Friday, 20 August 2010 – Fairbanks to Denali National Park and Preserve – 136.4 miles
I had lollygagged in Fairbanks long enough. It was time to head out for Denali. I had one more (one last?) hot bowl of soup and said goodbyes and farewells all around.
I rode to the gas station before I loaded up all the gear. WOW, this handles nicely! I’d forgotten how nimble and flickable this GTS can be. It certainly has been a workhorse on this trip. It's been lugging me and about 100 extra pounds of gear under very difficult conditions. I patted it gently as I rode back to the hostel.
For the first time there were motorcycles sharing the parking area. Two fellows had just arrived. One was Brazilian and the other was from the UK. As I loaded the scooter and they tinkered with their bikes, we talked about the road conditions on the way up to Prudhoe Bay and about their travel adventures. They were on a similar trip as the English boys I had just left in the kitchen. As soon as they finished oil changes and other minor maintenance, they said they’d compare notes with the others. They wished me well and I rode off.
There are some beautiful views from the George Parks Highway (Alaska 3). Loops have been added so tourists like me don’t stop on the road and block traffic while trying to get a photo of those lovely views. The problem is there’s a lot of tall trees alongside all the loops, making it impossible to capture the view.
Denali is only about 150 miles from Fairbanks, so I had plenty of time to take all the turn-outs and admire the scenery for as long as I pleased. At one, I met Alice and Jesse from North Carolina. They rented an RV and were cruising along, too.
I had to turn around and take a photo of this tribute.
The owner of the towing company noticed me pulling onto his property and he turned back to find out why. Mr. A. P. McDonald rolled up in this rig.
We talked for quite a while before we both decided we were wasting a perfectly gorgeous sunny day by talking about pets, families and riding. No more talking. Let’s ride! He turned off the highway with a wave and I continued on. I crossed the Tanana River on the Alaska Native Veterans’ Honor Bridge. There have been a bunch of cool bridges so far!
And, of course, there were the inevitable traffic delays.
Another cool bridge this time over the Nenana River
Just before the park entrance is a section the locals call Glitter Gulch. There are lots of shops selling jewelry, local handicrafts, t-shirts, etc. There was a quilt shop that I had to visit (and buy some fat quarters). And there’s Denali Harley-Davidson. It made me laugh because there are no motorcycles for sale just t-shirts, stickers, etc. The young clerk didn’t even look up from her Blackberry when I walked around.
My destination was just a short ride away.
I got a campsite at Riley Creek campground and a bus ticket to ride to the interior of the park the following day. I stayed at Riley Creek Mercantile for a little while, using their WiFi connection to send a few quick e-mails when a park ranger and a bunch of campers showed up. Dark clouds were threatening rain so they relocated from the outdoor amphitheater. Lucky me. The ranger gave a very informative talk on the animals found in the park. He had pelts of most of them (confiscated from poachers) as well as antlers and horns.
This is a grizzly bear pelt.
After the ranger talk, I found a campsite, set up the tent and went to bed.