Solo Ride – Pennsylvania to Anchorage, Alaska and back – 2011

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by lookaught, May 31, 2011.

  1. lookaught

    lookaught Loner Extraordinaire

    Joined:
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    Lander, Wyoming

    “the beatings will continue until morale improves”


    Hello adv! This is my first RR :deal, so I’m going to do my best to make this interesting. Just before I set off my brother mentioned the quote above and I think it sums up the trip to Anchorage in one awesome phrase. So read on, and I hope it provides some procrastination material to get you all through the long workdays until you write your own RR.:evil I think a great motto to live by is: “don’t let it not happen.” It’s easy to push back, or plan, or procrastinate, or to listen to other people telling you not to go because it's dumb and dangerous... and soon enough you’re old and the trip has never happened. So get up, get out, and get going!

    Overview: This ride is solo from Pittsburgh, PA to Anchorage, AK. The ride up began on May 18, 2011 and ended two weeks later on May 31. I covered 4,598 miles in 9 days of actual riding (average 511miles/day), plus a few days off for rest and ferry schedule. This is my first long trip (the longest before being about 100 miles haha), and it was jam packed with highs, lows, lots and lots of rain, some spectacular sights, and a lot of saddle time. My butt made it through fine, but my knees and ears are going to need a little R&R to get back to normal!

    I expect it’ll take about a week to write up the report for the trip up. I’m in Anchorage until mid August for work, and then I head back east. I plan to go to D2D and also run to Deadhorse, and will add these later on.

    The Route. Roughly planned and made up some along the way:

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    The Bike. I didn’t name her yet, but will soon now that I’ve had some seat time with her:
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    Fully Loaded on Day 1:
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    2010 BMW F800GS 30<sup>th</sup> Anniversary
    -BMW engine guard
    -Micatech panniers
    -SW Motech crash bars
    -SW Motech center stand
    -Rivco Highway Pegs
    -MotoOverland top plate
    -Rotopax 1gallon
    -40L vinyl dry bag
    -12 pack cooler
    -lots of Rok Straps
    -and my own custom made stainless steel kickstand footpad

    I brought a few clothes, a shit ton of tools and only ever needed the torx that was in the under-seat kit (ironic, but better to be overprepared than under right?), tie downs, windex, my computer, iphone, car GPS with a generic waterproof holder, tent, other various camping accessories. Decided to skip the stove because I stayed with friends and made some new ones along the way.
    And a couple of highlight pictures of what is to come:


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    #1
  2. soph9

    soph9 Would Love to ride ALL the TIME

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    Stony Brook. NY
    great pictures...we are heading up that way June 29th....:clap
    #2
  3. chelo5sur

    chelo5sur Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Chile.
    Nice pics .... thanks :clap
    #3
  4. WNCSte

    WNCSte n00b - yep

    Joined:
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    Western NC
    I'm a sucker for an Alaska RR. :nod

    Thanks for the pics.
    #4
  5. Oldrice

    Oldrice oldrice.com

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2004
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    533
    Location:
    Detroit - East Side

    Ditto!:lurk

    Oldrice-
    #5
  6. lookaught

    lookaught Loner Extraordinaire

    Joined:
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    <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"&#65325;&#65331; &#26126;&#26397;"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:eek:ther; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"&#65325;&#65331; &#26126;&#26397;"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-size:10.0pt; mso-ansi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-fareast-font-family:"&#65325;&#65331; &#26126;&#26397;"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-fareast-language:JA;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style> The Bike:

    My friend Dan stopped over and shot some really high quality photos of the bike the day before Ieft. These alone have pretty much convinced me to buy an SLR for the rest of my time in AK because the point and shoot I borrowed from my dad is just not cutting it for distance shots.


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    #6
  7. lookaught

    lookaught Loner Extraordinaire

    Joined:
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    Lander, Wyoming
    Day 0 - the prequel

    A little background on me and the trip. I'm 28 and going into my third year of law school in Vermont. The genesis of this trip was declaring that "If I get a summer internship in Alaska, I'm riding a motorcycle there!" Well sure enough, I got the internship, and while it cost a lot more money, I stuck with the plan and rode to AK. In April I picked up the bike from fellow inmate LostViking in Albany, and was pot committed.

