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Old 06-19-2011, 03:09 PM   #31
lookaught OP
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Location: Lander, Wyoming
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Day 9 - Prince George, BC to Prince Rupert, BC
~470 miles - 10 hours

Day 9 was a Thursday, so I was up early because Kelly and Brandi had to head off to work. After eating a nice egg/muffin breakfast compliments compliments of my gracious hosts, it was time to hit the road. Boots were still a bit wet but they were no longer 8" of water, so I was very happy

Kelly, Brandi, me and their cat, who was not going to be left out of the pic lol

Just after Kelly and Brandi took off I snapped a pic of their puppies:

Ready to roll!

The weather report didn't look promising today. It was predicted off and on rain most of the way to PR. Sure enough, within 30 minutes I was getting rained on and was not having a great time. The road to PR is pretty boring for the first half, so I was just racking up the miles until I got gas in Vanderhoof, BC. At the gas station I asked if there was a coffee shop with internet (I don't use my phone in Canada because it's stupidly expensive) to check the weather again.

She pointed me here. DO NOT GO HERE, EVER. this is the shittiest bakery I have ever visited. Bad coffee, bad service, and $3 for 15 minutes of internet that I am fairly sure was using a 56k dialup modem. 15 minutes later I could not load the radar maps, so had no idea what the weather looked like. The only upside was the baked goods were not bad.

Leaving this hellhole, it was raining pretty good. I had my pants liner in today so I stayed relatively dry, though swampy if you know what i mean.

Made a quick stop here to put on my thermal jacket liner. It was around 50 and raining, though not too windy.

And as a bonus, got to snap a pic of this gem. Seriously?

Where I'm heading:

Next stop, Smithers, BC. Filled the bike with gas, and found an excellent coffee shop for lunch and some coffee. No free internet here either though... I don't understand why Canada is so stingy with the internet. Bastards.

No pics of the coffee shop, but the important part:

mmm. Turkey sandwich.

One of the more annoying things about rain is cloudiness. Little did I know, Smithers if flanked by stunningly beautiful mountains, and is known as "little Switzerland." This is what it looks like in nice weather:

But I went right through and didn't realize this until I caught a glimse of the mountains past town:

Cool little bridge:

The rain let up for a while but I was still in traffic so I was getting sprayed by the car in front by cars passing me going the other way. At least my feet were pretty dry!

The final 100 miles into Prince Rupert are undoubtedly gorgeous. On this particular day, it was raining hard and 45 degrees. I wasn't actually cold (and highly recommend the Rev'it Defender jacket!), the views were still spectacular (up to a couple thousand feet haha), and it was a fun ride. I am definitely looking forward to the ride back through there on my way east in August, when the weather is hopefully sunnier.

Along the water:

Requisite "arms up!" shot:

Took this just before the road went off the river and up over a low pass and down into Prince Rupert:

I arrived at the Pioneer Hostel around 6pm I think. It was not very busy, so I opted to pay $30 for a double bunk room rather than $25 for a spot in the 8 bunk room. Just as I had hoped, nobody else showed up so I had the room to myself:

After a 30 minute HOT shower I was ready to just relax in bed, catch up on the news, and watch a movie on my computer before passing out.

I HIGHLY recommend this hostel. Superb staff, extremely clean, free wifi, two nights of my private room was $68 including tax. Walking distance to the grocery store, downtown, tourist district, etc. I had a day to kill while waiting for the ferry (arrived Thursday night, ferry was 9am Saturday) so I was very happy to be here and not camping.

Tomorrow I'm just hangin' out in town. Met a number of interesting people, watched some hockey, and just relaxed. After 9 days on the road, I'm now off my bike for three full days.
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Old 06-19-2011, 05:32 PM   #32
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Great thread, great write up...

A few questions...what kind of speed are you doing on the highways? What speed does the bike like? Also, how much do you and all of your gear weigh?


(I had about 6 weeks between podiatry school graduation and the start of residency...I should have done what you are doing...should have...)
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Old 06-19-2011, 05:43 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by jgrady1982 View Post
Great thread, great write up...

A few questions...what kind of speed are you doing on the highways? What speed does the bike like? Also, how much do you and all of your gear weigh?


