Valdez, AK to Anchorage, AK (August 18-19, 2015)

This travelogue report covers my journey on Tuesday, August 18th, from Valdez north along the Richardson Highway, AK-4, to the village of Glennallen, and then west along the Glenn Highway, AK-1, to Anchorage. The evening before I had met several guys from Denver and Texas on BMW motorcycles rented from MotoQuest and we agreed to ride to Anchorage together.

(To skip to the my short report for Wednesday, August 19th, click here.)

The following map shows our route for this day’s journey of 326 miles. My destination is a private home in Anchorage where I found a room to rent through AirBnB.

My route from Valdez, AK to Anchorage, AK

My route from Valdez, AK to Anchorage, AK

In the morning I met up with the guys for a good breakfast in the Best Western-Valdez Harbor Inn.

After breakfast I had some time to take a few photos of the Valdez harbor and to pose for one too, while they were getting their bikes loaded up. The clouds were hanging really low. The second photo shows a telescopic view of the mountain behind me that was barely visible through the clouds.

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A crew for a kayak tour company was preparing their boats for another excursion.

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There were many pleasure yachts in the harbor, not just fishing boats.

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These next two photos show the hotel entrance as some of the guys were loading up their bikes. Mine was already to go.

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Just after 9 AM AKDT, we were ready to depart for Anchorage, but first needed to refuel. This next photo shows the view eastward as we’re heading along the Richardson Highway, AK-4. Although it wasn’t actually raining, it was misting heavily… so far…

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This next photo shows a view across the east end of the bay including the grain silos on Ammunition Island, which is the Grain and Container Terminal for the Port of Valdez. From this distance it’s difficult to appreciate that the height of those silos is 112 ft.

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Over breakfast we had decided to stop briefly at the Valdez Marine Terminal and the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery along Dayville Road.

Initially we passed on by the hatchery to approach the oil terminal as closely as possible. When we reached the “No Entry” sign at 9:40 AM, we stopped for a few minutes to take photos of the area.

In this next panoramic photo, the huge oil storage tanks are partially obscured by the low cloud on the left side. This impressive scenery would have been even more impressive if the weather had been clear. Since the oil terminal is on the southern side of the bay, these photos show views to the west and north, respectively. Without the clouds, the city of Valdez on the northern side should be visible.

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In this telescopic photo towards the east, the hatchery buildings can be seen on the right.

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We then rode back to the hatchery and stopped in a parking lot on the west side of the fish weir. I took this photo as we approached the hatchery.

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These next several photos show the area around the fish weir at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery.

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In August it’s time for Coho salmon to spawn. They attempt to overcome the current and cross over the weir to reach their spawning site at the hatchery.

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This 53-sec. video shows the salmon attempting to cross the weir.

Although they’re hard to see in this photo, there are dozens if not hundreds of salmon in the shallow water here. A large number of seagulls were also on the water hoping for food.

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A pair of other birds were watching the action from rocks on the shore. I can’t identify them. Perhaps an ornithologist or other bird-watcher can let me know.

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Bears frequent the weir area also to feast on salmon that don’t make it. There were none present during our visit, but I found a photo online showing a family of bears nearby.

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Many seagulls nest on the support beam for the bridge over the Solomon Gulch Creek.

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I joined my companions on the bridge and took a photo of the Solomon Gulch waterfall…

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…and of the sluiceway from the hydroelectric dam.

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After 15 minutes at the hatchery, we resumed our journey eastward along the Richardson Highway. The road is adjacent to the Lowe River. This next photo shows the somewhat foggy conditions.

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As we approached Keystone Canyon, I took this photo of the mountain with its lengthy waterfall ahead of us.

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Along either side of the canyon are several waterfalls, including Horsetail and Bridle Veil, which apparently are the better known falls there. We all stopped to take more photos.  Views northward into the canyon, and of Horsetail Falls, Bride Veil, respectively.

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Continuing north, the road takes a sharp bend to the west to climb over Thompson Pass and pass by Worthington Glacier.

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Just after cresting the pass, we stopped at an overlook to take photos of the Worthington Glacier.

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As we continued north, the weather continued to be misty and drizzly. I kept the camera dry inside my jacket and didn’t take any more photos for a while.

As we approached the village of Copper Center, one of the riders reported a problem with his motorcycle; either the alternator or the battery was giving out and he was losing power to the electrical system. We pulled off at Copper Center to discuss the options and to look for a shop. The only possible shop was closed and there was no cellphone service at that location. I recommended that we continue another 14 miles to Glennallen where there is a gas station, auto parts store and other facilities, in addition to cellphone service. They agreed and we arrived at the gas station in Glennallen at noon.

After the rider spoke via cellphone with the manager of the rental agency, he was told to buy a new battery at the nearby NAPA auto parts store. With some effort, we managed to get his bike started again and he rode it to that store for the new battery. Since it would take a while for the parts clerk to energize the battery, they all decided to go to a nearby restaurant for lunch and afterwards install the battery.

