Alaska/Inuvik 2014

Alaska Ride – June 19th – Day #25

Woke up in our stinky room – smoking rooms suck. We quickly dressed and went out to breakfast at ihop. After we finished up, it was off to get my tire installed.

We showed up at the motorcycle dealer, and they had the shop door open waiting for me. They got right on the tire and it took 1/2 hr max to get it installed. Then we hit Fred Meyer for some supplies – we need lunch for the halibut fishing trip tomorrow.

We drove the 2 hours back to the Harley Dealer, and picked up some beer for the guys along the way. Once we were back at the shop, it was time to mount the tire. There is a spacer between the wheel and the brake caliper mount that was a bitch to get in. We eventually did it though. Then it was time to pack the bike.

I also had to get the rental car back to the airport (and then back to the HD dealer). Turns out they needed to pick up a bike near the airport, so I drove the rental car to the airport to return it, and the truck swung by and brought me back (did I mention these guys rock?)

Now it was time to go. Got all geared up and said good bye to all the guys at the dealer. Did a couple of laps around the parking lot to test out the rear brake. Once I decided all was well, it was time to head off to Homer.

Dropping into Homer is really cool. You approach on a downhill toward the town. You can see the spit with mountains and glaciers as a backdrop. Even after all of the mountains we’ve seen on the trip, this was still one of the coolest views.

We checked into the hotel with no issues. Once we get the bikes unloaded and our gear in our rooms, it was time to head out to dinner – we haven’t had any food since breakfast! We ate at the restaurant in the hotel, which had some spectacular views of the mountains and people fishing on the spit. We even had a Bald Eagle buzz by and land on the roof just above us.

Mountain views from the restaurant.

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Zoom in on the glacier

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More mountain views.

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This dinner was our “end of the road” celebration. Once we leave Homer, we are officially on our way home. There are still some cool adventures we haven’t done yet, but every mile we travel is a mile closer to home. So, I splurged for dinner and got King Crab legs.

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And Chocolate Lave Cake for dessert.

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after dinner, we walked down the spit to find the halibut charter office. We found it, and it seems to be about a 15 minute walk away. We chatted with the ladies working the desk – our check in time is at 7:30a tomorrow morning. The limit is 2 halibut, and one of them must be less than 29” long.

On the way back to our room, we walked along the marina

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Back at the room, my dad booked us a ferry for part of the trip back. We’ll be going from Haines to Price Rupert via ferry. We may take the Prince Rupert to Port Hardy ferry after that, or we may just ride home from Prince Rupert, we’ll probably decide on the fly. Given the ferry dates, we should be getting home on June 30th or July 1st.

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Alaska Ride – June 18th – Day #24

Before we go to bed at night, we stash the bear canisters away from our tents. We stack them up so that they will (hopefully) make some noise if something is getting into them. Well, I dreamed that we had a bear in our camp last night, and when I got out of bed, our canisters were knocked over. Was the dream real? or was gravity just asserting itself…I guess we’ll never know…

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Another sunny morning start…beginning to think that it never rains here (although we did run into some rain later in the day). Today’s beautiful mountain ride was along a large inlet just South of Anchorage, on the way to the Kenai Peninsula, then up over a small mountain pass. We stopped for gas and talked to another rider who was worried about snow on the pass (it was 65F at the gas station at sea level). So we made sure all our heated gear was plugged in, tank bag covers were on, etc – got everything tightened up for some potential bad weather – well, the pass was just over 1000’ and it wasn’t even raining.

We stopped at the Sunrise Cafe’ in Cooper Landing for lunch.

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Had myself a patty melt. I figure I could use the extra calories since I’ve been eating so light on the trip so far 🙂

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After lunch we continued on toward Homer. I quickly noticed that my rear tire pressure had dropped to 34psi (it usually runs around 46psi once the tire is warmed up). Oh no, my plug is starting to leak! We pulled over to pump the tire up to see if it will start to hold. A guy comes over from a nearby building to ask if we need any help…he says there is a Harley dealer about 40 miles away in Soldotna. We decide to test the tire and see if we can limp in to get some help. The tire still has a slow leak and we had to stop one more time to add air.

