|03-06-2010, 06:31 PM||#16|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
Well I'm awake so I didn't get added to the Sloppy Joe's during the night. I didn't sleep really well; at one point I woke up thinking there was a Harley right outside my tent revving the engine, I looked outside but didn't see anything. I got a really late start, 9:30, but really didn't care as there was no one to push me. I'm still undecided on whether I'll try for Deadhorse, the rear tire situation is a bit worrying as yet; I guess I'll wait and see how the Dalton Highway is before I make the call.
At least it was a dry night, but the sky's overcast this morning and I'm a little apprehensive about my road today. The Dalton Highway is supposed to be quite treacherous and I guess I'll have to see if I'm up to it. I can't see how it can be any worse than the Top of the World but there you have it.
The first interesting place I come to is the Alaskan Pipeline Visitor's Center. It's just starting to sprinkle as I pull in but I have to check it out. For many people this is the only part of the Alaskan Pipeline that they'll ever see, for me it's just the beginning. My goal for today is Coldfoot, just over 250 miles.
The pipeline isn't as big as I'd thought it would be. I'm not exactly sure what the little antenna-looking things are for.
Here you can see the extent of the Alaskan Pipeline, quite a nice display.
I'll let the signs tell the story about the pigs.
I'm entering the land of the Midnight Sun. As you can see I'm only getting a bit over 2 hours of dark at this point. It's nice but a little disconcerting as I have to force myself to go to bed, I just don't feel like sleeping in the daylight.
As I continue on the rain sticks with me; why should today be any different than every day so far?
I finally arrive at the Dalton Highway.
Truthfully, I'm nervous as I encounter the first gravelly section but the road's nowhere near as bad as I'd expected. It's dry and dusty as I start off but I'd get sporadic rain throughout the day. I'd been told to expect a large amount of semi-truck traffic but it really wasn't that bad either.
This really is the wilderness on either side of the road. I'm really hoping to see some antelope or moose along here somewhere, I feel it's really my best chance. Otherwise there's plenty of interesting plant life to see.
The pipeline pops out all along the road. There are times when it goes underground but for the most part it runs parallel to the Haul Road. At times the road is so smooth it's easy to lose track of where I'm at. At one point I'm cruising along this smooth asphalt, as I get comfortable my speed increases. The next thing I know I'm coming over a rise in the road and it turns into deep, loose gravel and it's all downhill. This is the Beaver Slide and the pucker factor is extreme. I concentrate on slowing down but I'm not sure what the best way of accomplishing this is. I'm overloaded, going too fast; finally I decide the best way to handle it is to just let off the gas and downshift as I work not driving right off the edge of the road.
At the first gas stop I decide that I'm going to see what sort of mileage I can get to the next one in Coldfoot, 120 miles away. It's about 240 miles from Coldfoot to Deadhorse with no gas stations in between. Whether I can make it on fuel will be one of the deciding factors on the push to Deadhorse tomorrow; my onboard tank holds almost 6 gallons, I'm not sure how much is usable, and I'm carrying an extra ½ gallon in my MSR bottles strapped to the frame.
The turnoff for the Arctic Circle is sudden and somewhat hidden, I end up having to turn around and get back to it. I've been told that the mosquitoes really start getting nasty here but I'm not having any issues. There's a bus full of tourists here, they take my picture for me.
The Haul Road exists only to supply the oil fields up in Prudhoe Bay, trucks run on it every day, year round. In the winter rather than using asphalt or gravel to fix potholes they just fill them with water, at 40 below it turns to ice quite quickly and fills the hole.
I got to Coldfoot and took 2.85 gallons of gas for about 42 mpg. With the extra half-gallon I'm carrying I think I can make it. However after talking with a guy on his way back I'm not so sure. Evidently the road gets way worse after Coldfoot. He was with a guy on a V-Strom who bent both rims on a pothole; he was able to put in a tube for the front wheel but not the rear. He was lucky that a pickup truck came by and gave him and his bike a ride back to Fairbanks, that's going to be expensive.
I've decided to camp at the Marion Creek Campground and see what decision a good nights sleep brings regarding Deadhorse. This is a wonderful little USFS campground, $8 a night and free firewood; this is a far cry for the $150 a night for a room at the Coldfoot Camp. I met a guy who is bicycling with his dog up to Prudhoe Bay but his bike is broken down. He's looking for a ride to Coldfoot for parts, I really don't think he'll find anything before Fairbanks but you never know. I really don't understand what his plan is regarding his ride; he's from Oregon, he got a ride to Seattle where he got a flight out with his bike to Fairbanks, he's riding from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay where he plans on getting a ride back to Fairbanks where he plans on riding back down to South America. I'm still trying to figure out a few things about his itinerary. He's purchased the cheapest mountain bike he could find, he truly believes that's the best choice. His problem is that he's barely 200 miles into his ride and he's broken down. He's run into a bunch of Scots while he's been on the road; he's met up with all of them in the toilets along the side of the road, where they're camping. He's now dubbed these toilets “Scottish Hotels”.
I chose a campsite that had a platform to set up my tent on, not realizing that I wouldn't be able to stake it down. Luckily I'm equipped with a bunch of bungees so I should be okay. I'm not worried about the tent flying away while I'm in it but rather while I'm off doing other things.
I can see storm clouds coming over the mountains so I decide to go get some firewood, start a fire and then cook some dinner. I can't find the free firewood until I notice the sign on the front of what I thought was a bathroom, they all look the same around here.
I was pretty proud of myself, I've carried this hatchet for thousands of miles now and this is the first time I've used it. This fire burned for about 5 minutes, I really suck at making a fire.
After I ate I took a walk around and took some pictures, it's really nice up here.
It's probably about 9pm right now but it's still daylight.
The bathroom situation is rustic, but at least they're clean. There are locks on both the inside and outside of the doors so that you can lock the bears out. It would be a great place for a group camping trip so you could lock your buddy in there.
Of course with those great big holes in the walls the privacy aspect leaves a bit to be desired.
The rain is coming and as I go over my bike making sure it's ready for the push to Deadhorse tomorrow it begins to sprinkle.
