Friday, June 25, 2010

Alaska Ride, Day 11

Highway 3 is also known as Parks Highway, but why I'm not sure. Although it does seem to take us past a bunch of state and national parks, with Denali National Park being the big one.

We continued to push even further north today, rolling into Fairbanks around 8:00pm or thereabouts. It never got dark here, with the darkest being only twilight at around 4:00am. Fairbanks looked like a desolate city in broad daylight because it's basically a work night/school night.

Downtown Fairbanks, 9:31pm

I first hit up a place called "The Big I". It's a divey, grungy, kind of bar in downtown. They actually don't have any decent beer, with an Alaska Amber being their best. But after a long day of riding today, it tasted pretty good.

We found a place stay, checking into a motel. And after that, I wanted to find a place to eat. But it was 10:30pm by then, and many places were closed. Except the sun was still up in the sky. For me, I've always made the association that when the sun is up, it's still the afternoon. I guess for Fairbanks locals, they have to rely on their watches, and not the sun.

The Big I in Fairbanks, at 9:30pm it's just starting to get busy

Earlier this morning, we left our camp at Willow Creek State Recreation Area, and headed north along Highway 3. Highway 3 is not a very fun road as far as roads go. It's mostly another straight road with very wide turns. It does offer some good scenery, but around these parts, good scenery gets to be "ho hum". But thus far the weather has been awesome.

Just north of Willow, you'll come to the town of Trapper Creek, and there you'll find Wal-Mike's. It's perhaps best described as a junkyard disguised as an antique shop. It's run by a 65 year old guy named Mike, who's been running stores since he was 17 years old. This particular store in Trapper Creek has only been around for 18 years.

Wal-Mike's, Trapper Creek, AK

But he has everything in it. He has a wide selection antlers for sale, as well as martin skulls, old circular saws, license plates, tires, nuts and bolts, and several copies of Sarah Palin's book, "Going Rogue". He sells clothes, he has a pharmacy, a hardware section, and even sells sex stuff too. All of this is either used or overstock that he's collected in his 48 years of business. You could spend hours in this place and never get tired.

All you have to do is tell Mike what you need, and he'll have it for you. He even has glass jar containing a pickled human hand.

Later on, we turned down Petersville Road, heading into the town Petersville. Back in Anchorage, I remembered a guy telling me that I absolutely had to check out Petersville. He said it was the best place to view Mount McKinley, and they also had a great bar called "The Forks Road House".

The Forks Road House, Petersville, AK

The first 10 miles of the road is paved, but the next 10 miles is dirt. And after that last 10 miles we finally came to The Forks Road House. Except, it was closed, being open only Friday through Sunday, and today was Thursday. But we never got any good views of Mount McKinley at all. We turned around and continued up the Highway 3.

Further up the road, we pulled into Denali National Park. I wanted to get that awesome view of Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America. But what sucks is that you can't see Mount McKinley from within the park, even though it's snack dab in the middle of the park.

And then they won't even let you ride all the way through the park. You can only ride for about 15 miles, and then they stop you from going any further. Instead, you have to buy a bus pass, and then let the bus take you deep into the park. I guess it keeps bus drivers employed , but it seemed stupid to me. So, we didn't spend much time in Denali.

Entrance to Denali National Park, AK

So after checking into my room in Fairbanks, I set out to look for a place to eat and found one close by called "Pike's Landing". It sits right on the Tanana River and they have an outdoor patio where you can dine on its banks.

But I stayed inside the bar, not wanting to deal with mosquitoes.

Pike's Landing is more of a "trendy" place, a place where you can take your family, or a blind date, or even your mother. I walked in and ordered a beer hoping to find someone to chat with. Except the only people I sat next to were couples who had no interest in talking to me. So, after the first beer and a dinner, I move to another section of the bar.

My dinner and beer at Pike's Landing, Fairbanks, AK


That's where I met Todd.

He mentioned to me about his days working for Hitachi, a japanese manufacturer of electronic products. He described the "philosophy of the moment" to me, saying the Japanese recognize an importance in memorializing the moment, recognizing that there are certain points in time when everything seems to converge and creates a very special feeling.

He talked about a time when he was at a bar in Japan with several other employees of Hitachi, and they ordered a bottle of whiskey. They took shots from the bottle and had a really good time that night. And then somehow, everything seemed to converge. The fact that they were there, the music playing, the good times they were having, the lighting, all came together and he realized that it doesn't get any better than that.

Pike's Landing, Fairbanks, AK, around 11:15pm

And the bartender realized it too. He actually took the bottle of whiskey, and wrote Todd's name on it, as well as the names of his co-workers, and the date and time, and stood it on a special shelf in the bar as a permanent memorial to that good time these guys had on that night.

I realized I had several of those moments in these first 11 days into the trip, but I don't really have anything tangible to memorialize this trip, except for a couple of t-shirts I bought. So, I probably I ought to look for something.

Tomorrow, I'm going to spend the day in Fairbanks and the outer lying areas. I'm not sure what Mike and Paul are going to do. I should probably get the oil changed on the ST. I've already racked up around 4,700 miles.


The inside of Wal-Mike's


The guard dog at Wal-Mike's


From inside Denali National Park


Waiting for the train inside Denali National Park


Mount McKinley is actually behind these mountains, and hidden by clouds


Wildflowers inside Denali National Park

1 comment:

  1. I've been following your adventure...I haven't commented because I'm waiting for the finish...just letting you know I'm eating this shit up.

    ReplyDelete

About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)