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Topic: Jammin thru Alaska  (Read 93944 times)

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« on: November 19, 2008, 03:51:47 pm »



Hello STNers. I know I’ve not been active on here, but I hope this ride report makes up for that.

Here is my ride report for my trip up to Alaska during the Summer of 2008 on my Suzuki DR650. Excuse some of the generalities as I’m also posting this on my website for my non-riding friends and family.


Below is an interactive Google Map of my riding route with select pictures posted with their location. Click to experience it:

http://i166.photobucket.com/albums/u109/jammyn/080612_Alaska/AK_Gmap_Pix.jpg

If you’d just like to see all the pictures without the text, click here.

The ride report is pretty long, so grab a beverage and maybe throw in a Bob Marley CD and enjoy. Looking forward to your comments.


Story Behind The Trip

Alaska. The last great frontier in the United States and one of the ends of the world. Being poised at the north-western tip of the North American continent, it's a massive landscape filled with pristine wilderness and has a character of its own. In the motorcycling community, it is seen as one of the great rides in the world partly because it is quite remote from major civilization and that remoteness provides a sense of being in true wilderness, which is hard to experience in today's world. That remoteness also provides excellent opportunities for seeing wildlife in their natural state, such as grizzly bears, moose and elk.



After going south last year through Mexico on my motorcycle, I turned north this year to experience Western Canada and Alaska. There really is no sound reason for this trip, besides it being there and me wanting to experience it. I spent the previous winter watching numerous programs on the Discovery Channel and History Channel about Alaska and now I'm raring to go live it myself. Alaska is largely remote due to its challenging geography and the roads through that tough land are bound to provide excellent riding and stunning views.

One of the highlights of going to Alaska is riding the Alaska Highway, which is the main highway leading from lower British Columbia to near Fairbanks and Anchorage, 1,500 miles away. The highway opened up the state to tourism by road and made itself a driving destination. It was constructed during World War II as a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Japanese invasion of two Aleutian Islands, which raised concern in the US and Canada about a land invasion by Japan through Alaska. The road was built so that military bases in Alaska could be properly supplied to prevent an invasion.

The construction of the highway is considered an engineering marvel for the speed at which it was laid down and the challenging terrain the army faced while building it. One of the unique aspects of being so far north is permafrost, which is ground that is permanently frozen year-round. When the construction crews cleared the vegetation that insulated the permafrost, it melted, creating swampy conditions that made it a real mess, along with damaging the ecology. This challenge in terms of frost heaves still continues to present day and repair work on the highway is expected annually during the summer. The highway is said to be completely paved, except for large sections that undergo repair construction.

Getting to Alaska is one thing, but riding to the northern edge of the continent is another ride onto itself. Since Alaska is sparsely populated, the number of roads in the state is limited and is centered on the major population areas of Southcentral Alaska. From Fairbanks heading north is the Dalton Highway ending 500 miles later at Deadhorse, which is a remote industrial town supporting the Prudhoe Bay oil fields run by oil giant BP. This road is a motorcycling destination as it's said to be quite challenging with its gravel surface crossing a mountain range and the remoteness of the road itself. It was constructed in the 70's to support the famous Alaska Pipeline, which runs oil from Prudhoe Bay down to Valdez on the southern coast of Alaska, where it's then carried away by oil tankers. The majority of the road is in tundra region and new construction methods were applied to protect the permafrost. The road was opened to the public in the mid-80s and since then, travelers on all kinds of transportation have made the journey not just to the Arctic Circle, but all the way up to experience the Arctic Ocean. From Coldfoot at the mid-point to Deadhorse is 240 miles of nothing except nature, which lends itself to being one of the remotest sections of road in the US.

Whilst the upper remoteness of Alaska is a great draw for riders, I've been told the southern coast is not to be missed as one can experience marine wildlife and glaciers emptying out in the ocean up close and personal. Alaska's waters are known to be very rich in marine life and commercial fishing is a major industry (leading to overfishing of some species).

Along with the great roads and the nice scenery that are expected, I'm really looking forward to the numerous days of camping on this trip. I really enjoy the outdoors and find it quite satisfying to setup camp after a good day of riding. With regards to keeping finances in control, camping is almost a necessity on this trip as motels in these remote areas are quite expensive. And since I'm traveling solo, lodging costs can't be shared, but I don't really need a reason to camp besides the feeling of sitting by a campfire and enjoying being amongst the elements.

Besides the joys of riding, another reason why I enjoy motorcycling in general is the people you meet along the way. There truly is a sense of community between all motorcyclists. And in that spirit, I'll be staying with fellow motorcyclists along the way that have opened up their house for passing riders. On ADVrider.com, there is a Tent Space list, which asks users to post up if they can host a traveler in their backyard by providing free tenting, or a couch to sleep on or even a spare bed with maybe even a meal thrown in. This isn't so much about free lodging as it is about spreading the motorcycle community vibe. Your hosts aren't really strangers as you already share one thing in common, so it feels like you're staying with friends.

I've been dreaming of riding to Alaska since I made my first solo trip three years ago to Eastern Canada where the joys of long distance motorcycle touring were planted. Subsequent trips out West with friends to Montana and Idaho and then Colorado and Utah showcased the rich landscape that can be experienced in mainland USA. And my longest ride to date, going through Mexico was a highlight of my life so far. I'm not expecting anything from my ride through Alaska... besides being another major highlight in my life.

« Last Edit: September 21, 2009, 12:58:39 pm by Jammin » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2008, 03:52:09 pm »

The Route Plan


Interactive Google Route Map of the trip. Click the image to explore it.

Alaska being as remote as it is requires a little bit of planning to make sure you know which roads lead where and the road conditions, which could affect the daily mileage. A major concern for most riders making the trip is the availability of fuel. Numerous riders have made the trip up to Alaska and said fuel is generally available every 100 miles or less, but I'll be watching the trip meter and filling up frequently. I'm also taking additional fuel canisters for some remote stretches of road.

Alaska is a major destination in the North American adventure touring motorcycle community as it's part of the US and riding through Canada to get there isn't seen as much of a problem, as opposed to riding to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Argentina. I've read about some people having problems about entering Canada as they're getting stricter about whom they let in, but I've got all my papers in order. Being an Indian citizen, I require a tourist visa to enter Canada, which runs about $150 for a 2-year multiple entry visa. I went skiing in Whistler this January and doing the Alaska trip on the same visa makes good sense. Canada has one of the most expensive tourist visas in the world. In comparison, Mexico is only $36. But, so be it, riding through all of British Columbia should be rewarding enough.

In my research for this trip, I learned that going as early as possible in the season is advisable to try and avoid the swarms of mosquitoes that come alive in July and August. Going in May might be a bit risky with the weather, as snow probably still falls across the upper region, so June it is.

One event that I've planned my trip around is the Dust 2 Dawson motorcycle meet in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. This is a gathering of adventure riders in a remote northern town in the Yukon province on the day before the Summer Solstice, June 21st (the longest day in the year). I've been told the Sun doesn't set on this day and just bounces off the horizon. If you stay up to meet the Midnight Sun, your motorcycle gets a little commemorative sticker.

Another date affecting the trip would be my appointment at the US Consulate in Vancouver to renew my US work visa, which expires after three years. I got my current visa in Toronto as part of my first long motorcycle trip. Heading to Vancouver is a positive addition to the trip as now I get to ride through beautiful southern British Columbia through a region called The Kootenays. As much as this trip is about Alaska, it's also about the province of British Columbia, of which I'll be seeing most of; from the bustling city of Vancouver to the remote areas along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

With 16 days off from work, I planned a 25 day ride from Chicago through Vancouver to Alaska and back. I'm roughly taking a week to get to Alaska, a week to ride around the state and a week to get back. It will be rushed as the distances are quite big between places and five weeks or more would be ideal for this trip, but I'm working with what I've got.

One option would've been to ship the bike to say Vancouver and then start the trip from there and ship the bike back. Besides this being a costly option, for me there's a great sense of partaking a journey in leaving home on the bike and riding to your destination. It puts things in perspective. Alaska is a really long ways off from Chicago. It's 3,500 miles direct. With Vancouver and other detours, my scenic route is going to be around 11,000 miles total. Quite a few high mileage days are planned along with days off from riding to enjoy some national parks and take a rest.

After the Dust 2 Dawson meet, I'll be making the trip up the Haul Road; The Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay. I'm hoping weather is on my side because when it rains, the surface of the road becomes very slick, like wet clay. This will be the most adventuresome part of the trip.

To take a break from riding, I'm planning to spend a day at Denali National Park and get some hiking done. Continuing on south, I'll be staying in Anchorage with my friend Mark and hopefully taking a boat tour from Seward to see some glaciers and marine life.

From Anchorage, my trip turns homeward and I'll be riding the Alaska Highway in reverse (north to south), continuing on through Jasper National Park and crossing into Montana near Glacier National Park, which I visited in 2006. I plan to head south and spend two days at Yellowstone National Park, since that's the one big national park that I haven't visited yet. After that, with a quick stop at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, it's the highway back home.

It certainly is a lot of see in just three weeks and I know I'll be pushing my endurance limits, but I'm well aware of how fatigue affects riders and I've tried to physically train to better my stamina. Of course, I won't push myself to unsafe limits as my health is very important to me, because without being healthy, none of this would be possible.

While I was preparing for this trip, I made an interactive Google Map with various waypoints marked on it, gleamed from other riders' ride reports and other various sources that can be used for future Alaska Trip Planning:


Interactive Google Map with info for an Alaskan Motorcycle Adventure. Click the image to experience it.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2008, 02:31:46 pm by Jammin » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2008, 03:52:30 pm »

About the Bike



This being a motorcycle trip, the bike is obviously a very important part of the trip and I need to make sure that the bike is capable of what I ask of it. To ensure this, I've modified the bike to better suit long distance adventure riding and have done the routine maintenance to reduce the chances of any breakdowns.

Her name is auDRey and she's a 2004 Suzuki DR650SE. She has about 14,000 miles on her and is running in excellent condition. The DR is known in the motorcycling community as being a very reliable cost-effective bike as its design is simple and robust. It hasn't fundamentally changed since 1996 because everything works really well.

The reason I chose this bike for long distance adventure traveling:
- Dual-Sport capability > meaning it can handle dirt and gravel roads as well as cruising on the highway.
- Tube Tires > easier to patch/repair a tube tire than to repair a tubeless tire like sport bikes.
- Spoked Rims > can absorb the shock of poor roads better than alloy rims.
- Expandable Gas Tank > this bike's design is such that the original gas tank (3.4 gallons) can be upgraded with a 4.9 gallon one (which I have) or a massive 7.9 gallon tank for crossing the Sahara desert.
- Air Cooled > the bike's engine is cooled by moving air and an oil cooler but with no water-cooling (radiator), meaning less parts to worry about failing.
- Carburetion > this bike has carburetors instead of fuel injection because it's easier to work on incase something goes wrong while traveling.



Modifications to the bike from stock (as it came from previous owner at 4,000 miles):
- IMS 4.9 gallon gas tank (to improve range)
- Corbin aftermarket seat (to improve comfort)
- FMF Q2 exhaust (to improve performance and save weight)
- Dyno Jet Kit for the carbs with airbox mod (to improve performance)
- Happy Trails Skid Plate (to protect the engine)
- ProTaper SE Handle Bar (to improve handling and durability)
- Rear Rack (to improve usability)
- Custom windshield (to improve comfort in terms of wind buffeting)
- Stiffer front and rear springs (to improve handling)
- Chain guide (to protect the chain)
- Acerbis Hand-guards (to protect the fingers and the levers)
- DRZ250 Tail light modification with LED blinkers (to improve the looks)

Modifications since then:
- Scottoiler Touring Kit (automatic chain oiler to increase chain and sprocket life)
- Russel Stainless Steel Braided Brake Lines (to improve braking performance)
- DualStar Heated Grips (to provide warmth to the fingers when it's cold)
- Centech AP-2 Fuse Box (to have better control of electronic add ons)
- Eastern Beaver Headlight Relay Kit (to increase power to headlights)
- Voltminder Battery Voltage Monitor (to monitor battery health)
- Upper Chain Roller removed (potential design flaw that could damage the frame)
- Secured Neutral Sending Switch (neutral gear indicator bolts that could come loose in the engine)
- Happy Trails Luggage Rack with Pannier set and Top Box (to secure and increase storage space)

Farkles (Functioning Sparkles: electronic add-ons)
GPS: Garmin 60Cx with Touratech Locking Mount
Radar Detector: Escort 9500i
12V Accessory plug for: running mini air compressor, heated vest and charging electronics

Maintenance done before the start of the trip:
- New Oil and Oil Filter with Shell Rotella-T 15w-40 Synthetic
- Valve Clearance Check
- New EBC Front and Rear Brake Pads
- New RK 525XSO Chain
- New Front (15) and Rear (42) Sprockets
- New Denso Iridium Spark Plugs
- New Hella Xenon-filled Halogen Headlight Bulb
- New Kenda K761 80/20 Front Tire (Rear Kenda K761 has 2,000 miles on it and I'm carrying a new rear tire to mount when I get up to Alaska)

Other Modifications:
- Fabricated custom license plate holder to mount Scottoiler
- Shortened Kick Stand and welded larger foot plate (to improve stability when parked)
- Fabricated custom bike crutch to aid in tire repair
- Fabricated Highway Pegs (to reduce strain on legs)

I've done all the above modifications and maintenance to improve my chances of how auDRey will behave while we're out on the road. Some items will improve her performance, while others will add to my comfort and increase my usability (ex: electronic add-ons). Not everything above is necessary before a motorcycle trip like this, but it gives me a better peace of mind, so that I can enjoy my journey more.


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« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2008, 03:52:53 pm »

Trip Preparation

Over the course of many motorcycle trips during the past three years, I've learned what to carry and what to leave behind, becoming an efficient packer. The two biggest factors in deciding what to take are weight and space. Weight is always an issue as a heavier bike is harder to handle, tougher to pick up if you drop it and reduces fuel mileage. Space is obviously limited on a motorcycle and items that pack small are preferable.

I've greatly increased my carrying volume with the Happy Trails aluminum full luggage set as I'll be taking a few more bulky items than when I went to Mexico. Along with clothes and tools in the side panniers, I'm also taking along minimal camping equipment, a Digital SLR camera and my laptop in the top box. The downside of the aluminum luggage set is the added weight of the metal boxes as opposed to cloth saddle bags. Each box weighs about 10 lbs. The main factor that metal boxes have going for them is the ability to safely secure your belongings with a lock. A cloth saddle bag can easily be stolen. While that isn't a major concern on the way to Alaska, there are other factors that go in the metal boxes direction, such as improved weather-proofed luggage, adding protection for the rider in an accident, acting as a camp stool, ability to rivet additional features, etc.


Clothes
In terms of clothes, I'll primarily be wearing my Motoport Kevlar Riding Suit with base layers. For the body to be comfortable, it's all about layering. If it gets colder, I'll throw on the windproof and waterproof liners of the riding suit and if it gets still colder, I have a performance thermal set, which I use for skiing. In extreme cold, I also have an electric heated vest. On the other extreme, for really hot temperatures, I have a cooling vest that works on the principle of evaporative cooling. Besides changing out the base layers, I only require a few other clothes for the evenings and days off from riding.

Motoport Riding Suit
Base Layer Tops (x3)
Base Layer Bottoms (synthetic x3, silk x1)
Bicycle Shorts (with padding)
Thermal Top
Thermal Bottom
Dry-Fit T-shirts (x2)
Regular T-shirts (x2)
Polo T-shirt (x1) for Embassy visit
Travel Pants (x1) (pants that zip-off into shorts)
Jeans (x1)
Shorts (x1)
Swim Trunks (for the hot springs)
Boxers (x3)
Socks: Smart Wool (x1), Motorcycling Padded (x1), Silk (x2), SealSkinz (x1)
Neck Gaiter: Short (x1), Schampa Long (x1)
Heated Vest
Kidney Belt (to aid lower back support)
Sandals
Sneakers
Cooling Vest
Rain Liners
Camp Towel (quick drying)



Motoport Air Mesh Kevlar Jacket


Motoport Air Mesh Kevlar Pants

Gear
Regarding riding gear, I finally retired my Spidi Penta Gloves, which have seen about 60,000 miles of use over three years. To replace them, I got the Teknic Speedstar Gloves, which have superior wrist protection along with the expected knuckle and palm protection. I also got new boots after running my Sidi Vertebra Tepor boots into the ground. I replaced them with Oxtar TCX Comp Boots, which are motocross boots as they provide superior ankle rotation protection. As one can tell, I'm highly paranoid about body safety. I've never had a broken bone and haven't been admitted to a hospital since I was a child and if I can help it with affordable protective gear that doesn't hinder my functionality, then I will. Also, getting hurt while on a motorcycle trip can turns things for the worse real quickly.

Teknic Speedstar Summer Glove
Rev'It Celsius Winter Gloves
Aerostich Rain Glove Covers
Silk Glove Liners (x2)
Champion Insulated Glove Liners (x1)
Oxtar TCX Comp Boots (with ankle protection)
Aerostich Rain Boot Covers
Arai RX-7 Corsair Helmet

Miscellaneous
Toiletries
Anti-Monkey Butt Powder (to reduce soreness of the posterior muscles)
Toilet Paper (small roll)
Sunblock
Eye Allergy Drops
Mosquito Repellent (100% DEET)
Mosquito Net with Boonie Hat
Nail Cutter
First Aid Kit
Eye Glasses
Spare Contacts
Eye Shades (for sleeping during the extended daylight hours)



My First Aid Kit, which comes pretty loaded with lots of bandages, antiseptic ointments, splint, common pills and also instructions on what to do in different scenarios.

Books/Documents
Bell's Alaska Map Books
Novel
Sudoku Book, Pencil
Journal, Pen
Passport, Title, Insurance and copies

Camping
GearGuide 1-person Tent
GearGuide Light-weight Sleeping Bag
GearGuide 3/4 Sleeping Pad
Coleman Expedition Stove with Fuel
Food (various ready-to-eat meals)

Electronics
Laptop: HP DV1000 with Logitech Mouse
Digital Camera: Canon SD400 5 MP (3 x 2GB SD cards)
Digital SLR Camera: KonicaMinolta 5D (1x 8GB CF card, 1x 512 MB CF card)
Video Camera: Canon Elura 100 (6x DV Tapes)
Helmet Camera: Twenty20 (2x 9V batteries)
GPS: Garmin 60Cx (1x 2GB microSD card)
Radar Detector: Escort 9500i
iPod nano with Etymotic ER-6i earphones
Cellphone: Motorola Z6 and spare with extra batteries
Chargers for all devices
3-into-1 Wall Socket
iPod Speakers with AA batteries
LED Head Lamp

Bike Related
Even with all the precautions taken before the trip regarding the bike itself, things can still go wrong and one must be prepared for various situations. I have the tools required to fix a flat tire, change a tire, quick weld any pieces that break and other miscellaneous tools for upkeep and repair. I've also made provisions to carry extra fuel as along with the Dalton Highway, there might be some sections in Upper BC that require extended range, as gas stations might be closed.

Spare Tubes (Front and Rear)
Tire Irons (in Tool Kit)
C-clamp for Bead Breaking
Tire Plugger Kit
Bike Krtuch
Slime Air Compressor
Kolpin 1.5 Gal Fuel Canisters (x2)
Siphon Pump
Vice Grips (x2)
Socket Set
Epoxy Bond
JB Weld
Leatherman
Cruz Multi-purpose Tool
Clear Helmet Shield
Electrical Tape
Duct Tape on wrench
Digital Multimeter
Spare Rear Brake Pads
Spare Clutch Cable
Spare Shift Lever



Small Tool Kit to carry some wrenches and sockets along with spares for the carbs.


Tool Bag to carry JB Weld, some rubber silicone, zip-ties, small roll of duct tape and the Leatherman all purpose tool.


Slime Tire Repair Kit: mini air compressor and slime to fill in punctures. I'm also taking a tube patch kit.


Tire Irons stashed under the bike, needed to remove the tire from the rim to repair punctures.
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« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2008, 03:53:15 pm »

Final Preparation

A three week motorcycle trip to Alaska definitely requires a bit of preparation and I started serious planning about four months back with details such as where did I want to go, what did I want to take with me, what modifications were needed on the bike, etc. I thought I was ahead of my planning, but I got set back by some mechanical issues I was trying to fix on the bike (some stripped bolts, etc) and I ended up rushing a lot towards my planned departure date. A few days before departure, I was still running around trying to mount the Scottoiler, fabricate some highway pegs and shorten the kick stand. I had planned to practice packing the bike a few times, so that I could remove things I didn't think were needed and could make sure everything would fit. But, as last minute as I was, I was packing for the first time the night before leaving and didn't get to bed before 2 am. But I was finally done and ready to commence on this journey.



Taking an adjustable walking cane and making it an adjustable bike stand. I would need this to lift up the rear tire so that I could repair it any punctures and it would also work for the front. Being aluminum, it's very light weight and it cost only around $10 and about two hours of my labor.


My Happy Trails panniers with the mounting plate for the Top Box. To reduce vibrations in the Top Box for sensitive equipment, I used rubber bushings between the luggage rack and the mounting plate. It worked well.  


Cutting some steel at Rick's garage for my bike stand.  


Rick welding on the wide plate to the shortened kick stand. Being more a dirt bike, the DR's stand is quite long and with the weight of all the luggage, the kick stand would not deploy fully. And I welded the wide plate on there for soft surfaces, so that the stand wont sink.


Mounting the touring version of the Scottoiler, which is an automatic chain oiler. If a motorcycle chain can be properly lubricated at all times, it will increase the life of the chain and I knew I would be doing quite a few 600 mile or more days and I didn't want to deal with chain issues because of my negligence to manually spray it, if I didn't have the oiler.


The nozzle from the oiler is setup to release a drop of oil every minute that the engine is running and centrifugal force helps spread the oil around the chain as it goes around the sprocket.


Mounting my license plate to cover the Scottoiler and using an LED plate light to be 100% legal.


Using some PVC tube as a tent pole carrier so that I could fold up my tent even smaller and stuff it in my top case (the poles were too long for the top case).


My Highway Pegs that I fabricated last minute with lots of help from Rick. This is one of the best additions to a touring bike, because just having your legs a few more inches forward greatly reduces the fatigue in your legs and lower back. Taking the idea from an Aussie who posted this on ADVrider, I used my rear passenger foot pegs and welded them on to some bar stock and screwed it into the mounting holes of the skid plate. Cost maybe $10.


Rider's view of the Highway Pegs. I never had any issues with my leg accidentally touching the brake lever or the exhaust pipe. It worked really well.


And now I present to you my custom Suzuki DR650 Adventure, auDRey. There she is fully setup about 15 minutes before departure. I was carrying a spare rear tire as I knew I would have to mount a new one somewhere in the middle of the trip and it worked well as a backrest too! Yes, those are beads on the seat as it's the best solution for me for long distance traveling. This is a few months worth of research, planning, fabricating and installing and I enjoyed every minute of it.
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2008, 03:53:46 pm »

Day 1 / Thursday, June 12, 2008

The first morning, with only three hours of sleep, I was glad to note that I felt well-rested and was raring to go. As I do on the departure of every trip, as soon as I leave home, I started running through a list in my mind of things I might've forgotten (camera, phone, passport, etc) and I realized I had forgotten the title to the bike. All though not a required document for crossing into Canada, it's still a good thing to carry on long trips.



Route map of the first leg of the journey: Chicago across the US into Vancouver; 2,560 miles.

The plan was to take four days to get to Vancouver: two days on the Interstate and two days through the twisties of Montana, Idaho and lower British Columbia in Canada. Heavy rain started pretty close to home and kept going on and off throughout the next two days. I was pleased that my Motoport rain liners were working flawlessly and if you're gear keeps you adequately dry, then riding in the rain is no problem. I headed up I-94 across Minnesota and was aiming to get past Fargo, North Dakota.

As blasphemous as it sounds to the motorcycling community, I actually look forward to riding the Interstate (to get to where I'm going) because it allows me to listen to audio books. I've found that to be the best way to make the highway miles fly by and reduce fatigue as well, since you're paying attention to the book. I started off with Carl Sagan's book, "Pale Blue Dot" that goes into the philosophy of mankind's place in the Universe and the justification for human space exploration. Of course, I only plug in the audio books when I'm on empty stretches of highway. If I'm riding through a city or in really heavy rain or wind, then it's just back to music.



On the road in northern Minnesota heading straight towards this dark mass of rain clouds. I waited for a few minutes after a gas stop, but the storm wasn't moving from my perspective, so I rode through it. Rain isn't so much an issue, neither is wind really, it's lightning that I'm most worried about...  

After about 700 miles, I found a nice quiet campsite near Valley City, ND on the shores of Lake Ashtabula, which was formed by the Baldhill Dam built by the Army Corps of Engineers. I had a nice conversation with a lady from Florida that was trying to fish for the first time from the pier and was having a tough time getting the line through the reel. She couldn't believe that I was actually riding to Alaska on that little motorcycle. She said I should at least do it on a Harley. I got that advice quite a few times actually while talking to people that came up to me at gas stations.

I started my campfire with a single matchstick, but couldn't really enjoy my dinner by the fire as the winds were picking up and blowing everything around. It was a clear night and I enjoyed watching the stars for a bit and didn't realize at the time that this would be hard to do in the coming days as the sun would be staying up longer and longer the further north I went.



Arriving at my campsite near Fargo, North Dakota after 700 miles from home. This is the Ashtabula Campground setup by the Army Corps of Engineers that built a nearby dam. It's about 9 pm local time.


Tent setup only takes about 5 minutes. That's the great thing about this 1-person tent, lightweight and easy to setup.


Sunset over Lake Ashtabula.


Nice flat Top Box works well for hauling additional loads, like firewood.


There's something I just love about setting up a campfire. Even if I don't need it for warmth or light, just having it going creates a sense of home. Maybe it goes back to prehistoric times...  


A crackling fire. The fire pit was sunken in the ground maybe because this area is known to have high winds. The winds picked up at night and kept the fire going for a long time.


A halo around the full moon and look, you can even see some stars. Another reason I love camping is the ability to stare up at clear skies, but this trip in the peak of long summer days would mean un-ideal conditions for star gazing.

I thought the fire had died down enough in the fire pit when I went to bed, but an hour later, it was roaring again due to the constant supply of oxygen from the relentless wind, forcing me to wake up and put it out again. And then an hour later or so, it started raining and I had everything spread out on the picnic table seeing that it was going to be a clear night. I quickly stuffed all my gear into my one-person tent (sleeping on top of most of it) and tried to fall asleep as I knew I had another 700 miles to go the next day. But then the wind finally knocked down my tent, requiring me to re-stake it in the rain. This was not going good for being the first night of the trip. But I didn't let something like all this get to me. From my experiences so far, I know that keeping a positive attitude when things are not going well is the key to seeing it through. I knew tomorrow would be sunny and fell asleep on that thought.

Day 2 / Friday, June 13, 2008

It was still super windy the next morning and throughout the whole day. I knew one of the downsides of carrying extra weight on the bike would be decreased fuel efficiency; in calm winds I was getting around 40 mpg. With no luggage I usually get close to 50 mpg. But today, I was getting around 28 mpg and found out from a Camry driver at a gas station that there was a 25 mph headwind (going east) that was slowing me down. He was heading east and getting about 45 mpg!



Passing by the Painted Canyon near Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. The different layers are various sediment layers from millions of years ago. History Live. I passed through here with Rick and Andy two years ago when we were coming back from a Montana/Idaho trip.


I experienced quite a bit of rain and heavy winds in my two days on the Interstate heading towards Montana and I think this picture captures it well: the grass being blown sideways and the dark wall of a storm up ahead. My Motoport rain liners worked really well and I never got wet.

I got done with the Interstate a little into Montana and took Hwy-200 across the great plains of this majestic state. I feel there's some allure to Montana. I rode through here two years ago with a bunch of friends and we had a very positive experience.

At a gas station near Lewiston, a lady approached me and said I must be an engineer because it looked like I had prepared for everything (seeing the extra fuel tanks and the spare tire) and as we got talking, she said she was Linda Boltman, the secretary for ABATE in Montana, which is a motorcyclist's rights organization who are involved in motorcycle safety education, laws that affect riders and many other aspects of improving motorcycling in the US. She was excited for my journey and asked if I had a website going for my trip and I noted it down for her. And on her suggestion, I would try and get a sticker made of my trip's website to mount on my bike, maybe in Vancouver.

