Pain, Curiosity and a Bear off to see...whatever.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by xsPain, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    I left the Badlands with the final destination of the Black Hills. If you look at a map you can see those two places are actually very close together, so it doesn't seem like much of a ride. It's all a matter of routing.

    First, there was another National Monument I wanted to visit. I had often seen the signs while cruising on I-90, but even the one time I had stopped I hadn't found the site. This time I was going to keep looking until I did.


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    Right next to the Badlands is a National Monument containing old nuclear missile silos. I wasn't even born for the tense part of the cold war, but was old enough in the 80's to follow it all. And, of course, I have seen Red Dawn more than The Sound of Music, so this was something I wanted to see.


    But you can't just roll up to the old bunker. The signs, if you are paying attention, actually lead you to a trailer in the parking lot of a gas station (which is why I missed it the last time, not really what I had been looking for). There isn't anything on display there, just a couple of posters. But there you sign up for a tour at the actual missile site and they give you a little piece of paper to prove it.


    Then you ride a little further west,
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    and if you followed the directions correctly you end up here
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    We were early for the tour, so I had a snack and chatted with some other people who were also waiting. The grounds were still locked, and the parking lot was outside the gate. Old groups were let out as new groups were let in, and the gate was relocked. Seemed a little extreme, considering it was supposed to be a deactivated base (or was it?)


    Once our time came the guide let us in and gave us a talk in the lot outside the building, showing off the VLF and VHF antennas that were still there, and the water and propane tanks. (The tanks I get, why are were there still all those antennas?), and admitted he was stationed at this very base during the cold war.
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    Maybe he was nuclear missile auxiliary? Do we have that?


    After being shown the outside we walked through the above ground portion of the base.
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    Officer's bunks
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    Not officer's bunks.
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    Common area.


    All in all, pretty comfy for the 1980s. Our guide reported he was stationed here before satellite TV, and there were only two channels that came in. There was a lot of movie watching, but he didn't say anything about Red Dawn. Or Wargames.


    After seeing the above ground stuff we took a very small elevator below ground.
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    It was a very thick door.


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    The control room was very roomy for two people, and very cramped for the tour group of six.


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    The Button isn't even a button. I felt a little ripped off.


    After the tour I was back on the bike and headed Southwest (which, if you looked at a map, would not be in the direction of the Black Hills) for another landmark I had wanted to visit but never made the time for.


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    Compared to the Little Big Horn site, the Wounded Knee site is empty. Just the sign, and some poorly built wooden shacks that looked like people were supposed to be selling things from them. There was a couple in an RV having lunch, which seemed like a good idea.


    If you don't know the Wounded Knee story, there's the sign-
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    After lunch I was riding again, with one more place in mind before heading north for the Black Hills. It was starting to cloud over and there were occasional drops of rain, which made me think about heading back north where I could see blue skies, but I persevered and arrived.
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    Unlike the Corn Palace, where I have been to lots of times, I have never been to Carhenge. It was, in it's own way, just as weird as the Corn Palace, but there were fewer places to eat around it.
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    And there wasn't just the cars around either.
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    After walking around for about an hour, and getting rained on a little, I headed back north to the sunshine and the Black Hills.
    #21
  2. tshelfer

    tshelfer Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2011
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Arlington, Tx
    I am from the Cold War era, so had the pleasure of spending some of my 70s Army time sitting in the middle of a nuclear weapons storage site in Germany. Several of my Air Force buddies spent their military time sitting at the bottom of silos, just like the one you toured, up in the Dakotas. Interesting slice of history there. Thanks for sharing.
    #22
  3. zoodio

    zoodio Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2011
    Oddometer:
    58
    Location:
    Calgary Alberta Canada
    Enjoying the RR. Great pics by the way. I hear where youre coming from. As a paramedic in Calgary I have had the same feeling about life and living and hope someday to head off like you have. Stay safe and enjoy! :freaky
    #23
  4. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    I didn't have a real plan for visiting the Black Hills. It was a convenient place to stop for a day, do laundry (which I hadn't done since leaving Wisconsin), back up some things online and update my blog. After looking around some I 'splurged' on a KOA, since they have decent wifi and laundry facilities, and a pool. It was hot.

    After I had clean clothes again I started looking around for things to do. The caves, of which there are several, were an easy choice, since they are nice and cool inside. I headed for Jewel Cave first. It is supposed to be similar to Mammoth, where I had been recently, and I wanted to compare them.


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    No one seemed to care here about Blue or his backpack, and I walked right in with them.
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    Big cave, and chilly inside.


    Like most caves in the National Parks system, you have to sign up for a tour. And, typically, the National Parks Pass doesn't cover the tour costs, which sucks. But, at least you end up with a ranger who can explain what you are supposed to be looking at.


