Two Tigers to Alaska - Retirement Trip

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Viper7, Jun 9, 2019.

  1. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg Late photo from LEavenworth - a favorite spot for a few days, This is the first time we've made during the summer.
    #21
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  2. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg Day 4 - Fraser Lake to Prince Rupert
    We woke up at 4am to the sound of rain, a lot of rain. With the bikes covered and all of our gear in the tent we just rolled over and went back to sleep. We woke up to clear blue skies and a still camp ground. It was a great way to start the day. Highway 16 from Prince George to Prince Rupert is a scenic trek with good roads and towns about 40 km apart (that is to say that the maximum speed went from 100 kph down to 50 kph). The passing lanes are much less frequent than they are on HWY 97 North, but there are plenty of passing zones and we had fairly light oncoming traffic once we passed Houston. If you have time, a stop at the Houston Visitors center is worth the 15 or so minutes. The Grizzly bear on display was one of two bears that were responsible for the killing of a lot of local livestock. The first bear was hunted and killed but the killing kept happening and witnesses described a bear identical to the one that was already dispatched. The locals nick named the bear the "ghost bear". When the second bear was finally hunted down they discovered that the Bears were brothers. The local that relayed the story also said that the first bear was found with several 45 slugs lodged next to his skull, ones that were meant to kill the bear but instead just penetrated the skin - it makes me second guess the effectiveness of the bear spray that we brought along. The local called bear spray "Seasoning".......

    There was quite a variety of bikes headed north at the junction to Hyder, Alaska. A group from Mexico City was making the trek and the group included a Ducati Multistrata, a KLR 650, A Harley FLH, a Yamaha Tenere, and a BMW GS. I wish that our timeline afforded the stretch from Kitwanga to Watson Lake - maybe next time. From Kitwanga the roads followed rivers and valleys, overlooked by snow capped mountain tops, at least one glacier, and high waterfalls. The only wish that we had was for more pull outs so we could stop to explore the sights around us. There was a pull out as we entered Mauricetown that overlooked what looked like a series of falls that once powered a water wheel or a mill.

    As we left Terrace highway 16 narrows a bit and the traffic became very sparse. There are several narrow corners due to rock overhangs but if you are traveling west there is no need to slow for them. The road is 100kph for most of the stretch from Terrance to Prince Rupert. Do be aware of the marked 40 kph corner - the corner can be navigated at much faster speeds but there is a train track crossing in the middle of the s-curve that could be problematic if hit wrong or if it is wet out. We had a coastal head wind for about 10 miles as we neared Prince Rupert, that is until we headed cross country approximately 15 miles from Prince Rupert. The bikes handled well even with the head wind. We did slow to the suggested (Maximum) speed of 100kph. The last 15 miles were twists and turns with lake views and long sweepers (albeit the recommended speed dropped to 90kph).

    We arrived at 1630 and found the ferry loading area. Check-in was at 2130 so we had some time to kill. A waterfront brewery supplied us with beer, fish and free WIFI. After walking the short water front and reading the interpretive signs, we headed to the ferry to check-in. We met three riders (one with his wife) from Minnesota who were taking the ferry to Haines and then off to Homer. They are retired and didn't have a set timeline - a perfect way to explore any place on a motorcycle. One did need to be home before the snow fell and another said he should probably try to be home in a month or so. Very nice folks and they had a lot of questions about the Tigers. They all road identical model Harley FLHs with trailers and they were loving the ride. Another couple from Calgary were also taking the ferry to Haines. It was the first time they were seeing Alaska but it sounded like they'd been just about everywhere else; Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Idaho, and Montana to name a few places. You really do meet the nicest people on a motorcycle!

