This is enough of a cautionary tale that I wish I was the kind of person to take pictures of anything and everything at the drop of a hat. I’d have some scary mangled motorcycle pictures for you.
It’s safe to say that spring has arrived in Alaska. Temperatures are mostly sorta for the most part reliably above forty on sunny days, the Turnagain Arm trailheads have dirt showing, and you just might get a real sunburn if you forego face sunscreen. It’s easy to give in to the idea that summer is practically here.
Predictably, local motorcyclists have already indeed given in, and on my short drive to mountain rescue practice today, I saw at least five motorcycles on the Seward Highway. “It’s awfully soon” I thought to myself, considering the massive gravel patches left from nine months of road sanding and the way the studded rear tires of my truck had spun out on the on-ramp this morning, prompting me to shift to 4WD.
Rounding the corner from Potter Marsh, I saw a big touring motorcycle on the left shoulder of the highway, a few hundred feet past the Rabbit Creek bridge. I knew immediately what had happened, and the skid marks and crushed side of the moto confirmed it. The rider had hit the patch of ice that forms (and stays) under the bridge until temperatures are consistently above freezing at night. The sun never gets to that part of the otherwise dry road. A few times I’ve had a few breathlessly scary tractionless moments even in my 4WD truck in that spot. The rider had swept around the turn, contacted the patch of ice, lost traction, gone out the other side, violently slewed back and forth as slick met friction, and high-sided. Looked like the rider was basically OK – only one cop car and the rider sitting upright in the back, door open.
boyfriend close friend just texted me from the Whittier tunnel. “Another moto down,” he wrote. “At least three.” So, a minimum of four separate motorcycle crashes in one fine spring day on the same stretch of road in the span of a few hours.
It’s possible it’s too soon for motorycles at the moment. Remember that just a week ago we had a foot and a half of new snow on the ground.
I think of the guy who picked up my – his, now – Multistrada today. It took three of us to coax it carefully over the glare ice that coats my driveway. Later I spoke to a friend who was planning to get his BMW F series out this weekend, and I just paused this article long enough to send him a message about all the crashes we’d seen.
It kind of sucks sometimes to live in an Endless Winter, but if Alaska is what you’ve chosen, you’ve chosen a short riding season, too. Be careful out there! Me, I’m motorcycleless at the moment, but not for long. I leave for South America in a week, where the pavement is bare, the temperature is 88, and there’s a V-Strom waiting.