I would say more people approached me at gas stations on this trip then on my way to Mexico, because I think all my luggage, spare tire and fuel tanks gave it away that I was going on a long journey. I felt people were genuinely happy for me saying things like, "good for you, this is going to be a great experience, do it while you're still young," etc. After I told them I was headed to Alaska, I would get a few raised eyebrows and the nods of approval.

The only problem with riding west is having the setting Sun staring you in the face, which is not really safe. I took an extended break, waiting for the Sun to dip below the horizon before pushing on to Great Falls, ending the day with a beautiful two hour ride into the twilight.


Getting off the Interstate and taking MT-200 west across this great big state.


This is my favorite time of day to ride - dusk. Yes, there's more to worry about with animals on the move at dusk and dawn but riding with this kind of sunlight makes up for it.


And how can you beat this. That's the nice thing about riding west, you ride into the sunset. Of course, it's not good when the sun is just above the horizon because it's shining right in your face, but just after it sets, riding into twilight is a special feeling. This twilight here near Great Falls lasted about two hours up to 11 pm and notice the changing shades of blue of the atmosphere.
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2008, 03:54:14 pm »

Day 3 / Saturday, June 14, 2008

From Great Falls, I was taking the scenic route to get to Vancouver. I went around Glacier National Park as I had already been on the Going to the Sun Highway through the park and wanted to get a different view point. MT-49 that hugs the southern boundary of the park was a fun road to ride and the views were just like from inside the park.



Riding around the southern perimeter of Glacier National Park on MT-49. I went through the park on the Going to the Sun Highway two years ago and figured I would go for some different views. This road was almost as exciting as the road in the park.

From there, I headed towards Lake Koocanusa in the north-western part of the state as I was told from sport-touring.net that the scenic road around the lake was a great ride. I really enjoy small, remote roads and in the West, one can easily find such roads through National Forests. The route around the western side of the lake was very twisty with low traffic, which made for an enjoyable ride.


Taking a break at Happys Inn on US-2 in north western Montana before heading north for Lake Koocanusa. I took this photo to show that there are indeed others that tour on their GSX-Rs. This was a son touring with his parents on the FJR. Gas here was around $4.60 a gallon.  


Riding McKillop Creek Rd (NF-535) up to Lake Koocanusa. The tall trees coming right up to the road on either side provided a closeness with the surroundings.


Lake Koocanusa, which was formed by the Libby Dam on the Kootenay River. The lake crosses over into Canada and thus the name comes from KOOtenay, CANada and USA. Cute.


I came up this way because I was told the scenic road that skirts the lake is a real treat. Two scenic roads go up either side of this really long lake and the road on the western side was recommended due to it being tighter with less traffic.


Another view further up north of the lake.


And the winding road hugging the jagged shore.

I filled up in the remote mountain village of Yaak and had to convince the bar owner to turn the sole gas pump on as it was just after 6 pm and they were shutting down. Two guys came up to me, who were with a bunch of hikers and asked about my trip as they were riders on BMWs and KTMs from Missoula and were impressed that I was doing this trip on a DR and I discussed with them why I chose this bike for this trip.

One decision that I struggled with during my bike preparation was the mounting location of the extra fuel containers. After reading of a few successful stories of mounting them to the bottom of the panniers, I went with that direction as having a low center of gravity was important to me for the bike's handling. I believed that the tanks were out of harms way, but as a friend put it: I couldn't control myself and leaned the bike over too much in a few corners that ground the edges of the fuel containers, rendering them useless. It was 15 mph hairpins that I touched down on both sides. The rear of the bike lifted up and I knew right away what had happened. I figured I would deal with when I got to Vancouver.

I crossed into northern Idaho and headed for the Porthill border crossing, making my way towards Balfour in the Kootenays of lower British Columbia. The sun was dropping in the sky and the border crossing was set in this beautiful little valley.



That's a deer in the middle of the road up ahead. He quickly ran up this steep slope. And the old adage holds true of - Loud Pipes Save Lives, cause all the poor wildlife was being scared away by my exhaust.


Twisties in Northern Idaho heading up to the Canadian border.


Coming up to the US-Canada border in the middle of this beautiful land.  

On the Canadian side, after the border officer asked what the purpose of my trip was (heading towards Alaska), he asked what I was carrying to protect myself. Huh? He asked, “no firearms or mace?” Nope. He said I should look into at least getting some mace as a last resort in defense against a bear attack. I didn't think the threat of bears was this real, but I would get some mace in Vancouver, just in case.

Once in Canada, I had to start getting used to thinking in Metric (converting the speed limit and distance signs) and besides that, the big difference on riding in Canada vs. the US is the graphics they use in their warning signs for deer, trucks entering, children playing, etc.



That sign says "Welcome to Canada" and look at the perfect backdrop: lake, forest and mountains. How appropriate.


The Canadian border. I find it interesting that international borders and sovereignty are supposed to be this big deal, but usually right across land borders, there's not much difference in the geology or the people. The difference of being in a new country usually only kicks in the further inside you go.


British Columbia - The Best Place on Earth. After riding the whole province up and down and east to west, I'd say it definitely comes close.

I was enjoying the sunset scenic ride on Route 3A along the Kootenay Lake and wasn't aware that I was getting late for the infrequent (at night) ferry that crosses the lake from Kootenay Bay to Balfour, where I had planned to spend the night at Toad Rock Motorcycle campground. I had just missed the ferry by 20 minutes and now had to wait an hour and a half for the last ferry. I looked for a decent place to camp on this side of the lake, but couldn't find anything without trespassing so I just waited it out by the lake and had an MRE (military meal ready to eat) for dinner.

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« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2008, 03:54:33 pm »

I wish I had gotten the earlier ferry as I it would've been a sunset boat ride but a night ferry ride is just as magical, especially with a full moon. Steve, the owner of Toad Rock was still up and playing his guitar by the huge campfire he had going and we chatted for a while. He was a regular career kind-of-guy who decided he wanted to depart from that life and live out here creating a little haven for motorcyclists. The campground is set in some nice woods (lots of tree camping) and he has random old VW vans that you can also sleep in. The campground is geared towards motorcyclists in the sense that RVs are not really welcome, because they can fit anywhere. They've been holding annual rallies, which Steve says is coming to resemble Sturgis, with the crazy partying and also the vendors. They have an open air social pavilion and Steve said I could just sleep on the couch instead of having to pitch up my tent, meaning less packing time in the morning.


Kootenay Lake at sunset. What a great first impression of Canada. This is the largest natural lake in BC and it runs about 60 miles long.


Seeing mountains tumble into the water always makes a great sight.


I missed the ferry from Kootenay Bay to Balfour by just 20 minutes arriving at 9 pm and now I'd have to wait about 90 minutes to head over to the Toad Rock Motorcycle campground on the other side.


Oh well, the view was great so I had my dinner at that bench, just taking it all in...


Having an MRE of Chicken Noodle. And it's always Dinner with Music for me.


The ferry schedule.


The ferry at last. Couldn't take a better picture as I was in a rush to make the boat.  


Crossing Kootenay Lake at around 10:30 pm. This ferry ride is supposed to be the longest free ferry in the world.


The Full Moon shimmering across the dark waters.


Crashing on that couch in the social pavilion of Toad Rock Campground. After chatting with the owner Steve around the campfire, he told me not to bother with setting up the tent. Sounded good to me - less packing in the morning.
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« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2008, 03:54:51 pm »

Day 4 / Sunday, June 15, 2008

In the morning, I met a group of riders on BMW R1200GS's who had stayed the night and were reuniting after they had all gone on one of Helge Pedersen's GlodeRiders tours from Turkey into China the year before. They told me I should set up a touring company in India, because people like them would love to come and tour through there. That's an idea...



That's Steve in front of the pavilion who used to be a career man, but wanted out and setup this campground aimed mainly at motorcycles. There's a real laid back atmosphere and he organizes some big rallies that are turning into mini-Sturgis events.


An outdoor stage where bands perform during the rallies and the huge campfire ring besides it.


They called it Toad Rock cause a rock nearby looks like a toad. Simple.

Today I would be zigzagging my way around lower BC, riding all the fun roads in the area, before ending in Vancouver. A lot of the fun roads followed the numerous thin finger lakes that are common in this area. I read that the retreating glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age carved these lakes out, just like the Great Lakes.

The road from Kaslo to New Denver was a real blast to ride and that was confirmed when numerous sport bikes zipped past me, riding just like I would if I was on my Suzuki GSX-R. They must've been going around 90-100 mph but I was doing about 70 mph max and still having a blast on the DR. The thing with smaller bikes is that the thrill of going fast can be felt at slower speeds compared to higher horsepower bikes. The DR handles great in the twisties and she's fun to ride and gives me a thrill.

Being a Sunday and such a nice day too, I saw bikes of all kinds enjoying the good riding. The few that I talked with, while waiting for ferries or at gas stops were all intrigued to find out that I was riding to Alaska.



I was heading to Vancouver today taking the scenic route through southern BC's beautiful interior. Heading up to Kaslo along Kootenay Lake.


The size of the mountains emptying into the lakes was a sight to behold. There were huge lakes around every corner carved out by retreating glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago.


And because of so many lakes, there's quite a few ferries to take. Always fun to ride a ferry on a bike and I believe they're all free in BC. Waiting to cross from Fauquier to Needles with a bunch of other bikers. Being a beautiful Sunday, I saw lots of bikes enjoying these roads. They all got quite a kick after hearing that I was on my way to Alaska from Chicago. By this time I was used to getting the "you're crazy" look.


On Route 6 heading to Vernon, BC.

In general, the more west I went, the more crowded and built-up it became. Hwy 97 from Vernon to Kelowna was like an Interstate highway, but it followed the coast of Kalamalka Lake and had enough turns in it to make it fun to ride, albeit with heavy traffic. Going further south, Hwy 33 was recommended to me, but it wasn't all that exciting. However, riding a bit of the Crowsnest Highway towards Osoyoos with its dramatic drop down into the valley made up in the fun factor.

The road from there to Princeton went through numerous fruit farms (apples, etc) in the big fertile valleys and roadside fruit stalls were common in every small town. I saw signage encouraging citizens to buy locally grown fruits instead of cheaper foreign imports, like maybe from Mexico (that I saw last year).



The view of Osoyoos in the valley below from the Crowsnest Highway, back down near the US border, heading west.


And they had some fun tight turns to quickly get down from the hills into the valley.


This is where the road becomes a party of the scenery.


Heading towards Princeton through a big valley. One thing I loved about Interior BC was the constant undulating landscape.


All these roads could be labeled as scenic highways in my view.

From Princeton, I had wanted to take this short cut through the woods on a gravel road to the main highway heading to Vancouver. The road went through two small mining towns of Coalmont and Tulameen before turning into a gravel road climbing up into the mountains. As the sun was setting, I was enjoying myself, but noticed that the speed that I could travel at (around 10-15 mph) would mean it would take more than an hour to cover the 20 miles and I didn’t want to keep my hosts in Vancouver waiting too late into the night, so I had to turn back and take the long way around on the highway. It reminded me of the road down to Batopilas in the Copper Canyon of Mexico.

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« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2008, 03:55:11 pm »

As I was putting air back in my tires in Tulameen for getting back to the pavement, an elderly gentleman asked if I had just come down the dirt road from the highway. I explained that I turned back, thinking I wouldn't make it in sufficient time and he said he hadn't heard of anyone making it down that road yet this season. Oh. He said the road was closed in the winter and only occasional traffic made the trip. Sounds like a fun road, but only if more time was available.


Now this is more my kind of road. Taking a little diversion from Princeton and heading to the small town of Coalmont, where I thought I could take a shortcut to get back on the highway.


The winters are great in BC with tones of snow for skiing, but the steeps also pose a danger in terms of avalanches.


The quirky little town of Coalmont.


Another way of really saying that solicitors are not welcome.


The one block town of Coalmont. A mining town back in the day and slowing coming back to life.


The shortcut didn't look too bad. It was about 20 miles of this to the highway. I thought it was totally doable within an hour.


I figured I'd get a mug shot before I lost more daylight. But sadly, the road got rougher and rougher and I think I could've done it but I was going slower than expected and didn't want my hosts in Vancouver to be staying up too late waiting for me, so I turned around and got back on the highway.


Putting air pressure back in my tires after reaching the pavement in the remote town of Tulameen.


I think this view alone was worth coming out of my way. Heading back to Princeton.

I felt real guilty now because I knew I would be getting into Vancouver quite late and I phoned and informed my hosts who understood that I made a wrong decision about the route.

Hwy 3 from Princeton to Hope was an exciting road, especially at night. I was paying extra attention watching for wildlife since animals come out more at dusk. Hitting a deer is one thing, but coming across an elk or moose could be fatal. The highway is pretty wide in places, but it was pitch dark besides my headlight, which I found to be adequate enough without having mounted any aftermarket lights. I never plan for night riding but when it happens, it's always a great thrill, especially in the twisties.

I got on the freeway, the Trans Canada Highway and hurried into Vancouver. Just a few months back in January, I drove through here in a minivan with friends and all our ski gear, heading towards Whistler. I remembered the highway through Vancouver being quite fun to drive and it was similar on the bike with elevation change and some nice corners. I pulled in around midnight to Tracy and Claude's house in North Vancouver, just across the inlet from downtown. I apologized for being so late but being adventure motorcyclists themselves, they understood.

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« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2008, 03:55:30 pm »

Day 5 / Monday, June 16, 2008

The next morning, I made my appointment at the US consulate to turn in my visa paperwork and was told to come back the next day to pick it up. Along with spending some time with my hosts, I had some things to take care off on the bike. A bolt on my luggage rack near my left pannier had sheared off and I had damaged both my fuel containers. The bolt sheared off as the left side pannier was heavier than the right, so I repacked items to evenly balance things out. The heaviest item I was carrying was all my food. I had about 15 pre-cooked meals (including MREs), oatmeal for about 15 days and then granola bars. From here on I was going into remote land and camping frequently and I knew the cost of the food would be higher, so that was my justification for carrying so much food.

One fuel container was beyond repair and Claude said I could add it to his collection of damaged fuel containers. It made me feel better when he said he had the same kind of containers for his off road trips and they didn't last very long either.



The house of my hosts: Tracy and Claude who posted up on ADVrider's Tent Space list of people willing to house passing travelers. They're both avid riders, on KTMs and they're even featured in a motorcycling movie.


Claude hosing down his KTM Adventure and check out his lifted Jeep Wrangler. It looks like a proper jeep. They were both really gracious hosts and they were headed up towards Alaska in a few weeks time for their own adventure, that too taking only dirt/forest roads.


I thought long and hard about where to place my extra gas cans on the bike and decided on below the panniers for the lower center of gravity and increased functionality of my panniers but as a friend said, I couldn't control myself in the twisties and leaned the bike over too much and scraped both gas cans. I was able to fix one of them. Oh well, lesson learned.  

At the local hardware store, as I was ready to pay for the two replacement bolts, the busy lady owner looked at me and my bike outside and told me with a smile to go ahead; I didn't need to pay. All this generosity and kindness towards bikers. To my non-riding friends: It's not that I prefer motorcycle travel as opposed to car travel because people are so kind to us, I think it's more that people's good side comes out when they see a guy traveling on a motorcycle.

I'm really grateful to my kind hosts of Tracy and Claude for opening up their house to a traveler. It was nice to see a happy family centered around motorcycles, as Claude taught Tracy how to ride and now they're teaching their two sons, and they're all on KTMs. While Claude says that the 990 Adventure is the best bike so far, regarding weight and power, he said it's also pretty labor intensive for servicing. Another cool fact about this awesome couple is that they've been featured in an off-road motorcycle adventure film called Get Lost: Oregon by Motoventure Films.com. And right after my departure, they were getting ready to leave on their own completely off-road trip heading towards Alaska, riding through the woods of British Columbia. Claude said he had made it up the Cassiar Highway a few years back when it was all gravel, which required a higher skill level to successfully ride it. While I don’t mind if a road is gravel or paved, I'm glad for paved roads as that allows me to cover more ground quicker.

Day 6 / Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I collected my passport with my new US visa in there and was now ready to start my journey north. The only other scheduled item on my trip was trying to make it to the Dust2Dawson rally in Dawson City in 3 days with 1,800 miles to go.



The reason I came to Vancouver was to renew my US work visa at the US consulate there. You have to leave the country to get a new visa. Oh well, it was very quick processing and I got my passport back the next day.


Passport with new visa in hand and heading out of Vancouver. Alaska, here I come... which was another 2,000 miles away.


Route map of the second leg of the journey: Vancouver through all of British Columbia to Dawson City, Yukon; 1,900 miles.

The Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver through Whistler to Pemberton was just as fun as I remembered from a few months back. The road has been under construction for a few years in order to widen it before the 2010 Winter Olympics being held at Vancouver and Whistler. The road is a real beauty, hugging some huge cliffs right up to the water's edge and it's pretty sad that they have to bring down some of it to make the four lane highway.

I had dinner at a little bistro on Tracy's recommendation in Pemberton and some warm soup was prefect for the chilling evening. I was hoping to make it 100 Mile House tonight, but I got out of Vancouver too late. I figured I'd go as far as I could and then just camp wherever. Being a twisty lover, I wished it was still day light as from Pemberton to Lillooet is the famous Duffy Lake Road, which is a twisting haven for all motorcyclists. It’s considered one of the best roads in BC. However, since I enjoy night-riding so much, I still had a blast, while keeping my eyes peeled for wildlife.

In Lillooet, the gas station had just closed (I think it was around 9 pm) and I didn’t know if it was safe to continue without filling up, not knowing where the next open gas station would be. While studying a map under the lights at the gas station, a mechanic in a truck pulled up and asked if I needed any help. I explained my situation and he said he was carrying extra gas and wouldn't mind filling me up. Gracious acts by strangers. After he poured in nearly 4 gallons, I asked how much it would be and he said just to give him 10 bucks. That petrol was worth more than $20. I asked him what the risk was for bears in this area, regarding camping and he said I should be more worried about elk crossing the road.



Riding the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler. The scenic highway follows the coast and then starts climbing up the mountain. I was just here about 6 months ago to ski at Whistler with a bunch of friends.


Construction on the highway has been going on for quite some time in order to expand it for the 2010 Winter Olympics that are going to be held between Vancouver and Whistler.


Climbing up to the sky... a fun, easy road to ride.


Last year I passed under a similar looking bridge on US-95 in southern Utah...


Whistler and Blackcomb mountains - a fantastic place to ski. It really does live up to the hype of being North America's number 1 ski resort. We had a great 7 days here back in January.


Lillooet Lake, just north of Pemberton. The beautiful lakes are everywhere.

Fueled up, I pushed on into the night and was looking out for the next campground before resorting to just camping by the roadside. Night riding under a bright Moon is a beautiful experience, which always makes me feel close to the cosmos. With the Moon right in front of me, I thought about how man-kind had the amazing ability to put twelve men on the moon, an object that was deified just a short while back in human civilization. With moon landings scheduled for the near future by multiple nations, the Moon is slated to be front page news again in a few years.

Around midnight, I came across Marble Canyon Campground and quickly setup camp and fell asleep.



Rustic camping on hard gravel at Marble Lake Provincial Park near the Cariboo Highway, 97 that heads north to Prince George.


Since my 1 person tent isn't free-standing, I need soft ground to peg into or the use of my bike and a picnic table to hold the tent up. Whatever it takes.
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« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2008, 03:55:57 pm »

Day 7 / Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The temperatures were not rising back up in the morning and while it was pleasant to be riding through gently flowing meadows, I was looking forward to having some warm food at 100 Mile House. By the time I got into town it had started raining steadily. Funny name for a town, but it comes from the 1860's when there was a roadhouse here, a resting point for travelers moving between Lillooet, about 100 miles back and Ft. Alexandria about 80 miles ahead. There's a town called 70 Mile House and 150 Mile House.



If anyone thinks I'm carrying too much, check this out. That's a trike with a trailer and I've see those trailers expand into very comfortable accommodations.

Not having any shower facilities at the rustic campground I stayed at the night before, I resorted to what is called a "McDonald's Shower." All though this was at an A&W, it's basically a sponge bath in the sink that people who are temporarily away from civilization, like for hiking, fishing, hunting, riding, resort to upon coming across a McDonalds in the middle of nowhere. I brushed my teeth, shampooed my hair and tried to feel as clean as possible. And dealing with the strange looks from regular patrons comes with the shower.

I love the comforts of a 5-star hotel all the way down to slumming it in a McDonald’s bathroom. Haha. And there's nothing better than feeling nice and refreshed before sitting down for a meal.

One thing I've always enjoyed about coming to Canada is getting the chance to eat Poutine. I know most people don't like it or think of it as a country food, but I just love the Québécois combination of French fries with cheese curds and brown gravy. Mmm mmm good. I had some at the A&W along with their good root beer.

The rain that had been falling dropped the temperatures on the road up to Prince George and I was wearing my maximum gear: base layer, thermal top, heated vest, rain/wind liners, jacket and rain/wind jacket on top of that along with heated grips. I felt comfortable and was just enjoying the good tunes. Being prepared for all kinds of weather conditions makes a ride that much more enjoyable.

The DR's alternator is only rated at 200 watts and knowing that I might have to run both the heated vest and the heated grips at some point in the trip, I mounted a battery voltage monitor from Voltminder (designed for semi-trucks) and made sure the battery was always getting enough charging juice (not dropping below 13.2 volts).

Before I left on my trip, many non-riders asked how cold Alaska would be and wouldn't it be all covered in snow? Funny, but I felt the coldest on this road here in central BC during my whole trip all the way to the Arctic Ocean.

At a gas station in Prince George, a guy in a truck couldn't believe that I was all the way from Chicago and had to check my license plate to be sure of it himself. And on top of that, he found it unbelievable that I was doing this trip solo. He said he usually sees groups of riders or clubs making these trips. We had a good chat and he said he saw a teen grizzly in the woods a few weeks back and told me to be aware of my surroundings wherever I camp.

Heading west out of Prince George (population 80,000), leaving the last big city of Northern BC, I felt I was finally heading into the proper remote north, with no more big cities besides Whitehorse at 20,000 and Fairbanks at 35,000 population.

I would be taking the Yellowhead Highway, which runs all the way to Prince Rupert on the Pacific coast to service the marine highway of ferries, to the start of the famous Cassiar Highway, which runs north to the Alaska Highway in the Yukon Territory.

In the town of Vanderhoof, I noticed my muffler end cap was rattling itself loose at the rivets that were holding it on. I wondered why the muffler was seeing so much vibration. Only being able to put a band-aid on the problem, I pulled into a newly opened muffler shop and explained my situation to the owner, Daryl who came out and said he'd put a screw in a new spot to hold the two pieces together. I asked him how much it cost, ready to pay, and he said not to worry about it as he was glad to help a traveler keep going. He said others had helped him along in the past and he felt he should pay it forward.

After getting fixed up by Daryl, I got chatting with another guy outside the store who said he was a logging prospector of sorts for the government. He went into the woods on foot or on ATVs, spending days on end living of the land, surveying and mapping which plots were suitable to sell or lease to the logging industry. Generally being concerned with deforestation, I asked him if the logging industry simply just took whatever trees they needed, or where they required to replant and help revitalize the forests. I didn't get a clear answer, but it sounded like he didn't care about that too much saying that there was just so much forest out here and he was still enjoying getting paid to do what he liked. Logging and outdoor tourism are the biggest industry for all these small communities.


The start of my bike troubles on this trip - the end cap of my exhaust was vibrating itself loose.  


I stopped at this muffler shop and the owner, Daryl quickly came out and drilled a hole and put a screw to hold the end cap on and wouldn't accept any payment. He said other people have helped him out while he was traveling and he was just paying it forward. This was the start of this recurring theme on this trip.

The highway is pretty straight in many places and I was wishing that I thought about adding a throttle lock (cruise control) of some sorts, but I didn't think the roads would be so straight for such long distances. There are definitely some dangers in using a throttle lock device, but just being able to stretch and rest the right hand occasionally would've been very helpful.


Heading west on the Yellowhead Highway to catch the start of the Cassiar Highway heading north to Alaska. The road was wide and had quite a few straight stretches. I could've used a throttle lock of some kind. But very pleasing scenery.


Coming up to New Hazelton, situated right by this majestic mountain.

Besides the straightaways, the highway was pleasing to ride with gentle undulations. However, the view changed as I pulled up to my destination of New Hazelton, riding towards the majestic Hagwilget Peak. I knew of a campsite here from motocampers.com but arrived too late to buy any firewood. I found a beautiful campsite right on the river under some tall trees and then went into town to find some firewood for sale. I asked the first local person I came across where I could buy firewood and he said not to worry because he had lots at his house right there and I could take what I needed. As I was talking with Jacob (a mix of the local Native American tribe and Caucasian) his father Peter came out and was intrigued about my trip as he's an avid rider himself. He said he regularly goes across Canada on his Honda CBR600RR, which is surprising for an older gentleman. He had a lot of energy and said he had heated grips and provision for a heated vest on his bike.

Jacob told me that he was the public spokesperson for the local Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en First Nations groups and he regularly traveled around the region visiting the various groups. I asked him if this huge peak towering over us was important to the local tribes (just like Denali is in Alaska) and he said it definitely is and if I had some time, he had a great story to tell me. I was all ears.

The story goes like this: long ago, there were greedy tribesmen living here who abused their natural resources and killed all the mountain goats for food, except one young goat that they left for their children to play with. But most of the children also abused the goat and beat it almost to death. One young boy saved the goat, nourished it back to health and released it back onto the mountain. A few days later, important looking chiefs came down from the mountain and invited the whole tribe for a feast up on the mountain. While everyone was having a good time in traditional long houses that were built on ledges hanging off the edge, a young boy from the chiefs side pulled the young boy that saved the goat outside and then the chiefs inside the long house turned into huge ram goats and stamped the floor until it gave way and everyone perished with their blood on the mountain side. The young chief told the good boy that this blood stain was a lesson to live harmoniously with Nature. Today, the rich copper veins in the mountain are the blood stains of long ago.

It was interesting to hear first hand the stories that people passed on through the generations to give explanation to phenomenon in Nature. In my view, in various ambitious parts of the world, these stories became religion.

Another story that Jacob told me related to how local tribesman are able to talk to the animals, like the grizzly bear, which features heavily in local legends. He said part of his job is to re-introduce young Native Americans who have moved away to bigger towns and cities to their rich traditions, which were being forgotten as progress chugs along. One simple event is just camping out in the woods with elders and sharing stories of the past just like the one above. And during one of these story-telling times, a real grizzly bear approached the group and a youth from the city had the courage to stand up and gently talk to the bear and tell him to go away as he was not needed, which the bear did. The elders were very impressed and felt it was proof-positive that the old traditions had not died and could still be passed on to the new generation.

Feeling all warm and fuzzy after hearing these stories, I returned to my site to enjoy the rest of the evening. I love starting a camp fire and appreciate how easy it is these days to enjoy the warmth and comfort of a fire with relative ease, compared to pre-historic time when it must've been a struggle to harness the power of fire.

With the fire going and some tunes from the iPod, I got out my cooking stove, boiled some water to heat up my pre-cooked dinner of Thai Limegrass Rice and Yellow Tuna Curry and enjoyed dinner with a view. This is what I was most looking forward to on this trip: enjoying the evenings around a campfire with stunning views.


Is that a gorgeous campsite or what? I saw a picture of this campsite on motocampers.com and decided to stay here. The setting was just great with very few campers, nice facilities, river and...


...a stunning mountain view. This is the 6,800 ft Hagwilget Peak of the Rocher de Boule Mountain Range. The mountain features in the local Native American tribes of Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en First Nations. I happened to run into a spokesperson for the tribes and he shared some tribal stories about the mountain.  


This is what I brought my digital SLR camera for - low light photos. And with Nature throwing such beautiful colors and scenery at me, it's not hard to take good photos.


I'm new to SLR cameras and was still trying to figure out the optimum settings.


A shot of the campground from my campsite. What a view, huh.


