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      08-06-2021, 02:49 AM   #1
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New X7 Road Trip: Santa, Jet Planes, Arctic Circle, and Massive Alaskan Mountains

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Just starting off with a teaser of what will likely be the star photo in a few days, later in this journal.

Decided to do another chapter in my road trip series. A bit of regional good weather came up through central Alaska, coupled with an airshow, and I decided to seize the opportunity.

For those who haven't read, my first road trip was doing a PCD in my new X7, and road trip from S. Carolina all the way back to Alaska:
https://g07.bimmerpost.com/forums/sh....php?t=1803710

Next trip was to the wilderness of Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Valdez, in eastern Alaska:
https://g07.bimmerpost.com/forums/sh....php?t=1837498

This trip will go north into the central part of Alaska, touching on the northern arctic region, and visiting some quite interesting areas, not the least of which will be Denali, the tallest mountain on the North American continent.

Similar to the last road trip, this trip is going far, far off-grid for most portions, so I'll be posting updates every day, but the thread takes places several days after the actual fact.

Also as before, that big line on the right side of the map is Canada.





Day 1: Anchorage to Fairbanks

375 miles

This is a common travel route, for both Alaskan residents and visitors, between Alaska's two largest cities. As Denali is between the two, visiting tourists will often either drive up, or take the train, which is lots of fun and very popular.

This can also be combined with before or after an Alaskan cruise, to make for a trip of a lifetime. Some cruise lines will even offer land vacation packages, taking you to/from the cruise ship, to designated hotels and tours. Princess Cruise Lines in particular owns several grand hotel lodges and takes customers all over. But not last summer or this one, as COVID has shut everything down and crippled Alaska, just like the rest of the world. Cruise lines are just now starting to send a few ships back. 4 of 5 Princess lodges remain closed.





The first significant place you travel through (driving or train) on the travel north is the small city of Wasilla. Many people remember it as being the home of Governor Sarah Palin. As Anchorage is geographically out of room to expand anymore, Wasilla has become a very popular semi-surburb area for people to settle down, with better properties for the money, on bigger land acreage. As such, for some years it has been the fastest growing area in the United States.





For those unfamiliar with Alaska, the drive is deceptively long. On a map, it looks like a quick jaunt, but as I showed in the other travel threads, Alaska is absolutely gigantic. This picture was taken already past Wasilla, already 90 minutes or so into the drive, with another six hours to go, just to get partway into the state.





Long drive times don't even account for construction, which is sure part of the summer, with reduced available time during the year to get work done.

Most of the drive is done on Alaska Highway 3, known as the Parks highway. For years I thought this was because it goes right by Denali National and State Parks, but it was named for George Parks, one of the governors of Alaska before it became a state.





This is a very common sight on highways, as tourists commonly fly into either Anchorage or Fairbanks, and rent chunky RV's to drive off into the wild.





Next up on the way north is the small town of Talkeetna, which requires a half hour detour each way, from the highway. Just prior to Talkeetna is this beautiful viewpoint to see Denali.

What... you can't see it there? Well, neither can I. As I'll talk about later, Denali is so big, that it creates its own weather. Some additional clouds in the area, even at high altitude, just meant that Denali wasn't going to be seen today. But don't worry... the weather forecast is looking very promising for the next few days, and I'm planning on really touring Denali on the drive back.





Talkeetna is an awesome little "kitchy" town. Very popular with tourists, wanting to experience Alaska and buy chotchkies to remember their vacation. Lots of little shops selling furs, art, moose antler goods, and what not. A couple of microbreweries that make some pretty good, and popular brews. And there's an annual jazz festival that's fun, at least when COVID isn't messing everything up.





A look down a side alley. Talkeetna is also traditionally known as a huge jumping off place for Denali activities, including popular flightseeing. You can even hire a bush pilot to land you right onto a Denali glacier if you like, for extra experience fun.

The "Sheldon" there refers to Don Sheldon. Alaska reveres its long-time historical residents, and Don Sheldon is almost god-like up here, one of the first legendary Alaskan bush pilots. That was one of his company's original aircraft hangars.

As for the other things in the picture... when's the last time you saw an actual payphone?