    The prequel timeline:

    Finished finals May 11, drove to PA with the bike in tow and the dog in the car, the dog is living with my parents (thanks mom and dad!) for the next three months.
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    The dog, a lab-pit mix named Layla:
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    Ok so once in Pittsburgh it was time to get the bike sorted and packed. Unfortunately, for a procrastinator that didn't go smoothly. I did fab and tig weld on this stainless steel kickstand footprint:
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    Pretty sweet right? And it won't rust so I didn't paint it, stainless is awesome.

    And at 2am, with a planned 9am departure the bike looks like so:
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    Damn, too much labatt and one custom reflective sticker is all that was accomplished. The rest waited until the morning. On a side note, the "AK 2011" seemed a bit complicated for many people. I thought it'd be kind of clear. Whatever...

    boo ya, reflective!
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    The rider, my name is Jon.
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    The photo is from the top of Seneca in WV last year during a climbing trip.

    And the plan:
    Day 1 - Chicago and staying with friend Steph
    Day 2 - St. Paul and staying with friend Jerry
    Day 3 - Makoshika State Park in Glendive, MT, camping
    Day 4 - Lolo hot springs, Missoula, MT, camping... if you can call sitting in a hot springs camping
    Day 5 - Yakima, WA and staying with old friend Shayne and Leslie
    Day 6 - Rest Day in Yakima enjoying the sunny weather!
    Day 7 - Birch Bay, WA just south of the Canadian border and camping
    Day 8 - Prince George, BC and staying with extremely gracious inmate GISdood and his wife
    Day 9 - Prince Rupert, BC at the Pioneer Hostel. Highly recommended!
    Day 10 - sitting around Prince Rupert, waiting for the ferry. Kinda boring but the hostel had free interwebz and I made use of it.
    Day 11 - on the ferry to Juneau and Haines. The solarium ROCKS
    Day 12 - still on the ferry, getting into Haines at 9pm and camping on the "beach"
    Day 13 - the plan was to get to Tok, but I ended up driving all the way from Haines to Anchorage. It was a 770 miles loong haul.

    June 23-24 - D2D
    Deadhorse... July 4th maybe? Depends on weather
    August 12-? - the ride back to Pittsburgh to my family and Layla (the dog).

    Stay tuned!
    #7
  8. Carson_Mike

    Carson_Mike Sergeant Major

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2
    Location:
    Colorado Rockies
    Great start to a great adventure I hope. I will be making this trip soon.:clap:freaky
    #8
  9. ddavidv

    ddavidv Thrifty not cheap

    Joined:
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    2,126
    Location:
    Elizabethtown, PA
    Hmmm, let's see...:*sip*
    Very sexy motorcycle, check.
    Alaska trip, check.
    PA resident, check.
    Dog content, check.
    Steelers fan, check.

    Yeah, I'm in for this one. :D
    #9
  10. lookaught

    lookaught Loner Extraordinaire

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    198
    Location:
    Lander, Wyoming
    Day 1 - Pittsburgh, PA to Chicago, IL
    498 miles - 10 hours

    Day 1 was Wednesday, May 18. The plan was to leave on Monday, but through a combination of me not being ready and rain all day Monday and Tuesday, it was pushed back. Leaving on Wednesday was really pushing it to make the THursday ferry the following week, so it was D-Day.

    I wake up, look out the window, and it's pretty much a hurricane. :huh
    Have a look at the map, see that bright orange line I-76? Yes, the one heading northwest exactly under the red rain blob. Wonderful.
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    I wait around until noon, hoping it will clear up a little, and it does! Sunshine and blue skies, low 70s and humid. Nice riding weather. I ditch the rain liners and am ready to roll:
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    All packed and ready to roll:
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    20 minutes out, I hit marble sized hail. :dog
    That set the stage for the rest of the ride to AK really. Rain, rain, and more rain. Pulled over, donned the rain liners, and hit the road. Not many more pictures on the way to Steph's because it was off and on rain for the whole drive until I got just outside Chicago.

    But here are a few:
    Yep, this is Ohio
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    Looking better:
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    WHen I arrived it was dark. I passed what I think was the Butterfinger factory because it smelled like butterfingers for about 2-3 miles along I-294. The drive was pretty boring, but I was excited being the first day on the road. I did not wear earplugs and my ears were ringing like HELL when I arrived. Having never ridden for that long before, it was unexpected and primarily the fault of the damn windscreen pulling air into my chin.

    Tomorrow must be better!
    #10
  11. Jettn Jim

    Jettn Jim This is Liv'n!!!