    It took the entire 3 hours to load us onto the ferry and I had a lot of concerns about tying down the bikes. I've seen photos of single straps on bikes and our bikes are a bit top heavy. I've taken bikes on ferries before but they always had large stair stepped blocks to slid under the frame for stability. This ferry had wheel check blocks and anchor points on the sides as well as in the floor in the form of round domes in the floor with slots cut in so there was a way to anchor both sides of the motorcycle We brought our own straps but there were also straps available on board (in case you were wondering). Have a plan though - the crew can't help with securing your bike, likely due to the liability should it fall over. Next stop, Juneau.
    #22
  3. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg
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  4. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    The Alaska Marine Highway to Juneau-

    Once loaded we checked into berth, we explored the ferry. Our new riding friends set tents up on the observation deck along with a bus load of 15-16 year olds from Michigan on a seven and a half week long summer camp through Canada and Alaska. The summer camp crew situated them selves under the sun deck. The tents were anchored on the top deck just outside of the sun deck awning. One side was tied off to the rails and the other side was taped to the deck, you've got to love Gorilla tape. There a some wind but the weather was warm and dry. Plastic chairs were brought over and it looked like a proper camp site ripe for tales of roads and rides with an occasional rant on the current situation thrown in for good measure.

    There were two stops before our stop at 0245 on the 3rd. One note is that the time zone changes to AK time once you board the ferry (one hour earlier). The stops in Wrangell and Petersburg were each about 30 minutes which didn't leave time for exploring the towns. The car ferry docks are not near the town centers so exploring is not really practical. There is a galley cafeteria with hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast was good - eggs, hash browns and sausage for me and biscuits and gravy with a side of bacon for Lisa. The have dinner specials but we opted for a halibut burger and a chili burger. Both were good but be forewarned, the halibut burger is not what you might expect from a pub or restaurant. The patty was a preformed frozen patty with grill marks already supplied although it was deep fried. Another option for dinner is the Chinese restaurant (Joan Wei) across the street from from the ferry terminal in Petersburg that has take out and cell service is available long before the ferry is tied up. We tried but they were closed through July 4th, I'll have to get me Kung Pao Chicken some other time.

    The inside passage was scenic, however it was overcast and hazy. We spotted a few dorsal fins but we never saw what lies beneath the water. A few sea lions were sun bathing on the buoys that marked the channel. Our day was spent visiting with the riders from Minnesota and Alberta, watching the small bay side cabins go by as we speculated on how they brought in supplies, and catching up on some reading. Last year my reads were "Stealing Speed" and "Jupiter's Travels". Both excellent reads if you are inclined, especially "Jupiter's Travels". This year I brought along "The Education of a Wandering Man": Louie Lamour's memoir, a book I've read several times. I appreciate Louie's approach to education, people and life. He worked hard jobs in hard times and always sought out stories to read and people to meet. But that is a report for another time and a different forum. We took the opportunity to take a couple naps to make up for our interrupted sleep the past few days.

    We got the call to prepare to go below deck around 0215. Once we were docked we headed below and untied the bikes, loaded our gear and waited for the traffic to clear ahead of us. We were among the last to leave the ferry because they used the bikes to fill in the back of the ferry. I was thankful that the metal decks were dry, they can be slick when wet and Lisa and I were not leaving the ferry at the same time. We departed without incident and proceeded toward Juneau 14 miles away. It was 0300 before we finally left but there was still quite a bit of light due to the short nights. Sunrise was at 0400 while sunset was at 2200 so it never got truly dark. The mountains towered above the road to our left as we headed south toward town while the bay stretched out to our right. We wondered how often the wildlife ventured into town and kept our eyes peeled. The road looked inviting and it was good to get back on the bikes, we've got a lot to explore in the morning. We downloaded what we needed in the hotel, covered the bikes and settled in for a few hours of sleep. Laundry, the Mendenhall Glacier, the Tram and maybe the brewery or distillery in the afternoon are planned before our ferry to Haines in the morning.
    #24
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  5. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    AllSeasonRider -understood. The breaker bar, ratchet and 1/4" drive t-handle are redundant. The breaker bar was an afterthought after I reviewed the axle torque specs and the T-handle was so I had a 7mm and 8mm socket. I hate breaking up sets even though some will go back to my tool box. Hence the full set ofAllen wrenches. I haven't had any issues with the weight distribution so far however, I have only been on pavement with VERY short off road excursions. I appreciate your review and response. Safe travels!
    #25
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  6. Bigbob1

