Two Meals - True Terror (An Alaskan Ironbutt Odyssey): Liking Biking

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Douf, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. Douf

    Douf Limey Bitch

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    Day 5: Whitehorse, YT – Fairbanks, AK.

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    A tip of the hat to our route planner, Gary. I started to notice when making these maps that some prior knowledge was definitely required in order to plot the actual tracks since, (as can be observed from this shot) you can't even see that there are any roads on the map unless it's zoomed in to a pretty high resolution (< 1 mile). If I'd done the route, I would have been completely ignorant of the Top of The World Highway and would have missed one of the best sections of our journey and, the Dempster Highway - which I mention later in today's write-up - took quite a bit of finding, even though I already knew its' general vicinity.

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    Yesterday's excellent day's riding had definitely got the three of us in the mood for a repeat performance, and so it was with a healthy dose of continued enthusiasm that we awoke bright and early at Whitehorse's River View hotel and headed out towards the day's destination in Fairbanks. This was the first day that we'd be winging it in terms of the evening's accommodation, but since this was a mid-week proposition, the general consensus was that finding suitable facilities in a place as large as Fairbanks ought not to be particularly difficult. :deal

    In preference to continuing along the remainder of the Alaskan highway, our intent was to head towards Dawson City, where a ferry would take us across the Yukon River, at which point the route would intercept the Top of The World highway. In pre-trip consultations, Gary's Ironbutt connections had rated this particular stretch of road as a must-do section, but in any case, the portion of the Alaska Highway which was being omitted at this stage, was to be completed upon our exit from Alaska. So with variety being the spice of life and all that, we headed out in the general direction of Dawson City.

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    The beginnings of this particular morning's travel however were marked with the first ominous signs of mechanical discontent in our machinery, or more specifically, the assemblage of mechanical schizophrenia that was responsible for my continued progress - namely the KTM. :huh Upon pressing the ignition button, something from within the bowels of the motor was making such a horrendous grinding noise as the starter attempted to coax the engine into life that women and small children immediately went running for cover. :eek1 It was the worst kind of clatter you could possibly imagine, sounding like two angrily combative gear wheels that were in a desperate confrontational duel with the ultimate purpose of ripping away the teeth from each other. Surprisingly though, when the engine did at last fire, all within sounded fine, with not a whimper to be heard from the offending items; and so since on this particular trip, time was definitely of the essence, I decided - in a rare moment of optimism (or more likely desperation) to hedge my bets and hope for the best. :scratch

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    Thankfully, without any further incident the three of us completed the journey to Dawson City and rode on down to the waterfront to meet the boat. The George Black Ferry (as it is called) connects Dawson City with the Top of The Road Highway which is situated on the other side of the Yukon River (at the bank of which we were now waiting) and apparently the round trip crossing operates 24 hours, seven days a week (except for 5-7am on a Wednesday morning when the vessel receives its' weekly dose of maintenance). The best thing about the ferry though, is that flying in - what for me is - the acceptable face of capitalism, the trip is absolutely free. :thumb Socialism, eh? - gotta love it! :evil And, although not in the remotest sense an arduous crossing, I must admit that the very act of even loading my trusty two wheeled steed onto an actual boat did give the whole journey just a touch more cachet in my mind :ymca - some folks are easily amused, apparently.

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    ...........and they still had hosepipe bans. :deal

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    'Yeah, If we can run at 120 over the Top of The World, we'll keep up our 60mph overall average' - Gary does the math and is still a happy camper.

    Once over on the other side of the river, the subsequent two wheeled progress was also pretty remarkable itself. Even given all the static I jokingly give the Ironbutt mentality, I must wholeheartedly concede that - if nothing else - this one recommendation alone is worth the association that Gary has with them. Immediately departing from the waters edge, the road, which was a mixture of regularly graded dirt and gravel, snaked steeply upwards away from the river and once reaching a decent altitude, cascaded wonderfully along the mountain ridges - the generally treeless landscape giving uninterrupted views of the magnificent terrain and leaving no shred of doubt in any of our minds how this particular road had gained its' name. Quite exhilarating and highly recommended. :thumb And fortunately for our heroic daily mileage aspirations, even though the road surface was unpaved, it was still predictable enough to maintain an acceptably rapid rate of progress and, once again I found that on anything as non technical as this stretch of road turned out to be, I could maintain a extended standing position by occasionally switching my feet to the rear pegs (in order to take some weight off the base of the spine). Sounds ridiculous but it works for me. YMMV and I expect it will too. :deal

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    Top Of The World - don't miss it :thumb

    Presently however, after a memorable stretch of riding, the U.S. border appeared in the distance. Given the utterly frustrating experience that Joe and I had encountered trying to get into Canada a few days ago, as we approached the Alaskan frontier I'm sure he was filled with as much trepidation as I, who, for the record was worriedly contemplating just what peculiar delights awaited up ahead. :huh However any concerns we harbored were ultimately entirely unfounded as, after taking a few photo's of the border's administrative buildings and getting our documents checked in as straight forward a manner as could reasonably be imagined, all three of us were shortly back on U.S. soil and happily rolling into Alaska. Yippee! :clap

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    Joe - contemplating his second cavity search (that I know of) in three days

    After the elongated build-up to this moment (with all the pre-trip planning, not to mention the actual riding itself), a major sense of accomplishment washed over me as we spun our first tires on Alaskan soil. For the record, the Alaskan US/Canadian border crossing at Poker Creek is the most northerly land port in the U.S. and, as I suspected at the time, given the type of terrain necessary to access the area, it is only open for a short period of each year (mid May to mid September actually).

