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Alaska

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Anchorage, Alaska - The build up days

Wednesday 1st June 2011 – 4th June

I was wide-awake at 4 in the morning. You know how some nights, no matter how hard you try, sleep always evades you. I began to understand the frustration America must have felt chasing Bin Ladin. The harder I tried and the more places I searched, the harder sleep worked to avoid capture. At one point I realised Stubbsie would be up and on his way to the airport, and I hadn’t even slept yet!

Normally this would have me in a foul mood, but not today. No way, not today. Today I was on my way. Today I fall head long into the best adventure I can imagine, riding my very own, brand new, bells and whistles BMW 1200 GS Adventure from the northern most part of Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina. Beyond Sth America awaits the ice of Antarctica, all the while raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Or more simply, as we prefer to call it, Circle to Circle – Miles for Wishes.

I met Stubbsie in Heathrow airport, easily passed thru customs / security and into the departure lounge. It was only 11am, but our first move was obvious. Beer. Obvious yes. Easy? No. Service? What bloody service? Fairdinkum, I’ve had better service on my mobile phone in the heart of Africa! We finally managed this amazingly difficult task, and with beer in hand, Circle to Circle was on its way!

I spose its not too unusual to find one in an international airport, but there was a massive world map on the wall. Perfect, a great way to introduce the ride. So this was our first official footage together, to the amusement of all patrons (they didn’t have any beer to drink, so we may as well amuse them!). Stubbsie stole a crutch off some poor kid with a broken leg (we figured he wouldn’t be able to catch us!) to use as a pointer, giving an outline of our intended route.

The first thing I noticed about this performance was that I find it really difficult to perform in front of the camera, especially in a crowd. I think that’s why the Long Way Down/Round series was so good to watch, they are both actors, and are relaxed, natural.

Then came 24 hours of flight on 3 planes and two countries over some of the most rugged and spectacular scenery featuring ice-capped mountains, glaciers and more snow than........more snow than........ "Hey Wade, I'm a bit stuck for ideas. I need something for - more snow than a - ".

"Sure mate, no worries. More snow than a roadside cafe in Columbia!"  (weird, but as we will be in Columbia in a few months I’m going to run with it anyway!) which landed the Bergalia boys in Anchorage, Alaska on the 1st June 2011. This in itself is quite a remarkable accomplishment. We set this date over 2 years ago.

The past few days have been very valuable giving us time to 'un-glitch a lot of small glitches. These BMW's have more electronics, video's and communication equipment than NASA's ever sent to the moon!

Yesterday was our first shake down ride together, which exposed 2 major aspects. These bikes are AWESOME, and the people of Alaska are amazing in their generosity and friendliness. Already we have been invited to a spectacular Boat House in Wasilla, then lunch and a few great Alaskan beers. Thanks very much John and Brandon!

This morning finds us nervous, excited and 100% full of expectation. Today is it. Today is DAY 1! You little beauty! So many questions to to be answered. Will everything fit on the bikes? Can we extract footage and a story that everyone will be interested in, not just our friends and family? Can people we meet along the way really match up to what we have already experienced? And finally, most important of all. Will Stubbsie fall off before me? I've 2 beers to say he does! Anyone for a piece of the action?

Its time to say our goodbye's to Tim and Ann of A Lakeside B&B and start the most amazing adventure of our lives. Thanks very much guys!

Sunday 5th June – Day 1

Anchorage to Seward – 170 Miles

This morning finds us nervous, excited and 100% full of expectation. Today is it. Today is DAY 1! You little beauty! So many questions to to be answered. Will everything fit on the bikes? Can we extract footage and a story that everyone will be interested in, not just our friends and family? Can people we meet along the way really match up to what we have already experienced? And finally, most important of all. Will Stubbsie fall off before me? I've 2 beers to say he does! Anyone for a piece of the action?

Its time to say our goodbye's to Tim and Ann of A Lakeside B&B and start the most amazing adventure of our lives. Thanks very much guys!

The bikes are finally packed. We are ready. It was time to leave, and in a way it was quite the anti-climax. There we were, the 2 of us, Casey (Wade’s girlfriend), Tim and Ann from Lakeside B&B. And that was it. We rode away. No farewell cake, no crowds of screaming fans, no cute young girls pushing their way thru a mass of heaving bodies, undies in hand trying to jam them into our pockets.

