Alaska 2021 - We're Goin' For it!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by donnh, Aug 2, 2021.

  1. donnh

    donnh Been here awhile Supporter

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    The border is scheduled to open August 9th. We plan to be in line with our adventure bikes loaded and ready to cross. Will it happen???

    Ok, the skinny... Once we heard the border with Canada was going to open my wife (her idea actually) and I decided why not - let's try a run north. Here's the rub, we only have a week to get us and the bikes ready. Not to mention the logistics of the border crossing, but more on that later.

    We just returned home (Seattle area) from a 3,000+ mile on/off road trip through ID, OR, NV and CA three weeks ago. Our normal bikes, my 2018 Honda ATAS and Deby's 2020 F750GS were tired from the trip and would need tires, chains, sprockets, filters.... and you get the idea. It wasn't going to happen in one week and we have a time window that has mostly to do with weather.

    However - in my shop are two high mileage bikes, a 2011 F800GS and a 2012 F650GS that have been sitting for over a full year. Ride those?? Well.... maybe?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There is an interesting story about those two bikes that I'll share for background on this trip. In 2020 we planned on riding those bikes across Russia then East to Germany where they would live as our "Europe" bikes. I spent months getting them ready replacing most of the wear items and upgrading the suspension and other parts. In February 2020 we loaded them in a container for Vladivostok, bad timing. The bikes made it to Russia but we never did thanks to the start of the pandemic. We did manage to get them back, fortunately. The container returned in the middle of May so we rode them home and parked them while we rode out the pandemic.

    [​IMG]

    My F800 has an even more interesting story. I bought the bike used in 2012 from a guy that purchased it new to ride to Alaska, he didn't make it due to a fuel pump failure (strike 1). Had it shipped back to Seattle and sold it to me with only a couple thousand miles on the odo. I had the bike for a handful of years and added over 50,000 miles riding it from Seattle to Patagonia and on many other adventures in Mexico and the US. I sold it to a guy who wanted to ride it to Alaska, and he didn't make due to a stator failure and had it shipped back (strike 2). It sat in his garage for a year until he offered to sell it back to me for much less than he bought it for. How could I refuse? I immediately went to work getting it ready for Europe, which of course went bust. Now.... I want to try to ride it to Alaska for a third try???

    Deby's F650GS? We've had it since almost new and it's been a most reliable bike despite plenty of gentle abuse over it's 50,000+ mile life.

    So yes... we'll take the two "classic" ADV bikes north to Alaska. Why not?

    Camping.... Not really time to go buy a bunch of stuff but we own pretty good gear (I think). I realize now that the last time we camped was at the Horizons Unlimited Canada meetup in 2019. Yesterday, I dug out our tent and Big Agnes double bag and set it up on the back year. Seemed ok...

    Questions:
    Can we really get across the border on the 9th? We have our VAC card, scheduled a test for the 6th and we downloaded the app they require. We booked a hotel for August 8th in Lynden, WA a short ride from two border crossings. Will there be long lines? Nobody? Now there is rumor of a strike by border workers on the Canadian side. What if that delays us and our 72 hour window for the Covid test expires? Jeez, what it we test positive for Covid? I suppose that could happen, who knows.

    What will we find in Canada? Will hotels be open? Restaurants? Will they be full? Empty? With the lack of tourists from the US did they all survive? Travelling last month we found about half of the restaurants were permanently closed and the open ones were short staffed with long waits. Hotels were full and national parks were a mess. The same in Canada?

    Ok, in summary: A last minute trip, old untested motorcycles, uncertainty at the border and oh, one of the worst fire seasons in memory. Might be fun...
    Donn and Deby
    #1
  2. uncle m

    uncle m Been here awhile

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    Hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, etc. seem pretty much normal here in BC. Have a great trip!
    #2
  3. RockyDS

    RockyDS Lost in the wilderness

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    Assuming you get across the border okay I think you'll be fine. In addition to the pre-test I read they're going to re-test at the border crossing - or give you a self test kit to send in. Also many local authorities may still require masks so it would be a good idea to have them with you just in case.

