"oh wow, It's just like a big, bad arse version of New Zealand!"

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by clintonl, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. clintonl

    clintonl Been here awhile

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    Hey there, My name is Clinton — I'm a kiwi guy who has been living in the US for 19 years now and gradually exploring chunks of it on annual bike pilgrimages.

    Four years back a girlfriend and I dreamed about riding to Alaska on our motorcycles as one does; In the end the (now ex) girlfriend decided she wanted to do something else with her life, however my dream held true over the years. This season i was planning to finish my house and to finally do that alaskan trip "next year" but as the warm weather started approaching I decided "Screw it, you never know what might happen in the next 12 months, I'm going. I'm going, Now."

    Well after 68 days, 13,700 miles, 4 tyres, 8 quarts of oil and 337 gallons of fuel I finally rolled back into my unfinished house weathered, hungry and brutally weary — However most of all I was exhilarated that I'd not only got to Alaska but experienced infinitely more than I'd originally dreamed about.

    I've lurked on this board for 5 years now and really loved it as a place to hang out and listen. The ride reports have been especially useful for me as a planning resource and I've really appreciated the time people have put into writing them.

    My "ride report" is going to be more like a collection of travel snippets really. To be honest I cannot remember what I had for breakfast yesterday so I'm not great on recalling the finer details of trips (unless the hash browns where especially delicious) I prefer to let photos paint things in broader strokes. Hope that's ok.

    I'll add to this thread as I sort photos out. I hope if nothing else it acts as a catalyst for those who are putting that big trip off for whatever reason to GO. GO NOW! I'm really glad I didn't wait.

    Here's a quick preview..

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    #1
  2. Ravenslair

    Ravenslair Been here awhile

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    Great pictures. Looking forward to more!
    #2
  3. manfromthestix

    manfromthestix Lost in Space

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    Yeah, life first, then work! Nice intro, Clinton. This ride is on my "to do" list.

    :lurk

    Doug
    #3
  4. oldtrucks

    oldtrucks Been here awhile

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    Great start :lurk
    #4
  5. Cyclic Rival

    Cyclic Rival Adventurer

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    Gorgeous pictures, I am in.
    #5
  6. I GS 1

    I GS 1 I 90S I

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    Keep the pics coming :clap
    #6
  7. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    can't wait until it's my turn ...
    #7
  8. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid!

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    Great start Clinton! I can only imagine how much fun you had.

    I'm glad I got a chance to meet you before your trip, and am looking forward to more photos!

    Jim :brow
    #8
  9. kristof-lars

    kristof-lars Adventurer

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    im doing this right now quit my job finishing the extensive reno on my house (almost there!!) put it on the market and off to australia!! got a woman waiting there already (an awesome one) just need a bike a licence then im off exploring :lol3

    awesome pics! when i come back to canada id like to head up the west coast so gorgeous i live in the praries (manitoba) and have seen enough around here either coast would be nice, but your pics sure do sway me..
    #9
  10. clintonl

    clintonl Been here awhile

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    I knew that just getting from NJ to AK was quite a ride — I'd ridden the Northern states before so the plan was to just rocket out to the Yukon and Alaska as directly as possible so I could maximize my time there. I rode from my place in NJ to Chicago in one day (800 miles) which is a personal best for me (my butt is not made of iron) — from there I just pointed the bike down route 90 west to pass through Wisconsin, Minnesota toward the Badlands of South Dakota.

    I chose Blue Earth, Minnesota to end a riding day because I just really, really liked the name of the town. I spotted an "Aztec Quesadilla Burger" on the local menu and remembered chuckling to myself "haha ok the food just got weird out here"

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    TIP: You can camp for free at the Blue Earth Fairgrounds

    Nothing like waiting 522 miles for a turn —Lego spaceman and I are really excited. Hope it's a good one!

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    Taking a small rest under a big, big sky. — Route 90 Middle of Minnesota

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    Finally rolled into the Cedar Pass Campground, Interior, SD right in the heart of the Badlands. This is a really nice place to camp. It can get booked out in peak season though. Great views of the badlands, sheltered tables, nice diner/restaurant just up the road.

    However best of all it's just a stones throw from the Horseshoe Bar located in downtown Interior, Population 67. I've been to this bar twice in my life and one cannot adequately describe the experiences that lay within. Real cowboys and indians, boot spurs, a handwritten menu scrawled on a napkin and pickled turkey gizzard snacks for the brave. Greg the owner is a super cool guy who would attempt to make you anything you ask for as long as it involved alcohol and/or a deep fryer, preferably both. As the night wears on the place starts to bear more and more resemblance to a Tarantino movie. Just go there!

