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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    Thank you GISdood - hopefully we will avoid too many surprises. We appreciate the offer and we will let you know if we are need of some gass or a room. Ride safely!
    #41
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  2. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

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    Don't know if you have time BUT a trip down to Kennicott- McCarthy would be well worth it. The old mine and surrounding area is a sight to see. ALSO There is also a somewhat little known walking platform under the long wooden deck bridge that you cross on the way that is a MUST SEE!!
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    #42
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  3. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    That looks amazing. After checking the map I don't see us making there this trip. It is on my list for the next trip though (there will definitely be a next trip!).
    #43
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  4. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg image.jpeg Anchorage to Valdez
    A bit of back tracking today but we were looking forward to the views at Glacier View. The smoke was thick, thicker than when we came over the pass from Glennallen to Palmer two days ago. It made for some disappointing views. Not that the views weren't still amazing, we'd just hoped to see more of the mountains and glaciers. We stopped for some lunch at Grand View Cafe in Glacier View. The food was VERY good and the staff was friendly. A tour bus filed with Germans came in for lunch and we traded stories and spoke of travel. They weren't too critical of my broken German either. The trek to Glennallen was fast. The route from Glennallen to Valdez was fast when we didn't hit construction. There were three construction zones with pilot cars ( from Glennallen about 25 miles in, 57 miles, and then 87 miles). The later two were guiding traffic around culvert installation. Some steep and curvy inclines but very little gravel. The pace cars slowed to about 11 MPH which made two wheeled travel a bit more challenging. The last construction zone ended just before the Wothington Glacier. Another impressive Glacier in Alaska. From the parking lot there is a trail but the view is better from the overlook just off the parking lot (and there is no climb in the heat while being assaulted by black flies). Of course we learned this after fighting the swarms!

    Overall the road from Glennallen to Valdez is amazing, even with the haze from the forest fires, which was thick...at times our eyes were burning and you could taste the smoke. Countless waterfalls and scenic mountains more than made up for it! Thompson pass is an amazing road on two wheels, even with the uneven pavement. We passed quite a few RVs after the construction zones until the last one when they brought us forward. The average wait time for each of the three zones was about 20 minutes. We stopped for photos at Horse Tail Falls and I dug out the tools to help remove a bearing race on a boat trailer. The owner was hoping to make it back to Valdez before the NAPA closed so he could replace the wheel bearing. I hope he made it!

    We arrived in Valdez and looked for a hotel room. Unfortunately had to scrap camping due to Lisa's asthma. It wasn't too bad yet but Fairbanks and the surrounding area are supposed to be worse than it is down South and we wanted to prevent possible worsening flares. My eyes were burning from the smoke coming out of Glennallen. We found a harbor front hotel (Best Western) that offered a military discount. We checked in, lubed our chains and went to find food. I wish that we'd ventured off the harbor front. There is a restaurant that advertised local seafood just two blocks fro the harbor front. Our food was good but over a bit priced and the service was, um, adequate. We walked the waterfront to admire the fish brought in on the charters. The most impressive was a 150+ pound halibut and a long cod that was nearly as large. A lot of halibut and rock fish - next time I will schedule a fishing trip too.

    Beer in brown paper bags while overlooking the harbor - a great way to end the evening. Tomorrow we are off to the Old Denalie Highway. Wishing for some smoke free days and open roads.

    The Glacier at Glacier View - pushing through the valley.
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    More Construction - the view as worth the wait.
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    Valdez

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    #44
  5. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

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    Which direction are you going on the Denali Highway? My suggestion is Paxson to Cantwell. East to West. If you are coming from Valdez that is probably your planned route anyway. I've always liked the views going that direction. BTW there is fuel 20 miles in, right where the pavemnt ends at Tangle Lakes Lodge. It will get you all the way to Cantwell no problem. IF you are looking to overnight on the highway I would suggest Alpine Creek Lodge at mile 68. It is a family run business and they take really good care of you. Very nice views and all the amenities. There is even a 1 mile hike out the back of the lodge up to a stunning lake.
    #45
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  6. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

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    Are you guys doing OK?
    #46
  7. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg
    image.jpeg Valdez to Alpine Lodge on the Old Denali Highway

    The Tigers are running great. Chains get lubed nearly every night. We adjusted the chains at Tok (about 1800 miles in), added 1/3 of a quart of oil in Anchorage (2200 miles in) and a quick wash after the ferry rides. They heat up a little through the slow construction zones but not too hot. The days have been comfortable and they have plenty of power to pass.