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    Our continued progress into Alaska consisted of maybe a couple of hundred yards at the most though, before making the first stop at the Top Of The World Gas and Gift Shop, where, at the hands of the store clerk in the gift shop, we had our first experience with what I can only describe as the enigmatic portion of Alaskan society. Let's just say he was quite an unusual individual - at least judged by our collective suburban dispositions, but nonetheless the ambiance provided by the gift store was sufficient to provide enough motivation for a couple of quick snaps before remounting and continuing with our journey.

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    Yes - Gas, Gold, Gifts and a certain 'Je ne sais quoi' from our helpful store clerk

    Over the border, the Alaskan side of the highway initially continued much like the previous stretch in Canada and indeed in this area we spotted quite a few species of wildlife (mainly mule deer and the like, but apparently nothing remarkable enough to cause any of us to contemplate recording the sightings for our particular posterity). However a few miles further along we came across a couple of humans who, appearing to be somewhat disorientated, were wandering down the side of the highway, both of whom were paying particular attention to the ditches and the real estate immediately off of the highway. :scratch It turned out that they were looking for pieces of the tire which had de-laminated from the rear of their loaded up BMW. From the details that I can recall, apparently this couple (both of whom were in the teaching profession) were on a summer long voyage across Canada and Alaska, which had originated around Montreal. They had recently traveled the Dempster highway and with the abrasive nature of the road, encountered continuing problems with repeated flat tires. They must have been running the tires sans tubes because - as I recall - they'd received a handful (maybe 7 or 8) mushroom plugs from a fellow rider at a campsite on the Dempster and had pretty much had to use them all on the ride back down to Dawson City and The Top of The World Highway. When we encountered them, the rear tire was just about starting to disintegrate and, being miles from the nearest civilization and not having any tubes available, they were in pretty bad shape.

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    A number of grissled old artifacts :deal

    After considering our options, we decided to lighten the load in the bike (1150GS) as much as possible, and then escort them down to Tok (the nearest settlement of any size) where they would hopefully be able to resolve this unfortunate predicament. We loaded the luggage on the back of Gary and Joe's bikes, then the pillion (who probably weighed not much more than the luggage anyway) jumped on the back of my bike (which was the only one of our three configured with extra available seating anyway). After what seemed like - especially in contrast to our typically urgent progress - an excruciatingly slow descent into Tok, we eventually found someone to give them a lift to a nearby settlement where they hoped to source a tire. Even though this little incident helped to delay our progress, it felt good to help out our fellow travelers in whatever way we could, and at least I felt that we'd deposited a little positive karma in our biking bank accounts (and for what it's worth, in subsequent day's write-ups I'll detail two withdrawals that I personally made before the end of this trip). anyway, after dropping of our wounded travelers, we resumed our previously high velocity mission towards Fairbanks.

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    Once again the scale of our surroundings appeared to swell in dimensions and, as before, the rivers were most impressive. With the amount of ice melt flowing in them, the typical Alaskan rivers were indeed absolutely breathtaking in both their size and physical power, and it certainly provided a sharp contrast with the summer drought conditions that had been plaguing my home state of Georgia for the past few years. :deal The distances we were covering also took on otherworldly dimensions too. Looking at the maps in Alaska it often became an easy mistake to consider a distance between two places to be, say 50 miles, when in fact it would be closer to 350. I always tended to look at Alaska (and I assume most other people do too) as that little state at the top of the map, but when I actually got in amongst it and had to pay attention to the scale of things, it was indeed a great surprise.

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    More Top Of The World

    Ultimately though, our trio of helpful adventurers did eventually arrive in Fairbanks and as expected it was with no great difficulty that a suitable hotel was located for the night. Even though we'd been delayed significantly by our assistance of the Canadians (and as a consequence it was already fairly late), the bikes still got a little cosmetic TLC courtesy of the hotel hose pipe since, at our current northern latitude sufficient daylight was not to be a cause for concern at any time for the next few weeks. Consequently, by the time the three bikes had been cleaned up and our belongings had been relocated to the hotel room, all of the nearby eating establishments had closed for the evening, so Joe and I wandered a few blocks up the road with the purpose of finding a few snacks. :dg This brief sojourn exposed us once again to the strange social etiquette apparently prevalent amongst Alaskan retail society. :deal

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    'Eat my dust, RV'

    We found some strange folks loitering around Fairbanks and it appeared to me that the almost otherworldly parallel reality of this place acted like a honey pot for the weird and dispossessed (walking around in broad daylight at midnight certainly didn't feel that normal, even for a day or two). I got the impression that since Alaska was physically so far removed from the rest of the U.S., its' inhabitants didn't generally feel much of a common bond with the 'mainlanders' and often marched to the beat of their own drummer. The social graces that most of us - for better or worse - take for granted in the rest of the U.S. don't seem to translate particularly well to a population that spends half the year in the dark, and - at a number of the retail outlets around Fairbanks, we encountered quite a few instances of being stared at by what - in my obvious position of societal superiority :ymca- I would refer to as the social misfits of society. Coupled with this behavior, were numerous moments of awkward silence as we attempted to conduct fairly elementary matters of small business with members of the regions retail staff. For what it's worth, my son, who was actually on a hunting trip in Alaska in the two weeks preceding this little sojourn, remarked on exactly the same experience - so it's not just me then! :lol3

