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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by rickj, Jul 25, 2015.
Amazing RR thank you!
Days 17, 18 – Valdez to Kenai Peninsula across Prince William Sound and End of Ride in Anchorage
This will be the last post of our daily rides. This post takes us from Valdez to the Kenai Peninsula via ferry, and finally to Anchorage where we dropped off the bikes for shipment back.
We were really looking forward to the ferry ride from Valdez to Whittier on the Kenai Peninsula. Once on the peninsula we had planned to ride to Homer where we’d camp on the famous Homer Spit and enjoy some fresh fish at one of the small restaurants on the spit. However, due to heavy rain, we abandoned the ride to the Homer Spit and decided instead to ride to Seward where we stayed in a hotel. The next day, our final day of riding, was a short jaunt up to Anchorage where we dropped off our bikes with the shipper. We’d each board our planes to go home at different times the last day.
I have plenty of pictures of the very enjoyable ferry ride across Prince William Sound, but we were met with lots of rain on the Kenai Peninsula so I have very few pictures of that part of our ride.
From Valdez, we could obviously have chosen to ride back up over Thompson Pass to Glennallen, then the Glenn Highway (A1) to Anchorage, and finally down to the Kenai Peninsula. However, the ferry ride itself was one of the trip’s major highlights, and one that didn’t disappoint! A relaxing 5hr 45min ferry ride was just what the doctor ordered, and a fantastic way to start winding down our trip.
The Alaska ferry system is very impressive! A bit uneasy about how the process of loading the bikes would go, we arrived at the docks early. It turns out that checking in and loading the bikes in to the belly of the ferry was orderly and very easy. We each made sure that we had several of our own cinch straps to tie the bikes down, but the guys working on the ship gave us some of their own, and even helped us secure the bikes.
Don and Bob’s bikes were parked on the main hold, but I consigned to an area off to one side at the front of the line. After securing the bikes, we were told that we’d need to spend the rest of the time above deck where we could enjoy the views from comfortable indoor sitting rooms or anywhere along the decks. We could even enjoy breakfast in the ship’s restaurant. What a great way to spend a summer morning!
Once underway I couldn’t decide where I wanted to hang out – the front or the back of the ship both of which offered great views. (That’s the “bow” and “stern” for you seafaring aficionados…) The ferry started its voyage at a very slow tempo and never really picked up much speed, likely due to the fact that it had to navigate around many small islands, and even some icebergs!
My phone was fully charged so I started taking pictures. I don’t think it’s possible to take a bad picture from anywhere on the ferry crossing Prince William Sound! Below is a small sampling of the pictures I took.
Prince William Sound offers some of the best commercial and sport-fishing in the world. As can be expected, there was a lot of fishing going on in the sound. If you look carefully at the pictures below, you’ll see a number of fishing vessels.
The Columbia Glacier descends from an ice field 10,000 feet above a narrow inlet that leads in to Prince William Sound. During the summer chunks of ice, from microwave-size to house-size chunks, plunge into the water and drift across the sound’s shipping lanes. Many are visible above the surface, as can be seen in the pictures below. However, there are many so-called “neutrally buoyant icebergs” that are floating along below the surface and can only be seen by sonar. This is likely the main reason why the ferry never picked up much speed during its crossing of the sound.
There a numerous small islands in the sound, some of which have their own beaches and small forests.
Surrounded by mountains and the Portage Glacier, the sea port of Whittier came in to view in the distance. Whittier is located 58 miles southeast of Anchorage and is the most visited gateway to Prince William Sound. Since it is so close to Anchorage it is a popular port-of-call for cruise ships as well as an embarkation / debarkation point of the Denali Express nonstop rail service to and fromDenali National Park.
Since the town is surrounded by tall mountains, travelers access the Kenai Peninsula via the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel which cuts through Maynard Mountain for 2.5 miles. Its unique design allows a single lane of automobile traffic to drive directly over the railroad track area which links Whittier to the Alaska Railroad’s main line at nearby Portage.
Motorcycles have to ride the relatively narrow area between the train rails and, since motorcycle accidents in the tunnel and not that uncommon, they place bikes at the end of the line after the vehicles. Here’s a video I found on YouTube of a motorcycle ride through the tunnel.
