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Old 04-09-2008, 07:38 PM   #61
Sly-on-2 OP
Rockin' Winger
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Joined: Jan 2007
Location: Previously, Camel City Carolina, now Denver
Oddometer: 156

Check out the picture... racing on the TV and racing on the laptop. Now that's a racing fix!

In case you havenít gathered, Iím a huge MotorSports fan. That includes NASCAR. Today is the Brickyard 400. I woke up at the Montana Raceway Park and rode only 15 miles. After finding a $35 room, I unloaded my gear and checked in for a day of Racing, Eating, Uploading and Writing. Notice, no riding. It was my first day-off. I fired up the stove in my hotel room while the laundry was washing and then settled in for some Brickyard action. In the morning, Iíd change my oil and then cross the border.

I canít believe this is actually happening! If I can survive the Al-Can, Iíll make it to Alaska. Finally!!!

In mid-May, while in Vermont, a fellow riding a Honda older than mine came over to chat. His recommendation for changing your oil in a parking lot? A Turkey Pan. It's cheap and recyclable. It worked like a charm. The guys at Tire-O-Rama lent me a funnel and then recycled the oil and the pan. Wal-Mart has a filter for my bike, gear oil, my preferred engine oil (Synthetic Shell Rotella) and a turkey pan. Convenient. After I grab a ratchet, Iím ready to roll in about 8 minutes.

Most of the pictures, I remember where, when etc. The details. But this one, check out the point of view. What the hell was I doing?

This stretch of road was really disconcerting. I remember being really freaked out about animals. There's no distance between dense forest and the road. No time to spot them and react. Tense

Anyhow, there was no line at the border and I crossed quickly. I had no idea what I was in for. $1.25 per liter at Petro Canada. A $15 tank of gas now costs $25. Ouch!

Once in Alberta, I stopped for lunch at the first place I'd seen in 20 miles. I looked up above the register after a particularly good bite of buffalo burger and saw a sign that read: Cigarettes $14. I wasnít going to have a beer when I realized how expensive they were, but the waitress decided she could spare a couple of drafts, without me forking over a pocket-full of Loonies.

What a rude awakening as I later learned that high prices aren't limited to fuel and smokes.

Upon arriving at the Al-Can, I joined the short queue of riders waiting to get their picture taken at the monumental mile marker zero. Two guys on new Goldwings from Ohio came over to talk. I wasn't in the mood as I'd just had a ten minute conversation with guys on KLR's (like Ryan's bike from Old Faithful) They told me that Prudhoe Bay was a hard ride (1,000 miles of gravel with nothing north of Fairbanks until the Arctic Ocean,) but that it wasn't a technically challenging ride. If that ride is ok, then the ride to Chicken can't be too bad. Turns out that the guys from Ohio had been rained on the entire time they were in AK. They had an interesting story about how they ended up in AK. The one guy's buddy backed out and while mentioning his dilemma to a non-riding friend, the friend interrupted and insisted they drive down to the Honda dealership. He'd never ridden, but bought a brand new Wing, zero down, zero interest, zero payments for six months. He rode to Alaska and will sell it as soon as he gets home. Interesting. At 6'6 and 300+, beginner's mistakes are easier to overcome. Still... Alaska with no experience?

Being a real big dude makes a huge difference. Anyone car ride a motorcycle fast, but expensive mistakes happen in parking lots. At 6í6, he wasnít worried. I couldn't argue, because they'd ridden the Dempster and to Pruhdoe.

I was worried though, about the rain. Luck had shown on me almost the whole trip, as had sunshine. Would it last? I donít want to be in Alaska during a monsoon. Oh well.

The road deteriorated just a bit, but was still fine for 70 mph. The rain was light and the temperature manageable.

I made it to Banff National Park around 11:00 pm, still about 1/2 hour from twilight. After riding through three campgrounds and finding them all packed, I began to worry. Wildlife was everywhere and darkness approaching. I sat on my bike to consult my Milepost (a 500 page book that details every mile of the Al-Can and all other AK roads.) A guy came running down the hill and approached: "If you need a place to set up your tent, there's a bit of space in our campsite." Wow.

This guy and his wife were spending their vacation running 10 marathons in 10 days. There were no blacktop miles among their 260 miles of running. All trail running in the mountains. They were getting ready to go to bed, but we talked for a bit. And they thought I was nuts for riding a bike so far!

The next morning, I had to be up and out by 6:30 so that they could get their camper out of the campsite. That day, I rode 800 miles along the Al-Can to Fort Nelson. Around ten, I pulled into a gas station to talk with another biker. (It had taken 15 hours to ride 800 miles!) Bob was a private-equity guy from Phoenix. He was headed home and gave me the lowdown on his ride, and then we went to a campground a split a site. Two tents and one fee. That was a pretty cool thing for him to do as I didnít get the impression that he had much of a budget to worry about.