My campsite.


Getting a fire going. The camp store was closed so I went into town and asked a local where to buy some firewood and he said not to worry because he had lots at his house and I could take what I needed. How nice.


Fire. I love the concept of getting a fire going. It immediately adds warmth in terms of heat and light to a campsite making it feel a bit more homey.


My compact camp stove that I borrowed from a mountaineering friend. It boils water very quickly.


And this was my typical camping dinner. I carried along pre-cooked food (some Thai Tuna curries, basmati rice, briyanis - can't take the Indian out of me). I just needed to put the pouches in boiling water for a few minutes and I had a warm meal ready to eat.


Sun setting at about 11 pm local time.  


The campsite at night, feeling a bit lived-in due to the fire.
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« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2008, 03:56:23 pm »

Day 8 / Thursday, June 19, 2008

I was woken up around 5 am by the sound of a herd of crows around my campsite that were picking through my oatmeal packets and trying to steal some other food items. I was being good about throwing away all opened food items in closed garbage cans and thought sealed food packets shouldn't be an issue for the wildlife, but these crows somehow knew that food was contained within these packets. I shooed them away, but they kept returning and I couldn't fall asleep, and since the sun was up already, might as well get going.



I was woken up by a herd of crows that were trying to get my oatmeal packets open. This was the view from my tent at about 5 am local time.


John Jacques Caux, one of the great frontiersmen of the day that opened up interior BC.

Today I would be riding the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, which I was looking forward to on the whole trip. This is a remote highway that runs north from the Yellowhead Highway in central BC up 450 miles to end at the Alaska Highway in the Yukon Territory. The road initially came south from the Alaska Highway to support asbestos mining in the town of Cassiar and came north a little bit from the Yellowhead Highway to support logging. Over the years in the 1960s and 70s, the road was fully connected and slowly became paved. It's now mostly paved except for the section north of Dease Lake.

The highway is renowned for the remote terrain it passes through. Being remote, the availability of finding gas along the way is also an issue. The longest section between gas stations was about 120 miles, if I remember correctly. So, it's a good idea to fill up at every station you pass by. I sometimes follow this too religiously as I don't really ever want to run out of gas especially since I didn't have all the fuel containers that I wanted.

Just 14 miles north of the Kitwanga Junction (where the Cassiar starts), I topped up at the Gitanyow Indian Reservation just for good measure. This was a small fuel depot intended primarily for the local native people. I believe the fuel was subsidized for them, as they just had to sign a log book at the cashier for how much fuel they used and I don't remember if they had to pay anything.



The starting of the Cassiar Highway heading north to Alaska. This was one of the destination roads of my trip as I read a lot about the scenic beauty of this highway and was looking forward to riding it on such a beautiful day. It's about 450 miles north to the Alaska Highway.  


One thing I didn't expect was the numerous long, long straight sections of highway, where a throttle lock would've been handy to relieve my right wrist. I was waiting to cross the Rockies further up ahead for some good riding and views.  


However, the road did wind a bit. The road conditions were great except for some slight gravel here and there.

The road was once again much straighter than expected, but I waited patiently to enter the Rocky Mountains up ahead, where I knew the scenery and the riding would be better.

At the Meziadin Junction, about a 100 miles north of the Kitwanga Junction, a spur (Highway 37A) goes south-west about 40 miles to the coastal community of Stewart and also Hyder, across in Alaska. This is called the Stewart or Glacier Highway, as it passes very close to Bear Glacier, which can be appreciated from the road-side. Besides heading down this way to see the glacier and the towns of Stewart and Hyder, I didn't know how much further I had to go on the Cassiar for the next gas station, so making a 40 mile one-way detour to get gas made sense to me.

The Stewart Highway was very scenic and the coastal mountains of course provided for some good riding. There are mountains all along the Pacific Coast from here north into Alaska because of Plate Tectonics. The Pacific Continental plate is slowing pushing into the North America plate and this gives rise to these mountains right on the coast. The same phenomena gave rise to the Himalayan mountain range with the Indian plate pushing against the Asian plate. Learning about geology has given me a much deeper appreciation for the world around us and the monumental forces that are behind it, working at a much greater timescale than our own lives or civilization.



At the turn-off heading to Stewart and Hyder. The Cassiar Highway is pretty remote and gas stations are few and far in-between. Previously, I read there used to be a gas stop here, but now, most riders make the 40 mile diversion to Stewart/Hyder to fill up instead of risking trying to make the next station.


Fueling up in Stewart isn't the only reason to come this way, as the scenery is great.


Electric posts reinforced with a stone base to maybe protect against avalanches in the winter.


A canyon near Stewart, BC. Most of the coast here is featured with mountains and cutting through canyons seemed to be quite common (did it about 3 times this trip to get to the coast).

The towns of Hyder and Stewart are well known in the adventure and long distance motorcycle community because of the fact that Hyder is the closest town in Alaska to the lower 48 states of the US that is accessible by road (through Stewart). This fame came about in 1998 when long distance rider Ron Ayers set a record of riding through all Lower 48 states plus touching Alaska in 7 days and 20 minutes. It then became well known through the Iron Butt Association of long distance riders and now there's an annual get together called the Hyder-Seek, each Memorial Day Weekend.

While many Alaskans and others might ask what's the point in saying you've been to Alaska by just touching Hyder, as you've not really seen much of the state, one must remember that is just a technicality for record setters as it does qualify as entering the state of Alaska.

Anyways, the reason that Hyder was established in the first place was as is usual in these regions because of gold and silver being discovered. Hyder is at the head of a 70 mile long fjord (long, steep valley carved by glaciers) and was an entry point to many mines across the border in Canada, before Stewart was serviced by highways. Hyder's heydays were in the 1920s and 30s and the town is actually named after a Canadian. It was originally called Portland City after the fjord's name of Portland, but the post office asked for a different name since too many cities in America were called Portland, so the residents chose Hyder after a Canadian mining engineer who had great plans for this region.

Hyder is also unique in that it shares its telephone area code with Stewart across the border and doesn't have any immigration or customs facilities. It's a common thing to step across into Hyder from Stewart and say, “Hey, I'm in Alaska,” and then continue on your journey back up the Cassiar. But not wanting to mess with any funny immigration rules with my US visa and crossing back into Canada, I just stayed on the Canadian side.

At the gas station in Stewart, I was surprised to finally run into another adventure motorcyclist, that too on the same bike as me, a DR650. While researching this trip on ADVrider.com, it seemed like there were many people who would be making a trip up to Alaska over the summer and it's common knowledge that you're bound to run into other riders along the way and that's part of the fun: riding with some newly made friends for a while and sharing the road with like-minded people. Of course, the more remote the road gets, the more likely you are to run into other riders because there's not that many other places you can be.

Ryan was on a month long journey from Nevada and we compared how each of us set up our bikes. He had the same luggage system as me (Happy Trails) but I was surprised that he still had on the stock gas tank, which holds only about 3.4 gallons - good for about 130 miles and he just had on an extra 1 gallon fuel container and here I was worried about not having enough gas with my 4.9 gallon tank and extra fuel containers. Since we were both heading north on the Cassiar, we rode together for a bit but our pace was very different, so we soon parted ways.



Looking at Hyder, Alaska from Stewart. It starts where the pavement ends. It's a small town, which is technically in the state of Alaska but uses a BC area code and doesn’t even have customs or immigration services. I could've entered just for fun, but didn’t want to risk anything with my new visa status.


These signs are posted at the land borders between Canada and the US and I was converting in my head the whole time from thinking in miles to living in kilometers. I easily adapted to thinking only in metric and then surprisingly took about a day or so to starting thinking back in miles when I crossed into Alaska.


At the gas station in Stewart, another adventure rider heading up to Alaska on a Suzuki DR650 just like my bike pulled up. He also had the same brand of aluminum side panniers - Happy Trails. This was Ryan's bike and he was from Nevada making a month long trip.  


Since there's only way to go to Alaska from here (north), we rode together for a while.


Entering the canyon on the way back.

I stopped and enjoyed the view of Bear Glacier for a few minutes and dwelled on the fact that seeing a glacier was proof that an Ice Age did exist long ago and the thawing out from that era, which began about 10,000 years ago might've been a catalyst for the great rise in human civilization around that same time period. That's one of the great things I love about adventure motorcycling - you get to see history Live, in person. Reading about a glacier in a school textbook is one thing, but seeing it in person and its effects on its surroundings really drives home the point of how important it is to study glaciers and other aspects of nature to understand how they affect humanity. The glaciers around the world are currently retreating meaning that global temperatures are rising and as glaciers decrease, so does the cooling effect that they provide, meaning we get a feedback cycle, which keeps increasing temperatures. Maybe not everyone agrees that humans are responsible for the current warming around the globe, but I say let's at least understand what this warming means to our future and what we can do to reduce its adverse effects on humanity.

While pondering what gave rise to this glacier's name, just around the corner I came across two black bears just hobbling about in the middle of the road. I stopped about 200 ft away and just observed them through the camera lens. They were simple crossing from one side to the other and I was a bit worried that on coming traffic, like a truck might not see them. They did look cute like their caricatures, and I was happy to see some real wildlife. After waiting for a few minutes, I revved my engine, which made them scurry up the hill and I passed through.



auDRey and Bear Glacier - one of the big reasons of coming this way to Stewart/Hyder. Really cool to see an actual glacier for the first time. You can just imagine it was much bigger before. Locals have said they've seen it retreat quite a bit in their lifetimes.


And how aptly named - a few Black Bears were right around the corner from the glacier.


They do look cute, don't they? These guys were just hobbling about on the road and crossing it back and forth, not really bothered by me. I was about 200 ft away. When I had waited long enough, I revved my engine and they ran into the bushes.

From here on the highway really came into its own with stunning scenery and the beautiful sunshine was an added bonus. I really did have many days of great weather on this trip.

At the Bell II gas stop, about 60 miles north of Meziadin Junction, I came across an African American who just left the armed forces after a good career to take up a teaching job in Anchorage and was moving his whole family in a Suburban pulling a U-Haul trailer. He had never been to Alaska and figured it would be fun for the kids. That's another kind of adventurer.

About a 100 miles north of there is the town of Iskut, which is mainly an aboriginal community comprising of the Iskut First Nation and the Tahltan Indian Band. There is one gas station and store called the Kluachon Center, which seems to be the center of the area regarding meeting people and communicating with everyone else. This is also evident in any other small town, where the gas station/convenience store becomes central to the social life of the community. Iskut is currently gaining fame for the disagreement between the local tribes and the government over giving permission to the Shell oil company that wants to extract coalbed methane, a form of natural gas. The land is important to the natives and is considered sacred as it forms the headwaters for many salmon rivers. There must be numerous others struggles around the world between Progress and tradition and who's to say that Progress should always be triumphant.

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« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2008, 03:56:46 pm »


Back on the Cassiar Highway, which was becoming more fun to ride as it got into the mountains.


This was the extent of how bad the road gets, which is not much at all. These spots were all well-marked with orange flags.


Waiting for about 30 minutes for the highway crew up ahead to finish up some explosive work. As you can see, the only people on this road were mainly RV campers, bikers and construction workers.


While the highway is mostly paved, there are still sections of gravel road, by it's not bad at all. And with that kind of scenery, who cares what the road is like.


It rained a little bit here and there and that made the gravel/mud roads a little slick in the hilly terrain, but it wasn't too much for my 80% street / 20% dirt tires, Kenda K761's.


Pavement up ahead.


My faithful companion - Sir Shadow. For the amount I love riding with friends and others, I truly cherish solo riding, as well.

The community of Dease Lake is about 50 miles north of Iskut and is considered the biggest community on the Cassiar Highway, having a community college and hotels and restaurants. Trying to make it to the Alaska Highway before it got too dark, I pushed on ahead. 25 miles later, I passed the community of Porter Landing at the other end of the long and thin Dease Lake and saw a sign that said no fuel services for the next 120 miles till the Alaska Highway, so I turned around and filled up my tank along with the extra fuel container. I had hoped to fill up in the town of Jade City, but as I rolled through, I saw that the only gas station there was shut down. This town served as the junction from the Cassiar Highway to the gold and later asbestos mines of Cassiar about 10 miles inland.

From Jade City, there were long stretches of oil-treated gravel, with a few crazy truck drivers that didn't slow down at all for me, almost pushing me off the shoulder. Besides that, the road was ever winding between lakes and mountains. At dusk, around 8 pm local, I saw a big moose run across the road in front of me. He was in the shoulder of the road and after hearing my exhaust, he bolted into the woods. It was beautiful to see such a huge animal move with such quick grace. Too bad I couldn't get a picture of him, but the image is clear in my mind. As usual, I was being very alert to the increased activity of animals at dusk, but didn't see any other wildlife on the road. The Cassiar is famous for seeing wildlife and I guess I should be happy for seeing those bears and a glimpse of this moose.



Just fantastic. These kinds of views are why I came this way. Pristine, beautiful landscapes.


Let's see, I'll call this 'Mirror Lake'.


The sun was setting on this long day, but there were great views around every corner, which kept me going. This is about 8:40 pm local time.


The bugs came alive at dusk and you can see all the splotches radiating from the center of my shield. It's really not that bad regarding my vision. I can’t really see the bugs because they're so close to my eyes, unlike on a car windshield.


From Dease Lake north to the Alaska Highway, the Cassiar is gravel for a large part. It looks like they're working on paving the last part, so it should be all paved within a few years.


Stopping to lower the air pressure in my tires after not having a good enough feel for the tires with high/pavement pressure.

One thing to note for future travelers is that gas stations close pretty early up here in the wild, around 6 pm or maybe 9 pm at the latest. I made it to the Alaska Highway around 10 pm and the big gas station at the junction was closed. Good thing I was carrying my extra fuel, as I still needed to go about 65 miles to a campsite up the highway. High up in the latitudes here, with the long days near the Summer Solstice, it's very easy to ride late into the evening and not feel that tired.

I was now riding on the famed Alaska Highway and was very glad to have made it up here. Before the trip, I had read all that I could about the highway and was pleased with myself that I was finally here. Initial impressions were that the highway was definitely in a remote, pristine part of the world subjected to harsh weather conditions (visible with the frost heaves), but it was also really wide, as in almost Interstate wide. In some places, the forest was cleared on one side along the highway indicating that two more lanes might be built. After enjoying the intimacy of the Cassiar Highway, the Alaska Highway almost seemed like an Interstate. Oh well, it was a beautiful Interstate. And besides, I knew the part of the highway that I had planned to ride on my way back (south of where I joined it), would be the interesting bits. And besides, at dusk, everything looks beautiful. I was the only one out on the highway around 11 pm and I felt very much at peace with my surroundings.

I was cruising along at 75 mph, hoping to quickly reach the Racheria RV campsite and call it a day, when the bike's fuel went to reserve at about 10 miles out. I didn't realize that I maybe should've been cruising at a slower speed trying to conserve gas and now, not wanting to be stranded at night, I chugged along at 40 mph in top gear. At this moment, I was thinking about the fuel and time dilemma, which is that when you're running out of gas, is it better to speed up and get to your destination/gas station quicker before you run out of fuel, or go more slowly and hope the fuel lasts longer? For most practical situations, it seems going slower to increase fuel efficiency is the best method, but I think some physicists says Black Holes (in space) prefer the latter method of consuming as many stars as they can before time runs out.

Speaking of stars, being so far north on the globe, this was the first night that I couldn't see any of them, because the Sun never fully set. It was only two days before the Summer Solstice and it does feel kind of strange to never see complete darkness. It seems like one day just runs into the next, without ever pausing for the night. Unfortunately, our bodies don't act like that and require darkness to help fall asleep. That's where having an eye mask aids in getting good sleep up here. Also, as much as I love nature and its sounds, I found the animals to be too loud during the night. I think the long days were throwing off the clocks of some birds and they were sounding their morning calls all through the night. I got in the habit of sleeping with my ear plugs in to insure a good nights sleep. It still doesn't make sense to me, because the animals should've adapted to this change by now, but maybe they're migratory birds and not used to the long daylight.



Entering the great northern province of Yukon, which connects British Columbia to Alaska.


My campsite at Rancheria RV on the Alaska Highway. Local time about 11:30 pm.


Another great campfire.


It was a bit chilly and I was trying to get some warmth to go in my tent...
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« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2008, 03:57:09 pm »

Day 9 / Friday, June 20, 2008

In the morning, as I was packing up, an elderly woman from a nearby RV camper came over and offered me coffee and just asked that I returned the cup when I was done. How nice. She didn't want to stay and talk, but just wanted to be motherly and make sure this poor soul on a bike got some fresh coffee in the morning. I'm not even trying to look cheap and poor on this Alaska trip, but everyone's graciousness towards bikers is just great. It's got to make them feel a little happy inside too about helping somebody else. I know everyone's got altruistic feelings inside but it’s just that they choose wisely when they're going to show them.

When I returned the cup to the husband, we got talking and he said they're French Canadian from Montreal and had along with them a relative from France who was just amazed at the large area of wilderness - being able to go thousands of miles and not come across any major cities. Of course in Europe these days, with it being so developed, long stretches of wilderness are rare, except if you head into Norway or similar I guess.

After morning coffee, a rider on a BMW R1200GS pulled up and introduced himself as Chris from San Jose. He asked if I was headed north or south. It's just that simple. He stayed at the same campsite, and said his plans were to head north to Prudhoe Bay. Fantastic. Chris said he also came up the Cassiar yesterday and heard me pull in last night (the sound of a thumper - nick name for a single-cylinder bike, is unmistakable) and figured he was probably a few hours ahead of me. We decided to ride together at least till the Yukon capital of Whitehorse and see how it goes.

In riding with someone else, the trick to being harmonious is finding someone with the same pace as you. Pace refers to the speed you like to ride at (through twisties and the highway), how you like to take rest stops and your attitude towards the day's ride. Now, most touring riders have a similar pace, but not everyone gels. Chris and I gelled right away in all aspects.

The Alaska Highway was a nice ride, but Chris shared similar views to me that the Cassiar was more interesting to ride. Of course this part of the highway was in relatively flat ground, so the road could be wide and easy riding.



This is Chris from San Jose on a BMW R1200GSA who's also heading up to Alaska and stayed at the same campground and since we were going the same direction, we decided to ride together for a bit.


Chris on the Alaska Highway. We were told by many people that the Cassiar is the more scenic of the two highways to get up here and we felt it true as well.


Now I know they say the Bimmer is the Cadillac of adventure touring bikes, but I didn't know you could cruise in such comfort, haha. He has a manual cruise control (throttle lock) and the bike being so stable allowed him to cruise like this.  

We had lunch in Whitehorse and stumbled upon the most famous restaurant in town, the Klondike Salmon & Rib BBQ. It's a very old establishment, dating back to 1900 and featured lots of local game meat. I had the Caribou burger and couldn't really tell any difference in the meat, but I think a Caribou steak would've really highlighted the difference. Regardless, it was very tasty and a great meal with appropriate decor.

Chris was only planning on riding to Whitehorse today, but I convinced him to come along a bit further up to Dawson City for the annual Dust2Dawson bike rally, which is a gathering of bikers to celebrate the longest day in the year, the Summer Solstice. Since I was also planning on heading to Prudhoe Bay after that and since we both enjoyed riding with each other, we figured why not; the company would be a nice change.

Chris said the trip and the bike were a 40th birthday present to himself. He took three weeks off from work and his only plan was to ride to Prudhoe Bay and back within that time. The amazing thing was that he just recently got his street motorcycle license a few weeks before the trip. He's ridden a lot of dirt bikes his whole life, which don't require a license; just the skills. And this was also his first big motorcycle trip. I'd say he was doing very well with what he packed and how he was riding. Of course, he had the mother of all adventure bikes, the BMW GS Adventure, which was designed from the get-go to do this kind of riding, but it sure does costs a pretty penny.

The northern part of the Klondike Highway connects Whitehorse to Dawson City. It's about 320 miles and there's gas stations about every 100 miles or so. The road was completely paved in the 80s, but as usual, there might still be some sections undergoing repair. There's very little traffic heading up this way and the road winds through some pleasing landscape. We flirted with some rain clouds and with the sun shining through them, it added a mystic aura to the ride.


Having lunch in Whitehorse at the Klondike Salmon & Rib, a very old establishment. We got a sense of the town from our street-view tables. The weather was just great. This trip and the bike were a milestone birthday present to Chris and this is actually his first street bike after having ridden dirt his whole life. He just got his street motorcycle license a few weeks back.


The road right out of Whitehorse heading to Dawson City is a long straight section for about 10 kms and they had these odometer calibration signs every kilometer, so that you could check to see how accurate your vehicle's odometer was. Too bad, cause ours were in miles.


Chris was only going to make it to Whitehorse today, but as he was heading up to Prudhoe Bay, just like me, and since we already established a good rapport, I asked him to come along to Dawson City to check out the ADVrider Dust2Dawson bike rally that was happening there. And the views were nice along the way to Dawson, just like this.


Riding some twisties.


The road was generally very remote, which I liked. Some rain threatened all day, and only poured down for a little bit. Note the isolated shower up ahead.


Filling up at Carmacks, about a third of the way to Dawson City. And across the Yukon, businesses that are Motorcycle Friendly have these signs posted. They give a discount to bikers.


Curious pooches at another gas stop. I love dogs.


The sun's rays breaking through rainy clouds always seem to add a divine feeling to the scenery. There were sections of gravel on this highway and the rain helped to keep the dust down.

We pulled into Dawson around 9 pm into the Gold Rush campground right in the center of town, and with my rear tire being worn down, I set about mounting my new rear tire that I was carrying with me since home. I figured this would be the best place to mount my tire because if needed, I could ask for assistance from the numerous other riders that would be here and besides, having a new tire for the Dalton Highway seemed like a good thing. I had never changed a tire by myself but had a few friends explain the procedure to me and I had paid attention when they did it. I had planned on doing a few practice tire changes at home, but of course, I ran out of time before the trip.

I was doing good with the tire change and they say removing the old tire from the rim is the toughest part, but I couldn't figure out how to mount the new tire on the rim. A passing rider, Tom from Anchorage, whom I later found out is a well-known wrench in the Anchorage motorcycle community, helped me get the new tire started and then I was good to finish it off myself. I pulled up to the main street in Dawson around 11:45 pm. I heard I missed all the fun games in the street, but I still got to mingle with riders from all over the place, which was the main point for me. I also got a sweet sticker for having my bike on the main street at midnight, where a group shot of the bikes was taken. It was very cool to see so many like-minded riders on all the different bikes that were there. Most of the riders were from Alaska and the others who had come from far and away had tied this stop into their Alaska trip, just like I did.

Around 1 am, after everyone started dispersing, some of the riders there took off for the lookout point above the town called Midnight Dome to catch the setting sun. The sunset with the way the clouds were was just amazing. Everyone's cameras were clicking away before the moment was lost. To see a sunset like that at 1 am in the morning was quite surreal and then to also think that people around the world were gathering at midnight tonight to celebrate this long time tradition of the midnight sun made me feel like I was participating in something bigger. The sun was setting around now and would rise again in about 2 hours or so, but since the sun was never that far below the horizon, it stayed quite bright the whole night.

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« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2008, 03:57:29 pm »


Our campsite at Dawson City. This was the least beautiful camping site of the whole trip, but we were here for a rally and the town was packed, so we got one of the last available sites.


Mounting the new rear tire that I was carrying with me as my current tire was worn down. This was the first time I was doing a tire change on my own, out in the wild.


They say getting the rim off the old tire is the toughest part and I was through. But I struggled with mounting the new tire and a passing rider, Tom from Anchorage helped me out.


The new tire mounted on the left and my old bald tire on the right (same brand - Kenda K761).


This is Tom, who helped me out with the tire. He's an old pro from Anchorage and very well-known among the local riders. I made it out to the rally, which is held on the summer solstice to celebrate the midnight sun. If your bike is out here at midnight, you get a little commemorative sticker.


This is Mark, whom I'm meeting for the first time after exchanging emails for a few months and even knowing him before that through one of my rider friends in Chicago, Anna. I would be staying with Mark in Anchorage, after my Prudhoe Bay run.


The Kawasaki KLR650 and the Suzuki DR650, two bikes in different flavors. The KLR belongs to the guy standing there and he just did the Dalton Highway recently - in the rain. That's his Dad's GS on the right.


Downtown Dawson City on the summer solstice. It's a few minutes past midnight. Riders came in from all over, with quite a few local Alaskan riders showing up. This has turned into an annual rally and is growing by the year.


A nicer shot from Chris.


Clouds capturing some strange sunlight (the sun was setting behind me), which some mistook as a daytime aurora. The ladder in the middle of the street was used to take a group shot of all the bikes.


From downtown a few of us went to the lookout point of Midnight Dome to get a great view of the setting sun. It's about 1 am in the morning and the sun rises again in about two hours.


This view alone is worth coming up here during the Summer Solstice. That's the Yukon River flowing westward into Alaska.
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« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2008, 03:57:51 pm »


Route map of the final leg of the journey: a loop around Alaska from Dawson City through Fairbanks up to Prudhoe Bay, down to Anchorage and Valdez, ending near Tok; 2,360 miles.

Day 10 / Saturday, June 21, 2008

In the morning, on our way out, we got a glimpse of the old gold rush town before crossing the mighty Yukon River to catch the Top of the World Highway heading to Alaska. This highway in the wilderness goes from Dawson City in the Yukon across into Alaska and joins the Taylor Highway that takes you through Chicken down to the Alaska Highway.

I had read earlier that the Canadian side of the highway was all paved and it was gravel on the American side, but there were large sections of gravel on the Canadian side, which added to the fun. Who wants all paved roads anyways?

The only traffic on here was all the bikes from last night and the occasional RV camper. The view was really interesting in the areas that had no trees at all, because your eyes could see a long ways and there was nothing around besides other gently rolling mountains. They call it Top of the World Highway because it sits very high up on the globe (high latitudes), but the elevation of the road itself wasn't that high, maybe around 5,000 ft or so.



Checking out some of the views of Downtown Dawson City before heading over to the Top of the World Highway and onwards to Fairbanks and Prudhoe Day.


Most of the towns up here were all old gold rush towns, which are pretty much at a lull these days compared to the heydays of yesterday.


A gravel grader with some colorful buildings.


Waiting for the ferry with a bunch of bikers all heading the same way to Alaska.


Enjoying the short ferry ride.


The riders who we tagged along with for the day. Most were headed home to Anchorage.


Looking back at Dawson City while crossing the mighty Yukon River, which we would cross again the next day on our way to Prudhoe Bay deep in Alaska.


The Top of the World Highway, which runs from Dawson City to the border and then connects up to the Taylor Highway. I was told that the highway is paved on the Canadian side and all gravel on the US side, but as you can see, we came across a lot of gravel on the Canadian side. The highway gets its name I think for being top of the world on a map and also because it rides the ridge for a long ways giving a feeling that you're riding along the top of the world/mountain.  


Great vistas. The treeless terrain allows the eye to wander far.


I fell back to take pictures and had the highway all to myself.


The road winding its way across the hills.


Taking a break before the border.


Chris checking out the local ruins.  


With very little traffic, it felt like the whole road was ours...


…and we rode like that too. No worries about crossing into the other lane, because our vision wasn't hindered.


Snow banks right by the road. This should give an indication that we're at some pretty high latitudes.


A motorcycle winding along the ridge of this treeless landscape, looking far into the horizon...
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« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2008, 03:58:16 pm »


Besides the scenery, the curves were fun to ride too.


Ridge riding.


We were told to expect dramatic views.

The border comes up in the middle of some hills and I still find it amusing that one can enter the grand old US of A through some remote little border high up in the mountains. For most visitors and immigrants, it's the airport immigration hall that is their gate to America. The border station is called Little Gold Creek on the Canadian side and Poker Creek on the American side. The border is known among tourists for having the sign that it's the northern most land border in the US.

Before the trip, I called around Alaska's border offices to make sure I could enter with my work visa at this Poker Creek border because to process visas like mine, the border station needs to have finger print readers and cameras to take my picture (yes, I've totally succumbed to being treated this way in order to enter the US). And they need to be able to verify my visa authenticity with the computer database back in the mainland. Being a remote station, they obviously didn't have broadband internet to take care of all this pretty quickly like at other borders, so I had to wait around half an hour for them to use their satellite link-up to send the data back and forth. The border guard was very friendly and said he very rarely has to process these kinds of visas and didn't recall ever having an Indian citizen go through here.

