The Final Frontier

August 7th 2016
Beaver Creek to Tok

The 18 short miles to the Alcan Border crossing between Canada and the USA flew by. We’d hoped to park up by the large wood painted sign, which reads “Welcome to Alaska” but 100 cyclists, the support vehicles, and associated paraphernalia were swarming the sign. A few were even climbing up onto it. They’d be there for another hour before we even got a chance to take a shot. We thought better of it and planned to grab the photos on our way south. It’s not going anywhere.

The lone immigration and customs guard smiled as we rolled to the line and parked our bikes. “Heading to Prudhoe?” he asked.

Without thinking, I replied, “What, no we’re meant to be in Hawaii.” Lisa gave me a glare. The officer laughed aloud, stamped our passports and wished us on our way. As we left I warned him of the 100 or so cyclists on their way to him and he thanked me for the ‘heads-up’.

That has got to be the smoothest and easiest entrance we ever had in the United States of America.

As we pushed northwest our gaze was pulled south. Across the Tanana River, the Tetlin Mountains rose skyward. Past the thick bright green forest, grey-blue glaciers capped the peaks on the horizon.

89.2 miles after our crossing into Alaska and we were cruising into Tok, a small town in the Tanana Valley, nestled nicely between the Tanana River the imposing Alaskan Mountain Range. At the main junction in town, we turned right and 200 yards later another and into the Thompson’s Eagle’s Claw Motorcycle Park. Vanessa the owner walked over as we sat on the bikes and made us feel at home, her smile and charm instantly relaxed. We were told to help ourselves to any spot we wanted. She was off for dinner with a friend and would drop by later or tomorrow to collect our camp fees and check on us. We liked the place immediately.

As the only guests for the night, we had the run of the place. Vanessa had offered us the use of the wood burning sauna, but to be honest we just didn’t have the energy. We had our plan; head into town, grab some groceries, hose down the bikes and head back and cook. What could possibly go wrong?

We picked up baked beans and two New York steaks for $5.30, we almost couldn’t believe the price. Next to the main gas station we parked the bikes in the jet wash area, placed our helmets on the nearby table and started to wash the calcium chloride (from the road works) off the bikes. As I finished Lisa’s bike a Subaru Outback parked in the bay next to us. The 3 passengers didn’t make eye contact with us as mum went into the gas station and older dad and mid-twenties daughter dropped their quarters into the machine to turn on the jet wash hose.

A sudden yell from Lisa had me spinning around.
“Hey, stop, oh my god my helmet…my helmet…stop..stop…stop! You’re standing on it! What are you doing?!?!”

I turned to see the dad, look down towards Lisa’s rather expensive Touratech helmet, which he’d carelessly knocked from the table and which he was now clumsily kicking about with his feet as it rolled on the rough stone littered concrete ground. As he looked at the helmet, he was filling it up with the thick soap suds that were oozing from the washing-wand he was limply holding in his hands.

“get your foot off my helmet” Lisa yelled. The lack of any reaction from the dad was ‘odd’! The daughter walked around waiving the jet wash wand and sneered obviously ‘put-out’ by Lisa’s yells of concern.

“Oh my God? Really” she sighed aloud whilst rolling her eyes.

Lisa’s hackles instantly rose, and I pushed her back to her bike, whilst I talked with dad and daughter.

Had there been an apology or any sign of any regret at what was a simple accident, nothing farther would have happened. Hey, accidents happen.

What incensed us was the total lack of reaction or indication that they were taking any ownership or responsibility for the accident. Dad looks like an older academic, someone more at ease with books on dead languages or model trains that any form of human interaction. His response to my ‘polite’ approach was passive aggressive and dismissive. I didn’t raise my voice or swear, but I wanted a modicum of acknowledgement.

After a few attempts to engage the father, he turned to me and snapped “Bite me”, Lisa in her best English with a hint of Helen Mirren exclaimed sarcastically, “good heavens I thought only teenagers said that kind of thing”. I could tell she was holding back. She was livid.

The still sneering daughter was now more involved. “It’s not a big deal, my God, what’s your problem?”

It’s an expensive helmet, please just be careful” Lisa stated, flatly but politely.

“It’s a helmet -it’s supposed to protect your head, but it can’t be much good if you’re concerned about it dropping onto the floor”, the mid-twenty year old continued all the while rolling her eyes and sighing, doing her best to insinuate that we were now the nuisance.

My blood was now boiling, admittedly we were tired but I was determined not loose my cool.

The daughter continued for another 2 minutes to lecture us, until a bemused mother figure strolled back to the car, only to be met with a scene of confrontation.

In disgust, I stated “Your daughter’s attitudes is frankly disgusting and ridiculous” Mom fired back with “actually she’s quite brilliant”.

“I’m sorry that’s not what’s on show here,” I said flatly.

Lost for anything more articulate to yell, and not able to bluster her way past Lisa or I, the young lady in question charged up to us both, and yelled with a pointed finger…”Well, fuck you and fuck you and fuck you”. I’d wanted to ask who the 3rd ‘fuck you had been for, put chose not to. I was way past any chance of feeling better by volleying a snide comment.

Mom was on the uber-defensive, and fired off an arsenal of uniformed but offensive statements, intended to offend and dumbfound the two ‘bikers’ who she had clearly already decided were in the wrong and clearly beneath her contempt.

Lisa was fuming and I was doing my best to retain my own composure. Apparently no matter how politely or how angrily we communicated, nothing was going to get through to these three.

Finally, they got into their Subaru, and pulling away with Mom driving, she wound down the window and yelled with a sneer to Lisa “You’re a great advert for PMS”, she blew kisses as she drove away.

A is always the way, I thought about what I should have returned with after the event. “You’re a great advert for parenting skills”. The imagined response made me feel a little better. The whole situation was sad and unnecessary.

I spent the next 30 minutes calming a very tired and now extremely pissed off Lisa.

By the time we’d ridden back to camp, I’d calmed Lisa and given the situation some perspective.

As the light of the day slowly faded, we cooked the steaks on a camp provided barbeque, with charcoal left over from a previous guest. We heated the can of beans the same way and roasted a red pepper for added flavour. In spite of the silly situation at the wash, it has been a glorious day. Stunning scenery and clear weather.

As the light finally faded, we crawled into our tent and collapsed onto our mattresses. The light green, spongy moss on the forest floor providing us an unexpected level of luxury.

Aug 7, 2016
Updated: August 19, 2016