I ducked in a little cafe bar, and had a local cider with caribou chili for lunch. Many foods up here can be made with local meats like caribou, moose, bear, reindeer, or whatever, to make it more exotic. Tastes yummy too.





Back on the road, I always got a kick out of this abandoned building on a random spot by the highway. Out in the middle of nowhere. It's reportedly an old hotel that just never got the business working.





Blueberry picking is a pretty popular thing here in the last half of summer. Right on the side of the highway, or off in the bush.

The landscape changes some over the course of the highway, from open marshy plains, to any number of small lakes, to forest, mountains, and open bluffs.














"Skinny Dick's Halfway Inn" is another popular place that tourists get a giggle out of.








I decided to put BMW Assist to the test again. When I got close enough to Fairbanks to get back in cell service range, I told the car to call BMW Assist, and asked for a recommendation of a good restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska. Perhaps Italian food.

Sure enough, even in the middle of Alaska, the good people at BMW Assist came up with a good, open, popular rated restaurant. Within 5 minutes or so, I had directions transmitted straight to my car's GPS system, and I was on my way.

Whereas Anchorage is a "big" city with a northern feel, Fairbanks is a bit more of a frontier town. In a state almost the size of a third of the entire lower 48, there's only 730,000 people in the whole state. More than half, 400,000 of those, are in the greater Anchorage area. Only 32,000 in Fairbanks.

Great little classic Triumph in the parking lot, surrounded by the other usual Alaskan cars, Subaru Outbacks, and ATV's.





On recommendation by the server, I got the lasagna, and a glass of Chianti. Not bad. But certainly not great. I wouldn't expect authentic Italian excellence in Fairbanks, Alaska, so it was good enough for a meal.

And it was off to the cabin to crash for the night.





Fitting for the middle of Alaska (and not wanting to go big bucks on fancy hotel rooms that had low availability), I got a "dry cabin" in woods outside of Fairbanks.

Yes, that's what you think it is there, an outhouse.








Quite nice inside! More than I could have hoped for, as a cabin way off the grid in the Alaskan wild.

Certainly everything I needed and more just for little old me. The school bus seats on the side were a great little accent, complete with seatbelts and all.





For those wondering why there's a sink in a "dry cabin" and how that works, well, here ya go. There's electricity to the cabin, which means you can have appliances and most things in a kitchen. Water is brought inside in an Igloo or purchased water jug, and the bucket below the sink just catches all waste and has to be emptied out periodically. No faucet.

Sometimes it's just not in people's budget to dig a well, or the soil or water table just isn't suited for it, so no running water. Even some full-time houses are set up like this throughout the state. Only a couple of cities in the state have an actual city water system.





This kind of setup isn't terribly uncommon out in the Alaska bush. Using an outhouse isn't the worst thing in the world, but it does get old after time, particularly having to get dressed just to go to the bathroom, even in the summer, much less the winter.

Just getting started here. We got several days of travel and fun coming up with the BMW! Most certainly some awesome pictures coming too.
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True cross-continent road trip journal from S. Carolina BMW PCD to Alaska in my new 2021 X7 M50i in this thread HERE!
Wilderness road trip journal to Eastern Alaska in this thread
And road trip journal to Denali and the Arctic Circle here in this thread!

Last edited by Wild Blue; 08-06-2021 at 04:51 AM..
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      08-06-2021, 08:24 AM   #2
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Cool … another trip to Alaska through your post !
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      08-06-2021, 03:48 PM   #3
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Nice! Just curious, but why does your X7 always appear so low? Do you actually drive around like that or is that just for getting in/out?
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      08-06-2021, 04:59 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ImolaRay View Post
Nice! Just curious, but why does your X7 always appear so low? Do you actually drive around like that or is that just for getting in/out?
Ah, no, I've gotten in the habit on these trips to fully lower the car every time I park for a picture. Think the car just looks more aggressive, but no big thing if I forget, or as happened later in the trip, the height adjustment didn't work. And sure, it's easier to get in and out, too.
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And road trip journal to Denali and the Arctic Circle here in this thread!
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      08-06-2021, 07:30 PM   #5
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Beautiful pics, thanks for sharing!
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      08-06-2021, 07:48 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wild Blue View Post
Ah, no, I've gotten in the habit on these trips to fully lower the car every time I park for a picture. Think the car just looks more aggressive, but no big thing if I forget, or as happened later in the trip, the height adjustment didn't work. And sure, it's easier to get in and out, too.
Do you ever worry that you are placing additional or excessive wear on the air compressor system? I always worry about things like that, like running the windows up and down a lot, same with the sunroof.
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      08-06-2021, 08:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ImolaRay View Post
Nice! Just curious, but why does your X7 always appear so low? Do you actually drive around like that or is that just for getting in/out?
When I see photos of his car parked like that, it looks like the air suspension has leaked and the car is bottomed out. lt really doesn't look good.
But IF he likes it, that's all that matters.
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      08-07-2021, 12:26 AM   #8
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Interesting. To each their own. As was discussed in a recent thread, the car isn't driven lowered, it's just when vehicle is stopped, for loading and entry.

