|08-19-2008, 02:33 PM||#1|
Joined: Mar 2008
Location: Kingston, Washington, USA
Arctic Circle on the Dempster Highway
Kingston, Washington to the
I Chose the Dempster over the Dalton/Prudhoe Bay route because of less truck traffic on the Dempster. This proved to be true as, I met only 1 truck on the Dempster. The
The route shown below is laid out for about
The same route on Google Earth with GPS tracks in purple.
Day 1 – July 16 –
Delayed in my driveway for pictures and impatient to get going. My first try at this trip in June 2008 did not get out of the driveway. The bike was held hostage 1 month in the
Starting from the rear of the bike, the black bag is a Helen Two Wheels waterproof bag for the sleeping bag and thermarest, the green bag has the tent, Jetboil, food bag, hatchet, raingear (not used) and chain lube. The Cortect Sport saddlebags have clothing, shoes, heated vest, bathroom kit, The Milepost, Kawasaki Service manual, and
This bike has
Let’s get going!
My first little adventure; 5 exits to
My first night is at the campground
Day 2 - July 17 - Cache Creek to Prince George, BC
Rode to Prince George and stayed at the University of Northern BC dorms. It costs only $30 to stay in a suite composed of a large living room, kitchen, large bathroom and 4 small bedrooms. Both nights I stayed there (stayed there on my way back) I had the suite to myself, so was quite comfortable.
Day 3 – July 18 - Prince George to Ft. St. Johns
A grumpy morning. It was raining. When I got on the bike, the soaking wet sheep skin butt pad got my butt wet instantly; the GPS took me to a restaurant that is gone and now is a warehouse, so I got on the route to Ft. St. Johns. So, no breakfast, riding in the rain with a wet butt. What else could go wrong? Well, the head light burned out, and my new policy to reduce the number of gas stops resulted in almost running out of gas. Fortunately, things got better; found a good restaurant and had a good breakfast, got gas, it quit raining, the sun came out and look at how beautiful the Peace River Valley is on a partly sunny day. Some locals told me of plans to dam the river for power generation and their fight to stop it. So it’s like China and the Three Gorges dam. Hope the locals win.
Got to Ft. St. Johns and checked into a hotel. Would have camped out but I don’t know where 2 of the 4 bolts are that have to be removed to get the faring off to change the headlight and not sure if the spare headlight bulb I have is the right one. So best to be in town where I can get things. Glad I brought the service manual, even thou it takes up a lot of space and is heavy. Parked the bike in the shade and dove into finding the right bolts to remove. Finally found the 2 bolts up under the top fairings, got the front fairing off, replaced the bulb, re-assembled and the new bulb works. Went to the bar and had a cold beer and dinner. Really appreciated the 2008 KLR headlight design; that second bulb saves the day by letting you ride to where you can fix the first one that burned out with no worries about cops or not being able to see if it happens at night.
This hotel seems to attract broken bikes. Found this fellow KLR rider outside in the morning with a broken chain. He had really bad luck followed by really good luck. First, the chain breaks and falls off the bike. As he is walking back to get it, a truck runs over it and bends it all to hell. He tells the trucker he is stranded, the trucker says “No problem, just load your bike on my truck and I will drive you to a hotel in the next town”. In the morning he sees a bike shop across the street, gets a new o-ring chain and proceeds to put it on. He doesn’t know how difficult it is to put the master link on an o-ring chain and is just pondering how to do this when I come along. I’ve just been through putting a new o-ring chain on my bike and found it to be so difficult that I bought the master link compression tool to do this with. Just happen to have it with me and use it to help him put the master link on and he is good to go.
He is returning from a ride up the Dempster highway and tells me the mud was bad on the way to the Arctic Circle. People told him not to go on to Inuvik if it was raining as the roads would be very slick. He went anyway, but was stopped by a slick clay hill that he spun out on even with knobby tires. Had to turn around and go back to Eagle Plains. This worries me. If it rains hard, I might not make it to the Arctic Circle.
