Alaska 2021 - We're Goin' For it!

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

  1. inverted

    inverted Berwyn rocks

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Mile Zero, Mackenzie Hwy
    Great report, thanks for posting! I've stayed at the Casa Loma in Porter Creek, the owner was very welcoming and treated us great. I was in Dawson Creek at the Mile Zero monument just a few days before you. Snapped a photo of the spot you put your decal...

    20210808_155318 (2).jpg
    JeepDawg, donnh, yamalama and 2 others like this.
  2. inverted

    inverted Berwyn rocks

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Mile Zero, Mackenzie Hwy
    The same sign in 2017, not a single decal on it. 235895276_2179981628821056_2007686017030011736_n (2).jpg
    donnh likes this.
  3. Bigbob1

    Bigbob1 Rain Rider Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,182
    Location:
    Juneau Alaska
    Sorry, with everyone trying to rush a trip in before winter and it's the time of year that all the snowbirds head south lodging will be tight.
    A bit further south You might try Coal River Lodge and RV 250-776-7306 They have new owners that are remodeling the rooms.
    idea man and gpfan like this.
  4. jathkajoe

    jathkajoe Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    432
    Location:
    E WA
    Boya Lake provincial campground about 65 miles south on The Cassiar is a nice place if you're tenting.
    knight, gpfan and Bigbob1 like this.
  5. idea man

    idea man Remote Plate Spinner Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,150
    Location:
    North Coast -California
    On our trip a while back, we too did a tire change at the Honda shop in WH. They were very accommodating. I wonder if Jon still works there.
    Air Force Lodge is a great call. Too bad there was no room at the inn.
    Did you happen to take a picture of the back side of the Arctic Circle sign? Last time we were there, they had just cleaned off the stickers.
    Really enjoying the ride report. As others have said, thank you for taking us along. Stay safe.
  6. donnh

    donnh Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    384
    Location:
    Near Seattle
    The Ride South....
    We were at the top of Atigun Pass on the morning of August 19, 2021. A full 10 days after crossing into Canada near Vancouver, BC. It was close to freezing at the 4,739 foot high point even at 11:00 AM. We got a late start waiting for the temps to rise into the 40's but we would learn to regret that decision later. It was cold, but the clear sky made for beautiful scenery. The road was fairly easy to ride on but became frozen towards the top. Not super slippery, but we needed to pay attention on the loaded bikes with worn TKC70s.

    [​IMG]

    We took a few more pictures and officially started our journey home.

    [​IMG]

    We rode the 70 miles back to Coldfoot to fill our tanks and get breakfast before continuing 250 miles to Fairbanks. We would have liked to continue on to Prudhoe Bay but the weather forecast was for continuous rain for the next few days. We didn't like the idea of crossing the pass again going south in rain and certain snow. Before leaving Coldfoot we searched online for a hotel in Fairbanks. Yikes, everything was full... Google - nothing, Booking- nothing, Hotels.com - nothing. Finally I tried to take advantage of my IHG membership and search for a Holiday Inn and bingo. There was a hotel in a Fairbanks suburb called Fort Wainwright - yes! We booked it online and I didn't have to worry all day about where we would spend the night. After the last few days at the Coldfoot camp and the FireWeed a Holiday Inn sounded like just the ticket.

    We left Coldfoot in good spirits with clear skies and looking forward to the ride.

    [​IMG]

    Had to leave a sticker above the window at the Coldfoot restaurant.

    [​IMG]

    Once again, our constant companion was the pipeline, we stopped for a few pictures.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Took a few helmet cam pictures, nice road and just a few clouds forming.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    When we got to Yukon Crossing we fueled up, left a sticker on the tank and I downed a Rockstar drink, it was going to be a long day.

    [​IMG]

    The bikes were dirty but all in all not too bad, we've seen worse...

    [​IMG]

    That was the last picture I took for the day because it started raining and things got tough.....
    We arrived in Fairbanks after riding 400 miles with the last 200 in steadily increasing rain. It was cold, in the 40's and the wind was picking up. Once I was within cell range I directed Google Maps to take me to the Holiday Inn in the suburb of Ft. Wainwright. Yea, right..... Why did the road have a military style gate with armed guards? We stopped and double checked, yes, this was the right road so cold, tired, and not knowing what else to do we rode to the gate to ask about the Holiday Inn. We were told the hotel was on the base and we would need permission to enter. To get that, we would need to go to the visitor center and apply for a pass. Hmmm, ok. So back on the bikes in a pretty steady rain for a detour to the other side of the base in Fairbanks traffic. We found the "visitor center", it looked like a converted shipping container with a door and one desk inside. We both went in with our required masks on to plead our case. We stood inside dripping wet and leaving puddles on the floor while the guard made a bunch of phone calls. I'll skip the details but after about a half hour of trying we couldn't get in.