ImolaRay I've had those thoughts. But one of the big reasons I bought the X7 was for the height adjustment, to help with getting in and out of the vehicle. Will that system hold up over time, especially if it gets used often? Time will tell.

Stay tuned in this journal for more discussion of "chassis function" and adjustable air suspension.
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True cross-continent road trip journal from S. Carolina BMW PCD to Alaska in my new 2021 X7 M50i in this thread HERE!
Wilderness road trip journal to Eastern Alaska in this thread
And road trip journal to Denali and the Arctic Circle here in this thread!
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      08-07-2021, 03:43 PM   #9
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Day 2: North Pole, Eielson Air Show, and Chena Hot Springs

Total trip mileage: 540

Full day of activities today. Not as much driving.





Stopped at the North Pole on the way to my first destination.

Yes, there really is a North Pole, Alaska. Nowhere near to the real North Pole, either magnetic or geographic. Just a town outside of Fairbanks. Rather quaint little town, with all the sign and light poles painted up like candy canes.





The biggest tourist draw in the town is the "Santa Claus House", a cute shop with Christmas goods year-round.

You can even mail a letter if you like, and get it postmarked from the "North Pole".








Inside is a fun place with fudge and cookies and any number of Christmas-themed goods. Santa and Mrs Claus there year-around, sure to warm the heart and put a smile on even the biggest grouch in the forum group BYEIL.





We know who REALLY pulls Santa's sleigh... mush!





And then it was off to an airshow at Eielson Air Force Base, outside of Fairbanks. Reduced and modified due to COVID this year, but I'm somewhat surprised that it took place at all. Still was fun.

I'm a retired pilot myself, so things like this are cool to stay connected to the people and planes I know. F-16 above, painted in aggressor colors, used to play the bad guy role when training fighter pilots in dogfighting.








C-17 Globemaster III, the preeeminent airlifter today. Beautiful, amazing aircraft. You'll see it in just about any movie made in the last 20 years that features a military transport jet. (Mission Impossible, Transformers, etc). Here, some Army paratroopers jumping out.








F-35 Lightning II, the newest multirole stealth fighter.

Wish that I had a fancy mega-zoom camera to take airshow pictures that give all these aircraft justice, but all these are either iPhone or GoPro pics. And the runway orientation put the sun behind the aircraft, making the pics turn out dark and not as great. Pisser. Sorry about that, guys.





Formation with some Alaskan-based aircraft. KC-135 tanker in front. Then top to bottom, an F-22, F-16, and F-35.








Couple of WWII aircraft put on a nice demo. L-13 and AT-6 Texan trainer.





Last in the lineup, the Navy Blue Angels demonstration team. Always amazing, and being in a different branch than the Air Force, they have different and reduced separation rules, which makes for a little more exciting show.








That's a quick clickable video short of the Angels doing a burst from behind over the crowd.




















A decent vid clip of their finale burst maneuver. Pretty cool.





After the show, went off to the Chena Hot Springs resort. This is an hour and a half or so outside of Fairbanks. Open year-round, you can go swimming in nice warm 105 Fahrenheit pools, even in the middle of a central Alaska blizzard. Alaska has over 130 volcanoes and volcanic fields--more than 10% of the entire world's volcanoes. These volcanoes and several earthquake fault lines lead to lot of natural geothermal activity like these hot springs.

