Alaska and back via plane, bike, and a half million mile Dodge
I was contacted awhile ago to do a charter trip to Alaska, offering round trip service for bikes to Alaska. I jumped at the opportunity, and as of this posting I am mid transit on my way up.
Several freinds and relatives have asked me to do a write up of my adventures on this trip, so here we go. This initial post will be a bit long, but I'll try to keep additional postings brief, and more pics to come:
The first leg of the trip was to run from my home base of Marine City, Michigan down to Florida and South Carolina to pick up the first group of bikes. The trip down was mosy uneventful, here is my rig for those who don't know it, to give you an idea of my fancy digs. It is a 1997 Dodge Ram Cummins diesel. The truck has been mostly put together by me, it is about 400 horsepower with a 2011 six speed manual, and as of this writing has 544,000 miles on the ticker. My trailer is a 42 foot enclosed unit. Not to get too much ahead, but here she is at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah:
Once I arrived in Florida the real fun began. I happened to show up smack dab in the middle of Tropical Storm Debbie. Many parts were flooded, and it became impossible to drive in it one night so I spent a sleepless time in a flooded rest stop. The next morning it cleared up, so I went and picked up the first set of bikes in Sarasota. Shortly after that stop I needed to relieve myself, and no bathroom was to be found, so I pulled down an uninhabited road to do my business.
Mid - "business" my legs started to burn intensely. I looked down to find hundreds of red imported fire ants stinging my legs. Too far in to "pinch it off", I was forced to attempt to run, dance, pee, and swat my legs at the same time. I probably looked like a crazy guy having a seizure.
Those stings go a few days with only minor itching, then the burning gets worse, bumps start that turn into boils, which then burst, leak, bleed, etc. It is quite nasty, and my legs are only now starting to heal. Here they are after a few days. I'll spare you the worse of it.
In South Carolina I stopped to pick up another bike. The customers shop was up a steep driveway and the road was angled the opposite way in a decieving angle. Upon approach, the trailer bottomed out in the road and hung up so all six tires were just hanging over the pavement. I was stuck! Fortunateluly the customer had a big floor jack handy and we quickly got the back high enough to back up. Even though it only took a few minutes, it felt like hours in the 100 plus heat, but we soon cooled down to a great lunch of Tilapia and fried okra.
A day later I was back in Michigan and grabbed a friends bike and my own, and did the final packing and such to leave. While working, I was a bit stiff legged from the ant situation, so I ended up clumsily tripping on a chunk of steel, cutting one of my small toes to the bone. With only hours to go until departure, I didn't have time for a ER visit, so out came the tape and gauze. My patch job worked well enough, so I grabbed the wife and kids and off we went. It has been over a week, and the toe is finally stuck back together and looking decent. Fortunately I'm a quick healer.
The first part of our route took us up through the Upper Peninsula where we picked up another bike and visited the super cheesy but fun "Mystery Spot". From there we worked over to North Dakota for another, and swung down to South Dakota.
South Dakota was particularly important to me, as it was the only state I'd never been to. So we celebrated by visiting Mount Rushmore. Here are my kids, they loved it:
After the Dakotas we had a stop in Colorado and then the Lake Tahoe region, a little town called Incline Village. The truck hated the 9 degree and steeper declines and inclines, and we were forced to drive 10-15 MPH most of the way to keep from overheating. Even running downhill in second gear we managed to heat up and completely smoke the brakes (they were fairly new too) by the time we reached Truckee California. So we checked into the very nice but high price Hampton Inn.
The next morning I left the family to enjoy the pool while I limped down the road to Napa. Pulling the rig on a residential side street I pulled the wheels off and got to work. Both front calipers had seized and the pads were destroyed and warped. The rear drums were slighty warped, but good enough. So I replaced everything in the front, and got back to the hotel by 11am to get cleaned up.
We then headed into Truckee and visited the JAX diner, made famous by "Diners, Drive-In's and Dives" and sampled several of their more famous dishes. Everything was great, and I'd highly recommend the pulled pork with Tabasco Onions, Yum!
We then enjoyed a slow but scenic drive over to Redwood National Park where we did the main drive, and stopped at a few short hiking trails yesterday. We had a fun time exploring the forest, and want to go back again when we have more time.
Well, thats it for now. I'll keep posting!
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