Day 29 – Homer, AK

Day 29 – Homer, AK     09/18/10     Mileage: Local mileage  

 The cold fog that enveloped most of Homer last night came back with a vengeance this morning. The Homer Spit where I camped is a thin ribbon of gravel with few buildings that juts out into the open water. The tent fly was soaked with condensation and everything was damp. I decided to stay another night on the spit, so I left my tent up and went back to town to find some breakfast with a side of wifi.  

Here comes the fog...

 

The fog rolling in...

 

Looking down the Homer Spit...

 

My camp on the spit...

 

I stumbled across the Cosmic Kitchen which not only had wifi, but also the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had! After getting caught up on the blog, I did some grocery shopping and went to the hardware store for a few items. After that I went east out of town on a road appropriately named East End Road, as it was recommended to me by several locals.  

View of the bay from East End Road...

 

View of the bay from East End Road...

 

Looking across the bay at the glaciers...

 

Looking across the bay from East End Road

 

It turned to dirt near the end and went over a cliff down a series of steep switchbacks that brought you down to the waters edge.   

On the beach after the steep switch-back trail...

 

Just beyond where I stopped there were some Russian villages…which I think are holdovers from when Alaska was part of Russia.  It was well worth the trip as it also offered great views of the mountains and glaciers on the other side of the bay.   

Another view across the bay...

 

View of the bay towards Homer...and the fog...

 

After returning to town, I fueled up and went back out to the spit to the Salty Dawg for a beer (or two).  

Inside the famous Salty Dawg Saloon...

 

Back at camp I took in the great sunset, cooked some noodles and tuna for dinner and called it a night.  

Sunset on the Homer Spit...

 

Nice sunset at my camp on the spit...

 

Tomorrow I’ll backtrack north on the Kenai towards Seaward and Whittier.

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Day 28 – Chugiak, AK to Homer, AK

Day 28 – Chugiak, AK to Homer, AK     09/17/10     Mileage:  253 

The last 2 days visiting with Scott, Becki and Glenn have been great, but the road beckons and I’m compelled to move on. I am so grateful that they welcomed me into their home, and I am humbled by their boundless generosity. The same can be said for Glenn as well, and I am glad to call them all my friends. 

Scott and Becki

 

Scott and Maggy, their black lab

 

So after yet another hearty meal, and a Billiken pin from Becki for good luck, I fired up the KLR and pointed it south towards Homer, AK on the southern Kenai Peninsula. Scott and Becki both gave me some great recommendations of things to see and do along the way down to Homer. The weather was cool but sunny and it was nice to be on the road again. The scenery, which is never bad it seems anywhere in Alaska, was spectacular on the road to the Kenai south of Anchorage. The soaring mountains plunge straight into the water called the Turnagain Arm at the north end of the Cook Inlet. 

The Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage...

 

The Turnagain Arm

 

It has the 4th largest tidal range in the world and is the largest in the US at over 30 ft.! Once up in the mountains of the northern Kenai, I stopped for lunch at a great overlook and put the new stove to use. 

Table for one...

 

Farther down the road I stopped for gas and got to talking to another biker on a really nice Honda VTX. After chatting for only 10 minutes, he offered me a spare room in his house and the garage to work on my bike if I needed it….I didn’t even know his name yet. 

Scott also showed me a great side road!

 

Mountains on the Kenai...

 

Taking in the view on the Kenai...

 

The weather was still great, but it was not to last as 20 miles north of Homer the pea soup they call fog up here rolled in off the water and the visibility became dangerously limited. Gladly I didn’t have too far to go, sand I was able to find my way out onto the Homer Spit to the Salty Dawg…a famous dive bar. 

The Salty Dawg

 

The Salty Dawg

 

After a quick beer, it was off to set up camp on the spit for the night.

Day 27 – Chugiak, AK

Day 27 – Chugiak, AK    09/16/10     Mileage: Local miles  

I arrived at Scott’s house around 8pm last night and was greeted by him and his wife Becki. Glenn was also there and it was great to see those guys again! After telling more stories and lies, Glenn left for home and I turned in soon after. In the morning, Scott had already left for work and I chatted with Becki over coffee for a bit before heading into Anchorage to run some errands. I went to an internet cafe for breakfast and to start getting back up to date with the blog. Next I went to REI for a new camp stove which cost me over 2 days of travel. I’ve begun to measure expenses over $65 (my daily average budget for all expenses) by how many days it shaves off the trip. The new stove cost $138, so I just shortened my trip by 2 days….bummer. The upside is saving money instead of eating out when I want a hot meal, so hopefully it will pay for itself and then some. After REI I went to the local Kawasaki dealer for some tech advice. I spoke with Shannon, who was a big help not only with advice but also helped to adjust my engine balancer chain tension which was well past the service interval.  

