Great Alaska Adventure: The Alaska I Expected
A gray, overcast day greeted us as we stepped outside to load the bikes this morning, a lugubrious beginning to a day that developed into the Alaska that I had expected but had not yet encountered. I had hoped that as we went south, beyond the Alaska range we would be able to turn around and see a clear view of Denali (aka Mt. McKinley) in all its vertical snow-covered glory. But it was not to be.
We didn’t have far to go today, only 250 miles to Anchorage, so we allowed ourselves a relatively late start (8:30 a.m.) in an effort to catch-up on the lost ZZZZZZZs that resulted from working on yesterday’s blog at midnight. We stopped for gas about 12 miles into the day’s ride and Marilyn realized she left her preferred drinking cup back at the hotel. Bad news was I had to go back and get it. Good news was I went back to get it by myself, which meant that I could, at last, put a little pace on the bike. For the first time since we left Orange Park, I pegged the speedometer at 30 mph over the speed limit and leaned into some nice curves along the Nenana River, a tributary that helps form the eastern boundary of Denali National Park. I think I may hide Marilyn’s cup every morning. I imposed the standard throttle restriction on myself the rest of the day and putted along at slightly under the state mandated speed limit like a good boy.
A few miles south of Cantwell, at about the spot I expected to begin to see a view of “the high one,” the temperature dropped from about mid-60s to mid 50s and we began to get rain. We quickly found a wide spot in the road and pulled in to suit up as the rain began to get heavier. We managed to don our Harley Davidson rain suits without too much trouble and took the time to put on heated jacket liners to replace the leathers. Marilyn had used hers on several occasions, but this was a first for me. What a treat! Thanks Brian for the loan. A liner of my own is in the cards when I get back from this trip. The rain would turn to mist, then clear, then back to mist, then rain again for about 100 miles before the precipitation finally stopped. But the skies stayed gray and overcast the rest of the day and, after temperatures in the 90s two days ago in Fairbanks, we never saw the 60s again after 10 a.m. today.
But I was’t surprised or disappointed. I had heard and read that the southern part of central Alaska is like this frequently in the summer and that travelers to Alaska should therefore appreciate the blue sky, 70-degree days all the more. I know they’re lurking nearby and expect to enjoy them some of the time we are on the Kenai.
Since I didn’t have a chance to enjoy the wonders of Denali on a clear day, we took advantage of the final break in the rain to back track 15 miles on the Talkeetna Spur. Talkeetna is both a tourist town and the take-off point for flights to the glacier where many of the Denali climbs begin. I would like to have had time to spend an hour or two in the town just walking around, but I needed to get to Anchorage by six because I wanted to pick up the headset parts for Marilyn’s helmet that had been shipped by J&M Audio to Alaska Leathers. I made the pick up in time and managed to replace the wires and cords I needed to resume bike-to-bike communication tomorrow. There still seems to be a buzz during transmission, but I will try to work on that in the next day or two.
While in Talkeetna, we dined at the all-organic Flying Squirrel Cafe and Bakery. Good sandwiches on freshly baked bread, chili made with organic beef, and a slice of chocolate peanut pie, naturally made with organic peanut butter. Good coffee and really nice people. I like finding those kinds of unique eateries.
Other than the cold and rain, which, while uncomfortable, wasn’t too bad since we were properly prepared for both, the ride was good except for the obligatory muddy, seven-mile stretch of road construction, punctuated by several ominous “Especially Dangerous for Motorcycles” signs. Slid around a little in the mud but kept the bikes moving and upright. The two hours I spent two days ago cleaning the bikes seems pointless. I think the only clean motorcycles in Alaska must be in garages or on showroom floors.
I saw three moose today (Marilyn saw two of them), including one that was trotting along the side of the road, obviously wondering if that instant would be a propitious time to make a 90 degree turn onto the asphalt trail being used by two rumbling interlopers. Fortunately, she decided to maintain her straight-ahead course until after we passed. Did you know that 700-800 moose are killed in Alaska each year by cars. The total number of moose/vehicle collisions is of course, much higher. Moose antlers are impressive, especially when mounted on a wall above a fireplace, but as a whole I think moose are the ugliest ungulates in the forest.
Tomorrow we head for Seward for the first of four days on the Kenai Peninsula. It looks like the rains will be limited in Seward over the weekend, and we’re hoping to go on a glacier cruise in the Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound. Looking forward to an active next four days but only limited riding.