Bikes come in all flavors, as do adventures. You don't have to be mounted on the latest and greatest “adventure” bike to be having a memorable ride. In fact, any time you take a tour on what might turn out to be an “inappropriate” bike, you may find yourself having an unplanned adventure, as this rider found out a few years ago. This little ride took place in 2002, when yer humble scribe was but a youth of 63. Old enough to know better, but too addlepated to resist. While the original report was written up shortly after completion of the ride, no proper venue was found for displaying photos along with the narration until ADVRider came into view. Please forgive the long-winded narrative and dearth of photos. Part I Okay, for the nitpickers out there, it wasn't really a full five corners. That would require hitting Deadhorse, aka Prudhoe Bay, to make it a true, 100% five corners. But Tok, Alaska was close enough for me, especially in early April. Have you ever heard the line of the song that goes "When it's springtime in Alaska, it's forty below"? Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but not by a whole lot. It can get mighty nasty up in the Brooks Range that time of year. So I wimped out, and turned in a southerly direction as soon as the roads allowed. This whole thing started when I decided to make the 7th Annual Crawfish Boil hosted by well-known Iron Butt rider Shane Smith at his home in McComb, Mississippi. There are many riders east of the Mississippi whom I had met only via e-mail, and now there would be the opportunity to put faces with names, and to get better acquainted. Not long after making the decision to catch "Da Boil", as it was affectionately known among LDRiders, Kerry Perkins of the COG (Concours Owners Group) List announced the "First Annual Below Sea Level Ride" to be held at Death Valley the weekend before the Boil. By starting my ride a few days earlier, I could do both, so plans were adjusted accordingly. Within a few more days, it hit me! I'd be near the southwest corner of the U.S. at Death Valley, and not very far from the southeast corner when at McComb, MS. By taking a slight detour coming back home, just a couple thousand extra miles, I could do a Four Corners Tour while riding around the country. Checking into that option, I found that it would make a nice little diversion, as well as give me an excuse to see some new places. From preliminary travel plans, it looked like the distance would be a maximum of 15,000 miles "IF" I rode all the way back home. Some thought was also given to leaving the bike with friends somewhere in the Pacific Northwet and flying home as an alternative. Now let me assure you that I was still exhibiting some semblance of sanity at that time, as my plan at this juncture was to build a shipping pallet, strap the Concours to it, then ship it south by truck a couple of weeks before my planned departure from the Seattle area. But when you reach a certain age, sanity has a way of slipping out of one's grasp, and is replaced by... well, INsanity. As D-Day approached, I began watching the weather along the Alaska Highway (still known respectfully as "The Alcan" by many of us old-timers) and was pleased to see that it was staying clear and cold. This meant that there would be mostly bare asphalt all the way down into British Columbia. Spring was also approaching, however, and that meant almost certain rapid changes in the weather, with snow sure to be falling somewhere along my route. Thus the vigil began. The closer to the date I'd chosen as my "final decision" day, the more I felt that I could ride the bike down to the South 48, and kept hoping the weather would hold. From riding in the fall, I knew temperatures down to zero or so would be tolerable, and figured that with the longer days of spring, I could ride for 10 or 12 hours each day, then when the sun went down and it started getting cold, I could get a room at a lodge or motel along the way. The only foreseeable problem would be starting Annie after leaving her sitting outside overnight. But confident that locals would have the means to get any type vehicle warmed up enough to start after a cold night, that potential problem was set aside as being a non issue. Giving up the Aerostich Roadcrafter and switching to a two-piece snowmobile suit provided me with better protection from low temperatures, although scarcely any from asphalt burns and bruises. However, it's hard to be a safe rider when you're numb from the cold, so that's what I decided to wear come below-freezing weather. With the lightly insulated, but windproof, snowsuit, there's no need for electrically heated garments until the thermometer drops below 20°F, or even colder once I'm acclimated. Meanwhile, annual maintenance was underway on "Alcan Annie", along with a few upgrades that I thought would make the trip easier and safer. This is what