July 20, 2002 GMT
Alaska

A huge state with thousands of miles to travel in, glaciers, mountains, forests and the occasional town.
Siobhan had her first experience of riding a fully-loaded BMW with two people on it, yes itīs heavy but itīs well-balanced.
First we headed south to Seaward for its annual 4th of July celebrations where the whole town parties, in fact the town was so full that we had trouble finding a space to camp in- every available bit of land is turned into camping areas, luckily some local bikers called us over and made room for our tent.
The main focus of the $th July celebrations is a race up to the top of the nearest mountain and back down again with the competitors sliding through the ice and snow fields at an incredible speed. This all appeared a bit too much like hard work for us and so we contented ourselves with watching from the bottom, with cold beers in hand.

Off to Deadhorse next, via Fairbanks and a visit to George, who, for 40 years has been running BMWīs most northerly outpost in the world. He operates out of what appears to be a forest with various classic bikes and cars in amongst the trees. He had been expecting us - word had travelled that we were in Alaska and he checked our sticky clutch for us, talking non-stop the whole time (part of his trademark service). With warnings to look out for the trucks on the dirt road north off we set, following the Alaskan pipeline into the Arctic Circle. We were accompanied by a German guy on a Honda Silver Wing which had worryingly bald tyres. He had been staying at the same hostel as us, and for some strange reason, he believed me when I told him that his bike would be able to reach Deadhorse no problem - in my defence, I have to say that I met one bloke who had taken his road bike up there complete with a trailer.
The road soon turned to dirt, though it wasnīt as bad as we had feared it might be. The first night we camped by the Yukon River and were mobbed by mosquitoes, we both donned our very fetching head nets which are essential up here and Siobhan rigged up her mosquito net suspended off Thelmaīs handlebars so that she could smoke in peace.
The nextday we entered the Arctic Circle, surprised at how warm it was, we filled up with petrol at the last garage in Coldfoot, taking an extra gallon in a can as it is 245 miles of nothingness until Deadhorse.
The road was slippery and muddy in places, though for me, the worstparts are the roadworks-huge mechanical contraptions on the loose and a very unpredicatable road surface, often very soft where they have just laid fresh dirt and not yet flattened it.
The midnight sun was amazing - one of the benefits being that there is no hurry to get the riding done before dark as it never gets dark. In fact two bikers that we met were just setting off on their "dayīs" ride at 11pm at night.
We met a few other bikers, some of whom had experienced snow the previous day - yes this is the middle of summer up here, but there are still no guarantees about good weather. I was making full use of my layers of clothing and also my electric jacket and gloves.

We reached Deadhorse, and set up camp a few miles outside of town - it is too dangerous to stay in tents any closer due to the bears that roam the town. Oh yes, more bears to contend with, this time the Arctic Tundra Grizzlies. We cracked open some bottles of beer to celebrate our arrival, some fellow bikers had warned us that Deadhorse is a dry town and upon seeing our stricken faces at the news had given us their remaining beers.
The nextday we headed into the town itself where we were treated like celebrities and befor ewe knew it word had gone around that the Motorcycle Mamas were in town. We were invited to meet various people and to take part in the Fun Run that evening. We hadnīt really planned on staying longer but the warm reception and the fascination of getting to know such an unusual community meant we stayed on.
The Fun Run was more of a walk for us - we took part wearing our bike gear (mainly because we didnīt have anything else to wear) there were some in shorts and running vests who sprinted the whole 5km, we felt we didnīt need to prove ourselves and just concentrated on completing the course. The police and security guards were out in force, to protect the runners from the bears- hmmm, what better incentive to actually run I thought.

The next day we headed off after posing for photos and featuring in a few video shots.
So, now heading south for the next 20 000 miles, keeping the sea on my right I canīt go wrong. I was amazed to see a familiar face a few hours out of Deadhorse - Philipp Jokisch from the GS Club in the UK on his GS 1100. I had last seen him in a pub six months previously- just before he left the UK for Tierra Del Fuego and now, here he was at the end of his long journey just as I began mine.

we headed back into Anchorage, camping on the edge of a glacier en route, and regretfully deciding that it might just be a bit too dangerous to ride Thelma onto the glacier itself.
Siobhan flew back to England whilst I did some trekking in the backwoods and then took the ferry from Alaska to Washington State - three and a half days of camping on the deck, watching amazing scenery go by and whale spotting, definitely a boatride to be recommended.

Posted by tiffanycoates at July 20, 2002 03:05 PM GMT
 


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