Food is so important. Just as important as gas in the tank. So I started the first official solo & longest ride 450+ miles early with some poached eggs and chicken fried steak.
Then a couple well-intending riders walked in and started to tell me about how bad the road between Haines and Tok was. The road was ripped up to high holy hell with specifics like it was grooved in many sections, soft-filled potholes and lots of dirt and gravel. I began to feel disappointed by all the reconnaissance I'd done around mounting my TKC's upon arrival to Alaska in my original thread on ADV where many vehemently asserted that I could run street tires and mounting my TKC's too soon would just wear then unnecessarily.
It's not just that knobbies will give you better traction in dirt and gravel but that the probability of a flat goes down too when you encounter those sections. So I'll tell you this straight out now that I have 4 international rides under my belt and 1 Alaska ride. I regret not mounting my dual sport TKC's upon arriving. You never know what will happen and how the road conditions will be....some called my experience bad luck but curious how I've never had a flat in over 6 years and I usually ride 8,000 miles on a trip and I always run knobbies.
Moving on with the story.
I left the cafe with increasing fears about the day ahead. I had a long way to go alone and didn't know the roads and now these well-intending guys had just convinced me I was in for a rough go. I pulled over to collect myself just outside of Skagway when 4 dual sport riders roared by me. I set to following and within a couple miles got the attention of the sweep. We hit a few patches of hard packed dirt and small gravel (kids play) and I kept up with them at 60mph+ during these sections. When we all arrived at the border crossing, I noticed they were all running better tires than me, mostly TKC.
The leader of the pack, Roger, came over and extended his hand and said, "You are welcome to join us for breakfast in Whitehorse, we'll make sure you get there safe". I felt such relief. I took position of sweep and we stopped at Emerald Lake for a photo.
My bike is in the back on the left.
We rode fast and hard. Usually between 70-80 mph. It was faster than I like to go but I wasn't about to back out of my first lifeline. We made it to Whitehorse in just under 2 hours.
True hobbit style, I had my second breakfast. Pesto, prosciutto, cheese scrambled eggs.
We sat for an hour exchanging stories of car restorations after I told them of my 3 year project on a 68' Mercury Cougar XR7 that I am currently working on. Then I looked at the map...shouldn't have done that but like you've learned already, I'm very organized and know where I'm going. All I could see is that the section I'd ridden with these guys was a tiny part of the total ride I was still facing for the day. Compound that with how fast we rode and I was doing the math in my head and thinking, no way in hell I'm making Tok today. The boys were headed to Dawson City (not for D2D) so I said my goodbyes and thanks and went outside. As I was gearing up, a guy stopped by with his truck and handed me a card. Seems he serves the motorcycle community when it comes to tires and proceeded to tell me how bad the road was between Haines Junction and Tok just like the other fellas. That was the LAST thing I wanted to hear.
My father having raised me to be a good son, mustered my courage and got on the bike and decided, to hell with it, I'm going for it.
Right outside of town, I saw a fox on the side of the road and it bolstered me as this was the first official Alaska wildlife sighting I'd had. I rode almost all the way to Haines Junction and stopped at this gas station, having made the decision to gas up every time I could at a half tank or less.
Saw a couple of Harley's parked out front and decided to make sure I talked to them because if they were coming from Tok they could help me better understand the road conditions and if they were going to Tok, well wouldn't that be like winning the lottery.
Turns out they were headed to Beaver Creek and sure I could come along with them. Keith took the lead and Brian rode sweep. I do prefer being the cheese in the grilled cheese truth be told.
We rode an easy pace to Destruction Bay and had nothing but perfect pavement. I suspect that they were telling themselves that I didn't know what the hell I was talking about and I started to think, maybe all of these guys were playing a very nasty joke on me...but then we finally hit some dirt and wouldn't you know it, got a flat after the first mile of it.
Now one of the boys is a mechanic by trade so that made life easier but he was impressed with all of the tools I had and had everything you could need for a tire change. (well except for a tube, I only brought the front tube but did have a patch kit). No need though because one of the only other Tiger XC 800's in all of Alaska was only 15 minutes behind us and Mike from Texas with a lovely accent, pulled up just in time to sell me his spare.
I will mention that we were swarmed by a biblical hoard of mosquitoes when we stopped to change the tire, thank god I had repellent. I will also say I did a good part of the work of getting the wheel off the bike and the tire off the rim but I would have never broken the bead if it weren't for these guys.
Got the new tube in. Put the wheel back on. Guessed at the torque specs and set off again. Real stand up guys....remember they only knew me for about a couple of hours and this happened.
Made it to Beaver Creek and decided with Kim and Mike to continue on to Tok. This was my 3rd and last lifeline of the day.
Mike and I kept complimenting each other on our choice of bike.
Just past the border crossing back into Alaska, stopped at this beautiful vista.
Just how bad was the road? It was far better than most "roads" I've traveled in Romania and Turkey. It was only 10 miles of construction and dirt between Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek. Another 5 miles of dirt before the border and then perfect pavement all the way to Tok. OK OK, well maybe not perfect, this is Alaska after all. Two seasons: winter and construction.
Pulled into Thompson's Eagle Claw motorcycle camp site around 8pm.
Met Vanessa and settled into my bunk cabin.
Then I learned, no running water. No wonder her stickers say "I'm not a pussy. I camped at Thompson Eagle Claw". I'd ridden 450+ miles, I changed a tire, I was sweaty and stinky and I wanted a shower so bad I considered walking 2 miles to the other campsite to use theirs.
But she did have this, er, um, steam hut.
She filled the barrel stove, put a pot of water on top and showed me the shower head above and drain in the floor and locked it up behind me so I had it all to myself.
I will say that I had probably the best night of sleep on the whole trip that night. I was proud that I'd pushed through and in spite of getting a flat, still managed to make it all the way to Tok. Riding in Alaska isn't like riding anywhere else. You can't just look at the miles and calculate the time....call it a twilight zone effect. But in spite of the hurdles, I'd made it and only had one more day of solo before arriving in Anchorage.