11k miles through AK, Canada and National Parks

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by 73datsun, Jul 1, 2013.

  1. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

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    Congrats on making it up and back. You've got a story you'll be able to share for many years to come. As per StrikingViking: "The adventure begins when things stop going according to plan."
    #81
  2. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    July 19 :: Finally some wild life :: White Horse + Muncho Lake

    Started early from Carmacks. Headed into White Horse, hoping that I'd find Mike and John at the tow place or the motorcycle shop. Met up with the owner of the tow shop and he confirmed that the driver didn't get there until midnight. Regardless, they should have been here by now.

    After a bit, I ask him where a good restaurant with wifi happens to be. A place to get a great sandwich. His recommendation, no shit, was McDonalds. I can't remember the last time I purposefully ate at McDonald's. But when in Rome.

    I've also realized that I'm an idiot. The fuel gauge is fine. The screen was just so dirty that I mistook the temp gauge and the fuel gauge. The good news, I've been watching my temp gauge like a hawk. And it doesn't move.

    After dicking around on the internets and catching up with folks, I headed back to the shop. That's where I learn that they had multiple flats on the tow. Truck problems and were now, at 1pm, in Dawson City. He didn't expect them back until 5am, the following morning. He suggested I hit the road.

    So off I went. Figured I'd just jaunt down the road until I found a place worth stopping at. But I kept pushing myself farther.

    Which suddenly became stupid. Because it gets dark earlier than it did way up North. And there are a lot of active animals. Namely, black bears, bison, caribou, and moose. All of which I saw. So now I'm looking for two things, gas and lodging.

    Leading me to Northern Rockies Lodge. However, their pumps are closed. And don't open again until 7am. But luckily they have a room in the lodge or a tent space. Convenient. I opt for the tent space. $42. You have to be f'ing kidding me. For a standard grass pad. And it's a buck for four mins of shower time. At this point, I don't care and just pay for it.

    That being said, they did open the kitchen and the beer up for me. So that was nice. The place was quite the joint. Made me want to be the hunter gatherer type. The lodge is the base and they fly folks out to other small outposts that they own for fishing and hunting. I might actually be game to try that sometime.

    I've grown accustomed to the tent life. I don't mind it. My only longing is a clean shower.

    Tomorrow, I'm not sure where I'm headed. Goal is Dawson Creek, but I'll hit that in early afternoon. Guess I'll just push on again.


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    #82
  3. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    July 20 :: Rain. :: Grand Prairie, AB


    On the road by 9am. I've finally got my seat sorted out, so I'm regularly pulling 100mi or 1.5hr shifts behind the bars. It's still not pleasant. But I'm more comfortable than when I started out.

    It rained. All. Day. Long. Started at Muncho Lake, which I'm sure is beautiful when it's not overcast and raining. As I pulled off to take some photos. Two beautiful dogs ran up. Irish Golden and an Irish Golden/Black Lab. Their owner was sleeping in his RV in the turn off. He came out in his robe, older gentleman, probably mid 70's. We end up talking for 30 mins. He first came to AK when he was my age, late 20's early 30's. He too, was from MN. He subsequently made over 35 trips. Finally, he bought some property outside of Fairbanks. He's on his way back to MN for his wife's family reunion and a 100 y/o birthday party.

    All this time, his two dogs are just leaning into me and enjoying a good rub down. What great dogs. Makes me miss our Springer. I'd pay good money if she was half as patient and obedient as those two.

    The ride through Muncho is pretty. Even in the rain. Then you start getting further south. By then, the beauty has dwindled and it's pretty typical countryside. At least I'm assuming. Mostly because I couldn't see from all the rain and dirty splashes off of all the tankers. It truly was a miserable day. 550+ miles. Probably 475 of it in some amount of rain.

    In Dawson, I found my way to the start of the Alaska Highway. The one I'd just ran backwards. Pretty cool to realize I'd just completed it. Well, I almost didn't complete it. Early in my journey I'd encountered metal grated bridges. But I was on the factory street tires. Now I'm on knobbies. Whole new ball game. The shorter bridges, fine. But the Teslin and the last one before coming into Dawson Creek, oof. I basically hold my breath and tunnel vision it down to the end. All while going like 30mph. And trying to block out the fact that there is a wideload truck headed my way. Meanwhile, I have visions of taking a tumble and shaving my fingers off in the grates. Hate those things.