The climate is fairly different from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Being on the southern coast, the climate in Anchorage is rather mild. Summers are generally around 60-70F, and winters aren't that bad, with the average temperature maybe 25F. Areas like North Dakota, Cleveland, Buffalo New York, and even Flagstaff Arizona get more snow than Anchorage.

Central Alaska has much bigger swings. Summers can get in the 90's or even over 100F, and winter can not uncommonly get below -50F. It can be harsh. But even on the coldest day, you could be lounging in the natural hot spring.





Uh... no.





Absolutely wonderful dinner, with Alaskan scallops, and an Australian Shiraz.





Wrapped up the day with a tour of the ice museum. Inside a small chilled warehouse.





Inside, everything is made from ice.





There's many sculptures, but literally everything is made out of ice. Floors, walls, railings, chairs, chandeliers. Everything. Things are masterfully carved, often from the inside, with LED bulbs inserted for pretty colors. Caribou skins or carpets are tacked where needed so people can walk or sit without sliding off or melting things.

There's a small wedding chapel on the left, a bar and igloo on the right, and even a 4-room ice hotel in the back where adventurous clients can stay.








Inside the igloo is a working xlyophone made out of ice.








Each hotel room is different, with a bed and decorations. This is just one.





If you zoom in on the bar, in the middle you might be able to see the rose that was frozen inside the "glass" (ice) display case.





And you're served an Appletini, in a glass, made out of... you guessed it... ice.

Tomorrow will be a big day with a long drive far north!
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True cross-continent road trip journal from S. Carolina BMW PCD to Alaska in my new 2021 X7 M50i in this thread HERE!
Wilderness road trip journal to Eastern Alaska in this thread
And road trip journal to Denali and the Arctic Circle here in this thread!

Last edited by Wild Blue; 08-13-2021 at 10:59 PM..
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      08-07-2021, 03:49 PM   #10
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I don't know why Photobucket has started to put a watermark on some on my pics. And only some. I'll try to get ahold of them.
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And road trip journal to Denali and the Arctic Circle here in this thread!
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      08-11-2021, 10:58 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wild Blue View Post
I don't know why Photobucket has started to put a watermark on some on my pics. And only some. I'll try to get ahold of them.
imgur is another good choice if you need. thank you for another great road trip series!
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      08-11-2021, 11:14 AM   #12
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Looks like an awesome trip, pictures are very nice but I still can't get over that cabin, that is what I call roughing it! Lol! Just kidding, I've slept on the ground as a young Soldier. Thanks for sharing.
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      08-11-2021, 11:36 AM   #13
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awesome post!!
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      08-11-2021, 12:38 PM   #14
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@Wild Blue chronicles some of the best road trips. I need you as my road trip guide.
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      08-11-2021, 02:30 PM   #15
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Day 3: Arctic Circle or Bust

Total trip mileage: 942

Time for a unique Alaskan adventure. There's one--count it, one--road in Alaska that goes all the way up to the northern slope. You've probably seen the road in use on one of the several Alaskan reality TV shows that have been popular in recent years.

For a real adventure, I thought of going all the up to Prudhoe Bay on the north coast. But that's a 12 hour drive, EACH WAY, past Fairbanks, all the way up. I settled to reach the Arctic Circle geographic point, which would be an 8 hour round trip as it is from Fairbanks.





First item of business was going to be fuel. The road to the Arctic Circle truly goes into Alaskan wildnerness, and has almost nothing on it. And even the 1 or 2 services that used to exist have reportedly dried up over the years, particularly as yet another victim of COVID.

I can traditionally get 350 miles on a tank of gas with the X7 M50i. Navigation says that it's 185 miles from the last gas station to the Arctic Circle, each way, making the round trip 370 miles or so. It'll be tight, so I'll lighten up on the lead foot, and stretch it out.

It takes 4-5 hours just to drive that 185 miles each way. There's a ton of curves, on the mostly dirt road, with the occasional potholes and dirt washboard and such to watch for. Not exactly Kansas interstate.





After the last gas station, things got remote real fast. Other than the single road and mother nature, the only other thing in sight was the Alaskan pipeline, which runs near the road most of the way.








After a bit, the road turns into packed dirt, and is rather spartan for most of the way.








