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Old 02-02-2013, 08:52 AM   #286
lou8700
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Hi Anna,

Thanks for sharing your great adventure. Your writing and photo's are fantastic. Makes me feel as though I'm right there with you. What inspired you and the bike you choose to do this trip are what helps define you as a person, ruffntuff and compassionate.

Stop by St. Louis and pick me up on your next adventure, Lou
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:48 PM   #287
75bronco
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If I were a younger man, i would hunt you down and try my best to make you mine.
What a woman.
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Old 02-02-2013, 08:24 PM   #288
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Day 22: Valdez - Tok

Day 22:
June 11, 2012
Valdez- Tok, AK: 279 miles

I woke hearing the high-pitched eerie screech of bald eagles and familiar sound of rain tapping the tent. I was disappointed knowing I should have checked out Valdez Glacier yesterday when it was still nice outside.

I laid there for a while listening to the rain. It was peaceful and cozy lying there making it that much harder to get up and moving. I still couldn’t believe I was in Alaska.

I finally felt I had procrastinated the inevitable long enough. I sluggishly rose to leave my warm dry cave exposing myself to the outer elements I would be subjected to the reminder of the day.

Joe, the camp host, wandered over as I was packing up. He asked if I slept alright, unbothered by the bears. I said the bears stayed away, but I couldn’t admit I got the best night sleep either. Every tap on the tent, branch breaking, or leaf rustling woke me with a jolt and had me peeking through the door grasping the blow horn he let me borrow. Having it did give me a little more piece of mind however, and I thanked him for it.

I suddenly became self-conscience in the presence of this man having realized I had probably not appropriately paid for my campsite. The campground was an “on you honor” system where you put your cash in an envelope and place it in the box at the front gate. When I had arrived yesterday I realized the only cash I had was Canadian coins. I hoped it wouldn’t be a problem and filled my envelope with Loonies and Toonies to make up the $10 I owed.

I began to feel guilty for this after talking to this nice man and confessed to him what I had done. I asked if they by chance accepted Canadian money and he chuckled saying no. He said I wasn’t the only one that had paid in Canadian and he often had to go to the bank to exchange the money. I offered to go instead if he could open the box and return my coins so I could bring him the correct bills I owed.

He said it was his day off and he needed to go to the bank in town anyways so he offered to give me a ride there, sparing me from the elements a little while longer. Thankful for his understanding I accepted and asked if it’d be okay to swing by the post office as well. I needed probably $50 in stamps for all my postcards.

It was good spending the morning with company. After running our errands we both were a bit hungry and went into Maggie Pies Bakery for a wholesome breakfast. It was a quaint family-run place in an old house off the main road in town. I was impressed with the woman behind the counter working and baking with a baby sleeping soundly wrapped against her chest.

We had some coffee that was some of the best I’ve had. I should of asked where it as from. I devoured a delicious breakfast sandwich on fresh homemade scones that were savory and mouth-watering.

It was nice talking to Joe. His company was comforting and easy to be around. He was from Californina and had only been there a few weeks. He admitted he was a little homesick and said it was nice spending time with someone on his day off that wasn’t a co-worker. We were two people connected for a moment in time in a symbiotic relationship. It was one of those providential meetings that served a specific purpose in just the right place at just the right time.

After breakfast we decided to walk over to the Valdez Museum. There wasn’t much else to do or see in the one-street town, especially on a rainy day. It was a bit expensive to go in so I decided it wasn’t worth it, however Joe said he hadn’t done anything touristy yet and if I wanted to go he’d take care of it. I was grateful for his generosity and we went inside to explore.

It was a small museum consisting of exhibits and collections of historical archives reflecting the history of Valdez, Copper River Canyon, and the Prince William Sound. Exhibits included the history of four major national events: The Gold Rush, The 1964 earthquake, The Trans Alaskan Pipeline, and the Valdez Oil Spill. We wandered around rooms of artifacts, photographs, and articles illustrating the tragedies of Valdez and the phenomenon of a small frontier town surviving harsh conditions.

