Composite Squadron THIRTY-FIVE, Detachment “C”, Statement of Pilot: Lt. C.C. Rock, 424928, USNR
After a normal and satisfactory preflight check, I took off CVA-33, the USS Kearsarge, for the purpose of building up “Slow Time” on the aircraft Douglas AD-4N, No. 126972. The plane had recently had an engine change. Previous pilot comments noted more than satisfactory performance.
The takeoff bore out the opinion of LCDR Wright that, “We had a good engine”, as I could have been airborne on a shorter run. The plane had to be held on the deck to finish the normal deck run.
Since this was an engine run in, I reduced power settings as soon as a safe altitude was reached. The plane climbed very easily at 1750 RPM and 27” MP. AEC Percival, who was my maintenance observer, discussed with me the power on takeoff and the smoothness of the engine as we climbed to altitude.
At 7,000 feet, I cruised at 1700 RPM and 26” MP which gave an indicated airspeed of 162 knots, a most satisfactory performance for this type of aircraft.
I continued to fly at these power settings as requested by the maintenance officer, with only occasional deviations of one or two inches and about 40 or 50 RPM to relieve the monotony.
At approximately 1510, I was cleared to enter the “Dog” pattern. I switched to automatic rich and noted a rise of about 40 RPM and ½” of MP. Without descending, I repeated this a couple of times and each time noted the same approximate rise and fall with the movement of the mixture control.
Leaving the mixture in rich, (I had 1400 lbs. of fuel, and I wanted to burn more up before landing), I joined up with the two other Douglas AD aircraft in Right Echelon in the “Dog Pattern.” Although I had plenty of altitude, I misjudged their distance and made recourse to 2500 RPM and 35” MP to close the distance before joining up.
We dogged together for about 12 minutes at an altitude of about 1300 feet. I was the third plane in the right echelon. We were about 100 degrees through a 180 degree turn when I began to drop back slightly, so I moved the throttle slightly forward to hold my position. There was no corresponding increase in power.
I advanced the throttle further and noted the engine MP had now dropped to 25”. The throttle moved easily and I felt no resistance to its movement, such as its operation normally.
I checked my fuel selector and although I had about 19 PSI of fuel pressure, I flipped on the emergency fuel pump and received a rise in fuel pressure to 23 PSI in pressure. Oil pressure was normal for both front and rear, as was cylinder head temperature and oil temperature. Also, no emergency lights were on.
I continued to lose power smoothly and steadily with the throttle full open. Then, I shoved the prop pitch full forward holding both throttle and prop pitch with considerable force. When the prop when into low pitch, airspeed dropped rapidly and I began to lose altitude at an alarming rate. I moved the prop pitch to the 2000 RPM position that I had used in flying formation.
By this time the MP had dropped to about ten or twelve inches, and I was down to about 750 feet of altitude. I then abandoned all attempts to regain power. From the first indication of lack of power until entering the water, the engine did not cough, sputter or run rough. The power decrease was very much as if I myself had slowly and steadily retarded the throttle.
While I was attempting to regain power in the engine, I had completed the other 80 degrees of the turn and rolled out into the wind. I informed Chief Percival to prepare to ditch and ran over my ditching check list. Tail hook down, wheels up, shoulder straps and safety belt tight and shoulder straps tight and locked, canopy open. I started to hit the flaps but glancing at my hydraulic pressure, I saw I had about 3,000 pounds, so I decided to delay this until I began my flare out to take advantage of the greater initial drag effect to decrease airspeed at the moment of contact with the water. What surprised, in fact amazed, was the amount of time I had. I did not feel rushed and the innovation of delaying the opening of the flaps was a direct result of excess thinking.
Another emotion surprised me. I was not the least bit excited and at first, I was unable to put my finger on the source of this mental attitude, and then I thought I entered a familiar pattern, and of course I was --- my survival training had covered this with a redundancy that hovered on monotony and boredom with each periodic enforcement.
From that moment on, I was completely confident I was going to make a good water landing.