    We both pulled out our cell phones and started calling and searching for a room, trying every angle. Nothing, nothing and more nothing. By this time it was 7:30PM, we hadn't eaten anything since breakfast at Coldfoot, we were cold and wet and tired after 400+ miles of riding. For some reason about that time a thought popped into my foggy mind... the warmth of the crazy Fireweed Roadhouse in Nenana. I checked, it was 70 miles away. About another hour in the rain if we rode fast. I asked Deby and she shrugged, we didn't seem to have a choice so I called our friend Robin at the Fireweed... yes, she had one room left!

    Screw it, lets ride! It was almost funny as we zipped up our soaked gear and put on our foggy helmets for another run in the rain. About halfway we passed a liquor store - oh yea, beer! Deby volunteered to run in while I stayed with the bikes. She came out with a 6 pack of potent IPA and a big bottle of Whisky! Oh yea, love that girl.

    It was almost 9:30 when we arrived, tired, cold, wet and hungry. Robin had dinner waiting for us and we drank beer and shared the Whisky with Robin and a few other patrons at the bar. Yea, I'm not sure why there is a bar but you have to bring your own booze... I didn't ask.

    Robin cooked up a nice hot meal with what she could find in the kitchen. There was a couple sitting next to us getting the same meal, I noticed all the plates had Caesar salad as a side. Funny, that was the same premix bag of salad I bought when we were there a few days ago that she didn't use. Ha, glad to have it.

    Total miles for the day: 485

    On to Wasilla.

    I sort of hoped we could have ridden the Old Denali Highway (8) from Cantwell to Paxson and then to Tok but we needed to stop in Wasilla for a Covid test in order to get back into Canada. At the Fireweed I was back on my phone looking for lodging in Wasilla, and guess what... nothing. Everything was full, and I mean everything. One place kept popping up, the Meier Lake Resort normally about a $200 place but the last minute price was over $400.... arrrg. Screw it, I booked it online to have a place to stay.

    South we rode... in the rain.

    [​IMG]

    More wet and cold, we were getting used to it.

    [​IMG]

    We got to Wasilla early enough to get in line at the Covid test place, an old abandoned Sears parking lot. The rain let up for a few minutes as we waited in line.

    [​IMG]

    It actually only took about 45 minutes before we were subjected to swabs up our nostrils.

    [​IMG]

    With that done we rode the short distance to the swanky Meier Lake Resort. Nice place but.... no restaurant. Dang.

    [​IMG]

    Dinner consisted of trail mix and a couple of fig bars washed down with an IPA we had left over and whisky in plastic cups. Oh, yea, true ADV style for us.
    We had a patch of sun to enjoy the property before the rain came back with a vengeance and we retreated to the lodge where we sipped our drinks next to a big wood fire in the fireplace.

    [​IMG]

    On to Tok Junction.....

    Strange thing, we woke up to clear skies! I went online and easily found lodging for the night at the Tok RV Village where we booked a cabin for two nights. Soon we were on the Glenn Highway for a spectacular day of riding. On our way into Alaska we rode the same highway in the rain and didn't see a thing because of the clouds but this day was different. Clear and dry with glacier views all along the way.

    [​IMG]

    Nice roads, beautiful mountain views.

    [​IMG]

    Even the mighty F800GS was happy.

    [​IMG]

    The Tok Cutoff road was just as spectacular with the Wrangell mountains on our right.

    [​IMG]

    We stopped for a snack along the way.

    [​IMG]

    Finally arriving under clear skies at our cabin for two nights while we waited for our Covid results.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Crazy thing..... Tok was almost a ghost town. The Tok RV Village is a HUGE campground with about 100 sites, there were about 4 campers. We were the only people in the cabins. The other places in town looked about as empty. I talked to the owner of the place and he said the road is his lifeblood but with the border closures and Covid nobody is going through Tok. I haven't been to Tok in 40 years but I'm guessing it's usually a lot busier.

