Saturday, July 12, 2014

Africa Twin Troubles and Dog Sledding in Denali ;)

(Having a good laugh at the Universe right now… I'm getting a chance to get caught up on this RR because while I sit here at McDonald’s, watching the Netherlands play Brazil, Roel is in a taxi with a Brazilian woman we just met at a gas station, on the way to the site where her husband crashed his Ducati Multistrada earlier (he’s OK - his ankle just hurts too much to ride). Roel will probably miss the game as he has 30+ kilometers of dirt to cover on the Multistrada in order to get it back to town for the Brazilian couple, while they head off to the hospital in the taxi to have the ankle checked. Perhaps the Universe will reward this riding Dutchman’s kindness with a 3rd place win for his home country Hup Holland Hup!!)

Picking up where we left off last time, Roel’s bike wouldn’t start. We were at a nice pull-out about mid-way between the Dalton Highway and Fairbanks. Fortunately for us, the weather was fine and there was a light breeze keeping the voracious mosquitos away. Nevertheless, it’s never nice to unpack a fully packed up bike in order to figure out what is amiss and try to fix it. Roel set to work, wiggling this wire and that, checking the starter, again, then this wire, than this connection, etc., etc. Eventually, once the seat was off, all of the fuses had checked out to be OK and the right wire happened to be wiggled, and the bike started, again. Whew.

We made it to Fairbanks by the early evening and made our first stop at the car wash we had sussed out prior to departing for the Dalton.

We spent a ridiculous amount of money washing down the bikes (well, ridiculous by the standards of someone who rarely washes their bike), and made sure we removed every visible, and hopefully most of the non-visible,
caked on bits of mud from the Dalton.

Exhausted and hungry, we were ready to pick up a quick dinner and head back to Ramey’s to crash for the night.

Annnnnnd, Roel’s bike wouldn’t start. The same procedure was repeated, however, the wire that was wiggled and had led to the bike working earlier did nothing. Eventually, Roel found wires that seemed to be wearing on one another, taped them up and voila, away we went.

After catching up on some rest at Ramey’s, we set out late the next day for Denali National Park. The weather was fine and it was a gorgeous ride.

Moose were all over the place, and it was great fun to spot a cow and calf.

We were keen to be able to spend the entire next day at Denali, so we made it to just outside of the park and stopped for fuel.

As you may have guessed, the Africa Twin gave nothing. By now, this was no longer amusing. It was cold. We were tired. And I considered just pitching our tent behind the gas station. Eventually, Roel found yet another wire that needed to be taped, did that and we pushed on down the road.

We camped just off of the road, overlooking a cluster of clouds that were hiding the Denali Mountain Range.

By morning, those clouds were dumping rain on us. Not a great way to start the day you’re supposed to spend at a National Park you’ve always wanted to visit. The visitors center was really well done and showed an excellent film about the park and it’s history, part of which featured the Denali sled dog team, which helps to keep the park truly wild as they negate the need for snowmobiles, etc., as they enable rangers and scientists to get into the back country either for studies, surveys or park maintenance.

Another way they are “trying to keep the park a true wilderness,” is by providing and encouraging the use of free shuttle buses to take visitors from the entrance to 16 miles into the park. This is cool. It makes sense to cut down on vehicle traffic and means that more people have a better chance of spotting wildlife and not endangering themselves or the wildlife (by feeding the animal, getting out of their car to take pictures, etc.). However, Denali REQUIRES that you take a bus in order to get between mile 16 and 80. And these buses cost $80. This is not included in the National Park Pass and I think it’s absurd. Visiting Denali NATIONAL Park should not cost as much as taking a family of four to a baseball game.

Anyway, the rain came and went, but the low-hanging clouds stayed, so we didn’t feel too bad about not getting to mile 80. Some day, we’ll have to go back to Denali and do a proper 10-day hike.

On the way out, we were lucky to catch the dog sled demonstration.

We got to “meet” some of the dogs, who are exposed to human cuddles from puppy-hood on, learn a bit about them and then watch a small team of extremely energetic dogs pull one of the rangers around the gravel path on a sled. It was a treat to watch and very cool to learn that the park uses these dogs as full-time employees, not just tourist fund-raisers.

The park was opened with sled-dogs as the only form of transportation in the 19__’s, but of course with the advent of snow-mobiles, the park made a switch to the motorized form of transportation and hauling. Until, one very harsh winter, the head of the park declared that the dogs would return to full service as “they had fewer problems with their carburetors” in the harsh Alaskan winter.

We carried on towards Anchorage, hitting pockets of heavy rain the entire way. By midnight, the rain clouds were blocking out enough of the sun that it seemed to be getting dark and we finally stopped to set up our wet tent in a gravel pit off the highway and camped about an hour from the largest city of Alaska.

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