Virginia to Alaska and back on an '86 Yamaha Radian

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

  1. mrbreeze

    mrbreeze Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,123
    Location:
    Tennessee
    I am still enjoying this great story.

    As for the chain, would a bike that old have an o-ring chain? If not, it would be a good idea to replace it with one.
  2. go4mini

    go4mini Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    N Central PA
    ruffntuff- You are truly amazing and inspiring. To embark on a journey like this, solo, is truly one of the greatest ADVRIDER tales I've read. I've thought of doing it, but wasn't quite sure. After reading your RR, I'm definitely doing it. And the way you tell your story is spellbinding. I can't wait to read the rest. Your brother is very proud of you, and I'm sure he rode along with you, and watched out for you. A tip of the visor to you. :clap :clap
  3. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    113
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Day 15:
    June 4, 2012
    Takhini Hot Springs – Dawson City, YT: 340 miles

    I had a little rain last night, light enough for restful sleeping. It was just enough to get everything wet. Packing up a wet tent is never fun thinking about what it will smell like when it’s unpacked again. Then again, I hadn’t done any laundry since Lake Louise Hostel six days ago. Everything at this point was a bit rank and I think I was getting used to it.

    I felt eager to get on the road after catching my morning buzz with a coffee at the camp store next to the highway. It was a boring ride on the Klondike Loop up to Dawson City. It was pretty similar to the Alaskan Highway, long straight stretches of irregular hilly pavement surrounded by evergreen trees.

    Yukon probably had the worst roads of all. Not only is the pavement rough but it’s uneven, full of cracks, potholes, and slick patches of repair work. I think this is probably where my fork seals started cracking and leaking, although I never noticed it until later. There would be hills and dips in the road that would cause my forks to bottom out at times. I found myself standing a lot to protect my crotch, seat bones, and joints from the bumpiness.

    I did learn here that the “Rough Road” caution signs actually mean “End of Pavement.” There would be stretches of 50ft or so where the road would just stop and turn to gravel. When I passed the first sign I slowed down to 50mph from cruising at 80mph thinking there may just be a little loose gravel ahead. Instead I hit the gravel road like a dirt bike slipping its back tire through a muddy field. The next time, I slowed down to a leisurely 30mph.

    I stopped at a heritage center close to Carmacks. It had interesting native crafts, jewelry and art. The lady there was very informative on native history and told me to pay attention to the banks on the side of the highway. There are areas where you can still see layers of white ash in the ground from a volcano erupting 1800 years ago. Amazing. I would never have noticed it without her telling me.

    At a gas station just north of Carmacks, I talked with a Philippine lady that worked there. She remarked how great it was to see a woman doing what I was doing. It’s nice to see how it amazes people, but I can’t help but feel like it’s no big deal. Anyone could do it. You just have to set your mind to it.

    I asked about a good place to do a short hike and she suggested Five Finger Rapids. There’s a platform with a view of the Yukon River with stairs leading .6 miles down to the river. She warned me of grizzly bears and told me to be careful.

    Unfortunately when I got to the platform the stairs were closed for repair. However, it was a beautiful view of the grand Yukon River.

    [​IMG]

    I stopped at Pelly’s Crossing to visit the Selkirk Heritage Center. Here I learned about “Doouli.” It’s the native traditional law to respect all living things and nature. It follows the principal of taking only what you need to keep the balance of the environment. They focus on the esteem of animals and not making fun of them, for they provide us with survival. I love this. If only more people in the world could follow this simple modest way of living.

    [​IMG]

    Stewart Crossing was beautiful. I crossed the bridge where the Stewart River dumps into the Yukon River. It was a long 110 miles to Dawson City from here.

    [​IMG]

    I ran out of fuel just 30 miles before Dawson City. I could see there was a thunderstorm ahead and pulled over quickly to unpack the RotoPax. As I was unloading my fuel I saw another rider go by on a white KTM. I saw him look at me and shortly come to a near screeching halt before turning around and jetting up to check on me.

    Once he realized I wasn’t broken down, we chatted for a bit and it was nice to meet another ADV rider, RoninMoto. I love how everyone seems to look out for one another. He was on his way back from Alaska and told me about a hostel in Dawson City. Perfect. I was happy to know I wouldn’t have to pull out the stinky wet tent. However, I was going to have to get on a ferry and cross the river to get there.