    After Dawson Creek, I decided to press further south. Tomorrow I'll do Jasper and Banff. I was originally shooting for Grand Cache. But I'd already done 550miles, so I didn't really want to lay off another 110.

    During today's rain and buffeting ride, I was really starting to rethink the whole return route. I'm going to drop the Utah, Grand Canyon and Colorado leg. I've realized that I really should be spending more time enjoying the areas, off the bike. I'm absolutely loving the rides and the places I've visited, but I find myself wanting to spend more time and really do things right. Not just tick boxes.

    So I'll probably do Glacier. Black Hills. Badlands. But save Yellowstone and Teton for another trip. But if things go well tomorrow. I could change my mind and be doing it all the same.


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    #83
  4. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    July 21 :: Trifecta of awesome. :: Jasper + Lake Louise + Banff + Eureka, MT

    Damn. Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff. Trifecta of incredible. What an absolutely stunning place. I rode the Icefields Parkway. It was long, winding and incredible. Made a backpaper lunch and sat at the beach at the Cold Springs. A vast milky blue lake that was maybe 2ft deep. People, and their dogs, were wading around all over. It was the most people I'd seen in one place in some time.

    After that, it was back south. But first let's stop and admire the Rock Sheep. Just chilling by the side of the road. Until he got bored of the photos, then it was his precarious climb back up the wall.

    Yet again, I hosed myself on gas. Luckily, the Rotopax was full, so under the gleam of a glacier, I refilled it for my continued trek.

    The area was alive with high end sports cars and bikes up to tom foolery and shennigans. Multiple times, I had cars crossing into my lane. As they overestimate the turn. Or their driving ability. My last stop was Lake Louise. Beautiful. And if it wasn't for all the horrible tourists jabbering around and using their tablets as a camera, it would be a tranquil place to just sit and bask in awe. As for awe, the Fairmont property has now shot to the list of places to use my Fairmont certificates on. If I wasn't such a horrible skier, winter would be a great time to visit.

    I decided to continue pressing south. Which quickly became a bad idea. I drastically underestimated my remaining hours of day light. Before I knew it, it was dark. Everything was closed. My visor was smeared with bugs. Refracting oncoming light and leaving me temporarily impaired. Then it finally happened. Deer. Two extremely close encounters. The ones that leave a lot of tire noise and and racing pulse. l have to get off this damn road. The border is only a short 15 more miles. Just take the last bit easy.

    At the border patrol, it was a bit of an interrogation. I asked him for advice on where to stay and he said Eureka. Just a quick 8mi down the road. I mentioned the deer and he told me to get off the road ASAP, unless I had a death wish. At this time, I do not.

    Eureka. Well, it has a few hotels. All of which close at 10pm. It's now 11pm. They don't even have a late arrival phone. So after riding around, trying to decide to find out where to urban camp, I remembered a tip. Find the police station. Off to see the LEO, I go. They point me towards the city park, I can camp there. Surprising, but awesome.

    I'm pretty stoked about my spot. Well, until some town drunk stumbles over. This guy smelled like the carpet in a frat basement. At a second tier school. He asked if I had an extra blanket. Nope. Would you mind sharing the tent? Yeah, that's not going to happen. He finally wanders off. I'm assuming that I won't get any sleep after that. Fearful that I'm going to get Deliveranced. However, I immediately passed out. 600+ miles will do that to you. Especially after three weeks of riding.


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    #84
  5. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    July 22 :: Hail and hellish cross winds. :: Glacier National Park and Hardin, MT

    I was awoken at 6am. I open my tent. Find a guy in socks, flip flops, shorts and a tank, dumping the waste from his 70's RV. I chuckled, as it looked identical to the scene in National Lampoons, "Shitters full!" Guess I picked a prime spot.

