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Old 10-09-2011, 11:44 PM   #1
legion OP
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Gettin' Cool in Alaska

I live on the mountainside overlooking Anchorage and it's starting to get mighty cool outside. Within a week or so I'll have snow at the house and most riding will be over.

I got up yesterday morning and had plans to fart around the pad getting ready for winter but that seemed to be wildly boring and even the dog wasn't feeling it. The day needed spicing up for sure and it seemed like the cure for me anyway would be to toss a leg over a bike and scoot around for a few hours. Nobody I had to see and nothing that had to be done. This would be perfect. I called a riding buddy to see if he could scootch out but nooop... and I left the mutt to come up w/ his own solution which hopefully wouldn't be too rough on the place.






I have some finely honed skills where glove losing is involved. I think my buddy at the couch there might play a role sometimes but he can't nail 'em all. Last week I was riding with one pile lined suede work glove and one nice riding glove so I figured that ought to be addressed bright and early. I went down to see Barb and Doug at Alaska Leather where they make the sheepskin butt pads a lot of you have seen. I love those things and have a couple three of 'em around the house. I have 3 KTM singles that will vibrate some of my own parts hard enough that an hour or two out will have me wondering about the long term effect of vibration on nuts. Those butt pads have been a good way for me to keep my own from rattling completely off.

They also have an xlnt selection of riding gear and accessories so I slipped in to sate my dog's glove fetish. Or mine.
For the first time ever I actually didn't pick what I was going to buy... Barb did. They worked perfectly for a fall day. Highly recommended.






With that knocked out I hopped back on the bike and headed north. No particular route in mind but there is a back way over Hatcher's Pass up in the mountains about 50 miles north that was calling my name. En route I slid by Katoomer's place to see if he wanted to come out for a rip but he was either still sawing logs or somewhere else already. From the looks of the ice pile beside the front steps he might have had a pretty good time and a cocktail or two the night prior. The man can put on a lively soiree for sure. Locally referred to as the Klub Haus.






I pointed north again and got through the boring stretch that lasts for 30 minutes or so. I wheeled over to the side when the highway started to turn rural. Not sure how far down it is but easily well over 500' and it's close enough to the highway that one day a good sluff is going to take the road bed with it right on over the edge. Not a piece of the roadbed... that whole stretch. Here's what it looks like maybe 75' from where my bike was parked. Lose your footing around here and you'll reach terminal velocity before you meet your conclusion.








Enough of that. Time to see what's going on up high.

There's an old saying about some Alaskans that touches on whether some of us are as well socialized as we ought to be. Doesn't apply to me but it might have at one time. Heading up into Hatcher's Pass I passed a place where a house used to be before I splashed it with a few gallons of hi-test and put a bic to it. I popped the cap off the well casing and set up a porta-potty over the opening before I left. Left a partially used roll next to it just to further excite the next viewer's imagination. Might come back to that later. I fueled up at the base of the mountain and hoisted the front wheel while leaving the parking lot.

My next stop was at right about the top of the pass where there's an old mining road that's open during the summers and usually doesn't get closed down until there's been a little snow in the area. Not this year though and it put a little bit of a damper on my plans for the afternoon. A man can't stop at this kind of sign without considering the alternatives for just a moment. It'd be a cakewalk to just lean that skinny little 640 enduro over and squeak it under the gate... fire it back up and toss a few rocks around. Apparently I wasn't the only guy that had had such thoughts though and while I was parked there a park service truck pulled in behind to help make sure I had my thinking cap on straight.

I snapped this pic and turned around. Probably best that way. Possibly.






All was not lost though. There's an A-frame cabin and tiny restaurant close enough to bounce a rock off of and it's on the right side of the gate. I sauntered in for a Black Forest ham and cheeser with a Guinness to help it slide down the pipe. I've eaten a wheelbarrow full of these sandwiches over the years and there's something about the place that makes a ham sandwich magical. I'm not a big fan of getting a snoot full and going for a ride but one snort and a little gentler ride out would be happening. It was a really good choice.

It's also dead enough in the late season that you can hog up the chief seat in the synagog without feeling like you should've spared the big table for another party. Because there isn't one.












That sleet that you saw on the window sill was hammering down pretty good at one point but 5 minutes after it quit the riding weather was back to a beautiful autumn day with just a little moisture around to remind you to enjoy it while it lasts.






It was time to motor... and it's time for me to motor about now, too. I'll round this out in the next day or so. Nighty night.

(edit: there's something botched up w/ smugmug and it's not sizing the pics correctly. I'll sort that tomorrow, too).

legion screwed with this post 10-11-2011 at 09:57 PM
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Old 10-10-2011, 02:02 AM   #2
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Good stuff.

Is the Pass usually gated this early? Shucks, never even made it over this year.

Makin' me hungry for some grub at the A frame. What a view.