I'm checking the tires and adjusting the chain when I find that my rear sprocket is absolutely cashed. I can only imagine that the front sprocket is in as bad or worse shape. It looks as though the decision to press on to Deadhorse has been taken out of my hands, my rear tire is in need of replacing and now I don't trust the chain & sprockets to not leave me on the side of the road; at this point the best idea is for me to head to Fairbanks tomorrow and find a place where I can get serviced on a Monday, this is going to be expensive.
Ah yes, I have a nice infected toe! It's been red and swollen for a few days so this morning I went after it with my Gerber. Beautiful green pus comes spurting out! Now all I need is to have left a mosquito in the tent and this day will be perfect.
|03-07-2010, 08:55 AM||#17|
What have I done???
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Salt Lake City
Thanks for the story of your trip to Alaska. It has been enjoyable to read and the pictures are wonderful.
|03-07-2010, 08:31 PM||#18|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
I woke up this morning with the whole bottom of the tent wet. Since I had a platform I didn't bother using the ground sheet – big mistake. As soon as I crawled into the tent it had started to rain...Hard...and it continued most of the night. Even with the rain it felt like it was brighter all night long, above the Arctic Circle and all y'know. I woke up around 1 am. And it was brighter that it had been all day.
The mosquito's were out in force this morning, the worst I'd seen so far on the trip covering the tent underneath the fly. As I broke camp they were like flies on honey, I must be sweet...
I woke up deciding that I would go to the Atigun Pass then turn around and head back to Fairbanks, camp for the night and find a dealer on Monday. My platform was awash and mosquito's were everywhere; it's not that Alaska mosquito's are bigger than their southern counterparts, they're tenacious.
As I got packed up it started to rain again. Since the Dalton is mostly some weird super-slick dirt, when it gets wet it's even worse and I decided to skip the Atigun Pass and just head back.
The decision proved to probably be a wise one as what was a fairly easy road yesterday is now a real butt clencher.
In addition to the rain it was getting a bit cold again; not as bad as it had been on the Top of the World but cold nonetheless.
Of course I got cocky on the smooth sections again and before I knew it I was going way too fast up the Beaver Slide and trying to figure out how to slow down in deep gravel without going off the side of the road; one day I'll learn. I saw the sign for the Arctic Circle and decided to see if it was empty of tourists so I could check it out on my own.
The mosquito's were out in force, it was unbelievable how they chased me around this place. I couldn't wait to get out of there but still hung around to see what's up.
The front of the sign is quite nice and unblemished.
The back of the sign is where everyone leaves their mark.
A little way up I saw an interesting rock formation off the side of the road and decided to go see what it was all about.
Turns out it was a little area called Finger Rocks. It was nice enough to look at and the rain stopped for a little while.
It rained on and off for the entire 180 miles of the Dalton and I was soon covered in mud. This truck passed me a couple of times and managed to coat me in slime every time.
I stopped for gas and realized just how muddy I was, from the knees down I pretty much looked exactly like my bike did.
In addition to gaining a nice covering of mud (I just imagined I was in a spa) somewhere along the way I lost my headlight cover; I could've gone back to look but sometimes you've just gotta cut your losses. Once I got off the Dalton the rain really started to come down; before long I was wet through to my skin. As I got back into Fairbanks I felt a little lost as I had nowhere planned to sleep and the Ice Park was probably pretty muddy; setting up camp in the rain wasn't that attractive either. I called Karen and she got me hooked up with a hotel on Hotwire, turns out it was the same one that cost $135 two nights ago and was now $72. Strangely enough Karen booked me a hotel right next to a “club”.
While the room was okay, the view left a bit to be desired, I was amazed that the curtains were open when I came in as I would've done anything to not show my guests the mess next door. Of course I may have just been in the room reserved for the Hotwire customers.
I set all my stuff out to dry and watched some quality TV. Into the Wild is on and feels a bit relevant. I also got to watch a bit of some show about truckers on the Dalton, I could only nod in sympathy as one of the guys went down the Beaver Slide too hot and almost lost it.
I'm planning on getting to the dealer when they open at 9 and see what happens. Even though I felt like a failure today for not going all the way to Deadhorse I can still buck it up. The rest of the trip will be fun if I'm not worrying about tires and sprockets.
|03-07-2010, 08:32 PM||#19|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
|03-08-2010, 08:13 PM||#20|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
Today, other than getting up to the Chatanika Lodge I need to work on getting a new rear tire and chain & sprockets. I should have plenty of time to get to Chatanika, it's only 30 miles away! I wake up at 7 so I can get all my now dry gear packed up and get to the Suzuki shop when they open at 9. I'd reconnoitered last night so I know the way to the shop and don't have to worry about getting lost. I pull up in front of the shop at 8:30 only to find that their summer hours mean closed on Monday, I should've known. I make my way to the Kawasaki dealer just on the off chance they might have something in stock for a Suzuki, no luck there. I re-find a phone book and see an add for an independent shop who claims to work on all brands of motorcycles and snowmobiles but of course they don't stock any parts, however the owner told me that he might be able to come up with something and he'd give me a call later. I went back to the Kawasaki dealer and had a new rear tire installed, luckily those are not brand specific. I thought I was getting a good deal; they had a “used” Michelin Anakee in the size I needed that had only been ridden around the block, I think the sale price was right around MSRP without any Alaska Pricing added in. Being a wise consumer I asked if it would be cheaper/faster if I left the wheel on the bike or took it off myself, the service guy advised me that bringing in just the wheel would be a lot better for me. I got to work with the meager toolkit from under the seat and had the rear wheel off in no time, I then wheeled it over to the garage and sat back to wait. An hour later the mechanic rolled the wheel out, I quickly installed it on the bike and went in to pay my bill, feeling very smug about saving a few bucks. As I pulled out my wallet I got my first look at the invoice, how the heck did this bill get to be almost $300? I noticed the labor charge was $90 and guessed that I knew where the mistake had been made. I explained to the service manager that the wheel was not on the bike and that they must be charging for removing the wheel as well. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “That's the price!” Knowing that I had no choice in the matter I decided that this was a lesson learned for the next time and perhaps I should've just bought the tire and changed it out myself, after all I'd brought along tire irons but was just too lazy to use them.