I asked him why some of the signs at the station were also written in German below the English and he said German tourists are the biggest group of foreigners that go across the border. I also learnt over my trip that Germans and other Europeans love to come to Alaska, rent an RV and tour all this great wilderness. Of course we all know that Germans love nature and as Europe is definitely more dense, seeing all this great expanse must be a treat for them. I even read that the German public's love of nature could be stronger than their love of speed, as they are contemplating putting a speed limit on the Autobahn to reduce fuel consumption and in turn their carbon footprint. Sacre-bleu! Whilst I love nature myself, please let the Autobahn remain as the last freeway with no speed limits. Must ride it soon.

Finally I was in Alaska, but the impact of that notion wasn't that great, because I've been in the wilderness for a couple days already, but still the thought of where I was would slowly sink in.


Coming up to the border.


Probably one of the most remote border crossings into the US.


Time zone change.


Solidarity in enforcing the speed limit across the border.


The US side of the border is called Poker Creek and the Canadian side is called Little Gold Creek. As they say, this is the most northerly land border port in the US. Two border agents are on duty here only for the summer. This road is closed in the winter.  


I made back into the US of A with my new visa and might be the first Indian to have crossed at this border... on a bike. It took about a half hour to process me through, as they had to use their satellite link up to verify my visa.


Note the entrance sign is also in German. The agent said they get tones of German tourists in the summer, who rent RVs and cruise the wilderness up here, because they generally have a great love of nature.

It's around 40 miles from the border to the old gold mining town of Chicken, Alaska. The route was a nice gravel road, which winded up and down through the hills and views were good. Not to mention, the lovely weather that we were having today. I've read some previous reports, where riders went through here in some heavy freezing rain making it a white-knuckle experience.

Around one corner, we saw a white RV van broken down on the side and stopped to help. There were a few other bikers there already. The couple in the RV was from Oklahoma and their left rear tire blew out and the husband was struggling a bit with the repair. We quickly got to work and Chris was on down on the ground figuring out how best to jack up the van. The couple had never changed a tire on this van. A rider on a full dresser Harley also stopped and stayed till the end to help out. Chris had the situation under the control and I took to directing traffic around the accident. Ever biker slowed down to make sure we had things under control and not wanting to add to the scene, they moved on. Again the only traffic on here was bikers and RVs. The couple was really grateful for us stopping to help them out and we said, not to mention it, we were just passing it on, as this it what any normal person would do.

Chris, being on his first big bike trip, was carrying a whole pannier full of tools and was surprised at the limited amount of tools that I was carrying (I had just enough tools to do important repairs). He had enough to probably do a full engine tear down. He had all his tools in a bag that resembled a doctor's bag and thus he got the nickname of Doctor for a while, as he also helping out others.


Heading to the town of Chicken, Alaska for lunch. Now it was time to starting thinking back in miles.


On this side of the border the road is gravel for the most part, but it's well packed.


We stopped to help this couple from Oklahoma who had a blown out rear tire. They had never changed a tire before and the spare was rusted on the carrier on the back door, which required us to remove the carrier to get the tire off. Took about an hour, but we made sure they were all set before taking off. Just paying it forward. Again, the only traffic on this road was RVs and motorcycles.


Chris reaching under to set the jack.


This was Chris' first real big bike trip and he carried a whole pannier full of tools, which proved handy in helping others. A Harley rider stopped to help out as well.


Remnants of the huge Taylor Complex Wildfire of 2004, near Chicken.


Winding dirt road heading into Chicken.

Soon after, we pulled into the quirky little community of Chicken. The first thing about this place is its name: the story goes that when the post office asked this remote gold mining community for a town name, they figured that with the abundance of ptarmigan in the area, they would name the town that, but since they couldn't agree on the spelling, they settled on Chicken. I bet there's a town called Bacon somewhere.

The only remaining buildings in the area are the gas station and a set of old western stores including a restaurant, a bar, a liquor store, a gift shop and an out house. We caught up with all the other riders that were heading home after the rally last night and we had a good lunch there.

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« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2008, 03:58:37 pm »


Welcome to Chicken.


Those few buildings down there and a few more is the community of Chicken.


A gold dredge indicating the history of this area. This is one of the few surviving gold rush towns up here. There were lots of ptarmigans (a chicken-like bird) in the area and the early residents wanted to name the community ‘Ptarmigan’ but couldn’t agree on how to spell it, so they just settled on calling it 'Chicken'.  


Trying to make you feel better about paying $5.40 a gallon for gas by comparing to what you pay across the border in Dawson City.  


Chicken is known as a nice stop on the Top of the World/Taylor Highway and all the riders heading back from the rally stopped in for lunch.


A three-legged dog hobbling about Sad


He looks so sad.


Enjoying a nice burger with some local root beer, being served in a gold pan.


Looking across the porches of the different establishments. You could wile away an afternoon doing nothing.

The Taylor Highway from Chicken down to the Alaska Highway was generally scenic and a nice easy ride. Chris and I were heading to Fairbanks for the night as we planned to do the Dalton Highway the next day. Looking at the map before Tok, we figured we'd find a coffee shop and take a little break, but we rode through the small town and didn't realize it was over before we were well out of the town limits. Tok is basically a junction on the Alaska Highway with the Glenn Highway heading to Valdez and Anchorage. This would be the beginning on my loop of Alaska, as I planned to be coming back up the Glenn Highway before heading on south back home.

The Alaska Highway is definitely more scenic further south, because we had some boring, flat, straight bit of road from Tok to Delta Junction, the official end of the Highway. I know it wasn't built as a scenic highway, but there are some parts of it that are more suited to tourism and others parts that are just connecting points A to B.



The paved Taylor Highway heading west from Chicken towards Tok and the Alaska Highway.


I love road signs that have country names on them indicating the remoteness of where you are: "if you head this way, you get to Canada" not mentioning any town names, just the massive country of Canada.


The Harley rider, Ted from North Carolina who helped us with the tire change on the RV. It's great to see Harleys touring about in the wild. And he did all those gravel roads with his standard touring tires, not worrying about air pressures or anything - old school touring.


Ice still breaking up across the Tanana River, near Tok.


Taking a break on a side road after the mind-numbing straight Alaska Highway was putting me to sleep. This part of the Alaska Highway was quite boring and we were just yearning to get into Fairbanks.

While filling up at a gas station in Delta Junction, a police officer in an SUV swung by after seeing us at the pumps and was just curious as to where we were from and where we were going. He said he was a rider too and was from the Pacific Northwest. One phrase that stuck with us was when he was talking about visiting the Lower 48, he said, "Yeah, I'll probably head outside next year." It sounded like he was holed up in Alaska and making a journey to the Lower 48 was a serious undertaking. Well, it is a long ways from Alaska to the Lower 48, but interesting to hear it phrased like that.

We got moving again and noticed that the bad thing about riding in a north-westerly direction at this time of the year was that the sun was directly in our eyes for a long time. Even with a tinted dark shield, I had to hold up my left hand to block out the sun so that I could see the road. Chris saw me doing this in his rear view mirror and suggested I put black electrical tape over the top part of my shield. Phew, that worked like a charm and made a nice difference to my riding comfort.

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« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2008, 03:58:54 pm »


At the end of the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction. I had planned to ride to the start of the highway on my way back.


From here you could head south to Anchorage or north to Fairbanks and onwards to Prudhoe Bay.


The mosquitoes up here were "this" big. Posing under a papier-mâché mosquito at the visitors center. Honestly, the mosquitoes were huge up here, because they feast so quickly in the short summer. I was using 100% DEET mosquito repellent. Not good for the skin, but good for the peace of mind.


Info about the highway construction. I saw a documentary of the highway construction and truly appreciated the effort it took to make it.


The Alaska Pipeline (called the Alyeska) from Prudhoe Bay is known to all Alaskans, as they get a yearly check from the pipeline and that's a real cross-section of the pipeline.  


Heading into Fairbanks.

As we approached Fairbanks, we rode alongside the Eielson Air Force Base and were reminded why the Alaska Highway was built in the first place - to service the military. It's an important part of the local economy and has a major presence obviously due to its strategic location on the globe.

I  was really looking forward to stopping in the town of North Pole, which is just south of Fairbanks and see for myself the real Christmas industry, but traffic and construction were getting complicated just around there and we didn't end up finding the big touristy place. However, we did see some candy cane street lamps and could imagine this place all decked out in a few months for the Christmas season. Only in America could you name a town North Pole.

Not sure where to stay in Fairbanks, I called the local BMW service shop, who are very helpful to traveling bikers and got the address of a backpackers campsite right in Fairbanks. After getting a tented-cabin for the night, I asked the desk clerk how significant was the military to the local economy; to which he confirmed the obvious. He also went on to say that numerous foreign military allied personnel were routinely up here at Eielson Air Force Base to take part in training exercises, dubbed Red Flag in F-16s. They were coming up here to fly the vast expanse of Interior Alaska as unconstricted airspace is obviously limited in the Lower 48 and other allied countries. There's also a yearly increase in personnel in the area who come up to take part in the Northern Edge exercise, which is a war game using a squadron of planes as aggressors to provide real-life threats to training pilots. The F-16s based at Eielson AFB are labeled as an aggressor squadron.

The military is also responsible for providing good business to the many motorcycle dealers in Fairbanks.

I asked the clerk how did people manage to survive the bitter winter here. He said you just had to welcome it and learn to with the cold. There's tonnes of outdoor activities during the winter to bring the people out and make it fun: ice craving festivals, snowmobile racing, skiing, etc. For as much as I like warm weather for being outdoors, I also enjoy a great day of adventure in the snow. The clerk said besides coming up here to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), another cool thing about winter is when the temperature drops below -40 F, the light from street lamps appears to shoot straight up without scattering.

Being the actual day of the Summer Solstice, Chris and I headed into downtown as there was a Midnight Sun Festival taking place. The whole city was out on the streets and I sensed a sort of outlaw fringe feeling with all the commotion and the kind of people that were there. We got some food at a local kiosk as the city was setup as a street fair and then tucked in for the night, thinking about the long-awaited run up to Prudhoe Bay the next day.



Stopping by North Pole, Alaska just outside Fairbanks. This is America and Santa Claus is real, at least for kids and in this community, they're all about the Christmas industry. It's very popular in the winter.


At our campsite in Fairbanks, which had many options for lodging from $6 tenting to Teepees and cabins, which we took to get some good rest before heading to Prudhoe Bay the next day.


Our tent cabins that we stayed in for $25 a bed. Not bad actually. We didn't want to set up our tents, because we thought we could get an early start the next morning.
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« Reply #20 on: November 19, 2008, 03:59:14 pm »

Day 11 / Sunday, June 22, 2008

We got up early but couldn't get rolling right away since we found a flat in Chris' back tire. No problem. We had the tools and plugged up the hole pretty quickly. Onwards to the Arctic Ocean.



The next morning, Chris noticed his rear tire looked low on pressure and it wasn't getting filled up with air...


Because of this little sucker who was letting all the air out. No problem, because we can handle simple issues like this.


Chris' Tire Repair Kit using sticky rubber snakes.


First, ream the hole nice and clean.


Then place sticky snake in eye of holder.


Ram into the tire while twisting to get a maximum seal around the hole.


Now, this is where it's tricky. You have to pull the holder out while leaving the tire snake in place. A quick swift motion is required.


Voila, hole in tire is plugged. Trim off excess tire snake and fill with air. I myself prefer the mushroom plugs, as they're easier to work with. But whatever gets the job done.


Chris' full set of tools that he brought along. Nice machete.


Finally all set to leave. Time was around 10 am local.  

I knew from previous ride reports that the famed Dalton Highway started a ways out from Fairbanks, but didn't realize it was around a 100 miles out. From Fairbanks, you take the Steese Highway, then straight onto the Elliott Highway, which had some fantastic sweepers and generally good road surface quality. It made for some fun riding, that too with hardly anybody else out on the road. Since this was Chris' first street bike in a long time, I gave him a few pointers on leaning into the corners and being a natural motorcyclist, he quickly caught on. He in turn helped me out with my off-road riding skills.

At the start of the Dalton, there are signs warning that the pavement ends here and that there is heavy industrial traffic on this road. But what they don't mention is that there are still large sections of pavement interspersed all along the route. It's not just 400 miles of gravel road. It almost seems like the initial part of the highway is much worse than the road further north. Maybe it’s to turn back the not so willing.


The road out of Fairbanks, leading to the Dalton Highway was nicely peppered with long sweepers and note the blue skies.


Since this was Chris' first street bike in a long time, I gave him a few pointers on leaning into the corners and being a natural motorcyclist, he quickly caught on. He in turn helped me out with my off-road riding skills.


Twisting this way and that way...


See what I mean by enjoying these signs that point to such huge landmarks.


At the start of the Dalton Highway.


The pavement ends and it's gravel for the next 400 odd miles to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay.


Speed Limit of 50 mph on the Dalton.

One prominent feature of riding the Dalton is the Alaska Pipeline, transporting precious crude oil from the North Slope down to Valdez. The pipeline is easily visible from the Dalton as the road was constructed to help build and maintain the pipeline. It usually rides above ground, because the heat of the oil (coming out of the ground at around 180F) would melt the permafrost, which is the frozen ground up here in the Arctic.

The highway was open to the public in the 80s and since then the road itself has become a destination for travelers along with the obvious stops at the Arctic Circle and then onto the Arctic Ocean itself. In the motorcycle adventure riding community, it is considered one of the hallmark rides in the world due to its remoteness and difficulty in bad weather. The gravel portions of the highway become very slick when it rains, but in the dry, it's a nice ride with stunning views.

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« Reply #21 on: November 19, 2008, 03:59:33 pm »


Take me North.  


We soon realized that it's actually not all gravel. There were bits and pieces of paved tarmac. Here's an example of some frost-heaved tarmac.


The first sight of the Alaska Pipeline that the road follows all the way to Prudhoe Bay. The road was built to service and build the pipeline in the mid-70s.  


A beautiful piece of tarmac on the Dalton.


Heading north with this section of tarmac ending soon.


Coming up to the Yukon River.

The first rest stop on the highway comes 150 miles from Fairbanks at the Yukon River Crossing. There is a restaurant and oil depot at where almost everyone on the highway stops. It's a good place to meet other travelers and see who else is out here. While riding on the actual highway, it really seems that you are completely remote from civilization and only hearty adventure travelers would be out here, but then you see a minivan and a Ford Taurus out for a drive to the Arctic Circle. At least we can relish the fact that we're doing this on motorcycles, that too adventure motorcycles. But wait, there's a full-dressed Harley on touring tires doing this same ride. Of course, we'd like to think that we're better prepared for the ride, but everyone's out here for the same reason - to soak in this beautiful wilderness.

The restaurant is closed during the winter and they had pictures showing how a huge grizzly broke in during a recent winter and ransacked the whole restaurant. They said he must've been driven by starvation because there was a big forest fire the summer before that destroyed most of the fruits and food that the bears rely on. The owners had to come up and shoot the bear.

Regarding the restaurant building itself, the remoteness of the location lends the construction of these facilities to be made using modular blocks, which are prefabricated and delivered by trucks. It's a very basic design as function rules over form out here.



Crossing the Yukon River.


The E. L. Patton Yukon River Bridge.


Stopping for lunch and gassing up at the Yukon River Crossing out post. This is about a 100 miles from Fairbanks and the next gas stop is about 140 miles north at Coldfoot, the halfway point. The restaurant inside was pretty decent. They had pictures of when a huge grizzly broke in during the winter and caused lots of damage. The other regular cars here are most likely just going up to the Arctic Circle and then turning back. The road gets more remote past the Circle.


A Harley on the Dalton. It just goes to show it doesn't matter too much what bike you're riding as long as you have the right mentality.


And here's the rider. He said he went straight to Aerostich's warehouse in Duluth, MN and dropped about 2 grand in getting fully kitted out for this trip. He said lots of people have called him crazy for doing the trip and we said, fear not, you're among friends.


The lone road cutting a path amongst the wilderness. It might be a lonely highway, but I didn't really feel lonely and actually felt very much at peace being deep in the wilderness (besides the road).  


The zigzags of the pipeline were designed to allow it to move horizontally due to either temperature expansion/contraction or earthquakes. It was considered an innovation in the 70s.


Mile marker post south of the Arctic Circle.


While we had great blue skies for most of the day, there were some passing rain clouds. When it gets wet, the Dalton Highway can be a real challenge to ride as the gravel parts become slick like wet clay.


A passing rider heading south.

Around 50 miles north of the Yukon rest stop comes the signage for the Arctic Circle, which is defined as the place on Earth where at least there is one day in the year that the Sun is continuously above the horizon for 24 hours and this of course happens on the Summer Solstice (same applies in reverse for winter and for the Antarctic Circle in the southern hemisphere). One thing I recently learned was that the Arctic Circle is not at a fixed latitude. Its exact location is dependent on the tidal forces of the moon acting on the Earth and currently, the circle is moving north by about 15 meters every year due to the Earth's moving tilt. It will come back south sometime in the future as the cycle is around 41,000 years, which obviously is hard to comprehend in our short life times. In the same note, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are moving in the opposite direction, closer to the Equator, by about 15 meters every year.

I find it thrilling to see for myself all these things that we learned in school about. Growing up in India, the thought never crossed my mind that someday I would cross the Arctic Circle, which was just a line on a map way north on the globe. Not many people live north of the Arctic Circle, obviously because it's cold, but there are still three big cities in Russia up here, which survive due to the warm North Atlantic current. Just like Prudhoe Bay, those cities only exist to extract resources from the Earth (oil, minerals, etc). Besides the Dalton Highway, one can also ride up to the Arctic Circle in Norway on the way to Nordkapp and of course in various parts of Russia.

I'm not sure how touristy the Arctic Circle is in those parts of the world, but here, it's a destination for many family road trips and also many riders. At the pullout for the well-made road sign marking the Arctic Circle, there were cars, RVs and a biker who was turning around here. One of the RV people taking our picture thought Chris and I were crazy for wanting to ride an additional 300 miles north to Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Circle. To us, we felt that if we came all the way to the Arctic Circle, covering around 3,000 miles at least to get here from our homes, what's another 300 miles, eh? I think the ones who turn around at the Circle think that the road north gets even more difficult to navigate and is only for the crazies, but as we found out, it's not that much different, at least in the sunny weather that we had.



Yes, this is the Arctic Circle and I made it with auDRey! Pretty cool to actually be here after seeing so many pictures and thinking about how high up in the latitudes you actually are. Besides Alaska, I think Norway is the only other place in the World where you can drive up to the Arctic Circle and of course, some roads in Siberian Russia.


Nice to have met Chris to share this experience with.  


Onwards, we're headed to the end of this road.
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« Reply #22 on: November 19, 2008, 03:59:56 pm »

We took our obligatory pictures and continued north for 60 miles to the last rest stop before Prudhoe Bay at Coldfoot. A light passing rain added a misty effect to the environment making the ride already seem worth it whether we got to Prudhoe Bay or not. Even though the road is long and straight at times, just looking around at the unique environment was enough to keep us occupied.


Prudhoe Bay is a nice destination and all, but the ride up there was something else. Some very beautiful riding terrain.


The passing rain added a bit of a mystic effect.


At times if felt like we were riding off the face of this Earth...


Huge valleys. This was quite a common sight, yet its awe-inspiring effect never got old.

Coldfoot is a year-round truck stop that was originally a mining camp and was later built up with the help of truckers heading north to Prudhoe Bay. It's the half-way point between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay and north of here are no services for 240 miles till the Arctic Ocean, making this probably the remotest section of road in the US. It got its name of Coldfoot during its mining days from prospectors who would get cold feet and turn around as they prospected for gold in the nearby Koyukuk River.

There's a motel and even some free dry-camping (no bathroom facilities) available and of course a restaurant serving some hearty meals. It's also open 24 hours I believe.

We saw two BMW riders here that we saw earlier in the day at the Yukon River Crossing and after some introductions, we decided to ride together as we were obviously heading in the same direction. Steve was on a R1150 GS that he setup with an additional Touratech gas tank along with Caribou cases for his pannier. Regarding his setup, he said he likes to beat to his own rhythm, doing something different from the norm. Rick was on a F650GS, which he setup using 20mm ammo cans as panniers. Among the four of us, we had the whole spectrum of pannier options.

Steve and Rick were from Seattle and I think they had only two weeks for their trip. We all got along well pretty quickly and it felt nice sharing the road with like-minded riders.

An interesting fact to take in as one heads straight north on this road is that the trees get smaller the further north you go until there's only tundra left. The sun still shines up here on these plants, but the intensity of the sun's rays are less and thus the plants can't grow too big. I learned that from Planet Earth, a stunning BBC nature documentary series.

We took a break before Atigun Pass and Rick being an avid hunter told us that all this land is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and thus it's public land, which means we can camp wherever we like. Before we even got to Coldfoot, I was so impressed with the landscape and really wanted to spend a night out in the wilderness, maybe on our way back I thought. I asked the clerk at Coldfoot if it was possible and he said we're actually encouraged to camp wherever we like.



Stopping at the half-way point on the Dalton Highway. From here, it's a 240 mile desolate stretch of highway and this is where all the extra gas cans come in handy. Our two-man group of Chris and I became a four-man after we hooked up with these two guys: Steve on a BMW R1150GS and Rick on a BMW F650GS from the Seattle area.


A trucker heading north to the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields with some pipe casings for drilled holes.


Leaving Coldfoot and heading for the Brooks Range and Atigun Pass.


Riding huge valleys following the pipeline.


The last of the tall trees.


The sparse vegetation indicating that we were getting closer to the Brooks Range, as the tree line stops there and tundra is the predominant flora north of there.


A close-up of the pipeline. Since oil travels through the pipeline at about 120 F, the Vertical Support Members need heat exchangers on them to reduce the heat given off by the oil to the VSMs, so that they don’t melt the permafrost underneath and sink, damaging the pipeline. As an engineer, the pipeline is truly a marvel, especially considering it was built in the 70s. But as a naturist, it's also truly a sight for sore eyes dotting the entire landscape all the way to Prudhoe Bay. Two sides to every coin.


auDRey soaking it in. Dramatic views around every corner.


Steve on his R1150Gs.


This exposed granite peak was quite a sight.  

Our intended goal for the day was Prudhoe Bay and paying the minimum $90 per night for a motel bed. Not wanting to shell out so much money and also wanting to be more part of this wilderness, I asked the rest of the guys if they were up for camping out in the wild and it was a unanimous yes. We started keeping an eye out for suitable camp sites. Of course, we were all aware of the serious danger of grizzlies as this is their land. Along with my bear spray, we were hoping that safety in numbers would be good enough along with the basic notion of not leaving any food smells lingering. We still wanted to get to Prudhoe Bay the next day and take the BP tour to get to the Arctic Ocean, so we figured camping north of Atigun Pass would be a good idea.

The road surface around this area was hard packed clay, which was a breeze to ride over, but I can just imagine how slick it must get when it rains. We were cruising along at or above 60 mph most of the time. I don’t recall any real actual gravel sections. I believe the road has been tamed over the years. It must've been a much more hair-raising road to ride back in the day.



Getting close to the Brooks Range.


It was definitely nice to travel with this group on this remote road. We were all getting along nicely and decided to camp out on the tundra instead of making it all the way into Deadhorse.


Rick taking in the sights.


Passing a truck. On the real gravel parts, rocks kicked up by the trucks are known to break a lot of passing windshields, but it’s not an issue for rider’s helmet shields. It's just a matter of life up here.
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« Reply #23 on: November 19, 2008, 04:00:22 pm »


Rick taking in the sights.  


Chris taking in the sights.


Chris relaxing on his Cadillac.  


Going north... far north.


Coming up to the first mountain pass in the Brooks Range before Atigun Pass.


Passing Rick at a random rustic restroom. Note the Century21 realtor sign out in the middle of nowhere. I guess this land is for sale then.  


Climbing up the first pass.


Great views.


Looking back at Rick and Steve (excuse the flopping lanyard).


Rick climbing up.


Coming down the other side and heading to Atigun Pass up ahead. At this point, we had all agreed to camp out on the tundra. Rick, an avid hunter told us that all these lands belong to the Bureau of Land Management and not the National Parks. So, this is all public land and we're encouraged to camp and make use of the land. The only fear is grizzly bears. We were on the look out for suitable areas to setup camp.  

The main challenging part of the Dalton Highway is Atigun Pass over the Brooks Range, the northernmost mountain pass in the world that is kept open year-round. Truckers constantly make the trip up from Fairbanks to re-supply Prudhoe Bay and help with new construction. Antigun Pass is known for it's steep 10% grade climb up and what goes up must come down, making the descent as tricky as the ascent for truckers. To transport really heavy equipment, a road-train is used where the heavy trailer gets a push from another truck, which is driving blind right on the bumper of the trailer. In winter when the road is iced over, one can just imagine the skill it takes to safely navigate this pass.

We took a break at the top, which is only at 4,643 ft, compared to mountain passes in Colorado, which can be in the 11,000 ft range. We were looking at a half-bowl shaped valley where snow was melting to form a stream that would end up flowing all the way to the ocean. Steve said he noticed a path heading down into the bowl and I went down it. This was being quite adventurous for me and I was loving it. Soon, everyone else came down and we had fun crossing the stream a few times and just hanging out on a mountain pass in the Arctic. I was a bit nervous about following these experienced off-road riders across the stream as I knew I didn't want to get in over my head and drop the bike in the water.  But with a little encouragement and skill pointers of keeping the throttle pinned open, I crossed the stream successfully. It was about a foot deep.

Chris then decided he wanted to see how far up the melting snow and peat he could take his Bimmer. He went a fair ways up, got the picture and then needed a little help in getting her turned around. Steve was probably the most experienced rider there and he was riding his big Bimmer through ruts and over boulders with great precision. Chris and Steve went beyond the simple stream crossing and actually went down the stream navigating over all the boulders in the water. It was very impressive riding. But alas, a bike had to go down at some point and Chris's Bimmer just laid down on her side as he was trying to make a slow sharp turn. No harm done; maybe a small scratch on the panniers, which is what they're meant for anyways, right?

Rick's boots got soaked in his stream crossing as water went in over the top and as he was drying them out, he gave a detailed retelling on how he recently successfully stalked a deer with a bow and arrow, which requires much closer range and skill compared to hunting with a gun. It was very animated and he's a great story teller. I was just taking it all in. Here I was up here in the Arctic, in a mountain pass, near a stream, listening to a guy I just met a few hours ago, telling an exciting deer-hunting story.

We thought we should maybe just camp right here, but the ground was completely rocky and something didn't feel right about staying there too long. We spent maybe an hour down by the steam and as were getting ready to head down the pass, a trucker pulled up to Steve and asked how we got our bikes wet. When he said we were down by the steam, the trucker warned us that the area down by the stream was off-limits as that's where the pipeline is buried and if the pipeline police saw us down there, it would be a serious offense. He told us it was worse than being caught for poaching. Oops. We didn't see any warning signs and didn't think we were in an off-limits area, but time to get going anyway.

Knowing that we'd be camping on the tree-less tundra, we were keeping an eye out for any suitable firewood to burn at our campsite. Before we left the pass, we saw a piece of 2x4 lying on the shoulder and not thinking anything of it, we broke it up and took it with us. Later we realized that it was probably meant as a marker for where the pipeline is buried, but since it was lying down and seemed discarded, I guess it was fair game.



Heading to Atigun Pass.


The start of Atigun Pass, which is supposed to be a really hairy ride in the wet or during winter.


Starting up Atigun Pass.


Heading up Atigun Pass - the northernmost pass in the world that is kept open year-round.


In the summer, the road itself isn't much of a challenge to ride as it's designed for huge industrial trucks. But the steep 10% grade is a serious challenge for the big rigs that have to cross it, especially in the winter.


At the top of Atigun Pass at 4,600 ft. Steve said he noticed a little path leading down into the basin behind me so I went to check it out...


In the basin of Atigun Pass. This is how most rivers form, from snow melt. This little stream will pick up strength along the way and empty into the ocean.


