As soon as we got on to the coast road, the wind was ridiculous. We were getting blown all over the place. Couple that with not actually being able to see, and I started to think ‘Hmm, this is actually quite dangerous!’ And if it went seriously wrong, there were only two options; into the side of the cliff, or into the sea. Oh and not forgetting the third option; into oncoming traffic. Luckily there wasn’t much of that, which was good, as we seemed to spend as much time in the left lane as we did in the right. And although I knew people could see my head torch, I couldn’t see that it was actually giving out any light, which was messing with my head.
My indicators didn’t work, but the light that says they’re on did, so I turned that on, hoping it would help illuminate me. While this helped make me feel safer, it unfortunately ballsed up my night vision, so I couldn’t actually see anything. Bugger. While I was dealing with that, Ed was having similar issues. Despite having the best headlight I’ve ever seen on a C90, about 80% of the light was being bounced off his red fuel can and back in to his eyes. But at least the fuel can was illuminated, so people could see him coming, even if they did mistake him for Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.
We continued on, until we came to Bird Creek camp site. Chrissy had suggested camping there, and with it being so windy and dangerous, we decided to stop. It was also a shame to miss out on all the scenery. We’d been told to stop at Beluga lookout, where you can apparently see lots of Beluga whales frolicking in the sea. Needless to say that when we went past, we couldn’t even see the sea, let alone any whales. The downsides of riding at night!
I slept pretty well, considering I had the side of the tent pressed up against me all night as it got battered by the wind. Luckily we survived unscathed, and by the morning the wind had died down a little. As we were packing our stuff up, we got chatting to an Australian guy who was walking past. He was travelling in an RV with his wife and two children, they’d hired it for 6 months and had just returned from Seward. It was lovely to chat to him, and as they drove past to leave, he wound down the window and gave us a fillet of salmon he’d caught! It was so kind and thoughtful of him, I love little random acts of kindness like that. And as an added bonus, we discovered that the camp site was free! Due to it being state run, and the end of season, the hosts had left so you didn’t need to pay any more. A very good thing to find out, especially when you’re on a small budget like we are. Yes you can wild camp for free, but sometimes there isn’t a suitable place where you happen to be, so the state run sites come in handy.
We were riding along quite happily, when just before Girdwood, we spotted some strange slivers of white in the sea. On further inspection we discovered that they were Beluga Whales! It was pretty cool, although to be honest you couldn’t really tell they were whales, there were no tails on show. There were lots of them though, all skimming the water. I took some photos but once again, you’d have no idea there were whales in them.
We continued on to Girdwood, where we fuelled up the bikes and got something to eat. We were heading to Homer, which being about 190 miles away, would normally take us two days. The problem was, it wasn’t exactly favourable riding weather. It was grey, wet, and well, not very nice at all. The forecast for Homer was the same, but the next day would be sunny, but for one day only! So with this in mind, and not being able to see any of the scenery, we decided to power all the way to Homer in a day, get it over and done with. We’d be coming back the same way anyway, so could look at the scenery then, if it wasn’t raining that is. We also thought that it would be nice to spend a whole day in Homer while the weather was good, and knowing what we’re like for getting going in the morning, we knew it was the right thing to do.
Despite the weather being crap, the road and scenery was still really good. We rode past Hope and through Coopers Landing, where we’d initially planned to stay the night before. It was really nice, and continued to be that way until we got to Sterling.
We rode straight through until we got to Soldotna, where we decided to stop for a hot drink and warm up. Someone had said that it was a really cool place to stop, but they’d obviously been mistaken. It just looked like a standard town to us, with a main road going through it. Were we missing something? After asking someone in a shop, we discovered that we weren’t, this was it. We decided to go back to the McDonald’s, with $1 tea and coffee and free Wi-Fi, you can’t really go wrong. As long as you don’t eat the food.