    Frankly, my demeanor is in the dumps. I'm tired. Physically. Emotionally. My rear tire has started acting up, randomly getting squirrelly at speed. The transmission continues to do weird shit. Most of the time shifting, sometimes not.

    I really just want to get home.

    My shitty outlook rubbed off on everything today. I get to Glacier. Expecting to be blown away by the Going to the Sun Road. Only it's a slow moving parking lot with a smattering of construction. At one point, I waited 20+ minutes to go through the zone. On a cambered turn, with no way to put my kickstand down.

    Then some jamoke in front of me, decided to hold up the whole parade. Driving 10-15mph. So I went two hours. Cursing to my helmet. As a lugged along a 500+ lbs bike in first and second gear, constantly feathering the clutch in and out. Realistically, what I should have done is just pull out in one of the areas that he kept avoiding (you know to let traffic by) and hiked around or took pictures. Instead, I did none of that. I just kept grumbling. I didn't take a single picture. Two fold, it was stunning, but it was kind of a been there seen that moment after Stewart, Haines, Skagway and Denali. Finally, I'm scared of heights. Can't shake it. I had no desire to pull to the side of the mountain. I just had visions of missing the kickstand and going overboard with some Rock Sheep.

    After I get out of the park, I enter some desert slum. Mobile homes with tires stacked on top. Dilapedated playgrounds. Random horses running around. (that part was cool) Turns out I was on a reservation. A lot of the kids were wearing shirts declaring, Rez Made. Interestingly, there was a PSA billboard, "Drinking can lead to an empty lodge. The alcohol spirit is strong and ..." It was way too long for a billboard. Come on folks, that's advertising 101. Keep it to under six words.

    The sky is completely clear. Minus that area over there. That's black. Storm. And has lightning. Check the GPS. F! That's the way I'm going. So now I'm getting battered with hail. Hail. It's 86 degrees. Finally, I push past the storm. But not until my rear tire gets loose for the fifth time.

    Then what comes? Oh just 50 mph wind. 50. You have to be kidding me. I'm riding. Or attempting to, at a 45 degree angle. Going 10mph under the speed limit. Getting pushed off the road. Then when the barge of trucks come by, I'm getting sucked over into oncoming traffic. I had to stop every 30mins. Just to massage my hands and try to find my balls. But I think I left them on the Dempster. Which I'd rather do over crazy crosswinds.

    I get into Billings as the sun is on it's last legs. Just sit on the high overlook and watch the city. It's so weird to see masses of people. And gas stations that are open 24/7. I mean Anchorage was a city. But outside of that, I've been out of pop culture and population hubs for some time. It's almost overwhelming. Imagine people who are doing journeys like this in South America, Africa, Russia, etc.

    Like a dummy, I keep pressing on. I just want to get home. Each mile takes another one off of my subsequent days. But then it gets dark. Damn it. Did it again. I sit in Hardin, MT. At a KOA. My first visit. Something about it feels like true Americana. Yeah, it's the Applebee's of the camping world, but it strangely feels ok.

    Tomorrow, I take 90 East. Visit Deadwood, Sturgis, Black Hills and Bad Lands. Then I find a place to camp and take one more day to get home. I underestimated how much I'd end up missing home.

    On home, I decided to cut my trip short about six days. This trip opened my eyes to so many new adventures. So much so, that I felt greedy. I want to share this discovery with my wife, friends, family. As much as I can't wait to tell the stories, part of me feels like an ass. It was a very selfish trip. And I'm so thankful I was able to do it. But I also learned, 1. shared experiences nearly always trump, 2. it's how you get there, not just the destination. Too often, I found myself riding in and out of places. Never really getting anything more than a photo or 14. To layer on the Grand Canyon, not only adds a couple days, but it also doesn't do it justice. After talking with John, guy that was hit by a car, it was his suggestion to hold it. He suggested spending a whole week there, hiking and camping. Which would sure beat the 30mins I'd allotted myself.


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    #85
  6. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    July 23 :: Sick of I90 :: Chamberlain, SD

    Is this over yet? I'm now glad that I took the plains of Canadia out west. It was a much easier ride.