    We stayed two days and had our first day off the bikes in nearly two weeks, it felt great. I got caught up on this Ride Report and we rested and did a desperately needed load of laundry. We walked to Fast Eddies restaurant for all our meals - there were people there but it wasn't very busy. The food was - hoo hum. It didn't matter, we got our Covid test results that showed we were healthy and soon headed to the border. Oh, we found out the day before someone setup a mobile Covid test trailer with a suitable test for Canada. If I would have known we would have skipped Wasilla but then we would have missed the nice ride on the Glenn Highway. Hmmm, it all worked out.

    On August 23rd we crossed the border without incident and were starting to feel get-home-itus. We decided to ride 393 miles to Whitehorse. I searched online for hotels and everything was pretty full but I managed to score a room using Hotels.com at the Canadas Best Value Inn River Hotel. I also called ahead and had some tires reserved at the Honda dealer.

    The weather was cool with on and off sprinkles and clouds, by this time we were just putting in miles.

    [​IMG]

    We took a break at a place called Destruction Bay so Deby could search for more rocks.

    [​IMG]

    When we arrived in Whitehorse it started raining and we went to check into Canadas Best hotel.... ummm. WHAT A DUMP.

    Look, we've travelled extensively in Latin America on motorcycles and I'm not that picky about hotels, really. One of my favorite stays was a mud hut in Bolivia. This place looked super sketchy. Homeless people were all over the parking lot, the lobby was a mess with warning signs about "no guests in rooms", and the place looked in general disrepair. We went into "Mexico mode" where one stays with the bikes while the other goes in to secure the room. Interestingly I was told there was a problem with our reservation and they didn't have a room. What? I had my paid reservation and confirmation number but she wouldn't budge. There was no room. Geesh, so we got on the bikes and rode to a safer location and started calling. Deby went inside one nearby hotel and chatted up the clerk who called ahead to the Casa Loma hotel, yes they had rooms. She gave me a number to call and a gruff woman answered, "yea we have a room, check in at the bar, oh and there is a $300 deposit required." Ok...

    [​IMG]

    The bar was hopping with locals and a few Harley bikers which was actually fine with me. We got checked in and found the room appeared to be recently remodeled and not too bad. I did get some time to hang out with the Harley guys and talk about motorcycles, always fun and since I've owned a few Harleys in the day and grew up near the Harley plant in Milwaukee I had some street cred. Universally bikers are bikers and there is always a certain brotherhood. I love it. Odd thing, I talked to another guest who said he got the last room. Really? It didn't look full, I wonder what was going on.

    [​IMG]

    We asked about food but were told the kitchen had a fire and was closed down, try the gas station down the street. We went for a walk, fortunately, the gas station restaurant was closed so we hiked down the road a little further to Whiskey Jacks Pub and Grill. Oh yea! We had the best burger of the trip and a couple of local beers. We came back happy and settled in for an early night. We had appointments at 8:30 for new tires.

    We had a plan. Tires in the morning and then on to Watson Lake. I went online for yet another search for hotels and everything was full. Really? Again? Nothing? I finally gave up, the weather was getting a little warmer so if we had to we could camp.

    As expected, I would be faster to get four tires installed if I removed the wheels myself. No problem just point me to a corner of the parking lot.

    [​IMG]

    It's funny with all the weight on the back, the rear wheel was off the ground when on the center stand so I started with the back tires.

    [​IMG]

    When it came time for the fronts I found an ingenious way to prop up the bikes.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Sooo, because I know everyone wants to know. I took off the TKC70s that had just over 5,000 miles. I forgot to take a picture of the rear tires but they had huge flat spots and were getting pretty thin. Here is what the fronts looked like.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    We still had 2,000 miles of hard riding to go and I wanted to hit the Cassiar highway. More than a few people told me the road was in rough shape and tears up tires. So, the Honda shop had two sets of MotoZ tires in our size so I decided to be safe and go with it.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I've used MotoZ tires before on my WR250 and liked the Mountain Hybrids. I tried another version of theirs on my Africa Twin and loved the rear but hated the front. These are called Tractionators GPS, and they seem ok.

    Soon we were on our way to Watson Lake, hoping for a place to stay......

    Ok, this entry is getting a little long so I'll stop here and wrap up the trip soon. Thanks for following!
    Donn and Deby
    River Rat, MTNFSH, DaleE and 13 others like this.
  7. spuh

    spuh Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,469
    Motels are having a hard time finding workers; they're "full" even though they're only 40 percent occupied. Rooms are sitting empty but dirty.

    Thanks for taking us along with you digitally.

