in the picture with Dan in it there are some glaciers behind the building as well as some waterfalls. Also had to get a picture with another fake fish passing for my Catch of the Day-at least my fake fish are getting bigger!

    IMG_2823_Dave catches big wooden fish Whittier.jpg



    As long as it was quiet, I took a minute to call BMW Anchorage to check on my bike. I still wouldn’t need it for another week or so but didn’t want to wait until I was ready to blast off and then find out a part needed to be ordered. Chris, the service manager, confirmed that both tires had been changed out, oil change and overall inspection was done, and they had been able to get a new latch to replace the broken one on my right side pannier. All set to go.

    We had plenty of time to cover a couple hundred miles to Anchorage and Dan’s flight wasn’t until that evening, so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and relaxed while watching the boats go in and out of the marina. It was interesting to watch the mastery of the larger boats that were pulling up to the fuel dock. Just the right touch on the throttle and direction of the wheel put them is perfect position with the touch of a feather. We went back upstairs to pack and empty the room by 11am checkout. Did a little drive around town, particularly around the old Army facility called The Buckner Building that has been long abandoned but was quite the marvel in its day and time. This building, along with Begich Towers, were the two biggest buildings in Alaska in the mid 20th Century.

    Not paying much attention to the tunnel schedule (there is one on line if you want to time it right) we just missed our direction, but that put us in the front of the line so front row seats for a southbound train. The trains get priority regardless of which way they are running, and wouldn’t you want it that way? Not an argument you are likely to win! Made it to Anchorage in good shape with fairly heavy traffic from Portage to the city because virtually all traffic going up and down the Kenai Peninsula has to use this particular roadway.



    Checked into the Lakefront Hotel in Anchorage again for the last time. I went to the storage locker to get Dan’s things and drop off some of my own. Made it all of the way to the gate and realized I had forgotten the key to the locker. Fortunately we were just down the street. Got back to the room and we all just put our feet up for a bit before heading down to get some lunch. We did a recap on Dan’s fortnight and all of the “firsts”, such as first time in Alaska; to ride a GS-on or off road (including two water crossings); first helicopter ride; to ride in a float plane; and kayak around glaciers.

    Back up to the room to watch Dan try to pack his bags again and then whisked him to the airport around the corner around 6pm for an 815pm flight. He would be arriving home about the time we would wake up the next morning. With Dan leaving Alaska on a Friday night, getting home on Saturday morning, he would at least have a couple of days to sleep before having to return to the real world on Monday! More than likely with the sleeping pattern of a narcoleptic, Dan was asleep as they were pushing the plane out from the gate!

    IMG_2810_Anchorage Dan Dave Paula - Dan's last day.jpg

    IMG_2815_Dan leaving airport.jpg


    Paula and I were ready to call it a day and relax. All day Saturday and even a good portion of Sunday would be available to look around Anchorage before heading back to Whittier to catch a ferry to Valdez on Monday.
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