Sunday, April 21, 2013

Uraling to Alaska - Day 16: Haines Junction to Fairbanks, AK

Long day in the saddle today, 12 hours of riding to cross the 500 miles to Fairbanks, Alaska and arrive at RichardM's place.

Great weather though, I walked out the door with 2°F on Valencia's thermometer and it would eventually soar all the way into the low 40's in Fairbanks!

I was up before the crack of dawn, anxious to get this ride done as I knew it'd be a long one and I wanted to take advantage of the forecasted good weather.  I tried to start Valencia's engine, no go.  No worries though, I had a plan.  Murph, a fellow sidecar rider who's presently enjoying the frigid temperatures of Finland had mentioned recently he puts a heat source under his bike when it's in the -20s before trying to crank the engine over.

So, I unpacked my two burner Coleman stove, placed it under the belly pan and battery area and let it warm things up for about 5 minutes or so, maybe a bit more.

As you can see from the exhaust smoke coming out the pipes, Valencia 
fired right up after I "lit a fire under her".

I quickly finished packing and gearing up while Valencia warmed up, my breath easily visible in the cold morning air.  Once I got the key to the room turned in, we motored out of the motel parking lot and to a nearby bench area where folks observe the beautiful mountain range next to the settlement of Haines Junction.

 Martha had put in a request for a picture of Mount Martha Black which
is pictured above from the viewing placard.  

Mount Martha Black
Part of the Saint Elias Mountains

Pano of the Saint Elias mountains next to Haines Junction

I would make slow progress on the way to and at the incredibly scenic mountain views one can see on Alaska Highway 1 on the way to Destruction Bay which was my first planned gas stop.  I suspect you know I have a "thing' for shots of snow-capped I had more than my fill.

 The view as you head north on Alaska Hwy 1 out of Haines Junction

 Approaching Destruction Bay

 Destruction Bay

 According to wikipedia, the bay is named thus because:
The name is derived from the wind blowing down structures erected by the military during highway construction in 1942-43.

 More views along Destruction Bay and points north

The road surface from past Destruction Bay had lots of potholes and front heaves, though not as bad as I remembered the north half of the Cassiar Highway.  It turns out that Canada has the USA pay for the upkeep of the road from about Beaver Creek westward, as they say they've no interest really in having the road there anymore.  That's what I am told anyways. 

I mention the above because the upkeep of the road leaves much to be desired.  You really do have to slow down or risk breaking something in your suspension or bending a wheel due to a large pothole!  The last 30KM/18 Miles from the Canadian Customs office and the US Customs office in Alaska are in terrible condition!  I had to slow down to 30 mph and even then I narrowly missed some huge potholes.

I arrived at the US Border at 1:00PM PST, and at same time gained an hour as Alaska is one hour earlier than Pacific Standard Time.

At the Alaska Border

Once I cleared US customs, it was almost silky smooth roads for the first few miles into Alaska.  It's almost as if the US wanted to show the Canadians how it's done.  ; )   Even where there'd been road damage, and covered over with repair material, it was smoother than the previous carnage the Canadians were "maintaining" for the US.

Once I was past the Tok Junction where one can turn to go to Anchorage, it was a bit of a slog riding down this straight as an arrow road for almost an hour till one arrives at Tok itself!  But then, the scenery got much better west of Tok and heading towards Fairbanks.

 Mountain views west of Tok, AK on Alaska Hwy 2

It was, from the border with Canada, about 300 miles to Fairbanks and it took me seven hours to cover it.  Traffic was light, the roads were well paved for the most part and the temperatures had soared into the low 40s!

I arrived at RichardM's house around 7:30PM I think.  Valencia was idling a tad rough but she seems to do that after a long run.  I'll be doing maintenance checkouts on her starting tomorrow, and swapping out both her pusher and sidecar tires with new tires.

