Day 49 – Monday August 19th
It was a rainy morning in Haines Junction in the Yukon Territory. It was also Discovery Day– Yukon’s big holiday. So many people traveling in RVs!
A thought struck me today, that sin could be defined as doing bad and unfavorable things to ourselves. God wants only good things for us, so stepping out of His will brings us only hurt, even if we’re numbed to it and don’t realize. Why on earth would we want to do that?
I ended up in Lead Dog Hostel in Whitehorse in the evening. A private room since all the dorm rooms were so tiny and cramped. Would have been a struggle to find anywhere to put my stuff. Everyone congregated in the common room in the evening and we all chatted around. There were four German people in the room, not traveling together. If there are a lot of RVs, there’s a matching number of Germans in this part of the country. There was an older gentleman who didn’t fit in with the young people, and he was trying to so hard to be a part of the conversation. I began to feel quite sympathetic towards him. He’s human too after all and I’m sure has great things to offer. He should be included, not snubbed.
Only a 93 mile ride today and I rode along at 55mph the whole way. I took it really slowly and just enjoyed the day, besides it being very cold.
I visited the Old Log Church in Whitehorse and was taken aback by the commitment of the clergy in the 1800’s. Rev. Isaac Campbell, a young man in his twenties, just graduated from seminary in Toronto, came out to the Yukon to set up a church along with other missionaries. They came on foot, by oxcart, traveling thousands of miles often through the snow. Poor Rev. Campbell and his companion are now famed partly for running out of food on the journey and surviving by eating their sealskin boots, which they toasted over the fire. There was no reference to how they continued the journey without them. Perhaps they had a spare pair.
I saw a lone wolf on the side of the road today. He looked at me. I looked at him. Right in the eyes.
Day 50 – Tuesday August 20th
After an evening of conversation about how wonderful Dawson City is I considered heading south per my plan, or throwing the plan out of the window and heading northward towards Dawson City. Because I saved two days not camping out in the Arctic Circle, I had time to go. I woke in the morning and made a spur of the moment decision to go to Dawson City. A long 331 miles up the Klondike Highway, with very limited fueling spots and no cell service for most of the way.
It was a beautiful day to Pelling Crossing. Fox lake was stunning– clear and turquoise. I met some Scottish people from Dundee at the lake and we chatted for a while.
There was kilometers of terrible gravel part of the way up. Perhaps 14 kilometers of gravel, deep gravel in some sections. It’s like riding on marbles. Cars can handle it pretty wel with four wheels, but two wheels don’t really know what to do and they start “squirrelling.” The handlebars wobble and you dare not turn them. I prayed that the journey to Dawson City would be worth it. I prayed for joy. I felt like I needed some. And I got it!
Dawson City is a step back in time to the gold rush era. All of the buildings and streets are of the 1800’s. It’s very easy to imagine life here over one hundred years ago. Stayed in a great hotel cheaply– the El Dorado. The town is like the Yukon’s Key West– old, with charm, authentic, and up for a good party (which I avoided). I did not drink the famed Sourtoe Cocktail, which includes a real human mummified toe. Dawson City was worth the journey and I was glad I had a day or so to soak it in without having to rush off somewhere else.
Day 51 – Wednesday August 21st
The Top of the World Highway. Amazing! So good to be alive! Tore up and down the dirt roads. I never thought I would make it. It was a dream to ride the road and I got the best of it on a beautiful day. Stunning scenery. Rolling mountains. And a couple of rainbows!
I stopped after 39 miles along the road– almost on the edge of the Alaskan border. I didn’t want to go through customs etc again. I stopped on a bend with a view of an amazing half rainbow. I’ve never seen rainbows like I have seen up here. They tend not to be full arches, they tend to be like defracted light coming out of a prism. Very Pink Floyd.
I prayed. Gave thanks. This was the apex of the journey. There would be no more going north from this point onward. This was the turning point. I asked God for a certain something, and I’ll keep that to myself.
I walked leisurely around Dawson. Went to Jack London’s cabin. Photographed 10-year old churches. I took my time. Well, worth the 600 miles out of my way to come to Dawson City.
Day 52 – Thursday August 22nd
The drive back from Dawson City to Whitehorse. I’m noticing that the fireweed is changing from pink flowers to dandelion fluff. It the sign that summer is ending. You can feel the drop in daily temperature. The fireweed knows. Summer is done. I’m beginning to be able to judge what I can expect temperature-wise from the fireweed. Fluff = colder weather is here to stay. Flowers = summer is still storming along.
