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Old 06-12-2011, 05:47 PM   #1
superfunkomatic OP
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Just another ride to the North - Prairies to Permafrost - Calgary to Inuvik

The trip is only a few more weeks away - leaving July 10, 2011.

I know this is certainly not breaking new ground as far as ride posts on the ADVrider site, but I've been fascinated by reading about other people's journeys, so, here goes:

Here are the details:

Why?
It’s interesting each year for the last five years I’ve taken some kind of motorcycle vacation. As I’ve become more adept at riding, and more interested in exploring, the journeys have grown in length of time and distance. I keep saying, “the farther I go, the farther I want to go….” I have some innate curiousity about traveling to new places and sights.

I'm lucky as a school teacher to get an extended summer vacation. I work like a demon during the school year and try and regain my 'zen' and energy through the summer months.

Where?
The trip for 2011 goes in the exact opposite direction from my last trip (Mexico) – as far North as possible in Canada – Inuvik, NT. I’ve lived in the Northwest Territories in the 1990s and know of its beauty and the challenges associated with being in such a remote land. The north really is ‘no man’s land’ and making a trip like this will involve some planning, a substantial amount of time and, hopefully, some luck to make it successfully.

This trip will be dramatically different from every other trip I’ve done by motorcycle. No resorts, no beaches, and in some cases, not a lot of modern conveniences. This will really be an escape from civilization for a large portion of the journey.

Itinerary (Rough Plan) - 20-22 days

Calgary to Prince George, BC (800 Kilometres)
Prince George, BC to Hyder, AK, USA (704 Kilometres)
Hyder, AK, USA, to Watson Lake, YT (654 Kilometres)
Watson Lake, YT to Whitehorse, YT (438 Kilometres)
Whitehorse, YT to Tok, AK, USA (623 Kilometres)
Tok, AK, USA to Anchorage, AK, USA (318 miles)
Anchorage, AK, USA to Homer, AK, USA (222 miles – rest day(s)?)
Anchorage, AK, USA to Fairbanks, AK, USA (359 miles)
Fairbanks, AK, USA to Dawson, YT (625 Kilometres)
Dawson, YT to Eagle Plains, YT (407 Kilometres)
Eagle Plains, YT to Inuvik, NT (358 Kilometres)
Inuvik, NT to Prince George, BC (2,838 kilometres) - not entirely sure which way I'll come back
Prince George to Vancouver, BC (763 kilometres)
Vancouver, BC to Nelson, BC (660 kilometres)
Nelson, BC to Calgary, AB (Home) (645 kilometres)

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Old 07-09-2011, 03:56 PM   #2
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Off to the Races Tomorrow!

Well, I’m all packed and ready to leave tomorrow morning. I won’t be leaving too early, probably around 7am.

I always get a bit jittery before heading off on these long journeys. Once I get breakfast and get rolling then things become a little more enjoyable. I always feeling like I’ve forgotten to pack something. The funny thing is most trips I have extra stuff that doesn’t get used.

I must say that once the bags are loaded on the bike I realize just how inadequate the rear suspension is on the KLR – it’s a big ol’ saggy bum! The rear wallows a bit with the weight. It’ll take a few kilometres to get used to riding with more weight on this bike.

I’ve also noticed that Charley Boorman’s “Extreme Frontiers” ride across Canada has him now in the Exshaw/Banff area so we may indeed cross paths as he also heads towards Inuvik and the Dempster Highway.

Bon voyage! First stop tomorrow is Prince George with the scenic route through the Columbia Icefields Parkway.


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Old 07-10-2011, 08:52 PM   #3
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Day 1 - Calgary, AB to Prince George, BC

Distance: 780 kilometers
Time on Bike: 7:00am - 5:00pm (BC Time)
High/Low Temp: 16 celcius (Mcbride, BC) / 0 Celcius (Icefields Parkway)

Really good ride today. I was a bit nervous to start out the big ride today more so than going South in previous years. Once I had the "Breakfast of Champions" (McDonalds Egg McMuffin Meal) I was ready to get moving.

Pretty nice weather overall. Cloudy for the entire day and not particularly warm. I have a feeling that I may have seen the warmest day already and things will get progressively chillier as I keep making progress North.

I absolutely love the ride between Lake Louise and Jasper. Endless mountain ranges and stunning vistas of glaciers almost the entire way. Our spring has been quite late this year so there's still plenty of snow in the mountains.

Stopped at a few choice spots for photos. I've done this route dozens of times but still I am awed by the majesty of the Columbia Glacier and surrounding area. 300 + square kilometers of huge and thick glaciers.

Stopped for lunch in Jasper. The end of a nice summer weekend and Jasper was a bit of a gong show. It's normally Banff's quieter sister town but today it was like being in downtown Calgary.

The ride from Jasper to Prince George is also quite beautiful and already you get a sense of getting much farther from civilization. It's a pretty big gap between towns (about 250 kilometers) and there's literally nothing in between. Very little traffic or signs of life today.

I've been quite fortunate to already start the animal count. The first animal was when my odometer on my bike clicked '3000' and I had a friend jump out into the road to celebrate the milestone - a huge black bear. He jumped out in front of me so that I had plenty of time to stop, but then decided he was going to come join me for the party. He walked straight towards me which is a bit unnerving on a motorcycle. He then darted into the brush and was gone. A truly magnificent beast.

In total I saw five black bears and one grizzly today (yes, I'm sure it was a grizzly - size, colour, hump). A few deer but no moose today in spite of kilometers and kilometers of warning signs. Unfortunately, my bear friends, the Bearendsons, were too quick and didn't hang around long enough for a portrait. Perhaps the next time.

