Virginia to Alaska and back on an '86 Yamaha Radian

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

  1. smash81

    smash81 Been here awhile

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    Apr 10, 2007
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    Denver, CO
  2. RedRocket

    RedRocket Yeah! I want Cheesy Poofs

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    Feb 28, 2003
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    Funny you should mention that. As a younger Canadian I used to find entering the US easy, and always getting the 3rd degree when returning to Canada.
  3. missadventure

    missadventure n00bie d00bie d00

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
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    oaksterdam
    omg. i saw '86 yamaha radian and had to click to see who was travelling on such a cool ride - :ricky
    i sure am glad i did - a great ride report from a gutsy young woman! looking forward to seeing the rest. :lurk
  4. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    114
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Day 17:
    June 6, 2012
    Tok – Anchorage, AK: 355 miles

    Regardless of how exhausted I was, I didn’t get much sleep. I was excited to be in Alaska trying to decide where to go and what to see until I had to make it to my ferry in Haines departing June 14th. However, I was grossly worried my chain was going to break and ruin my adventure in the meantime. My thoughts were loudly distracted with echoing snores and pelting rain on the tin roof. There was no chance for sleep what-so-ever.

    I wanted to head towards Denali, then down to Anchorage, before heading back up to Tok to get down to Haines. My chain seemed so dead however, I felt there was no way I should try to make it over the Denali Highway, another 90 miles of rough gravel road. I wondered if the chain would even make it to Anchorage.

    Fairbanks was a closer option, but from what I had heard, Anchorage was more likely to have the parts I would need for a vintage Japanese motorcycle. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have to wait a week to have a new chain shipped in.

    In the morning one of my fellow bunkmates was sweet to make coffee and toasted blueberry bagels with peanut butter. We huddled under the black spruce canopy trying to stay out of the rain. We surrounded the round picnic table with a propane camp stove as a centerpiece and bagels suspended above like a chandelier. We passed around a bottle of RainEx (unfortunately not Moonshine) and treated our visors in preparation for what looked like was going to be a very wet day.

    I took the bike out to pavement to put it on the centerstand to check the oil and chain. I topped off the oil but the chain didn’t look good. It was even worse than yesterday. It had a lot of slack in some area that would cause it to drag on the swing arm and tension in others that made it feel like it was ready to snap. There was no way I could adjust it anymore.

    I took the bike back to the bunkhouse and had the guys look at it. They were shocked I had made it this far with it looking that bad. They told me to get to Anchorage as soon as possible and to take it easy riding on the way.

    I used my Droid to get on ADV, wondering if I should seek help. Providentially, I had a message waiting.


    Friendly Contact for your Alaskan Trip...
    RuffnTuff,

    Hi, Gary and Deb in Anchorage, Alaska, here - our friend Mike from Indiana sent us a PM message that you were headed to Alaska from Virginia on a neat vintage bike - how very cool! We met Mike last year on one of our trips - very nice guy.

    Deb and I are ADV riders and please consider us a friendly contact in Alaska - for fun or any problems - but, hopefully it will all be fun.

    Do you have a rough idea of when you will be getting to Alaska? We'll watch for you. And can you advise what Alaskan destinations you are planning? Okay, enough for now - we'll wait until we hear from you.

    We’re retired, so feel free to contact/call anytime – especially if you have any problems. From about Whitehorse on and anywhere in Alaska, we can get to you location within a day and a half – please consider us a friendly contact and a resource.
    Enjoy your trip and best,

    Gary & Deb



    The sigh that left my body exhaling the air from my lungs was the sweetest relief of reassurance I could have possibly felt. I called Gary immediately and spoke with him about my chain. He said if I wanted to ride the Denali Highway, “Go for it!” They’d be there to rescue me. He also said he’d go ahead and call the Yamaha dealership in Anchorage to see if they had my chain, and if not, he’d go ahead and order it for me. I couldn’t of asked for better support during the most crucial time of my trip.

    I knew I wouldn’t be able to enjoy riding the Denali Highway constantly worrying about my chain breaking at any moment. Plus I could only assume I would not have any cell service there to even call Gary and Deb to the rescue. Therefore, I made the decision to ride to Anchorage immediately.

    It rained miserable all day. It wasn’t that cold, maybe in the 50’s, but by the end of the day being partially wet in the arms and feet and crotch of course, I was shivering violently. I wasn’t in the greatest mood and it was torturously slow getting to Anchorage.