I was a bit apprehensive about crossing that little stream, since I don't have much experience in water crossings.
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« Reply #24 on: November 19, 2008, 04:00:46 pm »


But after watching Chris and Rick run through there and getting some pointers of just keeping the throttle pinned open, I decided to go for it.


Yee haw! What a load of fun. I guess this counts as a bike wash. Here we are playing around in the water about a 150 miles from any civilization. Awesome. I didn't get that wet either. Thanks to Steve for the great picture.


Climbing up the hill on the other side of the stream. It always looks less steep in pictures compared to how it actually felt. Chris said he had great respect for the DR after seeing her do everything the big Bimmers could do, that too fully loaded down with all that luggage. What a great bike.


Chris taking his bike as high as he could go among the ice and tundra.


Voila, he made it into the mush. Getting out required just a bit of help from the rest of us.


After crossing the stream again and while attempting to turn the big beast around, she decided to lay down for a nap. That's what those panniers are for anyway. No harm done and lots of smiles. Nice to be having some off-road riding fun high up in the Arctic.


Steve's silhouette against the Brooks Range. This huge pullout at the peak is meant for the truck drivers to take a break before attempting the equally hairy steep downhill for them.


We found some wood lying around and decided to break it up and use it as firewood at our camp.


Rick with the broken wood on his bike. Heading down Atigun Pass.

The north side of Atigun Pass appeared steeper to me than the south side as I couldn't bring myself to take one-handed pictures of the descent. As you get to the bottom and start riding out of the valley, the view is phenomenal as the mountains seem very close to you yet you know this is a massive valley and the mountains must be far away. As I was told by previous riders, the view north of Atigun Pass is alone worth coming up this road for.

Before deciding on just setting up camp wherever we wanted to, we saw on a map, a rustic campground called Galbraith Lake. We figured there would at least be a bear-proof container there for our food waste and that should decrease our chances of a bear attack. The road leading to the campsite was about a mile long and it was precisely as we guessed it would be: one bear-proof container and some gravel sites. The campsite was located on a ridge with a great view of the Brooks Range. But even though we were so remote, there was amazingly a family reunion taking place there. What are the odds? And after we setup camp, two girls in a Subaru Outback also pulled into camp. This was turning out to be quite the gathering.



I was told the best part of the ride is just after Atigun Pass as the valley opens up.


This view alone in person is worth coming up this way.


The lonely Dalton snaking away out of the mountains.


Chris stretching the legs, nearing the end of the day for us.


To get a feel for how big this valley is, note how small Chris is on the bridge up ahead. The feeling of being there and experiencing this Big Nature really drives home the point of how small mankind is in comparison to this Earth.


Even though the road is so straight at times, one can hardly be bored with views like this.

The last traveler to pull in was one of the four-wheeled-kind. Steve, a Brit from Denver, was doing a tip-to-tip trip - from Prudhoe Bay down to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. He was traveling in a Toyota Landcruiser that he had setup in expedition trim. We invited Steve to hang out by our fire. He recently sold his computer software business and decided to do this trip with no timeframe in mind. The Landcruiser had a skid plate underneath it, lifted suspension, a mini fridge inside for fresh produce, a propane cooker and a tent on the roof. He was taking along all sorts of gear to do various outdoor activities, from hiking to rock climbing and I think he said he had a foldable bicycle in there too along with maybe an inflatable canoe. He had already been in Alaska for a month and just recently spent some time at the Grizzly Sanctuary on Kodiak Island where he took some amazing photos of Brown Bears fishing for Salmon.

Steve had this simple light jacket that was attached to a mosquito head net, which was soon the envy of others who were simply wearing mosquito head nets over a cap. I wasn't using a mosquito net and Steve asked if my time in Zambia (I mentioned to him that I lived there as a kid) made me immune to their bite. No no, I was just wearing 100% DEET mosquito repellent as I didn't like wearing the net. 100% DEET is supposed to be very bad for your skin, but it works amazingly well against the worst of mosquitoes.

It seemed like the only living fauna up here were the mosquitoes and as soon as you stop, they're on you immediately. The reason they're so vicious and large up here is because they have a very short window of warm weather where they need to suck up enough blood to survive the long winter. With other fauna being so sparse up here, they can smell a warm-blooded meal from far away and zero in on us very quickly. The caribou that migrate through here have figured out how to keep the mozzies (as British Steve calls them) at bay by standing at the top of ridges where the wind is the fastest making it hard for the mozzies to hang on. The chance of getting malaria from these mozzies is much less than a bite from their tropical cousins, but they're still very annoying.

For dinner that night, I had enough MREs and other dinner items for everyone, but just as we were getting ready to boil water, the father from the family reunion walked over and said they had excess steak and chicken fajitas and asked if we were interested. Yes please. We got some beans and Spanish rice as well. He said his family was making a road trip and they wanted to see Prudhoe Bay. Of course he thought we were all crazy for doing this trip on motorcycles but respected what we were doing. It was a great meal to have in such a remote place; steak on the tundra.

The best part about camping out there on the tundra was seeing the Sun not go below the horizon and just come right back up. This was a day after the Summer Solstice and how amazing to see the Sun that we've seen all our lives dip below the horizon every evening and rise the next morning, to break that rhythm and just make a big circle in the sky as the Earth rotated. I'm very much interested in Astronomy and Cosmology and seeing an event like this was reaffirming that events on a much bigger time scale than our own lives are at hand around us. For those that doubt Science and its profound revelations of Nature, they only need to travel to see with their own eyes.



Setting up camp at Galbraith Campground, a remote, rustic campsite that had one bear-proof garbage can and that's it. This is at the foothills just north of Atigun Pass, about 150 miles from Prudhoe Bay. We guessed that this was an old industrial campsite, maybe for building the pipeline or the road.  


The view was great in all directions.
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« Reply #25 on: November 19, 2008, 04:01:07 pm »


Chris checking in with his wife through an Iridium Satellite Phone from literally the middle of nowhere. The phone worked like a charm. And not too prohibitively expensive: about $300 for 3 weeks with minutes.


Enjoying the little campfire that we got going in one of the best campsites I've ever been at. Local time is about 12:30 am.


Here is another way to Adventure-Tour. This is Steve from Denver/London who's making a Tip-to-Tip trip (Prudhoe Bay to Tierra Del Fuego in southern Argentina). He got his Toyota Landcruiser all decked out for the trip with skid plates, lifted suspension, tent on the roof for some security, a fridge, propane cooker, plus all sorts of adventure gear: climbing equipment, a foldable bicycle, I think an inflatable canoe, etc. He's doing the trip solo and has no timeline. He had been in Alaska for a month already. We met up with him on Atigun Pass and we all got along pretty quickly.  


One of the most memorable aspects of this trip was being up this far north during the Summer Solstice and experiencing the never setting Sun. The Sun is behind me and I couldn't take a picture directly of it, but we enjoyed seeing the Sun just skimming the horizon and riding back up. It's about 1:15 am.


We just soaked up the great views.


I think the Sun was rising again at this point. Time is 1:45 am.
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« Reply #26 on: November 19, 2008, 04:01:27 pm »

Day 12 / Monday, June 23, 2008

The plan for the day was to head into Prudhoe Bay, take the BP tour to the Arctic Ocean and maybe make it back to Coldfoot for the night. Things stopped going according to plan for me right away. I was in good spirits in the morning, after doing some adventurous riding the day before up in Atigun Pass and spending a night out on the tundra. The two big Bimmers that I was with (Rick left earlier as he wanted to take it slow) didn't bother with dropping the air pressure in their tires for these dirt roads. However, since I'm not that well experienced in dirt-riding, I need to lower the air pressure so that I can get better grip with my tires to feel more confident.

Leaving the campsite and heading out from Galbraith back to the Dalton, Chris and Steve were flying through the water-filled potholes and having fun splashing water as they did. Feeling pretty good about my riding, I followed them through and I should've known better as the last big pothole that I went through was too much for my under-inflated rear tire and the tire rim bottomed-out against the tire, which pinched the inner tube and blew an 8 inch wide hole in the tube. I immediately knew what a stupid idea it was for me to go flying through these potholes with under-inflated tires. Ok, stupidity acknowledged, let's get on with fixing the problem.

This was not going to be a simple fix because I ran out of the correct sized spare tube. My rear wheel is 17" in diameter and the front is 21". I used my spare 17" tube when I mounted my new rear tire in Dawson City and I thought I would get another spare 17" tube in Fairbanks before doing the Dalton Highway. But somehow I overlooked getting the spare tube in Fairbanks and here I was stuck with a 21" tube to fit in a 17" tire. Riders have done this before, but it's only a short-term solution as the longer front tube will fold over on itself and lead to a likely pinch in the tube. The Bimmers use tubeless tires, which comes with the more expensive bikes, so they didn't have any spares.

Steve (from Seattle) said he was impressed with how quickly Chris and I installed the 21" tube. Before this trip, I had never changed a tire or tube by myself and he I was quickly gaining experience on the job. If I was by myself, I think breaking the bead on the tire would be the hardest part, but with another bike around, using its kick stand solves that issue.



The start of my serious troubles on this trip. In the morning, on the road leading out of Galbraith back to the Dalton, I went through a puddle a little too quickly for the reduced air pressure that I was running and the wheel rim bottomed-out and blew out the inner tube; not patchable. And I only had a front 21" spare tube for my 17" rear tire. I knew this wasn't the best solution, but what to do.


Breaking the bead of the tire on the rim using Chris' kickstand. Steve (from Seattle) who was watching and taking pictures was impressed with how quickly we were going about this tire change. Not having replaced a tire by myself before this trip, I was quickly becoming a pro.


Getting the tire back on.


We're still smiling. I mean, come on, we're doing a tire change in the tundra, high up in the Arctic. Not many people get to experience this.... because you're not supposed to, haha.


The longer front tube would be folded over on itself in the shorter rear tire and we didn't know how long it would hold, so to reduce weight on the rear, the guys offered to take a pannier each. What great guys.

It was 150 miles to Prudhoe Bay and I figured once we got there, we'd reassess the situation and decide how to proceed. To reduce the weight on my rear tire, Chris and Steve offered to carry one of my panniers each. What great guys.

I kept the speeds down and the tire lasted a good 70 miles, but then it let go. Knowing that this wouldn't be an easy fix, we had to figure out how to get my rear tire into Prudhoe Bay to get it fixed. The guys obviously had luggage on their bikes, so giving me a ride was not possible. Then someone suggested that we could ask Steve in the Landcruiser to give me a ride into town. He had left before us but was going at a much slower rate taking in the sights. Steve from Seattle took off to get Brit Steve to turn around. This sounded like a rescue mission.



Tundra and very little elevation change from here to the Arctic coastline.


Note the paved road in the middle of nowhere and the almost perfect horizon. We figured the road was paved near the pump stations along the way for the pipeline, because those were the sections most traveled by the Alyeska trucks (company managing the pipeline). Maybe they flew in to the pump stations and drove from there.


The road changed from pavement to gravel multiple times.  


About only 70 miles away from Prudhoe Bay, guess what happened...


Yup, that folded over front tube in the rear tire finally let go. It lasted about 70 miles, which is not bad. I knew it was a temporary fix (putting the bigger tube in a smaller tire), but I was hoping it would at least last till Prudhoe Bay. Having run out of patches and spare tubes, I figured my options were waiting for a passing biker that had a spare tube, or hitching a ride into Prudhoe Bay and fixing my tube.


Being still in the middle of nowhere, I figured hitching a ride into Prudhoe Bay would be the safest thing. Steve (from Seattle) rode ahead and flagged down Steve (from Denver) in the Landcruiser and asked if he could give me a ride into Prudhoe Bay. I used my Bike Crutch to hold up the swing arm and also piled a lot of stones to stop the bike from rolling and support it in case the stand gave way. I hid my side panniers in the bushes down from the road.
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« Reply #27 on: November 19, 2008, 04:01:58 pm »

I was going to leave auDRey standing by the side of the Dalton Highway while I went into Prudhoe Bay to fix the tire and come back. To further support the bike, I put lots of big stones around the front tire to keep it from rolling back and around my bike crutch, which was holding up the swing arm. Steve turned around and was more than happy to give me a ride into Prudhoe Bay. While he was strapping down my rear tire on the roof, planning for the worst, I took my contact lens solution, money, phone and camera and then stashed my side panniers in the bushes below the road as I couldn't take them with me. It sounds funny now, but that's what I had to do.

One strange incident that happened while all this about my rear tire was happening, was another biker (forgot his name) returning from Prudhoe Bay on a yellow BMW GS, stopped to find out what was going on and then asked if we could watch his bike for him because he caught a glimpse of the rare Muskox (a bison of the tundra) over some hills and wanted to hike over and try and get some pictures. He was really enthusiastic about the Muskox and he was gone maybe for 45 minutes. While we were waiting for Brit Steve to turn around, Chris and I joked that if this other guy didn't come back for his bike, I had myself a GS to continue my trip on. He came back and was thrilled to have seen the Muskox up close and he got lots of good pictures of them. They're a rare artic mammal and it's hard to see them in the wild.

Steve and I got going and I wasn't really feeling down that my trip wasn't going according to plan because I was currently riding in an air-conditioned Landcruiser on a reasonably hot day. Surprisingly, the warmest day of the trip was probably the one where I was closest to the Arctic Ocean. It was around high 70s, maybe even 80F. Steve and I had built up a rapport from the previous evening and we soon got into some engaging conversation about travel, life, politics, philosophy, etc. In my view, there's always a plus side to every situation.


Steve came back and offered to give me a lift into town. What a great guy. Here he is strapping down my rear tire on to the roof of the Landcruiser. He had this cool lite-jacket that had a mosquito net sewn into it, which others asked if they could buy from him.


Pictures from the Landcruiser. It was actually quite a hot day, temps were maybe near mid-80s F, so being in a nice air-conditioned jeep was a welcome ride. Plus, Steve and I had a good rapport from the previous night and we had good conversation in the jeep. One funny incident, I asked if anything had gone wrong on his trip so far and just then, a rock from a passing truck came flying and cracked his windshield. Oops. He told me not to mention bad things anymore, haha. Something about Quantum Flux where just saying something negative puts into motion a negative action somewhere in the Universe.

Yes, I did fail myself in terms of my trip preparation and now I wouldn't be arriving in Prudhoe Bay on my motorcycle, after all these months of planning for this great adventure. But you know what, in retrospect it makes for a great story, doesn't it?

As we were getting to the end of the Dalton Highway, the horizon started playing tricks on our eyes. A few times, we thought what we say up ahead was the Arctic Ocean or even the sea ice, but it turned out to be another hill crest.

The Dalton Highway is known for being tough on vehicles and just as I asked Steve if anything had gone wrong for him so far, a rock from a passing truck flew up and cracked a small part of his windshield. Right then he told me not to talk about anything negative anymore. He shared with me his philosophy on this and what I understood of it was that using Quantum Theory's notion that everything is connected to everything else at the Quantum level, saying something positive here would result in a positive action somewhere else in the Universe and same goes for saying something negative. So if we stopped talking negatively, we would reduce the number of negative events that happened. Sounds logical and I'm willing to adhere by it.

He was being extremely careful all the way up the Dalton by slowing down for oncoming truck traffic, who would respond in kind and slow down to reduce the number of rocks flying up behind them to crack windshields. He said he also lost his CB antenna along the way.

We pulled into Deadhorse around 1:30 pm and went over to the Arctic Caribou Inn, where Steve was staying the night and where the Arctic Ocean tours were booked from. I met up with the other guys and Rick who arrived much earlier than all of us had already been on the tour and didn't think it was worth it. He said if you've seen the documentaries about Prudhoe Bay, it was nothing more than that and he didn't think the ocean part was worth it. When I was planning to do this Alaska trip, I thought being able to touch the Arctic Ocean would be a nice accomplishment, but with my current situation, it was down my priority list.

I found out where the tire shop was and soon realized that all the services out here were geared mainly towards the heavy machinery. The tire mechanic at GBR Tire, Rick who was very busy accepted to fix my tube, although he'd never worked on a motorcycle tire before. The principles are the same. After he finished patching up the major hole, I found 4 other holes in the tube. I told him I could do it myself since he was very busy and he gave me a handful of industrial strength tire patches and tire cement. I went about fixing every known hole in the tube. This was not a good sign if in just 70 miles I had about 5 holes in my tube. How was I going to make it back to Fairbanks that was around 500 miles away?

Once that was taken care off, I now had to find a way to get back down to my bike that was 70 miles south of Deadhorse. It was around mid-afternoon by now.

I knew I needed another spare gas container for auDRey because I would have around 170 miles to make it back to Coldfoot before I could refuel. Besides the two hotels (Arctic Caribou Inn and the Prudhoe Bay Hotel), the only other public place to go to was the General Hardware store, where the post office is located. On the way there, since I wouldn't be staying for the Arctic Ocean tour, Brit Steve took me around Prudhoe Bay on the route the tour bus would take, but of course not into the security controlled BP oil fields. The hardware store is well stocked and I also bought a roll of Duct tape as a last resort method of sealing the tube.

Chris followed us around Deadhorse and being a great riding buddy, he was going to stick with me until I could find a ride down to my bike and then we would ride to Fairbanks. Steve dropped me off at the start of the Dalton Highway and I figured I would hail down the next truck heading south and ask for a ride. Some confusion ensued and Chris didn't see where I was standing and figured I had already gotten a ride and continued to head south on the Dalton. I tired to get his attention but he was already too far away down the Dalton. I figured he would wait by my bike until I got there.


The end of the road. That stop sign is the end of the Dalton Highway and probably the northernmost publicly accessible road in the world. You turn left to go to the motels and right to go to the oilfields. That water there is connected to the Arctic Ocean, so that was good enough for me as I wouldn’t have time to take one of the tours.


In Deadhorse (the town that supports the Prudhoe Bay oilfields) I found a truck tire repair shop and Rick here fixed my tube up real good and even gave me a bunch of industrial strength patches and tire cement in case I had more punctures.


That's a nicely done patch. But bad news was that I had 4 other holes in this tube that I patched up before installing in the tire.


The classic picture of the end of the road sign at the general store.


Steve was staying the night and going to do the Arctic Ocean tour in the morning and by now, the focus of seeing the Arctic Ocean was down on my priority level, as I was more focused on trying to get back to civilization (Fairbanks). But since I was here, I figured I might as well see a bit of the area. Steve drove me around town to get a feel for it.


The whole focus up here is to get the oil out of the ground (about 9,000 ft below) and pumped into the pipeline. And there is a whole oil field services industry up here: someone to do the drilling, someone to do the pumping, someone to service the trucks, etc. There are about 5,000 people up here, all working 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off.


An oil derrick.


Summer is actually the slow season here, because most of the ground becomes swampy and heavy equipment can't be moved easily. As soon it gets below freezing (I think in late September), they make ice roads and things start moving a lot easier. It's busiest here in the dead of winter.


So my bike didn't make it to Prudhoe Bay, but my rear tire did, so that's got to count for something. My plan was to hitch a ride down with all my belongings to my bike, put her back to together and get going. But surprisingly, I couldn't get a lift. The trucking companies said they have a liability issue with picking up passengers, and no private vehicles were heading down the road.

Here I was trying to hitch a ride out of a remote industrial oil town. I had with me my rear tire, my helmet, a garbage bag of my belongings and a gas container. I must've looked like an out-of-place modern hobo. It was pretty amusing to see the stares from passing oil workers who were going this way and that way in their pickups. I'm sure they've never seen someone try to hitch hike out of their oil town, that too with a tire and helmet in hand.

I realized that I had forgotten to put fuel in the fuel container that I bought. There's only one public fueling station in Deadhorse and it's in the same area as the Hardware store, maybe about a mile or two away. I started walking in that direction with the gas container and a pickup truck slowed down and offered me a ride. He obviously figured I was going to the fueling station and said he's never seen someone just walking around Deadhorse. I explained my situation and he wished me luck in having a good trip. The fueling station was fully automatic with no attendants and was simple to use.

On the way back, another pickup truck stopped and offered me a ride back (the fuel container helping me out). I got talking with the driver, Matt and he said he's been working here at Prudhoe Bay since 1976. He works two weeks on and two weeks off and is based in Anchorage. I asked him why the place looked slightly deserted and he said summer is actually the low season because the ground is soft from the thawing permafrost and heavy machinery can't be moved around easily. Once the ground starts freezing in September/October, they build frozen roads and the place gets very busy.

He had multiple cracks in his windshield and said it's so common here that they only replace the windshield when you can't see through it anymore. I noticed that all the pickup trucks here were Fords and he said Ford actually had a remote dealership here in Deadhorse where they sold new F250s, F350s and Expeditions at a hefty premium as each one has to be transported on a semi-truck from Fairbanks.

I asked him if hitting peak production has affected life here (peak oil production here was reached in 1998 and the pipeline doesn't run completely full of oil anymore). He said he's definitely seen things slow down and the slower rate of oil has affected how much everyone gets paid. He said in the heydays, it was easy to become rich real quick. Prudhoe Bay has been through a boom, a drought and now these are recovery days as they figure out better methods of extraction harder to reach oil.

The thing with oil production and our global economy based on cheap oil is that as long as we keep finding new sources of oil, we know that there will be supply for the demand. As soon as global peak production is reached (the halfway point of oil extraction), we know that from then on supply is limited for the oncoming demand and this will cause the price of oil to shoot up significantly. Globally, we've extracted about 900 billion barrels of oil out of the estimated 2,000 billion barrels of speculated recoverable oil. Once we hit the half way mark in about 10 to 20 years (which we won’t know precisely until we've crossed it), oil prices will shoot up dramatically.

Before that happens, I hope they make a hybrid motorcycle soon. I don’t know how I'd like an all electric motorcycle but that seems to be the way the future is going. Until then, let's responsibly enjoy our internal combustion engines. Right now, I needed to get back to my own engine to carry me back to civilization.

As I stood by the start of the Dalton Highway, the tire mechanic from before pulled over and said he could give me a ride if it was within 20 miles of Deadhorse but 70 miles would be too much as he was currently on the clock. Two semi-trucks went by and wouldn't stop, shaking their heads. Rick, the tire mechanic swung by again and after giving me two bottles of water (since I was standing out in the sun) said he would call the trucking companies over his CB radio and see what they could do. He exaggerated my story by saying I walked 4 hours with my flat tire before getting a ride into town, while giving me a wink. The agent at the trucking company couldn't believe the story, but he said regardless, their trucks can't pick up passengers due to insurance liability reasons. He even called down to their main office in Anchorage with no avail. Damn the litigious culture. I tired to hail down some tourist vehicles that I saw but they didn't have any space in the back for me or my belongings.

Two older gentlemen on Triumphs coming into Deadhorse stopped and asked if the yellow bike that was propped up down the highway was mine. I asked them if they had any spare tubes, but they didn't and I gave them directions to the hotel and they carried on.

After giving it another hour, I decided to spend the night and go back down with Brit Steve the next morning after he took his tour of the Arctic Ocean. I felt bad for Chris who would be waiting for me down by auDRey and I hope he didn't wait too long before realizing that I wouldn't be coming down that day. He later told me that he waited about two hours and then continued on to Coldfoot. We parted ways and didn't even say a proper farewell. This only means that we have to meet up again in the future.

I got another ride from another pickup truck as I was walking towards the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. This time it was a bunch of younger engineers who were out here on a short assignment and were heading to the same hotel. They were based in Ontario and I was surprised to hear them say they were amazed that people could actually ride through Canada to get to Alaska. And beyond that, they were impressed that it's possible to ride all the way to Prudhoe Bay. They thought the road was meant only for the trucks. And I realized then that almost everyone working here (around 5,000 people) all flew into Deadhorse and only the heavy machinery was trucked up.

The two places to stay in Deadhorse are the Prudhoe Bay Hotel (at $90 for a bed) and the Arctic Caribou Inn, which is twice as expensive. Both hotels are built using modular construction and are used primarily by the short term oil workers and the tour groups that come up from Fairbanks. While the exterior aesthetics leave much to be desired, the interiors are not bad at all and have informational posters all about the oil industry in the hallways. I learned that the oil here comes from 9,000 ft below ground. The room price includes access to the 24 hour buffet cafeteria and laundry services. I went through both the hotels and couldn't see why the Arctic Caribou Inn was twice the price as it looked the same, even the basic rooms. Regarding technological comforts, there was WiFi throughout the hotels, provided probably through satellite connection. However there were signs of future improvement there as I saw a 'Broadband Test Vehicle' roaming around town throughout the day.

One thing to note about both the hotels was that hand sanitizer solution (Purell) was available throughout the premises; in the rooms, in the bathroom, in the dining room, in the hallway etc. They must either be really worried about spreading infections and diseases in this closed-off community (images about Nome's diphtheria epidemic in 1925 and the serum run come to mind) or it's just because everyone's hands must be so dirty from the work they do.

Another interesting thing about both hotels is that anyone (non-paying guests included) can buy a brown lunch bag for $10 and take whatever they can stuff in the bag. Earlier in the day, before I tried to hitch-hike out of here and thinking I would be camping out on the tundra again, I bought a brown bag and stuffed 2 Philly cheese steak sandwiches (they had a cooler with take-away foods), fried chicken, canned juice, yogurt, milk, cookies, Fritos and an apple. That's a pretty good diet there, huh? It was definitely great value for the money. Don't worry, the yogurt and milk was consumed pretty quickly. I still kept most of the food and took it down with me the next day.

I settled in for the evening with a nice shower (it had been a few days since I had taken a relaxing shower) and a nice slow meal. The food was hearty American fare and resembled a college cafeteria with lots of different choices from a salad bar to burgers to chicken to sandwiches, etc. It was a very lively dining room when the oil workers came in after their shifts and I was just taking in the situation. A tour group of elders sat down next to me and one woman, maybe in her 60s said she better do all the rough traveling now before she got too old with hip problems and other mobility issues. Great mentality; do it while you still can.

After dinner, I washed everything that I was wearing and set down for some much needed rest. I hung out in the social room and watched TV for a bit with some burly looking gentlemen. I hadn't watched regular TV (life before Tivo) in a long time and was happy to note that I wasn't missing much.

Even though things didn't go according to plan, I felt I had a very rich and unique Prudhoe Bay experience.

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« Reply #28 on: November 19, 2008, 04:02:22 pm »

Day 13 / Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In the morning, during breakfast, a young Latino cook named Alondro approached me and asked if I was a bicyclist since I was wearing my under armour gear. While bicycling up to Prudhoe Bay would be interesting, he found riding a motorcycle to be crazy enough. He came up from Oregon last winter and moved his family to Anchorage. He, like almost everyone else here works 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off giving Alaska Airlines great business with their direct flights to Anchorage and Fairbanks from here. He recounted his tale of driving across the Canadian Rockies with his family in a tow vehicle and described how it would be sunny on one side and snowing and icy on the other side. The trailer jack-knifed on him, but he saved it. I told him that was his adventure in coming to this amazing land. The pay must be really good for all the various jobs in Prudhoe Bay for families willing to endure the long winter. All though, Anchorage's weather isn't as bad as most people think it is because it lies on the coast.

Two maintenance guys in painter jump suits sat down at my table and they again thought I was a bicyclist. They said they were working 12 hours shifts for 9 weeks straight with no breaks, unlike the usual workers up here. They looked younger, like maybe college kids making good money over the summer. After hearing that I was a motorcyclist, they asked if I was going to ride all the way down to Argentina. The thought has crossed my mind, but I think they probably have seen other motorcyclists around here who were heading all the way down.

Later in the morning, Steve and I set off back down the Dalton and being the kind soul that he is, Steve said he would stick with me until I reached Fairbanks. We had another pleasant ride in the Landcruiser, chatting away about various topics and taking in the unique scenery of the tundra. On leaving Deadhorse, it was interesting to note that everything happening in that remote town was to get oil into the pipeline, which starts a ways off from Deadhorse and gradually joins up with the Dalton.



Not able to get a ride, I stayed the night and went down with Steve the next morning. This is the road leading out of Prudhoe Bay going South.


Water trucks filling up from the lake and spraying down the road to keep the dust down.

auDRey was waiting there patiently on the side of the road for her rear tire. I was glad to see that she was still standing upright supported by all the rocks and had not been blown over by any passing trucks or wind gusts. I was thankful that no one decided to play a cruel joke and take my axle or other components that I left there. I installed the newly patched tube, crossing my fingers that it would last, but alas it went flat in just 10 miles. This was not good news. Not willing to give up, I wrapped the entire tube with the duct tape I bought as I've been told that it could be used as a last resort method to give the tube some reinforcement.