(I had about 6 weeks between podiatry school graduation and the start of residency...I should have done what you are doing...should have...)

I rode around 70-80mph, depending on the speed limit. The bike was happier around 70 than 80 IMO, but is fine except right above 4500rpm where there is a tad bit of vibration. Once up to 5000rpm it's no longer an issue. The bike gets around 45mpg at that speed, if riding slower around 60mph it gets over 50mpg, even when riding in very mountainous terrain. Wind resistance is a killer.

I weight 175-180 plus gear. I imagine that I was carrying about 70-80lbs of gear. My tools were all in the right side pannier and that alone had to be close to 35lbs. 7lb tent, couple pound sleeping bag, clothes, computer, cooler with ice, extra gallon of gas... it all adds up.
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Old 06-19-2011, 06:19 PM   #34
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Great story and pics
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Old 06-19-2011, 11:33 PM   #35
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Day 10 - rest day in Prince Rupert
0 miles.

Today I slept in until close to 10am, the latest I've slept in a long while. When I woke up it was cloudy and raining so I didn't get moving until noon. By moving, I mean hungry and out in search of lunch.

View from the window of the hostel:

Somehow I forgot to take a pic of the front of the hostel, but this was the back:

Cut through an interesting little park that was in a depression in town:

The tourist district:

Got some lunch as a sushi place around to the right of the street in the pic above. It was very good, though kind of expensive. Then got a coffee from Cowpucchino cafe and walked into the business district.

Another shot of the same area from a bit farther away:

Not quite sure what this is... looks like a movable platform from a drilling rig but as far as I know they don't drill for anything out here:

Some more harbor:

Crazy parking garage architecture at a hotel:

Didn't get any more pics today. I watched some of the Vancouver hockey game, talked with other people at the hostel, got food for the ferry ride from Safeway, and went to bed early. The ferry leaves at 9am, so I've got to be there by 7am...

Tomorrow, the Alaska Marine Highway to Juneau and then onward to Haines, AK.
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Old 06-20-2011, 10:12 PM   #36
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Started reading this report because we are boarding the ferry tomorrow. Hoped to get a bit of an insight as to what to expect.

Great read so far, we are on day 4 of 14. My lovely wife's first big trip. No camping though, she draws the line at that.

Thanks again for the write up.

Sick and Stupid people keep me employed
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Old 06-20-2011, 11:49 PM   #37
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Day 11 & 12 - Prince Rupert, BC to Juneau, AK, then on to Haines, AK
? miles - all day and night on the ferry

*Get ready for excessive amount of pictures*

The Alaska Marine Highway is the only method of travel aside from airplanes for the inside passage, a narrow maze of inlets and islands along the Alaskan panhandle. I debated long and hard whether it was worth the extra cost (I am in school after all, I try to save money when I can (just not when buying motorcycles lol)), but this trip was worth the money.

Today started at 6am when I woke up, took a nice hot shower, packed the bike and blasted the 6km down to the ferry port with no gloves. Holy shit what a mistake, it was in the 30's. I was supposed to be queued three hours prior to departure, meaning 6am, but I arrived at 7:30 or so and was greeted with a massive line because the power to the port had failed somewhere in the woods (likely an eagle touching the lines is what BC Hydro told me). No ticketing, no heat in the ticket office, no way to get the gangway lowered to offload the ferry. Just sitting around waiting for hours. I was very pleased that I didn't arrive at 6am

It was not raining, so to hell with other people complaining about the wait, I was as happy as bump on a log.

Lined up and ready:

mmm, pollution:

The ferry, the Matanuska:

Finally got on board around 10:30am. Tied down at the very front of the boat:

Looking the other way:

View from the "Solarium Deck" aka the poop deck ():

Home for the next 26 hours or so:

Couple of shots leaving the harbor, sans narration:

This is Seth, another student who is starting grad school in the fall and like me, headed north for the summer. Why the hell not?

Yours truly in the eerie yellow glow of the solarium, then then waiving the banner of the greatest sports team in the world!

Smokin' tire!

Does this even float?