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    Upon exiting the gift shop, I noticed Joe, who for some inexplicable reason was trying to cram himself into my fuel cell :deal

    But even having landed on planet strange, it was a pleasant end to a good day's adventure; we'd covered well over 700 miles since this morning including our delay with the Canadians, and finally the three of us hit our respective cots in a collectively upbeat state of mind, excited and optimistic about our prospects on tomorrows planned assault along the famous Dalton Highway and the Arctic Circle. :thumb

    As usual - If anyone's got anything to add - have at it.

    #61
  2. Splat_SA

    Splat_SA n00b

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    just got back from another holiday (with kids this time....no bike and no Wimpy :wink: ) and it's great to see more of your work! Certainly puts things in perspective, considering the relaxed stroll we took you on here :rofl

    I'm in for the duration, so get typing, you bugger!
    #62
  3. SirSparkz

    SirSparkz Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    East Coast
    I haven't read any of the AK RR's yet and this one's great! I appreciate the orange text, great idea to make it stand out as the "Meat and Potatoes"! Keep it coming!:clap:freaky
    #63
  4. Douf

    Douf Limey Bitch

    Joined:
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    Close to Cumming (GA that is)
    In that case, can you please have a word with 'Camas' (post #51)? :evil

    Douf
    #64
  5. levain

    levain STILL Jim Williams

    Joined:
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    Orange text works fine for me!
    #65
  6. bigdon

    bigdon Long timer

    Joined:
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    I'm in! :D
    #66
  7. nukeman

    nukeman rad

    Joined:
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    Location:
    My dwelling unit
    For everyone that has trouble with "orange text", in IE, go to: tools/internet options/accessibility/, and check "ignore colors specified in webpages".
    Background will be white with black fonts.


    Oh, and about the ride report, :clap
    Thanks and carry on
    #67
  8. Douf

    Douf Limey Bitch

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Hey 'Stealth work mode' thanks :thumb I need to spend less time writing ride reports and more time figuring out how this damn computer works :evil

    Douf
    #68
  9. Douf

    Douf Limey Bitch

    Joined:
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    Yes General I'll get write to it! (arf, arf)

    BTW (I'm naturally assuming the only possible explanation for a Wimpy-less vacation is that you took the kids out of the country).

    Douf
    #69
  10. Splat_SA

    Splat_SA n00b

    Joined:
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    Actually no - was local. I suggested it a couple of times but the kids didn't want to go near the place ....and there I was, so near yet soooo far from my MEGA :cry .
    #70
  11. Douf

    Douf Limey Bitch

    Joined:
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    Day 6: Fairbanks - Arctic Circle - Cantwell

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    Once again, with the exciting prospect of the Dalton Highway ahead of us, our early morning departure time didn't feel that unreasonable and consequently with a significant sense of anticipation the three of us saddled up and headed out at our usual hour. The first section of the journey was essentially all black top from Faribanks to Livengood - a distance of just over 70 miles - which marked the beginning of the Haul Road. At the exit to the Dalton, we stopped and got a few shots of the signage that marks the start of one of the most (in)famous stretches of road in all of adventuredom. As we rolled out over the first few hundred yards of - what was in my mind legendary terrain, it felt almost like meeting with royalty - we were finally on the Dalton!. I tried to take it in as much as I could - one of the rare moments in life that you spent so long dreaming about, but so little time actually doing.

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    Before Dalton = Clean bikes

    As we collectively set off towards the Arctic Cirlce (and hopefully ultimately to Prudhoe bay), apart from the usual concerns about the difficulty of the road conditions which - undoubtedly like most travelers in this area - we had mixed emotions about due to the wildly varying published opinions from previous road users that we had eagerly digested before setting off, there was also the issue of tire wear to consider. Gary's research in the long distance community had convinced all three of us to mount Metzeler ME880 Marathon tires in the belief that the entire trip would be possible on a single set (which I must admit in my own experience of typically getting not much more than four thousand out of a sport touring rear seemed extremely optimistic on the face of it).

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    ..............and this one

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    This 'un looks OK too

    In reality though, at less than half way into what was intended to be a 12000 mile journey, and with the abrasive surface of the Dalton dead ahead, the remaining tire wear available to each of us suggested that this was becoming an increasingly remote possibility. Gary's bike definitely looked the worst of the three, with Joe's showing the least wear and the KTM being about midway between these two extremes. Also worth pointing out is that these are a road based tire with nothing like the luxury of knobby tread to assist the bikes over anything worse than the luxury of a paved surface; however given that previously reported journeys have apparently been done on anything from Goldwing to Harleys and upward, at the time it seemed like a pretty safe assumption that three large dual sport bikes on road tires would be up to a task.

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    ............and here we are

    And indeed that's the way it seemed to play out, at least in the first few miles where we motored along well above the posted 50 mph speed limit (given the well known tales of high speed trucks running up and down the Haul Road, I think the three of us were more concerned about going fast enough rather than too fast). In fact we maintained a pretty good pace right up until we literally ran into the first construction zone.