The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage, AK

 

The other problem is that the tires were not balanced very well by the dealer in Fairbanks, and I’m getting a fair amount of vibration at highway speeds and some front end shake in high speed corners. The shaking and discomfort I can deal with…I just wanted to be sure I wouldn’t chew up my wheel bearings. After that it was back to Scott’s house for dinner. Glenn also came over and Becki cooked a great meal, complete with a blackberry crisp for desert.  

L to R: Glen, Scott and me

 

Next I tried on some local Alaska fashion…a beaver fur hat, vest and mittens…..stylish indeed!  

Local Alaska fashion...beaver fur with walrus tusk adornment…

 

More fur...I think the only endangered species in Alaska are the people who work for PETA! LOL!

 

After a good laugh mostly at my expense and more good conversation, I called it a night.

The difference between a trip and an adventure…

It is said that you are truly not on an adventure until something goes very wrong on your trip. I am fortunately still on a trip….but my friend Mark who I met on the big yellow Goldwing in Fairbanks, is officially on an adventure!

Here is an email I received from him yesterday:

—————————————————–

Hello. I am in Smithers BC about 70 miles east of the southern terminus of the Cassair HWY. My new rear tire is being flown in from Vancouver this morning and the Harley Shop in town will install it. I had an interesting trip down from Fairbanks. I only encountered rain in the northern part of the Yukon. After a night in Whitehorse I got to HWY 37 (Cassair HWY- named after the big asbestos mining town that is closed down here near Jade City). I camped out on Dease Lake and headed south after about an hour I decided to put a piece of electrical tape on my face shield to act as a visor for the low hanging sun up here. This is a pretty remote place and no real shoulders on the road so I pulled over on the side of the road opened my saddle bag and got the tape out and as I was cutting the tape I saw my motorcycle go over and I mean over on the down sloping side of the road. I had seen bears on this road and there was no traffic. I tried to get the motorcycle back up and could not. I had picked this motorcycle up once before and its not that hard even though its about 1/2 ton with my stuff on it. So anyway here I am stuck on the side of the road in hungary bear wilderness.  After about 20 minutes of negative thinking and heavy self recrimination along comes my guardian angle diskized as Chuck and Kalyn in a motor home. Chuck helped me get my motorcycle back up and gave me a can of ” fix a flat”. Since they were probably from heaven (they said they did not have a redicence) they sure did know about the flat tire I was to have the next day. Anyway after surveying what is to be about $700 damage off I went to Stewart BC and on over to Hyder Alaska where I got Hyderalized (dank an once of grain alcohol which I needed) . Next day after thinking my tire gauge was broken I discovered that my rear tire was flat. Stewart is 210 miles from the nearest motorcycle tire shop. The guy at the only gas station in town said I could make it to the next intersection and top off the air there and make it on to the motorcycle tire shop in Smithers. I was thinking of the next intersection at 40 miles and he as it turns out was thinking of the intersection at 147 miles. Well when you hear air coming out of your tire you are not going to make 147 miles. I made about 52 miles and was back in hungary bear country with a flat tire no traffic. 3 cars did pass me but did not stop. Later the locals said they must have been tourist. I was able to get the” fix a flat” to finally partially seal the leak enough to get back to where I had seen an abandoned village. There I found an old man who did not speak english but lots of german. He had a compressor and after filling the tire several times and riding back and forth on the road several times to get the tire hot I got the tire to seal enough to make it back to Stewart. I  have Rescue Plus Insurance from the Goldwing Road Riders Organization I belong to and they pay for towing. But they only pay for 100 miles! I need a tow of 212 miles which the Goldwing people said would cost an additional $300 dollars ! So in the mean time I order a tire form Smithers Harley Davidson at $480!!! That’s for one tire. I could live my life in India for that price. Back at the gas station I told the owner who I hadn’t spoken to before I was desperate and he got his tire man on the tire and fixed it in 2 minutes with a plug. Turns out they had had some bad experiences with some motorcycles and weren’t too eager to help I guess. after spending another night at the campground in Stewart and noticing the tire pressure only went down 5 psi I drove to Smithers where I am now. That’s the end of the story. I have been out of wifi range for some time. That’s it. Bye Mark

Day 26 – Maclaren River Lodge to Chugiak, AK

Day 26 – Maclaren River Lodge to Chugiak, AK     09/15/10     Mileage: 253 

Just in case you didn’t know, it’s much easier to get out of bed in a warm hotel room than it is to get out of a warm sleeping bag in an ice cold tent. Dori and I met for breakfast and had some funny conversations with the local hunters, in particular one who went by the nickname Bing. Out on the road, we met up with him and he showed us how to spot moose and caribou….which is much harder than it seems. I’ve been getting a real education on hunting and fishing up here! We passed more stunning vistas of the ever present Alaska Range to the north of the road.  

