A life at full throttle: Jeff Oldnettle tells tales from the trail after motorcycle tour of Alaska
Meet Jeff Oldnettle of Kelly Plantation, a man who never settles back in his recliner for long. He likes stomach-churning, daredevil adventures that get his adrenalin pumping and moving faster than the mountain streams causing havoc in Colorado. Not that Jeff causes havoc, but he likes living on the edge.
Jeff is married to Diane who lets him go full throttle, usually on his own, or accompanied by their son, Scott. Scott lives in Millbrook, Ala., and is a good influence on his dad when they are off on these excursions. Jeff explains, “On my motorcycle, I’m ready to push past the 5,000 foot level on this mountain and try for the summit at 10,000 feet. Scott looks at me and says, “Come on Dad, that really isn’t necessary.”
I caught up with Jeff shortly after he had returned from an eight day motorcycle tour of Alaska. I asked him to tell me how he did it and where they traveled.
Jeff said, “I traveled with a group of 10 people who flew into Anchorage from Australia, Idaho, California, Alabama and Florida. The entire trip was planned through Alaskan Northern Lights Tour. We rented the dual sport motorcycles from Motorquest.com, which allowed us to ride both on and off the road. Our trip consisted of 60 percent on road and 40 percent off road. Motorquest was responsible for picking up our luggage every morning and moving it on to the next night’s lodging. Meals were planned ahead of time with special gourmet chefs preparing the dinners when we arrived at each hotel.”
We were provided with two guides,” he continued. “One took care of moving luggage and maintaining our motorcycles. The other guide rode his motorcycle along with us at all times.”
When Jeff’s motorcycle had a flat tire, it was quickly fixed on site and put back on the road with no heartache or hassle.
On the fourth day into the trip, one of the California riders wrecked and broke his ankle. Determined not to give up the trip, he made it all the way through.
During the day, these riders roughed it, averaging 250 miles a day as they completed a large loop around the Talkeetna Mountain range. Leaving Anchorage they made east for McCarthy to visit Kennecott copper mine. McCarthy does not allow any visitor cars, so this bunch maneuvered their motorcycles across a narrow footbridge to enter the town. While there they spotted bald eagles and walked on a glacier. The next day they rode south to the Valdez fishing port and a fascinating sight of black bears gorging themselves on the salmon making their way upstream.
Another day found them hitting the Denali Highway with a stop at Denali National Park. Here they took a lot of back roads requiring water crossings 3 1/2 feet deep. I think the riders got an under the breath chuckle when their guide sank his motorcycle in 4 feet of water and Jeff and his companions had to pull him out to guide another day.
Most of the days were spent sightseeing. I’m thinking a rough, tough, tumble looking crew by this time roaring into town. I had a good hearty laugh when I saw Ma Johnson’s Hotel. Here was this quaint looking lodge with ten rip-roaring motorcycles parked out front. Lo and behold, the porch was painted this non-macho purple with hanging baskets of magenta flowers. Gotta love it.
I ask Jeff if they caused any trouble along the way. You know, sometimes boys will be boys, even though a few ladies went along for the ride. Jeff admits that one night after spending some time at the Sluice Bar, they had a campfire with real fireworks going off. “Everybody was having a great time until the potato gun exploded because too much starter fluid had been added. That ended the night earlier than expected,” Jeff said.
I can’t get Evel Knievel out of my brain and ask Jeff if he has always been one to push the envelope.
“I have always played in the fast lane. At age 14 I had several motorcycles for pleasure and one car hidden in the woods so my parents wouldn’t know about it.”
Today he and Scott are involved in performance driving schools to get their race car license, Jeep rock crawling events, driving high performance boats, snow mobiling in Yellowstone plus flying his airplane.
I don’t know why a ride around the neighborhood on my recumbent bike doesn’t feel so exciting anymore.
Laura Hall is a longtime Destin resident. She explores area gardens with her dog Annie and writes about local topics of interest. Got a good topic for a story? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org