After learning about Valdez and how rugged of a place it can be to live, I admired it that much more for its perseverance. Now with a population of 5000, it’s astonishing a place like that has managed to survive. I have full respect for anyone who dares live there.

Joe and I headed back to the campground. It was almost noon and I decided I had procrastinated enough from riding in the rain all day. We went down to the Glacier just to see what could be seen. I was still impressed with the beauty. Even in the rain the fog hovered like a ribbon and shadows of icebergs filled the water with a ghostly impression. The Glacier was veiled behind the fog and I could only imagine how grand it was lying behind it.









I said Goodbye to Joe and headed out of Valdez through Keystone Canyon up to Thompsons Pass. I was glad I got to see it yesterday. With the weather no mountains were in view, only a tunnel of white fog and rain all the way to Tok. It was slow traveling having to stop often and warm up.

I stopped again at Tiekel River Lodge. My arms, crotch and feet were soaked already and I still had more than 200 miles to go. When I walked in the same man was there that I had spoken with yesterday. I didn’t have to say a word and all he asked was; “Would like some hot chocolate hun?”

I sat for awhile with a puddle collecting under my jacket. I thawed out drinking hot chocolate and eating homemade tortilla soup the man’s wife offered me. They were so kind.

When I bundled myself back up preparing to leave the man smiled and said, “You got a lot of guts to be doing what you’re doing.” “No. Just crazy,” I said.

I went another 70 miles before I had to stop again in Glenallen, this time shivering hard. I stopped at The Hub, the gas station where the Richardson Highway meets the Glenn Highway, and bought some coffee. It was crap but it was hot so I warm up while walking around the Copper Valley Visitor Center gawking at tacky gifts and Alaskan souvenirs.

Anxious to leave a place centered around cheap plastic crap and consumerism I rode hard again, this time for 90 miles before I started shivering so violently I had to concentrate on keeping my arms and hands relaxed to keep the bike steady. I started singing loudly my own song, belting it out to keep my breath somewhat regular and lungs exercised. I sang to the tune of “Singing in the Rain.”

I’m riding in the rain
Just riding in the rain
What a familiar feeling
I’m soaking wet again
I’ll ride down the road
With it splashing my toes
I’m riding, yes riding in the rain

At this point I realized I was losing my mind and needed to stop.

Just 40 miles before Tok, I stopped at Mentasta Lodge. This time I warmed up again with coffee and some homemade chili. The chef came out to talk with me while I was thawing out enjoying her chili. She was so curious about where I was from and what I was doing and said she was excited to see a woman like me doing a crazy adventure by myself. “Crazy is right,” I said.

The chef told me about her own crazy adventure of hitchhiking from Texas to California. “It’s the best thing I could have done for myself. I’ll never go back there and never look back.” When I told her I was heading to California eventually she gave me a list of places to see. She used to work at Yosemite and pulled out of her wallet some old beaten-up postcards of Mono Lake and a little Switzerland looking village she told me to be sure and go to. She was an out of the ordinary encounter that’s for sure.

After leaving Mentasta I had another peculiar encounter. I was going 40mph just after a pavement break in the road when I saw what looked like a wolf on the side of the road jogging towards me.

As I approached I thought it was going to cross in front of me but I couldn’t break hard and I didn’t want to swerve risking losing traction on my back tire. I thought I was going to hit it when at the last moment it dodged to the side and went towards my front tire with its nose.

I wondered if it was just a huge wolf-looking dog that wanted to chase my bike, but its resemblance to a wolf was uncanny. It had to of been over 100 lbs standing as high as my hips on the bike. And I was at least 20 miles from any town so who knows what it was, but it was weird. Maybe it was a spirit.

I finally made it to Thompson’s Eagle Claw Campground just on the brink of a thunderstorm. I could see the black sky and feel the wind picking up but thankfully it went around Tok and spared me the experience.







I stayed in the bunkhouse again. This time I had the whole place to myself so I spread my wet mess across the floor and over the bunks to dry out. It’s probably a good thing too no one else was there. I can only imagine how offensive my soured smell really was.



