Alaska 2013 – Fourth Week (Kenai Peninsula and the Dempster Highway)

One month has gone by way too fast… It seems like years ago when I left the comfort of my home and hit the road for this long trip, and what I’ve seen and experienced in these past four weeks is way more than I could’ve ever anticipated. After making it to Prudhoe Bay and back safely, I drove to Anchorage for the only setback so far in this whole journey: a badly infected tooth (a root canal gone bad) proved to be too painful and I had to stop there for an emergency dental treatment. After almost 3 hours on the dentist’s chair, I felt like I was hit by a moose, but left the office in good shape once again. A huge thank you to Drs. Ron Nielsen and Darin Anderson and their staff for a job well done!

The next day I was ready to move on and rode on to the Kenai Peninsula, one of the most beautiful destinations in Alaska. It’s chock full of tourists and RV’s all around, but still a lovely place to visit, and some great roads too. I got to Homer and the Spit by the end of the day, and then slept in a fantastic cabin in the woods by Sterling, a courtesy from a new great friend, Frenchy, who owns and operates a cozy Bed & Breakfast in Anchorage (I stayed there too, together with Mike and Mitch, the fellow riders from Florida whom I met back in Watson Lake, and then on Wiseman and also on Fairbanks). In the morning I rode to Seward and then on to Whittier for the night, waiting to catch the ferry to Valdez the next day. Whittier is another gem on the Kenai, with fresh halibut and some jaw-dropping views.

The ferry to Valdez was absolutely special: a picture perfect sunny day, six hours aboard the Aurora, one of the oldest vessels from the Alaska Maritime Highway system, and I had great company too: Patti and John Heveron, from Rochester, NY, on their third or fourth big trip to Alaska on their bikes. The day went by too fast and before we realized it, we were in Valdez. Breakfast together in the morning and a quick ride with them to see the Old Valdez site. The city was completely destroyed after a 9.2 earthquake back in 1964, and the new Valdez was built 4 miles down the road. The place has an eerie feeling to it, specially with the morning mist. An incredible sight… We said goodbye and even though I enjoyed their company for only a few hours, they felt like old friends already.

After a good lunch in Chitina, I followed on to Glenallen to have dinner with Jack “Alcan Rider” Gustafson, another new great friend who went out of his way (literally) to welcome me in Tok when I first arrived in Alaska two weeks ago. We have decided to try and ride the Dempster Highway together, and the first part of our expedition took us to Dawson City, via another road that is pretty unique, the Top of the World Highway. Another sunny day, lots of dust and beautiful views, and since Jack is also an accomplished photographer, we just took our time and enjoyed some magnificent landscapes whenever we stopped for pictures. We crossed into Canada by the final part of the Top of the World, and slept in Dawson City. From there, the (in)famous Dempster, and what a ride it was…

The first day had us covering some fantastic miles under mostly sunny skies, and although the road was in relatively good conditions, it definitely has to be taken very cautiously. The Dempster is known to be moody and can change as fast as you can say “oooops”. We stopped at Eagle Plains for the night and discussed the strategy to get to Inuvik the next day: we would leave very early in the morning, get there by mid-afternoon, and then head back to arrive in Eagle Plains around midnight or so. A long day for sure, but still doable if the weather wouldn’t change. Sleeping in Inuvik was not an option, after so many horror stories about break-ins in tourists cars and bikes. Not the best fame for Inuvik, unfortunately, and I sincerely doubt the situation is that bad, but I also didn’t want to risk anything that far up North. We rode together until very close to Fort McPherson for the first river crossing, but the weather wasn’t looking good in the direction of Inuvik: heavy clouds, a bit windy already, and I followed Jack’s advice to turn back and call 2/3 of the Dempster good enough for this time. Jack has been living in Alaska since 1957, rides before I was even born, and knows pretty much all there is to know about the roads around here, so his advice was enough to convince me that Inuvik should be added to my list of excuses to come back here someday. We had a great time riding back all the way to Dawson City, a Yukon city full of character (it was the center stage for the Gold Rush in the late 1800’s). This morning we said goodbye, Jack went back to Alaska and I will miss his company and great conversations. I know I have a great friend up here, though, and he will be another reason to come back and visit this corner of the world that is growing so much on me.

I decided to stay for the day, for it has been some time since I did the habitual rest day chores: clean the bike (sorry, Jack, I just had to do it), catch up with emails and messages, a few phone calls and the always boring laundry too. I also got to walk around Dawson City for a bit and it’s really a very interesting little city, full of artists, local people and the ever present tourists and their packed buses. Funny how they all look the same after a while, the buses and the tourists as well…

From here on, it’s a journey down south: tomorrow I plan to sleep in Watson Lake once again, some 600 miles from here, and then on to the Cassiar Highway: Dease Lake, Telegraph Creek, Stewart/Hyder, Kitwanga and Price George. By then I will be ending the second Canadian part of the trip, and after a possible quick stop around Vancouver, it’s back again into the US and a much anticipated couple of days in Seattle, visiting Juliana, my stepdaughter (finally, Ju!). Life on the road feels as great as the first day, and even better. I’m more familiar of all my suit’s pockets, and I’m doing far less silly mistakes when packing and stopping for gas along the road. Still haven’t lost anything more than a t-shirt and an iPhone charging cable, which is not bad at all for someone who usually misplaces his keys and wallets at least twice a day… Moving on!

14 comments
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  • Regina NaegeliExperiencia maravilhosa, lindas fotos!ReplyCancel

  • Edward N Patricia MarinVery nice !!! I wish i have the time but i will ReplyCancel

  • Jeff ShortSuper! Chicken Creek Saloon…..Chicken Liquor Store…sounds great..pictures look so pure…I am sure winter is knocking on the door even in late July…stay positive and safe…how is the bike holding out?ReplyCancel

  • Sophia SerpaQue fotos maravilhosas! 🙂 Amei! se cuida!ReplyCancel

  • Annamaria MarchesiniFotos incríveis. Que bela viagem.ReplyCancel

  • Stu NowlinReally nice photos! Hope to see more from the Stewart-Cassiar highway!ReplyCancel

  • Sandra Bridgeswhat an awesome experience…continue your safe travels.ReplyCancel

  • Alex MattheisRick, I wish I could be riding along with you! Fantastic shots! All the best and move on!ReplyCancel

  • Renata MelloQuando crescer quero ser que nem vc!ReplyCancel

  • Lauro C. Jardim FilhoFotos lindas, vc tem que editar um livro sobre a viagem. absReplyCancel

  • Ricardo Fotovideomuy buenas fotos y de los lugares n que decir magnficos!ReplyCancel

  • Ricardo Fotovideocuanto tiempo llevas desde que saliste de tu casa hasta la fecha? y te piensa regresar en la moto?ReplyCancel

  • Lusia MauraSem palavars, qualquer coisa que eu escreva será redundante. Parabéns Ricardo!ReplyCancel

  • Rogério DucasbleEssa etapa está extraordinária! Parabéns forever…ReplyCancel

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