Riding Full Circle: faux husband and wife fight their way around the world

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ridingfullcircle, Mar 27, 2016.

  1. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    The G650GS Tries To Commit Suicide. Again.

    Aug 12, 2016—The morning we left Chicken, Ak my bike would not start. We had to jump it a few times before it finally caught well enough to idle then it stalled three times just getting out of the parking lot. On the dirt highway bringing us into Tok from Top of the World, it got marginally better but had no pep. I had a cold and a poor sleep plus we had over 500 km (310 mi) to ride that day. My bike needed to work.

    [​IMG]

    Dave Sears wonders why no one told him about the family creek.

    In Tok and Delta Junction we both filled our fuel tanks with the same pump at the same time. When we left Tok, my bike was down to four gears. When I tried to rev it high enough to get into fifth for highway speeds, it would just bog down and would almost stall. I’d have to knock it down to fourth gear, which had the revs running way too high. All I could do was keep riding to get closer to our destination.

    A while later, we had 145 km (90 mi) to go to get to Fairbanks, Ak where I was looking forward to seeing a good old friend of mine, Ed Bueler, and his wife Jill and their kids Thomas and Vera. Ed and I had climbed mountains in past years and had had some epic trips. I couldn’t wait to tell stories and hear what had happened in his life during the last 14 years we hadn’t seen each other.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Huascaran (22,205 ft/6768 m), the highest mountain in Peru, SA, is one of the peaks I climbed with Ed almost 20 years ago. Dave and I passed this way on our South American trip this year and snapped these photos to send to Ed.

    About 10 km (6 mi) out of Delta Junction, Ak my bike would not rev high enough to even get it into second gear. By this time, my nerves and Dave’s were fried. I pulled over onto the shoulder with my hazard lights flashing so traffic could get around me. Over our Sena communication systems, Dave, annoyed, asked what I was doing. I wasn’t sure why he had to ask me that as he knew my bike was having major problems. I answered sarcastically. So that we wouldn’t be fighting while I was trying to ride a malfunctioning bike, we pulled into a vacant hotel parking lot and let each other have it. It was becoming clear my Frankenbike was causing stress in our relationship. Dave hated that he couldn't fix it and I hated that I'd bought it secondhand. This wasn’t the first time it was acting up and it sure wouldn’t be the last.

    After we’d calmed down, I phoned Ed to let him know we were having mechanical issues. He said he had a truck with a hitch mount we could borrow if I wanted to call U-Haul and ask about a trailer. I did and we had a trailer lined up for the following day.

    With a plan in place, I packed only what I needed onto the back of Dave’s bike then he followed me the 10 km (6 mi) back to Delta Junction where I asked the fuel station where we’d filled up if they would kindly store my bike in their garage until tomorrow afternoon. They said no problem and we took off for Fairbanks riding two-up on Dave’s bike.

    The Bueler family welcomed us out on their lawn when we pulled up and seeing their smiling faces helped us put aside our troubles for the moment.

    That evening, Ed and I enjoyed catching up telling stories about some of our climbs in the past. We had planned to stay about 3-4 days before we headed up the Dalton Highway, although that plan was looking grim with my sketchy bike.

    The following morning, Dave and I used Ed’s truck to drive to U-Haul in Fairbanks to pick up the trailer, which only cost $25 USD ($33 Can) plus a ball mount for about $25 USD ($33 Can) and some tie-down straps for about $20 USD ($26 Can).

    All set, we drove to Delta Junction 145 km (90 mi) away and found my bike where we’d left it in the fuel station garage. We loaded it up then turned on our heels to head back to Fairbanks. We wanted to get my bike into the BMW dealer as soon as possible. It was Saturday and they’d be closed Sunday. We hoped to be back on the bikes riding north to Deadhorse, AK, the world’s northern-most road-accessed settlement, by Tuesday.

    [​IMG]

    An Alaskan local asked me, "Ain't you supposed to be ridin' that bike?"

    Once at the Fairbanks dealer, (Outpost Alaska), we explained what was happening to my G650GS. Brad, the mechanic, was finishing up a job and immediately took my Frankenbike in to assess the problem. We stood looking through the shop door. My fingers were in my mouth, biting my nails. Dave’s arm was around my shoulders. We looked like concerned parents whose kid was in the emergency room, awaiting the news.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Eventually, we retired to the Outpost’s traveller’s lounge catching up on e-mails and watching TV before Brad and Gary called us over to the counter to say there was either kerosene or diesel in my fuel tank. Heaving a big sigh of relief it wasn’t anything too bad, I asked what would happen next. Brad flushed out the bad fuel, topped it up and also pulled a new fuel injector from a shop bike to replace mine, which had been damaged.

    Later, though, we asked each other why Dave’s bike wasn’t affected; he filled up at the same place with the same pump. We can’t be sure where the bad fuel came from or when. It could have been any of the places we’d filled up in the last 500 km (310 mi), which was when I noticed my bike misbehaving.

    But for now, my G650GS was back on the road!

    Next posting we'll see if the G650GS makes it.

    Stay curious!

    We love comments! The comment field is below but you need to click into the first ‘comment’ field, then TAB (don’t click) to the other fields. If you have a prob, us our contact form.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #41
  2. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    The Dalton Highway – Part One

    On Aug. 15, 2016 Dave and I brought Frankenbike home from the bike-ospital. We had it for about three minutes when I noticed there was no odometer reading or any other working component on the dash. Dave rode it back to Outpost BMW and after a quick assessment it was determined to be the work of an over-enthusiastic pressure washer. Phew.

    With the bike back and ready for action, Dave and I looked for a good weather window to ride the Dalton Highway north to Deadhorse, Ak, North America’s most northern road-accessible settlement. We’d heard time and again from motorcyclists and other travellers that the Dalton was not a place you wanted to be when the weather was poor. We had a five-day weather window starting in about two days, so planned to head north on Aug. 17.

    For now we wanted to enjoy hanging out with our hosts, Ed and Jill Bueler, introduced in the last blog post. That afternoon, Ed, Dave and I went to the riffle range. I shot a .22 and nailed the bullseye with a few rounds. It had a scope though and I’m sure that makes it almost impossible to miss your target.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    We also spent a few hours one day riding bicycles with the whole family out to a blueberry patch where we picked hordes and hordes to make jam, pies and syrup. It was so great to just sit in the bushes with nothing to do but pick and eat. One for me two for the bucket!

    [​IMG]

    The bugs were pretty bad.[​IMG]

    ...but I think Dave just loves wearing this.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    On Aug. 17, Dave and I loaded up our bikes for our five-day trip up the Dalton, asking Ed and Jill if we could leave a few things in their garage to make the bikes a little lighter. Every pound counts.

    Some facts and stats about the Dalton Highway. Its namesake comes from James B. Dalton, who was an Alaskan expert in arctic engineering and oil exploration. The highway begins 134 km (84 mi) north of Fairbanks and ends 626 km (414 mi) in Deadhorse. It is a rough industrial highway that provides a rare opportunity to traverse a remote road leading to the top of the continent; Deadhorse. Here there is no access to the Arctic Ocean. That can only be arranged 24 hours in advance after a security check and a payment of $92 CAN ($70 USD) per person.

    [​IMG]
    SENA CAMERA
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    The Dalton visitor’s guide states using the road “involves real risks and challenges.” Food, gas and vehicle repair is extremely limited and there are no medical facilities. As well, you’ll find virtually no cell service or internet except at Coldfoot, where at time of writing, you can pay for third party internet via satellite. A 21-point checklist in the visitor’s guide recommends items for travelling on the Dalton like, two full-sized spares, extra fuel, a CB radio and to purchase all groceries ahead of time.

    Along the way, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the Trans-Alaska pipeline, which is a very impressive 1287 km (800 mi) engineering feat bringing oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. It was built in three years from 1974-77, changing the ‘remote’ Arctic forever.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    The Dalton highway was open to only commercial traffic until 1981 from milepost 211. In 1994, it was opened all the way to Deadhorse.

    The rugged beauty and remote feeling one experiences travelling along the Dalton is contrasting. In one sense, here is a place where you’ll see grizzlies, muskox, snowy owls, caribou, fox and any number of birds carrying on in their natural habitat as though you, a human, were not there at all. On the other hand, you are on a road leading to North America’s largest oil field.

    [​IMG]

    Hundreds of tanker trucks per day cruise up and down the Dalton carrying thousands of gallons of fuel, paralleling the tundra at highway speeds, while the ecosystem goes about its business barely noticing. The Dalton was a huge surprise to me; although an industrial gateway, the Dalton felt like an incredible journey into nature rather than the dust-billowing haul road of tailgating semis I was expecting.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When travelling along the Dalton, you’ll be desperately happy to find gas, food and people if you’re feeling lonely at such barren work camps as Yukon Crossing and Coldfoot.

    At milepost 115, Dave and I crossed the Arctic Circle again, only this time it was many degrees warmer than a few weeks ago going up to Inuvik. The weather was on our side this first day riding up the Dalton and my bike was riding like a champ after its stint at the Outpost. In my trip journal that night I wrote: “My bike might be better than ever, but let’s not tempt fate.”

    [​IMG]

    One day later, the rains came.

    Stay tuned for The Dalton Highway, Part Two, coming soon!



    We love comments! The comment field is below but you need to click into the first ‘comment’ field, then TAB (don’t click) to the other fields. If you have a prob, us our contact form.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #42
  3. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    The Dalton Highway—Part Two

    If you haven’t read Part One to this story, you can catch up here.

    As mentioned, everyone we talked to advised strongly against riding motorcycles on the Dalton if the weather was bad. Just like The Dempster Highway, the Dalton is covered with calcium chloride as well. This causes the road surface to harden up almost like concrete when dry and when wet it keeps ruts from being formed. However, when it rains, a thin layer of what people describe as ‘seagull shit’ forms as though nature has taken a giant knife and spread it like peanut butter on toast. This creates an unnerving surface only slightly better than black ice. Haul trucks lose traction in corners and slide off the road. Tourists driving vehicles usually just turn around. Dave and I? Well, we had already come this far…

    Our only good night camping on the Dalton was the first night after leaving Fairbanks. We had ridden about 400 km (250 mi) when Dave spotted a road leading up to a gravel pit with what turned out to be a great view of the valley below. No sooner had we pulled in when a dark grey Volkswagen camper van pulled in with a couple inside. They made to leave but Dave motioned over for them to stay and share the view with us, which later turned into sharing whiskey and stories around a fire. Elvira and Ingo turned out to be friends we would see by chance again in our Alaskan travels and we hope to see them in Europe during the next leg of our trip.

    The next morning was Aug. 18, 2016 and we woke up to our view from the night before. The trouble with vantage points is they also show bad weather coming your way. The skies looked a little moody to the north but we weren’t too concerned (read: ignorance is bliss) and packed up to get going.

    Atigun Pass was our largest obstacle this day. Under construction, we entered it in a whiteout with a fine drizzle of freezing rain. Here the Dalton crosses the Continental Divide and rises up and over the Brooks range at an elevation of 4,739 feet (1,444 m). It has been featured on the show Ice Road Truckers. I think this road is far worse in the winter, thus earning its name listed on the website dangerousroads.org, however it was certainly sporty enough just in the rain.

    [​IMG]

    Antigun Pass

    When we stopped in Coldfoot at the visitor’s centre to warm up, dry out and use real toilets, another rider pulled up and told us he had come from the north. He said he’d wiped out on his bike and saw four other male riders eat it in this section as well. He told us the last 57 km (36 mi) to Deadhorse was terrible mud and construction. Bile sloshed around in my stomach as I visualized being pitched into the tundra off my bucking stallion of a bike. Despite this, I figured 57 km (36 mi) was a fraction of road compared to the 626 km (414 mi) we’d be riding to get there. Plus if we got scared off by everything people said about the road ahead, we’d never have made it much past our front door. Our theory, which is mostly Dave’s but I’ll call it ‘ours,’ is not to turn around until we see the situation for ourselves.

    [​IMG]

    Tundra along the Dalton.

    As it turned out, the last 48 km (30 mi) to Deadhorse was pretty bad and the remaining 9 km (6 mi) I’d call terrible. The Dalton is being raised in this section by eight feet in order to curb flooding that destroys the road. For some reason they have chosen the worst kind of rock rubble to use as the road’s base; river rock, rock shards, gravel and let’s throw some mud in there to adhere it all together.

    [​IMG]

    Raising the Dalton.

    If you can imagine what a remote dirt road looks like under construction in the rain, you’ll have an idea of what we and the bikes looked like. My bike was taking every mile of it in stride. It was turning out to be a great round-the-world bike, I thought, and even Dave started warming up to it, reluctantly giving it a pat now and then.

    [​IMG]

    Mud and then some more mud.

    When the first stop sign appeared from a high-vis clad arm in the midst, Dave and I pulled up to await the first of several pilot car leads along the road. The guy came over to tell us it’d be a good 20 minutes wait then invited us to hang out with him in the company van to warm up and dry out a little. Inside, with the heat blasting through the vents he told us a little about his life growing up in a small village nearby in the Brooks Range. He loved taking his grandkids fishing and hunting and only had to work half the year at this job in order to make enough for the rest of the year when he could play with them out in the mountains. He’d taught them how to live off the land. We could see the pride beaming from his eyes.

    With great heaving sighs, we had to leave the warmth of the van and get back on the bikes. I plugged in my heated jacket and grabbed tight to the heated grips trying to feel the warmth through my thick gloves. We followed behind the pilot car, which ambled along way too slow to comfortably keep the bikes from tipping over. Note: if you drive a pilot car and you have motorcycles behind you, go at least 40 kmph (25 mph). We need speed baby!

    Eventually the pilot pulled over to let us pass. This section we were ‘guided’ through was full of deep gravel and mud but so far so good. We rode along for another while and it started to get a little hairy. There were two short sections of river rock to get through. Dave was in front of me and lost control of his back tire a few times but kept the bike upright. I was in a wheel rut more off the side and wasn’t having as much trouble. When that part was over I breathed a sigh of relief and wondered why the hell they used big, slippery, round river rock to surface that part of the road. But whatever, at least it was over and surely there wouldn’t be anymore of that nonsense. Right?

    The next pilot car led us through a very rough section that was covered in loose gravel and washboard. It felt like I had traded my bike in to ride a jackhammer. I had to work hard to keep my tongue out from between my teeth lest I bite it clean off. There was a semi behind me and Dave was in front. We were standing on our pegs for better balance and moving along at about 60 kmph (37 mph) when all of a sudden my bike’s engine cut out completely. Ever so conscious of the semi behind me, I quickly pulled in the clutch before it shuddered into a stall and drifted over to the right to roll to a stop on the shoulder, which was full of even deeper gravel. I lost my balance and the bike started going over on the left then… stopped? I looked down to see my side stand was down. Now it all made sense. These bikes have a sensor that cuts the engine when the side stand is down. The spring that holds the stand up had sprung clear off with all the vibration. I was relieved it wasn’t something severely wrong with the engine.

    Dave hadn’t seen me pull off. You can’t keep an eye on your mirrors while standing on the pegs. A pick-up truck stopped and I asked them to go after Dave and tell him to ride back. After the line-up of cars had passed, Dave rode back to me and we got busy with the almost impossible task of finding grey metal strewn in the grey gravel on a grey day after dozens of cars and semis had driven over them. With the road to ourselves for the time being, we walked back a mile to where I guesstimated having lost the spring, with four eyes glued to the ground trying to find the two missing parts. A bike without a side stand is very hard to mount and dismount. All I could think of was what a princess I’d look like waiting for Dave to come over to my bike and help me on and off. Giving up, we began walking back. Trucks and other vehicles were coming at us now following the return pilot car. A few stopped to ask if we were OK. At one point, Dave looked down and miraculously found the spring. This was half the assembly. The other was a very thin plate and we never found it.

    Once back at our bikes, Dave held my handlebars while I settled onto my seat. Once I had the bike balanced, he dug into the tool kit to find some bailing wire and jerry-rigged the side stand so it would stay up and not cut off the engine again. We rode on.

    The next pilot car took us through the worst of it. And she did it at the unbalancing speed of about 20 kmph (12 mph). Before we took off, though, she made a point to drive up to Dave and I, the only motorcycles, and put the fear of death into us.

