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Old 09-23-2014, 03:27 PM   #1
AkYank77 OP
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Joined: Jan 2014
Location: Alaska
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Winging it (AK to Ushuaia)

Welp I packed my bike, sold a car, quit my job, and I have begun the biggest adventure of my life to date. As usual I am completely winging it.....well maybe not completely.

Backstory

So about a year and a half ago I saw a youtube video titled "Modern Motorcycle Diaries" by Alex Chacon documenting his motorcycle journey through the Americas. I was instantly hooked on the idea of riding to the tip of S. America, plus I live in Alaska so I am already pretty much at the opposite end of the world. I made tentative plans to do the trip in 2017 thinking the would give me time to prep and round up a friend to go with me.

I've been riding bikes for 4+ years now, I always rode sport bikes and will still argue they are the most fun motorcycles even if not very practical. Anyways in December 2013 I sold my CBR600RR and picked up a 2008 Kawasaki KLR specifically to do this trip. From my research KLR's are reliable and easy to work on; so far both those statements are holding true. Although I have to admit these thumpers are slow as they come, but it is fun being able to go off the asphalt.

In June of 2014 after years of chasing big money I landed a sweet job where I would never have another financial worry again. Sounds good right? Well I found myself anxious everyday with no idea why, I felt like somehow I wasn't living up to my potential. I suppose I started learning money didn't mean everything to me.

A friend and I took a ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks and on the way back we met a gentleman who was going to change my world a bit. My friend and I pulled over at a scenic overlook near Denali park and this guy came over asked if we wanted our picture taken. After some small talk I came to find out this guys name is Jean-Paul, rides a BMW GS, is from France, and is headed to Ushuaia.


My friend Dustin on the left, Jean-Paul center, and myself on the right

We chatted for awhile and he invited me to join him on his trip to which I politely declined for practical reasons (job, money, etc.). Yet as we parted ways the idea of riding to Ushuaia with him kept nagging at me for the following week. After telling many friends about Jean-Paul and Ushuaia a girl I'm dating said "you should email him and see if you can catch up". A little encouragement from a wonderful gal, an email, and skype session later and I'm on the road to Ushuaia!

Objective

This isn't about motorcycles for me, this is about life. To be honest I really don't know what I'm expecting from this expedition, I guess it's rooted in my desire for an epic adventure. I'm hoping to get further out of my comfort zone, forget about chasing money, and just live life. I am excited for new perspectives and experiences. As far as goals, Jean-Paul and I are shooting to be in Ushuaia on Feb. 15, 2015. From there I plan to ride to Buenos Aires and ship my bike back to the U.S.


AkYank77 screwed with this post 10-20-2014 at 08:52 AM
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Old 09-23-2014, 03:54 PM   #2
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The Journey Begins

I packed up all my belongings and put them in my parents shed, sold a car, paid off all my bills, and got the KLR prepped for this journey. On September 15th my mom made a big "Thanksgiving" dinner with my favorite peanut butter pie for dessert and I enjoyed one last evening with my family for a couple months. This was my first set of "see ya next year!" farewells.


My brother on the left, then me, and then Mom and Dad

The following morning on Sept. 16, 2014 I left from Kasilof, AK and headed to Anchorage, AK for some drinks with friends. Many of my wonderful friends in Anchorage came out for dinner and drinks on a Tuesday night. I couldn't believe the amount of encouragement and well wishing my friends had for me. I have never hugged so many friends in one night nor have I ever had so many people excited for me, even though they think I'm a bit crazy ha ha. And as any good story goes the last goodbye that night was to the awesome girl that gave me the final push to do this adventure. I am truly fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life.


Great night with great friends!

The following morning on Sept. 16 a friend who couldn't come out the night before met me for coffee and gave me some homemade chocolate chip cookies (my favorite!) then I headed north for the Canadian border. My buddy Dustin rode out with me for the first hour. Dustin and I pulled over at a rest stop, exchanged farewells gave each other a big friend hug and then split ways. That was my last "see ya later"........holy crap I'm actually doing this.


Dustin, the last person I know in Alaska

It was weird now, all alone and beginning my biggest adventure. To be honest all the farewells were harder than I thought, I actually was a little sad to be leaving. It was a good kind of sad, the kind where you're like "wow, I am a lucky guy to have the friends that I do". Friends = family to me.

Now I know what you guys are going to ask, "what about Jean Paul?". Well he is a couple thousand miles ahead of me and I'll be meeting him in southern Califonia on Sept. 30, 2014. For the time being it's just, me, my music, and the bike. Which the bike still needs a name yet.

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Old 09-23-2014, 04:06 PM   #3
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On my first day I made it to Tok, Alaska. Fairly uneventful ride, still on my "turf" so it wasn't very exciting. I guess since Alaska is the normal for me I didn't really stop to take many photos. It's funny how we all get used to where we're from.


Matanuska Glacier in the background


It's starting to get cold in Alaska this time of year and I can feel winter in the air as I set up camp. I have a limited budget for this trip so finding free camping spots will be critical for me. I found a sweet little spot in an old gravel pit 100 yards off the highway.