    Jewel Cave was filled with carbonic acid at some point in it's past, which caused the quartz on the walls to bubble.
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    Since there is a different rock under the quartz (granite, if I recall correctly), the rocks expand and contract with temperature changes at different rates. So the quartz bits occasionally break off and you can see the interior patterns.
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    Mammoth cave was also very dry, while Jewel Cave did have the occasional sign of water leaking in.
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    I took a lot of pictures,
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    but the tour still ended and I had to go back outside. There were other caves, but I decided to take a ride through Custer State Park. I was there a few years ago and on the wildlife loop saw impressive numbers of bison and burrow. I felt like I hadn't seen much wildlife. I couldn't resist the Mount Coolidge sign.
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    It was a nice view, spoiled slightly by all the power lines.
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    Mount Rushmore, off in the distance.
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    And Crazy Horse, a little further along the horizon.


    The wildlife loop didn't disappoint.
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    Poor burrow, needs some reading glasses.


    The burrows, by the way, are the only animals you are allowed to feed (though it isn't recommended), since they are not native to the Black Hills. They were imported to provide transport for tourists in Yellowstone and to Mount Rushmore, and when they weren't needed anymore just let loose. Looks like they're doing okay, though.


    I had been undecided about going to visit Mount Rushmore, but back in the campground had met a family who were there just to see it at night. Apparently there is a program and them they light the monument up. I had only been there during the day, so figured a night visit might be interesting.
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    The program was only so-so. Generic facts about the four presidents on the monument (Generic for anyone who has paid attention in history class, anyway), and about the monument itself. Then some standard patriotic music. Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind, but it seemed a little over the top. At the end of the Star Spangled Banner they turned on the floodlights.
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    A little washed out, but I like how the sky turned out. And I took this shot too-
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    There was actually something resembling a line for that one. I sort of cut in.


    The ride back to the campground was short, which was good since there was a lot of traffic, no street lights, and I was in an area known for it's wildlife. My next general destination was the other side of the Tetons, where I had some friends I could stay with for a couple of days. There was a lot in between me an them, though...like the Tetons.
    #24
  5. skierd

    skierd Wannabe Far-Rider

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    3,115
    Location:
    Fairbanks, AK
    :lurk
    #25
  6. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    I left the Black Hills and headed more or less west, heading for the Tetons and Yellowstone. I had mixed feelings about Yellowstone, since I knew it was going to be crowded, but I was also going to pass right next to it and it seemed silly not to visit (since it would be free on my parks pass).


    It wasn't far, and I took my time, seeing the usual odd things along the road.


    I went over a pass and saw snow for the first time. It was worth a picture.
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    The pass was just sort of 10,000 feet, and when I got to the other side the campground was full of bicyclists who were going to ride over it the next day.


    Then I stopped here
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    And saw this
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    The cemetery is all hills – bring water if you go.
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    Nice view though.


    Then there was this other place-
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    Where aliens like to land. Or so I heard. I hiked around some (which was good exercise but a bit much after the cemetery) but didn't find any.
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    I think they were looking for aliens too.


    Devils Tower (in case you didn't know what that was), was exposed as the surrounding landscape was eroded away. The Native Americans had a legend that a buffalo pounded the ground down around it in a race between the different animals. Humans, pointing out that they only had two legs where buffalo had four, were allowed to let a magpie race in their place. The magpie won, and Native Americans could hunt buffalo.


    The story science tells, of melting magma and erosion, isn't nearly as much fun.


    [​IMG]Some hot springs, I guess. There were a few mounds like this around in a park, but the visitor center was closed.


    Oh, and I met these guys-
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    At a wayside when I stopped to eat, refill my water, and decide if I was going the right way. I didn't think so. Anyway, they interviewed me for something, I wrote down who they were (and couldn't find the paper later that night when I went to journal about it), and we took of in different directions.


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    I did finally make it here.
    [​IMG]The Tetons are pretty spectacular, and I spent a lot of time just looking at them. Pictures don't really do them any justice, certainly not my pictures.
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    I rode through the park, looping around the southern end of the mountains.
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    And the pass I used wasn't that high, but still had a nice view.
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    Then I dropped onto the western side of the mountains and headed for a friend's house to stay for a couple of days, do some maintenance and rest up some.
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    Blue, getting all comfy.


    It was a good break before I headed back over the Teton's to Yellowstone, then started north for real.
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    #26
  7. Eagletalon

    Eagletalon Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
    Oddometer:
    577
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
    Liking your RR. As healthcare workers (I am a nurse) we see many things in life that let us wondering if we should be doing something else. As an ER nurse we see many things that there are no words to explain. Someday I should embark on a trip like this and see some of the freat places this land of us has to offer.