    My dear friend heather was just on the return leg of her multi-month bike trip and just happened to be in the neighborhood so we ended up having a beer or ten with the local characters. One of the best nights of the trip!

    Heather gaining immortality by sticking a dollar to the ceiling

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    Next day Heather wanted to place one of her pieces of artwork at the Minuteman missile site at (43.931613,-102.159442) as part of her ongoing art project (http://thefrighteningandbeautiful.blogspot.com)

    Afterwards instead of backtracking we took this dirt trail that looked like it was heading in the right direction — but really we had no clue as how it would turn out. It ended up being a satisfyingly rough narrow dirt trail with muddy "creek" crossings and steepish climbs up into areas of the formations that tourists never get to see. Humorously the trail is labeled "195th ave" on Google maps— Clearly they've quite a different definition of an "avenue" out there.

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    After battling 120 miles of bum puckering 55 mph cross winds on the SD plains I made it to Devil's Tower.
    The canaries are still alive so the government is lying about the spilled nerve gas!

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    TIP: The Devils Tower View Campground on rt 24 is WAY cheaper than the overpriced KIA campground 3 miles closer in. It has a better view of the tower and the showers are super nice.
    #10
  11. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

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    A strong start, and I look forward to more.

    I don't know if you've experienced it yet, but after having done my first AK/Yukon trip a year ago, I'm itching to get back. Something a bit addictive about it... :hmmmmm
    #11
  12. CharlestonADV

    CharlestonADV I do my own stunts!

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    I'm in.
    #12
  13. clintonl

    clintonl Been here awhile

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    If given the choice always take the road less travelled.
    Riding Dry Creek Road, WY — closing in on Big Horn National Forest.

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    This guy started chatting to me about my motorcycle when I noticed his shoulder tattoo— It's at that point I realized I'm about a million miles from home - Gillette, WY

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    Number of ice-cold coke vending machine sightings so far: 0

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    Just before I parted ways with my friend Heather we exchanged travel tips. She said "Make sure you ride Rt 14 through Big Horn just west of Sheridan" and I told her about my stop in Blue Earth, Minnesota.

    I made sure I followed her advice and at the end of Rt 14 I had to pull over and chuckle at the inequality of our respective travel tips. She'd just shown me the location of an mind meltingly good pass through snow capped meadows, pine forests and a snake-like road that plummets into a towering canyon where the shell falls dump 3,600 gallons of water each second into carved fractures of 500 million year old granite. I on the other hand had given her the location of a giant green man. haha.

    Rt 14 through Big Horn National Forest just west of Sheridan, WY

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    Of course the other advantage of cutting through the Big Horn National Forest is it lines up well with traveling the northern route of Yellowstone Park (From Cody, WY 120 > 296 > 212>Grand Loop Rd>89) I suspect this way through is less trafficked than the roads further south but given I've only ridden it once you probably shouldn't quote me on that :)

    American bison eyes up German bison. I'm praying it's not mating season.

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    Mammoth Hot Springs

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    In contrast to Big Horn and Yellowstone's stunning display of what nature can pull off when left to its own devices I then pulled into the fading town of Butte MT, home to the Berkley Pit.

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    The Berkeley Pit is a decommissioned open pit copper mine that's essentially a 1 x 1/2 mile hole in the ground filled with a 900ft deep cocktail of water, arsenic, cadmium, zinc, and sulfuric acid. The resulting mix shares the acidity of lemon juice and to my eyes has the perversely beautiful appearance of a freshly opened tin of swirling metallic brown paint. In fact the water contains so much dissolved metal that Copper can be mined directly from the water.
    #13
  14. clintonl

    clintonl Been here awhile

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    Likewise Jim, I really appreciated your time leading up to the trip— It made all the difference.
    #14
  15. ROAD DAMAGE

    ROAD DAMAGE Long timer

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    Hi Clinton,

    Fantastic start to your RR! Thanks for posting it up.

    How close are you to "real time"? I'm trying to guess when the trip was from looking at the pictures. About a month ago?