    “It’s not good ahead,” she said. “The road is, like, really, really bad…” Then she waited a few beats as though expecting us to turn around and go back the way we came. We stared her down. She shrugged and turned the truck around to face Deadhorse, a mere 9 km (6 mi) in the distance.

    [​IMG]

    In seconds, we got into it; a field as far as the eye could see of loose baby head-sized river rock. WTF was wrong with these people? Who uses rocks for the top of a road? Gravel yes but rocks? Motorcycle tires are much thinner than that of a vehicle, which means they will slice through anything yielding, like mud, snow, sand or in this case rocks. Behind the pilot car, we plowed into the rocks like swimmers diving into shallow water. The only way out was to grab throttle and speed up. Think of waterskiing; the faster the boat goes the more likely the skier will rise to the surface. Boat slows down, skier sinks. I really wish someone would instruct pilot car drivers how to lead motorcycles through this crap. We couldn’t go faster than the pilot though so exerted tons of energy plowing the road with our bikes. By some grace of god, both Dave and I made it into Deadhorse without falling off our bikes, despite our rear tires lashing violently like a fish trying to free itself from a hook.

    Deadhorse, Alaska is not a pretty place even on the sunniest of days. You can tell that just by looking around. It’s a flat, charmless work camp stacked with Atco trailers at the end of the cold, northern earth and has hardly anything in the way of formalities for visitors. We pulled into a muddy parking lot and Dave came over to help me off my bike, then reefed it up on the centre stand. We asked a guy getting out of a truck where we could eat and he pointed at the door he was walking toward. Inside, we found the cafeteria and gorged ourselves on seafood chowder and chocolate pie. Dave went to the ‘lobby’ to ask how we paid for the food and also inquired about staying in the ‘hotel’, which was all inside this giant trailer. The price, brace yourself, was $155 CAN ($117 USD) per person, however that did include all your meals in the buffet-style cafeteria as well. Provided you would eat three meals a day, the price began to look less ridiculous. But still.

    [​IMG]

    The only real proof we were ever there at all.

    Although we’d just reached another one of our goals on our round-the-world trip, Dave and I ate mostly in silence, still a bit in shock about how tough the road was and that we’d have to do it twice. Dave asked if I would like to get a room for the night to rest after the cold, wet ride and spend a little time letting the realization sink in as to where we were. Our destination was unattractive. My answer was something like hell no. I wanted to get right back on that bitch of a road and get the hell out of there. For me, knowing there is impending doom lurking in the near future, I just want to get through it and put it behind me. I’d never felt so out of control of my bike while staying ‘in control.’ It was like climbing to the top of a sketchy mountain; you may have reached the summit but you’re not home free until you’ve done the decent. Spending the night chewing off my fingernails worrying about the ride out and that effing rocky road trying to keep 500 lbs of steal and plastic from taking me down with it… well let’s just say I wouldn’t get much sleep. It felt weird to get this far just to eat chocolate pie then turn tail but there’s not always a big prize when reaching your goal or destination.

    On the way back, I had more nerves than riding in. Knowing what was coming added to the weariness of riding in the cold rain and I was shaky on my bike. To top it off, I’d lost my rear brakes. We both had. This was the result of the mud grinding like sandpaper through things like brake pads and god knew what else. Dave rode behind me recording. Below is a 3 min clip of what this was all like.


    Clear of the worst and looking forward to getting back to our friends’ place in Fairbanks with hot showers and a warm, dry bed, Dave and I had a surge of energy and nailed down another 230 km (143 mi) at the end of our day getting all the way south to Galbraith campground, a beautiful spot that was overcast but dry and filled with golden fall colours. Here we took photos of our bikes covered in the calcium chloride plaster, thinking it hilarious and hard core. Later we toasted our success with whiskey at riding to the most northern settlement in North America, keeping the bikes upright and getting so many miles down the road to make for an easy ride back to Faribanks the next day. We slept soundly that night.

    [​IMG]

    Beautiful Galbraith

    [​IMG]

    Dave's exhaust.

    [​IMG]

    Heather's exhaust.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    The next morning we woke and got ready to hit the road. It was Aug. 20. The night had been chilly but not freezing, and unfortunately it was raining again. We loaded our bikes. This normally takes about 20 minutes by the time we lash down the last piece of luggage, stick earplugs in our ears and finish buckling our helmets. It took that much longer this day because Dave had to hold my bike while I got on. He was going to fix the side stand in Fairbanks.

    Seated in the saddle, Dave gave the thumbs up and I nodded—our cue to start the engines and get moving. Only my bike wouldn’t start. I tried again, making sure the side stand hadn’t dropped out of its bailing-wired harness. Nope. So WTF?

    Dave’s shoulders visibly sank under his riding jacket. He got off his bike and opened his pannier to fish out the Micro-start charger we carry to charge things like phones but will also jump start a V12 diesel engine. We’d used it before to jump the Frakenbike and it worked just fine.

    Not this time.

    After several tries and rising panic, we accepted help from a guy who drove by in a truck and camper. His name was Taz Tally. He lived in Homer, Ak and was travelling around the state writing a book on off-roading in Alaska.

    [​IMG]

    The dead Frankenbike.

    The diesel truck was able to jump the Fraknebike after three tries. Some part of us was relieved but of course, we couldn’t help but wonder what the helllll was wrong with my bike now.

    We thanked Taz and exchanged contact info because we hoped to get to Homer. On the road, I got the bike up to speed and we cooked along. For about a mile. The bike began to smell like it was on fire. I stopped beside a slimy pond where Dave sacrificed his water bottle to scoop out some sludge and throw it at my radiator. We were more concerned about getting ‘cool’ photos of our clay-covered bikes than using common sense to realize what that pottery was doing to our machines. In my case, it had clogged every fin in the rad and caused the bike to overheat. I got out my toothbrush and while Dave chucked water into the ridiculously small space that was my rad, I brushed away at the chloride trying to help the 650 vent itself.

    We got about 50 km (30 mi) down the road when the warning light lit up on my dash as though to say, no seriously this time I’m freakin’ boiling! And it was. I looked down to see the rad had blown its top and covered my left leg and boot in scalding hot coolant. Lucky for protective riding gear. It smelled like a mix of burning hair and curry. I pulled over, anticipating Dave’s reaction, and planted both feet on the ground, waiting for him to help me off the Frakenbike.

    Let’s do a wee tally. Within a week’s time, my bike had been on a trailer, and although the botched fuel wasn’t its fault, it still had some hang time in the shop. Now I had completely trashed the bike on the Dalton; no rear brakes, an overheating rad with a leak, a screwed up stater or charging unit, which is worse than needing just a new battery, and a malfunctioning side stand. I’d also blown one of the forks. Again. This bike was not made to travel anywhere but from home to work to Starbucks. It didn’t have the mettle. In Dave’s words it was like dragging around an ungrateful teenager whose parents were trying to give it worldly experiences, only all it wanted was to be at the mall.

    To me it was like the worst boyfriend ever; it would act like an asshole and when you’d call it out and threaten to break up, suddenly its attitude would change and be all nice and accommodating. I was in an abusive relationship with my bike. So many times in the last year it had left me stranded, caused stress in my relationship and even broken one of my bones. It was like Stephen King’s Christine in motorcycle form. Dave was convinced the Frankebike was trying to kill me. He hated it with a new vengeance as it had recently even swayed him into its loyal-less spell.

    Despite the abuse, I still look the bike’s side. I reasoned all I had to do was get it back in the shop and throw some money at it then all would be good. Dave gave me a look mixed with both pity and frustration and said, ”What about the next time it decides to act up and leave us stranded. And we’re in Africa…”

    I had a shitty decision to make but for now we had to get the bike back to Fairbanks. It was an extremely long ride back. For over 400 km (250 mi), we had to stop every 50 km (30 mi) to top the rad up with water.

    [​IMG]

    We spent some time that afternoon waiting on the side of the road flagging down pick-ups to see if they could take me and a G650GS to Fairbanks but we had little luck. Anyone heading south on the Dalton either had heavy equipment in the back from working up north or a dead caribou. One of our many problems was finding clean water en route to put in the rad. The Dalton didn’t have much in the way of running water but people who’d stop to ask if they could help often had water that could at least get us a few miles down the road. By this point, we’d left the fairing off that side of the bike to allow for easy access to the overflow cap. I’d strapped the piece of plastic to the back of my bike. We were quite the scene, my bike and I; covered head to toe in mud and a half put-together bike.

    I did a 70 km (45 mi) stretch into Yukon River alone as I’d gotten going after Dave did the last top up and was farkling with things on his bike. He had all the time in the world to catch me. Here we needed to get fuel for the bikes and find a place to camp. It was getting dark and we sure weren’t going to make it into Fairbanks at this pace, another 217 km (135 mi) away. I pulled up to the one pump attached to a giant drum of fuel then realized my conundrum; how to get off my bike without a side stand or a boyfriend. I repositioned the bike easing up ever so carefully to a concrete barrier where I gently leaned it to the right and hopped off the left. I heaved a big sigh then looked around and noticed a Jeep Cherokee full of four young guys watching me silent. One of them got out and asked where I’d come from and where I was going. I was caked in mud and had just taken off my helmet, hair awry. I must have looked like a crazy old lady to these guys but one came over to shake my hand and said I was "one badass woman." That kind of made my day.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    The fairing strapped onto the back of my bike.

    Dave pulled in about ten minutes later worried he’d missed me somewhere along the way. He’d expected to see me pulled over awaiting another top up but the bike had coasted farther than usual. We asked inside where we could camp and although signs said no camping everywhere we looked, the young girl inside said we could camp over by the visitor centre, a small shack just off the highway. All night we heard the sound of haul trucks coming and going, their tires sloshing through the seagull-shit soup. It hadn’t stopped raining all day. We just wanted to get back to Fairbanks to our friends and a dry place to sleep. One more night and we would be there.

    On Aug. 21, we got up early and packed away the soaking wet tent, put on our damp gear and after jump starting the Frakenbike, headed across the road for what turned into a two hour breakfast in the camp restaurant at Yukon River. We were talking with a bunch of fine folks who took pity on us and our dripping wet gear that left huge mud puddles under our seats, (sorry Yukon River staff). They lifted our spirits and around 9:30 a.m., we got our nerve up to ride the rest of the way into Fairbanks, knowing we’d be stopping four to six times along the way to top up the rad and flick clumps of clay out of the fins with a toothbrush and sticks.

    I watched my dash for the light more than I watched the slick-as-snot road. It would always come on halfway up one of those famous steep hills of the Dalton, with a semi on my ass and no shoulder to pull over onto. No rear brakes added a sweet element as well. My back tire slid out a few times in corners but I was riding the bike rough and aggressively to get back to Fairbanks. It didn’t have my heart anymore although I felt very sad my G650GS didn’t seem to want to be the bike I’d take around the world. We’d already done so many miles together, through Mexico, Central and South America and all through the U.S. up into the Northwest Territories and now Deadhorse. But now I saw the irony; my bike, that I once nicknamed the black stallion, had now became the dead horse on this trip and sometimes the steed needs to be put out to pasture.

    You’ll have to wait until the next post to see what happens next but it’s coming soon!



    We love comments! The comment field is below but you need to click into the first ‘comment’ field, then TAB (don’t click) to the other fields. If you have a prob, us our contact form.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #43
    TwilightZone likes this.
  4. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Breaking Up With My Bike

    After the experience with my bike on the Dalton, I had a big decision to make; do I keep the Frakenbike and put thousands into fixing it up or invest in another bike?

    Dave and I arrived back in Fairbanks on the afternoon of Aug. 21. It was comforting to roll up Ed and Jill's driveway and shut the bike off. The first thing I did was crater onto the lawn in all my gear. Laying there I saw Dave go over and pick up the garden hose. Time to get up or he’ll spray me, although I desperately needed it with my riding gear covered shoulder armour to toe armour in fine silt.

    [​IMG]So happy to be off the Dalton.

    It took a few hours to clean the bikes, our luggage and our gear. The calcium chloride did not come off easily. We had to use a scrubby to get everything off. Jill and Ed fed us a wonderful dinner that night and we slept blissfully, putting troubles aside for the time being.

    [​IMG]Dave cleans the calcium chloride off our bikes.

    The next day, good friends from Revelstoke, B.C. Canada visited us for the afternoon. Drew and Jen were travelling around Alaska in a super cool retro RV. We imagined the relaxing qualities of driving in a covered vehicle that had heat and music and indoor cooking facilities. Dave and I stared at the four-wheeled wonder like kids stare into the windows of candy stores. I glared over at my malfunctioning G650GS.

    [​IMG]Our friends from Revelstoke, Jen and Drew and their sweet travel wheels.

    After Drew and Jen left, Dave and I walked over to the BMW dealer to inquire what it would cost to fix my bike just to get it back to B.C. Then we discussed the cost to inspire the confidence needed to take it over to Africa and Europe. The bike needed a new radiator, front and rear brakes, stator, battery and control unit, a new side stand, front fork rebuild and a new set of tires front and rear… the list went on and the price rose and rose and got even worse once we looked into the cost of shipping parts to Alaska along with the time we needed to wait around until they arrived.

    It didn’t stop there either. These were just the repairs to get the bike out of the north. It didn’t include modifications to have the bike worthy for the next half of our trip. These mods included replacing the front wheel, which had a flat spot in it from the time I smoked a huge pothole going 120 mph (75 mph) in Mexico.

    [​IMG]The flat spot on my rim after hitting a pothole in Mexico.

    My G650GS had a 19 inch rim. If I was going to have to fix the rim anyway, I’d replace it for a 21 inch rim, which was going to be about $2,000 CAN ($1,600 USD). And then a new tire of course. We were also going to replace the fake exhaust at the back. A G650GS is a single cylinder but there are two pipes out the back, I guess for aesthetics.

    [​IMG]The above photo shows the single cylinder 650's twin exhaust.

    This wastes valuable space so we were going to re-route the exhaust to the main and convert the extra space to hold extra fuel. That was going to be about $670 CAN ($550 USD). All of this and the fact the bike already had over 55,000 km (34,175 mi), which I'd double next year, had me decided. I needed to break up with my bike. It wasn’t pulling its weight, was costing me a fortune to maintain and kept letting me down.

    I eventually found an F800GS that had lowered suspension. I was very nervous to try this bike. I’d always thought Dave’s F800 looked huge and intimidating and now I was on something similar in size. But part of me was curious if I was riding enough now that I could ride bigger bikes.

    After a few test rides, I felt fairly sure I could handle the bike and so before I could change my mind or agonize over spending extra money while on a tight two-year budget, I committed to a new relationship with another bike that I hoped I could count on. Dave was already in love with the 650's replacement. I was on the rebound and still reserving my feelings until I got some miles riding it and tested myself on some technical terrain.

    [​IMG]My replacement bike; an F800GS with Dave's bike behind and the old 650 in the background, jealous.

    There were a few sleepless nights wondering if it was worth it. If I should just fix the 650 and accept its limitations. We had such history together. It had patina. It had, sniff, a very expensive, custom-made seat just for me. Something I couldn’t transfer over to the F800. But as I write this now, after putting over 11,200 km (7,000 mi) on the F800 in under two months, both Dave and I have already been amazed at the difference in my riding. It’s interesting what can happen when you trust your steed![​IMG]The 650's replacement is also younger, more handsome, has a nicer body and has more endurance, if you know what I mean...

    We decided to crate and ship the 650 back to the west coast where we would keep it until we returned from our travels in the future. If we can spend time getting parts in an easier part of the world and fix the Frakenbike, it’ll still be a great bike for many adventures. Just not ours.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After Dave had nailed the last spike into the coffin, I mean crate, I kissed the 650's ass goodbye and looked longingly over at its replacement. It wasn’t long before Dave and I planned the next adventure. We were off within a few hours to explore the Denali Highway.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]Kissing the Fraknebike goodbye. For now...



