We got dropped off at the Wilderness Access Centre around 7pm, where we were thankfully reunited with our bikes, and our freedom. What I still didn’t have, however, were lights. With the sun due to set soon, Ed set about finding the problem, while I set about making us dinner. Bellies full and lights re-instated, we finally hit the road.
We didn’t plan on going far, we just wanted to find somewhere free to camp. Unfortunately this was a harder task than expected. Being near the the Denali tourist area, camping along the roadside is banned. You could of course just do it anyway, but the areas aren’t exactly hidden and you’d no doubt be woken up way before you wanted to be. We found one spot down the bottom of a slope, but after Ed went to investigate and found himself chin high in grass, we decided to keep going.
About 30 miles away from the park we finally found somewhere, a patch of gravel on a side road. Good a place as any! We put the tent up, stashed our food over the road, and went to sleep. In the early hours of the morning I inevitably woke up needing a wee. I was just rolling over to unzip the inner fly of the tent, when I suddenly heard a loud grunting sound. I froze. My heart raced, my hairs stood on end, and I was scared to move a muscle. I then heard what I thought was hooves or paws walking around on the gravel. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified. Was it a bear? Was it a moose? Or had it just been Ed randomly snoring and the sides of the unpegged tent blowing in the wind? I didn’t know, and I wasn’t going to go and find out. Mainly in fear that if it was a bear or a moose, I’d probably wet myself. I somehow managed to fall back to sleep and woke again when it was light, at which point I couldn’t hold on any more. With light on my side, bear spray in hand, and no choice in the matter, I slowly ventured outside. There was no bear, no moose, and my underwear thankfully remained dry.
Before we’d even left England, I’d been in touch with a guy called Brandon on Horizons Unlimited. He lived with his family in Wasilla, just north of Anchorage, and had kindly offered us a place to stay. It was about 170 miles from where we were so we could get there in a day. It was also his daughter Chloe’s birthday, so he’d said we were more than welcome to come over and share some cake with them. Being an avid fan of meeting new people, and cake, I was very much looking forward to it.
It was a fairly average ride, with an average road and average scenery. We were quite happily riding along when I heard a siren. Was that wind? Was it in the background of the song I was listening to? I turned round and discovered that it wasn’t either of those things, it was a police car with its lights flashing, pulling us over. I don’t know why, but even if you haven’t done anything wrong you instantly feel guilty. Guilty conscience perhaps? Or maybe knowing full well that our bikes weren’t exactly at their best. What could it be? Ed’s bike pumping out plumes of smoke? Our missing mirrors? Ed’s missing indicators? My left indicator smashed and hanging on by a thread? Ed’s rear light and my headlight not working? Or maybe the excessive use of duct tape? A now structural part of Ed’s motorcycle. But no, amazingly it wasn’t because of any of those things. He’d pulled us over because we were going too slow. Too slow?! We’ve just been pulled over for going too slow?! Haha Whatever next. We apologised and explained that Ed’s piston rings were busted so we couldn’t go any faster. The policeman was very nice about it, he just didn’t want us getting run over, probably too much paperwork. It was also labour day weekend so the roads were really busy, he didn’t want us holding people up and pissing everyone off. Fair enough. I wanted to get a photo but I was aware that the longer he spent looking at the bikes, the more chance there was of him spotting everything that was wrong with them. He hadn’t noticed anything yet, or just wasn’t that bothered, and I wanted to keep it that way. He then told us that if we have more than 5 vehicles behind us, by law we have to pull over and let them pass. We subsequently spent the rest of the journey on the hard shoulder.
So apart from going too slow and pissing everyone off, it was a fairly uneventful ride. But it was pleasant all the same, due to nice sunny weather, and we did see some amusing signs…
We finally arrived at our destination around 6pm, where we were greeted by Brandon, his wonderful family, and literally thousands of beer bottles. And no, they weren’t alcoholics. Brandon and his wife Stephanie had started collecting them when they first started dating, about 20 years ago, and no two were the same. They also used to own a beer store in California, so they definitely knew their beer! They were on every wall, in pretty much every room, it was really cool.
We were then introduced to their Children; Malcolm, Chloe and Calvin, who we discovered were all very talented and extremely entertaining.
We also met the extended family; a snake, a bearded dragon, a rabbit, a guinea pig, 2 dogs, and quite possibly the best cat in the world, Clover.
