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Old 04-27-2012, 02:08 PM   #196
skierd OP
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Location: Fairbanks, AK
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Tuesday March 27. Another no picture day because it was another day of all rain all day.

I kept following the 101 until I just couldn't take the slow traffic, dumb drivers (no wonder they don't let y'all pump your own gas), and shitty weather anymore, eventually punted around Lincoln City and made my inland to I-5. Burned up through Portland, which looked more like Pittsburgh or some other mid-sized Appalachian city than anything I've seen for a couple thousand miles, then jumped on US 30 North to stay off the freeway for a while and hoping for something more scenic, and crossed into Washington at Longview, where I got gas to avoid dealing with another Oregon pump jockey. Not much to say after this, I simply burned up the 5 to get to seattle as quickly as possible. A quick stop for gas in Centralia and to contact Clif, my host for the next couple days, to let him know I was close. Nothing like hitting a strange city in the tail end of rush hour in the rain, but I was absolutely amazed at the number of riders out and the way traffic seemed to flow relatively well and consciously of the motorbikes. I guess if you don't ride in the rain you don't ride up here...

Made it to Clif's in time for dinner and spent most of the rest of the evening drying out, getting cleaned up, and planning the next day's moto-tour of Seattle.

Wednesday March 28

One of my favorite things to do when out on the road, I think I've mentioned, is stopping by a town's motorcycle dealerships to see what there is to see and fortunately Seattle is blessed with some of the best. I should have taken more pictures, but... hindsight and all that. I almost have to come back through this way if I leave Alaska so maybe I'll do it then.

First up, the biggie... Touratech USA. They were interested enough to put me on their facebook page under "Parked out front"



I've bitched as much as anyone at the cost of Touratech farkles and basically had written them off as overpriced toys of the rich and overly gear obsessed... but goddamn this is a honest to goodness motorcycle shop run by guys who ride, love to ride, and love making great quality gear and garb for riders. Its one of the only places in the USA where you could literally ride up with a stock bike and money (lots of money) and outfit yourself for a round-the-world trip in one visit.

Second stop was the other end of the ADV spectrum, AltRider.

http://www.altrider.com/

They focus on the non-german ADV type bikes (and the germans too, of course) and are kinda like the scappy, grassroots cousin of Touratech. Definitely more of a hooligan atmosphere here.

Had a long stop at Moto International, one of the best Moto Guzzi dealerships in the nation.

http://www.motointernational.com/

Had a long talk with Dave Richardson about what's likely to be my new bike this fall, the V7 Classic, bike and Guzzi's in general, then had pizza at the pizza place across the street. The sun came out finally and the city felt like it suddenly came alive with it.

Next stop was Ride West BMW http://www.ridewest.com/ . As I walked in the door, I heard two of the guys behind the counter go "Holy shit, an Ellicott City Motorsports sticker!" Turns out both of them were originally from Maryland, used to work at Bob's BMW (my local BMW shop) and were very familiar with the trials and tribulations of local dealerships back home. More looking at bikes and gear I can't afford, then a quick stop at Ride powersports, before calling it an evening and riding home under overcast skies. Spent most of the night bullshitting with Clif again and playing with the dogs, keeping everyone up past their bed times.

Thursday March 29

My last full day in the lower 48. A nothing day really, Clif's wife let me borrow the car to stay dry while I ran some errands (books and food for the boat trip mainly). Later in the day I dropped in to the Eastside Riders MAG (Meet and greet) at Celtic Bayou for beer and food.



Friday March 30. End of the line, and new beginnings...

Got a late-ish start leaving Clif's house, but no worries at all since Bellingham was less than 2 hours away and I didn't have to check in until 3pm. A quick run up some back roads and some time on the 5 and before I knew it...



I had just enough time to get some food and buy some tie-down straps before it was time to board. Of course waiting in line it started raining but fortunately they let me on early to get out of the rain.

Off with my duffel, strapped and locked my helmet and 'stich to the bike, grabbed my camera, and headed up to the Solarium to claim a deck chair as my camp site for the next couple days...





Bon Voyage!

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Eastern TAT 8/2009 ~MD-Key West-Oklahoma 4/2011~Maryland to Alaska 3/2012

skierd screwed with this post 04-27-2012 at 02:31 PM
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Old 04-27-2012, 02:47 PM   #197
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Half of me is insanely jealous of your adventure and the other half believes you are insane.

Good luck. I hope you find what you are looking for.
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Old 04-27-2012, 03:09 PM   #198
Gale B.T.
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The ferry

You are gonna have a ball, relax, watch the awesome scenery, animals, people.