    The ride from Valdez was terrific. Construction lane moved quickly and the smoke lifted a bit. About 30 miles before Glennallen we saw our fist moose. The cow was eating on the side of the road. When I saw her her head was down, my first thought was "what is a horse doing next to the road?". Then she lifted her head. I slowed down but not enough to stop if she bolted. Luckily she didn't. Some locals had told us to watch for them eating along side the road, particularly watch for the calves.

    We fueled up in Glennallen and then at Meier Lake (70 miles later). If you stop at Meier Lake you should check out the miniature Alaskan outhouse on the counter. Fuel in Glennallen is $3.50 or $3.52 per gallon depending on where you stop. Fuel at Meier Lake is $3.99 per gallon, but it was worth the security of knowing we had enough to make it to Cantwell. The turnoff on the Old Denali highway is easy to spot at a distance. A LARGE abandon hotel or lodge is at the intersection. According to the Milepost publication, the first 20 miles are paved. It was more like the first 30 miles. Once the pavement ends the gravel road is easy between 30 MPH and 45 MPH depending on the road conditions. The section from milepost 49 to 61 is also paved (chip seal).

    We stopped at the Alpine Creek Lodge (Thanks for the recommendation AlaskaJeff!). They run the lodge 365 days per year and the lodge has dry RV sites, a cabin, and rooms to rent. Tent camping is only $10. We decided to try dinner and save our camp cooking for Denali. We started at the 3-Bobs bar (a small log house converted to a bar) and met Claude and Jennifer, the owners, Russ, a long time guest and current bar tender from Maryland, and Bob, Claude and Jennifer's 16 year old son. We were joined by Steve from St. Andrews, Scotland who is two and a half years into his five year bicycle tour of the world. Dinner was enchiladas (delicious), beer was Alaska Amber, and the conversation included Scotch whiskey, travel, environmental stewardship and everything in between. Claude and his family were featured in an award winning documentary (One Vote) which should be coming to theaters soon. Claude is also a logistics contractor for petrol companies several months out of the year. Russ is a retired researcher with Fish and Wild Life as well as a Vietnam Veteran, while Bob is an accomplished fisherman and hunter. They shared Moose sausage and we tried Scotch the proper way, with a few drops of tepid water (Steve was giving a lesson on how to drink Scotch whiskey). Steve has been all over the world so far, Europe, Asia, South America and now North America. He still wants to pedal through Africa and India,India does have him a bit nervous. Lisa and I have many memories of the people we meet while traveling, this will definitely be a memorable stop. Steve recommended a stop in K'esogi camp ground for some stunning views of Denali so that is on the list as well. It was a perfect night! We are off to Talkeetna in the morning.
    #47
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  8. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg Alpine Lodge to Talkeetna

    We woke with 65 miles to go on the Old Denali Highway. Breaking camp was quick and after a few miles on the gavel we were back up to speed. That is, until we saw the grader. The state road department was adding dirt and gravel (1/8" minus or smaller) and they'd just laid about a mile of it, 4 inches thick, and not packed down. We stopped to wait until the grader cleared the road and then took our chances. Twice I had the front end start to come out and I accelerated through, I really thought I'd be picking up the bike and myself. Note to self, "don't ride the grader tire path". The ridge that forms between the two tires will walk your front tire out from underneath you quicker than you can say "Oh SH**!". The last 10 miles was hard packed and fast. The views were stunning, even if we couldn't see the mountains in the distance.

    We stopped in Cantwell for food and fuel. We never found the lodge so we pressed on to Talkeetna for a late lunch. Construction on the Parks Highway South was light with only one pilot car. The temperature was also what we expected this trip, 68 degrees most of the ride instead of the 85+ degrees we've been experiencing. Clouds came in around 1pm and they covered the mountain views, which were already covered in a smoky haze. Steve told us we should check out the views from the K'esugi State Park: no luck, the mountains were covered in clouds. Photos of the views are impressive so we hope to have clearer skies tomorrow.

    Talkeetna at 2pm on a Wednesday is nuts! There were no less than 5 tour buses dropping people off with at least three more that came in shortly after we arrived. We got our name on the list for seating at Denali Brewing. The food was good but they were busy. Luckily most of the shops are open until 8pm and the tours are gone by 6pm. A visit to the Talkeetna Hitorical Museum (well worth the $5 admission if you dig history) and a short walk through town; galleries, artisan shops and a bakery. We are off to Denali Park tomorrow with hopes of seeing the mountain. Another amazing ride in the books.
    #48
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  9. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Jeff -we are great. No WIFI for the last couple days. Bikes are running great and the scenery is amazing. You took care of the temperature today ( thanks for 68 degrees), now can you work on the smoke and clouds?
    #49
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  10. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

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    I'll see what I can do! :) Claude and Jennifer are the best!! They have a great lodge and ALWAYS have clients from around the world for stimulating conversation. And the food has NEVER disappointed.
    #50
  11. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

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    Great RR and pictures. Just a reminder to check the spokes on your wheels. A friend has the same bike as yours and his spokes broke on a trip to Montana two years ago and had to uhaul the bike home to California. Triumph doesn't stock parts so couldn't get replacement spokes.
    #51
  12. Bigbob1

    Bigbob1 Rain Rider Supporter

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    Looks like other than the smoke your having a nice trip
    #52
  13. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg

    A photo of a photo of Denali. This is the closest we came to seeing the tall one.