We finally made it to Kenai Peninsula Harley-Davidson. These guys rocked! Neither one of us are riding Harleys, but the crew at the shop didn’t care and were a ton of help getting us fixed up and going again.

They did not have a tire that would fit my bike – which doesn’t surprise me because my bike uses a wacky tire size. They also do not repair tires, but they did call a bunch of tire shops in town for me to see if we could find someone who would. That was a no go. Next, they called the KTM dealer in Anchorage and found a tire that would work! The KTM guys (they actually carry a ton of brands, BMW, Kawasaki, Husky…) have a huge backlog of work, but if I show up tomorrow morning about an hour before they open, they would take care of it for me.

Now the problem was getting my bike back to Anchorage. Well, the last plug held for 400 miles or so, so I figured I’d just try again. They let me bring the bike into their shop so I could work on it. We sprayed soapy water over the plug and it was clearly leaking. So I popped it out (or really into the tire) and put in a new plug. Did the soap test again and it looked like it was holding! So we high five all the guys and head next door to the gas station to top off our tanks.  In that short ride, my tire pressure dropped by 4psi, so we aborted and went back to the Harley shop.

I have a roadside assistance program for my RV, and it covers all of my vehicles. So I called them up to see if they would tow the bike back to Anchorage. The lady on the phone started working the problem for me. After several calls back and forth, it seemed like we were about to be done when an issue popped up. My plan covers me for a tow to the nearest service center – which for a motorcycle was the Harley dealer I was already at! I tried to weasel around that by telling them that the shop would only work on HD bikes, but they would just tow me to a different tire shop in town. So this plan was a bust.

The next plan – take the wheel off the bike, rent a car and drive it to Anchorage. The shop was cool with us leaving the bikes inside overnight while we made our run for the tire (did I mention these guys rock?). Not only that, Si, the shop manager, was willing to drive me to the airport so I could pick up the rental car. One of their regular customers overheard, and was heading in that direction, so he volunteered! While I was getting the rental car, my dad took the rear wheel off the bike.

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Next came a two hour drive back to Anchorage. We did see some Buffalo on the way back (we hadn’t seen any of those yet). We pulled into town about 9p. We stopped at a couple of different hotels and they were full. So, we started calling around, and every place was full. We called at least 10 different hotels. We finally ended up hat a Hotel 6 in a nasty smelling, smoking room. Ugh.

Grabbed some late dinner and went to bed. Feeling good about tomorrow.

Alaska Ride – June 17th – Day #23

Got out of bed to sunny blue skies this morning. Don’t know why everyone complains about Alaska being so rainy. While I was washing my hands in the bathroom, another camper comes up to me and asks if I expected it to be so cold here (it may have been below 50F last night, but I doubt it). I told him I expected it to be way colder, and that we had run into several days of sub freezing temperatures when we were in BC. He was very surprised and wanted to know if I had a good sleeping bag. Well, it turns out he was from Orlando…

Started the bike up and the plug I put in the rear tire seemed to be holding, so we were off on another day of endless mountains. Our ride was sandwiched between two mountain ranges covered in snow. Our first rest stop was at a Denali Viewpoint.

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The Alaska highways seem to have lots of viewpoints that have had trees grow up to block the view. This one was no exception, we did manage some peak-a-boo views of the mountain!

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And from a slightly different angle.

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Stopped for lunch in Wasilla – no Sarah Palin sightings though.

We cruised on down to the Eagle River Campground and set up our camp (I was lame and didn’t get a picture of our site). The guy in the site next to us brought us a couple of drinks – maple finished whiskey. He was in the process of bringing his boat down to homer for the summer, and invited us out if we are around for a bit. I nabbed his contact info, just in case.

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Not much else going on at the campsite, just worked on some photo/blog stuff and went to bed. On to Homer tomorrow!

Alaska Ride – June 16th – Day #22

We get to ride through the park today! We left about 8:15a to catch our 9a shuttle. We stopped at the store on the way to pick up snacks and drinks since none were provided on our bus. We had opted for the least expensive option – the bus is supposed to shuttle you to various locations in the park, and will stop for wildlife. Well, our driver Craig, was awesome. He narrated the entire ride. I would highly recommend his bus.