In a way it is appropriate. It fits our personalities. Neither of us makes a big fuss over anything. We just get it done. And here we are, getting it done. No fuss.

The first day was brilliant. Bring on the next 253 I say! 20 minutes out of Anchorage and all seems right in the world. Riding these bikes is like lying next to your girl. Everything is comfortable and warm, everything is in the right place and you have a real sense of belonging.

It was a lovely 170 mile trip down from Anchorage to Seward with a stop for hot chocolate in Hope. A mother Moose and her 2 young calves didn’t even seem so extraordinary. The scenery was such that you just expected it.

Philip reached out and touched his first glacier today.

Monday 6th June – Day 2

Seward

Today was magic. Kinda like going to a game park in Africa and seeing the Big 5 in your first safari. Honestly, by lunchtime we began to wonder that as we walked down the gangway to the boat whether we were zapped by the lazar from ‘Honey I shrank the Kids’, and rather than cruising the wilderness, we were being pushed round an aquarium in Seaworld. Let me see. There were Humpback whales, Killer whales, and not just one family but 3, including a new born. Then there were a verity of seals, some otters for good measure and bird life that would have even the most dedicated watcher twitching with envy.

Oh yeah. There were a few glaciers too. I reckon it’s a pretty fair measure of how great the wildlife show is when you can forget to mention the glacier. It was simply awesome. The noise as great sheets off ice broke off and crashed into the sea was incredible. If you could hold a concert there the acoustics would blow you away. Falling chunks of ice would probably wipe out the band and ruin the show, but before that it would be great!

Aialik (pronounced eye-all-ick) is an Eskimo word, translated meaning eerie or dangerous. The thunderous noise as a Volkswagen sized chunk off ice breaks off and smashes into the water makes the glacier aptly named.  As a result Philip christened his bike Aialik. “She’s not so dangerous as tough, but I love the thought that she’s named after somewhere I’ve been, somewhere I’ve experienced”.

Tuesday 7th June - Day 3

Seward to Coopers Crossing – 50 Miles

“I can’t believe it’s over so fast. 3 days, and not even 1000 miles on the clock. I feel as though I’ve let myself down. I lost the bet. I owe Wade beer. Argh crap!”

Before his mother gets too concerned, let me assure you it was off the road and going about 3 km/hr. What looked like hard packed ‘shoulder’ was actually not packed at all. Let me put it to you this way. If it were a packed lunch, the sandwiches would still be half made on the kitchen bench and the cling film safely away in the draw! There was nothing packed about that particular roadside shoulder, be assured of that!

It didn’t even put a scratch on the bike. Does that really count as a crash?

Heavy. Strewth are these things heavy! With the two of us heaving away for all we were worth, it was still a massive struggle to lift the beast. By yourself…… forget it!

The highlight of the day was seeing the start of the first salmon run for the year. There were no bears catching fish, so Philip had a crack. “Foolishly I actually thought it would be easy, I mean if a bear can do it…. Idiot! All that happened was I looked stupid and lost the feeling in my legs! I never even came close.”

Wednesday 8th June – Day 4

Coopers Crossing. Scenic river drift with Alaska River Company and late afternoon mountain climb.

A relaxed day, or so we thought! Drifting down river in a rubber boat absorbing postcard scenery. Beautiful. Unfortunately still no bears.

After a full day tour most people would be happy to go home, have dinner, relax and go to bed. But not us, no way! And definitely not in Alaska with over 20 hrs of light. The day is just getting started at 1700.

Anthony, our river guide invited us to climb the areas iconic mountain, Mt Cecil. In order to warm up we took advantage of the lodges batting cage. Unfortunately none of us are off to next years World Series (for American’s only), but it was cool fun. Batting practice for baseball…. Tick.

Climbing Cecil is what Circle to Circle - Miles for Wishes is all about. Local people showing off their own backyard, sharing an experience that can’t be found in any tourist brochure.

The hike up was tough, yet extremely rewarding. Spectacular views opened up as the world fell away beneath us. Anthony showed the way, spilling words of encouragement and entertaining us with stories. Satisfied, we rested and re-fueled our bodies on the summit with beef jerky, beer and a wee nip of Captain Morgan’s rum for good measure. With the hard work behind us it was time for some fun, local style!

