Alaska Adventure 2005 – Dual Sporting on the Alaska Highway

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Day 7

  • Tuesday, June 28
  • Kluane National Park Reserve, YT to Glennallen, AK
  • 376 miles

Yesterday’s rain storm in the mountains was nothing. Today, the adventure touring really kicks in. The Alcan Highway is nothing more than a thin layer of asphalt on top of a thick ribbon of gravel on top of the tundra so construction repairs are a constant. There are potholes and drifts of loose gravel and fresh oil everywhere. If the gravel section is wet, the mud is as slippery as KY jelly which may be fun in the bedroom but nerve wracking on a big motorbike.

If dry, the dust clouds are thick and choking. Wave after wave of monsoon style rainstorms sweep through while we traverse road construction sections that stretch for miles and pilot cars that insist on a plodding 10 mile per hour pace through them. I swear several times that I’m going to dump the bike but somehow we all stay up. Pablo, the veteran motocrosser of the bunch, is utterly comfortable and confident while the rest of us are freaked. We try a variety of unsuccessful techniques like putting our feet down while rolling through the mud or manhandling the handlebars. I settle into a routine of hugging the tank with my knees, weighting the footpegs and keeping a light touch on the handlebars but it’s still very unsettling as the bike careens all over the place.

Meanwhile, the Wrangell mountains to the South are simply awesome. Three volcanoes side by side in a row, Mt. Sanford (16,237), Mt. Drum (12,010) and Mt. Wrangell (14,163), make Mt. Rainier in Washington State look mundane which is no small feat.

We stop for breakfast in Destruction Bay. We encounter the same white scrambled eggs that we first experienced in Eastern British Columbia on our Rockies Ride back in 2002. The mystery is finally solved as the cook explains that Canadian chickens are grain fed vs. the corn fed US chickens. We emerge from the restaurant to find the first flat of the trip, the rear tire on my ST. Pablo whips out his tire plug kit and portable air pump and I’m back in business in short order.

We cross into Alaska at Port Alcan which turns out to be a non-event compared to entering Canada. The American border crossing guard has our group and other motorcyclists come into a single lane so he can interview us all at once for efficiency’s sake. The instant we realize he’s cool, we start joking around as we answer his questions at which he immediately dispatches us with a cheerful, “You guys are done. Get outta here!” Welcome to America!

We stop for some superb Raven’s Brew espresso and tasty reindeer sausages in Tok, Alaska. Pablo and Pork Chop remark that the information regarding our lunch choice should be withheld from their daughters for fear of incriminating looks and comments about eating Rudolph. Fair enough for now. They’ll find out once I post all this to my website.

We depart Tok and head Southwest toward Glennallen through the taiga forest, Russian for “land of little sticks”. The trees are no taller that 6 or 7 feet, look very stunted and completely cover the valley floor between the mountains . It’s really starting to sink in that despite the massive mountains in Alaska, we aren’t going to be doing any riding in them due to the vast, wide open plains between them, resulting in roads that are straight and flat. So much for twisties and thank the Gods for the lower 48!

We stay at a nice campground in Glennallen that has clean showers that come with fresh towels and a new bar of soap; a nice touch and very welcome after a grimy day on the road. Setting our tents up on the tundra amongst the tiny trees is like sleeping on a big sponge. After a caribou dinner, we settle into camp and crank up the cigars and citronella candles. We set the Skookumchuck Skeeter Scale (SSS) at 6. My mosquito proof clothing actually works. Midnight arrives and so much for buying headlamps at REI. I can easily read a book. The sun merely dips below the horizon for 4 hours and then reemerges.

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