    If the stars align, I'll be headed for Bella Coola on Tuesday, maybe our paths will cross in the Chilcotin.
  8. KC10Chief

    KC10Chief Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    163
    Location:
    Edmond, OK
    Great update! I am running Tractionator GPS tires on my DR650 when I'm not running knobbies. They're great! I think you'll like them.
  9. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town... Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,709
    Location:
    Here and there... but more there than here
    Agree with @KC10Chief regarding the Tractionator GPS tires. Great grip, even in rain and mud, much better than you would expect off road, and they last forever even when loaded on rough routes. I’ve put on three rears and still working on my second front on my F800GSA. Rears have lasted me 8, 9, and 6000 miles (not sure why the last one didn’t go quite the distance the other two did) and the first front 12000. Current front is at 7000 and still more than half the tread left.
    CavReconSGT likes this.
  10. Dan Lorenze

    Dan Lorenze Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Ventura County, California
    I also had the MotoZ GPS's on my bike for Alaska, they wear like iron and performed well. No problems.
  11. donnh

    donnh Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    384
    Location:
    Near Seattle
    Thanks for the tire reports, yes I like them so far and will probably look at adding a set on my next bike... More on that later :)
  12. JeepDawg

    JeepDawg Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Oddometer:
    2,316
    Location:
    Famous Potatoes
    LOL, In 2018 there were stickers
    20180614_130603.jpg
    Great ride report!
    inverted likes this.
  13. donnh

    donnh Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    384
    Location:
    Near Seattle
    New tires on the bikes and by noon we were blasting East on the Alaska Highway towards Watson Lake wondering if we would finally give the camping gear a workout since all the hotels seemed to be full. We were planning to ride the Cassier Highway south so as we approached the turnoff before Watson Lake we started looking for gas and a place to stay. That's when we came across this place.

    [​IMG]

    Let's see... gas - check, food - check, 4-star cabins - double check!

    We parked in front of a "Harleys Only" parking sign. There was an older gentleman sitting by the sign having a smoke. We took off our helmets and I made some smart-ass jokes about the Harley parking zone and asked if we should move. Deby, who is much more diplomatic than I caught something and asked if this was his place. "Yep, 27 years" he responded. Great, would he have room for some wise ass ADV riders? He said he would check and made a phone call. "Yep, we can fit you into cabin number 1." Whoo hoo!
    [​IMG]

    Do you have beer? "Yep, not much of a selection though." Found out they only sell 8-packs, ok we would rough it.

    [​IMG]

    Do you have food? "Yep, what time do you want to eat?" Ummm, how about 6:30? The restaurant looked closed but maybe it opened later? We arrived on time at 6:30 and our host, David, instructed us to have a seat anywhere. We weren't in the restaurant but in the lobby where there were a couple of tables. Ok, we sat by the window while he sat at the table next to us watching the Discovery Channel on the big TV behind our backs. "What would you like?" he said without getting up. It seemed like the best response was a question - "what do you have?" "Well, the ribs are good." "Ok, we'll have the ribs." David slowly got up and made his way to the kitchen where we heard some clanging and beeping of what sounded like a microwave oven. Deby and I looked at each other not sure what to expect. A short while later he came out with two plates of ribs with sauce and mashed potatoes and gravy. No beverages. I probably should have ran back for two of the Molsons but asked for water instead. "We don't have water." Huh? "You can buy a bottle from the fridge." Ok then, I got up and grabbed a bottle of water that we shared with dinner.

    What happened next was not expected. Wow, the ribs were fantastic! We looked at each other in amazement, the sauce was perfect. We tasted the mashed potates and they were just as good with the best gravy we've had in a while. We turned and looked at David at the next table watching TV. We let him know how amazed we were and he went into a story that people come from all around for his ribs and is often complimented. Deby commented that it may have been the best meal on the trip, it just might have been. I was full but noticed some homemade pie in the cooler. I thought if the ribs are that good the pie must be even better - and it was!

    [​IMG]

    So, interesting place. A couple more cars came in during the evening so by my count three cabins were used. I'm pretty sure we were the only restaurant guests that night. We went for a walk around the campground and it looked empty. I saw this interesting thing.

    [​IMG]

    On the way out we noticed a for-sale sign by the road. It looked to me like the one-man operation was looking for some new life. There was no WiFi or cell service so we were cut off from outside world communications. I thought maybe that is why this place didn't show up in any of my searches. Who knows. The lack of internet access meant no looking for hotel reservations further down the road, that would prove to be a problem.

    The restaurant/lobby wasn't open for breakfast so we made coffee in the room and then used the coffee pot to make hot water for our camp oatmeal we brought. It was ok. We didn't drink all the beer so we found room for it in our panniers along with the diminishing bottle of Whisky. We were on the bikes early and ready for the Cassier we heard so much about. It started to rain.