Marking the official start of the Dalton "highway" to the north arctic.





After a few hours driving, you get to this scenic vista, which is one of my favorite spots in all of Alaska. The view reminds me of something settlers must have seen when traveling across North America, finding good spots to start cities. There's this beautiful valley and plentiful plains by a river. Hill bluffs.

The difference here is, it's still all untouched land, as far as the eye can see. No settlers. Nothing been developed. No town.

Winters are probably harsh here, but I can't help some crazy thoughts how it'd be great to build a big ranch there, maybe an eventual Aspen Colorado or Jackson Hole Wyoming type place. And lots and lots of peaceful solitude away from the world.

Anyways... back to the road.





Less than an hour from the Arctic Circle, you come to the Yukon River.








The oil pipeline actually goes through the bridge as well, tucked behind those grates you see on the edge.





On the other side of the river, there's the only little services camp spot left on the road nowadays. Going inside, there's a few trinkets and snacks for sale, but even this camp has closed its kitchen. Not that they can't get food or supplies or anything. They say they just can't get someone to work the kitchen since COVID hit. It's a manning issue.








Some fun pics with the pipeline before getting back on the road.

Like I wrote in my previous road trip to Valdez, Alaska (the southern end of the pipeline), those funny fins sticking up from the pipeline posts are heat sink fins. They're not for protecting the oil from the elements. They're actually to prevent the environment from the oil. Heat from the oil and its movement gets expelled through the fins, preventing premafrost in the ground from melting.





Coming up on some motorcyclists. Guys very much in the vein of Ewan McGregor and "The Long Way Round". Big respect for the fellas.





Shortly before the Circle, there's a nice hilltop bluff with a couple rock formations. But I was struck with the view. That's special, beyond just a pretty nature landscape. It's more than just open scenery. Up here, there's nothing just over the ridge. There's no town 50 miles away, just out of view, only needing a drive of an hour or two.

Matter of fact, you could strap on a backpack and head off into the wild. Unless you get really lucky, you probably wouldn't see a single thing until you either hit the northern Canadian coast way up in the Yukon heading east, or the Bering Strait if you went West. No people. No power lines. No towns (unless you got really lucky and hit one of the very few random villages off the grid in the middle of nowhere). No roads. Just wilderness and wildlife.

I just got a new camera drone, and tried to use it here, but, whaddya know. It wanted me to register the drone online first, which I should have done while I had cell phone access before leaving Fairbanks. Not quite possible in the middle of the arctic wilderness. Would have to wait for later.





The thick forests around Fairbanks have somewhat faded off as you get to the Arctic Circle, with some more open spots.





Suddenly, an issue. Going through a rough bumpy stretch of road, the X7 suddenly chimed and announced, "Chassis Function Limited". The main screen stated "You can continue driving. Chassis function limited. Consult Service Center at your convenience."

Initially alarmed, I remembered that a few other X7 owners had also run into this same message, which had turned out to be minor. Here’s a couple of the threads:
https://g07.bimmerpost.com/forums/sh....php?t=1744658
https://g07.bimmerpost.com/forums/sh....php?t=1606706

The car kept driving fine, but the adjustable height suspension stopped working for a while.





And then I finally arrived at the Arctic Circle. Nothing really there, except a sign on the side of the road, out in the middle of nowhere. No big map-painted line on the earth. Just the usual mosquitos.

The significance of the Arctic Circle is the declination of the sun throughout the year. On the summer solstice, June 21st, the Arctic Circle receives 24 hours of sunlight, where the sun never sets. So for locations north of the Arctic Circle, they have 24 hours of sunlight in the summer. (note: where I live, in the Anchorage area in south-central Alaska, we’re far below the Arctic Circle. The sun sets in the summertime, but because it just dips a bit below the horizon, the sky does stay light all night in the middle of summer)

The opposite in winter. On the winter solstice, December 21st, the sun never rises on the Arctic Circle. So for locations north of the Arctic Circle, they experience some days where the sun never rises, depending on how much further north they are. This phenomenon is what most people think of when they picture Alaska, with blowing desolate blizzard wasteland in never-ending darkness. It’s just not true, except maybe a small portion of the state, a few days/weeks of the year.

