Monday, October 19, 2009

Anchorage, Part 2

After a couple days down on the Kenai Peninsula, I was back in Anchorage. I'd actually gotten back into town in the middle of the night, setting up my tent again at the Harley dealer just as the sky was starting to lighten at around 3am on Friday.

After waking up and greeting the others at the campsite (Hogman and Norm were still there), I went about spending lots of money.

First step was to head over to Alaska Leather for a tire change. The store isn't really a motorcycle repair shop, nor do they only sell leather. It's a small place that's packed to the gills will all sorts of riding gear, from the cosmetic-leather vests for the pirate crowd, to full-on touring suits.

And I thought my Olympia Phantom suit was expensive, goddamn.

This shop has a big following amongst the ADV rider crowd, and for good reason. The owner of the shop is there most of the time, is very friendly and helpful, and while the tire prices are about 3x what you'll pay stateside, most of the other gear is in line or below MSRP. And while they don't really advertise it, they do have a tire changing machine in back and will put new rubber on for half the price of anywhere else in town (and a quarter of the price of the Harley dealer). The catch is that, well, they're not a repair shop, so you have to pull the tires off yourself.

Not a problem for me!

While I was waiting for the new front tire to be put on, I poked around the store some. First order of business was some new cold-weather gloves, to replace the ones I'd lost somewhere south of Whitehorse. After trying on all the gloves they had, I picked the most comfortable and best-fittings ones . . . which of course happened to be the most expensive gloves in the whole store. And knowing that they'd probably get soaked after an hour in the rain (no matter what the big "Waterproof!" claim on the gloves say) I got some rubber over-gloves as well.

And then I did something kinda stupid. I started looking at proper riding pants.

While in the southern USA at the start of my trip, I'd been wearing Draggin' Jeans for protection. Contrary to what the pirates claim, even the thickest denim is no match for pavement, and will wear through in just a few feet when you're sliding along it. To combat this, Draggin' Jeans are lined with Kevlar in the knees and hips, the two spots most likely to wear through, to protect you from the worst of the road rash in the event of an off.

But truth be told, many riders don't consider this adequate protection, and after some time on twisty roads I understood why. When you're hanging off the inside of the bike at 60mph with your knee just a few inches from the pavement, that Kevlar and cotton doesn't feel like much protection at all. While they might protect you from some road rash, you're still at very high risk for shattered kneecaps, fractured hips, and all sorts of unpleasantness. To count as adequate protection, you need to have some sort of armor or at least padding.

After poking through endless selections of 42" waist stuff (I guess the manufacturers assume that everyone riding a motorcycle is fat), I settled on some Olympia Airglide 2 pants, which I'd heard stellar reviews of from people online. Padding in the knees and hips, with huge mesh sections for tons of airflow and a zip-out wind/waterproof liner, similar to my Phantom suit. And damn did they fit well. Of course, what was the size that ended up being perfect for my scrawny ass?

Women's size 8. (And that's my front tire with it's new rubber in the bottom left).

By the time I walked out of Alaska Leather, I'd spent over $500 there, counting the tire, mounting, gloves and pants. *sigh*

I had to wait until the next day to get my rear tire mounted. It had turned out to be cheaper to have my dad buy the tire in Chicago and mail it up to me, and it had been shipped to my friend Etherwolf. I stopped by his place of work to get it from him, and strapped it to the bike in a way that would make an Indian feel right at home.

I didn't get any pictures of changing the rear tire, because . . . well it's complicated, but let's just say I was very distracted for the next couple of days by someone pretty special.


When I was planning this trip, me being the nerd that I am, I laid out everything I thought I would need on a spreadsheet in Excel, and attached a dollar value to it. The goal was to assimilate some kind of budget to figure out how poor I was going to be at the end of the trip. And while the single largest expense was of course gas, food was a very close second.

Of course, like everything on this trip, I did this on the cheap. Frequenting restaurants would have quickly blown through the small funds I had, and even fast food was usually too rich for my budget. I indulged occasionally, but the majority of my food was cooked on a camp stove.

And even then, I could have spent a lot more money then I did. Go through the cooking section at REI, and you'll be amazed at just how much you can spend on fancy-ass freeze-dried backpacking food. You can spend $15-$20 on one meal for yourself if you buy your stuff there. (I know those dinner packets CLAIM they serve two people, but they don't even come close to filling me up) Fucking hell, for that price, why wouldn't you just go to a restaurant?

