From Pendleton, OR, I headed south east through Idaho to Ogden, UT, where I spent the night. It was through Idaho that the temps were the highest; had been 106 in Boise the day before and in Mountain Home, they said it was about 100 when I gassed up. I drank a G2 Gatoraid at almost every stop to stay hydrated and replace the electrolites that I was sweating out. I left Ogden early the next morning hoping to beat the worst of the traffic through Salt Lake City but I didn t. Then south of Salt Lake I ran into a cold wind. It was here that I put on my electric jacket and plugged it in! I don t know what the temps were but it was chilly (I hate to use the word cold in June in Utah!) I wore the jacket, though turned off, until Moab where it got too toasty. Then it was off across the Pinto Bean Capital of Colorado (Dove Creek area) to Cortez and on to Durango for the night. This was a long day and the temperature extremes made it one of the most tiring. I spent a nice afternoon and evening visiting my sister in Durango, wish I had had more time but I was anxious to put the next two days behind me and get home! I took the scenic route from Durango to Pagosa Springs, then south to Chalma, NM and on through Espanola to Santa Fe. I cut south from Santa Fe and picked up I-40; this would be one of my few long days on Interstates which I try to avoid. I was looking forward to visiting the Centerpoint Cafe in Adrian (my middle name) Texas but when I arrived there, it was closed, I guess because it was July 4th. I stayed on old Route 66 to Vega and then turned south to Hereford. Not long after, at Springlake, I angled east on US 70 and picked up I-27 at Plainview. Then it was straight into Lubbock and my motel. I got a good night s sleep and left early for my planned breakfast in Sweetwater. Then I wandered south and east until I picked up 83 at Winters and took it on into Junction where I jumped on I-10 for the final push to Kerrville and home. I was so tired and road weary that I didn t even take my favorite little cut-off through Mountain Home and Ingram, just got off at 16 and took the by-pass to Bandera. I was home by 2:30 and happy to have completed just a little over 9,000 miles in 27 days with only one tire issue. I burned a lot of gas, my biggest expense since gas across Canada was as high as $1.60 a litre (and my average fill-up was about 13 litres.) Gas in Anchorage was $4.59, not exactly cheap!
But all in all, it was a great trip and I m glad I took the time to do it. I doubt if my aging body and fixed retirement income will allow it in the future! But I am far from through riding motorcycles, even long distances, just not for as many days or as many total miles.
June 23, 2013. Nancy and I had reservations at the Denali Mountain Morning Hostel just outside the park and we had a long day planned to get there so we left fairly early after saying adios to Mike and Gary. One thing on my bucket list was to complete the last few miles of the Alaskan Highway from Tok to Delta Junction. The highway does continue on to Fairbanks but Delta Junction was the terminus of the original war-time highway construction. So anyway, we rode to the Junction and turned south on the Richardson Highway to Paxon where we picked up the Denali Highway to Cantwell. Although all the highways in Alaska and Canada have numbers, they are always referred to by name rather than number. The first 30 miles of the Denali are paved but then comes the fun: one hundred miles of gravel road. And in some places the gravel was several inches deep, grabbing the front tire and threatening to put us down. Speed was our friend on the gravel but neither of us could bring ourselves to make friends with it so we putted along, Nancy standing on the pegs most of the distance while I stood only when I felt it absolutely necessary (old legs and knees don't like standing and taking the pounding!) We stopped at Gracious House Lodge where we found a couple pieces of pretty good pie and a character who flies folks around during the summer in a little bush plane (folks in Alaska have airplanes like folks in Texas have pickup trucks.) Nancy asked him how it was there in the winter and he laughed and said he has a place in Arizona for the winters!
