Day 13 – Wednesday, June 13 – Tok to Anchorage
I stayed overnight in Tok, the first town of any size in Alaska. I had a good conversation with the young man at the restaurant the next morning. He works at the motel in the summers. Last year he had no work in the winter, but this year he hopes to do maintenance for the school to avoid boredom. They had two weeks of -40 degree weather last year, he told me. When it gets that cold it’s optional for kids to go to school. He told me only during “extreme cold” – minus 70 or below – are schools closed.
I stopped for gas at Gakona, in the Copper River valley, on the edge of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. This is where the famous Alaska Red Salmon come from. I may stop by on my way back home for a day of fishing.
Day 14 – Thursday, June 14 – Anchorage
I met up with my good friends Paul and Linda Wilson in Anchorage. They shipped their bike to Great Falls, Montana, and rode it up from there. We had a good time comparing notes of our rides, checking out the gear at Alaska Leather, and having dinner. I had new tires put on my bike today and got the oil changed. Got a great haircut at the salon across the street from the bike shop. The young lady who did my hair was hoping to get a new Harley Sportster – we had fun talking bikes.
Linda will fly out Sunday for a meeting, and Paul will ride by himself all the way back to Bremen, Maine. He’s figuring about 10 days.
Day 15 – Friday, June 15 – Anchorage to Homer
I left this morning for Homer, at the southwestern corner of the Kenai Peninsula. Homer considers itself the Halibut fishing capitol of the world. The narrow strip of land extending into Kachemak Bay is the Homer Spit. The Kenai Mountains are in the background, part of a range of volcanoes that extend 2000 miles southwest to form the Aleutian Islands.
Day 16 – Saturday, June 16 – Homer to Girdwood
In the way back from Homer I stopped at Anchor Point, the most westerly highway point in North America.
Anchor Point was a nice complement to our visit to Cape Fear, Newfoundland (above), last summer, which is the eastern most point in North America.
The Alaska Railroad runs from Fairbanks through Girdwood to Whittier. This is the train Elaine took on her tour with Princess Cruises.
I stayed overnight with Beth Sirles in Girdwood, a marvelous little ski resort with great restaurants and great views, Beth is a good friend of ours from our days in Milwaukee when Beth and I were both at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Day 17 – Sunday, June 17 – Girdwood to Talkeetna
Today was the first day of my trip that I had no particular schedule to meet, so I had to plan where to go next. Based on the advice of several local BMW riders I happened on to at the gas station in Girdwood, I decided to go north through Anchorage to Denali Park and Fairbanks, then south on the Richardson Highway to Valdez, then head home via a stop at Skagway.
My butt has been getting a little tender, what with all the miles, so I stopped at Alaska Leather on my way back through Anchorage to get a Butt Pad – a seat cushion made from lamb’s wool.
Barb is the owner of Alaska Leather – she keeps the store open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and the place was buzzing today! I picked out the color I wanted for my Butt Pad and she cut it out and sewed on the attaching straps. The pad did a good job today. I’ll have to see how it does on longer rides.
On my way up the Parks Highway to Talkeetna I saw the cutoff for Hatcher Pass, so I took it. The road was paved for 20 miles, and then gravel for 19. As you can see there were beautiful views along the way, including this clear mountain stream fed by the snows above.
The sign at the beginning of road said the pass was closed. Sure enough, it was. You can see in the background here that the road up to the pass is still snow covered. Later I read in my guide that the pass is usually snowed in until late June or early July. The road was pretty rough in places – washboards, big rocks, potholes – but I stayed with it and built up my confidence for the Haul Road up to the Arctic Circle in a few days.
These four guys stayed in the room next to me in Talkeetna tonight. They are all from Russia and had just come back from climbing Mt. McKinley. Their goal is to do the seven summits – the tallest peaks in each of the seven continents – by 2011. They have 3 or 4 left to do, including Mt. Everest, the most difficult. Mt. McKinley takes about three weeks to climb, and only about half who attempt it make the summit. Weather is almost always the determining factor.