Virginia to Alaska and back on an '86 Yamaha Radian

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

  1. beerjonny

    beerjonny Planning mode...

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2005
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    Willow Grove, NB Canada
    Radian caught my eye... Was my first street bike... But your journey, the meaning behind it, and the fact it is all new to you makes this a great read and has me subscribed.

    Thanks for taking the time to share :freaky
  2. MacG

    MacG Been here awhile

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    Ga.
    Excellent report. Thank you! :thumb
  3. 1994klr250

    1994klr250 Been here awhile

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    ruffntuff,

    I rode to Alaska this summer as well and enjoying your RR so far. I'm glad you where able to do this ride for your brother. I'm in for the rest of this one.
  4. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

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    I got to ride up to Alaska this summer as well. I can't imagine the courage needed to do this as your first long solo trip. I can't wait to see the rest.
  5. GISdood

    GISdood Been here awhile

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    :lurk Awesome report... subscribed!

    And if you're ever back up this way, there's tentspace (or a spare room) in PG at our place!

    Looking forward to the rest of this story.
  6. k9companion

    k9companion Adventurer

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    Tri-Cities, WA
    Better late than never. I'm in. :lurk
  7. i4bikes

    i4bikes Been here awhile

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    Great adventure, great read, thanks. :clap
  8. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    114
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Day 11:
    May 31, 2012
    Prince George – Pink Mountain, BC: 384mi

    Everyone learns humility. We all know if you ride motorcycles, it’s just a matter of time before you’re going to drop the bike. I was surprised I had made it 3600 miles without dropping it so far.

    It was chilly in the morning when I rolled the Radian out of the Jacuzzi shop onto the sidewalk. As I was packing up some folks from the hostel kept me company asking questions about my gear, my bike, and my trip. I let the bike warm up with the choke while I put on my armor, just as I always do.

    In hindsight, I didn’t let the bike warm up enough. I waved goodbye to the hostel folks as I rode off the sidewalk into the road to make a u-turn. As I got half way through the turn the bike stalled. I managed to come to a stop and put my feet down. But with the bike already leaning and the weight of all my gear, I felt the bike fall in slow motion.

    I hopped off to the side with the Radian lying down in the middle of the intersection. Thankfully it was a quiet road and no cars were around. I threw my hands up laughing at myself while the hostel folks ran over to help me. It was leaking fuel so we got it up fast and rolled it to the side to sit for a bit.

    There’s a first time for everything. I remember feeling relieved. I finally dropped the bike. It was a good icebreaker.

    Thankfully there was no damage. I was a bit shook up however, and after taking off for the second time I could feel myself trembling a bit. Just a little ways out of town I realized my left mirror was knocked loose. I pulled over and took a couple deep breaths while I dug out my tools to tighten it back down.

    It took a little ways for my body to relax on the bike again and feel comfortable. I think that was the most important part of learning humility. It’s how I overcame it. By the time I felt relaxed, my riding become even more fluid than before. I became more careful and more efficient. I had more respect for the bike. Sometimes you have to fall hard so you know how to stand tall.

    I left Prince George on 97 before stopping at Bear Lake for a snack. It was a leisurely ride and a bit boring compared to what I had seen so far. I was disappointed to realize I had lost my Bluetooth and couldn't even entertain myself with music.

    I took the Hudson Hope Loop Road (29) bypassing Dawson Creek to get to the Alaskan Highway. It was pretty riding along the Peace River through lush green foothills and pasture that reminded me of Virginia. I started missing home and found myself lonely the majority of the day.

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    I stopped at a gas station and was uplifted seeing Alaska plates for the first time. It was a cute Volkswagen van, the kind where the top pops up. It reminded me of the old school-bus orange one my parents used to have in the 70’s.

    We struck up a conversation since he asked if I had really ridden all the way from Virginia. It turned out he had just bought the Volkswagen and was driving it home to his family in Anchorage. When I told him I was headed there too he was happy to give me his name and number in-case I would need a place to stay or any help while on the road.

