You Go Where You Look

Remember this from your MSF class or other basic motorcycling class that you may have taken?  I have heard the instructor in my head many times reminding me that the bike will go where I look.  I’ve also tested that lesson and proved it’s true – oh no, I don’t want to hit that pothole and WHAM!  Yes, I was focused on it and I went right into it.

Lately I have been wondering if this concept also applies to life.  If I am too focused on what happened in the past, where am I going?  Likely no where that I want to be.  As the calendar year comes to a close, I dare to think about next year’s riding season and dream of where I might go.  I think about what it might feel like to plan for and take off on a multi day trip again.  I wonder about how I would handle that and if I’m going to be up for it.

As the days grow shorter and cooler, I always look forward to spring.  I tolerate winter and sometimes even that’s a stretch.  I don’t enjoy the snow, I simply deal with it.  One way of coping when the snow starts to fly is planning for summer fun.  I’m not ready to commit to a specific plan for next summer yet, but I am at least allowing myself the space to think about what it may look like.  My hope is that will help me in making it a reality next year.  Will I indeed go where I look?  I sure hope so!

Alaska – The Finale

I have decided to sum up the rest of my days in Alaska in this one post.  Since I was now traveling by rental car, the experience was not the same.  However, this was the best part of the trip from a scenic perspective and I don’t want to lose that.

The plan for the day after the crash was for me to meet the group at the hotel in Valdez.  On my travels from Palmer via Highway 1, I saw the Matanusk Glacier which the group would visit again the next day.  I  was stunned by the peaks that were visible as I neared my turn off on Highway 4.  I thought I had taken photos with my phone of them but they seem to be missing.  So, you’ll just have to trust me that the views are fantastic!

This drive was about four hours and I mostly remember it as stopping as I needed to for stretching and water.  My cell phone battery was dying as I navigated and the charging port in the car didn’t work, so it was lucky for me to encounter one of the ladies I had ridden with at a construction stop.  I had a chance to say hello to her before the pilot car lead us through the area and then we caught up on the other side.  It was such a relief to be able to follow her since she had the group’s directions and stops for the day!

It wasn’t long before we found the rest of the group and had a chance to see some glaciers and waterfalls on our way into Valdez.  I was so relieved when we arrived at the hotel since I’d had barely any sleep in the past 2 days.  I grabbed some food at a nearby grocery store and was in bed by 8 PM! It’s too bad I was so tired and in pain because what I saw of Valdez, I absolutely loved!

The next morning was my birthday and I woke up feeling as though I’d been hit by a truck!  I was expecting this, having worked in the insurance industry for 10 years in my younger days.  I knew that 2 days after the accident is when you finally feel all the damage.  One of the other ladies on the tour was at a breakfast place near the harbor and I managed to drive there to meet her.  After some coffee, breakfast and ibuprofen I felt like I would function and we walked around Valdez for a few minutes.  I saw enough to know that I certainly want to return one day and finish the trip I started!

Our destination for that day was a hotel in Sutton.  It was strange for me, driving a car behind the bikes and at the first construction zone we were separated as they went up front with the pilot car.  I had the GPS directions so I was able to follow along to each stop along the way.  This day was mainly retracing my drive from the day before, but it was still nice to see the sights.

The hotel in Sutton may be my favorite of the entire trip.  It has beautiful fields of flowers surrounding it and a sense of calm and peace that I was so in need of during those last couple days.  I was sad to leave it the next day knowing that we were on our way back to Anchorage.

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Beautiful view in Sutton

 

One of the coolest experiences of the trip happened at our last stop before everyone turned their bikes in.  We stopped at a lake that we’d visited at the beginning and had some lunch and a chance to relax.  As I was sitting at the picnic table pondering what was next for me, I looked down and saw a penny!  During the entire trip I had been asking my dad to send me a penny and none had shown up.  After the crash I was feeling very disappointed and like this trip had just been a bad idea – then the bright penny showed up to remind me that he is always with me.  Always.

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My penny!

I started to feel very disconnected from the group when I joined them in Valdez and that feeling continued for the rest of my time in Alaska.  Even before the accident I had decided this would be my last tour on a motorcycle unless it’s a small group I personally know.  I enjoy the camaraderie of  riding and supporting each other, helping each other when needed and celebrating the great miles together.  I simply didn’t experience that with this group, despite being open to and hoping that would occur.

