Alaska 2009

Discussion in 'Alaska' started by Niznack, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. Niznack

    Niznack Been here awhile

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    It's about time we start a new Alaska thread, no? I'm making plans for my trip from New York City to Alaska and back for the summer of 2009. My goal is to reach Prudhoe Bay and experience the Artic Circle first hand. I'm looking for advice anyone may have as well as fellow travellers who may want to meet up along the way. I've my bikes narrowed down to either the KLR, 650 GS, or the Versys depending on availability and affordability. I'd love to get my hands on the Versys but am wondering how it would hold up from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. My dates are open at this time and I'm looking to do the entire trip in abut six weeks. I'll be camping all the way as well, looking forward to seeing lots of national and state parks.

    :freaky
    #1
  2. Ragin Rabbi

    Ragin Rabbi Semper Fidelis

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    Your plan almost mirrors mine. KLR will be the bike though. I'll have to watch your planning a bit. No, I am not asking to tag along. Just wanted to say good luck on your planning.

    Maybe though we could compare notes and planning ideas. I am in Maryland, due to bike size I am planning on skipping out on as much interstate as possible, and maybe jump in Canada as soon as I can hoping for less congested roads and there-by a slightly more relaxed trip.
    #2
  3. Impulse 101

    Impulse 101 Crazy Guitarist

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    I have to wait until 2011. I'm planning to bringing the wife, on her own bike of course. Its been my dream to ride back since I moved back to the lower 48 from Anchorage in 1992. Every thread with pics or stories about the alcan and points beyond just kill me. I wish that I could do it tomorrow. My route is alread set Wisconsin to Montana up through banff and the canadian rockies and calgary. Then hit the Alcan and head north.

    If anyone is heading through the Milwaukee area and needs anything let me know.

    JT

    PS We're planning on taking his and her Buell Ulysseses.
    #3
  4. Niznack

    Niznack Been here awhile

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    Ragin, I'm not against meeting up and sharing some road along the way. Does anyone have an idea of what to expect on the road up to Prudhoe Bay? I've heard of Ninja 250s making it almost flawlessly. Would a Versys be impossible, or just unpractical?
    #4
  5. z987k

    z987k Long timer

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    I plan on doing it in 09 as well. The only places I want to go along the way are glacier and banff/jasper... which are very along the way.
    #5
  6. Ragin Rabbi

    Ragin Rabbi Semper Fidelis

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    Some guys have taken Goldwings up it, no issues. Other's have wiped out their GS.

    I think the weather and the graders are more a deciding factor. My bother lives in Palmer AK, has drive (cage) up to Deadhorse, and he calls it a gravel highway. If it is wet, and the graders have been out, it is supposedly a bugger.

    But, with the right rider and tire(?) combo, from what I have read a Versys should be able to make it. Fuel economy?

    I wouldn't mind sharing some road, but I don't want to butt into anyone's trip. I don't know about you, but I would hate to have a trip like this ruined by the other person's idea of what the ride should be, you know? I want to relax and feel and see the road, sleep when and where and head out when I want. But there is something to be said for solidarity on the road, safety etc..

    Again, let's just keep one another posted and see what develops. I am doing the soft bag approach. Lighter is better (and cheaper)... lol..
    #6
  7. fireboy

    fireboy Not dead, just asleep...

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    Except, all my buddies are "not interested". I think they mean "pussies", but that's just my translation...
    I agree with the route from the midwest, except maybe also hitting up the black hills... great ride!

    The versys should make it no problem, but carry extra gas!!

    I will have to wait until 2010 to bring the wife along on her ride... so 09 will be me and whoever else I can scare up!

    Best of luck to you all.
    #7
  8. Niznack

    Niznack Been here awhile

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    Part of the reason I've started this thread is to find people to share the road with. Safety in numbers, and good times are only as good as the people you share them with.

    Thanks for the feedback about the road to Prudhoe. Please, if anyone has advice about this road, please post it. I'll def look into carrying spare gas, but is there a window when the road is best travelled? Say June-Aug???

