September 27, 2013, Category: Alaska, Travel

Rain and a backwards motorcycle throttle make the day difficult and dangerous. And if The Motorcycle Shop doesn’t come through for us, it will get worse.

Day 8: Chistochina to Anchorage

Check out the novel: Trudge On, Soul

The icy wilderness of Alaska is the perfect place to lose yourself. But Warren doesn’t want to lose himself. He wants to lose someone else.
The book, Trudge On, Soul, is the result of three long years of late nights, critique groups, and editing. If you haven't read the blog, I'd suggest you stop reading and at least click here to read the preview chapters of the book. The blog and pictures have spoilers and the book is a much better read. Think of the website as a documentary, and the book as an engaging movie. Triumph Motorcycles did an article on my Adventure here. A Photo Album of the trip is available here. Click here if you want to jump to the start of the blog with an index of each day.

The Adventure Continues...

DSCN0352We started the day early and unsure how it would end. My alarm kicked things off, quite rudely, before I had finished sleeping. I couldn’t ignore it though, we had too much to do. We had to get to Anchorage around noon (when they expected FedEx). If all went well, the part would be waiting and within a few hours they’d have my bike purring like a nice Tiger again. Then we’d head out onto the Kenai Peninsula for a couple of days. If all didn’t go well, we could be stuck in Anchorage until Tuesday since the shop is closed Sun and Mon. Our backup plan was to rent a car so we could still do some exploring. Some of you may be thinking, why not ride behind Mike on Gertrude (his bike)? Uh… yeah, no. That is not going to happen.

DSCN0353A good hot breakfast was waiting for us in the lodge which also helped with the cold morning, but I couldn’t eat much. I was a little stressed about my bike and the ride ahead. At least the rain had died when we woke up, that was something to be positive about. Until, that is, we started our bikes to leave and it started again. We said goodbye to the Dennis family and splashed our way through puddles to the road. I started up my mantra to remind myself which way to twist the throttle, “slow back, fast forward…slow back…fast forward.”  I had to burn it in solid. Slick mountain roads, heavy wildlife, fog and rain…if I gunned it instead of slowing down at a critical moment it could end up ugly.

DSCN0356Two blocks down my engine light came on and I pulled over and stared at it in disbelief. Mike pulled over too. “What do you want to do,” he asked. I had no idea how serious it was or if continuing could make it worse.  “You want to head back?” he asked again. I sighed. What to do?

“Screw it,” I said. “Let’s just go.” I rolled forward on the throttle and shot out into the rain.

Normally when Mike and I ride, we talk constantly. Joking, being sarcastic, talking about life, pointing out things along the road, and even a bit of singing from time to time (the air must be thin up there). But we rode in silence for a good hour. I was frustrated and trying to second guess my engine light. And wiping water off my fogged-up visor every fifteen seconds didn’t help either. At least I wasn’t cold, my heated gear was maxed out and doing its job.

DSCN0355We rolled into Glenallen for gas and when I pulled in my clutch to slow down, I killed my bike. I waited four minutes (remember, my fuse box problem), started it, and it died on me again. I realized it wasn’t idling. I knew there was an issue with these Tigers; if the stepper motor gets dusty you can lose your idle. This means any time you let off the gas, the bike kills. I knew immediately this was the problem. So no biggie, I had to just keep giving it gas to keep it running, right? This may sound like minor inconvenience but it’s more than that.

When I shift, I roll off the gas. So just shifting gears could kill the bike, a bad thing out on the highway, especially in traffic. And stopping for whatever reason (stop signs, construction, traffic…) meant I needed to make sure to give it throttle. That one could be classified as just an inconvenience in normal situations except I was already awkwardly rolling forward instead of back because of the throttle cable issue. I found it difficult to hit the throttle just right in this reversed world. It seemed like there was either a lot of gas or none, no happy in-between. So every time I stopped, I sat there revving my engine like I was challenging everyone around me to a race or fight of some sorts. And if I made a mistake and killed it…well, then I had four minutes to think about what I’d done wrong. If somebody had decided to kick my arse for making such a racket, I couldn’t even have gotten away!