    I feel beat up. Sore all over. The wind. The high traffic speeds. Brutal. And now the 700 feels lightweight and underpowered. I long for a Harley or 1200GS who seem to be cruising with no problem. It's a struggle for me to maintain 70-75mph. With the wind. The trucks. The traffic. Lots of stops to gain composure.

    I'm sick of I90. I did jaunt off through the Black Hills, Deadwood and Sturgis. Which was a welcome reprieve from the highway. And the requisite stop at Wall Drug.

    Deadwood is cute. But commercial. Black Hills are great. I'll certainly come back to explore. Sturgis is gearing up for the Rally. Kinda cool to see it. Can't imagine what it's going to be like in a few weeks. Stopped at The Knuckle Saloon. Parked amongst a see of cherry and chrome. Oddly, I got all of the attention.

    People congratulating me on the ride. Telling me it took stones. Was funny listening to them complain about sunburn. Wanted to tell them if they wore gear, they wouldn't have to worry about that, but opted to bite my tongue instead. They also confirmed that my bike was a sail in the wind. Said it was a struggle, at times, on their bigger bikes, but overall, not an issue.

    Decided to press on. My goal was Sioux Falls. I ended up in Chamberlain. About 140mi short of my goal. But I'm beat and it's getting dark.

    Only 140 more miles of 90. And it's supposed to rain. Then into easy highway on the way back into Minneapolis. Just 375 more miles to go.

    Now I've got to figure out what my next trip. Or bucket list item is going to be. I'm actually, digging the idea of some of these destination tours. Fly in and rent a bike.

    Hopefully, I'll awake in better, yet likely waterlogged spirits.

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    #86
  7. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

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    Sounds like a serious case of the horse-galloping-back-to-the-barn syndrome. It's a natural tendency, I think. In retrospect the good/adventurous parts of the trip will outweigh the not-so-good bits. Good on you for seeing it through.
    #87
  8. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    HAHAHA. Slowly meandering back to the barn. :D
    #88
  9. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    July 24 :: Home

    I was up around 7am. Out by 745a. Off to the Corn Palace. Got my snapshot. Walked around. As I'm all geared up, a guy comes over to talk to me.

    Turns out he's an ADVRider and saw my sticker. We move our bikes over by one another and grab a couple photos.

    Caleb is on a two month journey, on a 1200 Bandit. We shot the shit for a good 30-45mins. Talked about what works. What doesn't. The moment where you just hit a wall and realize how alone it is. He said, about three weeks in, he started to feel depressed. But once you get past that, it gets better. He's meeting up with friends and his girlfriend is flying in to meet him midway. That should help.

    After that, it was a pretty easy ride home. My wife had the house decorated with balloons and signs. Was so great to see her. We've already started talking about doing some sort of adventure (albeit not on a bike) like this together.

    I started weeding through the pictures from my actual camera, and I really didn't take enough.


    Later on I'll give my thoughts about what worked, what didn't, what I'd change, what I loved, etc.
    #89
  10. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    The pictures.

    One of my favorite moments, on the ride into Skagway

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    Jasper (the first time, in the rain)

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    Falls near Mount Robson, BC

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    Some horse

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    Bear Glacier in Stewart, BC

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    Black bear on the roadside

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    Metal decked bridge in Teslin. Oof.

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    One of my favorite roadside stops, Taggish, Yukon.


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    Carcross, YT

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    Klondike Highway, coming through to Skagway. Awe inspiring.

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    Denali.

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    Denali Highway. First time on dirt and gravel.

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    The pipeline.

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    Top of the World Highway.

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    Dawson City, YT

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    Arctic Circle, Dempster

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    Bison (?) near Muncho Lake

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    Muncho Lake

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    Awesome dog is awesome. Black lab and Irish Golden mix. Guy was originally from MN. Fell in love with AK and moved there. He was on his way back to visit family.

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    Survived it.

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    Rock Sheep in Jasper

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    Jasper/Lake Louise/Banff

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    Home

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    #90
  11. iamchris

    iamchris Adventurer

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    Welcome back!

