2000 Stories - 20 year old tales of Key West, Maine, and Alaska in y2K

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by MapMaster, Nov 15, 2020.

  1. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Yukon River to Fairbanks

    After a three hour early dinner stop, that included the purchase of an Arctic Circle patch, I was ready to venture forth again. If things hadn’t gotten any worse than the last bit I had covered, reaching Fairbanks seemed reasonable. I wasn’t putting any deadlines to it, but with 100 miles to reach pavement, I was figuring three to six hours more saddle time.

    Suited up and on the bike, Voyager that passed me going north earlier, pulled in. Enter Mike, who had wisely abandoned his attempt at the Circle when the really shitty stuff started. He said he only needed a pit stop, so we decided to ride together. That seemed like a good idea at the time, but with hindsight from twenty hours later, he probably would’ve been better off taking a break. With hindsight from twenty years later, I should have gone in with him and had another cup of coffee.

    I let him take the lead and we headed slowly but steadily south at about 20 mph and things went well enough for the next twenty-five miles. Then Mike hit a raised ridge formed in the road by the gap in the dual tires of a tractor trailer. That induced a wobble and after three increasingly severe fishtails he high-sided his bike into the center of the road. The left side of his fairing was smashed and he was sore with bruised ribs likely, but after some road side triage, the bike and he were rideable. Within five miles, road conditions started to improve a bit, but there were still a couple moments of excitement to be had. After reaching pavement, Mike failed to make a curve, purely due to a lack of focus - excessive speed was definitely not an issue. He nearly ran off the far side into an embankment bank. He was pretty spent and if we could have stopped for the night anywhere nearby we would have.

    Mike had his tent setup at the Tanana campground in Fairbanks and we finally reached there by 10:30. I set up my tent in his site while he cleaned up and then we went to the ‘Northernmost Denny’s in the World’ to eat. We discussed the crash and what might have been done to avoid it. Mike started to say, “With the right tires…” to which I declared, “They don’t make the right tires for that bike!” His decision to turn around short of his goal was a wise one. It’s tough to know when to fold ‘em like he did. I was glad to be there to help him out after the crash, because that’s such a demoralizing event. I think that the encouragement I gave was more valuable than any assistance in getting the bike back up.

    My wake up call in the morning was the groaning emanating from Mike's tent. He wasn't sure if he was going to on to California as planned, or return directly to Ontario, but he'd already set up tire change at a shop across the road and got that taken care of. They discovered that his front wheel bearings were loose. Hard to tell if that was a contributing factor or consequence of his get off.

    I think I finally got the last of the gunk cleaned off the bike when I removed the swingarm four years later:

    The hardest earned badge on my patch blanket :deal:
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  2. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    To Anchorage Via Valdez

    Just a couple of observations and some pictures for this stretch.

    The Richardson Hwy sure is pretty.
    Valdez sure was wet.

    I loved seeing the different mountain ranges/regions this loop exposed me to.
    The Alaskan range, Wrangell and Chugach mountains were all stunning. Clouds, fog, mists off of glaciers, and occasional sunshine all contributed to the visual enjoyment. In addition to motoring through mountain curves, walking around on a glacier added to the visceral sensations as well.

    A campground near Glennallen provided free firewood and citronella coils.
    The wood was appreciated, the coil was merely advertisement. It told the skeeters that there was fresh meat available.

    Gotta have at least one picture of the pipeline, it's in the contract:



    Playing peek-a-boo with Mt. Sanford:

    The Copper River

    An attempt at an artsy angle:

    Little waterfall:

    Worthington Glacier:

    This is the just the end of the lower left lobe in the picture above:

    A bit more of a drop on this one:

    This segment's pictures of the Matanuska valley and glacier didn't turn out very well, but I was able to rectify that the following week.
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  3. EvilClown

    EvilClown Standing by to standby for a possible disregard Super Moderator

    Sep 3, 2006
    In the shadow of the Uncanoonucs...
    Good thing submariners don't fall into that category. :*sip*



    Great running into you again, Greg!

    Great thread!:thumb

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  4. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA


    Yo Mike!
    Glad you're enjoying it, thanks.

    Good to hear from you, may your holiday hunkering be healthy and happy!

    And that goes for all of you FFs following along! :-)
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  5. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Homer Run

    Tommy joined me for a good chunk of the start of this two day loop, with T meeting us for breakfast. I warned Tommy that I was in full tourist mode and would be checking out all of the tourist info signs on the left side of the road. Many of the tidbits were new to him so it worked out really well.

    And I finally got a (not very good) picture of a Dall sheep:

    Tommy had told me about the Whittier Tunnel which had just opened last month as the longest combination rail/vehicle tunnel in North America (it was built as a rail only tunnel in 1943). It's the only single lane tunnel I know of that runs traffic in both directions. This obviously requires some tight controls and at the time fifteen minutes of each hour was being allocated to vehicles in one direction.

    Post-trip and back on a job, I worked with a girl, Becky, whose brother had worked on that tunnel conversion. He had settled in Alaska and Becky and her family went up to visit. The only way to reach his place to to be dropped off by train. One of the few routes left with flag stops as opposed to scheduled station stops.

    Coming back through the tunnel from Whittier our paths split at an overlook of Portage Lake. Tommy had to head for home and I checked out a very short road to a campground closer to Portage Glacier. The glacier itself was not directly accessible on the bike, but it was pretty scenery and seeing chunks of ice floating in the lake was cool.


    Along this route I played tag with a wolf! It popped out from the forest three times as I went to and from the glacier, but only when I was moving on the bike. Stopped and with lens in hand waiting to frame it, there was never a glimpse. As soon as the camera was bagged and bike fired up, it popped out again.