June 24, 2013. Might have been just another day in Alaska except for a couple things that make it stand out. First of all, you have to hear The Tire Story from the beginning. About two months before my planned departure from Texas, I began to plan a tire change along the way. As I mulled it over and computed the mileage and my prospective miles per tire, I decided that the simplest was to purchase new tires in Anchorage at the Suzuki shop. Then from the various forums I learned that it was not that expensive to mail a tire there. I asked a friend of mine to check with the Pipe Creek Post Office as to the cost and he came away with $35.00. Now I had installed a new set of Shinko 705s back in May but they now had about 900 miles on them. Not knowing exactly how many miles I could get out of a rear, I decided to keep the front, put on a new rear and mail the take-off rear to Anchorage (they said they would mount and balance the tire for $36.00 off the bike.) I was pretty sure the front would last the entire trip. So now the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey was want to say. It is difficult for me to get to the Pipe Creek PO from work before they close and I didn t want to haul the tire into town with me. So once again, friend Shawn said he goes to the PO every day, he would mail it for me. I put the Suzuki Arctic Cat address on the tire along with my name and Lakehills, TX 78063. Shawn watched as they put the bar coded postage on the tire and scanned it into the system. They also provided him with the tracking number which he forwarded to me. This was on June 3rd and they promised Shawn it would be in Anchorage by June 19th (my plan was to be there to pick it up on the 24th so I wanted to give the USPS some wiggle room.) Little did I know! Anyhow, on the 4th I put the tracking number back into the system and saw that not only did it get scanned at Pipe Creek and sent to the main mail sort facility in San Antonio, someone in San Antonio decided it must have come from Anchorage and was to be delivered to me in Lakehills! Never mind that it had a metered postage and a bar code that would have told them where it was going. So anyway, they sent it back to Pipe Creek for delivery to me. I hit the ceiling as did Shawn! He went to the Post Office and in his subtle way, explained just what he thought of them and their stupidity. I got on the phone and started screaming at anyone who would listen. Between the two of us, we learned that the Pipe Creek PO realized what had happened, and trusting that it wouldn't happen again, sent it back to San Antonio, hopefully this time to get routed on to Alaska. My fear was that even if it survived the brilliance of San Antonio, that someone else between there and Alaska would think the same thing and send it back again! So I signed up for email tracking reports. When two days passed without an email, I checked the tracking and found a note saying the tire was out for delivery in Lakehills! I went ballistic for the second time in a week and this time I visited the Pipe Creek Post Office myself. I simply told the nice man that I was there to pick up my tire. When he seemed confused, I explained that I had mailed a tire to Alaska and it had been sent back to me and now was out for delivery . Since I hadn t received it at home, I figured they must be holding it for me at the PO. He sputtered and stammered and then said, "We sent it back to San Antonio, it is on its way to Alaska." When I asked him to explain why then the tracking system didn't show it on its way, he did explain. Seems the USPS tracking system is only as good as the folks who operate it. And if we ever had any doubts about that, they had been erased by this fiasco. It is up to the individual stops along the way to scan the bar code and if they don't, that is not a problem (for the USPS.) To make a long and potentially sad story shorter and happier, the tire was scanned one more time somewhere in Washington State and then did arrive at the Suzuki shop in plenty of time. There was a moment of panic when I called the shop from McDonalds (where I was having a cup of coffee and a WiFi fix) to make sure it was there and the shop foreman didn't know what I was talking about. He came back on the phone in a moment though and said "yes, it's here." Whew! I hit a car wash and cleaned off the majority of the mud, learned that the shop was only a few blocks from Mickey D's and the car wash, then rolled in and parked in the shade. Did I mention that it was about 90 degrees in Anchorage? I pulled the tire and they mounted and balanced it in short order. Soon I was on my way to the Alaska Backpacker Hostel. It was the worst place I would stay for the entire trip; the photo on line was of a little house while the room I had booked was in an old hotel converted into hovels, not hostels! The bed consisted of a box spring with no mattress over which I placed my sleeping bag and air pad. I was too hot and tired to complain (it did have TV and AC.)
June 25, 2013. I was never so glad to see a city in my rear view mirror as I was to see Anchorage from that viewpoint. Oh, I forgot, there was one very good thing about the layover in Anchorage: Tom Simes (remember him from Dawson City?) emailed me to tell me that he had a Sena base plate to replace the one I broke in Watson Lake. He rode over to the Suzuki shop and delivered a new in the box Sena boom mike base plate. He said it came with his Sena and he only uses the closed face mike. He would take no payment for it either. What a guy! Anyway, I rode north from Alaska to Palmer and took the Glen Highway to Sheep Mountain Lodge where I met Nancy for late breakfast (and pie.) She spent the night in Wasilla with someone she met somewhere along the way. The Glen was one of my favorite roads with gorgeous views of the Matanuska River and glacier along with a nicely twisted highway. After breakfast, we rode on to Glennallen for gas and then to Beaver Creek for a camp site. Tomorrow would take us on into Haines and one more night before catching the ferry for Prince Rupert. It was in Beaver Creek that I left my sun glasses in the bar (I guess) after catching up on my Guinness consumption at Buckshot Betty's.
