Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spring 2008 Ride to Fairbanks

I got up early on Friday because I was too excited to sleep. I love riding, and the chance to do a new (to me) road on the bike was too much! I was curious whether I could get everything in my tank bag and top case. I almost succeeded, but the sleeping bags wouldn't fit. For the record I had my tent, jumper cables, emergency blanket, air mattress, jet boil, two Mountain House dinners, extra gloves, extra jacket, flip flops, a book, farkle, and mosquito dope in the top case. My change of clothes, comb, purse, camera and extra lens, kickstand plate, and various stuff was in my tank bag. I took two bags just in case the weather turned cold on me.

I had planned to stop at the Anchorage cemetery for a pic on the way out of town, but it was drizzly so I decided to go there another day. The rain continued all the way to Denali, so there are few pics on the way up. It was pretty chilly at elevation. I was surprised how much snow there was on the side of the road. Lakes still had ice and the smaller creeks were frozen.

After I crossed the pass the sun came out and it warmed up to the mid 60's. It was heavenly! I stopped in Nenana for gas and a couple pictures. The Tanana River is still widely used for transportation to and from many of the interior native villages.

By the time I pulled into Fairbanks it was in the low 70's! I drove 350 miles from early spring into summer.

I walked to the nearest grocery, and bought some Mike's Hard Lemon-aid to go with my Mountain House dinner. Farkle decided he needed a suntan so he hung out with me for a while enjoying the glorious afternoon and evening. Being Fairbanks, it hadn't gotten dark yet when I went to sleep at midnight.

I was thankful I had the two sleeping bags since it dipped down into the 30's overnight. Saturday morning the sun was shining though, and I stayed in my sleeping bag until it had the tent nice and warm. It was a pretty morning. After making myself coffee I packed up camp and headed off to the high school where my daughter was running in the State track championship.

Here she is carrying the Alaska flag after her team placed first in the 4x800 relay.

I left shortly after the awards were given because it was starting to cloud up and I didn't want to ride late in bad weather. I did stop for one classic Alaska shot...

I was glad I had left when I did. As it was, I ran the last 100 plus miles in heavy rain, wind, and 37 degrees. I'd have been in big trouble had I not had a heated jacket and grips. As it was I got mildly hypothermic before I stopped and switched into winter gloves and my extra fleece neck gaitor.

Total mileage on the trip: 763 miles
Wildlife Count: 2 moose, 3 rabbits, 5 swans, 3 beaver, 1 ptarmigan, and a lot of ducks and geese.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

2007 Tour - To Tok, Then Home

So after a really long and exhausting day in horrible riding conditions, followed by a night on an uncomfortable bed with noisy neighbors, you take it easy, right? You don't know my husband!

We set off early and rode the 175 miles or so to the Alcan/Cassiar junction before be stopped for breakfast and fuel. During the first 30 minutes out of Muncho Lake we saw 8 bison on the side of the road, 2 black bears and 1 brown bear, a handful of elk, one of which did NOT want to give up the center of the road, and more rabbits than we could count. Before the day was out we saw another BIG black bear, moose, a porcupine, and two birds had committed suicide on my bike and person. (one hit the left front fork, the other literally dove into my boot. OUCH!)

As I said, we gassed up at the junction, then went across the road to Sally's Cafe. We ate there last year and had high expectations that were not disappointed. If you ever ride to Alaska, and have the opportunity to have the sausage patty breakfast at Sally's, you will have passed up a treasure if you don't stop. Like last time, the conversation was as good as the food. Two truckers and a kid from Alaska who is hitchhiking from the North Slope to Oregon were eating when we were. The stories were soon flying. It's hard to leave a place that is so welcoming.

We hit Whitehorse in early afternoon and were on a roll. We were driving fast and making good time, and finally found our break in the weather. At Kluane we hit wind and bad blowing dust through the construction area, but that was only about 5 or 6 miles. We stopped again for gas at Haines Junction, thought about calling it a night but decided to push through, pulled into Beaver Creek for gas, but Bobby decided to push on and I didn't argue. Finally around 7:00 we pulled into the Westmark Hotel in Tok, Alaska. The last 150 miles were over a highway with major frost heaves, and worse it was split lengthwise by an earthquake a couple years ago. It is now pretty much an obstacle course. But we made it. Then we looked at the door to the Hotel. Closed, open back up tomorrow! WTF!!!

We turned around and found another, smaller motel we'd driven by many times and never noticed. It even had a restaurant attached. So, after too many hours, and 830 miles on the Alcan, we finally called it a night. I have to say, my knees were sore after the beating they took on the last 150 miles, and my elbow was getting sore, but even after all that my butt never ached in the slightest. If that isn't a tribute to Rich's Custom Seats I can't imagine what would be.

No photos on this run. I thought about stopping, but when everything is so beautiful how do you choose?

The next morning we slept in. :happy And knew we had an easy 350 mile ride home. We stopped in a few places for pics, stopped in a few places for road construction, and made one little detour to play in the mud a little, but basically we just enjoyed a laid back ride. As we entered Palmer (50 miles or so from Anchorage) neither of us was ready to take the fast route back. Instead we turned off on the old Glenn Highway and meandered through the forest and along the river before we rejoined the main road. We stopped just before hitting the Glenn and just looked at each other. 6 weeks, a lot of roads, a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes, and it all came down to this. We both acknowledged at that moment that no matter where our lives take us, no matter how difficult the struggles, as long as we're together, we'll get to where we need to be.

So, 18 states, 3 Canadian Provinces, and 10,346 miles later we're home.