    Other than reaching the end of the road, I had no specific objectives in Homer. On the way out I took road spurs up to Hope and out to Captain Cook State Park where I camped for the night. I reached Homer the next day and rode out to the end of the spit.

    My notes say that this is a view looking southeast to Homer with the Homer Spit sticking out into the bay, but it sure looks like Middle Earth and Hobbit country to me.

    One of Homer's claims to fame is as the Halibut fishing capital of the world.

    Halibut are funny looking fish, but boy do they taste great! :dukegirl

    Homer also bills itself as "The End of The Road", but this is not supported by reality. The main road wrapped around and went another twenty miles beyond to Kachemak. This was a beautiful stretch, both for the scenery and for the freshly laid asphalt and many turns. Alaska is not a destination to go to in search of twisty roads. There are some nice stretches here and there, but the harsh winters and permafrost condemns smooth pavement to a very short life, so frost heaves, potholes, and gravel patches are the norm. All of that made me appreciate the dance to and from Kachemak even more.

    Views of Kachemak Bay from the village of Kachemak:



    Other than an afternoon in Skagway later in the trip, the day of the Homer visit was the only time I was in Coastal Alaska and not rained on. The day before, Whittier had been wet as had Valdez and the previously accounted "experience" in Seward. 100% humidity in Haines and Hyder were on the horizon. In a month total in AK, There were only four days that were completely dry. I mention this only to appraise future visitors of expectations. You will get rain, but with the right attitude and preparation, it will rarely prevent you from having a great day. And if the sun smiles on you throughout your visit, even better! (just don't count on it). :deal
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  6. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Playing Chicken

    It was time to leave the, um, er... :scratch

    Language detour: There is no antonym for panhandle when referring to politically defined geographic areas. So a word or phrase is needed for the main, road accessible, body of the state. This will allow one to easily differentiate between travels there and the road accessible towns/areas in the panhandle like Haines, Skagway, & Hyder.
    Fear not gentle readers! Your scribe, being perceptive enough to identify the problem, can also provide the solution: I give you the "Alaskan Pan", useful for more than just finding gold nuggets. :D

    So it was time to leave the Alaskan Pan. Final departure from the state would come a week later after the last customs controlled crossing encounter occurred in Stewart, British Columbia.

    After leaving Anchorage for the last time, I retraced my steps on the Glenn Highway and managed better pictures of the Matanuska Glacier area:


    The Tok Cutoff was the last major paved road segment to be ridden in the Pan (see, I told you we needed this word :deal) and that set me up for a Poker Flat exit the next day.

    Tok Take-off:
    Fear of filthy floundering, founded on a fowl forecast, forced ferocious forward flight, fleeing a frontal assault by a following front.
    The day was balance of tensions; don't let the rain catch up and turn the dirt/gravel of the Taylor Highway into a quagmire, but don't wipe out in a loose pile of gravel either. Don't miss the sights of downtown Chicken, AK, but don't spend so much time there that the rain catches up again.

    A few face-shield spittles accumulated as I left Chicken, but I was soon in the clear again.

    The dot on the map at the border crossing labeled "Boundary" was more of an overstatement than the one marking Estcourt Station, ME. There was only one semi-dilapidated roadhouse with a sign proclaiming the "Best Coffee in Boundary". 'Worst' and 'Only' would have been equally valid claims. :evil
    It has since burned down. :(

    The rain and my arrival at the border crossing coincided, along with the start of the chip-sealed Top of the World Highway. A fresh Ginsu knife could not have sliced it any finer. :clap

    I loved the TOW! Very Blue Ridge Parkway like as it ran along the crest of the ridge with sweepers and sweeping vistas leading me on. For cars/trucks it was a cluster-bombed mess because they could not avoid all of the potholes. Since then, the road has reverted to being primarily gravel which is a significant improvement for most vehicles.

    I felt sorry for a Goldwing trike/hack conversion I saw in Dawson later. The side car was integrated into the body/frame of the bike and the drive wheels were not evenly offset to both sides like on a basic trike. Adding insult to injury was the trailer - so there were five separate wheel tracks. A great design guaranteed to hit the maximum number of potholes possible.

    I set up in the campground on the west side of the Yukon river and took the ferry across to Dawson for a so-so dinner and a tasty huckleberry ice cream.




    Back at the campground I settled in to enjoy the evening and reflect.
    When intense rides like today's have end successfully, and the gentle metallic and mental clinks and tings emitted from both bike and body alike during the cool down phase have slowed and ceased...
    Well again, the words are lacking...

    But if you're really lucky, you get a sign:

    I awoke during the night to the howls of a distant wolf pack and the commingled wails of an unfortunate moose or caribou. A stark reminder that things don't always end well for some, and awe-inspiring at the same time.
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  7. sam0182

    sam0182 Adventurer

    Mar 26, 2012
    Thanks so much for taking us along, love the story, the old pictures and you doing all this on a VFR no less. Awesome. Looking forward to more.
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  8. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    AK Conjectures

    General Observations, or Observed Generalizations about Alaska:

    While the trip, and daily Alaska visits, were far from over, overnights stays were done. So now seems like a good time to share some accumulated wisdom.
    (Fair warning: Facetious font is fully engaged :deal)

    Place Name Creativity
    Coming up with original place names seems to be difficult for Alaskans. They re-use street and road names to excess.
    B street in Anchorage had four or five separate sections, it ran for a block or two and then ended at a T intersection. Around the block from the just terminated B street was another B street.
    There are Old and New street/highway names everywhere; Old and New Steese, Glenn, and Seward Highways are but a sampling.
    Perhaps because there have been relatively few people there to name things for.