    We love comments! The comment field is below. If you have a prob, us our contact form. We always reply. Check back under your comment post for our reply, it may take a week or so but we always reply.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #44
    TwilightZone and FailureDrill like this.
  5. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Testing Out The F800 On The Denali Highway

    With bike troubles behind us, I looked forward to testing out the F800 and what better place than exploring along the Denali Highway, a 217 km (135 mi) mostly-gravel road that leads from Paxson on the Richardson Highway to Cantwell on the Parks Highway, or vice versa. Dave and I wanted to do a day hike on Kesugi Ridge, which positioned us along the Parks Highway near Cantwell first. The ridge hike affords incredible views of Denali (Mt. McKinley), which Dave had summited in the spring of 2000.

    I’d hiked the 44 km (27 mi) Kesugi Ridge solo 14 years earlier in two long days rather than the recommended 3-4 because of bad weather and the ever-present sign of bears. The whole time Denali was covered in cloud right down to her lowest flanks. I never saw a sign of North America’s highest mountain the whole three weeks I was in Alaska except from over a hundred miles away while I was climbing Mt. Hajdukovich along the Richardson Highway.

    This time, however, Dave and I left Fairbanks in full sun. It was Aug. 29, a true Indian Summer kind of day. My F800 covered our first 320 km (200 mi) together with assuring ease; almost like it actually wanted to be part of the adventure! I was soon comfortable with its bigger frame and loved the lack of vibration that had accompanied my 650. The only downside was the seat. I’d had a custom-made seat on the 650, perhaps the best feature on that bike. I missed that seat terribly now and so did my ass.

    About 160 km (100 mi) south of Fairbanks along the Parks Highway, we crested a small rise and there she was: Denali in her entire jaw-dropping beauty. We could see every bit of her from the very few slabs of exposed rock near her summit to the glaciers cracked and creviced like an old face then down into the valley below, where the stark white snow contrasted heavily against the much lower, green carpeted peaks in the foreground. I’ve seen a million photos but to see the 20,310 ft (6,190 m) mammoth in person while a faint Alaskan breeze shifted around my face, was truly a moment to remember.
    [​IMG]
    A rare clear view of Denali (Mt. McKinley), 20,130 ft (6,190 m). Photo: Dave Sears

    Dave stopped on the side of the road. I pulled over and hopped off my bike then walked over to take photos. I got a few of him standing in front of his bike with his bagged peak in the background. If we were reluctant to leave such a scene, we didn’t have to worry. The Parks Highway offers many uninterrupted views of the Denali on days like this. I had ample time to stare and stare while riding to our hiking trailhead, Little Coal Creek.

    [​IMG]In the spring of 2000, Dave and his friend Andy had a successful accent of Denali, seen here in the background. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea

    Somehow it was already 4:00 p.m. and we still had a hike to do. We ate a big snack at the trailhead then secured our riding gear and luggage. There was broken glass around suggesting vehicle break-ins and we didn’t feel super comfortable leaving our gear on the bikes. Dave wandered into the woods with our riding boots and stashed them. For securing stuff to the bikes, we thread a very difficult to cut piece of webbing covered wire through our jacket sleeves and full face helmets then lash that around the frame of the bike with a coded locking carabineer.

    [​IMG]
    For locking our helmets and gear onto the bikes, we use this wire covered webbing, which is very hard to cut through, with a code-locking carabiner. Photo: Heather Lea

    Now in light hiking shoes and with small backpacks, we went for a walk. In less than two hours we had the views we wanted of Denali but the problem was the lighting. Although we were stoked it was a clear day, the sun was shining directly on the mountain giving it a very flat, washed-out look. We still took a lot of photos.

    [​IMG]
    Hiking Kesugi Ridge with Denali in the background. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    Nap time. Trying to wait until sunset for better photo opps. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    We thought about waiting until the sun set to get better shots but it was only 6:00 p.m. and in Alaska at that time of year the sun wouldn’t set for a few more hours There was a strong, chilly wind and we’d run out of snacks. I suggested hiking back to get our tent and camp stove but we quickly decided we didn’t want to leave our bikes and gear overnight at the trailhead. We hiked down and after making dinner in the parking lot, rode off to find a place off the highway to camp for the night.

    [​IMG]
    Beautiful light hiking back through the forest. Photo: Heather Lea

    In the morning, we rode about 65 km (40 mi) back north along the Parks Highway until the junction near Cantwell that brought us on to the Denali Highway, the first highway with road access to Denali National Park in 1957. (By 1971, the Parks Highway had been established.) The Denali Highway is poorly maintained and closed from October to May, with “washboarding and extreme dust” very common. There are no speed limit signs but it’s recommended you drive 48 kmph (30 mph). Like flicking a stink bug off my shoulder, I tossed that advisory aside once it was clear the F800 had much better capability than my old 650 skipping over obstacles like rocks and ruts, likely due to a combination of the 21 inch front wheel, better positioning of the front forks and better overall suspension.

    [​IMG]
    The F800 along the Denali Highway, just doing its thing, looking cool and stuff. (Notice how Dave is still catching up while I've had time to park and take photos...). Photo: Heather Lea

    Even with our speeds nearly doubled, we still only made it about 72 km (45 mi) along the road until we set up camp. One reason for this was the amount of times we stopped to take photos and stare at the incredible landscape.

    [​IMG]
    Some of the scenes you can expect on a clear, fall day along the Denali Highway. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea

    The other reason was we were cruising along the gravel when Dave spotted a familiar-looking Volkswagen camper van. It was our friends, Elvira and Ingo with their adorable dog, Perla! We’d met them on our way up the Dalton Highway a few weeks previously. We couldn’t believe the view they had from their camping spot just off the road. We chatted for a while and even though it was only late afternoon, Dave and I decided we’d stay the night there with them as we just couldn’t pass up the chance to hang with friends and stare at the surroundings for hours on end.

    [​IMG]
    Elvira, Ingo and Perla's home while they travel around the world, shipped from Europe to Halifax. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    The adorable Perla. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    Elvira was in the middle of making a delicious cake on their camp stove from blueberries she’d picked in the area. I was very impressed. She had to keep the burner so low so as not to burn the bottom and it kept blowing out. While we all drank wine, she’d pop up and re-light the stove. It wasn’t without great appreciation we ate that blueberry cake a little while later.

    [​IMG]
    Elvira slicing her freshly-made blueberry cake made with berries in the area. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Yum! Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Yum again! Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    From left to right: Ingo, Elvira, Dave and I. Photo courtesy of Ingo.

    [​IMG]
    Elvira and I not getting enough of this view from our campsite for the evening. Photo courtesy of Ingo.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea

    While enjoying the cake, I noticed something move out of the corner of my eye. A mere 100 or so feet (30 m) from us there was a moose passing through. He didn’t seem to be bothered about our close range (even though it was hunting season) but definitely wasn’t sticking around for a photo shoot. Nevertheless, cake crumbs, wine glasses and camp chairs went flying as we darted around for cameras. The moose was well off in the distance by the time we got sorted but Dave and Ingo got some good shots.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    We spent hours sitting around the fire, telling stories and drinking red wine until, freezing, I had to crawl into my sleeping bag. The others stayed up.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea

    About an hour later, Dave came to the tent to tell me there were northern lights. I did not feel like getting out of my now-warmed sleeping bag but I knew I'd regret it if I missed this so got dressed and headed out. The lights were great. Ingo spent some time giving Dave some pointers on shooting the lights with his camera, which came in handy a few days later when we had an even more spectacular show.

    [​IMG]
    Photo courtesy of Ingo.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    The next morning we said goodbye to our friends thanking them for the fun night and hoping to see them again in Europe. We had left a bunch of our gear at Ed and Jill’s as we were planning to get back to Fairbanks that day to pick up some crash bars, luggage rack and a skid plate for my bike that we'd hoped had come in the mail. Dave had found the luggage rack second-hand, which is great when all this stuff costs a fortune.

    The Denali Highway was the first gravel I’d experienced with the F800 and although I felt comfortable under speed, I still wasn’t quite used to the weight and height when the momentum slowed. Dave had pulled over into a little pull-out. When I came in to park beside him, I stalled the bike and started to go over. My foot skidded out on the rocks. I had to jump off and let it fall. I swore so loud and long that swans on a nearby lake fluttered about frazzled and an old couple standing about ½ mile down the road got into their RV and quickly drove off. In a matter of days I’d have had crash bars and my bike would have been protected. Now it probably had a gaping hole in the plastic or a ding in the tank. I couldn’t look. It was like when you cut yourself chopping vegetables and you’re sure if you look your finger will be detached laying on the cutting board in a pool of blood.

    [​IMG]
    The swans ducking after hearing me swear so loud. Photo: Dave Sears

    Dave came over and lifted the bike upright. He told me to look. I peeled my fingers off my eyes and saw him smiling. There wasn’t any damage except the clutch lever and foot peg had been minorly tweaked. Yay!

    We spent the remainder of the day riding the long haul back from Paxson to Fairbanks.

    [​IMG]
    Riding along the Denali Highway. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    One of the impressive peaks along the Denali Highway. Photo: Dave Sears.

    [​IMG]
    Dave riding along the Denali Highway. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    A lunch break with a pretty sweet view along the Denali Highway. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Where gravel meets pavement on the Denali Highway near Paxson, Ak. Photo: Heather Lea

    In Delta Junction, we stopped to put fuel in the bikes. An older man was filling up beside us. He asked about the comfort level of our bikes on the road and we told him they were quite comfortable (except I was rubbing the feeling back into my ass while saying that). The man said, well they look pretty slick. But you wouldn’t take those bikes on anything like the Denali Highway, of course.

    We just smiled. Of course...


    We love comments! The comment field is below. If you have a prob, us our contact form. We always reply. Check back under your comment post for our reply, it may take a week or so but we always reply.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #45
  6. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Not Enough Toys

    Seeing Denali in her unclouded glory only made us want to see her again. On Sept. 3, Dave and I left Fairbanks and the Bueler family again but this time with all our belongings back on the bikes and no immediate plans to return. We were so grateful to Ed, Jill, Thomas and Vera for letting us stay with them on and off for about three weeks in their home. They told us we’d made their fall more interesting, which we truly hope was the case and not that they were just being polite. Either way, it was great hanging out with an old friend I had some fun history with and having the chance to get to know his sweet family.

    Dave and I rode toward Denali National Park on a day that was clear everywhere we were but off in the distance, Denali was covered in cloud. We couldn’t see her along the Parks Highway in the places we could the week before.

    We found a place to camp up a short, steep dirt road a few miles north of the park’s entrance and built our home and a fire for the night.

    [​IMG]
    A nice place to make our home for the night. Photo: Heather Lea

    We were in bed early and fell into a deep sleep. Around 11:00 p.m. my bladder woke me up. I put on my headlamp and wandered out into the bushes. I have a habit of turning off my headlamp while peeing and now suddenly ensconced in darkness, my eyes began adjusting to something spectacular happening in the sky. Northern lights! I ran back to the tent. Wait, first I pulled up my pants then ran back to the tent. Dave was inside snoring lightly in a way I knew meant he was totally out. At first I petted his head lightly so as not to alarm him whispering that he had to get up. He didn’t even stir. I shook him a little and talked in a normal voice. “Dave, you have to get up and see this.”

    Nothing.

    “Dave. Dave. Dave. Get up. Dave.” A little more aggressive shaking.

    I felt bad but didn’t think he’d want to miss this. Finally some stirring. It’s good to know a grizzly could come into our tent and Dave would probably sleep through my mauling. I told him about the northern lights. His voice sounded like he’d swallowed dry cornflakes then chased them with whisky and cigarettes.

    “Can’t I just see them from the tent?” I pulled the tent door aside. “Holy shit,” he crackled and just like that, the lights had him. He was going for his camera and my work here was done.

    Dave shot one of the best photos of the trip that night.

    [​IMG]
    Northern lights near Denali National Park. Photo: Dave Sears

    He seemed happy I’d woken him up. We stayed outside about an hour until we could barely detect even the faintest glow from the night. At their best, the lights had been purple, red and a toxic-looking green, like something a monster oozes from its body after being slain. We realized how cool it was we’d been able to travel in the north long enough on this trip to see both northern lights and 24 hours of sun. I thought to catch each you’d need to spend a complete year up north. We’d been in these parts from the end of July, all of August and now into September—arguably the best time of year to travel the north. The bugs are gone, the fall colours are out and most of the gas stations are still open.

    Denali National Park is over than 6 million acres (24,500 km2) of epic Alaskan wilderness. Over 400,000 people visit the park each year and on Sept. 4, Dave and I were two such visitors wanting our share of the experience. We waited in a slow-moving line to get tickets for the bus that would drive us into the Wonder Lake campground where we’d leave our stuff and go for a hike. Private vehicles are allowed to use the first 24 km (15 mi) of the road but after that you must use the park’s bus system for the remaining 122 km (76 mi).

    While in line, we noticed the Wonder Lake site availability was nil. We looked on the digital screen for other options and as we got closer to it being our turn we got more stymied as to where we were going to spend the night. A parks employee was cruising up and down the line asking if anyone had questions. Dave and I asked him a few things and just before it was our turn we left the line-up to head over to the warden’s station, where it was suggested we get a backcountry permit to camp in the wild. We chose a spot then watched a mandatory 45 min orientation on how to conduct ourselves in the park. While watching, I started thinking how we were going to carry our stuff. We had no backpacks. Wild camping here meant you had to hike at least one mile off the road and could not be seen from the road. We couldn’t carry duffle bags, bear vaults, water, tent, sleeping bags and mats all in our hands for one mile in the spongy tundra. We made the sad decision not to go into the park. The weather was poor, we didn’t have the right equipment and we couldn’t get into where we wanted to go anyway.

    At various points along our trip it’s been tough on both of us to be right there in a place of the world we’ve long dreamed of being, and have no gear for playing. Our motorcycles are great toys but can only hold so much. Although we are very grateful to experience this trip from the seat of a bike, it does have its limitations when you also love hiking, climbing and ski touring and are in world-class places where you may never get another chance to be again. We felt this about not being able to climb in Patagonia or get to off-the-beaten-path places in the Galapagos Islands.

    But the great thing about Denali is it’s not so far from home. Dave cheered me up by promising we’d come back someday with a truck and all our toys; mountain bikes, backpacking gear, climbing equipment… and a beer fridge!

    Just before leaving the parking lot to continue south toward Hatcher Pass, we received a text from our Texan friends we’d met in Fairbanks. Joseph and Kim, riding two 1200s, asked where we were in our travels. We made a plan to meet them in Seward the next day and continued to ride up and over the beautiful Hatcher Pass.



    We love comments! The comment field is below. If you have a prob, us our contact form. We always reply. Check back under your comment post for our reply, it may take a week or so but we always reply.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #46
    TwilightZone likes this.
  7. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    The Rainy Wet Sog

    If we hear rain on the tent in the morning upon waking we're pissed, even if that very same sound lulled us to sleep the night before. It’s nice at night. It sucks in the morning. We have to pack up outside so all our stuff gets wet, the tent never dries out and unlike some road trips, we can’t escape into a warm, dry vehicle and get away from the sogginess. Weather is our travelling companion whether we like it or not. It rides right along with us, clinging to our pants legs and getting all up in our face. We have to accept it even when, on the hottest of days, it never offers to buy us a beer or offers to do the dishes every once in awhile.

    In a place like Alaska, however, even when it rains our surroundings are still stunning. Dave and I rode up and over the 3,886 ft (1,148 m) Hatcher Pass on a very soggy Sept. 5. And it was beautiful even though it was pouring. Freshly bathed, everything looked clean and the fall colours were as bright as candy.

    [​IMG]
    The bikes heading up Hatcher Pass. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Dave riding over Hatcher Pass. Photo: Heather Lea

    Hatcher Pass is named after miner and prospector Robert Hatcher and sits in the southwest part of the Talkeetna Mountains, 19 km (12 mi) from Palmer to the south and Willow 42 km (26 mi) to the west.

    [​IMG]
    Hatcher Pass summit at 3,886 ft (1,148 m). Photo: Heather Lea

    A few hours after we tagged the pass, we met up with our friends Kim and Joseph in a café in Seward. By this time, Dave and I had been riding for several hours in driving rain. We were both soaked to our first layers, despite spending tons of money on ‘waterproof’ riding gear.

