Posts Tagged ‘Anchorage Alaska’

Ride Date: August 8, 2013

I started looking into motorcycle availability and rental options 5 minutes after my Alaskan vacation was booked last October. And each time I said the same thing, “I can’t fathom spending $250/day to rent a bike.” Then the vacation came. I almost rented a 2002 Goldwing in Ketchikan but still refused to part with $125 for the first hour and $25 for each additional hour. And after that bug bit, stung, and drew blood, I inquired about renting a BMW or Goldwing in Fairbanks. It too would cost $250 for the day, with an additional $100 fee to ride the Haul Road – or Dalton Highway as it is known.

When I arrived in Anchorage I decided to make one last call to check availability at House of Harley. They had two bikes available and both had to be back by 4:00 pm. The rental rate was $25/hour (plus I would receive 20% off because of my HOG membership). How can I pass this up? I went to bed hoping for the weather to cooperate.

Waking up to rain is not a good sign when you want to ride. And it’s even worse when a dream ride is ahead of you. Melisa and I made it very clear to ourselves: unless the weather is horrible, we are going through with the rental and riding from Anchorage to Hope, Alaska – Hope was the site of the first gold strike… read about it here.

As luck would have it, the skies cleared. We set ourselves up with the rental of a 2013 Ultra Classic, spoke with Jolain at the rental desk about our route, and we were on our way. The journey wouldn’t be long, about 90 miles each way down the Seward Highway, but it was a perfect jaunt to fit into our 5 hour rental time frame.

Hopping on an unfamiliar scoot, or worse, one that doesn’t belong to you, is always nerve racking. A few feet into the trip the jitters go away and it’s time to enjoy the ride. After a few turns we were on the Seward Highway and heading south.

There is no sight like it in the United States – or at least none that I know of. While riding the highway, you are at sea level with the water on one side and the mountains immediately on the opposite side of the road. Train tracks run parallel the majority of the route as signs declaring avalanche dangers garnish the roadside. The water is known as the Turnagain Arm and it is part of the Cook Inlet. Apparently it was aptly named because of the glaciers that blocked safe passage through the water, and while Captain Cook steered the ship, it was always necessary to “turn again.”

We hit some rain for a 10 mile stretch. In fact, I think the rain stayed there all day. The cloud cover was low and the rain fell. And eventually we rode out of the rain. And it wasn’t until our return trip that we hit the rain again… for the same stretch of road.

Continuing down the Seward Highway, we passed the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and rolled by the Whittier turn off – we were now heading into the Kenai Peninsula. Water was no longer on our side, and instead, we cut through stretches of lavish greenery, snow-capped peaks, and valleys filled with lush vegetation. Occasionally rushing streams (or more like rivers) cut through the landscape.

Within time we hit the right turn off to Hope, Alaska – a sign promised Hope to be 15 miles away. As we rode toward Hope, we were on the opposite side of Seward Highway, once again with water separating us from the Seward Highway. We knew a city wouldn’t simply “pop up out of nowhere,” and it didn’t. But sure enough, at the 15 mile marker, we started to see signs of civilization; albeit, small signs of civilization. A motel, a grocery store, and a gift shop all in one. A café and camping ground. A sign welcoming you to Hope. And suddenly the sign I jokingly thought I would see. “Road ends in 1 mile.” Then “Road ends in 1000 feet.” Finally, “End.” If you chose not to turn around, you could continue into the Porcupine camp ground, but we weren’t camping.

Turning the bike around, we tried to find more of the city of Hope. Turning left at the Welcome sign, the half circle road took us to 4th street, 3rd street, 2nd street, and back to Main St (apparently Main St. is the unnamed stretch of road into Hope). Although the town with a population of 200 was sparse at best, it boasted a free museum touting Hope’s integral history during the gold rush.

We had two hours to make it back so we quickly hit the road. And we hit the road quickly. Making it back by 4:15 – we had a half hour window we could take advantage of and we opted to use it.

The only regrets of the trip would be time. In hindsight, seeing and exploring Hope’s history would have been fascinating, and stopping for a bite to eat at a barbecue joint called “Turnagain Arm Pit” would have been, if not tasty, a great photo opportunity.

Chalk this up as a great ride all around. I enjoyed it. Melisa enjoyed it. We experienced the wide sweeps of the Seward Highway, the vast Alaskan scenery, the ever-changing climate, the modern of Anchorage and the old in Hope.  Riding a rental wasn’t bad, but I can’t help to think how much better the roads would be on my Bea.

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

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