    I stopped every 50 miles to get out of the rain and warm up with a coffee after refueling. I think I consumed more coffee that day than I have my entire life. I’m surprised I didn’t have a seizure.

    It was a bit depressing riding in the rain through Alaska and no blue sky or sunshine. I could see the base of snow covered peaks surrounding the road mostly socked in. What a tease. I knew they were there, looming behind the clouds with their massive greatness.

    I distracted my misery temporarily at Posty’s Sinona Creek Trading Post in Chistochina. There was some beautiful native beaded jewelry there I treated myself to. It was one of those random hole-in-the-wall places with authentic genuine crafts, not the stupid tourist crap from China overflowing most places that all looks the same.

    I sat for a while there warming up with coffee until the lady there finally asked where I was from. When I told her, “Virginia” her eyes got big and she said, “That’s amazing you came all this way!” I said, “Nope, just crazy.” I wanted to feel amazing and incredible, but I couldn’t help but think I was out of my fucking mind. What is amazing, is how much the weather can influence your attitude.

    Coming into Anchorage seemed like it would have been a gorgeous ride. It was still raining and got colder as the road got narrow and windy following a stream through the foothills of the mountains. I tried to enjoy it but all I could think of was getting to Gary and Deb’s home and to be somewhere warm and dry.

    I made it to the city during rush hour and had to pull over several times to check my Droid for directions. I finally made my way to their neighborhood and learned that any road that’s not a main road in Alaska is guaranteed not to be paved and scattered with pot holes.

    I made my way slowly down the gravel drive checking mailboxes for their address. As I passed one house I saw a couple in the yard look my way and wave at me as I passed. Excited I assumed it was Gary and Deb and immediately attempted to pull a u-turn on the narrow gravel road. I made it about ¾ of the way until my front tire hit the edge of the drive and slipped down into the ditch pulling the bike and me to the ground horizontally. Humility struck.

    The nice folks ran over to help get the bike vertical again. I said I couldn’t believe I had made it all the way to the driveway before finally dumping the bike. The man seemed a bit confused and asked where I was going. I quickly realized this was not Gary and Deb.

    I was even more mortified at this moment. I told them I was looking for Gary and Deb’s place and was relieved to see the acknowledgement on their faces. They said they knew them and bikers were often coming and going from their place. It was just a few more houses down on the right and I gratefully continued leaving my awkward situation behind.

    As I pulled into Gary and Deb’s official driveway, the amount of comical laughter building up inside me couldn’t be kept from them. Their garage door was open and they welcomed me with the warmest hospitality. All I could do was laugh and tell them I had just dropped the bike a minute ago on their road in front of their neighbors.

    They laughed when I explained who the kind folks were that pointed me in their direction post dumping the bike. Seemed like a nice community in Anchorage. I was actually thankful for the experience to break me of my negative attitude from the majority of the day. Laughter from humility can grow such endearment.

    Gary and Deb met me with the warmest welcome. Deb had me immediately get out of my soaking wet gear and take a hot shower while she ran a load of my ghastly laundry and Gary inspected the Radian.

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    (Was cool to see the bike naked....and so dirty)

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    Hot water had never felt so good in my life. My fingers and toes I felt were permanently pruned purple but gradually returned to their normal state. I realized I hadn’t had a shower or done laundry since Lake Louise 8 days ago. One can only imagine how much I smelled.

    Gary mentioned he had called the Yamaha dealership and amazingly they had my chain in stock. However, they did not have the sprockets. Those would take a week to get shipped in. We were both concerned the sprockets were imperative to replace but I knew there was no way I could wait for them.

    Gary suggested we take the Radian over to his mechanic to have a quick look at the bike and tell us if the sprockets needed to be replaced at the same time as the chain.

    After thawing out and drying out I followed Gary and Deb to their friend’s place and expert bike mechanic. He reminded me of Bee. He worked out of his garage and was obviously the noble expert Gary made him out to be. But he didn’t advertise and was one of those people you were only fortunate to meet by word of mouth.

    I rolled the Radian into his garage with scattered bike parts and projects displayed everywhere. He was on crutches but didn’t struggle getting around his garage and tools. He said the sprockets looked ok and it should be fine to just replace the chain. Oh thank God.

