Southern California to Deadhorse, AK on a VN900?! No problem...

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Swissican, Jul 18, 2011.

  1. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    Sooooo...this is my first RR, ever! Please be kind to me. :chace

    First off I'll satisfy your need for some nice pictures...then you'll be addicted to this thread, allowing me to write more useless stuff without losing your interest :evil

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    North of Redding, CA
    #1
  2. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    On the Stewart-Cassiar Highway in BC...
    #2
  3. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    Self explanatory...
    #3
  4. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    On the James W Dalton Highway south of Coldfoot...
    #4
  5. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    Before I get into the, hopefully, good stuff of my RR I would, first off, like to thank the following inmates:

    Rudi G, who meticulously answered my seemingly endless list of questions. In addition, thanks to his...uhmmm...lack of hair, I brought an item along that made most nights a bit more pleasant... :nod (if you'd like to know what it was I guess you'll just have to continue reading)

    Hanzo, for his pep-talks which helped me get into gear. In addition to thank, I also thank him for posting a certain picture that made me bring a vital piece of "equipment" along... :thumb (if you'd like to know what it was I guess you'll just have to continue reading)

    ddennis669 and Alcan Rider, both for posting on my thread and encouraging me to do this trip. Since I wasn't going to use the "recommended" vehicle for this trip I found their posts very encouraging... :nod

    So a big Thank You to all of you for making my trip worth while!!! :clap

    Well, I guess it's time to actually start this RR...but for now, here's a picture to keep you going (and interested)...

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    #5
  6. mtbspeedfreak

    mtbspeedfreak Adventurer

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    Cool! Where in SoCal are you at? I'm over in the IE.
    #6
  7. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    I started out in Oceanside (just south of Camp Pendleton)...
    #7
  8. judgebill

    judgebill Been here awhile

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    I'm very interested in your comments. My dream is to make the same trip next year. I'm from LA but now live in Uruguay. Hope to get to Los Angeles and ride with one or two friends to Anchorage next May/June. I'm particularly interested in whether you use (or change to) knobby tires or keep regular street tires on your bike. I will be riding a Honda Gold Wing when I do the trip. I'd do it by myself but I'm 75 and would prefer to have someone along who can help me lift a fallen bike. Other than that I figure I can handle everything else. So write on, entertain all of us who are interested and please post as many traveling details as you can. And congratulations on just doing it.
    #8
  9. Hanzo

    Hanzo KLUANE

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    Hey Swissi!!!, Excellent start on this report. Keep on truckin'.

    This is me in Eastern Baha, North of San Felipe.

    [​IMG]
    #9
  10. ddennis669

    ddennis669 Adventurer

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    Nice pictures already! :lurk
    #10
  11. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    I decided to reply directly to your quote since I didn't want to forget to mention something about my tires...
    For the entire trip I was running front and rear Metzler Marathon tires. My front tire has over 24k miles on it and it's still good. I "only" got about 17k out of my rear tire. So regarding street tires I can highly recommend the Metzler's :thumb . I didn't think knobby tires would be worth the money and effort since I would have to go to a mechanic and have them swap out the tires, plus, I only would have needed the knobby tires for the Top Of The World Highway and the James W Dalton Highway.
    Empty my bike weighs in at 600lbs so with full fluid levels, gear and myself I think it would weigh about 900lbs. I only mention this because when I was heading from Deadhorse back to Fairbanks the Dalton was muddy (similar condition as on my way north) and on the Roller-coaster or some other steep climb, I heard/felt my rear tire lose traction and spin out a few times.
    Now, I've never had a different bike and I've also never been on any other type of bike so I couldn't tell you how much better my bike would have handled had I had those knobby tires (do they even make them in that size?!). IMO I don't think a different set of tires would have made too much of a difference since the shocks and angle of the shocks are still the same...but that's my n00b opinion...