Ketchikan. You may have noticed that the sunshine is long gone. I was reading on deck and though "well, it's sunny and I should be out enjoying this, I'm probably going to fall asleep and will wake up to shitty weather" Sure enough... no more sun :

Whatever. It's not raining, I'm still happy!

I LOVE cargo and container ships. I don't know why. But hey, this is my RR so here's some containers!

A massive forklift. Super cool:

These next two pics have a story. The guy on the boat is standing next to a girl in the hoodie. They are both deckhands and have the job of tossing a little lightweight guide rope to the guy on the dock in the next pic. THis is attached to the massive ropes that hold the boat to the dock (forgive my retardation regarding boat terminology). The man on the deck lines up and heaves his line toward the deck, a massive whole body effort that could not have duplicated a 6 year old girl with more precision. It was downright embarrassing. The girl was doubled over laughing, the guy on the dock was imitating him, it was great Then the girl threw a perfect toss right to the dock. I got most of this on video. Just one of those hilarious moments in life where "you just had to be there"

Back on the water:

Passed the rest of the evening chatting with my fellow shipmates. Seth, a nice Australia couple named Gavin and Jan who I met at the hostel the day before, some people from D.C., and a nice lady from Palmer, AK (just north of Anchorage) named Nancy. Soon enough it was time for bed.

I highly recommend camping on the solarium deck. It's awesome, even at night. Some people slept in the recliner/movie room inside the middle of the ship, but that doesn't give you the smells and sounds of the ocean. Skip the staterooms, there is no point.

Getting ready for bed: this is Seth:

Me. Looking way to excited to be going to sleep but hey, this is the most comfortable "camping" of my life!:


Morning: Very cloudy

Pulled into Juneau around 11:30am:

Had to switch boats, so I'm back on dry land! Me, Seth, Gavin and Jan all drove to downtown to get lunch with my friend Erin, who is in Juneau for the summer. She took this pic of me. Juneau looks super cool, it is right at the base of the mountains and edge of the ocean... very dramatic.

Pulling away from Juneau on a 4.5 hour trip to Haines. I think this was the Mendenhall Glacier, but I'm not positive. What I do know is that little spot of blue sky was about to become a hell of a lot bigger:

I was honestly a little depressed that it was so cloudy, and pissed off at myself for not enjoying the sunny weather the day before. But dreary weather never lasts forever, and this particular afternoon I hit the jackpot:

I'm going to stop writing and just let the pics do the talking for a bit. 4.5 hours, 20+ humpback whales, too many views to remember, a lot of great conversation with fellow shipmates... it was a fantastic afternoon, one that I will not soon forget:

Pulling into Haines. If I remember correctly, Nancy told me that on the far left of the photo is the harbor of Haines, and the far right is the narrow inlet (fjord?) that leads to Skagway.

Pretty pictures can only keep your interest for so long... the real beauty of traveling solo is that you get to meet interesting people along the way from all over the country and world. They make the journey much, much better, and if you find yourself on the ferry, or anywhere else for that matter, make the effort to say hi to someone and enjoy some conversation.

Gavin and Jan, the aussies. They had been on the road in the US and Canada for more than a month. Jan was like my mother away from home... as soon as I drove five damn feet on my motorcycle without a helmet on I was accosted and scolded lol. I assured her that it was not the norm, I was just getting the bike off the boat at a treacherous 5mph. They had taken a train from Banff to Prince Rupert, and Jan pointed out that it took forever because "We (the train) had to keep stopping for beers!!" I was like whaaaat? That's amazing! Well, she actually said "bears" not "beers" lol. Damn accents!

Anyway, if you guys are reading this, it was great to meet you and the next time I'm in Australia I'll drop you a line.

And here is Nancy. She was the first female park ranger in Alaska, and had been living in AK for a long time. She was really cool to talk with and we discussed Alaska, oil and gas drilling, Sarah Palin, natives, whales, the polarized nature of Alaskans regarding natural resources... very interesting person. Nancy last weekend I went to Denali and had weather that rivaled the weather on this boat ride... AMAZING. I can see why you came here and never looked back.

All good trips must come to an end, and my journey on the ferry ended in Haines at 8:45pm. I said goodbye to everyone, hopped on the bike, and voila. Or as I like to spell it, wah lah!