    Later
    John
    #27
  8. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    I went to Yellowstone for the first time in 2008, with Sharon my friend from GA. It doesn't seem like that long ago, and we made a pretty complete sweep of the part, but it was right there, almost on my route north, and I figured I would at least drive through (forgetting what traffic in the park is like).

    The weather was pleasant, and it didn't take me long to reach the park.
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    To my surprise, there wasn't anywhere to camp. I mean, even the private campgrounds were full. At one I met up with a father and his two sons, and we did some calling to find out the only place left was a KOA. So we all headed over there, to find out it was amazingly expensive. We decided to share one site.


    After the tents were up, we got dinner and traded stories, then hit the sack. In the morning we ended up having breakfast too, before going our separate ways. I headed into the park, and I think they went somewhere else. Good move on their part.


    I figured I would be out of the park by later morning or early afternoon, going from the west entrance to the northwest entrance. I didn't factor in the bear, and moose jams, as well as people just stopping in the middle of the narrow roads for pictures and such. I reminded myself I wasn't on a schedule and tried to relax. It really is a beautiful place.


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    Eventually I got to the NW entrance and the arch.
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    Once clear of the park my average speed picked up, and I kept heading north. Along the way I passed through the Lewis and Clark National Forest.
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    Which was also beautiful. And there was the usual array of strange things on the side of the road.
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    It didn't seem to take long before I was here-
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    This time I had no trouble finding somewhere to camp.


    This was my first visit to Glacier and I was willing to be impressed, so I was. After the heat of the plains the cooler air was welcome, and the food at the campground (the one night I was there and they had it. Food only on the weekends) was excellent.
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    Inside the park I played tourist and gawked at everything.
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    I learned those bowl-shaped valleys are formed by glacial movement. Water made valleys are V-shaped. I would see a lot of bowl-shaped valleys.


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    The middle third of Logan Pass, the one road through the park, was under construction. Gravel and mud, but given my ride plan for the next few months I knew I couldn't complain. And there was a goat jam. Clearly some people were more impressed than others, give the number of times I heard “They're just goats people! Keep moving!” yelled out windows.
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    One of the guilty goats in question.


    The top of Logan Pass still had a lot of snow.
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    So much snow, in fact, that most of the hiking trails were closed. I found out which were open and planned to come back the next day for some hiking.
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    Being from the Midwest I am constantly mesmerized by mountains. We don't have any. I wonder if people from the mountains get the same way staring across the vast plains. Come to think on it, I get that way staring across the vast plains.


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    It was getting late, and I wondered if I should loop around the outside of the park or cut back over the pass. In the end I took the pass. This time I had it to myself.
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    The next morning I rode up to the top of Logan Pass, planning to spend at least part of the day hiking. There were already some crowds.
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    The red trucks were built specially for the Glacier Park Resort. They are open-topped, and you can sign up for tours in them. 200 were built, and 50 or so are still running. I didn't take the tour, since I wanted to be able to stop where ever I wanted. Call me anti-social.


    The hiking trail was...well...
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    well marked I guess you could say. It started off a bit chilly, but I was shedding layers quickly given the slope and altitude. Hiking 9,500 feet lower is way less work.
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    Eventually I did flee to a lower altitude and found another trail.
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    Also well marked.
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    The end of that trail, Three Waterfall Lake. It was a popular spot, given the walk to get there.
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    And while it was possible to hike a little farther I decided to just hang out on the beach for a while.


    The hike back was simple enough (down is always easier). I headed back for my last night in the campground before heading to Canada the next day.
    #28
  9. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    I haven't left the USA since 9-11. No particular reason. I had gone to Eastern Canada before then, but didn't need a passport at the time. I had a passport now, but will admit to some nervousness as I rolled up to the border crossing. Just some concern over the unknown, and in truth I should probably have been more concerned about getting back into the USA than out of it.

    It was cold and overcast, so I stopped here
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    to add a couple of layers. It was a popular place to stop, though I think it was mostly for the bathroom.
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    More snow. It was July, for crying out loud.


    Of course, the crossing was a non-event.
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    Once in Canada I relaxed a little and looked at stuff.
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    (okay, that might not be quite in Canada yet. I took poor notes on some of these pictures.)


    The sun was coming out too, and I stopped in a small town to take off some of the layers I had added back when it was cold. Then I noticed I had a lot of oil on my left pant leg...and boot...and engine.
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    One of the two bolts holding the camshaft cover on had come out. It took me a couple of hours in the town to find a replacement. Actually, it took me about 5 minutes to find a replacement and a hour and 55 minutes to find a store that sold hardware. I wasn't expecting to have language issues until Mexico, and no – it wasn't French.