she looked like on March 19th: From the COGList I'd learned that several list members had added the Audiovox cruise control, so one was picked up in Anchorage and plans were made to install it. Driving lights would be a welcome addition in the South 48, where it gets dark at night during the summer months (don't know why y'all haven't figured out that it's better the way we do it in Alaska - stays light when it's warm enough to ride, gets dark when you have to put the bike away). And then the annual new windshield, new bulbs all the way 'round, and new tires and wheel bearings, of course. Also from the COGList, I'd learned about extenders that would provide a slightly larger envelope of somewhat calm air behind the fairing, so those were added to the bike for this trip, along with stuffing a couple of vents with foam pipe insulation - a tip I got from Doug Grosjean's webpage. Since many of the gas stations along the Alcan were no open except during the tourist season, a 3 gallon auxiliary tank was added to supplement the 7.5 gallon main tank. Now it was getting down to the wire, and I had yet to build the pallet or contact a trucker who might haul the Connie south for me. In addition, I realized that there was a part of me that really wanted to ride down the Alcan, and my procrastination was doing the job of forcing me to ride Outside, and I was happy about it. The Alcan remains one of my favorite rides, and I didn't want to miss a chance to do it again. Some might think I'd have learned by now, but those who know me well realize that I never will. If there are three weeks worth of work to do on the bike, I'll start ordering parts four weeks before my trip is to start. That usually leaves me finishing the last bolt tightening just minutes before I pull out of the driveway. This year was no different. Thursday I browbeat some poor, unsuspecting souls into helping me get the bike up the steps and out of the basement shop. To be a little ahead of my starting point of the previous year, when I never started the engine until the bike was loaded and I was ready to depart for Northern California, this time I cranked up the engine to make sure it would run. Warmed it up for a few minutes, then shut it off and went back to tying up loose ends. Friday was spent sorting and packing, revamping the lists I'd sweated over last year after my return from California. Saturday was given over to cleaning up the shop, putting tools and leftover parts away, and then little incidentals like installing the windshield, bungeeing the extra clothing on the top of the Givi, and trying to find room for the computer hard drive I was delivering to a friend on my way out of state. Saturday should have been a breeze, but I kept finding little things I'd been putting off until the last minute - and now the last minutes were upon me. Finally, at 6:30 PM, enough was enough, and if it wasn't done by now, it didn't need to get done. Besides, I'd tried to give myself a cushion in case the weather turned bad along the way, and I had to lay over for a day. That cushion was gone, and I was going to get to Seattle late if I didn't get moving. Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I do NOT consider myself a "tough" motorcyclist. Rather, just an old geezer who has spent too many winters in Alaska. The reason I felt confident in heading south on the Alcan Highway in early April - still winter this far north - is that I am pretty acclimated to the cooler temperatures after having just survived another winter in which anything above -40° is considered mild weather. It is my opinion that anyone, regardless what area of the world they call home, can become acclimated to these temperatures and make the same ride I did, if they care to. The motorcycle was of more concern to me, as factory R & D is not usually concerned with operation of these two-wheeled vehicles under sub-Arctic conditions. To help prepare the bike, I had synthetic lubricants everywhere I could use them: The engine/transmission, front forks, and rear shock all contained 5W-40 Mobil Delvac 1, the final drive carried 75W-90 Mobil 1 gear lube. The engine cooling system was filled with my usual mix of 60% anti-freeze and 40% distilled water - good to over 50 below. The speedometer cable and all grease zerks were lubed with Mobil low-temp synthetic grease. Being synthetics, the lubricants would also offer superior protection in the hot temperatures I was anticipating later in the ride. Saturday, April 6, 2002 18:40 Glennallen, Alaska Someone asked me to give details as to what sort of gear I had on; what steps were taken to keep warm. In answer to that request, here it is, from the skin out: Long-sleeved cotton tee shirt and LD Comfort undershorts, Widder System II electric vest with arm chaps and Widder leg chaps - connected to a Widder Electronic controller that I have velcroed to the outside