    Joined:
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    NE PA Some... PNW Some... On HIGH ADVENTURE Most!
    Dannngit maan I just found your RR and the pic from Lewiston, Ive been hanging out here off and on for a couple months...we'll havta do beers the next time:freaky aaaand I'm riding outta Pa too:1drink
    #11
  12. AKDuc

    AKDuc Alaska Born Ducatisti

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2006
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    6,762
    Location:
    Anchorage, Alaska
    Hello and welcome to Alaska, aka The Last Frontier, aka The Greatland. :D

    Glad to hear you're planning on joining me and a couple hundred other riders from around the world for the Dust2Dawson gathering. :choppa

    Looks like you had a nice trip up. Hope all continues going well during your stay.

    Thank you for sharing. Have fun, Mark H.
    #12
  13. kfsinc

    kfsinc Chaingolian Observer

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2003
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    Location:
    Crystal Lake, IL
    IN! See you in Dawson!
    #13
  14. LostViking

    LostViking Long timer

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Northern Adirondacks, N.Y.
    Jon,

    Really glad to see the bike ran well for you. I thought your Brother was going with you?

    You guys still headed to TDF?
    #14
  15. lookaught

    lookaught Loner Extraordinaire

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Lander, Wyoming
    I very well may pass through in late August just to rip that road a few times. It's amazing!

    Looking forward to D2D, the sunlight hours here are just incredible! My body just will not turn off at night :eek1

    See ya there!

    Nope this trip was always planned solo. My brother and I are planning a possible trip to Costa Rica in December and then TDF is on the agenda for 2012 or 2013... depending on time off and finances and if he buys a bike capable (hint hint Chris). Who knows...

    Bike ran great! The only issue is the rear tire is almost shot at 6k miles. Too much throttle I suppose :evil I'm thinking about getting a set of TKC80s to run around here in AK and then putting the street tires back on for the ride home. I don't know if the rear will handle another 5k miles though.... damn expensive tires! *fist shake!*
    #15
  16. lookaught

    lookaught Loner Extraordinaire

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Lander, Wyoming
    Day 2 - Chicago, IL to St. Paul, MN
    370 miles - 7.5 hours

    Day 2 was what turned out to be the second shortest ride of the whole trip, only 370 miles. I had to get to Hastings, MN by 8pm... so it was a very leisurely day. Woke up, went with Steph to get coffee and food, took some pics by Lake Michigan, and actually got on the road around noon. It was sunny, humid, and in the high 60's low 70s's... perfect riding weather.:freaky

    Me along the lake after getting coffee:
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    The bike by the lake on my way out of town. I stopped to get gas just before this and put in 4.1 gallons. :eek1 It's a 4.2 gallon tank. *whew*
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    It's hard to get pics when the camera is on the ground. F!
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    Cruising somewhere in MN. I was heading to Lacrosse to take 61N along the great Mississippi river per a suggestion from my friend Jerry that it was a nice ride... and it was!
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    This is where I stopped for lunch/dinner (sandwich w00t!). Right at a lock. It was actually in operation at that moment:
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    Look how effing big this lock is! This is only half of it:
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    And what gigantic boat was passing through, requiring a billion gallons of water? This monster:
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    Oh and the bugs... nothing compared to AK:
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    Cruised for a while longer to some town with a lot of sailboats. Can't recall the name of it but it said that jetskis were invented there on some billboard:
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    Ok time to get to Jerry's place, where the real dinner was waiting. Triple layer chicken quesadillas made from scratch. Home made salsa, BBQ sauce, marinade, the works. Bobby Flay cookbook! Danke schoen, Jerry!
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    10pm I was out like saurkraut. Early start tomorrow.

    The theme of the trip is "beatings will continue until morale improves." Day 1 was rough: first day in the saddle, leaving my family and dog, hail, rain, wind, humid. Day 2 was fantastic. Morale had improved, but the beatings had actually yet to come...

    Tomorrow, it's onward to Montana! Fair warning, the pics from ND are, well, pics of ND.
    #16
  17. lookaught

    lookaught Loner Extraordinaire

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    198
    Location:
    Lander, Wyoming
    Day 3 - St. Paul, IL to Glendive, MT (Makoshika State Park)
    608 miles - 12.5 hours.

    Hello kids! The color of the day is: rain. :cry

    I'm on the road at 8am. It's not raining, but is overcast and the TV weather report looks really, really bad in North Dakota about three hours west. Whatever, time to ride!

