Meandering north to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jwc, May 24, 2019.

  1. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    6/24/2019


    While loading the bikes we meet two brothers from Edmonton, Canada who had just rode the Dempster on a 1200 GS and a Vstrom 650. They were headed for Valdez before riding home. We shared our thermos of coffee with them that the restaurant had given us the night before. While we had been eating dinner the owners asked if we wanted breakfast in the morning but since the restaurant wouldn’t open till 9am they had given us the thermos of coffee and some fruit.

    I had been told the ride into Valdez over Thompson’s Pass was one of Alaska’s prettiest rides. I can say what we saw was stunning. The cloud ceiling was low and thick, and at times visibility was very poor and we couldn’t even see what we were passing on the side of the road. We just made our way along slowly hoping someone didn’t come up from behind till we were out of the cloud bank.


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  2. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Once we arrived in Valdez we went first to the visitors center who were very helpful in what there was to see and do in the area. We parked the bikes and walked around looking at the marina and surrounding shops. I was surprised to find a replacement for my gps in The Prospector which was an outfitting type place with a little of everything. It was reasonably priced and since there is no sales tax in Alaska I got for about what I would have paid back home. Score! We still have a long way to go.

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  3. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    I noticed the number of people on the streets increasingly getting more crowded, certainly more than what an occasional ADV rider would account for. Most of these folks seemed to belong to a generation where canes and supplemental oxygen were frequent accessories and was usually accompanied by a much slower gait. And then we found where the cruise ship docked. I was feeling pretty smug about our youthful vigor compared to the latest arrivals until a helpful young lady stopped the shuttle bus she was driving in the middle of the street, leaned out the window, and politely inquired if we needed assistance getting back to the ship. Ummm no thank you, we’ll just shuffle along on our own thank you.
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    This is me contemplating abandoning my Tiger and getting on the cruise ship.

    NOT.

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    We ended up going through a museum on Valdez’s history which included exhibits on the Prudoe Bay pipeline and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The exhibits were informative and very well done. We decided to spend the night before we started on our return leg toward home.
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  4. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    One thing I can say about Valdez is there are lots of rabbits - everywhere.

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    #84
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  5. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    We said so long to Valdez and headed toward Glennallen with the cloud cover on Thompson’s Pass even lower than when we came in. There was almost no other traffic on the road so we just putted along over the pass trying to imagine what the scenery looked like as we caught brief glimpses through the clouds. Soon enough it cleared and we were stopped for road maintenance. Since we were on motorbikes we immediately went to the front of the line and were greeted by the flag person. This flag person was more gregarious than any we had met so far. Her diminutive stature was accentuated by her hiviz work uniform that seemed three sizes too large. She cheerfully greeted us then declared she was hungry and bored and did we have any snacks. Unfortunately I didn’t have anything to offer. Apparently undaunted she went down the line of vehicles to inquire with the other motorists and soon returned victoriously to the front of the line with snack items in her hands. I have heard one is supposed to tip valets - not that I would know as the eating establishments we frequent are self parking. That is if you’re not giving your order through a microphone and parking is discouraged - But having snacks for road maintenance crew members is a new one - not that I object mind you.
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    On the way to Glennallen we saw the sign for Wrengall-St Elias National Park and turned in. Where we found out that it is the largest National Park in the US. It is land that is set apart as a wilderness preserve that is also coinhabited by indigenous people that live off the land. The visitors center was well staffed and the exhibits were interesting. Walking back to our bikes in the parking lot we met a large group of riders on a MotoQuest tour all riding BMWs. They were mostly Australians with a few folk from California. My British made Tiger was a big hit and a few said they had a Tiger at home. We had enjoyed a gear truck following us as far as Jasper but these fellows had a gear truck pulling a spare Beemer in a trailer. -just in case -

    It’s interesting to compare the relative ease we cross the country compared to the rigors inflicted on travelers of years past. The road from Valdez to the interior was once a dangerous narrow affair barely able to accommodate two horses walking abreast. Improvements were gradually made but as late as 1970 this tunnel was still in use.

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    After passing through Glennallen it started to rain mixed with hail which continued off and on almost to Tok. Thinking we would take a short break we stopped at Fast Eddies for coffee. The problem with stopping and getting comfortable is that it can derail any plans for further travel that day. Sure enough the two more hours I had planned on riding that day evaporated and we made camp for the evening.

