Alaska was everything I hoped for, and more.|
(click on picture for more)
Unbound '06 was "Alaska" -- something I've always wanted to do. Probably the best way to summarize the Alaska trip is by the numbers...
1737 -- Total miles
600+ -- Miles in rain/sleet between 38 and 46 degrees
480 -- The longest day's ride because the highway was washed-out and we had to make a 120 mi. detour
250 -- Number of miles on longest day in rain/sleet
50 -- Total number of miles above 70 degrees
47 -- Number of miles "under construction" (gravel road) in one day in the rain; then dust; then "tar and feathers"?!
46 -- The temperature on the bank thermometer at our first gas stop on Day #1
12 -- Number of Bald Eagles seen
7 -- Number of Moose seen
3 -- Number of Bears (live) seen. Many other stuffed ones could be found in hotel lobbies.
2 -- Number of riders -- Thanks for joining me Tim!
1 -- Number of Humpback Whales, Mountain Goats and Caribou seen
0 -- Number of mosquito bites (without bug repellant too)
I'll admit the weather could have been a little nicer, but it was a great trip anyway. Late June should have been mild and dry but we hit one of the coldest and wettest June's they'd had in quite a while. The cool weather, however, probably helped keep the legendary mosquitoes away. There were enough breaks in the weather to see almost everything we came to see -- even Mt. McKinley on our second attempt (the first attempt was socked-in with rain and low clouds).
Here's a look at the ride day-by-day:
Day 1 -- 375 miles from Anchorage to Fairbanks. The day started wet and stayed wet for the first 250 miles. The low clouds and rain obscured most of the scenery. Once we cleared the Denali Park area, the weather cleared and it was a nice ride to Fairbanks, but most of the scenery was behind us in the clouds. We stayed at a cool log-constructed lodge outside of Fairbanks where we were welcomed with a "take your boots off inside the lodge" and "what kind of beer can I get you?" from the owner Debbie who referred to herself as the "the Big Kahuna". We found out she was the "normal" one after we met her husband Dave the next morning at breakfast who remarked -- "oh, you're the 'scooter-trash' stayin' with us." He was an old gold-prospector who entertained us with stories of gold-mining, staking claims and his mistrust of the "white man" (the Federal Govt.) -- even though he looked "white" to me...
Day 2 -- was supposed to be 360 miles from Fairbanks to Valdez. The day started out dry with a stop in the town of North Pole, just south of Fairbanks for a photo-op. Things went downhill about 100 miles into the trip when the road was washed out due to heavy rain that morning. So, we had to take a 120 mile detour via Tok (what a Godforsaken crossroad that place is) in the rain. We thought we were home-free when we got to Tok but our hopes vanished soon when we saw a road sign that said "ROAD CONSTRUCTION NEXT 47 MILES"... Handling a fully loaded 900 pound motorcycle on loose gravel and mud for 47 miles in the rain, then sleet, then dust was punctuated by a comment from Tim when he exclaimed -- "What's next, tar & feathers?!". You couldn't help but laugh! We finally reached the town of Glennallen late in the afternoon with 365 miles on the trip odometer and we still had 115 to go to reach Valdez. My only thoughts were -- "thank God is stays light here late!" Then as we headed south towards Valdez on our last leg, the Sun came out and we were treated to some of the nicest scenery and motorcycle roads I've ever been on. The road and the scenery just kept getter better and better and better. Just as pretty as the ride into Valdez, was the harbor town of Valdez itself. The hotel we stayed at was located right on the water with a bar that overlooked the harbor, where we parked ourselves and didn't move until we had rewarded ourselves amply for making it through the day...
Day 3 -- 300 miles from Valdez back to Anchorage. One of the best parts of Day 3 was simply the ride out of Valdez back to Glennallen over Thompson pass. The weather was dry and crisp and the ride along the Glenn Highway was scenic and varied. It was also about Day 3 we began to notice that the locals apparently used road signs for target practice. I don't think I saw a road sign in Alaska that didn't have a bullet hole in it -- even in populated areas!
Day 4 -- 222 miles from Anchorage to Homer. The weather looked a little threatening as we made our way south along the shore of the Cook Inlet known as Turnagain Sound to the Kenai Peninsula. We got a little wet, but the scenery was spectacular through the breaks in the weather. Even though Alaska remains very untamed, a latte or espresso could usually be found at the local general store to warm you up. And as much as I like Starbucks, thank God they haven't ventured outside of Anchorage or Fairbanks. That would have just ruined the rustic setting. We arrived in Homer with good weather and plenty of time to enjoy some beers on a deck overlooking Halibut Cove, where we watched Bald Eagles soar while Dave and Tim traded submarine stories.
Day 5 -- 170 miles from Homer to Seward. Well, the day started ugly with the first 70+ miles in drenching rain around 42 degrees, but by noon the weather cleared. That's when Tim departed and headed back to Anchorage while Dave and I continued on to the little seaport of Seward. While in Seward we took a boat ride of Resolution Bay where we saw a humpback whale lunge-feeding (where he comes out of the water like a submarine during an emergency breach). Unfortunately, the whale was quicker than the photographer.
Day 6 -- 125 miles from Seward to Anchorage. The weather was spectacular as we retraced part of our route from Day 4 back to Anchorage -- this time with dry pavement and mostly clear skies.
A special thanks to brother
Dave for driving the Unbound "Mule"
and for taking most of the pictures worth posting...