I finished my tea then went into the supermarket, where to my delight, I discovered a foreign cheese counter. Since being in America, and discovering that American cheese is mostly bland, bouncy rubber, we’ve become rather infatuated with trying to find good cheese. I know people say ‘You don’t realise how much you love something until it’s gone’, but I never thought that would ever translate in to the world of cheese. Alas, it has. After much deliberation (cheese selecting is serious stuff) we chose a block and crossed our fingers, for $9 it better be good! Luckily it was, and while outside happily munching on it like deranged mice, a guy who was parked next to us came over for a chat. His name was Bob and he was a pilot. He chatted for a while and kindly offered us a place to stay, but unfortunately he lived in the wrong direction. As is often the case with Alaska, you always have to come back on yourself, so he gave us his details and said to get in touch when we came back through. Bob went on his way as another guy came up to chat to us. He’d seen us along the highway and had thought ‘There’s a couple after my own heart!’ He took some photos and asked some questions, then as soon as he left, we quickly jumped on the bikes and made our escape. It’s lovely chatting to all sorts of people, from all walks of life, they’re genuinely intrigued and interested in us, as we are in them. However it’s a bit tricky when you need to get going, and every person that parks next to you wants to chat for 15 minutes. God knows how long we’ve spent talking in car parks! But it’s all part of it, and we don’t mind at all, in fact we enjoy it. It’s just after talking to three different people in a row, essentially saying the same thing, you end up getting bored of yourself. And I try to ask them questions, to find out about their lives, but the majority of people are like ‘I don’t want to talk about me, I already know about me, I want to talk about you!’
By the time we left it’d started raining, and it just got heavier, and heavier. And as it got heavier, and heavier, Ed’s bike started going slower, and slower. Despite being very creative, his make shift mud guard wasn’t quite cutting it, and water was getting into the engine. By the time we rolled in to Homer, it was dark, hammering it down, and I was starting to get cold. We made our way down on to the spit, where my friend Joey had recommended a pub called the Salty Dog. Being the only place we knew about, it seemed like a good place to go. Warmth, beer, what more could we want? We could also find out where we could camp, although putting the tent up and camping couldn’t have been any less appealing.
Upon entering the pub, we were greeted by some expected things and some unexpected things. Expected was barmaid, locals, and punters. Unexpected was thousands of dollar bills stuck to the walls and an English accent, of which the latter belonged to Jane. Her and her boyfriend Jado lived in LA, but Jado was working in Homer for 8 weeks so she’d come to visit. We sat down and they kindly bought us a drink, which went down far too easily. I can’t tell you how happy I was to be out of the cold and in to the dry, I’d only been fantasizing about it for the last hour or so. It was great chatting to them, they were really interesting. Jado was a freelance cameraman and was working on a programme for the Discovery Channel called Alaska: The Final Frontier. We hadn’t heard of it, but soon discovered that the locals weren’t fans. Jane also worked in television, she was an EIC (executive in charge) and line producer. She’d worked on all sorts of projects, including Billy Connolly’s trip along Route 66!
Just as we were getting settled, we found out that the pub was closing early, this was due to the power being turned off along the spit for work to be done. It looked like we were going to be back out in the cold and wet sooner than anticipated. Or so we thought. I said ‘We better go and find somewhere to camp’, when Jane said ‘You should come and stay with us! We’re in a place just up the road’. It was music to my ears! You didn’t need to ask us twice. Before I knew it I had Jane on the back of my bike, whizzing our way up the road. I’d never taken anyone pillion before, it was actually quite fun! Ed and Jado arrived about a minute later, it’d been a bit more of squeeze getting them both on Ed’s bike with all his luggage, Jado wasn’t exactly small. It turned out that the production company had paid for Jado’s accommodation for 8 weeks, which just happened to be a million dollar three storey house! We couldn’t believe it. To say that it was better than being in a wet tent is an understatement! Thinking the power was going to go out any minute, they rustled up some dinner.