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Old 09-23-2014, 04:48 PM   #4
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September 18-20, 2014

On the 18th I woke up to a frosty tent and bike in Tok, Alaska, brrrr it's cold. I packed some war clothing, but I was more focused on the warm weather to come. I get camp packed up and my freezing butt on the KLR, thank goodness the previous owner of this KLR put heated hand grips on. I previously thought heated grips were for wimps, but man they are nice. That morning I made it to the Canadian border.



The Canadian Mounty let me through with no troubles, but gave me a good lecture on bears since he knew I would be camping. I am not one to turn away advice, but come on I'm from Alaska haha.

Shortly after crossing the border I ran into the expected construction. My first taste of gravel roads.



As I get a ways into the Yukon I start to encounter some stunning scenery. It's not my first time on the Alcan, but I can still appreciate nice scenery.



I continue on and stop for fuel in Haines Junction where I devour the rest of the scrumptious chocolate chip cookies. A little bummed about not having an unlimited supply of cookies.



I bomb through Whitehorse,Canada only stopping for gas and to send a couple emails. I'm not the biggest fan of Canada having been through it a couple of times, so I am kinda in a rush to get through it. I end up making camp along the road just outside of Teslin, Canada. I had hoped to make Watson Lake, but the darkness and a rain storm persuaded me to stop for the night.

Sept. 19 I woke up early, rolled up my wet tent and started towards British Columbia. I stopped in Watson Lake, Canada at the famous "sign forest" for some photos.



I enter the Mucho Lake area which is magnificent.




I decided to do a little offroading to get this picture near Mucho Lake. The KLR is difficult for me to handle fully loaded and I fell over. It took all I had to pick the loaded bike back up and of course it flooded so I had to sit and wait 20 minutes to get her started back up.






As I get into British Columbia the road gets twisty to my liking and the autumn colors are in full effect.



The trip gets a little hazy after this point. Knowing I have a wet tent rolled up I am reluctant to stop and make camp so I make a plan to ride through the night and dry the tent out the next day. The road starts to get rougher and the scenery goes away. I pass through an industrial area that appears to be oil/natrural gas. All that on the road is semi truck after semi truck and they are all driving faster than I. I end up getting tired so I pull over at a truck stop and take a nap on the ground ay 1 in the morning. After a 45 minute nap I get up and start riding again. I ride until I am low on fuel and pull over at the next gas station. In rural Canada the gas stations aren't open 24/7 so I end up trying unsuccessfully to sleep in the gas station parking lot until they opened

Once fueled up I get deep into British Columbia where it warms up and I make it to Prince George, Canada where I stop for a much needed cheeseburger and internet. I decide to push on with an eye peeled for potential camping spot. As darkness falls I realize I need to sleep tonight, I spot a church off the highway and setup a makeshift camp in the back.


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Old 09-23-2014, 05:01 PM   #5
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Sept. 20, 2014

I leave the church at 5 in the morning to avoid running into anyone and have my sights set on the U.S. I make it to Dawson Creek, Canada and take the obligatory photo of the beginning of the Alaska Highway.



Then I stumble upon this jet along the highway, I always stop for photos with military aircraft.



Then I stumble upon this strange looking lake. The sign says it is a Native "medicine lake". Not sure what causes it, but it sure looks cool/strange.



Then I finally make it to the U.S. border and into Washington I go!





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Old 09-23-2014, 05:32 PM   #6
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Sept. 21, 2014

I roll into Cashmere, Washington where I will be staying for a couple days to continue working on getting my paragliding P2 certification at Aerial paragliding. As I get to the paragliding "ranch" I see there is a wedding happening and the whole wedding party is going flying.Within an hour of arriving I am strapped to a wing and flying with a happy wedding party. It was pretty cool because the bride kept her gown on and everything.


After 2 flights the sun started to go down and conditions got a little too unstable for newbs like me. I set up camp in the valley of the ranch and it has been my best spot thus far. I love it here, everybody is positive and the place has such a good vibe. It's quiet and beautiful, my soul just props its feet up and goes "Ahhhh this is the life". I feel at peace here, I could stay forever, but I'm working on that whole getting out of my comfort zone thing. I'll be in Cashmere for a couple days hopefully enjoying some flying and relaxing.


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Old 09-23-2014, 05:49 PM   #7
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Sept. 22, 2014

Best nights sleep I've had all week. The nights are warm here in Cashmere and I know I'm in a safe place. We start the morning off reviewing some flight dynamics in the classroom. If anybody wants to learn how to paraglide check out Aerial Paragliding these guys are the best. The instructors really take the time and effort to teach students how to safely enjoy the sport.



In the afternoon the winds are strong and in the wrong direction to do any flyng so we get out the speed wings (smaller wings related to paragliders) and do some kiting. Kiting is just where you work on ground handling skills that are essential to launching, you "kite" the wing overhead and learn how to control it whilst still on the ground.