    Once I got the bolt replaced and oil refilled I took the time to wash off the bike. It hadn't been washed since I left home, but I needed to get the oil off so I could spot any new leaks. There weren't any.


    It was late in the day so I found somewhere to stop. I had hoped to be closer to Calgary, but no such luck. In the morning I got up and rode the last couple of hours into the city.


    There was some shopping I wanted to so, trading out my cheap and largely ineffective compression bags for higher quality ones. This done I decided I would look at a tent upgrade. My tent had definitely been leaking the last time I used it, and while I could probably have found some spray resealent I was being tempted by all the new tents available.


    So I bought this one-
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    In truth, looking back, I couldn't tell you why. It isn't free standing and probably increased the weight of my luggage by 30%. I will freely admit it is comfortable though. And roomy.
    With the new tent and gear obtained I shipped another round of stuff back to Wisconsin. Then I headed for the house of a couple I had met back at Glacier. They were exploring on their bikes (HD's) and offered me a place to stay if I was near Calgary. I called them up to make sure they were still open to company and then stayed at their house for a night. They were all leaving again the next day, so I couldn't stay any longer, but the one night was perfect and they gave me good tips on where to head next and how to get there. And there was food.
    #29
  10. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    I left Calgary with some routing tips, heading back for the mountains. The people I stayed with had told me about a town called Banff, which was at the southern end of the Banff National Park (Canada has national parks too, how cute.)

    My new friends were of very mixed opinions on whether I should actually go to Banff. The national park they all thought was worth the visit, it was the town the had mixed feels on. It was supposed to be very touristy and expensive. I didn't mind the touristy thing, but expensive was something else. They also gave me some route suggestions which I gleefully followed.


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    The weather was also very nice.


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    And the views got better as the day wore on.
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    Eventually I reached the town of Banff. I had decided to at least stop and look around a little, since I had never been. It was touristy, and expensive, but there was a regular grocery store I got supplies for camping, and the information center was nice enough to help me find a camp site. They also recommended getting bear spray. I hadn't actually bought any yet, not in some “oh, be nice to the bears” mentality so much as just not yet having felt like I needed it. But there were bears living just outside of Banff, and while none had been reported in the campground golfers weren't allowed on the course without spray. So I got a can.


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    No bears, yet, but there were a lot of other animals around. And I got to set up my new tent!
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    I was already having second thoughts about it, the thing was huge. It got a little better when I repacked it, but I was still wondering what I was thinking whenever I picked it up.
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    Still some nice views though.


    The next day was overcast, and felt colder. I was going to ride north, along the Icefield's Parkway. ICE fields. Why didn't I think that all the way through and dress warmer I have no idea.


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    Clouds get less cloud-like as you ride into them.


    I had to pay to enter the park, since they didn't recognize my US Park Pass for some reason, and asked the ranger what I needed to stop and look see. She recommended Peyto Lake without hesitation, so when I saw the sign I stopped.


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    There was a short hike from the parking lot to the overlook of the lake. I was surrounded by
    Asians and Germans – no one was speaking English. It was a little surreal. It was also raining, sleeting and snowing. Snowing, in later July. And cold. But I kept on walking.


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    Payto Lake did not disappoint.


    I couldn't stay there, though, since hypothermia was closing in. I went back to the bike and added a couple of layers, fishing out my electric gear, then continued on.
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    The views remained awesome, and Blue and I enjoyed a light lunch on the side of the road.


    I reached the Columbia Icefield
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    which was even colder than Peyto, but there wasn't water falling from the sky so it was more bearable.
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    Yay learning.


    Somewhere along the way I went from Banff to Jasper National Park, then I was in the town of Jasper. I decided to replace my rear tire, which was showing wear bars. I probably could have kept it, but I like to replace my tires early when I can. Prince George had a tire of the correct size in stock and I told them I would be there the next day. Then I left the national parks and went looking for somewhere to camp.


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    And there was my first wild bear of the trip. In what would become standard, I stopped the bike without turning it off, got out my camera, careful to have the strap on, took pictures of the bear, then put camera away and rode off without ever killing the motor or getting off the bike. And everyone else stopped their cars, got out (sometimes locking the doors), and went walking around like they were in a zoo.


    My mom had been worried over the increase in bear attacks on 2011, but I think it was just an increase in stupid people.


    I found camping in McBride, and set up my massive tent again.
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    then cooked myself dinner over the fire. Three Wisconsinite KLR's pulled into the same campground later, but I completely forgot to take their picture. Oops.