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    Soon after setting up we were going over possible routes to the lower 48 when a camping neighbor came over to visit. He had made a supply visit to a local liquor store and generously offered to share. We declined as it seemed he already had a head start in sampling his new inventory and we were satisfied to just enjoy listening to stories of his riding exploits, when he didn’t forget the point of his story midway through
    #85
  6. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Today was a difficult day for Ted since she didn’t get enough sleep last night. Sometimes there’s a tired that coffee and Red Bull simply can’t fix. In part it was due to the manager of the campground waking us up at 11:30 to see if we had payed for our spot. Really??? Why not just check the handy drop box for the completed form containing exact cash? After we had informed her that we had payed the correct amount she graciously remarked she would not make us move. Wow, thank you.. I knew we should have stayed at Eagle Claw Motorcycle Campground.

    Don’t stay here unless you enjoy midnight spot checks.
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    Crossing into Canada was a straightforward affair. After asking if I had a firearm she asked if I carried one when at home. I thought this a very odd question, and since I don’t have a concealed carry I replied no. But what difference would it make since I’m abiding by Canadian law now? Then she asked if I had any mace and I declared my bear spray. The agent was not interested in seeing it and waved me through. I had heard that Canadian Customs Agents will not allow bear spray but this has not been my experience after several crossings.

    Continuing on we took frequent breaks and then at 4pm and 225 miles we called it an early day. After leaving Tok we had planned on retracing our path on the Alcan then taking the Cassier Hwy at Watson Lakes. But for today we stopped and booked a room in Destruction Bay where Ted stretched out and instantly fell asleep. It had been a very overcast day with limited visibility of the surrounding countryside so we didn’t take any photos since we had taken some on the way up anyway.

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    Ted on one of our frequent breaks a scenic overlooks enjoying the view. Poor Ted.

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    #86
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  7. Project Mayhem

    Project Mayhem Moto Aficionado Supporter

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    "I knew we should have stayed at Eagle Claw Motorcycle Campground."

    Truth.
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  8. daBum

    daBum Dave the Bum

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    +1
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  9. Fuzzy74

    Fuzzy74 Been here awhile

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    If you were within 50 miles of Tok and didn’t camp at Thomson’s Eagle Claw you did make a mistake.
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  10. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    I will not even say I was coerced from an outside influence. I have paid the price. I have learned my lesson. I will not do so again.
    Then again, why do I usually seem to learn the hard way???
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  11. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    6/27/2019


    After a good night of uninterrupted sleep we were ready for the day. There were patches of blue sky where we could enjoy the spectacular beauty of the Yukon countryside.


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    Including more wildlife along the road.

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    Stopped briefly at Yukon Honda in Whitehorse for some chain lube and lunch at A&W ( I wish they had these back home ).

    If the Nisutlin Bay Bridge at Teslin, the longest bridge on the Alcan which also happens to use metal grating for a road surface, isn’t enough to slow you down then the presence of the ever vigilant RCMP will do the job.

    I did notice that the +6000 miles I have on my Motoz GPS tires made them less prone to wander on the metal grating than when they were fresh on my way north.

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    Stopping at the gas pumps at Nugget City to fuel up I noticed a rider on a 1200 Tenere on the other side of the pumps that looked familiar. Striking up a conversation he removed his helmet and I recognized Sam. He had owned City Cycles back in Baton Rouge were we had purchased dirt bike accessories and supplies some years ago. Exchanging numbers and after catching up a bit he had to put in more miles to get back home and work where we decided to call it a day.
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  12. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    We left our cabin at Nugget City about 8am with overcast skies and cool temps. We’re only 1/2 mile from the beginning of the Cassiar Hwy and looking forward to this scenic ride we’ve heard so much about.The character of the Cassiar Hwy is quite different from the Alcan. The Alcan is more heavily traveled and has more services. The Cassiar is a paved two lane with undulating curves, narrow to nonexistent shoulders through mountainside evergreen forests.

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  13. Fuzzy74

    Fuzzy74 Been here awhile

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    Really enjoyed getting to meet you in Hyder this morning and then even better having lunch and visiting together in Stewart. Safe travels from someone with roots in Louisiana.

    I hope you had a better view of glacier than I did.
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  14. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Services are fairly spread out but we never even got close to running out of fuel. Our wildlife viewing tally consisted of 7 bears but these did not seem sensitized to motorists as they immediately ran into the bush when we approached with the lone exception that had found something extremely interesting to eat roadside.

