Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Weekend Trip to Anchorage

Sheep Creek Lodge (from their web site)
This weekend was spent driving to Anchorage and back. We left Friday evening and stopped for the night at a beautiful place called Sheep Creek Lodge. The logs used to build this place are huge. The kitchen normally closes at 9:00pm but I called from Cantwell and mentioned that I thought we would arrive around 9:30. They read the menu off over the phone so we could order dinner. The food and service was fabulous though I think that we may have been the only guests.

We neglected to pick up an extension cord for plugging in the van. For those living in warmer climates, most vehicles are fitted with engine heaters, oil pan heaters, battery blankets and auto transmission pan heaters to help the engine start when it is really cold. So cars up here have this plug hanging out of the grill to power all of this. In spite of not being plugged in, the van started up just fine the next morning after sitting overnight at -35°F. At least that is what the weather underground said it was for Talkeetna. The temperature readout on the mini-van stops at -22°F. I guess Toyota engineers feel that no one should be running around if it's colder than that. This iPhone picture was taken at the McKinley view turnout.

While in Anchorage, I stopped by REI and picked up a pair of these. Nokian Mount and Ground W106 studded bicycle tires. Not designed for single track riding but more than adequate for me to play around on. Two summers ago, I picked up an old Specialized Stumpjumper HardRock for $50 from an older couple getting ready to leave the state. They had bought the bikes new back in the mid-80's with the intent of getting into shape. After one trip to town, they sat in the back of their garage unused. They still had the original tires. A quick overhaul (tires, tubes, cables, new brakes, grips, grease) and I had a brand new 30 year old bike. I can't wait to try these out on the road though I may wait for warmer weather.


  1. As much as I like the crisp contrast between the white of the snow and the blue of the sky... I am afraid snow and cold is not for me.
    We had an Audi Allroad in Alberta but the dealer told us that this car won't need one... we never had any issues with the motor starting up.

  2. ...that this car won't need one... meaning a plug.

  3. Beautiful pictures. Almost makes me miss snow. Well, I miss it until I have to shovel it. We've had a car freeze overnight in Edmonton because we didn't plug it in. Not fun. Gave it to the tow yard to haul away and sell for scrap.

    That bike tire looks pretty neat.

  4. I like looking at other peoples snow pictures. Beautiful no doubt, but I am glad I live somewhere warmer. I did once have a diesel burning pre-heater on a Land Rover on a timer that did a great kob of heating the engine block and the inside of the car. It was toasty warm every morning in the winter, plus completely de-misted.

  5. SonjaM:
    Even some vehicles I had in southern California had block heaters though the plug was not left hanging out of the grill. It may not be "needed" but it really helps extend the life of the engine and driveline by ensuring that the oil flows easily when starting.

    I had a Honda freeze up while I was driving it. It was -68°F and was my first winter in Alaska. I can't wait until this weekend when I get the tires on the bicycle.

    Gary France:
    Was that one of the Land Rovers with the Perkins diesels? I was looking for a used one back in the mid-70's. There is an aftermarket diesel burning heater for my truck but they are over $1K up here (not including installation) but those who have them love them. I still enjoy winter though not as much as before I started riding. Now I look forward to Spring.

    Thank you all for commenting.

  6. Reading your post I realize I'm not ready for winter. And I don't even have to deal with -35F temps. Generally doesn't drop below a balmy -10F here.

    Stay warm!

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  7. Sheep Creek Lodge is beautiful. Now that is my kind of camping! Beautiful scenery with all the snow and bright blue skies.

    Studded bike tires - you're awesome! :)

    I love Stumpys! Have one on my short list as an upgrade to my Rockhopper. These look like wicked fun in the snow: surlybikes.com/bikes/pugsley. Sorry, I could go on and on with the mtn. bikes...it's been my passion this fall.  :)

  8. Bluekat:
    After glancing at the bike, it isn't a Stumpjumper but some other model. I hadn't used it much as one of my step sons was using it. Those bikes with the huge soft tires are popular up here with the really hard core bicycle commuters as they seem to handle the snow really well. Too much $$ for me.

    The temperatures seem to be moderating though the weather service is still predicting really low temperatures.

  9. The Lodge looks so peaceful! I wouldn't mind spending more than one night there.

    The trip sounded successful with the catch on the studded tires. That should be quite interesting riding around on those. Have fun.

  10. Lori:
    Yes, Sheep Creek Lodge is a wonderful place to stop and they have two beautiful log rooms with log furniture that they have open for three days per week during the winter. It is also one of the few places to stop in the area. Most places shut down for the winter.

    I haven't tried out the studded tired yet. I'm thinking of waiting until it is above zero before trying them out. There are a number of motorcycle riders who ride on studded tires. Maybe I'll need to try that sometime. Manu of them use smaller displacement dirt bikes for that.

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting. How's the new GS?

  11. I remember the days of plugging in the car and -75 temps during the dog days of winter in January. Your pictures are lovely. I love the contrast of snow & sky, beautiful. But honestly I don't miss freezing waiting for the car to warm up. Once I was warming up the car, got out to scrape the windows and shut the door, I was hooped, because the lock was frozen and I was left standing outside an idling car at -40 at 9:30 at night after work. After that I always carried lock de-ice and a lighter in case the lock de-ice didn't work. This was pre-cell phone age. I certainly don't miss the cold.

  12. Yes, it was a Perkins engine Land Rover – one of the first Discovery models that came out, a rare two door. The pre-heater was expensive, but I did enjoy it. Every morning in the winter, while my neighbours were scraping the ice off their windscreens, I got into my car, threw my suit jacket on the back seat and simply drove off, with clear windows in a lovely warm car!