I met up with another guy who I'd seen on the Dalton yesterday and we went and had some lunch. Instead of eating at a chain, which I'd been avoiding, we decided on a local place, the Bakery Restaurant; this was a big mistake. Not only was the service incredibly slow but the food was average at best, I think they could tell we were from out of town. After lunch I got a call that the independent shop had managed to wrangle up my other parts so I made sure I had the tools needed to swap out the sprockets and rode back over there. The proprietor of the store was great and told me that he'd even managed to come up with Genuine Suzuki chain and sprockets. My heart dropped as I realized that this meant he'd got an endless chain which pretty much meant I couldn't replace it myself. I informed him of this and he didn't have any better ideas so I assumed that he wasn't really set up for it either. Going on the premise that new sprockets would be only half as good as having all new parts but twice as good as what I had now I paid him for the sprockets and went on my way.
As the afternoon was beginning to slip away from me I made my way to the Chatanika Lodge; this was one of the places Chapa and I had made a “must see” on the trip, if only to see the fat dog. What a wonderful, rustic place! I checked in at the bar and was shown to room number 3. I asked where the best place was to do a little work on my motorcycle and she told me just to pull it under the canopy with the picnic tables and such, I could leave it there all night in case it rained.
I wondered around for a bit and took some pictures before I got to work; evidently there is a big sled contest at some point which the Lodge took very seriously, it was a bit disturbing.
First I tackled the front sprocket but it was way too tight for the tools I had on hand. I tried everything I could think of but still couldn't pop that puppy loose. Again using my huge human brain I decided that the front really didn't look all that bad and at least getting the rear on had to make my situation half as bad as what it was right now.
I decided to go for a bit of a ride and see what was around. The bike felt a little bit smoother with the new rear sprocket, it really was cashed but I'm not denying it could all be in my head. I noticed a big thundercloud above me while I was out and it sprinkled a little bit but by this time a little rain was no big deal.
There are a lot of what appear to be government installations up here and I began to feel a bit like Fox Mulder as I checked them all out. The first place I stopped had this well-maintained sign identifying it as some sort of antenna array. I looked around a little and
found a gated dirt road from where I could see what looked like a big set of bleachers.
It's a good thing the people that run the facility put this sign up on the gate because it really made me think twice about breaking through the gate to get a better look at the northern Area 51.
After all that gate really was secure and I don't know if I could've gotten around it without really exerting myself, or at least getting my shoes muddy.
A little further down the road was what looked like a SAM missile blasting off, of course I had to stop and see what this was all about.
Again it was more research, but their sign was much better than the last place.
They had a sign that was much similar to the last place so I knew they were serious about keep the rabble out.
The gate here was a little more impressive and even had fence attached to it.
A closer look revealed that the fence here was really only for looks, of course I couldn't have ridden around it but anyone could hike down there. A little closer examination revealed that I was indeed on candid camera so I guess they're a little more security conscious than I give them credit for. I gave the camera one last wave and turned back to the Lodge.
As I made my way back to the lodge I noticed what looked like a big derrick across the street. I parked my bike and decided to head on over to see what it was all about. There was a trail leading that way so I figured I couldn't be going anywhere too mysterious; and besides all these secret government facilities up here had got my curiosity piqued.
It was a short hike but after 13 days of mostly sitting it was still a bit of a climb. As I got closer I realized that I was looking at an old dredge, I'm guessing for gold but maybe that's just my romantic side coming out.
As I got closer I started to get interested. If you look closely you can see the ladder in place to board the dredge, or course I had to traverse 3 feet of cold water to get to the foot of it. Luckily there were some boards around that served that purpose nicely.
This thing had definitely been around for quite a while without any sort of care. I really wanted to go out to the end of the gantry but realized that if I fell through the floor there was no one to help me out, and besides it would only be worth it if someone was on this end to take my picture so I decided to give it a pass.
I made my way inside where I found that a lot of the equipment was still in place. I'm guessing maybe the stuff was just to big and heavy to worry about taking out. It was quite dark inside and I had to make my way around carefully.
I amused myself by trying to figure out what everything was for, there were a lot of motors and pulleys; I was lucky that the flash on my camera did a nice job of picking stuff out.
Of course here I had to pretend that I was driving the boat and messed around with the controls for awhile.
It really was like a maze inside and while I think I did a pretty good job of exploring I wasn't able to get everywhere that I knew I could get.
Finally I made my way to the top floor at the opposite end. I would've liked to see if I could get up into the big chute but again, no one to take a picture.
This was as high as I could get. I think there's a way to get up onto the very top of the dredge but I couldn't find a staircase or a ladder that would get me up there. It started to rain while I was in and the pattering of the raindrops started to be a little freaky. I swore that I could hear voices and I began to wonder if this thing was haunted. I could imagine the reason the dredge was sitting in this bit of nowhere was because it got stuck in the ice some winter and the whole crew died of exposure, when the ice melted the dredge was towed into this little backwater but the spirits of the frozen crew kept it from every being used again so it just sat and decayed.
I left without soaking myself too bad and gave one last look as I left; I think I may have seen something in one of the windows as I gazed back one last time but I'll never know if it was spiritual or solid.
I make my way back to the Lodge, it was raining a bit by this time but it was definitely a local shower and I knew it wouldn't last long. I wondered around for a bit and took some pictures.
Sometimes I wonder if this is what Karen and I look like when we're out and about.
These knotty pillars are all around up here. I saw a place that sold them but didn't stop as I was afraid that I'd find something that I really couldn't do without and I'd have to explain why I bought this huge piece of wood and had it shipped home. Maybe next time.
The guest portion of the lodge was old but clean. I think there were 6 or eight rooms and we all shared a common bathroom, well at least one for men and one for women. It is a hunting lodge that's open all year round so they're not really big on luxury; but I guess when it's down to 40 degrees below zero just being somewhere out of the cold that has central heating (and beer) is a luxury.
Velvet paintings are all over the place, and I thought the fake hanging plant in my room was a nice touch.
I made my way out to the common area, these people seem to like animals quite a bit and I especially like the turtles.
Yes that's Santa and Mrs. Claus back there, now you know where they stay in the summer.
Not only is it Christmas year round at the Chatanika Lodge but they like all parts of the animal, live or dead they'll find a place for them.
Unfortunately this is the only moose I saw on the whole trip.
I think by the hump on the shoulders that this is a grizzly bear. Now, can anyone tell me by his body language whether he's a threat? Thankfully this was the closest I got to a bear on the whole trip.
