Friday, July 3, 2009

AK '09 - Day 13

It's amazing the difference a day can make. This morning I woke up even before the alarm went off despite getting to bed at midnight. It was a new day and it would be a special day. I'd be riding into the 49th state of the union. Just mentioning riding to Alaska around fellow motorcyclists brings looks of envy. And today I would be doing it instead of talking about it.

Since the cafe didn't open until 6 I had a little time on my side. The alarm went off at 5 and we all started getting up. I jumped back on the computer to see what the aftermath of the previous day was. Fortunately it was very little. Then I dressed and started carrying stuff out before breakfast. The cafe opened just at 6 and we were the first ones in, right behind the waitress. Breakfast was good and service was pleasant. Afterwards we paid our bills and checked out of the motel.

Despite my best efforts I was the slow one today. It seemed every time we would be ready to go I was the last one on the bike, the last one to start the bike and the last one to put it in gear. That feeling makes you feel like you are constantly trying to catch up during the day. None the less, it was a really great day.

So after filling up the bikes, we get on the Alaska Highway at 6:45am. Keep in mind it's day light at least 20 hours a day up here and the dark hours are really just dim hours. The day's destination was Tok, Alaska, total distance 384 miles. We stopped along the road for a few "nature" breaks. We even stopped for a photo of a bald eagle sitting in the top of a tree. My camera just didn't have a good enough optical lens but I think John got the picture I wanted.

When we got to Kluane Lake we were stopped for road construction. They were rebuilding a bridge and had traffic down to 1 lane with a pilot truck. While waiting around for our turn, Fred was asking people about the Fried Cinamon rolls in Destruction Bay. No one knew anything about these precious gems, not even the locals. Finally it was our turn and we all took off. Except for Dick. His Stallion was jammed into gear and he couldn't take off. So while we were being led away by the pilot truck, he was stuck trying to get his bike into gear. He eventually solved the problem and came around during the next cycle. Meantime we were waiting at a scenic view, trying to decide if he was coming. Finally he showed up and we took off. The imediate destination was Destruction Bay and a fried cinamon roll.

Most of the road to Destruction Bay was gravel, many spots the gravel was packed but in some spots it wasn't. We pull into Destruction Bay and decide to go ahead and fuel up to be on the safe side. The clowns behind the register were difficult to deal with. You had to pre-pay, you couldn't use the pump of the guy before you, and don't you dare put down your card for both you and one of your friends. It was really difficult for them to comprehend. And worse, they didn't know anything about a Fried Cinamon Roll.

Luckily we had cellular service so once everyone got their gas, Fred was on the phone with Gary to find out where the heck the cinamon roll was. We had found the place, so Fred went in to investigate while we were outside talking to other riders who had stopped. One rider had come up to Alaska in 1973 on a single cylinder Yamaha and was coming up this time with his son. That was pretty cool.

Fred found the sought after cinamon rolls but they weren't fried, they were grilled. And they didn't quite live up to the reputation we had heard from a few other close riding buddies but they will warrant a stop on the way home. There were 2 unexpected perks to the restaurant in Destruction Bay. First they had real brewed iced tea. And second they had free Wi-Fi for guests. It was entertaining to see us all with our laptops out, working on the Internet while eating our cinamon rolls and drinking our tea. Finally, Fred pointed out that we had to keep moving if we wanted to reach Tok. So we packed up the netbooks and got on the bikes. Again, I was the last one ready to go.

I almost forgot. Earlier in the morning we stopped at a gas station for a break, and when we did I had cell service. So while Fred was booking our room for tonight and their room for the following 2 nights I called Prudhoe Bay Inn and booked my room for july 4th. Done! I'll be celebrating July 4th plus my Ultimate Coast to Coast ride in Deadhorse, Alaska. Sweet! I'm sure the pain of the $150/night room will quickly diminsh as I reflact back on this trip.

So after Destruction Bay, the road really worsened. There was more unattended construction where they had just laid gravel over oil and let the traffic compact it. That's fine, unless you are on a motorcycle. There were some patches where the gravel was really lose and thick. In total we probably rode on more than 50 miles of gravel over the 384 mile trip. I was quite happy I had changed over to knobbies last night.

When we got to Alaska we pulled over for the "Welcome to Alaska" sign and then headed to Customs. We all crossed without issue, although I was a little disappointed they didn't have a large station considering the focal point of that road for commerce.

After the border crossing we stopped at the Border Crossing Lodge for fuel. No one except me wanted to chance it. I knew I had plenty of fuel. While we were there we had some lunch. It was refreshing to see waitresses from Oklahoma waiting on us. They were college girls from OSU up for the summer. They were friendly, polite and quick to get the food out. A big difference from the Canadian wait staff we'd been enduring. Thank goodness we were on US soil again.

After lunch we visited with a few riders heading south and then mounted up. Again I was dragging behind because I wanted to use the restroom but some fool was in there composing the next great work of literary art or something. I got tired of waiting after 5 minutes so I told Fred I'd just catch up with them. Then I took off and as luck would have it there was a visitor center to a national refuge just up the road a few miles. So I visited the restroom and then got my park passport stamped too. Great!

I resumed my route toward Tok, content that I probably wouldn't catch them until I got to the motel. I stopped at a few scenic overlooks and just enjoyed the ride. Finally I ended up catching the guys at a scenic overlook and we rode into Tok together. Once we got checked in I headed out for fuel so I wouldn't have to worry about it in the morning.

Tomorrow is my big day. I resume my solo trip toward Deadhorse and if all goes well I'll be there tomorrow night. If the weather works against me I don't know where I'll end up, but I'm going to Deadhorse. There won't be any internet in Deadhorse so I won't be able to post an entry tomorrow night but I'll definitely write one before I go to bed and then upload it on Sunday when I get back to Fairbanks.

Happy 4th of July! Hopefully from the top of the world.

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