    Good luck and have a great trip.
    #3
  4. KC10Chief

    KC10Chief Been here awhile Supporter

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    Awesome! It will be interesting to see if you actually get across! I've been watching the border opening date get pushed back repeatedly. I've been eyeing a trip up there myself. I lived in Anchorage for five years when I was in the Air Force. It's getting into the rainy season now. If I could go right now, I probably would, honestly. But bring some good rain gear and some cold weather gear for sure. I'd be on my way back no later than the end of August. Now with COVID on the rise again and more and more people in the ICUs, I'd be extremely surprised if they DON'T move the date back further. The opening date always seems to be two weeks away... Anyways, summer gives way to winter rather quickly in Alaska, in my experience. September can be nice and the leaves will be changing. But it can also be very cold and wet. Usually is. October was probably my least favorite month up there. Cold, getting darker, but not quite cold enough to snow yet.

    I hope you get to go, but if I were you, I'd have a good backup plan in my hip pocket. August is a great time of year in Colorado.
    #4
  5. donnh

    donnh Been here awhile Supporter

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    Uncle M, thanks for the update. I hope we have the chance to support the economy.

    RockyDS, I have my PCR test scheduled for 4:00PM on Friday, they say I'll get results in 48 hours or 4:00PM Sunday. That means my 72 hour window is up at 4:00PM Monday. We should be at the border early Monday so depending on any strike delay we might have enough time. The latest I read online is that they will be dropping the testing requirement at the border except for people selected randomly. We'll see what really happens...

    KC10, yes about the rainy season... the nice thing about living in Seattle is we know about rain and are well equipped for rain and cold. Heated liners, heated grips, heavy duty KLIM gear and we're packing extra rain coats for good measure. I'm re-installing the pinlocks on both helmets today. I've been thinking about a plan-b if we end up not being able to get across, any later in the month and we'll be missing the weather window.

    I'll keep everyone posted.
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  6. KC10Chief

    KC10Chief Been here awhile Supporter

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    Good to hear on the gear! If you can't get across, the black hills in South Dakota are awesome this time of year. Sturgis is going on right now. I'd avoid that mess but when it's over, you should be good to go! That and then Colorado if you've never been down that way for a ride. SW Colorado is one of my favorite places. There's too much riding to do and not enough lifetime.
    #6
  7. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    Looking forward to hearing how this goes for you. I've been biding my time waiting on this border opening as well.
    #7
  8. Humunn

    Humunn Agent Provocateur

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    This will be great. Just bought "Milepost" and beginning to plan for an Alaska trip next summer.
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  9. KC10Chief

    KC10Chief Been here awhile Supporter

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    You could always ride the ferry to Alaska too! It's about six days and not the greatest experience I ever had. Leaves right from Bellingham though.
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  10. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

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  11. black 8

    black 8 motography memories...

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    IN!

    hope you make it across and that the Canadian bureaucrats don't get cold feet changing the rules for 9 Aug... I hope to make my way north by mid-Aug...

    according to the News Release in your link: "As a first step, starting August 9, 2021, Canada plans to begin allowing entry to American citizens and permanent residents, who are currently residing in the United States, and have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to entering Canada for non-essential travel."
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  12. uncle m

    uncle m Been here awhile

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    #12
  13. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

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    it's confusing. to say the very least.

    still says this on the website, today:

    Screen Shot 2021-08-04 at 8.49.15 AM.png
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  14. donnh

    donnh Been here awhile Supporter

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    Thanks for the suggestions and link. I've thought about the ferry and one day would like to take it from Port Hardy to Bella Bella. We tried it in 2019 but got turned around by really bad rain and found out we needed reservations. As far as alternation trips - the North Cascades Highway (20) is still closed due to wildfires so I would have to ride south to Steven's Pass highway 2. By that time I'm less than a half hour from home so we would probably ride hope and re-pack. We probably won't need all the extra warm gear. I'm staying positive and planning to get across....

    In full planning mode, I had a 2019 Milepost so hopefully the roads haven't changed that much since then. I ordered "The Adventurous Motorcyclist's Guide to Alaska" on Amazon. CLICK HERE for the Amazon listing. It is sort of a smaller version of The Milepost that is specific to motorcycle travel. I'm debating carrying one or both of those books, seems like a lot of weight.

