Alaska's Taylor Highway

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by legion, May 29, 2003.

  1. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    Heading for Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada …or:

    …a QC check of the Canadian hospital system
    …how to trash a perfectly good motorcycle
    …how to save $200 by sleeping in hotel laundry rooms

    My riding buddy Polar Cruiser and I met up at a local shopping center parking lot Saturday morning for a ride to Homer, Alaska with the Northern Riders club. There was a communication problem prior to that ride though and ride critical emails had apparently been scooped up by some spam software (long story) and nobody else showed for the ride. There was a sense of obligation to at least see if anyone would show as we are the two nutbars that put the ride schedule together for that club. Ok, PC is the nutbar really but we won’t go there.

    On the spot we decided to head the other direction and run “Over the Top” on the Taylor Highway to Dawson City. We’d both been considering it for a while and there was nothing standing in the way. Executive decision made.

    Waaaay too much adventure to be packed into a three day weekend but we didn’t know it as neither of us had been to Dawson City before. At about 10:00a we headed out. Grabbed some fuel on the way out of Anchorage and the next stop was Palmer for a late breakfast, about 40 miles north of town.

    PC picked the breakfast joint and within minutes we had a waitress coughing and hacking at our table, explaining how she’d just been diagnosed with asthma to compliment the bronchitis and terrible sinus infection she already had *hack, hack*. Next time I’m picking, bud. I was pretty sure we’d be leaving w/ a souvenir dose of some nasty respiratory infection as her little gift to us.

    We took too long to get out of there.

    Ready for some pics?
    #1
  2. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    We left Palmer headed north, next stop was Eureka Lodge for fuel. While at Eureka I recognized another rider on a KLR650 that I knew from the school our kids go to. I talked to him for a minute and noticed that he was freezing his butt off and was heading further north still. Saw him again in Glennallen, Alaska which was our next stop.

    The guy in the light blue was George on the KLR. The guy on the LT is Polar Cruiser, and both he and George were looking at each other like they might’ve known each other from somewhere but neither asked. They worked at the same company 20 years ago.

    The guy in the red jacket was riding his GS/Adv to Yukatan. I hadn’t met him before but he definitely liked to scoot right along. The other guy in the pic is Charlie, George’s riding buddy and he was on a sharp V-Strom. The girl w/ the red hair is my daughter Nana. She and I are riding two-up on the Graphitan GS you see in the pic.

    We fueled up the bikes, choked down some M&M’s and diet coke … then rolled out past Gakona and on to Tok for more fuel and lunch.

    This pic was taken at the Glennallen Tesoro.
    #2
  3. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    We scarfed down a tasty burg in Tok and headed for the Taylor Highway. The Taylor starts about 12 miles east of Tok and I’d heard all kinds of good things about the trip but had no clue what to expect.

    The first 80 miles were chip sealed and took about an hour to cover. I couldn’t help think to myself “hey, dude …which part’s the adventure?”, hoping this wasn’t going to be one of those deals you hear cool things about but turns out to be a lot fluffier than you expected. Having gotten to know some of the guys that I’d heard these stories from I just couldn’t picture how any of 'em might’ve made a cool story out of a rural chip seal pavement ride. Couldn’t be. One of ‘em I’ve seen bouncing the front wheel off the ground on his Adv while riding down the road (still not sure how he was doing that). Another thinks it’s great fun to go bash his front rim out of round on a KTM 640. Others amongst ‘em I’ve observed to have a somewhat lighter grip on sanity than is the norm.

    Something wasn’t adding up. Not one poofter in that group yet the ride was looking like cake. What did I do? Wrong turn? Naaahh, couldn’t be.

    In about an hour the chip seal ran out at an abrupt edge and the road became dirt.

    No shoulder, no oil coating, no nothing. Just a dirt road that seemed a tad skinny in a couple spots but harmless enough. The speed cut a ways back but you could still keep it up around 50 on the straights in some sections. The first few corners were tricky though as they all seemed to have a little runoff moisture on ‘em and that red dirt turned to a mighty slick clay if you hit it just right.