    Bigbob1 Rain Rider Supporter

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    Nice talking to you on the Tazlina.
    Have a safe trip
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  7. GISdood

    GISdood Been here awhile

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    Great write-up and photos! And if your daily itinerary changes at all and you find yourself overnighting in Prince George on your return trip, drop me a line - I've got lots of lawn to camp on, as well as a couple spare rooms if you need a break from the elements and the mosquitoes. Cheers and ride safe!
    #27
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  8. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    July 3rd, Juneau -
    From the time we arrived at 0230 and throughout the day the weather gods were smiling on us. Clear blue sky an earlier than anticipated start. We took in several sights; Mendenhall Glacier, the Sealaska Heritage Center (Highly Recomended if you have time), the Mount Robertson Tram (the view was nice but the Tram cost is $35, compared to the Tram in Portland at $4 per person - I don't think I'd recommend it for the $$ unless that's your thing), a hike from Mount Robertson down to town and the Devel's Club brewery and the Gin distillery (our calves were BURNING after the decent. I don't think we thought that decision through as well as we could have. We had dinner at the Twisted Fish Company - some of the best seafood I've ever eaten! We caught the fireworks at midnight from our hotel window, they were amazing even if I did struggle to stay awake. Tomorrow is our last ferry with a check-in at 0500. We will be laying down some miles after our stop in Haines, we are both looking forward to the seat time.
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  9. Viper7

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    image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg Juneau and the AK Marine Highway
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  10. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Juneau to Haines
    0400 came early this morning. Our sleep cycle has been governed by the ferry schedule the last two+ days, we are looking forward to a more regular schedule on the bikes. We did meet a fellow inmate - Bob (bigbob1) from Juneau who is starting his 36th year riding the ALCAN. He was increadibly friendly (aren't we all!) and an encyclopedia of information. He filled us in on the recent fire activity and relayed his first years on the ALCAN. Rubber boots, fisherman's rain gear and a CB750 and getting caught in a near whiteout. He still does some long miles, like 800+ mile days regularly. He was headed up to Whitehorse to deliver some parts for a fellow inmate who had a down on the Dalton. Thank you for your time and knowledge Bob!

    A note about the new ferries - they are lacking dedicated tie down spots for motorcycles. We were lucky and tied the bikes to the structural supports on the out side of the bikes, and tied the bikes to eachother between them. Bob was pulling a trailer behind is Goldwing and there were no anchor points available for him to tie off to. The trip was calm and he didn't have any issues that I know of.

    Leaving the ferry we finally got the "Welcome to Alaska" photo we'd been waiting for (doesn't everybody do that?). Arrived in Haines at 1130, just in time for the 4th of July activities. Races and gold panning for the kids, mud volleyball, a pie eating contest, and spike driving contest for the adults. The Haines library sold burgers, dogs and pie as well. It was a great community event. A couple beers at the Haines brewery and a chance to wash the salt air off the bikes and were are ready to get on the highway tomorrow. Our final destination is somewhere between Haines and Anchorage tomorrow, I guess it depends on how many times we stop to take in the Alaskan scenery.
    image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg
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  11. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Bob - It was really great to meet you. Thanks you again for sharing your time, knowledge, and stories. I believe that the people you meet while traveling is just as important as what you see. Safe travels!
    #31
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  12. Bigbob1

    Bigbob1 Rain Rider Supporter

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    I had a bunch of smoke riding up from Skagway. It was thicker than what we saw from the ferry.
    Hope the rest of your ride goes off without a hitch.
    #32
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  13. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Haines to Beaver Creek, I mean Tok, check that, I mean almost Tok
    We got a later start than we wanted but it felt great to sleep past 0400. The road from Haines to Haines Junction is fast and straight - maybe a bit too straight for our liking. The boarder crossing 19 miles from Haines was quick and easy as they all have been this trip. Fueled at Haines Junction after a burger for breakfast/lunch at Frosty's (good burgers but I think they are the only show in town so lines can be long, we beat the rush by minutes). About 80km out of Haines Junction we saw a lot of vehicles pulled to the side of the road so we slowed down. There he (or she) was, a Carmel brown ball of fur curled up on it's back without a care in the world, seemingly oblivious to the crowd of cars and motor homes that had gathered around it. It only stopped chewing on what ever it was chewing on to watch our bikes go by at a slowed speed. Our first bear sighting.