A snow shoot ran half way down the mountain, and we about to be on it! Anthony instructed. Anthony demonstrated. Anthony disappeared! We all checked our safety gear. Good, sturdy boots?…. No. Padded waterproof pants?…..No. Jacket?…..No. Helmet?….. Are you crazy! Gloves?…. YES!! And with that one box ticked we strode forward, and promptly fell on our arse!

Game on! If there was a way to slide down a snowy mountain side, we did it. Head first, butt first, sideways, on your back or on your bellie. We even managed some shoe skiing. All of it hilarious, none of it graceful! Casey managed to combine everything as she spun, rolled and tumbled down, laughing all the way. It took us over 3 hours to hike from 400 ft to 4500ft, but only 10 minutes to go back down from 4500 ft to 2000 ft.

Cheers Anthony! A bloody great day!

Thursday 9th June – Day 5

Coopers Landing – Rest day.

We deserve it! And when else do you think we have time to post blogs and edit photos?

Friday 10th June – Day 6

Coopers Landing to Homer. 130 Miles

Pretty casual day today. Another short trip meaning we can literally ease our butt’s into the ride. So far so good! There were no ‘butt issues’ when sitting down on a hard chair for dinner! Stay tuned for our future feature article ‘The daily Butt report”, brought to you by the ‘hard asses’ of the Bergalia boys (well, if they aren’t hard asses yet they soon will be after another 10 000 miles or so!)

Saturday 11th June – Day 7

Scenic flight out of Homer (they tell us it would have been scenic if the cloud wasn’t creeping down to 500ft!) and bear viewing.

Topped from toe nails to eye balls full of anticipation for the day ahead, we rolled into the hanger owned by K Bay Air, Alaskan Bear Adventures. Not into it so much as past it for another photo shoot, this time with Michael and what seems to us like his most cherished possessions, two Cessna planes (apologies to Dee! I’m sure this isn’t 100% true).

7 years of guiding bears around people hasn’t dulled the blade of Michael’s enthusiasm in the slightest. He isn’t satisfied until you’ve seen bears closer than you’d feel comfortable being to your next door neighbours Chihuahua as it looks cross eyed at you thru the fence.

I should mention here that we never approached the bears. We waited in position, and the bears moved toward us.

One female bear in par icular was the star of the show, the Jenifer Aniston of the bear world. After 5 minutes of head nods she finally woke up enough for some ‘bear yoga’, stretching out and touching her toes. Oh, sooooo cute!  After a huge struggle to get up (“Quick, she needs coffee! Somebody help! Call Mc Café now!”) then a drink in a nearby stream and she is ready to go. The group crouched on the beach, the power of positive thinking confirmed as we willed the bear in our direction. Without a care in the world ‘Jenifer’ strolled along the beach. We were totally ignored, discarded like yesterdays news. Earlier someone asked “where do the bears walk?” Now we know. Anywhere they like!

Everybody piles into the plane for a very cool beach take-off back top Homer.

Sunday 12th June – Day 8

Halibut fishing from Homer

04:30 The alarm sounds. Arrrggghhhhhhhhh!!! It hurts! Turn it off. Please turn it off!

Its mighty early, but hey, at least it’s not dark! Time to catch Halibut. You little beauty! We met Captain Eric from North Country Fishing Tours and headed out to the fishing grounds. I wish I could fill pages with stories of 300 pound fish, one after another. But I can’t. Strewth, we couldn’t even ½ fill the esky (cool box for those of you uneducated to the Aussie slang) with fish, let alone pages of a blog site!

Eric tried everything in the book to catch us a big fish, and some things that were’t. It just wasn’t our day.

We did meet 3 great blokes from Seattle way. Ron, Steve and Gary, be great to catch up with you guys again!

Once again it’s time to pack the bikes and ride off into the sunset cloud and rain. Thanks very much to Maria and her very cool B&B, Majestic View. Her amazing hospitality and cooking will be hard to beat!

Monday 13th June – Day 9

Homer to Girdwood – 220 Miles

I think perhaps now is a good time for some house keeping. First, quite a few have mentioned the spot tracking may need to be calibrated, or accuracy checked as the two don’t always match. They are not always turned on together. Not to mention any names, not wanting to point fingers or prove that one of us is more ‘switched on’, more efficient and more dedicated to the purpose, but if I were you I’d follow Wades track!