I headed north around 9:00 the next morning. That day proved to be a long one too. Also, it was the day of the wildlife. I saw so many animals: hundreds.

(Different animals from different encounters.)

Check out the road conditions. Narrow, very coarse, no shoulders, loose rock in the roadway, and no guardrails. Nice!

I took this picture and thought it was odd. Then I realized that planes sitting by the road are as common as seeing a car in someone's driveway.

The two long days on the Al-Can can be characterized as days spent passing. Passing RV's and passing trucks; hundreds each day. The bike accelerates quickly and pulls hard from any speed to top speed. The trucks make it easy. The RV's are often clueless. I took this picture just as I pulled left and passed the entire line of RV's. It's nice that motorcycles have so much acceleration and can fly by the RV's.

Just after I got around them, we all stopped to wait for the sheep to clear the roadway. This one was taken with no zoom.

It's a 1911 something or other. I saw them at a gas station. Wow - The Al-Can via a 1911 automobile.

All of the trucks have giant brush guards on the front of their rigs. They're made from 4 inch steel. A buffalo, moose, elk, caribou, etc... would destroy a radiator and more.

Buffalo are HUGE!

No zoom - you can see my rear view and get a perspetive for how close this big son-of-bitch really is. Oops.

The headlight was freshly cleaned four hours ago.

I left Fort Nelson without eating oatmeal. Yuck!

But lunch was delicious... and so were the perfectly pack leftovers.

I'm not worried about botchulism evidently.

This was a pretty small bear, but a small bear is still big.

I'd read ride reports before leaving about the place with all the signs. For me, it was one of the best breaks from riding. I loved it!!! There were cool signs that brought back memories from so many different points in my life. You can have a blast there. I only stayed 20 minutes, but it was so fun to think of how the signs got there. A unique museum, loosely defined.

Ahhh, a metal bridge deck. In Fort Nelson, Bob told me of how he cut down a tire on a metal deck. The rear wheel on his BMW GS comes off with five bolts. Mine comes off with five hours. (admitted exaggeration, but you get the point.)

A flat tire would be awful... especially up here.

Gottaí keep rolling if Iím going to make Whitehorse by nightfall.

More to follow. I met some great ADV guys in Whitehorse.

Stay tuned.
Ride to live...and vice versa.

Amblin' about North America - half a year with a 2-wheeled home - Click for the Ride Report
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Old 04-09-2008, 08:20 PM   #62
a.k.a. Opie
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Joined: May 2007
Location: Boulder, CO
Oddometer: 4,160
You wrote: That being said, the bike is not cool. I can say that because "cool" is an opinion and mine is that old Goldwings only have "cool" potential if you're over 50. Or, if you're so cool yourself that the cool aura spills over and adds cool karma to the bike. If that's the case, that's someone I want to be friends with.

Damn, that's some great writing. Seriously entertaining. Nice!

As for me, I think I've had an "old man" attitude since I was about 12 years old. Not surprising that I admire your 'wing. I currently have a K75s (in need of tranny service at the moment) and I quite recently bought a KLR for weekend adventuring, so I'm not inclined to step up to a Wing just yet. I do admit checking eBay after reading your posts however.

Wifey has made it clear that if more vehicles show up, I need to go rent garage space someplace. Bummer!

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Old 04-09-2008, 08:27 PM   #63
Time it's a bitch
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Joined: Oct 2007
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Oddometer: 324
I wanta get on the road too!

Sly, great report thanks for posting. I'm bringing an old BMW back to life and looking forward to some serious riding this season but....I really want to hit the road for an extended trip so your report has further fueled that fire.

It's amazing how many reasons I can come up with to not do an epic ride so I guess I'll just have to find a way to bust through.

Thanks for the fuel.
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Old 04-09-2008, 08:46 PM   #64
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Those are some great pictures of the Canadian Rockies.

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Old 04-09-2008, 08:50 PM   #65
Sly-on-2 OP
Rockin' Winger
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Location: Previously, Camel City Carolina, now Denver
Oddometer: 156
Today was a long, long day. It was fun and challenging, but it was long. 14 hours of very hard riding, compounded by my determination to stop only for fuel, had made for a very tired body and mind. In three days, Iíd ridden 2,000 miles, including 16 and 14 hours during the last two days. With the frost heaves, the animals, the potholes, the gravel and the vast emptiness, I was exhausted. The remote nature of the terrain was beautiful, but daunting.