    My Dianese Gore-Tex riding pants were so saturated it was like I’d peed myself… in the shower. Even with rain pants over top the Gore-Tex layer. My Rev’it jacket could only do so much. I’d removed the Gore-Tex liner that came with the jacket in favour of a nicer-looking rain jacket I could wear over top on wet days as well as wear around town or out hiking. My rain jacket layer did nothing to stop the rain from driving down my neck, pooling behind my armpits and soaking into my bra. My Icebreaker long-sleeved thermal was soaked.

    I’d been wearing a neck scarf that had gotten drenched and helped my top base layer drip off my collar bones down to my belly. We were freezing. We stopped along the way to put balaclavas on for whatever warmth it gave us. Dave’s Klim gear also could not keep up. He was soaked in the crotch and through his upper and lower thermals as well. There is a significant price difference between my Dianese/Rev’it combination and Dave’s two piece Klim riding suit but here you can see that when it’s as wet as it was on the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula and you’re dumb enough to be out there riding, nothing can stand up to this wet slaughter.

    Except… the super sexy one-piece banana suit, which we would find a few days later in Anchorage. (Sadly, I don’t have the actual photo of how hot Dave looked in this suit when he tried it on. I was too busy making sandwiches with Kim on the display table.)

    [​IMG]
    Make Life A Ride. But also Make Sandwiches Where It's Dry. Photo: Heather Lea

    I DO, however, have this incredible Photoshop rendition of what Dave looked like when he tried on the banana suit.

    [​IMG]
    I know. Hot right? Photoshop expert designer: Heather Lea

    Dave and I entered the café in Seward as grumpy as two teething babies to meet Kim and Joseph, also soaked from their ride from Homer. When I took off my helmet to place it on a table it slipped out of my hands and crashed to the floor. Profanity slipped out and the hum of the café quieted a little while everyone stared wondering if I was crazy enough to start throwing chairs. I collected myself and walked over to the dry table where Kim, Joseph and Dave waited with some warm drinks Joseph had bought, bless his heart. I quizzed K and J about their gear. (We were secretly all happy each one of us were soaked despite a wide variety of very expensive riding gear.) Kim had a Klim Latitude jacket and Joseph was wearing a Firstgear 37.5 Kilimanjaro. Joseph said their main problem was their pants weren’t waterproof and they were using Gore-Tex backpacking pull-over pants, which lasted about two hours before they began leaking at the seams. As Joseph says, “Nothing like a wet crotch, eh?!”

    Shivering in our soaked thermals, we stayed for about two hours commiserating while pools of water under our seats grew to dangerous slippery conditions past our seats and into the path of other patrons. We sat until Kim and Joseph decided they should get back to Anchorage where they had a warm, dry place for the night at the house of their friend Ronetta’s, a wildlife photographer they’d met in Denali National Park. Dave and I didn’t want to ride anymore so splurged on a hotel and seafood for the night before buying a six-pack and watching hours of TV. The tent and all our gear hung everywhere around the room. In the morning we were very happy to see that it had not only stopped raining but all our stuff was dry again.

    While getting ready to leave in the morning we met a guy named Dave, (not the "Dave my boyfriend" one), who was travelling for a few weeks with his father-in-law on a bucket list agenda. We talked for a while about his job as a (and I’m going to get this terrible wrong, sorry Dave) welder engineer for jet airplanes. He told us some fascinating stuff about welding the smallest of parts on to the largest of airplanes. We were both quite impressed. We later passed them on the road in their rental car and unbeknownst to us, he snapped off a few photos on his phone and sent them to us on our Facebook page.

    [​IMG]
    Pulling up for the big pass. Photo: Dave Miller

    [​IMG]
    I was going so fast our friend Dave could barely even get the photo ;) Photo Dave Miller

    [​IMG]
    More proof of the sog that was our Alaskan summer. Photo: Dave Miller

    Dave (the "my boyfriend" one) and I decided the weather was not good enough to keep going south along the peninsula toward Homer so we sadly decided to head back to Anchorage, although this meant we would see Kim and Joseph again. They’d already sent us a text saying Ronetta had extended her hospitality to let us stay with her as well. We were stoked to have a place to stay in the city as we would otherwise have had to get another hotel.

    Ronetta is such a great soul, she deserves her own post on our website, so that’s coming next time ‘round. Until then!



    We love comments! The comment field is below. If you have a prob, us our contact form. We always reply. Check back under your comment post for our reply, it may take a week or so but we always reply.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #47
    sophijo and TwilightZone like this.
  8. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Valdez, Alaska

    Dave and I had just ridden into Anchorage, AK, soaked from our few days along the Kenai Peninsula. Our friends Kim and Joseph (2ridethewind.com) sent us a text to say their friend, Ronetta, a wildlife photographer they were staying with, had extended an invite for us to stay as well. We couldn’t have been happier to accept a dry place for the night and when we arrived, were even happier yet after smelling the caribou roast she was slow cooking on the stove.

    [​IMG]
    Caribou Roast made by Ronetta in Anchorage, AK. Photo: Ronetta McConnell.

    That we’d been invited sight-unseen was the first testament to this lovely lady’s big heart.

    Ronetta’s husband had died within the past year. Shortly afterward, she had a severe case of back pain caused by her sciatic nerve. (In the good humour we would come to love about Ronetta, she called it her ‘psychotic’ nerve). Her back pain was so bad she was literally bed-bound for months. The joy in her life for things like cooking and taking photos had diminished completely. It was a very rough time for this self-sustained woman, who knows how to shoot a rifle and fend for herself.

    The evening spent inside Ronetta’s home was warm and inviting. Five people shared stories while Starla and Cedar, Ronetta’s adorable and well-behaved Australian Shepherds, nuzzled our legs and licked any available skin. Ronetta cooked some amazing food that evening and while we ate, she listened from the kitchen to our tales with shining eyes, already on to making delicious things for breakfast the next morning.

    [​IMG]
    Ronetta's inviting home. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Kim, Joseph and Dave in Ronetta's home in Anchorage, AK. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Ronetta's Australian Shepherds were so great to have around. My parents have the same breed of dog and I miss him! Photo: Heather Lea

    I could be wrong but it seemed right around the time Ronetta met Kim and Joseph in Denali National Park a week or so before we met her, which was Sept. 7, 2016, she was starting to get her life back. She was out photographing again creating beautiful shots for her gallery in the city (blueicealaska.com), and was taking Starla and Cedar for daily walks.

    [​IMG]
    One of Ronetta's best shots. Photo: Heather Lea

    The next morning, as we were eating her delicious breakfast of slow-cooked biscuits and gravy and prepping our bikes to head to Valdez, Ronetta announced we’d inspired her to live her life free and without attachments and as such, she would be joining us for the day, despite any other scheduled plans. She loaded her Yukon SUV with her dogs and a cooler full of beer and elk sausage for all of us. It was seven days before Ronetta returned to her home. She travelled with the four of us plus our other riding friends, Katerina (Kate) and Frantisek (Frank) from Czech Republic, for two days and then everyone minus Dave and I for another four days before taking a loop over the Denali Highway back to her home in Anchorage. When Ronetta left her home with us that first day she hadn’t even packed a toothbrush. I’d say she’s well on her way to becoming a free spirit.

    [​IMG]
    Packed and ready to leave Anchorage for Valdez with our posse. Photo: Ronetta McConnell

    It was great to have a riding posse. We were seven people, five adventure bikes, one SUV and two dogs. We wrote “The Valdez Expo, '16” on the back of Ronetta’s Yukon and she became our guide all the way to beautiful Valdez, Alaska, stopping at all the great spots along the way.

    [​IMG]
    Ronetta's Yukon full of beer, local game sausage and twins! Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Kim on a new-to-her 1200 GSA, which she traded in her F700 for in Anchorage, AK. 2ridethewind.com Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Jospeh on his 1200 GSA. 2ridethewind.com Photo: Heather Lea



    [​IMG]
    They don't always look this tired :) Kate and Frank, from Czech Republic, have already done a lot of round-the-world riding. wayaway.com Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    That's better :) Photo: Heather Lea

    We did not, however, have the best camping spot that night, through no fault of anyone except that we left Anchorage late and it started to get cold and dark before we could get all the way to Valdez. Our group was strung out along the highway in all directions doing U-turns trying to find roads leading to a camping spot but in the end, we could only find a place along an ATV track parallel to the highway. We parked bikes at both ends in case some ATV came barrelling along in the night, and got into fire and food-making mode.

    [​IMG]
    Our camp along the highway to Valdez. Photo borrowed from 2ridethewind.com

    As you can imagine, trying to coordinate seven people with their own modes of transport and only three bikes that had intercoms, was a challenge. We tried to stay close but there was a lot of stop-and-go and we had an accidental separation the next day. At one highway stop, we’d all pulled off to put on rain gear (can you imagine it was raining again?). I was freezing and wanted to keep moving so as soon as I thought we were all set, I rode off in the lead, happy to be plugged back into my heated jacket. I passed a turn-off for a glacier viewpoint and kept going, checking my mirrors to see where the others were. I rode about five minutes before it became clear no one was following me. I did a U-turn and passed K and F head-on. I pulled over to start another U-turn as it stood to reason the rest of the group was behind them but as I waited for cars to pass, I saw no one else after K and F so I kept going in the direction back to where we stopped and opposite of where K and F were going. There was no one along the highway as far as I could see so I figured they’d all gone into the glacier viewpoint, which is where I found them. I told them K and F had passed me and would now be well ahead and confused but everyone decided we’d all catch up in Valdez, which wasn’t too far away.

    [​IMG]
    A glacier view just a few metres off the highway to Valdez. Photo: Dave Sears

    We stopped again only about another five minutes down the road so Starla and Cedar could get a good run around in the hills. It was a gorgeous spot and Dave and I rode off-road to the edge to get an even better view. We were above the highway as it dropped considerably to the valley and Valdez below and in the distance.

    [​IMG]
    A little off-road riding near Valdez, AK. Photo: Joseph Savant

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Joseph Savant

    [​IMG]Photo: Joseph Savant

    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG]

    We found K and F in town and after a cheap but delicious fish and chips lunch, we decided to press on, sad not to stay longer in Valdez. The weather was socked in and we didn’t see much of the town famous for its extreme heli-skiing—or boarding or whatever have you—films.

    [​IMG]
    Valdez, AK. Photo: Dave Sears

    We wanted to get some more miles under us and maybe even a little dry weather at best. Ronetta was sleeping in her SUV and Kate was pretty cold on the back of the bike with Frank. No one wanted to camp in this weather and hotels were expensive in these parts. We rode back out of Valdez and had a gorgeous ride.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Ronetta McConnell.

    [​IMG]
    Riding near Valdez, AK. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Waterfalls along the highway to Valdez, Ak. Photo: Ronetta McConnell

    [​IMG]
    Waterfalls along the highway to Valdez, Ak. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    A few hours later we had a camping spot in a campground off the highway that would take Dave and I into McCarthy, AK and Kennecott mine the next day.

    [​IMG]

    The Claw reaching out to pet Cedar. Photo: Ronetta McConnell

    The ever-giving Ronetta brought out food from the Yukon and piled everything on the picnic table telling us to eat it all. She had literally fed us non-stop for two days now. A couple of people drove up the highway to get some shots of the sun setting.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea

    Ronetta’s birthday was coming up but some of us were splitting up from here the next day so Joseph walked over to the campground store with its minimal amenities and came back with a “birthday cake.” It was two chocolate Ding-Dongs layered on top of each other with a match stuck in it.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Alaskan culinary delights. Photos: Heather Lea and Ronetta McConnell.

    Ronetta laughed while Joseph lit the candle and we all took her photo. She seemed very happy and I swallowed a little choke in my throat thinking about this kind woman losing her husband so early in life. She told me later it was hard to see all of us working together with our partners as a team as she had done with her husband but said being around all of us was bringing her and her dogs a lot of joy and helping her heal.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea

    I bought a photograph Ronetta took of a moose silhouetted against a sunset. It is an incredible shot and I asked if she could blow it up larger and send it to me as a souvenir so I could find it when I returned and remember her and Alaska. I still haven’t been able to see it as it went to Dave’s dad’s house in Washington but when I contacted her to send the money, she said she wanted us to have it and was proud to be part of our trip in this way.

    Ronetta, you’re the best and I hope we meet again someday.



    We love comments! The comment field is below.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #48
    TwilightZone and FailureDrill like this.
  9. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    In the late 1960s, a company with land rights ordered that the abandoned Kennecott Mine, located near McCarthy, Alaska, and the surrounding town site be destroyed because of the hazard of its deteriorating buildings. Some structures were destroyed but most of the job was left undone and many structures remained, tempting nearby residents and visitors to pillage what they could find of old relics and artefacts from the area.

    [​IMG]Kennecott Mine, McCarthy Alaska. Photo: Dave Sears

    Some items were returned and the area has since turned into an interesting destination for those hearty enough to travel the 90-mile dead-end McCarthy road into McCarthy, Alaska. Kennecott was a copper mine and is located northeast of Valdez, Ak. The mine has been abandoned since the mid-1950s and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

    [​IMG]Kennecott Mine, McCarthy Alaska. Photo: Dave Sears

    I’m very glad Dave and I made the trip into McCarthy and Kennecott on our bikes. The place is magical, from its 14-storey high mine buildings to the beautiful valley in which the charming little town of McCarthy sits.

    We’d left our friends Kim, Joseph, Ronetta, Frank and Kate the morning of Sept. 9 as they were heading along a route that would eventually bring them to Whitehorse, Yukon. Dave and I had a grey day riding along the Edgerton Highway to the fairly unmaintained gravel McCarthy Road but that didn’t deter much from photo ops. Along the way we passed the Copper River, famously known in certain circles for its production of some of the best Sockeye salmon in the world.

    [​IMG]A stellar view of the Copper River area along the McCarthy Road. Photo: Dave Sears

    We rode down onto the river bed, feeling quite lucky we’d shared some of this mouth-watering salmon with our friends Ed and Jill back in Fairbanks, AK after Ed and his son, Tomas, had caught 21 Sockeye in one weekend. We’d eaten something that in some restaurants costs about $40 per plate.

    McCarthy Road ends at the Kennicott River (not a spelling error—it’s Kennecott Mine but Kennicott River and Glacier) and is replaced with a footbridge to allow visitors access to the town site of McCarthy. From McCarthy, it is about 7 km (4 mi) to Kennecott mine and shuttles are available.

    We parked our bikes in a big gravel lot about a kilometre down the road. There is pay-parking right at the bridge for those who don’t want to walk so far.

    We walked across the bridge and into town taking photos on the way. McCarthy is so quiet with hardly any tourists or locals but there's enough of a buzz to suggest things are happening around town.

    [​IMG] Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] McCarthy townsite. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] McCarthy townsite. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] McCarthy townsite. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] When you need to go... Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG] Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]Photo: Dave Sears

    We were under the impression vehicles were not allowed in town but once we started walking around, we noticed cars and trucks parked along the streets and in people’s driveways. We figured there must be another road and were left with our curiosity for the moment. For now, we had to solve an immediate problem of hunger. We found The Potato and tucked into a late lunch around 4:00 p.m. then caught a shuttle up to the mine around 5:00 p.m. We were the only two people in the van and I asked the driver how people get their cars over the river. He said resident’s pay about $300/year and get a key that accesses a trunk road bridge downriver. He then said, “But if it fits, you can bring it across the foot bridge.”

    Hold up now… so we could ride our bikes across the bridge?

    “Sure,” he said, “so long as you can get by the barriers, you can get’em up here.”

    Dah! Not only had we paid $20 for the shuttle but we were killing our chances of getting some sweet shots of the bikes at the mine.

    We decided to spend the hour before the shuttle would return to McCarthy taking photos around the mine buildings then we’d go back and grab our bikes to hopefully come back up before dark for some shots with the bikes.

    [​IMG] Exploring Kennecott Mine. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Exploring Kennecott Mine. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Exploring Kennecott Mine. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Exploring Kennecott Mine. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Exploring Kennecott Mine. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Exploring Kennecott Mine. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Exploring Kennecott Mine. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Exploring Kennecott Mine. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Kennecott Mine. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]Kennecott Mine. Photo: Dave Sears

    Exploring around heritage buildings isn’t really my thing but Dave had been to McCarthy before and missed a chance at getting up to the mine, so I acquiesced. I was enjoying it, however. The mine is in an incredible location right beside Kennicott Glacier. The valley of moraine and ice that spills from the glacier’s tongue is grandiose and foreboding. It creates a very ominous but exciting feel for the area.

