Atlanta, GA to Alaska and back 2018

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by evmurdock, Jun 27, 2018.

  1. Moto-Kafe

    Moto-Kafe Gnarly Entre-manure Supporter

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    Almost a week without updates..........check-in, southern neighbor..........enjoying your RR and want to see more!!
    mark444
    #61
  2. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    A lot of updates... having fun in AK ...

    While it rained all night, I rested well on the cot provided in the wall tent and slept in late. I enjoyed chatting with the few other bikers who had stayed there.

    A V-Strom 650, GS 1200, and DR 650 got us there. While I had debated about upgrading my bike to make it to Alaska, I think that almost any motorcycle can get you here. You just need a range of ~200 miles on a tank of gas and expect fast wear on your tires. The folks up here see many more V-Strom 650s than the 1000's.

    I looked at the weather radar. The storm has moved south and Fairbanks / Circle are clearing up.

    I decided to head to Fairbanks and knew I would pass through a rainy spell. Partial blue skies allowed me to enjoy the sun next to a river.
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    There are a lot of bicyclists through Canada and Alaska. Many of these are middle-age or retirement age couples. The tours seem to be well supported with rest stop meals, snacks, and bike gear. They seem to enjoy the experience, even though there are many hills and rainstorms to pedal through.
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    It felt good just to sit on a big rock at the side of the road enjoying the sun and the sound of the river.

    I couldn’t help but stop by North Pole for a picture with Santa.
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    #62
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  3. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    I stayed at a hostel in Fairbanks- a first for me. I enjoyed the people I met there.
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    On an overcast day I took the opportunity to get an oil change and a new pair of tires. Now I am all set for the rest of the trip. And while my bike was getting some TLC, I enjoyed a breakfast of reindeer sausage, hashbrowns, and scrambled eggs.
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    I took in few museums in Fairbanks

    Fountainhead Auto Museum
    http://m.fountainheadmuseum.com

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    Museum of the North at University of Alaska
    #63
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  4. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    Sidetrip to Cheena Hot Springs.

    While it was nice to enjoy the springs and ice house, it would have been nicer to camp on the Cheena River and spend fewer hours at the resort. The resort had a lot of construction in progress and is suited for families. They have a lot of different activities like mountain bike rentals, horseback riding, etc.

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    The ice house was interesting- though you can't stay long inside as it is very cold. I liked learning a little about the geothermal energy system.

    The Appletini drink served in a glass made of ice was very good. The bar, the chairs, etc are all made of ice.
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    #64
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  5. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    Up to Circle - The Steese Road was a fun ride.

    On the way to Fox is a pullout with a view of the pipeline.
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    The first 81 miles of the road is paved with a good share of frost heaves. A few miles out, the road starts to climb through a pine forest with a few twisties.

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    The pine forest gives way to tundra as you climb higher and higher. Eagle Summit is spectacular - even if a bit windy. The road then descends to Central and then another 33 miles to get to the end of the road at Circle.

    The majority of the road is gravel. Some of it was very easy riding - as smooth as the pavement. Most was loose gravel, but fairly easy to ride. There were short sections under construction; passing gravel trucks at high speed, water truck turning the road to mud, and grater laying out new deep gravel.

    The gas station in Circle closes at 5ish, sometimes 4ish, and even as early at 2ish - which was the time I drove up to see "closed" signs on the doors. As there were still some folks inside, the gentleman told me to just fill up and then let him know how much I got. It was an interesting store with a variety of provisions, aviation needs, and who knows what else.

    Highlights on the route include very large herds of carribou on the tundra, Eagle Summit, the guy wearing camo driving his plane on the road to fillup at the same station as I fueled up, and a great camp site on the river.


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    #65
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  6. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    Ride to Denali

    This is a 3:00 am view of my camp. i haven't seen a real dark sky or used a flashlight in a while.

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    I left camp heading south toward Denali. There are still a lot of views on the Steese Highway that I had to stop and enjoy.