I sat down in the bar for what turned out to be a one of the best meals of the trip, I'd heard the rumors but you know how that goes. As I was waiting for my food the fattest beagle in existence waddled out to keep me company. I petted him for awhile and he settled down for a nap next to me. I hate to say it but I'm not sure this dog is long for this world. As I was eating he would constantly make this sound like hocking up a loogey, I'd look over just to make sure he was still breathing but if the food would've been a bit less tasty he may have put me off my dinner.
The entire inside of the bar area is papered with dollar bills that people have written their names and short messages on. I can't believe I didn't get more pictures of the inside but perhaps I did and they were lost to my faulty photo cards. As luck would have it this one was right next to me at my table; I was going to be staying with my friend Melissa in Seattle, she's been called Sweet Melissa at least once so I felt like perhaps a person I knew had sat where I was sitting at one point.
As I was walking back to my room I passed what just may be the most disturbing picture of the Duke that I've ever seen.
My room was small but comfy, it had a bed, a chair and a sink in it. Of course it also had a TV and I was looking forward to killing some brain cells for awhile. I soon found that although my TV came with a remote it was not much good for much other than turning the TV on and off and changing the volume. It appears that the Chatanika Lodge has only one satellite hookup and it's fed directly into the bar area. I had no control over what channel I was watching and was completely at the mercy of the bartender. I now know what Karen goes through when I'm in charge of the remote; I'd be getting interested in whatever was playing and all of a sudden the channel would change. Finally they settled on a channel showing movies from the 80's and I drifted off to sleep accompanied by Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.
For a day that started out pretty rough this turned out to be one of the best so far.
|03-09-2010, 07:54 PM||#21|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
Today I'll be saying goodbye to Alaska and heading back into Canada. Destination for today is the Cottonwood Park campground just outside of Destruction Bay in the Yukon some 460 miles from here.
I got up fairly early hoping to get a breakfast anywhere close to the dinner I had last night, my hopes were dashed as I was the only one up at that hour. I got my stuff all loaded up, dropped my key on the bar and hit the road. By this time I was quite familiar with Fairbanks and made it through without a hitch. Just outside the limits of Fairbanks sits the town of North Pole, Alaska; I really think they take the whole North Pole thing a little too far as everything is decorated in a Christmas theme with candy canes as far as the eye can see.
The giant Santa was really quite disturbing; I think if I were a kid living in North Pole I'd start having nightmares as Christmas rolled around, do they use Santa as a threat around here? If you're a bad boy Santa will visit you on Christmas eve!
As I continued on I realized that today was a really nice day, definitely the nicest day I'd had in Alaska so far; why is it that when I'm leaving the state it throws its best weather at me? Eventually I'm on the straightest section of the Alaskan Highway, it's something like 25 miles without a curve and probably the most boring thing I've ridden on yet. As I'm cruising down the road I see something waddle across a little bit ahead of me, I couldn't see what it was but I got up to it before it managed to get to the other side.
I thought it would be a big muskrat or something but it was a porcupine! I only had time for one picture as I sat on the bike and he wasn't giving me his best side but what are you gonna do? I thought about going over and trying to get him to smile for the camera but I've seen way too many emails with pictures of dogs looking like a pincushion to really feel comfortable with that.
Not long after the porcupine encounter Alaska gave me one last shot as I could see the rainclouds beginning to form up ahead. The day had been perfect so far and I really believed that the weather would hold out for me.
I could see the mountains in the distance and the road seemed to be turning in such a way that I was missing the rain, every time I thought I was going to get wet the road made a turn and I'd head away from the clouds. Soon enough it got to the point where it really didn't look like I'd be able to dodge the rain any longer.
I was right, the rain started but luckily it didn't last too long and didn't come down too hard, I don't mind the rain if you can see it coming to an end up ahead.
Before long I put the rain behind me and dried out fairly quickly.
What's that I see off to the side of the highway? Mukluk Land? You know I had to stop and see what this was all about. Unfortunately Mukluk Land appeared to be closed, knowing that all Alaskans carry guns I decided not to explore too much, after all I had 460 miles to travel today.
I know they claim everything's bigger in Texas but really, can you find a hayride trailer with 10 foot tires?
I think this is one of those cars you hear about that broke down on the AlCan and was left there to become part of the landscape.
It's definitely seen better days.
Eventually I came to the US border checkpoint but there was no Canadian counterpart anywhere close.
The Canadian checkpoint was 25 miles or so down the road and you can see it was welcoming me with the promise of sunshine. Does this mean that for 25 miles I was in neither the US or Canada? I could've done anything I wanted to!
As soon as I crossed the border the AlCan took on a personality that I hadn't encountered yet, that would be the personality of a really crappy road. I was worried I'd go over in the deep gravel a couple of times, I hate gravel. When there wasn't gravel there were dips, evidently in Canada dips are roughly 6 feet deep and their only purpose it to try to swallow motorcycles and eject the rider as you come over the top, I hate dips more than gravel.
Nearing the end of the day I had a Black Bear come out into the road road directly in front of me, this was when I developed my theory of bears vs motorcycles on the road. I've seen deer get hit by cars and they really get messed up, they try like anything to avoid traffic on the road by jumping or weaving but many times they just can't dodge. A bear on the other hand just looks straight ahead and pays traffic no attention whatsoever; I think that they see the motorcycle coming down the road and recognize that food is sitting somewhat unprotected on top of it. They carefully weigh the risks and decide that they can take the impact from the motorcycle if necessary and get a free meal out of it. If you hit a deer on a motorcycle it's gonna hurt but there's a good chance you'll get out of it with some roadrash and maybe a broken bone, if you hit a bear I think chances are that when you regain consciousness it'll be just in time to see the bear start having you for lunch. The bear was a beautiful chocolate brown and it stared right at me as I snapped the picture. I looked at my camera only to see that the memory card was full and wouldn't accept the image, stupid camera.
As I neared Destruction Bay I kept hearing what sounded like raindrops on my helmet. It took a few minutes to realize that I was riding through clouds of bugs committing suicide on the front of my helmet.
Cottonwood Park is on the shores of Lake Kluane, the words I have don't begin to describe it so hopefully these pictures work okay.