As a big-time extrovert, I get energy from being around people. After 14 hours on the bike, I was very glad to get to a motorcycle friendly campground with travelers of all sorts, but especially lots of bikers. I quickly met Kevin and Aaron (Janky) as they were working on Kevin's Bimmer. Kevin's bright red bike is the same color as the motorcycle I had in college; my very good-looking 1989 Honda Hawk GT. Rumor has it that parts of it are still around Charlottesville being used for purposes other than holding gas. I totaled that bike. After wrecking it, I've kept the speedometer in my bedroom or closet as a constant reminder to ride safely.

Anyhow, Aaron is my age and the three of us hit it off right away. After setting up camp, I went on a beer run while they buttoned up Kevin's bike. $32 for 15 cans of Kokanee beer!!! If I were Canadian, Iíd give up smokes and suds for sure. Tell me that coffee and tea arenít taxed heavily too! Itís wonderful up there in Alberta and Yukon, but itís expensive. After seeing first hand what it takes to get goods to market, I canít begrudge the retailers though.

We hung out for quite awhile. It was still light at midnight so it was easy to stay up even after a back-breaking day of riding. The three of us talked motorcycles, talked riding, talked life experiences, work ethic, goals, plans, family, friends, and other topics usually reserved for only the closest of friends.

The next morning, I slept in. Way in. After several days of long rides and late nights, the road and the 18+ hours of daylight had taken a toll. They guys had convinced me to slow down and take a break. Knowing when I left I faced 300 miles of bone-jarring pavement and gravel between Whitehorse and Dawson, it hadn't been too hard to convince me to hang out for a day.

Actually, when I met the guys, I was freaked out about Canada and Alaska. Given my limited budget, the cost of petrol and sundries was something that I'd not planned for. I arrived in Whitehorse after convincing myself that I needed to get out of Canada as quickly as possible and then only spend a week in AK. If not, I'd decided, I'd have to go straight home after returning to the Lower 48. Nothing rational, I'd just gotten into a head-game with myself... and lost. The guys said, "chill out man. slow down and enjoy like. enjoy your trip. take it easy and just live. and ride."

I don't remember their exact words, but their message rings clearly in my mind as if it were last week. Thanks fellas. We went to the store and bought steaks and potatos, along with more beer. The beer, the grub, the conversations, it was a great way to spend a "day-off."

We rode into town together. Aaron is looking at the newly dubbed "Old Wing."

He's a heck of a guy and the nickname seemed fitting for my tired old sled. Heíd just given me the gas cans, as he was headed South after several weeks of riding in AK. While looking at my bike, he saidÖ ďA GoldWing, I think itís an OldWing.Ē

Hell yeah. Itís been the OldWing ever since. Thanks buddy. How the hell are ya? Call me sometime.

Aaron's working on his 650 Dakar BMW, aka Janky. The bags come off in seconds.

I said goodbye to Aaron and a couple from New Zealand. They had just ridden back from Pruhdoe Bay. Just to put it in perspective, this guy is pretty big. So this badass takes one look at my bike and cracks a grin and asked ďwhat didnít you bring with you on your trip?Ē

Between his Aussie accent and his sarcastic sense of humor, I just started laughing. Not to mention, heís been on the road two-up for awhile with no other gear than whatís in the saddlebags of his GSA. Busted. My coffee press, a weeks worth of food, hiking boots, tools and snacks seemed a bit ridiculous. After laughing at my Beverly Hillbillyís style, we said goodbye and I set the Ĺ ton OldWing in motion. It's so cool to meet people from all over the world who ship their bikes here to ride. I've met people from: England, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Russia, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru. I've met people in route to: Baja, Panama, Costa Rica, and Argentina.

Off to Dawson, the last stretch before the Top of the World Highway and the border crossing into Alaska.

Coming over hills like this is quite a feeling. I can only imagine what explorers thought when the world was still supposed to be flat. If one believed there was an edge to the earth, this is as good of an optical illusion as any.

In Whitehorse, Aaron had given me his gas tanks. He had spent the last few weeks in Alaska and was headed back to Seattle. My newly acquired tanks were full and strapped to my floorboards. The bike certainly looked more like an adventure bike for sure.

The last 50 miles of gravel and potholes had taken their toll. I smelt gas. Knowing there wasn't anyone else around but me, it could only mean one thing.

After stopping very quickly, I jumped off to see a can dangling from the side with fuel pouring out of the can. The passenger floorboards are directly over the exhaust pipes. ... the very hot exhaust pipes.

I put the face shield down on my helmet, tilted it forward and stuffed my collar under the helmet.

