Three Bikes, Two Guys, 20 Days of Sunshine and ALASKA

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Dirt2Oil, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    121
    Location:
    Oily Sandbox of Northeastern Alberta
    This trip started as an idea suggested by my wife, over dinner one evening, about two years ago. What was I going to say "No honey that is a really shitty idea" NOT. I asked my friend Tom if he was interested and of course he was. I had my wife's blessing and a riding partner who also had his wife's blessing. The rest were only minor details. Camping gear, riding gear, tires, tools, routes, etc. and over the next two years we went over every little detail. Spare parts were ordered, fuel pump, fuel bypass cable, spark plugs, valve cover gasket (it was weeping and the valves needed checking). As the details fell into place the anticipation and excitement of starting the trip grew. As a daily ritual, while getting ready for work, I would open my trip countdown app and giggle as I saw our departure day approaching.

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    Mitas E-07 DAKAR tires were chosen for the trip. EXCELLENT CHOICE

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    A look at the innards. In the end the valves were left unchecked after feedback from inmates on here. I just replaced the gasket and buttoned things back up. I think seeing the inside of my engine so close to departure was making Tom uneasy. :D

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    Tom installing my new DID chain.

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    Gear arrived from Mountain Equipment Coop

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    Slipgrip mount for the iPhone while charging. I installed a dual USB plug in the dash. Also the Ram mount for the Garmin Montana. In the bottom right of the dash is my $3 volt meter from China (works great). This is on the Britannia Composites Mirage 2 fairing. Had to replace the URINE CUP as well. :puke1

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    As a husband and father I did have feelings of guilt about taking my vacation and going on such a trip. My wife and kids would return to Newfoundland and visit family while I was on the road. After Alaska I would return home and work one week before flying to the Rock to join them.

    July 9, 2013 I dropped my wife and kids off at the airport. It was a very weird feeling saying goodbye to them. I experienced so many emotions, all at the same time, it is very hard to explain in words. Now I only had three days of work to complete and the trip I had been consumed with, for the past two years, would begin. At the end of June I said to my wife "I can't believe it's only two more weeks until I leave". Her reply was "Jesus Christ you have been gone for two weeks already", and in a sense she was right. My thoughts were consumed with the trip. It all felt so surreal. I didn't even own a motorcycle a few years prior, and now I am about to depart on a trip of a lifetime. It would also be the longest trip ever for me on a motorcycle. The longest trip prior to this would be a two day ride in June 2009. Back then I flew to Kelowna, BC to ride my new F650GS twin back to Fort McMurray, AB.

    OK that's enough background information. Lets get to the day of departure July 13, 2013. We would meet at Tom's house and depart at 6:30 AM with a carefully selected route and set stopping points for each day. Our only limitation was I had to be back for work on August 3rd.

    July 13, 2013 - Day 1

    Queen Claire is all clean and ready to roll :clap
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    The morning was a little chilly but otherwise a beautiful riding day. Our heated grips were in use as we set out on the adventure. The first part of the day would have us travelling down Highway 63 in Northeastern Alberta. This highway is AKA The Highway of Death as it has claimed an unprecedented number of lives over the years. The highway is the major route to the booming oilsands around Fort McMurray. Anyone travelling this highway is unlikely to do so without passing several "OVERSIZE" loads. Also the highway is not known for it's stunning scenery so I was really looking forward to having this section behind me.

    This is a photo taken in the spring on a trip south to Edmonton. We would pass several loads like this today.

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    We pass the first opportunity for fuel and planned a stop at Grasslands instead. Unfortunately, we don't quite make it to Grasslands before Tom's bike started having electrical problems. The charging system was not working and the voltage was down to 9 volts stalling his bike, a 2011 KTM690R. The bike started again and we made it a few hundred feet down the road before it stalled again. Tom suspects a burned out rectifier. Calling around to try and locate a new one proves to be unsuccessful. We would not get one for at least 7 days. At this point the disappointment and disbelieve quickly set in. It's day one and we only make it 250 KM from home. Sitting on the side of the road, so close to home, we consider our options.

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    Heartbreak on Highway 63

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    OPTIONS

    1) We reschedule the trip for another time. Not going to happen as my wife and kids are already in Newfoundland and impossible to reschedule vacation, at least for this summer.

    2) Abandon Tom and continue on my own sticking with original route and timeframe. Not really an option as that would defiantly qualify me for ASSHOLE OF THE YEAR.

    3) Return home and try and fix the KTM.

    4) Return home and transfer essential items to Tom's other bike, a 1999 Suzuki SV650S.