    [​IMG] Dave photographing the Kennecott Glacier valley. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]The Kennecott Glacier valley. Photo: Heather Lea

    After taking the shuttle back into town, we walked quickly back to our bikes and got aboard to see if we could squeeze them past the barriers on the footbridge.

    [​IMG]

    We did and were on our way up to the mine for round two, this time with props. It was almost 9:00 p.m. by the time we got the bikes situated on the wooden deck of another passenger bridge over a waterfall near the mine. By then we were seemingly the only people up there.

    [​IMG]The bikes make it up to Kennecott. Photo: Heather Lea

    Dave and I spent some time rolling the bikes into position for their photo shoot. We set the timers on our cameras, then rode toward them. My camera was set on time lapse as the most my camera would time was 10 seconds, which wasn’t enough to straddle a bike and get it rolling unless I wanted time lapse shots of me falling off my bike. Dave was able to remotely set his Canon from his phone. While we were playing around at the mine thinking we were the only two people up there, we noticed a guy standing patiently waiting for us to get over ourselves and leave the scene so he could get his own photos. We apologized and got off the bridge but the guy came over and offered to take some photos for us. Dave got him all set up with his Canon on the guys’ tripod. Sankar, a pro-photographer, we found out, got some great shots of us. Thanks Sankar! (Check him out here).

    [​IMG] Photo: Sankar Salvady

    [​IMG] Photo: Sankar Salvady

    [​IMG]Photo: Sankar Salvady

    It was almost dark now so Dave and I rode back down to town and across the footbridge, rolling along the McCarthy road until we found a place to camp off the road by some cabins, which looked to be uninhabited. Nevertheless, we set up our tent well out of ear and eyeshot from them, made dinner and went to bed exhausted after a long day.

    In the morning we were lucky to see an amazing nature moment; we started hearing something a little like a dull axe hitting chunks of wood off in the distance. As we ate breakfast we noticed the sound coming closer. I was kind of ignorant of it until Dave grabbed my shoulder and whisper-yelled, Heather, look!

    Travelling through the trees mere metres from us was a huge bull moose, awkwardly negotiating tree trunks with his ginormous rack.

    [​IMG] Bull moose near our camp. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]Bull moose near our camp. Photo: Dave Sears

    I hadn’t seen many moose on our trip throughout the Yukon and Alaska, maybe two, so seeing this male so close up, I was spellbound. It was gigantic. Thoughts went through my head like moose could be more volatile than a grizzly. But something about this one suggested it was just trying to get by us peacefully.

    Dave grabbed his camera and screwed on his zoom lense while walking parallel to the four-legged beast, a few thin trees between him and it. I ran quietly along behind, filming. I could hear Dave’s camera clicking away and he was now out on the road, having lost the moose in the trees. He walked to position himself where he thought the moose would emerge from the forest then got a big surprise when the moose came out nearly at his elbow from the trees.

    Another thought that flashed through my mind: this is how my boyfriend meets his demise. And I’ll have it all on camera.

    Ever the doting girlfriend, I ran back toward the safety of a nearby outhouse, ready to duck inside should there be any blood and gore or the moose decide to come after me.

    Amazingly, the moose walked right past Dave. I couldn’t believe how close he was. Dave snapped away and got some great shots. This was almost as great as the fact we’d woken up to a completely blue sky.


    Bull Moose from Heather on Vimeo.



    Still high on our moose experience, Dave and I packed up the bikes and rode back toward McCarthy’s footbridge to take advantage of the weather for shots of the Kennicott glacier up-valley. We hiked toward a tarn nearby and I found some bear tracks in the sand, quite close to the campground located right beside the footbridge.

    [​IMG]
    Bear prints near McCarthy. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG] Kennicott Glacier from the footbridge near McCarthy, Alaska. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG] Kennicott Glacier from the footbridge near McCarthy, Alaska. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]Kennicott Glacier from the footbridge near McCarthy, Alaska. Photo: Dave Sears

    On our ride out we passed three other riders heading in. We stopped and talked with them for a while. They were really nice guys from the area and we got a photo with them to add to our collection of great people we’ve met on the road.

    [​IMG]Other riders we passed heading into McCarthy. That's the Alaska state flag.

    Dave and I spent the rest of the day utilizing the dry weather to our advantage to get a few miles under our wheels. We made it to about 60 miles before Tok and fell asleep talking about our friends Kim, Joseph, Frank and Kate and how we probably wouldn’t see Kate and Frank again as they were in go-mode for trying to get down to Jasper, Alberta before the snow. Kim and Joseph we’d planned to meet up with a few weeks later to do some off-road riding in Northern B.C.

    Little did we know we’d see them all again the very next day.



    We love comments! The comment field is below and we always reply :)

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #49
  10. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    The Rest of the North

    Running out of gas is inevitable when you plan to spend two years on the road, and frankly I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more often on our trip. We were about 50 km (30 mi) past the border crossing back into the Yukon from Alaska. Our friends, Kim, Joseph, Frank and Kate were about 300 km (180 mi) ahead of us, waiting. It was around 5:00 p.m. Dave and I try to avoid riding motorcycles in the dark on remote northern highways that warn of large, ambling game on the road. There is a limit to our risk taking, after all.

    We were trying to make good time to catch our friends in Haines Junction but although my low fuel light had come on well before the border, it slipped my mind and suddenly I felt the lurching of my bike drinking its last drop.

    We pulled over and flagged down a few vehicles and even two bikes like ours but nobody had extra fuel.

    [​IMG]
    Out of gas on a Yukon highway. Photo: Heather's Nikon.

    Dave had a syphoning hose but it wasn’t working. Finally a guy named Joe stopped and he had a jerry can. He filled my bike to the top and wouldn’t take any money.

    [​IMG]
    Fuel from a stranger. Photo: Heather's Nikon.

    It’s these experiences that stick out. First, you swear and get angry for your bad luck but then you meet someone kind and generous and it puts it all into perspective. The same happened on a deeper level when I broke my wrist and our Idaho friends, Neil and Linda, who were strangers at the time, appeared out of nowhere to help.

    Topped up, Dave and I continued on. Roughly two hours later, we’d made it to Haines Junction in record time and with only a warning flash of lights from a local cop we passed on the highway. It was dark by this point but the six of us soon found a great spot to camp at a rec site. We enjoyed being with our friends again, especially since it was unexpected, but Dave and I had to get going early the next morning and continue heading south. The weather was getting cold for riding. We wanted to get down to the lower 48 before October so we could ride the rest of the Idaho and Utah Backcountry Discovery Routes we’d missed on the way up. I also wanted to find the boulder where I had the accident a year ago in Idaho and pee on it.)

    [​IMG]
    Good-humoured gas stations are a-plenty in the True North. Photo: Heather Lea

    Dave and I rode that day to Teslin, Yukon where Rebecca, a friend from my former days working at Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), was living and working as a nurse. I hadn’t seen her in years so it was a great catch-up evening and she even took us out for dinner.

    [​IMG]
    Rebecca, an old friend from the days I worked at Canadian Mountain Holidays. Photo: Dave Sears

    From Teslin, we decided to take the Alaska Highway, as we had already ridden the Cassiar. Although it’s cold to ride in the fall around here, there are advantages: no bugs, less tourists and the fall colours are incredible. We camped that evening in Toad River. The next day, Sept. 14, was a great wildlife day. We had a long stop along the Alaska Highway when we found a herd of caribou using the road for their pilgrimage to wintering grounds. We also saw a lot of buffalo and two black bears.

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    It was dark when we finally found a place to camp just north of Hudson’s Hope, B.C. I don’t like showing up somewhere in the dark in bear country because it already seems creepy. We’d just seen a bear running across a field a few miles back and I wondered how far it planned to lallygag that night and if it was coming in our direction. We were dodging deer by the time we found a place off the road. We had to ride over a downed barbed wire fence to get into the spot, which was overgrown with grass and brush. As we set up camp, a full moon rose and it was bright enough not to need our headlamps for dinner.

    We were heading south towards home and the first half of our two-year trip was coming to a close. Dave and I spent the evening discussing plans for the next year. We agreed to only take six weeks max at his dad’s place in Washington to prep and organize before aiming to fly to Africa by Dec. 1. (This is funny because we actually thought we had a choice on the time frame here. The aforementioned foreshadowing of foresight would have come in handy this night.)

    In the morning, we checked for flat tires from the barbed wire event then before riding over it again, Dave laid down some sticks, which totally didn’t work when I rode first and scattered them about.

    We needed Wi-Fi and breakfast so found a Tim Horton’s about two hours later in Chetwyn, B.C. Another rider came in and took the booth behind us. He told us about a time he’d organized a group ride with 43 bikes down into the U.S. and almost everyone was turned back. Three guys even had their bikes impounded. I began to think they were just victims of the U.S.’s increasingly paranoid hoop-jumping but our Tim Horton’s friend went on to say that part of that group stole a truck later and backed it into the impound yard to retrieve the bikes. OK then!

    On our ride this day we saw a big black momma bear and her cubs.

    [​IMG]
    Thanks for posing! Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    After stopping for almost an hour to watch and take photos of the bears, we continued and found a place to camp south of McBride, B.C. As we were setting up our tent, a couple with a fifth-wheel came over and gave us a bunch of firewood and some hot chocolate. Loving the Road People!

    I was also loving my bike. We’d done over 1,600 km (994 mi) in three days and it was a joy to ride. Two complaints, however; our knees get really sore during these long riding days. The kneepads of our riding gear push against our kneecaps all day, causing them to feel out of place and inflamed. (We have recently been sponsored by Staubwolke and have installed their crash bars on our bikes. The bars are ingenious as they also work as leg rests so we can stretch. Looking forward to testing them out when we’re back on the road.)

    I also greatly miss having the custom seat for my butt from my 650. Adventure bikes aren’t known for their comfortable highway-riding features. Because my ass was so sore, I’d balled up my down jacket and stuffed it into a black bag that I strapped to the bike and sat on. It worked well except for fueling up, when I’d have to detach the bag and swing it over onto the exhaust side of the bike. Yes you know what happened next; I forgot to reattach it. The bag lay on my exhaust for several miles. People would pass me and wave. The waves were a little overzealous. One truck kept passing then slowing in front of me and putting on his hazards. Me? I kept riding, thinking he was drunk or a tourist. Then I realized my ass was lacking its homemade cushion. I pulled over and saw the smoke wafting about my bike. I peeled my $300 jacket (that was U.S. $$, too) that I wear almost everyday off the exhaust and stamped out the embers. That was a costly mistake and also really uncomfortable for the next few days of riding and camping.

    [​IMG]
    My down jacket after I left it on the exhaust. Photo: Cecilia Lea

    [​IMG]
    My down jacket after I left it on the exhaust. Photo: Cecilia Lea

    By Sept. 16, we’d ridden almost 2,300 km (1430 mi) in five days and we were feeling it. That’s what made seeing friends and family so great for the next two days. We spent the night in Kamloops with my high school friend, Gillian, and my parents made the two-hour drive over from Revelstoke.

    In the morning, Dave rode south-west to see his mom, Cathy, and step-dad, Don, in Oliver. I followed my folks to Kelowna to visit with my 93-year-old grandma. It was raining intensely, which we were getting used to riding in. From Kelowna my folks and I went on to Oliver where my parents took off for some wine tasting and I threw all my clothes and riding gear in Cathy’s dryer. We all met up later for dinner and then Dave and I did a late-night, hassle-free crossing at the border near Osoyoos.

    We were now back in the lower 48 and looking forward to spending some time relaxing in Sagle, Idaho with Neil and Linda and linking up the miles previously missed on the Idaho and Utah Backcountry Discovery Routes.



    We love comments! The comment field is below but you need to click into the first ‘comment’ field, then TAB (don’t click) to the other fields. If you have a prob, use our contact form. We always reply. Check back under your comment post for our reply, it may take a week or so.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #50
  11. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Urination Rock. A Crash-Uh-Blast From The Past

    From Sept. 17 until Sept. 24, 2016, Dave and I did basically nothing but revel in having access to a kitchen, fridge, laundry, showers, wifi and a real bed to sleep in. Our friends Neil and Linda live in Sagle, Idaho and we were staying with them for a week recuperating from our marathon ride back from the north. It’s interesting how the things you think you’ll miss the most when travelling, you don't at all. But the things you take for granted everyday at home become the actual things you’ll miss most on the road.

    We love visiting N & L. Aside from their great company, they live on beautiful property. There is a pond in the front yard with fish and ducks. Curious horses roam the fields. Huge turkeys walk onto the deck and look inside the kitchen windows. There is a great view and a wood fireplace, as well. We greatly appreciated and enjoyed our week with the friends we’d met just a year ago and especially enjoyed the delicious dinner they made for my birthday the night before we left. (Linda had even called my mom to ask what my favourite things to eat were.) It’s always great to see them but after so much relaxing, it was time to get back on the road.

    [​IMG]A delicious birthday feast cooked by the Oldridge's. Photo: Dave Sears

    Dave and I wanted to officially complete the few miles along the Idaho and Utah BDRs we’d missed when we first came through the year before and then again this summer on our way up from California.

    And I had another mission.

    I wanted to ride back along the trail just outside of Avery, Idaho where exactly a year ago I’d clipped the boulder that had caused me to break my wrist. I wanted to pee on that boulder.

    Our friend Ismail, whom we’d met in Guatemala that winter, was riding down to Wallace, Id to meet us for a few days. It was an 800 km (500 mi) ride and thus a little far for just a few days but Ismail is crazy like that and that’s why we like him.

    Once we’d all convened in Wallace, Ismail, Dave and I took off up a backroad out of town.

    [​IMG]Ismail tucking into the first few miles of the Idaho BDR. Photo: Dave Sears

    Within about 15 km (10 mi), Ismail’s rear brake calliper fell off.

    [​IMG]Ismail with his broken brake calliper. Photo: Heather Lea

    The vibration from the gravel road had rattled out a bolt and the calliper was left dangling off the side of his bike. Lucky it clung to life staying on the bike but the bolt that kept it in position was long gone. We all rode back into Wallace to a small, local hardware store and as luck would have it, Ismail found something that would work. He fixed it into place and we took off again on the quest for Urination Rock.

    Within 30 km (18 mi), we were riding the narrow gravel trail that follows the North Fork of the Saint Joe River down into Avery, Id. The trail seemed much more overgrown than I remembered from the year before. I kept my eyes peeled for the boulder I’d clipped with my pannier last year. My imagination started getting the best of me; what if in coming back to "the scene” I had another accident. If again I’d not be able to manoeuvre my now larger bike around the boulder and again clipped it, went into the ditch and snapped a piece of bone of my wrist? It would just be too embarrassing.

    The trail went on. Ismail was following behind me and Dave was out ahead so he could get into position for some photos. We still hadn’t come upon the boulders but my memory was spotty for the area. They had to be coming up. I rode along wondering when they would appear when suddenly we were out on the highway that would take us into the tiny town of Avery. It looked like I wouldn’t get my opportunity to disrespect my nemesis boulder. The two rocks must have been cleared off the trail.

    [​IMG]Coming into Avery, Idaho. Photo Dave Sears

    [​IMG]Coming into Avery, Idaho. Photo Dave Sears

    Ismail and I rode past Dave, who’d decided to snap off a few photos anyway, and on into Avery, which basically consists of a few buildings owned by an older couple—Sheffy’s General Store, selling fish and tackle, hunting supplies, beer and a few groceries—and a hotel by the same name. We asked Sheffy if he remembered us from last year. He’d loaned us his van so Dave could drive me to get X-rays. Sheffy said he remembered. When we explained we were back so I could pee on the rock but it was no longer there he chuckled and said that there was an informal trail crew that would go out every year and clean up the trails. The road becomes a good trail system for snowmobilers in the winter as well. The rocks were likely pushed off the trail into the river so they could groom.