    Looking forward to more! :D

    Rob
    #15
  16. clintonl

    clintonl Been here awhile

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    Thanks Rob, glad you like them. My trip started June 4th and ended 68 days later so the ones I'm posting now are from early June. I was in Yukon for Dust to Dawson June 19th and the spent the following month riding through Alaska and then down the pacific coast and back across to the east coast.
    #16
  17. clintonl

    clintonl Been here awhile

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    Crossing up into Canada is always a bit of a thrill for me for a number of reasons but chief amongst them is just my general love for Canadians!
    Their fantastic self-effacing sense of humour is very similar to us New Zealanders.

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    After crossing the border into Central Kootenay I rode 3A which is a really, really lovely road that twists itself around the edge of Kootenay lake. After a short ferry ride across the water I continued north on Rt 31 until I hit one of the coolest places to camp in BC: the Toad Rock Motorcycle Campground. If sleeping in the short bus or a psychedelic VW camper is on your bucket list then this is the place to stop for the night. They love bikes so much they'll even give you a discount if you roll in on something older than 30 years.

    I was shown around the campsite by this delightfully mellow, grey haired guy who looked like he'd probably utilized the letters L, S and D a few times in his life — He pointed over to the toilet block and said "… and that's the shitter over there… It's used by men and women because… you know… we're all the same anyway man"

    The second he uttered that hilarious line I knew I wanted to support them by staying.

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    I continued on up 31 for probably the most satisfying days ride I've had on this trip so far—I rode for ages without seeing a single human being, cell phone signal or sealed road. Scared off two bears, dodged a deer and rode slowly behind a pair of moose who trotted along the road for 500 yards before veering into the woods— It appears Canada was starting to share some of her wildlife with me.

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    The next day I spent some time with (a different)) Heather and her dog Cody. Heather has spent the last 8 years helping her father work on his (slightly crazy) dream of building an entire american wild west town in the middle of nowhere, British Columbia. It completely looks and reads like a plot from a herzog film and i couldn't help but admire her for sticking to it like she has.

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    Started cutting across the Bulkley-Nechako district on the yellow head highway (Rt16) into Fraser lake,
    home to Canada's most majestic, anatomically correct Moose statue.

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    I then hopped onto the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy (Rt 37) and headed east on the Glacier Hwy toward my first goal...

    Alaska.

    so.. um.. it's my first time, so please be gentle.

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    Most riders that've crossed into Hyder, AK at this point will admit that this is the "fake alaska" as it constitutes a very southern tip of a state that's twice the size of Texas— I still had a metric shit load more riding to do before I could honestly claim victory.

    But now that i'd actually made it to the state I was definitely excited at the prospect of exploring the vastness of Alaska, Yukon and the Northern territories —However little did I know I was just 16 miles from one of the most amazing things I'd experience on this trip….
    #17
  18. manfromthestix

    manfromthestix Lost in Space

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    Excellent! Damn, you cover the ground, man. That's a lot of riding already!

    :ricky

    Doug
    #18
  19. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid!

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    Great photos and commentary Clinton!:clap
    Jim :brow
    #19
  20. clintonl

    clintonl Been here awhile

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    Hyder, Alaska is one of those one-road-in, one-road-out kinda towns where one of those roads just leads into the mountains and stops. The other road leads back to where you came from. Canada. This is probably why the US government doesn't even bother having a border patrol into the place. Is there anywhere else in the US like that I wonder?

    There's not a whole lot to check out in Hyder (sorry Hyder!) so I headed off on that dead-end road into the mountains.

    I mean what could possibly go wrong?

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    It's funny because if you look up the Salmon Glacier in wikipedia it has this really dry, unexciting description of the place — So after reaching the summit of a satisfying 16 mile dirt road ride into the mountains I'd write that web entry a little differently.

    It would probably start with something like "One of the most shit-balls amazing things in Alaska! You'd be completely insane to not check this place out."

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    I can't remember the last time a landscape brought tears to my eyes. I spent 2 hours sitting in this spot. I've only just arrived and Alaska is already blowing my mind.

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    On the way back down I made the classic mistake of trying to ride through the massive dust storm a haul truck makes when it passes in the opposite direction.
    Couldn't see a bloody thing until my front end discovered some lovely cambered shingle on the shoulder.

    So I just picked it up, dusted myself off and cursed myself for not pulling over and waiting for it to pass. I knew better but still chose to do the dumb thing that's what annoyed me the most — Hi, my name is Clinton and I like to learn lessons the hard way.

    We’ve temporarily suspended the beverage service for this flight due to turbulence

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    #20