Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Klondike Bike Tour

Alaska State Flag

Skagway, Alaska
June 18, 2010
Some time back I had mentioned that getting to a ride and playing tourist at a ride location was part of the fun of going on tours. The Konkike Bike Tour, however, went over the top in fun getting there and touring. For some time, Christine and her siblings had been planning a trip as a type of reunion without kids or grandkids. An Alaskan Inside Passage cruise with an inland trip was the decision. And for Christine and me, what tour would be complete without a bike ride? Skagway offered a bike tour down White Pass. 

We were bussed up to the summit of White Pass at an altitude of a little over 3,000 feet. The tour would end at sea level and we assumed all 3,000 ft. would be downhill. Mostly it was.

At the summit we were given rain gear, not because it was raining, but to add a layer to stop the wind. Nothing but really warm clothing or being used to Alaska will stop the cold. At the bottom the temperature was low 50's and we were told that it was generally 20 degrees cooler on the top. "Cooler"--read cold. Remember, I am writing from the perspective of a Texan who insisted that the temperature be 55 or above during the winter, or no ride.

Both Christine and I had multiple layers of clothing. I had three layers on top and two below, add the rain gear and make that three. No matter that it made us look 60 pounds heavier.

Note the two above in dayglow green. Dinomite (Kelsey) and Lucas were our guides. Note the clothing worn by Lucas. Cargo shorts!!?? And that was his "kit" the whole ride. Probably a good candidate for the polar bear swim day.

While Kelsey and Lucas unloaded the bikes, we had time to look around at the scenery. (Editor's note: Looks cold, doesn't WAS.)

The ride would get a good start as the truck caution sign generally indicates a decline of at least 6 percent. Note the bar extending from the sign. The bars will be explained later. Right now I do not want to detract from the beauty of the landscape. 

Cold weather gear on: I am ready to take off.
However, first we were given the mandatory briefing by Lucas. Do not zoom down the hill and brake really hard with your left hand (front wheel brake). If done, you may end up snow sledding down the hill without a sled.
Christine gets a thumbs up from Kelsey and we are ready to take off. The bar on the sign marks the edge of the road and is opposite to another bar marking the other side of the road. The bars are all the way down the pass. When the road gets completely filled with snow the bars will guide snow plows to stay on the road. As long as you are between the bars you are pretty sure there is a highway beneath.

We flew down the hill for about 3-4 miles before the first scenic stop area. Christine was miserable. The temperature was cold, wind was about 11 mph in our face, and Chris was willing to wear her hood. Anything to try to warm up. [Editor's note: one of our many guides asked us what some of the Alaskan state symbols were: state bird--ptarmigan (not the mosquito), state flower--forget-me-nots, state "wine"--"I'm sooo cold!!!" It was their cute was of ribbing us tourists.]

Eventually WE thawed enough to pose for a picture.
The line about mid-way on the mountain is part of the railroad built in 1900 to provide supplies to the Yukon gold rushers more efficiently than the existing primitive trails.
Difficult to see but the Brackett Wagon Road is in the picture. The road was started in 1897 but the construction of the railroad was completed before the road reached the summit.

One of our favorite stops. The snowmelt waterfall was right beside the highway.

At this point in the ride, we still had not pedaled enough to talk about it.

At every scenic turn out spot, our guides allowed us to stop and take in the scenery.

Klondike Kris. Now that we are back in the Texas heat, we can look back with fond memories.
Temperature bother us? No way. As a matter of fact, Kelsey, Lucas and other team members were going to a relay road bike race the next day. After our ride ended, they were to drive to the race location, CAMP out, and then participate in a 145 mile relay race. Obviously they did not freeze as I later learned their team placed 11th. Good job Kelsey, Lucas, and the other team members.  

We had to bring our passports along on the ride as part of White Pass was in Canada.

As we traveled lower and lower, the temperature kept getting warmer. Note the hood is down. At the next stop, we were able to shed our rain gear.

After the ride, we were given a choice of being taken back to the ship or to walk through town. It was a nice sunny day (at sea level) and we chose to explore the town.

The reason for this shot to be included? The focus is not the rail snow plow. The focus is not the background scenery nor my "cold weather gear". Look in my right hand. The obligatory ice cream cone. The reason for the baggy clothes--I had a minimum of two ice cream cones per day and that is not counting the ice cream with dessert at dinner. Hardship tour.