    The following day I got to Prince George and got a tire. It was generally a non-event, and I took an extra day so some rain could clear out. From there I was heading for the Alaskan Highway.
    #30
  11. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    The Alaska Highway was built back in the 40s as a route to get American stuff to Alaska through Canada. It starts in the south at Dawson Creek, where there is a nice large sign (two, actually) for pictures, and runs north to a place called Delta junction where there are two gas stations and a campground. Well, and a decent place to eat, to be honest.

    I had mixed feelings about Dawson Creek and the sign, so when a local told me the road sucked and I needed to ride through the Peace River Valley, I was immediately interested. When I found out the Peace River was going to be dammed, and the valley was going away forever, I decided I had my route.


    The extra day in Prince George meant I had excellent weather as I headed north.
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    The river had some nice views too.
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    I passed through the town of Chetwynd, which was the last gas for a while and the lines were very long. Luck for me they were mostly big RV's and Semis, so I just filtered in to a free pump that was being blocked. Once the fueling was done I took a moment to look at Chetwynd's civic art.
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    There were these wooden cravings all over the place.
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    Back on the road, I entered the valley proper. I knew I was there because of all the “Save the Peace River Valley” signs.
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    I could see their point.
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    I camped near Charlie Lake, then got onto the ALCAN proper the next day. At my first fuel stop I met this guy -
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    Jeremy, from the Isle of Man. He shipped the bike to New York, and rode across Canada to Dawson Creek. I had seen his bike back in Banff, but hadn't thought about it much. Little did either of us know that we would be seeing each other all the way south. (I guess those VFR's aren't actually all that fast, since Curiosity could keep up).
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    I met these people and their totally awesome retro RV
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    I got a brief tour and learned the owner had 4 or 5, which he used to keep one running. He was with his wife and sister-in-law, and despite that seemed to be have a really good time. So much so that I met them again about 30 minutes out of town. He had forgotten to get gas and had run out. The mounties were already on the way with gas.


    One thing about the ALCAN, it really is the only road. Since everyone travels at different speeds, sometimes you need people once, and sometimes you keep running into them over and over. These RVer's I did run into again, further north. The Mounties had brought 5 gallons of gas for their RV, which got them half way back to town. Another trip was needed. If there was a cost he didn't tell me.


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    That is Stone Mountain, where I was headed. The road went not quite over it, and I had heard there was camping at the top. This turned out to be less than perfect, since it was also cold at the top (it was August, and it wasn't supposed to be cold as far as I was concerned). I ended up passing on the mountain top view, and went down the far side to a place called Toad River.
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    No, there weren't any toads. It was a swallow place in the river that require boats to be pulled along with ropes from the shore. It seems the locals at the time had some spelling issues. At least, that is what the article in the menu of the lodge said.


    Toad river was typical of a town on the ALCAN. There was somewhere to camp, gas, a small store, a couple of buildings. The larger ones had an airstrip. Since turning onto the road I had been on chipseal, tar with gravel pressed into it. I saw a couple of cars and trucks a day, and the distance between fuel stops was around 100-150 miles.
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    And it was all amazingly beautiful.
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    Back on the road and headed North and West, it was getting cooler, especially at night, but the days were still perfect.
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    I set my destination for the day as Watson Lake, which was only a short ride. I felt like I had been pushing myself and the bike too hard the last few days, partly stunned at how big Canada was. I could ride for hours and it seemed like I hadn't moved on the map at all, which can be a little depressing. So, the short day. Oh, and Watson Lake does have something else to attract attention -
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    I went to the visitor center to ask about camping and eating choices. While the ladies there were more than happy to suggest a campground, they wouldn't give any hints on where to eat. I was a little annoyed by this, but got over it when they gave me detailed fuel locations for the two routes north from Watson Lake. I had been thinking about the Robert Campbell Highway, but the fuel stop I had on my map had, in fact, closed. That meant I would be just about on fumes before reaching the next fuel stop unless I packed extra fuel.


    At the campground they immediately directed to a restaurant which had excellent food. They were also able to tell me the places that sold gas cans, but as it turned out the smallest I could get was 3 gallons. That was more gas than I carried in my tank, and the can was so big there wasn't a good place to secure it on the bike. So I decided to stay on the ALCAN. Then I spend some time in the signpost forest.


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    In the morning I packed back up and got back on the road. Alaska was still far away.
    #31
  12. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    I left Watson Lake still heading north on the Alaskan Highway. There was road art of a sort [​IMG]
    words on the side of the road.


    The views were nice too.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    When I got to Whitehorse I headed right to the visitor's center to ask about camping options.
    [​IMG]
    There were only a couple, and they suggested Robert Service, which was more of a tent hostal than campground. And there was a housing shortage in Whitehorse when I was there, so the campground was almost full with long term residents. They had all the good campsites too.