THE KENAI PENINSULA
During our planning we had considered visiting and staying in either Homer or Seward. Since Homer was much farther away on the southernmost tip of the Kenai Peninsula, and seemed to be the less visited of the two, we had decided to ride across the Kenai Wildlife Refuge and then down the coast along the Cook Inlet. Once there, we’d enjoy our last night of camping right on the Homer Spit, which is a 4.5 mile long piece of land jutting out into the Kachemak Bay.
We initially had dry conditions in Whittier, but as we headed across the peninsula toward the Cook Inlet we experienced hours of rain. Our vision of camping along the spit right on the water had faded away to the reality that it would likely be a pretty unpleasant experience. Stopping along the way several times, we tried to call ahead to see if we could cancel or camp reservation and get a hotel room, but could not get any cell phone coverage.
Ultimately, we decided to turn back and try to get a room in Seward. As we approached the turnoff to the Seward Highway Bob was finally able to get a signal and called our friend Walt Kitchin, who had been helping us along the way with weather reports and such. Having the backup of a “command center” had actually proven to be quite valuable to us, especially on the Dempster Highway, and we’re very much indebted to Walt for his assistance. In this case, he was able to get on the internet and book us a room in Seward within walking distance of the harbor.
After checking in to our hotel Don treated us to a fantastic dinner at a classy restaurant overlooking the harbor. Since the rain had finally stopped, we also took this last opportunity to walk around the tourist shops to purchase some gifts for our loved ones back home.
The short ride to Anchorage the next day was short and uneventful. After having ridden to some of the most remote places in North America, dealing with the traffic in Anchorage was disillusionment and an unfortunate dose of reality. Our ride was over! We now just had to go about the business of getting the bikes to the shipper and then flying back home.
For our convenience we wanted to find a hotel near the airport; however, the task proved much harder than expected as we couldn’t find any vacancies. We ended up in a hotel a few miles away near the Harley Davidson dealership.
BIKE SHIPPING WOES
I had already made arrangements with Lynden Transport to ship our bikes back to Southern California. Based on the emails with Lynden I understood that the rate we had agreed to included crating the motorcycles. However, once there we were informed that this was not the case. (When I shared the emails with Don and Bob they came to the same conclusion I did.) A huge disappointment and an extra $450 for crating that we had not anticipated. Fortunately, a guy from Classic Motion which specializes in motorcycle storage and shipment happened to stop by, so we contracted with him to crate the bikes and bring them back to Lynden for transport home.
Our problems with Lynden Transport were far from over though. While there we were asked if we wanted to pay individually or together. We were not told however, that splitting the shipment and paying individually would add about $750 to the overall cost. Also, due to the miscommunication about the issue of the crate our estimates on the overall weight was off, which added several hundred more to the cost.
Since they didn’t even prepare written quotes to us for the revised pricing or give us receipts, we didn’t find all this out until weeks later. We immediately called to complain and they agreed to reduce the cost to the same as it would have been if it were one shipment – about $250 each. However, their accounting department seemed unable to handle a credit and we only got our credit last week after threatening to file a complaint with the credit card companies.
Our ride was a very satisfying and exciting experience, and we each agreed that it was the best ride of our lives. At least to this point. We had enjoyed 17 days of living our dream of the ultimate ride. There will be many more great rides in the coming years, but I’m unsure if we could ever enjoy a ride better than this one. Perhaps we’ll ride back to Alaska some day, but the itch has been relieved for now.
The ability to go off the tarmac on our adventure bikes added an element of adventure to the ride and made the experience even better than expected. We’re probably still ADV noobs, but a new element and much unchartered terrain has been added to our riding selection. After this ride we’re also not too shy to venture out and try new places and experiences.
Is a ride up through British Columbia, across the Yukon Territory to the Arctic Circle, and across Alaska a life-changing event? Perhaps not. An important bucket-list item? For many of us it is indeed on our bucket list of things to do while we still can.
We found the sign pictured above along the boardwalk in Seward. At the end of this great life experience it seemed fitting and thought provoking, and gives rise to deep thoughts about the meaning of life. There are many other things I personally want to do before I die, but I’m so fortunate to have been able to enjoy this ride of a lifetime.
Thanks for riding along with us.
Darned fine ride report, Rick! Thank you for the hard work doing this and I appreciate the offer to assist me when I head that way next summer.
