Kelly's 2011 Alaska Journey

Day 21 - Friday, 6/10

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Morning report:
Last night we changed the fluid in my KLR's front brakes. The fluid in them may have been old, but not THAT old. Besides, the way the stopping power decreased so rapidly I'm sure something else was at work- Most likely the gasket in the master cylinder doesn't seal as well as it should, and the longish exposure to rain may have accounted for it. The fluid was quite brown, which indicates absorption of water. Unlike brake fluid, water can be compressed, which accounts for the spongy feel in the brake lever.

After a quick test ride, it felt as though most of the power's returned. There may be a small air bubble or two in the system somewhere, but I expect that it'll work its way up to the reservoir in the next day or two if it hasn't already overnight. One issue down. Once we return to Anchorage in two days, the speedometer cable will get a replacement.

This is not
the Alps
The Tangle River Inn was nice- The people are great, and my room was quite comfortable. Overnight it got quite cold, and that's by even my standards! It wasn't until I got up at 5:20 to turn on some heat that it got better.

Evening report:
What a spectacular day! I'm utterly exhausted. While today's mileage was the shortest of any day on the guided tour, it involved a lot more effort than most. First, we rode the length of the Denali Highway.
It turns out it's one of the most beautiful and scenic roads I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Clearly it qualifies as a milestone prize. Now, most of it isn't paved, though it's in quite good shape.


About halfway in, our guide Brenden took us on a side jaunt up a much more technical dirt road, complete with mud bogs and water crossings. A little background: Alaska, it seems, truly IS the last frontier (At least in the `States). The state will give land to a person as long as they improve it and the infrastructure of the state.
Alaska likes people making roads, since there are so few of them. It's hard work. Brenden led us up such a road. Clearly it's not as well-groomed as the main roads, because the state doesn't allocate resources to maintain them. While these roads are usable, the lack of professional maintenance shows.

This secondary
 road is rough!

I rode in a couple miles, and just about dumped my bike in the first mud bog. Fortunately the helmet cam was rolling, and in an uncharacteristic mode of straight HD video. I haven't decided whether or not to share that little snippet!
Small water
Continuing on through the first water crossing, it became fairly clear that my worn rear tire wasn't up to the rigors of this particular road.

I flagged down Juan, and told him I was turning around and heading to the rendezvous point. Making it back to the Denali Highway proved to be easier than leaving it, and I made my way a mile or two to the long bridge over the Susitna River. This was to be the point where Dan would show up with the support truck and our lunches.

Later, Brenden told me that not only had he dumped his bike in a water crossing, but others had too, and that I'd made the right decision to turn back when I did. Discretion is indeed the better part of valor.

Long bridge
As I'd gotten to the bridge much earlier than anyone else would, there was plenty of time to relax and take in the scenery. And what scenery it was- The area is completely surrounded by beautiful mountains and trees, the river was flowing well, and made wonderful sounds against the bridge, and birds were chirping in a most friendly manner. I had about 45 minutes to wait until Dan arrived, so I thoroughly enjoyed the tranquility. It was broken only by the incessant buzzing of the mosquitoes, though fortunately the bug spray was within easy reach in the trunk. It's been quite some time since I've so thoroughly enjoyed doing absolutely nothing for the better part of an hour!

Speed limit
50 mph!
The Perch
Once the group all rejoined and had lunch, we headed west towards Cantwell, finishing the wonderful Denali Highway. A right turn onto the main highway, north to Cantwell, and we checked into The Perch, our lodging for the night. It's a quaint place, much like the Tangle Inn, in that we all have individual cabins. Unlike the one last night (with windows on three sides, and thin curtains), THIS cabin should actually get DARK tonight! Is my enthusiasm showing?

Denali, baby!
After checking in, dropping our gear into our cabins, we headed to Denali National Park.

There was a nice informational movie starting in the visitor's center, which we enjoyed. As with many of the U.S. National Parks, this was beautifully constructed and maintained. No doubt this is the flagship of Alaskan parks, so it deserves no less. We rode as far into the park as we were allowed without a special permit. The views were amazing, though too late in the day to see
Is this
Mt. McKinley, or Denali. As the day wears on and the heat increases, the mountain creates its own weather systems, enveloping itself in clouds. As we head south tomorrow, we'll find scenic overlooks which hopefully will show the mountain in all its grandeur.

in Denali
The critter count is climbing a bit- Dan (one of the guides) saw some moose, though I didn't. We did see a Caribou bull quite some way away, but the new camera has quite a long lens and was able to capture an image.

An unexpected feature of The Perch is a very nice restaurant. Caribou and Alaskan Salmon are featured on the menu, and at the moment I'm torn between the two. We're tasting a variety of (California) wines, and I find myself offering tours of the Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz wine regions to my MotoQuest riding buddes.
Juan and I wound up splitting each of the two featured entrees and trying both.

I think I have caught up on photos now.

Total riding distance today: 200 mi / 322 km   Running total: 5718 mi / 9202 km

Stay tuned...


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