Chris made it down to my bike the previous evening and waited for me, hoping I'd be able to get a lift. But thankfully he realized I wasn't able to make it down so he continued on to Coldfoot and we ended up separating from there on. Great riding with you buddy and thanks for sticking with me.


Arriving back at where I left auDRey yesterday and proceeding with installing the tire, hoping it would last. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)

While I was repairing the tube, about three different rider groups stopped by that were headed north. They said they all heard about my story from my riding buddies that were further down the road (Chris, Steve and Rick). They said the guys have been telling everyone that was headed north to look out for me and help me out if they could. I was becoming known as the guy with the broken down bike on the Dalton. So much for keeping a low profile. I'm glad I provided some entertainment to them as they laughed light-heartedly at my duct-taped solution.

One rider on a big BMW GS actually started scolding me for taking too many risks attempting to do this trip on a little Suzuki DR650. I think he was a fireman from Juneau or Anchorage and his concern for my well-being was spilling over into anger at my perceived recklessness. He said being stranded up here on the tundra was very dangerous and if a female grizzly bear saw me from across a valley, she would come over and kill me because they're territorial. He said when I get back to Fairbanks I should just sell my little DR and buy a proper BMW GS to continue the trip. This was a tire issue, not a bike reliability issue. Thanks for the fearful advice but all I really needed now was a spare tube for my tire.



But alas, the newly multi-patched tube went flat in only 10 miles. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


Thinking ahead that this might happen, I purchased a roll of duct tape at the general store as a desperate measure. I patched up the new holes and wrapped the whole tube in duct tape to give it some reinforcement.  


Not going to give up! Duct-taped tube installed in the tire. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)

The duct-taped tube only lasted for 7 miles and now I was in a pinch. I was out of fix-it solutions. I borrowed Steve's satellite phone and was thinking of asking the Suzuki dealership in Fairbanks to ship the correct sized tube to Prudhoe Bay and I would somehow get a ride back there, pick up the tube and get back down here and continue with my trip. Just then a group of three bikers pulled in, saying they also heard of my situation from my riding buddies and were here to help. Matt on a new KLR650 had a spare tube for me. Also with him were Professor Nick on a BMW GS Adventure from Ohio and Ryan, on an F650. I had met Nick at the Dawson City rally and he looked like someone with lots of experience with field situations and was very helpful. He said they would make sure to fix up the tire so that I could carry on with no problems. Matt banged my bent rim back in shape and auDRey was all set to go by 6:30 pm local time. We had only moved about 90 miles so far today. After saying many thanks to Matt and Nick, Steve and I took off south back to civilization.


But sadly, that lasted only about 7 miles before letting go. Now, I was really up a creek without a paddle. I was about to call down to the Suzuki dealership in Fairbanks, using Steve's satellite phone, to have them ship out a proper sized tube to Prudhoe Bay and I would continue with Steve to Coldfoot before hitching a ride somehow back to Prudhoe Bay. But thankfully, just then a group of three bikers, whom I met at Dawson City for the bike rally pulled up and the KLR rider, Matt had a spare tube for me.  


This is Professor Nick, riding the familiar BMW R1200GS Adventure, who has a breadth of automotive knowledge and consults for the Big 3 in Detroit. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


They had heard of my troubles from my riding buddies from yesterday and I found out almost everyone on the Dalton Highway knew of my troubles. Good job on trying to keep a low profile. Almost every passing biker stopped by to make sure the story was true and that I was ok. Tim here is graciously banging my bent rim back into shape. These guys said they would do whatever it took to make sure I was good to go. What good people.


The impact of the first flat yesterday was serious enough to bend the rim. Here, Ryan is holding my old tube over the rim, as the camera captures an action shot of the hammer pounding on the rim. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


Forget the tube, direct contact was needed. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


It felt like a triage scene, with Nick and I fixing a new puncture in the tire from a nail and Matt and Ryan banging the rim back into shape.(Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


Tools were scattered everywhere and Nick told me I was a messy mechanic, but I said it was reflective of the current situation. This is Matt's KLR here on the left and he's done some fabricating; like the fuel bottle holders and the tool tube. Nick has also done some extensive fabrication on his GS with a carrier for fishing poles, tire tools and even a bottle of brandy. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


Mounting the tire back on the rim.(Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


Installing the correct-sized tube. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


Checking the air pressure and all set to go. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)
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« Reply #29 on: November 19, 2008, 04:02:46 pm »

I was glad to finally be moving without any worries. I was never really concerned that I would be stranded out there on the Dalton, but it was definitely an experience I won't forget. My spirits were still high and I was still enjoying the fact that I was riding up here in the Arctic in this great wilderness. Steve had a service appointment for his Landcruiser in Fairbanks the next morning, so we just decided to ride through the night. I rode in front of him so that he could see if I had stopped again due to some other issues.

It started raining as we approached Atigun Pass and the road further south was getting a little slick, but my 80/20 Kenda K761 tires were handling it just fine. I was hoping the rain would stop by the time I needed to refuel but that would not be the case. I was aware that opening the fuel tank in rainy conditions would allow water to enter the tank, which is not good for combustion. But I had to do it and I tried to cover the fuel tank opening as I poured in the extra gas I was carrying and hoped it wouldn't be a big issue.

We got to Coldfoot around 10 pm and took an extended break. My riding buddies had left a note with the clerk in case I made it down the previous night. Too bad I couldn't say a proper good bye to any of them. Nice riding with you guys.



With the right sized tube in my rear tire, I was set to make it back to civilization and carry on with the rest of my trip. We finally got going by 7 pm and all the trouble from the previous day couldn't really dampen my spirits because check out this awesome scenery. This is coming up to Atigun Pass. I was still loving being out here north of the Arctic Circle. I knew my life was never in danger and I had confidence that I would get out of here in one piece on the bike.  


Unbeknownst to me, I was to be dealt some more bike troubles with this falling rain. I had to refuel before I made it into Coldfoot and unfortunately it was raining. I tried to cover the opening to the gas tank as I poured some extra fuel in, but some water got into the fuel and created problems. The road became slightly slick with the rain, but riding with my 80 street/20 dirt tires was no problem.

Steve and I ate some dinner and had some good conversation as we shared views on varying topics as mentioned before and we hit the road around midnight. It took me a long while to get auDRey fired up and I was bit concerned that all was not well with the engine. Whatever it was, I hoped she would last till Fairbanks at least.

Riding the Dalton through the night was a surreal experience. It obviously didn't get dark and there were even fewer vehicles out on the road. I felt very much at one with my surroundings. I stopped to take a Red Bull break around 2 am and just soaked in the calmness of the Arctic.

One thing you won't see in the daytime is trucks with oversized cargo making the journey as there would be too much traffic to deal with for the pilot trucks. We passed at least two convoys carrying large loads. In the winter is also when large loads are brought up the Haul road.

Around 3:30 in the morning we were at the Yukon River and took some nice pictures with the E. L. Patton Yukon River Bridge in view. auDRey was struggling a bit but still chugging along and I hoped whatever damaged had happened wasn't too serious.

As expected, the temperature dropped just before sunrise and Steve, with his heater cranked up, said his thermometer was reading in the low 40s F. That Landcruiser is surely some luxurious adventure traveling.


We took a long break in Coldfoot and Steve said he had to make it into Fairbanks the next morning to get his Landcruiser serviced and arrange for a new windshield, so we decided to ride through the night. My energy levels were feeling good and it was still light out, so we took off. Starting my bike in Coldfoot was pretty rough, but I got it going. This was about 12:45 am.


Taking a Red Bull break at 2 am on the Dalton Highway. Surreal experience.  


We passed a couple trucks with oversized loads and figured they probably do the trips at night to avoid the traffic during the daytime. Someone said the oil companies don't really like all the public traffic on Dalton, because it slows them down, but the state insisted that the road be open to all.


Riding the Dalton Highway, with the first traces of sunlight. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


At the E. L. Patton Yukon River Bridge at 3:30 in the morning.


Looking west across the Yukon River, so this must still be remnants from sun set.  


It was pretty cool to be sharing the ride with an adventurer in a Landcruiser. It reminded me of the trips we used to make in my childhood growing up in Africa in old 1980s Landcruisers into the wildlife game parks in Zambia.  (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


Capturing what it felt like to ride the Dalton Highway. It's a journey unto itself. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)


Almost out of the woods. I had to stop to capture this picture of low forming clouds by the sun's rays in the valleys. The temps were pretty chilly right before dawn, around the low 40s F. This was about 5 am. The heat from the sunshine colliding with the cold from the valleys formed these thin clouds.


Steve in his Landcruiser.


Woo hoo! I survived the Dalton Highway. All though my troubles could have occurred on any other road, the circumstances of the events on the Dalton Highway for me was a life-affirming experience.
Psst, note the guy sleeping under the sign. I think he's waiting for a ride to the Yukon rest stop. (Picture courtesy Steve Jones)

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« Reply #30 on: November 19, 2008, 04:03:06 pm »

Day 14 / Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We pulled into a car wash in Fairbanks around 8 am and rejoiced that I made it back to civilization. auDRey was not sounding good towards the end and I hoped she would make it to the dealership. We bought some Calcium, Lime and Rust remover to wash off the build up of Calcium Chloride that is sprayed down on the Dalton Highway. They use that in the winter so that road doesn't freeze and also in the summer to reduce the dust on the gravel road. When the road gets wet, the Calcium Chloride gets sprayed over all the frontal surfaces and must be washed off quickly before it cakes on hard. It also ruins paint work.

I said good-bye to Steve as he was headed for his service appointment and thanked him for all his help. His travelogue is located at taxidialogue.com.



And voila, I made it back to civilization. The bike was sputtering and not sounding very good towards the end of the night. I figured water in the fuel system was the main culprit. We went straight for the car wash after buying some Calcium, Lime and Rust remover from a nearby store.  


I was informed earlier to wash off the calcium chloride as soon as I was done with the Dalton Highway, because it could cake onto the hot parts of the bike and affect cooling performance of the engine and other parts. They spray calcium chloride down on the road to keep it from freezing in the winter.


My exhaust fully covered in mud and the screw that I put in about 8 days ago to hold the end cap on was working itself loose. The carbon buildup around the loose rivets and the end cap opening was indication that all was not well in the engine.

After the bike wash, auDRey would not fire up and I had to figure out a way to get her towed to the Suzuki dealership in town. Lady Luck still riding pillion with me introduced me to my next angel, Perry, who was washing his Toyota 4Runner SUV in the next bay over. He heard me struggling with auDRey and asked if I needed any help. He said he was a rider too and just bought a Yamaha cruiser and made his first big trip down to Anchorage a few weeks earlier. Upon hearing I needed a tow to the dealership, he said he would go back home and get his trailer to help me out. It was his day off and he said he was glad to help another biker.

He said he worked as an engineer at the Ft. Knox gold mine near Fairbanks by the Tanana and Chena Rivers. It's one of the longest running mines in operation in this area, which began in 1902.

We got to the dealership, Northern Power Sports and sensing the urgency because I was in the middle of a trip, they immediately took me in for servicing. The guys running the shop were very friendly and let me in the back where the bike was being worked on by Doug, a mechanic proud of his work. He showed me exactly what was wrong: water was mixed in the fuel tank and there was also water in the air box. He drained all the old fuel, cleaned the carbs and put on a new air filter. She fired right up and sounded great. I hoped that was the end of my problems.



The bike wouldn't start after getting her fully cleaned and I figured the best option would be to take her to the Suzuki dealer in town and get her fixed, but I would need a tow somehow. Luckily, in the next car wash bay was Perry with his Toyota 4Runner and he asked if I needed any help. He said he was a rider too and just bought a Yamaha cruiser and made his first big trip down to Anchorage a few weeks earlier. Upon hearing I needed a tow to the dealership, he said he would go back home and get his trailer to help me out. It was his day off and he said he was glad to help another biker. Here we are emptying his trailer at the local garbage dump. He told me there's no at-home garbage pickup and residents have to take their own trash to the dump.


A plea to keep the garbage dump clean.


Putting auDRey in the trailer.


Getting her serviced by Doug at Northern Powersports. This dealership is run by great people and knowing of my situation, they got me into service right away. I was surprised by how busy they actually were. Doug did find water in the fuel and thoroughly cleaned the carbs, air filter, and fuel tank. She fired up and sounded good. I thought my problems were over.

I had planned to stay with a friend from ADVrider in the town of Healy, which supports the entrance to Denali National Park and arrived there around 5 pm. Paul, who owns the Subway and photo shop by the entrance to the park, moved out here from the East Coast after spending a summer and loving it here. He said the Subway store takes in more revenue in just the months of summer compared to any other Subway store along the West Coast. He gave me a few sandwich coupons and the place was constantly packed with park tourists.

Paul bought some great land next to the park for a very low price and is currently constructing a nice log home. He rides his KTM 525 dirt bike over numerous trails into the woods around here and is thinking of opening up a dirt-riding tour company of some kind. In the winter, when his businesses are closed for the season, he heads down to the Lower 48 and rides where it's warmer. He's got a great gig set up.


I made it down to Denali National Park and would be staying with Paul, who I contacted through ADVrider's Tent Space list. Paul owns the Rapid Exposure photo shop and the Subway in front of the park entrance. It's only open during the summer and that Subway is constantly full of tourists. He said that Subway takes in more revenue in just 3 months than any other Subway on the West Coast does in a year. Paul moved out here from the North-East after spending some time and really liking it here.  


This is Paul's log home that he's building on cheaply purchased land right next to Denali. He rides his KTM 525 dirt bike over numerous trails into the woods around here and he's thinking of setting up a dirt-riding tour company of some kind. In the winter, he heads down to the Lower 48 and rides where it's warmer. He's got a great gig set up.
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« Reply #31 on: November 19, 2008, 04:03:26 pm »

Day 15 / Thursday, June 26, 2008

Paul said that he's good friends with one of the local white-water rafting outfits and they help each other out with goods and services, and friends are included. So, I got to go on a free two hour rafting trip on the Nenana River through some Class II and III rapids with the Denali Outdoor Center.

I've only been white-water rafting once before on the New River in West Virginia and totally loved it. It's amazing and exhilarating to be able to control yourself through rapidly surging water and direct the raft to get the maximum thrills from the waves. Because the water is so cold up here, we were all in dry-suits that completely sealed off the body minus your hands and your head. You still end up getting splashed with the very cold glacial run-off water but it feels great once the adrenaline is flowing. And getting splashed here with the water is called a Glacial Facial because of the dispersed sediments in the water that give it its grey hue.

I was tagging along with a family of five and our guide was Ben, who's an architect in Colorado working for someone who understands the thrill of rafting and lets him take off 3 months in the summer to guide and enjoy. What a great setup. Seeing that the dad and I knew what we were doing, Ben directed us through some more challenging rapids, which we attacked properly. It was great fun, but lasted too short. He said he's been on 15 day rafting trips down the Colorado River and highly recommends it. So many things to do, so little time.



An awesome thing about staying with Paul was that he's good friends with one of the local rafting outfits and they help each other out with goods and services, and friends are included. So, I got the chance to go on a 2 hour rafting trip with the Denali Outdoor Center on the Nenana River through some Class II and III rapids. Far out. That's me on the right-front of the raft.


These pictures were taken by Paul and he sells them to the rafters, just like photographers at theme parks and track days.


I love white-water rafting and wish I could do it more. Our guide, Ben was very cool and very good at guiding. He's an architect in Colorado working for someone who understands the thrill of rafting and lets him take off 3 months in the summer to guide and enjoy. What a great setup.


Getting a Glacial Facial. This is all melt water from the glaciers in Denali and is full of sediments thoroughly mixed in the rapid water. Yes the water was cold, about 40 - 50 F but we had on full dry suits (that cost about $600) with only our head and hands exposed and with the adrenaline pumping, you don’t even feel the cold. It actually felt great to be splashed in the rapids.


Woo hoo, what a great time. The other 5 people on the raft were a family from Colorado and we all got along well. Now, onwards with the riding towards Anchorage.


Looking down at the Nenana River that I rafted down. You can see the gray color of water filled with glacial sediments. To be rafting up in the wilds of Alaska was a great experience. Thank you Paul.

I thanked Paul for his hospitality and continued on towards Anchorage down the George Parks Highway. If I didn't have all my problems along the Dalton Highway, I had planned to take a day off and hike around Denali National Park, but I didn't want to rush it now and decided I would come back at some point to fully appreciate this national park. The views along the Parks Highway were pleasing and if Denali chooses to show herself, there are view points along the way to stop and admire her. But alas, she was covered by her own clouds. On the few clear days that the peak is exposed, the locals say, "the mountain is out today." And I hear you can see the peak all the way from Anchorage, 150 miles away, on a clear day.

I was entering Southcentral Alaska as I came through Wasilla and the fact that most of the state's population lives in this area is definitely evident with the sprawling big box stores and the Interstate like highway connecting Wasilla to Anchorage. But the small towns like Willow and Houston and parts of Wasilla did look like very pleasing places to live as the road wound through tree-covered lanes. I took a small break by a sea-plane port in Wasilla and remembered reading that there are more lakes for the planes to land on than developed runways. And who knew that a resident of this little obscure main-street-kind-of-town would shoot up to national prominence in the coming months.



I didn't have time to go through Denali National Park and I heard you have to actually sign up a few days in advance to get on one of the park buses to go deep into the park and since I was planning on spending two days in Yellowstone, I carried on.


Coming across a massive over-sized cargo on a really long trailer.


It's a piece of equipment for a gas station that now has to carry ultra low sulfur diesel.


High gas prices near the tourist hub of Denali. The prices dropped by a dollar just down the road in Anchorage.


The view from the George Parks Highway heading down to Anchorage.


Stopping at a look-out where you can view Denali (Mt. McKinley), if she decides to show herself. The actual peak is probably behind all the clouds in the back. Denali is over 20,000 ft tall and is the tallest peak in the area and thus creates its own weather system, which results in cloud cover of the peak for the majority of the time. On the few clear days that the peak is exposed, the locals say, "the mountain is out today." And I hear you can see the peak all the way from Anchorage, 150 miles away, on a clear day.  


In Wasilla (now famous for Sarah Palin), I saw this sea-plane hangar right by the highway. Interesting to see for real how common bush planes are to Alaska (it's a larger interior area).

I got into Anchorage and would be staying with my friend Mark, whom I met at the Dust2Dawson rally a week earlier and whom I know from before through a common friend. Mark was gracious to host me and he really shows a great love for life, living it to its fullest in whatever sport he partakes in. Along with the KLR, he also has a very beautiful Ducati 996 and a Triumph. Besides motorcycling, he's also an avid bicyclist (even cycling to work in the winter) and kayaker. Working at REI certainly matches his interests in life.



In Anchorage, I was staying with my friend, Mark that I met up in Dawson City a few days ago (whom I know through a common friend).
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« Reply #32 on: November 19, 2008, 04:03:44 pm »

Day 16 / Friday, June 27, 2008

I had thought about riding down to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula and taking a glacier/wildlife boat tour, but the weather wasn't agreeable and instead spent a relaxing day in Anchorage with Mark. I also had to change my oil and remove a stripped bolt from my side pannier frame. The left side pannier was still too heavy with all the food items that I was carrying.

We went around town trying to find a place willing to remove my stripped bolt and every place we stopped at, Mark was welcomed as a well respected member of the community. We swung by the famous motorcycle store in the adventure community: Alaska Leather run by Barb. She's been very helpful to all the traveling motorcyclists through Alaska and allows us to do oil changes in her tech shop, check email, I believe camp for free, and help you get on your way. I had to finds parts to make an electrical connection for my Widder heated vest to the bike (I lost the original) and she threw in a few parts for free. She's also very active in getting riders into protective motorcycle gear.



We went to a local breakfast place and I got the Reindeer Sausage plate. Mmm mmm good. It's caribou meat and very tasty. So nice to eat other kinds of meat.


This is Comet, Mark's dog and I found this pretty funny. He would hop up on the dash and just hang out there. He braces against the windshield under braking and has grip on the carpet during acceleration. Awesome.


Stopping by the famous motorcycle store in the adventure community: Alaska Leather run by Barb. She's very helpful to all the traveling motorcyclists through Alaska and allows them to do oil changes in her shop and I believe camp for free, and help you get on your way. I had to finds parts to make an electrical connection for my heated vest to the bike (I lost the original) and she threw in a few parts for free.


That's a really good price for all that gear. I hear she's all for getting riders into proper riding gear. Kudos to her.  


This is a famous sticker that Barbs gives out to everyone and you can see it on lots of adventure motorcyclists' bikes in far off countries who've passed through here. I got mine too.

At the BMW Motorcycle dealer, they were very friendly but said their service guys were completely booked, not having time to look at my stripped bolt. In the parking lot of the dealer there was an old, ragged bike with flags of various countries plastered on the panniers that was stripped of its gas tank and body work as her owner, Michael was doing some maintenance on her. He's in the middle of a Round-The-World trip and hails from Switzerland. He's already been through Asia and Russia and just flew into Anchorage. He's going to ride down the Americas to Tierra del Fuego, ship over to South Africa and ride back home. He's taking 3 years for the trip and using his own funds, budgeting about 20,000 Euros a year, which is amazing considering alone the high cost of shipping the bike across water. Regarding fuel range, he said the maximum he's ever gone between fill-ups was 600 kms (375 miles). And after hearing that I was Indian, he had to confess that Indian traffic scared him the most, so far. It's definitely challenging to ride back in India, and I'm glad he got through without incident.

I finally found a custom chopper motorcycle shop that was willing to help me remove the stripped bolt. The guys at Dream Catcher Custom Cycle were very friendly and charged a very reasonable amount for the tough work it took to get the hardened steel stripped bolt out of my frame. They had to drill and tap new threads and not being a metric shop, I had one standard bolt on the bike now. Whatever it takes.



I went to visit the local BMW Motorcycle dealership for a few parts and saw this old and dusty 1980s BMW R series and with stickers of various countries on it.


And this is her owner, Michael from Switzerland who's traveling around the world since April 2006. He's been through Asia and Russia and just flew into Anchorage and is going to do the whole Americas down to Argentina, ship to South Africa and ride back home. Wow.


He was doing some maintenance, getting ready to check the valves.


Look at that, he's ridden through Iran in this day and age. Nice to know it's doable. Funny, but he said of all those countries so far, India was the worst for actual driving. Notorious chaotic Indian traffic.


Not sure about the stick; he said it was a joke from a friend to fight off the bears??


I believe that dirt is from all over Asia. Dirt is a theft deterrent mechanism and it makes the bike look cheap and run down. Note the smiley face on the brake light. Regarding the fuel he was carrying, he said in general you need a maximum range of 600 kms (375 miles) to make it through the longest stretches without gas in remote areas.
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« Reply #33 on: November 19, 2008, 04:04:07 pm »

Day 17 / Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saying farewell to Mark, I set off for my last destination in Alaska, Valdez. The Glenn Highway heading east out of Anchorage and going towards the junction of Glenallen is labeled as a scenic highway and it certainly lives up to its name with stunning views of the Chugach Mountains and even a glacier, which can be seen from the highway. Being a major thoroughfare (the only way leading out of Anchorage and Alaska), there was consistent traffic on the road but many others were travelers like me and stopped to take in the sights along the way.

Travelers coming up to Alaska in its beautiful summer don't really experience the harsh winters, which among other things, take a heavy toll on its roads. Frost heaves are a common road issue, where the freezing and thawing of the ground under the road leads to a wavy road surface that can also form cracks. Road construction is improving by accommodating frost leaves into the road design, but there are still roads that need rebuilding and there are some vast stretches of construction on Alaska's highways. These areas usually have a pilot car that guides one-way traffic back and forth.

As is common practice at any road construction, motorcycles are allowed to get to the front of the line and there I met a rider from Atlanta who was on a cruiser and heading back home after a 3 week trip up to Alaska. Amazingly again, I was so worried about running out of gas with my 5 gallon gas tank and here he was touring around with a 3 gallon tank. He did say that he did run out of gas on a few occasions. And people call me crazy.

One major highlight on the way to Glenallen is the Matanuska Glacier, which is visible from the highway. One can also drive right up to the glacier, which is active, moving at about 1 foot per year and it empties into a valley instead of an ocean. It's 27 miles long and 4 miles wide at the mouth. One interesting thing about this glacier is the presence of a weather hole, meaning that the weather is always calm with sunny skies around the glacier, probably due to the massive chilled mass and its reflection of the sun.



Heading out of Anchorage after a day of rest and repair for auDRey. There's technically no Interstate Highway in Alaska but this road in and out of Anchorage and the peninsula is the widest road in the state. I'm waiting to cross those mountains up ahead on my way to Valdez.


I can see why the Glenn Highway is considered a scenic route. That's looking at  the northern edge of the Chugach Mountains.  


This was certainly a beautiful drive. The mountain peak there with its head in the clouds kept me interested for a long while. Imagine how high it is from its surroundings to create its own clouds, just like Denali...


Beautiful views in all directions.


Now those are what you call mountains.  


They were doing some major construction in one section.  


It was tough to pay attention to the road all the time because of these great scenic vistas, plus taking pictures of them while moving.


Matanuska Glacier visible from the highway. It's the largest glacier that you can drive up to in your car. It's an active glacier, moving at about 1 foot per year and it empties into this valley instead of an ocean. It's 27 miles long and 4 miles wide at the mouth.

When I arrived at Glenallen, I noticed something obviously wasn't right with the bike as the exhaust end cap was rattling itself loose. It tore itself off the screw that I had put in when I first say signs of this excessive rattling. Something was causing vibrations down the exhaust pipe. The prudent thing to do would've been to find the next mechanic and figure out the problem before pushing ahead. But being a Saturday afternoon, the two mechanic shops in town were already closed and they'd be closed Sunday too.

In retrospect, I wonder why I continued ahead knowing that I had some mechanical issues, but somehow being on the road and not wanting to stop unless there was a catastrophic issue took over me as I was determined to continue ahead. Not wanting to loose the end cap in case the rest of it rattled off, I tore if off its hinge and auDRey was now sounding like a Harley running straight pipes. The engine was still running smooth, and I figured if Harleys can sound like that, it shouldn't be too bad for the DR to be running straight pipes. With that self-assurance I pushed on with my visit to Valdez.


The sign that something mechanical was not right on the bike. The exhaust should not be experiencing this kind of vibration. Since it was Saturday and all the mechanics were closed, I tore off the end cap to prevent it from breaking off while riding and it sounded like I was running straight pipes – really, really loud. But my logic was that Harleys ride with really loud straight pipes, so it can’t be that damaging to the engine.

There is only one road, the Richardson Highway, that heads into and out of Valdez and pretty soon, it was evident that the road and its scenery itself was reason enough to head down to Valdez. I would be crossing the beautiful coastal Chugach Mountain range, which is known for getting the highest average annual snowfall (over 600 inches) than anywhere else in the world; a mighty claim, which is backed by hosting the annual World Extreme Skiing Championships held near Valdez. Besides motorcycling, skiing is my next favorite activity to do in waking hours.

There was very little traffic on the road and the remoteness created a peaceful sensation during the ride, while I took stock in this unique environment that was lush and at the same time stark. The reason it snows and rains so much here is the basic fact that the coastal mountains block the moist ocean air and as it rises and cools, it precipitates on the mountains. The air was so moist that in one valley, I saw for the first time, a complete rainbow in my field of view. Usually, I've just seen a bit of the rainbow arc and a much further distance. Here, the entire rainbow was contained in this small valley and as I looked at the distinct ends of the rainbow, sadly I didn't see a pot o'gold.

While the air is very moist, there still isn't a tropical forest here because the intensity of sunlight decreases the further you move from the equator. This was most evident while looking at some peaks that had a lush green carpet of small shrubs that ended clearly as the snow line started. In places like California, the tree line is preceded by actual trees that stop growing up the mountain due to the cold rather than the intensity of sunlight.

Traveling by motorcycle is rewarding for my psyche as I get to see over and over the simple balance that exits in nature.