    We exchanged emails and I headed on towards the storm. I passed the tailings (mounds of gravel and rock) in the Klondike gold fields from hydraulic mining done in the early 1900’s. It was amazing seeing the size and depth of the ditches. The piles of stone looked like such destruction it reminded me of a landfill.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I made it to the city on the edge of the storm. The sky was black and the whole town had lost power which only contributed to its rustic simplicity. The city struck me like it hadn’t changed since it was founded. I almost expected to see horses and carriages going down the street. The wooden flat-fronted buildings surrounded with boardwalks had an old western movie-set feel to them. It was my kind of place.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As I came down the main street parallel with the Yukon River I could feel the bike chain tugging on the sprockets in an unsymmetrical way. I was starting to get concerned I wasn’t anywhere near a place that could replace it. I just hoped it could hang on until then.

    I followed the signs to the ferry loading dock and waited for it to cross the river. It was a cute little barge, able to fit six or seven cars at a time. I was excited to put the bike on a ferry for the first time.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The hostel was just on the other side of the river. It was one of the most interesting places I stayed at. It was very
    primitive and rustic with no electricity or plumbing. There was a bath house with a wood stove to heat water on for an old-fashioned sponge bath. Out of the ordinary things and random signs scattered the area. It almost looked like a junk yard but with style.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The owner was a sweet little German man that liked to talk a lot, mostly bitching about the long-term people staying there that were causing problems. I could see there was a somewhat permanent tent community that appeared to have their own commune going on. He said they had formed a “click” that excluded other guests and made them feel unwelcomed. For some reason these hippies thought they owned the place.

    After getting settled in my bunkhouse I walked back down to the ferry to go explore the town. Thankfully it had stopped raining. I saw Jack London’s cabin and I went into a few art galleries and jewelry stores. I had a hard time resisting spending money. There were so many beautiful gold, amber, and jade gifts I wanted to buy.

    [​IMG]

    Luckily I managed to find a bar with the only internet service in town. Everyone else’s systems were still down from the storm. It was the Jack London Grill below the Downtown Hotel. I got the waitress to give me the WiFi code, even though I wasn’t staying in their hotel. I wanted to check-in on Facebook since the SPOT wasn’t working and no one knew where I was.

    I enjoyed some local beer and a Greek salad which hit the spot. I hadn’t had good veggies in a while and was craving them. I was a little depressed sitting there by myself. I needed someone to celebrate with. It was hard to believe I had left Virginia just 15 days ago and now here I was 5000 miles later, just 65 miles from Alaska.

    I was excited to see the Top of the World Highway tomorrow and was eager for good weather. It was going to be 100 miles of gravel, rough road, pot holes, bad pavement breaks, soft shoulders and hairpin curves. I just hoped my chain would survive.
  4. hardwaregrrl

    hardwaregrrl ignore list

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,649
    Location:
    Atlanta
    Who-hoo!!!!! Now I know where Noah fits in! I think he brought a lot of folks to your RR and glad he did!!! Happy holidays!
  5. Jimo368

    Jimo368 intrepid traveller

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    217
    Location:
    Northwestern Ontario
    Great to see you providing an update to your trip, you must have all your holiday shopping done then? Happy Holidays!
  6. CharlestonADV

    CharlestonADV I do my own stunts!

    Joined:
    May 30, 2011
    Oddometer:
    567
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    I love solo journeys...but like you have at times wished that there was someone to share the experience. :freaky

    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.
  7. Udo

    Udo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2006
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Continental Divide
    We said Goodbye and on my way back my eye caught a fantastic rig in the parking lot. It was a custom Land Cruiser with a camper on back, barred windows, snorkel, wench, and extra fuel and water strapped to the hood. It looked like something from an African safari. I saw an older gentleman sitting at a picnic table looking at maps just behind the rig. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to ask if it was his.

    He was a sweet little German man, happy I was interested. He offered me a beer and we sat together for a while talking about our adventures. I was stunned with his trip. He had the rig made for him in Germany and had been traveling around the world for over a year. He had already been on every dirt road in Alaska and Yukon and was on his way to the States and South America.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    He gave me great advice on roads to ride. The Dempster and the Dalton he said were great but nothing like The Denali Highway, his favorite of all Alaska. This I was hoping to ride on if my fuel would allow it. I already knew there was no way I would be able to do the Dalton or Dempster, even with my RotoPax. Gas on those roads was over 200 miles apart.

    After sharing a beer I got a tour of the fancy rig. It was brilliantly efficient inside, perfect for a German. He wanted to see my bike too so I walked him over to my camp site and he was pleasantly impressed. He asked if he could take my picture with the bike before leaving and I’ll never forget him saying, “I salute you Anna Neumeister.”