Nancy had suggested camping up the river a little ways, but I opted for the beach. Can't beat this view!

For anyone interested, this campsite is about 1 mile from the ferry terminal on your way to town. A cop passed by three or four times and said nothing so I assume it's fair game to camp there. There is an outhouse, fire pit, and a tree to hang your bear bag. Highly recommended!

So ends Day 12. I'm finally in Alaska . Less than 800 miles to go and I'll be in Anchorage, which is good because I'm already late for my job hahaha. Tomorrow, onward to Haines Junction, then Tok, and beyond...

lookaught screwed with this post 06-21-2011 at 12:24 AM
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Old 06-21-2011, 12:04 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by OldMedic View Post
Started reading this report because we are boarding the ferry tomorrow. Hoped to get a bit of an insight as to what to expect.

Great read so far, we are on day 4 of 14. My lovely wife's first big trip. No camping though, she draws the line at that.

Thanks again for the write up.

I guess this last post is a few hours late for you, but better late than never!

Enjoy the ride!

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Old 06-21-2011, 07:14 AM   #39
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Been following from the start, looking forward to more! Thanks for sharing!
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Old 06-21-2011, 05:25 PM   #40
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great report
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Old 06-21-2011, 06:22 PM   #41
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Old 06-21-2011, 06:38 PM   #42
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Great pictures... good report! (Sorry you had so much rain.) Lookin' forward to the rest of the story, as well as your return trip!

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Old 06-21-2011, 08:18 PM   #43
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Thanks for the great pics and RR! Was just in BC in early May (sadly, not riding- cruise vacation with the missus and sister/brother-in-law) and drove up the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler. Stopped at Squamish and learned about "The Chief"- yes, it is said to be a world renowned climbing site.

Incidently, while it was raining throughout much of BC and causing floods at many locations there was a huge wildfire in Alberta that claimed much property around Great Slave Lake.
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Old 06-23-2011, 12:06 AM   #44
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Day 13 - Haines, AK to Anchorage, AK
775 miles - 16 hours

Yes, 775 miles non-stop. Today was long, beautiful, tiring, and was the end of my trip "to" Alaska. It does not end my Alaska adventure, because I still plan to go to Deadhorse. I planned to go to D2D but doubt I'll make it... Maybe though...

Ok back to the RR!

Today I woke up around 8am. The plan is to ride to Tok, AK, which is about 8 hours away. This will take me through Haines Junction, YT and along the Alaska highway to the alaskan interior.

Open the tent, and wah lah!

Another view:

Quick digression to discuss breakfast: When I was in Yakima staying with Shayne and Leslie, we were talking about eating Lucky Charms (a kids cereal with marshmallows for you non-americans) for dinner. I'm 28. Shayne and Les are a couple years older. What is the greatest thing about being an adult? Nobody can tell you want to do. If I want to eat Lucky Charms for dinner, then I eat Lucky Charms for dinner. I've done it many times, so do Shayne and Les. Other breakfasts have been soda and oreos, cheese and doritos, bread and chocolate, whatever.

Today I woke up and I have clif bars, an apple, and Chips Ahoy. Want to guess what I ate for breakfast?

mmmm! Can't beat the view or the meal.

Ready to roll:

Chips Ahoy are great, but they are not a substitute for coffee. Nancy recommended the Mountain Market in Haines, and damn was that ever a great recommendation!

Got myself a coffee and a turkey/spinach wrap. Mmmmm. Delicious.

Time to get this show on the road:

My brother had been bugging me before I left saying that I need more stickers on my panniers. Ironically my car has a bunch of stickers and he hates them, and my bike has no stickers and he hates that. Well Chris, this one is for you!

I had read that the ride from Haines to Haines Junction was epic, though I had never actually seen pictures of the ride. I figured it was kind of like this, looking upriver:

Hm. Less trees. wtf?

My "hey, check this shit out!!!" pose:

Once I passed through customs, which was quick and easy, the road starts to climb. Fast. Before you know it, you are well above tree line and in alpine tundra! I was NOT expecting this, but WOW what a view:

The other direction, where I'm headed:

I have a bunch of panoramic photos of this spot, but don't have stitching software so I can't put them together.