    Niz
    #8
  9. rshydo

    rshydo Adventurer

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    I've been working out plans with a friend of mine for a few years but between work, houses, and weddings it looks like '09 might be the year. He will finally have enough vacation (~3 wks) and I will hopefully be done throwing wads of $$$ at my house.

    Our research has shown that June is probably the month for us. Hopefully not too much rain and cold (he's in WI and I'm in NH so cold is relative) but not too deep into insect season.

    As engineers we dorked out last year and built optimization spreadsheets comparing riding all the way, flying somewhere, buying bikes, shipping ours, renting, etc. For us it really comes down to what we want to spend time doing. We'd rather ride in AK than get there on slabs. Due to this, our options work out best if we rent or buy bikes somewhere closer and sell them when done. Shipping our bikes is just not really that cost effective.

    I have been investigating taking the ferry on the inside passage from Washington state to Juneau. This would probably mean buying a KLR in washington (have friends there) then meeting up in Anchorage after a ferry ride and short moto trip. Taking pics and breathing salt air do more for me than slabbing it a few k mi through Canada.

    From Anchorage we will probably spend a few days on the peninsula and islands then head north to do Denali, Anchorage, and at least see far north. Both of us have limits as to how much pavement we can take so we actively search for dirt and gravel. Both of us are big bike friendly (GS's etc) but we will probably want steeds happier on sand and gravel. 700 lb loaded big bikes would slow us down a lot they take a lot of effort to keep happy and we're both sub 170 lb skinny guys.

    As far as meeting up goes, if our paths cross with others I'm glad to share fish or beer or whatever. Not so keen on meeting up for many miles though as buddy and I are pretty independent and I wary of doing rides with people whos riding styles we don't know - especially if we are out in the wilderness. No offense to any of the readers, some are great riders, but it takes a lot of trust when bike-bike contact means a critical situation.
    #9
  10. Ragin Rabbi

    Ragin Rabbi Semper Fidelis

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    I concur about the idea of this thread. It is awesome. I also agree with the statement of safety in numbers etc. The issue for me is fear of screwing up another's ride. It is one thing to mess up my own, but another to slow someone else down, or desire to do something that the other fellow doesn't or vice versa.

    Lets face it, for many of us this is THE ride. And one that some of us may only be able to make once.

    Now, having said that, I wouldn't mind hooking on to someone's intelectual coat-tails in reference to routes and such.:lol3
    #10
  11. Shred

    Shred Adventurer

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    Have a great trip! I'm just back from there and it was super. As long as you have a 200 mile tank capacity you'll have no problemo with fuel. Don't waste space bringing a gas can... pick up a 2.5 gal at Walmart in Fairbanks and take it north although you probably won't even need it there. The Cassier Hwy is far better than the AlCan Hwy. On the Alcan, Liard River Hot Springs is worthy for camping. I camping the entire time from CO to AK and back. The Haul Road to Prudhoe is trafficked by semis and tourists. The road is fine if it is dry but they use calcium chloride on it to control the dust and if that gets wet, it's like goo. 10 mph when wet. The bridge at Yukon River is a fairly steep downhill 1/2 mile wooden deck. Again, ok if dry but sketchy when wet. Extra sketchy when a semi passed me half-way across. I went in June. AK weather reports say this is the month with the least rain and I was lucky with that. Had maybe 3 days of light to moderate rain out of 21. That said, I went prepared for days of torrential rain and had that happened, it would have been the only thing to get me into a motel. I did have electric clothing and I think it's an absolute must! A day of 41 degrees and intermittant to steady rain was made completely bearable with it under my stitch. I used it probably 14 days out of the three weeks. Temps ranged from 41 to 102 in southern BC. Canada is a looong way across, eh?

    I made it to Dawson City for the Dawn to Dust Rally on the June 21 summer solstice. I would recommend it! It makes the trip timing perfect. On the way back, I saw tons of bikes (and RVs) heading north. I would consider going to the arctic circle from there rather than the Haul Road. The Dempster Hwy is supposed to be sweet without the semi traffic and much more m/c friendly.

