I can’t believe it-we’re in Alaska! We actually rode our motorcycles into Alaska!
This was something that we were telling our friends and family back home before we left, and it was kindof an absurd statement like, “I’m going to fly to the moon in a cereal box.”
“I’m going to ride motorcycle to Alaska.” People do it all the time, we would say. It’s just that I had never met anyone who did it all the time, or ever for that matter! And now, I’m that person! Bear’s that person! We’re those people!!!
This morning we woke up in the back parking lot, well, really it used to be a campground. Or maybe it still was… we’re not too sure. But we were exhausted, contacts stuck to my eyeballs because there definitely wasn’t a bathroom nearby, but I could smell bacon. “What do you say we eat breakfast out today?” I asked Bear… “Oh, Hell yeah.” Bear replied.
So we tore down camp in a hurry.
We did a minimal setup the night before, well, technically the morning before, seeing as how we arrived around 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning. We couldn’t help it though… it was summer solstice! The longest day of sun, which also meant the longest sunset ever… miles of beauty. Well worth riding that far.
It was a very short ride to Buckshot Betty’s restaurant in Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory. They had a TV on in the restaurant, and like mosquitoes to skin, we were glued to the screen. Flooding in Calgary, the mayor reading civil code to the reporters, and shots of floodwaters halfway up two story homes.
Maybe we won’t go through Montana, we thought… it depends on how these floods shake out.
Homemade bread, potatoes, bacon and eggs, chased by hot coffee and conversation with a proud dad. His son was a motorcycle legend up in these parts, and had made quite a name for himself in the action sports industry.
It’s fun to meet the locals, and hear their stories. As it turns out, Buckshot Betty had earned her name. I wasn’t sure if it was with a gun or with a camera, since she had some pretty stunning photos of local wildlife hung on the walls. She even captured images of a mamma grizzly that found and gave a can of Red Bull to her cub, and the cub was drinking it! That’s something I wouldn’t want to encounter-a Red Bull energized grizzly bear!
We were energized for the road, and immediately stopped for construction. The road had been washed out, and they were building it up again, so we were led by a pace car through gravel detours for about 20 minutes. At least the roads had been recently watered, so we didn’t have to breathe in the dust, but we did get some decent splatters of mud on our ankles.
Soon enough, though, the road smoothed out. We found ourselves at the border and U.S. Customs. I was so excited to finally be in Alaska! Our border guard was kind and passed us along, and we immediately noticed the difference in countries.
Gone were the chip-seal roads without sidelines and occasional centerlines, here were the beautiful asphalt roads of ‘Merica. Black tar, bright yellow and white paint, and paved shoulders with rumble strip. We had a hard time keeping it at the posted 55mph.
Our first gas station pumping gallons of gas came next, at the Last Chance stop. $4.55 p/gallon?! It’s a good thing we’re still averaging 50 miles p/gallon on these Transalps… I have no idea how all these RV’s are paying for gas up here-they must have mortgaged their stationary homes!
We kept cruising into Alaska, looking forward to our AT&T cell phone reception and catching up with friends and family. Tok, AK was the lunch stop and next gas stop. We were originally going to make lunch with our food, but when we checked our phones and heard some sad news of our dear friends, we needed some comfort food.
It was here where we started noticing all the motorcyclists with not just muddy ankles, but shins and thighs too. All of them with whiteish-yellowish mud, coating the bottoms of their pants. “They all must have been to Dawson”, we thought.
We were going to try and make it there with the group we were travelling with, but since my chain needed to be replaced, we decided to beeline it to Anchorage. This was obviously a good choice for weather, too, since all of these folks had ridden back through miles of muddy gravel.
The parking lots were beginning to look like a motorcycle rally, and feel like the lift lines of my snowboarder days of yore.
People are checking out your gear, sizing up your choices and money spent on rigs. Some are trying to leave skidmarks with how fancy their brakes are, and we are just trying to get gas and clean our visors of mosquitoes.
It’s strange for me, being suddenly surrounded by “bros”. The dude mentality is thick, and I feel myself feeling both defensive and also flustered at the same time. I don’t want to fall over, screw up, or do anything that makes me look like a lame girl rider, and then I’m reminded of what our friend Ray said in reference to my U-Turns… “I ride for me. I know where I want to go, and I ride where I want to go!”
That’s right. I rode here. I ride where I want to go, and I ride for me. No one can change that, and I’m not going to give that away.
This really helped me out, and as I pulled away from those pumps confidently with my man beside me, I was proud to have ridden motorcycle to Alaska.
We were off again, and not too sure where we wanted to camp for the night. Some of the people we had met in the parking lots were on their way to Anchorage, and I did not want to ride almost 400 miles in one day just to “get there”… so we meandered our way along the historic AlCan Highway. The mountains were starting to get HUGE! Off in the distance we could see one peak rising up into the clouds, maybe even creating it’s own clouds. We decided to take some panoramic shots of it.
