Day 9 (July 8): Tok-Valdez

 

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As I was stepping into the kitchenette at the reception building I was welcomed by a singing-like sound of “Good Morning” by Peggy.

Peggy is 71 and she is still riding. She and her husband both started riding at the same time in the 90’s after buying a pair of Kawasakis. When they outgrew Kawasakis, they decided to buy Harleys. Peggy got the model that’s known as a “Suicide”. She enjoyed the bike but it was breaking down too often. One day she took the Harley to a local mechanic for repair but the guy must have liked it too much because he decided to move out of town and take Peggy’s bike with him. That’s how Peggy lost her bike. Peggy and her husband after that got Suzukis and they still enjoy them, but she admits that she would really like to own a trike now.

Peggy and I had a very nice chat while she kept pouring coffee. After my third cup and half of a chocolate muffin, Peggy suggested I take a picture with the golden grizzly bear that the locals hunted some time ago. It’s a scary beast – I can’t even imagine the feeling if it was alive.

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While riding down the Richardson highway at some point I noticed a mother moose with a baby. They were enjoying the fresh grass by the side of the road.

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When I came closer to take better pictures, they looked at me and walked away into the bush before I was able to take a snapshot.

Every time I stop for road construction it starts raining. I had a good chat with Ray.

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The ride was very scenic again.

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However I had to watch for the frost heaves.  Peggy suggested to be very careful with those, but I didn’t take it seriously. That’s until I hit the first few. For a couple of hours it felt like I was riding a slalom.

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At one point, far on the horizon, a majestic view of a couple of massive mountains started appearing. They were Mt. Sanford at 16,237 feet and Mt. Wrangler at 14,163 feet elevations. The highway was shaped like a half-circle around them which gave me a couple of hours of fascinating views from different angles.

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Just before Glenallen, I noticed a little log shack with an espresso sign on the top. Off course, I had to stop and enjoy a cup of my favourite drink.

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That’s where I met Louise. She owns and operates the place. After two rounds of double espresso, a salmon sandwich (made with the salmon locally caught in the Copper River) and rhubard-blueberry pie (made by Louise from locally grown rhubarb and berries) I was full. All that food and drinks gave me enough time to hear Louise’s sorry.

She and her mother Jeannie lived in a cabin in the mountains. One day the cabin caught fire and burned down. He mother decided not to rebuild the new cabin with the insurance money and instead she purchased this coffee shop that at the time wasn’t open yet. She named it Jeannies Java. Louise was very upset about that decision and they stopped talking to each other.

Later on Louise realized that she shouldn’t let her 75 year old mom stay and work alone so she joined in. This is how she got to own the place and operate it for the last 11 years.  Louise asked me where I was from and I told her that I live in Calgary but I was born in Serbia. When I mentioned Calgary her face lit up because he godfather “Cyclone Jones” won a Silver Saddle multiple times at the Stampede and Madison Square Gardens between 1930 and 1936. It was a bit unusual because he was 6’3” tall – a bit too tall for rodeo. Cyclone Jones was half Cherokee and half German.

Louse also mentioned that she is related to a Krstovic family from old Yugoslavia. Another interesting coincidence.

I was glad I stopped because I quite enjoyed both my chat with Louise and the great food and espresso she makes.  As I was leaving, Louise told me that the ride to Valdez, my final destination for today, takes approximately 2 hours, but the right thing to do is to take 3 hours. I learned later on what she meant.

 

As I was heading towards Thompson Pass I was able to see more and more white tops ahead of me. The weather was phenomenal, 26C and the road was in great shape for riding.

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At some point a massive glacier started appearing on the horizon – Worthington glacier. On the top of the mountain you can literary walk to it.

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I finally reached Thompson Pass with the patches of snow still visible around the road and the endless views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

While descending to Valdez I continued to be surprised with the beautiful nature around me.

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As I was unpacking my bike in front of the hotel a young fellow, Brian, approached me and said “is it 2015 model – it’s the same as mine”. After a little chat I went to my room to leave the luggage and then to a restaurant in the hotel to get a bite to eat. That’s where I ran into Brian again, but this time with his best buddies, Jesse and Matt. Brian is from Denver and rides F800GS like mine, Jesse is from San Antonio and rides a Triumph Tiger and Matt is from Omaha and rides a Triumph Tiger TX. There was some friendly rivalry between the BMW and Triumph owners. The three of them invited me to join them for a drink. They were drinking, if I understood it correctly, strawberry beer – I was open-minded- it tasted good.

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I was blown away with their enthusiasm, excitement and good spirit. They all met each other in the States and kept riding 500 miles per day to make it asap to Alaska. Now they are taking it easy and enjoying the moment.

At one point Randy from Bay City, Michigan joined us. Randy is a great fellow too. He is not riding yet but after hanging out with the four of us last night I think he is converted.

Just before I left to my room we spread the maps on the restaurant tables and analyzed different options for the rest of theirs and my trips. We decided to meet again on Sunday in Anchorage for another round of drinks and stories.  It was great to see young guys like Brian, Jesse and Matt having a blast and enjoying, as they call it, their very first real adventure ride.

I know you guys are reading this blog. Have an amazing and safe trip and look forward to seeing you again in Anchorage if plans come together.

 

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2 thoughts on “Day 9 (July 8): Tok-Valdez

  1. Zoran,
    What a coincidence to meet Louise at her Java Joint. Her a former Yugoslavian……..if that is the correct term. It seems that you spend a lot of thinking time on the road and when you have a chance to break the silence with strangers they become friends. A very special phenomenon. Some call it the Stockholm Syndrome but you are only captured by your own thoughts. I didn’t realize on some days you are riding over 750km. That is a long day. When I drive my coach I usually go about 450 miles and that is a long haul but i don’t have the elements to contend with. I hope your food supply, i.e. healthy stuff is abundant.

    I imagine when you met those guys in the bar that they would invite you to ride with them but that is not your preference. When do you meet up with your Buddy? Safe travels tomorrow. Its lightning like crazy here in Bearspaw. Peter B

    Like

  2. Beautiful last couple of days Z! Your pictures, stories and the people you are meeting are simply fantastic — almost makes me want to convince Ben to buy another bike. Now — no offence to your new American friends but Strawberry Beer? Really?

    Like

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