The lady in the Dawson City Dempster Highway Information Centre said that there’s snow up the Dempster HIghway at Old Crow. It’s come early they say. That’s not too far away, perhaps 100 miles north. I feel like I have pushed my timing to the limit, the cusp of autumn/winter. There’s not much space between the two seasons. Snow could potentially come any day. I need to keep heading south as quickly as I can. I feel as if I need to outrun winter.
As I rode through miles and miles of fir trees my thoughts turned to God– He has built an amazing self-sufficient machine. God built a machine! The perfect machine. The planet fuels itself, regenerates, revolves (materials). Look at the science of it! You cannot evolve a self-sufficient, self-sustaining machine. It’s impossible. It’s brilliant!
Construction crews were paving sections from Dawson south. I ended up with another muddy bike. I need a heavy section of rain and sunshine to clean the bike!
The rattling of the dirt road on the Top Of The World Highway had loosened and lost a bolt on the back rack of the bike– the rack that holds the fuel tank, my sleeping bag, air mattress and pillow. I had to get bolts for the back rack this morning. I bought 4 spares and glued them in with bolt adhesive. The back rack has been a big worry since Fairbanks. I need to carry 20lbs of extra fuel back there and the rack is not designed for it. I’m constantly checking it and concerned that it’s going to snap off.
The ride back to Whitehorse was uneventful. I wore as many layers as I could including balaclava and two pairs of gloves. Sun showers on the way down. About 30 miles out of Whitehorse the sky stopped being cloudy and changed to bright blue skies, and the temperature rose. I cheered. I went back to the Lead Dog Hostel.
Received an email from MSPC about UrbanPromise that cheered me up as well, and an email from work saying that I should probably call. It’s time to start thinking about my career when I return from the trip. What’s next?
Day 53 – Friday August 23rd
Oh my gosh, cold! I rode from Whitehorse to Watson Lake. I had to keep stopping to warm up. The day was overcast. It makes a big difference in the temperature. You may be fine standing around but when you ride at 70 mph for 2 hours, the wind chill and time drop the temperature by quite a few degrees. Probably at least 10 degrees or so.
I rode through Teslin– full of First Nation peoples. Up here you really do feel like you’re in native lands. This is their home. They are the majority.
Cell service is back for the most part. Cell service = Civilization. Love it. Civilization = no extra gas or having to ask where’s the next fill up. I broke my sunglasses getting off the bike at a gas station and the lady there (full service fueling up here) laughed along with me as I stood there with two separate parts, a lens in each hand.
In Watson Lake I reached a sightseeing stop I’d been looking forward to and didn’t want to miss– the Sign Post Forest. 75,817 signs! All started by a man who was missing home and who put up a sign from his home. And someone thought it was a good idea and put up another. And then another, and another, until there are now 75,000 signs from all over the world. While I was there a man pulled up in a minivan, pulled a stepladder, sign, and drill from the back and went off to post it somewhere. There’s now 75,818 signs.
I stayed with Couch Surfing hosts Anell and Jorge. I was their first couch surfing experience. They were super sweet. They came from Mexico for a better life. Nothing for them in Mexico City. Young, in their 20’s and obviously don’t have a lot of material possessions. Anell was trying to do her first ever jigsaw. I really hope they are blessed and prayed for them and their house. Wrote them a great reference and hope it brings them great experiences.
Day 54 – Saturday August 24th
The cold had been a lot to bear on the bike. I prayed for warmer weather and thank goodness it arrived.
On the way Watson Lake to Fort Nelson today. On the way down I stopped at Liard Hot Springs. Provided changing rooms allowed me to get out of all the motorcycle gear and enjoy the waters. Water temperature was 110°F and hotter. In some places in felt like it was burning. It felt therapeutic. Anell and Jorge had shown me photos of the hot springs in the winter with the snow on the trees. It looked mystical, magical, from another world.
As I left the Hot Springs I filled up with gas across the road, and as I did there was a young black bear on the other side of the road. I knew enough about it’s size to know that it was probably the equivalent of a teenager, and there was probably a wary mother bear around somewhere close by. The gas station attendant said the same and thought that the other tourists, out of their RVs, trying to get a photo was a pretty stupid idea. He said, “those things’ll rip you apart given the chance, someone should call the ranger.”
There was a big flashing warning sign above the road: “Caution: Bison On Highway for next 200km.” And the lady in the Contact Creek gas station told me to go slowly. “Why?” I asked. “Because there’s a herd of bison around here and they’ll be all over the road.”
The road from Liard to Fort Nelson was amazing. Rugged mountains, emerald rivers, a black bear, mountain sheep, and a road like a roller coaster. One of the best drives ever. Went on for at least 150 miles.