    It was decided the Suzuki (the third bike) would go to Alaska. This decision would change almost everything about the trip that we so carefully planned during the last two years. This had now become a highway trip. There would be no gravel, and as such No Dempster, No Top of the World, No Dalton. There was a lesson here somewhere. Plan all you want but be mentally prepared for all your plans to fall apart.


    The call was made to Tom's wife to come with the truck and pick up the bike. 500 KM for day one and I get to sleep in my own bed. I can't deny being very disappointed that evening. After a long tiring day we pack and repack things to determine the best way to take as many items as possible. What we had taken so much time to plan would now be done in a few hours to ready the Suzuki for Alaska. I had taken some of Tom's gear and strapped it to my already overloaded bike.

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    A FULLY LOADED BEEMER
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    After returning home for the night I started to get a little uneasy about the heavy load. I called Tom to share my concerns and he suggested I come back, as he thought more could be strapped to the Suzuki. At the end of the day his load had been substantially reduced and all his items were on the Suzuki.
    It would be after midnight before I would call it a night. We planned to depart Fort McMurray again at 6:30 am from Tom's house.
    #1
  2. Max Wedge

    Max Wedge ADVenture mowing

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    Nice cliffhanger. :D In!
    #2
  3. luminaz34

    luminaz34 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    Oddometer:
    11
    I just needed to take a break when my ktm broke down LOL, in the end the problem was a loose ground wire that i had not locktighted when i installed the new fuel tanks. :muutt
    #3
  4. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Oily Sandbox of Northeastern Alberta
    You didn't need to take a break, you did fine on the Suzuki. It was the KTM that needed the break. :D
    #4
  5. beerbuzz

    beerbuzz Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    You can always count on a bimmer to carry a ktm's load.
    :hide
    That looked like a broken subframe waiting to happen.
    #5
  6. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    121
    Location:
    Oily Sandbox of Northeastern Alberta
    July 14, 2013
    Day 2 - Here we go again.

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    Only 1 thumb up yesterday, lets try two today and see if we have better luck!

    The weather was pretty much the same as yesterday. It was cold and I would turn on the heated grips again. About an hour into the day we stopped to pull on the rain gear only to remove it an hour later as the rain didn't come. The excitement I had experienced yesterday was clearly absent today and I was finding it very difficult to be positive.

    At our first stop I noticed Tom was wearing sneakers and could not believe my eyes. I think my exact words were something along these lines " WHERE THE F$&k ARE YOUR RIDING BOOTS"! He had bought a pair of Sidi Adventures but was unable to shift the gears on the Suzuki with them so decided to leave them home. The plan was to buy something along the way.

    As the day passed my mind did it's thing and I realized I had better start enjoying the trip as it was now going to be, and not what I had planned for. If not it was just as well I turn around and go home. At the end of the day I was accepting of what the trip had become and opened myself to enjoying the journey, not the destinations. It was a completely different trip than we had planned but there is no doubt in my mind in the end it couldn't have been more magnificent!

    We stopped to do some shopping in Slave Lake and a flock of sea gulls nearly shit in Tom's helmet. Being the nice guy I am I closed his visor in case the next droppings were a direct hit.

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    Perhaps I should have run around the parking lot trying to catch the droppings but I didn't think about that at the time. :lol3

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    We also took time for lunch in Slave Lake at the Tim Horton's.


    We made it just north of Dawson Creek by the end of the day. The compulsory stop was made at the Alaska Highway sign for the photo ops.

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    After seeing this sign in so many RR I can hardly believe I am actually here about to head North to Alaska! :rilla

    At the sign we were greeted by a local named Lee. He saw us stopped and pulled in on his Dakar. We chatted for a bit and he suggested a nice camping spot just north on an old section of the Alaska Highway. We find the campground (Kiskatinaw Provincial Park) and set up for the night, then backtracked for some snacks, beer and ice (for the bottle of Scotch I couldn't bring myself to leave at home even though I was severely overloaded).

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    Flat Stanley came along with me to see the beauty of Alaska. He was a school project for my son who just finished grade two. Stanley spent some time in Newfoundland with my sister in law and my son wanted to take him back to the ROCK with him to see the places again. He also wanted him to go to Alaska so what was one to do? Make a twin! One gone back to Newfoundland with my son and one with me to Alaska. Kind of cheating I know but my boy was happy.

    The next morning there would be little of the Scotch to worry about. We celebrated smashing our 250 KM record yesterday with a campfire and defiantly to much booze. :freaky
    #6
  7. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Ya he will be a long time before I will let him off the hook for this one.