    Here's my picture of the day - dining room table planning.
    [​IMG]
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  15. KC10Chief

    KC10Chief Been here awhile Supporter

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    It might say that on the website today because that's what's current today. Will change on August 9th. I was looking into this too. I think you'll be good to go on the 9th! Fingers crossed for you. I absolutely LOVE Alaska and Canada. I've done the drive a few times and it's totally spectacular each time. I want to do it on my bike next. I'm going to shoot for next July. It's a good thing to be vaccinated! If you haven't ever been to Banff National Park, it's incredible. Don't miss it. Great riding through there.

    As for the ferry, I'd skip it unless you have absolutely no other choice. It's expensive, especially if you get a room. The bike would be a far better experience. We moved to Alaska in early February of 2009. At the time, Alaska was the only state I had never been to. It was Fabruary and I didn't want to risk driving up through northern BC and the Yukon with my kids in the winter in a place I was very unfamiliar with. Now that I know more, I'd drive in the winter too. Not on a bike though. So, we drove from Oklahoma City and got on the ferry in Bellingham. That ferry took like three days to get to Juneau. Maybe two. Can't remember. Anyways, it was great. Spectacular scenery and the boat was okay. We had a room on the boat. I was in the Air Force and they paid for all of that. Well, the US tax payers did so... thanks! We stayed the night in Juneau and got on the next boat to take us to Whittier. Another two or three days. Whittier is about 45 miles from Anchorage. If you get up there, ride to Whittier. It's awesome. Anyways, on the boat, they were chaining the cars to the deck. My wife asked why and noted that they didn't chain cars down on the last boat. This rough looking guy said that we were going to be in the Gulf of Alaska and the waters were rough as hell and on and on. My wife wanted to get off the boat. But there's no driving option from Juneau of course. I assured her that guy was full of shit and that we'd be fine.

    Well, the last night on the boat, this storm caught us out there in the middle of the night. It was SCARY. We work up to waves thundering over the boat and it's a BIG boat. It sounded like I-beams bending and rivets popping to me. We were getting tossed up and down and rolling all over the place. Our room was right next to the public bathroom and there were people in there barfing all night. I could hear cars and chains banging back and forth on the deck below. I went up to the observation deck which was 50 or 60 feet off the water and had some very thick glass all around. It was dark in there and people were sleeping on the floor and rolling around. I walked up to the glass and they had these really bright lights shining out in front of the boat. We'd crest a wave and the boat would pitch over down into the trough of the next wave. But it looked like a gigantic wall of water coming at you. The front of the boat would slam into that wave and the whole thing would shudder and groan. The water came all the way up and slammed into the glass. I could feel it in my chest. I remember wishing I'd have just stayed in bed and not seen that. That went on for a couple of hours and it finally settled down. That next morning, I asked this lady at the purser desk in there who was about 150 years old and told me she'd been on those boats for like 35 years doing that job. I asked her on a scale of 1 to 10, how bad were the waves last night? She told me a three, maybe a four tops. That was all I needed to hear. I don't want to be on there for what she would call a 10. Not riding that ever again!
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  16. gpfan

    gpfan a mari usque ad mare

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    "It might say that on the website today because that's what's current today. Will change on August 9th. I was looking into this too. I think you'll be good to go on the 9th! Fingers crossed for you. I absolutely LOVE Alaska and Canada."

    I think you shall find too, yamalama loves Canada.
    ;)
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  17. ozmoses

    ozmoses persona non grata

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    I like it! :thumb
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  18. ozmoses

    ozmoses persona non grata

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    From that same page:

    Clear now?
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  19. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    We rode through Seattle up through BC and the Yukon to Alaska and considered the ride through Canada the highlight of the trip. Alaska is great but the scenery and riding up the Cassier Highway (side trip down to Stewart on 37A) to Watson Lake and the Alcan over through Whitehorse and up in to Alaska was spectacular.
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  20. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

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    the Canadian border guards threaten to strike.
    slated to implement job action Aug 6.
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