Vanessa, the owner and camp host, came by to check on me as I was laying my stuff out. It had finally stopped raining (now that I had stopped riding) and we talked about my adventure since I was last there on my first night in Alaska. She was a sweet woman and offered to start a fire for me in the steam room. I told her after shivering all day I was looking forward to that more than anything. My insides felt permanently frozen.





Another reason why I was thankful to be alone, I had the steam room to myself. No need to wear any clothes. I think I was in there for two hours absorbing the heat until the insides of my body felt almost back to normal. I thought about sleeping in there, but then considered that may not be safe. It was a soothing blissful evening made for ideal sleeping.

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Old 02-02-2013, 09:07 PM   #289
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Now that's an adventure! There are so many emotions we go through when traveling solo and it's very difficult to capture those in writing. Your writing style brings back all the emotions of my own trips and makes reading your ride report a very visceral experience. I am always happy to see a new post from you in my subscriptions.
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Old 02-02-2013, 09:59 PM   #290
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ruffntuff View Post

At this point I realized I was losing my mind and needed to stop.
No problem signing to yourself. Its ok to go *a little* crazy in your own head on a trip like this. Especially to distract you from how cold you are.
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Old 02-03-2013, 07:19 AM   #291
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Next time, maybe a heated jacket liner?

Epic RR, thanks for sharing your story.
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:23 AM   #292
GeneC
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I've said it before, but I need to sayit again...

You are an amazing writer! I read many RR for inspiration to do one "big one" myself one day, and many of them are written in the style "I did this, I did that...) but yours are reading so much more like a movie if you know what I mean. Just to be clear, I admire each and everyone that has the guts to go on a big journey and share it with the rest of us. Yours is just written in a very special way :-) thanks so much for sharing. -gene
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Old 02-03-2013, 10:27 PM   #293
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It's women like ruffntuff that ruined my career as a male chauvinist pig.




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Old 02-03-2013, 10:31 PM   #294
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thumperpilot View Post

It's women like ruffntuff that ruined my career as a male chauvinist pig.




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now that is funny
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Old 02-03-2013, 10:48 PM   #295
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Epic

Anna your writing is consistent and inspiring. I am privileged to 'ride along' on this rr and relive some of my trip.
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:23 AM   #296
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ruffntuff View Post
Day 22:
June 11, 2012
Valdez- Tok, AK: 279 miles

I rode hard again, this time for 90 miles before I started shivering so violently I had to concentrate on keeping my arms and hands relaxed to keep the bike steady. I started singing loudly my own song, belting it out to keep my breath somewhat regular and lungs exercised. I sang to the tune of “Singing in the Rain.”

I’m riding in the rain
Just riding in the rain
What a familiar feeling
I’m soaking wet again
I’ll ride down the road
With it splashing my toes
I’m riding, yes riding in the rain

At this point I realized I was losing my mind and needed to stop.
I'm really glad to read that I'm not the only one that does this!

Near the end of any long riding day, especially the cold ones I find myself just singing whatever comes to mind at the top of my lungs. Maybe its not so crazy, after all! Or maybe we're just both crazy.
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Old 02-05-2013, 08:52 AM   #297
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"Here comes the rain again" Eurythmics. That little ditty made the mental play list a few time on my ride to Alaska.. Nice RR
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Old 02-05-2013, 03:26 PM   #298
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Wow

"I wondered why it was I felt so comforted when alone and yet so lonely when surround by the rest of the world."

I would make that my sig line, but it is too profound for such a trivial use.

Thanks you for the RR.

Eric
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Old 02-08-2013, 06:36 AM   #299
ruffntuff OP
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Day 23: Tok, AK - Kluane Lake, YT

Day 23:
June 12, 2012
Tok, AK – Kluane Lake, YT: 254 miles

Regardless of my fatigue from riding on the brink of hypothermia, I still struggled to sleep. The thunderstorms pelted on the tin roof of the bunkhouse like boulders breaking ice. I was so thankful I was not in my tent getting bogged down by the rain. Eventually my ears habituated to the sound and allowed my mind to drift to sleep.

