Saturday, June 26, 2010

Alaska Ride, Day 13

Most motorcycle riders who come into Fairbanks usually have the idea of riding on to Deadhorse, AK. Deadhorse is the furthest north you can ride in Alaska on a street motorcycle. It's basically a 500 mile ride mostly only gravel road, and that's just one way.

And there isn't much up there. There's no hotel and no camping allowed in Deadhorse.

Semi-trucks race to and from Deadhorse all day long, kicking up rocks. The calcite crystals the State spreads over the road is supposed to be great in keeping the dust down, but when it gets wet they say it gets really slippery and cakes up all over your bike.

Yet, a lot of people make this ride up to Deadhorse. It's like a rite of passage for the hardcore rider. Perhaps I'm just not hardcore enough. I mean, I love to ride. But I like to have fun when I ride. This just didn't sound like fun.

A few days ago, when we first reached Fairbanks, Paul decided not to stop. He kept on going north to Coldfoot, which is about halfway to Deadhorse. Coldfoot is the last gas stop, the last chance for help.

Mike and I got rooms in Fairbanks. Mike kept reading the weather reports for Coldfoot and Deadhorse to see if it was raining up there. He didn't want any part of the calcite crystals. Then yesterday, we got a word in from Paul, he had reached Coldfoot and said the road was very rough. We assumed he kept on going to Deadhorse.

This morning, Mike got the latest weather report for Coldfoot and Deadhorse: rain.

Yet, Mike said he would try to ride up to Coldfoot anyways. Time was wasting, and he had to make a decision now.

I opted to ride to Chena Hot Springs instead.

Chena Hot Springs is about 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks. You have to take Chena Hot Springs Road to get there, but it's all paved.

Chena Hot Springs Road is much like the other roads we experienced in Alaska, a lot of straight stretches, and some wide curves, so wide that it ain't worth mentioning. As for scenery, it's just millions of trees. The ride is boring.

Chena Hot Springs Road is not very exciting to ride

At the hot springs, water bellows up from way underneath the surface, heated to well above boiling. It carries with it sulfate, chloride, and sodium bicarbonate. It has a surfuric odor, comparable to rotting eggs, but not really that intense.

But the hot springs pool is actually man-made. The water is piped in from the actual hot spring just a 1/4 mile away. But otherwise, the water is real, and it's hot, REALLY HOT. But because the pool is large enough, the water cools down to be tolerable. But you can situate yourself next to the inlet and experience a scalding.

After the ride in, I put on my swim trunks and relaxed in the pool. You can see tiny little metallic and crystal sparkles in the water. They say this stuff is supposed to cleanse your body of toxins and relieve all your aches and pains. But what I experienced is a good deal of sweating, which I think also removes toxins, and the heat relaxes me enough that I stop thinking about my aching back.

There's always a rational explanation.

Chena Hot Springs pool is an average 104 degrees F

I saw several motorcycle riders here, I guess it's a popular place. You don't have to check into a room, just simply pay a $10.00 fee to use the spring which is good for all day. But I chose to stay the night however.

I spent much of my time here hiking. I did the "Ridge Trail" which ascends up a mountain. I walked about a mile and a half up the mountain and it seemed like the trail just kept on going. It actually leads to a pretty cool overlook, but it takes like 8-9 hours to get there. I just wasn't in that good of shape.

At one point along the trail I stopped to listen. I heard nothing. Then I listened more carefully and I heard the sound of tree leaves in the wind. I listened even more carefully, and I heard the sound of flying bugs buzzing. And then I listened even more carefully and heard the supersonic ringing in my head that's been with me for decades. Wanting to hear nothing is impossible. It's like opening your eyes and trying not to see, it just can't be done,

Ridge Trail ascends up a mountain to a viewpoint

I was getting pretty beat considering it was all uphill. So I turned around and headed back. Back down, I found another trail that stayed on level ground, but it was frought with mosquitoes. I kept flailing my arms to beat them away, but those little fuckers were determined.

I finally gave up and headed back to the resort.

So I opted to hang out at the bar. And there I found some decent beers on tap from Alaskan Brewing and Silver Gulch Brewing. They had some really good clam chowder too. Everyone at the bar were old guys speaking Russian. It's like I picked the time when the resort was having Soviet Reunion Day.

Alaskan Stout and my netbook at the Chena Hot Springs Bar

I stopped by at the cafe, where they have Internet access. They tell me it costs $10.00 a day for Wi-Fi access. But I turned on my laptop, I managed to get online without paying. But the three beers I had made me tired, so I went back to my room and napped.

And then I got up from my nap, and checked my laptop. I still had Internet access in my room. Awesome.

Later in the evening, I did one more soak in the hot spring, and then retired for the night.

Tomorrow, I head east towards Canada on my own. I told Mike before he left for Coldfoot that we'd text each other and try to hook up somewhere over the next few days.

These white wildflowers are everywhere along Ridge Trail

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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...)