Virginia to Alaska and back on an '86 Yamaha Radian

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by ruffntuff, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    113
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Introduction:

    I hadn’t ridden a motorcycle in eight years. But after my brother was struck and killed by a drunk driver on his motorcycle during my first semester of college in 2010, I could think of nothing else but to do the ride we always talked about - to Alaska. I started my extensive research on ADV Rider in February of 2012, after a friend of my brothers mentioned it to me when I told him about my crazy idea. I asked about bikes and gear and GPS’ vs. Smartphones, and routes and ferries, you name it. Graduation was just around the corner and I was going to get a bike and ride to Alaska no matter what.

    I spent endless nights throughout my last semester of school studying maps and routes to Alaska when I should have been studying for exams. I had heard of “The Milepost” on ADV rider forums and used it extensively to plan my mileage. I ordered free catalogs on British Columbia and Alaska but the Milepost had way more information. It was an imperative asset to my trip for navigating, finding campgrounds, and most importantly, gas stations.

    Probably the longest thread on ADV I got contrasting information from was on GPS’ and Smartphones. I found people are either for GPS or they are for Smartphone when it comes to their navigating powers but never for both. So yes, I’ll proudly admit now that I got a Droid although it took about a month of getting used to. This was definitely the most expensive accessory to the trip but more than crucial.

    I found the GPS on the Smartphone just as reliable as any other plain GPS, except in Canada where it didn’t matter to me anyway because I was using “The Milepost”. What it came down to, was I needed something more than just a GPS. With the Droid I could search for campgrounds, hostels, gas stations, and addresses as well as send emails and take a ton of photos and videos and listen to music. The only downside was the roaming charges in Canada which is something I could have prevented had I paid more attention to my contract.

    It wasn’t until April I got the bike that would take me 17252 miles in one summer. Another friend of my brothers, bike mechanic and builder, emailed me the link on Craigslist. I’ll admit I was skeptical when I saw the picture of an ’86 Yamaha Radian, although it was in mint condition with only 13,500 miles and it came with a tailcase. But I trusted the swearing advice of my mentor that it was the bike that would get me to Alaska and back (in my price-range) in comparison to all the other reviews I had read that only a BMW GS would be the bike to do such a trip on. Unfortunately I had only $1000 to spend on a bike so the Radian was it. I didn’t even have a helmet yet.

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    (This was after my first ride on the Radian...I even had to borrow a helmet.)

    On just a student budget to work with and no local stores to try stuff, I got my outfit online after thorough review comparisons. I went with the cheaper middle-of-the-line gear: Tourmaster jacket and pants from MotorcycleSuperstore, and Nelson Rigg sidecases and tankcase from MotorcycleGear. Thankfully my birthday is in May so my mom bought me the best part of my gear, my Sidi Jasmine boots.

    Like I said, I hadn’t ridden in eight years, so I spent the next month putting as many miles on my new wheels as possible. I rode it to school, I rode it up the Blue Ridge parkway, I rode it to the barn where I kept my horse. I managed to put about 1000 miles on it before graduation came and it was time to leave for Alaska but I never rode more than 200 miles at once and had never experienced riding in rain. You could say I was a bit nervous about loading it down with 100+lbs of gear and taking off to the Pacific Northwest.

    Of course the day I woke up to leave Virginia and head west on my Radian with shiny new gear, it was raining. I didn’t let it stop me though, nor could I have possibly imagined the worst of conditions I would see ahead.

    This is the beginning of my journey to Alaska. It was a journey of loss, a journey of love, and a journey of healing. I feel privileged to be able to share it with whoever is adventurous enough to read it one day at a time. This is in loving memory of my brother, Dan Neumeister.

