Anchorage – The Final Countdown

Pass the umbrella

The flight from London to Anchorage, although long – a total of 18 hours – was uneventful.  One take-off, one landing and nothing  memorable in between, except perhaps the flight attendant, but we won’t go into that!!

Anchorage airport is modern, clean, efficient and Nordic with rock motifs, hunting scenes, stuffed bears, tunnels and shelters from extreme weather conditions.  The ride to the downtown hotel was a short 15 minutes or so. Anchorage, with a population of nearly 400,000 in the greater metropolitan area accounts for 40% of the state’s inhabitants.   Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather (see below) the city is also host to what appears to be an equal number of tourists with no shortage of opportunities to separate them from their hard earned holiday cash.

Located at 61 Degrees North at the narrowing neck of the Cook Inlet (seemingly Captain Cook arrived here in 1778) Anchorage is surrounded by mountains, still with snow cover even in August.  The town centre is a mixture of low rise wooden buildings with a few modern steel and concrete towers of perhaps 15 floors or more.  The 1964 earthquake devastated the area which perhaps accounts for a mixed architecture.  The streets, at least in the downtown area, go by letters A,B,C etc. Street and numbers 1st, 2nd 3rd, etc.  Avenues, somewhat reminiscent of Milton Keynes without the roundabouts!

Since arriving it has rarely stopped raining for more than a half hour.  Nothing dramatic, but gentle, drizzling, misty, rain interspersed with heavier spells of quite soaking downpours.  With 13-16 degrees C (55-62F) I feel quite at home! On Wednesday with all bikes out of customs we set about re-attaching and adjusting pieces removed for shipping, and any last minute bolt-on goodies not previously attached before shipping.

Yesterday 11 of us set out for a short “practice” ride to feel the road conditions.  Heading south towards Whittier along the coastal Highway 1 (Seward Hwy) with the “Turnagain Arm” inlet to our right and the 3,000 foot snow covered peaks of the Chugach state park to our left it was good to be reunited with our bikes and start to get a feel for driving in Alaska.  The highlight was perhaps the Whittier tunnel, which at 2.5 miles long is the longest combined road and rail tunnel in N.America with cars and trains using the same single lane in alternate directions. So long as you can ride for the full length within the width of the rails, no problem.  In a roadside café we read about bear attacks on camp sites… a useful reminder about wildlife.  On the way back we encountered the low point of the day which was a 7 hour road closure due to a serious traffic accident, but it served to prompt debate about being able to deal with unexpected events on the bigger trip.

A few final adjustments

Seward Highway - Turnagain Arm