A little rain as I came into Fort Nelson. There were farm fields and I figured its been a month since I saw anything like that, before getting on the ferry in Prince Rupert. The weather tomorrow is forecast for in the 40’s. I was concerned and not looking forward to it.
Day 55 – Sunday August 25th
Sure enough, the temperature was in the 40s and it had been raining all night, and was continuing to rain. I was a little perturbed by this. I had ridden in the coldest and wettest weather from Anchorage towards Fairbanks with Chase and both of us were suffering. It was pretty miserable. But today was even colder. The coldest it’s been anywhere. And raining too. I honestly didn’t know if I could ride in those temperatures. Remembering that with the wind chill on the bike, I would be experiencing temperatures that felt 10 degrees cooler– somewhere close to freezing.
But it was Sunday. I checked out of the motel. And went to a church I had Googled– St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church, at the 11:30 service. The congregation were all women, about 10 or so. The lay minister was Mark, very quietly spoken. They all greeted me warmly. They all knew each other. I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb! St. Mary Magdelene– a small but living church. I was the only man in the pews.
It was a traditional service, similar to Presbyterian. In the announcements I told them what I was doing and collected two dreams from ladies there. I spoke to one of them, Stephanie for a while. She has a disabled son. He’s now walking steps. They said he he never would. She took him to California, the church there said he was going to be important in God’s work. She’s now been told this 3 times by different people in different churches in different cities, and that her son will be completely healed. She glows with the Holy Spirit.
Stephanie invited me for stew with her husband and family at her house. It was very appealing on such a cold and wet day. So wet the bike was making a squealing noise I’d never heard before. Bonnie does not like the very cold, apparently. Sadly, I felt I had to turn Stephanie down. I want to remain on schedule for UrbanPromise Toronto.
I left Fort Nelson with as many layers on as I could get. It was very cold. As I rode through wet fog I had to keep taking my hands of the handlebars and putting them (and my feet) on the engine block to warm up. To warm up my right hand I took my hand off the throttle and coasted in neutral as far as I could, before I’d have to take my right hand off the engine, put it back on the throttle to keep going. Thank goodness there were no other cars at all– it meant I could coast almost to a stop before having to take my right hand off the engine. I needed every second to thaw out my finger tips.
I hit a huge bump and bent the back rack with the gas tank on it. Straightened it back out at a gas station by pulling it up again as hard as I dared without breaking it off. When I got to Fort St. John I emptied the fuel container into the bike’s tank to lighten the load on the rack. I won’t fill the container up now unless I have too. I shall have to be very careful not to run out of fuel.
I stayed in Dawson Creek, Yukon. I’m feeling overwhelmed and tired by the trip now, somewhat. Kinda want it to end. I’ve already thought that I won’t do another trip on a bike like this. This is the last one with Bonnie. Maybe a car for the next trip and not so long. Maybe with a companion and not alone.
Day 37 – Monday August 5th
Is it August 5th already? Contrarily, “Day 37” out of 120 days seems like I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the journey. “August 5th” feels like I am well into it. Before I know it I will have completed Alaska and I will be heading south again. It feels close and just around the corner.
I arose at 7:30am and began to get ready to leave Seth Krasnow’s house in Ketchikan, Alaska. I had to be at the ferry terminal by 9:15am. Departure time: 11:15am. I packed up. There was a surprise for both Seth and I– a girl named Leah sleeping on the back patio in a sleeping bag! She was another couch surfer who had arrived earlier than Seth was expecting. I packed up as quickly as I could so that Leah could get into the room I was vacating. Seth, Leah and I talked for a while, but mostly I packed my bags as quickly as I could. I’m always concerned that I’ll leave something behind when I pack up quickly. But I always check around at least 3 times before I finally leave a place.
Leah is going up to Anchorage on another ferry. She will arrive there on Wednesday. I will arrive there on Thursday even though I am leaving before her. We exchanged cell phone numbers so that we could get in contact in Anchorage if neither of us have a place to stay. (Update: both of us found separate places and we never did get in contact again.) Leah is a sign language interpreter who lives in Terrace, BC, one of the towns I had passed through on my way to Prince Rupert. She is hoping to get a contract in Anchorage. Until she does get a contract she is traveling. I left Seth and Leah and headed to Safeway to pick up as many supplies as I could for the ferry. It’s expensive to eat on the ferry and everyone buys as many supplies as they can carry and bring them onboard.