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    Dan at track days on his Suzuki TL1000R
    #1
    Uke likes this.
  2. 1Man2Wheels

    1Man2Wheels Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    127
    Location:
    Englewood, CO
    Condolences on your loss. You are doing a great thing for your brother, and I look forward to reading the rest of your ride
    #2
  3. longtallsally

    longtallsally Yeah I'm a chick

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2006
    Oddometer:
    4,521
    Location:
    BACK IN THE STATES!!!
    I was privileged enough to get to meet the hero of this story. It is truly amazing and defines what many have lost in the definition of being an Adventure Rider. It's not about farkles or box checking. It's about having an adventure and experiencing life in a more visceral manner than 99% of the rest of the population.

    Oh yeah and of course... :lurk
    #3
  4. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,809
    Location:
    Fly over zone
    I'm in. I love reading Alaska reports.
    This one sounds exceptional. Very sorry for your loss. I've tried for years to get my brothers to ride.. No takers.
    My youngest just graduated from college, now he's job hunting. He should do an Alaska trip. I'll send him the link to this RR.
    Thanks for sharing.
    #4
  5. one2ride

    one2ride Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Wi
    Wow what a way to look inward. Hope you find the answers you’re looking for. I’m in
    #5
  6. bobw

    bobw Harden the phuck up

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2006
    Oddometer:
    943
    Location:
    God's country, Western North Carolina
    I'll add my condolences and your introduction has me hooked. We do need some photos though :beer
    #6
  7. mikegc

    mikegc Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,783
    Location:
    High Point, NC
    Ruff, what a great way to honor your brother, Dan! You know he's got to be smiling..

    Mike
    #7
  8. reticent rooster

    reticent rooster ____________________

    Joined:
    May 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    23
    Location:
    Aberdeen, MS
    Allright! Finally! Can't wait to see some pictures..... '86 Radian! I guess you don't have to have a ton of fancy gear to be an ADVriding badass. RIP Dan, 2 years tomorrow.

    Hijack!
    Here's a picture of ruffntuff warming up a few days before the ride.
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    #8
  9. tslaw

    tslaw aged n00b

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,655
    Location:
    Vxb, Mississippi
    Good luck on your trip. I hope you get the closure you need from it.
    #9
  10. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    113
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Day One:
    May 21, 2012
    Crozet, VA - Lanesville, IN: 524miles

    I woke up to a rainy overcast morning in Crozet. I was planning on leaving by 9am with the intentions of getting to my first destination and ADV tentspace host in Lanesville, ID. It was going to be about 500 miles which may have been a bit extreme for my first day on the road loaded up with gear and unfortunate weather. But I had estimated with the time constraints involved, I needed to average 500 miles/day in the states until I reached Canada. Then I could slow down to average 300miles/day for more technical riding. I needed to get to Alaska in time for me to tour around, hop on a ferry, and then get down to Vancouver for an externship I was offered for two weeks at the aquarium. I had four weeks until I had to be there.

    I took my time packing the bike hoping the rain would go away. It was an emotional morning and I procrastinated struggling to say goodbye to my family and friends. With tears in my eyes I gave my hugs and final kisses until I put on my helmet and was ready for takeoff. I was shaking as I put on my gloves thinking, “Oh my God, holy shit, this is happening, what the fuck am I doing? I’ve never ridden in rain….I’ve never felt this much weight on a bike….oh God, everyone is watching me….I’m gonna drop the fucking bike.” I think my mentor and friend could see me panicking and I’ll never forget him stopping me while I was trembling to holding my hand to say, “Don’t worry. Take your time, go slow, you’ll get comfortable with the weight. No one will be watching just around the corner. “

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    I took a deep breath and rolled out of Crozet by 11am. I was skeptical I was going to make it to my destination but was determined to get as far as possible. It wasn’t raining hard but sprinkling and the roads were wet. I went slow and easy and within ten minutes of being on the highway I felt comfortable with the bike and all the extra weight. Suddenly I started to feel the excitement of being on the road headed to Alaska. I thought of Dan and knew he was watching.