Thoughts of a car-b-que flashed through my mind. Living inside the DC Beltway during the telecom boom, I regularly heard traffic reports which included the details of some poor driver whose car had gone up in flames.

The fuel poured out and the smell was scary. I grabbed the can and bungee cord and got it free and ran 15 yards before turning around.

Disaster averted.

Back on the road. That was scary as hell!

Though I hated to cause an environmental incident in the Yukon, I had no choice but to leave the damaged can.

Littering is Trashy.

If only I had Loonie for every one of these signs I saw during the last 1,000 miles. Dusty? No kidding... look at the road. It's very packed and predictable though and riding at 65 mph was usually appropriate.

Finally, I'd made it to Dawson. Sweet!

It's a cool town.

None of the streets are paved.

Potholes abound.

Motorcycles must make every move precisely and take great care not to lose concentration for even a moment.

Outside of town, I headed to the top of the mountain to check out the view.

Kevin stopped by my campsite around 11 or so. I'd gotten there hours earlier and set up outside of town. I was about to go to sleep to get up early and ride to Chicken, Tok, and Fairbanks. Tomorrow would be a tough day. Kevin had to wait for a part to come in to Whitehorse and had time to kill, so he set off for the downtown campground and and the Dawson City nightlife.

Cheers buddy!

I broke camp early and nervously set off toward what I knew to be the toughest and most challenging part of the trip. The Top of the World Highway. 100+ miles a gravel and bad potholes. There are no guardrails. There is no question why it's called the Top of the World Highway.

The morning began with a ferry ride across the river. I talked to a guy in the ferry queue from Alaska who had just driven his girlfriend to the airport four days earlier. After three Alaska winters, she couldn't do a fourth and had to go back home... to North Carolina. He hadn't seen my tags before telling me that. She was from Goldsboro, NC and he was heartbroken. (tags = license plate for you folks from states / countries that donít call Ďem tags.)

Alaska isn't for everyone... at least not year-round. She had to split.

The Canadian side wasn't too bad. Remote, steep and isolated, but not too technical. The American side was notorious for very poor conditions. 43 Miles to go.

The Border Crossing

Woo hoo! I made it to Alaska. 49 of 50 with only one more to go.

Check out the road and the ruts.

I came around a corner and saw the sign. I was going too fast to see the girls or the truck. I misread the sign and though it said "Recreation Studio." I expected an exhibit. Photography perhaps? Perhaps adventure photography?

They are students in Fairbanks and set up for a week and camp and take surveys when people stop. Every week, they go to a new spot. The research is for a PhD student. I know how frustrating data collection can be so I did my part. I told them of Jesse from Black Hills State University We talked about books weíve read. ďA Walk in The WoodsĒ by Bill Bryson tells of his adventure hiking the Appalachian Trail. Having grown up near the trail in Virginia, I read the book years ago and thought back to portions on my trip. Being alone for long stretches and then meeting someone who shares your story, itís an interesting way to have a conversation. Not a situation normally encountered in everyday life. Itís weird. that I met at dawn in The Badlands who interned as a photographer for the State Department of Tourism. These girls definitely had the second coolest undergrad internship. They worked a few hours or so and then would go for a hike. Work a few more hours and then go climb a mountain. The next day, perhaps take a break to swim or fish. It suited them quite well.

See the picture below? Yea - It's an intense ride.

Wow. I made it. I made it to Chicken. Wow!

Ride to live...and vice versa.

Amblin' about North America - half a year with a 2-wheeled home - Click for the Ride Report
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Old 04-09-2008, 09:04 PM   #66
Sly-on-2 OP
Rockin' Winger
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Joined: Jan 2007
Location: Previously, Camel City Carolina, now Denver
Oddometer: 156
Opie - Sweet! If you manage to land an e-bay special like mine, see if you can get your wife on the back before she freaks out. Once the rides on the Wing (front or back seat,) she just might let you park it in the living room!

I like to think that Wings put a smile on women's faces twice. Once when they laugh at it, and once again when they laugh at their girlfriends stuck on the back of a (insert the name of any other hike here.)

Comfort is soooo nice.

More good news... if you get a Wing, you won't have any tranny troubles. Unless you've bought one that someone took a grizzly gun and put a bullet hole through the transmission. The gearbox on GoldWings is all but bullet-proof.

LoCat - glad the mojo is inspring your. Please post if you do it. By then, I'll be working away and wishing I was in your shoes.
Ride to live...and vice versa.