    Having done a lot of Appalachian mountain riding, shot up road signs are old hat, but I was surprised by how poor Alaskan marksmanship is. Even an obvious aim point, like the center of the tent pictograms used to indicate campgrounds, is untouched, while the rest of the sign resembles a well aged Swiss. I’ve seen the center of similar placards completely shot out in West Virginia, like the red stars at the carnival bb-machine gun stand. The other thing that struck me was that the bullet holes are larger than what I’m used to. Both of these traits are probably due to the size and ferocity of the local critters. There’s not much need to practice hitting small targets, and using a .22 caliber round is only going to get a moose or bear pissed at you - that is if they notice the sting among the mosquito bites.

    The VFR's Perceived Comfort
    Oddly, the questions about the comfort of the bike from locals and tourists dried up while I was in the Pan. My surmise is that to the locals it’s always comfortable in the summer, no matter what you’re doing. And the tourists believe that no sane person would do something a crazy as riding a motorcycle to Alaska, so they don’t ask questions that might disturb the mentally unhinged (though this presumes a level of thought that was not often evidenced :evil).

    The creativity lacking for street names is compensated by the variety of names for salmon. Each type of salmon appears to have three or more names. Pink, red, silver, chum, king, sockeye, coho, Chinook, and dog are merely the surface of a sea of names for these fish.

    Salmon have a tough sex life. Think about your first sexual experience...
    Okay, now that you’re reading this again, was it good enough for you to be willing to have died immediately afterwards, without even a post coital cigarette? That’s what salmon do, and it’s not like it’s the best sex they've ever had. They have no frame of reference. It’s the first, last, and only sex they’ll ever have. It’s just not worth it! It wouldn’t be so bad if they lived for fifty years or so before doing it. But no! They can’t wait, depending on type it’s two to four years to reach sexual maturity and bang! That’s all she wrote. They don’t even know if it worked!

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  9. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Old pictures!
    Now just a cotton pickin' minute! If the pictures are old, that must make me...
    Um, :( never mind. :D

    The picture effort has suffered from a lot of scope creep.
    Years ago I had scanned the ones that made it into an album and I thought I'd just use those scans.
    But I went through all of the others that have been boxed away and several of them were deemed worthy.
    Scanned some of those - they looked like crap.
    Play with the resolutions settings - much better, but now the previously scanned ones are much smaller and look like crap.
    Start scanning all of them. Still a lot of haze even after multiple glass cleanings.
    Dis-assemble the scanner to clean the underside of the glass.
    Okay, now they don't suck, but short of creating a clean room, I still can't eliminate dust specks. And some the pictures don't look nearly as sharp when enlarged from the 4x6" print size.
    And the anal retentive engineer in me got loose and all of the jpg files are getting labeled with film roll and negative number (requiring much squinting), even though the chances of me EVER taking said negatives to a studio to have enlarged prints make are somewhere between slim and none, and Slim's bags are packed!


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  10. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Yukon Yo-yo

    Like a Duncan toy of diminishing energy, my track during the next four days dipped below the Yukon/BC border several times, each return not climbing as far north as before as I first dropped to Haines, then Skagway, then barely dipped my boots into BC on the way over to the Cassiar Highway junction where I plunged fully into the wonderful abyss of British Columbia.

    The travel was very good, scenery remained great in variable climatic conditions (thankfully it was warming up some, for the first time in a long while, I was able to do without the electric vest for an entire day), gazed on another grizzly and saw several bald eagles.

    The Chilkoot pass on the way to Skagway

    (one of my rare landscape photo gems):

    This unique (to me) bridge structure above Skagway was due to only being able to stage the heavy construction equipment on the downhill (left) side.

    I enjoyed a sunny afternoon in Skagway in spite of it being the kind of tourist trap that I normally loathe. I think because it makes no pretense at being anything else. All of the shops maintain a turn of the century, gold rush appearance that is really well executed. It also helped that the place was not completely overrun that day. Only two cruise ships were docked, four were due in for the next three days. The exhibits in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park were good and I was tickled that the other unit of the park was in Seattle, where many of the ships hauling Klondike gold rush prospectors embarked from.

    Emerald Lake in Carcross (nothing to do with automobiles, it's short for caribou crossing) was indeed very green: upload_2020-12-16_23-3-46.jpeg

    Two rider related stories developed at the Cassiar/AlCan Hwy junction just west of Whitehorse.
    Heading east, I passed a slow moving BMW Funduro, gave the usual wave, and continued on to the junction where I stopped to fuel up. The BMW was thirsty too and I had a short conversation with the lady pilot who had only recently started riding. She said that I was a good rider (which of course was an absolute truth:photog). But I sensed that her statement originated from uncertainty about her skills, rather than an uncanny ability to accurately judge me based on how I was pumping my gas. :wink:
    As encouragement, I said that the only thing that could be inferred from our road encounter was that I rode faster than her, not necessarily better.

    In contrast to a beginning rider's understandable nervousness, the next encounter involved a degree of cluelessness that I still can't quite believe to this day. I rarely portray other riders in a negative light, but was a most remarkable meeting.

    I decided to take advantage of the facilities and extended my stop to grab a shower, do a load laundry, and have dinner.
    During my meal a KLR rider from San Diego came in and joined me. He was having an interesting trip, one that had already exposed him to many lessons, mostly on what not to do in the future.

    Just before starting he attempted an upgrade to his electrical system with an improved stator to better support an electric vest. He didn’t do this with enough time to make sure it worked properly and ended up losing a day to re-install the original components after draining the battery.