I arrived at the terminal at 9:30am. Not many people around. It was a grey day with misty rain coming down. Good job I went flying to see the bears yesterday because Seth reckons that it might not have happened today with the weather like it was this morning. I was on the ferry by 11am and the bike had been strapped securely down to the deck. It was wet and slippery on the car deck. I lifted luggage off the bike and carried the heavy weight, struggling to carry it up to the Purser’s Office to check in to get my cabin. Cabin 15C on the boat deck, forward. A long corridor walk but at least there wasn’t more flights of stairs to go up. I offloaded into my cabin and walked the ship to get oriented. So glad I have a cabin with a bed. I’m going to be on here for almost 3 days. There are others sleeping on the deck under the solarium heat lamps, on the deck chairs, but I enjoy my privacy and a place I can be quiet, relax, sleep and change clothes without the world watching me.
I felt alone in my cabin. Cut off from the world. I went to the observation deck to be around people. I have sat writing this journal for the last two hours. It takes a while. There will be plenty of time for reading, thinking and time for praying. I would imagine that I will be very ready to get off after 3 days on this boat.
The day was bright sunshine– remarkable. We all spotted a humpback whale splashing his/her fin against the water. I wondered what behavior pattern this was. There were several whales sighted but my head was buried in my computer. It’s a fine balance between looking out of the window and combatting boredom by working.
The thing about Alaska is that everyone seems to be on a journey from somewhere. If I were to go around the ship and ask people their stories, mine would just be a run of the mill story, I am sure. Everyone has come a long way from somewhere.
Some niggling thoughts about my journey so far… I haven’t had the time to explore in a relaxed manner as I had hoped. I’m always looking out for the bike and my belongings strapped to it. If I go to a lake and want to go for a swim I can’t because everything is packed up on the bike and would require a while to unpack. Or, I’m not prepared to go through all the work and time it would require. There is nothing that happens quickly on this journey.
My prayers right now are: “Lord, is this trip a big mistake?”, “What on earth am I doing?”, “Please give me wisdom.” Sometimes you wonder about what you are doing, no matter what kind of conviction and affirmation you had in the beginning. Completing dreams doesn’t come easy. There are moments of wavering. And I want to be doing a better job of raising funds and awareness, of collecting dreams, blogging and perhaps making profound statements. But sometimes the details of daily living on the road overtake all that and I take moments like these to re-focus myself.
Recently I have been reading Paul’s account in the Bible in Acts– him setting sail, being under arrest, and being taken to Caesar. His account of his journey seems much like my own blog in it’s tone and it’s wording– giving us details of the journey itself. But then you start reading Romans and Paul is being directed by the Holy Spirit and speaks of things unseen– a revealing of God. Romans is quite different than the details of his journey recounted in Acts. It makes me consider the content of this blog.
Later in the evening (much later because it’s getting dark around 10pm now) I watched the beautiful red sunset over the mountains and water of Alaska. Absolutely stunning and I was thinking that a trip like this shouldn’t be experienced alone.
I had gone to bed, along with everyone else onboard, between 10 and 10:30pm. As soon as the sun had gone down there was not much to do. The beautiful scenery had gone. A little light still in the sky at 11pm. The mountains were outlines in the distance. I played with the temperature in my room and set it at 65°F which felt just a little cooler than warm. I curled up in bed and slept soundly until 6am. Early to bed and early to rise.
Day 38– Tuesday August 6th
We were due into port at Juneau by 7:30am. We pulled in at 7:15pm and were all ready to disembark by 7:30am. I spent the time before that by praying, getting my things ready for a short few-hour journey from the ship and into Juneau. Trip Advisor recommended the Mendenhall Glacier.
I was nervous about taking the bike off the boat, getting back in time, and securing it down again with ties. As usual, everything went just fine. I got the bike off the ship and rode along winding, good roads, in the sunshine to Mendenhall Glacier. It is stunning and impressive, with shades of white and blue. It slides into a glacial lake at the bottom. I walked to the water’s edge for an unobstructed photo of the glacier across the water. Small icebergs floated in the water. The further away from the glacier the smaller the icebergs were. There were some large ones that were several yards wide close to the glacier’s edge.
I have a knack it seems of arriving just before other people. It happens in restaurants and other places I go. And so I arrived at the glacier just before bus loads of tourists arrived, most of whom were East Indian. I had the place almost to myself for a little while. It was lovely.
After the glacier I rode through downtown Juneau. It’s small, especially for a State Capital. It’s quaint restaurants, pubs, tourist souvenir shops, etc. Like Ketchikan, the cruise ships dock here. As you get closer to the cruise ships the stores nearly all become jewelry stores, and I wondered why there is always jewelry stores next to cruise ships. Do people get antsy cooped up on the ships and really want to get off and spend all their money on jewelry? Why jewelry? Is everyone proposing on the ships and boyfriends need to buy rings for their girlfriends? I wonder about things like this.