Amblin' about North America - half a year with a 2-wheeled home - Click for the Ride Report
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Old 04-10-2008, 04:50 AM   #67
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Joined: Sep 2007
Location: brisvegas,oz
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awesome,hooked on this report,great photos,cant wait for next instalment
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Old 04-10-2008, 08:19 AM   #68
Sly-on-2 OP
Rockin' Winger
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Joined: Jan 2007
Location: Previously, Camel City Carolina, now Denver
Oddometer: 156

The Old-Wing was dusty and brown. I'd just ridden the Top of the World Highway in under two hours; I was cruising. While RV's were creeping along at 25, I rode by without a blip in the throttle; just pick a line and hold it. It was amazing. Though exhilarating, I'd decided to take a different route home. In Whitehorse, JANKY had tried to convince me to ride the Cassier or the Dempster or both (can’t remember,) and while riding The Top of the World, I was actually considering it. This isn’t so bad I thought.

It's hard to describe the potholes or what it's like to ride among them. At low speeds, it's jolting and unsettling for both the bike and rider. However, at 50+ mph, the bike dances atop the gravel and glides (though admittedly not effortlessly) over the road irregularities. At times like that, one can only hope for a graceful dancing partner.

I don't know why I have a childhood memory of swing dancing and hearing my partner sing: " Swing your partner round and around, kick him in the butt and knock him down." Fortunately, I don't remembered any elementary school girls ever knocking me down. Equally as fortunate, today's dancing partner hadn't stepped on my toes either.

The I flew over the washboards as if I was on a bike with 10 inches of suspension travel. With my full-face-helmet and earplugs, the bolt jarring sounds coming from my rattling bike were muffled enough for me to press on. The potholes were another story. Coutersteer on gravel was sketchy at first, but I’d gotten pretty used to flicking the big bike around so as to avoid the potholes. Hitting them SUCKED!!! It hurt; both my body and my ears when I heard the sound of the whole bike slamming down into a big ‘ole hole. Oh well! I’d made it to Alaska!!! Hell Yeah!!!

It was early, only 10:30 or so. Chicken was empty, except for the few residents. I took picture and walked about with an air of cockiness as a biker who just rode the Top of the World Highway on an old bike. I love cocky. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t the kind of cocky that makes you want to slap the grin off someone. Just the kind of cocky that chuckles when the whispers start.

About an hour later, (after I'd bought an obscene amount of Chicken paraphernalia,) RV's that I'd passed like road signs, began to arrive. Evidently, people in RV’s had a hard time identifying the year, make and model of my bike when I flew by at mach 3 leaving a cloud of Alaska dust. Now, with the bike parked and my helmet off, the whispers were out in full force. “What is it?” she asks, “A Goldwing,” he replies. “Isn’t that what you ride?” “Yea… sort of” “You don’t ride like that do you?” “Of course not,” he snaps. “Is he crazy” she wonders. “Maybe retarded.” He speculates.

Others are complementary and inquisitive. “Neat bike,” she says. “Yea, you don’t see many of those up here,” he adds. “Guess you had a long time to practice riding that thing coming from Carolina.”

I like Chicken already. Time to go back to the Saloon and polish off my half-finished pint. Delicious.

Then, Pierre & Julia arrived. They were coming from the other direction and would soon experience the ride to Dawson (though they rode slowly, like responsible adults, rather than like a delusional biker who is unaware that he was in fact, NOT riding a brand new BMW GSA.) They are from Ohio and had chosen to take this trip together via motorcycle, as opposed to flying in Pierre's plane. If there is anything cooler than that, I'm going to need some help brainstorming to come up with plausible scenarios that could trump their two-wheeled adventure. They turned down two wings for two wheels. Now that’s a sweet choice to be able to make. I saw his V-Strom and thought about Kaneman and wondered where he was in his adventure. Like Pierre, Kaneman was taking a whole lot of time on the road to take pictures and write about his story. I had no idea how time-consuming it was, until I started doing the same thing. Pierre and I had real-time blogs on for our friends back home and were always looking for a place to kick back and write. Kaneman was posting his real time RR on ADV. He did a great job writing. Thanks Josh.

After talking for a bit, they invited me to join them for lunch and then treated me to a delicious lunch at the Chicken Cafe. Afterwards, we said goodbye and I went into the Saloon to write postcards. In Chicken, the mail comes twice each week.

I got all geared up and threw my leg over my bike, as I've done 1,000 times before. I turned the key... and nothing happened. The swagger from earlier was now gone, as I was just a broken down biker in a tiny town that's over three hours from anywhere. I faced my worst case scenario, an electrical problem. I can diagnose and fix just about any mechanical problem on a bike, but diagnosing electrical problems is something I just don’t do well. Earlier in the trip, I ate a Waterloo at Bonaparte's Retreat in Napoleon, IN. Here in Chicken, I was afraid I'd met my Waterloo. But before giving up, I had to tear down the bike and try to fix it.