Heading off to the fishing town of Valdez, also the end of the Alaska Pipeline, about 110 miles away. This is the only road into and out of Valdez and the scenery itself is worth heading down to Valdez.


It was quite misty as I got close to crossing the Chugach Mountains and I saw this complete rainbow in a small valley.


I've never seen one this close and complete. I saw where the rainbow ended and I'm sorry to report that there's no pot o'gold.


The weather was changing pretty quickly around each corner.


I like how at this latitude it's so clear where the tree line ends and where the snow starts. Those peaks are only about 4,000 ft but the air is quite chilly and being so close to the oceans, the Chugach gets a lot of snow and has the most glaciers in Alaska.  


Being so close to the ocean also leads to all this funky weather. Bright sunshine behind dark clouds.


Passing by Worthington Glacier, a frequent stop for tour buses. Since it was getting late, I'd stop by to get a closer look on my way back.

Thompson Pass is the highest point on the road at only 2,678 ft, but in the winter, this pass gets the most snow in Alaska. In 1952-53, this pass got over 81 feet of snow! But in the summer it seems so dull. Heading down the coastal side of the pass, there are poles to indicate where the edge of the road is for the winter months, when the road can be covered in snow.

Getting close to Valdez, the road cuts through Keystone Canyon as it follows Lowe River towards the coast. There were quite a few snow-melt waterfalls, which were just spilling over the top and rushing to the river below, but one fall stood out for its composure, Bridal Veil Falls at around 1,100 ft tall.

In the steady rain, Valdez appeared as a sleepy little town, but is recognized for its importance as a port city for the interior of Alaska along with being known as a fishing port and a heli-skiing base in the winter. The Alyeska Pipeline terminates here, bringing crude oil all the way from Prudhoe Bay to be loaded onto massive oil tankers to be taken to the Lower 48 for refining.

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« Reply #34 on: November 19, 2008, 04:04:27 pm »


Thompson Pass, the highest point on the road at only 2678 ft, but in the winter, this pass gets the most snow in Alaska. In 1952-53, this pass got over 81 ft of snow! But in the summer it seems so dull.


All those poles are for the winter, when the road is buried in snow.


On the ocean-side of the Chugach.


Entering Keystone Canyon, the last of the mountains before the ocean.


The road got winding and twisty.


Bridal Veil Falls near Valdez, which is over 1,100 ft tall. The name sounded familiar and then I later found out that it's a very popular name for waterfalls as it obviously resembles a bride's veil. There are over 20 waterfalls in the US with the same name.  


Looking out across Prince William Sound from Valdez. You can see an oil tanker being escorted by tug boats as this is the terminus for the Alaska Pipeline and from here, the crude heads down to the lower 48. This was also the site of the infamous Exxon-Valdez oil spill of 1989 and the destructive earthquake of 1964, which leveled the old site of Valdez .

Prince William Sound, the water body that Valdez is located on, is recognized for its pristine beauty and was the victim of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989. The spill wasn't the largest in history, but was one of the most visibly damaging spills due to its effect on the wildlife that thrived in the sound. Some estimates say it will take around 50 years for the environment to fully recover from the damages. Exxon spent about $2 billion in the clean up and another billion in settling charges. It also had to settle with some seafood companies, whose business was directly affected as billions of salmon and herring eggs were destroyed in the spill.

What to do? Our current progress of civilization demands cheap oil and we'll have to continue paying the price for accidents like this and others that affect the environment until we figure out a harmonious source of energy for mankind.

I camped at Bear Paw RV park and the tent area was taken over by an adventure tour group. This was the kind of outfit where people flew in from abroad, usually the backpacker kind-of-crowd and the tour van took you around to various sites with camping and communal food provided. The emphasis is on outdoor activities such as hiking, rafting, cycling, etc. The group there was mostly European and a little Australian. I spent the evening at their group site and they found it amazing that people actually rode motorcycles around the world to visit places, rather than rely on others to get them there.

Traveling is traveling, but what makes motorcycle travel interesting to me is the concept of freedom where you choose where you want to go and how long to stay. Of course, the other appealing aspect of motorcycle travel is experiencing the journey of getting to a destination, making the journey a destination in unto itself.

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« Reply #35 on: November 19, 2008, 04:04:50 pm »

Day 18 / Sunday, June 29, 2008

My journey from here on out was set to take an unexpected path. I had planned on crossing into Canada by nightfall and making my way towards Yellowstone National Park. However, it was time for the gremlins to surface.

On the ride back out of Valdez, I stopped by the Worthington Glacier and hiked up to the start of the glacier. Interesting to note how a glacier was simply just frozen water and some soil, yet it seems to have a life on its own craving out the landscape. The weather was much better today as I got to experience the brighter side of the micro climate of the Chugach. The beauty of the snow-capped peaks with their lush green skirts was definitely a better sight under bright sunshine rather than the gloom of the day before.



Stopping by Worthington Glacier on my way back into the Interior.


The Chugach Mountains near the glacier. Elevation is not very high but the high latitudes keep the snow on the peaks almost throughout the year.


The brighter side of the micro climate of the Chugach. It was damp and rainy yesterday and nice and bright today. While the town of Valdez itself wasn't that much to see, the ride down and back is definitely worth coming this way.


Looking out at the Wrangell Mountains from the main highway heading towards Gokona and Tok.

As I pulled into a service station in Glenallen, back on the major route heading towards Tok, I knew that it couldn't be good for auDRey to be running a muffler without the end cap. But she sounded relatively fine and I figured I would at least get to Tok and then have a mechanic there fix up the muffler until I got to Whitehorse (first major city in Canada coming from Alaska).

Past the small town of Gakona, the highway was feeling quite remote and just as I was hoping to myself that nothing would go wrong with the bike from here to at least Tok, the engine died. I checked my battery voltage monitor and there was still around 12.9 volts, so it wasn't an electrical issue. She wouldn't fire up again.

There was a remote gas station about half a mile away and I pushed auDRey along the shoulder into the parking lot. There was an Australian rider on an old Honda Goldwing with his American buddy in the sidecar, who were taking turns riding, and he suggested right away that I look at my spark plugs, since they can tell you what's going on in the engine. It didn't look good as the electrodes of the spark plugs were completely bent in meaning there was no space for the spark to occur and combustion to ignite; that's why the engine stopped.

Something was definitely hitting the spark plugs. I suspected that this might be a resurfacing of my fuel issue on the Dalton Highway. The black residue on the plugs were indication that carbon was building up in the combustion chamber, meaning either there was too much fuel in the combustion (rich) or oil was being burnt due to damaged piston rings.

Not being able to tear the engine apart and have a better look, I figured I should just try and get to Tok where there would be mechanics. The Australian rider said I should definitely get the muffler end cap back on and as I put some JB Kwik weld to hold the end cap to the muffler, he went off into the bushes near the service station to find old telephone wire. How random that he would guess that old telephone wire would be lying around, but lo and behold, he did find a couple yards of it and I set about removing the sheath and getting at each individual copper wire. I made a restraining copper basket that held the end cap onto the muffler and with spare spark plugs installed, auDRey was sounding much better. However, I could already see the pressure from the exhaust was too much for the JB Kwik and it was not going to hold.

I asked the station owner if there was a mechanic nearby to at least better secure the end cap and she said yes there was a friendly pilot named Thumper who also rode bikes that had a handy shop about 10 miles up the road. She said he would gladly help me. Thanking the Australian rider and his friend, I hoped Thumper would be home.

I pulled into a house that had two old planes in the yard and as Thumper came out, I explained my woes and he said he would gladly help me out. His wife June also came out to see what all the fuss was about. Thumper cut up some old Aluminum sheet into straps that he screwed in to the end cap and the muffler. I offered to pay for using his materials and service, but he said not from another rider. He keeps a Harley down in Washington state and flies there often in the summer to ride with June.

Regarding paying for help, sometimes it can be seen as rude to offer payment for people's help as you could be insulting their character. Regardless, I at least make it known that I am very grateful for their help.


This is where the trip started going off-track for me. So I had to remove my muffler end cap the day before, before it ripped itself off and I was running with no end cap. As you can see, I believe the packing material for the muffler has been eroded away. These lightweight dirt-bike mufflers need repacking of the muffling material every 3 months or at least 1,000 miles. I should’ve learned about this before and installed a muffler that doesn’t require repacking, as it doesn’t make sense for touring. Lesson learned.


Just near a remote gas station on the way to Tok, the bike died and I rolled it in to the station and started taking things apart to figure out what the problem was. Good thing I had a spark-plug removal wrench in my tool kit and figured out why the engine was dying – the electrodes were being bent in leaving no room for a spark to ignite the fuel. I had spare plugs and put them in but still hadn't figured out the cause.


I figured not having the end cap on was bad for the exhaust back pressure and with the help of another rider there, I found some old telephone wire next to the station and stripped the copper wire out from it and made a cage to hold the end cap on. I also put on JB Weld on the seam.


The owner of the station said there was an airplane/bike owner a few miles up the road who would have some tools to help me out. I pulled up and Thumper and June came out and offered to help. He's a Harley rider and keeps his bike down near Seattle and flies down to ride often. He also thought what I was doing was crazy but understood and helped me out.  


He attached some metal strips to hold in my muffler end cap. What a pleasant couple. The kindness that I came across all over this state has definitely been reassuring in the greater goodness of humanity.  

Back on the road to Tok, auDRey was holding up fine and at a scenic pull-out, I caught up with a group of riders on KLRs who recognized my bike from their trip up the Dalton Highway and were concerned as to how I was getting along. The infamy of my snafus were catching up.

Besides all the trouble that I was having, the actual ride up to Tok on the Glenn Highway-Tok Cutoff was quite pleasant. The road hugs the northern border of the Wrangell-St Elias National Park and thus provided some pleasing views of majestic peaks.



On the way to Tok, I caught up with these riders who recognized my bike from their trip up the Dalton Highway and were concerned as to how I was getting along.


The last picture of auDRey in the wild all setup as a DR650 Adventure.


Heading to Tok where the Alaska Highway heads south and east into Canada.

As I got near Tok, I was thankful that auDRey had made it here, but I was counting my blessings too early as she died again just outside the town limits. I found a campsite and decided to do a proper engine tear down and figure out what the issue was before heading off into 400 miles of wilderness to Whitehorse.

Luck be it, just as I was paying for my campsite, Professor Nick pulled in and would be staying at the same campsite. Nick was instrumental in helping me with my tire issues on the Dalton Highway. He was also on his way out of Alaska and he said he would gladly help me diagnose my issues. He said I was definitely very lucky, as whom better to camp next to then an automotive professor who consulted for the Big 3 in Detroit. It's like having an issue with your basketball jump shot and Michael Jordan happens to swing by and show you a few pointers. My despair of this situation was quickly being taken over by hope.

As we setup camp, two Germans staying at the campground were intrigued by Nick's German license plate on his BMW. Nick lived in Germany for a while and has his Euro German plates along with his Michigan plates on his bike. Constantin and his friend were young diplomats with the German Foreign Service, stationed in San Francisco and The Hague, and they were touring around Alaska and Canada in their VW Toureg SUV taking in this great land. They brought the tools they had to offer any help they could.

As I set about tearing down auDRey under Nick's guidance, I explained the things I was doing to Constantin as he was intrigued by all the oily bits of a motorcycle. The spark plug electrodes were bent in again and Nick said we had to have a look to see if there was any damage to the valve train (the valve stems) that could be causing low compression. I unbolted the header and the exhaust valve looked ok. However, the view down the intake side wouldn't be as easy as it was obstructed by the carburetor. Showing his field experience, Nick told me to remove one of the rearview mirrors and use that to look into the intake port. If anything, I was learning a lot from this experience. The intake valve stems didn't look damaged and we saw the valves were also seating properly, so there was no damage to the valve train. Through the open valves, we tried to see into the combustion chamber to see if we could find any pieces that were causing the damage to the spark plugs, but we didn't see much.

Not having the tools to go further into the engine by removing the cylinder head and looking into the piston, we figured the best we could do was put it back together and see how she runs.

While I slowly set about putting auDRey back together, the four of us had some great conversation around the campfire with topics ranging from culture, politics, nationalism, religion, science, gun control issues, immigration, etc. One of us was a practicing Christian, another agnostic and another an atheist and we discussed our views very openly and had good healthy arguments. We didn't solve any problems with the world, but it certainly was pleasurable to discuss. Nick said our grandfathers probably sat around a fire and had some great talks and we hoped our grandchildren would also have the opportunity to sit around a campfire and talk into the night.


The bike died again just outside of Tok and I figured I better strip the engine down and try and find the culprit before heading off into 400 miles of wilderness to Whitehorse.


With luck still running high on this trip, Professor Nick in the cap here happened to stop at the same camp site and pitch up right next to me. He was the one who helped me finally get my tire problems fixed out on the Dalton Highway and I also met him earlier in the trip in Dawson City. I told him I was having engine issues and he said I was certainly very lucky as he's actually an applied physics/automotive professor working with the Big 3 car companies in Detroit. We set out root-causing the problem. The guy in the foreground is Constantin, a German diplomat who was touring around Alaska with a diplomat friend from San Francisco and they offered to help with whatever tools they had.  


Nick's ingenuity: using the rear view mirror to look between the carburetor and the intake port of the engine to see the condition of the intake valves. We were trying to see if anything was obviously bent or damaged. We didn’t find anything damaged and not wanting to open up the cylinder head out on the road, we couldn't tell if the insides of the engine were damaged.


With no option besides putting her back together and seeing how she holds, I put some exhaust bondo to better seal the end cap and hoped it would hold. We waited a day for one of Nick's riding friends to show up before heading south into Canada.
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« Reply #36 on: November 19, 2008, 04:05:12 pm »

Day 19 / Monday, June 30, 2008

Nick was waiting for his friend Matt to finish his Alaska trip as they said they would ride back home through Canada together. Matt was also part of the group that helped me with my tire issue on the Dalton and he was coming back from Homer. Wanting to ride with Nick, in case anything went wrong again, I too waited the day out.

There was a snowmobile mechanic in Tok who suggested that I try running spark plugs that were slightly shorter in case the piston itself was hitting the electrodes and slightly hotter, to burn up the excess carbon residue in the combustion chamber. I also bought some exhaust bondo to better seal the end cap to the muffler.

After a rainy afternoon, we walked over to a local bar and as soon as the local patrons found out we rode our bikes to Alaska, we quickly became friends with everyone. This was the kind of watering hole that this whole remote community revolved around. This was their place to catch up with everyone. The biggest character there was Pete, who's a local motocross champ and loves to ride his dirt bike through the woods. He was really encouraging me to stay a few days and the ride some crazy trails with him. He had a larger than life personality sounding very bombastic on the outside, but became very sympathetic when I recounted all my bike troubles so far.

His friend Mike was an animal trapper by trade. In the winter, he sets traps to catch lynx, beavers and muskrats for their fur and if he has a good season, he doesn't need to work through the summer. If not, he said he would find a job on a commercial fishing vessel. Animal trapping has a long heritage in Alaska and is actually the reason that this area became known to the world first, before gold and oil were discovered here. In the 18th century, the Russians started a fur trade with the natives and this attracted merchants from Europe and America. Prior to trade with the outside world, the natives used the fur for clothing and the meat for food. But with outside trading, they progressed their communities by trading for metal tools and manufactured goods that were not available in their harsh environment.

Through Mike, it was nice to see that the tradition of trading has been passed on from the natives to the White Americans that moved to Alaska after its discovery. Mike looked like a man of the earth, sharing the joys and spoils of his local environment. In this modern age of relentless consumerism, it's refreshing to see that subsistence living still has a place in today's society. All the animals that are trapped are abundant in quantity and are thus not endangered. He said this also helps maintain consistent animal populations as the local government will encourage trapping of a certain species in case its population is exploding, like currently the lynx. The local rabbit species, the snowshoe hare is on about a 10 year boom and bust cycle of its population. People still don't know exactly why this happens, but the rabbits are at their peak currently and I saw them all over the road. Lynx feed almost entirely on the rabbits and thus their population is closely tied to the rabbit's. Once the rabbit population collapses (from eating plants that produce a defensive chemical), the lynx population also collapses and perhaps trappers will trap less lynx in that period.

Over the course of the night, I asked my new friends how they ended up in Tok and was there any desire to move to the bigger cities. Strangely, after a few beers, all of them quietly said that they think something bad is going to happen soon regarding world politics and the state of peace. It sounded like they were worried about nuclear war breaking out. Before this discussion, for being small-towners, I was impressed with the breadth of their knowledge of global current events. They said they read the newspaper and watch the news diligently and are aware of all the bad things being portrayed by the news media. They mentioned how Tok is in a natural valley and they hope the surrounding hills and its remoteness will prevent any nuclear blasts from affecting them. They said this in complete seriousness. The obscurity of Tok was what attracted them here and they encouraged me to consider coming back and joining them. They did mention that having a massive military presence in Alaska was reason enough to believe that in the next global war, they might definitely be in the target of their enemies. Having Russia nearby, with the Cold War not too far away in their memory, might also add to these thoughts.

Now, this is maybe just the result of the news media's priority of mainly displaying bad news as it sells better than good news (maybe Obama can change all this with his infinite hope). Or maybe there is some truth in their thought process. In today's world, if you live in a highly populated developed city, the chance of a random terrorist act affecting you is much higher than if you lived in an obscure small town. I too do wonder why the news media consistently portrays a negative view of the world, which in turn makes the public have a pessimistic view on life. This comes back to Steve's view based on Quantum Theory that thinking negatively might lead to negative events. I'm hoping Mr. Change-We-Can-Believe-In has some impact in this area of society by spreading the message of hope.

Besides the interesting conversation, lots of bravado also ensued. Pete wanted to prove to us that he could do upside down hand-stand push ups and Nick joined in for an arm-wrestling match. He held his own for a good while. The night ended on a pleasant tone and we thanked our new friends for an interesting evening.



That evening, we hung out at the local bar and quickly became friends with these guys. The guy on the left, Pete is a local motocross champ and he loves to ride his dirt bike in the woods. The guy on the right, Mike is an animal trapper by trade. He traps Lynx and other animals over the winter and sells their fur. If he makes good money, he doesn't work in the summer and just relaxes. These guys just totally love the wilderness and their strong small community and they were very jovial.  


Pete said he could do handstand pushups and really wanted to show us. Nick is making sure his head actually touched the ground.  


And Nick joined in with all the bravado and tried his hardest to upset our man here. Good times.
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« Reply #37 on: November 19, 2008, 04:05:37 pm »

Day 20 – End / July 1 – July 4, 2008

Matt arrived the next day and the three of us set off towards the Canadian border. It was an interesting stay at Tok, but I was looking forward to making it to Whitehorse and onwards to Yellowstone. It was gloomy with a light rain and the temperature wasn't rising above 50 F. auDRey was idling smoothly and sounded better than before.

I went ahead of the guys and there was some heavy construction with lots of gravel on the highway and while I've ridden through that kind of road surface many times before, this time I was probably feeling a bit too tense with all that was happening and I had a low-side accident into the ditch. A low-side is where the bike falls under you when the tires loose grip. They're usually not that damaging to the rider compared to a high-side where you're thrown off the bike. I slid on the gravel with my protective gear and came to a stop without my helmet or gloves even touching the ground. However, auDRey was upside down and my Throttle Rocker (device on the throttle to relieve wrist pain) was stuck in the ground, keeping the engine running until it finally died. I quickly stood her upright and tried to start the engine, but it wouldn't budge. I gave it a few minutes to regain my composure and allow any fuel to settle back down, in case the carbs were flooded, but this time it sounded like metal against metal in the engine and I knew that was the end. I threw in the towel. Nick and Matt pulled up and I told them I had to figure out a way to get back to Fairbanks or Anchorage and see what my options were. There was nothing more they could do and I thanked them for their help and bid them goodbye.

I pushed auDRey into the last gas station before the border and called up AAA's towing service to see what they could do. They said the maximum they could tow someone would be a 100 miles and I was about 300 miles from Fairbanks. Just then I saw a yellow pick-up truck with a blue dirt bike and a trailer pull into the gas station. I ran up to the driver and asked them if they could give auDRey and me a ride. I would pay for gas or anything they wanted.



The bike trip officially ended the next day when auDRey and I took a small spill on a wet construction stretch and ended up in a ditch. I was totally fine; it was slow speed but auDRey ended up upside down and the engine finally gave out. This was close to the US-Canada border and I figured my only option was to try and make it to Fairbanks, back to the Suzuki dealer. One last dose of luck as this family of Peter Jacobs was heading to Fairbanks and offered to give me a ride.


Peter and Tracy here took me under their wings until I figured out what to do about my bike and transport for getting back home to Chicago. They were taking their son to the local motocross races and I really enjoyed the time spent with the family.  

Peter Jacobs was taking his family from Whitehorse to Fairbanks for the local motocross races. He gladly offered to help another rider and we put auDRey in the back and took off towards Fairbanks. He said he was good friends with the Suzuki dealer in Fairbanks and was sure they would help me as much as they could. He was traveling with his wife Tracy and their son Jake and his friend, Pineet.

I shared with them my story so far and they were intrigued by all that I had endured and how positive I still was. Peter is an ex-snowmobile racing champion and now he's seeing if his son has it in him to go professional in motocross racing. They attend all the motocross events across Alaska, as it's easier for them than heading south to attend the events in southern British Columbia.

His family runs a construction rental business in Whitehorse and he shared with me the ups and downs of owning a small business and trying to grow it bigger. He said there comes a point in a small business where you yourself can't manage all the daily activities and from then on, it becomes a medium-sized business. He supported my view that business growth isn't always a positive situation, since now his stress level had increased a lot, which was affecting how many motocross races his son could attend. Tracy confirmed the rise in stress and said with increased revenue comes increased stress. Peter was thinking about just selling his business and starting over with something else.

Besides having a good business sense, Peter and his family also have a strong wilderness sense. They hunt animals to sustain a semi-subsistence living. The price of beef being too high in the local grocery store justified their decision to hunt for their meat. The whole family gets involved in week-long hunts and their 10 year old daughter is the conscience police in their family. She insists that they can only hunt animals that have a fair chance of getting away. So if the hunters crowd the animal to a cliff or a water body, they have to let it escape before going after it again. They said it makes the hunt last longer but at least convinces their daughter that this isn't senseless killing.

Peter said to increase his family's subsistence, they're growing a little farm at their house in the wilderness outside Whitehorse. They have a few chickens where they get eggs from and they recently got a pig. Their daughter already named the pig and has made it into a pet, so he said they're going to have a tough time when it comes to explaining where the pork ribs for dinner came from.

Besides being intrigued by my long distance riding adventures, they also wanted to find out more about India. Their son's friend, Pineet, is the son of an Indian immigrant single mother who's very happy that the Jacobs family takes Pineet along and has introduced him to riding as she's very busy trying to get by managing a sandwich shop. They wanted to know which stereotypes of Indians were true and which weren't. I explained that yes we do have snake charmers, no magic carpets, yes lots of elephants but not everyone has one.

I spent the next two days with the Jacobs family while I tried to figure out what to do about auDRey and how to get home.



This is their son Jake on the bike and dad, Peter on the quad. Peter is an ex-professional snowmobile racer and he's seeing if his son has it in him. This was my first time to a motocross track and Jake told me all about how the races are run and how to ride the track.


Getting some air on a Kawasaki 250 2-stroke.

In that time, I talked with Peter about his business and his racing career, talked to Tracy about how it was to raise a family in the relative wilderness and I also talked to the boys about facebook, cell phones and if they had any girlfriends or not. Jake was a sophomore in school and his mom said he's very popular with the girls because he races dirt bikes on the weekend. Jake also pointed out how there's so many young girls that race motocross these days and he was trying to get the attention of this one particular fast girl. Everybody's got stories.

One interesting thing, which seems obvious now, about the Jacobs was that they could tolerate the cold much better than I could. They said they would start feeling hot if it got above 65 F, while I think for most of us in the temperate regions of the world, we would only start feeling hot above 80 F and for those in the deserts, it might be 100 F. In the mornings at the motocross track, it was around 40 F and everyone was just wearing a hoodie sweatshirt and not worrying about the cold. I don't mind the cold, but I need to dress properly for it. They said this was because their blood has become thicker by living up here for so long and people from warmer climates have much thinner blood. Sounds like the process of evolution: biologically adapting to better survive.

Peter dropped auDRey off at Northern Powersports and they joked that I was quickly becoming a frequent customer of theirs. They tore the engine down and found catastrophic piston failure and damage to the cylinder walls and cylinder head. Something caused the edge of the piston to crack into pieces and these pieces were probably responsible for damaging the electrodes of the spark plugs. The piston rings were damaged as well, allowing oil to be burnt in the combustion chamber leaving the black carbon residue.

Craig, one of the owners of the dealership, was very helpful throughout the process and said it would cost around $2,000 to do a basic overhaul of the engine and if I was going to be riding another 4,000 miles back to Chicago, I had better get some other work done on the engine (like replacing the valve train) and it would total about $3,000 and maybe a week or more of waiting for parts. He said the other option was that he could give me $500 towards a trade in for a bike he had there, like a Suzuki V-Strom DL1000. I wasn't ready to pay for another bike and if I was going to be riding back to Chicago, I would want to prepare the bike for the trip with some electrical modifications and make sure I actually liked riding the bike. It was too hasty of a decision, so I called up my insurance company and asked what they could do to help me out. I had full coverage on the bike and after sending an estimator out to the dealership, they considered the bike totaled since the repair estimates were more than the bike was worth, and they said they would pay me the value of the bike.



Northern Powersports Suzuki tore down the engine and showed me the damage: a ruined piston head, piston rings, cylinder head and valves. Repair estimate was around $3,000. I called up my insurance and thankfully I had full coverage on the bike and they said they would take care of it for me. I believe the water in the fuel caused the engine to run hotter than normal (lean conditions) and this might have lead to detonation that destroyed the piston head and the rings allowing oil to be burned in the combustion chamber. Water is the biggest enemy to internal combustion engines.


The damage to the cylinder head inside the engine. I think many things contributed to this catastrophic problem. The DR650 is known to have a very reliable engine, but I think too many variables were working against it - the bad muffler that lost its packing material, the water damage from way back on the Dalton who knows what else. She definitely put up with a lot before finally letting go.


Stripped off her touring guise, she’s still shows her dirt-bike heritage. Knowing that my insurance would now be totaling the bike, I tried to salvage as many aftermarket additions that I installed in preparation for this trip and future trips.

When I bought auDRey in November 2006 in Tucson, my intentions were that I would learn about the DR650 and do a few local trips, slowly setting her up before leaving on a grander trip, maybe through South America and beyond. The 5 months before this Alaska trip, every modification I did to her was done with keeping in mind this longer trip. However, these were the cards I was dealt and I would try and make the most out of it.

Once it was settled that auDRey was going to be totaled, I spent a day slowly stripping off all the aftermarket accessories that I had painstakingly and joyously installed on her prior to this trip. I had wiring setup for the GPS, radar detector, iPod charger, video camera charger, heated grips and a headlight relay kit. When you install something on a bike, it's hard to think that there will come a time when you have to remove it. I removed the mounting frame for my side panniers and top case along with the highway pegs that I fabricated with a friend a few nights before leaving on the trip. The shortened and wide plate kick stand would have to stay. I packed all those items into boxes and shipped them off via UPS back home as I had every intention of getting another DR650 and setting her up just like auDRey.

A one-way plane ticket out of Alaska was surely going to be expensive, but I had enough American Airlines miles to not worry about it. I thanked Peter and his family for graciously taking me under their wings over the last two days and also thanked Craig at Northern Powersports for being very helpful.


I bought her with 4,000 miles on the clock and we had an excellent time through Mexico last year and up till now, a wonderful time up here in Alaska.


A sad ending to a fantastic trip. I was totally bummed to be leaving auDRey behind because as cheesy at it sounds, I felt we had really connected and I really enjoyed riding her. Hopefully someone buys her for cheap and fixes her up.


After shipping my luggage home through UPS, I used some airline miles that I acquired from my numerous trips to China to get a one-way ticket back to Chicago from Fairbanks. What a bummer to be ending the trip this way, but hey, at least I'm getting home safely without too much of a financial ding. What a great adventure!  


Taking pictures of planes in Seattle, while waiting for my connection.