My airspeed indicated about 110 knots. I hit my flaps and began my flare out, (or breaking my glide) to gain my nose high altitude prior to entry, sat erect in my seat and kept the wings parallel with the troughs.
I felt the initial lifting effect of the flaps just wearing off as I made contact with the water. A last glance at the airspeed indicator showed the airspeed falling past 100 knots, which I realized was no longer accurate in the three point altitude I now held.
I did not feel the tail hook hit, and my first sensation was a violent shudder followed almost immediately by a tremendous impact which threw up such a wall of spray that the horizon was completely obscured. I did not know if I was still skipping, but I saw a still prop blade sticking through a break in the water. It was not bent however.
I unbuckled my chute and unsnapped my earphones and mike cord, rising in the cockpit as I did so. I left all buckles of my chute fastened, as I wanted to be sure of retaining my raft, nor did I want any loose ends snagging onto anything.
At this point, the water began raining down, that I had kicked up. It threatened to force me down and back into the cockpit, but I braced the small of my back against the canopy, put my right foot on the panel, my left foot on the edge of the windshield and cockpit, and head bowed, (but not bloody), resisted the deluge.
As the downpour slacked off, something struck me a glancing blow on the back of the head, with such force, it knocked my helmet off my head, and momentarily slowed me up.
I could not imagine what and in my resultant groggy state, I thought I was back in a TBM (a plane that I had last flown extensively in the summer of 1949 with VA-95, off this same carrier), and tore the cross piece out that extends over the cockpit. I felt the object on the back of my neck and further imagined it was the jagged edge, but by this time, the cockpit was filled with water from the deluge pouring down, and it was met by water pouring in from the sides as the nose sank, and six seconds after impact.
I rolled off the canopy into the water and yelled encouragement to Chief Percival who came out of the back, to my disappointment, without parachute, which meant one, one man life raft between us.
I spoke to him several times, asking if he were injured. I never received a coherent answer, only occasional grunts. Since he looked glazed and funny, I concluded he was suffering from shock, little realizing some of the same might be affecting me. I directed him to remain close to me while I tried to figure out what to do next.
The sea which had looked so innocent from 7,000 feet, now really began to take its toll on our strength. The spray played in our face, and this alternated with the waves which broke over us so that only occasionally could we get air into our lungs.
Finally, I noticed something odd about Chief Percival. He seemed to have a ballooned affair around his neck. It was, of course, his “Mae West”, and I thought to myself, “Why I have one of those”, and I realized I’d been treading water for about two minutes with an uninflated “Mae West” and a now soaking parachute. I attempted to inflate my “Mae West” and found the bottles were pinned under the webbing of the chute. I discovered myself most reluctant to unsnap this chute for fear of losing the raft. Breathing was becoming very difficult and it was hard to keep my head up.
I unsnapped the chest strap and popped the CO2 bottle with my left hand, retaining the upper part of the harness with my right. The chute was very heavy and the effort of taking the leg straps and bringing the packed part to the surface nearly exhausted me, although I consider myself in fairly good shape, and swimming has always been my best sport.
I found myself unable to release the snap that held the Pararaft kit and I sorely tempted to give it up and let the chute sink. In fact, I was so exhausted I found myself near the periphery of that area where any man must reach before he succumbs to exhaustion and gives up. The desire to relax and to stop regulating my breathing was almost overpowering.
I couldn’t seem to collect the strength to unsnap the catch and yet for reason I wouldn’t let go of the chute. I became aware of Chief Percival now alongside of me, and with great effort, summoned enough breathe to request him to release the catch, and he did so.
With the Pararaft kit now accessible, I felt a surge of strength, pulled it out and let the remainder of the chute sink. I opened the snap side of the Para kit after going around it three times by hand looking for
the lanyard that led to the CO2 bottle. I had not snapped it to my “Mae West”, and remembered I had not noticed it when I climbed in the cockpit. I pulled out flares, smoke signals, water softening kit, poncho, and the various other paraphernalia that was supposed to be in the zipper part.