It was certainly a full house, and we were made very welcome and felt instantly at home. We were treated to an Asian inspired dinner which was delicious, followed by a very tasty birthday cake, it was a lovely evening. Brandon and Malcolm were going salmon fishing in the morning, and kindly asked us if we’d like to join them. It was on our list of things to do in Alaska and it was a good opportunity to spend more time with them, so we jumped at the chance. Brandon just warned us that it would be an early start. He wasn’t joking. We got a knock on the door at 5.30am, a bit of a shock to the system to say the least! But one thing we’ve discovered is it’s much easier to get up early when you’re in a warm house. A 5.30am start in a tent is a completely different matter. With a kick-start of coffee and bagels, we got in the car and headed off to the river. It was a bit on the chilly side I must admit, I was pleased I took some extra layers. We’d just got everything set up when Brandon realised he’d forgotten one crucial thing, the bait! But all was not lost. With a five dollar note in hand he went off and returned 10 minutes later with even more bait than he’d left at home, winner!
He was very chuffed, he’d never been fishing before so it was great that he actually caught something. He now claims to have a 100% success rate. Malcolm also caught a little fish, but he caught it by hand. We think it was on deaths door, it’s not often a fish swims in to your hand, it didn’t exactly put up a fight!
Despite not catching anything, and having numb toes, I really enjoyed it. It was great to hang out with Brandon and Malcolm, and the lesson was handy too. Although there’s a lot of it, salmon is really expensive, so to catch our own would be great. Might need to catch a slightly bigger one next time though!
We went back and had some tasty homemade pizzas for lunch, very welcome after a cold morning by the river. They were then followed by some very entertaining home movies (not those kind of home movies!) They were really funny and it was great to see them having fun as a family, it was never a dull moment in their house! Brandon told us it was the last day of the Alaska State Fair so we decided to go and check that out for the rest of the afternoon. As Ed’s bike was in a bad way we decided to go two up on my bike, I opted to ride pillion perched on the rear. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to travel, but the vibrations were nice.
Fifteen minutes of uncomfortable pleasure later, we arrived at the fair. First thing’s first, you know you’re in Alaska when people are riding a giant bucking salmon.
And not many things in life surprise me, but chocolate covered bacon?! And a doughnut burger?! I’ve seen it all now. Of course Ed had to try the doughnut burger, which he said wasn’t as good as he thought it was going to be. No shit!
There were giant pretzels and massive long tubes of popcorn, all being devoured by children half the size.
And it was certainly a good place for people watching. A bit like Walmart.
We’d been there for a few hours and had to get back for dinner, so started to make our way out. As we got to the bike, a man in an awesome top hat and skeleton leathers caught my eye. Just for the record, I love top hats. I had to go and take a photo, he looked brilliant.
Turned out his name was Mark, he was from Anchorage and had heard about us through the guys at the House of Harley. He also knew Chrissy from Motoquest who we were going to stay with, small world! We chatted for quite a while and took some photos, he annoyingly looked far cooler on my bike than I did. Note to self: Must get top hat.
We eventually made it back to the Tuckers’ where we had some lovely pasta for dinner, then they watched Ed’s film. I’ve got to be honest I’ve seen it far too many times, but I always like to watch the Everest bit. It’s my favourite piece of videography, pretty much ever, and gives me goosebumps every time. Buy it! 😉
We said goodbye to Brandon that night as he had to be up at 4.30am for work, something I certainly didn’t miss doing! He and Stephanie had been brilliant, they had an awesome family and we felt privileged to have met them and spent time with them. They’d welcomed us in to their home and looked after us so well, we couldn’t thank them enough. Hopefully we can return the favour one day.
We got up at 8am and Stephanie had kindly made us coffee and muffins. We said goodbye and thank you to her and the kids and then left about two hours later. We later found out that Calvin had gone in to school that day sporting his best British accent, saying what a brilliant weekend he’d had. So funny. I had a particular soft spot for him, especially when I found out he wore a tuxedo to school every other day and had a thing for top hats and capes. Legend.
We were only about 40 miles from Anchorage, so it didn’t take long to get back, however there was a bit of an accident on the way. Scrat got run over 🙁
He flew out my basket, hit and flipped over my helmet, then got run over by a truck and dragged along the road. ‘Nooooooo!’ I yelled in my helmet. I pulled over and looked back in horror, as Ed said ‘I know!’ and went back and rescued him. My hero. It was at that point that I realised I’m nearly 30 and perhaps a little too attached to a cuddly toy.
So with Scrat returned back to my basket, we returned back to Anchorage.
Prudhoe Bay mission complete.