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    The flag lady - Gary was lucky not to get a colonoscopy with that sign :deal

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    Hi Y'all :wave

    As we motored along a water truck appeared in front of us and after a short period of following along behind it, the vehicle started to dampen down the road with its' watery load, which immediately turned the dry dusty conditions into a wet slop. Obviously not wanting to endure this any longer than possible Gary who was at the front of our trio, made an effort to pass the vehicle just as we came across a flag lady. We all skidded to an abrupt halt, but to say this woman was unhappy would be an understatement of the greatest proportions. In fact, if 'ripping someone a new one' was listed in a dictionary, you would probably witness a replay of the reaming she gave Gary as we waited at the stop sign. Since the delay was quite elongated, the two of them got into a pretty heated argument and it took quite a while for the pair of them to cool off. Wisely Joe and I kept a safe distance and I secretly consoled myself with thought that - should we be unfortunate enough to encounter a Grizzly, Gary would merely berate the living s%^t out of the poor unsuspecting animal until it ran off. When we finally managed to escape from the killer flag lady, we had not only the seriously unpredictable road surface of the construction area with which to deal, but also flag lady's confrontational equal, namely 'homicidal pilot car lady'. Before we had even started the perilous procession through the roadworks, she had ordered us - in no uncertain terms - to stay well back from her vehicle but, even though in my opinion we kept a fairly safe distance, on two separate occasions she actually stopped her vehicle, got out and, seemingly apoplectic with rage, screamed at us to stay even further away from her. I wondered whether someone could maybe make a fortune selling PMS medication in Alaska, which apparently was thus far unheard of in the state. :evil Anyway having escaped from the evil clutches of the dogmatic duo, conditions within the construction zone itself still had the potential to throw an innings worth of cuveballs into the batting rotation of our progress.

    Being somewhat reminiscent of that scene in The Terminator where the machines crunch remorselessly over the skulls of thwarted humans in a post apocalyptic landscape, we nervously guided our steeds over a razor sharp layer of rock that would form the foundation layer of a future section of highway, with battalions of heavy equipment moving unpredictably all around us; and as we did, I nervously considered the ramifications of getting a puncture in the middle of this extremely hostile environment. Presently however, the three of us emerged thankfully unscathed, accelerating onto more predictable terrain and with a great sense of collective relief watched the comforting sight of our tenaciously lovely pilot lady and her vehicle disappearing reassuringly in our rear view mirrors. :fyyff

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    And on top of all this, there was always the unpredictability of the weather to contend with, which alternated between uplifting and depressing over every rise but, generally seemed to contain an ominous air that certainly gave the three of us cause for concern. However, undaunted we persisted northward, with subsequent stretches of road being mainly gravel and dirt, with the occasional further section of roadworks and surprisingly - at least for me who had done very little research into the quality of this highway (apart from being prepared for the unpredictable) - even the odd stretch of blacktop. The further we got from civilization the more desolate the landscape appeared, culminating in the final push to the rest stop marking the Arctic circle which, even though it contained nothing more than an out house, a sign and a couple of other vague signs of commercialization was a strange man made oasis in a sea of nothingness. Pulling up at the sign was somewhat eerie in itself: it felt so commercial, but once we'd turned off our bikes there was not a sound to be heard. The weather at this stage had closed in even further, but worst of all Gary's rear tire was showing serious signs of deterioration and looked extremely questionable for the entire trip to Prudhoe Bay. After a brief period of discussion it was decided that this was as far North as we'd go on this trip, a decision that I don't think either Joe or I were particularly happy with at the time, but myself, I felt that it was Gary's trip - he'd put all the real effort into the planning, the scheduling and the preparations - and if I really had a problem with it, well I had my own atlas and would just have to plan my own assault some other time.

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    As this location had suddenly morphed into essentially the turn-around point, it was with great fanfare that our collective presence was recorded at the sign - we took such a ridiculous amount of cheesy pictures that I started to feel like a damn wedding photographer: Each person with the sign, each bike with the sign, group shots of bikes, group shots of people, group shots of people and bikes - we had every freakin' permutation of bikes, sign and us that you could imagine. Anyway ultimately the batteries went flat in the cameras and the picture taking was over! :thumb Apart from the monotony of the picture taking though, a couple of other features at the location added a little in the way of color to the proceedings.

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    The back of the sign: apparently there's a grizzly bear in the area that's quite adept at fellatio - call 777 121 6969 :deal

    For one, upon the sign someone had tacked a hastily written note that warned of a wolf in the area which apparently had attacked a lone hiker who, in a state of considerable panic had taken refuge in the nearby outhouse. Unfortunately however, when she emerged from the stall over an hour later, the animal attacked her again - and that was as far as the tale went. Given the absence of a corpse, I'm assuming that no harm ultimately came to the poor women, although maybe the wolf was just really hungry. :evil Apart from the perceived threat of a wolf attack, certain smaller members of the wildlife fraternity were causing the three of us significant discomfort even as we stood there. I refer of course to the Alaskan mosquito. When people tell you to take plenty of bug repellent into this area, they are certainly not being overly dramatic, as those biting little bastards are by far the most aggressive of the species I've ever come across. Maybe it's the stunted length of the summer months that's to blame, but even though at all times I was covered with a full oversuit and had sprayed a heavy layer of repellent on every square inch of exposed skin, I still ended up covered in welts on any part of my body that wasn't defended by messrs Arai, Aerostich and Alpinestars. :baldy