    Less than an hour in, and it starts to rain. Not hard, just drizzle. Little did I know this would continue for, um, 800 miles. :puke1
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    Ever wonder what North Dakota looks like? Wonder no more!
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    Pretty awesome huh?

    This is my "dear lord baby jesus, how many more miles of this hell?" face:
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    Ugh.

    mmm, pollution.
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    What's this? Getting interesting!
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    So the entire trip I had been looking forward to two stops on this particular day. First, at a scenic overlook in western ND that is beautiful badlands. Second, camping on a ridgeline at Makoshika State Park in Glendive, MT. You can drive up a ridge right to the spine, and camp with a fire pit, outhouse, picnic table, and a 50+ mile view.

    Pulling into the scenic overlook, the weather is total crap. Raining. Hard. I was approaching the parking lot and thought to myself "I don't recall any buffalo statute, that must be new."
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    Ok, it was not a statute, it was the real deal. Here he is paying homage to the mighty 800GS! Or more likely, waiting to trample my ass to death when I'm not looking.

    The view. Not really spectacular, but better than nothing. Chatted for a few minutes with some other travelers.
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    Al...most there....
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    Montana!!!
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    Uh oh, Montana weather doesn't look good:
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    And after more than 12 hours, I pull into Makoshika. Thank god. It was raining. It had been for hours. Had a nice 25mph tailwind for most of the day, but rain still sucks.
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    Camp:
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    So I couldn't camp on the ridge. Not only was it raining, hard, but it was also threatening lightning and high winds. Not the time to be on a ridge. So I pitched the tent in the valley, had a beer, and called it a night.

    Tomorrow, onward to west of Missoula, MT, where camp is at a hot springs. I go to sleep to the pitter-patter of rain on the tent fly, hoping for better weather. Morale was not improved, that was the problem.:deal
    #17
  18. lookaught

    lookaught Loner Extraordinaire

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    198
    Location:
    Lander, Wyoming
    Day 4 - Glendive, MT to Lolo Pass, MT
    611 miles - 11.5 hours

    Woke up early around 6am to the sound of rain. Ugh. Back to bed until 7. Finally decided that when it hadn't lightened up by 8am, it was time to just get going in the rain. It wasn't raining hard, but it was steady. I had a long ride today, and had to get moving....

    The tent in the AM. Stayed dry on the inside!
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    The bike's tent:
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    I checked the weather on my phone and it was a huge green blob all the way to Bozeman, which was a few hundred miles. After two hours I needed gas and stopped near Billings. Totally soaked through to the lines, and my pants are not gore tex so they leaked. I probably weighed about twenty extra pounds from the water and left a massive puddle in the gas station to the left of this photo. Notice the river in the gutter?

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    So the rain was heavy for a couple hours but then it became off and on for a long while, dry enough for my gear to dry almost completely :clap. Kinda looked like this for the middle of the day:

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    First mountains!
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    Clearing up:
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    And finally, pulling into my favorite western city, Missoula, MT!
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    It was a sweet ride in the valley heading into Missoula, then it immediately cleared up and was sunny and warm.:clap I was even completely dry by this point.

    Heading out of town. I didn't stop at all, just booked to Lolo because I'd been on the road for over ten hours already.
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    100% concentration!
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    And finally, after 11.5 hours of riding, I'm at Lolo hot springs. Time to set up camp and hit the tub!
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    The day was epically long. Beside the rain, there were vicious cross winds that had be be close to 50mph for long stretches in eastern MT, my tank bag cover blew off at some point and is now littering the side of the road :huh. On the bright side I have super toned neck muscles from holding my head straight. Many a right hand turn was made with the bike leaning left, and vice versa. After I set up camp I had a couple beers and hung out in the hot springs tub and pool for a few hours until midnight with some college girls :evil, then went home to the tent and passed OUT.

    Day 4 in the bag. Total miles so far 2,087 and over 1,200 in two days. I was beat, but one more day through some epic backcountry and I'd be to Yakima and a rest day with some old friends Shayne and Leslie. After so many miles of rain, wind, cold, more rain, even more rain, super hard cross wind and bad food, morale had improved. Tomorrow is the beginning of the awesome part of the ride to AK.:freaky
    #18
  19. lookaught

    lookaught Loner Extraordinaire

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    198
    Location:
    Lander, Wyoming
    Day 5 - Lolo Pass, MT to Yakima, WA
    407 miles - 9 hours

    Slept in this morning, and was up and on the bike around 9am. Dry, mostly cloudy, and about 50 degrees. Really nice riding weather... in the valley that is.

