We were driving down the road heading back to Anchorage in the RV, affectionately know as our "Wanderly Wagon" when we saw a sign pointing to Lake Louise. We were in Alaska, the 49th State of America so one could have been forgiven initially for thinking somehow we had stumbled across the famed Lake Louise in neighbouring Canada!
We decided to take the 20 mile journey on the road less traveled to see what was at the end of it. We had only traveled a couple of miles along the road long before there was a little voice in my head berating me for what a bad idea it was. Whilst the road was sealed, or paved as they say in the USA it was full of slumps and made managing the 22 ft of our mobile home a challenge once you got over 30 mile an hour. It did however provide some excellent viewing of the Nel China Glacier from miles away that were to pass later in the day.
There was the odd side road off the main sealed one we were travelling but they were shingle and the Campervan crowd had said we would not be covered for insurance if we left the bitumen. We did think about turning back because of the increasing isolation and uncomfortable ride we were having , but in the end curiousity about what actually was at the end of the road and kiwi tenacity kicked in.
As the nose of the camper peered over the last rise a lovely big lake appeared to the right of the road. There was not town but the road just stopped dead. We had come to the end as expected but apart from the views it was a bit of an anti climax. No quirky coffee shop, no gas station , no sign saying you have made it! We were both scratching our heads and were slightly disappointed thinking this can’t really be it? I noticed a couple putting the boat on a trailer at the ramp and thought perhaps there was a turn off we had missed so left the RV running and went over for a chat to the couple fixing their boat onto its trailer, watched by three big labs who were wagging their tails in the back of the ute. They were happy as hell watching the proceedings - why wouldn’t they be as they had just returned from a break with their owners Kevin and Karol who own an isolated cabin out there in the middle of Lake Louise somewhere. A cabin accessible only by boat, float plane or snow mobile in the winter.
The rustic cabin stands on a 5 acre plot on a 27 acre island on Sustina Lake . They are the only land owners on the island with the remainder of the land being owned by the State of Alaska. It is 14 mile distance from the nearby Lake Louise Lodge (which incidentally came highly recommended as a coffee stop on the way out), and the mind boggles about the logistics of roaring around a frozen lake trying to find your bach with a sense of direction like mine! Kevin assured me that he was an old hand at navigating the lake that freezes to the thickness of 4-5 feet over the winter allowing the snowmobile to function.
I was dying to ask how much one would have to pay for that sort of peace and solitude in Alaska, but refrained as I expect the serenity that is gained when they leave civilization and the national grid is priceless regardless of the cost in dollar terms. The rustic cabin was built in 1959 and has been added to a little at a time since then. It is equipt with a solar panel, generators and propane and is in need of some TLC but as we say in NZ – “good things take time!”
Kevin comes from a family of motorcycle enthusiasts...grandparents on both sides rode; his dad raced and he and his brother raced flat track, motocross and ice raced. Their son races motocross and ice races also so its in the blood alright.
Record breaking Southlander, "Burt" Munro has been his idol since he was a small boy and his face lit up when we said we were from Burt country back home. Burt was a New Zealand motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under-1,000 cc world record, at Bonneville in the USA on 26th August 1967. This record still stands; and Munro who was 68 and was riding a 47-year-old machine when he set his last record , has woven himself into folklore and the history books with his legendary efforts.
I told them to come to Southland, to stand on Burts home turf and to immerse themselves in the atmosphere and enthusiasm that gathers at Oreti Beach when the Burt Munro Challenge weekend is held annually in February of every year. Thousands gather with their bikes and enjoy the largest rally in the Southern Hemisphere, drink beer, race along the beach and enjoy true southern hospitality whilst embracing their passion for motorcycling and the legend.
“Mighty Oaks from little Acorns grow “I said. Put that trip on your bucket list and if you can dream it you can do it. We need dreams to help us navigate the path we are destined to take and the passion Kevin obviously feels for his idol and love of motorcycles is not something to be ignored – especially when with a bit of planning, some saving and with a day flying cramped up in a tin bird he could be standing on Oreti Beach among other motorcycle enthusiasts and the most hospitable people in the world , the Southlander.