8/11/2014 – Valdez Kayak Tour
I really, really wanted to do some kayaking while in Alaska, and Valdez was my last chance. We signed up for a tour with Anadyr Adventures to fresh water kayak in the glacial lake created by Valdez Glacier, with promises of kayaking around ice bergs and into ice caves. Despite the on and off drizzling cold rain, this is definitely one of the (many) highlights of the trip for me.
8/9/2014 – Flight seeing to Talkeetna
The Alaskan way to see Alaska is by air, so when we were offered a flight seeing trip from one of our awesome hosts, of course we said yes (we actually had multiple offers from different people to go up, it was amazing). Since moving to Alaska, Teresa has been bitten by the flying bug, and now has a pilot’s license, and belongs to an aero-club (as far as I can tell, I should never take flying lessons. It seems to be as addicting as motorcycling, only more expensive). Thus, we hopped in a very spacious Cessna 182 (seriously, most spacious back seats of any four-seater I’ve been in, and I’m always in the back) on Saturday morning and took off in search of views of Denali.
8/7/2014 – 213 mi
Tomorrow is a scheduled moto maintenance day, so we needed to be close to the Anchorage area so we could get to the shop and do some oil changes and put new tires on Kevin’s bike (we were unsure if his TKC80s would make it back to Whitehorse, and we didn’t want to get stuck in between). Thus, we ended up near Anchorage with time to go see the very entertaining Anchorage Aviation Museum.
The Museum is dedicated to all that makes aviation unique in Alaska, which has a culture of flying unlike anywhere else I’ve seen. Alaska is geographically huge, and there aren’t really that many roads. Access to most of it is by plane, and the stories of bush pilots, float planes, ski planes, and all manner of daring helicopter feats are endlessly amazing. I’ve never seen so much general aviation anywhere; the skies are full of small planes. The guide to the museum said that when he was young, the statistic was that 1 in 6 people in Alaska was a pilot (not necessarily licensed of course), and the statistic today is still as high as 1 in 46. Everything is a runway and a potential place to land a plane; a small lake, a gravel bar, a mostly level and clear strip in the forest, a glacier; they aren’t very picky about having prepared runways.
This first photo is not showing a helicopter accident; it captures a helicopter towing a barge through the break up ice. In the summer, the barges provide transport for the oil companies. In the winter, transport is hauled by truck over the ice road. In between seasons presents a problem, as the ice blocks the barges, but can no longer support the trucks. Specially designed boats with thick hulls are often the answer, but they also use twin rotor helicopters to tug barges through the break up ice. Mind = blown.
Floats and skiis.
8/6/2014 – 209 mi – Seward to Homer
The Alaska SeaLife Center made a nice stop in the morning before heading out of town. The aquarium and rehabilitation and research center was built after the tsunami that took out much of coastal Alaska in 1964 (the Good Friday earthquake). The bird exhibit might be our favorite. After you pass through the double doors, you are directly in the enclosure with the birds. We could have reached out and touched them, except the signs explicitly asked you not to. We really liked the puffins (everybody likes the puffins), as their ability to both fly and swim underwater is amazing (also they are cute).
8/5/2014 – Seward Day Cruise Kenai Fjords National Park
Both Kevin and I had the Gilligan’s Island theme song stuck in our heads the entire ride back down to Seward on Tuesday morning. We didn’t talk about it until we got there, and when we found out the other was thinking the same thing, we laughed and said “You too?!?, No way! What a dork!.” Since our tour is 6.5 hours long and not a 3 hour tour, we figure we’ll be ok.
We boarded around 11am, and were under way around 11:30. It wasn’t 10 minutes after leaving that we started seeing wildlife. The tour was designed to travel out of Resurrection Bay (where Seward is located), out into the gulf of Alaska, en route to view the Holgate glacier in Aialik Bay. We saw so much wildlife in the first part of Resurrection Bay, we actually had to start skipping viewings of animals we’d seen before so we could make the entire 100 mi trip on time.
Right out of the gate, this sea otter was just hanging out in the bay, floating on its back, and didn’t seem to care about the giant boat full of people excitedly trying to get pictures of him.
8/2/2014 – 354 mi – Anchorage to Seward and back
The ride south from Anchorage to Seward on a sunny day is just beautiful. I really don’t have words for the section through the Turnagain Arm, and wish we’d stopped for more photos, as there just haven’t been many days as nice as this.