Second, there have been some fantastic wildlife seeking adventures on boats and in planes, and we’ve (you could probably just substitute Wade and ‘we’ if you like) have tracked them all. So yes, when you looked recently and thought “strewth, this can’t be right! Look how fast they’re going. Hope they don’t see any police cause they’re flying.”  Well, yes we were.

More useless facts. The bike’s hold about 8.7 gallons, or 33 L of fuel giving a range of 300 - 330 Miles, or around 500 KM. Fuel in Alaska, the very state they not only pump it, they also refine it, is the most expensive in the States at around $4.50 a gallon. The bikes are cool, but I think I’ve already mentioned that! I’ve never had the pleasure of riding between snow-capped mountains before, never ridden in such cold conditions, yet never felt so warm. Thanks heated vest! Thanks heated handgrips! The water running thru the pipes is so cold, and the houses so warm that in some places the toilet bowl and cistern condenses and drips all over the floor.

Back to the diary. Another easy day in the saddle as we rode to Gary and Yvette’s house to stay the night. Friends of friends initially, after our stay in Alaskan River Company (which they own) they are now just friends. Before we made it to the house there was a game of junior baseba ll to watch. It was actually pretty interesting, and a lot more to it than wacking a ball as far as you can then jogging around a few pad looking things which are apparently called ‘bases’ until you make it home.  Who knew hey?

Having just mentioned that it was more interesting than expected, I should also mention the strange eating habits required by the ‘fans’ in order to get thru an entire game. You could just eat some sunflower seeds, but no. That’s too easy, too fast and provides no distraction from the game. So, in order to watch baseball you suck these little fella’s down, shell and all. Then you spend valuable time splitting the seed with you teeth, but not too hard or everything goes pear-shaped and you end up with a mouth full of smashed shell and seed. This is an impossible situation to recover from, so you spit the concoction out and start again. Still not a complete loss as valuable time has been ‘eaten up’.

Once you finally start to get the hang of the whole seed thing, the next challenge rises to the surface. Shell spitting. This is art, pure and simple. All sorts of games and challenges follow on from this. Aim for a can, aim for the lady in front of you. Heck, just aim for your buddy right next door. Its all a great laugh, and better still, a mighty distraction from what I always thought to be the main event, but isn’t, the actual game of baseball itself.

Tuesday 14th June – Day 10

Girdwood to Anchorage via Whittier – 80 Miles

A power producing breaky of porridge set us up for the final leg of Stage 1, the Kenai Peninsular. Don’t ask how many stages to come because I don’t know, but let me tell you, it’s a bloody lot!

There is absolutely nothing in Whittier. No reason to go there, no reason to even pass thru on your way to somewhere more exciting (and lets face it, anywhere is more exciting!) as the road runs into a lake. So why did we go? As with so many things, it’s not the destination, but rather the means by which you get there. Whittier is an old military base from the 2nd World War. To get supplies they cut a 2 ½ mile long tunnel under the mountains, making it the longest highway tunnel and longest combined railway tunnel in North America. It’s amazing! It is one way (changes every ½ hr), and takes everything from trains, to trucks, busses and of course the greatest motorbikes ever built, Aialik and Smokey (Wades bike has been named after his legendary pony which never failed to bring him home safely, and usually in first place which was very annoying for the rest of us!).

To celebrate the passing of Stage 1 we rocked on down to the local 10 Pin Bowling where Philip ruled the isle, breaking 200. You Little Beauty!!

Wednesday 15th June – Day 11

Anchorage

Time for a quick trip back to the Motorcycle Shop to get some new shoes for the bikes. There is a lot of dirt expected in the up-coming weeks so we have opted for a set of Continental knobbies. The bikes look even tougher, if that’s possible!

Sadly today was Casey’s last day with the Bergalia Boys. It was fantastic having you along for the ride. Enjoy the memories, and think of us toiling away on the bikes while you sun about the Mediterranean or New York on luxury yachts.

Thursday 16th June – Day 12

Anchorage to Fairbanks – 380 Miles (610 Km)

The first big day in the saddle. Which brings us to the next edition of the ‘Daily Butt Report’. “Hey Stubbsie, give us ya Butt Report”.