    Another day was lost getting a new rear tire mounted in Seattle, much sooner than expected. At that he was lucky, he had intended to change tires in Dawson City, where motorcycle tires were probably non-existent and finding one anywhere north of Vancouver could be problematic. (Not as much of a problem now, but there's still not many places along the way for such needs.)

    He was planning on taking the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, but he wasn’t too sure about making it at this point, because the weather was getting colder as he went north. :doh
    He had shipped some of his cold weather gear home from Kelowna, BC after riding in 90+ degree temperatures getting there! :fpalm
    (My recollection is that it was the electric vest that he shipped, but it may have been a heavy weight jacket.)

    I had asked him earlier if the Belstaff jacket he had was waterproof and he assured me most emphatically that it was.
    That recommendation lost what little weight I normally give to San Diego riders in regards to rain gear. Most of them probably hadn’t ridden in the rain for more than five minutes at a time. :lol3

    Having just come up the Cassier, he warned me of a miles long stretch of gravel soaked with fresh oil that looked treacherously slippery. He did add that towards the end of that bit he stopped and determined that wasn't too bad.
    All I saw was a slightly darker stretch of gravel that didn't register as anything out of ordinary.

    He expected to take the ferry from Alaska on the return leg, but didn’t have a reservation. At the time, the capacity of the maritime ferry system was being negatively impacted by the breakdown of one of their ships. Good luck I thought.

    He wasn't that young, but I had to wonder if his mother knew where he was.

    To be fair, I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way, but not quite so many of them in one trip.
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  11. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Bear Buffet

    Besides the obvious obsession with two-wheeled travel, personal interests that I hope are evident in this account include history and nature. I am an avid reader of history and consciously seek out new areas of study, but my pursuit of wildlife knowledge is mostly unstructured. I'll take pleasure in whatever random road revelations are thrown my way.

    So I was pleased to have my first aural encounter with a loon. This followed the extended stop at the Cassiar junction. I headed south intending to camp about sixty miles down the road at Boya Lake. That proved to be a bit too ambitious as I started feeling pretty tired almost immediately, so when I spotted another biker camping along the road next to a small lake, seventeen miles down the road, I stopped to see if company was welcome and met Dave, originally from Scotland and now a BC resident. Dave was on an older black and gold Harley that looked like it had seen a lot of good miles (any bike in Steeler football colors will make a favorable impression on me). He had a fire going and we bs’d for a good while. Dave continued the trend of riders finding female companionship along the way. He was supposed to have been back at work last week, but a girl in Atlin had something to do with his continued absence (two other riders that I met on the trip had altered itineraries because of female companionship). He’d been on the road for a month and was heading for Hyder also.

    Settling in for the night a loon called out. Even though I'd never heard one before, the maniacal laughing sound perfectly fit descriptions I'd read about them. The phrase ‘crazy as loon’ came to mind immediately, but I also had the thought of a tortured soul wailing in anguish. I have since learned that they also have less obviously recognizable calls, but there was no doubting that one.

    The next morning Mr. Loon made an appearance and a resident beaver also popped up for a look-see. The day also garnered my first sight of a hawk-owl as I approached Dease Lake. The wildlife sightings kept my mood from being too disheartened when I managed to tip over the bike at a later gas stop. My rain booted foot slipped off of the centerstand tang when I tried to set it up for an oiled check. I found myself over balanced and could not hold it up. Fortunately only a few minor scratches were collected.

    Hyder, Alaska was my next destination. Not with any intention of getting Hyderized (local drink custom), my goal was to count coup on the fifth and final (in my personal sequence) controlled border crossing between Canada and the 49th state. Though in this case the control was one sided, there are no restrictions on entering the U.S. there, but coming back onto the Canadian side a conversation with a border control agent is required. ***

    On the unstructured wildlife viewing front, I knew from pre-trip study that if salmon were spawning, bears could be observed at Fish Creek, about 5 miles outside of Hyder. I didn't specifically time my visit to the spawning, but I got lucky.

    Initially no bears were present when I arrived at 10:00, three had been in the area around 8:00. There were about fifty people ranged along the banks of the creek and one camper was set up as a base for the rangers (they've since built a long boardwalk with railings).

    I chatted with some of the other damp camera toters and leafed through a couple of photo albums filled with bear pictures taken in the area. Within a half-hour of my arrival, activity was reported across the road. Soon the leaves of bushes along a stream bank started to rustle and then a large furry snout parted the branches. The rest of a sodden looking, decent-sized grizzly soon followed that nose and that’s when the full impact of the setting hit me. I was on the home turf of one of the world’s largest land carnivores with no fences, walls or any other physical barrier present. It was awesome in the fullest sense of the word.

    Like momma bear in Denali, this guy was accustomed having humans around and ignored us. What he did not ignore was another bear in the area. About a hundred yards upstream of us, a huge black bear came through the brush and into the stream. Mr. Griz in front of me seemed about five and-a-half feet tall when feeding upright. Blacky never got close enough or in the same position for me to compare directly, but it looked like he was at least a foot longer in the body. In addition to being BMOC, Blacky also was a prime contender for the title of “Meanest Son-of-a-Bitch in the Valley”. I got the distinct impression that he was pissed off about something. Lousy weather, spoiled fish, or lack of nookie; whatever the reason, he looked grumpy and not in any mood to be messed with. Griz seemed to get the same impression, he eyed his upstream counterpart for a bit and wisely headed the other way. After staring down the smaller bear, Blacky stomped away. I caught a glimpse of him later, eating some berries on the far side of a pond, maybe to ease his indigestion.