This is the only portion of the trip that I wish I had my Canon camera. The 100-400 lens would have been awesome for many of the shots, but as you’ll see, it may not have been wide enough for some of the closer animals.

Taking pictures from the bus was a bit of a challenge. Half the time, the animals were not on your side of the bus, so you are leaning around people and trying not to get any of the window frame in the picture. The windows weren’t exactly clean, so I had to switch to manual focus quite a bit or the camera would focus on the dirty window.. On many of the occasions that the window was clean, there would be reflections on the glass that would show up in the picture. All that being said, it was still and awesome trip and I got a few good pictures.

The first hour or so of the tour was through some fairly thick forest, and we didn’t see any wildlife. At this point, we stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break and I got a picture of our bus.DSC03342-2

Shortly after our rest break, we went past a bunch of Dall Sheep in the hills. All the little white spots on the hill are sheep. I zoomed in on them on the computer and they aren’t that clear.

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Our first grizzly! A mom with two cubs. They were pretty far away, this picture is at 200mm and cropped. We figured that this was about as close as we’d get to a bear on the trip…boy were we wrong.

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The views from the road were absolutely spectacular for most of the day. Unfortunately Mount McKinley was obscured by clouds most of the day, we only got to see the north peak. The park service claims that only 30% of visitors actually get to see the mountain.

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Approaching the next rest area, there was a griz right next to the road. I couldn’t get him to look over at me, so the shots aren’t as good as they could be.

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He got so close that I didn’t have to have my lens zoomed all the way.

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We also saw quite a few caribou.

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Right before our turnaround point at the next visitor center, another Grizzly was right next to the road. This one was a little more camera friendly. There are several shots in this group that I may consider printing and hanging on the wall at home.

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Our turnaround point. This is the view of Mount McKinley while we were there.

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On the way back there were some Caribou cooling down on some snow.

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Passed another Grizzly with a couple of cubs.

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Got a little closer to some Dall Sheep – this is a crop of a bigger picture.

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Almost all the way done and we finally saw a moose. I didn’t get any good poses from it.

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Overall, Denali is a very cool park. I would definitely recommend a visit on an Alaska adventure.

Alaska Ride – June 15th – Day #21

Happy Father’s Day! I got to spend today riding to Denali National Park with my dad…but let’s not jump too far ahead.

There was lots of construction around the dorm that we stayed in last night. As a result, we parked our bikes in a lot across the street. My dad got up this morning to move the bike closer to the building to load it. He tried to get back into the building and his cardkey didn’t work! He stood under our window and yelled till I heard him – I went downstairs and let him in. While we were down there, we gave my key a shot. It didn’t work either! Apparently they didn’t program our keys properly. At least we didn’t go out at the same time – it would have been a bit of a walk to get to the office.

My bike fell over again today – this time I wasn’t even on it! I was rocking it up onto the center stand so I could check the oil. I didn’t quite get enough momentum to get it up on the stand. When it rocked forward, the front wheel was turned away from me, and I slowly let the bike down to the ground. Bummer.

We rode the Parks Highway from Fairbanks to Denali NP today. It was a great day for a motorcycle ride – blue skies and warm. The road had a 65 mph speed limit, and had plenty of corners to keep it interesting. There were a few construction zones but nothing too scary.

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There was a big line to register for a campsite. Probably took us 45 minutes to get through it. On our way to the campground after registering, my tire pressure monitor alarm went off. My rear tire was down to 26psi and slowly falling (ok it was at 24 when I stopped a couple of minutes later). Popped the bike on the center stand (didn’t push it over this time). Spun the rear wheel around, and this is what I saw.

