Thursday, February 28, 2008

I have to say that I'm sorry there hasn't been new posts everyday. Work and company has been keeping me pretty busy this week and some days I just don't have it in me.

To tide you over, here are a couple pictures from Valdez.

The above photo is of the marina near where I camped. It was the last weekend of the fishing derby. Just so you guys don't make the same mistake I did, don't try to get a place to stay in town during the derby.

I saw this sign and thought it was pretty funny. Probably just because I'd never seen one before. It does make sense for a coastal town to have an escape route in case of a high water scenario. However, if you don't know which way is up when the time comes you might be in more trouble than you think.

Monday, February 25, 2008


A short break from the ride report to brag a little about what may be the first CANstruction event in Alaska.

CANstruction is an event where different groups raise money to buy canned food, build a sculpture out of the cans, then donate the cans to the local food bank. I can't remember all the details but the DOWL team (where I work) won the judges award and will be entered into the National Competition.

We raised around 7600 cans, and everyone had a great time. Mariea and I built the Juice box in about 5 hours with only one small collapse. This time of year the food bank is really in need due to the normal holiday run. Hopefully this will become an annual event and give them a boost they need for many years to come.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Valdez/McCarthy (Part 4)

Not to far from Thompson Pass is the Worthington Glacier. Probably the most accessible glacier in Alaska. I was pretty excited to see how close it was to the visitors center. When I met some people on their way to the parking lot they told me it was pretty easy to walk right up to it.

Getting closer. You need to jump the fence here, or walk around the end, and cross a shallow stream to get next to this large ice cube.

So what do you do when you get close to a glacier? It was pretty cold as the air rolled down the ice right into the low spot there. I couldn't figure out what to do so I just touched it. Now I can tell people I touched a glacier.

As I was leaving the glacier there was a thick fog rolling down the hill I was about to ascend. I guess I passed through Thompson Pass but the fog was so think I could barely see the 100 feet ahead of myself. It wasn't raining, but it was wet enough for the water to condense on my face shield. Because I couldn't get going fast enough for the wind to blow it off I cracked the shield open about half way and tried to peek out below it as I went. Eventually, without being run over by a semi truck, I pulled out of the fog and found myself in Keystone Canyon.

That is Bridal Falls in the back ground. Again the picture doesn't represent how gorgeous it was in person. I should have unpacked the tripod but I was getting tired and it was getting dark. I needed t head into town to find a camping spot.

One more shot to show how tall the canyon is. Being down at the bottom of those huge walls gave me a sence of how small I was in comparison.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Valdez/MaCarthy (part 3)

After those short bursts of heavy rain I was a little wet, a little cold, and a little light on fuel. On the east end of Glennallen is probably one of Alaska's most traveled intersections. Which is where I always stop to get gas. I can't remember how much it was but it was more than enough to make me happy I was on the KLR and not the jeep that day.

Next on the agenda was Valdez, where I was going to spend the night. To this point the road was pretty much same old, same old. The south part of the Richardson Highway was new to me and I was ready to get on my way.

I know the woman who did the inspection for the paving at the Wrangell St. Elias Nat'l Park welcome center. Since I was going to basically ride through part of the largest yet least visited National Park I figured I better stop to take a look. The pavement was in pretty good shape, but I saw this sign inside the welcome center.

Ha! Take that Vermont and New Hampshire!!!

There was a park ranger that was looking at me funny the whole time I was in there. Can't figure out why. I mean I was wearing my riding jacket and a pair of yellow rubber rain pants.

Heading south I ran into more of those short sections of heavy rain. In the picture above you can see the aftermath of the weather. The road went for a while and then dropped me down off a kind of a plateau. There was a nice looking lake to the east and every once in a while you could see a pull out that had access to the pipeline.

The scene around this pull out was beautiful. To bad more of the pictures didn't turn out. There was a little bit of blue peaking out from behind the clouds. I secretly hoped the sun would come out and burn off the clouds. But, if you look close, there is definitely not enough blue to make a pair of Dutchman's britches. The sun would never come out all the way, but I couldn't complain.

At the same turn out there was an RV with a BMW GS (motorcycle) parked next to it. It looked like there were camping out and riding around during the day. I thought they might come out and strike up a conversation but either they weren't there or didn't want to talk to me.

For more pictures from this road check out the Feb. 15 Post (Road to Valdez

Monday, February 18, 2008

Picture heavy post today. Thats OK though, Adam told me he just likes to look at the pictures.

