Chena Hot Springs to Paxson – approx. 240 miles
As we left Chena Hot Springs, the blue skies quickly gave way to rain clouds, again. After riding all day to Fairbanks in rain, I felt like I was pretty prepared. Little did I know that this day would bring rain like I have never experienced before!
Our first stop of the day was at North Pole and a group visit with a Santa Claus that darn near made me believe again. He was quite jovial and had an answer for each of our endless questions about his flying altitude, where are the reindeer and does he wear a helmet and protective gear! At first I felt a little silly going to see Santa at my age, but I have to admit, it was a fun stop.
We also encountered our first real road construction this day and were waved to the front since there was a pilot car. I don’t recall ever experiencing this before, but apparently the road construction folks in Alaska want motorcycles at the front so that the pilot car can see if a bike goes down and assist them. We rode a long stretch of dirt behind the pilot car with most of us standing on the pegs for stability and control. It wasn’t difficult riding, it was just different and for me, it was good to be on the dirt again, using those skills I don’t use often.
After we left North Pole, the skies opened up and we experienced rain such as I have rarely even driven in, let alone ridden in. I was very grateful for my goretex gear and have to say that it help up admirably! We had a planned lunch stop at a picnic area near a lake which is probably amazing on a sunny day. On this day with the torrential rain coming down, we all took cover under the eaves of the building that contained the outhouses!
We decided to press on to our next gas stop in Delta Junction and see if the rain would let up so we weren’t also eating lunch in the rain. As luck would have it, there was a laundromat right next to our gas stop! I have never seen so many biker ladies pile into a laundromat so enthusiastically before. We all dried our riding jackets and other layers to get some relief from the cold. We even became the topic of a couple photos with all the bikes parked outside, surely people wondering what could we be doing? We had lunch right there in the laundromat while everything dried – no fancy lunch stops for this bunch and I know that I was just thrilled to have warm clothing again!
The afternoon was wearing on me and then we came to a pull out to gather the group together again. As I turned left into the parking area, I noticed the view and my jaw literally dropped! I could barely park my bike I was so excited to capture this view. At the same time, my tour leader saw the joy and amazement on my face and captured an incredible shot of me! At last, I felt like I was seeing Alaska!
We stopped one last time at a scenic overlook and our tour leader reminded us that this was likely our last spot for cell phone service for about 24 hours. We were that remote and I was excited about it!
Once we arrived at our lodgings and unloaded our bags from the chase truck, most of us headed out for a little dirt riding on the Denali Highway. It was about 15 miles out to a scenic overlook and we wanted to check that out and be back in time for dinner.
In that moment, I had no idea what lie ahead for me. It’s going to take me a while to write the post about it, so I am going to say simply that I am ok. I’ll save the rest for the next post. Please, bear with me as I work through the emotions that seem to leap to the surface as I describe what happened on that gravel road . . .
Thanks for reading!