    Site regulations are quite strict on not allowing any food outside of a vehicle, so the bears don’t see humans as either threatening or edible. At least not compared to the buffet nature was providing. Rather than synthetic fiber coated creatures with lots of hard metal and plastic bits about them, fresh sushi was the dish of choice. The stream was quite shallow and filled with salmon. This was the spawning area of the largest sub-species of chum salmon in the Northwest. Typical chum salmon average twenty pounds, with a big one weighing in at forty. These averaged forty and the big ‘uns could reach eighty. There were hundreds of dead and dying salmon around and a lot of scavenging birds taking advantage of the situation. The bears prefer live fish but unlike videos of Katmai Island, there was no snatching them out of the air as they leapt up roaring waterfalls in this area. The technique Griz demonstrated was to splash along the stream-bed after the chosen morsel and pin it down with his claws. He only ate the good parts of the ones he caught, the roe, eyes, brains, and skin. Not what I would consider as the most appetizing options, but then again, I wasn’t trying to put on a layer of fat to sleep through the winter with.




    About ten miles beyond Fish Creek is an overlook for Salmon Glacier, reportedly the world’s largest road accessible glacier. I wanted to check it out, but rain was still coming down and the road was already a saturated muddy mess. Another time.

    While I was there, Dave arrived in on his Harley and as I was leaving, a ‘98 VFR pulled in with a couple aboard. They filled my parking space and we chatted briefly. I met them again later as I had lunch at a the Bear Glacier overlook on the road out of Stewart and we talked some more. Eric and Christy from Montana. Not only were they travelling far two-up, but they were camping too! They didn’t have room for sleeping pads, so they were doing motels more than campgrounds, but I was still impressed with their condensed gear load, Eric had no complaint about how the bike was handling it.

    *** I learned later that the road to the Salmon Glacier viewpoint crosses the border back into Canada, but there are no controls on that crossing at all. I ended up going there on my 2015 trip.
  12. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    BC Squared - British Columbia Bearing Changes - Part 1

    I spent the next ten days crisscrossing BC (and a bit of Alberta too) covering the Icefields Parkway, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Watertown Lakes National Park, the Sky-To-Sea Highway ;) and an awesome amount of amazing roads. I rescued one family, was insulted by tourists, lied to by signage, and treated like an admiral. The next however many posts will address these and other adventures, eh. :wink:

    After Hyder, I reached the Yellowhead Highway. Not having a carefully compiled comprehensive course to consult, I contemplated my limited options; west to Prince Rupert, or not. Since west would mean returning to the seemingly ever present coastal rain, I chose not. Writing this now, I'm wryly amused that I also noted in the journal that riding all of the roads to the west coast of BC was not an objective. I did not recall that when I went back in 2015 fully committed to that goal. :D

    Three Germanic encounters occurred in the next three days. After treating the bike to a wash to cleanse the worst of the Cassiar and Hyder mud, I treated myself to a nice dinner and had a wonderful conversation with Dorothy and Hans, an older couple over from Bremen on an extended vacation. They warmly encouraged me to visit them if my travels ever reached their neighborhood.

    The next night's Teutonic interaction was with Peter, an immigrant tending bar at the resort I camped at (lots of Germans on the staff there). Peter was an older guy and we had a friendly chat. At one point I heard yet again about how little Americans know of history and other countries. This claim has been made frequently and I used to agree with it, but I’d done enough traveling at this point to realize that the same claim can be made about the common majority of all countries. Peter reflected on this a moment and agreed with me. He recalled that on a visit back to Germany, friends had made comments about his president Regan, knowing he lived in Canada.

    The following day, a buffoonish burgermeister completed the hat trick.
    While in a parking area taking a snack break, an elderly tourist came over, looked at the bike, and with a thick German accent said, “Honda huh. I vouldn’t be caught dead on a Honda.” Allowing for the most likely probability that he was trying to be funny, I cut him some slack and chose to respond with just a stare, stifling the initial impulse to tell him, 'Don’t bet on that, it could be arranged.' After a pause waiting for some reaction from me, he added, “That’s because I vant to live.” Seeing my stare change to a glare it dawned on him that I was being less that receptive. He tried to further explain his ‘joke’ which didn't help matters, but I held my tongue and he wandered away.

    I couldn't be mad long, soon I was checking out the Takakkaw waterfall in Yoho National Park:


    That was not far from the Yoho tunnels, a pair of spiral railroad tunnels that do a 360 degree loop within the mountain to reduce the slope of the run into the valley through Kicking Horse Pass. The regular overlook for viewing the tunnels was closed, so I couldn't get a very good picture of it. As I wouldn't have been able to see a long train sticking out both ends of one of the tunnels at the same time, I wasn't too disappointed that none at all went by while I was there.

    Around the same area:

    When not swiveling my head around taking in the scenery, I was enjoying the roads a good deal. At one point I noticed another VFR closing on my tail. Rather than pass, he tucked in behind me, a little tighter than I would have preferred initially, but he soon dropped back a bit and we rode a nice stretch. Clouds were gathering so I pulled over to don rain gear and he stopped too. So that's how I met Brian, out of Edmonton for an overnight ride. His initial close up on my rear was to try to make sense of the license plate. He couldn’t figure out what 'Penna' meant. This turned out to be a common occurrence, even in the western U.S. Since the postal abbreviations were standardized, Penn and Penna are becoming forgotten abbreviations of my home state. We rode together the rest of the day, and camped that night at Radium Hot Springs.
  13. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    BC Squared - Part 2

    To back up a couple of days; after the coin flip where I turned tail and headed east on the Yellowhead, I made a minor diversion to bag a geographic point of interest, a crossing of the continental divide on route 97 north of Prince George. This one was a bit disappointing, there wasn't even a sign marking the spot on the broad low ridge that formed the separation, but related signage a little further on did mark one end of the portage that fur traders had used to cross between the Pacific and Arctic ocean watersheds. "Empire of the Bay", by Peter Newman, is a fascinating book that covers the history of the Hudson Bay Company and tells the story of the original adventurers through this country.