(for those who comment about me lowering the X7 adjustable suspension height for pictures, that's an example where I couldn’t)

Just as I was about to head back, a guy rode in from the north, huffing and puffing on his bicycle. Yes... his bicycle. I talked to him for a while, and gave him water. The dude flew up to Deadhorse, on the northern slope, and is riding his bicycle through the Arctic wilderness all the way back south to Anchorage. There went any thoughts I had of being brave or "daring", driving my ultra-luxury SUV with air conditioning and comfy air suspension deep into the wilderness, a chilled beverage in my cooled cupholder. This guy was the real deal. Big, big respect. Wish I took his picture!





Pretty cool to see that on the navigation screen. Not something anybody ever gets to see on their BMW! In that picture, you can see Russia on the left, across the Bering Strait, most of Canada on the right, and even down into the "lower 48".





Screenshot on my phone with latitude/longitude coordinates, corresponding to the Arctic Circle latitude.

No cell coverage "bars" of course. We're hundreds of miles past that.





And then it was time to drive back. 4-5 hours on the same road, but a little different scenery, pointed the opposite direction. Here's the same motorcycle adventurists, I'm coming across heading back. Tough dudes!

The "Chassis Limited" message went away, and the height adjustment air suspension started mostly working again, with some intermittent times where it said "not available".











Phew, made it back to Fairbanks, and managing my driving, made it with 50 miles to spare on the tank!!! Woot!

Couldn’t help it. Had to immediately go straight to a car wash, because… ewww…





Ahhh… that’s so much better.

Just went back to the cabin for some hot dogs and chili, as a good “camping” dinner.

Stay tuned! The best is yet to come!
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True cross-continent road trip journal from S. Carolina BMW PCD to Alaska in my new 2021 X7 M50i in this thread HERE!
Wilderness road trip journal to Eastern Alaska in this thread
And road trip journal to Denali and the Arctic Circle here in this thread!

Last edited by Wild Blue; 08-13-2021 at 09:39 PM..
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      08-11-2021, 04:08 PM   #16
weingarm
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Hey Wild Blue- I haven't followed your adventures since the PCD to Alaska trip. Did you ever get that keying damage fixed? If so how long did it take to fix? Results were satisfactory?

I was so crushed when you got that damage. Especially for someone that truly appreciates the X7 like you do.
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      08-11-2021, 09:43 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by weingarm View Post
Hey Wild Blue- I haven't followed your adventures since the PCD to Alaska trip. Did you ever get that keying damage fixed? If so how long did it take to fix? Results were satisfactory?

I was so crushed when you got that damage. Especially for someone that truly appreciates the X7 like you do.
I did get it fixed, thanks. Put it at the end of my PCD and trans-continent road trip here:
https://g07.bimmerpost.com/forums/sh....php?t=1803710

Took it to a body shop, who actually had to do some extensive work to pull panels and sand and blend the paint. Then reapply PPF and ceramic coat.

End result was outstanding. I haven't had a single thought since whether the paint was new or not. Which was my goal— don't let the scumbag win that keyed my car, and never have to think about him or the damage again!

Thanks for asking!
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True cross-continent road trip journal from S. Carolina BMW PCD to Alaska in my new 2021 X7 M50i in this thread HERE!
Wilderness road trip journal to Eastern Alaska in this thread
And road trip journal to Denali and the Arctic Circle here in this thread!
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      08-11-2021, 11:20 PM   #18
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Amazing pics and sounds like an incredibly fun trip. Thanks for sharing! AK is on the bucket list.

Glad I read the first sets of posts, I was going to ask why you decided to slam your X7 lol.

Cheers!
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Wild Blue2556.50
      08-12-2021, 01:16 AM   #19
pchera01
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this is amazing...
It's my dream to drive from Oklahoma to Prudhoe Bay, AK
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      08-12-2021, 01:56 AM   #20
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Awesome, thanks for sharing. Really enjoy your narrative. Sweet ride!
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      08-12-2021, 12:02 PM   #21
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Had to read this trip report twice to appreciate all the details. Phenomenal. Thanks for sharing. F-35 pictures were among my favorites.
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      08-12-2021, 01:33 PM   #22
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Lowered in the pics looks dope.. keep it up!

Great pics thanks for sharing the trip!
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