    It was a beautiful drive through West Virginia, very mountainous and a windy highway. I drove through Charlestown, the town of bridges, and thankfully it had stopped raining at this point.

    I was shocked when after just 80 miles my tank ran out of gas and I had to switch it to reserve. Riding before without all my gear I could get 120 miles on my little 3 gallon tank. But now with the extra load I realized I might have a problem in remote areas (like Alaska) with having enough gas. I ended up stopping six times total that day in 500 miles.

    When I got to Lexington, KY I hit more hard rain. It rained so hard I could hardly see the lines on the road through my visor. But I slowed down and managed to keep going. My hands got soaked since I was just wearing some leather Olympia insulated gloves. I had neglected to spend money on ordering new waterproof ones. After a couple hours of rain it finally stopped and my hands managed to dry out some. I checked my gear when I stopped at a gas station and thankfully everything was still dry.

    As I headed towards Louisville I could see another isolated storm just ahead. The sky was black and the wind picked up hard. I decided this looked nasty enough I should get off the road. As soon as I pulled into a gas station the sky opened up and it poured sideways with strong gusts of wind. It only lasted for ten minutes or so, but I was thankful I got off the road for that one. I started thinking I didn’t have to worry about experiencing rain on the bike anymore. This was a great break-in to the trip.

    I road through Louisville over the Ohio river as the sun was setting. It was a pretty pink sky after the rain and I made it to my ADV tentspace host’s house in Lanesville, IN just before dark. I couldn’t believe I actually made it. After a late start, stopping six times for gas, and lots of rain, I actually made it more than 500 miles before dark. It was an epic first day.

    [​IMG]
    Thanks to TooTallRacing for putting me up on my first night out.


    Quote of the day:
    A man at a gas station came up to me and said, “You’re one of ‘em adventure girls aren’t you. I bet no one can keep you around. “
    #10
  11. limeymike

    limeymike Who Me?

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2008
    Oddometer:
    657
    Location:
    Dakota Territories.
    Yamaha power, ADV Spirit, Tough Chick, Alaska . . . . Damn I'm in :clap
    #11
  12. 1955BIKER

    1955BIKER Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    75
    Location:
    Virginia
    Sorry for the loss of your brother. This is one trip you will remember all your life. I live in VA also and there are alot of miles between here and Alaska. Alot of advertures also.
    #12
  13. B50Paul

    B50Paul Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2010
    Oddometer:
    204
    Location:
    Salt spring Island the Hawaii of Canada
    A great first day , Adventure Girl :clap:clap:clap

    Paul
    #13
  14. vtwin

    vtwin Air cooled runnin' mon

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2005
    Oddometer:
    7,752
    Location:
    NorCal
    Sorry for your loss. I am looking forward to your ride. I'm sure your brother is tagging along and keeping you safe. Maybe you could stop by Duluth MN at the Aerostich factory and pick up some goodies?
    #14
  15. mnesci

    mnesci Adventure Dad

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2010
    Oddometer:
    142
    Location:
    Wherever I may roam
    Im in as well........glad your riding for your brother.........he wishes he was with you on this adventure.....
    #15
  16. mayday

    mayday Stromer

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2006
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Great white north (BC)
    Ah, the Radian - one of the first bikes I ever bought "new" ( for me that means under 4yrs old) - excellent bike - with the 2 exceptions you have already noted - the lack of range, and the lack of wind protection.
    Anyways, looking forward to reading about your adventures.
    #16
  17. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    6,010
    Location:
    The Bluegrass
    Great start to your RR. And a trip with real purpose too.
    If you had done your RR in real time I would have been happy to buy you a meal and a tank of gas as you passed throuh Lexington. Maybe next time.
    My neighbor got a Radian last summer and rides it a lot compared to the bikes he had before. I'll show him your thread to show him what his bike is really capable of.
    Looking forward to more.
    #17
  18. WhicheverAnyWayCan