    How's your butt?
    #91
  12. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    Review/thoughts on the bike: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?p=21951641#post21951641


    Here are my thoughts on the gear. What worked. What didn't. What I'd change.


    Travel/Itinerary:
    I should have paid more attention to other (awesome) ride reports I read. I should have heeded advice. I tried to do too much. In the end. That was my downfall. I cut the trip short by five days. The mileage and the toll just added up and I hit a wall.

    In the future, I'll ride to a destination and then plan to spend a couple days there. To ride all day, take a few photos, pitch a tent, sleep and then leave, just doesn't really do a place justice. Now I'm not saying I need three days in Watson Lake. But I could absolutely do 2-3 days in Talkeetna, Denali, Jasper, etc.

    I'm very happy that I spent all the time planning my route out. I ditched it pretty much the first day. But it gave me a good baseline for mileage and the areas that I was going.


    Gear: Top line of what I loved, hated or would/wouldn't bring again

    JetBoil is bad ass. I cooked (boiled water) with it twice a day. It packs self contained. My only critique is that the can surface rusts and leaves residue in the boiling pot/chamber

    I took an entrenching shovel and a machette. In the future, I'll take a hatchet and carry a single item that is capable of what those two items provided. Much of the wood in the BC and Yukon was large stumps, I had no way to split them.

    Kelty Tarp. I was convinced I needed a tarp, relief from the rain, a place to standup to change, etc. In the end, I carried a tarp and poles with me. And never used them. Wasted space.

    Patagonia Blackhole Duffle. This is one of my all time favorite bags. I travel a lot. I'm hard on my luggage. This duffle is outstanding. It's billed as water resistant. But I never had any water inside. Even after all day riding in the rain.

    Smartwool tshirt, REI wool socks, REI synthetic base layer long johns and longsleeve: Worth the money. The damn tshirt was $95 (in Canada). I wore it for 14 days, without washing it, it didn't smell of BO in the least. The socks were never too hot or too cool. The REI baselayer is a great bargin. Also didn't get stinky.


    Clothes: I brought too much. In the future, for a trip of this length, I'd bring: 5x underwear, 3x socks, 1x pants, 1x base layer (pants and top), 1x short sleeve shirt, 1x down/zip up.


    Meals: I made my own oatmeal, 1/4 cup of rolled oats, 2 TBS of pulverized oats (in food processor), 1TBS of instant milk, cinnamon, sugar, dehydrated apples. Awesome. Really fills you up. Much more economical (and better for you) than instant oatmeal. I discovered Mary Jane's Organic Backpacker Food, when I re-upped in Anchorage. The meals were incredible. I honestly looked forward to making my lunch or dinner. I highly recommend: http://shop.maryjanesfarm.org/store/c/78-Backpacking-Food-Samplers.aspx

    Garmin 660: I HATE the backend, mapping software that is Base Camp. But, it's fantastic once you have it all dialed in. I was extremely happy with the performance on the road.


    Apex 2XT tent: I was always dry. Always at the right temp. Set up and tore down in minutes. Loved it. My only "complaint" is that the poles are kind of long and don't pack down that small.

    Big Agnes Pad: Was always comfortable. Only complaint is that it takes pretty long to blow up. Might consider something different, easier to inflate for the future. But it is not a must replace.

    SPOT tracker: While of no real value to me, it was priceless to my family and wife. Gave them easy access to where I was, especially in areas where I didn't have wifi or cell service.

    Powerbuilt Digital Torque Adaptor: one of the niftiest tools I brought. Allowed me to use a 1/2 drive as a torque wrench. Save a lot of space.

    MSR Ground Hogs Tent Stakes: upgraded my stakes. Had no issues with bending. Went into everything from soft dirt/moss to compacted gravel with relative ease.
    #92
  13. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

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    Trip Highlights

    Taggish - cute little "town" passing through from Watson Lake into Skagway - Incredible meal at Seven Mile River Resort. I'd love to go back there

    The ride into Stewart, BC - worth the detour. Even in the rain it was stunning

    Skagway, the ride into Skagway was one of the tops of my trip. The town is a tourist cluster fuck. But once the ships roll out, it's fun to enjoy a night hanging out with the locals

    Ferry from Skagway to Haines, it was a mini cruise that gave you a quick highlight of the Fjords

    Ride from Haines north, stunning. Bald eagles. Incredible scenery. 20+ mins between seeing other people.