No photos from the disappointment named Anchorage. I'm sure it has a better side but I didnt see it!
June 26, 2013. It was a pretty good haul from Beaver Creek to Haines but we hit the construction early enough that we didn't have to sit in line. I did learn before leaving for AK that motorcycles are expected to go to the front of the line when there is construction and a pilot car. I guess it is to keep us out of the dust; but for whatever reason, it is nice of them. Someone had told Nancy about Kroschel's Wildlife Park outside Haines and she was determined that we would get there by 2:30 to make the late show. As it was we arrived early enough, and the early show was late enough, that we made the early show. It was great, that is all I can say. We saw a wolf, arctic foxes, brown bear (better known as grizzly), arctic lynx, pine martin, weasel, mooses (meese?), caribou/reindeer, and best of all, a wolverine on a leash! He played with his handler like a big dog! Lodging that night was Bear Creek Cabins Hostel where I had a four bunk house to myself until a late arrival showed up at midnight. It rained all night and was raining when we left for the ferry the next morning but our gear was mostly dry at least.
June 27, 2013. Arrived at the Ferry at 6:15 am per instructions. We had already ridden over the night before to find the dock (it is out of town about 5 miles) and get my ticket. Nancy already had hers since she purchased a round trip on the way up. We were the fourth and fifth bikes in line and shortly thereafter, more showed up. We were first on when they finally finished loading some semi-trailers. They have a unique way of shipping goods to the towns down the peninsula: a little semi tractor hooks on to a trailer and takes it on to the ferry where it is unhooked and secured. The tractor then comes back and gets another trailer and so on. When they get to Juneau or Ketchikan or wherever, another little tractor goes onto the ferry and picks up the trailers left there at the previous docking. This goes on at each stop, night and day .
June 28-July 7, 2013. The rest of the trip was pretty mundane I suppose. We got off the ferry at Prince Rupert at 11:30 pm, spend a few hours at a Hostel and then headed for Prince George. It rained on us for the first hundred miles or so but finally turned nice. I took a few photos along the way but by now rivers, lakes and snow-capped mountains were getting boring. Well, not exactly boring but no longer unique landscape. We camped Saturday night at Bee Lazee RV campground south of Prince George where a shared campsight with showers and a pool (which I did not use....the pool that is, I DID shower!) for $25.12 US. I rode back into Prince George the next morning, Sunday, to attend mass at what I thought was The Cathedral. Turns out it was a regular church but was on Cathedral Street! I had a terrible time finding it as my GPS kept routing me into a dead end in a residential area; Cathedral Street was just over the hill out of site and I finally found it thanks to the visitors bureau down town.
From Prince George, Nancy and I rode south to 100 Mile House where we had breakfast and said goodbye. She took the Sky to Sea Highway towards Vancouver and I went south to Kamloops. Kamloops remined me of Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado, or at least the lake and surrounding countryside did. The next morning I headed south east and was soon in evergreen covered forests where the temps dropped quickly. I stopped and put on my liner but didn't fire up the electrics (that would come later in Utah!) I covered some of the most unique contry in one day on this leg as on any one day: desert-like in Kamloops, then over the top of a mountain and down into a lake infested valley (not sure if it was one big lake or just a string of interconnected smaller lakes but they went on for miles and miles) and then out into farm land of northern Washington State and Oregon before finally landing in Pendleton, Oregon for the night. The ONLY reason I found myself in Oregon was to put another state on my list of states in which I've ridden a motorcycle. It was the only one west of the Mississippi River and how I missed it I'll never know. But now it has been done and I never have to go back (it isn't that bad of a state but I missed the most scenic part I think.)
2017 update: I've now ridden all 49 'continental' states with only Hawaii missing.