Campsites were at a premium, well I guess I should say that sites with power were at a premium as it seemed as though a convention of RV's was there to make my life difficult; it's a good thing that I didn't need any power and I got a wonderful site right on the lake.
I was told that there were no trash cans at the campground and I was to carry out any garbage that I created, I was then told that this was really a rule for the RV people and I could put any trash I created in the bathroom bins as long as no one saw me, I told the camp host that I was more than capable of hauling out my trash. At least if I got bored there was mini-golf!
I decided to go for a bit of a walk before I cooked dinner, I was happy to be away from the city again, even though Fairbanks if small on the city scale it was by far the biggest metropolis I'd seen in over a week and it gave me a rash. In addition I think that when I pulled over for the last stop at the Arctic Circle some of the indigenous micro carnivores (mosquito's) hitched a ride in my helmet; I had mosquito bites all over the top of my head and the itching was maddening! As I registered for my campsite the manager asked if I had any sort of noisemakers to scare of the bears, evidently there was a family of Grizzlies in the area and although they'd never attacked anyone sometimes they made their way through and it was best to be safe. I informed the manager that I was protected by a genuine Canadian bear bell and should have no trouble, not only that but I'd attended a talk on bears and knew how to read their body language and could defend myself against either a defensive or offensive attack! However I accepted his offer of an air horn attached to a pop bottle. Of course when I went on my walk I left it in my tent (along with my bear bell on the bike).
I walked around for an hour of so and never came across any bears, I was a little disappointed as I wondered how I'd react if I saw one. I decided that I'd probably mess my pants and scream like a little girl and it was better that I didn't see any. I finally made my way back around to the camp office and then on to my site in my own little bit of heaven.
Evidently the guy who runs the campground is a bit of a golf freak, in addition to the mini golf course he's planted a putting green outside the lounge. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not, under any circumstances, to ever walk on this grass.
What a perfect spot!
|03-10-2010, 07:57 PM||#23|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
It's a brand new month as I start my third week of the Alaska Adventure; in fact it's Canada Day! I have no idea what that means. I slept well but perhaps with my thumb jammed in my eye as I felt like I had a bruise (eye, not thumb). I made my way to the shower and was amazed at how many people drove over there, I could tell it was mostly an RV park because all the senior citizens were up bright and early; my experience with campers on this trip has been that they stay up late because it's light then sleep in.
I put in some good seat time today in order to get to the campsite early; I have no idea why.
Thankfully the AlCan is much better below Destruction Bay and when I passed the turnoff for the Klondike Highway I had officially ridden the entire Alaskan Highway. We'd turned off to go to Dawson City on the way up and so missed the northern part. Honestly I don't know which was worse; the Top of the World Highway or the AlCan between Alaska and Destruction Bay.
I didn't get to see any wildlife today which was a bit of a disappointment as the last time I came through here on the way up I saw four bears. I did however get to see 2 of the oldest gas pumps ever when I stopped to fuel up at one point.
Of course it rained for a little bit but by this time a minor sprinkle didn't have enough to even make me take notice.
Eventually I got to the Nugget City campground and RV park. To be honest it really sort of sucked. When I arrived I could find no one around at the camp office. There was a sign on the door indicating that if it was before 4pm campers should register at the gift shop; so I went to the gift shop where there was a sign indicating they would be back sometime around 6. I hung about on the veranda for awhile as it started to rain again. Since I hate to cook dinner in the rain I made my way to the restaurant next door which claimed to have the best food on the Alaskan Highway. I decided to try the Buffalo burger for a change and sat down to wait for my food. The food here had to be some of the worst I'd eaten on the trip, scratch that it was the worst. I don't know what they did to that buffalo but they should have let him live rather than use him for such a bad meal. I tried to salvage dinner with some ice cream but even that was horrible; how can you screw up ice cream?
After dinner I walked back over to the gift shop to see about registering for a campsite, I wasn't really excited about what I'd seen at the RV park, it looked pretty open and gravelly. The gift shop had a sad selection of stuffed animals out in front, they had the same sort of selection as I'd seen in Chatanika but for some reason it was just depressing here.
The inside of the gift shop was filled with much of the same touristy garbage that you can find just about anywhere, I was quite disappointed.
I was happy to find that there was a special place for tent camping and I wouldn't have to spent the night in the RV park.
Unfortunately the tent camping area was in a patch of woods directly behind the fuel tanks, not the most scenic place.
I was excited to see this huge pile of firewood near the campsite as it was a little chilly and I was looking forward to lighting a fire. That is I was excited until I saw the “No Campfires” signs plastered all over the place, I guess the wood is for the RV campers.
It continued to rain as I was setting up camp and the mosquito's were horrible; rather than hang around in the most depressing campground ever I decided that since I was just down the road from Watson Lake I'd head out and see if anything was going on down there. I stopped back by the signpost forest and took a few more pictures and noticed that the fuel pump in the Strom was making a serious screaming/howling noise. With no options on how to fix anything at this point I stopped at a local gas station and picked up a bottle of fuel treatment, I'm hoping that I just have a bit of water in the gas and the pump just needs a little lubrication.
With absolutely nothing going on in Watson Lake I just headed back to Nugget City and crawled into my tent hoping that sleep would come quickly.
I still have no idea what Canada Day is all about, so far I just know that people don't have to go to work until 4pm.
Tomorrow I'm back off the Alaskan Highway and am heading down Hwy 37, the Cassiar Highway toward Hyder, Alaska.
|03-14-2010, 09:04 AM||#24|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
Wow! Too many more nights like that and I don't know what I'll do! Not only was the campground a craphole but but evidently they pay gnomes to come into your tent at night and hammer on your back. I took a sucky shower, their instructions didn't jibe with the actual operation of the shower so I lost 1 minute of my allotted 5 minutes while trying to get hot water. Even after sleeping in I managed to get on the road by 9.
I decided that today I would take my time and relax; I turned onto Hwy 37, the Cassiar Highway, and immediately realized that my plan was a good one. The Cassiar is narrower than the AlCan with the trees coming right down to the edge of the road; hopefully this will be just right for some wildlife sightings!
I decided to stop at every gas station as I'd heard that they were few and far between along this route, this ended up having me stopping about every 60 miles.