I found that with a little bit of creativity, you can feed yourself plenty well for a couple of bucks per day at any grocery store. Even going to the store today, when my trip is over, I still find myself scanning the back of instant-dinner boxes, finding what can be cooked with nothing but boiling water in a single pot, calculating in my head how I could pack it onto the bike.

My preferences for food changed as I went through this trip, mostly being altered by what I found worked, and what didn't. Three things that stayed with me the entire trip, and are staples of any long-distance riding, were granola bars, peanut butter, and instant oatmeal.

Peanut butter is an old stand-by for anyone traveling solo. It's got a shit-ton of calories in it, it's very dense, and leaves you surprisingly full after less then 1/4 of a jar. It's got plenty of protein and other vitamins, it doesn't have major problems with freezing or melting, won't easily rot or dry out, and at just a couple bucks for a jar that can last the better part of a week, the cost per calories can't be beaten. The only downside is that jars are sort of bulky to pack, as they don't squish down to fit around other things. But combine with oatmeal and bars, you can get a lot of your nutritional dietary needs taken care of easily with just it and oatmeal.

I became a fucking connoisseur of cereal/granola bars and instant oatmeal. Which stores had it cheapest (Aldi), which had the best flavors in the generic store brands (Albertons), and which gave you the best bang for your buck (Safeway's store brands usually had smaller packets then the others). Instant oatmeal was cheap, easy, and hot, which was exactly what you want when it's 40 degrees and raining. Just boil a cup of water, pour it in a cup, dump in a couple oatmeal packets, and you're done. All that you have to wash is the cup and the spoon.

Granola bars are great as well, but surprisingly expensive when you added it up. Part of it was that I turned to them often because they were so readily accessible and convenient, but if I wasn't careful I would find myself blowing through $10 of granola or cereal bars in one day.

Actually, all the usual snack foods that seemed like a great idea would cost a lot when you actually ate them regularly. Beef Jerky is a fantastic road-trip and touring food on the surface. Lot of calories, nice and salty (I don't really like sweet foods), packs very small, but is SHOCKINGLY expensive. Banana chips, which I love, are very hard to find and quite expensive when I did. Any sorts of candy are out of question, and even dried fruits, while healthy, just don't have the caloric density to make up for their cost.

Some things I started out eating a lot of, but ended up dropping through the trip. Canned soup was one of those things. It's cheap as hell ($$0.49 at Aldi), quick and easy, but the cans are bulky and hard to pack. I soon discovered the instant chicken soup packets, often sold in the perfectly cup-sized serving pouches, but after a few months I stopped using these even. Watery soup just wasn't filling enough, the instant packets were mostly broth with a pitiful smattering of noodles.

One thing that sustained me for the first half of my trip was instant pasta packets. In the US, and less remote parts of Canada, you could get them for around a dollar per pack, and all they required was two cups of boiling water. Some called for a cup of milk, but I made do with a few spoonfuls of milk powder. They were simple enough: Boil two cups water, add contents of pouch, stir for around 7 minutes, and eat. If I'd eaten at any other point in the day, I was usually satisfied with one pouch: If I hadn't eaten in more then 12 hours, two pouches would set me. The only downside to these was that my stove was so finicky about how much heat it put out that it required fairly consistent stirring to prevent burning noodles to the bottom of the pot. And cleanup could have been better, the sauce would sometimes require a bit of scrubbing to get out, which could require a lot of water.

About halfway through the trip, I discovered a replacement for them, actually while I was in Anchorage. Now, this might sound stupid to most people reading this, but . . . I'd never had instant mashed potatoes before.

I was pretty spoiled growing up; my mom was the sort who insisted that all her meals be made from scratch, so I hardly even knew there WAS such thing as instant mashed potatoes. But when I glanced at them at the grocery store in Anchorage, and noticed that all they needed was two cups of boiling water . . . well hey, I gave it a shot.

I found they had a lot of advantages over the pasta packets. For one, prep time: The pasta packets needed to be cooked for 7-10 minutes, and the instant potatoes were done as soon as the water was boiling. They were easier to clean up too, as long as you didn't let the remnants dry to the pot overnight. They cost about the same, and were comparable in terms of how much space they took up on the bike. After discovering them, I hardly bought any more pasta packets for the whole trip.

As the trip wore on, and I got back in the USA after time in Canada, I got progressively lazier about my food. I had started the trip making every effort to cook all of my own food, and if I did eat out, to avoid eating at chain restaurants. After two or three months on the road, though, I'd largely abandoned that. I found that if I didn't feel like cooking, and wanted something quick and easy, I had some options without spending a lot of money.