    The Whitehorse visitor center wasn't afraid to recommend somewhere to eat, and when I got there I ran into Jeremy (VFR, Isle of Man) again. He was in town looking for a new tire. I needed an oil change, but I was going to the Yamaha dealer, and he was planning on the Honda shop, so we had dinner than said we would see each other later.


    The next morning I rode over to the Yamaha dealer and asked if I could do my own oil change, if I bought their oil and paid an environmental fee for disposing the old oil. The guys there just laughed, surprised I wasn't just going to dump the oil somewhere. I didn't think about it until later, but I have to hope they didn't just dump the oil somewhere themselves.
    [​IMG]
    I did make a bit of a mess on the cement, which bothered me but no one else. Jeremy showed up, the Honda dealer didn't have a tire for his VFR (which really isn't their fault – how many VFR's are going to Alaska?). The Yamaha place did, and stopped other work in the shop to get his bike sorted. We also got coffee, cookies, little folding knives, and free internet. Nice place, if you are in the area and need something.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    With the bike sorted I got lunch
    [​IMG]
    then went to look at a paddlewheeler-turned-museum, the Klondike
    [​IMG]


    It was the last paddlewheeler to work the Yukon river, and the biggest. I took the walking tour.
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    After dinner in the campground and another night sleep I was back on road. The Alaskan Highway kept heading to Fairbanks. That was the direction Jeremy was headed, but I wanted to go to Dawson City and the Top of the World Highway.


    On the road north, the Klondike Highway, the weather turned against me. Cold and rain. I stopped in the city (store, hotel, gas station and a couple houses) of Carmaks for fuel and to warm up. There were a couple of fellow American's headed south after a speed run up the Dempster. They apparently did it in a day, which is impressive and didn't sound like much fun. Once I was ready to go, the bike was dead.


    I decided this was the bike telling me to stop, so I got a room in the hotel, took a long hot shower, then poked around to try and figure out what happened with the bike. This didn't really work. After bump starting the bike ran fine, the right amount of power going to the battery, the battery seemed to be holding the charge. I had turned on my heated liner on the road to Carmaks, and thought something was wrong there, but it was still charging even with the liner turned all the way up.


    With a mental shrug I spent some time online, eat an above average meal in the one restaurant, and went to sleep.


    In the morning the bike needed to be bump started, but after running for a while it was fine again. And the weather was much nicer.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    I can understand the charm of Dawson, with wooden sidewalks and dirt streets, fascades on some of the buildings, it does a much better job of capturing the feel of a rugged frontier town than the ones in the lower 48 like Dodge City. It was small too. There was no bridge over the river, so you had to take a ferry to cross, and all the tent-friendly camping was on the other side. So I was off to the boat.
    [​IMG]
    At least it was free.
    There were two camping options, private and public. The Private campground, a tent hostal, claimed wifi and hot showers for $2 more, so I went there. The wifi router was broken, and the hot showers were actually heat-the-water-yourself hot sponge baths. I was still tempted, but passed.


    I did spend some time walking around Dawson. Unfortunately most of the stuff was closed. There was a museum still open and other odd sights to look at.
    [​IMG]
    One hundred year old wall


    Eventually I headed back across on the ferry and to my tent. The sun was setting very late, and I could still read outside at 1030pm. Still, falling asleep was easy enough.


    The morning was chilly, but the sun was out and I was pretty sure it would warm up.
    [​IMG]
    Top of the World Highway is entirely gravel, which is why Jeremy had passed on it. But the gravel is in excellent condition, at least on the Canadian side, and I made good time.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    With lots of stops for pictures, of course.


    I stopped for lunch in a small pull out
    [​IMG]
    after after my spaghettios the bike was, again, dead. No idea why, again, and no convenient hill for bump starting. Still, I tried it a few times, then decided to flag down passersby until I got a jump.
    [​IMG]
    A got a lot of people to stop, but no one actually had jumper cables. But eventually we all managed to get the bike running again with the help of some Australians, and I was back on the road, determined not to turn the bike off again until I got to Chicken, the night's destination.


    [​IMG]
    Back in the USA. Cranky border guards ruined any joy and being 'home.'


    [​IMG]
    One of Chicken's dozen or so buildings. If you get gas here, you get to camp for free. The pavement returned not long after Chicken, and it is a popular place to stop.
    [​IMG]
    I camped with two other motorcyclists, and a bicyclist. The pedaler had a cracked rim, and was worried about how far he would have to go to get to Tok, the closest place he had a chance at a repair. It was only 70 miles or so, but that was pretty far for a bicycle.


