If anyone is still out there ?
Current News – We are to be interviewed for an internet biker radio station Bikerfmstudio on the evening of Wednesday 29th October on the adventure travel riders slot sometime between 18.00 – 20.00pm (Greenwich mean time).
We have say sorry for the lack of blogs recently. We have had an incredibly busy few months. Britain also had a really good summer so we wanted to get out and do a few things while we could. Since we’ve been back in the UK Mums condition has also worsened quite dramatically so we find ourselves doing more and more for her. We still don’t know exactly what’s wrong, we have written a letter to her Doctor asking for her help in finding a diagnosis although we fear it is probably Dementia or some equally serious mental illness. Increasingly she seems to be in her own little world which is really hard to cope with sometimes. Still we mustn’t grumble we still manage to get out and do our own thing now and again and we are okay.
We have been writing this blog for weeks, a bit here and there when time allows and we probably have to face the fact that we may never finish the rest of the story in its entirety. Roger, editor of the Moto Guzzi club magazine Gambalunga has caught us up now with his excerpts in the magazine so we are going to try to make one last push to try and stay in front of that so he has some more material.
Since we have been back in the UK we have had to jump back on lifes merry go round which seems to spin faster and faster every month seemingly with no brakes.
Meanwhile back to Alaska which seems like a lifetime ago.
Blog 302 Glenn & Richardson Highway 6 – 7th August 2013
It was time for us to head out of Anchorage, our next destination was Valdez the final terminal of the oil pipeline where it meets the sea and waiting oil tankers.
We had a late start as we had a few things to do in town, we headed out via Palmer on the old Glenn Highway the same road we travelled along to get to Hatcher Pass with Steve. In Palmer we stopped this time at the view point where we were nearly blown into the view of the Matanuska river delta below.
We rode down to the valley floor back out of the wind, the scenery improving with every mile. If you look closely at the first picture you can see a remote airstrip. There are more light aircraft in Alaska than any other U.S state.
The Glenn highway is a beautiful scenic byway stretching 135 miles from Anchorage to Glennallen and the junction of the Richardson highway travelling along the rivers edge before it rises up into the the Eureka mountains.
Lots of people had told us we would enjoy this section and they weren’t wrong. The nice weather hung in for us and we had a very scenic ride punctuated by lots of stops for photos. Here are the Talkeetna mountains. The entry in Karen’s diary for that day read “the mountains are great, we ride through a WOW bit where it all opens up”.
It was just after we stopped to view the distant Matansuka glacier that we passed Dave ( a buddy of Steves we met in Anchorage) coming back from Valdez and waved but initially did not stop thinking he wouldn’t either. After a few minutes he appeared alongside having made a u-turn and chased after us, we pulled over and had a chat. He wanted to ride ahead and video us with his go-pro as he said our bike sounded like a B52 bomber riding down the road. We let him get a bit ahead and then did our performing seal bit which pleased him no end but stupidly we forgot to take a photo of him. After that we waved good bye and he headed back to Anchorage to meet Steve and the others at the campsite. Although it was still daylight it was 7pm so we started looking for a free camp.
We stopped for fuel at Eureka and luckily not too long after that we found a great spot down a section of the old road and off on a dirt track. Lots of people had camped there before and there was evidence of fires and we followed suit as the nights were starting to get a bit chilly. It was an idyllic spot as we were in the middle of nowhere and it really felt like it.
We awoke around 8ish and after coffee and breakfast we surveyed our surroundings in the glorious morning light before we were packed up and on the road by 10am (we are not morning people).
We rode for an hour or two and stopped for fuel at Glenallen. From there we turned on to the Richardson Highway another spectacular high mountain route down to the coast. Not long after this there was a stunning roadside viewpoint looking out over Copper river towards the Wrangell and St Elias Mountain range which we took lots of pictures from. Just as we were about to get going a couple of local bikes pulled in and course we got chatting to them for a while. Thanks to them we got a good picture of both of us with the mountains in the background. We planned to detour into this range to a place called McCarthy on the way back if the road was open.
Squirell Creek State Reserve happened to be about the right place for lunch and like most Alaskan and Canadian day use areas/camp sites had good picnic tables and facilities. Further down the road this amazing Glacier came into view seemingly right atop the road. We pulled in for a closer look and to get some pictures.
Here is Worthington glacier up close.
and here is the view looking back from the glacier.
We stopped later at Bridal Veil falls and spotted this nearby tunnel which was started but was never completed. The story goes that rival copper mine companies started to carve it by hand to get railroad access through Keystone canyon from the inland copper mines to the coast for export purposes. The companies were always fighting over claims and a feud broke out over the tunnel and work came to a halt after a gunfight. Yep that would stop most people. In 1899 the U.S army sucessfully cut a track through Keystone canyon which was to become a very important supply route into Alaskas interior and ultimately the base for the road we had just ridden along.
We finally reached our destination of Valdez which had a beautiful harbour. The water was a gorgeous turquoise colour due to the rock flour in the water from the glacial fed streams and rivers that flow into it. The snow capped mountains in the background were the icing on the cake so to speak. It was time to eat and as there was a picnic table close to the bike and right on the waterfront we cooked and ate dinner with a million dollar view.
If you have ever wondered how you get your boat out of the water to work on it when there is no dry dock this is one way. You sail up to the ramp and this drives down into the water with two loading strops which go under the boat. They are then hauled up by hydraulic winches and the crane drives out with the boat hanging in the middle. It has it’s own engine and the wheels are driven by hydraulic motors. Here is the boat park.
On Good Friday March 27th 1964 Alaska was hit by the biggest earthquake North America has ever experienced, in fact it was the second largest earthquake EVER recorded by a seismograph.
Valdez like many Alaskan towns was hastily constructed on the back of the gold rush. Although it was a safe place to land it was never properly surveyed. The town which stood for over 70 years was just 45miles from the epicentre of the 9.2 magnitude “megathrust” earthquake which lasted for a truly frightening 5 minutes (most last no more than a minute). The shock waves ripped streets apart and demolished homes $15’000’000 of damage was done in 5 minutes. The earthquake triggered a huge submarine slide which took millions of tons of earth and rock into the bay with it. This in turn caused a massive tsunami tide which swept back over a significant chunk of the harbourside area of Valdez. Since all of this occurred before the earthquake shaking ended, the town had no warning at all. The combined effects of the earthquake and the resulting 30-40 foot tsunami completely wiped out two of the towns docks instantly killed all who were on the docks and it destroyed most of the waterfront as well as causing considerable damage inland. As if that wasn’t enough the forces caused the tanks at the nearby Union Oil Company to rupture which started a fire that spread across what little waterfront was left burning the remaining structures. As the old town was so badly damaged the army corps of engineers was drafted in and surveyed a safer spot to rebuild further down the coast. The remains of 50 buildings were taken apart piece by piece and moved.
The picture with Kev is at the old townsite which has most of the dirt roads and the outlines of some of the buildings together with memorials to the 139 people who were killed. Massive damage was inflicted right across Alaska. There were huge tsunamis, liquefaction and landslides with some areas of land being permanently raised by 30 feet. The picture below is of the site of the post office in old town Valdez.
This is what is left of the old harbour.
More from the new town of Valdez. If the name seems familiar there is a reason for that. The ship Exxon Valdez ran aground offshore here in 1989 spilling from 10 million to 31 million US gallons of crude oil (estimates vary widely) which were on their way from the Alaska pipeline to the lower 48 states of the USA. This was the 2nd largest oil spill in U.S history in one of the most ecologically important areas of the country. Scarily that spill only ranked 54th worst in the world !