I have about 300 miles to go today and after the fiasco last night I'm in no hurry to get where I'm going. At my first stop I run into David; he's on his way back to Vancouver from Dawson City. I saw him on the way up and by my calculations he should be about 3 days ahead of me. Evidently when David got to the Hwy 37 junction someone told him the road was impassable in the rain and he'd been waiting for 3 days for the sky to clear. He was having issues with his Ninjette, mileage had dropped alarmingly so I stopped to help him out. I suggested checking his air filter and after checking his owners manual we figured out how to get to it. We found that the filter was quite clogged, removed as much crud as we could and got it all put back together keeping our fingers crossed that it would take care of his issue.
It rained on a off all day and I'll have to admit that some of the highway was a bit muddier than I was prepared for, I even had some RV's passing me in the really bad sections.
I stopped off at Jade City to shop for some souvenirs and found that it was a little more touristy than I'd expected.
I kept on the lookout for wildlife, I still hope to see a moose, and was soon rewarded with the sight of a Black Bear off the side of the road. I stopped and took some pictures
I sat about 50 feet away for a few minutes and just enjoyed the view.
Not 5 minutes later I see another Black Bear on the other side of the road, I turned around in the middle of the road and headed back the way I'd come so I could get some more pictures. As I passed her I could see that it was a mother bear with a cub; I rode a little further, pulled another U-turn and sat to get some pictures.
As I sat there I realized the mother was going to lead her cub across the road, I sat astride my motorcycle with my legs shaking as I remembered the one immutable fact I'd learned regarding bears, mother bears are very unpredictable where their cubs are concerned.
As the bear and her cub got off the side of the road I realized there were actually 2 cubs as the second little guy went galloping across the road.
After the cubs crossed the road the mother sat on the edge and watched me. I wasn't really sure what to do as I didn't want to head past her in case she decided I was a threat and came after me. Finally I slowly rode past her on the far side of the road, the cubs were gone but she was making sure everything was going to be okay.
The rain started coming down again and I was thinking how lucky I was to be camping 100 miles further down the road when I saw the sign for the campground; I pulled in to an amazing view but had to ask to be sure I was at the right place.
Sure enough my mapping program was way off and I was in the correct place. The skies were threatening again so I set up camp while I could do it in dryness. Everything that was so bad last night is now set right again.
It was early so I decided to talk a bit of a hike down to the lake. I have to say that I was in a little piece of heaven!
While the lake itself wasn't that impressive from the boat ramp the surrounding scenery was very lovely. I'd seen a sign for another trail off the main one and decided I'd head down that one and see where it lead as well.
The trail wasn't much more than a single track but at least it was easy to follow, the sky had cleared back up and I was full of adventure.
I followed the trail through the primordial jungle for about half a mile,
finally I came out on another stunning view.
I split some wood up at the registration building and decided I was going to have a campfire tonight. I got a fire going and it lasted all of about 10 minutes, even copious amounts of gas couldn't keep it lit. I cooked some red beans and rice for dinner; it was tasty but there was just a bit too much of it and it took forever to prepare, I think I'll rely on whatever else I have from now on.
I spoke with the guy in the site next to me who's riding an FJR around, he's doing 700 mile days like they're nothing. I learned what Canada Day was today, basically it's a lot like Independence Day in the US; I have no idea why there wasn't any sort of celebration in Watson Lake or Nugget City, it would have made the whole night somewhat worthwhile.
This place is great!
|03-14-2010, 09:31 AM||#25|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
By this time Hwy 37 is getting to be old hat, sure it's quite beautiful but there comes a time when you're just full. I remember my first Halloween; I spent half the night going door to door collecting candy, I got home and tried to eat the whole bag. Candy is good for a little while but too much will make you throw up. I wasn't at the throw up part with Hwy 37 yet but I was definitely beginning to not be all that enthusiastic.
I stopped off for gas at Bell 2, the last gas available until I get to Steward which is right next to Hyder, I could probably get to Hyder anyway but it's best not to chance it. Just as I was pulling out I noticed that the buildings had sod roofs, I found it to be quite neat.
Just as I decided I couldn't take Hwy 37 any longer it was time to turn off onto Hwy 37A. What can I say about Hwy 37A other than it's the most breathtaking road I've been on yet. I'm sure the Icefields Parkway and the route through Banff are beautiful as well but since at that point I felt like I was riding through a freezer with the humidity set way too high I can't make that judgment.
Every turn seemingly brought another snow-capped mountain even more majestic that the last one and I didn't know which way to turn. I really wanted to get to where I could touch the snow but every time it came down to road level there was a rushing stream between it and me; I wanted to touch snow but I didn't want to drown trying.
Just as I'm getting overwhelmed with snowy mountain peaks I come up to where I can see the Bear Glacier flowing down by the road. Sure it's still across the water but it was one of the coolest things I've seen yet.
I took a few more shots at different angles but motor-homes started arriving in the parking lot and I didn't want to get stuck behind them on my route; Hwy 37 was quite twisty and I didn't look forward to having my view blocked but tourists in some belching behemoth.
I continued on with the scenery continuing to inspire awe on my way into Stewart, British Columbia.
I stopped a couple of times along the way to take pictures and remove some clothing; even though there was snow all around me it was quite warm. There were signs all along the road warning of avalanche conditions, at least they would warn of avalanches in the winter. There were also plenty of barricades that could be lowered across the road to deny access if there were dangerous conditions; I imagine the people of Steward and Hyder spent a good portion of the winter unable to get out of their bit of the world.
I finally arrived in Stewart and it's bigger than I expected. It's also a throwback to the 50's. Evidently Stewart is some sort of important port town for Canada.
I'd been warned that the Customs Office entering Hyder was one of the strictest in the nation; the story was that new Customs officers were sent to the Hyder office to learn the ropes or undesirable officers were sent there to make them quit or something. In the picture you can see the extent of the border crossing into Hyder, this is what I get from listening to too many people on the road.
I made my way to the Sealaska Inn to get the key to my room. I'd decided to stay at the Inn because Hyder billed itself as the Grizzly Bear capitol of Southeast Alaska; what I didn't take into consideration was that it's about the only town in Southeast Alaska. I got a homey little room with a nice view, a nice view if I go outside and look the other way anyhow. I asked at the bar if there was anyplace that I could go and actually touch the glacier without having to do anything crazy like rent a helicopter or something like that. I was told that the Salmon Glacier was just down the road a few miles. I stripped all the gear off the Strom and took my heavy riding gear off, it was warm and I decided that my jeans and long-sleeved t-shirt would do me just fine.