“Sure mate, no worries. The butt is all good. No welts, sore’s or chafing. In fact the biggest problem was being way too hot in the brilliant warmth and sunshine of Alaska. Tomorrow, well that might be a different story. 12 hours riding over rough dirt roads will sort the hard arses from the lard arses!”

Friday 17th June – Day 13

Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay – 496 Miles (798 Km)

Today was of major significance for the Bergalia Boys. Today we crossed the Arctic Circle. One Circle down, one to go! It was a great feeling, and tonight we sleep knowing we have achieved part of our dream.

We were told there is nothen to see on the way to Prudhoe, and nothen to see once you arrive. It’s as far north as you can go in America using wheels on roads, but that’s it, there’s no other reason to go. Strewth, I want to go travelling where these people have been! The trip up here, including the road, the pipeline and the amazing scenery are ‘nothen’ in the same sense that atomic weapons make tiny wee explosions, or that Tigre Woods had a minor impact on the world golf tour.

It felt so good to be back on the dirt. The motorcross goggles were dragged out of deep storage (to be honest, it wasn’t all that deep. I mean how could it be, we are on motorcycles after all. It was just in the top bag which I hadn’t opened for a few days) and away we went. There were some ‘puckering’ (and if you have to ask what that is…… your not old enough to know!) moments passing trucks. The on-coming ones were the worst as there were rocks flying up, bike shaking winds and dust that could swallow an entire truck, and often did. They frequently travel in pairs, but you rarely saw the second one until after the first rock hit you in the head, or you could just make out a set of yellow, beady ‘eyes’ as the headlights came screaming at you thru the dust.

8 hours riding time turned into a 12 hr day. Every bend reluctantly gave up something special. A beautiful view, a heard of Caribou or Muskox, which are a funny looking arctic version of a cross between a goat and a sheep. Confused? So am I. But to be honest, if you really want to know, stop being so bloody lazy and go look it up yourself! These were just rewards for us hanging onto the big BMW’s round another corner full of potholes and loose gravel.

Unfortunately you need a qualified guide to take you to the ocean, so Wade may not have the chance to swim naked in the Arctic Ocean after all. As disappointed as Stubbsie is about that, Philip is excited. More excited than a first year university student going to their first toga party. I shouldn’t have to tell you, that’s pretty damn excited! Who wants to go fighting polar bears and chipping away ice for a place on the beach? Crazy!

Saturday 18th June – Day 14

Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks – 498 Miles (802 KM)

Wade didn’t get his swim. Oh bugger. Oh dear me. Oh how sad.

What does $250 per night per room get you in Prudhoe Bay…………. not bloody much in a physical sense! It gets you 2 single beds, a swivel chair with a torn seat that doesn’t actually swivel anymore, some oil rig guys bags under the bed and a dorm style dunny (toilet for you non-Aussie speakers) / shower down the corridor. All this wrapped up in a parcel of de-mountable buildings (honestly, they are still on trailers sporting massive truck wheels just waiting for the call to roll out of there, and not a single flat tyre amongst them) and a hastily slapped up “Hotel reception’ sign. Hastily slapped up perhaps, but worth every second of the 5 minutes of care that someone put into it because otherwise you’d never find the place. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it sure wasn’t this! It’s not like any hotel I’ve ever seen. We would have ridden straight passed except for ‘the sign’ from above (it was mounted quite high).

So, after saying all that, what do you really get for $250 once you allow yourself to step outside the physical boundaries? You ride away with an experience that’s worth every penny, and more. Almost all the hotel occupants are workers on the Alaskan Oil Field. Men and women who truly belong. Tourists account for about 1%. Although not employed in the field, having made the 500 mile run from Fairbanks on the bikes across what even the ‘locals’ describe as “some pretty hairy dirt roads” we felt we had earned our beds, and the right to shower ‘cheek to cheek’ with the miners.

The usual is a 3 week ‘swing’, meaning each person works a 12 hr shift, 7 days a week for 3 weeks. Its then a well disserved 3 weeks of recovery back with friends and family, or for those inflicted with ‘travel-bug-itis’ it’s a chance to further explore more unique parts of the world.