    I was running Bridgestone Trailwings with a hole plugged on the rear since about mile 1000. I know a couple of guys have stated on this board that they like the ‘stones. I think they suck. Rice paper junk. Rocks rip ‘em up, they evaporate on asphalt, and they’re crap in the dirt. At 3500 miles my rear stone is toast.

    Corner speeds trimmed back to 30 or so as I was pretty sure after testing a couple of those corners that my daughter and I would be pitched off the road if I didn't calm down a tad.

    When we got to Chicken we continued on. No reason not to that I could see as there were 4 dogs loose in Chicken and the three legged one wanted my leg bad. Aside from those 4 mutts there didn't seem to be a whole lot. A post office, a place to get a brew, and a spot to get a Chicken Shirt.
    #3
  4. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    Out in the middle of nowhere was a Y and from our dirt road a branch shot off to the left. So far we’d passed a couple of huge old abandoned gold dredges just outside of Chicken that had chewed up much of that area 50 or 100 years ago. Cool stuff and lots of history.

    As I recall the sign said that the road to the left led to the 40 Mile Mining District and beyond that to Eagle, Alaska. Sounded interesting and it was late enough that the border would’ve been closed anyway …and I didn’t have much fuel left either. So off toward Eagle.

    We stayed the night at 40 Mile and enjoyed the hospitality of some local folks that rent cabins there. Here’s a pic or two of the digs. 40 extra Advrider bonus points if you recognize the two folks that run the place.

    He remembered the group from last year and mentioned that they’d brought their own beer and were a fun bunch. I’ve got his email address somewhere so if you want to contact them for reservations, pm me. He said to say hi to Fighter and the gang.

    Here a pic of the proprietor and his wife contemplating another batch of ‘Gruvers showing up :evil
    #4
  5. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    They’ve got cabins to accommodate 10 people and enough space for plenty of others to pitch a tent. Self sufficient, they generate their own electricity, have a big battery bank fed by sun tracking solar panels and all routed through a power inverter. They use propane freezers, and are snowed in from about December through to spring. They can snowmachine out but not drive. Gets mighty chipper in those parts during Winter.

    He’s got some local sand in barrels that you can gold pan in if you want. He showed my daughter how to pan and gave her the gold he panned in the lesson. Here’s a pic of the barrels of sand. They’re the brown barrels and the green tubs have water in ‘em so you can separate the gold from the gravel and sand in the brown barrels. The cabin Nana and I stayed in is in the background. Pick the lighter colored sand as the black stuff is heavy and doesn’t pan as easy.
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  6. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    Another pic of the cabin w/ my GS in front. I thought the Delo 400 jug would make a great 1 gallon gas can. It didn’t. Dribbled fuel all over everything out back.
    #6
  7. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    This is the creek that runs behind the steam bath.
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  8. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    For any of you city folks reading this that might not know, in rural Alaska you don’t just jump up in the morning and take a shower. The rural method is the true steam bath. It’s a room with a wood stove in it and it heats a bunch of rocks like a sauna does. There’s a cold water spigot that you can get plenty of cold water from the creek out of and you heat it in pots on top of the stove. In a separate bucket you mix some of the hot water off the stove w/ cold from the spigot so you can make it warm enough to douse yourself with. You get yourself wet, toss some water on the stove and rocks to get a good steam going, then douse yourself with water again and lather up. Rinse off when you’re done w/ more water from the tepid bucket you mixed.

    The water runs out through holes in the floor.

    This is a pic of the steam house with the screened in “cooling room” on the left. You run out of the hot room and stand in that screened room when you get too hot. If you don’t you’ll pass out or barf or do something else that’s not pleasant.

    Weird feeling being buck ass naked in that screen room staring out over the creek. Ain’t nobody around though. Try that one in the back yard, eh?
    #8
  9. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    I'm gonna hit the rack. More pics and the ride tomorrow.

