Kelly's 2011 Alaska Journey

Day 22 - Saturday, 6/11

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Morning report:
This is it, the last day of the tour. Pretty much today is just blasting down (what passes in Alaska for) the superslab to Anchorage. With luck we'll see Mt. McKinley (Denali) on the way. Our intent is to get back early- There's a lot of laundry to be done, bike maintenance to do, and so on.

We're still pretty far north, and the daylight hours are still long: Sunrise 3:42 am, Sunset 12:07 am. Despite that, I managed to sleep until 5:00 am today! That's the latest I've slept since I don't know when.

Lunch will be about the halfway point to Anchorage, at a little town called Talkeetna.

Mt. McKinley
/ Denali
Kelly at
Evening report:
Things went pretty much as expected for the most part. We had a stop at a scenic overlook for Denali, and managed to get some photos of the peak before it shrouded itself in clouds.

On the way to Talkeetna, the KLR that Jeff was riding threw its chain. More than that, it had tried to eat itself. Something went wrong with the rear portion of the drive, and the sprocket moved towards the swingarm.

Jeff and
The nuts holding on the sprocket acted as teeth on a band saw, taking a large chunk out of the swingarm. Ouch! Fortunately Jeff wasn't hurt, and barely even inconvenienced. Within a short time, Brenden arrived in Jethro with a spare bike, and we were on our way to lunch.

Now, there have been some mechanical difficulties with some of the MotoQuest machines. Some think that a tour outfitter shouldn't have any issues like that. But face it, if it's made by humans, it'll fail at some point; there's no getting around it. My measure of the quality of an outfitter (indeed, any support organization) is not how many or few failures they have, but how they respond to those failures. By this measure, MotoQuest is top notch. Sure, a couple of bikes and the support truck had problems. But nothing was catastrophic- The ride was barely delayed by the issues, nobody was hurt, nothing was missed. This is a tribute to how well-prepared this crew is, and how fast they can lay their hands on the right resources to get things back on track. Bravo, MotoQuest!

I've got to say, and the others will echo the sentiment, that this trip has been an absolute blast. We've been remarkably lucky as far as the weather goes, all the people (both MotoQuest and participants) got along wonderfully. We really couldn't have asked for more. Even the challenges were fun to overcome. The riding was amazing, the scenery was astounding, and the personalities and humor of everyone (Especially Juan and Juan-Antonio, our Spaniards) worked really well together.

birch tree
The ride back to "base" from lunch was fairly uneventful. It hasn't escaped my notice though, that there is occasionally a strangely bent tree in a birch tree stand. There's no explanation for this that I'm aware of, unfortunately. (Today's botanical thought. ;-)

Anyway, there was some nice scenery along the way, but I was a bit stressed. The plan to have my tire changed sooner than later seemed to be a good one. After looking at it wear in the past couple of days, it was clear that even if it made it back home, the tread wouldn't be sufficient for safety. Additionally, it'd really be nice to have a working speedometer and odometer again. If that could be taken care of today, it wouldn't impact the two days home from when the boat docked on Saturday.

To make this happen, I wanted to get to Anchorage as fast as possible. I could see if MotoQuest / AK Rider could make the fixes, and if not, there'd still be time to ask Anchorage Kawasaki or Yamaha if they could. Once they closed, there'd be no bike shop open until next Tuesday.

It seemed as thought there was a statewide conspiracy to prevent me from doing this, however. The traffic had gotten heavy (notably with RVs), traffic lights were NOT in my favor, and there were a number of road crews working on the roads. It was frustrating.

Back to
the barn
Still, I got back to base a little after 4:00 pm, and Mark was able to handle it. He mounted a used rear tire which saved me money, and has more than enough rubber to safely carry me home. The speedometer cable was another matter entirely, however. Mark was able to scavenge a cable from a parts bike, but quickly determined that it wasn't the cable that was the problem. It seems the drive gears in the front wheel's hub wasn't turning the cable in the first place. After diassembling the hub, we saw that there was some damage from the accident we hadn't recognized earlier. A portion of the hub (which holds in one of the bearings) had shattered, and the pieces had jammed into the speedo drive, shredding the plastic drive gears beyond repair. Sadly, the wheel and speedo drive on the parts bike had the same issue.

Mark was forced to clean up my parts and reassemble as best he could. It'll work; after all, I've already put 2000 miles (3219 km) on it since the accident. While on the boat I'll call every Kawasaki dealer on the route to home, and will stop at the first one with the parts. I'll send the tab for Mark's labor to my insurance company, as well as the receipt for the new wheel, speedo drive, and labor. It'll get billed to the insurance company of the guy who hit me.

Once the bike was back together, and we were all back at the hotel, it was time to get ready for the last dinner. We'd decided to share photos with each other, and I started some copying before we headed out for food. Copying all of the helmet-cam imagery is not inconsiderable- It still had 45 minutes remaining after we returned, and that didn't even include today's data, let alone the pics from the others. Still, it'll get done, and we'll all be better for it.

Tonight is a late night- We're all sharing the photos we've taken, and with my hardware I'm copying all the photos to separate disks. It's a long job, and one that's kept me up past sunset for the first time in weeks. (remember how late sunset is!) One tidbit about the sunrise and sunset that I keep going on about- Even though there may BE a sunset, the sun only slightly dips below the horizon. It hovers there for a couple of hours and pops up again. So even though the sun is "down," it never really gets dark.

Tomorrow is laundry day, and I'll try to find some slippers so the boat ride will be more comfortable. Once that's done, it'll be a short trip to Seward for a little sightseeing. While the guided tour is over, there are still some things to see on the way home.

Total riding distance today: 260 mi / 418 km   Running total: 5979 mi / 9623 km

Stay tuned...


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