    Other cool things: Haibut charter in Homer (use scopolamine patches behind your ear, for God's sake!) They'll vacuum seal it, flash freeze it, and overnight it to you any day you pick. The ferry from Whittier to Valdez is a great boat ride with tons of wildlife and views, plus there's a shower in the bathroom. You must reserve a day or two before! In Anchorage, if you need tires or m/c, etc. the Harley Dealership has a sweet campground in the back yard. There's even a locked bathroom with shower! (Code: 12345). Next door is AKrider.com. A rental outfit with a really cool staff. Rob and Nicole were super helpful. I pulled in at 11:30 pm to camp and they were hanging out with frosty malt beverages. When I asked about where I could fix a slow leak in my tire the next day, they said right here, right now and did it for me!

    Cell phone useful in AK in the cities. In Canada, eh, mine was 50 cents a min. A better value is a prepaid $10 international calling card that seemed to last forever. If I had lots of time, I'd go north from Ft Nelson to the Artic circle that way, too... up to Yellowknife.

    Bugs were surpisingly not bad... natives said it was unusual. I had a bug head net from REI that packed small and a couple of times I set my tent uo really fast with the net and the stitch on. Bug spray was barely used. I did like the GPS although it's not necessary... there just aren't that many roads to choose from... but it was nice in the few bigger towns for finding stuff.

    It's a great ride; it's about the ride. Stop for pics! I took 1000! I used Metzler Tourances and by being obsessive about pressures, got all the way on the front and rear for 9000 miles.

    Only thing I shoulda brought: brake pads.
    :wink:
    #11
  12. iyeager

    iyeager I lost my avatar...

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    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=343658

    A little peek at the trip I'm working on for next year. I'll probably be going the last week of May and the first two weeks of June. Hopefully I can find some other people who might be near the same route to run into town and pick up parts for me. :lol3

    Ian
    #12
  13. z987k

    z987k Long timer

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    That's my problem as well, no one I know is willing to do it with me.
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  14. Niznack

    Niznack Been here awhile

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    Yeagar,

    I know all about travelling on a budget. Just last summer I managed to make it from London to Ulan-Battaar, Mongolia on just a couple thousand $$ in a '91 VW POLO! I appauld your attempt and spirit. In fact, it's that same spirit inside me that screams for me to take my current KLX 250 to AK and back, but reason keeps screaming in my ear for a bigger bike. Also, this is a once in a lifetime trip (for most), shouldn't you consider taking more time?

    I did take my lil enduro out for a 700 mile road trip through the Adirondacks and back, one of the best rides I've ever taken. Yet I'm still out for a bigger, more reliable bike.

    Shred,

    Thanks for the heads up. I'll def take that into consideration in planning my trip. Damn I love this website. ADV4EVER
    #14
  15. Arkansas

    Arkansas Been here awhile

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    My dad and I rode to Prudhoe this year on a 1200GS and a new KLR. Any bike will make the trip. Take out the haul road and the top of the world, and you will wish you were on a Goldwing. We had perfect weather on the Dalton both to and from Prudhoe with only about 10 miles of wet road. Dry, its a gravel superhighway! Wet, it can be a bit tricky, but nothing worth making huge concessions. Knobbies won't do any better than more road oriented tires on slick hardpacked mud. It's 240 miles from Coldfoot to Prudhoe, so carry gas. Buy the spare can in Fairbanks. Try to make the trip on a weekend, especially Sunday. Less traveled and much less road maintenance.

    On a trip like this, it's unavoidable to just pound out the miles at some points, so really consider how much off-road you plan to do. My dad would probably take a Versys if he had it to do over again. I would consider something like an FZ1, ZRX, Bandit, etc with a few personal ergo mods as an excellent all around choice, but I tend to cruise a bit faster than some.

    Make sure to hit the Cassier at some point. It rained the entire time we rode it, but we both had a ball playing in the mud!

    -justin
    #15
  16. iyeager

    iyeager I lost my avatar...

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    I don't plan on kicking the bucket after I get home. I could probably go again in 2010 if I want to.