When that area was thoroughly empty, I began to unzip the other side and it was not until I had gone around to the third side of the zippered part that I found the CO2 bottle. This operation had taken me about a total of three full minutes since I had started on the kit, and once again, I was becoming very tired.
I grabbed the top of the CO2 bottle, and my arms and hands were so tired, I was unable to tell whether I twisted, turned, or pulled the top. I was aware my motions had become effective by the sound of the hissing bottle, and the sight of the raft taking shape.
About this time the tail section of the Douglas AD slid below the surface and I noted from my watch it had stayed afloat about seven minutes in a tail high altitude, until, as the plane disappeared, the fuselage was perpendicular to the water.
As the raft inflated, the high part was toward Chief Percival and I told him to grab tight and I did the same as I did not want the wind or waves to wash it away. As it began to fill up, I noted it was upside-down. I yelled to Percival and as we started to turn it over, a heavy wave hit and assisted our efforts, but since we both clung to the raft very tightly, it did not get loose.
I wanted the Chief to get in first, but I was aware this was a little silly, since it meant we would have to reverse our positions. I slid myself in as I had been instructed to do and grabbed the top of his “Mae West” to further insure his sticking close to me.
As I lay there regaining my breath, I heard a thumping noise and looked up to see the helicopter hovering over us, the sling was lowered, and on the second try we caught it. The Chief wanted me to go first, but I ordered him into the sling. He did not start in properly, I tried to pull him out and yelled at him that he was in wrong. He, apparently not hearing me was equally determined to hang on with his method. It must have been effective, for he stayed in as he went up.
The water, which felt warm when I first went in, (it was 68 degrees), now chilled me with each additional gust of spray that hit me and each wave that washed over me. I attempted to paddle the raft to my helmet which was about 5 years away. However, I could not make any headway, and I soon tired myself at this, so I laid back in the raft, spread my dye marker, and relaxed until about 8 minutes later, when I got into the sling lowered from the USS Yorktown’s helicopter.
In conclusion, I feel, looking back at this experience, I met no situation that Naval Aviation training and survival training had not prepared me. I had every confidence the ditching would be a success and that I would be retrieved from the water once I was in. The crewman or passenger need not be in such a rush to get out as the rear compartment will stay above water level as soon as the planes nose drops about 5 to 10 seconds after forward motion has stopped. In rough seas, there may not be a distinctly difference between the first and second impact.
I was wearing the following:
Calvin C. Rock,Lt. USNR, 424928
Flash back 3 years ago and this high maintenance Nordstrom's Lady said "There is NO WAY on this planet that you're going to buy a Harley" (words were actually a bit stronger, like way stronger). Well you know sometimes you just have to do what you have to do and weather the storm that follows. A few weeks after the 2003 Silver and Black Ultra Classic Electra Glide arrived the icy silence began to melt a bit. A trip was made to the Harley Shop in El Cajon to check out the fashions that were available. Tina became my wife's Harley shopping guru and interest in riding increased in direct proportion to the number of outfits purchased. Soon short trips were made around the San Diego area with friends and slowly but surely she began to transform. She became a full fledged daytime perfect weather no more than 3 hours a day in the saddle Harley Riding Lady!
So to say I was a bit stunned when she said "You know I think I'll go with you to Anchorage this year". I had made the trip last year solo and had talked about it quite a bit which I guess she had listened too. But this is a whole different ballgame than riding around town. Once again it's down to see Tina (we now have direct deposit) and functional/styling riding togs (read rain suit) are obtained. We planned to depart on June 24, which is about the only thing that was planned in advance other than dropping in on a few friends and annoying them along the way. I let the Lady know she should pack for five days and sherpa's were not available to carry excess baggage. When asked what shoes she should take to go with the new cocktail dress I knew we had to have one of those little talks. Sometimes with the blonde Lady words don't work as well pictures/physical things. I took one of the liners out of one saddle bag and the liner from the pizza box and said "Ok this is what you have for room, but only half of the larger pizza box liner and they can't bulge". We also have a Dekker Supreme T-Bag which is worth it's weight in diamonds on a long trip. Well the Lady made it under the volume limit imposed, I even told her she could take bit more if she wanted too. She also packed an airline ticket if things got a bit tiring (read sore butt).