Subway was an easy one; $5 for a foot-long sandwich was a decent single meal, but wouldn't last me for a day. Little Ceasers, when I could find them, were a GREAT option. They have single-topping large sausage pizzas for $5-$6 available for instant pickup, and eating that in one sitting can last me for most of a day.

But another option turned out to be supermarket delis. Most of them would have 8 pieces of fried chicken for $5-$6, and no matter how hungry I was I could almost never finish that off in one sitting. If I could figure out a way to attach the leftovers to the bike, that was almost two full meals.

That's what I lived on for four months. Peanut butter, oatmeal, cereal bars, instant pasta and mashed potatoes, fried chicken and pizza.

And yet somehow, when I got back to Chicago, I found I'd lost at least 20lbs. When I'd left Antarctica, almost a year before, I was up to 165lbs. But now, as I rested after the trip, my 6'0" frame tipped the scales at 141lbs.

As far as diets go, I can heartily recommend the effectiveness of motorcycle touring.

Kenai Peninsula

After spending a few days farting around Anchorage, flirting with girls in coffee shops and running errands, I decided to take a trip down the Kenai Peninsula, the blob of land that juts off the south coast of Alaska. The place I was getting new tires done wouldn't have my new front tire in for a few days, so I had some time to kill, and figured I'd see the sights.


Setting off down the Seward Highway from Anchorage runs you right along the coast for the first fifty miles, giving stunning views of the tidal flats and mountains. Etherwolf, my internet friend in Alaska, commented that the highway has an unusually high number of accidents on it. For the locals, it's just the main transport link to the towns on the Kenai, but then you also have the tourists gawking at all the scenery. The combination of people not paying attention to the road, and people in a hurry gives pretty bad results, and there's a LOT of little crosses and memorials all the way along the road.

At least there's good reasons to be distracted by the scenery. I mean, goddamn.

(To make it easier for those of you who aren't interested in mountains to scroll past)

After the first fifty miles or so, the road turns inland, heading up into the mountains and Chugach National Forest. By this time, I get an almost visceral reaction to seeing the slightly lopsided "Entering such-and-such National Forest" signs, as it means free camping almost anywhere I feel like.

This being national forest land, there were tons of little gravel tracks and trails off the main road, leading to clearings and things that often had pre-made fire-pits where other people had camped. I took advantage of one of these for the night, vowing to get to Homer the next day.


Almost as soon as I got back on the road, I encountered a reality of driving/riding in Alaska. Almost constant construction.

The road wasn't actually as bad as it looks. There had been some occasional rain for the last few days, but for the most part, the gravel/dirt was solid enough that I didn't have many problems, and the traffic slow enough that I didn't feel pressured to go faster then I wanted to.

I turned off the main highway, heading down to Seward. It was beautiful and scenic, as was just about everything else in this state, so much so that I was almost getting burned out on all the mountains.

This southeast half of the Kenai Peninsula is a huge plateau, feeding many glaciers that cut down through the mountains on all sides, ending in amazing valleys and fjords.

Most of the park is accessible by water only, but there is a road that runs in to a small visitors center which offers a nice hike up one of the glaciers.

Along with the requisite bear warnings.

I like that. "Unless it starts to eat you"

While the hikes did look like they would be pretty, I just wasn't in the mood for it. It wasn't that I was tired, I was just . . . I didn't have interest in anything except riding. It was one of those times when I was glad that I was doing the trip alone, because otherwise I probably would have been cranky if I had to deal with someone besides myself. And while going for a seven-mile hike up a glacier would have sounded neat to me on other days, right now it was totally unappealing. So I got back on the bike, and headed out of the park, going west on the Sterling Highway in the direction of Homer.

This part of the ride wasn't as scenic as the first part. The south and east part of the peninsula is rugged mountains, but the west side is gently rolling hills. I had it in my mind that I'd make it all the way to the end of the road at Homer, some ~150 miles away, although I didn't know exactly why. I just wasn't in a great mood, and didn't have motivation to do much of anything, let alone something touristy. So when in a semi-cranky mood, the best solution is to just keep riding.

I stopped for my version of lunch (Peanut butter) in the town of Soldotna, which seemd to be a mecca for fisherman. I wandered down a boardwalk to the river, where there were tons of people up and down the banks catching large fish with surprising regularity.

