Last summer, Robyn “RoKo” Kocienski had the chance to take four incredible women on a custom tour of Alaska. This trip was not only the adventure of a lifetime, but also inspired RoKo to refresh the itinerary for our Alaska Women’s Tour that she will be guiding in June 2018. RoKo describes some of her favorite moments and discusses what riders can look forward to on their very own Alaska tour this year.
Women in the Arctic Wind: 2017 All-Woman Alaska Custom Tour
By Robyn Kocienski (RoKo)
It all started with a dream and an email. A group of four friends from Texas wanted to ride to the Arctic Circle in Alaska, so a member of their collective reached out to us and got the ball rolling. With their input, MotoQuest was able to create an itinerary which would show the group some of the best sights in Alaska on their adventure to and from the Arctic Circle.
These riders all had several years of experience riding large cruiser motorcycles, but since riding dirt is very different, they prepared themselves for the largely-unpaved Dalton Highway by taking an off-road riding course. It proved to be helpful on our tour.
When they dropped by the Anchorage shop the day before our departure, I learned everyone’s road names: Flatline, Coach, Rum Runner, and Bam! Over a spread of wild, locally caught seafood at our arrival dinner, we got to know each other and share excitement for the ride ahead.
Our tour was on Suzuki DL650 V-Strom Adventure motorcycles, and I would be their support driver with a spare motorcycle in tow. The first day was an easy jaunt out of Anchorage to Talkeetna: a perfect opportunity for the riders to get acquainted with motorcycles completely different than anything they had ridden before. By the end of the riding day, they were really enjoying these zippy machines! We stopped at Mirror Lake so everyone could make sure they were comfortable in the gear they were wearing. So far, so good! Might as well snap a picture.
Next stop was the Iditarod Museum, where we got to hold one of their future sled dogs! After a trip to the gift shop, mascots were acquired, and we zip-tied the critters to the tank bags.
Heading north on Day 2, we stopped at viewpoints to take in massive eyefulls of beauty and explored the Denali National Park visitor center to learn more about the region and its inhabitants.
Day 3: Goodbye to pavement and hello Haul Road! The sun was shining and the road was dry, so we were off to a great start.
|There’s the Alaska Pipeline.||Dream achieved!|
Our final destination for the evening was just a bit farther, so we pressed on through the gorgeous surroundings to Wiseman.
The riders and I woke up on the day of the solstice to see wet stuff falling from the sky, but that just made the scenery more dramatic. We stopped for another pic at the Arctic Circle sign, and for our certificates to verify we had truly done the deed.
As we continued south, the mixture of rain, dirt and calcium chloride got sloppy. Really sloppy. The riders were way ahead of my truck, and I could tell they were having an exciting ride by the squiggles in the thick and slippery mud. We continued on until we reached our lunch spot.
As we were leaving the Hot Spot Cafe, the proprietor mentioned that she had never in 21 years seen an all-woman (no-man) motorcycle group attempt the Dalton Highway. She had to take a picture of us.
After gassing up and hosing the massive clumps of mud off the motorcycles, truck and trailer at Yukon River Camp, we regrouped at the Dalton Highway sign for one last group photo for this victorious day.
I picked a handful of wildflowers to dry and save as my own keepsake of this adventure, and we headed back to the paved roads.
Day 5: “Santa, we would like dry weather and dramatic scenery today.”
The jolly one must have known how good we had been and granted this wish well before the prescribed holiday. Our ride from Fairbanks to Paxson delivered sunshine and stunning views.
Overlooking the Tanana River, we had an opportunity to stretch our legs and snap a few photos. Then we returned to the road.
Gulkana Glacier photo op? Why not?!
We called it a day at the Tangle River Inn. Last photo op for the day features Round Tangle Lake two hours before “sunset” the day after the solstice. At 10pm, the sun wasn’t ready to quit, but we certainly were! It was time for some shut-eye.
Day 6: You have to ride past Worthington Glacier, over Thompson Pass, and through Keystone Canyon to get to Valdez by land. Of course we couldn’t just ride past this glacier! Not only is it a fascinating sight to take in, but it’s also a learning opportunity. The visitor center is full of valuable information about this frigid mass. 150 years ago, the glacier reached the highway, but over time, it has receded to the point which you see below.
Coach wanted a picture of her touching Worthington Glacier, but she didn’t feel like walking all the way out to it, so this was our compromise.
Thompson Pass and Keystone Canyon are a dream to ride through, but one does struggle to take in all of the magnificence of the Lowe River, numerous waterfalls, and at this time of year, the vegetation. Forgive the lack of photographic evidence, but the curves demanded our attention! I was busy watching the road rather than snapping photos. Something tells me that you understand. The gals had read about a harborside restaurant, so we enjoyed a fabulous meal with a view.
Days 7 & 8: Rumor has it you can ride over to the salmon hatchery in Valdez for bear watching. Looks like we arrived between meals, but the view was still quite dramatic.
Leaving Valdez by land means you get another chance to immerse yourself in Keystone Canyon, Thompson Pass, and Worthington Glacier a second time, but from a different direction. I was able to snap a quick picture while we were on a straight section of the Richardson Highway.
We stopped for a photo op at Willow Lake as the Wrangell mountains disguised their height behind a few clouds.
Our lodging this evening was nestled in a valley near Matanuska Glacier. Here’s our view from the bottom of the hill, facing north.
The following morning after a gourmet breakfast we watched Mike, a bush pilot, and his crew take flight!
The Matanuska Glacier is photo-worthy, as were the riders photographing the glacier. We dropped by the Musk Ox Farm on our way back into Anchorage and took a walking tour of the grounds. These Paleolithic mammals produce the finest wool in the world. We learned more about the animals and how the farm cares for them while on the walk.
Once we returned to the Anchorage MotoQuest shop, it was time to celebrate! We had ridden 1,600 miles around Alaska including crossing the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Highway. The only thing we hadn’t done was eat some Baked Alaska. So, after our final dinner, we did just that.
Pepper shaker in the photo is for scale.
While this custom tour braved the Dalton Highway, riders can rest assured that the 2018 Alaska Women’s Tour is an all-paved itinerary.
Riders on the 2018 Alaska Women’s Tour can expect 8 fun-filled days with beautiful scenery, points of historical interest and interactive stops along the way, including a special trip to the North Pole! Riders will also enjoy premium welcome and farewell dinners with fresh Alaskan cuisine. This tour takes place June 23rd through July 1st, 2018 and is available to book now! Click here to join RoKo and ride the best Alaskan roads with adventurous women from around the globe