Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dave on Hatcher Pass

Its going to be a quick one today. I worked into the Wee hours last night trying to get a project done for a meeting this afternoon, and I'm pretty tired. Three of us stayed until midnight and beyond, but we got it done!

I just like this picture. Dave and I were wanting to go for a short ride on a October Sunday afternoon. Because Hatcher Pass is close we decided to go there. It started out kinda sunny, but the clouds moved in pretty quick. At the top of the pass there was snow on the ground, and I think the next weekend it was snowed in.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Whittier Tunnel

Entrance to the Whittier Tunnel

In the background is the Whittier side entrance to the tunnel that connects the town to the rest of the world. The peaked roof is to protect it from avalanches, which I hear can block the entrance and prevent people from leaving.

This was my second weekend with the bike. When I found out the weather was nice in Whittier I had to go. It might be a long time before the sun shines there again.

The tunnel is the longest combined vehicle/rail tunnel in North America and is only one lane wide. Because the train is big, the rails go smack down the middle of the lane. For people on motorcycles, this presents an opportunity for a very exciting experience.

There you are, riding through a tunnel. Normally staying within the width of the tracks wouldn't be a problem, but when they are there the mind plays dirty tricks on you. Fear creeps in as it becomes more difficult to stay steady. Slowing down makes the instability worse. Just keep looking forward and don't focus on the rails below.

I don't need to say,that if you hit one of the rails your likely to crash. But look on the bright side. If you do crash, you can tell people you crashed under a mountain! How many people can say that.

Luckily, I cannot boast such a feat.

Feel free to look at the rest of my Whittier Pictures at my SmugMug :D

If you see a picture you want to know more about leave a comment with a link and I'll tell the story.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Biggest Caribou I've ever seen!

I was cruising up the Taylor Highway on my way to Dawson City. Just South of Chicken I could see a large spherical antenna on one of the large hilltops ahead with a road or trail snaking its way to the top. I figured what the heck, I'm on a vacation lets see whats up there.

I kept going until I saw a big orange sign that said "Trail Closed, Construction Zone". But the barriers were down. To me that was a sign to run up the trail until I ran into equipment then turn around real quick and play dumb is questioned.

Up I went, rolling over some small hills, winding my way to the top. There were a couple of short steep sections but nothing the KLR and some momentum couldn't handle. I passed a D-10 dozer and a large Loader with a Four Wheeler parked next to it. There were a couple cuts through the rock were I could tell they had be blasting. Other than that there was no sign of activity.

I finally got up above the tree line and came around a tight switchback. Straight ahead of me I saw a HUGE Caribou. My hand immediately went for the camera and it had just turned it on when the animal looked at me, lowered its antlers, and pawed at the ground. I swear I saw it snort and dust curled up around its head.

Realizing I was not going to win, even if I was wearing a helmet, I worked at turning the loaded bike around without dropping it or my camera. As soon as I was pointing in the other direction I gave 'er the gas to a safer distance where I turned around and snapped the picture above. Its kind of hard to see in the original but the close up below might help.

The Caribou is in the bottom right corner. Its easy to see its white tail as its "High Tailing" it out of there.

Just around that corner was the top of the hill, but I decided I had gone far enough. The view, where I ended up, was pretty good anyway.

Amazingly enough, about half way down, I ran into another Caribou. Having some speed this time I locked up both brakes and ended up about 100 feet from the beast wondering what I was going to do. This one decided to rear up on its hind legs and jump off into the woods. Everything happened to fast for a picture, which is probably for the best.

I'll be back this year on my way to the "Dust to Dawson" rally. This time I'll make it to the top. Caribou or not

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lilly Pads

Lilly pads along the Glenn Highway

This picture was taken on the Denali Hwy trip, along the Glenn Highway near Glennallen. This was my first over night trip on the KLR and I was soaking in all the scenery. I actually rode past this lake/pond and turned around to get a closer look.

Lilly pads for just about as far as you could see with the blue sky and the mountains in the background. Although you can't see it in the picture there was a slight breeze and the surface of the water was sparkling like diamonds.

While I was sitting there something was breaking the surface of the water. Could have been a fish, or otter, but something made me think it was a turtle. Just to the right there was a small cabin with a canoe at the ready.