Alaska Range

 

Dori looking for caribou

 

View from the Denali Highway...

 

Still more Alaska Range...

 

At the end of the Denali Highway, we turned south on the Richardson Highway…Dori to catch the road to Tok, me to catch the road down toward Scott’s house in Chugiak….just north of Anchorage. The scenery did not let up the entire way down to Chugiak, with towering mountains, fast flowing rivers and glaciers…including one that came within a half mile of the road.  

Wrangell Mountains along Rt 1

 

I think this is a "beaver"(?) plane...landing just 10 feet from the road!

 

The Chugach Range

 

Glacier in the Chugach Range...very close to the road!

 

Glacier in the Chugach Range...

 

 Tomorrow will be running errands in Anchorage before setting off for the Kenai Peninsula on Friday.

Day 25 – Denali National Park, AK to Maclaren River Lodge, AK

Day 25 – Denali National Park, AK to Maclaren River Lodge, AK     09/14/10     Mileage:  160  

After returning last night to camp it was time to plot my next move. Scott had recommended the Denali Highway the week before, which is actually a 135 mile dirt road that connects Denali National Park on the west end with the Richardson Highway to the east. One of my campsite neighbors, Dori, was also traveling that way and had also heard that it was a spectacular drive. We decided to travel the road together, so after a quick stop for coffee, we made our way for the Denali Highway….her in her SUV and me on the KLR. The scenery along the way was amazing, perhaps even better than inside the park itself.  

Mount McKinley from the Denali Highway...

 

The Alaska Range from the Denali Highway

 

Looking towards the Alaska Range

 

Yep, more of the Alaska Range...

 

And another...

 

Around 40 miles up the Denali Highway, we were flagged down by a hitchhiker from Germany. Karen has been on the road for 19 months and has some amazing stories…including rafting down the Yukon on a homemade log raft and hitchhiking all the way up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse! Apparently I was in Deadhorse only a few days after her…and people think I’m crazy! Anyway, I of course had no room but she hopped in with Dori and we all continued on.  

Dori and her SUV, now with Karen riding shotgun...

 

Crossing the Susitna River with the Alaska Range in the background...

 

The Denali Clearwater Mountains...

 

Nice lake reflection of the Alaska Range...

 

After another 60 miles of desolate dirt road and one breathtaking view after another, we came up to the Maclaren River Lodge. It was a rustic but cute place complete with a heat, a restaurant, flush toilets and…a stocked bar. After two cold nights camping in Denali, that sealed it for me….I was forgoing the tent tonight in favor of a hot meal, a cold beer and a warm room with plumbing.  

Maclaren River Lodge

 

Maclaren River Lodge

 

Unique art pice of a salmon made from beer caps. The winters are very long up here.

 

The Maclaren River and Alaska Range in the background

 

A little after dinner pool....

 

 Dori also got a room and Karen set up her tent just across the road. After dinner and a few beers, it was off to bed…as tomorrow I had a long ride down to Anchorage to see Glenn and Scott.

Day 24 – Denali National Park

Day 24 – Denali National Park     09/13/10     Mileage: 0
 
The morning was coldest of the trip so far and there was a heavy frost on the tent. Fortunately, the skies were clear and the forecast was for it to remain clear and slightly warmer than normal….so I’ll take it! I caught the 8:30 bus out to the Eielson visitor’s center…an 8 hour round trip! There are no personal vehicles allowed…so the bus (aside from a 4 day hike) is the only way to get deep into the park and close to Mount McKinley. Normally I’m not one for guided tours or being led around by the nose, but I learned more and saw more wild life than I would have ever seen on my own…so it was well worth it. For the first time on the trip, I felt my point and shoot camera was wholly inadequate for the scale of the scenery and task at hand. Others on the bus with SLR camera’s and big telephoto and wide-angle lenses were getting much better shots of the landscape and of the wild life in particular. The power and grandeur of the scenery in the park and elsewhere in Alaska is not so much in the limited view of the camera lens, but in the scale of the scenery that goes uninterrupted from horizon to horizon. So, what you are seeing in the photos below is Denali as seen through a soda straw. That being said, I’ll let the pictures to the talking…  

Denali, Mount McKinley in the background...

 

Looking across the Teklanika River

 

Doll sheep

 

Polychrome Pass

 

View of the Alaska Range from Polychrome Pass

 

View of the Alaska Range from Polychrome Pass

 

Mommy grizzly and 2 cubs!

 

Looking towards Mount McKinley

 

Grizzly on the run!

 

Mount McKinley from Eielson visitors center

 

Mount McKinley from the trail above Eielson

 

Me with the Alaska Range in the background

 

McKinley from the ridge above Eielson

 

Alaska Range from above Eielson

 

Me with McKinley in the background from the ridge above Eielson