    G'night ladies. :evil
    #9
  10. Humungus

    Humungus no it doesn't

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    Only us 0zzies & kiwis up this late..oh..sorry and anyone in the asia's. Interesting place mate...what was the daytime temps ?
    #10
  11. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    Or us Euros for this early :)

    Sounds like a cool ride so far :1drink
    #11
  12. Kuma

    Kuma Who's Ya China!!

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    Here in Japan we are always up...
    enjoying this yarn... but I hate to be continued stories :):

    keep it coming
    #12
  13. ImaPoser

    ImaPoser adventure imposter

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    Aw, c'mon. Just like my favorite soap opera. Always gotta wait till next time.:rofl
    #13
  14. globaldude

    globaldude AdrenelineJunkie

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    Great Thread Legion! Can't wait for more, "sounds like you've set the hook" pretty well for some of our friends "out west" too.

    Having done the Taylor several times over the years I know something interesting is coming. First year I went we had a guy put a rental GS upside down in a stream (stood up perfectly balanced on the handlebars) in two feet of water. He broke his ankle and banged up his shoulder, and had to be air evacuated, but other than that, no big deal. In fact, he's coming back to ride with us this year. Dumb as dirt!

    Last year, three of us were chasing each other and having fun until one guy (in the middle) went in a ditch and took 3 nches of metal out of his beemers left jug. He was bruised up, but the bike had to be trailered back. Until we could get a trailer to it we just rolled it into the bushes and noted the location by GPS and retreived it later. Some wag, no names here, brought along a rock with yellow paint from the crashed guys' bike and presented it to him at our "Awards" banquet in Dawson. Too much fun!

    Who knows what adventure lurks this year! I'm sure there will be a lot more posts!

    Looking forward to the rest of your ride story, your spur of the moment decision to do this trip is a quality we look for in potential Fukenguvers, that and the aforementioned "tenuous grip on sanity", great pics too!

    GlobalDude
    #14
  15. Rapid Twin

    Rapid Twin Just another purdy face

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    Great pics Legion...............can't wait for more. Ridden the Taylor five times, last was Aug of 2002. Go to the Chicken Creek Saloon on a Saturday night...........you won't be alone. I use B.S. Trail Wings........and have had nary a problem. On my trip last summer travelled from Reno....to Prudhoe Bay. Had to get a new rear at 7000 mi. Loaded heavy and riding hard. I run about 40 rear, and 38 front.........Thanks for the pics..........Twin
    #15
  16. Vagabond

    Vagabond Mr. Sparkle

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    #16
  17. dapman

    dapman Graphics Guru

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    Son,
    I've seen some slick talkin' snake oil salesmen in my day brother... But convincing PC to run to Dawson this early in the year, on that road, on that Bike! and you call yourself his friend, with friends like that... An LT on that road on the best of days will tax your sanity, but in May... WOW

    Waiting to read more... Making me anxious for the D2D to arrive.:clap
    #17
  18. Chopperman

    Chopperman Hostile. But not Stupid

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    Holy shit is that Bill Egan? can't be. He passed away 20 years ago. But he looks like him.

    I miss the old saunas and steam baths. Best shit in the world for getting rid of an impending flu or head cold.

    You dudes make me homesick.
    #18
  19. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    If I were a tad more articulate I'd've done a better job of 'splaining how that steam house works. I ain't though, so here’s a pic of the inside of the steam house on the hot side.

    The blue bucked on the left has a spigot above it that feeds directly from the creek (mighty cold). Those aluminum pots on the stove are filled with water too ...and it's hotter than hell.

    You fill that blue bucket about 1/2 full and then mix in a little from the buckets on top of the stove.

    Get good and wet then heave what's left on the stove.
    #19
  20. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    And for you Chechako types here’s the inside of the steam house on the cold side. Yep, that’s steam in the pics.

    That's 2x4 walls with screening on 'em to keep the 'skeeters out. Without the screen you'd be mighty vulnerable in way more spots than I'd like to consider being bit on.

    Looks like it’s popular to get toasted in the cold room too. :evil
    #20