Day 14 – Destination: Glenallen, Alaska

Elliott’s post:

What what, Alaska!?!?!

Not so fast…woke up in Burwash Landing to another frickin downpour.  Son of a!!!!

At least the rain subsided and we were off – about 100 miles to the Alaska border and we stopped in the last Canadian town on the Alaskan Highway, Beaver Creek, for lunch.

Had a salmon sandwich at good ol Buckshot Bettie’s (see pic) and then just 20 miles to the border.  It was pretty much just a dirt road for the last 10 miles going up to the border.  It’s like Canada just kind of gave up on maintaining that last bit of the road and the US can’t be bothered either so it’s just gonna sit there and waste away like a moth eaten coat.

Crossing the border was totally anticlimatic – didn’t get pulled aside for extra questioning or anything…lame.

Made it into Tok for gas and then pushed on down to Glennallen where Geoff’s friend Adrian and her husband live.  We actually met Adrian the day before we left from San Deigo as she was down there visiting her parents and asked us to stop by in Glennallen and say hi.  We went to a nice resort type place for dinner and then stopped by her house so she could give us some maps and some fresh salmon and caribou meat.  They had a cool place on a ton of land and Adrian was really helpful in telling us about the area and what to check out.

We retired back to our campground, which was probably one of the coolest places we’ve stayed so far.  We were well outside town in a very wooded area right along a river.  Of course, rolled in to the campground in broad daylight (i.e. 10pm) and there were some other BMW guys like us that we chatted with for a bit and then I went fishing (didn’t catch anything).

Geoff’s post

Daddy needs a new pair of shoes…

Sorry I missed yesterday… will try to make it up to you…

It’s the 4th or July and I am in Canada.  Something is wrong.

Today awoke to yet again… more rain!  We stayed ensconced in our tents awaiting a
break and eventually gave in and just broke camp.  The place we stayed was awesome!
Free camping, free wi fi, free coffee… and everyone was super nice.

Last night was pretty mellow… dinner and some time catching up on the internet in
the very cool lobby complete with a bunch of stuffed animals and furs.

Elliott lost a bet (Is a bar still a bar if it is closed down?)  The waitress helped
come to a conclusion (in my favor) and that, combined with Elliott’s two consecutive
earlier losses at rochambeau, sent him sulking back to his tent and to Panis (the sheep’s) waiting arms.

Most of my friends know, I am not a huge fan of the French, but what is it about a
French accent that makes a girl so much cuter? 😉

So equipment wise, we have had very few failures.  One of them has been a direct
result of my being cheap and not buying new tires for the trip up here.  I was
warned but I disregarded.  I had at least 5-6,000 miles on the ones I had one… why
would I not just use them and discard when we got to Alaska?

Because the Alaska Highway will EAT the tires like nothing I have seen before.  They
use a technique for coating their roads that is different than we are used to.  As I
understand it, the USA uses asphalt which is great and gives good traction (when
dry/warm) and is flexible.  Canada(and northern US states) use chip seal which is
like little chips of rock embedded in the roadbed for better traction and better
flexibility for frost heaving… that’s when the ground below the road freezes and
expands pushing the road up into giant speed bumps.

Anyway, while chip seal is a great surface for traction and lowering maintenance
costs us southerners need to stop tying to me so frugal with our tires… and this is
where the problem starts…

I am on the last legs of the ones I have on, and the rear is in horrible shape.  The
closest tires are in Anchorage… 540 miles from where we started this morning.  And
we found out that this section of the road was worse than the rest.  Turns out that
was an understatement.  As it is, the chip seal really eats tires quickly but this
section was full of gravel, ruts and pot holes.  Pot holes are actually in insult to
these… they are like small river valley’s that meander across the road and are
impossible to see until you are on them.  We spent a lot of time standing up for a
better view and also riding on both sides of the road just to try to weave through
the damage.  20 miles took almost an hour… and I probably lost another year off my
life stressing about which hole/rock/hump/bump would cause my tire to go.

A flat here was the last thing we wanted.  There were no real shoulders and not even
a line on the sides of the road… just more gravel. And even if we got help… its
hundreds of miles to a motorcycle shop!

So I spent the majority of this morning worrying about my tires and babying them
instead of enjoying the gorgeous glacial valley we were riding through.  It was
amazing and wish I could have spent more time enjoying it.

The RV’s were doing 25mph on the bumpy parts, we were trying to do 60-70(with a lot
of 35-45) and the trucks were doing the same or more- they apparently don’t worry
about tires!

There were a lot of random things on this stretch of road.  It was 110 miles with no
fuel stations or services.  We of course didn’t fuel up at the last stop before this
section as we are on almighty GSA’s!!!! We are invincible!

In addition, there was the guy walking a baby stroller on the side of the road 10
miles from anywhere.  Wonder is his wife knows what he is up to?  Then there was the
RV driving backwards on the Alaska highway.  Wonder if he lost a bet?  Very odd….

Lunch at the last place in Canadia and we decide not to get gas there either as we
are 1) not going to pay those ridiculous prices and 2) we are invincible (see
above).

We got across the border and made our way to Tok (pronounced like you’d toke on a
cigarette or a ….).

My low fuel light comes on with 45 miles to TOK.   I also know that based on
previous bouts of hubris I get 45 miles on reserve.  Hmmm… this is not good.

So instead of being worried about just tire life, I now dumped on top of that fuel
range to really make that portion of the ride anticlimactic.  Why do I do this to
myself?

Made it.  Whew!  Again!  I’m never doing that again!  Wait… this all sounds vaguely
familiar.  Oh well.

We took a break and then headed down towards Glennallen where some friends live (and
at a very slow pace to preserve the tire- still haven’t solved that problem!)
Somehow made it.  I can’t believe this tire is still standing at this point…
another 110 miles!  And they are not easy miles… lots of broken asphalt and chip
seal and potholes but much better than the Canada side (sorry Canada!)

Dinner and a beer and a quick tour of Adrian’s and Brad’s awesome house nearby and
we were another 15 miles down the road to a great campsite Elliott found.  Was one
of the first in a long time where we are far enough in that you can’t hear cars from
the road and we were right along a river.  No, Elliott has still to catch a fish but
he is losing fewer lures so progress is occurring.

We ran into a couple other BMW dualsport motorcycle campers in our campground as
well.  They were taking the opposite route and were on their way back down to the
states as we are heading up and gave us some good spots to check out as well.
Everyone is so helpful!  We gave them the hot spots we’ve been to as well and it
all works out well.

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