Inside the visitors center near the river, they had stuffed two of the record-setting fish caught here. I guess this river is renowned the world over for the colossal size of the fish, and I understand why. Fucking hell, I'd crap my pants if I saw something that sized swimming next to me in the water.

Continuing south down the Sterling Highway, I got to the end of the road a couple hours later, the town of Homer, on the mouth of Kachemak Bay. The road comes into the edge of the bay still up in the hills, and I stopped at a scenic over-look to snap some pictures.

The town of Homer is sort of in two parts. There's the business and residential areas that are on the mainland, and then a peninsula juts way out into the bay to house the port facilities, and touristy stuff.

After passing through the town (which wasn't notable in any regards), I went out onto the peninsula.

The end of the peninsula is a strange mix of tourist traps, condos/hotels, and port facilities. As generic as bits of it did feel, it was surrounded by some spectacular views.

Recreational fishing seemed to be a big draw here, with the rocky beaches covered with people in chairs holding fishing rods.

And even this far north, I found more evidence of exactly WHY the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Sure, smart people will tell you that it was mostly due to the securitization of home mortgages, which were packaged into CDOs and bought and sold so much that no one knew who the fuck owed who money anymore, but I disagree. The REAL reason that real estate prices died was because developers insisted on building places like this.

Seriously, who the fuck would want to live in something like that? Or even within eyesight of it?

Someone had told me that I should stop in here for some food, but . . . again, feeling cranky and anti-social.

The main drag of the peninsula was packed with mostly generic little tourist shops, but as I rode by, one of them caught my eye.

At first glance I thought it was a coincidence, but then, that was a picture of the Time Bandit itself . . . And that really was a crab pot.

The F/V Time Bandit is one of the ships featured on the reality TV show "Deadliest Catch", which chronicles the day-to-day goings on of crab fishermen in the Bearing Sea. It's called the deadliest job in the world, and is the only reality TV show that I allow myself to watch: Rather then the psudo-manufactured drama that permeates just about every other reality TV show on the planet, crab fishing really is fucking dangerous. Apparently, the show has gotten so popular that the Time Bandit (which is based there in Homer) has it's own gift shop.

As much as I would have liked to buy something kitschy, being on the bike leaves precious little room for souvenirs. Talking with the lady inside though, I did learn that the captain of the boat, Captain Andy Hillstrand, would actually be there the day after the next. *headdesk* I'm not kidding, I was sorely tempted to wait around a couple days just to meet him. Crab fishing is . . .

Okay, this sounds retarded, but it's a job I would love to have a shot at. Why? Because I'm fucking stupid, that's why.

As anyone who's ever seen the show can attest to, there is NOTHING about the job that is good, at all. I mean, sure I worked in Antarctica, which had it's crappy moments, but overall was fun, comfortable, and relaxing. Crab fishing is none of those. You're on fairly small (100-200 foot) ships in some of the roughest seas on the planet, in the stormiest time of the year, doing back-backbreaking hard work for hours and hours on end. The injury rate is nearly 100%, and each season sees at least a few guys killed, usually from being swept overboard or boats getting capsized by waves that can exceed 40 feet. The pay is good (very good) for seasoned deckhands, but greenhorns (newbies) make very little, and have to do the lousiest jobs. You spend the majority of the time in way sub-freezing temperatures, exposed on deck and getting regularly drenched in sea spray, while having to manhandle around those 800lb pots which are usually swinging from an overhead crane, while not getting tossed off the ship.

And if given a chance, I'd do it. Hell fucking yes I'd do it. And I already told you why: Because I'm fucking stupid.

It's the same reason that I took a job in Antarctica. And the same reason I went to school in India. And the same reason I decided to take a four-month-long motorcycle trip to some of the weirdest parts of the continent. Because for the last couple of years, my main interest has been on throwing myself into absurd situations, just to see how I react to it. Call it insurance against myself, against my future boring life.

Even if I do settle down at some point, and get a nice safe office job with a reasonable commute and good benefits, get a good 401k going and a low-interest mortgage on a condo, get a big fucking television with 500 channels, get a sensible car with good safety ratings and gas mileage, get a wife and some crotch-fruit, get to the end of my fucking life and realize that I'd spent my professional career working to some pointless fucking goal that ended up being completely empty when I got there . . . even if I get all that, I can look back on my life and realize that for a few years, I really did live. I did stupid, illogical things that left me poor with nothing to show for it expect pictures, experience, and a few scars.

