July 25-28, Epic Ride Days 16-19:
It’s been four days since I updated the blog. When last I posted, we were in Anchorage, enjoying Marcus Holmquist and Elena’s marvelous hospitality. Today we’re near Two Rivers, about 25 miles ENE of Fairbanks, enjoying the marvelous hospitality of Jim’s long-time friends, John and Dianne Pearson.
On Thursday morning, after Marcus fixed us breakfast, Jim hit the road for Denali and Fairbanks and the hoped for new Michelin PR3 rear tire. I was enjoying my usual morning “slows,” taking a shower and readying myself for a journey farther south to Seward. Marcus got home and we visited briefly before I left his house at about 11:00, going to Walgreens for some shopping and then to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts for a replacement tail/brake light. At Marcus’s I’d enjoyed watching F-22s on approach to Elmendorf AFB, and at Walgreens, I got to see C-117s.
After refilling my thermos with coffee and my tank with gas, I headed for what Marcus had warned me was the most dangerous 55 miles of highway in Alaska. This road went along the Cook Inlet just south of Anchorage and then bent east along the north shore of the Turnagain Arm of the inlet. My GPS went slightly crazy, trying to turn me onto roads I never saw and once losing signal along the steep cliffs. I watched the tide ebbing rapidly, exposing mudflats for hundreds of yards into the inlet.
Once I passed the exit for Whittier, the road improved with passing lanes and the traffic declined. The ride down to Seward was another ride through magnificent mountains, past tranquil lakes, and marshlands which sheltered swans. I never got close enough for a good picture, but if you’ve got a magnifying glass, you might be able to see some white spots in this picture…
… those are swans! Believe me. They really are.
Seward was a port town with fishing fleets and an amazing number of cruising sailboats. There was a Marine Life Center and downtown was a tourist mecca.
The waters of Resurrection Bay were cold and choppy looking and the
helicopter from Coast Guard Station Seward was on its way toward the open sea…
On my way to Seward, I’d ridden through about ten minutes of hard rain just before the intersection leading to Homer. On my way back north, I rode through about 15 minutes of rain a bit farther north. But I’m not complaining; on his way to Fairbanks, Jim was riding through nearly continuous cold rain on his way to a campground in Nenena.
I rode back through Anchorage, just catching the tag-end of the rush hour and headed on north along Alaska Highway A3, the Parks Highway. I hit one construction area that was still open but got through it quickly. When I went through Wasilla, I stopped by Sara Palin’s house to chat, but since I hadn’t told her I was coming, she was out killing moose. Oh, well… next time.
I rode to Montana Creek Campground and pitched my tent and scooted up the road for supper at Subway. It was still light when I rolled into bed at 11:30 and I didn’t get to sleep for a couple of hours. Staying awake that long let me learn that it NEVER gets dark this far north at this time of the year. The culprit keeping me awake wasn’t the light, though. It was the trucks bombing down the road during the night so as to miss the construction holdups. There was a long hill from both directions dropping down to Montana Creek and the bridge crossing the creek had a 2-3″ lip when you hit it. When a motorcycle hits that, it’s a bump. When a truck doing 80mph hits it, it sounds like a crash. There were trucks every 2-3 minutes until at least 2PM. Then I finally fell asleep and slept well till about 8AM.
It was cloudy and grey when I got up, but the weather improved all day long. I had a good breakfast at Trapper’s Creek, “enjoying” the company of Pete from Lovell’s younger brother until his wife finally dragged him out of the café.
I was able to see the base of Denali (Mt. McKinley on your maps), but never saw the peak.
Riding AK-3 south of Cantwell, I could see Mt. Hayes and Mt. Moffitt in the Alaska Range and their glacier field. Until I sat down with the map, I thought I’d been seeing Mt Drum in Wrangell-Elias NP, the mountains we’d ridden by on our way to Valdez.
I also passed a bear… that turned into a moose when I got turned around to take its picture.
I rode into Denali National Park and enjoyed the Visitor’s Center. It would be a good place to spend a day riding the shuttle bus back into the park, but I wanted to reach Fairbanks before it got dark(er).
I found John and Dianne’s place at about 8PM. They have a beautiful home in a peaceful setting. They’ve got two big dogs, a bull mastiff named Chuck, and a black Lab named Woody as well as a great cat named Snickers. They keep a couple of horses and John has a BMW G1150GS.
Yesterday John, Jim and I rode into Fairbanks and rode around the airport’s east ramp looking at planes. I saw more Stinsons than I’ve seen since the year I nearly bought one (1980, about three weeks before I made the decision to go back into ministry — if I’d bought that Stinson, returning to ministry wouldn’t have been an available option. But I still like Stinsons.
There were float planes aplenty and a water runway between the two big cement runways. There was another one of my favorite planes, a DeHavilland Beaver, a classic bush plane. The one in the picture belonged to the Alaska Wildlife department and is used for tracking animals.
Tomorrow Jim and I have an outside chance of getting a ride with John in one of his company’s Cessna Caravan. We thought we might get to make his afternoon run to a village north of the Arctic Circle, but that flight now has all its seats filled. There are still two open on the morning run to Tanana. If we don’t make the flight, we’ll leave Fairbanks a bit earlier than we hope.
Stats: For the day on Friday: 297 miles. For the trip: 5,647 miles. For the year: 11,541 miles.
Sherilyn and I didn’t get to see the top of Mt. McKinley either. Maybe next visit. Glad you’re doing well and enjoying your epic journey.
Good report Phil. Fantastic trip and photos.
Phil, it’s great to go with you as you are touring AK. I’ll take your word about the Pelicans. At least you aren’t trying to pass the picture off as having a lighthouse in it at the scoring table. Long time running joke in the LD Rally community.
We are enjoying your trip reports and pictures. What a trip! Thanks for sharing it with all of us 😉