    In case you ever wonder why the place is called Chicken-
    [​IMG]
    And the cafe had excellent food.


    We made an earnest attempt to burn all the free firewood, then called it a night.
    #32
  13. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    I left Chicken headed towards Fairbanks. The gravel road ended and the pavement (chipseal) returned. [​IMG]


    Curiosity was a little dirty, but not too bad. Since it looked like it was going to rain I decided to immortalize the dirt with a couple of pictures.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    The rain didn't appear for hours, but the skies remained overcast and it was chilly. Not the best riding weather, but I was in Alaska.


    My plan was to get to Fairbanks, find a hotel for two nights, and try to ride up to the Arctic Circle without all my luggage. I got to town and went to the visitor center. There I found out all the hotels were full. Tour groups arrive in Fairbanks on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they fill all the hotels on those days. After a while I asked about the University of Alaska Dorms, which I had heard allowed people to stay when school wasn't in session. I didn't know when school started, but a phone call found out there was one night left. Not ideal, but I took it and headed over. It was a dorm room, reminded me of college, and not really the good parts. But free internet and laundry, so I have to recommend it, if you are there at the right time.


    With the first night's lodging secured I asked around about night number 2. All the hotels were open now, and I found the super 8 was more than happy to watch my luggage during the day.


    With all that out of the way, I settled in to back up some pictures online and sleep.


    In the morning I adjusted the valves in the dorm parking lot. Students could start moving in later in the day, so they were eager to get rid of me. I found the connection to my heated gear was worn and grounding to the frame. I figured this was the cause for the battery issues, and I even had a spare.


    I checked out of the dorm and went to the Super 8. I checked in, sort of, and dumped my stuff, then went next door for breakfast. I had actually made something at the dorm, but couldn't resist when I saw the sign
    [​IMG]
    After this I finally hit the road.


    It had been raining the past few days, which is bad news for trying to get to the arctic circle, but Curiosity was light and even with road tires I was feeling pretty confident.


    I actually rode into a cloud a few times, which was cool,
    [​IMG]
    But eventually the pavement went away again and I was riding on mud. Worse, my spare gas can fell off and got a hole, which meant I was going to be pushing my max range again.
    [​IMG]


    Finally I gave up and headed back to fairbanks. I was starting to get really concerned about hurting myself or the bike in a fall, and I had a long way to go. It didn't seem worth it for a picture of a sign.


    I got back to Fairbanks and took a shower. My riding stuff, and Curiosity, was covered in mud. I brushed some of it off, but figured it added character. Even though I hadn't made it to the Arctic, it was still late in the day by the time I got back to the hotel and I ended up just making dinner.


    The next morning was bright and sunny, mocking me a little I thought. The general plan was to ride to Denali National Park, but I had seen one of those little pamphlets in the hotel that I wanted to investigate- an auto museum. I didn't really expect much of anything, but the ride was going to be short and I thought it would be a fun way to kill an hour or so.


    [​IMG]
    The building looks like a warehouse, and is in the parking lot of a hotel. It was even a little tricky to get too, despite the map on the pamphlet. But inside it was awesome.
    [​IMG]
    Not the largest collection, but one of the staffers pointed out every car has been selected based on something unique about that particular model. There isn't the lines of gradual changes, but dramatic and amazing innovations, some of which caught on, and some that didn't.


    [​IMG]
    A direct friction drive, for example.
    [​IMG]
    A woman's car, with the driver in the back and the seats arranged so everyone faced each other...so it was easier to chat. This car, a 1912 Rauch and Lang, was electric as well. So the motor didn't have to be shouted over.


    I took a couple of hundred pictures, and spent hours and hours there. If you are in Fairbanks I would highly recommend it...they only have one motorcycle but that isn't the point, it was like a shrine to mechanical movement.


    But staying another night in Fairbanks wasn't going to work, so I got on the road heading south. I would be heading south for months, so I thought I better get used to it.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The day was warm and pleasant. It wasn't far until I reached Denali.
    [​IMG]
    I got a campsite, but was told I had to park somewhere else (about a half hour walk from the camping area). I did think about putting Curiosity into the tent and hiding it there, but decided to be a good, law abiding sort and just unpacked it.
    [​IMG]
    The walk back was actually nice.
    #33
  14. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    Denali was cold. I don't know it was altitude or the approaching winter, but I woke around 3am, curled up in the bottom of my sleeping bag. I was already in my thermals, so I added another pair of socks and tried to get back to sleep with poor results.

    As dawn crept in I realized I could see it through hundreds of little holes in my sleeping bag. My bag was twenty years old, I used it when I was in boy scouts. But I don't recall ever being cold before. I had woke up chilled a few times, but this night was different. And my water froze.