    We went back home and I was comforted knowing I would be able to have the chain fixed tomorrow. Gary and Deb made some delicious BBQ chicken sandwiches with salad and broccoli mix that I thankfully devoured. It was so fulfilling I was humbled with gratitude. I was so comforted being in their home surrounded by their support that no words or actions can express enough appreciation. They were my Alaskan family I will always treasure.

    [​IMG]
  5. dirtdreamer50

    dirtdreamer50 long time rider

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,161
    Location:
    texas coast
    Thank you so for posting. Your RR is like the old radio shows of the 40's, "Stay tuned next week, when we bring you another great adventure...". I know it's gotta be difficult sometimes, for you to sit down and create the wonderful narratives you do for us, but it is greatly appreciated.

    I found out about your RR from another MC forum, don't remember which, but have read every post on this thread, and am looking forward to every word you print, in the future. At my age, I will never be able to undertake such an adventure, so it makes reading yours all the more rewarding for me. Thanks. tomp dd50
  6. tvbh40a

    tvbh40a PSUViking

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Idaho home of the fiesta bowl champ BSU bronco's
    Deb and Gary rock. What awesome hospitality. I love Alaska and the people by and large are awesome. Great ride report, keep it up. I want the first copy of the book, remember I asked first.:lol3
  7. mint julep

    mint julep Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2012
    Oddometer:
    190
    Location:
    Canada
    Bravo, I salute you too Anna! :clap
    Im sure Dan is smiling throughout your journey. :D

    Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers, Dave.
  8. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,824
    Location:
    Fly over zone
    +1,000. Very well said. I check all the time to see if you've updated your report. It's great..
    The only difference between dirtdreamer and myself, as far as his comments go, is I'm leaving in June for Alaska..
    Dream come true for me. I'll be riding with three other guys, and we don't have much time:cry.
    I'd love to be able to do the trip, exactly as you did. Thanks again for taking the time to post :clap :clap
  9. siyeh

    siyeh Lawn Nazi

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,731
    Location:
    Evansville, WI
    She's back! What a trouper. Gotta tell ya Anna, there are many following your adventure. Even your brother. He must be very proud of you
  10. AirDrive

    AirDrive Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    274
    Location:
    Central California
    Welllll......I guess the cold rain is good for keeping the mosquitos at bay.:norton
    You have a lotta guts to take a trip that long ,on a bike that old, alone! I've got a lot of respect for you, even though it seems ADV'ers aren't totaly alone on the ride.

    Hope you're warm and dry, where ever you are right now, and the memories of the trip keep getting better each day and you find time to keep posting.
    Thanks....
  11. drdubb

    drdubb OFWG

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2009
    Oddometer:
    488
    Location:
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    Thanks for this ride report. I'm the father of three daughters and I told them to have adventures while young. Much easier w/o house payment, kids etc.

    The youngest has already hiked Machhu Pichu, wandered Spain and France, done the RAGBRAI bicycle journey and now she wants to visit Alaska and hike to Kilimanjaro. I plan to show her this thread.

    I really am enjoying the thread.
  12. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    114
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Day 18:
    June 7, 2012
    Anchorage, AK

    It was my first zero day. I enjoyed sleeping in with no destination in mind. I didn’t have to pack up the bike in the cold. I didn’t have to ride in the rain. I could just lay there. My only task of the day was to replace my chain and change my oil.

    It felt a bit odd waking up in a lush featherbed warm and cozy with the smell of brewing coffee. It made me feel like a princess. Gary made some delicious gourmet oatmeal with fresh fruit. It was far better than the instant crap I had been eating the last couple weeks.

    He said we should get to the Yamaha dealership soon as they were often slammed with repairs and hopefully would have time for mine. He offered to load the bike in the back of his pick-up truck since the chain was so bad. It wasn’t far however to the dealership and it wasn’t raining, so I decided to ride.

    It was the first time I rode the bike with no gear since I left Virginia. It felt so small and light I thought I would flip it over. I remembered in comparison to the first time I ever rode it. It was just as naked as it was then but I was wobbly with my stops and wide with my turns. It felt heavy and big to me on that first ride. Now it just felt like a toy.

    When we got to the dealership I spoke with the tech about the chain. It didn’t look good. He said they were three weeks behind and there were 100 people ahead of me. He didn’t even want to look at the bike. He had no time.