    Earlier in the day, we’d been passed by a guy on DR450.

    [​IMG]Mike Neudorf riding along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Dave Sears

    He had been inside Sheffy’s when we stopped. Mike Neudorf is a West Jet pilot from Vancouver, B.C. and was out for a long ride that would take him down to Phoenix, AZ. Mike decided to join us for a few days along the Idaho BDR. We didn’t leave Wallace until after 3:00 p.m. and were still hoping to get up to the Blue Cabin, which we’d heard was free to stay in. It was the same cabin Dave and I were headed to a year ago to celebrate my birthday with some lamb steaks and chocolate cake but instead spent the evening in the hospital. I was looking forward to checking out this cabin and now we had two friends along, who would help take care of some of the adult birthday beverages we’d brought along.

    But after our late departure from Avery and some warnings from other riders who’d come from the cabin's direction that the road was a little technical, the four of us only made it another 24 km (15 mi) up the road from Avery before it started to get too late to ride and we found a place to camp for the night. The cabin would have to wait until tomorrow.

    It was chilly so the guys got a fire going.

    [​IMG]Campfire along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Heather Lea

    We set up our tents then went back to the fire to watch Dave cook steaks over some coals. He also fried up some mushrooms and onions in butter and had been carrying three pieces of cake in different flavours he’d found at a grocery store along the way. The meal was delicious, especially for backcountry cooking. This year’s birthday was certainly proving better than the year before! The only downfall from carrying a bunch of steaks on a motorcycle is they bled out of the paper all over our canvass kitchen bag. We meant to stop at the nearest creek in the morning to wash it but somehow forgot. If this had happened in Alaska, we’d have been more nervous. As it was, we were still in bear country with a rancid-blood smelling bag of dishes.

    Sept. 25 was a beautiful day in Idaho. The fall colours at this time of year are pretty incredible and the temperature warmed considerably during the day.

    [​IMG] Heather riding along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] What a great (better) way to spend a birthday! Photo: Dave Sears

    I was still getting the hang of my new bike. This was the first time I’d ride the F800 on anything technical since buying the bike in Fairbanks, Ak. This section of the IDBDR had some steep sections with deep ruts and a smattering of big, loose rocks strewn about on blind corners but I was riding with three guys and wanted to keep up as best I could.

    We found the Blue Cabin late morning.

    [​IMG] The Blue Cabin along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Inside the Blue Cabin. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]Inside the Blue Cabin. Photo: Heather Lea

    It appeared suddenly to our right as we rounded a bend along the dirt road. Two hunters were loading their ATVs outside. As we talked with them we learned they were a father and son pair who were caretakers for the family-built cabin maintained for hunters. They said now a lot of big bike riders had also started to use it in recent years. We asked if they minded and they said absolutely not, that in previous years the cabin was often abused and left messy and even damaged from people who’d learned the cabin was usually vacant. Now, with more use, the cabin stays intact and cared for. It’s a very cool little place that sleeps about six and even has hot running water. Sadly, we still forgot about cleaning the bloody kitchen bag.

    Learning what direction we’d come from, the two hunters suggested we ride back a little ways and take a road that headed east at the junction for a spectacular view of the fall colours and a huge valley below. After the turn-off at the junction, I found myself in a little over my head with my big bike on a steep downhill full of loose rocks but the trail was too narrow or steep to stop. All I could do was ride it out. We sat in a section of the road for almost an hour checking out the view. The fall colours were so vibrantly red, orange and yellow they seemed to reflect off our skin.

    [​IMG] Vibrant fall colours along the Idaho BDR. Photos: Heather Lea[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] Ismail, Mike and Dave. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] [​IMG]

    After a while, we rode back up to the main road. Mike and Ismail were ahead. Dave was behind me. I was keeping the momentum humming along on my bike and found it easier than I thought until I saw the fender of a pick-up truck coming down. With difficulty, I slowly manoeuvred my bike over into the ditch on the right side of the road. Ahead, I saw Ismail’s bike down. He’d dropped it trying to get around the truck when he nipped the driver’s side mirror. The driver of the truck had moved over as far as he could but it was a tricky squeeze-by. Finally the truck passed and we all continued up. This was a classic dropping-bike scenario: the steep gradient requires keeping your speed up but there are usually objects you’ll need to ride around or stop for all together. It’s hard to keep a fully-loaded bike on two-wheels in this terrain but luckily my stars aligned and the F800 stayed upright. It was proof yet again that despite its larger size and extra pounds, I was riding the 800 far better than the 650.

    Later we rolled into Pierce, Id.

    [​IMG]Dave, Ismail and Mike in Pierce, Idaho. Photo: Heather Lea

    Ismail left us here to head back to Vancouver. It would be an 800 km (500 mi) ride but he wasn’t planning to go the whole way that night. I thanked him for coming all this way to celebrate my birthday, even if we never found Urination Rock. He assured me he wasn’t too upset about not seeing me pee on a boulder and rode off into the evening to cover some miles homeward.



    We love comments! The comment field is below but you need to click into the first ‘comment’ field, then TAB (don’t click) to the other fields. If you have a prob, use our contact form. We always reply. Check back under your comment post for our reply, it may take a week or so.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #51
  12. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Riding MaGruder Corridor on the IDBDR

    Sept. 26, 2016—The Idaho mountains in the fall are coloured such a deep red orange it’s like we’re riding through a forest on fire but without the smoke. When I close my eyes after riding all day, my eyelids reflect the colours back at me before I fall asleep. Along the way, Dave, Mike and I ride through old burns, the dead trees still standing like the quills of a porcupine, as Dave once said. Its spine is our road. The sky is blue and makes everything more intense with its low afternoon light. Damn gorgeous!

    [​IMG]Fall on Fire. Dave riding the IDBDR in September. Photo: Heather Lea

    The three of us rode for another 32 km (20 mi) out of Pierce, ID, where we’d said goodbye to Ismail, before finding a really cool camp spot at a fire-lookout just before dark.

    [​IMG] Camp spot for the night beside a fire lookout along the IDBDR. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Camp spot for the night beside a fire lookout along the IDBDR. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]Mike Neudorf's DR650 takes in the sunset. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Mike and Dave at breakfast the next day. Yes, Dave's eating steak leftover from the night before. The steak whose raw blood leaked all over our kitchen bag. But it was worth it. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Camping beside the fire look-out. Photo: Heather Lea

    Although Dave and I had previously ridden much of the Idaho BDR in two different attempts the year before and then again this past summer on our way up north, we estimated still another 1280 km (800 mi) to go before we’d be able to say we fully completed this state’s 1930 km (1200 mi) route. The nights were getting cooler and we wondered about snow landing in some of the higher elevations on the route. We also wanted to finish off the Utah BDR, which definitely gets wintery.

    A whiff of rotting meat trails under my nose. Dave has opened his pannier to retrieve the kitchen bag so we can start on dinner. We still haven’t cleaned the blood-soaked bag. We kept forgetting at ideal spots, like when we were at the restaurant for dinner, (although it’s unlikely we could have washed it in their kitchen) and kept remembering when it was not ideal, like on the top of a mountain with no water in sight.

    We’d have to hope for another wildlife-free night of camping with our putrid kitchen bag.

    In the morning, Mike rode off ahead then waited for us at an overlook along the IDBDR called Devil’s Chair.

    [​IMG]Devil's Chair along the IDBDR. Photo: Heather Lea

    We got off the bikes, seeking shade and ate a little lunch. I took my apple and walked through the woods to see how far I could scramble up the Devil’s Chair, a big outcropping of solid rock looking out over the valley below.

    [​IMG]Time for a scramble up the Devil's Chair. Photo: Heather Lea

    I thought I might be able to get to the top of the escarpment and Dave could get a cool photo but once I started climbing the rock, I realized the top was not an easy walk-up. There were steep drops off both sides into the trees below and something of a sidewalk-wide bit of rock to access the point. Falling would have kept me off my bike for a while if not forever. I didn’t jump the airy gap between the two rocky ‘summits’ for the hero shot but it still felt great to touch rock. Climbing is a sport I’ve done for years and greatly miss whenever I see a good line or two in places along our trip.

    [​IMG]As far as I got along the Devil's Chair. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]I was hoping to sit in this Devil's Chair but it was a bit airy up there. Photo: Dave Sears

    Sept. 27, 2016—The MaGruder Corridor was dry and dusty. My eyes felt like sandpaper. I wished for an onion nearby so I could tear up and clean some of the gak out. My right shoulder was becoming an issue on the trip, an old injury that would sear after a long day of trying to keep the bike in position amongst rocks and boulders or just around tight, dusty corners. I drank a beer and took two Tylenol with it. Recommended by doctors world-wide.

    [​IMG]My beer spill landed in the shape of Alaska! Photo: Heather Lea

    I felt my shoulder relax its death-grip before it could climb up into my neck. I was looking very forward to tomorrow, when we were going to make it to Burgdorf Hotsprings. Mike had ridden off ahead this day because he wanted to get to the hotsprings before us and have a two-day vacation off the bike. Earlier, Dave and I pulled into Elk City, which is more like a charming little village, and found a much-needed gas station.

    [​IMG]Elk City is more like a village but was a godsend this day with its cold drinks and free gas! Photo: Heather Lea

    I went in to use the bathroom and Dave filled our tanks. When I came out, he had a big grin and said, “It’s really weird when you go into a gas station in a place you’ve never been and the cashier says, 'Are you Dave?’” When he went to pay for our gas, the cashier told him a guy named Mike was in earlier and left a twenty for our gas. What a guy!

    For lunch, Dave and I found a viewpoint off the road in amongst a huge burned forest. As we were high up, we could see a long ways. The road getting to this spot was pretty epic, both for the scenery and for the crushed rocks under our tires that would fling out at a bullet’s pace when the rubber couldn’t quite grip anything solid. I was a ways behind Dave but once I got to the viewpoint, I could look back and see for at least two miles. He’d watched me make my way up and had taken a few photos through the trees.

    [​IMG] Beauty riding through old burns along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG] Beauty riding through old burns along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Can you see the bike? Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG] Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]Loving my F800. Photo: Dave Sears

    I felt pretty awesome. It was hard not to be in love with life at that moment; the clear blue sky, the fall colors in the valley below, the silver burned trees. It wasn’t easy churning through the miles of loose rock along this section but riding this type of stuff was becoming far less intimidating for me and my new bike.

    Still, I was sure looking forward to those hotsprings...



    We love comments. The comment field is below. If you have a prob, use our contact form. We always reply. Check back under your comment post for our reply, it may take a week or so.

    Subscribe to Riding Full Circle: head to our home page, look to the left menu…SUBSCRIBE! Be sure to follow through with the confirmation e-mail that will be sent your way, which you’ll likely find in your spam folder.

    Wanna join us for a leg? Contact us for any part of the trip you’d like to ride along with us or to suggest a place we should ride.

    Like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram, where we post more stuff more often.

    Where are we right now?
    #52
  13. polarbearrider

    polarbearrider n00b

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2013
    Oddometer:
    6
    Location:
    British Columbia, Canada
    Guys, I'm enjoying your ride report quite a bit. Especially the parts about the scenery and the road conditions and obstacles. I just bought a Wee to explore dirt roads (no real trails) and I'm trying to learn from what you are posting. I, of course, also enjoy the "trip of a lifetime" part of it, with the new friends spontaneously made on the road, commitment to the overall goal, learned experiences along the way, etc. And I'm with Dave on this one Heather: you should have bought the proper bike in the first place... heheheh More seriously, kudos for doing this and I wish you the best of luck. (I'm just outside Vancouver, lemme know if you come back this way if you wanna meet up and grab a hot shower.) Keep the nice pics coming and good luck on the road!
    #53
  14. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Hey Polarbearrider, thanks for the note and sorry for the late reply. Glad you're finding our website useful. We will be coming back to Vancouver to fly out to Cape Town with our bikes. Would love to meet up if you're around. What part of the city and send contact deets to ridingfullcircle@gmail.com if you want. Cheers!
    #54
  15. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Buying Malaria Pills in South Africa

    You can do it at a fraction of the cost. We were quoted about $1,200 US PER PERSON for two and a half months of malaria pills from the travel clinic in Bellingham, WA. Out of sheer luck, the only day Dave arrived at the clinic to purchase over $2,400 US worth of pills, they were closed. At first we kind of panicked arriving in Africa with no malaria pills but it was a blessing in disguise.

    Disclaimer: we did happen to know someone who knew a doctor who wrote us a prescription for Malanil, the equivalent of Malarone, which, for us, seemed the best choice.

    Brace yourself. In Cape Town, we purchased Malanil from a legit pharmacy called Click for... a total of $549 CAN.

    Great info on drug comparisons here along with a handy Malaria Map: https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/drugs.html

    If you don't know a doc in SA who can write the prescription, don't worry. We've heard Netcare Travel Clinic will provide prescriptions plus the pills.

    We've also heard that arriving with a prescription from doctors outside of SA will be a little more problematic but you could still try.

    Moral of the story is, buy anti-malarial pills in SA.

    :)
    #55
  16. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    The End of Year One

    Oct. 2, 2016—It’s tough to write about a snow storm in Utah while we are on our way to South Africa, but there is one more blog entry to finalize our first year of the trip before we can proceed with everything that went into our plans for year two.

    This was actually one of the more exciting sections of the trip and some of the photos will show it. We learned that October is a little too late to enjoy riding a motorcycle along the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR). With the Idaho BDR complete, Dave and I had one last stretch of the Utah BDR before we could check this state off as well.

    We woke up the morning of Oct. 2 at Bear Pass near Logan, Utah and although it wasn’t yet snowing, the air smelled cold and metallic. The sky was dark. We thought we’d better get going.

    The snow started as we turned off the highway at our junction for this last section of the Utah BDR. We could have made a dash for Evanston but what was the fun in that? Plus we didn’t know if this would be a passing storm. It might clear up.

    [​IMG]

    Our first indication of what we might be in for was a snow-covered truck coming down the road we were headed up. Dave pulled over to ask him how bad it was ahead. The dirt under our tires was mucky and slippery but snow was not accumulating on the ground. Yet.

    [​IMG]

    The driver said the road was just wet as far as he had come from so we pushed on. Dave and I had already missed out on this 100 mile section twice. This was our chance to get it done. We were, after all, right there.

    Our oversight was we didn’t actually ask the driver from how far up the road he’d come. We didn’t get much more than 8 km (5 mi) before we started creeping up in altitude and subsequently, into the snow. We crested a summit and by this point it was snowing quite a lot but the dirt was still just wet. As we rode down the other side, the sage fields opened up and here was no snow whatsoever. We were glad we’d persevered. This wasn’t so bad!

    [​IMG]

    We started creeping up another high shoulder of hills and it started to dump again. This time it was sticking to us and the bikes.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    There were a few trees that had come down and covered the road. Dave had to get out the folding saw and we took some time trying to saw through one of them before we gave up and Dave just dragged it far enough out of the way for two bikes to get by.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I was both excited and a little nervous. We couldn’t tell how high we might have to ride, nor how far. The GPS showed a road juncture about 40 km (25 mi) away but it couldn’t tell us if it was paved or dirt. From there it was another 30 km (18 mi) or so to Evanston, where we would find a hotel for the night.
    I kept my thoughts on a hot shower and a bed for the night and rode on. Our helmet visors were starting to ice up, making it very difficult to see. The heated grips on our bikes only worked for our palms, the rest of our hands were freezing. It was snowing very hard. Our tires left the only tracks on the dirt road. We passed no one.

    My heated jacket had malfunctioned a few days ago. I noticed when I found a burn mark in my long-sleeved merino wool top. Dave had kindly loaned me his heated jacket. Even with it cranked, I was still freezing. I couldn’t imagine how cold he must have been with no heating source.

    At one point we stopped on the two-wheeled track our road had become and jumped around. I worried about hypothermia. But all we could do was press on for what we hoped would be a paved road. It was closer than where we’d come from, so turning back would have taken us longer. We wanted the road ahead to be paved for speed and ease, however, if it was covered in snow that presented its own problems. Our feet were totally frozen, making it very hard to shift and control the bike in the mud and snow. I had to pop my visor up because it was iced over but then I’d be pelted in the eyeballs with snow, so I had to sort of feel my way along following Dave’s tracks ahead of me.