Equipment updates: bike is working well, not as comfortable as myt VFR but not too bad. New tires work well and stick well to the road (wet and dry). One-piece riding gear is actually waterproof - tested in for the last hour today in a downpour. GPS and SPOT are working well and the SPOT is posting updates.

Tomorrow I'm off to Hyder, Alaska. Another long day before the pace becomes much less demanding.


The bike all loaded up.

Crowfoot Glacier

Posing in front of the Athabasca Glacier

The Red Beast - Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier

Bow Glacier - Our drinking water supply for much of the West and Western US

Mount Robson - One of Canada's Highest Peaks

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Old 07-11-2011, 10:48 PM   #4
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Day 2 - Prince George to Hyder, Alaska

Distance Traveled: 704 kilometers
Time on bike: 7:00am - 5:30 pm
High/Low temp: 10 celcius (Prince George) / 24 celcius (Hyder)
Animal Count: 10 bears, 1 bald eagle, 1 moose, 1 beaver

What a terrific day of riding. Another long day on the road but the scenery was amazing.

The ride from Prince George to Houston was easy open roads and some scenery. It was like a ride through Saskatchewan or the desert of Utah or Nevada. I mean that in a good way. It's pretty unique t go through hundreds and hundreds of kilometers of boreal forest. You really get a sense of how untouched most of the north really is. Very little traffic, no towns and little civilization.

Internet access is available but is quite limited. Even phone access for cellphones here in Hyder doesn't work. To be honest - that's not such a bad thing in our "wired 24/7 world". It's kinda nce, actually.

The mountains of northern BC are colossal. Immense and snow covered. Truly awe-inspiring. Vast glaciers and huge peaks. I've honestly been talking to myself. "awesome", "holy crap". There are also stunning lakes in the aptly named "lake district".

I've seen many animals. More bears, a moose, deer, a beaver and bald eagles. They must have some special contract as I haven't been able to capture any of them with the camera.

The last 60 kilometers from Meziadin Junction to Hyder were nothing short of amazing. unreal glaciers and mountains. Pictures will have to be in my photo bucket account until I have better Internet access.

I met two nice fellows today when riding. Jason, from Seattle, at Kitiwanga for a photo and Chris, from California, here at the Sealaska Motel in Hyder. Had dinner and a beer tonight together. I'm going to ride with Chris tomorrow to Telegraph Creek. It's great to meet like minds along the way. I'm always amazed how easy it is to make connections with people on trips like this yet at home we'd likely never say "boo" to one another. More on our chat when I have more time.

Also, like when I lived in Yellowknife, the long days are already boosting my energy level. It's 10:30 and still light and it feels like 6:00pm to me. I'm going to have to get some sleep now and add more to these posts as I have time.

I will be "off the grid" for the next day or two. I'm hoping to snag a cabin in Telegraph Creek for a day or two depending on road conditions and weather.


Rest Stop along the way

Miles and miles of miles and miles

World's Biggest Fly Fishing Rod - Houston, BC

Junction to the North - Kitwanga, BC - Cassiar Highway

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Old 07-12-2011, 10:47 PM   #5
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Day 3 - Hyder, AK to Watson Lake, YT

Distance: 734 kilometers
Time Riding: 7:00am - 8:30 pm (ouch, long day!)
Temps: Low (8 degrees in Hyder/ 28 in Dease Lake)

Really good day of riding but a bit long after three marathons in a row.

Hyder is a nice and quaint little town. Quiet and old fashioned - late openings and early closings. No traffic and no noise. Lovely starlit nights. The Sealaska hotel was just fine - cheap, clean and had exactly what I needed a good fish and chips dinner, beer and a bed and bath - for $65/night.

The day started off fantastically well. Up before the sun and off to the Salmon Glacier about 35 kilometers from Hyder. Oh, My, God! Absolutely amazing sight. It's a bit of a bumpy and rocky ride but man was it worth it. The road goes from basically sea level up to about 3500 feet. The end of the ride is a view perched over the glacier and it wraps around the entire mountain.

What was especially cool was that I had the entire top of the mountain to myself. Talk about a great place to just sit and gawk. The shear beauty and immensity of the glacier boggles my mind. It hangs there and defies reason. It's a must see if you happen to be up this way.

Back to the hotel to get the American guy I met yesterday to continue to ride out to what we thought was going to be Telegraph Creek. The weather started to turn and the road has a bit of a reputation as being nasty at the best of times. So we elected to go right through to Watson Lake which ended up being a long day. I would have stopped at Dease Lake - but honestly there was no where to stay - gas station and a few buildings and not a particularly good feeling either. I'll see on the way back down if I have time to go there as it sounds like a really neat little place.

The roads from Hyder got progressively worse the farther north we got. They started out better than most any road back at home and deteriorated into nasty gravel and construction zones. I guess there is a lot of maintenance to keep these highways drivable and usable. Some spots were bordering on scary for motorcycles with huge sharp rocks and fist sized 'gravel'. But, we made it without incident.

The chip-sealed pavement is very hard on tires. My tires took a significant beating today and are showing marked wear after the roads today. I may have to stop in Alaska somewhere and have them replaced on the way up or for sure on the way back home. I do have enormous luggage (at least that's what I tell all the girls) and it's heavy so the wear is expected but maybe a bit quicker than I'd hoped. The Heidenau K60s are good tires and pretty good on pavement, a bit squirrelly on chip-seal and fantastic on gravel and hard packed surfaces.

