If we hear rain on the tent in the morning upon waking we’re pissed, even if that very same sound lulled us to sleep the night before. It’s nice at night. It sucks in the morning. We have to pack up outside so all our stuff gets wet, the tent never dries out and unlike some road trips, we can’t escape into a warm, dry vehicle and get away from the sogginess. Weather is our travelling companion whether we like it or not. It rides right along with us, clinging to our pants legs and getting all up in our face. We have to accept it even when, on the hottest of days, it never offers to buy us a beer or offers to do the dishes every once in awhile.
In a place like Alaska, however, even when it rains our surroundings are still stunning. Dave and I rode up and over the 3,886 ft (1,148 m) Hatcher Pass on a very soggy Sept. 5. And it was beautiful even though it was pouring. Freshly bathed, everything looked clean and the fall colours were as bright as candy.
The bikes heading up Hatcher Pass. Photo: Heather Lea
Dave riding over Hatcher Pass. Photo: Heather Lea
Hatcher Pass is named after miner and prospector Robert Hatcher and sits in the southwest part of the Talkeetna Mountains, 19 km (12 mi) from Palmer to the south and Willow 42 km (26 mi) to the west.
Hatcher Pass summit at 3,886 ft (1,148 m). Photo: Heather Lea
A few hours after we tagged the pass, we met up with our friends Kim and Joseph in a café in Seward. By this time, Dave and I had been riding for several hours in driving rain. We were both soaked to our first layers, despite spending tons of money on ‘waterproof’ riding gear.
My Dianese Gore-Tex riding pants were so saturated it was like I’d peed myself… in the shower. Even with rain pants over top the Gore-Tex layer. My Rev’it jacket could only do so much. I’d removed the Gore-Tex liner that came with the jacket in favour of a nicer-looking rain jacket I could wear over top on wet days as well as wear around town or out hiking. My rain jacket layer did nothing to stop the rain from driving down my neck, pooling behind my armpits and soaking into my bra. My Icebreaker long-sleeved thermal was soaked.
I’d been wearing a neck scarf that had gotten drenched and helped my top base layer drip off my collar bones down to my belly. We were freezing. We stopped along the way to put balaclavas on for whatever warmth it gave us. Dave’s Klim gear also could not keep up. He was soaked in the crotch and through his upper and lower thermals as well. There is a significant price difference between my Dianese/Rev’it combination and Dave’s two piece Klim riding suit but here you can see that when it’s as wet as it was on the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula and you’re dumb enough to be out there riding, nothing can stand up to this wet slaughter.
Except… the super sexy one-piece banana suit, which we would find a few days later in Anchorage. (Sadly, I don’t have the actual photo of how hot Dave looked in this suit when he tried it on. I was too busy making sandwiches with Kim on the display table.)
Make Life A Ride. But also Make Sandwiches Where It’s Dry. Photo: Heather Lea
I DO, however, have this incredible Photoshop rendition of what Dave looked like when he tried on the banana suit.
I know. Hot right? Photoshop expert designer: Heather Lea
Dave and I entered the café in Seward as grumpy as two teething babies to meet Kim and Joseph, also soaked from their ride from Homer. When I took off my helmet to place it on a table it slipped out of my hands and crashed to the floor. Profanity slipped out and the hum of the café quieted a little while everyone stared wondering if I was crazy enough to start throwing chairs. I collected myself and walked over to the dry table where Kim, Joseph and Dave waited with some warm drinks Joseph had bought, bless his heart. I quizzed K and J about their gear. (We were secretly all happy each one of us were soaked despite a wide variety of very expensive riding gear.) Kim had a Klim Latitude jacket and Joseph was wearing a Firstgear 37.5 Kilimanjaro. Joseph said their main problem was their pants weren’t waterproof and they were using Gore-Tex backpacking pull-over pants, which lasted about two hours before they began leaking at the seams. As Joseph says, “Nothing like a wet crotch, eh?!”
Shivering in our soaked thermals, we stayed for about two hours commiserating while pools of water under our seats grew to dangerous slippery conditions past our seats and into the path of other patrons. We sat until Kim and Joseph decided they should get back to Anchorage where they had a warm, dry place for the night at the house of their friend Ronetta’s, a wildlife photographer they’d met in Denali National Park. Dave and I didn’t want to ride anymore so splurged on a hotel and seafood for the night before buying a six-pack and watching hours of TV. The tent and all our gear hung everywhere around the room. In the morning we were very happy to see that it had not only stopped raining but all our stuff was dry again.
While getting ready to leave in the morning we met a guy named Dave, (not the “Dave my boyfriend” one), who was travelling for a few weeks with his father-in-law on a bucket list agenda. We talked for a while about his job as a (and I’m going to get this terrible wrong, sorry Dave) welder engineer for jet airplanes. He told us some fascinating stuff about welding the smallest of parts on to the largest of airplanes. We were both quite impressed. We later passed them on the road in their rental car and unbeknownst to us, he snapped off a few photos on his phone and sent them to us on our Facebook page.
Pulling up for the big pass. Photo: Dave Miller
I was going so fast our friend Dave could barely even get the photo 😉 Photo Dave Miller
More proof of the sog that was our Alaskan summer. Photo: Dave Miller
Dave (the “my boyfriend” one) and I decided the weather was not good enough to keep going south along the peninsula toward Homer so we sadly decided to head back to Anchorage, although this meant we would see Kim and Joseph again. They’d already sent us a text saying Ronetta had extended her hospitality to let us stay with her as well. We were stoked to have a place to stay in the city as we would otherwise have had to get another hotel.
Ronetta is such a great soul, she deserves her own post on our website, so that’s coming next time ‘round. Until then!
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