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    We’ve noticed that as a rule Canadian motorists are more courteous drivers than what we are used to back home. Not to nit pick but we’ve seen quite a few locals out in the rural areas that don’t seem to mind passing in corners and before blind hills. Thankfully we haven’t seen any crashes but ran across this little jewel that the authorities have apparently left roadside as a reminder to drive safely.

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  15. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    We turned off the Cassiar onto 37A for the out and back ride to Stewart / Hyder. The side trip had been heavily recommended as worthwhile. I can say that the scenery into Stewart is nothing less than magnificent. Stunning snow capped peaks form a backdrop as 37A winds its way toward Stewart past lakes and rivers full of snow melt. Bear Glacier carves the mountainside to a river that runs by the roadside. It feels like the air is suddenly cooled 10 deg when we ride over the bridges spanning these frigid waters. We were not disappointed that we had taken the time for this side trip as what we had heard was an understatement from what we saw. Certainly these cell phone pictures do it an injustice.

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  16. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Riding into Stewart at dinner time we decide to give the Silverado Cafe & Pizza Parlour a try before setting up camp. As we enter the restaurant the first thing we notice is that it’s crowded - that’s usually a good sign. Immediately afterward the good feeling drains away when we notice that NO ONE is eating, like no empty plates, no appetizers, nothing. Hmmm, did we stumble into a town meeting of some sort? Is the kitchen on strike? The waitress informs us that everyone came in a once and that they have a small kitchen. This will delay things a bit but assures us that any food order will be received in 30 min or so. So I order coffee and settle in to wait while the other patrons start receiving their orders. Sure enough, 20 min later our pizza arrives.
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    Fully victualed we rode over to the Rainey Creek Campground and pitched our tent to relax for the evening. The campground hosts came by and were helpful in pointing out various items of interest in the area.
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  17. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    It was great to meet you and Kevin. I always enjoy hearing about others experiences in mototravel. Who knows, our paths may cross again in Tennessee.

    We went back at about 4pm and had a very clear view of the Glacier. Took a bunch of photos and even bought some post cards from the fellow that spends the summer camping up there.
    #97
  18. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Decided to spend another night in Stewart to give us a day where we could leisurely explore the area. After a leisure breakfast at a local eatery we lingered awhile talking to the folks at the adjoining tables. A mix of locals and those like us who were just here to enjoy the sights.

    Riding to Hyder we wanted to see both the bear viewing boardwalk and the Salmond Glacier. Crossing over the border into Hyder there is no customs security check. There is a Canadian security check going back into Stewart so we had to remember to bring our passports. Riding into Hyder it looks like the town has fallen on hard times. The town even bills itself as a friendly ghost town. We make sure to stop and patronize a couple of the shops along the way.

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    No gas here today.
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    They haven’t lost their sense of humor.

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  19. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Arriving at the wildlife viewing boardwalk, Unfortunately There were no bears to view. The salmon aren’t running this time of year so the bears have better things to do than to pose for tourists’ pictures when their favorite dish isn’t there.
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  20. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    In the parking lot we did meet a couple who had turned a Mercedes Sprinter van into an RV. They did a very professional job in the fit and finish and had an eye for efficient use of space. We also ran into a fellow ADVrider inmate Fuzzy74 who has an epic ride report on advrider called “ Three old guys to Alaska - Goldwings and a 300 versus “. We enjoyed going to lunch with them and meeting the people behind the story.

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    The cloud cover was so low that it would make viewing the Glacier impossible so we went back to Stewart to wait for it to lift enjoying the view as the short ride between Stewart and Hyder is scenic in its own right.

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    About 4pm rode back to the wildlife viewing boardwalk then the 18 miles of gravel road to the Salmon Glacier viewing site. The washboard on the road was so bad at one point it vibrated Ted’s Madstad screen right off her bike right in front of her. She couldn’t stop in time and ran over it. Those Madstad screens are tough, we picked it up and it was unharmed so we tied it to the back of the Tiger to be reinstalled back at the campground. Gaining the Glacier viewing area we were rewarded with an unobstructed view of the glacier, and it was worth the trip. We also met the fellow that camps up there all week long except on Fridays when he leaves to get supplies for the week. He’s there every summer selling post cards and DVDs that he’s made of the Glacier and of bears. We bought a few of his postcards.
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