    The rains returned on the trek to Jasper, fortunately not until after I had to lay on the pavement to change a tire on a marooned mini-van. Vivian was hauling five kids to Kamloops and was grateful for the assistance. The tire change was straight forward, but stowing the flat was complicated. It wouldn't fit in the under frame space the spare donut occupied and the interior spaces were stuffed full of luggage. I had flashbacks to high school days where I discovered a talent for maximum packing efficiency for speech and debate team trips in the school van. Said talent has come in handy for motorcycle trips, but the downside was the time I was freezing my ass off outside in a snow storm, repacking after a similar flat episode while everyone else was back inside the van warming up.

    Just when I was starting to believe that the Canadian Rockies were a myth, it was all just clouds and valleys, skies began to clear and POW!



    Though "Rocky Mountains" are an unnecessary waste of the the letter y, Rock Mountains would be more appropriate :deal

    I tented in the Wabasco campground and was chagrined when a ranger told me the following morning that the northern lights had been visible. A missed opportunity, I would not see even a faint display of them until fifteen years later.

    I wonder where all the water came from? :evil
    Athabasca Falls:


    So that's why it's called the Icefields Parkway:



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  14. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    BC Squared - Part 3

    Since I didn't have time to visit on the way up to Alaska, the one pre-planned objective in this segment of north of the border noodling around, was Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump (hereafter to be referred to as HSI).

    The first of several misleading claims. Clare's home was actually 2,000 miles further.

    HSI is an interpretive-center/museum devoted to the Blackfoot Indian lifestyle. I spent half the day there and was very impressed with it.

    Buffalo jumps are sites where the terrain allows the opportunity of stampeding the animals over the edge of a cliff. Driving the animals into box canyons where they could not escape was also a method used. Native Americans, or First Nations people as they are called in Canada, used such tactics throughout the buffalo’s range. About 2000 buffalo jump sites have been identified, some in use as long as 6000 years ago. The cliffs here were originally about 60 feet high, but today are only 30ish feet, the change wasn’t due to erosion as much as the buildup of the remains.

    A lot of factors had to combine for a successful hunt; wind, herd location and size, available grazing; so use of any one jump was cyclical. A brave would drape himself with a calf skin and attempt to lure a herd in the desired direction. Other braves would cover themselves with wolf skins and stalk the herd from behind. Smoke was also used to drive the animals out of fear of fire. Near the cliff edge a natural constriction was enhanced by piles of brush and/or rock piles with other men concealed behind them. This would serve to channel the herd to the correct spot. When close the herd would be stampeded and with good fortune all of the animals would charge over the cliff. Any not killed outright were dispatched by others waiting below. It was important that none of the heard escape, otherwise the survivors would tell the rest of the buffalo and they wouldn’t be able to be tricked again.

    The source of the name for this place is not the seemingly obvious one (bison skulls are too thick to get smashed easily). The jump was still in use in the 1850’s and the story goes that one young brave wanted to take part in his first hunt. Told that he was too young and that he stay in camp with the rest of the tribe, he disobeyed and snuck out to watch. He stationed himself under the edge of the cliff so that he could see the buffalo as they plunged over. Unfortunately for the lad, the hunt that day was very successful. The pile of buffalo at the bottom of the cliff grew in size until it buried the boy. As the dead animals were being processed he was discovered with his skull crushed.

    My one complaint with the facility was that they had no patches with their really cool logo. :becca
    So I had to buy a T-shirt. :deal

    From there I went on to Watertown Lakes NP for two nights, taking a day off from long miles.
    There was a lot of smoke haze from fires in the area

    Back on the road I headed west and north.
    The first stop was Crowsnest Pass at the site of the Frank Slide, the location of a massive rock slide that wiped out part of the mining town of Frank in 1903.

    Part of the rubble field:

    The mining history and ethnic mix of immigrants who came to work in the area echoed my southwest PA stomping grounds.

    Further down the road, this was claimed to be the "Largest Truck in the World" with a 360 ton capacity:

    But that was an 'alternate' fact, as a local informed me that 400 ton trucks were already working mines in the area.

    Another bit of misinformation concerned the Kootenay Lake ferry that I picked up in the evening. There was no coffee/donut service available as I had been told (grrrr!), but I liked the free ferry services. :thumb
    More smoke tinged skies:
  15. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    BC Squared - Part 4

    Naval custom dictates that when shuttling sailors from one point to another in a small boat, officers board last and in reverse order of rank. That is flipped when disembarking and the senior officer is the first one off. Sequencing of this sort does not extend to the lowly enlisted ranks. (Don't call me sir, I work for a living. :D)

    Approaching the Needles ferry to cross Arrow Lake, a long slug of opposing traffic started going by. When I reached the parking area, the next load was already driving onto the deck. Normally bikes are at the front of the queue and loaded first, but I wasn't going to try to passing shifting lanes of traffic to get there. So I stayed back, but positioned myself where the crew could see me. This ferry had five parking lanes and it wasn't a full load. I watched as cars and trucks were spread to both sides, filling the outer lanes and most of the next ones in. They kept the center lane cleared until I rolled on and plopped myself at the bow as the stern ramp was lifted and off we went. It was a short crossing, I barely had time to clean my face shield and drink some water before it was time to put the lid back on and slip into the gloves. Ramp down and off I went with a completely traffic free and very twisty road in front of me. I felt like a freaking admiral! :rayof

    There's a ton of awesome asphalt in BC, something to do with all those damn mountains getting in the way of things, and I thoroughly enjoyed them as I worked my around the Kelowna area (Apex road was great), up the Fraser Canyon (though traffic was heavy through there), over to Lillooet, and down 99 through Pemberton, past Whistler and into West Vancouver.