    Gary and I explained to him of my trip and that I was just passing through without time to wait. With some hesitation, the tech said he would look at it but couldn’t promise anything. It just wouldn’t be fair to everyone else that had been waiting. I was thankful he was willing to squeeze in just a quick look.

    He came out to the parking lot and glanced at the Radian. It was still covered in tracks and streaks of dirt and mud. I apologized for its condition and said I hadn’t had time to clean it. He asked where I had ridden from and when I said Virginia he shook his head. That explained a lot.

    He said because I was traveling he would squeeze me in but couldn’t get to it until tomorrow. I couldn’t believe he was willing to do it. I thanked him and went inside to buy the chain.

    I was still concerned about waiting another day in Anchorage. If I was going to see Denali and ride the Denali highway before making it to my ferry in Haines, I would have to push my miles. When I mentioned this to Gary he suggested we bring the chain home and he fix it himself. He had a lot of experience and had all the tools necessary.

    It sounded like a great idea to me. That way I could watch and learn.

    I spoke with the tech again, and thanked him generously for his consideration, but I think he was probably relieved we decided to just take the chain home.

    It was a fun afternoon working on the bike with Gary. He showed me how to file the links and push the pins out to disassemble the chain. We counted the links and removed the extra ones on the new chain before attaching it to the old one and using it to thread over the front sprocket.

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    Once the new chain was on the sprockets we detached the old chain and finished connecting the new one with a clip masterlink. Then Gary showed me how to put a safety wire over the clip so it wouldn’t accidentally come off or get lost.

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    The chain was done and it was time to change the oil. I pulled out my manual for reference and Gary talked me through every step of the way. I’m so thankful he was there to support me through it. I’m always so worried I’m going to mess something up.

    We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon pleased with our accomplishment of the day while loitering in Gary’s garage surrounded by bikes, racks of gear, and shelves of tools. Feeling that satisfaction of achievement was so rewarding. Now I can see why people like to work on their own bikes.

    A couple friends of Gary’s came over that were interested in seeing the Radian. He had told them about me and said they wanted to see the vintage Japanese bike that made it all the way from Virginia. It wasn’t a bike people commonly saw going through Alaska.

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    I insisted on taking Gary and Deb to dinner for their incredible generosity. My only request was to go somewhere I could eat fresh Alaskan salmon. They knew of just the right place.

    We went to Simon and Seafort’s and it was a beautiful venue with windows overlooking the Cook Inlet. The sun even started to peek through the clouds a bit and I could see the mountains on the other side of the water. I had Silver salmon (also called Coho) from Copper River near Cordova. It was the best fish I ever had.

    After dinner we had some Brandy ices that were deliciously rich and smooth. Gary had been ranting about how amazing they were. I can see why.

    We went back home with Buddah bellies full of food. Deb and I went for a walk to exercise a bit of it off and she told me about Geocaching, a global outdoor treasure hunt played by using a GPS device.

    She carried her I-pad to get coordinates of geocaches and we’d walk to that location in search of something mysterious. It set an exhilarating goal to our walk and there’s something so captivating about finding something that’s been hidden by somebody else.

    I was shocked I had never heard of such a thing and even looked up some geocaches in my hometown. I couldn’t believe how many there were. I have yet to play the game on my own, however think it would be amusing to cleverly stash a cache or two in my own secret hiding place.

    We walked back home after feeling our bellies go down and enjoyed some wine while looking at pictures from my trip. What a splendid day it was. I was seriously looking forward to sleeping in the feather bed again.

    [​IMG]
    (Deb on her DR650. I want this to be my next adventure bike)
  13. andrewsclues

    andrewsclues Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    100
    Location:
    Bucks County, PA
    Great post, as usual!! I never thought of attaching the new chain to the old chain to route it through the front sprocket. I always take the side cover off... Jeez I do things the hard way sometimes!:lol3
  14. GaryAK

    GaryAK Easy Going

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2010
    Oddometer:
    228
    Location:
    49th State
    Anna showed up in the pouring rain - doing a great impersonation of a happy, drowned rat. Apparently, she had just dumped her bike a few houses down the street, thinking she had found us. Luckily, my neighbors helped out and pointed her to us.
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    After the Radian was unloaded (couldn't believe how much stuff she had!), Deb got Anna settled into her room and a hot shower, while I took a look at the chain.
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    The chain was super loose and within the clutches of rigor mortis - you can see where it has just started to saw across the swing arm. Props to the chain for getting you here!
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    Let me get this straight...a used 26 year old motorcycle brought you from Virginia to Alaska? And back? For the record - Yamaha Radians officially rock! :clap
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    Made some more phone calls, and although my mechanic buddy Ronnie was laid up with a broken foot, he agreed to look at Anna's sprockets/tires and other wear items. At Ronnie's shop, he gave Anna's sprockets and tires a thumbs up to continue on the rest of her trip. He said a new chain and oil/filter change and Anna would be good to go. Side note - Ronnie officially rocks! Even with a broken foot, Ronnie wanted to meet Anna and check her bike over. :clap
    [​IMG]