DAY-1 (Perfect Weather)
We fired up the fire breathing twin 88 and hit the road at the crack of 9am on June 24, 2005 for the far north tundra. All that can be said about the trip up I-805 to I-405 and then picking up HWY 1 at LAX is that it is to be endured. Indifferent people driving like robots talking to someone or maybe each other on cell phones (man when are they going to outlaw that!). What happened to Malibu? Looks pretty seedy with a fare amount of construction along the coast road. To do over, I would have just stayed on HWY 101 to Santa Barbara. Things didn't get pretty until we hit Santa Barbara and the Lady finally opened her eyes and got the blood flowing in her fingers (doesn't like freeways). We took HWY 154 to Santa Ynes then HWY 246 thru Solvang picking up HWY 101 again at Buellton. Yep this part of the state was made famous by the movie "Sideways" and without question the best part of the day one ride. We stayed on HWY 101 turning off onto HWY 1 at Morro Bay , stopping in Cayucos, clocking 344 miles for the first day. Cayucos is one of those very cool little 60’s style beach towns. Great bars and excellent restaurants. Her comments after 2 martini’s “Ok the first part sucked but the last part was pretty good”. After the 3rd martini “Well you know it really wasn’t that bad”. There’s hope, as long as martini’s are available for the foreseeable future, I’m thinking. So the new plan that’s formed in my mind is to only stop at places with bars next door.
DAY-2 (Perfect Weather)
We head out of Cayucos after breakfast hitting the road at 9am again with the thought of spending the night in Napa and spending the next day touring the wine country. At least that’s the plan (Lady likes it, the plan). Without question one of the most beautiful roads in the world Cayucos to Carmel. It was a perfect day with very little traffic. It is one of the must ride roads, words just don’t do it justice. We stayed on HWY 1 to Half Moon Bay and had a snack letting the blood flow to the large back cheeks. Picking up HWY 101 just prior to San Francisco we crossed the Golden Gate on the way to Napa Valley. Unbeknownst to us there just happened to be a NASCAR race in Napa that weekend (hey I thought those guys just went round and round in the south). Well the Lady wasn’t too happy when we couldn’t find a room in town. As it turned out we couldn’t find a room for a long, long time!!! The good thing was it was still daylight and not much traffic (everybody was at the race). We continued up HWY 29 thru Napa Valley taking HWY 128 at Calistoga thru the Alexander Valley then HWY 101 again, finally finding a place to stay in Ukiah. All in all a great ride just a bit (maybe a big bit) too long, clocking 408 miles. Good news, a bar was next door.
DAY-3 (Nice Day Just a bit cooler)
We head out on HWY 101 on another excellent day with Grants Pass as our target. At Crescent City we take HWY 199 to Grants Pass. Awesome road with huge redwoods, another must do road. Not too much traffic and incredible scenery. Once crossing into Oregon it seems most everyone is given an extra refrigerator to put in their front yard, at least until you get to Grants Pass. I suppose they ran out for the rest of the state. Excellent ride logging 335 miles. Outstanding Margarita’s in town before heading to a relative’s house for the night. Don’t ever spend the night in the same room with someone’s cat. You just don’t need that kind of surprise in the middle of the night in a strange smelly room. Oh what we do for family.
DAY-4 ( Nice Weather to start)
Spent the first two hours getting the cat hair off our clothes then interstate 5 for Eugene. Pretty short ride, 132 miles catching our first bit of rain just outside Eugene. There is a café not to be missed if up in this neck of the woods. “Heaven on Earth” owned by a gal who used to live in San Diego. One order would feed 3 people and some of the best eats on the big round globe. We donned our rain gear after lunch and rode less than 30 minutes before arriving at our friends house. Did I say house I meant to say mansion. Nice to know folks that don’t have to worry if they can afford cheese on their burgers! Many martini’s later after a sumptuous dinner the Lady was heard telling our friends “You know the rain wasn’t that bad”. Geese maybe there is real hope.