I rode around town a couple of times, including going the wrong way down a one-way street (a gent nicely shook his head at me and pointed in the other direction). I saw all of Juneau from the bike. I had no desire to shop. So I rode out of town, away from the ferry. The road was winding and very smooth– perfect riding. The mountains climbed to a blue and cloudy sky above. There is a sky lift/tramway that goes almost to the top of the mountains above Juneau. It leaves directly from where the cruise ships let out. I took the road for a couple of miles and then hit a construction zone. I turned around, back towards the ferry.
I rode the Glacier Highway for a little while and then got on the main road again. Stopped at the gas station to make sure I had a full tank when I got off at Whittier, because there wouldn’t be a gas station for a while before Anchorage.
There is one more ferry stop along the way– at Yakatut– then it’s Whittier arrival in a day and a half from now. That will put me about 600 miles south of the Arctic Circle. So close but it feels like a big gap because I don’t know what to expect along those 600 miles. If it was mainland America I would have no qualms about 600 miles– I could bash that out in a couple of days with easy riding. This might be a lot more difficult– 600 miles of adventure, adversity and a hammering. Who knows.
I’m back on the ferry now. It’s mid-afternoon. The weather is perfect. The sun is shining, the water in the Inside Passage is like a millpond (not a wave in sight at this time), the snowy mountaintops are more prevalent now. There’s a tall snow-capped mountain ahead (among others) and I wonder if that is Mount McKinley, but it can’t be because Mt. McKinley is hundreds of miles away. The water sure is cold around here. Where am I going to take that “dip somewhere really cold” for a donation to Miami Shores Presbyterian Church? It’s always on my mind.
We saw two porpoises and a humpback whale. The mountains are beautiful on the horizon. Working on movies on laptop, snowy mountains and glaciers outside the window and Lou Reed comes on random iTunes shuffle: “Caroline Says”… “It’s so cold in Alaska, I think I’ll ask her.”
As I go to bed, close to midnight, I look beyond the bow of the ship and it’s still light up ahead. There’s an orange glow on the horizon where the sun is still present over the northern curve of the earth. The clouds are wisps that seem to bend with the earth’s curvature. The mountains are dark silohouettes against the sun’s glow.
Day 37 – Wednesday August 7th
I’ve been completely thrown off my morning’s thoughts by the current view out of the window. Just west of Yakutat we see a range of glaciers and snow-capped mountains. It’s one of those sights that made me say “wow” and wish I had my camera with me.
The sky is blue, there’s a thin layer of clouds, the sea is calm (as it has been for most of the journey so far), and the mountains descend right to sea level and the ocean’s edge. The mountains really don’t look that tall, perhaps 1,500 feet, no more. Because of the chilled outside temperature at the water’s edge, the mountains obviously remain covered in snow year round.
We’ve just departed Yakutat. It’s 8:32am. The ferry arrived in port at 7am (two hours later than planned) and departed again by 8am. It was a quick stop for the ferry. People took their dogs for a rushed walk, hurrying down the gang plank and back up again 15 minutes or so later.
I look out of the breakfast room windows and note that this is the Alaska that I wanted to see. In a day I will be riding a motorcycle through this terrain. I wonder what it will be like. I have been studying the map this morning, looking at mileages between towns and planning routes. I thought that everything looks manageable by distance. I do wonder what is in store in regards to gas stations and when they are open. For example, it’s 93 miles from Whittier to Seward. I’d like to see Seward, but I wonder if I use up a whole tank of gas getting to Seward, will there be a gas station that is open and have enough gas to get back? This is the adventure part. This is where I am glad I have a tent and a sleeping bag, just in case it’s needed.
The mountains are spectacular out of the breakfast room window. My automatic time setting on my phone is going crazy. My phone doesn’t seem to know where it’s located– it keeps changing time zones from GMT to Alaska Time. One minute the clock is correct, the next it is about 12 hours ahead. It’s like being in the Bermuda Triangle with all the compass readings going haywire. There’s no cell service here. How is cell service going to be in the rest of Alaska and the Yukon Territories? This is where it gets interesting. I am kind of excited to be part explorer, I am part anxious. As I read Shackelton’s account of his journey, a passage struck me this morning, “…and there was nothing to be gained by allowing one’s mind to struggle with the problems of the future, though it was hard to avoid anxiety at times.”
This journey is giving me a desire– to settle down. A wife, a family and a home. It’s important that my wife support my dreams. It makes all the difference to me. I am already feeling that a journey of this nature should not be done alone. I am already thinking that the next journey (if there is one) will not be alone, and will not be like this. And I pray, “Lord, give me direction.” I am beginning to feel the sense that I am ready to settle down.
