Today was my longest day riding since I’ve been keeping records. Though after a quick review of my journey this leg wasn’t much longer than the jaunt from Fort St. John, BC to Watson Lake, YT.
But I was committed to making this ferry that leaves from Haines at 1:15am (actually Thursday morning). For the most part, I repeated the ride along Kluane Lake and Park and the Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument. Still as beautiful as it was a couple weeks ago, but what I noticed most was how much the trees had changed color and how fast the sun was going down.
Getting an early start from Glenallen’s Caribou Hotel a gentlemen on a Harley came over to ask about my journey. We got to talking and it turns out he rode his Harley to Prudhoe Bay the day I was coming back. Even more coincidental or ironic is that as I was telling him the story about these insane guys on Harley’s riding to Prudhoe without helmets and only sunglasses and bandannas, he tells me those are his two riding buddies. He wore his helmet but his buddies were the insane riders I saw passing me that day coming back from Prudhoe. That’s the thing about riding where there are so few roads. But I never thought I see those guys. They pulled up moments later and I gave them a wrath of shit for being such lunatics. They didn’t care. Just revved those noisy beasts and pulled onto the road.
Today the ride from Haines Junction, YT to Haines, Alaska was the most spectacular of the journey. With massive bulbous clouds, the majestic snow capped mountain peaks and perfectly banked sweeping curves winding from alpine forests to lush rain forests below.
Known as the Haines Highway, the route was the originally carved out by Jack Dalton during the Klondike Gold Rush, charing enterprising gold seekers to use the route for a faster corridor to the North. The 151 mile trek from Haines Junction to the town of Haines was built in 1943 as an alternative to the Alaska Highway for transporting troops and materials during WWII.
Here I pass through Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Provincial Park and the southern side of the Kluane-Wrangell-Elias UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to the largest ice fields in the world outside the polar ice caps. Climbing the 3,493-foot Chilkat Pass my teeth start chattering and I try to keep warming squeezing my knees closer to the engine and behind my tank panniers hoping to steal a little warmth. Just before the US Border I’m greeted with a few of the Jarvis Glacier.
“You must have the best border post in the entire country,” I told Mike McClure the border guard outside Haines. “That road was amazing, but a bit chilly, no?”
“Was it snowing up there?” he smirks. “Then it wasn’t cold.”
This was the first time crossing a border that I was asked to take off my helmet. I switched the engine off, pulled my earplugs out and went through the motions. The conversation quickly turned to the bike and my journey.
When he waved me on I started the bike and it wouldn’t start. Tried again. Started then mumbled and stalled. Another try. Same result. Then I did something BMW explicitly advises against, I used the throttle while starting. Revving Doc up a bit I pulled out of the border post. The road continued to amaze me as I pass the Porcupine Mining District at the Klehini River. Soon I’m cruising along the Chilkit River and the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve which hang in the shadows of the Takhinsha Mountains.
Seeing a bald eagle land near a rock, I pull over to grab pictures of this amazing wilderness. And that’s when I knew something was seriously wrong with Doc. When I slowed to the turn off the engine didn’t idle down. It stayed revved at a noisy and irritating 3,500 RPMs. I cranked the throttle up and back thinking it was sticking. No such luck. Did it again. Nothing. I finally turned the engine off. My fingers numbed quickly as I shot pictures sans gloves. Several miles later another photo session and the Doc acted the same way. This time when I tried starting, the bike wouldn’t idle. Just stalled.
This became a royal pain as I entered the town of Haines. With a little bit of light at 10pm, I rode along the inside passage to the ferry terminal just outside of town. Eager to secure a cabin that I was unable to reserve due to lack of availability, I wanted to get here a few hours before departure to get on the waiting list. The alternative for my 2 1/2 day odyssey through the Alaskan Inside passage would be pitching a tent on the top deck of the ship. Working with the ship’s porter, I was able to secure a bunk with a window. But tonight, the ship would be leaving a few hours late.
I kept thinking about my 9 hour day waiting for my bike to be serviced at the The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage and how the worse thing to happen is to have your motorcycle run worse than it did when I brought it to the dealer. A call to the dealer didn’t yield much help other than “maybe something fell into your air filter?” I was thousands of miles away from a BMW dealer. I suspected something with the fuel injection, which is something that no “regular” dealer can service since it’s all run by a MotoTronic or somehow computer on the bike. And only authorized dealers have the ability to plug into the bike’s computer. I was nervous and questioned the safety of riding a bike that wouldn’t idle. Thank god I was boarding a ferry for a couple days. Give me time to think. As my blood boiled in anger at that dealer in Anchorage.
During my quick dinner at the Bamboo Room and mini-mart stop for supplies, I met a young couple, both who are physical therapists and will serve a 4-month assignment at a hospital on the island of Ketchikan. On the ferry I also met a 60-something year old man traveling with his 22 year old daughter – both on Harley’s. That will be a trip she’ll remember for the rest of her life.
Anchorage, AK to Glenallen, AK 8-17-05
Moving Average: 61.98 mph
Maximum Speed: 89.7 mph
Moving Time: 11:27:57
Total Miles: 592.5