The cabin had thick curtains allowing it to stay pitch black from inside when light out. It allowed me to sleep in and I was shocked when I woke it was already 9:45. I had rarely woken past 6:00 with the bright night hours in Alaska.

I packed up in the rain, again, this time appreciative for the tarp awning over the “Emergency Suite” across from the bunkhouse. I was glad to leave the bike parked there overnight. At least I would start off with a dry seat even though I knew it would only last maybe ten minutes.

I headed back into Tok to fuel up and found a gift shop, the type I typically avoided, to procrastinate riding. “ALL ALASKA GIFTS.” Looked like a tourist trap to me but I was sad knowing I was leaving Alaska and went in to avoid the weather I would be riding in AGAIN. I knew technically I would ride in Alaska coming into Haines, however I was beginning to feel the end of my Alaskan adventure drawing too close to an end.

I managed to find some unique gifts, unlike the majority of crap I had seen cluttering other souvenir stores, gas stations, and visitor centers. I found some native hand-made jewelry from ivory and jade to send home for my sister in-law’s birthday and for father’s day. Thinking of my niece and nephew, I found some gold foil and coins to show them a bit of Alaska.

The people in the store were kind to package everything up for me, so all I had to do was take it to the post office. I then realized I didn’t have room to shove three boxes in my tail case, and there was no way I was going to try getting them into the side cases with everything strapped down on top. And, thanks to the precipitation, I couldn’t just strap the boxes to the top with everything else to melt in the rain.

The post office was just a block away, so I stuffed the boxes into my jacket- one under each armpit, and one between my you-know-whats. I couldn’t even zip my jacket fully so I relayed on the velcro to get me there.

Well, velcro doesn’t work in the rain. It popped right open and I had to keep my arms pinching my pits and squishing my you-know-whats together while hunching over my lap afraid I was going to lose a box in the middle of the road. You can imagine this made steering a bit challenging and awkward. Not to mention, the rain was coming inside my jacket dripping down onto the box between my you-know-whats and making a not-so-comfy soggy feeling against my skin.

I’ll never forget the look on the guys face at the post office when I ran in dripping wet and pulled three boxes out from under my jacket, two of which probably smelled like BO, and one that was questionably (in his eyes) wet from the rain or sweaty cleavage juice. “So much for trying to keep the boxes dry,” I smiled.

It was already noon by the time I left Tok. I passed Taylor Highway, the road I came in on from the Top for the World Highway, and after just 80 miles, I crossed the border into Yukon with a short but rewarding break in the rain.

I had managed so far to ride without my heated gloves and was just using my insulated ones with rubber covers. But the next 20 miles it continued raining off and on as the temperature began to drop. I waited until I couldn’t stand it anymore and my hands were beginning to not function. I finally stopped at Beaver Creek to warm up my hands gripping a hot coffee before digging out my Golden Gloves.

I wired myself and plugged in before take-off. After five minutes of riding my hands were starting to feel chilly. Another ten minutes and they were cold. I kept riding, waiting for the glorious heat to kick-in. My hands went numb. God damnit my fuse was out again!

The next 100 miles I was more than grumpy.

I stopped at Destruction Bay, needing a break from my mind and the weather. The two were festering together in a fractious battle destined for ruin.

I sat in the Talbot Arm Motel, ordered a coffee and soup, and tried to rationalize my unfortunate mood and fanatical brain.

#1. There’s nothing you can do to change the weather so get over it, accept it, and toughen up.
(But I’m going to spend every fucking day of this entire fucking trip in the God damn rain freezing my ass off.)

#2. You can fix the situation with the gloves, you have a spare fuse. Either unpack the bike and fix it or stop complaining.
(But I don’t want to unload everything in the rain to dig out my fuse and get everything wet.)

#3. You can either ride another three hours to Haines with cold hands in this miserable weather or you can camp in this miserable weather and stop riding now.
(It’s already 6:30 and I don’t want to ride without heated gloves and I’m going to freeze my ass off camping in the rain.)

I looked out the window and saw the rain had temporarily stopped. I tried to be optimistic for a moment but it didn’t change the dejected look on my face.