Here are two of the guys that stopped to help. Chet (on the left) and his wife Jo are retired and spending the summer in Alaska with their RV and toy hauler. Chet made two trips via 4-Wheeler back to his camp to get tools. He helped out for a few hours. Go Red Wings!

The problem was somewhere between the battery and the ignition. After spending 6 hours working on the bike, I went to the proprietor and asked to stay. Susan wouldn't hear of me staying in my tent and offered one of the tent-cabins out back. Her summer employees stayed in them and there was an empty one.

The satellite internet connection was great. There is a good group of guys, many of them retired, on a GoldWing forum. I posted my problem and they came rushing into help. Gary, the handyman that lives year-round in Chicken and takes care of the property had a multi-meter for me to use, but I kept getting weird readings. Anyway, when I felt I finally got consistent readings, I posted them on the form. Between those guys and the guys from the Saloon, we were sure it had to be the ignition switch. There weren't sufficient tools in Chicken to get to the ignition, it takes a swivel socket and two extender bars. The next step was figuring out how to bypass the ignition so I could make it to Fairbanks and get a new switch. No matter the problem, all I had to do was to get spark to the starter. Right? But then why did the bike die after we push started it? It ran like shit for 25 seconds and then died? I’m confused.

Nice. I settled in at the Saloon for an evening with the fine folks from Chicken. Chicken is named after the ptarmigan, a bird that fed many of the early Alaskans. No one could spell ptarmigan, so the town became Chicken.

Anyhow, the night was pretty cool. I met miners, mushroom hunters, prospectors, fisherman and a host of other interesting characters. I was the only tourist. Fortunatley, people don’t really take me for a tourist. I don’t know what the hell I am, but it sure ain’t your average Mickey Mouse tourist.

Robert & Lisa had spent a few years hunting morel's. I've never cooked with morel mushrooms. Prices can approach $50 per pound. (Other than Motorcycles, Cooking is my other hobby. My “inside” hobby as I like to say.) They own a fishing boat and go out with their teenage sons for weeks on end and fish during good years. This wasn't anticipated to be a good year. So, this year, they spent the summer in Alaska where Robert was dredging. He'd get all suited up and dive to the bottom of the creek with a huge vacuum and dredge until he got so cold he'd have to surface. After shivering in blankets for 30-50 minutes, he'd suit back up and do it again. Gold fever isn't limited to prospectors. The help is also compensated based on the gold discovered. Robert had a few good days and was hoping for a few more before winter set in.

Clearly, money was an issue. But here I was in Chicken with an uncertain future. I didn’t want to go out stingy. So I gave Rachel behind the bar $50 and told her to keep $10 and to cut me off when my money ran out. Fortunately, I stayed until everyone went to sleep and my glass never got empty. What a night!

Perhaps you noticed the scraps of cloth hanging from the ceiling in the Saloon? They’re panties. When folks get sufficiently sloshed, girls loose their skivvies and pack them in a cannon which, after a smidge or two of gunpowder, blasts them to kingdom come. The tattered undies are then forever immortalized by hanging them from the ceiling. Now that’s a creative way to talk women into taking off their underwear. Only in Alaska!

Around midnight, (a few minutes after it finally got somewhat dark) in walked Elsa. She had been working all day and I hadn't talked to her. I'd been there over 12 hours and had talked to everyone else. We didn't talk for even five minutes. She looked at me, paused, and then asked if I was hungry. It’s like she knew exactly what to ask. I hadn't eaten since that morning when I ate with Pierre and Julia. She said she was going to bed as she had to work at 7:00, but would leave food in my tent. After a few more conversations and a few more hours, I went to my tent (which I'd yet to visit,) and found goodies... delicious goodies.

So here's the skinny on Chicken. There is no electricity, except what they generate themselves. There is no indoor plumbing. The outhouses are nice, but they are outhouses. The drinking water is all trucked in from Tok. The water for showers, etc. is all gathered on site. There is no phone service, land-line or cell reception. Susan has a satellite phone for emergencies and she offered to let me use it. Who would I call?

The only guy that runs a wrecker had a standard rate of $1,000 to haul people to Tok. Tok is 85 miles and 3.5 hours by truck. Yes, the roads are that bad. But $1000? Even at $100 per hour with an hour for loading / unloading, that’s only $800. I’m not going to call him a price gouger, but then again, I’m not going to call him period.

Susan advised that I do anything other than call a wrecker. At $1,000, the advice was a moot point as it wasn't an option. I really hoped that something good happened so that I didn't have to make Susan the not-so-proud new owner of a broken-down Goldwing.