    Feeling comforted for knowing someone on the road ahead, my spirits began to uplift. It’s funny how just one quick little interaction like that can have such an effect on my emotion. I was riding to Alaska! Be excited!

    I stopped at Moberly Lake for lunch and found a sunny place to sit. It was very windy however so I didn't stay long. As I was leaving I ran into some friendly park rangers that gave me a Park Passport. Apparently all the parks in British Columbia have this to collect stickers of parks you have visited for future discounts. I wasn’t really interested but was comforted to meet some more nice people.

    Reaching the Alaskan Highway was very anti-climatic. There was no obvious sign and the highway was a straight road surrounded by evergreen trees and a mowed edge for spotting wildlife. It could have been a road from anywhere.

    It may have been a boring road to ride on but I did get to see some wildlife. I saw a black bear that stared at me in curiosity as I drove by. He looked a bit confused but couldn’t be bothered either. Later I stopped in the road to let a mamma moose with her baby cross. It’s amazing how tall they are. It’s hard to realize until you’re close to one.

    According to the Milepost, Pink Mountain campsite is, “one of the nicest campgrounds on the Alaskan Highway.” This was in fact the worst campground I stayed at on my entire trip. For an RV, it may be nice. It had all the hookups and supplies RV’s consume. But for a street bike and solo tent, it sucked.

    They were in the process of cutting down trees and moving debris to create more campsites. The place looked like a construction zone with tractors and dead trees everywhere. I struggled finding a campsite away from the roaring RV’s and with a decent safe place to park the bike. Most of the parking places were on mulch hills with soft deep ground.

    I had to weave around branches and rocks, loose dirt, tree trunks and holes in the ground to get to my campsite. I was wishing I had a dirt bike and was determined not to drop it twice in one day. When I finally found my site some stupid kid that worked there came up to me and said, “you sure look nervous to be riding that thing.” I wanted to punch the little fucker.

    So I enjoyed a peaceful evening setting up my tent next to piles of dead trees and cooking my rice with tuna to the majestic sounds of tractors and RV’s humming in the wind.

    Hopefully, I will make it to some hot springs tomorrow and leave this shit-hole behind me.

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    The picture doesn't make it look so bad. But if you turned around, I had a view of RV's, tractors, and piles of trees.
  9. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

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    This has been a fun ride report to follow and read along. Much of the Canadian portion of your route I've been on, about a month behind you. For me, one of the most boring sections, yet it has tree's, was from Ft. St. John area to Ft. Nelson, as we took the same side route (29) bypassing the actual start of the Alaskan Highway.

    Only because you mentioned Bear Lake does this come to mind. Bear Lake was my first of many run in's with the Mosquito. Inside of city limits weren't too much of a problem. Outside of city limits, such as Bear Lake where we camped, it was a bugger!

    Anyway, great trip you had and great ride report now! Two thumbs up!
  10. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

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    You said, "I had to weave around branches and rocks, loose dirt, tree trunks and holes in the ground to get to my campsite. I was wishing I had a dirt bike and was determined not to drop it twice in one day. When I finally found my site some stupid kid that worked there came up to me and said, “you sure look nervous to be riding that thing.” I wanted to punch the little fucker."

    I just about spit my Special K all over my iPad.. :lol3

    Thanks for posting another day's ride. Just a great narrative. You do have a gift for the written word.
  11. trapperj

    trapperj Been here awhile

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    Knoxville, TN
    I don't read a lot of RR..I really enjoy your style and can't wait for more.
    I wish you had punched the "little fucker" ..pics of that woulda been spectacular!

    Onward!
  12. BikePilot

    BikePilot Long timer

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    Tampa
    Great RR!

    If you get stuck on the center stand again and are feeling adventurous, you can put it in first, rock the bike back and let the clutch out just as the tire hits and ride off the center stand. Probably not the most polite way to get off the stand and probably somewhat likely to lead to a really comical accident, but so far so good for me :lol3
  13. Snowclem

    Snowclem Adventurer

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    northern MI
    Holidays and all, I get it, but have we been forgotten?