I met Richard's wife Bridget and the rest of the family.  Richard's going to help me get the tires swapped out tomorrow I think.  Valencia is also close to being due for her 30,000 kilometer service interval so that will take a full day I think.  Lots of niggling little things to fix/clean up/re-arrange on the rig.  Nothing major though, she runs fine and I think the rough idle after a long day of riding is something I can work out, not to mention she probably doesn't like some of the fuel I've been forced to use.

We shall see, the important thing is I made it to Alaska proper and have connected with RichardM and his welcoming family.  


Unknown said...

Joe again.. 0300 in St Louis.. began following you when arrived at work.. I am hooked following you now.. sounds like you will be getting some rest and giving valencia some much needed attention.. I did have you mixed up with rider from everyday ride blog who did almost same ride you are on but last April/May. Look forward to more postings.. Also I figured out how to see your profile and biblio...I am retired Air Force but was in air traffic control/comm. Be safe.. Joe

Andy & Laura said...

Whoo Hoo! So happy for you that you've reached your destination safe and sound.

Thanks for sharing so many pictures with us. The scenery looks spectacular and appears worthy of all that you endured to get there.

Enjoy your visit.

Brian said...

I rode that chunk from Watson Lake to Tok in one day back in August of 2010.

The worst of the whole ride was that bit from Destruction Bay to the border. Ruts and frost heaves... a paved goat path! They told me they'd pretty much given up trying to maintain that section. Like flailing against the wind. ;)

The reason that road from the border into Tok is so nice is they completely rebuilt that chunk in 2010. It was nothing but torn up dirt in the middle of reconstruction when I waded through it on my Raider in '10.

I must say though, the weather in August was a lil' different than what you're braving! :)

Awesome ride! I used to love the looks I got from people in Colorado when I'd be out on that big Yamaha at 9 or 10 degrees in Colorado... Nowadays I follow the thermometer and chase the paint stripes following "nice" temps!

Unknown said...


Congrats for making it to Fairbanks. You are in good hands now. Love those snow-covered mountain shots. Last year Chris made it on his Suzuki SV650 so the weather must have been a bit better for this time of year.

It's a lucky thing you brought your 2 burner Coleman stove. Could you not use thinner Oil ?' or synthetic ? was just wondering

Riding the Wet Coast

Unknown said...

Congratulations Dom, that's quite a ride. Have a safe and enjoyable ride home when it time to head back.

Learning to Golf said...

I'm not sure it sounds like a very good idea to heat up a motorcycle with a camp stove. It isn't the gas that is the problem, it is the vapor. Good luck!

Martha said...

Congratulations my love.
Now, color in you map to show you've ridden in Alaska, it is buggung your OCD-enabling-benefactoress.
Just kidding, stay safe, stay smart and have fun!

Canajun said...

Wow, bare pavement must have been a nice change. Glad you've arrived safe and sound.

redlegsrides said...

jt lee, Joe....glad I am providing some entertainment for ya. :) The other rider is Chris Luhman of, good blog.

Andy and Laura, thanks, glad you liked the pictures, the mountains are truly amazing with all the snow on them.

Brian, that stretch of roads was definitely something else! You have to really pay attention and go slower than normal.

Bobskoot, yep, thinner oil would definitely help but since things are warming up, going to say with the regular 20w50.

Rob C: Hey! Thanks for the visit and comments....not sure when I am returning, still debating route.

AZ HD, the gas was shut off....and the heat that wafts up to the battery and oil belly pan is not very hot, just feels warm to my sure drew some strange looks from the other folks around but it worked! :) If I was continuing into such cold weather (its warming up nicely here right now), I'd invest in a heat pad but not sure I need it anymore. Thanks for commenting.

Martha, working on it! :)

Thanks Canajun, it was so nice to see bare pavement after a glorious 60 miles of slick white stuff....

BeemerGirl said...

Most excellent on making it to Richards house! I love "lighting a fire under her". The picture is pricesless.

I'm glad today was relatively uneventful and tomorrow will be a "clean up" one. Have fun! :)

BMW HACKER said...

Had to perform the "Coleman" engine heater trick a few times long as there are no oil