Buy me dinner first?

The first noticeable difference between flying into SeaTac, an airport surrounded by NW waters, and Anchorage is the proximity of deep, green trees to the airport. The next is the profusion of small aircraft on the field, not a known feature of metropolitan airports in CONUS.
The first noticeable thing about Anchorage itself is that apparently any Caucasian who’s not two-plus inches taller than me (and I here include the lovely local women — at least the waitresses) is either an emigree or a tourist.
I was met at the airport by John from Pittsburgh, who looks a bit like me (and owns my name), if slightly jollier and British-er. John pre-ran our route over the past few days and told me over the clack of the baggage claim belt that it is relatively open road, bumpy in places but pretty much all paved, and that helpful representatives of the RCMP are not well represented along the roads of the Yukon.  Moose, bear and wolves, however, are.  It’s a self-limiting system — not that you would ever see a wolf.  However, hit a moose and what’s left of you may very well meet a few of them.
Frank will drive the truck that carries my gear bag, holy font of ibuprofen. I have thus endeavored to make nice with Frank, who is a pike fisherman from Chicago. Fishermen are always easier to get along with than hipsters. This may go well.
 Joe Gresh ran the Russia leg of this commerce-driven boonadventuredoggle, covering thousands of miles of sketchy pavement and dirt on pure street tires. For this, the anchor leg from Anchorage into Los Angeles, they have provided me a Wee-Strom shod with proper dual-sport tires. If I see even a few feet of off-road travel, it means I’ve either gone off the reservation or swerved to avoid Canadian megafauna. Either scenario is possible, and at least one likely.
 Once again, I’ve entered a rather strange parallel world where people check me into nice hotels (the “Captain Cook” in this case, which is a helluva lot nicer than its cheesy name implies), feed me and hand me the keys to shiny motorcycles parked out front.
And cash. Cash in, literally, plain manila envelopes. Two envelopes this time, one stuffed with Canadian currency and the other with U.S. Don’t get excited; the envelopes aren’t that big. Nothing, certainly, that will cause trouble with U.S. Customs and Immigration.
I promptly spent one percent of my issued U.S. currency on silicone earplugs. They were available at the bookstore at SeaTac, but at four times the Anchorage price — and that would have been worth it if push came to shove. We are riding (okay, I am riding — everyone else is in sport sedans and Suzuki 4WD trucks, which are rebadged Nissans with prettier grilles) almost four thousand miles between now and 08SEP. I love riding, but monotony may enter the picture such that I have to exercise girlfriend rights when we get to Seattle. Or issue a Wetleather call. Or both, if I’m quick about it.
The briefing during our 20th floor sunset dinner overlooking Anchorage Bay (two Macallans neat, crab cakes, crab legs and some kind of triple chocolate thingie backed by espresso) was somewhat surreal for me. This is all about the cars, new-release Suzuki Kizashi AWD sport sedans. At a break in the war stories from Russia (Joe should produce some kinda impressive feature about all this), I asked what was the point of including a bike. There was a long pause.
“Well, I think it’s just Suzuki showing that they have something for everybody, all kinds of ways to get around, and that you can go anywhere on Suzuki products.”
Fair enough. And I get to ride the motorcycle. Win!

Much of the rest of the briefing went over the wondrous technology included for the performance of the cars (special suspension links were welded in to help them survive the Kazakhstanian frontier, and they’re running 17-inch wheels with Yokohoma comp tires) and the comfort and entertainment of the automotive writers. They are provided with GPS, two-way Motorolas, SPOT trackers, iPod music players, satellite phones (yes, really), two full-size and two spacesaver spare tires per car, and comprehensive tool rolls — plus iPad computers preloaded with real-time mapping, song catalogs and a library of e-books in case things get dull in the cockpit.

I asked if there was a little bag on the bike anywhere. There was another long pause.

“Uh … no. Not really, no. No bags. We have a cable lock for you, though!”

Hmm. I’ve probably got a pocket in my riding suit big enough for a small water bottle, and maybe I can sash the cable lock around my waist. It’s a fashionable look in L.A., I understand.

On the plus side, I did get paper maps. And I have the bike key in my pocket, right next to the cash.

So long, Fred!

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