    The plan for the day is to ride on US 12 along the Clearwater River. This ride is AWESOME and I highly recommend it. It adds a few hours to the ride but is really, really worth the time. My damn camera died right as I got to eastern Washington so the pics are incomplete... dammit.

    Time to ride:
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    Lolo pass climbs a few thousand feet out of the valley and it gets cold quick. The rule of thumb is 7 degrees per thousand feet of elevation gain, so it was in the 30's in no time. No worries with heated grips! The real problem was fog because it gets on the visor and you have keep the visor cracked and constantly wipe it clear. PITA!
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    eff... yeah!
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    Ok so US12 follows the Clearwater river for well over 100 miles, so you get to see it begin as a mountain creek falling fast with crazy Class 4/5 rapids and transition into a massive navigable river. Pretty awesome.
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    Slight tangent. The other side of the river is the Selway Bitteroot Wilderness. What is a Wilderness you ask? Back in 1964 and continuing primarily through the 1980s, congress was actually a functioning, cooperative, bipartisan government. They debated, compromised, and passed the bulk of the federal environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, ANILCA, and in 1964, the Wilderness Act. Wilderness is characterized by having no roads, no permanent human improvements, no mechanized access, no ORVs, no snowmobiles, nothing. Just millions of acres of land without human settlement.

    The actual legislation:
    "(c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

    Congress set aside over 100 million acres of Wilderness that bans logging, roads, and any other uses essentially in perpetuity for the benefit of future generations and wildlife ecosystems. It's a legal interest of mine, so I'm pretty interested and passionate about it, and I think it's important to look at it and remember that once, a long time ago, Congress and politics was not a completely broken embarrassment. Hopefully one day we can get back to that.
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    The bridge into the wild:
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    End digression....

    Back to the riding. Hit some heavy rain coming out of the forest, but only for about 30 minutes.
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    And all of the sudden... no more trees:
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    I arrived in Lewiston, ID around 2pm I think. It was gorgeous weather, sunny, warm, light traffic. Then I took a wrong turn and ended up leaving US12 and was on I-95N. My GPS was doing it's little recalculation dance and I was now on a divided highway, cursing my poor choice of direction... wasting time and gas. The highway was just climbing and climbing up a big hill, and after a couple miles there was a turnoff for a scenic viewpoint to look down on the mighty metropolis of Lewiston. Knowing I could turn around and head back down the highway, I pulled over.

    At this point it dawned on me that not every wrong turn is actually wrong. Sometimes, albeit infrequently, life throws you a bone that you would never have gotten if you had been paying attention and stayed the course.

    First, there was a pretty nice view:
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    But actually, I didn't care about the view out on the city, it was the original road that I-95 replaced that caught my eye:
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    Oh yeah, this road:
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    FUCK... YEAH. Need I say more? Perfect pavement, almost zero gravel, not a single other car or bike on the road. The only downside is there was a massive dropoff at the edge of every corner if you go in hot, but shit... after 2000 miles of the middle of the USA, this road was EPIC. There's a weird feeling laying over a fully loaded touring bike, but its fun as shit and was the absolute best road of the entire ride to AK, hands down.

    So if you are in Lewiston, ID, go ride this road. I'm going to go through there on the way home and ride it a couple more times. :freaky

    Then my camera died. Oh well. Eastern Washington was very pretty, it is big rolling hills of wheat and grains and then transitions to pretty boring desert for the last 100 miles, but after six hours of awesome roads, I was ready to get to Yakima to relax.

    Halfway through the trip, this is where the motto rang true. Four days of flat, boring riding with a thousand miles of rain, crosswind, and generally shitty conditions will beat down even the most optimistic rider. But somehow a glimpse of sunshine, a good twisty road, and some fresh air can turn it all around... and morale is indeed improved.

    Tomorrow is a rest day, then onward to the great Pacific Ocean.:eek1 Stay tuned.

    p.s want to guess what I did on my rest day?
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    #19
  20. Jettn Jim

    Jettn Jim This is Liv'n!!!

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,900
    Location:
    NE PA Some... PNW Some... On HIGH ADVENTURE Most!
    Yup yer hav'n fuuuun now yeeeehaaa!:clap
    #20