    Richard
  14. RoninMoto

    RoninMoto Wanderer

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    May 12, 2010
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    In the mountains?
    ... That I found your ride report! I've been waiting since we met in the Yukon to see how the rest of your trip went!

    Keep up the good ride report. It was a pleasure to meet you even if it was only for a couple minutes.
  15. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

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    Noah, you threw me a curve there, to see your pic over on this thread. I'm following three RRs, and I had just checked yours. :lol3

    Ruffntuff, isn't it about time for a update? :ear
  16. TooTallRacing

    TooTallRacing Been here awhile

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    Dec 2, 2007
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    Location:
    Lanesville, IN
    “you sure look nervous to be riding that thing.”

    I've seen you ride, you ride just fine.

    Take it from an expert on the subject. Sometimes guys say dumb shit to women trying to impress them. It's all good.

    Don't stop now, the best part is coming up.
  17. Chessie-Owner

    Chessie-Owner Been here awhile

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    Jun 7, 2012
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    Ashburn va
    Very inspiring! You may have convinced my girlfriend that we need to do an Alaska trip. We need an update.
  18. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Haha I'm loving all the encouragement on this ride report! I'll admit they are getting tougher and tougher to write. However now that I'm back at home in the every day swings of life, no longer traveling, writing this has been my therapy. Re-living this adventure and journey through this report has been very healing for me. And all the responses I have gotten keep pushing me along. Thanks you all for your support. I have not forgotten you. It will be a work in progress. More is coming. I promise.
  19. ruffntuff

    ruffntuff TUFRDR

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    114
    Location:
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Day 12:
    June 1, 2012
    Pink Mountain to Liard Hot Springs, BC: 348mi

    I woke up at 3:30. It was already light outside. I tried to force myself to sleep more, at least until 7, but I couldn’t help but feel anxious about getting back on the bike. I couldn’t pack fast enough. The desire to ride and feel the wind and see the pavement move below me as I got closer to mountains, closer to Alaska, was like a heroin fix. No matter how many miles I went, it was never enough. I always wanted more.

    I wanted to feel control of the engine with a gentle flick of the wrist in sync with my body. I wanted to smell the lush pine and cold air hitting me in the face. I wanted to feel the shivers go down my spine when I saw an amazing view. I wanted to feel the weight of the bike lean with my body, hugging the road as one being.

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    I was eager to leave Pink Mountain behind me, the shit hole of RV camping. I wanted to get to Liard Hot Springs to camp for the night, early enough to enjoy a hot soak and relax. After getting the bike loaded down I turned the key with the choke on and just about had a panic attack. The bike wouldn’t start.

    I told myself, “Don’t panic, don’t panic…make sure it’s in neutral.” Knowing that I ALWAYS park the bike in neutral, I rushed frantically to double check and felt certain. It was in neutral but the green light wasn’t on. The engine would not turn over.

    Furious I was going to be stuck at this shit hole and my adventure would fail in such a place, I ran up to the camp store to ask for help. It was still really early but thankfully there were a couple people in there getting coffee. Assuming my battery was dead, I asked if anyone would be able to jump a bike. Ironically enough, there happened to be a man in there that was an electrician and a biker just stopping by on his way to work. Providence hit me again.

    The nice man followed me back to my campsite telling me he didn’t care if he was late to work. It was his last day anyway. I stripped my gear off the bike and lifted the seat for him. He checked the fuses and the battery and said they were strong enough and shouldn’t be the reason the bike wouldn’t start. My anxiety increased.

    Surprisingly my Droid was in service, although it was roaming. I called my mechanic/hero back home, Bee, who I’m proud to say is now an ADV inmate. Thankfully he answered, although he laughs that he was on the dance floor at a wedding when he took the call. I put him on the phone with the electrician to let them discuss what was going on. I was getting more concerned and unable to keep my fingernails from my teeth.

