21 May 2017
(written by Nancy)
Well, we had a successful first day of riding – no bear attacks (so far), no mechanicals or crashes, enormous amounts of food, and a hot shower at the end of the day so that’s pretty good!
I think there were a few nerves this morning as we ate breakfast and packed up and loaded our bikes. We set off at just about 9am from Fairbanks. Unfortunately the weather had turned overnight so instead of the sunny skies we were hoping for we made our departure in light rain and about 45F.
It is always a bit of a shock to feel how heavy the bikes feel when all of the bags are loaded and the first few miles were, not surprisingly, a bit wobbly. Both Mark and Chris remarked several times that they had not felt the bikes move quite so much but we knew they would settle into them after a few miles. It didn’t take them long to get used to the weight so perhaps we might have to shift some more weight over to Chris in the next few days….
We made our way south along the Richardson Highway, with a couple of detours to take some frontage roads to get away from the traffic. The rain continued to come down and I was thankful to have my new heavy duty Showers Pass jacket (thanks Andy!!).
First stop was the North Pole, only about 15 miles from Fairbanks. Funny little place, with Christmas decorations everywhere and candy canes as street signs. I am not sure how they fit in with the Subway, Taco Time, Wendy’s and McDonalds restaurants in town but whatever works for them! We stopped for ‘second breakfast’ at the McDonalds, as it was the last place to get food for the next 25 miles.
Not too far down the highway from the North Pole we came across a weigh station that was open. Given all the discussions over the last couple of days and this morning about how heavy the bikes were, we thought we would try to see if we could use the scales. The fellow manning the booth wasn’t too excited to help us initially, but there were no other trucks so he acquiesced after a bit of discussion about the scale (tool talk always does it) and went to turn it on. Mark had already unfortunately gone through but I hopped onto it with my bike and holy moly it showed 280lbs!! Now, it’s not polite to talk about a woman’s weight but I will tell you, cross my heart and hope to die, that more than half of that is the bike and bags. Chris got on it next and he showed 320lbs. He says he weighs 184lbs so that is 136lbs of bike and bags. Unfortunately a truck came in at that point so Dave didn’t get to participate.
Now, yesterday when we were all packing our bags and I was ‘helping’ Chris pack his, I felt a bit guilty for loading a lot of the shared food into his bags. But given the numbers on the scale I think I just might have to sneak a bit more into his bags tonight while he is sleeping….
Anyway, after that fun exercise we got to ride past Eielson Air Force Base and distract ourselves from the rain by watching close to 20 jets landing and taking off, flying over us in formations and peeling off to do loops. No pictures of that though – the signs make it clear not stopping and no pictures through that area. I figured the loud noises would keep away the bears so didn’t worry too much through there.
The landscape through the next bit was not overly interesting- full of scraggly, short trees that the Alaska Fish & Game guy referred to as a ‘drunken forest’. Accurate name, I think. We did make stop at the Knotty Shop – hard to resist a place with a name like that! It was a shop full of gifts made out of wood burls, with some fun animals in the front yard and lots of pieces of burl in various shapes and sizes. Chris seemed interested in getting one, which could be helpful in a bear situation but alas, he didn’t think he could carry any more on his bike (little does he know what will happen tonight…)
Final stop of the day was at the Salcha Roadhouse for some lunch. This seemed to be a classic Alaskan roadhouse – a bit rough looking on the outside (and inside) but good and plentiful food. And all day breakfasts! Chris decided to try two burgers in 3 hours (he had a Big Mac earlier) and had the elk burger with fries. Dave and I both had breakfasts – I had to try out the biscuits and gravy and Dave had pancakes. Mark was a bit more restrained and had the fresh baked apple pie a la mode.
Thankfully we only had about 9 miles from the roadhouse to our intended destination, the “C” Lazy Moose RV Park – much more after all that food would have been difficult! On the way there, we also started to see some views of the Alaskan Range mountains. The park is not busy yet – there are only two other RVs here so we had our pick of a site and have situated ourselves in a grassy area with a picnic table. The rain had mostly stopped by the time we got here so we were able to put the tents up without getting things wet. Everyone did pretty well with the tent setup for the first night – I only had to give a couple of instructions to Dave (hahaha).
We have all now had hot showers, the laundry is done and we are now planning a light dinner – nobody is too hungry after all that food… Tomorrow’s weather looks okay in the morning, maybe showers later in the afternoon so hopefully we will be at our next destination, the thriving metropolis of Delta Junction, before they hit.