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    I stopped briefly in Fairbanks to resupply, then on I went. I didn't have a reservation (the place I tried to reserve near Denali, sent me a cryptic email, but basically they had had no vacancy).

    The weather was getting overcast and I started to have concerns about my Denali 11 hour bus ride through the park to see the mountain and Wonder Lake.
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    The views of the mountain are better on the south side. I drove just a few miles past the park entrance and took one of the last remaining campsites on the Neena river at Grizzly Bear Cabins and Campground.

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    While a little close to the road with small footprints for tents, the sound of the river, occassional passing trains, flush toilets, showers, liquor store, and food trucks made this a not to shabby site.
    #66
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  7. fastpast

    fastpast Been here awhile

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    The auto museum was fantastic. How did you get to sit in one of the cars? Inquiring minds want to know?
    #67
  8. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    Eating Wild Blueberries at Wonder Lake

    A nice lady I met at Cheena Hot Springs told me to skip going into Denali park. The best views of the mountain are from the South side at around mile 135. I had already reserved my spot for the 11 hour transit bus ride to Wonder Lake.

    You can drive your own vehicle the first part of the road, but to really see the park, you have to take a bus. Interesting to me is that much of the park is trailless - encouraging you to hike the backcountry armed with a good map and camping out of view from the one highway. When exploring, you avoid hiking single file to minimize impact to the park and really keeping the wilderness wild.

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    I awoke to a little rain and an overcast morning. Leaving my tent pitched and much of my gear stached in the tent, I rode light to the Wilderness Travel Center - aka bus stop. I didn't have an optimistic outlook on the day. but hey, if the weather continued to suck, I can always catch a transit bus going the opposite direction.

    I don't know how to sunmarize the day, other than it was a great day... filled with a variety of experiences, wildlife, and weather. While we didn't see the tip top peak of Denali, we were fortunate to enjoy great views.

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    We had good sitings of Dall's Sheep, six Grizzly Bears, many Carribou, a Peregrin Falcon, and other varieties of birds and smaller animals.

    I enjoyed walking around at Wonder Lake wondering what it would be like to do a long backpack trip across the tundra. It is a bit tiring to find your next footsteps through the brush, the ground spongy and uneven.

    I loved looking at the different types of plants and eating wild blueberries which were plentiful and perfectly ripe.

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    Capping the day was a rainbow over colorful Denali. The vegetation is just beginning to show autumn colors.
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    For an even better itinerary, I would suggest taking camping gear with you for an overnight stay at Wonder Lake campground. The Wonder Lake campground has 28 tent only sites with water and flush toilets.
    #68
  9. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    There is one (and only one) car that you can sit in at the museum.

    I loved how the museum is organized- groups of cars, with different stories to tell. I found this video on YouTube which is similar to one shown at the museum. Knowing about Slim Williams and John Logan is a must for any motorcyclist heading to Alaska.
    .
    #69
  10. Ol Man

    Ol Man Long timer Supporter

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    That lady does not know of what she speaks. Lots of neat things to do in the park. Sometimes you have to talk to people to figure out what is important to them and then choose their advice. Glad you chose to ignore her.
    #70
  11. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    All in all - she is a pretty cool gal. She lived in the wilderness on the south side of Denali. A cabin in the woods. dog sled for transport, provisions to last through the heavy snows... You are spot on that I understood where she was coming from and enjoyed an amazing day in the park.

    I am now waiting for the tsunami to pass so that I hopefully can see the south side of the mountain that she is so fond of.
    #71
  12. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer Supporter

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    Great updates! How long, timewise, is your trip?
    #72
  13. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    My trip will be 8 weeks in total - ending at a friend's place near Seattle. I'll ship the bike home from there. My family will join me on the ferry from Juneau to Ketchikan.

    The word Talkeetna means convergence - named after the convergence of the Talkeetna, Chulitna, and the Susitna rivers.