    Ian
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  17. Niznack

    Niznack Been here awhile

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    It's a big world out there Yaegar, don't get caught up with just one place.
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  18. idea man

    idea man Plate Spinner

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    Okay then.
    Starting the planning now is a great approach. I started saving money for the trip, started doing research into the SPOT device ($150.00), Satellite phone (Iridium Brand), started getting into shape, and started to slowly gear up for the what I know is going to be a bit of an ordeal. A self-imposed, long awaited, and totally amazing ordeal but an ordeal nonetheless. Shred has a lot of good things to say and and I can second most all of them. One thing to add is that if you are stretched for time, bomb the interstates here and the aproach routes to either Kitwanga or Dawson Creek if you are coming from the east. If you are coming from the west, the Cassiar is quite a bit faster (and prettier for my money).

    I've been to Alaska five times, three driving, and I mostly know the way. I also have a feel for the distances needed and some of the must see and some of the must avoids. Slowly and carefully considering all the options and approaches (Spacing out my tire replacement so I get fresh ones either here or in Belllingham on my way up, that sort of thing) is the way to plan for something that could be as life changing as a trip of this magnitude can be. Starting your planning now will help ensure your success.
    Eh, but it's not guaranteed. Otherwise it wouldn't be called an adventure. Imagine "SafetyRider.com"
    Good luck to you all. I hope to see you out there.
    #18
  19. ddennis669

    ddennis669 Adventurer

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    A Versys would be great. In fact any of those you mentioned would be excellent. I am going to recommend that if you do not own one yet, find a very low mileage version that is already scratched. You know, some one that got a bike, fell over and decided it is not for them. Saves you a bundle and you won't feel so bad when you tip over and get it all muddy. (Spend the extra money on the best riding pants, jacket and boots you can get.)

    And yes a 250 Ninja will get you there.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVxoVEMTXp8

    It isn't about power on the Haul Road. In fact, I think many of the crashes and problems riders have are because a lot of the bikes are to heavy and powerful in the mud. Of course most of the ride is pavement.

    The advice you are getting seems to match my experience. The Haul Road is fine dry and difficult when wet. I rode from where the first gravel section began to Yukon River in rain. Spent the night at Wiseman. Rode into Prudhoe and back to Coldfoot the next day. It was foggy in the morning, clear and unbelievably beautiful north of the Brooks Range, then overcast, windy and 34 degrees at Prudhoe Bay (June 28, 06). I was glad I had an electric liner. I had dry weather for the remainder of the trip back to Fairbanks.

    Slow down and pull over for the trucks on the Haul Road. These drivers have work to do and getting close to the edge is easier for a bike than a loaded semi. In every case they slowed and give me some space. The opposite occurred the one time my mind wandered and I forgot to pull over. :eek1

    I left SoCal with a new rear tire and ran it all the way back. I put a dual sport tire (Kenda K761) on the front in Tok and rode that one home.

    The Cassier is a nice route and Hyder is a good stop. In fact, get a copy of the Milepost (http://milepost.com/) so you can spend hours planning where you might stop. It will make it all the more exciting when you get to see the places you have read about. :clap
    #19
  20. quema

    quema Been here awhile

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    I am going from Tijuana to Prudhoe Bay in 2009 as well. Dempster, Haul and at least a short ride on the Alaska Marine Hwy (ferry) are all important to me.

    I have a couple of friends that say they are going with me. One just totaled his bike, another might not get off work, the other rides a cruiser and may just bail at the last minute.

    I have considered meeting up with some internet folks either from here or Stromtrooper (I ride a vstrom). I keep tossing back and forth between going it alone and meeting people to do the trip with.

    I have a huge fear of meeting up with someone that is a total opposite of me and them ruining the trip (or the opposite). However, safety in numbers is a truth. I imagine an unrepairable flat 100 miles from a phone, or worse. Maybe I will just put out my route, what i ride/look like, and try to meet people along the way. No real commitment to ride together, but still riding with others over 50% of the time.

    I especially want to ride with people for the dempster and haul.
    #20