Day 4 – July 19 - Ft. St. Johns to Tetsa Campground
Below is the Alaska Highway. It is a mostly straight, modern, high quality, high speed (100 KPH or
Got lucky, no rain at Tetsa and I’m set up for the night. The park ranger tells me to put all food in my food bag and hang it on a limb
Dinner is served. Man cooking at its best (or worst?). I simmer the can of spaghetti and meat balls in the Jetboil for about 5 minutes to warm it up. I use my knife to lift it up out of the Jetboil pot. The mini bottle of wine makes it seem like a fine meal. Just need a loaf of freshly baked French bread to go with it and it would be a perfect meal. Note that the principles of Man cooking are all met with this meal. No dishes to do, no clean-up, no pots and pans, easy to fix, no cooking skills needed, and a deadly weapon is used to prepare the meal. This was so good, I had a second mini bottle of wine to celebrate. I really enjoyed this meal and liked fixing it.
Wine tip of the month: Can’t find those mini bottles of wine where you travel? Save 3 of the empty mini bottles, buy a regular bottle of wine and fill the 3 minis with it and drink the rest.
Day 5 – July 20 - Tetsa Campground to Watson Lake
I use all my cooking skills to prepare a pot of boiling water to make instant coffee and instant oatmeal. Throw a little trail mix in with the oatmeal and it makes a good breakfast. I suffer thru cleaning the bowl the oatmeal was in.
On my rainy way up to Watson Lake I stop at Liard Hot Springs and take in the sights. Liked the wood stove in the camp shelter. Lucked out when a couple came by with wood and started a fire in it to roast hot dogs. Had a nice conversation with them while enjoying the fire.
Lots of rain showers on the way to Watson Lake. Got a room at the Air Force Lodge which is a remodeled Air Force barracks from WWII. Neat old place and the guy that runs it keeps it in good shape. Went to the sign forest and was most impressed with the machinery they had there that was used to build the Alaska Highway. This 1943 D-8 cable blade Cat was actually used to build the highway.
Day 6 – July21 - Watson Lake to Whitehorse
This shot of the KLR dash shows it is 8 AM, 42 degrees F, and wet. This tells me I need to wear my thermal underwear and heated vest. Typically, it would warm up and by noon I would turn the heated vest off and by afternoon would take the vest and jacket liner off.
I ride to Whitehorse under partly cloudy skies and arrive at the visitor’s center where I find that all the motorcyclists there ride 2008 KLR 650’s.
The 2 fellows riding these bikes really liked riding on gravel roads and rode the Alaska Highway only to get to more gravel roads. When they got to the Dalton highway, it was dry and the trucks were making such huge clouds of dust, they decided to skip going to the Arctic Circle on the Dalton. So, different strokes for different folks; they skip the Arctic Circle, my goal is the Arctic Circle.
Day 7 – July 22 – Whitehorse to Carmacks
When I get up in the morning, I’m tired and realize that I need to take a day off from riding. Also need to buy a gas can, radiator brush (for mud removal if needed) and I really want to see the Beringia Museum which is out by the airport in Whitehorse.
The museum is interesting because it shows in detail the land bridge across the Bering Sea and how there were no glaciers in parts of the Yukon during the last ice ages due to the “snow shadow” effect of the mountain ranges to the west. This allowed the wooly mammoth, saber toothed tigers and other critters to prosper on the grass lands. So this is pretty standard museum fare. What was a hoot and the most fun I’ve ever had at a museum, was the young tour guide offering to teach us how to throw spears using throwing sticks like ancient civilizations all over the world have used. I’ve always been curious about just how these worked and assumed the ancients spent many years learning how to use them. Below, yours truly is about to throw his first spear with a throwing stick. Note how big the spear is…
He throws and look (upper left in the clouds) how far the spear is going; it’s way in the distance and getting smaller fast…
I could not believe how far the spear went and how easy it was to use the throwing stick. I next tried throwing at a target and was able to hit it the first try. A little practice and you could get really good with it. Just imagine a dozen ancients armed with these spears in a concentrated attack on a wooly mammoth. My wife is worried about me camping out with the bears, so had to send her this e-mail-
Whitehorse was a fun vacation from the trip; took a half day Tue. to visit the Beringia museum where I learned how to throw a spear with a throwing stick. Worked great - I hit the target. Then defended myself from attacking wooly mammoth and saber toothed tigers; forget the bears, I've moved on to bigger targets.
