Conclusion - Alaska Loop 2015 - CycleBlaze


On August 1 I took the hotel shuttle to the Anchorage airport and spent a very long time waiting to check the bike. This time the agent properly charged $75 for the bike. Still cheap compared to most other airlines. My Alaska Airlines flights from Anchorage to Seattle to Eugene were all on time. My wife picked me up at the Eugene airport and we were home just before dark. Another successful tour!

Over 20 days I pedaled 918 miles with 28,000 feet of climbing. The tour included one do-nothing rest day and 5 "tourist" days that had little or no cycling.

2 flat tires, but no other mechanical problems. No soreness or injuries, and I didn't accidentally lose anything.

I got lucky with the wind. I had a strong tailwind going north on the Richardson highway, but a gentle headwind when going south on the Parks highway.

I also got lucky with mosquitoes because Alaska's winter snowfall was far below normal and Alaska is currently in a mild drought. Mosquitoes were a problem along the Richardson highway if I wandered into the brush. But seldom a problem when stopped on the many wide gravel turnouts. By the time the tour ended I could wander into the forest and still not see mosquitoes. Amazing!

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Interior Alaska has an arid climate but it's still overcast most of the time. During this tour 15 of 20 days were mostly overcast. 5 days were partly cloudy. No days were totally sunny, so I never saw Denali despite being in several places that had a view.

16 of 20 days had some rain but only 1 travel day had all-day rain. Most of the rain was very light. Whittier was the rainiest place as expected-nonstop rain during my 48 hours there.

Temperatures were about what I expected. The warmest days were 78F in and around Fairbanks. The coolest days had a high of 60F with significant rain. I wore tights most of the time and hardly ever needed to use sunscreen.

I had heard horror stories about Alaska roads turning to quicksand because of the melting/sinking permafrost. Parts of the Richardson highway had significant sinking damage, but the highways are systematically being rebuilt higher and wider to be more immune to permafrost damage.

Overall the roads in Alaska are in good condition. It appears that every road gets repaved every 5-10 years. 90% of the route has a paved shoulder. In 5 years I would expect that 100% of the route will have a paved shoulder or climbing lane.

Traffic is relatively heavy in Alaska because the traffic is concentrated on so few highways. The generous paved shoulder makes the traffic tolerable most of the time. The only intolerable highway is the Parks/Glenn highways from Willow to Anchorage. 2/3 of that distance has a parallel bike path that is barely tolerable.

I was surprised to discover that my Verizon phone had service, including 3G data, for 80% of the route. Lack of phone service was never a problem. Alaska has better Verizon service than West Texas. Verizon 3G was more reliable than Wi-Fi at roadhouses. Alaska is no longer The Last Frontier.

I was able to do a no-camping tour in Alaska thanks to several strategically placed roadhouses in the middle of nowhere. Over time the roadhouses seem to close, so I don't know if it will be possible to do this route 10 years from now without camping.

Unlike most states, Alaska has an outstanding statewide public transportation system. The Alaska railroad runs from Seward through Anchorage and Denali up to Fairbanks. The Alaska Marine Highway provides ferry service to 35 coastal communities in Alaska plus Prince Rupert, B.C. and Bellingham, Washington.

Alaska has a short and concentrated tourist season, so I made all my lodging reservations long in advance. It was my first time to do this and I wasn't thrilled to have the schedule so rigidly fixed. I wanted to take a day off in Cantwell to wait for the rain to pass, but that wasn't an option. Hopefully my future tours will never need to be reserved every night in advance. During this tour I saw No Vacancy signs in Healy, Denali Village, and Talkeetna.

I didn't pay close attention to the camping facilities during my tour but there are many rustic campgrounds operated by the state of Alaska. Free camping is also quite easy to do. Nothing is fenced.

Surely one of the biggest downsides to touring in Alaska is the high cost of getting to Alaska and the high cost of everything once you're there. Compared to the lower 48 states, lodging and food in Alaska costs about double during the summer tourist season. This 20 day Alaska tour cost almost as much as my 44 day Pittsburgh to Fort Worth tour. Do I regret it? No!

Alaska seems expensive to me but it's probably no more expensive than northern Europe. That's why I saw so many German travelers with BMW motorcycles, rented motor homes, and UniMog campers.

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I would recommend this loop, but suggest riding the train between Talkeetna and Anchorage to avoid the worst traffic.

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