Hard to describe. Feels like the alps in a way:

Well it was a nice ride over the pass, but after a while it went down into Haines Junction:


So after a few hours of epic riding. It ended. While there was endless rain across most of the United States and BC in May, interior Alaska was in a drought. The forest fire danger meter is at "EXTREME" There were and continue to be many interior fires burning, which means fire haze. Eff. This means limited visibility for a long time.


The weather today was sunny (obviously) and about 70*F. The highway passes along Kluane Lake for a while, and it's still frozen in May. Holy shit did it get cold fast! Like a 20* drop in one minute once you round the bend.

Evidence of a forest fire:

Looked like this for a while:

Then like this:

Lots and lots of lakes, little coniferous trees, and mountains flanking the valleys. Very pretty, but hazy at times and humid. This is also a MAJOR, and I mean MAJOR bird migration route across western Canada. Miliions and millions and millions come through here each year.

The road beyond Destruction Bay (middle of nowhere, Canada) is atrocious. On a bike, it's actually not bad. In a car or RV... hell. Frost heaves, slumping, gravel washed on the road, long stretches of gravel and construction (miles on end), dusty as hell. Not the most pleasant 140 miles to the US border. I didn't get any pics here.

Until I arrived at the border, and spotted what is perhaps the most awesome billboard in the history of history:

Finally arrived in Alaska. The border customs guy was asking me about my bike how tall I am and if I could flat foot it, etc. We were holding up traffic and I said something like "oh, perhaps I should go because they are waiting" and he replied "doesn't matter, I can make them wait." lol. Nice guy, I think he said he has a KTM990 and was looking at buying an F800GS.

After stopping for gas, I was on the road to Tok. 80 miles to go.

It was HOT (meaning 75, but hey, I live in Vermont and just rode 4,000 miles in 45-60 degree weather), so I had the vents open, jacket was not cinched on my waist.

HOLY FUCKING jeebus what a mistake. Somewhere just over the border I'm cruising along and then get a massive, searing pain in my lower back... kind of like a really intense bee sting. I stop the bike faster than ever before, jump off (literally, I jumped off the bike) and was stripping clothing like I was on fire. Hm. No bee, no hornet... nothing. I felt my back and sure enough there was a sting.

So I'm standing along the highway half naked wondering where the bee went. I was stung just below the edge of my lower back guard on my pants... there was a remote chance that while I was smacking the shit out of myself while attempting to not crash my bike the bee somehow went down my pants.

Fear and panic struck instantly. Stung in the back. Fine. Stung in the, um, manhood. Time to get naked!

Unzipped my pants in three seconds flat. Look at the left leg... nothing. Look at the right leg... right along my calf, but low enough to be guarded by my boot is this little effer:

By little, I mean 1.5" long. MASSIVE. Biggest damn bee I've ever seen. Like the size of a hummingbird. He was stinging the shit out of my pants. I stood around for about five minutes trying to figure out how to get the bee off my pants (which were still around my waist, though unzipped and flapping about) without getting stung again. Divine inspiration did not strike, there was no "ah ha!" moment. Nope. I just manned up, flicked the fucker off with a little stick, and ran like a little girl.

So ends that saga. Back was throbbing, dignity was only a memory, but I was safe. I collected my gear which was scattered across the highway, redressed, cinched my jacket shut along my waist after looking for other bees, and was back on the road. Perhaps sadly, perhaps not so sadly, not a single car passed me in the 20 minutes I was stopped so nobody witnessed the half naked BMW rider vanquish the King of the Bees. Oh well.

Back to riding:

Speaking of riding. I was really, really ripping on this road. I normally am a pretty collected, calm rider. I stay within 15mph of the speed limit. Not right now. I was driving about 100mph, determined to get to Tok ASAP. Sure enough, I round a corner, and a cop is driving the other way.


Well, having been stung by a bee, and being in the middle of nowhere and alone, I had perhaps the best excuse in the world to speed. I MUST get to Tok to get allergy medicine! No, I'm not allergic to bee stings, but hey, he didn't know that.

