DAY ELEVEN: MONDAY, JUNE 22
All night long I had tried to find a comfortable spot in bed; half sitting up, watching the digital clock change from one number to the next. A lot of time to reflect on the accident and life in general. One thing I seemed to also ponder is why motel rooms cannot make a set of curtains that actually close all the way; there always seems to be that little strip of light from a street lamp or the all night Alaska sun that comes through and displays a strip of light on some part of the room.
I was more anxious about the windshield repair than anything else…it was the only thing I had any possible control over at this point. Fixing it would allow me to remove the endless buffeting and take away one miserable component of riding. Once Jeffrey awoke for good instead of just quickly checking his Facebook account, I crawled out of bed to check last night’s late work. The epoxy looked to have held; so layers of Gorilla tape were added for additional support and strength against the forces that riding and the winds would cause. It looked like it just might hold for a while.
Putting on the Klim riding pants and boots was a ten minute process of waiting for waves of pain to subside enough to bend over again to get a little more accomplished. It was what it was. Given enough time, anything can be completed…and so was this. We decided to check out the typical Best Western hot breakfast buffet down in the lobby before figuring out what to do for the day. Offering a great view of the lake behind the resort, we actually watched two different sea planes take off as we worked our way through instant scrambled eggs and a glass or two of orange juice. Like any typical hotel hot breakfast, it was edible but not really going to be recommended if other places to eat are nearby.
Loading the bike was a lengthy process but eventually completed. The windshield went back on the bike, more Gorilla tape got utilized for other bike repairs, and everything was tied down to the bike as needed without much interest in making it look pretty any longer.
I hadn’t died over night, got significantly worse, and I still wasn’t expelling any blood or nasty items from my body. We had to make a route detour though; the famous Hatcher Pass, a highly recommended non-traditional road experience I had thought about doing through the past winter months, was forced to be bypassed by the injury.
I made the decision then and there to just try for home. The trip needed to end earlier than expected but I was bound and determined that I was going to get home with my motorcycle once again. My top case had been stuffed with presents for home for days now; I realized things in one form would get a little easier if I just shipped a bunch of the unneeded stuff back to Indiana and remove some digging through the cases aggravation I was constantly having now. I would buy tape and get the largest flat rate priority mail box and just stuff it full, seal it, and send the contents on their way down south.
We timed our arrival to the Wasilla post office on Main Street for about twenty minutes after their scheduled opening. When we got there, there was a line nearly out the door already. Doing a quick survey, many people had many packages in their arms and piled on the floor around them. No way I was going to stand in line for over an hour, so we simply moved on with the day’s need to ride eastward.
The morning ride out of Wasilla was as comfortable as could be on a vibrating motorcycle after a painful fuel-up; the morning temperature was pleasant but still required heated gear…at least the skies were void of clouds. We rode alongside the Matanuska River with almost not traffic to be seen. Coming into the very little town of Sutton, I spied the small information sign advertising the local post office on a side street. As we past the street, I could see the office just down a side road with no vehicles in the parking lot. U-turn. Arrive at the second post office for the day.
Walked in, talked to the clerk, who allowed me to grab a box and a roll of tape and create a package out in the parking lot first and pay when I brought in back inside. Of course, my riding partner used the time to fight for a signal to the Al Gore Internet thingy while I huffed and puffed as I moved around half kneeling in the parking lot. A box got created, taken inside, and shipped to the Hoosier state.
In the parking lot, I shared with Jeffrey the need to stop in Glennallen on the way and visit a famous pink panel truck that several people have told me about and said it was a can’t miss stop. I explained what it was to him and he just looked at me in a mixture of confusion and disbelief. So, time to go find the pink surprise; mount the bikes, and head east once more. It was on the way home anyways.
I had found the most comfortable position that I could on the Vstrom and simply rode along trying to keep the pain out of my mind. There was interesting scenery to be found if one focused on it while they rode; so that’s what I did. You can concentrate on pain or a problem, or one can focus on something pleasant and give the mind a rest for a while. Other than the extra-strength Tylenol I was slamming regularly since yesterday afternoon, there was nothing I can do about my predicament but aim for home. I needed to focus on something else for a change.
So, I decided to start shooting pictures again and try to salvage something on this adventure.
I believe the above to be the Matanuska Glacier; 13,000 foot high and 27 miles long, according to the Glenn Highway Scenic Byway website.