    Where exactly are you planning on riding to? If you stay on the Alcan or other "nice" roads I don't foresee to many problems. However, if you're planning on taking the Dalton than I would just caution you to take it "very slow". Now, in certain situation you're probably better off going faster (more momentum, less chances of getting dragged into a direction you don't want to go :p3rry ) but my concern is, since your Gold Wing has hardly any ground clearance, that you might hit one of those insanely deep potholes and bottom-out.
    But be advised, all paved roads in Canada and Alaska have potholes the size of small cars that will swallow you and your bike. :muutt

    Anywho, you're trip sounds like fun. Keep me updated on your plans/trip and let me know if you have any other questions.

    By the way, I hope I wasn't preaching to the choir here... :shog
    #11
  12. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    Hanzo :freaky
    Thanks for the compliment and the picture. It looks pretty desolate out there...almost like Deadhorse...well, minus the cold weather and the snow :evil

    Ride On... :super
    #12
  13. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    Thank you. More to come later this week. It takes some time to go through 13k pictures :eek1 ...
    #13
  14. alison's wanderland

    alison's wanderland Been here awhile

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    nice shots...waiting for more :thumb
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  15. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    Where to begin?!?! :hmmmmm Well, I guess the beginning is always a good place to start. :nod

    Anywho...If you haven't already noticed, I'm new to Adventure Riding, hell, I'm even new to motorcycle riding :lol3 . I've only had my license for 4 years during which I've done some fair amount of riding. Once I went on a 8200 mile (13k km) trip through the US but for the most part I stayed on interstates. In addition, I've done some shorter trips, between 1000 - 2000 miles, but nothing really major, like where I'd be in the middle of nowhere.

    Sidenote...I feel like I'm writing an essay for one of my college courses :cob

    So yea, prior to this trip I had about 27k miles (43k km) under my belt but all of it on primary and secondary roads. This was relevant because, for the most part, I always had cell phone reception where I could call AAA and have them pick me up. But on my trip to Deadhorse, I would be alone...well...I'm sure the bears would keep me company :rofl
    In addition to not really having any experience on unpaved roads (although I did have experience riding in any type of weather imaginable, except hail, which I was able to check off of my list on my trip to Deadhorse), I also didn't know much about how to repair my bike. Now, I could do the very very very basic stuff but since my bike is so heavy and I have tubed tires I can't easily replace my rear tire, or the front, for all that I care. So this trip to the isolated Deadhorse, AK would definitely be a challenge for me...

    Enough of my babbling, let's get started!!! :freaky

    I have a '07 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT an her name is Calypso (Nymph in Greek mythology) and she weighs about 600 lbs (270 kg) empty. She is a mighty fine motorcycle and I do take care of her (see image below).

    IMG_1647 - Copy.JPG

    But for some odd reason I felt like it would be a fun trip to take her from Southern California to Alaska and from there on to Florida and then back home.
    I'm a pre-med student and the fall semester doesn't start until the end of August so I had plenty of time to go and do whatever I wanted to do. As I started researching the trip I found out that I didn't have the "ideal" bike to go up to Deadhorse with. But thanks to this forum, especially Rudi G, Hanzo, ddennis669, and Alcan Rider, I was able to find answers to most of my questions so I started feeling pretty good about this trip. I really didn't plan much of anything. I stopped by AAA and picked up maps for Canada and the States in the US that I would be riding through, took a highlighter and simply marked the roads that would eventually lead me to my destinations :ricky
    I stopped by REI, picked up a tent, bear spray, and a bear box; took my bike to my mechanic to have a general check-up, had the oil changed and Calypso and I were ready to go.

    By the way, did I mention that I was doing this alone?!?!

    Anywho, since I started this trip at the beginning of June north of San Diego, CA, I would somehow have to navigate my way up North past Redding, CA without literally melting due to the heat. I was wearing my Tourmaster Centurion one-piece suit (see picture above) , which is absolutely marvelous, and yes, it has a ton of vents but vents don't really do you any good if you have a windshield that prevents wind from entering those vents :eek1 .
    So, my glorious plan was to leave San Diego at about 23:00, take the I-5 all the way north to the Canadian boarder. Well, I was planning on spending the weekend with a friend near Seattle, WA. I didn't want to take the Pacific Coast Highway up north since I've taken that road a few times before. So my day of departure arrives and I'm ready to go...
    #15
  16. ADVWannabee