    We rode through a sheep farm and a growling dog nipped at our ankles while we passed trying to keep the bikes upright in the slippery ruts caused by tires over the years. Despite the dog, the scene was idyllic. I took the time for a photo and it remains one of my favourite pictures on the trip to-date.

    [​IMG]

    Just when I wasn’t sure I could handle the cold anymore, we came to a junction and blessedly, the road was paved. Enough traffic had moved over its surface that it was just wet, not snowy, so we rode the remaining miles into Evanston, found a hotel and proceeded to each have showers lasting about 20 luxurious minutes and a great, long sleep in a real bed.

    You’d think we’d have learned our lesson. It was too wintery to ride the last miles of the BDR. We should just stick to lower elevations and start the long journey back to Dave’s dad’s house in Arlington, WA, still about 1600 km (1000 mi) away, right?

    But we still had about 65 km (40 mi) left on the Utah BDR. And, well, we were right there.

    Oct. 4 leaving Evanston to Salt Lake City was not snowy but still plenty chilly and, once we’d found our junction to hop back on the BDR, some of the worst mud we’ve ridden in a while. I don’t really have photos that do it justice on account of trying to survive the road, but here are some that will give you an idea.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    It was thick and slimy. Five miles took us about two hours. My forearms and fingers were so sore from trying to work the clutch and throttle in harmony at such low speeds that I kept stalling the bike, which would then just start falling to one side or the other. This was the first day I picked up the F800 alone as Dave didn’t see me go down. (I also happened to catch Dave bailing off his bike as well.)

    Dave gives me plenty of options to bail out on the tough days. Sometimes I truly want to but the only way to get better is to push yourself. Also, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of passing a bunch of rock trucks, excavators and bulldozers making a huge mess in the mud and watching their expressions when a girl sloshes by on a motorcycle. I’m sure they thought we’d be turning around not wanting to attempt to churn through the soup they were digging up but we ploughed through it and kept going in order to complete our Utah BDR miles.

    There is, of course, a limit. I don’t like feeling scared or over my head. But after a particularly tough day, it’s a great feeling to look back on what we’ve accomplished together.

    Taking the last two weeks to complete the Idaho and Utah BDR was certainly worth it. But the challenges were about to begin. While we rode along the interstate to get back to Arlington, Washington, I contemplated the next month. We’d planned to hole up at Dave’s dad’s house and organize the next leg of our trip over to Africa, Europe and Russia. We needed travel visas, carnet de passages and a shipper for getting our bikes over to Africa. Dave was going to pick up some work in the Seattle area to make a few bucks while I would write and hopefully sell some stories. Together we would work on plans and organising. I was loving being on the road so I asked Dave if we could minimalize being home to 6 weeks max.

    We had no idea we’d be home for almost four months.

    For more, visit ridingfullcircle.com
    #56
  17. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Cape Town South Africa. Part One

    Feb. 19, 2017: Sorry for being behind in catching you all up on our South African adventures. We’ve had some frustrating computer and website issues. "They" told us not to bring electronics. And websites are always a pain in the ass, so I guess we asked for it.

    I think I can speak for us both when I say South Africa has blown us away. We’ve seen wild baboons, a huge colony of penguins and—wildlife highlight!—the rarest antelope in Africa, called the Bontebok. We actually saw hundreds of them while riding along a remote dirt road. They are skittish and we didn’t have the zoom lens needed to get close enough shots but here’re some pics nevertheless.

    [​IMG]The rarest antelope in Africa—the Bontebok. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG] The rarest antelope in Africa—the Bontebok. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]The rarest antelope in Africa—the Bontebok. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]The rarest antelope in Africa—the Bontebok. Photo: Heather Lea





    [​IMG] Wild baboons. (Is one of them giving me the finger?) Photo: Heather Lea [/caption]
    [​IMG]Penguins in Simon's Town, Cape Town. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Penguins in Simon's Town, Cape Town. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]
    Penguins in Simon's Town, Cape Town. Photo: Dave Sears

    Back tracking a little, some of you might like to know about our success at flying the bikes from Vancouver to Cape Town, a process that began Feb. 5. On that date, Dave trailered the bikes through the US/Canadian border. I was plenty nervous as I thought they'd give him a hard time for having a vehicle in transport that wasn't registered to him. He had a Permission Letter printed out I’d written stating I was allowing him to bring my bike through the border. All for not. When you’re overly prepared for border bull droppings, they never ask for documents. When you forget one little thing, you’re in all kinds of trouble. But that’s another story for another time.

    Although Dave crossed the border successfully, it still took a long time.

    [​IMG]The bikes ready to be taken across the border and shipped from Vancouver to Cape Town. The crates came from Maple Ridge Motorsports, free of charge. They are metal and solved the problem we were having about using wooden crates. Wooden crates needed to come with a special stamp stating the wood had been treated. We could have had a company crate the bikes but it would have cost us over $1,200 CAN. Dave built a deck on top of his dad's trailer so it would be wide enough to transport the bikes then spent a few hours turning the bikes into mini versions of themselves so they would fit inside the metal crates. He waited to cover the sides with strong plastic until after the Can/US border in case they'd want to see inside. They didn't even look at the bikes or ask for documents like titles and registration. Photo: Dave Sears

    At first Dave went to the wrong border so had to back track over an hour to another crossing for commercial vehicles. Then they had no idea what to do with the Carnet de Passage that we’d spent a fortune on and coveted like the bikes themselves. The Canada side took one piece of paper from the carnet, the US took another, so someone took the wrong copy. We’ve been told if there’s anything wrong with the carnet when we want our several-thousand-dollar deposit back, they might not give it to us. We weren’t off to a good start.

    By the time Dave got through the border, the office in Delta where he had to pick up the Dangerous Goods stickers our bikes could not fly without, had closed. Kindly, one of the staff members had waited half an hour after she was to go home, in order to give Dave the stickers as well as the airway bill (AWB) that had been couriered to them from our shipping company; two very important items we needed before the bikes could fly.

    (For info sake, we used W.G. McKay Shipping, which we can sort of recommend as the bikes did arrive safely, however we found dealing with the agent extremely trying and not efficient. Still they did do their job. The bikes cost us each $2,100 CAN ($1,600 USD) to fly via Air Canada and Emirates. We flew ourselves with Airmiles from Vancouver to Cape Town, which was still over $700 CAN ($530 USD) in taxes. We were not on the same plane as our bikes.)

    While Dave was racing around the lower mainland trying to get the bikes to the airport, I found out from our very excitable shipping agent that customs at the airport had already closed. We needed to clear the bikes through customs before they got on the flight, which was to be the next evening but had to clear 24 hours in advance. I texted the info to Dave and he said he'd just go to the airport and see what happened. I didn't hear from him for two hours, so thought everything was going well but when we called at 7:30 p.m., the good news was the bikes were waiting in cargo, all wrapped up and ready for the flight. The bad news was he didn't get though customs yet so had to spend the night in Vancouver.

    Luckily our friends Christine and Dave came to the rescue and could take my homeless boyfriend in for the night.

    The next day Dave was able to get the proper docs from customs and as a bonus, he found someone who knew about the carnets. When Dave went back through the border, he was able to tell them what needed to happen with the carnet stamping process and that helped clear up that issue.

    Dave returned back to his dad's with his truck and trailer and prepared to leave the next day on a train from Bellingham back to Vancouver, which should have taken just over two hours but as a result of a recent snow storm, took over seven.

    In the meantime, a few days before we were to fly out, my grandma was admitted to the hospital in Kelowna and given only a few days to live.

    The day of my flight from Kelowna to Vancouver (Feb. 5), my mom, who'd been tending to my grandma, came to pick me up at the airport, where my dad had dropped me off from Revelstoke, and took me over to the hospital so I could say my goodbyes to Nana. She looked very week and small but it was a great visit where I could remember my Nana with her sense of humor. At one point, while the doctor was checking her heart, she told him to watch where he was putting his hands. But she had a cheeky glint in her eyes and flirted relentlessly with him. (Nana has since been moved to hospice care. She's still kicking :0)

    It was a tough day saying much-too-quick goodbyes to my mom, dad and Nana. When my mom later took me back to the airport for my flight to Vancouver, we were crying at the departure gate, both feeling a little emotional with recent family stuff. I went through customs with tears streaming down my face and when I looked back into the waiting area, my mom was still there, waving. My cousin Andy had also come to see me off, which was very nice.

    My flight to Vancouver was sad but uneventful and I found Dave and our other friend's Andrea and David (yes another Dave!) that night. We spent the night at their place and, after a fun night out with friends, our flight mission from Vancouver to Cape Town started the following evening at 9:00 p.m. on Feb. 6.

    It took us over 27 hours of flying, with one 7 hour layover at the Heathrow airport, to reach Cape Town but what a beautiful place to land after the snow storms of Canada.

    [​IMG]Heathrow airport has sweet rest lounges. We were here for about four hours during our seven hour layover and even had a good sleep on the many couches in the room. Photo: self-timer

    On Feb. 8, we recovered the bikes after their long journey through India to reach us in Cape Town. The only minor issue was they arrived a day later than scheduled but we were enjoying the city and where we were staying at an Air BnB, so it wasn’t a problem.

    [​IMG]Our Air BnB for four nights while we organized the bikes and toured Cape Town. Only $35 CAN per night. Photo: Heather Lea

    When we found the bikes in customs, the process of stamping the carnet and clearing them from customs was flawless. There wasn’t even a line up. Then came the large task for Dave putting the bikes back together from out of the crates. It was many hours spent tightening bolts long into the night.

    [​IMG] My F800 being brought out from Emirates cargo in Cape Town. Looks like a giant aquarium with a bike-fish inside. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Unpacking the bikes from cargo. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] There she is under all that plastic! Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Dave gets busy unscrewing the nuts and bolts holding the frame together, with limited tools. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]

    We had lots of help. And onlookers ;) Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Dave finds his bike. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Working into the night putting the bikes back together. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Working into the night putting the bikes back together. Photo: Heather Lea

    Of course it couldn’t have been easy.

    [​IMG]Almost ready to go! Or are we? Photo: Heather Lea

    Once we had everything back together and were getting ready to ride back to our Air BnB, we discovered my front breaks weren’t working. They needed to be bled but we didn’t have the right tools with us. It was nearly 11:00 p.m. and the cargo unit had closed 3 hours ago, but everyone was still kicking around either waiting for us to leave or curious, watching the Heather and Dave Show. We finally had to ask if they could store my bike inside while we rode two-up back to our place. We promised to return early in the a.m. with the tools we needed to get the bike out of their way. They agreed but said as we had signed the bike out, it was no longer their responsibility if anything happened.

    It was a bit nerve racking to leave my bike there but when we arrived we had to pass through security to enter and the cargo unit would be locked all night, so we just had to trust.

    When we returned the next morning my F800 was exactly as we’d left it. When Dave went to retrieve it someone immediately came up to him and asked who he was. Dave bled the brakes and we were a complete family again, with our two-wheeled children back in our possession.

    We spent the next few days hiking up Table Mountain, which was fantastic and riding around the peninsula and to Chapman’s Peak, also spectacular. This post is long enough so I'll let the following photos do the talking.

    [​IMG]Hiking up Table Mountain on a very hot day. Dave decided the beard had to go after this day. Cape Town in distance. A very clean, beautiful city. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]Dave taking a photo of a little lizard, seen below. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]View from the top of Table Mountain. We rode that highway along the coast two days later. Stunning. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]Top of Table Mountain. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] Top of Table Mountain. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]Tried to find this pool on our ride around the peninsula. Didn't, but found another pretty beach instead with surfers to watch. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Beach day in Cape Town. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG]Not too many days ago, we were in the Canadian snows. Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]Strong winds near Cape Town make for excellent surfing and kite surfing. Photo: Heather Lea


    [​IMG] Strong winds near Cape Town make for excellent surfing and kite surfing. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]Photo: Dave Sears

    [​IMG]A day riding around Chapman's Peak outside of Cape Town. Photo: Heather Lea.

    Our hosts at the Air BnB in Cape Town were very nice and helpful and even had us in their home a few times for meals and wine. We didn’t want to leave but on Feb. 10 we finally did get back into on-the-road mode and headed 5 hours east to spent to nights with Kobus and Jessica from Life Remotely, other world travellers living near Wilderness, SA. It was great to meet them and share travel stories over the course of a few days in their beautiful home.

    On Feb. 12 we were off again.

    More to come soon!

    For more, visit ridingfullcircle.com
    #57
  18. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    South Africa. Part Two. Sani Pass

    Feb. 16, 2017—Because we love trip stats and breaking (our own) records, we’ve now been to Africa’s Southern-most point (Cape Agulhas, South Africa), Africa's Highest Pub (2876 m/9436 ft, Sani Pass, Lesotho), Africa’s Highest motorable pass (3255 m/10,679 ft, Tlaeeng Pass, Lesotho) and Africa’s Highest Restaurant (3010 m/9875 ft, Afriski Ski Resort, Lesotho). And it all happened in two days.

    [​IMG] Cape Agulhas. Photo: random stranger[​IMG] Africa's highest pub. Photo: Rentia Wolmarans[​IMG]
    Africa's highest motorable pass. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Afriski ski resort. Photo: random stranger

    Lesotho, pronounced li-soo-too, is an extremely beautiful, very small (30,000 sq km/11,583 sq mi) country surrounded by South Africa.

    [​IMG]

    On Feb. 16, Dave and I entered Lesotho in order to ride over Sani Pass. We were lucky to find the pass in excellent condition. Coming from the South African side, which we did, the pass is dirt and has some hairy corners. At the top after the official border crossing, the pass descends into recently-paved arching corners. It’s easy to see why most vehicles come from the other side, motorcycles included. But we liked the ruts, dirt, mud and stream crossings of the more remote side.

    [​IMG] On the way, we bought some pineapple. We only wanted half. The lady didn't have a knife so she used the barbed wire fence behind. Love the ingenuity. Glad for the Tetanus shot. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] The natural habitat of the Dave. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Riding up Sani Pass. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Riding up Sani Pass. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Sani Pass. Photo: Heather Lea

    Sani Pass, which starts at 5065 ft (1544 m) and climbs to 9436 ft (2876 m), can be a treacherous road in heavy rain or snow, (yes, it snows in Africa! Check out this ski resort called Afriski).

    [​IMG] Afriski ski resort. Photo: Heather Lea[/caption]
    But on this day, we had lots of sun for great photos and recent rains had turned the views into a green paradise with waterfalls and wild baboons. We’d seen photos of the pass looking dry and brown, so this was awesome.

    [​IMG] Along Sani Pass. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Along Sani Pass. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Along Sani Pass. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Along Sani Pass. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Along Sani Pass. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] My favourite photo along Sani Pass. In the distance is where we came from in South Africa. Photo: Heather Lea

    While riding up Sani, we passed two SUV’s a few times. When Dave and I pulled over for a snack the SUVs stopped and one of the women offered us her number. Rentia and her husband Stoffle lived in Bethlehem a few hundred kilometres away and said if we were in their area, to call and stay with them. We were all planning to check out Africa’s Highest Pub at the top of Sani Pass, so said we’d meet there and have a beer.

    [​IMG] Our friends and eventual hosts for over a week on the right: Stoffle and Rentia. Their travelling friends on the left. Photo: Heather Lea

    The pub was a contrast after riding through a sparsely populated village whose inhabitants were dressed traditionally in long, beige coloured robes, their faces barely visible under hoods.

    [​IMG] When travelling, I love to see people wearing clothing specific to the region, that western civilization has not yet infiltrated. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Dave riding to the pub. Where you ask? It's here just up this remote dirt road. Photo: Heather Lea

    But when entering the pub, you’re met with groups of boisterous tourists clinking glasses and checking Facebook at perhaps Africa’s highest free wifi location.

    [​IMG] They had some great signs at Africa's Highest Pub. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] They had some great signs at Africa's Highest Pub. Photo: Heather Lea

    Rentia and Stoffle with their two friends were very generous offering to buy us a few rounds of beer but as we still had some riding to do, we kept the drinking to a bare minimum.

