Alaska Adventure 2005 – Planning the ride

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“Alaska?? Why on Earth do we have to ride all the way to Alaska and back?” I ask. My three riding buddies proffer the following justifications:

Uncle Bob: “Because Bush has been reelected which means they’ll be drilling for oil any day now, the permafrost will melt at an accelerated rate and all the remaining old growth trees will be logged. So we have to go see it before it’s all gone.”

Pablo: “Because we haven’t ridden there yet.”

Pork Chop: “Because Pablo said I need to buy his Concours and come along.”

Good enough reasons for me, not that I need much excuse to go on the next damned fool adventure. The names of the places alone conjure up a big sense of adventure: Alaska, Denali, the Yukon Territory, the Alcan, the Inside Passage. Now, to plan it. Compared to our other rides, this trip does present some unique challenges: the distances covered, four border crossings, questionable roads and wildlife scampering across them at every turn plus the legendary stories about mosquitoes, weather, scenery and grizzlies. It’s not going to be easy but I think of the stories we’ll get to tell for years to come. Ok, I’m hooked.

We’ve done trips before through the American and Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain National Park, etc., and we’ve coined a phase, Adventure Touring, to describe the snow, hail, hard rain, dense fog and high winds we’ve occasionally had to deal with on these rides. These intense weather episodes have generally occurred as we’ve been crossing mountains with storm fronts parked on top of them and is usually limited to just one day of the trip. Having done this a number of times, we’ve certainly learned what to expect from such crossings and yet we’ve still insisted on doing them and despite how intense or treacherous the conditions have been, we’ve reveled in telling the stories afterwards. Now when it comes to this Alaska trip, one can’t help but wonder what degree of Adventure Touring we’ll be dealing with. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. We’re equipped for any and all conditions and experienced riders to boot, but our trip research and good ol’ intuition tells us this will most likely be BIG adventure.

Another major difference between this ride and the others before it is that no bail out is possible. On previous rides in the lower 48 states, the Interstate system has always been within easy reach and with it comes thoughts of “Hmmm, I could be home in two days and sleeping in my own bed with my sweetheart.” I usually ponder that on the fifth day of any ride and while I’ve never done so, it’s nice to have options. But on this ride, once we’re up in Alaska, the Yukon or in the upper regions of British Columbia, there will be no easy outs. So be it.

Pablo and I decide to avoid traveling the Alcan twice by taking the Alaskan Ferry between Bellingham, Washington and Haines, Alaska. Smart planning on Pablo’s part puts the ferry ride at the start of the trip; very relaxing and easy to insure that we’ll board the boat on time vs. getting held up somewhere in Alaska and missing the boat home. We spend months reading trip journals on the Web and pouring through The Milepost, the definitive annual guide to travel in Alaska, the Yukon Territory and on the Alaska Highway. The complexities of the trip are indeed daunting but we finally get an itinerary hammered out. There is a temptation to keep on researching but Pablo wisely declares that one can do only so much homework and then you’ve got to just go do it. Nuff said.

Pre-trip buzz:

Scott: “All I can think of is the trip. Work can’t get a word in edgewise in my brain. I can wait until next Friday to leave but between now and then, I just want to do nothing but prepare, pack and tinker.”

Pablo: “Chop and I only have a few days before we leave. I am already 100% packed with my riding boots sitting on the seat and the bike pointed out the garage door. We will be leaving Tucson at noon on Tuesday. Good thing we are trailering to LA as they expect 106 degrees by then. (Editor’s note: We later learn that it actually reaches 110 as they past through Phoenix.) If you get anxious, you guys can always ride down and meet us at the Redwoods!!!”

Scott: “I’d love to ride down to meet you guys but I’ll be working until the last minute in order to get two weeks off. So I’ll be content to hear the stories from the Redwoods after the fact.”

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