That's why I want to go crab fishing. Because I think it would suck. And I think it would make me a better person.

And, ironically, that's the reason I probably won't ever get to go crab fishing. I don't think I could make a career out of it: I'd be a tourist, there for a season or two and then gone. And right now, the industry is hurting. Recent changes in regulations have put a lot of guys out of work, so there are a lot of fishermen, real fishermen to whom this is a career and a way to feed their families, who need the work a lot more then some shithead tourist kid needs it. The majority of the people out crab fishing aren't there for the adventure or action or because it'll give them good stories for picking up girls in bars, they're doing it because it's their job and what they've done their whole lives.

So really, my reasons for wanting to go crab fishing are all the wrong reasons.

So I suppose I'll stick to riding my bike to places that no sane person would want to go.

So I elected not to wait around for a couple days to meet the captain, which I'm still kind of split about. Maybe I should have. Who knows. But there was . . . besides the fact that I needed new tires, I had . . . an interesting feeling about a girl I'd met in Anchorage. So with little other reason for being in Homer, I turned around to head out of town.

It was getting to within a few hours of sundown, so out of curiosity, I pulled into a tiny little state-park-run campground on the beach to see about camping there for the night. And who did I run into by ShortguyonaBMW, from the campground up in Anchorage! We talked for a few minutes, but ultimately I decided not to stay there. It was right on the ocean and windy as hell, and they wanted $16/night. I said goodbye to ShortguyonaBMW, and headed out of town, stopping to take pictures of strange things as I went.

A . . . pirate ship?

Heading north back into the hills, I stopped to snap pictures of a couple of things I'd seen on the way in.

It was getting close to 11pm by this time, and they were closed. Otherwise I would have stopped there for food.

A few more miles down the road, there was this! I think this started life as an Airstream, but was now a giant bee

One day, Blode was playing with his giant bee (Giant bee, bee bee bee bee bee bee bee, giant bee bee bee bee bee bee bee be . . .)

(and if you understood the obscure internet joke that's a reference to, congratulations, you're as big of a dork as me. The rest of you can just ignore this last bit)

Even the mailbox was decked out.

Soon after I took these pictures, it started to get too dim to keep photographing with my point-and-shoot, and then it was almost dark. I was still feeling good energy-wise, and trying to stealth camp in the dark is very difficult. It was only 200 miles to get back to Anchorage, and simply because I didn't feel like sleeping, I rode through the night, getting back to the Harley campground in Anchorage at almost 3am. Just as it was starting to get light.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Anchorage, Part 1

Aaaaaaand we're back. I know that all of you have been waiting with baited breath for me to continue the ride report, but I've been without my own computer for the last couple weeks, so I haven't been able to do much in the way of sorting through and uploading more pictures. But now I've got mine back again, so let's get to it.

Last update, I was just getting into Anchorage, and nearly lost my passport on the way into town after being stopped by a cop for lane-splitting. By the time I got through all the traffic and got into the city, it was passed midnight and I was very much hoping that the rumors I'd heard about free camping at the Harley-Davidson dealer were true.

By tnow,I had not had a shower in, and I'm not joking, almost a month. The last actual shower I'd taken had been at the hotel I got in Flin-Flon, on the border of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, over 4,000 miles ago. I'd had a dunk in the Liard Hot Springs about half-way through, but other then that, I'd been festering in my suit non-stop. I had spent the better part of a week getting rained on in Alberta, hailed on on the NorthWest Territories, and then the incredible (but difficult) ride up to Prudhoe.

And I was tired. Not like, that I needed to sleep, which I did, but really, just . . . tired. Tired of always being worried about bears, tired of always being worried about water, tired of always having to worry about where I was going to camp, tired of always being on the move, tired of always pushing miles, tired of never having decent internet, just . . . tired. I needed to stop and catch my breath.

By the time I found the Harley dealer, it was 1am. True to the internet's word, they did have a small area with some tents in it, with a sign advertising free camping for any motorcyclist. I killed the bike's engine as I rolled into the parking lot so as not to disturb the other campers too much, set up the tent, and went to sleep.


The next day gave me a chance to look around and see what the surroundings were like.

Honestly, it's damn awesome of the Harley dealer to offer free camping like this. Maybe I should stop making so many LOL HARDLY ABLESON jokes. The campground is down a bit of a hill (the parking lot where that blue truck is parked is roughly street level), so you're shielded some from traffic/general street population, and the other side is a grove of trees and a small creek. It's basic camping, no electric hook-ups, and actually there's not even any designated campsites. It's just a medium-sized grassy area with some picnic tables strewn around, and further in back of the dealer (near the service bay) is a small stage and more grass that people with towed pop-up trailers would set up on.