    That was exactly my concern and the wheel bearings as well.
    #7
  8. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Oily Sandbox of Northeastern Alberta
    July 15, 2013
    Day 3

    We were greeted with another day of sunshine and a severe hangover. In the morning the beer are all gone and there's not much Scotch remaining. If this was going to be an enjoyable trip we would have to learn some self control quickly with regards to the drinking.

    Lee had told us there was an old wooden bridge, with a turn in it, just around the bend from the campground. So we head that way to check it out. Not sure what happened to my photos of the bridge but I know I took some.

    We make a quick stop in Fort Saint John for a coffee and to find riding boots for Tom. I was relieved to have this out of the way because I knew how miserable it would be riding in the rain with sneakers. Thankfully it had been sunny since we left Fort McMurray.

    We push north to Fort Nelson and the thrill of being on the road has me reflecting about my good fortune. I feel tremendous gratitude my many blessings and everything in my life that had lead up to this point. On this section of highway I remember seeing the mountains way of in the distance. There was one peak that looked like a pyramid and I was getting giddy inside at the thought of all the mountains to come.

    We make it to Fort Nelson and Tom rolls to a stop! His bike is silent and I feel that dread again. Thankfully the Suzuki is happy to be going to Alaska and only ran out of gas. There were some long up hill stretches where she got here throttle twisted hard. We were only a few hundred feet from the card-lock station so decide to push the bike to the pumps instead of unstrapping everything to get at the rotopax.

    Sorry but not much in the way of photos for this day.

    We stopped in Fort Nelson for a burger at A&W and then picked up some groceries for the night. At this point in the trip we decided to just ride and at the end of the day started looking for a camping spot. It was now time to consider where we would stop for the night. We pushed on down the road and stop at Tetsa River Outfitters.

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    I made a new friend here.

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    Actually I don't think he cared much about my company but what was on the plate had him salivating.

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    Charging station for the evening.

    This was a great place to stop. I think we paid $10 each for the camping and access to the showers. However, the gas was probably the second most expensive the entire trip at $1.71/L.
    #8
  9. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    121
    Location:
    Oily Sandbox of Northeastern Alberta
    July 16, 2013
    Day 4

    Our fourth day begins with sunshine and we are starting to get use to this. We have a coffee and kill a few minutes waiting for the fuel pumps to open. Once we get rolling the road immediately is a joy to ride. Narrow, twisty and feeling really remote by now. We have a good day seeing wildlife.

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    We stop for a break at Toad River and snap a few pics of Stanley.

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    Further down the road.

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    The construction zones provide a great opportunity to stretch the legs.

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    I had purchased a new Renzaco Racing seat to replace the stock 2X6 board that BMW provided with the bike (Shame on you BMW). It arrived late in the fall and I was unable to use it much before this trip. The first few days I thought "OH MY GOD WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY" and then by day four "SWEET JESUS AM I EVER GLAD I HAVE THIS SEAT." Once the seat broke in it was golden. The trip would have been miserable on the stock seat although I imagine lots of people have probable done it. I am just thankful I didn't.

    Next stop was at Coal River. We fuel up, relax for a while and enjoy another coffee.

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    As we arrive at the Yukon border I was a little surprised to see such a battered welcome sign. Keep on riding when you see this one.

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    I was happier to find this one just a little further down the road. A couple from Edmonton travelling in a car snapped this photo for us.

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    We continued down the road to Watson Lake and the Sign Post Forest. I had quite the laugh when we got there because Tom expressed severe disappointment with regards to Watson Lake. However, we did have a great dinner there in the restaurant across the road from the Sign Post Forest.

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    After Watson Lake we started to consider where we would stop for the night. We continued another 278 KM and stopped at Teslin, where we camped at the Yukon Motel RV/Campground. This was a great place for $10. There were hot showers, beer and a restaurant. I realized by now that the camp stove and cookware would get little use on this trip, but I had it if needed.

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    Free firewood as well :evil
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    $10 camping or this place. Not sure what the cost was for a night but defiantly a lot more than $10.

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    Another great day of riding, campfire, beer and a sunset (or more importantly no rain).

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    #9
  10. docwyte

    docwyte Long timer

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    Subscribed
    #10
  11. Mastery

    Mastery Mr. Funny Man

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    +1. Very good so far! :clap
    #11
  12. Rutabaga

    Rutabaga Been here awhile

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    Starts out like every good adventure, Plan B steps forward.
    #12
  13. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Oily Sandbox of Northeastern Alberta
    Welcome along fellow inmates. Also welcome to any lurkers who stumble by. My apologies for the slow progress but I have been spending most free time getting the garage insulated and heater installed for the very long cold winter ahead, -26 here tonight. :puke1

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    Soon I will be able to drink a nice cold beer in a warm garage! :clap. The story will continue very soon.
    #13
  14. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Oily Sandbox of Northeastern Alberta
    A screen shot from the Delorme inReachSE tracking our progress so far.

