Great Alaska Adventure: We Made It!
Twenty-seven days ago, Marilyn and I set out for Key West on Day One of our Great Alaska Adventure. Today, grime-spattered but determined, we rolled in to Fairbanks. Our journey is about half done. The trip odometer on the Ultra Classic shows 6,122 miles. We should have slightly more miles on the return trip since we’re going to explore parts of Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula and the Denali National Park as well as taking a longer return route along the western side of the Canadian Rockies.
In the process of reaching Fairbanks, we also covered the entire Alaska Highway, an adventure in itself as rough roads, construction and extensive sections under repair make the ride dirty, dusty, muddy, bumpy, rocky, slippery and dopey. Forget the last one. That’s either one of the Seven Dwarfs or the ride planner for this Great Adventure.
We woke up this morning to the smell of smoke in the air and suspected it was from fires we had seen in the distance yesterday. It was. As we closed in on the Canada/U.S. border, a brown haze filtered the distant mountains and spread through the valleys below. I’m not sure how serious the fires are (I suppose this time of year they’re all serious) but they didn’t affect our ride except for obscuring our gorgeous mountain views until after we crossed the border and left the land of loonies and toonies and liters and kilometers.
The border crossing was uneventful, except when the sharp-eyed young border agent noted that neither of the elder persons in the threesome had signed our passports and that they were, therefore, not valid. Fending off visions of a federal conviction and hard time at Leavenworth, I complimented him on his perspicacity for observing what five previous agents at five previous border crossings had missed. My moll and I each signed our signature-naked documents and were quickly on our way safely on U. S. soil with a friendly wave from the observant officer.
We had been told the Alaska section of the Namesake Highway was much better than the previous several 500 miles or so had been, and the reports–much to my delight–were right. The Alaska section is not without its gravelly repairs and dusty construction and the occasional bike-launching frost heave, but it was a welcome improvement from the Canadian section. The final 20 miles of road in Canada from near Beaver Creek to the border was under serious repair by a veritable army of orange-vested construction thugs and we spent nearly 30 minutes following a pilot car through a construction battlefield. When others of you join me for my next Alaska ride, perhaps your experience may not be as fraught with road gremlins as ours has been, thanks to the efforts of the hard-working road crews. Huzzah for the Road Crews.
Friends had warned us of the voracious insect population in the northern climes and special friends had even provided a trap and a knife with which to defend ourselves in the event we encountered DEET resistant critters. We have been pestered by the pests for the last week or so, but managed to hold our own and escape with only a few crimson welts and a modicum of scratching. I’m the least bothered of our troupe. I think I found something better than DEET. Mr. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Chigger Potion. Anyway, attached is a picture of a couple Giganticus Mosquitocus.
As I write this, it’s 80 degrees in Orange Park and 84 in Fairbanks at 9 p.m. That’s down from a high in the low 90s. Sure glad I brought the heated gloves and jacket liners for Marilyn and me. The trip’s not over and I may still get a chance to try Brian’s loaners out. Doesn’t seem right to go to Alaska and suffer under a heat wave. But I’ll take that over rain any day.
Tomorrow Hanna wings her way to cheese country and Marilyn and I head for Denali National Park and Mt. McKinely. One final note for today. After I checked in to our two-star hotel, I walked across the street to The Outpost, the northernmost Harley-Davidson store in the U.S. and bought a spotlight to replace the one destroyed by Chip of the Seal clan. The gravel now has a shiny new target.