We left Prudhoe feeling on top of the world, and who wouldn’t pay $250 for that? Of course geographically we pretty much were. Its as far north as you can drive in America, 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle on a latitude of 70’ 26 N. To put that into perspective for all you Aussies, Launceston in Tasmania is 41’27 South, and for you northerners, Copenhagen, Denmark is on the 55th parallel. Yep, you got it. We rode a bloody long way north!

About 300 miles from home (actually Fairbanks. Home is a wee bit further than that!) we experienced our first mechanical hic-up. Aialik started to feel ‘a bit rough in the rear end’. We stopped and ran a vet check over lunch but gave her a clean bill of health as she was breathing normally and didn’t seem to be lame under a considerable workout. A while later we stopped again as she just wasn’t ‘BMW smooth’ anymore. Turns out the tyre wall had blown and a golf ball sized lump (kinda like what I had as a kid after loosing a very serious pillow fight with my brother…. Remember that one Akko?) was sticking out the side. She was nursed home, bravely limping into the hotel at 22:30. A mighty long day as we left the hotel at 08:00. “Thanks Aialik! A fearsome heart that one.

Sunday 19th June – Day 15

Fairbanks

No riding today. Aialik’s massive blister is yet to heal, and you couldn’t expect anyone to ‘walk’ in that sort of condition. A rest / catch up day for all. Washed the bikes, which was a bit sad cause I like having an off-road bike looking like it has been off-road. Adds to the image I reckon. Still, no one could read the number plate, which incidentally I also liked as crickey (I knew I’d get that one in there somehow!), does the 50 MPH speed limit seem slow, and damn near impossible to stay on. Its like the world is moving in slow motion. The main reason for the wash was because there was so much dirt caked on you couldn’t see the break or indicator lights. Argh well, they still look tough even when they are clean!

The momentous occasion for today its our first camp and first BBQ / gas burner meal. You little ripper! The steak was perfect, the veg OK (they are only veg’s after all) and the beer ‘as good as it gets’.

Oh yeah, one more thing. $150 per night for a hotel, or $17 camping fees. Hhhmmmmmmmm. Gee, let me think about it for a bit!

Monday 20th June 2011 – Day 16

Fairbanks to McCarthy – 357 Miles

Rain on a tin roof can be one of the most satisfying and pleasant sounds one can experience, especially if it’s the breaking of the drought. However, the sound of rain on the fly of your tent is just crap! The check list begins automatically. Did I leave my helmet on the bike? Yes, Dammit! At least the visor is down, but the gloves are a right-off.  Are my boots far enough under the cover of the tent? Well, one is. I guess that’s better than expected.  Is my tank bag in the rain, and are my panniers really water proof? Note to self. Get more organised in the future, ya bloody idiot!

Job 1 is to fuel the machines. Nope, I don’t mean the bikes. Coffee helps to lubricate the reindeer sausage and 2 eggs. Argh, that’s better. Now we can focus on job 2, finding a new shoe for Aialik. There are some odd things in Alaska. It is a remote area, not too many people so it’s to be expected. Isolation seems to do that. One annoying oddity is the bike shops reduce their working hours in summer. I mean, how dumb is that! In winter, 23 hrs of darkness a day and we’ll open 6 days a week. But come summer, all day to ride and people in need of spares, what do they do? Shut down over the weekend, including Monday. Oh goodie. We resigned ourselves to a rainy day in Fairbanks.

By chance a bloke in the camera shop gave us some hope, saying he thought the Harley / BMW dealer down the road was open, even though their web site will argue otherwise. And bugger me if he wasn’t right. Cheers mate! A few hours later we are on the road again. McCarthy here we come!

It was a pretty long day, especially as we left after lunch. The ride down was OK, except for the last 60 miles of dirt, which was cool! We arrived at 21:30 and immediately went to the pub where Wade had a new experience. Deep fried steak. Yep, deep fried. Reckoned it was pretty damn good too! We had to ride over a foot bridge / time machine to get into town. I’m sure we arrived sometime around 1910. With great old style buildings and dirt roads I found myself thinking “Gee, it’s lucky we don’t need to fuel the bikes cause I reckon we’ll have to wait a good 50 or 60 years for technology to catch up”.

Tuesday 21st June 2011 – Day 17

McCarthy to Kennicott and back to McCarthy – 12 Miles

McCarthy. What a cool place! Wouldn’t want to live there, but a bloody great spot to have a look round. For the past few weeks everyone we spoke to asked have we been to McCarthy. No. Are you going? No. Well, maybe. Enough people ask the same thing, you really have to go and check it out. So we did.