Shane, from the night before, had insisted that we’d get the bike running. “You’re trip isn’t going to end like this, it’s only a machine, we’ll figure it out.” I hope you’re right buddy.

This picture shows me in the morning. After a long night on a mattress, I awoke feeling like a million bucks. The sunlight streamed in and the drone of the generator seemed distant. The rain pattered on the canvas. The fact that my broken-down machine still didn't run wasn't enough to wipe the sleep-inspired grin from my face.

The view from my sleeping bag.

Goodies from Elsa

I walked over to the buildings and found Susan and asked if there was anything I could do to help. I intended to take the obligatory look at my motorcycle to follow advice gleaned from saloon patrons the night before. Other than that, my calendar was empty. She wanted Ryan to go cut firewood, but he's only 15 and couldn't drive solo for a couple more months. I agreed and she tossed me the keys to the old GMC.

The truck had four-on-the-floor with a granny gear for first gear that was only good up to about 3 mph. The shift throw from 1st to 2nd was about 18 inches. The clutch travel is about twice that of my Ford car. It was a blast to drive. We headed out in the hills and pulled over along the road to cut trees that had been burned in a forest fire. They make great firewood because the creosote has quickly been extracted and dried so the wood is much more preserved and burns much hotter than even well-seasoned firewood. The downside, it's all black and cutting it makes for messy work.

Ryan gave me the chainsaw and told me what to do. "Walk about in the Fireweed until you fall down. Then cut the tree that tripped you." Great. I didn't bother to tell him that I hadn't run a chainsaw since I was his age. He's a strong kid and picked up each of the trees that I cut and drug them out of the woods to the side of the road. I cut, he drug. "Only 300 to go," he laughed. After a few hours, we'd accumulated quite a pile and so I pulled up the truck and we took turns throwing the logs (15-30 feet long) onto the truck.

Tired and filthy, I was still smiling. (Though this picture was taken after only an hour's worth of work.)

The beautiful pink "flowers" were everywhere. All over Alaska is the beautiful Fireweed. If only I had more pictures of it. I didn't know then that in 3 days, the Fireweed would all be gone.

[When I got back, I really enjoyed reading Hoon on the Loose, Jacquline’s thread about her trip to Alaska. Her pictures are fantastic, and I poached a couple of her Fireweed Pictures to add to my screensaver.]

Cutting firewood, blackened by forest-fire, in fields of Fireweed is a great way to spend an afternoon.

When I returned to Chicken, I was totally exhausted. Running a chainsaw for hours is much harder on hands, wrists, shoulders, and back than riding an old 1,000 pound motorcycle over frost-heaves and potholes.

When we returned, Ryan got to unload the truck while I went and sat down for lunch. Susan offered me anything on the menu in return for my help. It was late afternoon and the only thing I'd eaten was the blueberry muffin that Elsa had left for me.

As I finished my lunch, in walked Elsa. "Would you like to go to the mountains and pick wild blueberries with us?"


...and off we went. Elsa and Bill talked about herbal remedies and natural medicine while we rode toward the blueberry patch. I sat silently most of the trip as I really had no idea who I was with and was totally ignorant about the topic of conversation.

Elsa picked a bit more than me. Bill outdid us both.

After we got back, I overheard Bill say he was going to Anchorage in the morning.

"In the flatbed?" I asked. "Yes"

"Are you hauling anything?" I asked hopefully . "No"

"Would you haul me and my bike?" "Sure"

That was it. He spent the next two hours looking for something that would act as a ramp. I found five guys and the comedy show began. Getting the bike into that truck was a comical fiasco.

If only I had pictures. The bike was loaded and off he went, promising to return at 7:00 to pick me up for the 12 hour ride into Anchorage.

I set off to take pictures.

Below is my tent, Rebecca's (the cook / bartender) tent and garden, Elsa's trailer, and an old pickup. The pickup was flying the Jolly Roger. Arrgh! Pirates in Alaska!

Elsa saw me taking pictures as the rain drizzled down. She was off to go ride four-wheelers with Shane, who had just showed up. It was her last night in Alaska and her friends were going to show her out in style.

"While I'm gone, you can go hang out in my place if you like. It's dry... it's inside."

Somehow she knew that the one thing I really needed was to be inside. It had been since Jackson, WY that I'd spent any time in a house; Kalispell since I’d been indoors at all. A week outside gets tiring. I made tea and took pictures. She had a cool little trailer. ...a trailer with a couch.

Elsa's flute, giant tip jar, candle, and lighter made for an interesting pictures. The lighter is in the pictures because it says "Chicken Alaska."