A reason why this road is designated as a National Scenic Byway:
The western part of the Glenn Highway is some fine riding and scenery. Things taper off the further east you go, but it still blows away the soybean field view I’m used to seeing back home.
We continued to ride along and I realized I could use a Snickers bar. This is one thing Jeffrey and I had in common…each day it seemed like that along the way somewhere, we both would slam one of these down. I got thinking about where I might just get one of these when I rode past the Grizzly Country Store near Nelchina:
U-Turn. Pull in. $2.50 later, one Snickers bar on the way down the throat. The proprietor was a nice older gentleman with severe hearing loss, so we kept our voices high as we chatted. Jeffrey took over the conversation while I went to go use the facilities out back. Walking back to the storefront, I noticed the owner’s wife sitting in a greenhouse off to the side in a wheelchair. She had watched me walk past to the outhouse and called out to me to ask why I was walking so badly. I explained the accident, and we chatted as she assumed the motherly role and scolded me for not going to the hospital. She told me the tale of how she had ended up in the wheelchair from a car accident a few years ago.
Then she did something she did not have to do but I am glad she did. She screamed for her husband to come outside. The proprietor did and she told him to call into Glennallen, a town about thirty-eight miles east and on our route (and home to the upcoming pink truck visit), to see if the local medical center could get me in immediately to look me over. Ten minutes later, I was told by the trading post owners to ride over there and to just walk in…they would be expecting me. Had they not had made these arrangements, I would simply just kept riding home. I thanked them both for their help. If anybody stops in there, tell them the guy from the June motorcycle accident says “Hi”.
So we get into Glennallen and ride past the Crossroads Medical Center. Third u-turn for the day. Part of the adventure. Go inside, tell the story, they hurry me back to get X-rays. Diagnosis: some cracked ribs (more on this later; remember I mentioned a CAT scan already in this report). Wrap me up and throw an elastic bandage around me that becomes my Achilles heel for the next several days of trying to keep the wrap in the specific place it needed to stay against the forces of gravity. Walk out in the waiting room, and Jeffrey’s in a deep conversation with a gentleman sitting next to him. A person that everybody on a certain motorcycle forum knows as being one of the Alaska riding and area knowledge experts:
Mr. AR. And me, taped and wrapped under the shirt. Like Superman, I hide the extra items very well.
While waiting for a pain prescription to be filled over the next twenty minutes, we had a great conversation with Mr. AR. He had brought a friend in to see a doctor and Jeffrey had stumbled into finding out who he was while I was being looked over. Even knowing my predicament, Mr. AR, like everybody else, said, “Look, if you are going to ride five thousand miles home, what’s two hundred more miles and riding down to Valdez? It’s one of the prettiest rides in the state. You CANNOT miss this ride.” I told Mr. AR that I would give it some thought but that I wasn’t feeling much like adding any more miles on than I needed to at this point.
We got our photos of each other and said our farewells eventually. Hope you were able to get that indoor plumbing in place, AR!
A few minutes farther east, we stopped to top off on fuel once more. The clerk advised us that the pink trunk was indeed right down the road. Finally, something to be excited about again. Off I go, Jeffrey doing his best to catch up. A few miles later…THERE IT IS!
Located right there at the NW corner of the Glen and Richardson Highways intersection in the large gas station parking lot is the famous pink panel truck, affixed to it’s position. Out in the middle of a small town in Alaska at the most unexpected spot is a truck that sells Thai food. Not just Thai food but the best Thai food you’ll ever eat. Period. Being a connoisseur of most foods Asian, the thought of this stop provided many a thoughtful moment for me as I made the final plans of my trip over the past entire winter. Now it was here.
“One #3 Pad Thai, please”. Simple order. Best $13 I ever spent. If you like Thai food, put this stop on your bucket list. If Pad Thai is not your favorite dish, they have twenty-four other choices; each can be customized to your palette’s delight as well.
So, final decision to be made…go south to Valdez, or go northeast to the Tok Cutoff road to head home. Jeffrey said he was fine either way. I thought as I ate. As there are no plans to come back up this way unless I hit the lottery or somebody pays me to be their personal guide, I just had to go see the fishing village of Valdez and see some of the things I had previously researched. I’m going to be in pain for more than five thousand miles; what’s another couple hundred on top of it? Mr. AR’s reasoning resonated in my brain…what the heck.