Of course what would staying in Hyder be without a picture at the Mile 0 mark?
The glacier was supposedly about 22 miles down the road, of course it was 22 miles of gravel. I'd forgotten how much I hated riding on gravel already but it soon came back to me.
There was so much cool stuff to see and the road was so horrible that I didn't know what to take pictures of next. At some point I crossed back into British Columbia, at least what's the sign on the side of the road said.
I came across this thing that looked like a tunnel in the side of the mountain, it couldn't have been used for much as the plows had piled snow right up into the mouth.
I climbed up over the snow to see what it might be. The tunnel went back quite a way, I wondered if I'd stumbled upon some old abandoned gold mine.
I got down in there and could see light at the end of the tunnel but without a flashlight I wasn't really all that excited to check it out. If I wouldn't have unpacked the bike I would've checked it out a little better. Don't be fooled by the camera flash, it was pitch black in there.
An hour and a half, and 26 miles, later I still hadn't come to a point where I could actually touch the glacier. Keeping in mind that there was no gas in Hyder and I wasn't sure if there was a station in Steward I started thinking about heading back. I didn't hurt that I was starting to get hungry as well.
I took one of the few side trails off the main road and managed to go down a little way until the trail was completely snowed in. I walked a little further and came to the base of the valley. I contemplated walking across to the more exciting bits but the snow was quite wet and I wasn't sure what was beneath it, it was cold down there as well. Anyway I made a snowball (snow angel didn't sound very smart) and called it good.
I stopped a few more times on the way back to take pictures, isn't it strange how things look so much different from the opposite direction?
I could have stayed out here for days, the action of the snow and ice was amazing. Even though my thermometer was reading 60 degrees and it was July I could see that this snow wasn't going anywhere fast.
I stopped one last time at the lookout to take a picture of the glacier cutting its U-shaped valley through the mountains, all of a sudden so many things that Dr. Fisher had tried to teach me fell into place.
I'm still a bit disappointed that I never found a place where I could get to the ice, perhaps it was there and I just didn't go far enough but I'd gone 4 miles further than what my directions had indicated. Looking across the road I couldn't see where I'd be going down any time soon so it was probably for the best that I turned back.
I continued back until I got to Fish Creek. Evidently the Fish Creek boardwalk is a huge tourist destination, at least it will be next week. In the middle of July the trout and salmon start to run up the creek and bears come from all over to feed on them. This is the time when Hyder becomes the Grizzly capitol. I hung around for awhile hoping to catch a glimpse of someone trying to beat the rush but had no luck; honestly it wasn't that great without bears all over the place.
I got back to the Inn only to find a bunch of guys I'd been leapfrogging with for a few days all staying there. We all decided to go to the bar for dinner, I'd heard rumors of Karaoke and a wet t-shirt contest. We decided on pizza since that is what they had and they were the only game in town, surprisingly it was very good. Karaoke started and it was similar to the scene in the Blues Brothers when they're playing at Bob's County Bunker; they had both kinds of music, Country AND Western! One of the guys was from Chicago and was into the whole Karaoke thing, it was strange to hear someone singing “The Safety Dance” after so much cowboy. I left soon after as I was the only one traveling the next morning and it was late; besides, after seeing the choices in the bar I had no desire to witness any wet t-shirt contest. Unfortunately sleep eluded me as my room was stifling and the noise from the bar next door made it seem like there was no wall between us. I ended up watching some really bad movie that came with the room and trying to sleep with my earplugs in. I could tell when the wet t-shirt contest was underway as the cheering intensified. At some point they started to let off fireworks; it could have been guns being fired at Mid-westerners singing strange music, I have no idea. I finally fell asleep on one of my best days yet, Hyder was great!
|03-15-2010, 11:08 AM||#26|
Joined: Mar 2010
That was really fun to read and you have a great sense of humor! lol
Loved the pics of the mother bear and cubs!
|03-15-2010, 07:27 PM||#27|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
|03-15-2010, 09:04 PM||#28|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
I woke up early so I could get a good start for what was to be a 450 mile day to the Southpark campground in Prince George. It didn't work out as I'd planned when the other guys at the inn invited me down the street for the weekly pancake breakfast. I finally got going at about 1030, once I hit TC16 I realized that the vacation was over. You could replace this route with any generic local US highway, stoplights every ¼ mile and heavy traffic for 300 miles.
There were a couple of interesting pieces of equipment on the side of the road on the way in so it wasn't a total loss, I have no idea what these things are.
The bike's been acting a little funny today, I have a few ideas of what might be wrong but was trying to make some good time and avoid the rain, that didn't work.
Tomorrow will be shorter and I hope to get some things done and see if I can't fix the problem.
It wasn't a total loss, after all I got to see the world's largest fly fishing pole.
This trailer just made me smile every time I saw it.
Other than these few things there wasn't anything memorable about the ride today other than how long it was. I finally arrived at the campground around 6:30 just happy to be done for the day, even though this is Canada I sort of expected someone to be having a July 4 celebration but it was not to be. The campground was alright but a little bit generic, sort of like the rest of the day.
I dodged a couple of bullets today; I was following a Police car when he pulled over to the side of the road . I went around and so did the car behind me but the cop pulled back out behind him, hits his lights and pulls the car over, I have no idea why. Next I was following another guy through a town, we were going a bit over the limit when we saw a cop coming the other way; he hit his lights and pulled a u-turn so I pulled off the road. The cop went past me and pulled over the guy whom I was following.
It's windy tonight and it looks like rain; I hope tomorrow's more interesting.
Evidently I had a mosquito in my helmet, or perhaps a family of mosquitos, at some point for my head is covered with mosquito bites, it's maddening!
I got a decent start for a fairly short day today. Riding conditions were far superior to yesterday as there were fewer towns to go through and I didn't have to drop speed barely at all. The bike seemed to run a little better after I used some of my spare oil to lube the chain, I have no idea why. Tonight I'll get some actual chain lube, the chain is already kinked so maybe a little more maintenance would have been a good thing.
