We stopped off for lunch at a place in Ninilchik, Ed hadn’t eaten all day and I was due for my next feed. We didn’t really have that far to go so we took our time, we weren’t in any rush, as usual. We finally finished up and went outside, where we got chatting to two older ladies. They were both really lovely and interested in what we were doing, but what ensued was a rather amusing conversation…
Lady: Do you have something to cook on?
Ed: Yes, we’ve got a stove
Lady: Does it run on gas?
Ed: No, it runs on petrol
Lady: What’s petrol?
Ed: Ah, here you call it gas
Lady: Oh, so it runs on propane
Ed: Ah no, not the gaseous gas, the liquid gas… aaand that’s why we call it petrol.
So after a somewhat confusing conversation (having the same word for completely different things tends to do that) all was finally understood and we went on our way. We arrived in Kenai around 7.30pm, and went in search of somewhere to stay. We made our way to an RV park, where we were rather shocked to be told that a tent site was $35!! ‘What, for a bit of grass?! Really?!’ He told us we got WiFi and showers with that too, but even I, the queen of long showers, couldn’t have one long enough to get my money’s worth at that price. We tried to haggle but he wouldn’t budge. Luckily I’d overheard the WiFi code, so we went outside and looked on the internet for something cheaper. I’d just got off the phone from one place that had quoted $23, when a man popped his head over the balcony. ‘Are you looking for somewhere cheap to stay?’ he said. ‘Yeah, we are’, I replied. ‘Well you can camp down there on the beach for free!’ he said, pointing down at the bottom of the cliff. Awesome! He gave us directions on how to get down there, and also recommended a good coffee shop for the morning, what a star! We thanked him then made our way down to the beach, where we found a nice little spot by a sand dune.
There was a toilet nearby and funnily enough we could still pick up the WiFi, so we had facilities, a sea view, and wifi, all for the grand total of $0. That’s more like it! It was pretty windy mind you, but being on wet sand we could at least get all the pegs in, a rare and strangely enjoyable treat.
It was so nice waking up to the sound of the waves, but it did make me need a wee. I got out of the tent around 7am, and stood looking out to sea. It was so calm and peaceful, with not a soul in sight. I could have stayed out there for ages, just soaking it up, but it was a bit chilly with no clothes on. I got back in to the tent and soon fell back to sleep, with the help of the rolling waves.
We woke up around 9am and had breakfast while we watched sea lions bobbing up and down. Not a bad way to start the day it has to be said! I’d taken the easy track behind the beach on the way in, but decided it was time to man-up and tackle some sand. I had to learn some day! I’d ridden once on sand before, at a Honda event on the Isle of Man. The sand was deep and the bike was so tall that I couldn’t touch the floor. On the first few laps I managed to bin it countless times, as I’d go to put my foot down and just keep going. Oh and if there was a bush, I ended up in it (said the Vicar to the Nun). The instructor and bike-picker-upper Dave Thorpe was following me, and certainly had his work cut out for him, I gave him a good workout, so to speak. But by the end of the day I’d mastered it (kind of) and finally managed to get round the whole track without crashing. What an awesome feeling. It’s funny though as when I look back I think ‘Was that really me?! Did I do that?!’ So with Ed’s guidance we made our way back down the beach. We were both happily whizzing along the shore when we rode past a sign. Curious as to what it said, we rode back to read it… ‘NO MOTOR VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT’. Oops! Excited that we were allowed to ride on the beach, we’d failed to notice that you could only go on one side, which of course wasn’t the side that we’d been on. Luckily no-one was there to tell us off; If you don’t get caught, it never happened.