They had some food in the fridge and we had the salmon we’d been given, so we put it all together and they created a tasty meal, all washed down with plenty of wine. It was so kind of them, especially seeing as it was Jane’s last night there before she had to go home. She wouldn’t see Jado again for another 5 weeks! Despite having candles and head torches at the ready, the power never went out. Turned out the building had a generator. So by the power of electricity and wine, we drank, laughed, and chatted until the early hours.
We woke in the morning to a beautiful sunny day and an equally lovely view.
We had breakfast, said thank you and goodbye to Jane and Jado, then went for an explore around Homer. It’s funny when you arrive somewhere in the dark, as you have absolutely no idea what a place and area looks like! Although you miss out on the scenery on the way in, it’s quite fun having the surprise in the morning. Being on the spit we were surrounded by water, with goregous lush hills and mountains in the distance.
It was great to be able to see it in all its glory, it was hard to believe that it had been so wet and rough the night before. The spit had loads of stuff on it, more than we’d first realised. Gift shops, restaurants, cafes and tour companies all lined the road.
There was a lovely long beach and all sorts of random paraphernalia, including a very interesting boat.
We then went off to the post office to collect some bits Ed had ordered. We were just sat on our bikes in the car park, when a lad on a bike pulled up for a chat. His name was Alex, and he was from Homer. He said he’d been planning to go away on a big bike trip but it had never materialised. Of course we advised him to get on the case and do it, he’d never regret it. I think us and our little bikes inspired him, which is great. There’s something really cool about inspiring people, I can’t quite describe it but it’s really rather heart warming, like a strange feeling of satisfaction or contentment I guess. Whatever it is, it’s most definitely a positive feeling, and I like it.
Alex had to go, but he suggested that we go see his friend Dean who worked up the road in a garage called Full Power. He said he’s in to bikes so would probably enjoy meeting us. It sounded like a plan but first we had to address our grumbling stomachs. We went and found a little place called The Mermaid Cafe, where we had some lunch. It was really nice but my bean casserole resulted in bean overload, and I feared I would be bean powered later. At least I could get my own back on Edwind. Being a very artistic hippy town, there were lots of cool random things as you went round. I particularly liked this…
Homer is definitely a tourist town, and because we were there off season lots of establishments were unfortunately closed. I usually like having places to myself, but when it came to Homer I felt that it would have been better a bit busier with more people. Not too many mind you, just enough to give it some life and a buzz. I could just imagine what it would be like with all the cafes and coffee shops open, I could happily spend a week or two drifting in and out of them.
As we turned up to see Dean, he was busy putting up solar panels on the roof. We said hello and explained we’d been sent there by Alex. He asked where we were staying and we said ‘no-where yet’, so he said ‘I’ve got just the place for you, wait 15 minutes and I’ll be down’. Cool! While we were waiting we had a look around, there were lots of trophies and plaques for bike races, mostly 1st place. It would appear Dean knows how to ride! Fifteen minutes later and he appeared. We chatted for a bit then he gave us directions to his house, we could stay in his converted school bus, brilliant! He wouldn’t be home until 6pm, so to kill some time he suggested riding down to the end of the road. It was a 40 mile round trip and a really nice ride, sounded good to us. He called his wife to let her know he’d just invited two random strangers over, then we went on our way.
We went to the supermarket first, then went on our ride to the end of the road. I’m so pleased we did! It was beautiful scenery, winding in places with the odd bit of off-road courtesy of the roadworks.
We carried on for some time until we eventually got to the end, where there were multiple switchbacks down to the beach.
I was doing well at first, but they were getting steeper and steeper. I’m not entirely sure what happened but I think I’d decided I’d had enough, I was concerned my bike wouldn’t get back up the hills and at that point my confidence went. I was near the edge on rocky ground, with both feet on the floor going much quicker than I’d have liked. Wanting to slow down but not wanting to take my feet off the ground, I stupidly grabbed the front brake and binned it.