    Pizza at Fast Eddy's (Tok, AK) and camping in their back yard. After sampling every Alaskan Brewing beer they had in stock.

    Flight tour of Denali. This is at the top of the least of things I've EVER done. Splurge and pay the $350. It's worth it.

    Talkeetna was a cute (albeit tourist) town. Would have loved to stay a day here and explored, camped, etc

    Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, via Icefields Parkway. Stunning. Puts so many other sights to shame.

    Destruction Bay/Kluane Lake, puts Lake Louise to shame. And I didn't take a single photo. Damn it.

    S. Dakota, I wish I'd planned to do more riding here. Would love to explore the Bad Lands and Black Hills.

    Dempster/Arctic Circle, sure, it's a shitty road and a stupid sign. But the feeling of accomplishing it is incredible.



    Low lights/wasn't worth it/probably wouldn't do again:

    Cassiar, I mean, I guess I get the allure, but it wasn't nearly as mind blowing as I've came to believe from ride reports, books, milepost, etc

    Glacier National Park, Going to the Sun Road, it wasn't that I hated it, it's just that after riding the Icefields Parkway, Top of the World and others, this didn't feel all that special. It didn't help that there was a ton of traffic and quite a bit of construction. However, I could absolutely see the appeal to hiking around this area

    I90, long fast, windy, boring, lots of trucks. I actually preferred the Canadian Plains to I-90.

    Sturgis, yeah, it's motorcycle mecca. But wasn't worth the time. Even for lunch. But I've checked it off my list.

    Deadwood. I loved the show on HBO, I'd built it up in my mind to be like Dawson City. Turns out it's just commercialized and full of shitty casinos and tour buses.
    #93
  14. srelegante

    srelegante srelegante

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    I love it-Fast Eddy's, Destruction Bay and Arctic Circle. I agree on all 3.

    Good summary on Deadwood-pass through, get a picture and get out. Same with Sturgis.

    Did the ride in 2011 and I am about ready to go back.

    Thanks for the pointers.

    SE
    #94
  15. ahwarm

    ahwarm Adventurer

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    Thanks for the report. I had a great time reading it and look forward to to using some of your suggestions on my own trip.


    Andrew


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    #95
  16. Long Trail

    Long Trail adv dreamer

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    Stuck in the 802
    Thanx for the RR, I've enjoyed reading about your trip. Good rundown and thorough insight.
    #96
  17. Shibby!

    Shibby! Long timer

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    Yup!

    Been on lots of bike trips where people I knew got in that mode.

    I think rushed trips are more prone to that because it becomes wearing. You have to take your time, allow days to relax and explore. Get comfortable with your surroundings, etc.

    Lots of people simply can't do it.
    #97
  18. Honkey Cat

    Honkey Cat Tailights Fade!

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    great end of trip info, loved the pics also.
    #98
  19. Meatn'taters

    Meatn'taters Not any more

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    262
    Location:
    Sonoma County, CA
    Thanks for the effort - enjoyed the read. Good on you for finishing the Dempster - you would have regretted the tow truck ride the rest of your life. Oh, I have same bike, an '09. The seat isn't worth burning, cause it's too hard to burn. I have an Airhawk and have for several years. Put just enough air in it that your ass is one pubic hair off the seat and it's perfect. Barely any air at all - HUGE difference. Anyway, thanks again for taking us along. :clap
    #99
  20. 73datsun

    73datsun Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    271
    Location:
    Minneapolis
    That was one of my greatest learnings. Too much of a good thing.

    In the future, I'll will space it accordingly. Originally, I was going to take 3-4 days off in Anchorage and fly my wife out. But it was just too close to Boards and finishing up grad school. That really would have helped break the trip into two tolerable pieces.

    That long ride back on I90 has me eyeing the 1200s again. But then I get on my 700 unladen and have a blast riding it into work.

    Who knows.