The first forty-five minutes of riding, down to around Tonsina, is pretty boring in relation to what we have seen on this trip already. I was starting to wonder exactly how people define this as one of the best roads in the state to ride for scenery when things then started getting interesting.
The daily required middle of the road photo on the south side of Tonsina:
The views opened up quickly to snow capped mountains. Dozens of photos were taken. Traffic was non-existent once again so we had no problem stopping in the middle of the road or wherever we wanted.
Eventually you get to the Thompson Pass area, about ninety miles south of Tonsina and about thirty miles away from Valdez. There’s two access roads with great views on the right side of the road…one near the green highway sign advertising Thompson Pass, and one when you go over the crest about a half mile past that. The first one has a gate..and was closed. The second one has no gate…and became our playground for an hour.
My ribs could not take any off-roading riding so I made it into the area about two hundred yards and had to park the bike. If you take the access road back off the highway, you get to a very narrow point where you can get some wonderful pictures…and maybe a prized one with your baby bike in the picture you can use as your Facebook picture and make everybody jealous with regarding the view. Jeffrey got the picture…I was happy just to walk a little, sit a lot, walk a little, sit a lot, etc. My best shot here (you’ll start seeing some of the bike’s damage in pictures; different angles, different intensities):
(ETA, 5/29/16: This has become my favorite pic on my desktop screen saver!)
I actually managed to work my way up a five or six story rocky peak, sit down, and just stare off into pure beauty and tranquility for a few minutes in peace.
One more shot before we go-go:
As you can see, it’s worth the stop if you go over this pass.
Two famous waterfalls are coming up about eighteen miles away from Valdez, in a very deep riding canyon.
Bridal Veil Falls:
And around the next curve on the right side about four seconds later (so don’t spend lots of time plugging in all your heated gear when leaving Bridal Falls), is Horsetail Falls:
Quick funny story: While we were at Bridal Veil Falls, a young couple pulls up in yet another rented RV. They get out, and they keep handing the camera back and forth taking photos of each other in front of the falls. Woman happened to have camera in her hands when I, about twenty yards from them, yell over if they would like me to take a photo of both of them in front of the falls. She immediately puts camera away, yells back “no thank you”, and the two of them scurry together to hold hands and get away from the obviously bad biker who was intent on murdering both of them. Some people. Sheesh. Hope they enjoy all that Photoshopping work when they get home.
One last shot looking away from Horsetail Falls and what we will be riding by in a few more minutes:
You can smell Valdez miles before you get there. Technically Valdez is located on the Port Valdez body of water, which is connected to Valdez Arm body of water, which connects to Prince William Sound body of water, which then connects to the Pacific Ocean…but the town has that refreshing sea town smell to it as you get close.
As usual, we played today’s lodging choice by chance. I made it clear to Jeffrey the night before that my days of camping on this trip were over; not going to happen. No way I would be able to crawl in a tent with my ribs, much less trying to setup the tent and gear. As usual, he was fine with whatever direction or choices I made. We rode past a large RV and camping park on the right side of the road and went looking for the Best Western that I knew was in town and located near the marina. The nicest hotel in town, it turned out to be completely full for the next four days. I could go on a waiting list if I desired, which I declined. We would go find alternative housing.
A four minute ride takes you through most of the main part of the town, were we discovered another full hotel and two more locations that looked like they were made from ship containers. Remembering that one part of this adventure was to try different lodgings, I led us back to the RV park…where those little cabins you see at most of these really large parks now were. They had probably fifteen or so of these cabins lined up against the road. Doesn’t hurt to check them out.
Turns out it was a Good Sam qualified RV park; going by the name of Eagles Nest RV Park & Cabins. Staff (I think they were the owners) were onsite and very nice. The cabins are small but come with a full bathroom with shower and toilet. Little kitchen area. Quaint and we would love it, they said. We liked the sales pitch so we signed up for a two night stay (I had yet had a rest day on this trip and I knew I would drop soon if I didn’t receive one). About $129 a night…not too bad I guess, considering this was Alaska and everything seemed to be full. And they had plenty of cabins…so I had my own space for the next two Alaskan lit nights.
To be honest…these were perfect quarters and very comfortable. Plenty of room, there’s a table off to the left side and plenty of floor space out of the way for gear. Shower is behind the mirror on the wall you see in the second picture above. They even were insulated against noise, which worked well. And, due to their wood construction, they stayed cool. No complaints, and I actually really liked this. I’ll be looking into using these cabins more often when on the road in the future. I never thought they were this loaded up.