    We fueled up in Destruction bay and then headed to a planned stop in Beaver Creek. The roads had several frost heaves as well as a 15km stretch with long sections of gravel (probably half of the 15km was gravel with paved sections between them). All of the heaves and gravel sections were very well marked with flags on the side of the road and orange panels on both sides to mark gravel sections (except the section with a sign that said "Resume Speed" right before a long gravel stretch - I managed to slow to 50mph before hitting the gravel). We fueled up in Beaver Creek and got some Stew and cheese/meat/cracker snacks for dinner. A couple was leaving Anchorage due to the heat. They ran the Old Denali Highway a couple weeks ago and reported that the gravel hard packed and they managed 50mph most of the way through. After today, Lisa's a bit more at ease on the gravel. She's been pretty nervous about the upcoming roads.

    The camp sites in Beaver Creek were parking lots attached to businesses so we pressed on. The Mile Post showed three camp sites between 40 & 60 miles from Beaver Creek so we headed there. We spotted three large fires in the distance, the largest was to the south and it didn't seem nearly as distant as the other two. The roads were better once we crossed into Alaska but it was short lived... None of the recent chip seal, gravel spots, or pot holes were marked and you could have shredded a tire with a few of them! I tried to warn Lisa and to keep my speed down, which was hard. The roads from the border to Tok have curves, proper bike leaning curves. The bike wanted to go, Lisa reminded me that I should have limits. We arrived at the junction shown on the map where we should find camping. The only camp sign we saw was another parking lot attached to a closed gas station, we pressed on. Before we knew it we were 5 miles from Tok (114 miles from Beaver Creek where we started looking for a proper camp ground. When we found a proper camp ground sign, we pulled in and found a beautiful site right next to the river.

    We set up camp, ate and checked the bikes. Chains adjusted and lubed. We met a KLR rider from Wasilla at the camp ground. Richard took four days to do some riding around. He told the road in and out to the Nebasna Mine today. He'd heard the 42 miles in was some of the worst road in the world so he thought he' drive it a shot. It turns out that the first several miles are paved with out of the remaining road a beautiful gravel road. In and out in a day. HE's off to Chicken tomorrow just because he can. Thank you Richard for your time and knowledge!

    Yahoo, we shaved 114 miles from tomorrow's ride to Anchorage. Another great day on two wheels. Photos to follow when I have WIFI.
    #33
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  14. That.guy

    That.guy Been here awhile

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    Is there something particular you want to see in Talkeetna? Riding the Denali Highway and going to Talkeetna is a pretty good backtrack when the next destination is the park and Fairbanks.
    #34
  15. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    We've read that the views of the mountains are really good from the Talkeetna side of the park. We do have a bit of back tracking going to Valdez and to Anchorage. I'm sure we'll have some sections that we wish we'd changed. Unfortunately, we locked in or hotel reservations a couple months ago when we were in the planning phase. Our camp nights are flexible (Valdez, Denali Hwy, Tok, White Horse, Fort Nelson). We did change our stop on the way up from Beaver Creak to Tok.
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  16. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg image.jpeg Haines to Tok photos

    The later photo from our camp site at 1130 PM. We thought that sleep might be an issue, but aside from the bugs, we slept like the dead.
    #36
  17. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg Tok to Anchorage
    We got an early start and fueled up in Tok. Richard mentioned that the roads were in kind of bad shape so we weren't sure about what to expect. The Tok Junction to Glennallen were as Richard described. There is a 12 mile stretch where the road is under construction, that is to say, gravel. Six miles straight of gravel with six more miles of sporadic gravel sections. There was a water truck out to keep the dust down but the RV's kept the speed down to an uncomfortable level at times. Overall,it built up our confidence and gave us time to enjoy the not so scenic scenery. A not so quick stop outside of Glennallen (damn Thai food cart) and we were on our way. The views between Glennallen and Palmer are stunning! We hit light traffic until we stopped at Glacier View for some photos. The stops after Glacier view are "Must Stops" if you have the time. You can see the glacier pushing ice through the valley floor, as if a we are taking a snap shot in time. Hopefullywe will be some photos on the rerun trip when we head to Valdez. The Glacier is literally pushing through the valley, we could have stopped for hour I think. The road changes from 2-4 lanes with passing lanes to 2 lanes with no passing at the summit (55mph limit). The RV's were thick. No joy until we reached the valley floor and a passing lane.