The Seattle airport terminal.  
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« Reply #38 on: November 19, 2008, 04:06:01 pm »

Epilogue

Taking off from Fairbanks, I looked down at a road leading out of the city and reflected on what a unique experience this was. Was I bummed that my trip ended badly? Not really, cause for one thing: I wasn't injured once in all the events that transpired; financially speaking, I didn't come out it too badly with the insurance claim and every breakdown that I had lead to some new friendships. Plus, being pushed out of the comfort of being on my own bike and having to hitch-hike multiple times, I crossed paths with a varied array of humankind. I chatted with oil workers, cooks, overland adventurers, gold miners, pilots, professors, trappers and a snowmobile racer and his family.

Even without any of the mishaps, I gained insights into how various people live across the US and Canada and especially Alaska. I'm glad I was able to finish most of my trip before auDRey let go and on the positive side, these incidents allowed me to spend more time in Alaska than I planned, which was a good thing.

Alaska has recently been thrown into the spotlight through the rimless glasses of Sarah Palin and for all her positive traits, she probably cast a misleading image of Alaskans to the rest of the world. Yes, they're rugged on the outside as this harsh environment demands it, but also because of the harshness of the outside, I believe the people up there have to become more gentle and caring of each other. It makes it easier to survive. I was shown tremendous amounts of generosity and warmth on this journey that I am ever grateful for, and for me, it reflects the underlying good nature of humankind.

What an exciting journey. For all the meticulous planning that I did before my trip, things couldn't have gone more wrong, but what I'll take with me is how interesting my life was over these three weeks in the summer of 2008. Yes, there are dangers in partaking an adventure as such, but how would human character grow if its limits weren't tested. There isn't enough time in our lives to brood over the what-ifs: what if no one came by with a spare tube on the Dalton Highway, what if the Jacobs family didn't pass by at just that right moment, etc. Life happens. Take the positives from every situation and move forward.

Go forth and live!



The planning for the next ride has already begun. Say hello to sanDRina. I picked her up recently from Detroit. She's a 1998 DR650 and has been setup very adequately for adventure touring. I definitely miss auDRey, but I know I must move on. South America, here I come!
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« Reply #39 on: November 19, 2008, 05:34:05 pm »

Awesome, amazing!  Hail

Sounds like a great time. Thanks for taking the time to write it all up!
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« Reply #40 on: November 19, 2008, 06:16:39 pm »

So that was epic indeed! What a great write up and great pictures. I am so glad that you got to experience the good side of people...it helps put things into perspective.

Thanks again for taking the time to post this.

james
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« Reply #41 on: November 19, 2008, 07:16:22 pm »

Awesome - The 'official' ride report is here   Bigsmile

I have to say that after reading pretty much every ride report that you've ever written, this trip and report is my favorite.

And congrats on the new DR  Thumbsup
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« Reply #42 on: November 19, 2008, 08:51:59 pm »

What a great write-up! I sat here for reading it from beginning to end. What an awesome story  Thumbsup
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« Reply #43 on: November 19, 2008, 10:12:04 pm »

To use your own words, "what an exciting journey". Thumbsup

Well done report and pics.

And also a  Thumbsup to all those who helped along the way.

Best wishes on your next adventure.
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« Reply #44 on: November 19, 2008, 10:24:51 pm »

What a great adventure.  I expected so see great scenery and read about rustic living.  What I didn't expect, to some degree, is the greatness of humanity displayed throughout your trip.  Thanks so much for the efforts of posting this.  May you be forever changed from this adventure and may you ride again... and again... and again!

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« Reply #45 on: November 19, 2008, 11:16:04 pm »

Epic!
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« Reply #46 on: November 19, 2008, 11:21:14 pm »

What a fantastic job of journaling (both in photos and the narrative).  It kept me reading from beginning to end.  

As someone who used to live in Alaska, I have traveled most of these roads.  The furthest north, thou, was Galbraith Campground (with the sun setting at 2:45 a.m. and rising again at 3:15 a.m.)!    

Thank you so much for sharing it, as it brought back some really good memories ~ mostly it reminded me how supportive people are when your on the Al-Can and Haul Road.

Good times   Bigok

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« Reply #47 on: November 19, 2008, 11:24:34 pm »


Epic!

 Withstupid

The pictures of the passes really drive home the epic-ology...errr...the epic-icity...epic-aciousness of a trip to Alaska.

btw...the linky to the Mexico trip no worky.
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« Reply #48 on: November 20, 2008, 09:23:37 am »

Wow.  Simply, wow.  Thumbsup

That was an awesome writeup.  Sorry that it ended on a bit of a sad note, but as you said, nobody was hurt, and at least it was on the "homeward" side...after you got to see most all of what you wanted to see.

Some questions, if I may pick at your gray matter:

1.  Was the Dalton Highway the "worst" road you had to cope with?

2.  On roads like the Dalton Highway (graveled), how packed was the gravel?  What would you say was your average speed on those types of roads (given the weather conditions)?

3.  What difference (if any) did you notice in MPG on gravel roads vs. highway riding?  What was your range (miles per tank)?

4.  My bike is a CBR1100XX.  I see that you caught a lot of punctures.  Since I've suffered similar problems on my last trip, your experience cements the idea of looking at something like buying a Rhino Tire (http://rhinotire.com/) for this kind of trip.  Any thoughts?  My idea is that a plug kit and sealants are nice, but perhaps a "preemptive strike" against the problem would be justified when you consider the time and hassle of trying to patch a puncture in the middle of nowhere.
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« Reply #49 on: November 20, 2008, 12:24:15 pm »

AMAZING RIDE REPORT!!

 Bigok

Too bad about the bike, but still a great adventure. My favorite thing about every AK report I read is all the cool people met along the way. Glad you made it home safe. Hope to read more like this.
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« Reply #50 on: November 20, 2008, 02:33:38 pm »

Nicely done Jay !! I feel like I was along for the trip. I am doing the same trip on my vfr next year.
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« Reply #51 on: November 20, 2008, 02:36:34 pm »


Awesome - The 'official' ride report is here   Bigsmile

I have to say that after reading pretty much every ride report that you've ever written, this trip and report is my favorite.

And congrats on the new DR  Thumbsup

Thanx Anna  Beerchug coming from you means a lot, since as you know, I got a lot of ride report inspirations from you.  Clap


What a great write-up! I sat here for reading it from beginning to end. What an awesome story  Thumbsup

Thanx Garry. I appreciate the feedback.


What a great adventure.  I expected so see great scenery and read about rustic living.  What I didn't expect, to some degree, is the greatness of humanity displayed throughout your trip.  Thanks so much for the efforts of posting this.  May you be forever changed from this adventure and may you ride again... and again... and again!

Yeah, it seems like if the trip had gone exactly to plan, it might've been a little bland,  Lol
In the past and even for this trip, I always plan so that I can take care of myself in most situations. But things got out of my control and hey, what do you know, turned out to be more interesting.  Thumbsup
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« Reply #52 on: November 20, 2008, 08:49:32 pm »

Thanks for posting this, Jay. What an incredible adventure! From what I've heard from numerous Strommer friends who've made the trip, you're fortunate there was no heavy rain on the Dalton; they described it as being 'slicker than snot on a doorknob.'

May your next big trip be as expansive and wonderous.  Thumbsup
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« Reply #53 on: November 20, 2008, 11:32:40 pm »

Thanks for the ride report Jay.  I hope to do that ride some day.

David
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« Reply #54 on: November 21, 2008, 01:08:30 am »

Holy crap.  And I say that with nothing short of awe.  
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« Reply #55 on: November 21, 2008, 02:22:13 am »

Outstanding! You've set a new standard for ride reports.
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« Reply #56 on: November 21, 2008, 10:37:07 am »

Great write up, it kept me enthralled. My son is moving to Alaska, so I love reading about riding there.

But since the bike hand grenaded on you, why didn't you to chose a different bike for the replacement. That massive engine damage would give me second thoughts on buying another.
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« Reply #57 on: November 21, 2008, 12:33:41 pm »

Great ride report!   I lived in Anchorage for four years while stationed at the air force base there.  The picts made me miss it.  

No suprise you ran into a lot of nice people, the people up there are always happy to help.
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« Reply #58 on: November 21, 2008, 03:27:04 pm »

Sad about the bike, but an amazing experience.  Thanks for recounting your tale, that is the best ride report I have read to date!  Thumbsup
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« Reply #59 on: November 22, 2008, 03:05:28 am »

Great writeup. I got about half-way but still great.
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« Reply #60 on: November 22, 2008, 07:30:32 pm »

Excellent ride report.  Incredible.  Thanks so much for taking the time to post it here for us.   Thumbsup  Thumbsup
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« Reply #61 on: November 23, 2008, 09:47:07 am »

Others have said it, but that for talking us along.  Seems you had a great time.
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« Reply #62 on: November 23, 2008, 10:45:44 am »

Great job on your novel ride report Jammin!
IMHO the only thing missing was romance and Rick;   Bigsmile  Lol  movie production starts in 20??
I'm glad I had the pleasure of meeting you, thanks for sharing your epic adventure. Hail

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« Reply #63 on: November 23, 2008, 12:41:22 pm »

Totally awesome, Thumbsup Thumbsup.

I`m gonna steal that PCV tube idea for the tent.

As far as melted piston,most likely it was caused by lean jetting exaggerated by the end can problems.

On typical I4 motor with huge reserve of power , jetteing won`t  cause this kind of terminal problem but on "little" one cylinder that works hard all the time it has to be perfect.
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« Reply #64 on: November 23, 2008, 02:40:28 pm »


 Withstupid
The pictures of the passes really drive home the epic-ology...errr...the epic-icity...epic-aciousness of a trip to Alaska.

btw...the linky to the Mexico trip no worky.

Hello Sir Orson, thank you.

Linkys have been fixed.  Thumbsup


Wow.  Simply, wow.  Thumbsup

That was an awesome writeup.  Sorry that it ended on a bit of a sad note, but as you said, nobody was hurt, and at least it was on the "homeward" side...after you got to see most all of what you wanted to see.

Some questions, if I may pick at your gray matter:

1.  Was the Dalton Highway the "worst" road you had to cope with?

2.  On roads like the Dalton Highway (graveled), how packed was the gravel?  What would you say was your average speed on those types of roads (given the weather conditions)?

3.  What difference (if any) did you notice in MPG on gravel roads vs. highway riding?  What was your range (miles per tank)?

4.  My bike is a CBR1100XX.  I see that you caught a lot of punctures.  Since I've suffered similar problems on my last trip, your experience cements the idea of looking at something like buying a Rhino Tire (http://rhinotire.com/) for this kind of trip.  Any thoughts?  My idea is that a plug kit and sealants are nice, but perhaps a "preemptive strike" against the problem would be justified when you consider the time and hassle of trying to patch a puncture in the middle of nowhere.

1. Well, yes, on this trip the Dalton was the 'worst' road, but it's not that bad of a road. There's not much loose gravel and it's basically a hard-packed mud road. If it's raining, it's probably the worst road in the world  Lol but if it's sunny, no big deal.

2. Yup, not much loose gravel, was more hard-packed and it's sporadically paved through the whole 400 mile stretch. All in all, it's actually about 50% paved (tarmac). Average speed was definitely above 50 mph. Some places we were moving at 70, but most of the time, we cruised to take in the scenery.

3. I had a 5 gal gas tank and didn't really notice much difference in gas mileage. With all the weight I had, I was averaging about 40 - 45 mph throughout the whole trip. Your speeds are slower on the gravel, so you fuel mileage goes up.

4. Well now, my punctures all stemmed from the blow out of my tube because I was running very low pressure and rode through a deep pothole (like a fool  Embarassment ) but I did hear others also get punctures. I dont think something like a rhino tire necessarily is needed. Get the mushroom plug kit (Stop N Go) and that's a pretty solid fix. I've ridden more than a 1000 miles on my GSX-R with a mushroom plug in the rear tire.

Cheers,


Nicely done Jay !! I feel like I was along for the trip. I am doing the same trip on my vfr next year.

Heya Tim, thanx buddy. Yeah, let me know if you have more questions regarding your trip planning.
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« Reply #65 on: November 23, 2008, 02:54:40 pm »


Thanks for posting this, Jay. What an incredible adventure! From what I've heard from numerous Strommer friends who've made the trip, you're fortunate there was no heavy rain on the Dalton; they described it as being 'slicker than snot on a doorknob.'

May your next big trip be as expansive and wonderous.  Thumbsup

Yeah, the slicker than snot expression is exactly how it feels when it's raining. I heard from others that a few days after us, it raining non-stop for a long time. Phew.


Great write up, it kept me enthralled. My son is moving to Alaska, so I love reading about riding there.

But since the bike hand grenaded on you, why didn't you to chose a different bike for the replacement. That massive engine damage would give me second thoughts on buying another.


Thanx for asking a good question. I dealth with this issue this whole summer, before deciding on sticking with the DR.

You see, I did a lot of research before deciding on my first DR650 and decided those specs were exactly what I was looking for in an adventure bike. Yes, the engine went bad, but I analyzed the problem with the help of other experienced DR users and determined that it wasn't so much a design flaw as it was overwhelming stress induced on the engine: water getting into the fuel tank, making the engine run lean lead to detonation in the chamber and that destroyed the piston head. If I had known that so much water was in the system, I should've tried to make the fuel mixture more rich to compensate for that and I would've been fine. But I learned my lesson.

Also, the muffler went bad because that muffler required repacking of the muffling material every 3 months or 1000 miles, so it's not really designed for long distance touring. I didn't know about that before hand. Without it being repacked, the interior of the muffler broke down and started vibrating loose in there and leading to all that damaged. Next time, I'm getting a high-end stainless steel muffler that doesn't require repacking.

The amazing thing about this bike and it's engine is that even after the detonation event up on the Dalton highway, she kept going for another 1000 miles! The DR650 is still considered a very bullet-proof engine (besides what I did to it, hehe), so if I just watch the water intake issue, I should be fine.  Thumbsup



Great job on your novel ride report Jammin!
IMHO the only thing missing was romance and Rick;   Bigsmile  Lol  movie production starts in 20??
I'm glad I had the pleasure of meeting you, thanks for sharing your epic adventure. Hail

Hey Sam, haha, yeah, need a woman on the next trip.. ehh, maybe Rick will do  Crazy


Totally awesome, Thumbsup Thumbsup.

I`m gonna steal that PCV tube idea for the tent.

As far as melted piston,most likely it was caused by lean jetting exaggerated by the end can problems.

On typical I4 motor with huge reserve of power , jetteing won`t  cause this kind of terminal problem but on "little" one cylinder that works hard all the time it has to be perfect.

PVC tubing  Thumbsup
Yup, lean conditions were the culprit. And that's right, the single cylinder has to be working well the whole time.
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« Reply #66 on: November 23, 2008, 04:19:40 pm »


Outstanding! You've set a new standard for ride reports.


I concur.  Informative as a textbook, entertaining as a blog...I propose Jammin be elevated to godhood for this one.   Bigok Bigok Bigok
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« Reply #67 on: November 23, 2008, 04:29:28 pm »

Maybe I missed something, but I don't see how you got water in your tank. So it was raining out while filling it from a can. That doesn't seem like a big deal.
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« Reply #68 on: November 23, 2008, 08:57:24 pm »

 Thumbsup

Finally finished your story tonight and glad I did. What a great ride. The write up and the pictures made me want to get in the saddle and go today.

Some of the best ride stories always need a little drama thrown in to make it interesting. It never seems good when happening but always seems to work out in more ways than expected in the end.

I give you kudos for your fortitude.
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« Reply #69 on: November 23, 2008, 10:42:34 pm »


Maybe I missed something, but I don't see how you got water in your tank. So it was raining out while filling it from a can. That doesn't seem like a big deal.

that's whut I wuz thinkin'.

doesn't seem like it would be enough water to damage an engine.

maybe it wuz acid rain?  Bigsmile
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« Reply #70 on: November 24, 2008, 12:33:14 pm »


Maybe I missed something, but I don't see how you got water in your tank. So it was raining out while filling it from a can. That doesn't seem like a big deal.

Yeah, that's what I thought too. I know water is not good for the engine, so I covered the tank opening with my body when I poured the fuel in and didn't think anything of it. But when I finally made it to Fairbanks at the dealership, he took a sample of my fuel and there was definitely about 20% water in the fuel.

Also, totally my mistake, but in the haste to get going after getting my tire fixed, I didn't secure my seat down properly with the tank and that air gap allowed rain to get into my cut airbox (mod for more power) and the air filter was soaked in water and then later mud (the calcium chloride).

After filling up in the rain, I took a 2 hour break at Coldfoot and then when I tried to start the bike, she wouldn't fire for at least 10-15 tries and then it was a loud bang and the engine got going. That's when the piston head probably deteriorated  Crazy
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« Reply #71 on: November 24, 2008, 05:54:14 pm »

Odd - I thought I'd already posted an Attaboy, but I don't see it in this thread.  

Anyhoos, that was quite an adventure and an excellent retelling.  Thanks. Thumbsup
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« Reply #72 on: November 24, 2008, 06:44:51 pm »

20% water has got to be from something other then filling in the rain. You could be in a complete down pour filling up and not get 20% in your tank. That is without covering the fill.

Did the gas cap have a vent tube? I wonder if this may have pulled a vacuum and ingested water during a water crossing? This would sound more feasible then rain during a fuel stop.
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« Reply #73 on: November 25, 2008, 08:30:26 am »

Awesome report.  I've known Paul for years (I used to summer in Denali Park) and anyone thinking of going to the Denali area should contact him.  Good guy and very resourceful.
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« Reply #74 on: November 25, 2008, 04:42:48 pm »

Wow!...just wow.      Hail Clap
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« Reply #75 on: November 25, 2008, 10:51:38 pm »


Also, totally my mistake, but in the haste to get going after getting my tire fixed, I didn't secure my seat down properly with the tank and that air gap allowed rain to get into my cut airbox (mod for more power) and the air filter was soaked in water and then later mud (the calcium chloride).

We use Calcium Chloride as a drilling fluid additive, and if some gets spilled on your boots, they'll curdle right up.

Probably just as bad for an engine.

My guess would be that the air filter wuz the source of the water rather than the refueling.
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« Reply #76 on: November 26, 2008, 10:51:19 am »

Bestest RR EVAR!  Bigsmile

Another alternative to what happened. You may have gotten some bad gas somewhere. That may explain why 20% of your fuel was bad.
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« Reply #77 on: November 26, 2008, 11:34:02 am »

Unfreekin' believable! What a great ride report. BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN!

Now if I could just figure out how to print the thing for future reference without killing a few trees.

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« Reply #78 on: December 03, 2008, 09:41:53 am »


20% water has got to be from something other then filling in the rain. You could be in a complete down pour filling up and not get 20% in your tank. That is without covering the fill.

Did the gas cap have a vent tube? I wonder if this may have pulled a vacuum and ingested water during a water crossing? This would sound more feasible then rain during a fuel stop.

Yes, the cap did have a vent tube and I did do a water crossing the day before, but she was running fine for about 300 miles after that and only after the rain storm did she start acting funny.


We use Calcium Chloride as a drilling fluid additive, and if some gets spilled on your boots, they'll curdle right up.

Probably just as bad for an engine.

My guess would be that the air filter wuz the source of the water rather than the refueling.

Yeah, I think riding through the rain allowed wet calcium chloride to coat the air filter and then slowly go into the engine along with water. That's some nasty stuff when it gets wet.  Crazy


Bestest RR EVAR!  Bigsmile

Another alternative to what happened. You may have gotten some bad gas somewhere. That may explain why 20% of your fuel was bad.

Thanx. Yeah, that's what I thought at first too. But my friend in the Landcruiser filled up at the same place and he was fine. But who knows.

What I do know now is that there were so many factors that lead to her demise and it's convinced me that it isn't a design flaw and was more compounding factors due to the circumstances.


Unfreekin' believable! What a great ride report. BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN!

Now if I could just figure out how to print the thing for future reference without killing a few trees.

Scott

Scott, you can go to directly to my trip website where this ride report will always be for future reference.
http://jamminak.blogspot.com/
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« Reply #79 on: December 03, 2008, 12:28:41 pm »

Great ride report!  I guess I'm more ignorant about insurance than I thought, though.  I didn't know you can get insurance for a vehicle that covers mechanical failure.  What kind is that?
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« Reply #80 on: December 03, 2008, 02:14:03 pm »

You can't.

Either the adjuster was being nice or was careless.  The bike was toast because the motor was blown.

However, there's nothing saying that you can't claim that prolonged running while the bike was on it's side resulted in motor damage.

Kawasaki (ZXR IIRC) was notorious for having a motor toast out if it was allowed to run when laid on its side.  So, one low side and your motor will kill itself in the next 1,200 miles.
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« Reply #81 on: December 04, 2008, 12:45:17 pm »

What a great ride report. Thanks very much Jammin !!  Clap

If you ever find yourself in the Kootenays again, give me a shout as I am happy to host St.n'ers on their journeys. You were about 45mins away.

 Bigok
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« Reply #82 on: December 04, 2008, 05:31:12 pm »

For whatever its worth, this thread had me reading it NOT DOING WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO for the better part of this afternoon.

Sorry about your bike. However, it looks like the memories you carry from the trip more then make up for it. Especially if your insurance co really pays for the new bike.

Ride often, ride safe.

marc
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« Reply #83 on: April 05, 2009, 11:58:41 pm »

Great report...Very detailed.  I appreciate the effort put into the report and I am TRULY thankful you made it home safely.  How did your Twenty20 camera preform during the trip?  Any quirks or changes you would make as far as filming?  Just an AWESOME trip.....very cool!    Clap

Mike
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« Reply #84 on: April 06, 2009, 11:35:10 am »

Definitely a wow factor!  Excellent adventure.  Wish i had the time and means to tackle one of those.  The pictures were great and the captions really helped tell the story.  

Like others, sorry about the bike.  Sucks to give up such a goof "friend".  Hopefully your new bike takes you on more adventures (that we'll end up reading about!).
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« Reply #85 on: April 07, 2009, 07:04:50 pm »

In the process of planning for a future trip to Alaska, I came across your RR… What a Fabulous Job you did putting this together… I truly enjoyed reading about your Adventure and look forward to having my own.

Can I really wait for 3 to 5 years before I take my trip… the only thing holding me back is $. Damn it, where did I put that Winning Lotto Ticket?
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« Reply #86 on: April 07, 2009, 07:13:23 pm »

I don't think Jammin Jams anymore  Sad

Jammin: Last Active:  December 29, 2008, 12:26:22 pm
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« Reply #87 on: April 08, 2009, 01:05:26 pm »


I don't think Jammin Jams anymore  Sad

Jammin: Last Active: December 29, 2008, 12:26:22 pm


Thanks Orson... wonder what happened...

BTW: DO you have an ETA of when you will be able to return to 2 wheels?
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« Reply #88 on: April 08, 2009, 01:10:35 pm »




Thanks Orson... wonder what happened...

BTW: DO you have an ETA of when you will be able to return to 2 wheels?

Rick1957 says that Jammin is now an adventure rider. I guess us pavement riders are too effete for his liking  Bigsmile Wink

The bone growth in my hip is going slower than expected. My foot is still swollen and the doctor says it may stay swollen for a year or more, so I don't know if I can squeeze it into my boots, which are in Italy with my bike.

It's looking like 50/50 whether I'll be doing any riding this year  Sad
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« Reply #89 on: April 08, 2009, 01:18:06 pm »



Rick1957 says that Jammin is now an adventure rider. I guess us pavement riders are too effete for his liking  Bigsmile Wink

The bone growth in my hip is going slower than expected. My foot is still swollen and the doctor says it may stay swollen for a year or more, so I don't know if I can squeeze it into my boots, which are in Italy with my bike.

It's looking like 50/50 whether I'll be doing any riding this year  Sad


That is truly Sad...  Sad

Here's to a Speedy Recovery. I will miss your RR's & photo's... however I will patiently wait for your return.

Has the caravan of riders shown up on Mom's doorstep yet?
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« Reply #90 on: April 08, 2009, 01:31:20 pm »



Has the caravan of riders shown up on Mom's doorstep yet?

 Lol

a couple of them showed up and took me out for lunch  Bigok
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« Reply #91 on: April 08, 2009, 01:38:52 pm »


I don't think Jammin Jams anymore  Sad

Jammin: Last Active:  December 29, 2008, 12:26:22 pm


He's around, he's an "adventure" rider now Rolleyes And trying to convince me to do South America and the world with him. I'm getting too old to sleep on the ground and call it an "adventure" Lol Notice the masked master welder in the ride report, I know that masked welder supreme Wink
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« Reply #92 on: April 08, 2009, 08:42:30 pm »




Blank page??  Headscratch
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« Reply #93 on: April 11, 2009, 09:23:50 am »

I have ghosted this site and others for years, this is one of the best, if not the best report I have every read. Good for you. Great photos, you saw more of Alaska than I did living there for three years. You are right on, the people that live there are great.

Thanks for the great report.
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« Reply #94 on: June 08, 2009, 11:35:12 am »

i am going to do this early/mid 2011 (from NC) if the good Lord is willing - i was just discussing this trip with my partner in crime this past weekend. he lives just off the BRP in NC and is getting his wee strom set up for the trip. i am still contemplating taking the feej or not?

A VERY EXCELLENT REPORT Thumbsup Thumbsup
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« Reply #95 on: September 21, 2009, 12:57:35 pm »


Great report...Very detailed.  I appreciate the effort put into the report and I am TRULY thankful you made it home safely.  How did your Twenty20 camera preform during the trip?  Any quirks or changes you would make as far as filming?  Just an AWESOME trip.....very cool!    Clap

Mike

Hey Mike, the Twenty20's performed well for me before but on this trip, things did not go well with the setup - one of the wires started to rub on the frame until it shorted and then I dropped the camera by mistake and it was kaput. I got footage of when I went through Montana but it's not that exciting.
The thing with filming is you either need a good subject in front of you or lots of footage to edit into a few minutes to show the area you rode through... and lots and lots of time for editing...



Definitely a wow factor!  Excellent adventure.  Wish i had the time and means to tackle one of those.  The pictures were great and the captions really helped tell the story.  

Like others, sorry about the bike.  Sucks to give up such a goof "friend".  Hopefully your new bike takes you on more adventures (that we'll end up reading about!).

Yeah, it's that giving up on a good friend feeling that still hurts to today Sad



I don't think Jammin Jams anymore  Sad

Jammin: Last Active:  December 29, 2008, 12:26:22 pm

Sorry guys, but tore my ACL this past winter skiing and that obviously took up a lot of my time, but no excuses not to check in on my sport-touring comrades once in a while. Will try and be better about it  Cool



Rick1957 says that Jammin is now an adventure rider. I guess us pavement riders are too effete for his liking  Bigsmile Wink

The bone growth in my hip is going slower than expected. My foot is still swollen and the doctor says it may stay swollen for a year or more, so I don't know if I can squeeze it into my boots, which are in Italy with my bike.

It's looking like 50/50 whether I'll be doing any riding this year  Sad

Yes, I am slowing finding the allure of riding dirt roads for fun  Lol But dont worry, pavement is still my forte. Heading to Kentucky this weekend for a sport-touring ride through the twisties there.  Inlove

Hope you're back on two wheels soon Orson.
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« Reply #96 on: September 21, 2009, 09:27:45 pm »


Hope you're back on two wheels soon Orson.


Thanks  Smile


This shot is awesome! Must ride soon  Thumbsup
http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b173/Orsoni/Picture013-4.jpg

Isn't this where they shot the new Bond car chase?

I hadn't seen the Bond movie at the time you asked that.

Now that I have, yes, I believe it's the same road. A neat ride  Smile

Hope to see another Jammin report soon.
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« Reply #97 on: September 22, 2009, 11:10:04 am »




Yes, I am slowing finding the allure of riding dirt roads for fun  Lol But dont worry, pavement is still my forte. Heading to Kentucky this weekend for a sport-touring ride through the twisties there.  Inlove




What part of KY are you hitting up?
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« Reply #98 on: September 24, 2009, 12:21:38 pm »

...that posting a report of this magnitude is a huge undertaking and very difficult.

Thank you sir for your effort and sharing this wonderful trip with all of us.  Bigok

Gerry in Spokane
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