Sunday, June 23, 2013

Memorial Day, 2013

It's a time of reflection for those who have sacrificed for our freedoms – freedom of religion, or lack of it; freedom of choice to believe or not believe; freedom to speak for or against the government; freedom to carry arms or not.

Hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day and spent a few moments to think of those who have given us our freedoms.  Thank you, Mr. Hobbs.
That's why all of us in our diversity have the freedom to do what we like, to speak out for what we believe in, or don't believe in. I cherish the right to believe in God, to speak out against what I believe is wrong, or right, and to carry a weapon if I so choose. If I do not believe in my country fighting for me, I have the right to move to a country where I think I'll be treated better, which won't happen. My choice is to live in and love my country, the United States of America. May she live on forever.

Yes, I do carry a gun ... and bigger is always better!!!
Thank you to those who have lived and died for my rights, to their families and all who have served and will serve.

Memorial Day weekend is also a time for my fellow motorcyclists to get together, to ride, to eat, to mingle, and for some, to attend memorial services.

And yes, to just relax in the beautiful, warm sunshine.
A group of us left Anchorage on Saturday, May 25, heading to Denali to the Grizzly Bear Campground, to camp (or stay in a cabin as many of us do) and to partake of a barbecue most recently taken over by the Black Sheep, a part of the Harley Owners Group.

It was a gorgeous day; one could ask for no better. And we rode like the wind, enjoying every ray of sunshine, every mile of the road, every twist and turn. It was spectacular, with Mount McKinley making nearly a full appearance.

Pam and Maria.
Natasha and Doug.
Captain Cupcake and Sprinkles.
As always we made the usual stops, Talkeetna for gas and gab with other groups riding north for the event; Denali View South to have a drink and snacks and a photo opportunity at the mountain. It was glorious and I felt more alive than I had in awhile. Maybe it was the sun, or perhaps because it would be the first long weekend of riding with friends and being on a mini-vacation.

We bypassed Cantwell as the one gas station open there hates bikers. Our beloved Chevron station is in the process of a rebuild since it burned down, and there has been a lot of work going on. We later heard the gas pumps are now open. Yay. It was a favored place to stop as they liked us, and it has a large paved parking area so we could gas up, rest and mingle with others who stopped there.

Birdie and Mike ... waiting for check in.

On our Memorial Day Meet in the Middle run we pretty much fill up the campground, hotel and cabins.  What a super time we have ...
On to Grizzly where the snow was still covering a lot of the ground. We checked in for our regular cabin and found half of our parking area covered with snow. As usual, we made it all work and got our bikes situated, helping each other back up or forward and putting kickstands on something solid so they didn't sink into the dirt. We unloaded the bikes, enjoying hugs and conversations with those who had arrived earlier and who stopped by to see us as they passed on the little dirt road that runs through the cabin area.

Captain Cupcake, Trapper and Zookeeper, getting a bike situated.
 Once we were moved in for the night we all walked up to the barbecue area where people gather and the partying would begin.

Our Robin, HOG photographer, nearly always has a camera at hand.  Be alooking or she may get your photo.
Robin's husband, Jim, did not have a camera at hand that day. 

Almost ready.

Oh yea, almost food time, according to Grant.  Or, pattycake, pattycake, baker's man. 
By the time dinner was served (and yes, Zookeeper was first in line) there were 75 people who had eaten, more than the previous year. It was a great meal, as always, with folks from the Kenai Peninsula, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Wasilla and who knows where else, all getting together to enjoy it as well as the catching up we must do since we usually don't see each other much during the winter months.

But Zookeeper always has his ticket and is ready to show it.
Glenda did a good job of fending Zookeeper off until it was time to eat, using what she had at hand ... a plastic tray!!!
There was tons of food and no excuse for anyone who went hungry.

The Black Sheep (sheeples or sheep people as I call them) have prepared our food for several years now and do a great job of feeding us, leaving no body unfed.
You can never have too many cooks in some kitchens, Eric, Troy and Grant.

There are no bad photos of Barbie (our current Miss Harley-Davidson) and her husband, Ron.  We so love them.
Trapper and his wife Char came up this year (they are currently living in Colorado) and it was a pleasure to see them both.  Trapper (and even his son Kody years ago) did the cooking for the meal.  And there was no one left unfed, unless they just didn't show up on time.  He and Char and their helpers, Steve and Mary come to mind, kept us well fed for a number of years and we truly appreciate all they have done for us over time.
The bonfire always an attraction and is a yearly tradition. What a wonderful time it is … as we are welcomed to Grizzly Bear as the trial run for their establishment as summer kicks off and the tourist season begins. We've been doing this run for about 20 years now; the Grizzly folks treat us very well and the event never disappoints. We even had Trapper and Char at the event, formerly from our HOG group and currently living in Colorado. It was a special treat to have them there.
There's just too much fun to be had at this event.  If you missed out, there's always next year.

There was still a lot of snow left at the campground, but bikers use everything to their advantage.  Notice the lower right hand area in the snow; it's being used as a beer cooler. 

Trapper and Char brought some presents, which we doubled up putting the glasses on the face.  Then we gave our cabin key to the responsible party.

Birdie, me and Petitest. 

Sometimes you use the photo-bombed shot rather than the nice one you have of Dan and Traci.  Couldn't help it.  Love this one.

Sunday morning came too soon. Many of us ride to Healy to Rose's Cafe, a small place but very capable of handling a large group of leather-clad bikers. Rose and her husband enjoy us coming by to have breakfast (or another meal depending on if we go through there at other times), and always comes out to greet us personally. And the food is excellent!!

