Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memories of Memorial Day weekend

Our group of six heading to Grizzly Bear.  This was taken at Denali View South.  McKinley wasn't quite out all the way, but we had sun, and that always makes for a pleasant ride.  But we were prepared for rain as well.  I'm wearing my "snowpants" rather than chaps.
The Harley Owners Group does a run to Grizzly Bear Campground, a place about 240 miles north of Anchorage. We leave on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend, end up at the campground (which also has cabins, a hotel and camping), and have a big barbecue, catered over the past few years by the Black Sheep, the religious arm of HOG. We've always had great feasts for this barbecue.
Steak, burgers, salads, desserts.  Even hot water with tea for me.  What more could you ask for?  Black Sheep rock!!!
The evening is one that is memorable for a number of reasons. It's the first overnight ride for the HOG group for the year, a time to park the bikes and let your hair hang down, and a chance to get to know your fellow HOGs. We always have a great time, great food and make new friends in addition to seeing so many others we've not seen for a while.

Friends before things started getting silly.
I rode up with a group of friends, avoiding most of the rain others had run into. I was glad to find that this year was no different, and although we had rain during the barbecue, it didn't spoil the fun.

We obeyed the sign and placed our butts accordingly.
This wasn't part of the silliness.  This is Paul's rainhat.  Ya gotta keep the beer from getting diluted.
On Sunday, most people go back down the road to Byer's Lake, where there's a memorial ceremony honoring those who have served, those who have fallen. It's a moving ceremony and one that I've attended multiple times.

But there's a group of us that heads north, into Fairbanks, and around, doing a loop of more than 900 miles for the weekend. This year was no different, and while there was one of our core group that was unable to make it (We missed you, Harvey, me especially cuz I had to lead.), we picked up a couple of new folks, Maria and Doug.

Usually it's the other way around, with Birdie giving the pushback.  There's a photo of Zookeeper getting a pushback too.  But I'll use that one another day.
We left Grizzly, with a sprinkle or two, then on through Fairbanks and out the other side. We stopped in Salcha since it looked like we'd run into rain. I figured people could put on raingear, and it doesn't hurt that they have ice cream and we nearly always stop anyway.

While we were eating our ice cream, the skies let loose and it poured. But once we were ready to get on the road again, we encountered a few sprinkles and then good weather. Hooray for sunshine.

We were on to Tok where we spent the night at another bear motel, Golden Bear. We stay here everytime we come through. It's owned by the father of a guy I used to work with, and we like to give business to locals and people who are part of our family in some way. We like to eat at a place called Fast Eddy's, which has a great salad bar, and then we raced for the motel as the rain was coming again.

We all seem to end up hanging out and visiting in one room.  Okay, maybe we weren't visiting.  We all had our phones out texting and checking e-mail and Facebook.  Sickos. 
The ride Sunday was made ducking and bobbing, weaving and somehow avoiding rain for the most part. Friends who had left a bit earlier than we had dealt with rain most of their trip.

And here's the proof that we had sunshine.  Zookeeper, Maria and Doug.
Monday dawned with a sprinkle, but the sun was shining and we knew we had it in the bag for the day. The big mission was to make it to Copper Center to visit the remains of a historic lodge that burned a few weeks prior. We'd often eaten at the lodge, and had stayed a time or two.

The beloved Copper Center Roadhouse.  But it will be rebuilt.

It was a sad time, with our Harley Parking Only sign charred and hanging upside down. I straightened it so we could park in our spot, for old time's sake. We have heard it will be rebuit, but while there will be a lodge, so much of the character that is associated with the old one will be missing.

Then it was back on the road and heading for Eureka for a late lunch. We met up with a few other friends, and now our group was 10. Riding down the road heading back to Anchorage, it was a beautiful sight to see those 10 motorcycles riding in a perfect formation. It's an awesome feeling to have such good friends, to spend quality time and to share a meal.

While I mostly spent Memorial Day weekend riding and having fun, it was a time to remember those who have served our country, those who have died for it, and the families that continue to sacrifice. I truly believe that freedom is not free. Thank you to our service people and their families. What they do is not forgotten.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

 Trashed Alaska

Now that the snow is mostly gone, we ride everywhere. That includes to functions, parties, and parks. A few short days ago a friend and I rode out toward Earthquake Park. There's this large pullout where you can park and view the city. It's a beautiful view and one worthy of seeing many times over.

While we were there we walked around the area a bit. Now that Mother Nature has given us some warmth to the sun and melted much of the snow, the trash is now surfacing.  There was trash everywhere.

Trash in the trees, trash on the ground, trash everywhere.
There's plain old junk, the standby Safeway plastic bags that fly in the wind, and then the really disgusting stuff.

What is wrong with people? They should keep their private life at home, and pick up their trash. It would be nice if they had a little pride in their community rather than the need to trash it.

Absolutely disgusting trash, and there was more than one.  Get a room, folks.
But putting that piece of the equation aside, this week is the Anchorage Chamber's Citywide Cleanup Week. Thank you to all those volunteers who are out cleaning the streets and parks and bagging up a winter's worth of other people's trash and filth.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Trains, bikers and babes

The Alaska Railroad logo is a class act with the Alaska state colors.
The Alaska Railroad held an open house May 5, with music, giveaways and train rides. The ARR is America's only full-service railroad, offering both freight and passenger service year-round. Line construction was completed in 1923; it was built in sections by work gangs starting in 1915. Today nearly 70 percent of Alaska's population live along the 500-mile railroad corridor that runs from Whittier and Seward to Anchorage and north to Fairbanks, with a branch line serving Fort Wainwright, North Pole and Eielson Air Force Base.