Also if you have access read/laugh at this Adv RR. Wife and I ran into Vermin at Prince Rupert ,we still keep in touch, still have great laughs together. Enjoy the RR

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=362853

We look forward to keep in touch with you and your ride.

stay dry and warm,
gale
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Old 04-28-2012, 07:23 PM   #199
skierd OP
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March 30 to April 2 - Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham to Ketchikan on the M/V Matanuska, and from Ketchikan to Haines on the M/V Columbia.

Leaving the dock


Sunset off the bow


In order to bypass riding through the Canadian interior in late winter I took the ferry, properly known as the Alaska Marine Highway System, from its southernmost port in Bellingham, WA to Haines, AK. The first stretch, from Bellingham to Ketchikan, is by far the longest at about 36 hours. We left Bellingham at 6pm on the 30th and arrived in Ketchikan early on April 1st. Nothing to do but sit around and wait as we slowly sail up the Inside Passage. It was mostly dead calm except for the two or three sound crossings that were exposed to the open ocean swell. On the ferry, you can either rent a cabin, sleep in the lounges, or as I opted to do sleep on the Solarium deck. Its open to the air and has heaters to keep it warm, so even in winter its tolerable. Most of the nights it was below freezing but I stayed warm and comfortable (helped no doubt by my 0* down sleeping bag).





It was actually quite pleasant to sleep outside in the fresh air and out away from the rest of the herd on the cattle erm... lounge deck. The views didn't hurt either.

Morning








Later in the afternoon the sun came out





The boats fortunately have a lounge too, so I spent most of my time there.



The next morning we pulled in to Ketchikan and changed boats. Changing boats gave me a chance to run around town for the little bit, which is nice because there's no other way to get to Ketchikan as there are no roads to the mainland.



On the new boat Solarium deck



















Around 10am on the second of April, the ferry pulled in to Haines, AK. The weather was borderline cold, probably at most 40 degrees, and the roads, at least down here, were clear. Only 660 miles or so to Fairbanks...

...But I'd have to get there first.
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"We wish your trail a long one" - Darlene "Sid" Dowd ~ Never run out of traction, ideas, and real estate at the same time.
2008 Yamaha WR250X
Eastern TAT 8/2009 ~MD-Key West-Oklahoma 4/2011~Maryland to Alaska 3/2012
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Old 04-28-2012, 08:40 PM   #200
skierd OP
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There is a strange feeling in Haines, like you're hanging off of the edge of the world. Because you kinda are out exposed on the edge, the edge of civilization anyways. There are remote parts of the country in the lower 48, but nothing like up here. The atmosphere carries a seriousness I've not felt elsewhere yet on my travels, and it whispers 'be wary'. The closest to it is riding on the Outer Banks south of Hatteras where you are basically exposed to the Atlantic Ocean on a tiny spit of sand. Death Valley might as well be Manhattan by comparison. Once off the ferry, I rode about 10 miles to get to the actual town of Haines, where I topped off my gas tank and got some cash for the ride through Canada just in case the station that were open didn't take or couldn't take credit. I asked the woman at the gas station how people were saying the roads were today, and a man who had just come in said it was great all the way to Haines Junction, clear the entire way.

That information was already several hours old by the time I recieved it...

Stopped at the border



"What brings you to Canada?" Moving to Alaska. "Awful early to be on that thing isn't it?" Yeah... probably but hopefully it won't be too bad. Seen any other bikes this year? "No, not really. A few locals maybe". Hmm... He took my passport card inside and came back after about 10 minutes. "Ok be careful out there, welcome to Canada."

Maybe 30 minutes from the border it started flurrying. I could feel the mountains soaring up around me, but I couldn't see them... everything was white. There was easily 5-6 feet of snow on the sides of the road in places, not drifts either. There were more than a few occasions where I couldn't even see from the blowing snow, thank god the road was paved with asphalt so it contrasted with everything else. This was sketch. Beyond sketch. The winds were bad, mostly on my nose blowing down out of the arctic and they seemed to be bringing not just cold but snow as well, fortunately the dry fluffy kind that doesn't stick anywhere because its too cold to stick. About 14 miles outside of Haines Junction... I sputtered out of gas. One bottle in... and 12.5 miles later I was out again. Second bottle in... pulled in to the only gas pump that took a credit card to conserve my cash. Also got a burger at the only restaurant in town, which was actually somewhat decent. I could not imagine living in a town and isolated as this, let alone growing up here knowing the same 150 people cradle to grave... maybe I was just in a bad mood because of fatigue or the weather or the stars but damn I could not get out of Haines Junction fast enough. The weather was definitely turning sour and I wanted to make it at least as far as Destruction Bay before I stopped to try to minimize tomorrows ride in what was likely to be less than ideal conditions... I still had delusional hopes about making it to Fairbanks tomorrow.