The bathroom is on the outside of the building just outside of the frame above, which is spacious and clean with a toilet and hot shower. And there was even a little basket full of hotel-sized toiletries, conditioners and soaps and things for communal useage. Along with a basket of jesus propaganda from some christian biker association. And for those times when you do need an outlet to charge something, there were electrical outlets in the bathroom, and on the outside of the building.

I had a small list of things I wanted to accomplish in Anchorage, and first on the list was linking up with a long-time friend from one of the forums I hang out on, Etherwolf. He picked up up in his Subaru and took me on a tour of the area, to some of the more senic lookouts, all the while while we both joked about how much of a nutjob Sarah Palin is (this was a few days after she resigned)

A view of the city from near the airport. Anchorage actually has the busiest private airport in the world, the number of people who own airplanes here is very, very high. It's a necessity for getting around most of the state, a lot of the more remote towns are fly-in only, and a lot of people will have cabins way out in the boonies that are fly-in only as well. I asked Etherwolf how on earth so many people afforded their own aircraft, as even a small floatplane can easily run over half a million dollars used. But as he pointed out, it's just a matter of priorities; live in a small house/apartment/condo, drive a cheap crappy car so that you can have your airplane.

He even took me out to a steak dinner at one of his favorite restraunts downtown, passing a good number of touristy shops selling everything and anything to do with Alaska.

Well, that's special.

By the time I got back to the campground that evening, a good number of people had shown up.

Most of them would be there for the next few days, and I ended up spending a lot of time talking with some totally awesome other riders, Hogman (blog), his riding buddy Norm, and John (facebook, also "ShortguyonaBMW on ADV).

(Photo courtosy of Hogman)

(Photo courtesy of Hogman)

John, who managed to cram a mind-boggling amount of stuff onto his big BMW. He had every sort of farkle, doohicky, and thing-a-mijig you could possibly ever think of on a motorcycle trip, including fancy folding titanium cookware. It was quite a stark departure from my way of doing things, which was . . . you know, as cheap as possible.

(Again, photo from Hogman)

I and John with our bikes under the rear overhang of the Harley service bay.

Even though though Anchorage was to be a rest stop for me, I still had stuff I needed to do. I'd done an excellent job of loosing things so far on this trip, and other various bits of gear just weren't working out. First on the list to buy:

New power cord for my laptop. I'd actually lost the cords back in Whitehorse, I think when I went to a coffee shop for some internet. It was the same way I've lost a lot of other things: Took it out of the seat bag for a second to get at something else, forgot to put it back in, and rode away. Luckily, I didn't lose the power brick itself, just the cord that went from the brick to the wall. And I still had the cord that went from the brick to 12v input, so I was still able to charge the laptop off the bike's electrical system. At that stop in Whitehorse, I think I also lost my great studded belt that I'd had since I was like 14.

Next up: Internet! Or more specifically, the coffee shop at the library, where I engaged in smoothie consumption, internetting, and copious flirting with the barista.

(Ha, bet you were hoping for a picture of the barista, wern't you)

One of the more important things that I had to do in Anchorage was get new rubber put on. Motorcycle tires don't last NEARLY as long as car tires do: Most standard tires will give you between 4-8,000 miles, and even on special, rock-hard touring tires, I was almost out of tread at nearly 16,000 miles. There's a local motorcycle accessory shop in Anchorage called Alaska Leather that is loved by everyone on ADV Rider, and even though they don't advertise it, they do have a tire changing machine in their back room and will mount and balance tires for about half what anyplace else in town will (and about 1/4 what the Harley place charges). The specific tire that I'd wanted wasn't available due to factory backorder, so I ordered something similar and was told it would be in in a few days.

With that in mind, I headed back to the Harley dealer for dinner, and more hanging out with Hogman, Norm, and John. Them, being not-poor, made use of the restaurant across the street. I made use of one of my newly discovered favorite foods: instant mashed potatoes.

I killed most of the next day again hanging out at the coffee shop at the Library (and again, flirting with the barrista), and spent one more night at the Harley dealer. My new front tire still wouldn't be in for another couple days, and I resolved to head down onto the Kenai Peninsuala the next day. Which is where the next update will start off.