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Day 9 & 10
July 26 & 27, 1999
Tok to Fairbanks

Talking about updating the Web site, I have been remiss in not thanking my Webmaster, Trisha Ely. Trisha and I have been friends and business associates for the past 14 years and when I first talked about this trip a year ago, one of us suggested a Web site to memorialize the journey. Trisha immediately volunteered her time to set up and maintain the site for me, and my expression of gratitude is long overdue. Thanks, Trisha.

Five or six thousand foot peaks, from the most eastern part of the Alaska Range, flank us on the left for the first 50 miles as we head north from Tok, but the terrain quickly turns to the relatively flat plain of the Alaskan Interior, and we ride on to Delta Junction, viewing the perpetual northern pine forests and trying to stay warm.

It's cold up here this year. I lived in Fairbanks for three years in the early-70s, and remember summers with sunshine, 80 degrees and 24-hours of sunlight. Simply Nirvana. But not this year. Since we left Dawson Creek, it has been in the mid-40s most mornings, warming up to maybe 60 degrees by the afternoon. Factor in the wind from a motorcycle going 65 mph, and it's cold. I don't have a chill factor table with me, but trust me, it's cold.

The other four riders all have first-class motorcycle gear that includes padded, reinforced jackets and slacks, with zip in liners. They are made to absorb lethal blows if you go down, and to keep you warm in the cold weather and cool in the hot weather. For around $500 a copy they do a pretty good job of all of that. But in the pictures you'll notice I wear a yellow Heally-Hanson rain slicker. You know, the kind they wear on sailboats. In fact, I have a set because sailing is my other passion.

My solution to weather on a motorcycle is to layer. I start out with normal jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Bib bottoms cut the cold (and hopefully some of the pavement if I go down) while a flannel shirt and a jacket provide comfort up top. If it's raining I wear the slicker top, but it generally makes things hot so I stop to put it on after I'm already wet. I'm a slow learner. I carry both a light and heavy jacket, and spend a lot of some days mixing and matching clothing to fit the temperatures and precipitation. Jan says I should just spring for the $500. Perhaps she's right.

The weather, which has slowly deteriorated since Dawson Creek, is now quickly getting worse. For you non-riders, it must be obvious that poor weather is a motorcyclist's worse nightmare. While we have been fortunate to avoid heavy rain, it has started to sprinkle off-and-on every day. By North Pole, just outside Fairbanks, the deluge begins. Pure water, although sunbreaks give us hope that it won't last forever. We have arrived. For Buckland's and us, nine days and over 2.400 miles. For Randy, add three days and another 900 miles. But, we have arrived. With a round of "high fives" we're off to find our B&B, a delightful place named All Seasons Inn.

I've scheduled in a day off in Fairbanks to fix bikes, provision for the jaunt up the Dalton Highway, and generally relax. All the bikes go to their respective dealers for oil changes and minor adjustments. The BMW gets a valve adjustment, while I simply change oil and filter, and air filter on the Cavalcade. The Cavalcade has been a great ride so far, but I hope the weight doesn't keep me from reaching my goal of riding to Prudoe Bay. I'm well aware that if the road is real muddy, I could be in trouble.

Julia had been iffy about Prudoe Bay from the start, and stories of mud, dust, and grizzly bears have done nothing to dispel her fear of dumping her brand new Triumph. So, discretion being the better part valor, she wisely decides to forgo the Dalton Highway, and will head for Denali Park and Anchorage in the morning. We will miss her, but will catch up with her the middle of next week.