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    This gentleman was (at this stage) surprisingly quite civil to the three of us as I recall :deal

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    Lunch - sorta! :dg

    With a certain sense of anticlimax then, we turned the bikes around and headed back towards civilization and Fairbanks. Before getting back there though, a refueling stop at the Yukon River service area would be necessary, which confused the issue somewhat since when we pulled up, they were out of gas. Another lesson for the 'mainlanders' was in the making - the tanker might show up today, it might show up tomorrow, it might show up next week. I thought it was the height of irony that the damned Alaskan pipeline was in spitting distance of this place, yet we couldn't even fill our bikes up. Of the three, my bike had the longest fuel range and a quick calculation revealed that I'd probably make it back to Fairbanks on fumes, where I be able to get enough gas to rescue the other two; however as we resolved to put this plan into action, the tanker rolled into the parking lot and the current fuel crisis was over. :thumb Flush with more fuel that we knew what to do with, it was a spirited ride that took us back to Fairbanks. Joe, who had hardly ever taken the lead on the trip thus far, set out ahead and remained there until returning to the blacktop at Livengood. At one stage, having ridden pretty hard and still not caught the GS, I was even convinced that he'd taken one of the spur roads and got himself lost. Our rapid progress was briefly halted however, when a contrite Gary insisted on stopping and apologizing to our friendly flag lady.

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    Gary - looking all contrite - post flag lady :deal

    Present and accounted for back at the relative safety of a predictable road surface, the three of us rode back through Fairbanks with the intention of heading towards Anchorage. At the northern end of the Denali National park, with the hour in the day getting fairly late, suitable accommodation was starting to become a concern, along with the first food since before lunch and, as we rolled into Cantwell, collectively we put our empty bellies ahead of any overnight comfort concerns. :dg After getting a quick meal, the prospect of finding somewhere to sleep at 10pm presented itself and, after a brief search we settled on the Lazy J cabins, which unfortunately had only a single room available. However since the next town was a couple of hours ride from Cantwell and was one of those dots on the map that may be somewhere significant, or may just be a gas station and a post office, we decided to cut our losses and take it - which was fine by me as, since I'd been lumbered with the cot last night, it was my turn for the bed. :thumb

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    Dirty 1

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    Dirty 2

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    Dirty 3

    As usual - please chime in!

    Douf
    #71
  12. i_needit

    i_needit Adventurer

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    What a trip. the orange is killing my eyes. Great pics!!!
    #72
  13. Douf

    Douf Limey Bitch

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    And these are just mine :ymca:ymca:ymca

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    Gary, Joe - feel free to add yours :lol3:lol3:lol3

    Douf
    #73
  14. gary138

    gary138 Adventurer

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    I think you covered it just fine.
    #74
  15. Mleaky

    Mleaky Been here awhile

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    Sunny Arizona
    Great report...looking forward to the rest.:clap
    #75
  16. Douf

    Douf Limey Bitch

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    Day 7: Cantwell, AK - Anchorage, AK

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    Late last night, the day's proceedings had culminated with the three of us squeezing into the only available room left in Cantwell (at the Lazy J cabins), which was unfortunately blessed with only one cot and, judging by the pained expressions on both their faces, undoubtedly that bed - in which I was currently relaxing - possessed significantly more comfort than the bare floor which Gary and Joe had been forced to endure for the duration of the night; but looking on the bright side, at least we weren't camping. :lol3 And, Putting a further appealing spin on our day's prospective itinerary was the knowledge that today's mileage would be reasonably sane by our trip's ambitious standards, so in reality the next twenty four hours would be as close to a rest day as we'd likely get on this particular journey. With that in mind then, the three of us even indulged in the unusual treat of breakfast at the Lazy J which was (a) cooked with something other than a microwave or a gas station rotisserie and (b) consumed while actually sitting on real chairs with an honest-to-goodness table in front of them - rather than the semi-familiar forecourt breakfast two-step which had become our usual daybreak ritual. Whether or not any of that had anything to do with the experience, I 'm not sure, but that was the best damn breakfast I'd tasted in a long time - Joe and I even bought Lazy-J t-shirts to commemorate the experience. :thumb

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    The Unbridled luxury that is the Lazy -J

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    After the meal, once packed and ready to roll, the spectacular surroundings of our current location, - which in last night's semi-comatose quest for lodging, we'd been somewhat indifferent to - became breathtakingly apparent, and put the limited creature comforts of our closet/room at the Lazy J in a much better light. Being in the vicinity of the Denali National park, thankfully today the air possessed the kind of clear crispness that would hopefully permit the upper elevations of Mount McKinley to be clearly visible, which apparently is usually less than a foregone conclusion. As we started the bikes to make our way south, the KTM rattled and ground its' way through the starting sequence with a familiarity that disturbingly, seemed to be intensifying slightly. But as the ominous noises subsided once the starter motor disengaged, once again - with fingers crossed - we carried on, blissfully ignorant of what potential mayhem was brewing within.