After a nap and the first of many reapplications of the falling elastic bandage around the chest, Jeffrey and I went walking over to the fishing boat marina. The five minute walk was taxing and I was ready to get off my feet. I had done my reviews of restaurants online over the winter and Mike’s Palace was one of those places that generally got good reviews.
What the heck, it’s an adventure; let’s try it. Go in; look at wall mounted menu; prices a little high, what the heck. Let’s have a good meal.
First, I have to say the waitress was awesome. Very sociable, fun to talk to, a conversationalist, and checked on us non-stop. I decided to order the salmon something or other, which showed it came with a potato and steamed mixed vegetables. Jeffrey orders something else but which also comes with the same two sides. Meal finally comes…no potato for either of us. We ask waitress about it, she replies, “yep, you each should get a potato, let me go to the kitchen.” In meantime, we start eating the main course. Slip over to the vegetables to cut into the big piece of broccoli or cauliflower or whatever…it’s frozen. Nearly solid; definitely very, very chilled and hard. If steamed, they were in there for about one second before being removed.
Waitress comes back. “Out of potatoes”. Okay…”what’s the substitute”, we asked. “I’ll find out”, she says. Before she leaves, I tell her about frozen vegetables. She says she will bring us freshly steamed and disappears. In the two minutes she’s gone, us guys stop eating the main course since we’r still waiting on the other components to both be served and to be edible.
Waitress comes back with a big frown on her face. “Sorry, manager says you can’t get anything in it’s place”, she says as she sits new small bowels of vegetables down in front of us.
Okay…we ask for the manager. Waitress disappears once more. I bite into new bowel of vegetables, which were barely nuked. Warm outside, still frozen inside. Niiiceeeee…more frozen vegetables.
Little older lady finally comes over. Instantly starts yelling at us about no substitutes. Um, what? Jeffrey starts in about how our meal is supposed to have three different types of food; manager makes it out like its our fault we only received two. Absolutely would not listen, and gets louder. Whole area of restaurant goes quiet. After two or three minutes watching the two of them go at it, I try a different approach.
“Um, why are the vegetables served frozen?”, I asked nicely.
“Look buddy, our vegetables are steamed and never frozen”, she yells back.
So I invite her to try them. She refuses. I then dump them on my plate and try cutting with fork and knife in front of her. Plate is moving around, but cannot cut through the vegetables. I again invite her to taste or even try to cut them. “They aren’t frozen”, she replies. I’m trying to get her to take fork, knife, broccoli, whatever. She repeatedly refuses and keeps screaming they don’t freeze their vegetables. Of course, Jeffrey comes back in about the missing potato that we paid for and never received. At this point all she cares about is the frozen steamed vegetables.
You had to see this exchange. We pointed out the problems, and instead of recognizing it, looking at it, or testing it, the manager (I think owner maybe) refused to listen. The entire time Jeffrey and I are being polite, calling her ma’am, and talking in a friendly tone. She’s going ballistic…turning purple. Finally I say decide to de-escalate this; I’m not enjoying myself nor am I interested in finishing the meal. “Just give us our check, we are done.” My final statement to her She disappears, waitress is apologizing profusely and explaining that the lady is nearly impossible to work for, etc.
Manager comes back. Says she knocked 10% or something off the food bill…throws bill on table instead of handing it to either of us and walks off screaming to the entire restaurant that the food isn’t frozen here. We give the money to waitress…and still tip her good because she did her job perfectly. Not her fault the kitchen or manager doesn’t tell her what is not available, and she definitely shouldn’t be held responsible for her manager’s need for therapy. Waitress walks us to the front door constantly apologizing. We smiled and wished her a good evening.
We found other places to eat the following day. Can’t recommend Mike’s Place though. Hope the waitress found a less stressful job.
The next hour or so was spent hanging out near the marina, which apparently is the gathering spot for many of the town’s visitors and permanent residents. Took quite a few photos…there’s just something about a bunch of sea boats tied up in the harbor that is enjoyable to stare at.
We even saw some sea otters (?) swimming around in the bay:
Both being tired, we decided to head back to the cabins. Told Jeffrey I was sleeping in the next day and I’d see him around lunch time to see if he wanted to walk the whole two blocks into town again and grab some food.
Tomorrow is a much needed day of rest; Valdez gets explored; love occurs with a mermaid.
Mileage: 270 miles (most likely)
Areas traversed: Glennallen, Valdez