Most of the crowd went back to Byer's Lake for the Memorial Day service, or to the McKinley View Restaurant to participate in a parade to the memorial. It's well worth it, to ride or even to just wait for the bikes to come in at the memorial and be a part of the service honoring those who have fought for our freedoms.

Oh what a beautiful day ... yet again.  What a gift of wonderful weather we've been having.
A group of eight bikes went north from Rose's to Fairbanks, via Salcha and the Knotty Shop for ice cream, then on to Tok where we'd spend the night at another bike-friendly establishment, the Golden Bear Motel. We continued to have weather that defied our imagination as we rode in cloud-free zones for the entire day. As we neared Tok we saw a motorcycle overturned in the ditch. We later learned it was a lady from Delta who lost her life in the accident. Rest in peace, Gail, and may your family know that others care even if we don't know your lady.

Golden Bear Campground and Motel in Tok, biker friendly.  He's not tossing bikers into that furnace.  It heats the place via pipes coming under the driveway.
Monday arrived and once again we rode cloud-free as we headed to Glennallen. This weekend could not possibly be topped for weather and warmth … 70s+, oh yeah. We were loving it, shedding gear as we went along.

Birdie was doing her usual ABCs of Touring and stopping here and there for photos with road signs. Several of us are doing the Alaska/Yukon museum run, and so we've stopped at various museums, parttaking of history and knowledge if they've been open. Thank you, Barry, for getting us sleazy bikers a little smarter than we were before.

Jaz and I elected to go to Valdez and take the ferry to Whittier, the tunnel route to Portage and home. The rest of the group left for Eureka for lunch or pie and home from there. And all arrived safely, which is what we always want from a road trip.

Jaz and I rode in to Copper Center to see how the rebuild of the old lodge was doing since it had burned down.  This is a biker-friendly place as well.  We learned that the restaurant has been moved to a location just across the parking lot for the time being.  We will be back.
The ride to Valdez was in another cloud-free zone. We stopped at the Worthington Glacier to find that most of the parking lot was still covered with snow, and the trails and outhouses were not yet open or accessible. Ooooooh, bummer. Hang on, hang on.

A few more weeks of this lovely weather and the parking lot will be free of snow and the glacier out for all to see and walk up to.
As we continued toward town we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls. The ice formations around the falls were spectacular and we could hear ice cracking and see small pieces falling We never saw anything huge fall, but knew as soon as we left most likely one of the big ice pieces would drop like a rock to the river below. Oh well. What we saw was awesome.

There's a lot of ice and snow even at the end of May.
Jaz and I stayed at the Totem, visited one of the museums, ate at Mike's Palace and walked around town a bit. We'd had a long weekend so hit the rack early.

The snow dump sites were still way taller than us.  This was just across the street from the hotel.
On our way.
In line, waiting to board.
On Tuesday we had to get up to catch the ferry by 6 a.m. Wow, yet another cloud-free zone. Would it end? Well, yes, but we were so enjoying this special weather.

Our ship awaits.

A beautiful day, a beautiful ship.

Boarded and tied down.  I took the key with me when we went upstairs.  Princess Bee-a-trix did not like her fob being gone as she was blinking her lights and sounding her siren.  They came looking for me.  I left her fob with her.
What a wake behind us.  That, too, was beautiful ... or maybe I was just in a zone of everything being right.
Oh what a beautiful day.

Glacier, icebergs, birds, sea lions, otters.  There was a whale spotted, but we didn't see it.  It was still an awesome trip.
The map showed where the ship was in its travels and brought back childhood memories of when my folks and I would go fishing or camping out of Whittier on the two boats we owned.  It was a great childhood.

Everyone was enjoying the sun, including the sea lions.

The ferry was spectacular and we had breakfast, walked around multiple times, sat for a while, watched the live-time map of where the ferry was, walked some more, watched a life boat drill (come back, come back), saw otters, birds, icebergs. It was an awesome trip, with mostly glass-like water and sunshine that warmed our bodies when we weren't standing in the wind.

Putting around, heading back to the ship and the pulleys to get it back on board.

The lifeboat being brought back onboard.
Our arrival in Whittier was non-eventful. We had some lunch, and wandered through the museum. It's mostly a military museum, but there was an area dedicated to Whittier, the town coming into being.

That would be me, second from the left, seated.  Wow.  Brings back memories.
And there on the wall it was … a photo of the military bowling alley in the Buckner Building, showing some kids learning to bowl … and me. I'd know those pig tails anywhere. Who'd a thought?

Not many vehicles going through the tunnel the day we were returning to Anchorage.

Then to the tunnel to wait to go through. Bikes ride last. While we were standing there chatting with the gal with the radio we could hear a voice say, “There's a motorcycle parked in the employee parking.” We told her we knew who it was. And cleared that up … it's Birdie and she's waiting for us.

Enjoying the sunshine at the mouth of the tunnel, waiting to ride between the rails to Portage.
We got to the other side of the 2-1/2-mile-long tunnel and found Mike Sweet. We'd thought to surprise him. NOT!! Turns out there are loads of cameras everywhere and he'd spotted the bikes while they were parked on the other side waiting to get through. He saw the yellow bike and identified it as mine from nearly the minute we rode into the tunnel staging area. So much for the element of surprise.

Mike chatted with us for a while, then Jaz, Birdie and I headed into town. What a great weekend, great friends, great weather, great ride. It was a Memorial Day worth remembering, for so many reasons.