Destruction Bay is only 60 miles from Haines Junction or so, and another 430ish to Fairbanks so in theory it should be ok. I couldn't remember how far the next town, Beaver Creek, was. Shortly out of Haines Junction, it started sleeting then snowing. Snowing snowing. I promised myself that if it turned bad within 20 miles of leaving HJ, I would turn back, if not push on. About 5 miles from Destruction Bay it started snowing in earnest and I felt the temperature drop. It was TIME to get off the goddamn highway before I hurt myself or worse. Fortunately the gas station in DB is also a motel, the Talbot Arms, and they had room available.

How much is a room? "$88" How far is Beaver Creek from here? "About 180km" Hmm.. snowing, suns going down, 3+ hours to ride... I'm covered in ice and rhime, the bike is covered in ice and slush, its stupid to keep going.





I didn't realize until I stopped how bone tired and cold I was. To make matters worse the bike was running like absolute shit, cutting out randomly in top gear until I let off the throttle and hit it again, and I could tell from riding that the chain tension was waaaaay too loose. Great... just what I want to do in sub freezing weather, adjust my goddamn chain slack. I said screw it, I won't be able to ride first thing in the morning anyway so I put it off till tomorrow, got dinner and a beer, and watched some TV before falling asleep worrying about the road ahead.

Tuesday April 3

Its amazing how much food and sunshine can improve ones mood. It was still cold, several degrees below freezing, but the roads were clear enough at Destruction Bay to keep moving (against the advice of oh... everyone at the hotel and restaurant that morning). Once again, if I get up to halfway to the next town and it turns to shit, i'll turn back. Otherwise, I have to keep moving. My money was running out only slightly faster than my patience for this ride and I was ready to be done and sitting somewhere for more than a few days.

Leaving DB:


The Yukon is so breathtakingly and harshly wild beautiful its almost beyond description. I was ecstatic to be there, and infinitely happy that I had not slogged through the previous 1500 miles of the Canadian interior to get there. Especially since 70 miles outside of Beaver Creek, the AlCan turned to this:





Seventy (70) goddamn miles of hardpack snow with the odd stripe of clear pavement, often on the wrong side of the highway, save for a few 1-2km clear sections. It took me FIVE (5) hours to get from DB to Beaver Creek. 120 miles, 5 hours. I dumped it three times, fortunately at extremely slow speeds because I was on a motard with street tires. Screw Canada and their inability to keep their ONE SINGLE ROAD in the Yukon open and clear of snow. And its not like they weren't plowing, its just that the plows that were out were merely skimming the surface of the snow picking off maybe the top 1/4" of snow. Maybe they get paid by the hour or something. For the privilege I paid $1.50 more per gallon for gas, 2x as much for food, and wasted most of a day flailing around on roads I had no business being on yet. I have never been so happy to see the United States, with its functioning snow removal equipment, cheap fuel, less expensive food, and actual highway maintenance. Even better, I got confirmation (for better or worse) from the border guard at the US customs house that I was the first motorcycle to come up from the lower 48 for the year.

The roads in the US were comparatively perfect and I was able to motor as far as Tok before night caught me. And there... the Canada Strikes Back! Remember how I paid for gas using my credit card? I had two nice giant $100 holds on my debit card from those gas stations. As I was already on fumes financially at that point, it made getting things like dinner and a room at Fast Eddie's fun. Canada sucks. Fortunately I had some food left in my bags from the ferry for dinner. An my family doesn't suck so a couple quick phone calls I was financially solvent again and able to pay for my room in the morning and get breakfast and get gas since those holds would stay on for about 5 days.

Wednesday April 4

Leaving Tok... on the home stretch... it was maybe 5 degrees when I left and I was wearing damn near every piece of clothing available to me and I was just managing to stay tolerably warm. Lunch and gas in Delta Junction, and I pulled in to Fairbanks around 2pm. Figuring I might as well make an entrance, I just went straight to the hotel where I'll be working all summer and introduced myself. "Hi, my name is David Dawson, I just rode my motorcycle up here from Maryland and I'm looking for [my new boss]. Is he around? I'd like to say hello."



That's it folks, we made it! The hotel put me up for the night. I met my roommate and we moved most of my ride gear and the crap I shipped up to myself to my new apartment, started work about a week later. The weather went from cold and snowy to 50's and sunny the day after I arrived. Spring has come to Fairbanks. Now, just a scant three weeks later, nearly all of the snow is gone, the roads are clear, the bikes are out, and the sun doesn't set until around 1030pm, and its still light at the edge of the sky through most of the night. I've gotten the briefest glimpse of the northern lights twice and seen probably 3 dozen caribou total. The hotel has a 'beware of moose' sign on the entrance. Local and micro brews are cheaper than Budweiser. There's a pizza place, a thai restaurant, a falafel stand, an ice cream stand, and a dive bar with a hot dog cart within walking distance of my apartment. So far this has been the best crazy stupidly retarded idea I've yet had. Oh, and I'm making at least twice as much money with half the rent and other bills I had in Maryland.