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    After a brief stint in the saddle, the much anticipated unobstructed view of Mount McKinley did indeed materialize and the three of us stopped at the roadside to take a couple of pictures. Although our location wasn't particularly close to the mountain, as I understand it to get any nearer, the only alternative is to go into the park itself and then board a bus which from the photos I'd seen didn't appear to get significantly closer itself. Anyway, with the other two guys being about as keen as I was on abandoning the bikes and sitting with a bus load of regular tourists for a couple of hours, the likelihood of that reality occurring was slim to say the least. :deal

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    One immovable object meets another :lol3

    With a satisfying number of photos dispatched to the cameras, our journey continued southward, until we reached Anchorage. At this stage, our intent was to purchase supplies for an oil change to be done later that day at whatever hotel we ended up at, and then head south to catch a glacier boat early in the afternoon. However, the staff at the Motorcycle Shop (for that is its' name), being obviously quite familiar with the plight of the long distance motorcycle traveler, were very helpful and offered to set the three of us up with drip trays, cardboard and whatever else we needed to do the oil changes right in their forecourt. :thumb Feeling that this was an offer too good to refuse, we decided to take care of the maintenance immediately. Now I'm not saying that my beloved KTM is maintenance intensive, but I vaguely recall that Gary put a new clutch in the V-Strom and Joe even sourced a nitrous kit from the lower 48 and installed it in the GS - all in the time it took me to change my oil. :evil Seriously, I really don't want to get into a KTM mud slinging match - especially as it's frowned upon in the Ride Report section by the mods who control these things but, well, it's my ride report and I'll whine if I want to. :D Anyway, enough said, but for all you would be 950 owners, here's a quick rundown of the oil change procedure, per the owner's manual (feel free to draw your own conclusions):

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    To start with the manufacturer suggests that, since 'many parts must be dismounted for an oil change, we recommend having the engine oil changed by an authorized KTM workshop.' Furthermore KTM's official position is that they will quite happily void your warranty if this procedure is done by an unauthorized source (that means you or me amongst others). Altogether quite convenient for an Adventure bike. :evil

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    The Motorcycle Shop, Anchorage. Great folks :thumb

    To the procedure itself then.

    1. Remove the four screws and take off the bash plate.
    2. Remove the oil drain plug.
    3. Remove two bolts that hold the cap for the oil sieve and pull the sieve out with a pair of pliers.
    4. Remove two bolts that hold the cap for the oil filter and pull the filter out with a pair of pliers.
    5. Remove the six screws and take off the glove box cover.
    6. Remove the five screws, take off the upper left fairing panel and disconnect the turn signal.
    7. Close all three fuel taps and disconnect the fuel lines from the left tank.
    8. Remove the three screws, lift the tank approximately 15mm and carefully tilt to the side. Disconnect the cable from the fuel level pickup cable and set the tank down.
    9. Remove the lower screw from the right tank, then remove the hex head screws and take off the battery cover.
    10. Remove the drain plug from the oil tank and allow the oil to drain into a receptacle.
    11. Remove two screws and tilt the oil return valve to the side.
    12. Carefully pull the oil screen out of the oil tank (btw it's quite difficult to accomplish this without getting at least some oil over the engine and for those of you keeping score this is the third filtering device that has to be removed).
    13. Clean the drain plug, rubber seal rings, cover and oil screens.
    14. Mount the oil drain plug in engine and torque.
    15. Slide in oil screen - make sure ring is in place and tighten to 10Nm.
    16. Insert a new oil filter, mount cover and tighten to 6Nm (btw a different enough value from step 15 that a torque wrench set at 10Nm is sufficient to twist off the bolt head).
    17. Mount the oil drain plug on the tank with a new seal ring and tighten to 20Nm.
    18. Grease the seal ring, slide the oil screen into the tank, position the oil return valve and tighten.
    19. Mount the battery cover and torque the screws.
    20. Connect the pickup cable to the left tank, insert the three screws and tighten, reconnect the fuel lines and open all three fuel taps.
    21. Add the oil - which since it's a dry sump system, you must remember not to just throw in with a single application (or there'll be oil spilling everywhere), but rather you must add 2.5 litres, put in the dipstick, warm the bike up and add engine oil up to the max mark (which quite a few folks have found takes a fair bit more oil than what is recommended).
    22. Loctite the four screws and mount the skid plate.
    23. Connect the turn signal cable, tank vent hose and mount the left fairing panel.
    24. Install the screws and mount the glove box cover.
    25. And you're Done! Unless you've got the Hardparts engine guards which require a bit more removal and installation.

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    'Hey Gary, that's the fifth coat of wax you've put on that V-Strom' :deal

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    Hmmmmmmm........did I replace all of the filters?

    Anyway, as I stated previously, we intended to catch the glacier boat in the afternoon, but after the protracted series of events that is a KTM oil replacement procedure, we missed it. :baldy Damn! After considering our options, and concluding that the Glacier boat was definitely not to be missed, there was no option but to remain in Anchorage for the rest of the day and catch the boat in the morning. With that scenario in mind, after a suitable lodging facility was located, the rest of the day consisted of nothing more challenging than some laundry and, with barely more than 200 miles to show for the day's efforts, we at least managed to get a decent dinner where - if I recall - some of us even managed to get a beer or three for a change. :thumb

    Douf

    Feel free to add whatever (although I'm reasonably certain I've got KTM maintenance pretty well covered). :lol3

    #76
  17. Tadpole

    Tadpole Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2006
    Oddometer:
    20
    Location:
    Kathleen GA
    No, really.... you made that up.



