Current News – As we said Kev managed to find a job amazingly quickly given the current job market. It utilises all his skills in welding, spraying, mechanics, fabricating etc but on large truck based horseboxes instead of bikes. He is enjoying it so far and honing his existing skills as well as learning some new ones which is always good. It was actually a very serendipitous job to find as we plan to build our own campervan (with 2 trials bikes on the back of course) in the future and Kev is learning lots of good trade secrets that will help with that.
Karen is looking for part time jobs to fit around the needs of Margaret until we have a definite understanding of her diagnosis.
Our bike arrived back in the country on Friday but we don’t expect to collect her for a week what with unpacking the containers on the dock and all the necessary paperwork required. We are looking forward to getting her back although she will have to come home on a trailer initially as she has no mot (roadworthy certificate) or road tax. A lot of people have asked what we will do with her once the trip is over, many have suggested she should go in a museum. Kev hasn’t totally decided what to do with her yet although one thing is for sure we will keep riding her and when time permits give her a well deserved rebuild. So far we have been so busy that we have not had time to think about stopping traveling yet, which might be a blessing. Our days were always full when we were on the road so now that Kev has to give someone else 40 hours a week of his time things are even busier. As we said in the last blog Karens Moto Guzzi V50 passed its MOT (roadworthy) and is now back on the road which she has been enjoying immensely and Kevs V1000G5 passed its test yesterday so Kev is now riding that again.
Here is a picture of Kevs G5, it’s mid project at the moment. Kev has had it for 14 years as his main ride and we have toured all over England and Europe on it. Kev bought it from a friend of a friend as a non runner, fixed it up and has ridden it ever since. The fella we bought it from had the headstock raked by 5 degrees and the kick put in the seat frame rails by a great guy called Chris Knibbs. (He built the sideways Guzzi chop which won at the Kent Custom Bike show many years ago). Funnily enough we met Chris in New Zealand where he now lives although we forgot to tell him we have one of his creations. When Kev bought the bike it had the original telescopic forks in it still which made its stance a bit odd with the raked frame, Kev always intended to put some longer forks in and the Spada project provided the inspiration. Extended telescopic forks or “overs” tend to exacerbate the problems that teles have anyway i.e they flex and bend when cornering and braking especially when they are only 35mm diameter. Our Spada front end inspired Kev to build some extended leading link forks for it at the same time which are much much stiffer than teles. It handles exceptionally well, much better than with the stock forks and Kev is very pleased with the result. Our spare fournales shocks will go on the front end once we get the Spada back, (there is a set of dial-a-rides cobbled there for now just to get it back on the road). Future plans include a more rounded Cali 2 tank and a longer swingarm to match the symmetry of the front end and a paint job but that will take time and money both things we are bit short of at the moment….
Anyhow back to where we left off in Alaska.
Blog 299 Anchorage 1st – 3rd August 2013
Revived by our coffee we continued uneventfully to Anchorage where we headed for The House of Harley but you ride a Moto Guzzi we hear you cry, ah but this is no ordinary Harley dealer, along with Motoquest their neighbours they use the grassy space in the rear they share as a camping patch for any traveling bikers. We arrived and were made to feel like royalty with the full guided tour of the building and the bikes. The stunning HD Eagle below is cut from an excess piece of steel from the Alaskan oil pipeline.
They have this really clever statue of a bear outside the front, it’s made from old car bumpers.
After setting up the tent and getting the combination code for the toilet we set about sourcing a tyre. Dean recommended we try Barb from Alaska leathers she turned out to be THE person to know in Anchorage and despite the fact we needed nothing from her shop she personally rang around the other bike shops until she found three tyres that would fit our wheel. We cannot recommend her highly enough, if you find yourself in Anchorage on a bike trip go and visit her. Kev found a pair of plain leather gloves to buy which were excellent quality and an amazing price.
After purchasing a new tyre we headed for the visitor centre in town, you would think finding the only log cabin with a grass roof in a city of high rise buildings would be easy but it nestled so low to the ground you only saw it when you were on top of it.
We found a few things to look around in town and nearby were these gardens which were a riot of colour. Check out the colourful cabbages !
Our replacement rear wheel showed up the next day and Kev set about fitting it. He had to run around town on the bike finding someone with a hydraulic press to push out the inner bearing sleeve as ours was modified to take heavier duty bearings. It took most of the day to complete but by 4pm he had returned with the wheel and our new tyre fitted.
The next morning we set off for the Alaskan Aviation Heritage Museum. It is also right next to the biggest and busiest sea plane dock in North America on Lake Hood so we got to watch the sea planes taking off and landing .
