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.

1 comment:

  1. Still following your Blog and still enjoying your journey. The Yakity Sax version of you breaking the bike was great. It's also interesting to see some of the photos of the same sights Norm and I saw only from a different perspective. In fact, we stayed at the same campground in Chicken. Did you miss the saloon?

    I may have to go back some day. I'll cherish those memories for a long time.

    Norm and I plan to ride across Canada next summer.

    Are you working now that you are back? Got plans for another ride?