    So my convergence story begins with the friend from the hot springs who told me mile 135 is the best view of Denali (also mile 112).

    Then at the campground a couple of guys from Netherlands were reading books and enjoying beers. I thought it would be nice to enjoy a good book.

    Finally.. the weather. I woke with the remnants of last nights rain storm on my tent rain fly. I packed up, optimistic for a warmer day, letting the rain fly dry. Once dry, I headed out.

    The road from Denali Park Village going south past Cantwell to Trapper Creek takes you to a higher elevation, and it wasn't long until I was riding in clouds with a heavy, cold rain. I stopped at the first lodge - at mile 135.

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    I enjoyed lunch, a slice of homemade blueberry pie, and talking to Mrs Jean Carey Richardson, owner of the lodge. She is the daughter of Mary Carey, who homesteaded the lodge after moving to Alaska in 1963. Mary was a prolific writer and I enjoyed the rest of the afternoon and evening reading her book "Alaska, Not for a Woman".

    The book contains a historical account of Talkeetna, flights with the legendary bush pilot Don Sheldon, Denali climbers, the earthquake of 1964, and other Alaska frontier stories.
    #73
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  14. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    The rain continued to pour down - leaving no doubt the the mountain at mile 135 was not to be seen.

    Looking at weather reports, the best place to minimize the rain was Seward or Homer. I had a lot of riding through the rain. I passed quickly by Anchorage and found myself in awe of Chugach State Park and the Kenai Penninsula.
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    Attached Files:

    #74
  15. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    I had a great day sightseeing Seward. I took a sightseeing boat ride to the National Park.

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    #75
  16. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    This week is Seward's Silver Salmon Derby. I tried my hand at fishing and caught a nice King Salmon. As I hadn't purchased a King Salmon stamp on my fishing permit, the King is back in the bay.

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    #76
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  17. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    I spent the night with my cousin in Wasilla. The deep fried halibut with homemade tarter sauce was even better than I had in Seward.

    We came up with a game plan for the rest of the trip. I started off from Wasilla taking the Hatcher Pass - a dirt road from the top was a great ride.
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    I headed back to mile 135 on the Parks Highway and stayed at K'enai Ken campground. This is a new campground and a nice spot to stay. Most of the sites are secluded - the trees block your view of Denali from your site (except tent site 4), but there are some short trails to enjoy the view. It is a bit overcast with some rain tonight.

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    #77
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  18. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    Waking up early, I took a hike to the top of yhe mountain at K'enai Ken campground. The hike takes you up through the pine forest and to the tundra, with a lake on the other side of the mountain. From here, you have incredible views - and wildlife as I scared a bear away as I summited the last peak.

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    Then on to Denali Highway - a dirt road with incredible scenery and one of my favorite rides so far.
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    #78
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  19. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    I stayed in Paxon Lake campground - which was ok. There is a water pump and decent outhouses. The walk in tent sites are right down in the water - some a bit swampy. I pulled out my mosquito head net for the first time. So far, I have been fine with a little repellent and a campfire.

    I had to ride to Glenellen for gas (I had planned on filling up at the Gakona junction, but the former gas station had "closed" and "for sale" signs.

    This was my second go at "Top of the World Highway". Previously, I was scuttled by relentless rain. I am so glad I waited - the views here are spectacular. There is good paved road all the way from Tetlin Junction to Chicken (with the requisite potholes, etc).

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    I camped at the Chicken Gold Company - there is free camping across the road. I enjoyed taking a hot shower and the sites are secluded. The saloon was a fun happening place. I enjoyed the evening with a couple from Australia.
    #79
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  20. evmurdock

    evmurdock Adventurer

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    With a full tank of gas (regular - not premium), I continued on.
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    The second half of Top of the World was equally fantastic. The pavement ends at Chicken (although there are some stretches between Chicken and Dawson City that are beautiful paved roads - and some just paved).
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    A little wait at the ferry as it was paused as the paddlewheeler passed. Then I am back in Dawson City.
    #80