We rode up the coast to British Columbia, then flowed up the interior of the province to Dawson Creek at the beginning of the Alaska Highway. Near Wonowon, a beautiful valley opened up with caribou, deer and Dall sheep, whose molting winter coats made them look like they were wearing moth-eaten rugs. Liard Hot Springs provided a wonderful soak where moose browsed in the surrounding bogs.
We forged on to Whitehorse, as big a city as you'll find in that neck of the woods and a real treat for travelers, with an interesting museum, the historic SS Yukon, fruitful shopping and entertaining Shakespeare in the Park. We toured the Beringia Center, where we learned how to throw an ancient atlatl, and hit the road for Haines Junction, where we enjoyed a chat with fellow campers by the fire.
The road past Kluane Lake was one of the most beautiful drives on the trip. We reached the Alaska border and made our first stop in the town of Tok. In Glennallen the Visitor Center hooked us up with a local B&B where we had our first sample of Alaskan living. The next morning we took a van tour of the Kennicott-McCarthy mining area, which looked like a Western town stage set – tiny, compact and colorful.
We headed south through Thompson Pass, past a glacier that made our jaws drop at its beauty and close proximity to the road, and on down to Valdez, where we took in the two museums and enjoyed a meal of Copper River red salmon at a local hangout. We backtracked through Glennallen towards Anchorage, past gorgeous forests and by Portage Glacier, stopping to commune with capering musk oxen at the Musk Ox Farm.
One day on the Kenai Peninsula when all the camping spots were taken, the manager of the local diner extended Alaskan hospitality and invited us home. In Homer we visited the museum, then spent the day roaming the Spit. After an evening ferry ride to Kodiak Island, we checked out the museums and the Island’s roads. On the return ferry trip we traded stories with fellow travelers and settled in comfortably for the night, heading back toward Anchorage in the morning. Hauling down the road we discovered Motorcycle Appreciation Day at the Brown Bear – everyone who could ride there had done so. A woman on a balcony spotted us, made introductions all around, and once again Alaskan hospitality opened its arms as our new friends invited us into their home.
The road to Denali from Anchorage passed through the Denali National Forest, an area with very widely spaced gas stations. As our bikes began to run low on gas, a kind motorist stopped and gave us each a gallon fill up, enough to make it to a town visible far off on the horizon.
Northeast of Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs was a favorite stop with resident moose wandering the grounds and an ice museum to tour. Returning to Fairbanks, we flew up into the Arctic Circle, landing in Coldfoot to ride by van into the small settlement of Wiseman for a tour with resident Jack, a true frontiersman and a fount of information about the area. Back in Fairbanks we found Pioneer Park to be packed with history, fun and shopping. At the Welcome to Fairbanks sign we donned our I Survived the Alaska Highway t-shirts for photos, then rode to the town of North Pole, where we met Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The bike was riding low as we worked our way back through the Yukon, but luckily we were directed to a man in Destruction Bay who patched the tire. He told us to wait until morning to pay, to make sure the patch held, then only asked that we make a donation in his name to cancer research.
Haines proved to be a friendly and charming coastal town, and in Juneau the Harley shop owners let us park our bike in their showroom for two nights. We lunched at the Red Dog Saloon and the Hangar Bar, where the clam chowder, coconut shrimp and raspberry ale really hit the spot. In Ketchikan we found Madame's Manor, a charming B&B on a hill overlooking the town and harbor, from which the twinkle of stars and city lights was mesmerizing. We rode to Saxman and Totem Bight to see the tribal houses and impressive totems standing tall in the mist.
We boarded ferries to Prince Rupert and Vancouver Island – the final leg on the BC Ferry Line was our last tie with Alaska, although we had two more weeks of travel down the island and the coastal states, to the culture shock of reentry into Los Angeles. Months later we were on the phone with Alaskan friends, pining for the beauty, freedom and hospitality of their glorious home state. It was an amazing trip, hard to top and never to be forgotten, and we have a combined total of 3500 photos to make sure we don’t forget. Alaska lived up to, and far beyond, all of our expectations.