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    The smoke lifted some later in the day.

    image.jpeg image.jpeg Talkeetna to Denali

    The alarm was set for 0700, of course we hit snooze until 0730. We had 150 miles to go and checkin was at 1100 with a bus tour scheduled at 1300. We got out at 0840 after packing and breakfast (the Road House's "Rudy in a parka" was delicious!). Fueled at the Parks Highway Junction the we headed North. We hit two construction zones with pilot cars and then stopped to dawn rain jackets (We thought you had that covered Jeff?). By the time we made it to the park after fueling outside of Cantwell, we were cutting our 1300 bus tour tight! Checkin took a while because they were short staffed. After 45 Minutes we got to our campsite and quickly set up the tent to keep our riding gear dry while we toured. We made the shuttle with 4 minutes to spare and the tour with 5 minutes to spare. Our tour took us up 66 miles into the park (8 hours round trip). I was a bit skeptical of the $42 per person cost but the views we could see were stunning. The bus stopped for furry critters and there were quite a few. The count was five Grizzlies with one cub, a ton of Caribou, and three cow moose, one with a yearling and one with twin calves. It was well worth the price. The mountain was fogged/smoked in as was the largeer mountain range. We were able to see most of the surrounding hilltops later in the afternoon. This has been the story of our trip so far. Don't get me wrong, the views we could see are really amazing, we just know through photos and first hand accounts that there is so much more. It sounds like we need to plan for another trip north. Tomorrow we are off to Fairbanks for an oil change and laundry. Another great day on two wheels!
    #53
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  14. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Denali to Fairbanks

    The morning was wet for the first time on our trip (knock on wood). We knew we'd had it pretty good so the rain wasn't much of a bother. We packed up the wet tent and headed north to Fairbanks. A single stop to use the latrine and we were in town well before the hotel room was ready. We did manage to see three fox on the road leading up to Fairbanks. We slowed as they started to cross the road and were nearly up to them before they realized that we were there.

    I called Dan at Adventure Cycleworks to check on availability for a couple oil changes. He didn't have anyone waiting to we headed to his place. A pretty short in and out. Just over $200 to get the oll changed for two bikes.not bad considering $10 per quart of oil ( 4 qts. of full synthetic) plus two filters and the time. Because the bikes are lowered Tigers he did charge $70 per bike for lift time - it still equated to normal shop rate of $100 per hour plus the oil and filters. We stopped by the Outpost (Fairbanks Harley, BMW, Honda) to look for water proof gloves for me. The waterproof gloves I bought were crap so my leather gloves are soaked. No luck with gloves that fit but the forecast is looking up.

    With the rain on the way in to Fairbanks the visibility was next to 50 feet at times. No views (or photos) but we can only imagine. We finally got checked in at 3:45 (the Westmark doesn't seem to do early check-in's) after some Thai food. We dried the tent in the bathroom with a hand full of towels and then headed to the Red Lantern for a beer and some food. The on-site bar is good with a few on tap selections and a better selection in bottles (22 oz. of course). Laundry and some photo downloads and we were both about spent. We are off to Tok tomorrow. Fingers crossed for dry roads.
    #54
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  15. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Bob-we are having a great trip. The thought that today is our last day in Alaska is still hard to take in. I hope your trip south has been smooth with clear roads and blue skies.
    #55
  16. Bigbob1

    Bigbob1 Rain Rider Supporter

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    You will have to come back again and see more.
    I am having a good time. I am camped on Cass Lake in MN. I will meet up with my Brother on Tuesday in the da UP.
    I think I will hit Aerostich on Monday and spend some money :D
    #56
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  17. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Fairbanks to Tok

