It was a beautiful 70 degree summer day in Fairbanks. The usual suspects sipped hot coffee in the round while discussing motorcycles and misadventures. I mentioned that I plan to leave on Wednesday and George asked whether I still wanted to take him up on an MPG challenge. Absolutely! Ken, George and myself met at 2:00 and fueled up.
Ken was riding a 1986 Kawasaki KLR250 with less than one thousand miles.
George was riding a 2003 Royal Enfield 350 Bullet.
I was on the 13'000mi Ruckus 50cc
We set off on the Parks Hwy in route to Nenana, 50 miles south. The winds were light and the mood was jovial. We jockeyed for first place, which in this competition was last in line. Ken wins the award for "Most Patient Pilot", having kept his speed under 40 for most of the ride!
We made a pit stop at mile 30 for Skinny Dicks Halfway Inn, and iconic roadhouse on the road between Nenana and Fairbanks. We saddled up to the bar and had beers or soda. The smoke lingered in the air while a concophony of vtwin "potato potato " roared in to the lumpy parking lot.
We finished our drinks and hopped back on the bikes enroute to Nenana. Once at the gas station, we all filled up and checked our bills.
Ruckus 49cc : .52 Gal (98mpg)
KLR 250cc: .53 Gal!!! (97.8 mog)
Bullet 350: .63 Gal (81 mpg)
I was shocked at how well the larger displacement bikes faired. It really goes to show you that babying your right hand can limp you on to a gas station. I was full throttle most of the way to keep speeds up.
We finished our drinks and hopped back on the bikes enroute to Nenana.
In 1923, Warren Harding arrived to celebrate the driving of the Golden Spike completing the railroad and supply chain to Fairbanks. Although the spike is long gone, and likely ceremonial in nature, Geoege recalled riding a K bike down to this point and seeing a historical marker. We walked along the rail line in search of the sign.
George found the old trail he came down but the marker no longer existed along the rail line. It may have been removed by the railway to keep folks like us from searching around, or more likely was stolen by vandals.
If George told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?
The sky grew cloudy and I was reminded of the front I saw high up this morning. I sensed rain and the heavens delivered. About 15 miles outside Nenana, a huge storm began. My thought immediately went to George riding farther ahead out of eyesight. Clad in his trademark black jeans, Pendleton wool shirt and leather vest, he was undoubtedly cold and saturated in a matter of minutes. Without gloves or a proper riding jacket, hypothermia becomes a real threat. Tough as nails, George motored on. It was only 25 miles later that I saw his Bullet parked outside Skinny Dicks. He stood inside soaking wet from head to toe with a broad smile on his face. "What took you so long?" We added some layers and waited around for coffee. The waitress was busy with the Monday evening drinks and paid us no mind. We only wanted coffee and it'd likely take longer than getting her pants off. After 10 minutes Ken and I suited back up. George nonchalantly said "you and your gear", strolled out the door, thumbed the starter and was off. A rainsoaked tarmac reflected the lights of passing doubled up tanker rigs, their waves of spray obliterating whatever visibility was left. Fog drew streaks inside the helmet visor. The rain fell harder and thunder boomed overhead. George rode on. Ken and I turned onto Old Nenana Hwy and pulled in to The Golden Eagle Saloon in Ester. George had once again beat us there but this time sat with his hands wrapped around a black coffee. He shook slightly in his soggy apparel. A puddle of water expanded beneath his barstool punctuated by a slow drip from above. The shaking subsided after 10 minutes. Two cups of coffee later and the shaking may only have been contributed to caffeine on an empty stomach. I made a promise to see them again at coffee before I skipped town. We all headed back out into the cool rain on another dreary evening in Fairbanks. This is some of my favorite weather and a ride I will not soon forget. Age is not a number.