Not a lot of animals today. A momma bear and cub at Dease River crossing. Cute little bugger - really pissed off momma. Apparently honking for them to get of the road triggers a nasty protective streak - bear gives cars and motorcycles the worst 'stink-eye' ever! ;) No sign of Benito Moose-o-lini today although I'm sure we'll cross paths eventually.

The long daylight is already making me want to stay up all the time. It gets dark, dark around midnight here. In a few days and farther north it'll be light all the time.

Not exactly sure if I'll follow my plan tomorrow or not. I have to check the maps and see where I'll make it tomorrow.

Internet up here is so slow its only useful for my text posts and I haven't been able to upload my images. Maybe once I get to larger towns it'll improve.


Bear Glacier on the Highway to Hyder, AK/Stewart, BC

Bear Glacier

Bear Glacier - Check out how blue the ice is


Salmon Glacier - 50k North of Hyder, AK on a dirt road

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Old 07-13-2011, 12:15 AM   #6
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Have a safe trip, it's going to be a good one.
FYI-
There is a hotel in Dease Lake if you return that way.
Next to the Gas Station behind the trees.
Northway Motor Inn
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_R..._Columbia.html

Unless you are going to Prudhoe Bay, I would skip Fairbanks and take the Denali Hwy between Cantwell and Paxson, then up to Delta Junction, back down to Tok and then Top of the World Hwy to Dawson.
The loop up around Fairbanks is not that scenic compared to elsewhere.
I think the Dempster to Inuvik is the best ride up there.
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Old 07-14-2011, 08:43 PM   #7
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Thanks for the info. I think I might skip down to Valdez instead tomorrow. I'll see how the weather is tomorrow. I'm in Tok right now and I'm behind on posting as I camped the last night and haven't had Internet access.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dougholck View Post
Have a safe trip, it's going to be a good one.
FYI-
There is a hotel in Dease Lake if you return that way.
Next to the Gas Station behind the trees.
Northway Motor Inn
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_R..._Columbia.html

Unless you are going to Prudhoe Bay, I would skip Fairbanks and take the Denali Hwy between Cantwell and Paxson, then up to Delta Junction, back down to Tok and then Top of the World Hwy to Dawson.
The loop up around Fairbanks is not that scenic compared to elsewhere.
I think the Dempster to Inuvik is the best ride up there.
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Old 07-14-2011, 10:20 PM   #8
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Day 4 - Watson Lake, YT to Whitehorse, YT

Distance: 438 kilometers
Riding Time: 9:30 am – 3:30pm
Temps: Low 10 (morning in WL) / High 22 ( Late in afternoon WH)

Today was a much shorter day in comparison with the first three days. Perfect timing, too. I needed to slow down the pace and not burn out early in the trip - there are still plenty of kilometers left to ride.

Slept in until 7am this morning. Had a relaxing start with a good breakfast to start the day off right. Watson Lake hasn't got a lot of amenities. It's basically a village with one street and only a handful of businesses. "Kathy's" had a decent deal for an omelette and was open early enough to have a meal before we set off.

The accommodations last night were excellent. $69/night for a double. It was clean, the management, a guy named Michael was superb. He was helpful, friendly and a good ambassador for the north. A german immigrant that moved to Canada in the nineties. He's passionate about Canada in general and was happy to talk about our travels. I highly recommend staying at the Air Force Barracks that has been remodeled - excellent value.

Once again, Chris, the Californian, rode with me today. We ended up following several other bikes on and off throughout the day on the way to Whitehorse. A group of two on KLRs and a couple on a Goldwing would stop and chat at rest stops or gas stations. You meet some really friendly folks while traveling on motorcycle - a pretty closely knit group.

The road today was easy going and quite scenic. It's an endless parade of broad vistas and mountain ranges. I can really get a sense of just how vast the land is up here. I also continue to be amazed by the very first explorers of this land and just how treacherous and dangerous their journeys must have been. The forests are jam-packed with trees of every sort and so dense you can see no more than a few feet in.

The beauty is so continuous and endless that it defies a photographer to capture it. I could spend hours and hours taking pictures of every few kilometers along the way. Unfortunately, the vastness *prevents stops for too long or I'd never make any ground at all.

Upon arriving at Whitehorse we both set up camp. The weather was very threatening and looked like a storm of epic proportions. Yet, by the time we set up it blew over and it's been quite nice. The first camping experience for me in many years. It's a little campground just outside of the town of Whitehorse - The Robert Service Campground. Kinda a little hippy commune - very quirky, nice and clean and dirt cheap - $18.00 a night.

With all the weight that I'm carrying the rear tire is not going to make the entire trip. I'll have to schedule rest days in Anchorage or Fairbanks to get some new rubber mounted on the bike. I guess this is a lesson in packing much lighter, although I've taken only what I need to be safe. It's a pretty careful balance I guess. A new set of tires in Alaska should just get me back to Calgary. Crazy, eh?

As I sit now I wind down, relax and had a short walk along the river front. A great vacation riding day. Tomorrow is a shorter day again with a journey off to Tok and making my way towards the western parts of Alaska. I'm really looking forward to this part of the trip.


Sign Post Forest - Watson, Lake - A lonely WWII pilot started this.

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Old 07-15-2011, 10:13 PM   #9
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Eh? Day 5 - Whitehorse, YK to Tok, AK

Distance: 628 kilometers
Time on bike: 9:30am-8:30pm
Temp. Highs and Lows: 0 degrees for most of the day/15 celcius in Tok, AK

Well, I must admit. Last night was the first time I have camped in almost ten years. It was really fun. It's so nice to sleep with all the fresh air. The Robert Service Campground was perfect. It had showers, a cool little food and coffee shop and an all around 'hippy' vibe. It was close to the pathway system and I really should have gone for a run (been completely wasted by the end of these long riding days).