In my mind, trains are one of the beautiful mechanical creations.
Babe Jaz and I (the other babe), both of us bikers, had decided to go experience something other than a simple motorcycle ride. (We did ride to the event, though.) We'd been in the area a few days before looking at trains and taking a few photos of engines. Doesn't everyone love trains?

The yellow tape just seemed funny ... as though it would keep the massive locomotives from breaking through and rolling on down the tracks.  Yeah, yeah.  I know.  It's to keep people out.  Still looked humorous to me.
On open house day, we spent a fun couple of hours. First we rode the train. The rides weren't long, only 20 minutes in duration, and the wait in line was way longer than that, but it was fun.

Show us the way.  We're going on a train ride.
Our train awaits.  It looks like a moosegooser pushing baby strollers. 

Aaaalllll abooooaaarrrdddd!!!
 Then, just like all of the other kids, we wandered by the old steam locomotive, No. 557, and into and out of a number of rail cars on display.

Steam locomotive No. 557.
No. 557 returned to Alaska Jan. 3, 2012, nearly 50 years after it left service on the Alaska Railroad. It was the last steam-driven locomotive in active use and regular service on the ARR. It was mostly used to help during high-water conditions in Nenana during floods as steamers could easily go through two feet of water when it flowed over the rails. It was also used for special events, then it was sold to a scrap dealer and museum owner who preserved it, keeping it in running condition in Moses Lake, Wa. It was purchased by an Alaskan couple with the provisio that it be relocated to Anchorage, rehabilitated and eventually put back into service, possibly pulling refurbished railcars during the summer tourist season.

Beautiful wheels on No. 557.
Originally known as U.S. No. 3523, No. 557 was one of 2,120 of this type of locomotive built for the U.S. Army Transportation Corp. between 1942 and 1945. There were 12 sent to Alaska.

Engine 557 is a tender locomotive, meaning it pulls a special rail vehicle called a tender, which carries its fuel, which could be wood, coal or oil, and water. Originally the 557s tender carried coal, but it was later converted to oil. Currently it is valued between $175,000 to $250,000 and is in near-running condition.

The back end of No. 557.
From the steam engine, we trooped onto No. 4327, an SD70MAC locomotive. The ARR owns 28 of them, which makes up more than half of their 51-unit locomotive fleet. SD means special duty, and MAC means modified-cab, alternating current, referring to the traction motor.

We're going in.  No. 4327, here we come.
No. 4327 is a 4,300 horsepower locomotive, weighing 420,000 pounds, and capable of speeds up to 70 mph. The first two numbers of the four-digit locomotive numbers indicate the horsepower. Diesel locomotives are basically electric locomotives that carry their own power source.

Wouldn't I like to take this piece of machinery for a spin!!
Jaz and I then spent some time meandering through passenger cars, some of which were refurbished from the 1950s era. There are reclining seats, domes with seats up on top, and even a gift shop.

Not bad seating at all.
It truly was a grand few hours, made only better by riding to and from the event. Next time, consider taking a look at what's around locally for entertainment. We did, and found enjoyment in things that we see everyday, but don't really pay a whole lot of attention to as we go about our busy days.

Absolutely beautiful.  Clean lines, wonderful colors, and fun to be had when traveling by train.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saddle up and let's ride

Those who ride, ride. Those who ride, wait (except for the lucky few with trikes or sidehacks). When we don't ride, we wait for spring. And I'm thinking spring has finally sprung. Can it be true, or is Mother Nature just waiting, biding her time to cruelly dump another load of snow on us, even at this late date.

Ready ... and waiting.
Biker Bill and I rode to the bike show in early April. It was a short, but sweet ride, of only 15 miles. It appears that now we can begin to ride in earnest, rolling through the miles, and tanks of gas. I'm wondering if my credit card can handle the gas charges this year. It appears that to ride any number of miles, that we all need to be backed by a bank, or go looking for sponsorships!!

Freezing our butts off just riding 15 miles to and from the bike show.
I've been out a bit, riding with friends, and I'm hoping this finally, really, is it. Mother Nature has had her way with us for too long, and hopefully she's decided we've suffered enough.

Tamara, the daughter of a friend of mine from 2nd grade, me and Zookeeper.

Purple Haze

Uncle Glen, ready to ride.
The HOG rides started, April 25. It was wonderful to see so many people show up for the first ride of the season, so many beautiful bikes, some newer than others, and some great license plates. I do like to photograph license plates.

There are also the other rides, that aren't HOG. A lady that some of the officers met when they went to officer training in San Diego came to Anchorage so some of us got together and took her for a ride to Girdwood. It was nice meeting her, and being able to share a little bit of our great state with her.

Me, Purple Haze, Uncle Glen, Pam, Chuck, Vickie from San Diego, Birdie and Mike.
Let the riding begin, let us all ride safely, let us share our common bond with each other, making new friends, seeing old ones.

Hobbs on the Arm.  It's one of my favorite places to ride and take photos.