Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Do you think we’ll get shot?"

Couldn't help myself... great photo ops!

This was the question that popped in my mind when we decided to trespass beyond the “No Trespassing” sign off the Taylor highway. Unlike the lower 48 when Jaz and I have been faced with this dilemma… trespass for a cool photo… and take the risk… usually the risk is being kick off the property with a lecture from the rent-a-cop, or possibly a ticket. This, however is Alaska… a place where it’s probably written into the state laws that it is okay to shoot car tires out if they goose-tail you or your motorbike with gravel as they pass you…

Again… Do you think we will get shot? We decided to risk the possibility for the photos - thus another good day of motorbike traveling unfolded as we explored a couple of old shacks off the highway that were probably used for gold mining in the not so distant past.

We pulled out of Tok and turned north towards Chicken and Eagle. The road was for the most part okay, with patches of gravel and repair and the usual frost heaves and bad road. We rolled into Chicken and topped off with gas and I picked up a sticker for my side luggage. We turned back on to the road and it quickly deteriorated. It had rained enough that there were areas of mud and potholed filled with water, but we could pick around them. We turned passed the fork where we could go to Dawson or Eagle, and headed north to the Yukon River.

My new sticker on my bike...

I have never driven this section of the road, but I had been to Eagle before. Years ago I paddled a canoe from Dawson to the Haul Road near Circle. It took a week and half to travel the distance, and I rolled in to Eagle from the river. The road in was a new experience! BOY what a treat. This drive was absolutely gorgeous. Before this ride, I would have put “Top of the World” highway in the top five for drives I have ever done…. This put that road to shame.

The road was treacherous though, and what muddy corners existed caused the bikes to slide and wiggle, and that is a little frightening. Neither one of us came close to dropping a bike, but it was certainly a tense ride in. I slide 3 times, once in gravel 2 times in mud, but I wasn’t going fast enough to not be able to recover. Jaz slide more, but her 40 years of riding allowed her to correct without issues. We made it into Eagle without any mishaps. We spent two days in a cabin tent and photographed the historic district, the Fort and even went on the Yukon River out to Calico Bluff for photo shots and visited with some homesteaders for a while. The Taylor is a must for experienced riders. It was remote and wild and beautiful!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Glennallen: City of God

I left Anchorage today with a destination of Tok, Alaska. I am headed up to Eagle to visit Yukon Charlie National Park and Preserve. The road leading up to Eagle is dirt, and I have been warned that when they spray the road with magnesium chloride to keep the dust down, the road can get dangerous when it’s wet. Apparently it gets “slicker than snot.” In the last little while 3 motorcycle riders have crashed and broken legs on the Taylor highway. Hmmm…

So naturally, when I departed Anchorage today, it rained all day. The forecast for the next 4 days: RAIN RAIN RAIN. Jaz and I will need to be extra cautious.

The weather was so bad, I made the comment that someone must be paying me back for a discretion in the past. Jaz promptly responded “It’s because we are going to the city of god.” Not sure exactly what she meant by that, I asked for clarification. Glennallen is the city of god. Similar to “SLOW” – dot-na in shear numbers of conservative folk, but (apparently) higher on the god-factor. I asked her how she knew that… she said it was because of the many mailboxes, bumper stickers and signs posted all over town declaring something about god.

Still confused and not understanding why we were being challenged… the rain had caused many landslides along the side of the road, resulting in debris, pebbles, and large rocks strategically placed on blind corners in the road lanes. In addition, there was fog so thick you could cut it with a knife, adding to the thrill of looking for the rocks in the road. She was in front of me maybe 20 feet, and I could barely see her tail light. Did I mention the rain? Her response to my confusion.. Glennallen is the holy city… and we are people with low moral character…. Thus the challenges. Sure enough… we rolled into town and there was a sign that said “Prepare to meet thy God”…. Hmmm.

Although it may appear that we are morally challenged, we are also pure of heart… this the reason we made it safely through the test. Whatever.

Once we got to Mentasta, the skies cleared up and it was sunny all the way to Tok (what few miles were left). The roads are lined with dwarf fireweed, lupine, white flowers, and beautiful yellow flowers (NO-not the invasive dandelion). We saw 3 moose (1 spring moose), 2 squirrels, 1 eagle, several trumpeter swans, and a TON of mosquitoes.

We got our run-in with the law out of the way the first day of this trip. While sitting in Glennallen at the gas station resting, Jaz noticed a trooper hanging out across the parking lot watching us. There were lots of motorcycles around, but I can’t figure out why we seem to be a magnet for the law in some shape or form. Sure enough… after about 10 minutes, he drove around behind us and sat in the car. It looked like he was running plates. Another 10 minutes and he pulled up and rolled his window down and asked us where we were headed. He warned us about the road conditions and how we needed to be really careful. Then he talked about the fact that he has a motorcycle too and likes to ride… sounded like he just wanted to kill time. We both thought he was strange.

The road to Tok was horrible. The worst I have ever seen it. The frost heaves were like riding a roller coaster… and the road had many sections of broken gravel/dirt areas. In fact, the gravel was recently spread out, so it was very loose. Like riding a motorcycle over marbles… which is even more interesting when a cross wind is hitting you from the side. The patches of marbles appeared often, but you got a warning with road signs. At some point, the sign posters must have either ran out of signs, or figured “why bother”… and stopped posting. Then it got really interesting, especially the first unexpected one. Jaz hit it going about 50 mph. The dust flew… and I braked in time to slow it down to 35… pretty challenging. We rolled in to Tok and I got a well-deserved cold Black Butte Porter.

Tomorrow the real challenge begins…

Frost heaves near Tok

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