It all started with an ad. in the Ulyssian, Join us for a trip to ALASKA, STURGIS and HIGHWAY 101. Dale & I had just sold our business and were looking for a retirement celebration trip and Dale reckoned this ticked all the boxes. After talking to the organiser in Hamilton we paid our deposit and started planning.
June 13th and our bikes, 7 Harleys, 1 Indian, 1 Suzuki Bandit and a Kawasaki Concours went to GT Logistics to be packed into the container for shipment to Vancouver with the hope they would be there when we arrive on 13th July. We duly arrive in Vancouver and go to the Customs office expecting all sorts of hassles but we were pleasantly surprised when all paperwork was completed in less than 15 minutes then it was out to the bond store to collect our bikes.
Next day we crossed the Canadian/USA border and on to Bellingham to catch the ferry to Haines in Alaska. The ferry is a Cook Straight type ship and very expensive, NZ$4700.00 for the bike, Dale and myself meals not included and no alcohol on board. Many passengers camp on the deck by taping down their tent to the deck surface or sleeping on deck chairs. We arrived in Haines at 2.30pm then a very quick 350ks back over the border to Destruction Bay in the Yukon Territory. Day 2 we crossed the border again into Alaska and on to Tok for the night, overall we crossed USA/Canada borders 6 times. From Tok we went on to Anchorage where we had a rest day, did some sight-seeing and cleaned the bikes.
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Unfortunately when we got to Denali the cloud & fog came down and it rained so all the sensible animals stayed home and we carried on to Fairbanks
Unfortunately Alaska only has four and a half months to do road-works so we had heaps, we would get stopped by the Stop/Go lady and ask her how far the road-works went today, the general sort of answer was “Not far today only 20 miles,” and sometimes further. You would then have to wait for the Pilot Truck to come back then follow it to the other end. Some roads were so corrugated that they would bounce us out of the seat, trying to keep the bikes clean after road works became a regular & sometimes daily thing. From Anchorage we went on to Healy with a trip to Denali National Park planned, you can buy a National Parks pass that covers all the USA parks for a year, 1 pass for a car of four or you can pair up and but one pass for two motorbikes and 4 people. Unfortunately when we got to Denali the cloud & fog came down and it rained so all the sensible animals stayed home and we carried on to Fairbanks. There is very little farming in Alaska and the scenery is fantastic, mountains, snow and glaciers everywhere, the mountain scenery is much like New Zealand’s but on a very much larger scale.
We had been discussing whether to go back to Destruction Bay then on to Whitehorse or stop again at TOK then go to Chicken and across the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City which included 180+k of mud, gravel, slush and soft spots. After much discussion which included quite a few beers we decided it couldn’t be any worse than some of the road works we had encountered, WRONG. We crossed about 20k of soft muddy road-works on the way to Chicken then we saw the start of the Top of the World road, oh crap! it was just big muddy puddles and sandy gravel. On the advice of the store owner we waited for an hour so the road would dry out a bit then 11 Harleys, 1 Indian, 1 Kawasaki Concours and a Suzuki Bandit took off for the biggest riding challenge we have seen at an average speed of 20-25kph. Once more the scenery was incredible, we crossed the Alaska/Yukon border which is only open from mid-May to 14th September then on to the Yukon River ferry across to Dawson City which hasn’t changed from the old days. We had to pressure wash the bikes as the underneath was thick with mud. In total that day was 320k and we were so pleased we had met the challenge with no-one dropping their bike that some of us did the Sour Toe Cocktail Challenge where you have to drink an over-proof spirit with a real amputated toe in it, the toe has to touch your lips to qualify you for the club which has over 100,000 members. Look it up on Google, Yes! I did it. After Dawson it was off to Whitehorse for the night then on to Watson Lake our last stop in the Yukon. We did a night at Fort Nelson then on to Grande Praire, then Hinton via Jasper National Park where the mountains were thick with snow and it was cold. The next day we went to Canmore via Banff National Park and once more the mountain scenery was fantastic with snow and glaciers although we were told the glaciers are receding due to Global Warming. We had a free day in Canmore so went back to Banff township to do the tourist thing, after lunch and a look around we visited yet another Harley shop that sold everything except motorbikes then went off to look at Lake Louise. Unfortunately it was a National Holiday weekend and getting to the historic hotel and the lakeside was a hassle so it was back to Canmore where the view of snow-capped mountains from our hotel window was breath-taking. Next day it was off to Pincher Creek Alberta to spend our last night in Canada until later in the trip, so far we have travelled about 6200k’s
and survived the Alaska Highway and the Top of the World Highway, next we cross the border again into Montana, USA.
LWayne Painter. #1756NZ
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