I would ride past this same spot several times as the summer went by, but it never did look the same.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Denali Hwy Highwaymen, err... Women

There were four of them, I think the other two are down the road looking at rocks or something

So there I was...
Happy that it hadn't rained on me for the second half of the Denali Hwy but kind of bummed that the gravel would soon end. Then, out of nowhere, a white Cadillac Escalade blew past me bouncing a stone off my visor. I thought, "What a bunch of Jerks!!!" but didn't let it get to me because I was having such a nice ride.

About two hills later I saw the Escalade parked on the side of the road with four people standing next to it. I don't believe in Karma, but I thought it was interesting when I saw the flat rear tire. They flagged me down and the first thing I said was, "Your not Highwaymen are you?".

They either didn't hear me or didn't care because I never got an answer, but they did tell me about their tire and asked if I could help.

First off let me say that these Cadillacs are pretty fancy. I put the spare on for them, and the hardest part of the operation was trying to figure out how to get the tire to drop out from underneath the rear of the vehicle. Oh, and finding the jack isn't that easy either.

Turns out there is a place for the key that opens a tiny door on the rear bumper. Then, you slide a rod down the hole until it rests in a socket of some sort and turn it. This will drop the spare.

They were all friends, from college I believe, who decided to meet in Anchorage for a trip to Alaska. One of their late husbands was in the Air Force so they were staying on base and had taken a day to find a campground that was once owned by someone they knew back home.

The spare wasn't completely inflated but it was good enough to get them the 15 miles to the gas station. I suggested they take it easy and I'd follow them in. It was a good plan, but I decided 60mph was about as fast as I wanted to go. They literally left me in their dust.

It wasn't a bad way to end a nice 100 mile stretch of gravel.

I don't think I've added Denali Hwy pictures to my Smug Mug :D yet. Maybe I'll do that this weekend. Check there soon to see the rest.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kuskulana Bridge

This picture was taken on my ride to Valdez, McCarthy, and the Kennicott Mine, along the McCarthy Road.

The McCarthy Road is mostly the old Railroad bed going to McCarthy and the Kennicott mine. Along the way you catch glimpses of old RR Ties, Rails, and the Occasional Round wooden thing. It took me a while to figure out what a wooden disk planted firmly in the road bed could be. Then, right after I hit a huge pothole at 50mph, it came to me. My best guess is that they are old pilings driven into the marshy ground for a bridge.

The Kuskulana Bridge is part of the old Railway and is 525 feet long and one lane wide.
Here's the view off the edge.

The bridge deck, believe it or not, is higher off the surface of that river (238 feet) than the Mackinac Bridge deck is off the Straits of Mackinac! (199 feet).

One of the Line and Grade guys on my job this summer had a good story about this bridge. Several, several years ago he and his friend drew moose tags for that area. They were driving along the road looking for the moose when the came to the bridge and found it covered in ice and snow, which is not too unusual during that time of year. At that time there were no guardrails and only a set of planks for each side of the car, kind of like a wooden two track. Someone had cleared the ice off the passenger side planks but left a rounded pile of ice on the other side.

After arguing for a while he decided to drive across, while his friend walked behind him. He told me he had one hand on the open door the whole way across and that it was probably the scariest thing he's ever done. But...

After he got to the other side, all he could think about was that he was going to have to do it again on the way back!

Its hard to see with the picture being so small, but, if you check out the larger image here

Brian's SmugMug

You can see a little road heading up the hill on the far side of the bridge. I was sitting at work today looking at this picture, because its my computer background, and noticed the small road going up the hill at the far end of the bridge. I wonder where that goes. Guess I'm going to have to go back and find out.

As always if you want to see more and full size versions of my pictures check here.

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

First Post

Until the snow melts, or I start riding again, I'll post a picture from last season and describe it a little more in depth than I would in its caption. When riding season starts up I'm going to try and post full Ride Reports.

Lets start out with a really good one.

This was taken just off the Taylor Hwy on my way to Dawson City.

I stopped at a roadside turn out to snap a picture and take in the view when I saw a small 2-track on the other side of the road. Always up for a little exploring I motored up, maybe a quarter mile, and found this spot.

To this day I still can't figure out why the picture turned out so well. The blue sky, clouds, and the grass were perfect. In fact, this might have been the best weather I had on any overnighter that season. It only rained on me a couple days later on the way to Fairbanks, and then from there to Anchorage the next day.