I would like to return to Alaska at some point, but it will be a trip that I design and plan.  Maybe I’ll go solo or with one or two trusted friends.  Even before the accident I felt like this trip was not at all what I had expected.  There are no regrets, because I learned a great deal about myself and know where my training needs to focus next.  I also saw parts of a beautiful state that I’d never experienced before and will carry those memories for a long time.  But now I know for certain that groups like this are not for me!

I have spent the last three weeks healing mind, body and soul.  The good news is that I see progress every day and am encouraged that I’ll be back on a bike yet this season.  Hopefully there is little to no hidden anxiety waiting for me, but I can’t really know yet.  So far, I haven’t been able to physically endure helmet shopping due to neck injuries, so riding at this point is still out of the question.

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read.  I’m looking forward to sharing more of my journey with you all soon!

 

Alaska – Day 6

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!

Alaska – Day 5

Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs – 212 miles

After the downpour of rain on our way into Fairbanks and that entire evening, it was so nice to wake up to clear blue skies and sunshine.  We only had 60 miles to go to our next hotel stop, but there were a few side trips planned for this day!

First we rode over to the Large Animal Research Station and learned about musk ox and reindeer!  I had no idea this could be so interesting and the guide that we had was very personable and super knowledgeable about these animals, their habits and their history.  While we were there it suddenly started to rain very hard and thankfully there was a shelter for everyone to duck into.  I thought we had gotten the rain out of our system the day before but I guess not.  Thankfully this didn’t last long and the sun returned quickly!

Our next stop was the Alaska pipeline which was actually kind of cool to see.  I imagined it to be much larger than it is, so that was a surprise for me.  I was also fascinated by the informational signs that told about the history and how the pipeline is maintained.  This is definitely something you won’t see in the lower 48!

After that, we still had time to burn so we took a detour to a nice, twisty paved road for some fun riding.  This was the first time that the group started to split up a bit where the faster riders took off on their own.  I’ve been struggling with how to write about this and finally decided that I’m going with my perspective and not speculate on what others were thinking.  I don’t want to be unfair to them and I honestly don’t know what other people thought about this day.

For me, this was an uncomfortable 50+ miles of mostly being alone in Alaska on a road I am not at all familiar with.  I overheard one rider say to another that the two of them had been doing 100 mph for a while on that road; I believe the speed limit was 65, but I know it was not more than 75.  I know I was doing in the 70-80 mph range and when I felt unsafe, I slowed myself down to where I felt more in control.  I have always been taught that everyone needs to “ride their own ride” and I reminded myself of that many times that day.  It reinforced, again, that I’m done with group riding.  If I’m going to be alone, then I’m going to be alone.

After a gas stop and the group coming back together we headed down the last road that would take us to Chena Hot Springs for the evening.  This road, we’d been warned, had damage and places where the road would dip and heave due to road construction and freezing temperatures that cause the asphalt to buckle.  Once we were on that road, where there were no turn offs to get lost on, everyone was able to take off on their own if they wished.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why this bothered me and I have realized that I prefer group riding where we look out for one another and the group stays together.  I felt very alone in an unfamiliar place and I was not as comfortable with it as I’d like to think I would be.

Once we checked into our hotel and got unpacked a little it was time for dinner.  The resort was quite nice and I wish I had more energy left from the day; I would have liked to spend some time enjoying the hot springs.  As it was, I could barely keep my eyes open and this introvert was tired of people for the day.  I went back to my room after dinner and was asleep before 9 PM.  It turns out that extra sleep would come in handy because while I couldn’t have known it, the next day was going to be long and eventful.

 

Alaska – Day 4

Talkeetna to Fairbanks – 270 miles

Have I ever mentioned that I dislike riding in the rain?  Well, this may have been the day that cured me of that.  Actually, I used to find riding in the rain a bit scary.  Over the course of this summer, and especially this trip, I have had little choice but to push through the fear and keep moving forward.  Maybe that’s been the best thing for me.

As we left Talkeetna the skies were cloudy and before we were out of the city, it was raining.  I keep a riding journal about my trips and on this day I said “I was most surprised when it wasn’t raining.”  That’s the best description I can give you!  We rode past Denali which I was so excited to see but we were surrounded by fog.