Thanks for sharing. Mark H.
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Old 10-10-2011, 12:17 PM   #3
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Old 10-10-2011, 02:00 PM   #4
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Hey Treadless! I hope all's well on your end, bud. I thought about you last year when I went to pickup a car I had been lusting after. Turned out I was lucky and it was just as it was supposed to be but I'd have given my left nut to have had your trained eye and experience for sure !


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Old 10-10-2011, 03:55 PM   #5
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Hey Treadless! I hope all's well on your end, bud. I thought about you last year when I went to pickup a car I had been lusting after. Turned out I was lucky and it was just as it was supposed to be but I'd have given my left nut to have had your trained eye and experience for sure !


Purty! But, what the hell do you do with something like that in AK?

Things are good here, for now at least. Next week who knows. And I know about that lust thing. I'm back up to 5 bikes.

A recent acquisition in a pic from yesterday... before some bits started falling off.






Enough of the hijack, on with the report.
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Old 10-11-2011, 03:41 AM   #6
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Yes indeed, carry on please
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Old 10-11-2011, 08:12 AM   #7
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Beutiful place to ride a bike. I'm in.
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Old 10-11-2011, 09:53 PM   #8
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Cool new ride, Treadless. That one'll rattle your nuts off. And thanks for the encouragement. Let's toss a few more pics up in here. Fall is my favorite season in Alaska. A bite in the air and the colors are out. Sort of crisp if that's a fitting word.

I took a ride back down in the same direction I had come from and all kinds of thoughts were going through my head. Long ago I allowed myself to get a little miffed over an issue that I would not address the same way these days. My wife and I used to own this property from here to beyond where you can see. There used to be a little three story house on the hill toward the right rear of your view (the one in front of that hill wasn't there at the time but that property was ours as well).

I don't want to spend much time reviewing that period but the abbreviated version was that I moved out of state and left a renter in the place. When I came back to check up on things the entire hilltop which had at one time been a beautiful meadow was now strewn with garbage and many of the things that I had left there in storage had apparently walked off. The tenant was nowhere to be seen.

I called a buddy that is inclined toward doing good things for others and said he could come get the windows and any other building materials that he wanted. Everything he could pack, gratis... and I'd help him take 'em out.

I rented a JD450 (a smallish bulldozer type tractor) and scuffed up a burn area around what was left of the house and with no better solution at hand I put a spark to the place... and that chapter behind me forever. This parking pad was packed with cars belonging to people that had some interest in what was going on. Some of them probably had some of my stuff. In retrospect considering the time and place it's probably best that they kept a good way off but if one thing's for certain it's that those days are gone and life is better.






More cars than you might expect crowded this little pad and roadway those 25 or so years ago. Small towns can get pretty exciting when one of the local nutbars opts to make some pragmatic choices in high drama fashion.






It's easy to think "enough of that... let's move on", but tooling through a small town you knew fairly well it's impossible to extricate yourself from the memories of some of the folks around at the time. Some mighty colorful folks. One example is conjured up by this restaurant. Doesn't look like much now and in all sincerity it didn't look like much 25 years ago, either. Used to be called The Fireside and it's out between Palmer, Alaska and a place called Butte which is a poorly defined area about 10 minutes outside of Palmer. Many a hillbilly type back in there. Many of them used to be friends of mine or at least acquaintances.

The guy that owned this place was named Nelson. Don't know if he's still around or not but he was a fairly independent character of the type that Butte is well known for. The Fireside was built right between an old section of rural highway and what we call a braided river. The kind that meanders and cuts new channels in previously dry sections of real estate whenever the flow changes. You'll see in the background that there are power lines across the street but in the way of the rural Butte-er, that don't mean nuthin' to nobody.

Nelson never hooked up to the electrical utility's grid, ever. Pull up to the Fireside and you'd hear the thump-thump-thump of a seriously large diesel generator powering up the whole joint. F the utility. I have no idea why and those were the kind of questions I really wasn't inclined to ask. No doubt an emotional choice of some kind. I was familiar with them and never felt they had to make sense myself. Never expected that those of other's might, either.

It went way beyond just that, too. No water on the land and any wells always tapped into salt water. Apparently there's a big reservoir under the surface that has a tidal flow to it. The Cook Inlet is a few miles from here and it's a big open water bay. There's a 3000 gallon tank inside this building for restaurant water. The winds ripped the roof off the place a year or two back. The bank owns the property and had to put a new roof on... but they can't sell a restaurant with no water and no power. At some point they'll need to stab the baby as this is a loser all the way around.





After that I took a side track up toward Lazy Mountain. At the time I had a number of friends in the area that had a strong entrepreneurial spirit and made their income by farming a controlled substance. At the time it might even have been legal. Don't know for sure and at the time wouldn't have given it too much thought. Sort of doubt it being ok on that scale though. The whole area had always had a disproportionate number of folks that felt strongly about privacy and old notions die hard. I took a pic out by the top of the road but it wouldn't have seemed right to take any others. Sort of a dead professional courtesy. I doubt that people do that stuff anymore though. Probably too pedestrian from what I've heard. Meth's the big draw out in the valley anymore from what the paper's spouting.