    Great report. I met this gentleman with this rig on my trip through Labrador/Newfounland earlier this year. Small world!
  8. RoninMoto

    RoninMoto Wanderer

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,701
    Location:
    In the mountains?
    ... Meeting the one and only ruffntuff. :deal
    [​IMG]

    Glad we all get to hear the rest of the story! :clap
  9. tvbh40a

    tvbh40a PSUViking

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,449
    Location:
    Idaho home of the fiesta bowl champ BSU bronco's
    Seat bones= rear bum! Love your writing style... Waiting for the book.:clap
  10. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,809
    Location:
    Fly over zone
    RuffNTuff.. Thanks for the update! What an adventure!

    Merry Christmas, By the way..:D
  11. vtwin

    vtwin Air cooled runnin' mon

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2005
    Oddometer:
    7,752
    Location:
    NorCal
    Merry Christmas R&T! Solo journeys can be rewarding and sad at the same time. No real schedule or time constraints, just a meandering adventure with only a hint of structure. But being a social being, I felt lonely at the same time, wishing my family could see and enjoy what I've seen and felt. After returning from something like that, you will never be the same. I do not know about anyone else, but there was sadness along with the joy of completing my adventure. Still, I was glad I did it and wish to venture more. Cheers R&T!:freaky
  12. marty hill

    marty hill The Energizer Bunny

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,336
    Location:
    marietta, ga.
    Found your RR about an hour ago. Way to go! An amazing journey and very well told. Waiting for the rest of the tale.:D
  13. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    113
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Day 16:
    June 5, 2012
    Dawson City, YT – Tok, AK: 219 miles

    I was so excited I had to force myself to slow down. I woke up early and instead of rushing to pack up and leave I went for a walk along the Yukon River from the hostel through the campground across the street. When I was crossing the road there was an antique car show going on, or maybe it was a race. I’m not sure what they were doing with the cars but they were all vintage and had numbers on them. I secretly wanted to steal one.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Walking along the river I scouted for peregrine falcons that nested there until I came to the remains of an old ship wreck. It was not only impressive seeing the size of the destruction but also how much of it was still intact. Amongst the piles of scattered lumber and debris with vines growing around it, I could see the bow of the ship and the watch deck with an old coal exhaust pipe towering above. I wonder what year it was from.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I walked back to the hostel and started packing, enjoying what looked like was going to be a calm sunny day. I checked the chain and realized it was loose again, this time before loading the bike down with gear.

    I pulled out my tools and tightened it the same way I always did. But when I spun the tire to check the tension all the way around I saw there was a tight spot where the wheel would hardly turn. I loosened the chain again. As I spun the tire to check tension again it was too loose everywhere else. I didn’t know what to do.

    I called Obeewan back home, surprised I had cell service at the hostel. He said it was probably from wear on the sprockets and to adjust according to the tightest point of the chain. I explained if I did this the other sections would be so loose they would slap the swing arm. I was even more concerned with it working like this for 100 miles of rough road ahead. The last thing I needed was for my chain to break on the Top of the World Highway where there was no one to call or rescue me and my SPOT was still useless.

    He said if it was too tight anywhere it was more likely to snap and to just keep it lubed well in the meantime. Hopefully it would make it to Anchorage for a replacement. So I put the chain where it felt tightest and adjusted from there before waxing it and finishing packing.

    I rode the ferry for the fourth time into Dawson City to get a good breakfast and treated myself to eggs and bacon for my day riding into Alaska. Once I was fueled up I fueled up the bike and refilled the RotoPax.

    [​IMG]

    I rode up the Dome road for one last look of Yukon from the top of the mountain behind the city. It was a spectacular 360 degree view of the Yukon River and Dawson. I felt as if I could see Alaska from there. It looked like a nice day ahead to ride the Top of the World Highway.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The next 60 miles were the most emotional I had felt. It was an intense ride not just emotionally but physically too. I followed the windy gravel and dirt road above tree line with snow covered peaks in the distance. I was in tears the entire time, thinking of Dan. Thinking he was watching, wishing he was with me. I could feel his face on my face and imagine it from his own helmet. We looked so much alike, everyone would tell me. At times this was all I could see, even from the top of the world.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I averaged 30mph and got to the border in a couple hours. The officer at customs was friendly and didn’t even ask me to remove my helmet. It was a little different from my last border crossing. I was only there a few minutes and he offered to take my photo next to the Alaska sign.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I recorded in my journal, “In Alaska June 5, 2012, 1:30pm. 5,221mi in 16 days.”