Great trip and report. I hope to do this solo next year. Will be looking for a GS.
Very nice RR.
Rick, fantastic report now it's my turn to process the final remaining pictures and video; soon. I'm getting the itch to travel again and although the Grand Canyon back-roads sounds great, I think it's going to pale in comparison, However I'm ready to begin the planning stage and Revision 1.
Take a break and crack open the JD7, you earned it!
Well done guys and a very well documented report.
Great RR!!It must be an unforgettable experience in ur life.What a trip!
Really great. Thanks for taking the time, but I really appreciate the daily maps. Oftentimes, riders don't add those, and it makes it more difficult to follow along.
Great report! Thanks for all of the valuable info. We are planning an alaska trip in 2017. Regarding rain gear, it sounds like you had rain gear you put on over your regular riding gear. I am considering buying Klim "good stuff" with Gore eliminating the need for outer rain gear, or buy the outer rain gear and keep the less expensive daily gear. Im in San Diego so I do not have an ongoing need for expensive rain gear. How would you do it if you went again?
I hope you have a great Alaska trip in 2017!
I live just north of San Diego in Temecula and also don't have a need for expensive rain gear. I had also spent considerable mount of money on overall gear in preparation for this trip, so one of the high-end Klim (or other brand) wasn't in the cards. However, I did learn something important about riding in rain on one of the moto-camping trips we made in preparation for the Alaska trip. The riding pants I have are Aerostich Dariens, which I consider as "good stuff" and which do have a Gore-Tex liner in them. On the return from Joshua Tree it was raining the entire time and, while my legs didn't get wet due to the Gore-Tex, they did get cold even though I had a thin thermal liner on. The outer shell is Cordura (I think), which is not waterproof, and eventually starts to retain water. The result is a cold / wet material up against your skin just separated by a thin layer of Gore-Tex that "conducts" the cold on to your legs even though you stay dry.
Don was wearing an expensive BMW jacket on that trip, but decided to take the Gore-Tex liner normally worn on the inside and wear it over the jacket for the same reasons I mentioned above.
I decided to try the Olympia Horizon Rain Jacket and Rain Pants, which are designed to wear over other gear. They turned out to be invaluable on the trip and worked very well. They're thoughtfully designed and functional, yet pretty inexpensive. I also found that I could use the pants as a layer to help out with the temperature as well. When it's warm I usually don't put a liner under my Darien pants, but when the weather turns cold it's inconvenient to have to take off the pants to get the liner on. I found that just throwing the Horizon pants over the Dariens was a great (and simple) option. It was also great if it did start raining.
The Horizon jacket worked really good at keeping me dry but I did feel a bit like the Michelin Man with the two jackets on, mainly due to the fact that my regular jacket is a Motoport Challenger, which is pretty bulky to begin with. I plan on retiring that jacket soon and getting the Olympia Ranger jacket, hopefully as a Christmas present from my wife!
I guess the short answer to your question is that I'd do it the same if I were doing it again. I hope this helps in your decision.
Great ride report and Pictures...Thanks for taking me along..
Your response is extremely helpful! You have already worked through so many of the decisions that we are evaluating now. I like the approach you took on the rain gear, especially being in So. Cal. with little regular rain. Thanks for taking the time to create the report, and to respond to questions!
Awesome RR! Thanks for all the info and taking so much effort with the report. I'll book mark this to hopefully use a few years down the road. Really fun read.
It's been a long time coming, but Don has finally finished the video of our ride and posted it on YouTube.
I did enjoy! A friend and I are leaving NC on June 11th head up there. Trip should be about six weeks.
Great report! I'm leaving on June 11th from SC for my Alaska adventure. I have 5 weeks.
Excellent ride report!!!! I'm going! Thank you for all of the information on your trip about places to stay, eat all that stuff... I like the "Safety Seal" tire repair kit. I have one similar, but this one looks superior.. Thanks again!
I'm really glad that my report is helping with your plans to head north. Summer is just around the corner and you're probably in full-on planning mode. I'm sure that you'll all have a fantastic ride. In fact, I don't think it's possible to go there and not have an amazing experience.
We're talking about going back again in 2017 or 2018. Once you do this ride it's hard to get it out of your system!
Enjoy and ride safe.