After lunch, I decided to not take the whole day off, but make 2 easy days out of it by riding
Day 8 – July 23 – Carmacks to Dawson City
Rainy weather on the way to Dawson City and rain showers the rest of the day in Dawson. But look what I found in the rain puddles in Dawson – a solar powered car that is trying to set an endurance record of
Below is a close-up of the solar car. Their web site has lots of info on the car and their mission. The car has a lithium-ion battery that when fully charged, powers them for
Went to the Dempster Traveler Information building and was told that 2 days earlier a motorcyclist had crashed due to slippery conditions and had to be medi-vac out with a broken wrist and back injury. They had a road diary with travelers stories about how bad the Dempster is when wet. The weather forecast is for rain for the next day, then sunny the day after. All this negative info and the bad weather convinced me that I might not make it to the Arctic Circle, which would be a real bummer after traveling
Checked into the Bunkhouse hotel. For $50 you get a tiny room with a bed, a chair, no TV, and the bathroom is down the outside walkway. Works ok for one person; two people might not be friends after bumping into each other all the time in that tiny room. With a tiny room, rainy crappy weather and disappointment over the road forecast, I decided a night out on the town was in order. So off to Diamond Tooth Gerties to drown my road sorrows in beer. The song and dance show was good as well as the Yukon Gold beer. Sat at a large empty table and welcomed the first large group of people to come by. They appreciated my saving them a table (not my intent) and bought me a beer. They were from the Midwest and related the excessive rain they had this year; so everyone seems to be getting a lot of rain.
Day 9 – July 24 - Dawson City to Top of the World Highway
Woke up to a beautiful sunny day and headed out for the Top of the World Highway. Met this German bicyclist on the way up. He had flown from Germany to Inuvik to start his trip. His ride from Inuvik to Eagle Plains was very hot (
I stopped at the Alaska – Yukon boarder to turn around and to take photos. The photo below is the boarder crossing station. Boarder guards that really piss-off their supervisors get sent here. This long view of mountains is on each side of the road that is built on top of a ridge line, hence the feeling that you are on top of the world.
Had a nice ride back to Dawson. Talked to another German fellow at the ferry crossing; he was concerned that he might not be able to change the tire on his rental car if it went flat. We humans worry too much, me included.
Decided to spend the night at the Junction of Highway 2 and the Dempster Highway which is Highway 5. There is a good motel/restaurant/gas station there. This would give me a good start in the morning for going to the Arctic Circle.
Day 10 – July 25 - Junction of Highway 2 and 5 to the Arctic Circle
D-Day! Dempster Day! And just like D-day, it was a rainy crappy day with puddles in the parking lot. I decided to go as far as I could before being stopped by slippery mud, demons and dragons. Below is the start of the Dempster Highway and the bike loaded with extra gas and a sandwich for lunch.
The Dempster is easy going at
It’s the solar car from Dawson and their support vehicle is helping them fix a flat. It is cloudy with rain showers, but they are still going. Also note how good the road looks; typical of the Dempster – miles of good road and then a bad spot of mud or potholes.
A scenery shot partially obstructed by clouds, like all the other shots on this leg of the trip.
Panned over a bit
About 30 minutes from Eagle Plains. There was about
I arrive at Eagle Plains Hotel about 3:30 PM and get a room for the night. Then leave for the Arctic Circle which is about
Continued next post.
|08-19-2008, 03:09 PM||#2|
Joined: Mar 2008
Location: Kingston, Washington, USA
Arctic Circle on the Dempster Highway
I made it!
Lucked out on this self portrait; the camera is sitting on the bike seat and I happened to stand where my arms framed the
20 minutes later 2 guys drove up and we each took the others photos. So here is the more traditional photo –
The GPS shows we are actually 0.9 minutes of arc north of the
The vegetation is mostly a low ground cover, but did find one evergreen tree growing. The locals say in winter everything up here is white with snow.
The Meffo Explorer tire at about
Returned to the Eagle Plains Hotel for dinner and celebrated with a beer. Got my
Day 11 – July 26
Had breakfast at the hotel, got my sandwich for lunch, got gas for the bike and gas can and headed out down the Dempster. I know the road up here is good so I’m doing
Further down, the road is lined with fireweed for miles making the road look like someone landscaped it; very pretty. Or is it funeral flowers for bikers that crash in the mud?
About I ride up into the low clouds and have to slow down to
After an hour or so I finally get out of the clouds and meet the solar car still on its way up to
Stop for lunch about . The road thru this valley is very smooth, compacted gravel and you can go
After lunch I come to my favorite valley, a lush green one that seems to go on forever with a road going up the middle of it. Best ride of the trip.
There must be 10,000 potholes in this road and I missed most of them by riding just to the right of the right wheel track. This technique worked for 100’s of miles except in one curve the smooth tract to the right just petered out into the ditch, forcing me into the potholes. Damn!