This instantly put me in a bad mood. Normally I’d be laughing and find it funny, but this time I was just annoyed with myself that I’d done it and that my confidence had slipped. I thought I was past that. It didn’t help that when I looked down the cliff, Ed was down on the beach waving at me and smiling. Because of the angle, he couldn’t see that my bike was on the floor or that my expression was that of someone very pissed off, he thought I’d stopped to look at the view! I tried to pick the bike up but it just slid further, so I signalled for Ed to come and help me. If I was him I’d have stayed down there on the safety of the beach!
As Ed arrived a guy turned up in a pick-up truck, he asked if we were Ok and we said yes we were fine. Ed wanted to take a photo before picking it up but the truck was in the way. We asked if he could kindly move so we could take a photo then pick it up but he paid no attention, and said ‘Looks like you’ve got a fuel leak there’, to which we replied ‘Yes we know, if you could move your truck please we can take a photo then pick it up’. He then said ‘Yeah, it’s quite a bad one’. ‘WE KNOW!!! If you move your truck we can pick it up and stop all the fuel leaking out’. ‘Oh’ he said. Really?! This unfortunately just wound me up even more. We picked it up and I gingerly carried on. What made matters worse was that it was the penultimate corner before you got on to the beach, if I’d known I was nearly there I wouldn’t have decided that I’d had enough and lost my confidence! Hey ho, you live and learn. I couldn’t shake my shitty mood for a good 5 minutes though, despite trying. But after riding along the beach and getting to poke some dead jellyfish and fish eyes, I felt much better, which is more than can be said for Ed. He felt quite sick after watching me poke an eye and subsequently pop it! Nice.
Time was getting on so we made our way back up. My poor bike could only get up in first and on many occasion it felt like it was going to pull a wheelie! It was fun though and I enjoyed the ride, despite the off.
I was pleased Dean had mentioned it, we’d have never known about it otherwise. You can’t beat a good bit of local knowledge! We made our way back to Dean’s road where we spotted his school bus, disguised in expandable foam.
They had a lovely little house which they’d built themselves, with a gorgeous view. It confirmed to us that simple living is where it’s at, less is more. Although I’d enjoyed staying in the million dollar house, it wasn’t for me. It was too big, it was too much, it was excessive. That’s why I like being on my little bike, with everything I need in 2 panniers, and a top box. You really don’t need a lot and I’ve found that having too much stuff just complicates things, be it on the road or at home.
Dean lived with his wife Becky, and their son Dan lived next door. We had a lovely evening chatting with drinks and nibbles. Dean was a very experienced rider and got on well with Ed, having an engineering background. They talked about all sorts, most of which I didn’t understand, but I did get to practice my nodding. I feel stupid when I’m around engineers, not having a clue what they’re talking about. But I’m trying my best to learn, so one day I might be able to understand, and even join in the conversation!
The school bus was awesome, it was huge with a double bed and kitchen, we loved it. We’d already talked about wanting to convert a school bus in to a camper, so it was cool to be able to stay in one. Not sure how we’d get one home cheaply though, they’re rather big!
We got up around 10.30am and went back to the house for coffee and breakfast, and chatted some more while Ed fixed his laptop. He’d had an accident inside his backpack and filled the laptop full of dried cappuccino mix, woops.
Dean decided he wanted to take us to Anchor Point, so we packed up our stuff and went on a little road trip together. Becky rides too so she came along, and we also picked Alex up on the way. It was cool to get to go for a ride with them. Anchor Point is the most Westerly point on the North American continent accessible by a continuous road system. Crazy when you think about how much land is west of it, all only accessible by plane or boat!
There really aren’t many roads in Alaska, and if you’re planning on going, be prepared to go back on yourself. The good thing is you have a different view on the way back, so you won’t get bored. I had a little walk on the beach when we got there, I love being by the sea and the sound of the waves.
We all had a photo and a chat, before heading off to the gas station where Dean kindly paid for our fuel. It’d been great to meet them all, we had a really good time. But now it was time to say goodbye, as they went back to Homer, and we continued north, to Kenai.