I was then faced with a mission. I’d mastered riding on wet sand, but now I had to leave that trusty ground and ride through the soft dry stuff to get back on to the road. Ed demonstrated what to; A big run up, plenty of throttle, and a nice gentle curve, Easy! Or so I thought. I got the big run up, and at one point I definitely had enough throttle, but it went a bit tits up when it came to the curve. Instead of a nice gentle curve I went in a bit too sharp, resulting in me nearly loosing it and having to do a bit of paddling at the end to get back on to the road. I still made it without falling off though, and I was really chuffed about that. Mission complete with a smile.
We left the beach and headed for the coffee shop, the one that the guy from the night before had recommended. It looked lovely on the outside, but unfortunately we never got to see the inside, it was closed on Monday’s! Sods law. We soon found another one though, and chilled out there for a few hours. I needed to catch up on my journal, and we both needed a bit of ‘me’ time. It had been building up over the last few days, the need to have some time to myself. To write my journal, read my book, or whatever else I fancied. And don’t get me wrong, I love being with Ed, but I’m very much an independent person and I love having my own time. It was funny as I mentioned it to Ed and he’d been feeling exactly the same. While I was riding along wishing I could have some time on my own to read a book with some tea and cake, he was wishing he could be sat down on his own with a soldering iron and a box of electronics! Very different ways to spend your own time it has to be said, but for us, both had the same net result.
While we were in the cafe we contacted Bob, the pilot we’d met in the car park (see Kenai part1 blog). He’d kindly offered us a place to stay so we asked him if the offer was still open, which it thankfully was. He’d be back at 4.30pm, so we left the cafe and headed off in the direction of Sterling. We’d just stopped in Soldtona to get some supplies, when Bob popped his head in the door of the shop. Luckily he hadn’t been stalking us, he’d been driving through and spotted our bikes in the car park. We chatted a bit and confirmed directions, then he went on his way. Just as we were loading the shopping on to the bikes, two guys came over to chat to us. They were both from the area and one of them had always dreamt about doing a big trip. Once again we advised him to get on the case and do it; no regrets. We got on to where we were going, and they recommended the Seward Brewhouse for an awesome burger and beer, sounded good to us! So with recommendation received, we said goodbye then made our way over to Bob’s.
Bob’s house was set in a gorgeous spot, up on a hill surrounded by forestry, with mountains in the distance. He gave us a little tour of the plot then showed us his plane, funnily enough called a Super Cub! It was so cool. He offered to take us up in it and we both jumped at the chance. As it was quite a small plane, we took it in turns.
Ed went up first and returned 20 minutes later, beaming from ear to ear. ‘That’s quite possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever done!’ He exclaimed.
Next it was my turn, and before I knew it were were up in the sky.
It was so surreal. We flew over the road we’d ridden down just days before, at no point riding down that road did I ever think we’d be flying over it!
Bob liked to fly low and slow, so we got a real birds eye view of the place, gently cruising over rivers and forests. He said they’d spotted some bald eagles earlier, so he went back to the spot to see if we could see any. ‘There’s one!’ he said, as we flew past some tress. I just caught it out of the corner of my eye. ‘Look there’s another one!’ he said, ‘It’s probably going to land in those trees’. And just as he said that he swooped the plane down, just in time to see the eagle soaring through the sky then land perfectly on a branch. It was truly one of the most magical moments. I’d never seen a bald eagle before, and having a love and fascination of birds of prey, getting to see one from that angle and so close was amazing. It made me feel a bit funny, but in a good way. Like when we saw the sow and her cub on the Dalton Highway. Another magical moment.
We continued flying over the trees and then flew over a lake, where Bob ‘washed his wheels’, which was so cool! We then continued on and headed back to base. What a top experience! I’d done an aerobatic flight before, which I loved, but had never flown low and slow like that, you see so much more. I guess it’s comparable to us riding our little 90’s around!
We went back to the house and Bob showed us to our room, which to our delight had a proper double bed, with a proper duvet!! Amazing. And what was equally amazing, was the delicious piece of salmon that he cooked for dinner, quite possibly the best bit of salmon I’ve ever had. Throw in some corn and salad, and a few glasses of red, and we felt very spoilt. We chatted for hours about all sorts of topics, it was a really good evening. Bob then said that if the weather was good the next day, he’d love to take us up to the mountain. Having both had a taster of flying, we jumped at the chance to do more.
