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Old 09-10-2012, 07:38 PM   #46
KimPossible
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Great ride report!
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Old 09-15-2012, 09:11 PM   #47
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Great report

Steve,

Awesome trip. Thanks for taking the time to write the report. I might have to pick up a Vstrom - looks like a great bike for touring and dirt. We should go riding soon.

Paul
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Old 09-16-2012, 12:49 AM   #48
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Steve,

Awesome trip. Thanks for taking the time to write the report. I might have to pick up a Vstrom - looks like a great bike for touring and dirt. We should go riding soon.

Paul
Hey Paul!

Yes all around! Let's maybe go riding around 3 Bananas Ranch before the rains come. Kate and I are going up for Apple Fest. What about that weekend?

The V-Strom was a perfect steed for a trip like this - no regrets whatsoever. It is the most comfortable bike I've ever ridden for long highway stretches, and it's more than capable enough for dirt roads like this. It handled my big frame with a passenger and loads of gear, no problem. It's not a light bike, for sure, but there are times where that's a good thing. I may end up upgrading in the next year or so. If I do, I'd love to pass her along.
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Old 09-19-2012, 09:26 AM   #49
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Hey Paul!

Yes all around! Let's maybe go riding around 3 Bananas Ranch before the rains come. Kate and I are going up for Apple Fest. What about that weekend?

The V-Strom was a perfect steed for a trip like this - no regrets whatsoever. It is the most comfortable bike I've ever ridden for long highway stretches, and it's more than capable enough for dirt roads like this. It handled my big frame with a passenger and loads of gear, no problem. It's not a light bike, for sure, but there are times where that's a good thing. I may end up upgrading in the next year or so. If I do, I'd love to pass her along.

Let me guess - KTM 990?
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:49 AM   #50
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Nah, won't likely be that. Might be a 950. I've also been interested in the Triumph Tiger 800, but it seems a bit... precious.
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Old 09-19-2012, 11:25 AM   #51
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Ridiculous with the border guard and that powder. I would have only imagined the US border guard seeing my bag of gatorade mix and demanding an explanation... lol
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Old 09-24-2012, 04:42 AM   #52
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Day 20: Tombstone to Chicken, Ak

I had gone to bed the night before under clear skies - blissed out with not a care in the world.
I awoke at 5am the next morning to... thunderstorms. Great!


As my groggy morning mind sorted the sensory information coming in, my first thought was gratitude for my picnic pavilion tent shelter - at least I was dry, personally. I took mental inventory. I had moved all my gear under the structure ... except... the bear bag I had hoisted, full of what little food I had left and other stinky stuff. I decided the damage was done, by that point - no sense getting wet trying to retrieve it at 5am. Beyond the immediate, I was also starting to get my head around the ramification of this weather. I really didn't have a day's worth of food left - a couple of oatmeal packets and a scoop of peanut butter maybe. If and when the rains did let up, the roads were going to be shot, but I was going to have to brave them.


Luckily, around noon, the sky did clear up - enough for me to pack up camp and get on the road, anyways. I retrieved my soggy bear bag and boiled some drinking water.


The roads were bad, and the rains continued on and off, but I made it through. I had completed the Dempster Highway ... well, half of it, anyways.


Cold and wet, I collected myself at the Mile Zero restaurant and service station. They had a coin-op power wash station, so I treated the V-Strom to a bath. Everything was caked with mud.


I also aired my tires back up to highway pressures. At the tire shop, I noticed loads of small birds diving all around me. Swallows? Finches?. They had made homes in the siding of the garage. 'Killer' appeared to be the mascot.






I hit the road back towards Dawson, and saw an adult female moose with two calves, grazing in a pond.




After a quick stop in Dawson for souvenirs and groceries, I took a hairy ferry ride across the Yukon River. The water was high and strong, of course. To travel what would be a short, straight line across the river, as the crow flies, was quite an endeavor by boat. We took off from the dock and immediately turned the nose of the boat upstream. By the time we were halfway across the river, the engines were roaring at full power to try to keep up with the current. We ended up doing this funny 'S' path in the water. Docking on the other side was a surgical maneuver - motoring past the landing and then swinging the boat perpendicular to the shore at the last moment. I was glad to be off of that ride.


Once you cross the Yukon River, you're on the Top of the World Highway - a part of the trip I had been really looking forward to. It's a winding, mostly dirt road that goes along an incredible ridge and across the northern-most land border crossing between the US and Canada. The views were spectacular.


The road on the Canada side was pretty beat - mostly dirt with spots of rough pavement, patches of gravel, and potholes that could swallow a front wheel. I just wanted to be flowing and taking in the scenery, but the road demanded my attention. Here's the scene as you approach the border crossing.


Poker Creek, Alaska: population ... 2. Presumably that's one US border guard and one Canadian border guard. I had images going through my head of those two guys barbecuing and drinking beers together - hilarious to me, for some reason. What do you have to do wrong at your previous customs post to land yourself the Top of the World border crossing gig?


The Alaska side of the Top of the World Hwy. was awesome - well-groomed, consistent dirt. It was fun riding and breathtakingly beautiful - definitely a highlight of my trip.