We had nice 10 mph winds which made it easy to keep the wing in the air. Even though you can't see my smile i am happy as can be.



After awhile the winds got stronger and actually picked a couple of us students off the ground so we called it quits. The instructors however put on some speed wings and showed us how with some skill you can just play in the wind and hop around. They would catch gusts of wind and get plucked 10ft. into the air. It's truly amazing to watch good paraglider pilots manipulate their wings and the air around them.



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Old 09-24-2014, 08:42 AM   #8
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Good luck and ride safe to your destination! Hope you find what you are looking for on your trip!!
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Old 09-24-2014, 11:30 AM   #9
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Nice start

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Old 09-24-2014, 01:42 PM   #10
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Subscribed!! Great start!
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Old 09-24-2014, 08:48 PM   #11
AkYank77 OP
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Thanks for the well wishing and I'm glad to have you guys along. I'll take all the moral support I can.

Sept. 24, 2014

I'm still in Cashmere, WA for another 3 days trying to do some paragliding if the weather would agree. I got 2 flights in yesterday, but no pictures and then it was raining today. Since there was no flying I took the time to change the oil on the KLR and gave her a good look over. 1st oil change since I left home, probably another 5 or 6 to go haha.


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Old 09-25-2014, 01:37 AM   #12
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Great RR so far, I'm in!
Good luck for your trip (my dream trip!)!
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Old 09-25-2014, 05:43 AM   #13
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All the best for an amazing journey!


Cheers,

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Old 09-25-2014, 10:39 PM   #14
AkYank77 OP
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Thanks guys!

Sept. 25, 2014

Had quite a busy day today, it rained again which meant no paragliding so I decide to check out the local area and explore. I left the ranch and headed into the little town of Cashmere, WA.



A good place to start is usually at the welcome sign. I have to admit though I have no idea what aplets or cotlets are.



Oh looky a aplet and cotlet factory and there is a sign that advertises free samples and a tour. I guess I'll stroll on in.





Free samples? Don't mind if I do. Meh not really my thing, kinda like gummy bear squares with apple flavoring and chunks of walnut. I can add aplets and cotlets to my list of things I've tried. I'll still check out how these candies are made though so I took the tour. It was a pretty small operation, about 20 workers or so and the process wasn't very noteworthy so I won't bore you all with pictures of the aplet process.



I wandered around Cashmere and spotted a dirt road leading up a hill that overlooked the town. Pretty nice view from up top, just orchards as far as I could see, it's beautiful. Despite living in Alaska and always seeking out extreme scenery I have a soft spot for orchards. Orchards seem to make me happy and feel at home even though I've never worked on or lived near an orchard.



After weaving through orchards for awhile I had to stop and take a picture, I could tool around through these orchards all day.



There were also some vineyards, they're pretty too and even though I like wine I still like the orchards better.



After weaving through some more orchards for awhile I got a little lost, what's the best thing to do when lost? Take pictures of course!







After hopping back on the main drag I kept seeing fruit stands. In Alaska we have a hard time getting fresh produce so my mouth was watering at the sight of so many fresh apples. Apples are probably my favorite fruit, not too many better snacks than apple slices with sharp cheddar cheese.





With the last dollar I had on me I purchased two huge apples that are going to be delicious.



Then I headed over to Leavenworth. Not sure what the sign says, maybe welcome? I know nine Deutsch. It's this cheesy/touristy Bavarian theme town, but it's fun to visit and walk around. According to the historical signs Leavenworth was a dying railroad town so they made an ordinance that forced the town to convert to a Bavarian theme in order to attract tourism. Looks like the plan is working to me,




Absolutley every business is Bavarian themed: the gas stations, Starbucks, NAPA, Safeway, everything. It's cute.




After snagging some BBQ pulled pork for dinner I headed back to the ranch. I recieved an email from Jean Paul (French dude I'm meeting up with) and he is anxious to get to Mexico asap. He wants to cross the border Oct. 1. My tires are getting worn out, I hadn't planned on changing them for another couple hundred miles, but since JP wants to get right on the road to Mexico that meant I had to change them today or tomorrow as I will be too busy in the coming days as I head south.

I want to enter Mexico with a fresh set of tires so that it's one less thing for me to think about for a bit. Also the last thing I want is to accidentally disable my bike outside the country, I want my first tire change to happen in the U.S. I have changed lots of car and truck tires and even a couple tires on my sport bike, but never a tire with an inner tube. I gotta say it's kind of a pain in the butt. Of course I popped my first inner tube getting the old tire off, dang it, good thing I have a patch kit and spares. Then I had a heck of a time getting the new tire on, but a little body wash (liquid soap) on the bead solved that issue. I only got the rear tire changed tonight, I'll tackle the front tomorrow. Hopefully no more popping inner tubes.

AkYank77 screwed with this post 10-20-2014 at 08:56 AM
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Old 09-26-2014, 11:00 AM   #15
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Following Along

Enjoying your report.
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