    Fraser Canyon (I think)

    I did have an odd encounter with a riding group in Lillooet. A damaged bike was being tended to and I stopped to offer assistance if needed and ask about conditions on 99. They had just come up route 99 and were bound for Kelowna. One of them had just had an unpleasant experience involving another car. Fortunately, the rider wasn’t hurt and the bike was still rideable. I got the sense that she may have been at fault in this one. I got a lot of vagueness in response to my, “What happened?”query.
    I asked about the road ahead because my map showed that a portion of it was gravel. I was glad to hear that it was now all paved (old map). I was also given dire warnings of rough pavement, gravel lurking in every turn, bad drivers waiting to run bikes off, and told that it could take three hours to reach Pemberton. Maybe they were extremely picky, or the group dynamic was to stay together in a clump. The road was wonderful! The only advisory I would pass on about it at the time would to be careful on the wooden decked bridges. I did not conduct any experiments regarding the friction coefficients of them, but they did look slick. My only complaint was that there wasn’t an obviously inviting pull-off area halfway along, I could have used a break at that point. What traffic I encountered was easily dispatched, including the sports car club group, and I made it to Pemberton in about an hour.

    From Pemberton south, 99 is called the Sea to Sky Highway, for for my purposes it was the Sky to Sea route. It remained entertaining all the way into West Vancouver, but south of Whistler it was much more congested. That stretch was turned into a four lane highway to support the 2010 Winter Olympics which certainly eased clogging concerns, but it neutered the road a bit.

    The increased population density started to get to me. I made my way to the ferry terminal with the intention of going out to Vancouver Island. I had heard many good things about Victoria and the rest of the island and planned on spending a couple of days exploring it. But I couldn’t make up my mind to proceed. Nothing specific had fixed itself in my mind as a destination point. It was more of a, “I ought to do it while I’m in the area” feeling. That same thinking had led me to Lake Louise a few days earlier, where I was disappointed by the crowds clogging such a small spot. I sat and watched the ferry loading for a bit and finally thought, “Screw it!” I headed inland.

    My ship didn't come in:

    I checked out the limited camping options in the area and when nothing inviting turned up continued on with no specific destination in mind. I rode until dark, ending up in Cloverdale for the night. I found an inexpensive room at a hotel in the center of town and decided to stay for two nights and take a complete day off the bike to recharge the mental batteries.
    An added amenity of the place was observing foot traffic in the hall. Somewhere at the other end of the second floor I was on was the dressing room for a strip club next to the hotel. I saw some interesting costumes during the evening. :sweeti

    And that effectively wrapped up the BC bearing changes. After a short ride to the border I would resume country corner collecting, visit family, and begin a very non-linear return. The trip was only two-thirds complete. :ricky
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  16. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Cape Capture - Corner #3 and Fame Fantasy Flameout

    My ferry timing remained great, but the Whidbey Island to Port Townsend run this Sunday was completely packed, so there was no possibility of being first off. I passed two more full loads in the parking area to join a six-pack of Harleys as the last to load, so I wasn't going to complain about a violation of protocol.

    I was stationed at NSB Bangor and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from 82 to 82 and thought about swinging down that way for a look-see. But that was the pre-Microsoft era; the subsequent tech boom and attendant population jump around Seattle was very evident during my short ride to the ferry, so I opted to head due west across the Olympic peninsula to lose the crowds. A run up Hurricane Ridge in the national park was definitely on the return visit list, but it was socked in by clouds and I had desire no to reprise a past trip in similar conditions. It had taken a about two hours the make the twenty mile descent then.

    Cape Flattery, the northwest corner, was collected the next day.

    There were several others at the end of trail taking in the view; cormorants, eagles and sea lions (he little bumps on the small rock below) were on display:

    I had started the trip with some binoculars, but they weren't much better than the zoom lens on my camera and I shipped them back home earlier in the trip to free up space. One guy loaned me his binoculars for a better look and though smaller than the bulky pair I had started with, I was amazed and how great they were. They were also really, really, expensive. Good gla$$ does not come cheap.

    From there is was a coastal run south and then two visits to Mt St Helens, first the west side.
    Destination in sight:

    From the visitor center:

    The visitor center had a good film about the mountain and it's eruption, the reveal at the end of the show was mind blowing, the screen and curtains lifted exposing a brilliant day and the perfectly framed volcano.

    Coldwater Lake in the foreground:

    The amount of regrowth after 20 years is impressive, this entire area was blasted and blanketed in ash. Mt Adams is peaking :wink: up on the left.

    Then after a day visiting a cousin in Portland, I went back to loop around the east side. The views were just as fabulous and the roads were fantastic. I stopped at the Windy Ridge overlook and did a quarter-mile uphill hike that was nothing but stairs for the first half. I was quite happy that my knees did not protest. Besides the volcano in front of me, I was rewarded with good views of Mt. Adams to the east and could make out both Rainier to the north and Hood to the south.