After a very good nights sleep, we woke in the morning delighted to discover that the weather was good for flying. We had some breakfast then headed out for another mini adventure. Before I knew it we were up in the sky again, it was unbelievably cool. We cruised just above the tree line, bobbing up and down, it was so surreal, like being in a toy plane. And what was especially weird, was that you couldn’t see the prop, which I have to admit kind of messes with your head!
We continued on and gained a bit of height, as we headed towards the mountain about fifteen minutes away.
As we approached to land, Bob did a circle to gauge the conditions and then before I knew it we we’d touched down. ‘Well I can tell you’ve done that before!’ I said.
Once we were all on the mountain, we donned our hats and gloves and went for a walk. It was so good to be up there, breathing the cool fresh air, I loved it. And although it was cloudy it didn’t make a difference to us, it was still an awesome experience.
We carried on walking and spotted some mountain goats propped on the mountain side; it always amazes me how they manage to stay upright, there’s got to be some sort of Velcro involved there.
We headed up the other side so as not to disturb them, and made our way to the top. At one point I felt like I was walking on a sponge, I soon discovered that it was called Lichen; a white spongy plant that lots of animals like to eat. I got equal enjoyment out of it, as I bounced up and down with every step.
I found some blueberries that were deliciously super sweet, and then, in the distance as the clouds cleared, we saw a huge glacier. It was awesome.
Bob then said that if we didn’t mind being in the plane a bit longer, we could fly over it… ‘YES PLEASE!!’
As the weather seemed to be closing in, we headed back and made a move off the mountain before it was too late. We wheeled the plane back to a good spot for take off, then got in. As Bob took off, the ground just disappeared beneath us, it was a very weird feeling, and momentarily unsettling! But the feeling soon went as we cruised lower, flying over forests and rivers, lakes and tracks. It was beautiful. We flew past other mountains and even spotted a bear bounding through the undergrowth, along with more mountain goats doing what they do best; balancing precariously on the mountain side.
Approaching the glacier was awesome, it was massive! It went in to a huge lake where icebergs bobbed up and down, I’d never seen anything quite like it.
The blue of the ice was stunning, despite being a cloudy day. I couldn’t begin to imagine what it would be like on a sunny day, mind blowing no doubt! There were huge crevasses and lines of sediment that had collected over god knows how long, it really was incredible.
I didn’t know where to look, so I just looked everywhere; left, right, front, back, and through my camera, when next thing I thought ‘Uh oh. I don’t feel so good’. I didn’t feel sick, but I definitely didn’t feel right, and started showing tell tale signs of motion sickness; yawning, burping, and generally feeling uneasy. I didn’t feel terrible, so decided to keep it to myself, hoping the feeling would pass if I just looked straight ahead and at the horizon. That plan would have worked, had Bob not decided to land on the glacier. I have to say it would have been amazing to land on it, had it not been for the fact that he had to do a few sharp circles to test if the ice was safe to land on. ‘How’s the stomach?’ he asked after the third attempt. ‘I don’t feel 100% if I’m honest’ I said, ‘One more circle and I’m going over the edge!’ As soon as I said that Bob said ‘We’ll go back straight away, you should have said something sooner’. To be honest the reason I hadn’t said anything was because I was really looking forward to landing on the glacier, partly because it would have been really cool, and partly because I was eager to land and get out of the plane so I could feel better!
Bob took it easy, he flys like that anyway, and I managed to keep it together for the whole journey back, just. I tried my best to enjoy the scenery but I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t wait to land.