    So, it's probably a nice ride if there was something to look at but all we saw was clouds. We did stop at this place.

    [​IMG]

    As usual Deby loved the rocks but these were just too big to add to her already large pannier rock collection.

    [​IMG]

    This was our only bear sighting for the day.

    [​IMG]

    I didn't take too many pictures but here is one that pretty much summed it up.

    [​IMG]

    We stopped at a gas station/grocery store that had a "deli" in the back. Had the worst grilled ham and cheese sandwich ever...

    [​IMG]

    We decided to skip Stewart because if the increasing rain and just kept going south wondering where to stay. We had been out of cell service for almost two days so there was not way to do an online hotel search. We came into cell range in Kitwanga and I started making calls and searching - nothing. We drove past hotels looking for ones that might not be online and they were either closed or had no-vacancy signs. We finally stopped in Hazleton at the only open restaurant we could find. We went in and they only had take-out. Arrg. Deby ordered a sandwich and I ordered fish and chips, trying to order something that would travel in our panniers. While inside, Deby talked with a local who said we would not have any luck with hotels due to all the construction workers in town. She recommended riding 5 miles into Old Hazleton on the reservation where there was a city campground.

    So, there we were after riding 487 miles in the rain, standing in the parking lot, in the rain, waiting for another crummy meal, nowhere to stay... when... my phone messages came to life. My family had been trying to reach me for days - my father died.


    Every ride has it's high a low points, clearly that was a low point. We jammed the soggy food into our wet panniers and went in search of the campground. We arrived and it didn't look too bad and maybe half full. Nobody was around for us to register so we set up out tent, in the rain and climbed in with our soggy meal.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As campsites go, this wasn't bad. We purposely camped near the wash house so we could easily run out for water if needed. Inside our tent we took inventory. We had four left over beers and about a fifth of Whisky. We sat inside and finished it all off toasting my dad.

    [​IMG]

    I though we had some get-home-itus before but it was in full swing now. I checked the map and it was 424 miles to Williams Lake, we called ahead and got a room at the same hotel where we stayed on our way north. It rained the whole time.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Williams Lake - across the border and home, another 430 miles. On and off rain in the morning and then started to clear. We were in full speed riding mode thankful for the good tires as we passed semis in the rain. A miracle happened just after we crossed into the US at the Blaine border crossing, the sun came out and for the first time in the whole trip my motorcycle thermometer clicked above 70 degrees.

    The mighty BMWs made it home and so did we.....

    [​IMG]

    Total trip 6742 miles, 19 days. Whew!

    So, we're home and will be spending the next weeks dealing with family issues. I hope to have an epilogue post to this ride report when I get a chance. It's been fun, I haven't done an advrider RR in ages and I loved having the feedback and suggestions. Thanks to everyone for following and I hope maybe this RR was informative for anyone wanting to ride to Alaska!

    Donn and Deby
    www.ADVdonnh.com
  14. CavReconSGT

    CavReconSGT Just the right amount of evil. Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,913
    Location:
    CT/NH
    Great trip report. Thanks and sorry to hear about your dad.

    Regards,
    KR
    GringoRider likes this.
  15. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    3,547
    Location:
    north vancouver bc
    condolences.
    thx for the great report. lotsa perseverance on your part, well done!
    gpfan likes this.
  16. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town... Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,709
    Location:
    Here and there... but more there than here
    Very sorry about your father.

    Excellent adventure otherwise!
  17. Hollyr

    Hollyr Vesterislendingur Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,720
    Location:
    YYJ
    Sorry about your dad. The ride report was great! Thank you for taking the time to do it.
  18. Delta_Rider

    Delta_Rider Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2021
    Oddometer:
    18
    Location:
    Western Colorado
    This has been a great report to follow. I find myself looking daily to see if there has been any updates. Thank you for taking the time to put it together. Sorry about your dad though. Best wishes to your family.
  19. Dan Lorenze

    Dan Lorenze Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Ventura County, California
    I really enjoyed your ride report, I too have a love for riding motorcycles and enjoying celebratory beers afterwards. I'm so sorry to hear about your Fathers passing, my sincerest condolences to you and your family. Take care
  20. inverted

    inverted Berwyn rocks

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Mile Zero, Mackenzie Hwy
    Was this the HD you met on the Dalton? He is in a facebook group I belong to, he just posted this today after getting back home to St.Louis from Deadhorse.

    [​IMG]