    WhicheverAnyWayCan Deaf Biker

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Seven Springs NC
    Looking forward to the rest of your Riding Report! Two Thumbs up!!
    #18
  19. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    113
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Day Two:
    May 22, 2012
    Lanesville, IN – Oak Grove, MO (510 miles)

    Some things in life are just providential. If I’ve learned anything from this trip, that’s the most consistent lesson I have experienced. When I learned about tentspace on ADV I started searching for people on my route to put me up for the night. I was especially interested in finding people early on in my trip knowing that I was inexperienced with motorcycle maintenance. My primary concern was if something went wrong with the bike, I would be screwed. So I made an effort in my planning to be sure that in my first week of riding I’d be heading towards someone with motorcycle experience.

    Unfortunately, out of five or six people on tentspace that I contacted throughout the states prior to my leaving Virginia, only two responded to my request. One however had relocated and was unavailable to host me. But thankfully enough TooTallRacing was excited to provide a bed and warm meal for me on just the first night of my long journey. After a few emails back and forth once TTR heard where I was headed, he informed me about his own adventure to Alaska and back last summer on his BMW1200GS. He sent me some of his pictures which only got me more excited to be going to Alaska.

    When I got to his house, he and his wife had a spaghetti dinner and cold beer waiting. We enjoyed talking about his trip and he was full of suggestions on routes to take and places to stay such as Thompson’s Eagle Claw motorcycle campground in Tok. This is still one of my favorite places on the whole trip. He even gave me some contacts in Anchorage that later ended up providing the most important support to me.

    In the morning we had some coffee with coffee cake and TTR showed me his decorated garage with his bikes, photos, and license plates. Without much of a plan for the day I thanked him, said goodbye, and headed west hoping to camp somewhere past Kansas City. I went through Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri through lots of fields and strong wind, but the sky was blue and the air was warm.

    I felt comfortable riding all day except for fighting the wind. I learned quickly how to ride from my core so I wouldn’t exhaust myself bracing with my arms and legs. I found it especially tricky learning to balance the bike through all that wind while passing eighteen-wheelers. Feeling the counter-wind-effect while passing and anticipating the degree of gust that was going to hit me after passing was difficult not to overcorrect. It slowed me down and tired me enough that I didn’t make it all the way to Kansas City.

    At some point in the middle of the day just after stopping for gas I was getting on the highway when my oil light came on. Of course I immediately panicked and pulled over in the most un-ideal location; the on- ramp to a highway and a sloped gravel shoulder. I struggled attempting to get the bike on the centerstand and was unsuccessful. I called my mentor in Virginia freaking out and of course all he says is, “How many miles have you been since you left Virginia?”…(Probably 700)…“Well put some oil in it!” I felt like an idiot….duh!

    I filled the bike with ¼ quart oil and of course the light went off. I rode some more and ended up stopping for the day at a KOA just 30 miles from Kansas City. After unloading all my gear I was able to get the bike on its centerstand at a flat location and check the oil. It definitely didn’t have much so I topped it off and hoped for the best. I had just enough daylight to set up camp and make dinner with my alcohol stove. It wasn’t exactly my style of camping next to cars and families close to the highway but it worked for the night. I wanted to get some good rest for an early start tomorrow and hopefully make it all the way to Denver.

    [​IMG]

    Quote of the day:
    This is an excerpt from my journal…..”Camping next to a family of kids. Baby won’t stop screaming. I want to smother it.”
    #19
  20. Jim K.

    Jim K. Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,217
    Location:
    New Haven, Ct.
    There are many in the motorcycle community who hold the UJM in small regard. Pay them no mind! Your mentor showed good sense in recommending your Radian. The wave of Japanese I-4s was a revolution in power, design elegance, & reliability. There are a host of good reasons that they became "universal". BTW....I even think that the Radian is still a handsome bike, despite it's age (and the unfortunate, but probably necessary, plastic windshield)
    #20