    We fueled up in Palmer and took the Old Glenn Highway. The Old Glenn Highway is 12 miles of bliss (the first right as you enter Palmer from Glennallen). Once the cars in front of us filtered off to the liquor store and the cannibis shop we had 10 miles of clear 55mph+ sweepers following the river. The old HWY exits onto the new Glenn HWY which is fast and dull.

    We caught a couple breweries before heading to bed. The Matanuska brewery had excellent beer while the Glacier House Brewery is known for their food which didn't disappoint.

    We are off to Seward in the morning for a day trip. We hope to get out early before the weekend RV'rs.
    #37
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  18. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

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    Great RR so far. Our weather is holding on for you guys for sure. IF you pass through Palmer again and need a place to do some maintenance or laundry shoot me a message. We are right off the Glenn Highway. Get ready for some stunning scenery on your way to Seward!! Also when you head back thru Tok you should stop in a Thompson's Eagle Claw Campground for the night. Vanessa caters to 2 wheeled travelers and she is a sweetheart.
    #38
  19. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Anchorage to Seward and Back Again

    We got a 0930 start, hoping to beat the weekend traffic. The road from Anchorage to Seward has nearly constant snow capped mountains in the distance as we followed the inlet. The smoke was pretty heavy so we could only see the outlines in the distance. I'm sure that the ride is stunning without the smoke. The rod is good with some construction early on that brings the speeds from between 35 MPH to 65 MPH. Although we didn't see any critters, there are a lot of Moose Crossing signs. As we left the inlet, the smoke got thicker. The roadside signs indicated the fire may cause some traffic delays but we didn't experience any coming or going.

    Seward was a peculiar town, nice, but peculiar. As we entered town we saw the water front so we parked to get some breakfast. Breakfast complete we walked the water front. Most of the shops were boat charters for everything from fishing to sight seeing. They also had the June halibut results posted, 257 lbs., I can't even imagine the fight that took to get it on board. The new visitor's center down town was worth the visit and we road to Lowell falls and beyond. The town itself seems to be separated into two areas, the tourist waterfront with very few store fronts to the West, and the center of town some distance to the East. We passed on the Aquarium at $30 a head and instead visited the Seward brewery and a few of the shops on the West side. The house Red for me and the Summer Ale for Lisa, both were delicious and their Red Ale is one of the best reds I've had to date. If you have a chance to try the pretzel at the Seward brewery, DO IT! It was soft and biscuit like in the center, with a typical pretzel rust exterior. All of the sauces and mustard are house made.

    Our return trip started out fast with an anticipated trip time of 2.25 hours (the same time it took to travel from Anchorage to Seward). The smoke was a lot thicker on the return trip. At times, ash was falling from the sky so I assume that fire was relatively close, we never saw or heard it. Once we got ack into the inlet valley teh smoke quickly cleared and we were able to see many of the mountains that we missed during our trip toward Seward. When we were about 40 miles from Anchorage we hit traffic, stop and go traffic for the next 30 miles. The weather was warm (85 degrees) and the bikes got a bit hot. Not overheating hot, just not happy. The backup added 60 minutes to the trip but one we hit the three lane highway traffic quickly cleared. Another great ride - we are off to Valdez tomorrow.

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    #39
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  20. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Alaskajeff - Thank you for the offer and the suggestion for camping in Tok. I wish we could have seen more of the scenery but the smoke was pretty thick. We chalk it up to another reason to come back up north. We are doing some back tracking tomorrow as we head to Valdez - hopefully the traffic will be a bit lighter after the long weekend. Safe travels!
    #40