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    My wife had only one request. She wanted to be able to contact me if required. So I purchased the Delorme inReachSE and was very happy with it's performance. It performed flawlessly. Also, I didn't want to worry about planning our stops to have cell coverage so this unit was the answer.
    #14
  15. Ironheadziggy76

    Ironheadziggy76 What the hell?

    Joined:
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    Belton, KY
    I'm in! I'm heading back up in 2015 so the planning has started!
    #15
  16. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

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    Crucial, for enjoying any trip. Plans only last until the journey begins. From there on, all they do is go awry.
    #16
  17. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Oily Sandbox of Northeastern Alberta
    July 17, 2013
    Day 5

    Today we are up and ready to ride by 8:00 am. For the last few days we have been waking anywhere between 7 and 8 and ready to go within 10 to 15 minutes. We have become very efficient at breaking camp and loading the gear on our bikes by now. Again the sun gods are with us.

    We plan to stop in Whitehorse for breakfast and do some shopping. Tom was missing a screw in his visor he wanted to find a replacement for, and I had a busted remote for my helmet cam. I had the VIO POV HD camera which has the tag feature and I was really hoping to find a replacement remote. NO SUCH LUCK, no one we spoke to had even heard of the camera. However, there were lots of items for the GoPro. I still really like the VIO but don't plan on finding any support along the way with this camera.

    We stop at the river to visit the KLONDIKE.

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    At Haines Junction we stop and have lunch on the deck. There we chat for a while with a German Family (Mom, Dad & Son) from New York. They had been on the road now for awhile now and would be for sometime. They planned on making their way to Ushuaia, Argentina.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushuaia

    Onward toward the Alaska border.

    Kluane Lake, YT

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    There's not much presence of Police on the Highway. This is the closest to anything resembling a police cruiser in some time now. It does work slowing people down. We had stopped here and a rider going south pulled in. He thought were had been caught when he first approached. We chatted awhile and continued on. There was lots of chat about the road conditions which were not a bad as most people were making them out to be. Either that or we are AWESOME riders and don't know it. :lol3 There were lots of loose gravel sections though.

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    I did hit pretty hard on some of the bumps in the western YK. It's almost as if the Yukon Government has forgotten the road is there.

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    As a pilot I like to look at the clouds.

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    We arrive at the border crossing at 7:30 PM and enter within seconds.
    I was surprised of the distance we travelled between the Canadian and US border stations.

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    By now we are ready to start looking for a place to stop for the night. After crossing the border we stop at the first gas station. There is a nice grassy field just across a small creek for which there is an old wooden bridge. The guy working there said we could camp for the night but we could not ride our bikes across the bridge. The sky was looking like rain was coming and I really didn't want to wake up here to rain. Also I didn't want to walk my gear to the camping spot. In the end we push on for Tok and stop at this beautiful place. :freaky
    I knew if we stopped at the gas station we would miss this place and I really wanted to stay here.

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    We did have some trouble finding the campground but once we did we were certainly glad we didn't give up trying. The owner, Vanessa, was very friendly and her place is pretty cool. $10 to pitch a tent and access to the sauna. There is a bunk house, tipi with two cots, ambulance with a double bed, canvas tents, and a cabin which can also be rented.

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    Outhouse

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    There is even a little workshop you can use to work on your bike. Pretty sweet!

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    Today was a long one. It was about 10:00 when we finish setting up camp. We have dinner, a campfire and a few beer to conclude the day. There was only one other rider staying here tonight. She had went to town for dinner and was only just rolling in as we were entering our tents for the night.
    #17
  18. Dirt2Oil

    Dirt2Oil Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Welcome Ironheadziggy. I hope to get up there again someday as well. Defiantly lots more of Alaska to see.
    #18
  19. NHCoastie

    NHCoastie Adventurer

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    Nov 21, 2012
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    New Hampshire
    Very Nice :clap Keep it coming :1drink
    #19
  20. NotAllWhoWanderRLost

    NotAllWhoWanderRLost Lost

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
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    543
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    Bend, Oregon
    ^^^ What he said! Great report so far, I'm looking forward to the rest of the RR. :beer

    Once you finish your report I'd be interested in feedback on your experiences with the Mitas E-07 DAKAR tires... We've had good luck with the K60 Scout's on our GS's but I like the look of the open tread pattern on the E-07's. :ear
    #20