    [​IMG]

    I drove a bit further to the official Alaska sign with a stellar view of green hills extending forever. Tour buses were there with a bunch of Germans and I patiently waited for my turn with a picture of the bike next to the sign. They started asking questions and were astounded to hear I had ridden from Virginia. I told them I was too. One woman told me how impressed she was to see a single woman doing such a trip and offered me a cookie. It was kind of nice to have a group of people there congratulating me, although I would of preferred to have a peaceful quiet moment to myself.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I rode on into Alaska to get head of the bus. The hills were rolling and covered in skinny black spruce that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Many were burned from fire.

    The road was packed dirt in AK compared to the packed gravel in YT. There were some thick areas with fresh gravel and large equipment trucks taking up the road that made treacherous riding. The shoulders were deep and soft that I tried to avoid getting my tires in while passing. I went so slow I felt I would never get to the end of the highway.

    It rained for the last couple hours and got cold. The highway started declining into forest and I followed a stony stream for a while. My ass was starting to get sore and body exhausted from stress so after five hours of riding the 100 mile Top of the World Highway I gratefully made it to pavement in Chicken, AK.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I was starving when I got there and ate the most delicious halibut taco ever. I can’t imagine how pitiful I looked with my greasy scattered hair and dust covered gear devouring food like I had just gotten out of the Sahara.

    [​IMG]

    As I was resting there I saw a couple riders come sailing up on there shiny BMW GS’s. They were decked out in all the fanciest equipment and carried a German flag. (I really did meet a lot of German’s on this trip). They were on their way to Dawson City and I told them I had just come from there. They looked at my dusty bike and asked if I did it on that. I smiled and said, “Yup, all the way from Virginia.”

    They both seemed skeptical but one tipped his helmet to me and said. “Respect to you Mam.”
    They asked about the conditions of the TWH and I warned them about the fresh gravel and construction going on. I told them it took me five hours to ride the whole thing. They chuckled and said on their bikes if should only take a couple hours. Yeah yeah, whatever. They took off kicking up dirt and gravel and blew out of sight.

    I left Chicken rejuvenated and never appreciating pavement so much as I did then. I rode towards Tok along rolling hills and mountains in the distance. I felt a peaceful calmness come over me as I settled into the Alaskan road.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Although I only went a little over 200 miles that day, I came to Tok exhausted and stopped at the information center there. I asked about the Thompsons’s Eagle Claw Motorcycle Campground that TooTallRacing had told me about and got directions to their place.

    This is one of my favorite places I stayed at. Not only is it a “motorcycle campground” and cheap (I think $10 a night) but there’s an interesting assortment of places to stay there. There’s a bunkhouse with four beds, there’s a Tipi, and there’s an old ambulance that’s been converted into a shelter with a bed. Genius!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The best part is the steam room. Similar to the bath house at Dawson City Hostel, there’s a tiny cabin with a woodstove, bucket of water, and rocks to enjoy a hot sauna when frozen and exhausted after traveling. I didn’t make use of it this time, but I knew on my way back to Haines I sure would.

    I met three other riders here too. They were all on Suzuki DR’s and on their way up to the Arctic Circle from Oregon. It was nice to have some company for an evening and great to see another woman rider. We shared some local Thai food and Alaskan beer around the fire and told stories of our adventures. It was an enjoyable first night in Alaska.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  14. Alaskajeff

    Alaskajeff Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,261
    Location:
    Palmer, ALASKA
    GREAT report! Yeah :clap Thompson's In Tok is a MUST stay if your on a bike. Very accomodating towards 2 wheel travelers. We stayed in the wall tent on our last trip to Dawson City. Can't wait to hear the rest of your travels thru Alaska.
  15. dinocarsfast

    dinocarsfast Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 14, 2012
    Oddometer:
    59
    Location:
    Brooklyn NY
    one of the images was posted wrong, here you go;
    [​IMG]

    and keep up the great ride report
  16. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    113
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    fixed it thanks!
  17. vicmitch

    vicmitch Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    299
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
  18. ChuckFever

    ChuckFever Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2008
    Oddometer:
    46
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Looking forward to the rest this one :lurk
  19. Durden

    Durden Freak!

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    477
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    Great write up, I missed you by a few weeks, one thing I noted was there were a heck of a lot of Germans and Bears up north. Looking forward to the rest.
  20. ariftrio

    ariftrio Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2010
    Oddometer:
    10
    Location:
    Indonesia
    awesome RR

    i read until page 7, feel like i'm riding by myself
    your story telling is awesome