    Mt Adams again:

    My next stop in the area was a fascinating one at the Spirit Lake viewpoint. Home to Harry Truman, who refused to evacuate and was killed in the eruption, the bottom of the lake is now at a higher elevation than the surface of it used to be. The original lake bed and its outlet was completely filled with debris from the eruption. The new Spirit Lake formed from the backwash of the original and grew over the years from precipitation and snow melt. Being landlocked now, its growth was threatening to breach its newly formed restraining walls and cause massive flooding. So while the goal of the park management was to leave the land untouched to see how it rebounded from the cataclysm, they did make an exception in this case and drilled a tunnel through one of the ridges to give the lake an outlet. About a quarter of the lake’s surface was covered with floating tree trunks. Initially, the entire surface was covered, but over the years, more and more of the trees saturate and sink. Surprisingly, most of the trees came from the slope furthest from the eruption. A massive landslide was prelude to the tremendous lateral blast that outraced the slide and leveled the forests on the far slopes. The slide hit the lake and splashed it over the downed trees. As the water drained back, it carried most of the blasted trunks with it.


    At the same viewpoint, I met Todd Eagan and Paul Seredynski. Paul was on BMW KT doing a lap of America road trip and story for the premier issue of Cycle World’s Travel & Adventure magazine, a new publication due out in February. He had started in LA a month ago and was on the last segment of the trip. Hard to say who was more impressed with the other. They certainly appreciated my adventure. I had them on total distance, but they were traveling at a much faster pace. Not having to camp helped that, but there’s nothing like a work imposed deadline to make miles fly. Paul wanted a picture of me and pulled out a camera with what looked like a 400 mm lens. He had to back across the road and up the slope to frame the shot. He promised that I would make it into the article he would be writing.
    I was going to famous! :clap

    When the magazine finally debuted the following April, his story, titled something like, "Left, Left and Left Again" contained no picture or mention of a crazed VFR rider seeking serenity on the road.
    So much for my fifteen minutes of fame.:becca
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  17. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Coast Rider & Corner #4

    Not to be confused with Coasting Rider, Ghost Writer, or Ghost Riders in The Sky. :wink:
    Though in a sense I was coasting through this portion of the trip a bit. Because of my Pacific Northwest navy duty, it was familiar ground. The northern half of the Oregon coast was noticeably more congested than the previous exposure, the southern half not as much, and northern California was still great. Diminishing tread from all the north-of-the-border play precluded exploratory diversions on the way down to my brother Bill's place in Hermosa Beach. I camped one night in Oregon, moteled it near Eureka the next, a friend from work who had gone back to school in Berkley provided a couch for the following sleep, and I reached Bill's the next day.

    I didn't take a single picture, but added one stunning visage to the mental image archive. Along the coast north of Eureka I had the ocean in sight on my right with the sun nearing the horizon, but behind a narrow band of cloud. It was a beautiful view in it's own right. Complimenting it was the left hand sight where another bank of higher clouds was still warmly illuminated by the evening rays. By the time I pulled over to take it in, the eastern clouds were being eclipsed by the rising shadow band of the ocean clouds and their glow was extinguished in moments. Short of 360 degree Imax film, camera technology to capture that scene did not exist at the time and I doubt that Go Pro video could do it justice today.

    I made two bike excursions during my week in Hermoso Beach. The first was to Cycle World’s offices in Newport Beach. Paul Seredynski had suggested that I stop in to see Beau Pacheco, the editor of the forthcoming travel magazine. Sadly he was out, so I didn't win a huge contract for thrilling adventures stories. Oh well, their loss is your gain. :D
    I did meet Wendy Black, Dave Edwards, Brian Catterson and several other staffers. It was a fun visit, but I wasn’t allowed to peak into the shop area (some incredibly super-secret one-of-a-kind, cutting edge tech festooned motorcycle was obviously being pampered) and no one took me up on my offer to do some mileage testing on a set of donated tires. Again, their loss.

    With 16,000 miles on the clock for the trip so far, it was time for another set of shoes. Oddly enough, it was still cheaper to have tires shipped from Chapparal then going there to pick them up. Prices in the store were higher than what they could offer them for over the phone, and I didn't have to pay sales tax since the billing address was out of state :evil (that particular loophole no longer exists). A local shop mounted them with no problem, but I couldn't talk them into a discount based on miles ridden to get there (1%/1000k seemed reasonable to me :lol3), they joked back that since I really needed it, they could charge more.

    The second bike excursion was a run for the border. Borderfield State Park to be specific. For all its faults, LA traffic does move fast. I did 133 miles that included 5 miles of surface streets at the start, in two hours. That was the initial southern blast. Finally reaching the park required traversing about 300 yards of loose beach sand. There was a road under there somewhere, but if the VFR is a lousy mudder, it’s an abysmal failure as a dune bike. I had to put the legs out and walk the bike over the worse sections, being extremely careful with the throttle. I didn't come all this way to spin the rear tire out from under me.


    Putting up with those conditions was worth it to complete the four-corner collection. Like Maine, foreign soil was visible at this stop. Mexico lay on the other side of the chain link fence that marked the map line. The fence bisected a stone obelisk marking the initial survey point for setting the border in the 1800’s.

    The amphitheater just across the border is/was a bull-fighting ring. (Currently, the 'Plaza de Toros Monumental' domain name is available. :deal)
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  18. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    From the start, I've been focused on putting up one post a day - just a self-imposed exercise in discipline.
    Tried to start one today with a holiday theme worked into it, but after 5 hours in the kitchen, the juices just aren't flowing. So I'm going to take a two day break.

    I hope all of yinz following along have as great a holiday season as possible!

    Merry Christmas!
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  19. Ol Man

    Ol Man Long timer Supporter

    Sep 17, 2010
    Apple Valley, Calif
    Enjoy your Christmas.
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  20. vt700guy

    vt700guy Been here awhile

    Jun 25, 2017
    NW Oklahoma
    Merry Christmas to you as well.
    MapMaster likes this.