    ADVWannabee Been here awhile

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    I will be following this thread closely. Alaska is on my bucket list and the only bike I have is a Honda VTX 1300 which is a cruiser very similar to yours. Like you, I have only been riding for 4 years now and have just under 20,000 miles under my belt. Oh, I and I also have the Metzler tires on my bike.
    #16
  17. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    Sooooo...I'm about 5h from leaving on this spectacular trip when the owner of my humble abode tells me that I have to move out by mid July! Well, first off, I was like :eek1 ...then I was like... :kboom ...and then like :fyyff ...but alas, there wasn't much I could do about it, so I turned to this :bubba . Even if I had to get out by mid July that would still give me roughly five weeks to do this trip in which should be enough.

    After that interesting interaction I double-checked my bike to make sure everything was good to go...

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    Unfortunately I didn't sleep too well the previous night but I didn't want to wait any longer so I got on my bike and took off...
    The ride up to LA was nice but for some reason it got really really cold up through the Grapevine. So cold, that I actually had to use my heated gloves (and this in June...insane...). Well...I found out very quickly that it wasn't a great idea to ride through the night. In THEORY, yes, superb idea but not when you're running on 4h of sleep from the previous night. Anywho, so the first time I stopped for gas I wanted to take a nap but the area where the gas station was at didn't strike me as the safest of places so I decided to continue.
    I was planning on riding until I needed to fill up again and take a nap there but I didn't last that long...About half way through my tank I had to pull over and take a quick nap. Well, that "quick" nap turned into an hour nap. Oh well, I had enough time on my side.
    So I kept on going...but not for long. I had just entered the San Joaquin Valley when I felt another spell of sleepiness overcome me. At this point, dawn had already arrived and I had only made it a few miles into the valley :becca Oh well, rather safe than sorry. So I pulled over and took yet another nap...
    #17
  18. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    This is me after my nap. At this point I haven't yet bought my vanity mirror (I guess you'll just have to keep reading if you're curious :D ) so I still had to use my regular mirrors to see if the camera was on...

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    The main reason why you won't be seeing too many pictures on this Day one-ish is because for the most part through the CA valleys on the I-5 there isn't much to see but mainly because whenever I THOUGHT I had turned on the camera, well, it was just on but not taking any pictures :doh (I have the GoPro Hero and had it set to take a picture every 5 sec, more on the GoPro later)! Anywho, since I don't want to draw this out any longer, I'll finish Day one-ish...
    On my first "day" I made it to Medford, OR. It was only early in the afternoon but I was so tired that I just couldn't stay awake any longer...

    On another note...could someone please tell me how to upload more than one picture per entry?! It's pretty annoying only being able to upload one at a time :2cry ...Thank you...
    #18
  19. MedicDB

    MedicDB Adventurer

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    You need to host your photos on another web site like http://photobucket.com (service is free up to a point) then you just link your photos into your text. Just copy and paste the link to the photo into your text and it will appear as a photo once you post. Hope it helps.

    Enjoy your ride. It looks like a good one!
    #19
  20. Swissican

    Swissican adapt and overcome

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    Awesome Dude! :thumb
    I'll probably mention this later on in the thread but I want to make sure I don't forget...the MAIN reason, IMO, why I survived this trip without a significant incident was that I didn't become complacent (thanks to the advice from some ADV riders), in addition to the fact that I'm a very defensive and respectful rider. Depending on where you'll be going on your Honda keep in mind, NEVER EVER EVER EVER become complacent, especially when you're riding on asphalt. But I will get into this in more detail later on. If I don't, feel free to remind me :evil . Oh, and another piece of advice...never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly :D ...I mean, never ride faster than your sight distance. Every road that I've been on in AK and Canada had the potential to change from one second to the other. Some are nicer than others but especially the Dalton, Top Of The World, Klondike, Stewart-Cassiar, and Alaskan Highway between Tok, AK and Whitehorse, YT (hmmm...aren't those pretty much all the highways out there?!?!? :lol3 ) can get rough and unpredictable.

    Please let me know when you're taking off on your trip and don't hesitate to ask anything, even the stupid questions! Remember, there are no stupid questions, only stupid people :poser
    #20