“Lord, I thank you for fine weather all the way so far. The weather has been with me.”
At around 4:40pm a pod of 6 killer whales was sighted. The captain announced it. I was half asleep in bed. I got dressed. The killer whales were gone by the time I got up to the deck. But I had seen two on the first day of ferry travel.
The ferry is rolling now. The water is calm but there are probably 6 foot waves coming toward the bow. We’re going up and down in a forward motion. Felt a bit sea sick for most of the day. I have never been seasick, but for some reason it affected me today. So I slept on and off all day. I bought some dramamine around 5pm, and after a sleep I felt better.
By 9pm we had rounded a spit of land and headed into towards Prince William Sound. The water became smoother and I began to feel better.
Day 38 – Thursday August 8th
Another early start. The ferry was due to dock at Whittier at 6am. Right on time. I got up at 5am to get myself ready, packed, eat breakfast, and check out of my cabin. I had visions of being the last one on the car deck, struggling to get the tie-down’s off and all the luggage back on. I figured it would take me a while. It didn’t. I was the first motorbike off the ferry.
It was an overcast morning, chilly, with a light mist of a rain. About half a mile from the ferry terminal is the tunnel through to the other side of the mountains. I figured it would be a big tunnel. It wasn’t. A policeman stopped me and told me to pull over under the nearby shelter– it would be about a 45 minute wait until the vehicles finished coming through from the other side, and then he would let the cars and trucks through the tunnel first, before the motorcycles. That’s for motorcycle safety, as it ensures that motorcycles aren’t being pressured by tailgaters to go faster.
The tunnel is narrow with bare-hewn rock walls. It’s similar to a long cavern or cave. The train goes through here also and the rail tracks go all the way through. Motorcycles have to ride along a grooved road (grooves always throw your tires off and you feel like you’re weaving) and you ride between the train tracks. It takes concentration especially when the road is wet. You do not want to hit the rail tracks because it’s likely to throw you off the bike.
We congregated in a group of 5 motorcycles, waiting in the rain. The rain was getting harder and harder. At 6am it was chilly and wet and I was not looking forward to a day of riding like this. We were given the signal by the policeman to proceed, with instructions to keep 100 feet of distance between each bike. With trepidation we all entered the tunnel one by one.
It wasn’t as bad as the policeman made out, but we did need to keep our concentration and it’s not really possible to safely go any faster than 25 miles an hour. The tunnel is 2.5 miles long. It’s concentration all the way. We all burst through safely into the light and rain on the other side of the mountain. It was cold. I was not prepared properly. It was time to break out the warm and waterproof gauntlet gloves for the first time on this journey, and to put on another sweater. I had already put on all of my rain gear before entering the tunnel while we were waiting.
I stopped at the first gas station in Girdwood, about 12 miles from the ferry. I unpacked the gloves and a sweater at the gas pump and put them on. It felt better. Taking the rain cover off the suitcase wasn’t as much of a mission as I suspected it might be. Then I rode around Girdwood.
Girdwood had been described as one of the few main towns on the way to Anchorage. It was tiny– hardly a town at all. There’s the Aleskya Ski Resort at one end of town– a hotel with Swiss-style chalets. There was a bakery, a bar, a couple of shops and that was about it.
Chase (and Chelsea) my hosts for this evening (from a post by Roger Rom on the Adventure Riders web site) had texted a recommendation of taking the Crow Creek Road to the mine, and then onto the pass beyond. I rode out to the gold mine, founded in 1898, along a wet dirt road for 3 miles. When I got to the mine’s parking lot and looked at the bike it was covered in mud, along with myself. Ooo, exciting off-road stuff! The road was smooth for the most part, a few potholes filled with water that I managed to splash my way through.
I paid my $10 and walked around the pretty gardens and 100-year old buildings of the Crow Creek mine. I met Spencer who worked there. He’d come from Atlanta, Georgia, and moved here to experience something different. Eventually he wants to own his own business and move to Hawaii with his wife. I left the mine, didn’t go up the Crow Creek pass, and rode the 3 miles of wet, slick dirt road back to Girdwood, and then on the main road towards Anchorage. The road winds along the base of the mountains. Mountains are on one side and Prince William Sound is on the other. A beautiful ride which I took slowly in the wet weather. As I neared Anchorage the rain stopped and blue skies appeared. It was warm enough for other people to be wearing t-shirts, but I was still in my 5 layers of top clothing, happy to have it and not feeling too hot at all.