I had been watching the VFRdiscussion forum lately and a guy from the San Francisco Bay area was riding his VFR up to Alaska. Said we'd watch out for each other. Well, I know the lovely sound of a V4 engine and heard one pull into the campground. Low and behold, it was him. As luck would have it our paths crossed - me going farther West and he was returning back down and heading out for another round. Good guy. He even brought over brew so we could sit and chat - although it was Bud. I guess beggars can't be choosers.

Met a guy in the campground from Edmonton (another Mike and another teacher) who was returning from the Dempster highway. He seemed to think that using some common sense and trying to plan for nasty weather was all that was needed to make it up the highway successfully. No horror stories from him which is reassuring.

Preparing for the ALCAN today was interesting. I was up and ready to go in about 1/2 an hour. My partner who has been along for the ride was a bit too focussed on getting his packing 'just so'. After about one and a half hours - I had my shower, breakfast, stopped to talk to a few people - he was still monkeying around with his stuff. Call this the beginning of the end....

As we set out from Whitehorse the weather immediately took a turn for the worse. It cooled off to just above freezing and started raining profusely. Oh well, I knew it would be coming at some point - well, here it is!

It continued to pour all the way to Haines Junction. About every 10 minutes my riding 'partner' decided he needed to stop to change layers, add layers, monkey with his GPS, etc, etc. Over the course of the day this would add three, yes three, hours to the day. This combined with relentless bitching and whining about being cold. Dude! It's the Arctic, what did you expect? Needless to say I was fine but our pace slowed and slowed.

A bit disappointing that the weather had socked in at Kluane National Park. It looks absolutely stunning but was hard to see through the thick veil of fog, sleet and rain. I'll see if I have better luck on the way back down to try this area again in better weather.

We stopped for an almost two hour lunch in Destruction Bay. Two hours? Ouch! Someone, who shall remain nameless was cold. I had some great discussions with a feller from Nova Scotia (another teacher - retired, notice a theme with the travelers?). This is his third trip across Canada on his old 80s Goldwing. He had been separated from his riding partners and they really disappeared. No one, including the RCMP could find them - he'd been calling for two days. Apparently they passed each other and they were now almost a day's ride ahead. They were soon to be reunited.

Also talked with a group from South America who were riding bottom to top of the two continents. Talk about a long journey. There was also a nice feller from Ontario who was coming back down from Inuvik and the Dempster, also on a KLR, so he said I'd be just fine! ;)

The ALCAN is another story altogether. I'd hardly call this a 'highway' anymore. It looks like it was built in WWII. It's a complete disaster. They are patching it to keep it useable. Unfortunately, rain, sleet, mud and a newly excavated highway are not a good combination. It was slippery and in spots quite treacherous. As we approach one of the many tens of kilometers of road work we were greeted with an ambulance rushing someone out and followed shortly thereafter by their bike on a tow truck. Not exactly the sign I was hoping for. Apparently, according to the road crew, they were 'seriously hurt' and were almost medi-vac'd off the highway. Yikes.

While it was slow going and there were a few hair-raising moments here and there the journey through was a success. There were certainly some 'check your shorts' moments. Almost 100 kilometers of broken road, mud and frost heaves but we made it successfully.

When we got to Beaver Creek we took a rest, again. Got some fuel and my 'partner' discussed just stopping there for the day. Um, no. Tok is the destination and the difficult riding was done. Again, another step towards the beginning of the end. This combined with a flippant remark from me that 'better be prepared for our Canadian summer' - didn't go over well.

Crossing the border was a cinch and from that point on my 'partner' took off, never to be seen again. I couldn't believe it. I'd waited for half the day for him while he was cold but when we got on *to the nice paved roads again he left me in the dust. In retrospect this was a good thing since he never stopped for a picture, to check out historical sites or anything. I'll be better off going forward. Not sure why so many riders are bent on speeding through their vacation, oh well.

Even with the extra hour I gained by crossing the border into Alaska I got into a room at 8:30. 9:30am to 8:30 pm for a half-day ride. Ouch! I stayed at Fast Eddy's Motel and Restaurant. It was seventies chic but very clean and well looked after. A great place to crash for the day. I was completely exhausted from the tough roads, weather and 'company'. Tomorrow will be a completely different ride. Off to Valdez.


The Red Beast - Gettin' Dirty


The Alaska Highway aka ALCAN Highway - Mucky, Muddy Mess of Construction


Day's End - Camping in Whitehorse, YT

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Old 07-15-2011, 10:33 PM   #10
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Day 6 - Tok, AK to Valdez, AK

Distance: 253.8 miles (409 kilometers)
Time on the bike: 9:00am-3:30pm
Temp Highs and Lows: 8 celcius (Tok)/ 65 degrees (Valdez)

I was a bit torn as to where to go today. I keep looking at my rear tire and know there are only a couple thousand kilometers of life left in it. Then I look at my agenda and plans.*

Hmmm, do I go to Fairbanks and get the tire changed right away then go West? That would mean I'd use up my rest days, ride all the way West, then have to loop back to come to the Dempster highway and Inuvik - lots of extra riding. Maybe the smart thing to do.

Or... do I head to Valdez and the scenery, catch the ferry from Valdez to Whittier then work my way to Anchorage or Fairbanks for a few rest days and tire changes? Looked at the tire again - I think it'll make it. Hopefully not 'famous last words' by the intrepid traveler and narrator.