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That doesn’t look very good. Unloaded my toolkit and grabbed a pair of pliers to pull it out. Well, it kept coming, and coming, and coming. The stupid thing has to be about 4” long. it appears to be some kind of restraining pin.IMG_0474

It also left a pretty gnarly large hole in my tire. Good thing I have tubeless tires – I could repair it in place. I grabbed my handy dandy plug kit and went to work. I’ve never done this before, so it got kinda interesting. Every time I tried to pull the plug tool away from the plug, I kept pulling the plug all the way out…well I read the directions a little better and figured it out after the 3rd or 4th try. This has got to be just about the largest hole I can fix with the plugs that I have. Here is the plug sticking out, before I trimmed it down to the tread. IMG_0477

I took the bike for a short test ride, and the plug seems to be holding ok.

Once we were settled into camp, we went to the store to make bus reservations for tomorrow. You can’t actually drive into the park very far on your own, you have to take some kind of tour bus. They have several different options – we decided on the cheap option. No tour guide, but we can get on and off the busses where ever we like. On the way to making the reservations, a fellow camper pulled us aside and asked if we wanted to see a moose. One was bedded down right near their campsite. I got out my zoom lens and took a picture without getting too close.

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Our tour bus departs from the Wilderness Information Center. We didn’t know it’s exact location, so we walked over to check it out. It isn’t too far away, maybe a 10 minute walk from our campsite. While there,  we watched a movie about the construction of the park. Really, I did stay awake for most of it.

Back at the campsite, we have cell service. So, I called the charter boat company in Homer and finalized our halibut trip for Friday. We could go on Thursday, but they didn’t have any openings. We gave them my cell phone number in case they have cancellations.

Alaska Ride – June 14th – Day #20

It rained again last night, however that didn’t stop my dad from forgetting that we were in a new timezone. He was up at 5a breaking camp, around 6:30a or so he started banging on something, maybe he was splitting wood? I dunno, I had to yell at him to be quiet because he was waking up the entire campground.

Rain showers came and went while I was cleaning up my half of the camp. The rain stopped just in time for the ride. I have to say, we have been really lucky with the weather on this trip. Based on previous ride reports, we expected days of nonstop rain. So far, we have only had one day where we rode in the rain all day long. The second worst was probably the day my dad crashed. We’ve been hit by quick showers here and there, but mostly has been dry with a ton of sun. Hopefully I didn’t just jinx us 🙂

We stopped in Delta Junction for fuel. Delta Junction is significant because it is the official end of the Alaska Highway. Not sure why that is…the same road continues on to Fairbanks, it just isn’t called the Alaska Highway anymore.

Just outside Delta Junction a moose ran across the road in front of my dad. My video camera is always going in a rolling loop, so I got it on camera, but it looks pretty small because of the wide angle lens…can you find it in the picture?

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I’ll help you out a bit…

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Like I said, not that good. I thought it would come out ok because I could see it crossing the road while I was riding. The camera is mounted lower on the bike (than my head) and I was riding staggered so my dad’s bike blocked the view. I suppose this is a good reason to use a helmet mounted cam. Since my nice new helmet isn’t so nice and new anymore, I may play with that when I get home.

This was one of the shortest days of riding, but it seemed like the longest. I can’t really pin down why…my dad thought the same. I think we were expecting a really short day and it took us close to 2 1/2 hours to get to Fairbanks. The views were so-so today as we moved away from the mountains. The rivers you cross are kinda cool – a lot of them appear to be glacially fed, so they have gigantic gravel channels with small rivers randomly snaking through them.

Our plan for housing in Fairbanks was to stay at the University. They rent out dorm rooms to tourists. They are doing a bit of construction on campus so it took us a bit to find the office. Once we found it, we were presented with several options for rooms. Our first choice was $40 each for single rooms, but they were sold out. Then it was $80 for a double room, which seems kinda lame. $100 for a double suite, or $110 for a quad suite (don’t quote me on these prices, but they are close). So of course we went with the quad suite. The advantage of the quad suite – we end up with 2 different “bedrooms”, a common work area, and a private bathroom.

Sprawled out in my “bedroom”

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Common work area

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Also included in the price was laundry and showers. Laundry was the first order of business – I wanted clean clothes before I took a shower. The challenge – how do I wash all of my clothes without walking naked down to the laundry room? I put on my swimsuit (that I haven’t used at all yet) under my riding pants and wore my down jacket with no shirt on underneath. Not exactly comfortable, but got the job done.