    The next morning at the Anchorage Yamaha shop - Anna scored a new .530 chain. They offered to move Anna up in the cue because she was on the road and far from home, which was very gracious, but I convinced Anna that we could easily do this ourselves. So we thanked the service manager and headed back home for some tech time.

    Anna is happy with her new chain. First thing we did was to count the links several times and then shortened the chain.
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    Could have riveted Anna's chain, but decided to use the clip master link with safety wire - this would make it easier if she needed to remove the chain/sprockets out on the road. Didn't have .032 safety wire, so I called my buddy Don and he soon showed up with the calvary (Hal) and some safety wire. For the record - Don and Hal officially rock. :clap
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    With plenty of help on hand, we made short work of wrenching. After grinding the pins and pushing out a link, we connected the new chain to the old chain with the master link and threaded the new chain through the front sprocket housing.
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    Anna is actually a natural motorcycle 'wrench' - more than she lets on. We came out one link too long on the chain, so Anna used the tools to remove one link.
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    Finished - old school safetying the master link clip - .032 stainless steel safety wire - master link clip stays put, but easy to come off for maintenance.
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    Close up:
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    Once the new chain was squared away, new oil and filter.
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    Duke the wonder dog supervised while he made sticks into smaller sticks.
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    Anna did all the work herself - a natural wrench.
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    That filter housing barely fits between the pipes.
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    Some other cleaning and checking over Anna's Radian, and tech time was completed - Anna took a quick road test and reported everything was fine.

    We went out to dinner and then Anna showed us some neat pics from her other trips. Then a geocaching adventure.

    The next day, Anna was heading North to Denali Park - at Anna's invitation, Deb decided to ride with her as far as Wasilla.
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    Would have loved to have Anna stay and hang out with us for the summer - but the North country was calling her and this was good bye for now. For the record - Anna officially rocks! :clap
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    Anna - you are first rate and welcome back anytime - I hope our paths cross again. :norton

    You have officially earned your ADV stickers. :clap

    We duly noticed that you have your passenger pegs down for Dan - way cool, :cry

    Hugs and Respect,

    Gary & Deb :norton

    Alaska Triangle Trip

    Alaska Triangle Trip Video

    Denali Hwy Trip

    Denali Hwy Trip Video

    These Two Lanes Will Take Us Anywhere
  15. Durden

    Durden Freak!

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    477
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    ^^^ Very cool, nice to know there are still good people out there willing to help out those on the road - You Rock too Gary and Deb!

    Anna, good job on the wrenching, its intimidating at first, but like you said there is nothing more rewarding than fixing your bike on your own.
  16. dirtdreamer50

    dirtdreamer50 long time rider

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,161
    Location:
    texas coast
    Gary, Thank you for posting those great pix. It makes Anna's wonderful writings even more real to me..
    Anna, nice ink. Any more pix? tomp
  17. 49honda

    49honda n00b

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2007
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    7
    Location:
    Belton, Texas
    Love to see people helping others out there on the road! Great post, Gary!
  18. soph9

    soph9 Would Love to ride ALL the TIME

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2009
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    Location:
    Stony Brook. NY
    Nice job Gary....Gary & Deb are the most hospitable folks in Anchorage....they took care of us when we had an unexpected 4 day layover in the summer of 2011~nice pics and glad Anna found you guys.
  19. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    114
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Thanks Gary for your wonderful response. Your pictures are great! Miss you guys and without a doubt I know our paths will cross again. Until then, may the road rise up to meet you and wind be always at your back.
  20. High Road

    High Road Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2013
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    32
    Location:
    Western Pennsylvania
    Anna - Truly an Epic ride and report. Thanks for sharing it with us all in such color and depth. And I agree with the ADV team here, that Dan was with you the whole way, and is very proud of your endeavors.