    You are teasing right?
    #77
  18. Douf

    Douf Limey Bitch

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    836
    Location:
    Close to Cumming (GA that is)
    I wish I was. That whole procedure (except where I've shortened the descriptions a little) is exactly how the manual describes it - even the bit about voiding the warranty is true. I've just updated my 'day 7' posts with a couple of shots of the oil change. Notice how neither of the other two (with the exception of a bit of windscreen polishing going on with the V-Strom) are actually doing anything to their bikes, as they've long since finished. :baldy

    Douf
    #78
  19. Douf

    Douf Limey Bitch

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    836
    Location:
    Close to Cumming (GA that is)
    Day 8: Anchorage, AK - Whitehorse, YT

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    Having missed the Glacier boat yesterday afternoon, the primary mission on today's adventure docket involved an early morning trek down to Whittier in order to rectify that situation. However, the weather forecast for the area didn't look like it was in any mood to co-operate with our plans, but undaunted we set out as planned at our usual early morning hour. The scenery, at least what we could see of it in the current drizzle, was definitely improving and as we headed southwards, the road snaked along the waters' edge, with a series of imposing mountains forming the backdrop to this currently hazy reality. Before we had even managed to get anywhere near a boat though, the drizzle had steadily increased to such an extent that any thoughts of taking a waterborne excursion in the present meteorological mess were regretfully abandoned and, it was with a sense of despondent resignation that the three of us backtracked a few miles northward in order to find somewhere to dry out, eat breakfast and consider our options. We consulted a few of the locals, who confirmed that the type of storm that this area was currently gripped by wasn't the sort of thing that would just blow over. The weather forecast, which predicted no end to this onslaught for the next few days, was the final nail in the coffin and so, without the time dependent luxury of waiting out the current squall, we left the area having seen nothing but the smallest of the region's glaciers. :baldy

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    A glacier at Kenai peninsula - or maybe a little low cloud :deal

    I think we all felt a sense of being cheated by the elements to some degree. In reality, the weather had conspired to prevent any of us from experiencing many of the aspects of Alaska that - prior to the trip - had been on our collective short list of must-dos. We'd been turned around at the Arctic Circle when the weather looked like it would prevent a realistic assault on Prudhoe Bay, and now, this: the glacial treasures of the Kenai peninsula had remained off limits to our party by virtue of mother nature's non-cooperation. It was always a possibility that events would conspire to culminate in our less than fulfilling present reality, but as we motored away from the peninsula and headed for the Alaskan exit door, I for one definitely felt a sense of unfinished business and promised myself that this certainly wouldn't be my last visit to the area. :deal

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    Breakfast - always a pleasure :dg

    After regrettably leaving the unobserved beauty of the Kenai peninsula behind, our thoughts turned to whatever remaining delights the Alaska highway had in store for us. Preferring to travel the Top Of The World Highway and leaving the last section of the Alcan unridden on the way north, our intent was to complete this part of the road as we headed back through the Yukon on our return.

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    In the limited summer months of an Alaskan year however, relatively mild temperatures combine with almost unlimited daylight to produce conditions which are eminently suitable for whatever road maintenance efforts are necessary before the re-emergence of the climatic hostility (not to mention darkness) that more typically characterizes fall through spring in these northern latitudes. An omnipresence of highway construction and maintenance work is consequently of no great surprise then - indeed, so overwhelming is the occurrence of pot holes and other such surface inconsistencies in these parts that I would seriously advise anyone contemplating a journey here to consider a dual-sport bike as the machine of choice, even if no actual off road mileage is intended. Predictably therefore, while our journey to the northern end of the Alaska highway continued, consistent progress became more difficult as we encountered repeated instances of the aforementioned construction delays along a stretch of road known as the Tok Cutoff.