My stop for the night would be Chicken, Alaska. The place has a hilarious history. Because of their prevalence in the area, it was suggested that the community be named ptarmigan. Unfortunately, no one who lived there could spell the name of that bird [silent 'P' and all], so they went with Chicken. It's the only city in the world named Chicken, and the year-round population hovers around 15. There's still lots of gold mining in the area, so in the summer, the place is full of prospectors.


I had heard from a friend that one of the few buildings in town was a rowdy saloon full of said gold miners, and that was something I wanted to experience. I rolled into town around 6pm, gassed up, and made my way across the river to the 'town center'.


I parked the bike in front of the saloon, and a porch full of local color was laughing and jeering and trying to talk to me before I could get my helmet off. I joined right in with the merry-making and asked where I could pitch my tent for the night. Almost in unison, several people shouted '...right there!' and pointed towards the parking area twenty-odd feet away. Stumbling distance indeed... seemed good enough to me. As I started in on my first beer, an Australian rider pulled up on a Triumph Bonneville [new]. I filled him in on the camping arrangements, he produced a bottle of single malt scotch, and we became fast friends. This is Dennis - folks call him 'Dog'.


The only restaurant was closed by that time, so we decided to do a camp dinner together. In my nervousness about almost running out of food on the Dempster, I had overdone it a bit in Dawson. I had four huge, perishable [red wine chorizo] sausages, cheese, fruit, fresh bread, etc. - all of which would be less awesome by morning. Dog provided scotch and Folgers coffee. After dinner, we resumed carrying on with the locals. Everyone had little vials of gold flakes in their pockets. It was used as direct currency, in some situations - we heard stories of gold traded for ATV's and trucks. There were also a lot of firearms - huge, honkin' pistols swinging off of everyone's belts - reportedly for grizzly protection. The bar actually had [and enforced] a policy of turning in your firearms to the bartender when you arrived. At one point, I asked about law enforcement and got a big laugh. 'No cops through here so far this year.' This picture about sums it up - people were coming and going all night on ATV's, often with open beers in hand. In the background, you'll notice that there's a person riding on the trunk of that car, and they're coming back from the airstrip - the local smoke spot.


Yes, also in the background is a huge bush that [vaguely] looked like a chicken - so someone made a cut-out chicken face and mounted it on a big pole.


Here's the outhouses for 'downtown' - appropriately labeled 'Chicken Poop'. This town has a sense of humor.


It's a funny thing, seeing people bar-closing-time-drunk in near daylight. Darkness is a kindness I've taken for granted all these years. Inside the saloon, the decore is fittingly hilarious. The ceiling is plastered with panties ... but not the hot little thong, spring break, sorority variety. Oh no. These are well-worn, battle-scarred numbers with a little too much 'history'. The walls are covered with hats and license plates and business cards and such - the usual. In the back of the room, there is a pool table, which I was eager to show my chops on. Thing is, it was turned sideways in a very narrow room - so to make a shot from anywhere but the corners, you had to unscrew a cue stick into its halves and shoot with an awkwardly short stick. Add to that, the floor was so out of level that every shot hooked and returned to one corner drastically. Talk about a home court advantage. Here's Dog short-sticking it.


After countless beers, and just as the conversations were turning to politics, I stumbled the 20-some feet over to my tent and crashed like a ton of bricks. Chicken had been everything I had hoped, and more - what an epic day!


Day 20: Tombstone, YT to Chicken, Alaska [189 total miles / ~100 on dirt]
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Old 09-27-2012, 04:35 PM   #53
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"Darkness is a kindness I've taken for granted all these years."

Classic! I now have some great stories about Chicken, and I didn't have to go there.

What does a border guard have to do to get posted in Poker Butte? Let's hope it's not getting your picture taken with a baggy of mystery powder! On that note, the good folks at Anti-Monkey Butt came through with a couple of travel size bottles for me, thanks to your marvelous yarn. Thanks for the memories.

Rob
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Old 09-27-2012, 05:02 PM   #54
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Monkey butt!

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"...the good folks at Anti-Monkey Butt came through with a couple of travel size bottles for me, thanks to your marvelous yarn. Thanks for the memories.

Rob
I know, me too!
Thanks Anti Monkey-butt!

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Old 11-09-2012, 06:36 PM   #55
Philip Kuntz
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Great RR, Steve. I started reading this back in August, and finally got around to finishing it tonight. Incredible pics and stories, makes me want to go to Chicken, AK.

Are you going to finish it?
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Old 11-09-2012, 06:41 PM   #56
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Great RR, Steve. I started reading this back in August, and finally got around to finishing it tonight. Incredible pics and stories, makes me want to go to Chicken, AK.

Are you going to finish it?

Ugh, I know. Sorry to all of you who have been waiting for me to finish this thing. I promise I will. Life just got the better of me for a while there.