7/31/2014 – 54 mi – Hatcher Pass Lodge
Feeling a bit under the weather today. Figures, as we finally have good conditions for riding or doing things outside. Left our comfortable guest quarters to take a short ride up to the very neat Hatcher Pass Lodge.
The view overlooking Eagle River:
7/29/2014 – 131 mi – Denali Highway!
If you are not familiar, the Denali Highway is not in Denali national park, but is 130 mi of dirt road that runs through amazingly scenic country between Cantwell and Paxson AK, neither of which are actual places with services (ok not true, Cantwell has fuel, places to stay, and a Café. Paxson is just an intersection).
After a leisurely breakfast in The Perch’s restaurant (amazing food by the way, entirely worth the fairly steep price), we didn’t actually get on the road until 11am. Then we stopped for gas in Cantwell, and then again not much later to re-layer because we had too many on, having forgotten what it’s like to ride when it’s not 40s and raining. Then there was much stopping for picture taking, and time spent behind slow vehicles (I was passing people on a dirt road, so you know they were slow). Basically, we spent the day on vacation time, and loved it (except for the brief construction).
The weather today is warm and sunny, and we have a blast riding over the Denali highway. It feels good to be on the bikes again, after almost a week of very little riding.
7/25/2014 – 123 mi – Moto AK Denali National Park
The sun was mostly out when we reached our campsite in Denali, and got to set up in the dry (and not too cold) between light showers. I guess we got lucky to be able to get a campsite; we had not reserved one, but there was a walk in site available. Not ideal, as the bikes were parked over ¼ mi from our campsite, and we had to shuttle stuff back and forth, but the campground itself was really nice. We also bought bus tickets for tomorrow to ride in and see the park (vehicles are only allowed in the first 15 mi or so of the 90 mile unpaved park road, you have to take a park bus to go any further).
7/23/2014 – 14 mi – Chena Hot Springs
First on the agenda for Chena Hot Springs was to leave the resort and ride a few miles back down the road to the Angel Rocks trail head. The weather was a bit dicey, but mostly held for the 3.75 mi hike. The trail goes up to the Angel Rocks, or granite outcroppings, or tors. It’s always nice to enjoy a picnic lunch with excellent views.
7/22/2014 – 176 mi – Moto Ak Fairbanks
On the way into Fairbanks, we caught our first oil pipeline sighting, and tried to estimate in dollars how much oil was in the pipeline at any given time. We figure it must be on the order of half a billion dollars.
The view from a little further up the road:
7/20/2014 – 2 mi – Dawson City, YK, CN
We spent a cold and rainy day in Dawson city. Packed up camp in the morning in on and off drizzle, then went back over the river on the ferry to the visitor center to find information on the weather. Learned that is was supposed to be cold and rainy all day, but sunny tomorrow. Decided to ride the unpaved top of the world highway into Alaska in sunny weather tomorrow, and spend the day checking out Dawson City, and staying inside. The guide at the visitor center called the El Dorado Hotel for us, and we supposedly got a discount, and paid $99 for the room, less than the reported $125 others had paid. So heads up; maybe that’s a secret way to save a few dollars. We had told her we were considering staying the day, but would maybe leave, and she offered up the discount to stay. The El Dorado supposedly has metered internet with a 250MB limit, but we were never cut off.
I edited the previous post on the Dempster, but since I don’t want you to miss SINGLE MOMENT (not really) of our awesome adventure, I’m including the best part of the editing here in this bonus post so you don’t miss it, and because we find it amusing:
So, we buy a lot of eggs to have for breakfast in camp, because hard boiling eggs is easy to do, and its cheap and delicious (with a little salt and pepper) protein that sticks with you awhile. We bought a dozen eggs in Whitehorse, and then for some reason that escapes us now, rode the up the entire dempster without cooking them. Thus, we have created:
THE DEMPSTER CHALLENGE
Can you ride to Inuvik with a dozen raw eggs? We only lost two, can you beat our record?
Pro tip: Do not store them in your topbox underneath your laptop (which is still preferable to on top of your laptop), without adding additional packaging. Plastic bags (without holes in the bottom) are your friend.
Also, eggs are really expensive in Inuvik, they were about $4/dozen.
The Dempster Highway is 450 miles of unpaved road that starts from the Klondike Highway east of Dawson City, and travels through the mountains north and east into the Arctic Circle, then into Canada’s Northwest Territories, and ends (for now) at the town of Inuvik. Inuvik, pronounced i-NOO-vik, is a town of about 3500 or so people, and was our destination after two days of riding up the Dempster.