I was on my way from the Matanuska Glacier turnout when I passed the road I talked about on Feb. 3rd. The picture below shows the hill I rode to the top of. It looks small from the highway but it seems a lot bigger when your on top. Even thought the picture really doesn't do the color justice the grass on the valley floor was very red.

There were a lot of people picking blue berries. This person was nice enough to park the RV to block the road right before a washed out culvert. The highway is in the background there, and that ditch is about 15 feet deep (the picture was taken on my way back to the hwy). There would be a lot of pain involved if someone were to fall in. Luckily there was a side road that crossed the creek. Water crossings are always a lot of fun, except for that one big round rock that you need to avoid. Of course you need to look at it to avoid it, but if you do your sure to hit it. Go figure.

It must have been getting to be lunch time and after I hit the highway again it was a short scoot to the Eureka Lodge where I stopped for a Cheeseburger. I like to stop there because the service is always fast and friendly, the food is great, and you can get a bottomless cup of coffee for less than a dollar. Below you can see they are doing some sort of improvements. For some reason I believe they were winterizing for the upcoming snowmobile season.

This is looking out from the lodge. Notice the airplane. I believe there is a gravel strip right there near the highway.

With a cheeseburger and a couple cups of coffee in my belly I left the valley behind as I motored on to Glennallen. Before I got there I would ride through the heaviest rain I would encounter, huge drop of water. I almost pulled over to let it pass, but in a mile or two I would always ride out of it. That happened maybe 3 times in total, it was pretty cold too.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Valdez/McCarthy/Kennicott Mine

I haven't done a proper ride report for my Valdez/McCarthy ride so I figured that I might as well do it here, one or two pictures at a time. Several photos from that trip have already been posted, but there are a few good ones left to share.

Speaking of Ride Reports. Most of the rides I did write up are on with one or two at I have posted links to those reports on the right side of the page here. In fact if you look right over there --> you can probably see them right now. A lot of other riders/writers contribute to these forums. If you have a chance take a look at their stories. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Enough of that, on to the story.

Like many of my rides this one started out wet. It was Labor Day weekend, the State Fair had just wound down, and I couldn't pass up what would probably be my last over night trip of the season. It wasn't raining very hard, kind of more like misting. However that was enough for me to stop and put my XtraTufs on. See my post on Feb. 5th.

The following picture was taken not far from where I stopped for the boot change. I was on the Old Glenn Hwy. That is the Knik river in the foreground. If you look close, there is a mountain obscured by low clouds in the background.

With the dryness of my feet insured I hung a right in Palmer and headed up the Glenn Hwy towards Glennallen. The weather seemed to stick to the lower elevations and things got a little nicer as I snaked my way up the Matanuska River Valley. Not too nice, but nice enough to stop for a rest at the Matanuska Glacier overlook.

You can see the glacier there in the background. There were a couple RV's in the parking lot and several cars. More people than I expected from the light traffic I had experienced. As I was leaving I noticed the colors had started to change. Like always the air got colder the higher I went, but this time things looked a lot more red.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

McCarthy, AK

Foot Bridge to McCarthy, AK

When the 60 mile McCarthy road ends, you'll find a river with a very narrow bridge crossing it. Its so narrow that you can't drive a car over, and maybe even some four wheelers. Seems like they are making them pretty big these days.

There are carts so you can roll your luggage to a waiting van on the other side incase you want to spend the night or just take a tour of the Kennicott Mine north-ish of town. However, if you happen to ride a motorcycle it is possible to take it to the other side.

Since there was what seemed to be a lot of foot traffic I waited for a break and pushed the KLR across. Half way across I realized I was holding up some people with bicycles. Its a good thing they weren't in a hurry because it seemed I was hogging the road.

Once on the other side the helmet went back on, the KLR started right up, and I was on my way.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Road to Valdez

On the road to Valdez

I'm not really up to writing too much tonight because it has been a long day. The three day weekend is a welcome rest, especially since I didn't know about it until yesterday. So it was kind of like Christmas a little.

Anyway. I like to try and capture what its like to be on the road. When I see a particularly photogenic stretch with a nice background I'll pull over and take a picture. These were taken along the highway heading south to Valdez. I've been told the roads from Anchorage to Valdez may be the most scenic route in Alaska.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bob and Angie

Bob and Angie of in front of Fast Eddies in Tok, Alaska

I was in Glennallenn, headed towards Tok, and figured that it would be a good idea to find a lodge somewhere between the two to get dinner, a beer, and a place to camp. So I ask the kid at the gas station if there were any lodges up the road.