I stopped at Potter’s Marsh just outside Anchorage and walked around for a while. Then rode around town, slowly searching for Chase and Chelsea’s place. I found it ok, after riding around for a while, and arrived at 12:45pm.
Chase, 25 years old, good looking and I learned later that he’s one of the stars on the reality TV show “Wild West Alaska” on the Discovery Channel. I don’t know what his name is on the TV show, perhaps it’s the same. He’s very intelligent. He has a double degree– one in medieval English literature and one in botany/geology (or something similar). He comes from an Irish family of gypsies and carnival people. His family owns the only traveling carnival in Alaska. And they protect their territory– his grandfather had shot out the tires of competing carnival trucks trying to cross the border into Alaska. Chase has done everything– gunsmith, cadaver lab, welder, now going to be Marketing Director for a roofing company. He was born and raised in Alaska and his dream is to open up a bed and breakfast (with about 4 bedrooms) here in Anchorage, with a “telling room” (where travelers can tell their stories and socialize), with good food, and affordable. Somewhere for like-minded motorcycle travelers to stay.
Chase has been married to Chelsea for one year. They have a puppy (much to Chelsea’s surprise, as she wasn’t a dog lover) called Ayn (after Ayn Rand). The dog is a Sheba Inu. A very cute breed. Chelsea is a fun loving sort, grew up in Las Vegas. They met each other in California at university. They are both born-again Christians. Chelsea was Chase’s first girlfriend– he waited. Chelsea seems to be perfect for Chase and his family since she wants to be a big successful business mogul– a carnival mogul. She could be the new matriach of the family company one day.
They are curious people, especially Chase, who wants to hear stories. He drove me around town in his rare Isuzu VehiCross 4×4. Chase is a gun maniac. My room had ammo in it and a case full of guns. I got to hold an AK-47 for the first time, and an antique musket.
Went to sleep on a blow up mattress with a blow-up pillow. Not the most comfortable for a good night’s sleep.
Day 39 – Friday August 9th
Right on schedule for a bike service at The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage. Needed– new chain, sprocket, rotors. Kenny helped me out. God answered a prayer about it being less money– Kenny surprisingly came up and said the rotors aren’t that bad at all, that I should wait until I got back to Miami to replace them. That’s a savings of $600 or so. Wow!
I sat at the Triumph dealership talking to Raheel who had just come back from Prudhoe Bay. I got a good sense that I could make it to Coldfoot okay with the road conditions. We’ll see. Whatever God wants. I have to give it all up to Him. We chatted for a while about road conditions, especially in the Endicott Mountains (don’t think I get up there, sounds too bad), cell phone service and things going wrong with motorcycles. He’d had a couple of near misses (loose battery cable and a rock in his tire) but everything turned out okay. He only had a Spot GPS device with him just like me. It seems the road is pretty well travelled up to Coldfoot at least. That’s good.
I also met Francesco and Aurora– they are newly married and on a bike trip up from Seattle, up through British Columbia, up to the Arctic Circle and back again. They are planning to hit the Arctic Circle about the same time as myself, maybe a couple of days before. It would be good if I had someone to ride up there with.
In the afternoon, I rode up to Eagle River and The Chugach State Park, which is about 15 miles outside of Anchorage. I had planned to ride to Palmer and the Independence Mine but I ran out of time because I had to be back for dinner with Roger Rom at Olympia Pizza in Anchorage. I bought them dinner, they bought me nectarines. We talked for two hours about travel stories. Roger has some good ones including an accident where he broke his collar bone driving a new bike back from Boston to Minnesota. He decided to go via the Great Lakes, north side, and ran out of gas towards Thunder Bay. And then they asked him a lot questions when he got to the US border– why was he coming out of Canada with Alaska license plate. Roger and Cynthia (who rides motorcycles too) seem like a good couple. I liked them both. Roger would like to build a trailer for his three motorcycles with which you can drive in one side and drive out of the other– easy loading and offloading. It would also have a eating/sleeping area in the back of it. He’d travel all around the USA with it after retirement, visiting family.
I headed back to Chase and Chelsea’s place.
Day 40 – Saturday August 10th
I am sitting on Kenton Curtis’ futon, finally warm after a day of riding in the rain (the afternoon was mostly nice but I was still wet). Kenton is my Couch Surfing host for tonight and tomorrow night.
I got up at 8am at Chase and Chelsea’s house. They made oatmeal for breakfast and Chase and I got ready for a ride towards Fairbanks. He was going all the way. I was riding to Trapper Creek with him as support (115 miles) and then turning around and coming home. We set off, made it to Kenton’s house 5 minutes later, dropped all my stuff here, said hello, and then head of Alaska Highway 1.