Just a couple of pictures from the road.
It was hot today! I saw it get up to 88, a big change after 40's and 50's. Not much else went on today and that's probably a good thing.
The environment changed quite a bit as the landscape went from green
I got to the Kamloops campground and was again a bit surprised at how packed it was; mostly it was RV's but there were a few tent campers like myself.
I set up camp and then headed into town, I'd seen a Canadian Tire on the way in and that's where I went. I got some chain lube and shopped around a little; perhaps a better name for the place would be “Canadian Tire & Everything Else You Could Possibly Want” as this place had it all.
I made an interesting discovery when I got back; bug spray will eat ziploc bags! My bottle of Off spilled all over my trunk, dissolved the foam padding and ate its way into some food bags. Somehow it also got into my cup. I didn't notice the taste right away but for the next few hours my burps had a unique aftertaste. I took everything out and cleaned the trunk so I should be okay.
The campground is really full but I'm at the end of the line so at the most I could have one neighbor. There's a funky little porta-potty hidden at the end that I determined was my own personal bathroom.
It even comes with a plant to make it feel more upscale.
Isn't it interesting the different signs they have to remind you to clean up after your dog?
Back into the US tomorrow!
I woke up bright and early to get a good start for Seattle. I camped next to the most obnoxious man in the history of camping, that's him to the right; he was the expert on everything well into the night. As I was packing up the bike I also found that he was an expert at motorcycle traveling as well.
After such a wonderful, clear evening it was completely overcast in the morning. I just knew it was going to rain. I feverishly began tearing the camp apart just as it started to sprinkle; I got everything packed up before it got more than damp and was on the road, it soon starts raining in earnest.
The first section is all uphill into the mountains and this is when I find I have an issue; the bike won't rev over 5000 rpm and I can't hold speed going uphill. I have about a 500 rpm range where I can keep the bike running halfway decent, if I open the throttle too much the bike slows down. I go like this for about 150 miles until I need gas, I stopped in the town of Hope, British Columbia. After filling the tank the bike runs a whole lot better. I have no idea why.
At the border crossing I, of course, get into the wrong lane. Every other lane is motoring right along but I get the one where the girl sends every car to get searched.
I try to get a picture but all of a sudden she stopped getting out of her kiosk and started just letting cars through. I was afraid to take her picture when it was my turn in case she decided to search me. All told I spent 30 minutes at the border crossing, the longest one yet.
Getting into Seattle involved a bit of highway, the real highway not like the AlCan. This took some getting used to. As I approached the city the rain began to slack off and it got nice.
I found Melissa's house okay and she called to let me know she was off work early and would be right there. We caught up for a bit then went out to see the city, of course I forgot to take my camera. The first place we went was the Farmer's Market, it was very cool. We messed around in town then went to Boka for supper; I had a Boka Burger which was made with beef, it was pretty good. Melissa said she had a better place for dessert.
For dessert we went to a seafood place by Melissa's house where we got the big tollhouse cookie covered with ice cream – tasty! For entertainment we watched two doofuses (doofi?) practice tying their boat up, then untying it and pushing it out from the dock, try to maneuver it out of the slip area while hitting as few other (parked) boats as possible (unsuccessful), get out to the open water and immediately turn around, come back to the slip and try not to hit anything, get back into their spot and tie the boat back up without falling in the water. Repeat for at least a couple of hours. It was great fun to watch. We then went back to the house.
I met Luke, Melissa's roommate. He's very into motorcycles and we had some great conversation. Luke's wanting to take a trip to Tierra del Fuego, I hope he does it but it's more of an adventure than I'd be up for. It was late so we turned in, I slept in the basement with Zeke, the dog.
I logged onto the internet to see if I could figure out what the deal with the bike was, I'm pretty sure I have a plugged fuel filter which is something that won't be easily or cheaply fixed on the road. I'll figure something out.
|03-16-2010, 06:20 AM||#29|
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Camp Snoopy
nice ride, good reading. i use to go to a family reunion in tombstone. my grndma was a Parker. even been on the mine tour in bisbee
|03-16-2010, 07:19 PM||#30|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Bisbee, AZ & Banamichi, Sonora
Melissa woke me up as she was leaving for work. No one else was up so I quietly got my stuff together and left. I stopped for gas as I left the city and picked up a bottle of fuel injection cleaner, I put the whole bottle in the tank hoping that it would ease my running issues with the bike. It must have done something as the bike ran great and I got the best fuel mileage of the trip so far. The sky was threatening rain all day but it never actually rained on me.
Before long I was in Oregon, another lovely state. I stopped for gas and lunch where I ran into a guy who suggested a shop in Salem for a new front tire; the knobby I had on there was getting very tired (no pun intended). They were on the way so I stopped but was unimpressed with their “2 hours until we can get to you”, the service writer was completely clueless.
I decided to just keep on as I was starting to run late and it was already 2:30. After getting off the I-5 I soon realized I was in surface street hell. It only got worse once I got on the 101. Fortunately the scenery is enough to almost give the 101 a passing grade despite the slowness of traffic.
The campground is quite nice, but noisy.
Once I set up camp I followed the trail to the beach and got to touch the Pacific for the first time.
Since my experience with the beach mostly consists of the Indiana Dunes this was a bit of a different experience for me.
For one thing there were critters on the beach. This thing was about the size of a quarter and there were tons of them on the beach; most were just dead shells but some were alive, they'd dig themselves down into the sand fairly quickly when I uncovered them.
I'm guessing this one's some sort of jellyfish; I really expected there to be more involved with them.
I spent a bit of time on the beach just taking some pictures of patterns and shapes.
I came back to camp and decided to have rice & pasta dish with some salmon. It smelled...not good but was tasty.
I also had some cinnamon dried apples.
I've found the state stickers on the side of the bike to be people magnets; people come to my campsite and ask if those are all the places I've ever ridden, when I tell them that's just this trip they have to take another look.
“Is that one Alaska?”
“Why'd you go up there?”
“To sleep above the Arctic Circle.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“It never gets dark.”
It can be fun.
As I was finishing up dinner a guy came over with firewood and started a fire for me; the first fire I've been able to keep going since the beginning of the trip.
I might look for a map tomorrow and see if I can't shorten this trip up a little, I'm ready to come home.
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