We spent some time researching Denali and how to go about the busses (we head there tomorrow) as well as various fishing trip options. We walked to a local restaurant for dinner and discussed our end game for the trip. We decided to spend two nights in what looks to be a fairly nice lodge in homer (Land’s End Resort) which is walking distance to a halibut charter. We are going to book our fishing trip for the 20th and start the long road home on the 21st.

Alaska Ride – June 13th – Day #19

We did a better job of packing up camp quickly this morning. We were on the road by 8a, our earliest departure yet. The weather was nice and sunny, but there was a bit of wind blowing. Nothing too bad though.

We stopped at the Pickhandle Lake rest area for our first break of the day The weather was still pretty nice. The views along the ride have been very scenic.

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We cleared customs around noon, and promptly gained an hour. We are now on Alaska Time! The customs wait was only about 10 minutes and the customs officer was very nice – he checked both of us out at the same time.

The road in Alaska seems to be in better shape than in Canada, but the weather seems to be a little worse. Rain clouds were closing in, so we pulled over at a wide spot to put on tank bag covers and make sure all our pockets and vents were zipped.IMG_0460

Other riders out there are just awesome. While we were stopped, a guy on a BMW slowed down to make sure we were ok. I gave him a thumbs up so he could continue on. There have been several instances when we’ve been on the side of the road (usually so my dad can strap his helmet on, which he forgets every other time we stop) and people always slow down to check that we are ok.

We did get rained on a bit right before the town ofTok. It actually came down quite hard for a few minutes and then eventually stopped. We had lunch at Fast Eddy’s – club sandwich with chips!IMG_0463

After lunch we fed the bikes as well. While getting ready to leave the pump another BMW pulls in and I chatted with the guy for a bit. He has been putting in 750 mile days…I guess I just have a whimpy butt!

The rain had pretty much stopped while we rode to our campsite for the night at Clearwater State Recreation Area. We have a cool spot tucked into the trees. Just as we got the tarps and tents set up it started to rain. In the picture you can see the dry area underneath my tarp. Gives me just enough room to sit in my chair with my laptop and keep everything dry (note – my bear canister did not spend the night under my tarp).IMG_0464

Dinner was freeze dried teriyaki chicken and hot chocolate. Yum!IMG_0468

Should be a short ride to Fairbanks tomorrow. We are going to try and stay at the University and get some laundry done – we need it, bad!

Alaska Ride – June 12th – day #18

Rest day today! Woke up around 8a and hung out in my sleeping bag reading. Once I finally got out of the tent, it looked like it might rain. So, we set up one of the tarps over the picnic table to give us a place to hang out. The rain never materialized, but it started to get pretty windy. My dad has a second tarp that he uses to cover his motorcycle at night. We set that one up as a wind break.IMG_0458

Oh yeah, we also bought a bag of chocolate chip cookies. One cannot properly rest with out goodies to snack on…IMG_0459

With the wind break set up, I spent some time repairing my sleeping bag using the supplies I purchased at walmart the other day. My gut reaction as a guy was to just use the duct tape, but that will leave a sticky residue on everything when I get it fixed at home. The next thought was to use the needle and thread to sew it up, but I got a D in home ec in junior high, so probably not a good choice. I finally settled on buttoning things up with safety pins! It took a while and I only poked myself once, but the repair is good!DSC03309

Later on in the day, it was time to crawl into my tent and read some more…and maybe I took a short nap. When I was done slee…um, reading. We went up to the porch area to discuss our go home plan.

Why discuss the going home plan when we aren’t even to Alaska yet? Well, one of the options is to take the ferry back and people we’ve spoken with have said that they are pretty full. We used the very marginal internet here to investigate the availability. It doesn’t look like the ferry option is going to work out – we’ll check again when we have better internet and maybe make some phone calls.

We also discussed our trip down to Homer. The main reason to go down is to take a halibut charter. We’ve both been on charter boats before, so we aren’t sure it is worth the two days to get there. Instead, we may try to find a fly fishing guide to take us out to catch a grayling.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Alaska! That means I can use my wifi hotspot again (if we have coverage)!