Made it back to the start of the
Rode over to the car wash area to clean the bike. Took several pics of the bike before cleaning it.
The radiator did not get clogged up with mud and I had no overheating problems. If you look close, you can see the right side is partially clogging up in a
Day 12 – July 27 – Junction 2/5 to
On my way back to
Day 13 – July 28 -
I Changed oil in downtown
When I saw this moose standing in the road I stopped as fast as I could and got my camera going to catch this picture of him stomping off into the brush.
Spent the night at Junction 37 at the almost abandoned motel. $45, but the place gave me the creeps as I was the only one there and the door to my room would not close.
Day 14 – July 29 – Junction 37 to
Stopped in the middle of a Bison heard that was straddling the road. They were very calm and many people stopped to take pictures.
Day 15 – July 30 –
Very windy ride.
Day 16 – July 31 – Ft. St. Johns to
Saw a lot of pine forest damage from Pine beetles. It is not getting cold enough in the winter to kill the pine beetles, so they are thriving.
Day 17 – Aug 1 -
Another rainy morning in
Day 18 – Aug 2 - Cache Creek to Home in
The Partly cloudy weather today was very welcome after yesterday’s rain. Stopped at Tim Horton’s for lunch, gave them all my Canadian money and asked for the change to be in donut holes. This flustered the gal so much she forgot to give me coffee and was unable to overcome the computer system to give me coffee when I returned and asked for it. Got 4 donut holes in change. The boarder crossing at Sumas took 1 hour and they allowed me to bring the donut holes into the
Meffo tire report ; at about
They appear to have about 3/16 to ¼ inch of tread left and I will run them around here for the rest of the summer. The main thing is they got me up there and back so I did not have to change tires up there.
Post Trip Reflections
Glad I did it. Brings a smile to my face every time I think about riding my motorcycle to the
Most Important Accessories
Heated Vest for temps of 50’s F or below
Thumb Squeegee (some gloves have built-in squeegee) to wipe visor clear of rain
Cramp Buster on throttle – saves you right hand from gripping all day
|08-19-2008, 03:25 PM||#3|
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: Port Kennedy, Western Australia
Well done. Fantastic trip.
'13 Triumph Sprint GT; '14 BMW G 650 GS
|08-19-2008, 03:52 PM||#4|
Joined: Sep 2007
Location: San Dimas California
Congrats, you did it..
I just went in a told my assistant that I needed to go to Alaska, she said "sure I'll cover for you". Ya right, I wish.......
Thumb Squeegee & Cramp Buster, what great ideas.
Moraflex screwed with this post 08-19-2008 at 04:14 PM
|08-19-2008, 11:12 PM||#5|
Joined: Jul 2008
Location: So.Cal.& St George UT-Baja-riding anywhere
That was a very nice write-up on your trip. I was amazed at the tires that held up so well after all the miles, you must be smooth on the throttle to make them last that long. Congraulations on the completion of your ride and just think in a little more than 2 years you can get Social Security and let the goverment pay for some of your future adventures etc.
XR650R-03', 110 Honda-83'
|08-20-2008, 05:41 AM||#8|
Joined: Mar 2003
Location: Jennings, Louisiana
Thanks for sharing your trip with us. Neat pictures and narration. Hopefully next year after I retire, Canada and Alaska in the plans with my trusty KLR. '-)
A '00 KLR 650 40,000 miles, A '07 1250S 74,000 , A '03 5.3L Chevy Truck 78,000 + '43 style dude , Simper Fi ;-)
|08-20-2008, 07:46 AM||#10|
Joined: Apr 2008
Location: Baltimore Md
Excellent trip and a great report to read. On my list of destinations - wonder how the knobbies will fit on my r75/6
2002 Stumpjumper S-Works M5
2009 Kestrel Evoke SL
|08-20-2008, 06:11 PM||#12|
Still a stupid tire guy
Joined: Oct 2004
Location: Auburn, CA
Congratulations on the ride and the great report! Nicely done!
"I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on Earth."
|08-20-2008, 06:59 PM||#14|
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: The Lone Star State
Great ride report. Me and the Tiger are planning on the trip in 2010. Gathering farkles and planning as we speak.
I ride way too fast to worry about cholesterol. ~Author Unknown
If you don't ride in the rain, you don't ride. ~Author Unknown
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