Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 23 - Return to Tok

This post is a continuation of my Alaska trip in 2012 for anyone reading my blog for the first time.

From Valdez to Tok it's 255 miles, maybe I could make it with one tank, I had filled the gas tank back in Valdez and that's always a good thing in Alaska.   There's a saying in Alaska, "never pass gas" and it's so true as I encountered lots of gas stations like this one, closed or abandoned.  I did find gas along the way.

A little later I see a bald eagle flying around and quickly stop the bike for a few photos.  I zoomed in but the eagle kept flying in circles and getting further away with every circle, after a while I gave up and continued on my way.

130 miles from Valdez I took the Glenn Highway - Tok Cutoff and quickly pass Gakona Lodge and Trading Post stopping again when I reach the Red Eagle Lodge.  Looked like a decent place to camp or rent a cabin but I was set in returning to Tok, after a few pictures I continue on my way.
Red Eagle site

Somewhere on this beautiful stretch of road I was doing close to 90mph on my speedometer, actual speed around 85mph, when I see a white car in the distance.  I should mention I had seen very few cars along this road and hardly any police the whole time I had been in Alaska.  I had taken my radar detector out and stashed it in one of the bags while still in Canada where they are illegal. As the car approached the last thing on my mind was police until it was too late and I saw the blue and red lights on top of the car.  I hit the brakes hard as he passed, didn't see the lights go on and after looking in my rear view mirror and not seeing his brake or the police lights go on, I continued on my way.  About three minutes later I glance at my rear view mirror and see a white car approaching with flashing lights, oh crap, I pull to the side as he approached and immediately stop and remove my helmet.  A very young officer gets out and the following conversation ensues:
Officer:   Hi there, do you know how fast you were going?
me:        I'm so sorry officer, yes I was speeding, it's such a beautiful road and I'm trying to get to Tok
             so I can call my wife which I haven't seen in almost a month, I wasn't paying attention.
Officer:   You were doing over 85mph, I see you from NJ, do you know what the speed is in Alaska?
me:         65mph? I haven't seen a sign on this road.
Officer:   speed limit in Alaska is 55mph
me:         oh, I'm so sorry, please don't give me a ticket.
Officer:   don't worry, I'm not going to give you a ticket but can I see your license?
               you not running away from anyone are you? or done anything bad?
me:        (with a surprise look in my face) no officer, just returning back to NJ.
              Thank you for not giving me a ticket.
Officer:   okay, I'm going to run your plate and drivers license, just hold on.  (goes back to his car)

I couldn't believe my luck, no speeding ticket.  What a nice young officer.  He comes back, hands me the license back, didn't even ask for registration or insurance.  He starts chatting, interested in my trip, wants to know where I've been, where I'm going next and what made me come to Alaska by motorcycle.  I simply make a hand gesture to show the scenery around us and say "I'm here to see this, who wouldn't like to visit this beautiful state?", he agrees with me and as a parting comment says:  "ride safe so you can return with your family".  I thank him again and continue on my way while he makes a u-turn and continues south.

More abandoned buildings, I see lots of this in Alaska

As I approach Tok I see a sign for the Little Tok River, I wondered if there's a "Big" Tok River.  Someone had used the sign for target shooting.

I stop at the visitor center in Tok and call my wife while this guy gives me the suspicious eye.  I see a small supermarket across the street and head there for supplies.  After buying something to eat, I stop at the gas station next door and fill the gas tank again, never pass gas.

I already knew where I wanted to camp, I had read so many motorcycle blogs and reports on the ADV site, I ask for directions at the gas station and head to the Thompson's Eagle Claw campsite.  I meet Vanessa, the owner, and she quickly gives me the lay of the land.  Vanessa mentions the campsite has no running water, electricity or Wi-Fi, she lives off the grid, but they have tent sites, a tee-pee, wall tent with cots, 4-person bunkhouse, a cabin for 2 and we just added an old ambulance that sleeps two, she adds.  An ambulance? I ask.   Yes, she says with a smile, but it's already booked by another rider.  The best part, it's only $10 per rider, you can't beat the price.  I quickly setup camp and start preparing my dinner.
Thompson's Eagle Claw campsite

Preparing dinner, can of soup, Chef Boyardee Big Beef Ravioli, 2% milk for after dinner coffee and next morning first cup of coffee and fresh water.

These are some of the other accommodations at the campsite, I would have liked to stay in the tee-pee but it was reserved for another rider that hadn't yet arrived.

The ambulance is a weird place to spend the night but it's all part of the experience at the Thompson's Eagle Claw campsite.  If you look careful on the second photo you will see a 5L wine container on the counter, it was supplied by Vanessa, the wonderful hostess, for all the campers to use.  I had wine with my meal in a plastic cup, it tasted really good.  She has water containers, cooking equipment and other necessities available for all to use since there's no running water. The door to the left is the restroom, a hole in the ground but everything was clean.

All the tables have a flower pot with different kinds of flowers.  Overall it was a very pleasant experience and a campsite I would love to visit again.

A German couple was camping on the site next to mine and we chatted for a while about their trip and my adventure.  They had shipped their bikes to the USA and had done the trip to Prudhoe Bay, they were on the way south too.  There were a few other bikers at the campsite but no one I knew.  I really enjoyed my stay in this very quiet campsite far away from the road.  I felt I was in paradise and didn't want to leave Alaska.

Tomorrow I will ride about 90 miles south and I will be back in the Yukon, I feel sad I have to leave this wonderful place.

To be continued......


  1. nice photography sir....enjoyed the post...take care

  2. Amazing photography and Locations .. really like all the pics....!!

    lapel pins

  3. Thanks, when are we going back?

  4. My husband and I met that German couple when we were in Alaska on our honeymoon in 2012. We were just leaving the Yukon River Camp, where we stopped for dinner on our way to the Arctic Circle, and they were headed south.
    We ended up moving here to Alaska a couple years ago. I'm looking forward to reading your old blog posts about your trip up here.

    1. Thank you for reading, I had an amazing trip and want/need to go back really bad. Nice couple.