Day 6 – Tok, AK to Valdez, AK

Distance: 253.8 miles (409 kilometers)
Time on the bike: 9:00am-3:30pm
Temp Highs and Lows: 8 celcius (Tok)/ 65 degrees (Valdez)

I was a bit torn as to where to go today. I keep looking at my rear tire and know there are only a couple thousand kilometers of life left in it. Then I look at my agenda and plans.

Hmmm, do I go to Fairbanks and get the tire changed right away then go West? That would mean I’d use up my rest days, ride all the way West, then have to loop back to come to the Dempster highway and Inuvik – lots of extra riding. Maybe the smart thing to do.

Or… do I head to Valdez and the scenery, catch the ferry from Valdez to Whittier then work my way to Anchorage or Fairbanks for a few rest days and tire changes? Looked at the tire again – I think it’ll make it. Hopefully not ‘famous last words’ by the intrepid traveler and narrator.

Slept in a bit today since it was only going to be a short half-day ride (unlike yesterday). Got loaded up, fueled up, and decided – ‘what the hell’, I’m going to Valdez.

The connecting highway from Tok is really beautiful. Lots of marshes, Elias-Wrangell mountain ranges, and a scenic ride. It’s hard to believe that for all of these first six days I have been flanked by mountains to one side or another the entire time. Well, I’m not mountained out yet. This beauty combined with only seeing about 20 cars all morning was the perfect remedy for a challenging riding day yesterday.

The weather cooperated all day and even the nasty black cloud heeded my pleas for ‘no rain today’.

Along the way I ran into Jason, the Seattle dude, that I met in Kitwanga. Stopped and had a chat. Turns out we’re going to the same place and will be taking the ferry at the same time tomorrow.

The scenery was awesome all day. Especially the Worthington Glacier and Thompson Pass. The Worthington Glacier is amazing and you can drive, then walk, right to the terminus of the glacier. Completely awestruck again. The Thompson Pass, not high by the standards of some of the passes I’ve ridden before, but still amazing. The highway is only at about 1000 feet with 8000 foot peaks on either side. A gagillion glaciers (okay, a lot) and lots of eye candy for the journey. The pass goes up to 2100 feet or so then defends right down into Valdez and sea-level.

Got to Valdez. Grabbed some grub, booked the ferry ride for tomorrow, and relaxed at the Totem Inn Hotel. Pretty nice digs, a bit expensive ($140/night – two queens), but nice. The town of Valdez is amazing. It’s at the foot of two mountain ranges and flanked by the ocean. There is a huge glacial moraine just outside of the town and another enormous glacier (Valdez glacier). It’s one of the most scenic small towns I’ve seen.

Off to Whittier and points beyond tomorrow. I’ll decide on the ferry just how far I’ll continue to go. It’s a 4.5 hour ferry ride. I’ll likely be incredibly sea sick (I get sick looking out the windows of city transit busses). So I’ll likely skip down to Homer. If I feel better I may head back towards Anchorage and Denali. Likely the former and not the latter.

What a great ride and relaxing day. I think I’ll stick to riding alone for a while unless I meet a really compatible riding partner.