I love this – ride, stop, look, breathe – things are so Beautiful up here! It’s hard to imagine how rough the winter must be, but also easy sometimes. When we’re riding through the flat, low trough of what used to be the bottom of a ginormous glacier, it’s easy to imagine it as a vast, snow-covered desolate land where the wind whips and freeze everything it touches. Even now, the sun is so warm and our pit vents are open in our suits, but as soon as we start riding the wind cools you down almost to a chill.
The fork in the road brings us to Glennallen, and it’s also time to gas up again. I can finally google things, and take a look for campsites here. There are RV parks, and we choose to find a place called Tolsona Wilderness Campground. It’s apparently in Glennallen, or so the address says so, but I couldn’t find it on the map. We decided we should have some cheap cold ones while we camped and took photos, so we stopped at a grocery store. I got distracted by some S’mores flavored Jello pudding, and needed to ask the grocery clerk where to find some brews and the campground. Wonderfully, they were both on the way out of town, where we were heading anyhow! So we bootlegged some tall boys from a sweet old woman and found our way to our camp.
It was the coolest campsite in a long while! The road took us back along a creek, and the store/office was run by the sweetest man. He was shorter than me, but his personality and smile took up the whole room. He was so excited to share his story of homesteading the land, how he got the acres from the government if he was willing to start a business on them, and for a schoolteacher, this was a great prospect. He and his wife built the campground from scratch, building every table, every washroom.
Campgrounds that are run this way aren’t too common, and we were so grateful to have found it online. We were also relieved that it was still the beginning of the tourist season, since this place is normally fully booked every day!
We had sites to choose from, and picked one of his favorites, #89. It was one of the furthest from the washrooms, but also isolated, which meant we could sprawl out. All of the sites were along the creek, which snaked its way through the meadows and trees. We only had one campsite of neighbors, a few hundred yards away, and they turned out to be motorcyclists from Anchorage who had also done the Dust to Dawson run. They were such great locals, and gave us all kinds of ideas for day trips, scenic routes, and towns not-to-miss. They also filled me in on the myths of Northern Exposure, letting me know that Sicily, AK did not exist, but it was modled after Talkeetna, and shot in Washington. I was only a little bit disappointed, because I should have known that’s how it would be, but now I definitely want to go to Talkeetna 🙂
We took our sweet time chatting, drinking cold ones, making a beef stew, shooting pictures of the creek, campsite, and full moon.
I love camping, and nights like this remind me even more how much fun I’m having.
It’s kind of wild to realize that this is what we do now – wake up, pack up, ride motorcycle, stop for gas, eat some food, ride some motorcycle, stop and take pictures, drink some coffee, ride some more motorcycle, stop for gas, eat some more food, ride some more motorcycle and find a campsite. Make some food, take some pictures, and go to sleep.
Wake up and do it again.
This is our life these days, and it’s surprisingly natural. It’s also funny how little I mind the fact that my hair is filthy and I smell of stinky feet and dirty shirt… no matter how much foot powder or washing my socks in sinks or creeks with lavender soap, somehow the accumulative scents decide to link up and join forces as a “scent”. Lavender, sage, pachouli, BO, stinky socks, hair grease, girly perfume, dust, oil, gasoline, they all intermingle and this is how I smell these days. I’m sure I’ll pick up my motorcycle suit this winter, when it’s raining and cold in our house and I’ll smell it and smile. My throat tightens and my eyes mist up a little bit even imagining the memory I’ll be experiencing then.
That’s kindof how this trip has been… I’ll be in these endless moments of WOW, and then have this sortof out-of-body realization of “Do you realize how amazing this is?!!! Don’t ever forget this, because this is epic! This is heaven! This is what people dream of!” and then I start to want to cry a little bit because I feel so lucky to be here. So proud of myself for working so hard to afford to be here. So happy and blessed to have continued to be SAFE to be here.
And then take those emotions and not just double them, but multiply them by another power, because Bear is here too! And he is safe too! And he worked so hard too!
So it’s not just one of us, or the fact that two people can do this. But we are partners, and we had a shared dream. We took our dream, and made it a goal. We took our goal, and broke it up into categories. We took these categories and did research and hard work and made purchases and communicated with others to learn. We took this knowledge and combined it with these new things and applied it in real life. With our own selves on our own machines.
We are really doing it! We are really here! We have made it to Alaska, we have accomplished our goal. On paper, it sounds simple. In our hearts, I’m not sure if we will ever get to the bottom of this rich bowl of soup that we have received. But we are eating it up, bite by bite.
And tomorrow we will wake up, and do it again.