7/14/2014 – 313 miles, Whitehorse, YK to start of Dempster
After having tires changed at Yukon Honda in the morning, we left our comfortable guest accommodations in Whitehorse and headed north on the Klondike highway towards the turn off to Inuvik. Our research said that there isn’t always fuel at the start of the Dempster, and that we would probably have to go into Dawson. When we arrived, there was an unmanned pump that had a small portable building made from quarter of a container that you entered to pay, take the safety training, and start the pump. We filled both bikes and the extra 3 gallon rotopax on the back of my bike. It would be 230 miles from the start of the Dempster to the first available fuel in Eagle Plains, a distance that is at the very limit of fuel range for our bikes. That night we camped for free behind the gas station right at the start of the Dempster, in what used to be an active campground.
The street tires that got us here would not do for the Dempster, so on went some Continental TKC80s. The bikes look completely bad-ass now, but naturally, compared to the street tires, they handle like complete crap on the road. Better than actual knobbies, but geez, they kinda suck the fun out of road riding. It’s worth it, however, for the long stretches off pavement.
7/11/2014 – 7/13/2014
We left Whitehorse in the morning and rode toward to the coast to meet our new “hydro buddy” and catch a boat ride out to his property. The timing couldn’t be better; he was already picking up some other friends that morning, and we were going to stay near Whitehorse one way or another because we couldn’t get the tires changed on the bikes until Monday. Jim would make another trip back into town on Sunday morning to pick up another friend, so our visit didn’t even create an extra trip. After lunch in town, we managed to rendezvous with the entire group and set out across the lake, leaving the bikes on the beach. (My bike was locked inside Jim’s shed, but Kevin’s didn’t fit. Kevin wasn’t concerned, but since the art/music festival was in town, there were an unusually high number of (drunk) people around. It wasn’t a problem). The boat trip involves crossing one lake, then navigating a somewhat exciting river section with 40 feet of differential between lakes, through to the next lake, and traveling across it some ways before you arrive.
7/8/2014 – 374 mi – Into the Yukon
Crossing into the Yukon feels like a big milestone for riding this far north, and we’re crossing off new states and provinces quickly.
We made the mistake of having lunch at the first real stop after the border, and felt ripped off by our low quality $15 burgers. There was gas, a small motel, and the restaurant at this intersection, and nothing else for miles. Welcome to the Yukon I guess.
7/5/2014 – 326 mi – Alberta, CN
Its about 150 mi from our campsite to Banff and the Canadian Rockies, and the end of the plains (finally). We rode through Calgary in the morning, past Olympic park, and could see the mountains in the distance. Calgary Stampede is happening right now, and it would be opportune to stop and check it out. We decide against it. Kevin doesn’t want to go at all. I would like to at some point, but it’s a bit of a hassle on the bikes, and not having reservations to stay somewhere. Once west of Calgary, the land changes quickly from prairie to mountains, without much in the way of foothills. Stopped for a quick lunch in Banff, which was all we needed to know that Banff wasn’t for us. It’s just like Tahoe, an overpriced, overcrowded tourist trap. I don’t get it. Despite the plethora of amazing food, we ate lunch at subway because we didn’t feel like paying $15 for a burger.
7/2/2014 – 335 mi – MN to ND
We stayed in the hotel a bit in the morning to use the wi-fi to take care of a bit of business, and were on the road 9:30 in sunny weather. Here we go across the plains; flat, straight, fast, and windy. I might, just might, see the appeal of a cruiser out here. Found a nice spot for a picnic lunch just off the highway at the park below.
My mosquito murdering program is going to plan.
6/30/2014 – 321 mi – The UP
Up with the sun this morning, and an amazing view of Lake Michigan. Packed camp and riding before 8am. SO MANY MOSQUITOS. A bit cool, needed a layer when riding. Stopped at the Seul Choix (pronounced Sis Shwa) light house, which has been restored by local historical society. It wasn’t open at 8:30 am on a Monday, so we couldn’t go up to the top.
6/28/2014 – 435 miles – NC to OH
And we’re off on another moto-adventure! The biggest one yet. Somehow we pulled this off, and we’re actually on the road, riding to Alaska.
All day Friday was spent with final preparations and packing the bikes, and we made a decent start by getting on the road at 9:30 Saturday morning. In our excitement to get to Alaska, we’re willing to bypass excellent riding closer to home to save time and make some distance.