He replied, "I don't know, never been up that way."
me: "Oh! You must be new to Alaska too?"
him: "Nope, I go to Community College here"
me: "huh"

(just a little disclaimer here. I am not knocking Community Colleges. In fact I went to a community college and got a great education there.) Where was I? oh yeah, anyway.

I was outside trying to decide if I should stay or go when someone who had overheard my conversation and suggested the Log Cabin as a good place to eat in town. It sounded pretty good to me so off I went.

When I got there three BMW's were parked out front. I sat near the riders table inside, and we ended up leaving at the same time. I was going to ask the cashier where a good camping spot was but this two of the riders beat me to it. We got to talking and decided to find a camping spot and then ride to Tok the next day.

We found a nice campground along the river and I got to know Bob and Angie a little. They told me about their travels from South America to Prudoe Bay, and that they were on their way back to Peru. They had been on that bike, and camping out day after day for THREE YEARS!!! Can you imagine that. They actually wore tents out. I think that is amazing.

The next day we rode to Tok and had Lunch at Fast Eddie's (I think its the law when in town).
I took the picture after lunch and we soon parted ways. I headed off to Dawson, which is where they were going the next day, and we were supposed to meet up. But for some reason or another it didn't happen which was unfortunate.

The best part of riding last summer was all the great, interesting, and cool people that I got to meet and talk to. Bob and Angie are at the top of the list and I wish them safe travels on their future adventures.

Take a look at for more information about their ride.

Monday, February 11, 2008


South of the Denali Hwy on the Parks

So there I was. Not to long after helping those ladies change the tire on their Escalade, but much wetter. Shortly after the end of the Denali Highway I was headed South on the Parks to Talkeetna when the sky opened up and started raining cats and dogs. Bears too apparently!

I was cold, wet, and focused on my destination. Tucked behind the tiny windshield going about 65 I came around the corner and saw the biggest black bear that I'd ever seen. And it was getting bigger as I got closer!

Hand full of clutch, locked up the rear and thinking to myself that I should go easy on the front so I don't go down on the wet pavement. Right when I got stopped the bear lumbered back into the woods most likely just as startled as I was.

Proceeding cautiously I kept an eye on the woods to catch a glimpse as I passed by but didn't see anything. When I was a comfortable distance from my first encounter I stopped to see if it would try and cross the road again so I could snap a picture. Just when I was about to leave I could see it come out of the woods in one of my mirrors. After a quick U-turn I was able to get the two pictures above.

For some scale I would guess that the shoulder is probably 6 feet wide.

This was the only bear I saw on my travels that summer.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stuck :(

Abandoned Coal Mine Lays In Wait for the Unsuspecting Motorcyclist

This was my last ride of the season in mid October. There was snow on the KLR that morning and even with several layers the run up the Glenn Hwy was a little brisk.

I met up with two others from ADVRider in Palmer and we headed out to Sutton where there is a abandoned coal mine. We poked around some trails that were near Coyote Lake for a little bit then cruised up a wide haul road leading to the top of a hill. At one of the dead ends we could see this cut and thought it would be fun to go check it out.

I took up the rear and headed down. To the right looked like a neat place to go play around and maybe sling some mug. So off I went, reached a talus pile no problem, turned around, and figured I could splash through some of the shallow water on the way back.

Moments later I had a sinking feeling. When mud fell from the sky landing on the instrument cluster I let off the gas and realized I wasn't moving forward, which normally means you would fall over. When I looked down my feet were on the pegs and touching the ground at the same time, mean while my riding partners were laughing on dry land.

Long story short. We bummed a rope from a family nearby, and wrestled for an hour and a half to get the KLR out of that mud. It was half frozen, about knee deep, and had a death grip on the wheels. About a hour and a half later we got her out and on solid land. If I had been out there by myself the KLR would still be out there.

Thanks guys, I couldn't have done it without you.

The Victorious Riders

Of course ten minutes later two quads with tow ropes and winches came by. If they had only been there and hour earlier frost bite could have been avoided. Oh well, I never plan to do that again anyway.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Lugs Prohibited

Chicken Creek in Chicken Alaska

On my way to Dawson I saw the sign that says "Vehicles with Lugs Prohibited" and kind of chuckled my way down the road. The tires on the KLR are TKC-80's which are a rather aggressive tire to be used on a road bike. While they aren't the biggest lugs you can get on a DOT approved knobbie tire the sign still gave me a laugh and I knew I had to take this picture on the way back.