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    And then suddenly, exiting one more stretch of road maintenance, in what - so far, touch wood - has been the closest call I've had since I started riding at age 12, I almost got myself killed. Our usual road going pecking order of Gary leading, Joe and I following, had been temporarily suspended and - probably prompted by the frustration of our current inability to maintain anything resembling consistent headway - I had taken the impetus and whenever possible was attempting to increase our ground speed beyond the GPS indicated 75mph that had been the de-facto cruising speed to date. Passing a stream of slower moving cars as the temporary construction area road surface reassuringly returned to the relative predictability of Alaskan blacktop, the two lane route stretched out arrow straight in front of the three of us and we steadily accelerated towards a water truck that had pulled ahead. As I approached the vehicle (which I'm guessing was moving at around 50-55mph), with a significant speed advantage I prematurely pulled into the oncoming lane in order to give the truck driver plenty of mirror time with which to observe my approach. Inexplicably however, as my bike and I - at this stage running at an estimated speed of 80mph - neared the rear of the this vehicle, it suddenly swerved across the road right in front of me and headed towards the coarsely graveled shoulder - which was maybe three quarters of a lane wide and situated on the other side of the road. Beyond this shoulder was a drop off of approximately six to ten feet, some boulders and a small creek. There was no explanation for this sudden maneuver except for the distinct possibility that the driver was attempting to purposely run me off the road. :eek1 Swerving off the blacktop onto the unpredictability of the gravel as I hit the brakes, my closing speed on truck was still significant and, as I target fixated on the vehicle's large and threatening front wheel sitting right under the cab, thoughts of impending disaster vividly flashed through my mind; I prepared for the worst. The bike fishtailed considerably as the back wheel locked up on the gravel, but miraculously the entire pantheon of my two wheeled riding experience somehow contrived to lift my panicking foot up off the brake pedal sufficiently to allow the brake to release and the bike to straighten up. Even more amazingly however, at the very moment of impact, unbelievably the truck suddenly veered back onto the paved surface which, although abating any immediate carnage still left me sitting atop a rapidly moving motorcycle that - with equally terminal consequences - was about to disappear off the end of the gravel turnout and into the trees/rocks below. With what felt like inches to spare, in one last fantastically fortuitous twist of fate I somehow managed to wrestle my steed back onto the pavement and we continued along like nothing had happened. :huh Well, on the face of it that's exactly what we did do, but as we rode along my heart was pounding incessantly while a mixture of adrenaline and shock competed ferociously for control of my immediate emotional state.

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    This series of events is etched so vividly in my mind that I realize to some extent I'm probably over dramatizing the actual occurrence. Having said that and legitimizing my own potentially overblown recollection the incident: what was in my mind was obviously a near death experience, happened in plain view of the other two and, when we eventually stopped sometime later, it had apparently also shaken the pair of them up to such an extent that not one of us said a single thing about it. It was only sometime later that evening - when all three of us has apparently calmed down - that Gary (whose variety of two wheeled experience I admire greatly) said that if he'd been in that situation he didn't know whether he'd have saved it or not, so I assume it must have looked about as potentially life threatening as I thought it was. In fact, it scared me so much that I've never even spoken about it to that many people since - just writing this has been somewhat cathartic. And, returning to that motorcycling karma deposit I made when we helped the Canadians on The Top of The World Highway on day five: I think I'd just made a big withdrawl on the Tok cutoff. :deal

    Surviving the remainder of the Cutoff was - thankfully given my hysterical mindset - merely an exercise in mental tenacity, as the weather got warmer (why the hell wasn't in like that in Kenai) while the construction zones got longer and longer, with the pinnacle of frustration being a full fifteen miles of contra flowing, gravel strewn purgatory, that had me regularly dreaming of the nearest interstate. And as a final insult, in truly authentic roadwork's tradition, there was a traffic back up about the length of Kansas complementing whatever misery the Alaskan DOT had managed to concoct for us. :baldy

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    Are we having fun yet :lol3:baldy:lol3:baldy

    Comparatively speaking, the remainder of the day was fairly uneventful, although significantly more expensive than had been anticipated - especially for Gary. Once again the culprit was the nationally sanctioned extortion racket that masquerades as Canadian customs control. If you're one of the two readers of this thread who's been totally absorbed in our captivating tale since day one, you may remember that it was Joe who was almost denied entry to this wonderful country way back at the start of the trip. Gary on the other hand, had been granted entry without objection.

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    Last gas in Alaska :wave

    However in the few days that we'd been out of the Canadian countryside on our Alaskan odyssey, the authorities had apparently managed to dredge through the ancient minutiae of his youthful history and - surprise, surprise - consequently unearthed some trivial detail, the essence of which was so dastardly that only a $200 payment would prove sufficient to allow him back into the country. Or, he could just turn around and head back into Alaska of course. BASTARDS! Let me tell you something: that mickey mouse collection of banana republics down in Central America have got a lot to learn about border control payola, judging by the scale of the operation we've got running just to the north of the U.S. From what I've read in other trip reports on this very site, the equivalent cost of one Canadian border crossing would allow the average citizen to bribe his way around two or three laps worth of bogus speeding tickets and customs kickbacks in the entire southern continent.

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    To add insult to injury, Gary's rear tire didn't look like it was going to make it any further either, so he was faced with the immediate prospect of buying a Canadian example - if indeed one could be found - at the same typically inflated prices that the gas, lodging and most other retail items manage to get sold for in this oasis of taxation. I guess those free ferry crossings have got to be paid for somewhere, eh? :evil With another partial day of (at least tire) maintenance in our immediate future then, an additional night in Whitehorse became the next destination on our itinerary as, since we'd noted what looked like a decent sized dealership on the way out, we concluded that our best chance of scoring a new rear hoop for the V-Strom would be in this location. So it was ultimately that we called the River View hotel, made a reservation and eventually returned to its' vaguely familiar surroundings. As a pleasant caveat to this final stretch though, a brief scenic consolation prize presented itself in the vicinity of Yukon's Kluane Lake, which was both remote and incredibly beautiful. And we still managed to put in over 800 miles on the day - in retrospect I guess I'm glad I didn't slow down too much on that gravel after all. :evil

    Douf
    #79
  20. ocechap

    ocechap Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    24
    Location:
    Cumming, GA USA
    Wow, amazing!! I live IN Cumming! I'm in for the rest of the story!!

    Jim
    #80