Slept in a bit today since it was only going to be a short half-day ride (unlike yesterday). Got loaded up, fueled up, and decided - 'what the hell', I'm going to Valdez.

The connecting highway from Tok is really beautiful. Lots of marshes, Elias-Wrangell mountain ranges, and a scenic ride. It's hard to believe that for all of these first six days I have been flanked by mountains to one side or another the entire time. Well, I'm not mountained out yet. This beauty combined with only seeing about 20 cars all morning was the perfect remedy for a challenging riding day yesterday.

The weather cooperated all day and even the nasty black cloud heeded my pleas for 'no rain today'.

Along the way I ran into Jason, the Seattle dude, that I met in Kitwanga. Stopped and had a chat. Turns out we're going to the same place and will be taking the ferry at the same time tomorrow.

The scenery was awesome all day. Especially the Worthington Glacier and Thompson Pass. The Worthington Glacier is amazing and you can drive, then walk, right to the terminus of the glacier. Completely awestruck again. The Thompson Pass, not high by the standards of some of the passes I've ridden before, but still amazing. The highway is only at about 1000 feet with 8000 foot peaks on either side. A gagillion glaciers (okay, a lot) and lots of eye candy for the journey. The pass goes up to 2100 feet or so then defends right down into Valdez and sea-level.

Got to Valdez. Grabbed some grub, booked the ferry ride for tomorrow, and relaxed at the Totem Inn Hotel. Pretty nice digs, a bit expensive ($140/night - two queens), but nice. The town of Valdez is amazing. It's at the foot of two mountain ranges and flanked by the ocean. There is a huge glacial moraine just outside of the town and another enormous glacier (Valdez glacier). It's one of the most scenic small towns I've seen.

Off to Whittier and points beyond tomorrow. I'll decide on the ferry just how far I'll continue to go. It's a 4.5 hour ferry ride. I'll likely be incredibly sea sick (I get sick looking out the windows of city transit busses). So I'll likely skip down to Homer. If I feel better I may head back towards Anchorage and Denali. Likely the former and not the latter.

What a great ride and relaxing day. I think I'll stick to riding alone for a while unless I meet a really compatible riding partner.


Tok Highway

Worthington Glacier




Top of the Thompson Pass - Just before Valdez, AK

Bridal Veil Falls

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Old 07-16-2011, 10:27 PM   #11
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Day 7 - Valdez, AK to Homer, AK

Distance: 186 miles (300 kilometers)
Time on Bike: 1:45pm to 6:00pm
Temps: High (20 Soldotna / 10 celcius - Valdez,AK)

The hotel I picked turned out to be quite nice. Kind of a mid-level hotel which was nicely furnished. One draw back - paper thin walls. The couple next door began watching TV at about 11pm and kept going until 4am! Ugh!

This was a bit of a problem since I had to be at the ferry terminal at 6am. Finally, at 4am I had enough and pounded on the wall and shared a few choice words (expletives) with them. The noise miraculously stopped.

I was up and set for the ferry right on time. When I arrived a woman with a Palinesque voice said that they didn't have tie downs with bikes. "Not sure if we have anything at all, you'll have to get your own." Um, yeah, at 6am on a Saturday morning? Well in Valdez the Safeway opens at 4:30am - yes, you read that right. Got a bit of rope and I was all set.

Quick check-in at the terminal and was loaded on the ferry. I ran into Jason (Seattle dude) again and spent the day with him and a guy from Alaska on the ferry.

What a stunning ride. Normally I get violently ill when I go on boats, especially on the ocean. When I saw the size of the ferry - very small for the trip - I was a bit anxious. Well, as it turns out it was a piece of cake. The inside straight that we took was perfectly calm for all but a few minutes of the five hour journey.

One of the 'sights' was the location of the Exxon Valdez spill. The fellow I sat with, Ken, works in oil and knew a lot about the accident. The captain of the ship pointed out the location and Ken talked about how things went wrong and the damage that is still there all around the Valdez area - permanently. I can't imagine what it must have looked like to have 11 million barrels of oil (42 gallons in each) spilled all over that area. Apparently things are much safer now and ships are guided out by coastguard and don't navigate on there own any more. He said that 2 million barrels *of oil are still shipped from that port every day. Unreal.

Lots of marine life on the journey - bald eagles, sea otters, stellar seals and humpback whales. The coolest thing was watching a pod of humpback whales feed and breech the surface. One of the whales came about ten feet out of the water and slapped his fin on the surface. You could hear the sound from hundreds of feet away. That alone was worth the price of the ferry trip.

When we arrived at Whittier we parted ways and headed off for the tunnel out of the town. It's very strange to ride through the almost five kilometre tunnel to get out of the mountain range. What's even more odd is that you have to ride your motorcycle between the rails for five kilometers in a darkish cave.

As soon as you reach the end of the tunnel there are unbelievable mountains and glaciers right around the corner. I was lucky enough to zip over to the Portage Glacier and snap a few pics. Soon after I got back on the highway and within five minutes the weather went from sunny to socked in damp, drizzle then hellacious rain. It rained buckets for more than an hour.

The ride to Homer was a piece of cake and not quite as scenic until the end of the ride. This was the busiest of any highway so far with weekend traffic - kinda like long weekend traffic at home. Saw a few moose on the roadside again. It was bloody windy on the coastal side of the highway. The wind was a gale for the last 130 kilometers of the day. The views across Cook Inlet are astounding and across the sound in the other direction are several active volcanoes.

I've now ridden motorcycles to the most westerly point in North America (Anchor Point, AK), the southern most in California, and ridden the entire highway 1 from top to bottom of North America - a lot of kilometers over the last 6 years.