By the time Chase and I arrived in Wasilla, 40 miles up the road, we were already cold and wet, and had to stop to get Starbucks, to put on extra clothes and get warm. The rain continued all the way to Trapper Creek– 115 miles. We stopped again (I think in Caswell) at a store because Chase’s hands were getting wet and very cold. Another chance to warm up. Chase told the lady that he found a dead man in the shower in Trapper Creek about 8 years ago when he was 17. And the lady said, “oh, that was you!” as if it were a famous occurrence in town that everyone knew about.
It wasn’t far past there that we got to Talkeetna– finally a place to fill up with gas and the last chance for 95 miles. We had past a few gas stations and waited until I hit 99 miles on the tripometer– almost all out of gas. I will be fine up to Fairbanks, but I will have to fill up when I get the chance.
As soon as we got past Wasilla we were into a two-lane road that looked like it could go on forever. There were small villages, towns and hamlets along the way. The countryside was pine forests. No mountains. This was more like flat Alaska, almost like a tundra, but it was forested. There is one road up and one road back. Thankfully when we got to Trapper Creek the rain stopped, and stayed that way for most of the journey back to Anchorage.
Kenton is friendly, tall, young at 29 but already has salt and pepper hair, and green eyes. I can see that girls would think that he’s good looking. Originally from Denver he wanted to move out to Alaska, as so many do, to experience it. And as so many do, he loves it here and says that he’s happy to live here permanently. He is an environmental scientist. He studies the hazardous toxins released into the environment from various sources, whether it’s buried military waste or a crashed F22 fighter jet. In the evening he made lentil soup which was very good and needed to finally get me warmed up from the inside.
There was a moose loose in his garden, eating the vegetation. Funny how they just let them roam around town. I guess that there’s nothing that the city can do about it.
Day 41 – Sunday August 11th
Got up after a great night’s sleep on Kenton’s futon in the living room. Got ready for church, at First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage. The service started at 10am. It’s raining again. It was 51 degrees this morning. It’s been raining all day and will probably rain all day tomorrow. I got my wet-weather gear on and rode through the rain to church. A bit cold but I wasn’t going far. I arrived and was greeted warmly. They have a cloakroom so I took off my rain jacket and trousers, helmet and cloves and placed them there. Then I looked like a regular church-goer in my nice trousers and shirt.
The pastor is a young guy in his 30’s with a wife and 3 children– Matt Schultz. He gave a great sermon on being reconciled– reconciled to God and with your fellow man and the surrounding community. I also singing one of the hymns and there was a line in there about being looked after by God’s grace– that He got you here and will get you home again. I almost cried when I read/sang this because it felt like a promise that God was making, to get me home again. And home seemed like such a welcoming place that I wanted to be at. I am looking forward to being home.
The pastor preached in slacks and button down shirt– kind of casual, and he preached using an iPad. He represents the new generation and I suddenly realized how much the Presbyterian Church and the church in general needs the younger blood to come up through the ranks now. I learned that he had only been there as pastor for a month and a half. The church had had interim pastors for the last three years. Everywhere I go it seems to be the same story. Every church that I visit seems to be about interim pastors, just got a new pastor, or looking for a new pastor. It’s not strictly true but there is certainly a lot of it going on. And each church I visit seems to be touched by God– that it’s going in the right direction. Every church that I visit I feel God saying, “I care about this church and I am moving within it. I am doing good things.”
I met an elderly gentleman (81) at coffee hour, called Paul. He’s not a member but seems to be quite involved and vocal and has been going there for 5 years. He invited me to breakfast after church and we went to the City Diner on Benson and Minnesota Drive in Anchorage. He bought and we talked for a long time– about the division that happened in the church but now it seems to be back on the right path with the new pastor. We talked about his wife Kimmie (of 57 years) who just died in Dec after a 5-day illness, of his son who is 58 years old and has just suffered a major stroke (he’s in rehab and progressing slowly), we talked of his hunting Caribou and that Reindeer and that Caribou are basically the same thing. He takes a boat out to the lakes, sets up a hide, camps out, shoots a Caribou he likes and takes it home. It lasts for up to two years in the freezer.
Afterwards I came back to Kenton’s and got ready to go to the Alaska Museum. It was either that or ride to Seward. But the rain and the cold was too much. In the end I decided on neither and went to the REI store to buy items to get ready for going up north– bear spray, bear bell, bug net, insect repellent, a holder for the bear spray, and some rope to hang food in a tree if I need to. The bear containers were huge and there’s no way I could take it on a bike. I’ll hang food in a tree if I have too. I hope I don’t have to camp out, period. I like my comforts too much. 😉