I studied the Milepost for campgrounds and decided if it still wasn’t raining when I got to one, I’d check it out and risk camping in unpredictable weather. But, if it started to rain again and I was on the bike, I was going to ride until it stopped or I got to Haines where there would be a hostel to dry out in. And, I was still refusing to unload the bike to dig out my spare fuse. In hindsight, that still makes no sense. I am a Taurus 100%.

In ten miles was Congdon Creek campground. It was on Kluane Lake, mostly tent sites, and had outhouses and water with a “kitchen shelter” and firepit (with wet firewood I’m sure). It was a $12 self-registration site. Sounded good.

In sixteen miles was Cottonwood RV Park and Campground. The words “RV Park” did not strike my interest or its description: “Wilderness Paradise.” Somehow I feel those two phrases should not be connected. It too was on the lake and even had a mini-golf course to entertain those rough country seekers. But wait, there’s more! This rustic place had free WiFi! Holy wilderness I have to go!!

In 75 miles was Kluane National Park with camping on Kathleen Lake 16 miles south of Haines Junction. This would put me just 130 miles from Haines in which case I may as well just ride all the way there and stay in a hostel.

I paid my bill and dragged my feet back to my bike layers in hand to begin redressing myself into an arctic astronaut. I hadn’t bothered stripping any of my bottom layers during my break from mental destruction, ironically at Destruction Bay, however I had stripped my top layer down to my Underarmor and Patagonia polyester layer.

Next went on my REI fleece followed by my REI windbreaker. Then went on my Marmot rain jacket and then, I could put on my fully insulated TourMaster jacket.

It was when I got to this layer I struggled getting my arms to fit all the way down. I was in the process of muscling my way through the sleeves by doing an assortment of bizarre arm stretches while jumping in an attempt to have gravity’s assistance when I noticed there was a man observing this unique gorilla dance from the truck right next to me.

I had to laugh when I caught his intrigued eye. “Next time, I’m getting a heated jacket,” is all I could say.

Well the clouds were still sparing me any further wetness, but it was still cold, probably in the 30’s. I decided to stick to my bull-headed plan and stop at the next campground if it wasn’t raining.

My earlier optimism from the lack of rain began to become infectious. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much but I thought I could see a little patch of blue hiding behind thinning clouds.

I was obviously distracted by this phenomenon in the sky when I passed Congdon Creek, the only campground that seemed somewhat convincing as a nice place to stay. It was .5 mile from the highway unseen (perfect for me) but I blew by the little sign with no time to stop.

The road was narrow following the lake and I search for a safe place to turn around but I already made it another five miles to Cottonwood’s Wilderness Paradise before I had the chance.

I thought of using their perfectly manicured and landscaped lawn as a gentle place to turn around leaving a pastoral tire track to give the place an earthier feel. However, the lack of rain had already influenced my fiery nature within and suspended me from temptation. I decided to give the place a look at least, since I was there.

I went into the office and spoke with a sweet woman working there that was chipper than I could match. It was just $16 and there was a hot shower house, coin laundry, potable water, and oh yes don’t forget mini-golf and WiFi.

I drove around to check out the sites and found the RV’s were segregated to their own side of the grounds far away from the tent sites (+). I drove around the tent sites and saw there was no one else there (++). I found a site that was surrounded by trees unseen from the road and backed up right next to the lake with a gorgeous view (+++). What do you know? This IS a wilderness paradise.

Attempting to repress excitement, I set up camp in what became one of the prettiest camping spots yet. I could hear the redundant laps of waves of water. I could see the mountains on the other side of the lake. I could feel the sun slowly seeping through the clouds and blue sky shyly peeking between them.









I took a walk down the edge of the lake along a beach of green, blue, and purple stone. It was windy and almost frigid cold. But it wasn’t raining, so I was happy. The bull within settled and I was grounded by the tranquil beauty of Kluane Lake.









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ruffntuff screwed with this post 02-08-2013 at 06:43 AM
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Old 02-08-2013, 07:31 AM   #300
dirtdreamer50
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"Cleavage Juice". Fantastic! Your narratives are more fascinating with every new post. Thanks so much for sharing.

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