of my tank bag, quilted thinsulate pants and jacket, wool shirt and Draggin' Jeans, Chill Factor snowmobile bib pants and jacket, relatively thin knee-high wool Nordic skiing socks, Sidi On-Road Sympatex boots with a sheepskin liner in the sole (thanks to a recommendation from Barb, at Alaska Leather), Widder electric gloves, Nolan N-100 helmet. Just in case it got really cold, I also carried a polar fleece balaclava that goes under my helmet and well down over my chest and the back of my neck. The gloves and heated handgrips are connected to a Warm 'n Safe electronic controller so I can warm my oft-frostbitten hands separately from the rest of my body. You may notice that none of my cold weather gear was modern high tech - no polypropylene undergarments or socks. Most of what I had is stuff I'd been wearing for many years, and had kept me from freezing to death thus far. Besides, I'm a cheapskate (as a KLR owner, that's redundant, isn't it) and will keep wearing it until it's worn out. Since this trip, however, Cabela's has been getting to know my credit card number from memory. We are now preparing to ride comfortably down to 30 below. To make it down the ice-covered side street to the highway I'd left my tires underinflated for a little more traction. Thus, departing home, my business partner followed me to the gas station with a cylinder of dry nitrogen in order to reinflate the tires to their proper pressures. Finally fueled up, zipped up, aired up, and plugged in - onto the highway at 19:27 with one stop scheduled before I got to the Alcan at Tok. With the days getting longer now that the vernal equinox had come and gone, it was still quite light as I headed north. Light enough that when I made my stop 80 miles later, I could see snow clouds hanging in the valley ahead of me. At my request, my friend phoned a neighbor about 15 miles up the road to see if it was snowing there. All clear - so away I went. Temperatures so far not bad - around +20° F - so no need to turn the Widders on yet, but the heated grips and Widder gloves felt good, and were keeping my fingers toasty. After fueling in Tok (and getting a strange glance from the station attendant) the direction became generally southeast for the next 1300 miles or so as I headed for Milepost 0 of the Alcan at Dawson Creek, British Columbia. It's 93 miles from Tok to the Yukon line, and the trip was getting off to a pleasant start. Temperatures were still above zero, although getting closer to the mark as I neared U. S. Customs at the border. When it hit +10°F, I turned the Widders on, but only on the lowest setting. Having mounted a pair of Hella driving lights on one of Larry Buck's mounts just before leaving, I spent some time getting them adjusted to throw light where it would do the most good. It was immediately obvious that they were a good investment, as I was able to see well enough to keep my speed up even though I was in moose country. Riding at night on a two-lane road with little traffic is, to me, a pleasant experience. It was clear and crisp, and when I made a stop to tinker with the lights, or just to get off and walk around a bit, a glance skyward would reveal a nearly-solid canopy of stars, twinkling by the zillions. The only other place where I've seen night skies nearly as clear was in the Four Corners area in Arizona. The Northern Lights were also visible that night, although very faint, but the stars gave off enough light to walk around easily without artificial illumination - one of the many reasons I love living in Alaska despite the extreme climatic conditions we sometimes have to endure. Preparing for this trip, and the attendant heavy traffic I was expecting to find in various cities along the way, I'd installed a pair of Saeng Quick-Scan mirrors on the windshield. Nearing the border, with the temperature down around 5 above, I hit a series of sharp bumps in the pavement and the mirrors, their adhesive too stiff from the cold to hang on any more, fell off and dangled by the opposite side tether until I could stop and remove them. Into the side bag they went. Oh well, won't need them on the Alcan, I'm sure. U. S. Customs being the last warm haven on my home side of the border, I took advantage of their comfortable rest rooms and made sure I was properly dressed for the night ahead. Leaving there, and making the mild descent to the actual boundary line between the U. S. and Canada, I realized belatedly that I was riding on solid ice. Fortunately, it had been sanded lightly and neither tire slipped at all. Being that I'd been up long hours getting ready for the trip for the past few days, and was a little tired, I opted to stop for the night at Beaver Creek, 21 miles inside the Yukon, and then make a hard push the next day to get off the Alcan. So at 1:00 AM Yukon time I checked into the lodge at MP (Milepost) 1202 for a good night's rest.