Pretty place. Blows like a Banshee in the winter. Enough to take down a 24" diameter tree and the bigger one beside it.


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Old 10-11-2011, 10:53 PM   #9
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It's maybe 40 miles or so from the backside of the Butte to my place and on the way my head was drifting in and out of people and places from long ago. Some good, some maybe less good, but all of them go into making whatever it is that you are today.

When I was a kid my folks lived in the Bay Area in California and were staunchly religious types. Dad was a construction contractor and mom was a stay-at-home. In the late 1960's construction got pretty tight as the area was overbuilt and a glut of available anything means that their maker won't be eating well. They decided to sell the house and their stuff; buy a truck and move to where the need was greater for their kind of religious faith.

My little brother and I hopped in the back of the truck and rode from Walnut Creek to Anchorage back there. Dust? Yep. Mosquitos? Yep. As a kid though you just thought that's the way it works.

Once we got here my folks apparently had no concept of wildlife and how much trouble can find you in the Alaska wilderness so they let my brother and me head off into the mountains on our own anytime we wanted. We got chased off by bears and encountered just about anything you'd expect back there. Freehand climbed a couple peeks that kids probably shouldn't be on, etc.

On one trip back in the Chugach Park I ran into an old geezer sitting beside a stretch of game trail. He wasn't taking a breather though. More like he was taking in the view. The kind of old fart that got plenty of exercise. He introduced himself as Karl Eid. He was a ski coach and wanted a buddy and I to let him teach us how to go over a ski jump. The kind you saw on the intro to Wide World of Sports on tv where the poor schlub started at the top and cartwheeled down to the bottom and over the edge.

It seemed like one hell of a cool idea. Unfortunately, my folks were freaks about competition being in conflict with their religious beliefs. Not sure how exactly and that was another thing that I was never all that fired up about; faith. Regardless, hell would have had to have frozen over before they would have helped us kids participate in any sort of competitive sports event. I can see Karl's jumps from my house window and think of him once in a blue moon.I slid by there on the way home. Interesting old goat. Former German soldier in WWII and a pastry chef by trade. He'd even baked a cake for Hitler at one point and trained a few Olympians, too. He died a few years ago at age 99.

These are Karl's jumps. To get a size perspective notice that those are people climbing the stairs of the larger jump.






In '82 I was a middle manager of one of the electrical companies listed below and that's about as close as I ever got to actually participating.

It was good knowing you, Karl.





...and right there my KTM shit the bed. I called my wife and begged her to bring me some tools and a jump. Spent a little time there that evening reminding myself that it's a little chipper out these days. Quite a bite in the air.

I've gotta fix that bike
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Old 10-11-2011, 11:12 PM   #10
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When I finally got home I looked out over the city and thought about how times had changed. Thought about Karl and the KTM and friends from long ago.

That snow capped peak up in the clouds is pretty steep toward the spire. It's one of them that as a 13 year old kid I freehanded with a couple other kids. Shouldn't have been there; but then I wouldn't have met Karl.

And if it weren't for some of the people that make up the rich tapestry of our collective pasts, what would any of us be like?

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Old 10-11-2011, 11:57 PM   #11
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Is the Pass usually gated this early?
No clue, Mark. I thought it closed later but with the fullness of time I'm coming down with a serious case of CRS.
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Old 10-12-2011, 12:00 AM   #12
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Yes indeed, carry on please
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Beutiful place to ride a bike. I'm in.
Thanks for coming along for the ride... and the encouraging comments. Tossing together a ride report is like talking to a chalkboard unless somebody chimes in
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Old 10-12-2011, 01:39 AM   #13
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DANG dude, what a report! So very rich in history. Both that of the area's and of yours.

Your eloquence and reverence towards all life make it a big surprise to me that you lived the life you did out in the Valley and near the Butte.

Interesting about your connection with Karl Eid too. His son Marc and I road raced bicycles together back in the day. Good guy. Good times. Tho I never did try flying on the skis I instead, like you, chose to fly low by motorbike.

Thank you so very much for sharing. All truly fascinating.

With much sincerity, respect, and admiration, Mark H.
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Old 10-12-2011, 08:28 AM   #14
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Thanks for coming along for the ride... and the encouraging comments. Tossing together a ride report is like talking to a chalkboard unless somebody chimes in
Well done. Thanks for the journey down memory lane, complete with a few bumps in the road. I really need to get back up and do some more wandering about, at a much slower pace this time.
Thanks for lighting the fuse, I think.

Oh and I think a chalkboard can have more flavor sometimes.
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Old 10-12-2011, 10:01 AM   #15
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Love this RR.
It's not all sugar coated.
Had to google CRS though.
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