I checked out the 'spit' area of Homer for hotels or camping. It's an interesting outdoor market with restaurants, bars and specialty/gift shops and was the most touristy thing I've seen thus far. Also, it was way too windy for camping in my opinion and probably quite cool on the waterfront. Found a room at the Best Western (should be Most Expensive Western) but I figured I'd treat myself to a nice room tonight to rest up for the push East again and towards the North.

I'll be riding to the Trapper Creek area and close to Denali. If it's nice I'll camp out, if not, I'll find indoor accommodations. I may not have internet access for the next few days so my next update will be from Dawson City, YT if the weather is nice or Tok, AK again if the weather is not.


The Real Deal - Excellent Guy - Jason from Seattle

Looking Back at Valdez, AK from the ferry

Chunk of Glacial Ice floating in the ocean - perty!

Portage Glacier just outside of the ferry at Whittier, AK


Looking across Cook Inlet from Homer, AK

Cook Inlet

superfunkomatic screwed with this post 06-02-2014 at 08:16 PM
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Old 07-19-2011, 02:15 PM   #12
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Day 8 - Homer, AK to Talkeetna, AK

Distance: 368 miles / 592 kilometers
Time on bike: 9:30am - 6:00 pm
Temp: Nasty cold, rainy - 8-10 celcius all day

Well, right from the get-go this morning it was a challenging day. It was drizzling rain when I put all the gear back on the bike. Then about 10 minutes into the ride it stopped. With the coastal winds and the low temperature the morning ride was quite cool (only 8 celcius with massive winds).

Before I left I had a pretty good chat with a family from Kodiak island who had to spend an extra night because of a mechanical issue with one of the ferries. Alaskans are very, very friendly and accommodating. I've had nothing but positive contacts with them thus far.

One guy, a 'dude', came by after and was looking at the bike and the plates - "dude, that's an f'n sweet bike. Dude, you rode that all the way here. Sweet! Dude, you're so awesome. Then shook my hand and off he went."

Hazy, cloudy and foggy meant there wasn't much to see on the way out and back on the Sterling Highway. No animal life to speak of except wild drivers. It's a fairly narrow road and very well traveled so again today there was nearly bumper to bumper all the way to Soldotna.

Stopped to warm up and have some lunch. Finally things started to warm up outside and I even saw the sun. It's beginning to feel like riding in the Pacific Northwest (North 'wet).

The weather held until I passed the Portage Glacier again and turn towards Anchorage. In the distance (looking towards Anchorage) I could see the looming storm. Ugh! More rain riding. And did it rain! Epic rain all the way to my end of day destination. It rained cats, dogs, sheep, goats, and elephants.

By the end of the day I was looking forward to lodging and a meal. I though Trappers Creek would be a good place to stop because of its proximity to Denali National Park. Unfortunately, there's nothing really there - a 24 hour gas station with lodging - and they were full.

I back tracked to Talkeetna to have a look. This added about 50-75 kilometers to the journey but was it worth it! What a cool little village. It's all artists, artisans and has a unique hippy culture.

I stayed at the Talkeetna Motel and Restaurant. Very simple accommodation that was like staying in a relative's basement. Outdated furniture and decoration but it was very clean, comfortable and was a little self-contained suite. The owners are especially friendly and helpful. She gave me the low-down on where to eat, what to do and a bit of history of the area. It's a bit pricey for what you get but I'm guessing the tourist season in this neck of the woods is short. Plus I don't mind helping out small businesses and these types of mom and pop operations.

Had some pizza by the slice at a cool little shop - Mountain High Pizza. Really good pie and reasonably priced.

I bunked in and listened to the rain which continued to pour right through until the morning and beyond….



My Modest Lodgings for the night

Yummy Pizza

Talkeetna, AK

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Old 07-19-2011, 03:03 PM   #13
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Day 9 - Talkeetna, AK to Denali National Park to Fairbanks, AK

Distance: 270 miles / 435 kilometers
Time on bike: 9:00am - 4:30pm
Temps: Low of 5 celcius (Denali National Park)/ High of 15 (Fairbanks)

When I got up this morning I figured for sure it had stopped raining. Nope. Still going. After I packed up the 'packing gods' smiled down on me and gave me about 10 minutes without rain to get everything situated on the bike. Then, it started raining again.

I zipped back down the highway on the Talkeetna Spur, a little jut of land that it sits on, to the first gas station on the Parks Highway that leads to Denali.

The original plan today was to visit Denali park, do some walking/hiking, explore, see the visitor's centre then jet off to Fairbanks on the Old Denali Highway. Well, with the weather being as nasty as it has been for the past day and today riding a gravel road that has no services and is not well traveled didn't seem like a very good idea. I elected to stick to the Parks Highway for the whole day.

Not ten minutes into the ride I notice a bike coming up behind me that looked familiar. Yep, it's Jason (Seattle dude), and he's heading in the same direction. We rode together for a while then would leap frog each other with stops along the way.

After several hours of intensely bitter wind, heavy rain and cold temps for riding (only about 5-8 degrees celcius) we decided to find a place to warm up and eat. Jason asked an attendant at a gas station just inside the Denali Park for suggestions on where to eat. We ended up taking his recommendation and going to the Creekside Cafe. Delicious food, excellent service in a small cozy little log style a-frame building. Yummy homemade two bean veggie burger with an excellent tomato spiced soup. Perfect to get the core temp. back up.