    I could see the electrician was dumbfounded, regretfully unable to diagnose the problem. He handed the phone back to me and Bee said, “You’re sure it’s in neutral?” Of course I was sure! “Humor me,” he said. “Put the kickstand up, pull in the clutch, and try to start it.” Sure enough I did what he said and it started like a champion. It wasn’t in fucking neutral! Ah humility.

    I thanked the electrician with a sheepish smile and repacked the bike this time with turbo speed, dying to be gone from Pink Mountain. Before I got off the phone with Bee he said, “Have a good ride Doll.” Then he went back to his dance floor. Thanks OBeewan.

    The relief of getting on the road was more powerful than ever. I didn’t stop much, other than for gas. It was a perfect day- blue sky and warm air. The ride was a bit boring up until Fort Nelson where the highway turned back towards the mountains. I saw a few moose on the side of the road, as well as a gigantic bull buffalo, and some bighorn sheep.

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    I stopped at Muncho Lake for a snack. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. I wanted to go for a hike too but felt anxious to ride more. I passed Summit Lake, the highest summit on the Alaskan Highway. The lake was still mostly frozen and I didn’t have a chance to slow down fast enough to stop and take a better look. I felt like I was letting everything go by so fast. I was riding too fast. But I couldn’t stop feeling anxious every time I would stop for too long or try to slow down. All I wanted to do was be on the bike and go.

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    Reaching Liard Hot Springs was a relief. I got there early, regardless of my morning delay. It forced me to stop riding and relax for an afternoon. My experience there turned the stressful morning into one of the best days I had on my trip.

    The campground was private and quiet- no RV’s in sight. I tented within a short walking distance to the boarded path leading to the spring. On my way there I noticed a group of dirty bikes loaded with hard gear and license plates from the mid-west. They were all BMW’s, different sizes, and all GS’s. One GS had cases covered in stickers. When I saw the AK sticker and the ADV sticker I thought maybe I’d have a riding buddy.

    I saw the group of men walking towards me down the boardwalk on my way to the spring. I could see from their chapped faces and armored attire they were the GS riders. We stopped and chatted for a bit when I asked about their bikes. They were on their way back home and had already been up to Alaska. I felt more excited to be heading there and it suddenly felt more real that I would be there in just a few days. It was hard to believe.

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    Sitting in the hot spring was good therapy for my aching body. I hadn’t realized how sore I was from riding non-stop until I actually took the time to relax. It was a beautiful natural spring that you could even see the source of. However, it was a little built up with a deck and stairs around the edge for easy access, and a bathroom for people to change in.

    I hung out there most of the afternoon enjoying the therapeutic water, writing in my journal, and observing people coming and going from the spring. As I headed back to camp along the boardwalk I noticed a juvenile bull moose close by. It was so still and close I could see the velvet on its rack. I stood there silently for a few minutes watching him breathe and observe me until he slowly walked away into the trees. He was so calm and regal I felt like he was a spirit, waiting for me.

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    As I got back to the parking lot I saw a group of three boys that I had noticed at the spring earlier. They seemed curious about me and approached me shyly asking where I was from and if I enjoyed the spring. I told them about my trip and they became excited with questions. They were all working on a construction project in Watson Lake, which I was planning on riding through tomorrow. They offered to buy me lunch on my way through and gave me their numbers. I love Canadians.

    When they headed off I looked across the parking lot to see a familiar vehicle. It was a Volkswagen van and the top was popped up. I walked over just to check the plates and sure enough they were yellow and blue Alaska. I walked around to the door when my friend noticed me from inside and came out cheerily. Of course it was the same guy I met at the gas station yesterday.

    He had stopped at the springs to make dinner before hitting the road again. He wanted to get to Anchorage as soon as possible to see his kids. He offered me to join him so I gratefully accepted a delicious meal of pasta with sundried tomatoes and pistachios in a cozy VW van. It was the best meal I had in a long time. He even had whiskey to give me a nice night cap before heading back to camp.

    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.

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    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.”

    For the first time, I slept very well that night.

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  20. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

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    This latest addition was fantastic! :clap:clap
    I've been there, with that feeling, that you just want to keep going..
    Thanks for staying with it!