Jerry, how did your ride finish up? How did everything shake out with your dad? Well, I hope.
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Old 11-09-2012, 07:18 PM   #57
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Great RR. Please finish 'er off.
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Old 11-27-2012, 07:15 AM   #58
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Some of us are trying to live vicariously through you, Steve. What happened next? :)
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Old 11-29-2012, 02:11 AM   #59
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Day 21: Chicken, Alaska to Haines Junction, Yukon

Sorry for the long break, folks. Here we go again... Day 21. Chicken, Alaska to Haines Junction, Yukon territory - 382 miles total / ~25 on dirt.



I was headed towards Whitehorse - as directly as possible. Kate, was flying in the next day, and the bike needed a bit of love and adjustment to get ready for more two-up service. Plus, I could use a bit of rest before pushing off again. I hadn't had a rest day since Portland, 15 days ago!

By the way, Kate rides too, but she wasn't quite ready for this big of a trip on her 1969 CB350. She'll be pillion again for the trek back to the contiguous 48.



Anyways... Day 21.
My new buddy 'Dog' woke up just before 6am and started making noise around our campsite ... aka the parking lot of the Chicken Saloon. We only went to sleep 4 or 5 hours earlier - well liquored up, no less. Guess it's an early start today, whether I want it or not. It's freezing cold and raining. Nothing is open yet in Chicken, so I gear up quick and hit the road. Beautiful, despite the dreary weather.



The ride that morning offered some cool glimpses of permafrost vegetation. I love the trees that just look like they're going to fall over because the earth below them thawed a bit too much this year.



I was going to pass fairly near the city of Tok, Alaska on my way towards Whitehorse. Tok would turn out to be the most 'modern' city I'd visit in Alaska on this trip. I was frozen stiff by the time I got there, and the 'stich was starting to leak in all of its unfortunate leak zones [read: crotch]. The Beaver Fever cafe offered a nice, warm place to make some phone calls on non-roaming AT&T service and do some quick work stuff. Plus... with a name like Beaver Fever, how could I resist?



Once I was thawed out and sufficiently reminded of how great it was to be away from work, I pushed onward. The Alaska Highway from Tok to Haines Junction was crap. The pavement would undulate severely without warning and then disappeared entirely for huge stretches into gravel awaiting repair. You couldn't lose concentration, but the utter lack of curves or other interest made that very hard. The one glimmer of entertainment I did get along the stretch were these beauties - my first grizzly bear sightings of the trip. I saw two big ones, just a dozen or so miles apart from one another.



This one was lumbering along just 15 feet or so off of the roadway - heading the same way I was. I slowed down next to him and followed along with him for a bit. It was a remarkable experience. I was close enough that I could hear it grunting and the snap of the saplings as it scratched itself and trampled them. Its movements were gruff and powerful. Awesome creature.



Just before the border crossing, I heard CJ's voice in my head and picked up a case of beer. It'd be three times as expensive on the other side of that imaginary line. Hooray for USA!



By the time I reached Haines Junction, I was exhausted. A push on to Whitehorse, another ~100 miles, didn't seem prudent. Over really bad Chinese food, I considered renting a room at one of the decent-looking motels. Given that the rain had stopped, and it seemed like it might hold off all night, I opted instead for the Pine Lake Campground up the highway a bit. Good enough - especially considering that the fee was $12, and firewood was free. I love Canada's provincial parks. Rain really saps my enthusiasm. I was glad for a few of those PBR's and a dry sleeping bag. I couldn't wait to see Kate the next day and really begin the long trek home.
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Old 12-08-2012, 04:36 PM   #60
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Day 22 - Haines Junction to Whitehorse

Day 22 - Haines Junction to Whitehorse [97 miles total]


It's 7/17/12 - I wake up to another rainy day, hopeful that it doesn't persist. We could be in for a miserable stretch of two-up riding, if it does. I blast into Whitehorse and check into the Mountain Ridge Motel again - same room CJ and I had last week. I reserved it before I left last time - given the craziness in town with the softball tournament. I took the first shower in four days - luxury! Then, I took the rest of the day handling stuff like laundry - and drying out all of my soaking wet gear.


I had a few little bike issues to deal with - chain tension & lube, suspension linkage clean & lube, check fluids, etc.. I had also lost one of the rubber bumpers under my seat at some point. These keep the load of the saddle distributed nicely to the frame as opposed to [as in my case] grinding away at the top of the battery. That'd surely lead to trouble, by the time I made it back to California. The guys at the Suzuki dealership didn't have the exact part, but they had some other bumpers that they made work. Thanks guys!

Kate's original flight out of SF was delayed, and she missed her original connection to Whitehorse. The airline was originally saying that she'd have to wait until the next day, but we were on a tight schedule to catch the ferry South. The boat we needed to be on only left Haines / Skagway once a week - and we had already bought tickets. She made a fuss, and they got her on another flight, on another airline, arriving into Whitehorse at 11:30pm that night. So... I had some more time to kill.

The nice folks I met at Tombstone recommended a restaurant in town called Klondike Ribs & Salmon - so I went there for fish and chips. Delicious - and fun place! I even caught a movie [Ted] at the local two-plex. It was cheap night, which meant lots of teenie-boppers. Funny cultural experience.


I picked Kate up at the airport on the bike, in the rain , in the 'dark' - what an arrival.
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