Friday, June 18, 2010

Alaska Ride, Day 5

Spent the whole day here in Hyder, Alaska, just checking out the town, and its sister city of Stewart, BC. In fact, today we just had fun on our bikes, not really traveling, just riding around this area.

The more time I spent in Hyder, the more I figure things out. They have locals here who know each other, eat with each other, party with each other, and probably even have sex with each other.

Then you have the construction workers, the fishing workers, and the miners, who seem to stay here for awhile and then leave.

Then there's folks like the three of us, who bring in outside money, and help this area keep going.

hyder alaska pier
It seems like June through August is when Hyder and Stewart make all of its money. There's plenty of motorcycle riders coming into this place through that time. Then in July, the salmon pass through here and the bears go fishing. There's a place just outside of Hyder where you can safely watch the bears feast. That brings in people from all over, and the locals earn most of their income.

The Salmon Glacier is the other big tourist attraction here. There's a dirt road that runs about 22 miles up a mountain, going from sea level to 3,700 feet. It's hard packed, but there's a good deal of loose rock over the road making things a little tricky.

salmon glacier hyder alaska
My Honda ST1300 handled it just fine, even with its sport touring tires. I was able to do about 25mph through most of the curves, and about 20mph in some of the trickier curves. Then about as much as 50mph on the straighter stuff. I found if you can get your speed up, the road feels quite smooth, even with all of its rocks, holes, and what not.

A couple of curves I almost lost it. I was testing the limits of what I could do , pushing the bike to 30mph. In one place, the back end slid out but I managed to keep it upright. Another place, the front end slid out and I thought I was going down, but somehow I kept it. My friends said to accelerate out of it, but you feel like you're going down you can't help but to ease off the throttle.

bear lake stewart british columbia
The scenery here is just spectacular. I imagine if you live here, you get used to it, and it's just pretty boring. But for a city guy, who sees lots of concrete, stucco, and glass, it's pretty neat stuff.

Bears are all over the place. You see them on the side of the road. Tourists like us think it's so cool to see them, while the locals probably know each one and have probably named them all.

Early this morning over breakfast, the three of us got into a discussion about how locals here deal with income taxes, being that Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK are border towns. We must have threw out all kinds of theories, and only got ourselves more confused.

So I finally asked the waitress. She said residents of Stewart, BC are forbidden to work in Hyder, AK, and residents of Hyder, AK are forbidden from working in Stewart, BC. So I guess that solves that. But it turns out that folks in each town have lovers in the other town, and want to live with each other. So, they're allowed to live in either town for a maximum of six months. The other six months, they have to return to their country.

seafood express hyder alaska
For lunch we ate at the Seafood Express, a fish shack converted from an old school bus. Oh man! The clam chowder and halibut fish and chips are to die for! All the tourists come here. In fact, we met a couple of dual sport riders from Salt Lake City and had a good time talking bikes and riding.

They road KTM Adventure 900's, and I asked about their bikes. I still have that Yamaha Road Star at home, not really doing much with it. So, I've toyed with the idea of getting a Suzuki V-Strom, and after doing the 22 miles (44 round trip) of dirt road to Salmon Glacier, I'm wanting a dual sport even more.

In fact, this morning we met up with a Harley rider from Fairbanks, AK. He's rode up to Deadhorse, AK, and then set out for Key West, FL. He told us a lot about the road conditions up there, which answered a lot of questions for us.

At this time of the year, there's lots of riders coming in from all over North America. It's cool to talk to them all and hear their stories. Last night, I met up with a guy from North Carolina, who was riding a Kawasaki KLR, on his way up to Deadhorse. He picked up some kind of flu bug, and was holed up here in Hyder.

sealaska inn hyder alaska
Right now, I'm back at the Sealaska Inn enjoying a Sierra Nevada Porter and free Internet access. It's karaoke night tonight. Also, this place plays 70s music all day long on the jukebox. I think it's because the locals here were in their prime years during the 70s, and they just can't let go.

Oh, and at the border crossing, the United States has no one checking the border, but Canada has a customs agent working only day time hours.

Tomorrow we're planning to ride all the way up through the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, and reach the Yukon Territory.


  1. Cool posting - Bears, lovers, tax, food, other bikers, borders - it has it all. Keep it up, as I am enjoying reading this. I liked the bit about the city boy who see's concrete finding the scenery neat, but the locals probably don't see it that way. Great stuff.

  2. Update: we're having fun hanging out at the Sealaska Inn in Hyder. I shot pool with the guy that does all the fishing here. He's a home brewer. Monday they're having the Summer Soltice festival, with a pig roast and a brew fest. They're doing karaoke right now, and I sang "Ring of Fire", then danced with the locals. Hyder, AK seems to be the party town.

  3. Great post, and very informative ... you give a good idea of what life is like up there for the locals, even though you're passing through. Sounds like the adventure of a lifetime, and glad you're commemorating it with a blog. Good work!


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)