    We started the day later than planned, but for a short day we appreciated the extra sleep. Packed up and on the road by 1030. What we didn't expect was a 3.5 mile traffic jam on HWY 2 due to the air show. We covered several miles on the side of the road until a State Trooper told us to get back into the traffic lane (would it have been safer passing in the oncoming lane - doubtful?!). After a while traffic was actually moving so we pushed through. A short stop at Santa House in North Pole for a moto-ornament and we were off. Fueled in Delta Creek after a Buffalo burger and walked through the the Sullivan Road House (well worth the stop - a lot of period artifacts and photos that really show the daily life in the 1920's). We met up again with Steve the bicyclist from Scotland on the road about 10 miles before Tok. After a few hugs, a short roadside reunion, and a couple photos we arrived in Tok to buy supplies for Tacos, and some beer/whiskey for the night. We camped at the same state campground. The roads were great, very very straight, but great. The first actual bend in the road occurred 35 miles outside of Delta Junction. The road designers must have loved straight roads because many of the later straight stretches were 10+ miles long. Fast riding but tedious on the moto-soul!
    #57
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  18. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Tok to Chicken to Dawson City via the Top of the World Highway

    We got an early start after packing up camp with a dry tent (yahoo for dry tents!). The trip to Teslin junction was only three miles. A quick left and we were on our way to Chicken. The highway is marked 50 mph but for the most part the conditions allow for faster travel. There are a few gravel sections and portions where the chip seal is falling apart or new with some gravel pushed to the center of the lane. The sections are easily seen, they are either marked or there is no paint on dividing the lanes in the case of new chip seal. The stop in Chicken is well worth the effort. We met Susan (the owner for the past 31 years) who just learned that her son has decided to take over the Cafe, Store and Bar / Liquor Store. She was celebrating the fact that she gets to retire in a year. It was a bit early to order chicken pot pie but the breakfast plate came with 1/4 lb. of sausage, bacon or ham and home made bread. It hit the spot. We then headed for Dawson City. The Top of the World Highway was not what either one of us were expecting. The road quickly turns to gravel after leaving Chicken. The traffic was more than we've seen on the highways, but the gravel is thin and the road is relatively fast. The last 11 miles before the border is new pavement. It is still marked at 50 mph, but it is a lot faster than that. The weather cleared so we had some amazing views. There weren't many pull outs so we did the best we could from the road. I suggest stopping at the viewpoint just before the border crossing.

    Once in Canada the road quickly turns to gravel (well, some gravel and hard packed dirt). We maintained between 50 and 80 kph, that is until the rain and hail came. Visibility was low but we seemed to travel a bit faster when we couldn't see very well. After about a half hour the rain let up and we maintained between 60 and 80 kph until we were about 20 km before the ferry. We missed the rain but the road conditions were affected. The clay became smooth and slick. My bike's front end as pretty loose while Lisa didn't seem to have any issues other than sliding around a corner sue to some loose gravel. I'm packing a bit more weight in my panniers so that may be the reason (or Lisa could just be better on loose stuff than I am). Our paced slowed a bit and I searched for light gravel for some traction. The last section of the highway is paved (about 3 miles) up to the ferry dock. The ferry runs 24/7 except for 15 minutes each day for a shift change, and two ours on Friday for maintenance (from 0500 - 0700). We found the hotel and unloaded the bikes.

    Lisa headed for the shower and I washed the bikes. There is only one carwash in town (actually about 2 miles South of town) but I met a Swiss rider who bought a Yamaha XT600 in Chile nine and a half months ago and has been riding North. He plans for about 200 miles per day and has had no issues so far. Bikes and bodies washed we explored the town and found some food. We stopped as Sourdough Joes for dinner, I'm not sure I could in good conscience recommend the food. The Fish and chips were good but the seafood chowder and Caesar salad left a bit to be desired. Many of the historic buildings are signed with their history, it is worth taking some time to explore. We finished the night at Diamond Tooth Gerties. They charge $15 for an annual pass but that gets you into the Casino, Bar, and Old Time Can-Can / theater shows. They have three different shows a night (2030, 2200, and 0001). We made the first two shows but passed on the midnight show. Tomorrow we'll swing by the Robert Service cabin and then head South to Whitehorse. Takeaways from the day - Chicken is worth the stop for the food, atmosphere and conversation, the Top of the World Highway is not as bad as you might think - but it can be slick with heavy rain, take some time to explore the town of Dawson City - the history alone is worth the trip. Another great day on two wheels.
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    #58
  19. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    Fairbanks to Tok - Continued

    Lisa and Steve from Scotland. We met Steve at the bar on the Denali Highway and then met him on the road just outside of Tok. I only wish I'd gotten his email address so I could track his travels. He's ridden in Europe, Asia, South America and North America. He hopes to complete North America by the end of 2020. Five years on his bicycle is his goal. His bike has a belt drive. He replaced the belt after 23,000 km (can you imagine). He kept the old belt as a spare.

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    #59
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  20. Viper7

    Viper7 Adventurer Supporter

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    image.jpeg Lisa on the Top of the World Highway


    Dawson City

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    #60
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