Annoyed our friends in Eugene for another day. Touring a couple of local winery’s.
DAY-6 (Perfect Weather)
Time to leave before we are thrown out (2 days ok 3 days NOT). We catch HWY 126 out of Eugene headed EAST (yep wrong way but there is a plan of sorts). Following the McKenzie River without traffic on another perfect day is a bikers delight. We take HWY 242 thru the McKenzie Pass, the byway follows the path of an 1860s wagon route, emerging from the forest at Windy Point to a jaw-dropping vista of Mount Washington and a 65-square-mile lava flow. When you reach 5,325-foot McKenzie Pass, you're enveloped by lava on all sides. As if we had been transported to the Big Island of Hawaii. You are on the boundary here of two wilderness areas: Mt. Washington to the north and Three Sisters to the south. We press on transitioning back to HWY 126 at Sisters, OR and take it to Prineville, OR switching to HWY 26 and on to Mt Vernon (nope not that Mt Vernon, don‘t think George made it this far). We hang a big left onto HWY 395 and ride onto Pendleton, OR. Absolutely stunning ride! Hate to say it again but this is another 366 mile stretch of road that’s not to be missed. The Lady is getting into it. Big smiles even before the martini.
DAY-7 (Perfect Weather)
Headed north east on HWY 11 crossing into Washington at Walla Walla. We change to HWY 12 and ride it to Lewiston, ID hanging another left on HWY 95 arriving in Coeur d’ Alene after 249 miles. If I were to do this one over I would have stayed on HWY 395 all the way to Spokane. The only not so good part of this ride was HWY 95 out of Lewiston, ID. Lots of traffic and lots of construction, not bad just not great. Once again staying with good friends (at least when we arrived) who have a house on the lake front. They are evil people so we had way too much fun.
DAY-8 Another day annoying our friends on Lake Coeur d’ Alene.
DAY-9 (Perfect Weather)
Time to hit the bricks again. Now it’s back west to Seattle, a bit too far for one day so the target is somewhere about halfway across the state. We take HWY 2 out of Spokane. Rolling farm land with little traffic. Crossing the Grand Coulee at Coulee City we encounter dramatic landscape changes (not unlike Colorado) as we descend into and climb out several river valleys. Passing Wenatchee we stop in a very cool Bavarian like town called Leavenworth. Another great ride of 228 miles. Great beer and good food. Lady is still smiling.
DAY-10 (Perfect Weather)
West again on HWY 2 climbing up into the Wenatchee National Forest. Spectacular scenery crossing the Steven’s pass at 4,061ft dropping down into Monroe following the Skykomish River on into Snohomish. We wanted to avoid the traffic (yep much worse than LA) in Seattle so we stayed on HWY 2 and took I-5 just north to HWY 20 to Anacortes to catch the ferry. The last friend we intended to pester lives at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Nice relaxing ferry ride with stunning views and a cold beer. We arrived at our friends house after a short tour of the island clocking 160 miles for the day. This place is post card perfect. Probably not worth the time to make the trip unless you have friends (only takes 15 minutes or so to ride around the island). Had a terrific dinner after cocktails at the best VFW club in the US. You wouldn’t believe the harbor view this club has, truly awesome!
Late afternoon start with a ferry ride from Friday Harbor to Sidney, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Canadian Customs asked the standard questions about liquor, firearms or bear spray. We were carrying two cans of bear spray that I had bought online from an outfit in Anchorage (Counter Attack). They wanted to see the cans to check them against their list of approved sprays. They were on the list so life was good. Carrying a weapon in Canada is allowed if you jump thru many hoops. That being said you could still have it confiscated at the border. Why bear spray? We saw several right along the road from Victoria Vancouver (Yep the island is loaded with them) all the way up to Anchorage. (Still need to be convinced read “Bear Attacks II: Myth & Reality” by Gary Shelton). Nowadays you need a passport to get back into the US (don’t forget it). After a short ride into Victoria we stopped for the night putting 10 miles on the meter. Victoria is a beautiful harbor town with great bars/restaurants. Perfect dinner after another tough day on the road!