Alaska Ride – June 11th – Day #17

Total zipper failure! The slider on my sleeping bag zipper exploded last night, so now I have no zipper on my sleeping bag. Not to worry! I pulled out the gorilla tape and taped it closed in the middle of the night.

It rained a bit last night, and there was still a light sprinkle as we woke up this morning. We could see the sun breaking through the clouds in the distance. We stalled for a bit waiting for the rain to stop, which didn’t take very long. We also skipped breakfast because today we were scheduled to have giant cinnamon rolls for breakfast! (of which I did not take a picture, but if you go back a few days, you can see one that we bought on the way north).

Then it was on to Whitehorse. We made a provisioning stop at Walmart, where I also grabbed some items to help fix my sleeping bag. I’ll stick with my tape fix tonight and spend some time tomorrow doing a better fix with needle and thread and duct tape! What a combination.

Now it was time to move on to new territory, heading west on the Alaska Highway. The last couple of days on the Klondike Highway has been so-so for views. This section of the Alaska Highway is way better, with big mountain views. I like the mountain views.

We stopped at a rest area that had a cool little wooden bridge that predates the Alaska Highway, although it has apparently been refurbished since.

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We pulled over at the next rest area to get a picture of the mountains.

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We stopped at a burger joint in Haines Junction to grab some lunch. I ended up having a spicy Caribou sausage (at least that’s what they claimed).

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Haines Junction has spectacular views of the mountains…here are the bikes in the parking lot of the lunch joint.

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We rode another 45 minutes down the road to Cottonwood RV Park. We picked this out of The Milepost because it looked pretty nice, and it is, except for two things. No laundry and super slow internet. Our plan is to take a rest day here tomorrow, so it kinda sucks about the laundry. It will just have to wait till Fairbanks.DSC03306

Lack of internet has caused me to fall behind on posting blog updates (I’ve been writing them though!). Hopefully the super slow internet here will help me catch back up again.

Alaska Ride – June 10th – Day #16

More zipper failure! Last night my sleeping bag zipper died again, now it has a broken tooth as well. It is very near the top, I can probably zip it up 95% of the way, which should be good enough for the rest of this trip.

Our ride started around 9a this morning with beautiful blue skies! There was no rain last night and the roads were nice and dry. We are retracing our steps on the Klondike Highway to get back to the Alaska Highway and on to Alaska. This means we didn’t stop to take a whole lot of pictures today – we’ve been down this stretch of road before.

We stopped at Stewart Crossing to top off our fuel and a group of motorcycles arrived shortly after we did. A week or so ago I posted a picture of a bunch of BMWs with a Ducati – this was that group of guys. Since we saw them in that post, they had gone the entire length of the Dalton to Deadhorse, and were on their way home. We chatted about our rides for 45 minutes or so.

It has been several days since I’ve dropped my bike! To make sure my amazing string continues, I backed out the preload on the rear spring quite a bit, effectively lowering the bike. Now the balls of my feet are solidly on the ground and I can save some of the stupid drops.

My dad was getting a little drowsy, so we pulled over at a rest area along the Yukon River. This area was the western edge of the glaciers that covered North America in the last Ice Age. The river cut through the gravelly deposits left by the glaciers, forming the islands in the river in this picture.

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And while we are resting, I always need another picture of my motorcycle.

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We stopped at the coal mine campground (we stayed there just a few days ago!) for some lunch, and then moved on down the street to Carmacks to get some fuel. Not a super exciting ride today.

We are staying at Twin Lakes Government Camp. Out site has a great view overlooking the lake. When we first arrived, there were some threatening clouds, but no rain or thunder developed and it turned into a very nice evening.DSC03273

While we were relaxing, a float plane dropped in for a bit. He only stuck around for about 20 minutes, so he was either visiting a buddy, or delivering people.DSC03277

The view of our campsite.

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Tomorrow we are continuing south for a bit – going to stop for a giant cinnamon roll for breakfast, then swing by Whitehorse for fuel and supplies, and then on toward Alaska!