The end is just the beginning however... Dust to Dawson is fast approaching in June. The haul road starts just outside of town. Denali is less than 2 hours away. I'm mobile, hostile, and agile, and by the end of summer I will probably be not just out of debt but have some money saved away for the winter if I don't drink it all. The plan? I don't have a plan. I'm just living for me, living for tomorrow, living for life.
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"We wish your trail a long one" - Darlene "Sid" Dowd ~ Never run out of traction, ideas, and real estate at the same time.
2008 Yamaha WR250X
Eastern TAT 8/2009 ~MD-Key West-Oklahoma 4/2011~Maryland to Alaska 3/2012
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Old 04-28-2012, 08:48 PM   #201
skierd OP
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stuck in my head most of the way
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"We wish your trail a long one" - Darlene "Sid" Dowd ~ Never run out of traction, ideas, and real estate at the same time.
2008 Yamaha WR250X
Eastern TAT 8/2009 ~MD-Key West-Oklahoma 4/2011~Maryland to Alaska 3/2012
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Old 04-28-2012, 09:04 PM   #202
skierd OP
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I need to give thanks to the following people without whom this trip would never have been competed. First and foremost, my mom and dad for supporting me in the decision to move as far as possible and still be in the actual country from them.

A massive, huge, mega thanks to BigDog, HighFive, ramz, HardWorkingDog, and Cyborg for giving me a place to sleep, feeding me, a place to wrench, a place to decompress, and generally putting up with some smelly stranger from the right coast riding a bike thats too small, with too much luggage, that they've never met before with some crazy idea to ride from Maryland to Alaska too early in the year for a silly summer job. All of you are wonderful people with wonderful families and I hope that one day I can repay your kindness in kind. I said it to HF and I meant it, I don't know how quite to handle people I barely know being this nice to me. Hopefully next time through I can mooch less and we can ride more. And thank you, all of you, for reminding me again that the people you love and care for and care for you are really all that's important in life.

And thanks to everyone who took the time to read this. I hope you were at least entertained, and that it helps push you to follow whatever dreams keep you awake at night, mind racing, palms sweaty, and heart fluttering. Ride fast, take chances, safety third.
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2008 Yamaha WR250X
Eastern TAT 8/2009 ~MD-Key West-Oklahoma 4/2011~Maryland to Alaska 3/2012
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Old 04-28-2012, 09:12 PM   #203
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Awesome trip Dave! Though I'm starting to suspect I won't be buying your Wolfman luggage.
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Old 04-28-2012, 09:20 PM   #204
skierd OP
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I still have it if you want it. The tank bag lid needs to be resewn along the zipper seam and the right side saddle bag could use a patch or fresh duct tape, but otherwise still works great. PM me if you're being serious.
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"We wish your trail a long one" - Darlene "Sid" Dowd ~ Never run out of traction, ideas, and real estate at the same time.
2008 Yamaha WR250X
Eastern TAT 8/2009 ~MD-Key West-Oklahoma 4/2011~Maryland to Alaska 3/2012
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Old 04-28-2012, 09:35 PM   #205
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No, just joshing around. I got a tank bag and hope to receive the new E-12 saddlebags as a gift soon. It wouldn't be fair to your luggage if I owned them, scooting around the Frederick watershed would be quite the letdown compared to where they've been.
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Old 04-28-2012, 10:01 PM   #206
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Great report Skierd!

That ride from Haines to Fairbanks was properly crazy, you'll fit in just fine up in Alaska where that's more the norm

Hope that rainsuit helped you tolerate the rest of the ride from Seattle to up North a little better.

Clif
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Old 04-29-2012, 04:49 AM   #207
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skierd View Post
...The atmosphere carries a seriousness I've not felt elsewhere yet on my travels, and it whispers 'be wary'...
Good stuff right there.

Great report. Thanks for taking the time.
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Old 04-29-2012, 05:12 AM   #208
BigDogAdventures
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You made it

I see you made it Skierd-----you endeavored to persevere

Glad to help you out on your way. Hope the job works out for you.

In no time at all you'll be here.
BigDog

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Old 04-29-2012, 08:10 AM   #209
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Hey BigDog, I remember that area, couple years ago...



Now we need to see Skierd's Deadhorse/Prudehoe Bay picture.
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Old 04-29-2012, 08:37 AM   #210
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Holy Smokes.....

HF
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