DAY-12 (First hour perfect weather the rest RAIN)
Headed north on HWY 1 to HWY 19 on Vancouver Island. We could see the wall of water ahead out of Victoria so stopped and suited up. Thanks again to Tina for setting the Lady up with the right rain suite. It didn’t rain all that hard just constant and more importantly it wasn’t that cold so all in all not that bad. Traffic was light and the road was in excellent condition. Too bad it was raining because what we could see was beautiful. We pulled off the road at Campbell River about half way up the island riding 195 miles. The hotel we picked was very nice and a great seafood restaurant was walking distance that put together a most excellent martini. I thought the Lady might be having some doubt about the rest of the ride with rain still in the forecast for the next day. But no worries the suit had not leaked and the martini was hitting the spot.
After slipping on the rain suites we headed north on HWY 19 once more in the rain. No traffic, mild temperatures and the fact the Lady now had some confidence being on a bike in the rain made the ride almost pleasant (Remember I said ALMOST). Having the right rain gear makes a huge difference (don’t go cheap!!!!) get the best. Vancouver is a much bigger island than I had thought. We clocked another 153 miles before arriving in Port Hardy at the north end of the island. Just outside of town we saw our first bear. A pretty large black one just off the road. The Lady wanted to stop and take a picture. Well ok honey but remember we don’t have a door to close or a window to roll up if he doesn’t want his picture taken! The hotel wasn’t five star but it was clean and the bike was secure. We had one of the best meals we’re ever had anywhere at a small place on the water. It might have something to do with riding in the rain all day long, I guess.
We got up at 4am to catch the ferry from Port Hardy thru the inland waterway to Prince Rupert. The boat left at 7:30am we hadn’t made reservations early (I think that had something to do with the NO plan approach) so we were listed standby. The ferry folks told us they pretty much always are able to squeeze a bike on the boat but it’s first come first serve so be at the dock at 5:30am, hence the early get up. Talk about good deals it’s a 15 hour ferry ride that’s really more like a cruise. For the two of us and the bike with a stateroom (a must have) and 3 prepaid meals it was a bit less than $300 US. The boat is called the Queen of the North and it’s more like a cruise ship than a ferry. Very comfortable airline type first class seats with buffet style food service (package deal on the food not to be passed up). The state room is a bit tight but there are two beds and a private bathroom which was worth the price of admission, so the Lady says. Surprise of surprises excellent martini’s were available in the lounge that’s open at 4:30 including piano player. The passage thru the inland waterway is breathtaking to say the least even in the rain. The boat pulled into Prince Rupert at 11pm and we hit Howard Johnson’s Motel shortly there after.
DAY-15 (Nice for 2 hours then 10hrs of RAIN)
Headed out on HWY 16 to the HWY 37 junction. The first couple of hours where awesome running alongside rivers and lakes that were stunning. A perfect ride until we hit the highway from hell at the junction of HWY 37 also known as the Cassiar Highway. It’s about 300 miles of very bad road particularly in the rain with about 80% being gravel/mud. To be avoided at all cost on anything less than a dirt bike or jeep. We gassed up at the junction and turned north towards the Yukon and the Alaska Highway at Watson Lake. This is without question the worst road I’ve ever traveled and would NEVER do again under any circumstances PERIOD! How the Canadian government/AAA can call this a primary road is criminal. I hope that I’ve pressed the point NOT to take this highway! That being said the Lady and I pointed north for an experience that we would never forget. First thank god we gassed up at the junction. The maps on this stretch don’t come close to telling the real deal about what services are available. Some that are shown are no longer in business. A good rule of thumb that I use when riding up north is, after clocking 100 miles DON’T pass a gas station. About 45 miles after turning north we saw the wall of water approaching, at this point the road was still in good shape. Pulling off the road we donned our rain suits again and pressed on into the rain. A short while later we hit our first stretch of gravel. There was NO sign indicating how much of this we had to endure (hey Canada how about putting up a sign that says for the next 300 miles 80% of the road doesn’t not exist). Had I known what confronted us ahead I would have pulled a 180 and headed to Dawson Creek to catch the Alaskan Highway there. All that being said we downshifted to 2nd and proceeded along at a blistering 20mph. The only good thing about this road was there was no traffic. I think we saw less than a dozen cars in 300 miles. We kept the shinning side up and pulled into Dease Lake around 9pm putting 455 hard miles on the meter. The Lady was so happy to have made it without incident she didn’t voice anything other than the ecstasy of a hot meal and a warm bed.