    I had wanted to be at the visitor's center around eight. You can't ride into the park, but have to take a bus. They leave on a schedule, and to get deep into the park you have to leave early. But I was defeated by the chill and didn't really stir from the depths of my bag until after ten. I wasn't sleeping, I just couldn't get warm. Even tea (with water from the restroom, since mine was still ice) didn't help. I did find some compatriots in my misery with others filling small pots and kettles from the sinks.


    Once the sun had gotten some warmth into the day, and into me, I got up and walked over to the visitor center. There I found out the night had been below freezing, and the next night was going to be the same.


    I spent some time in the visitor's center with Blue. He didn't complain about the cold at all.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    I didn't know it yet, but this would be the only bull moose I saw the whole trip.


    After a warm lunch I decided to wimp out and head for Anchorage. It wasn't far, and once there I could replace my sleeping bag. I hadn't much liked being cold. So I rode Curiosity back to my site and packed up, then hit the road heading south.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    If any of you are looking for a new business venture up north (way up north) I found this -
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    An igloo hotel. I might have been tempted to stay there, if it had been open. At least it was getting warmer as I got closer to Anchorage.


    Once in town I headed for the Harley Davidson dealer. They offer free camping for riders, and that includes showers and coffee. I passed on the coffee, but the shower was nice. Anchorage also has an REI (which shouldn't be a surprise), where I hoped to find a replacement sleeping bag.
    After my tent was up I rode over to the REI and looked at what they had in stock. I intended to spend the night researching which bag I should be getting from the available models and getting one the next day. I was also tempted by smaller tents. The Nomad really was comfortable, but it was also huge. I mean, really huge.


    After browsing for a while I headed for dinner. I had gotten a couple of suggestions on where to go, and one was right across the street from where I camped, so I went there. It had a standard up north décor.
    [​IMG]
    In the morning I did an oil change with the help of the Harley Dealer
    [​IMG]
    I wonder if this will make Curiosity louder? More of a rumble?


    I adjusted the valves too, then headed out for some shopping. I had ridden past Alaska Leather on the way to REI, but it was closed then. Today it was open and I stopped to get a replacement strap for my seat pad, which had stopped be elastic a long time ago. After looking at my pad the ladies in the store immediately recommended a replacement. I guess they do wear out over time and miles.
    [​IMG]
    Blue liked the new pad much better.
    [​IMG]
    And, of course, he was a hit with the ladies.
    [​IMG]


    After I pried him away we went to REI and got a Lost Ranger Big Agnes bag, which also meant a new sleeping bad, since Big Agnes designs their pads and bags as a unit. My old sleeping bag and air mattress I shipped home, and the compressor I had been using with the airmattress I gave to another rider camping at the Harley dealer who was blowing his up with his mouth.


    With the shopping done I wandered around Anchorage for a while, eating lunch at Bear Tooth theatrepub and grill, another recommended spot. It wasn't cheap, but was good. I wasn't interested in either of the movies that were playing.


    After lunch I wandered around Anchorages museum, which had an excellent Mammoth exhibit.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Blue says he is related to this guy so I needed to be nicer. I had my doubts.


    After the museum I headed back to the campsite and made myself dinner. As the sun set I crawled into my new bag.


    When I woke in the morning I was amazed at the difference. I hadn't felt so rested in the morning in weeks, and it opened my eyes to the fact I was probably always cold at night when I was sleeping and Denali was just worse. Even the rain in the morning didn't hurt my spirits.


    I packed up my stuff and headed for my next location. Anchorage was nice, and free camping always good, but I was ready to get out of the city and head back into the woods. I was headed for the Kenai.
    #34
  15. PorLaTierra

    PorLaTierra Por La Tierra

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2012
    Oddometer:
    130
    Location:
    Madrid, the coolest city on the planet.
    I was digging the report. I just bought an early 80s SR250 and Ive taken a few small trips on it. I love it, ive had a few 650s in the past but I think this thing is my new favorite touring bike. Will you be continuing the report? How far did you make it? I want more!
    #35
  16. xsPain

    xsPain Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    65
    I did write more, on other forums which had more activity. Everything got all busy and stuff. I will find more of the posts and add them on, just give me some time.
    #36
  17. C-Stain

    C-Stain Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2009
    Oddometer:
    13,921
    Location:
    Canoodia
    Please post some more! As a fellow Paramedic, who has done his fair share of Interfacility, Hospice and Heart Wrenching calls, I can certainly understand why you took off to follow your dreams. While I can't do it myself at the present time, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. I hope to see some more...

    C.
    #37