To describe this moment in my journal (later that night), I wrote the following:

#$%$  #@%^ #$@!!%$!!  #$%^ #@#@^(*=*@$.

We gassed up and hadn’t gone a mile when we hit a construction site. I played the revving game before killing it and then we sat there for ten or so minutes in the rain. Once we got moving, we followed a pilot car through the mud which required a fair amount of riding the clutch (low speeds). Luckily, I was so focused on keeping my bike running and not crashing that I didn’t have time to worry about all my problems.

Up and over the pass it started to clear up and we could see the mountains and glaciers again. We saw tons of trucks, 4Wheelers, and RV’s (it was hunting season). No animals though. There were only a couple of times in tight turns that I needed to slow down and forgot how to do it. I’d panic, try and recite my mantra, and then take a quick guess cause I couldn’t remember my mantra. Somehow I survived the whole thing. It helped to have Mike lead to give me a heads up on the road ahead. We pulled into Palmer to gas up and I cruised around the crowded parking lot revving my engine, daring anyone to mess with me. Nobody did.

DSCN0358I didn’t realize exactly how non-waterproof my gloves were until I took them off to fill up my tank. My entire hand looked like a pink colored raisin. Not only that, but I had a few blisters and split skin from it too. At some point I knew things had to get better. This had to be the low point, right?

I had cell coverage now so I called The Motorcycle Shop to see if my cables had arrived. FedEx had delivered but the cables weren’t there yet. He said not to worry yet, sometimes they come back later. It didn’t sound promising. I did get some good news when I called Progressive though, the trip interruption coverage I had added to my policy should cover $500 of expenses related to lodging, food, and a rental car. So at least I had that going for me. Once we hit the road, I called Sandi, it was nice to talk to her. I have to sound like I was having a good time and enjoying my vacation and somehow by the end of the conversation, I believed it myself.

52108_10151912623331209_1104931571_oThat last stretch to Anchorage was nice. The sun came out, it was warm, and we hit the freeway. I was actually sweating in all my gear for the last half hour, it had really warmed up. We slowly made our way through town (me revving my engine like a banshee at every stoplight) until my GPS locked up  as we were getting close. We ended up backtracking a bit, but we made it. It was a huge relief to roll into the shop, turn off my bike, and climb off it. What a day, and it was only 1:00!

I went inside and asked about the part, no dice. A huge letdown for sure, but we’d make due. We went downstairs to see about tracking it and another guy said, “No, it came. I pulled it aside so we’d be ready for him when he got here.”  YES!

WP_20130823_012We went out and looked over my bike, I unloaded my gear (holy cow, how did I fit all that on my bike?) and they hauled it right in And we waited. The Motorcycle Shop was awesome; they really went out of their way for me. Even though they were swamped with business they made mine a priority and even included an oil change and filter! As a one time customer (how often will I need service from Anchorage?) and a traveler in desperate need, they could have really taken me to town. Instead, they said they would try and get my cable throttle covered by a Triumph Goodwill warranty (which they did) and in the end, all I paid was $77 for them to install a new pair of rear brake pads. It’s a dang good thing they looked at them too, my rear brakes were nearly shot and we had thousands of miles ahead of us.

WP_20130823_027It hadn’t been a huge day of riding, only 231 miles of driving but it was too late to cover any more ground. I climbed back on my bike and it was like heaven! Normal throttle action and no idle problems! It felt incredible! We found a Motel 6 and walked across the street for a steak dinner where we were even able to catch the last half of the Seahawks preseason game! Tomorrow we head for Homer, Ak!

Click here to continue to day 9

Thanks for reading about my travels. To read more of my adventures, click here to visit my travel page.


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One thought on “Day 8: Chistochina to Anchorage

  • By Mikayla - Reply

    Okay, your talk of impossible projects is very motivational to finish off that son of a gun water pump tomorrow. Dang, this day and the day before were crazy! The Red Eagle Lodge and Motorcycle Shop sure had awesome service. So glad you made it home in one piece :>

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