Our next stop was the Denali Visitor Centre and Park. No sign of the mountain anywhere it was veiled in a thick soupy mist and rainy clouds. A bit disappointing to have this happen after riding all this way but I knew that many a day in the park there is no visibility of the mountain. Hard to believe that it's about 90 miles long and none of it was visible.

Upon entering the park I noticed a friendly park ranger at the park sign. He, rather she, was waiting right at the sign for me. An enormous momma moose with her calf in tow. They were dining on the local greenery around the sign. Just when I got ready to take a picture some jackass walked right up to them, only meters away, and scared them off. No picture from this perfect opportunity. Ugh! I was feeling vexed and still had no pictures of wildlife.

I met Jason at the Visitor Centre and wandered around for about 45 minutes inside. It's a relatively new facility with excellent educational information and presentations. There's even a large theatre showing videos about the park - they were excellent.

Jason was going to hang around a bit longer and being cold and wet I figured it was time to venture on towards the day's destination.

I felt a little dejected about the moose incident. On the way out of the park, kinda bummed out, I approached the park gate again. Only one vehicle there but someone is trying to take pictures. Jackpot. The moose are still there! I sprung into action and got some excellent pics (to be posted later).

I can't believe how stupid some tourists are. A few potential Darwin awards winners were nearly touching the moose. It was over 6 feet tall and must have weighed about a ton. Oh yeah, and it had a baby hiding behind it. Can you say recipe for disaster?

A few kilometers outside of Denali National Park the rain finally subsided. Finally, a break from the rain. It was overcast and cool but at least I could finally dry out a bit.

I pushed on ever closer to Fairbanks. Then, I made one of those stupid mistakes. Looked at a gas station, check my fuel range, kept riding. In hindsight this always looks like a bad decision. Well, it was. With only 10 kilometers left in the journey I ran out of gas. Damn! I couldn't believe it - so close.

It's a heavy bike so I pushed started it and got it going for another 2 kilometers. Then it died again. Double dog damn! Uh oh. Now what?

I remembered reading online about how the KLR has part of the tank drooped over the right side of the frame where it won't be able to move into the petcock and be used to fuel the engine. If you lean the bike right over on it's side (left) you can get that last morsel of gasoline out into the useable side of the tank. I took off all the bags and gear (it's darn heavy), tilted the bike and crossed my fingers. Triple flip damn! Still won't start. Luckily the final few kilometers are all down hill into Fairbanks. I let it roll until I got up to about 20 kilometers an hour - still not starting. One more try and it sputtered but still won't start. I began my usual tirade of expletives at myself for being so stupid. One more try I thought. Got it up to speed again and she fired right up. I made it to the first gas station where I filled it up. I had only about 500 ml of fuel left in the tank. Crazy, but I made it.

I looked around for hotels. Tried a few but $150 a night to stay in Super 8 like accomodation - crazy! I went to a motel I researched online - The Golden North Motel. $85 a night is more than what I'd like to spend but it's basically half the price of the others. It's old but clean, has wireless service, TV and fridge/microwave. It'll be perfect for a two day rest.

My rear tire is getting to the point where it's likely unwise to continue to ride and the front has plenty of life. I'll head over to a dealer that's right around the corner tomorrow and see if they can set me up with tires for the trip up to Inuvik.


Denali Visitor Centre

The yummiest veggie burger - Evah!

From whence I came - Denali Park in the background - and the nasty weather left behind.

Benito Moose-o-lini


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Old 07-19-2011, 03:30 PM   #14
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Pissed Day 10 - Fairbanks, AK - Off the Bike Day

When I picked my accomodation I wanted to be as close as possible to the motorcycle dealer so I can zip over and find out about a tire change. As luck would have it the motel and dealer are on the same block - how fortuitous! Harley Davidson Farthest North Outpost has Harleys, Hondas, BMW and KTM. Perfect - they'll likely have dual sport tires that will work for my bike.

I got to sleep in a bit today and ventured over on the bike for their 9:00 am opening. A couple other people hanging out waiting, too. I was third in line so I figured it would be a cinch to get in and get the tires done. I have all day so it's not a rush as long as they are ready for me to ship out tomorrow.

Talked to the service manager. Sorry, we don't do work on Kawasaki's - "we don't have time." Tire changes? Is it different to change tires on a Harley, Honda or Kawasaki? I bit my tongue. "Why are you even here?" He asked. "You should go to the Kawasaki dealer." Wow, that's customer service. I bit my tongue again.

"We only service what we sell. We don't have time for anything else." Huh? There are only 3 customers and you're already working on two of their bikes. That busy? I bit my tongue again.

"I have tools, I'll take the wheels off for you, should only take about 15-20 minutes to change the tires," I said. Still met with reservation.

Then he showed me where I could work on my bike. He didn't want me on the pavement because it would "interfere with the real customers." Yep, that's what he said. He pointed to a gravel area that would be, "out of his way." Haha. You just got laugh at times like these. "Yes, sir, no problem. I'll have the wheels off in a second for you." Haha.

Then he asked me to take the wheels from the bike to the back. So I did, only to get yelled at by the shop techie for being "behind the line." "Did I see THE SIGN?" - read "Idiot. I hate my job and yelling at you makes me feel better". Nope, I said. My apologies. The service manager said I was getting in their way by dropping them off and if I wasn't careful they wouldn't do them at all. Another ultimatum.