DAY-16 (Rain for 2 hours then Perfect Weather)
We pulled back out onto HWY 37 with another 100 miles of rain, mud and gravel staring us in the face before joining the Alaskan Highway at Watson Lake. We at least knew that there was finally an end to the nightmare in sight. Reaching the junction, magically the clouds cleared the rain stopped and we shed our rain suits for good. This is where I broke my own rule for gas stops. At the junction there were two stations and we had clocked 100 miles. I knew there was a station about 50 miles up the road and decided to press on towards Whitehorse (big mistake). Sure enough, 50 miles down the road, there’s the station with a big CLOSED sign out front. Well not wanting to fess up to the Lady and suffer the wrath of a tongue lashing (The Lady has this fine art down to a science) I just pressed ahead instead of doing a 180 (mistake number 2). A little while later the low fuel light comes on but I’m still hopeful we’ll hit a station before we flame out. Well my hopes are dashed when a road sign indicates the next gas stop is 80 miles away. I tell the Lady we’re going to stop at the next rest stop for a little break. Boy I should have bought a lotto ticket that morning. Just as I shut down in the rest stop a woman comes out of the bathroom and in a very casual voice I ask her where she’s headed and oh by the way you wouldn’t happen to have any extra gas buy chance? Five minutes later we’re back on the road with two gallons in the tank making it to the next gas stop with fuel to spare (See honey there was nothing to worry about, I had a PLAN). We logged 409 miles pulling into Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory around 5 pm. Very cool town on the Yukon River. Lots of stuff to see and do with excellent restaurants and bars. It also has one of the only two Harley shops on the Alaskan Highway (The other one is in Prince Edwards). Exceptional dinner proceeded by a tasty martini or two.
DAY-17 (Perfect Weather except the last 5 minutes)
Pulled out of Whitehorse on the Alaskan HWY for Tok in Alaska. There’s no doubt the Lady is going to make it to the end. About 90 miles north of Whitehorse we hit road construction at Destruction Bay and pretty much have alternating hard packed gravel and pavement for the next 100 miles or so until we hit the Alaskan border. You get 2 or 3 miles of gravel then 2 or 3 miles of pavement. It’s more annoying than anything else. Very little traffic and perfect weather makes the ride pleasant even with the construction considering the last five days of rain. Once we got to the border it was clear sailing to Tok. About 20 miles south of Tok we could see this huge black wall of rain approaching from the opposite direction. We decided to make a run for it instead of putting on the rain suits again. We hit Tok and picked a motel and one minute after getting the bags inside the room the rain arrived in torrents. The odometer had another 394 miles added to it. Tok isn’t much of a town except for a few motels and gas stations. We did have a couple of great margarita’s along with a pretty decent Mexican dinner in the motel restaurant.
DAY-18 (Perfect Weather)
The final run from Tok into Anchorage. Couldn’t have been a better ride. Dazzling scenery (glaciers, mountains, eagles, bears) no traffic and an excellent road. Slid the “The Eagles Greatest Hits” into the cd player and we were in HOG HEAVEN. 329 miles later we pulled into our driveway in Anchorage with a sense of accomplishment that is hard to explain after logging a total of 4167 miles. The Lady had been transformed she’s already talking about the route for next years trip. We’ll keep the bike up here in Anchorage for the summer and ship it back down to San Diego at the first snow (normally early Oct). Catch me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
p.s. A quarter will now bounce 10 feet into the air off the Lady’s butt.