Instead of joining them there, I decided to proceed onward to Anchorage rather than delay my trip further. As I rode out of the parking lot of the NAPA store, my front tire was apparently punctured by something in the parking lot. About four miles west of the store, my tire pressure monitoring system alerted me to a significant loss of front tire pressure. Rather than deal with it alongside the road, possibly in the rain, I turned around and made it back to the NAPA store with only about ten PSI remaining in the tire.

Immediately I got out my tire repair kit and tire pump and set to work on locating and plugging the leak. I also had the assistance of a helpful local resident. After pumping up the tire again, neither of us could locate the puncture, even with clear or soapy water. After struggling for a while, the other motorcyclists returned from the restaurant and were surprised to find me back again. Fortunately one of them had much better hearing in the higher frequency range and was able to quickly locate the puncture due to the squeal from the air coming through the hole. It was then a simple matter to plug the tire and re-inflate it.

During all of that drama, I was too focussed on the tasks at hand to take any photos.

Finally, at 3:50 PM after nearly 1½ hours since I returned to the NAPA store, we were ready to proceed together to Anchorage, about 185 miles away. After riding along for nearly an hour, the rider with the electrical problem signaled that we needed to stop again. This time, they decided that the alternator was the culprit, not the battery. Their solution was to swap batteries with one of the other rental bikes, which had a good alternator and could recharge the depleted battery, while the defective bike could ride along for another hour until needing to repeat the procedure. They had handy tools to exchange the batteries quickly and continue on. I waited with them for the three minutes that took, in case they needed my assistance or my jumper cables again.

After we resumed again for another hour or so, we all enjoyed the ride, and even though the clouds were still hanging low, it wasn’t raining at all.

These next two photos show the scenery during this stretch along the Glenn Highway just before reaching the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site. In the second photo, the glacier is visible in the valley below.

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Only four miles west of that glacier park, the road descended closer to the level of the Matanuska River. The road followed the course of the river the rest of the way to Palmer and Cook Inlet.

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About 25 miles before reaching Palmer, the guy riding the defective motorcycle signaled that it was again time to swap batteries. When they indicated that they didn’t need my help, I continued alone the rest of the way to Anchorage.

After passing through Palmer and the turnoff towards Wasilla, I took these final two photos of this day’s journey. The sky was finally clearing nicely and the view of the mountains in the Chugach State Park was outstanding. The second photo is a telescopic view of the peaks in the first photo.

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After following the turn-by-turn directions from my GPS, I arrived at the address of the B&B near the intersection of Lake Otis Parkway and East 84th Avenue. The house is a four-bedroom, split-level with a double garage. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos around the house.

Janice, the hostess who had agreed to my room request for two nights through AirBnB, was not yet at home when I arrived. However, a long-term tenant, Scott from Glendive, Montana, had been expecting me. He showed me around and gave me a door key. Later we got better acquainted over a couple beers. He was a graduate student of pharmaceutics on sabbatical to gain experience at a pharmacy in Alaska and far from his small hometown in eastern Montana.

When Janice arrived home, she greeted me warmly and we discussed a few items. The room was spacious with a comfortable bed. Although certainly not fancy, it was totally satisfactory for just two nights.

In February 2013, I joined AirBnB in order to find bed & breakfast lodging as an alternative to hotels, motels or campgrounds during my motorcycle tours, although I did not start relying on the service until my 2015 tour.  During my travel preparations to Alaska, I found that motel room prices ranged from $150 to $300 / night, if a room was available at all due to the numerous summer tourists. The room in Janice’s home only cost me $140 for the two nights that I stayed there. The process worked well enough that I stayed at two other B&B places in Alaska and once in Canada. In at least one instance, there was no motel in the vicinity where I wanted to overnight.

That concludes my travelogue report for August 18th.

The next day, Wednesday, August 19th, I visited the BMW motorcycle dealership and finally found a suitable rain jacket that fit me well. Afterward I visited a sports complex near the Anchorage International Airport, took a few photos of the view across Cook Inlet and of aircraft landing at the airport.

Here is a map of the Anchorage area and my tracks around the city.

My tracks around Anchorage, AK

My tracks around Anchorage, AK

The weather was certainly much, much nicer in Anchorage!  Despite that, I unfortunately took very few photos.

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As we had previously agreed that morning, Scott and I then met up at 3:40 PM at Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria, a very popular restaurant and bar, where we had snacks, beers, and conversation. Outside the restaurant I took this photo of Scott with his bicycle before we returned to Janice’s house.

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That concludes my travelogue report for August 19th. The next day I resumed my journey of exploration around Alaska with a trip south nearly the full length of the Kenai Peninsula to Homer, where I had made a reservation at another B&B. More about that day’s journey in my next report.

Don

About Don

I'm a retired computer programmer who enjoys touring the country by motorcycle.
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