Pedal to the metal, I book it to Tok. At one point I thought I saw lights, but didn't slow down enough to double check. Arrived in Tok at 7pm and filled the tank, looked for police but saw none. At this point I had a decision to make. I either stop and camp as planned, or I ride on. Id been on the road since around 9:30am, so 9.5 hours already, but was not tired. I asked the cashier what time the sun goes down and he said "um, 'round September." know, I thought it was little humorous, but that all. The kid next to him completely LOST IT. Laughing like a hyena, it actually made me uncomfortable hahaha. I ask some locals how long it takes to ride to Anchroage, and the consensus is five to six hours. But only two hours to Glenallen, where I can get gas and either camp or continue.

As a responsible adult, I called my parents, told them I was safe and heading to camp in Tok, and then completely changed my mind and hit the road. I wasn't tired, it looked like 3pm outside, so why not, right?

I did not take many pictures on the way. Sorry. I was on a mission, and that meant ticking off the miles as fast as possible. AFter my near run in with the law near Tok, I was only going 75mph or so, and I did get a few pics:

F. Rain. After so much sun, it was disappointing. Stopped and put in the liners, and was back on the road after eating some food and drinking water. My rest spot under the roof of an outhouse. Motorcycle riding is glamorous after all. I like this pic because you can actually see the massive water droplets hitting the puddles. Like I have mentioned earlier, it's really hard to capture rain in a picture. Most of the time it just look overcast. Here, finally, you can see what I've been dealing with.

Made it to Glenallen in about three hours, including the rain/dinner stop. It was about 11pm. Mosquitos were BAD, so I made it a quick stop. A family in an RV marveled at my trip (they had passed me when I was pulled over in the rain and honked), but I was back on the road pretty quick. I had swapped from my rain gloves back to my summer gloves. Big mistake, as the temp dropped fast, so I stopped again and put the winter gloves back on....

Sunset around midnight:

Outside Anchorage there is a mountain range. The Glenn Highway, US 1, runs right through them. It is gorgeous. I stopped just as I was approaching the mountains to snap a few pics before the light gave out completely. The sun sets in September my ass. Maybe in Tok, definitely not in Anchorage. Even today, June 22, its dark for an hour or two.

And I still suck at the self portraits. C'est la vie. (did I get that right Renee?)

The ride became very, very twisty, with rocks and some gravel in the road. It was about 1AM when I really hit the windy roads, and I was driving slow (aka the speed limit lol) and watching for wildlife and stuff on the road. It was very tense, I was extremely tired, having trouble concentrating, etcetera but the ride was really, really beautiful as the road snakes down the valley, past a glacier, many cliffs and other cool things to look at. Not the time to be on a motorcycle, but with my eyes on the prize, aka the warm house, shower, and bed in Anchorage, I soldiered on and at 2:30AM, 16 hours after I first hopped on the bike at camp in Haines, my trip to Alaska was over.

I showered, had a bit of whiskey that I had carried since BC, checked out the house, and at 3:30AM, which is 7:30AM east coast time, I called my parents and told them I was safe and sound in Anchorage. It was kind of funny because the last phone call was at 11pm EST when the were getting into bed. Around 4AM I was in bed, and asleep.

This was May 31. Today is June 22. In the past few weeks I have not ridden much other than commuting a bit, but as my commute is only 10 miles to work and Anchorage is flat as a pancake, I bought a nice single speed Specialized Langster Gangster bicycle to ride around town. I still plan to ride to Deadhorse, solo of course, and then of course I'll write up the return trip home. The ride home will take me back to Haines, Prince Rupert, Prince George, and then along the eastern Canadian Rockies to Jasper, Banff, Glacier, and back across the plains to the east coast.

I'll post some pics of the local hiking and climbing trips around Anchorage as the summer progresses. Alaska is impossibly beautiful , and I'll try to provide some insight into good things to do on a motorcycle if I can.

Until then, I hope you have enjoyed following along with my trip, but for now, it's time for INTERMISSION.

"the beatings will continue until morale improves"

-Jon aka lookaught
Solo to AK and Back, 2011.
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Old 06-23-2011, 04:16 AM   #45
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Nice report. It was fun to follow your ride. Enjoy your time in Alaska.

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