Finally I got things sorted out with the parts staff - they have tires that will fit. Then he reluctantly agreed to do them but didn't even come to talk to me again until the tires were mounted. He put the tires at the counter and handed me the bill -"Go pay at the cashier." When people are jerks like this I like to add fuel to the fire - "Wow! Thanks so much. Really appreciate the hard work. You're doing me a big solid here. Thanks again." All as polite as punch. When really I'm thinking how many way I could tell him to shove the tires into various orifices. But, I didn't. I got the tire done and off I went. Normally I'm the first one to sing the praises of businesses that go the extra mile - this guy did, unfortunately he was stuck in reverse. Not a pleasant experience and I'd recommend that if you need anything done - seek service elsewhere from one of the other couple dealers or shops in town here in Fairbanks. While he did ultimately get the work done for me he charge me $100 for mounting two tires that he didn't even take off the bike. Karma is a bitch my friend - prepare to have done to you as you have to others.

The new tires are a bit more 'streety' than the ones on the bike previously - that's really all they had that would fit. The tires are Pirelli Scorpion Trail - about 80 road / 20 gravel and off-road. I think they'll do the trick. They'll certainly last a lot longer on the chip-sealed pavement and highways on the way home than my 50/50 tires did. In retrospect I should have brought another set of the Heidenau K60 Scout tires with me, or at least, another rear just so that I didn't have the hassle of finding someone to replace it. Live and learn I guess.

I met a really nice couple from Ohio and spent the hour or two chatting it up with them. They were riding tandem all over the north on a big GSA BMW. Really nice bike. He even helped with me putting the wheels back on the bike.

Also got a hand from a nice feller from Wisconsin. Riding a Harley getting a service done while he's up here on vacation. He offered to help steady the bike while I popped it up on the stand and a side case to take the wheels off.

We all had some good chats about our trips, our lives back at home and of course, bikes.

I'm hanging around the motel for some lunch, some updates and to rest and relax. Tomorrow I head off to Dawson City, YK. It's a bit of a long day followed by the last two days to get up to Inuvik.

**Edit - if you need a tire change there are two really good small dealers in Delta Junction and Tanana - Honda/Yamaha. I'd check them out first. Small towns = cheap accomodations, plus dealers actually interested in business.


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Old 07-21-2011, 04:56 PM   #15
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Day 11 - Fairbanks, AK to Dawson, YT

Distance: 388 miles / 625 kilometers
Time on Bike: 9:30am - 5:30 pm
Temps: High 14 (Dawson) / Low 8 (Richardson Hwy)

Wow, what a great day for riding today. I couldn't have asked for better weather. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky for most of the day. Hardly anyone on the roads and the farther I got from the city the less I saw.

After a quick checkout this morning I was off on the Richardson Highway. It's freeway-like in Fairbanks and turns into a perfectly smooth, and vacant, two-lane highway all the way to Tok. The scenery is quite beautiful with snowy mountains lining the highway on the West side all the way down.

Stopped in Tok at Fast Eddies restaurant for lunch. I hadn't realized how cool it was this morning until I got off the bike. I was actually quite cold and took a bit of extra time to warm up and eat a good lunch. Great burger topped off with a huge slice of apple pie. Yummy!

The last part of the journey, and the longest, was the Taylor Highway aka The Top of the World Highway. Wow! It climbs up out of the valley to 1200m (3500 ft or so) at spots. The entire highway *runs along the ridge line of the mountain range. It's paved for the first third on the American side of the highway, then turns to gravel, then muck and construction right past the town of Chicken. The middle 1/3 of the road varies from deep sandy mix and wet clay to thick gravel. While they are rebuilding and rehabilitating parts of the road it gets a bit dicey for bikes. The combination of wet, slippery and deep mud are a challenge on two wheels. Luckily today there was no rain or moisture except for a few very short sections. I can't imagine taking a bike through here if it had rained or was raining - it would be a complete disaster and virtually impassable. I think it would even be a challenge for cars and trucks in those conditions.

The new tires (Pirelli Scorpion Trail) work surprisingly well in the dirt and gravel in dry conditions. They feel just like sport -touring tires when on the pavement. These tires would not be very good in any kind of wet conditions with gravel or mud.

I was fortunate enough to see another moose today. She was feasting in a roadside marsh area. I also saw the biggest porcupine in my life. He looked like a big rotund beast. I must have caught him sunning on the road because he didn't move until I was right up beside him. Unfortunately he did not hang around long enough for me to capture his portrait for posterity.

After hundreds of kilometers of gravel roads it was nice to arrive in Dawson. There is a hostel just before the Yukon river crossing at the ferry. I had a look since it was cheap. It looked fine. Then I zipped across the street to the provincial campground. For $12 a night it seemed like the best deal and the nice part is that due to being midweek it is virtually empty. After setting up the tent and such I wandered down to pay for the site in the dropbox and noted a sign warning of recent bear activity in the area. Yikes! Oh well. I guess anywhere up here is really a place of potential bear activity.

I wandered over to the ferry and took a jaunt around the town of Dawson. It is so cool. It's literally like walking back in time. The buildings are all period buildings from the turn of the 20th century and before. The frost heaved roads and well-worn streets and buildings are quite charming. I picked up a few supplies from a market and walked back to the ferry and the campground. The ferry runs back and forth across the river literally every few minutes which is very convenient.

Tomorrow is the real deal and the purpose of the trip - the ride up the Dempster highway. By all accounts it looks like it's going to be nice weather for the ride tomorrow. No rain forecast for days - fingers crossed that holds true. I'll be riding to Eagle Plains the first day and likely stopping there for the night to do the second half of the highway. Being that it is 400 kilometers for each part of the trip up I'll probably be tired after riding gravel and will want to stop. I'm really looking forward to venturing out onto the tundra tomorrow.


On the way to Delta Junction - Smashing view!



Top of the World Highway - I'll say!

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