The museum was full of interesting facts such as the first flight in Alaska occurred 3rd July 1913 during the 4th July celebrations at Fairbanks. Captain James Martin flew for the three day event. The balloon basket below was used in a historic flight across the Alaska range.
Inside the museum we saw some skis and floats fitted to the early planes, they were brave men to land on snow and mud. Even the cars had skis fitted. Also shown was this shroud with a parafin heater used to cover the engine so they would start again in the cold weather.
This PBY Catalina flying boat was built in Canada one of the many that saw service in WWII in anti-submarine patrol, observation and search and rescue roles. They were used heavily in the Aleutian islands campaign, PBY’s made the first sightings of the Japanese Invasion Force on 3rd June 1942. Aviators sometimes flying 20hrs out of 24. This PBY-5A had an engine failure while flying over the Alsaka Peninsula and landed in a shallow lake. It was finally recovered by a Sikorsky skycrane helicopter in 1984 and bought back to the museum where it is being stabilised and restored. It almost didn’t make it, one of the lifting straps broke mid flight forcing an emergency landing midway.
The Aleutian campaign is all but forgotten, except to those who endured it. America did not know for over a year their soil had been invaded due to General Buckner’s black-out of news so as to not incite panic. As Alasaka was so remote the general had to cobble together the 11th Air Force diverting planes to Alaska where an airfield on Aduk island was established in 14 days. The Japanese invaded Kiska and Attu two islands on the Aleutian chain trying to draw attention away from Midway. During the air wars a downed Japanese Zero was torn apart to uncover its secrets and from this a worthy opponent was designed. The Aleutian islands saw some of the most difficult missions, weather played a large part, the Aleutians are the home of the williwaw – violent winds barrelling down out of the mountains with gusts over 140 knots. Clouds cover the Aleutian islands much of the time and along with dense fog, extreme cold and heavy rain it made flying extremely dangerous. If a pilot ditched in the North Atlantic or Bering Sea they could only last 10-12 minutes in the water before succumbing to hypothermia.
These are the only known surviving example of the wooden floats made by the Wollam Plywood Float Company during Word War II. They were bought to the museum and rebuilt after being found in a local backyard. During the restoration it was necessary to remove all of the original exterior plywood along with the copper nails all 5,000 of them before they were replaced in each float. The green nose bumbers are the original, the floats were manufactured in 1943 mainly for Stinson L-5 planes.
This is the remains of Douglas World Cruiser “The Seattle”. Seattle’s flight came to a violent end hitting the crest of a 700′ hill and sliding another 100′. Miraculously her crew survived with minor injuries and gathered around the wreckage waiting for the storm to abate. After realising it would be more difficult to be rescued on the hillside they began the trek to the beach little realising it would take over a week in the snow on the rough terrain. Finding a trappers cabin en route gave them the shelter and food required to make it to safety.
Kev managed to find a bit of seaplane toilet humour for you.
Outside was this magnificent Grumman Goose originally designed as a commuter plane for the wealthy. Seeing its potential it was quickly put into service for the military. This particular Goose was saved from total destruction during a 120+ mph wind storm at Valdez AK airport by the brave pilot Dale Moore who flew it at full throttle into the wind whilst still tethered to the ground, extensive damage occurred to the wings and ailerons which was repaired but the plane was saved.
Here are more aircraft. An F15, the unusual tandem rotored Piaseki H-21 helicopter (nicknamed the flying banana) and an Alaskan Airways 727-300 which is fitted out as a mixed cargo/passenger/animal configuration. Up in Alaska the cargo is sometimes very interesting as this photo with Elk in the cargo hold shows. Have a read of the notice on the cargo door.
Before we left we watched some more float planes taking off and landing on Lake Hood.
We took in some more sights of Anchorage on our return and found this signpost. Anchorage the air crossroads of the world.
This amazing whale mural stretched across the length of the J.C Penny’s building.
The half buried windows on this building were originally at ground level but the massive earthquake of 1964 raised the road level significantly. We will go into more detail on the earthquake in a later blog.
Back at the campsite it was all change, Anita & Rod and Mike and his friend Dean (with the bike trailers) were leaving but an Austrian couple (crouching) just showed up to collect their bikes ready for their trip so we still had a full camp. It was a sociable, fun few days.
Steve who we had met a couple of times now (on the Dalton Hwy and Solditna) was also camping here. We had a bit of time to share stories with the odd beer and he showed Karen his new folding camp bed, here is Karen trying it out. We hatched plans to go out for a ride with Steve next day to the Hatcher pass.
Next up – Hatcher pass ride and mines