Landing was the only thing that was going to reset me and make me feel ‘normal’ again, and I couldn’t wait. We approached Bob’s house and came in to land, it was so smooth you couldn’t tell the difference between being in the sky and being on the ground. You could tell he’d done that a fair few times! It’d been an awesome experience but I was pleased to be back on solid ground, and was equally pleased that I hadn’t thrown up in the plane, that would have been embarrassing.
Bob had to shoot off to a meeting, so Ed and I had some lunch then went outside to play with fire. Bob had been clearing a huge area to lay a lawn, and he’d had about five massive bonfires going to burn all the trees they’d taken down. They were much smaller now and needed re-lighting, so wanting to help out however we could, we set about getting them all going again. I really enjoyed it, but then I like anything that involves physical work and getting dirty. I find it strangely therapeutic.
We went round and started all the fires, then kept going round loading more trees on to each one, burning as much as we could. We did it for a couple of hours then called it a day, the novelty had worn off for me, as is often the case, and I thought it was best to quit before I did my back in. After a nice hot shower, Bob came back with some chicken for dinner which was delicious, I’d certainly worked up an appetite after all that lifting and throwing! We chatted for several hours, sharing tales of adventure and random events, then all worn out we went to bed, what a brilliant day.
I woke early; to finish the laundry, have tea and breakfast, and to enjoy being in a proper house before hitting the road again. Bob was on the phone so I let Ed have a lie-in, let’s just say he’s not exactly a morning person! I like a nice lie-in too if I’m honest, but my full bladder or empty stomach usually puts a stop to that! Ed eventually got up and started packing his stuff up, but soon got distracted by his new video editing software, which then distracted Bob. Ed ended up giving Bob a crash course in video editing, which Bob seemed to thoroughly enjoy, and with the go-pro footage we had from the plane they made a little video together. Very cool. We finally finished packing all the stuff on to our bikes, and went down to the hangar to take some photos and say our goodbyes. We couldn’t thank Bob enough, he’d been an absolute legend.
Bob rode Ed’s 90 up to the top of the road with Ed in tow on the quad, while I was quite happy staying on my bike. I’ve never really been a fan of quads, I’ve only ridden them twice, the second time being at the Honda event I mentioned earlier. It was far too big for my liking (ooh er missus), and I was very aware that if I f*cked it up, I would most certainly get squashed. It didn’t help that I managed to fail the cone test before we’d even got out on to the track. Give me a dirt bike any day.
Just as we were saying goodbye for the last time, Ed asked where the nearest fuel station was; either ten miles in the wrong direction, or forty miles in the right. Of course Ed didn’t have enough, so we went back and Bob kindly supplied him with a gallon of fuel, before finally getting on our way to Seward.
The weather wasn’t too bad to start with, just overcast with the odd patch of blue sky. We finally made it to the fuel station and just as we pulled in, Ed heard someone say, ‘Ah Ed and Rachel!’ I had my earplugs in so didn’t hear them, and Ed thought he’d imagined it. A guy then got out of his vehicle and said, ‘It’s Steve!’ I instantly recognised him. ‘Ah Steve Storo!’ Steve had been following our trip online, he’d commented on several posts and also kindly donated some money for a meal on the Dalton Highway! It was so random, and so brilliant to meet him. What was even more random was that he actually lives in Oregon, he just happened to be working in Alaska for a week. He’d spotted us and thought, ‘no, it can’t be!’, he’d had no idea we were on the Kenai Peninsula as my blog wasn’t up to date and I hadn’t posted anything for a while. He was following behind us for a while hoping that we’d stop, which fortunately we did.
We chatted for a bit and took some photos, he was a great guy. He got in his truck and was just about to pull away, when he wound down the window and gave us half a panini and a cookie, what a star! It was so sweet and kind of him, and we felt bad taking his lunch, but he insisted. I managed to get a few bites before Ed devoured them, they were delicious! (Thanks Steve!!)
We fuelled up and continued on our way, and it wasn’t long before we were turning off towards Seward, and the rain started…