The horse was tethered outside. I never did get the scoop on el caballo.

Not bad for an afternoon's work.

I grew up using a Stihl chainsaw. My Dad still uses it and it's over 30 years old. Two-stroke motors run forever if you take care of them. I’ve got an Echo trimmer that is almost as old as I am. It starts every time.

The back of my tent.

Riding gear, laptop and Redwing riding boots.

The little box-stove. My Dopp Kit is perched atop it as a reference as to its size. The stove is slightly bigger than two shoe boxes.

Susan offered for me to take a shower, perhaps for my benefit, perhaps for the benefit of her patrons. Either way, I was a happy guy.

After a shower, I was a new man.

A buddy of mine who backpacks, swears that the extra weight of a cotton shirt is worth it at the end of the day. After a shower, with no plans (or ability) to ride, I threw on a cotton t-shirt and my oldest pair of cotton pants. Along with cotton socks and the ugly as sin, but comfortable as hell, Cocs. A super soft and warm Patagonia fleece, and I was as comfortable as a baby in a blanket. Life is good. The only thing better would be a plate full of bar-b-qued ptarmagin.

The other side of my tent.

Last night at The Saloon was so much fun, but I had a long day tomorrow and wanted to be in tip-top shape for my 12 hour ride with Bill, so I had a pint and said goodbye and went off to sleep until six.

When I woke up, there was a note on the door. Elsa wanted me to wake her up. She was leaving Chicken that day. I went into her trailer and tried be as pleasant as possible (I hate being woken up.) She asked what time it was. “Oh, guess I’ve only been asleep about 20 minutes.” Ouch. She got up and started packing. She’d scored a helicopter ride from some people at the Saloon, but had to be ready to go at 7:30.

Hope you had fun in the whirlybird Elsa!!!

Elsa really touched me. We didn't spend much time together or really talk for all that long. We really only hung out in the berry patch. But with one glance, she "got" me. She backpacks all over the world and has met tons of travelers, so that's probably why. But it was very nice to have someone understand my journey and understand the good parts and the tough parts. It was especially nice since she isn't a biker. It was cool to talk with Ryan at Old Faithful, but here's a girl that isn't a rider and doesn't know me one bit and yet she had this uncanny ability to connect. If only we could have spent more time together.

I didn't get pictures of the bike in Chicken, but this is a picture taken around ten the next morning as we stopped for coffee.

It was a long ride to Anchorage, 12 hours. Bill is an amazing guy and we had great conversations all day.

As prospector, adventurer, traveler, and serial-entrepreneur, he had many cool stories.

As a Chicken native, he knew the area very well. The land, the animals, the changes, he knew them all. Over the last 40+ years, he'd spent winters all over the world. It would be easier to name countries he hadn't been to, than to try to name the ones he had been to. Unlike me on my adventure, he didn't spend a day in each place, but rather 3 or more months.


When we made it to Anchorage, it was after business hours so Bill and my bike went one way, and I another. We’d rendezvous in the a.m.

Breaking down in Chicken will go down as one of the high points of this adventure.
Ride to live...and vice versa.

Amblin' about North America - half a year with a 2-wheeled home - Click for the Ride Report

Sly-on-2 screwed with this post 04-10-2008 at 08:25 AM
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Old 04-10-2008, 08:35 AM   #69
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Quite a trip!
Thanks for posting.
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Old 04-10-2008, 11:25 AM   #70
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like reading a good book!!!!!
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Old 04-10-2008, 11:59 AM   #71
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Originally Posted by ski.dive
like reading a good book!!!!!

"As a teen I would have fucked a snake if someone would hold it's head, drunk or not.

But I've matured. Now I'd make sure I was drunk before I tried to fuck a snake"..........Bueller
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Old 04-10-2008, 02:51 PM   #72
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Sometimes the bad luck (like a breakdown) that you have is a blessing in disguise. Very interesting.
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Old 04-10-2008, 02:58 PM   #73
Cameron Park, CA.
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What a great ride report...Can't wait to hear the rest.
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Old 04-10-2008, 04:25 PM   #74
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Summer 2007

Just wondering when you were in Canada and Ak I was on same roads last summer, and the construction sites looked exactly the same as your pics.

Once again it's been proven the Adventure is about the person and not what their riding . I feel like I took the easy way out and went on the GSA...but heh it's always been my dream bike!!!!

Really enjoying your thread can't wait for more
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Old 04-10-2008, 08:12 PM   #75
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Keep it coming great RR, by the way, I turned 40 yesterday and I ride a wing! I used to laugh at people who rode them, I even comented why not buy a small car! Anway that was until I rode one as you get older you get wiser!
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