It’s a very laid back place. We rode the 4 miles into Kennicott, an old copper mining town. We thought we’d ride round the renovated town, find a car park and ask a guide which walk is the best to do. There are 3 old mine sites and a glacier walk, all about 9 -10 miles return. As we were looking lost near the end of town this guy renovating the old power house told us to “just keep going”. So we did. The road became narrower, steeper, rockier and more rutted out. Now this is a bikers trail, and yeah baby, I’m in heaven! This is way too much fun for it to be legal for us to be riding here. As we rode past hikers of all nationalities up what has now become a single trail along a mountain ridge there was a spark in my eyes bright enough to start a bush fire. I was grinning like a 5 year old kid on Christmas morning, and that’s after unwrapping Optimus Prime, the greatest of all Transformers.

A couple of prospectors headed up the hill in 1901 to provide some pasture for their horses. Turns out the green colour wasn’t grass, but copper oozing out of the ground. It was mined until the mid 1930’s, profiting over $130 000 000. If I had internet I’d work that out in today’s money, but I don’t.  The main part of the mine is still standing. After 100 years the wood is as solid as the day it was built. It was an amazing view, a back drop of mountain ranges, glaciers and valleys. To all those who told us to ‘check out McCarthy’, Thanks!!

A major spin off from riding up to the mine is time. We had enough of it left to walk on the glacier. As Stubbsie said the other day “This extra sunlight is fantastic. We can live 2 years’ worth in the next 8 months!”

A major, major spin off to the spin off is that Wade finally drew blood. It was a snooty little track. Tractor (first) gear only. He was only going about 5km/hr, but it was backwards! And there certainly isn’t a reverse gear on these bikes. Score: One One. The best thing is the bike boots would have prevented the loss of blood, but we weren’t wearing them. I mean, why would we? We thought we were leaving the bikes in a car park, not riding the best terrain of the trip so far.

To finish off the great McCarthy adventure was a summer solstice party at the foot of another glacier, and how many people can say they’ve experienced that?  Problem is we had to ride home. New score: Wade 1 Philip 2. A lesson kiddies, don’t drink and ride! No bark off, but a scratch or two on Aialik.

Wednesday 22nd June – Day 18

McCarthy to the Canadian Border and back to Chicken – 420 Miles

9:00 am and the summer solstice party doesn’t seem like it was such a good idea anymore. Ouch! “Stubbsie, where’d you put those damn headache pills?”

The plan was to make it thru to Dawson in Canada. Have an easy day and build reserves for Dust to Dawson, a gathering of mainly BMW riders. The origin of the event comes from a few mates paying tribute to their buddy who had a heart attack and died during a ride in the area some years ago. Each year they come back to Dawson, each time bringing a few more mates. It’s all about having a great time, checking out the bikes lining the main street and telling stories of adventures past and future. Oh yeah, there could be a few beers thrown in there somewhere.

That was the plan. It didn’t work. We were told the border crossing into Canada closed at 2000, but a sign 100 miles out told a different story. It was 1800. We had 90 minutes to cover the distance. We looked at each other and said “No worries mate. We can do that!”

We couldn’t. It rained, but it didn’t have to fall very far cause we were already in the clouds. You couldn’t see sh $#@$#t, I mean much. It was tough, but we were still on track. Then came the dirt. 60 miles of it. Now it was rain, cloud, dirt, mud and puddles. Wade was is the zone and pulled away. He raced ahead (always in control of course!) riding brilliantly. It was only 4 minutes, but it may as well have been 12 hours. Tomorrow. Canada must wait til tomorrow. So it was back down the road 40 miles to Chicken and another night in the tent.

I imagine you’re sitting there thinking “Hmmm, Chicken. That’s a pretty weird name. Wonder how that came about?”

Well folks, I just happen to have the answer…….. but I’m not gonna tell you. Mean aren’t I.

Oh, OK then. It’s pretty simple. The locals were worse spellers than I am. The town was meant to be called ptarmigan (the bird which is Alaska’s state emblem) but they couldn’t agree on how it’s spelt, so they went the easy option, Chicken. That’s fairdinkum mate, no bull.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 10 October 2011 23:40