Monday morning we awoke to clear skies and knew this was the day we would see Denali. The morning was warm as we packed our bikes.
Our friend Aaron had rolled into camp the night before after his trip to Prudhoe Bay on his KTM500. He, John and Andrew rode the 240 miles from Deadhorse and then turned and burned back to the camp where they had left their tents and gear. that is a truly long day on a challenging road. It was nice to see Aaron and we discussed our different travel plans to see if we will meet again.
The morning was so nice I decided that I did not need as many layers as I had on other days so I put them away. We headed south in the bright sun and 66 degrees and felt great. Within a few miles things changed; the sky was cloudy and the temperature dropped 10 degrees, I got cold. We pressed on toward some rain and after about twenty miles Aaron turned back because he had planned a day in the park and then a ride on the Denali Highway. The road was open and mostly straight through the hall of trees but whenever there was a break we looked to the right (west) to see if Denali would show itself. We got teased a lot with a glimpse of the base. We stopped so I could add a layer under my jacket and then pressed on. After about 50 miles we were rewarded with the sight of denali and pulled over for photos. We became part of the lucky 30%. The peak towers above all else; Denali means ‘the tall one’.
After our viewing we continued and as the lead rider I should have stopped at the North viewing point in Denali State Park because the peak was still visible but I blew it. I did stop at the South viewing point but it was too late. My main reason was to put on all of the layers I should have left with in the morning. Now I would be adequately warm. We finished the 150 mile ride into the little town of Talkeetna and had lunch at the Talkeetna Brewery. It was one of the better meals we had. We sampled their double IPA that was exclusive to the brewery and regretted that we could not have more, because it is really tasty, but we had another 100 miles to Anchorage.
The ride revealed the Chugach Mountains to the east of Anchorage and the look very formidable in the distance. Just before Wasilla the vast expanse of Alaska turns into suburbia. Soon we were in the midst of road construction and fuckin’ cars, and more cars. At the lake in Wasilla we saw a house with a huge american flag and concluded that it must be Sarah Palin’s house. We finally got to Anchorage and it looked like it could rain any time but it held off. Alaska highway 1 turns into surface streets so it took a long time to get across town to our destination, the House of Harley. Here we traded our trusty Beemers for some Ultra Glides. No, not really. The reason we stopped is that they like all bikes and offer free camping on the grass behind the shop, complete with bathroom and shower. It is urban camping but the price is right in my wheelhouse.
I needed an oil change so I went to the NAPA across the street and found that they sell Amsoil, I got that and a drain pan. Meanwhile Justin and Alla went off to do their laundry. The Harley shop said they would take care of my used oil and they got another drain pan in the deal.
There was another tent in the yard and we wondered who it might be. Shortly after Justin and Alla returned we found out who was in the tent. A Sportster rolled in with a woman on the back with no helmet and she was going on about what a rush riding was, she had no helmet. In Alaska the law says the driver does not need a helmet but the passenger does. We quickly concluded that the driver with ‘Alaska to Argentina’ must have picked her up for some fun. We joked about needing to wear our earplugs tonight. They both disappeared into the bathroom and Alla was concerned because their cook pot was in there. After a few minutes there was some commotion in there and the man came out complaining that she wanted money and he did not want to pay. We learned that the rider is from Argentina, flew to Florida, bought his used Sportster, rode to Alaska and then will ride back to Argentina. Maybe he will get lucky along the way.
After that it was a dull night and we turned in. It rained lightly on and off through the night.