Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, October 29, 1942



  The Alaska Highway officially opens to military traffic.


  Until the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Alaska was just a neglected U.S. territory, "that cold land up north".  The Klondike gold rush of the 1880s and ’90s was nothing more than a distant memory, and oil had  yet to be discovered.  A vast wilderness pretty much left to the bears and the hardy few who lived on the frigid fringe.  But, the Japanese attack (coupled with their military incursions into the Aleutian Islands) changed things in an instant.  Alaska suddenly became a potential Japanese invasion route to Canada and the Lower 48, so both governments agreed that the road would now be built.

  Military necessity dictated the route. The Alaska Highway — like the Burma Road for moving Allied supplies from northern Burma to China — would take little account of mountains, wilderness, water or elevation.  So much for scenic, meandering roadways.

  The  Army Corps of Engineers — augmented by thousands of civilian contractors — began construction through the northern wilderness.  Grueling, backbreaking work with bitter sub-zero temps in the winter and murderous mosquito's in the warmer months. In the end, the 1,500-mile highway, stretching from Dawson Creek in British Columbia to Fairbanks, Alaska, was completed in an astounding eight months. In many places, it was a “highway” in name only with stretches of unpaved road, murderous switchbacks and no guard rails or shoulders.


  Fast forward 70+ years - Alaskan motorcycle tours abound.  Ride some of the most beautiful motorcycle roads not only in the U.S. but, the world.


 "Ride the famous Alaska Highway! This 2,650-mile journey, on all paved roads that starts in Seattle, Washington and travels through western Canada to Anchorage, Alaska.  Enjoy a 11-day, fully supported, trip of a lifetime with postcard scenery around every turn. Fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities, historic gold towns and open road.

Whidbey Island, Deception Pass, Northern Cascades, Okanogan Valley, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, Kluane National Park,Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and more."


  "This is a no-frill direct route to Alaska.  My rationale for this is that everyone has his or her own idea of spectacular roads and past experience shows me that individual bikers map their favorite route home.  For example, your return route home can take in the Icefield Parkway (Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff) or Glacier National Park or the Badlands in South Dakota or River Road in Illinois, etc."


  "Cruising the open road on a motorcycle offers a totally different perspective of Alaska. The 13 State Scenic Byways and one All America Road transport adventuresome riders into the wild, where the views get better with every bend in the road. 

  Fields of lupine and fireweed line the road and paint the surrounding hillsides and valleys. Berries plump and juicy tempt riders to abandon the road for the tasty, natural delight. Glaciers, mountains and wildlife in every direction – touring Alaska on a motorcycle is as invigorating as it is scenic."


  Spring is coming fast, let's plan a trip...