Rider Alaska and Yukon Tour, The Last Frontier
August 21, 2010
Filed under Rider Magazine Blog
Final Cell Phone Blog
Most photos by Genie Tuttle
Penultimate evening, Talkeetna, Alaska.
Denali’s ulu-knife top is sheathed in ever-present clouds, then clears suddenly and slices the red-orange skin of sunset, opening a stream of darker shadowy blood across the sky. It’s only the second clear day in this part of Alaska after raining for 32 straight. We are blessed, amazed and humbled. The locals seem to exhale.
We all started the trip as riders, now we are more. Certainly not Sourdoughs, but no longer just Southerners. Alaska and the Yukon get into your bones, like the chance of finding the yellow metal here that forever changed so many so long ago…and still does.
The highways of the last frontier were our lure, shooting and winding like the silvery rivers do through corridors of snowcapped Kodachrome mountains and endless rainbow forests cradled in a huge fisheye sky.
Despite its size modern man must concentrate in the more hospitable southeast part of the state. Fewer than 700,000 live here, and almost half are in Anchorage. The pipeline reaching down from no-man’s land is the cartoid artery, the means for those on the grid to have something like a normal life…if they want it. Even then there’s plenty of eccentricity to go around in places like Skagway, mostly show for the cruise ships and tourists who are otherwise barely noticed by locals quietly but frantically preparing for winter.
We enjoyed the comfort and convenience of good to great weather every day of the August ride, and luxury hotels when available or good route location and simple quarters if not. Even the lumpiest bed felt heavenly, though, compared to the life the locals must lead in the winter, clues to which our modest new friend Ed shared in the lovely rural home he and his wife built themselves outside Fairbanks. The oil heaters and hand-skinned birch planks separating inside from out seem like fine protection from the -40F, mainly because Ed finished and placed each one by hand.
Big kudos and thanks to guides John and Nuno, our lean, sharp-eyed Ayres Adventures lead dogs, who showed us Alaska’s heart, bones and muscle–virtually every major paved road–and most of the Yukon’s, too. They dealt with bugs, flats, stragglers, and road construction, yet dearly wanted to show us more. To Genie and me, though, washed-out Top of the World Highway was just a possibility before all of our eventual victories. It may be closed; now it’s another reason to come back.
And we will; we must….
Sent from my iPhone