    The weather had come in suddenly at the pass, completely obscuring any views in a dense fog. It started to rain considerably. We sat comfortably inside with our new friends waiting for the weather to clear.

    [​IMG] Sun quickly turned to rain on Sani Pass. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] waiting out the rain at Africa's Highest Pub, Sani Pass. Photo: Heather Lea[/caption]
    A loud, fun group of five other riders out on a long-weekend trip from Durban invaded the bar. These guys were definitely in holiday mode, throwing insults at each other in good form. A couple of the guys had even removed their wedding bands. Uh oh! They invited Dave and I to join them on the rest of the ride about 40 km (25 mi) to a nearby village where they had rented a guest house for the night. We were just going to find a place to camp anyway so why not?

    The weather had cleared somewhat. We said goodbye to Rentia and Stoffle and their friends promising to be in touch if we came through their city then took off as a motorcycle posse of seven to the village of Molumong, Lesotho for the night. Here we found the guest house and were impressed with its interior and setting.

    [​IMG] View from our guest house in Molumong, Lesotho. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Our guest house in Molumong, Lesotho along with a few of the other riders' bikes. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Our guest house in Molumong, Lesotho along with a few of the other riders' bikes. Photo: Heather Lea

    [​IMG] I couldn't wait to have a relaxing tub in our room but sadly the water wasn't too warm like we're used to at home. First World Problems. Get over it, Princess. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] The stylish interior at our remote African village guest house in Molumong, Lesotho. Photo: Heather Lea

    The owner, Norma, welcomed us. She sent two teenagers out to find the seven of us beer and they arrived soon after with two cases.

    [​IMG] Finding beer in Molumong, Lesotho. Photo: Heather Lea[/caption]
    It was definitely a guys’ weekend where the only ingredients were meat and beer. Needless to say we had a good braai (BBQ) that night.

    [​IMG] Dave and one of the other riders we'd met bringing the braai (BBQ) over for cooking at our guest house in Molumong, Lesotho. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Some of the seven other riders from Durban, South Africa we found at Sani Pass, having a braai, which Dave and I were more than happy to be part of. Thanks, guys. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Trying for a sunset shot from our guest house in Molumong, Lesotho. Photo: Dave Sears

    In the morning the guys rode off earlier than Dave and I to Clarens, which was a town back in South Africa. They were fast riders more used to their country’s roads than Dave and I. We never did see the guys again but have some fun memories of staying in our first African village with them.

    On Feb. 17, Dave and I had a memorable day riding through a handful of small villages on remote dirt roads on to Golden Gates. Had the weather been wet, these roads would have been epic in a bad way but again we were lucky with a dry, sunny day of incredible scenery, smiling locals and a classic taste of the true beauty of Lesotho.

    [​IMG] On our way to Golden Gate, South Africa along a stellar back road. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] A classic scene in Lesotho, Africa. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] A classic scene in Lesotho, Africa. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Handing out stickers to the kids of Lesotho. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Lesotho kids wearing the stickers we handed out. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    Hair braiding at work in Lesotho. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] Love the smiles we get everywhere. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG] The incredible rock formations along the road leading to Golden Gates, South Africa. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] The incredible rock formations along the road leading to Golden Gates, South Africa. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] The incredible rock formations along the road leading to Golden Gates, South Africa. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Dave coming to rescue my bike after I lost it just after a greasy creek crossing. For the record I had a few attempts trying to lift it myself. Photos: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Before reaching Clarens, there is a border crossing from Lesotho back into South Africa. We arrived just after it had closed. It was about 5:00 p.m. and we weren’t sure where we were going to camp. There were police officers manning the post and they said we could actually go thorough the border but needed to come back in the morning to get our entrance stamp. Clarens, where we had a place to stay, was too far to ride to and then return. We asked if we could camp there at the border. One officer went inside to ask his boss. I didn’t think they’d let us. Try asking at home if you could camp at the Canada/U.S. border.

    But the officer returned and his intimidating expression turned into a smile.

    “Sure, no problem,” he said, “Welcome to South Africa.”

    [​IMG] Our camp spot at the Lesotho/South African border. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Local comings-and-goings over the Lesotho/South African border.[​IMG] View from the Lesotho/South African border crossing. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG] Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG] Amazing what you can scrape together when you "don't have any food" and there's no store in sight. Photo: Heather Lea
    #58
  19. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Our Self-guided Safari in Kruger National Park

    Feb. 23, 2017—Meeting Rentia and Stoffle at Sani Pass was fortunate for many reasons. We stayed with them for over a week, the first few days of which were pouring rain, so we had the shelter of a big farm house and a great private bedroom. Rentia even cooked all our meals and we’d eat at a big table in the kitchen with various family members, who would come and go. Dave and I were part of a big South African family for a week. We got motherly hugs, fresh farm milk and some true South African food, like pap (a porridge with an unfortunate name) and biltong and dry wors (like beef jerky and dried sausage and very addicting.)

    [​IMG]
    Rentia and Stoffle's house in Bethlehem, South Africa. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Rentia and Stoffle at their home in Bethlehem, South Africa. Photo: Heather Lea

    One day Dave and I took a drive in one of their bakkie pronounced buckie, (trucks) with all six dogs in the back. When we stopped to look at a new river recent flooding had caused, the dogs took off exploring. The littlest and our favourite, Kola, sounded like she was whimpering. The other dogs wouldn’t come when called nor when we pretended to drive away. Dave got out and hiked over to the water’s edge. We thought Kola was stuck in the river. He had to climb over a barbed wire fence then ducked into some trees. Soon I heard him cursing and come running out swiping at his head. He got four stings to the face from a wasp nest. The very nest Kola had dug up and probably got a few stings herself.

    Luckily these were not African killing bees or something. The bite areas swelled up pretty good and Dave looked like he had a double-chin but he faired well after we got him home and gave him an anti-histamine and some tea tree oil to stop the itching. All to ‘save’ a mischevious little dog!

    We thank Rentia and Stoffle very much for their hospitality and generosity, which was well demonstrated when they loaned us a bakkie to head north to Kruger National Park for a self-guided three-day safari.

    Kruger is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. It is 360 km (220 mi) from north to south and 65 km (40 mi) from east to west. Kruger became South Africa’s first National Park in 1926. Here you can see The Big Five: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo.

    During this trip, my Nana passed away. On the day my mom messaged me about it on our Inreach tracker, we kept seeing this beautiful bird.

    [​IMG]
    The bird that followed us along on our safari (Note addition: a friend says this might be a Lilac-breasted Roller) I like to think was my recently deceased grandma. Photo: Dave Sears

    I believe it was Nana following us. She had beautiful, colourful clothes and loved to travel. She had asked me to send her photos of our safari. But this was the real thing. She would have loved being on safari with us seeing all the animals. We saw all the Big Five—except the Cape Buffalo—and much, much more.

    We were thrilled with the number of animals we saw in Kruger. Dave really outdid himself with some incredible shots.

    The photos will tell the rest of the story so I’ll pass you over to them now :)

    [​IMG]
    Here is the bakkie Rentia and Stoffle loaned us for our safari. South Africa has some fantastic camp grounds. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    Some of the great facilities in South African campgrounds include braai (BBQ) stations. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    Watching for animals during a picnic stop. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    A shy kudu. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    This is a dik-dik. He was about the size of a big dog but smaller than a deer. More like a midget deer. Very squat legs. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    A zebra and wildebeest. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Although zebras look the same at first glance, they each have a unique stripe that sets them apart. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    Wildebeest. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    The handsome impala. Love their horns. Notice all the flies on his face. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    A female impala. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Not sure of the name (correction: Swainson’s Spurfowl,) but these birds are like pheasants but with style. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Again, don't know the name of this bird (correction: Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill.) Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    We think these might have been one of the nearly extinct birds in the park. (Note addition: this is a Ground Hornbill) Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    These ostriches are huge! Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    The Wood Stork. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    A beautiful collection of birds in Kruger National Park. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    An eerie scene of vultures on a stormy day in Kruger National Park. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    And now for some of the Big Five sightings. Love this one for scale. We later saw a car like this flipped over in the ditch. It likely was driving too fast but it's not impossible now to imagine it could have been an angry elephant. They were 'on musth' during our visit so horny and angry! Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    Such a sorrowful face. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Interestingly, an African Elephant's ears are the same shape of the African continent. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    Sparring elephants on musth. We saw some with broken tusks from fighting. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    That's quite a dump! Elephant poo. (We found out later there is a strict rule for not getting out of your vehicle in the park. Stupid tourists! Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    Elephant skulls are smaller than I thought. Maybe this was a baby. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Cheetahs have a less complex spotted hide so these are cheetahs not leopards. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    Rhinos proved to be harder to find and see than lions. We only saw this one on our last day heading out of the park. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    What happens when there's a lion around. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    At last the elusive lioness. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    And the male lion hot on her tail. It was mating season for the lions. We were told they fornicate 40 times a day for four weeks. Forty! Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    It looks like a smile but don't be fooled. In all African parks, we are forbidden to ride through on motorcycles. It severely limits our options for some roads and park travels in Africa. But the self-preservation aspect of my brain says that's OK. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Lions will not eat impalas. They prefer bigger game for their time. Impalas, wildebeest and zebras are often seen grouped together as they all protect each other from larger prey animals. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    I couldn't wait to see a giraffe. I love these guys, even if they wouldn't turn around for the photo. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Girafes are the tallest living terrestrial animal. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    I wish I could twist my neck like this. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Kissing giraffes. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    "Check out my monkey butt!" Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Baby baboons are adorable. I never get enough of seeing baboons. They are a little aggressive so you have to be careful around them but so human-like and they have the funniest behaviours. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    I asked a park ranger about the disgusting red growths that many of the baboons had on their asses. I was told it was to attract mates. It did nothing for Dave and I. But maybe if you're a baboon, it's sexy as all get-out. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    The best baboon family shot. You'd think they were posing at a photo studio at Sears. Since Dave took the shot it was actually some sort of Sears studio. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    "Oh yeah, riiiiight there, scratch it, yeahhhh." Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    A lot of rain had fallen recently. Watering holes are usually where you'll find all the animal action; prey stalking and a variety of animals collecting but as everywhere was lush, the animals didn't congregate at local watering holes. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Some dramatic scenes in Kruger during the rainy season. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Our borrowed bakkie (truck) was the best way to see animals. Dave was excited to drive a right-hand drive vehicle. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    The skull of a wildebeest. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Spying hippos. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Hippos along the river while we were having lunch (in a restaurant up on stilts). Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    We waited awhile to get one that would look at us, mostly they are gorging themselves in true hippo form. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    Crocs are pretty camouflaged. We saw this one from across the river. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    And now for some creepy-crawlies. I think this is a beattle of some sort. It's incredible spiky. I watched some birds try to eat one and they gave up. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    This Chongololo is about 5 inches long. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    A bat hiding in the eves during the hot day. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    The spotted hyena. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Wart hogs are named that way because of the wart-like bumps on their face. Sexy! Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    Rentia and Stoffle told us to drink plenty of gin and tonic to ward off malaria. We didn't argue. Photo: Heather Lea
    #59
  20. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    114
    Namibia Part One

    Mar. 2, 2017—Namibia wasn’t on our list of countries to visit in Africa although after spending two weeks here we wonder why. Luckily, enough people had told us not to miss it so we decided to risk it. Our carnet de passage didn’t include Namibia. We were already quite far north up the east coast of South Africa before deciding to take the 1260 km (780 mi) detour west to Namibia. If they didn’t let us into the country, we’d have to backtrack.

    Luckily there were “no hassles, no assholes," (which, when said by the German owner of a campground we stayed in just before the border, sounds exactly like the same word), and we crossed the border without a problem. We also found out our carnet covered not just South Africa but southern Africa

    Namibia has only 2.1 million inhabitants, which may be why Dave and I felt like we had our own playground at times, with some killer off-the-pavement riding and indescribable scenery.

    [​IMG]
    Warning, zebras! Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    And then... a zebra! And some oryx. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    I've always loved solo trees. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    For my sister Vanessa, whose name means butterfly. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    An idea of the off pavement scenery in Namibia. Vast and animal-rich. Photo: Dave Sears

    Namibia is the country with the world’s highest sand dunes; the huge, red peaks that look like they were pinched up from the desert floor by a giant hand. (Namibia Part Two will talk about Sossusvlie and have pictures of the dunes.)

    During our days crossing the Namib desert, the only other living thing we would see sometimes for miles were oryx, springbok, zebras, ostrich, giraffes and a million birds, beetles and bugs.

    [​IMG]
    Flamingos in Luderitz, a coastal city in Namibia. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    I got lucky capturing this oryx just at the right moment. He was very patient :) Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    Any bug people out there know what this is? Looks like a dragon fly of sorts. Photo: Dave Sears[​IMG]
    I'm not sure if this is the one but there is a beetle in Namibia that can create its own water. Its shell collects condensation, which it can drink. I love nature. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    Can you see the giraffe? Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    OK it's not a real hippo but it's a great carving. Photo: Heather Lea

    Namibia has its own version of the Grand Canyon called Fish River Canyon, which is the largest canyon in Africa and is 160 km (100 mi) long, 27 km wide and 560 m deep.

    [​IMG]
    Fish River Canyon is no less stunning than the Grand Canyon and has far fewer tourists. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Dave checking out the view over the canyon under the blessedly provided shade. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    Dave riding above the canyon, far left. Photo: Heather Lea

    We also couldn’t miss the Skelton Coast, an incredibly desolate, barren stretch following the Atlantic sea. (Pics coming in Part Two). There are places in Namibia that look like I imagine the moon to be. Then, with this years’ healthy dose of rain, otherwise dried up dead places are green and flowering from the almost daily thunder and lightening showers.

    [​IMG]
    Riding in the Namibia desert. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    Along the Namibian desert. Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    For its part, Namibia has very good non-paved roads, although they can be affected by rain and have some incredibly awful miles of washboard ruts that make you wonder if sitting on a paint mixer might be more comfortable. Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    The after-effects of a rain storm can be quite nice. Photo: Heather Lea

    These showers can come at ideal times, like when it’s 35° C (95° F) and we’re riding into the wind…of a hair dryer. The showers can also be quite shocking when we literally disappear into a solid water-wall as dark as the tarmac on which we ride. The temp can plummet 20-30 degrees and the raindrops so beefy it sounds like a bucket of gravel has been dropped on our helmets.

    [​IMG]
    Afternoon storms in Namibia can be a great way to cool off but can also hit with some force when riding a motorcycle. Photo: Heather Lea

    Riding a motorcycle in Namibia means putting up with some intense heat, a lack of gas stations, flat tires and the Sand Surprise, where an otherwise hard packed gravel road that you might be travelling along at 90-100 kmph (55-60 mi) suddenly turns into a 100-metre long section of loose, deep desert sand.

    I hate sand but In Namibia I either had to learn to ride it or be stuck on boring paved highways. Once, while riding what appeared to be a normal gravel road. I was going about 80 kmph and suddenly my bike was swerving. I didn’t see it coming. My gut instinct was to slow down but the second I tried that, the bike started to swerve even more. I thought I was going to eat it badly but somehow by letting in the clutch, the bike straightened out. I can only surmise it perhaps added a touch of speed because it was no longer using the gears to slow the engine and started coasting, or I found a better patch of road.

    The next time that happened I went against everything in my brain and twisted the throttle. Instantly my bike straightened out. It was a very cool feeling.

    In Namibia, we’ve had to ride faster than I usually like in order to keep the bike straight but I'm happy to see that even after over 60,000 km (37,280 mi) and 17 countries, we can still have breakthroughs with riding.

    [​IMG]
    It's as hot as it looks. So far the hottest day we've had was 41° C (105° F).Photo: Heather Lea
    [​IMG]
    No, no, this is FUN. Really! Photo: Dave Sears
    [​IMG]
    Dave hiding in the only patch of shade found for miles along the remote Namib desert roads. Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    The best is when other travellers with a FRIDGE stop and give you cold water mixed with electrolytes :) Photo: Heather Lea[​IMG]
    My THIRD flat tire in a month. Welcome to the roads of Africa. Photo: Heather Lea[/caption]
    Stay tuned for Namibia Part Two, coming soon :)
    #60