So there I was. The bike parked half way in the road, people driving by getting in the frame, and me laying down in the dirt trying to get the perfect angle. Then to top it all off when I got home this photo was nowhere to be found. I have had the same problem with this camera before and was pretty disappointed. Luckily a month or so later I found several lost pictures, including this one.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I'm not sure where this was taken. Somewhere on the Taylor Hwy between Chicken and the Alaska/Yukon border on my way to Dawson City.

There isn't really much of a story to go with this one except that I was there and thought it was a good idea to stop for a picture. This is what the road looked like most of the way after Tok on that trip. Now that I think about it I'm more surprised that there weren't more motor homes. This was the first weekend in August, which is still tourist season (I think).

I was debating what to do with the coveted four day weekend and debated if I should go to Deadhorse, Valdez, or even the Denali Hwy again. One day when I was talking to someone I mentioned that I could go to Dawson or I could wait until Dust 2 Dawson next year. He said, "You might as well go now because you never know whats going to happen before next year.".

I'm glad went. That was some good advice.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rain Rain Go Away!!!

In the rain just south of Palmer

This was from my ride to Valdez but it very well could have been from any of my overnight trips this last summer. It seemed that no matter what, the weather would be great all week, then when it was time for me to make like a banana and split, it would turn for the worst.

You can see two different boots in this picture. I was wearing my Redwing work/hiking boots. They are only as tall as the top of my ankle and if I ride too long in the rain the water will get up in my rain pants and leak into the boot. Which gives me wet feet.

The other boot there is one of my XTRATUFs, your basic indestructible rubber boot. Those boots are pretty much the official foot wear of Alaska, they definitely are in Southeast where it rains more than you can imagine. Anyway, the xtratufs are pretty tall so the rain stays out and my feet stay dry. The only downside is that if I were to crash at speed the pavement would shave them down like a belt sander through hot butter. This would be very bad for my feet.

I'm looking for some good riding boots, and nice weather proof riding pants for this season. I'll stay dryer and safer. Which is a good thing.

I rode in the rain A LOT. But it was still a lot of fun. One day I went, dripping, into the Palmer McDonald's looking for something hot to eat and a place to warm up. After a woman took my order she said

"Its not a good day to be on a bike huh."

I replied

"Its always a good day to be on a bike!"

As she shook her head I walked to my table with a big grin on my face and ate my hamburger.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Random Road

View from the Top of the Hill

Near Mile 120 of the Glenn Highway there is a small road leading to the valley floor. The road has a name but I can't think of it right now. It has something to do with communications because at the end of the road there is as large hill with a com tower on the top.

You can see some rain in the back ground. It would be a clue as to what I was going to have to ride through. It didn't rain the whole time, just in bursts. However, it was the heaviest rain I'd experienced, and several times I thought about stopping until it let up.

I had been by on the Highway and looked at the small peak wondering what was over there. This time I was on my way to Valdez and figured I should check it out. After all, while the colors hadn't changed in Anchorage, they were ablaze at the higher altitudes. I was surprised to see the grass as red as it was. In Michigan the grass changes color too, but only when it dies.

When I reached the top there were two people up there on Mountain Bikes. They were camping down near the river you had to cross, picking blue berries and decided to go for a ride. I commended them for riding up the hill and we talked about techniques for riding down. All of us were worried about sliding off a corner and falling to our death. I made it down without any trouble and went on my way.

From the top of the hill you could see several trails heading towards the mountains. If I can find someone to go with me this summer they may need to be explored.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


The KLR previously precariously perched

This was actually a group ride. Some people on in the Great White North forum (which includes Alaska and Canada) decided to get together and ride to Hope for a bite to eat on a Sunday morning. Those of us with dual sports headed out a near by gravel road and I found myself here.

Not too far up the trail, bowling ball size rocks were the typical surface. While there were three in our group that decided to proceed, I decided to head back with some of the others and return to ride another day. I did see the pictures from the top, and they were amazing.

About 2.78 minutes after this picture my bike fell over. If you look close you can see that its pretty much verticle, which isn't the best way to get the side stand to work. Maybe a stiff breeze came by or a marmot sneezed somewhere. Either way it went down and broke a rear blinker.

I picked up as many pieces as I could and decided that low profile blinkers are in my future.

What a nice day.
The sun was out, it wasn't too hot but it was warm. Blue sky, fluffy clouds, and green mountains.
It doesn't get much nicer than that.