I didn’t take a single photo on this day because it was just rain and fog all day and I decided it just wasn’t worth it.  We spent a little time at the Denali National Park visitor’s center and had lunch plus learned a bit about the history.  I also hit up their sticker section so I can add another one to my bike.  I have decided my rule on bike stickers is that I have to have ridden in that place, whether on a rental or with my Sassy.  I have friends who are more strict and will only place stickers where they have been with their bikes, but I decided this works for me.  What’s your take on this or does it even matter to you?  I’m always curious to hear what other folks have decided!

Our tour guide told us that this first part of the trip was the most boring.  I tend to agree with that now that I have finished the trip.  I promise you that the posts become much more interesting from here on it.  I would even go so far as to say that there is something coming you won’t expect.  I certainly didn’t . . . until next time, thanks for reading!

Alaska – Day 3

Anchorage to Talkeetna – 167 miles

This was the group’s first day of riding together and as we gathered in the parking lot at the tour company, I could feel the nervous energy.  This made me even more glad that I had arrived early and  had a day with my rental motorcycle.  It was the same BMW F700GS that I own and ride at home, but every bike has its quirks.

On this morning we took off and soon the nerves started to dissipate.  We rode maybe 20 miles away to Mirror Lake and stopped for water, gear adjustments and just breathing.  It might sound funny, but it’s amazing how the group energy affects everyone.

Our next stop on this gorgeous day was Independence Mine State Historical Park near Palmer.  The views from this old mine were stunning and I’m sure my phone photos don’t do it justice.  We had some time to explore the area, stretch our legs and have a snack.

Independence Mine

View from Independence Mine area

After this we headed toward Wasilla and a date with some puppies!  I had no idea there were puppies on this tour, but we had a planned stop at the Iditarod Trail Race Headquarters in Wasilla.  Apparently when these folks have puppies, they like people to stop by and spend some time with them so that the puppies become socialized to many different people.  Say no more, here I am to help with that mission!

Once we had our fill of snuggling puppies and watching the older dogs run, we got back on the bikes and headed for Talkeetna.  The ride from Wasilla to Talkeetna wasn’t super exciting, but we did see a group of photographers on the side of the road in time to determine they were photographing a moose!  Since we were riding, I didn’t get a good look at it, but it would end up being the closest moose sighting I would have on this trip.

Once in Talkeetna we had a little time to kill before we needed to head over for our airplane ride!  It has started to rain a little as we walked toward the air strip and while we had reservations to land on a glacier near Denali, I knew it was a long shot, due to the weather.  Everyone was disappointed that wasn’t going to happen but the kind folks there explained that Denali had been socked in clouds the past several days.  Instead we had a grand tour of the south mountains and so many glaciers that I lost count.  I do love to fly so this may have been the highlight of the trip for me!

After our flight, we went back to Talkeetna for some adult beverages and food before walking back to our hotel.  I’m pretty sure I was asleep within moments of arriving and that is the last I remember until the alarm went off the next morning.  It was a full first day, but a very enjoyable one as well.

 

 

 

Alaska – Day 2

All around Anchorage!

When planning this trip, I intentionally came in the day before the tour kicked off so that I could have some time to take the bike out and explore Anchorage a bit.  Our group was scheduled to meet for dinner that evening and I wanted a little extra time to settle in and adjust.  After arriving so late the night before (or, so early that morning), it ended up being a great decision.

At the time I made all my arrangements, I had no idea that a friend from the PNW tour last summer was also on this trip.  We discovered each other a week prior in the private social media group that had been set up for the members of this tour.  Being in early allowed us to spend some time catching up and we even had time to ride a bit together!

During the PNW tour the year before I had told my tour mates about the Tour Of Honor and so my friend joined me in visiting a couple of sites in Anchorage.  I’d thought about doing these at the end of the trip, but finally landed on the day before.  This ended up being another wise choice and I’ll explain that in a future post.

After we hit up the two Tour Of Honor sites in Anchorage, we took Alaska Highway 1 south until we were ready for lunch.  We stopped for some photo ops and kept saying wow, we’re in Alaska!  We had a lovely ride along the coast of the Cook Inlet.  We’d hope to travel all the way to Hope, Alaska but sorting out the rental bikes took longer than anticipated, but was time well spent.

Alaska Highway 1 south

View of the Cook Inlet

That evening the entire group came together for the first time.  There was a lot of laughter and speculation about what we’d be seeing in the week ahead.  After dinner we all headed back to the hotel to catch some sleep and prepare for the adventure the next day would bring!