Alaska to Baja on a destroyed WR250R and a less destroyed DR650

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by PNWParker, May 20, 2019.

  1. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Alaska > Argentina

    I had mine rebuild with a stiffer spring before I left, but I think it’s still too much weight. I’m going to try to comb through my gear and lighten things up when I start heading south so hopefully I’ll be in good shape.
    #21
    Oh2RideMore and Balanda like this.
  2. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    26,176
    Location:
    Pittsburgh PA
    :lurk
    #22
  3. SparkyYP

    SparkyYP Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2018
    Oddometer:
    58
    Location:
    Canada
    Good luck from one Parker to another!! I'll be heading south from Canada around November!
    #23
    roadcapDen likes this.
  4. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Alaska > Argentina
    OK folks. This is a bit of a doosy. I really need to get better at editing this stuff down haha. Here we go, from where I left off.


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    The next day Shawn and I visited the animation studio he works for (and I occasionally freelance for) and rode around Vancouver. We stopped at a motorcycle cafe that turned out to be closed and stopped in a Home Depot across the street to use the bathroom. I couldn’t think of anything I needed from there but remarked that in about 3 days I’d probably be kicking myself for not picking up something to fix some unforeseen problem. I was correct.

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    We said our goodbyes and I headed to the ferry terminal. The lines of cars waiting for the terminal were long, but bikes get moved to the front. I stood in the sun, tinkering with things in my tank bag when an old man approached me and struck up a conversation. His name was Mario (maybe ya’ll know him!) and he was very interested in what I was up to. I told him my plans and his eyes lit up as he began recounting his own motorcycle adventures of his youth. He had ridden most of the America’s and in Africa with his wife 40 years ago and told me of his successes and mishaps. AND he still goes on trips! Soon the ferry had arrived and Mario retreated to his van and I threw a leg over our bikes and boarded the ferry. I put blocks under my bike to prevent a mid-cruise tip over and b-line for the cafeteria. The prices were steep but I was starving from having skipped lunch. I wandered up to the top deck to take in the views of the bay and chatted with a BMW rider for a while at the front of the boat. Mario found us again and we exchanged some more stories about break downs and adventures.

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    I had downloaded the TCAT GPX tracks for Vancouver island and rode to the south end of the island to find some dirt roads. The island is very similar to that of the rest of the Pacific Northwest and the forest roads didn’t disappoint. Feeling adventurous I saw a challenging looking spur off the main trail and took off up it, ready for a thrill. The trail was littered with washed out sections, ruts and rocky climbs. Having the bags on the bike made the rear heavier and the front wheel lifted easily over obstacles. The trail became more overgrown from lack of use and as it was getting late, it seemed wise to turn back to the plotted course and start searching for a campsite. I turned up a steep gravel road and felt the rear tire lock up and I came down hard. Confused I looked back and saw my two top bags were wedged between the fender and the rear tire.

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    The connection point of my left bag had snapped and it had pulled the top bags down, ripping both dry bags and breaking a mirror in the process. I’d fallen many times on the WR and picked it up with ease, but on a steep hill and loaded with luggage, it was a struggle to get it upright. I eventually stood it up and rescued my tattered luggage. My confidence in my bike setup was down and I felt a foul mood setting in. As i followed the forest roads, every pothole, bump and loose section of gravel was a potential chance that my bag would fail again and I’d be pitched into the dirt. I frequently stopped to check the bags and tug on the straps just to put my mind at ease.

    I found a campground on Cowichan lake around 8pm and found a secluded spot with a picnic table and set up camp for the night with daylight to spare. It was my first night alone on the trip. I set myself to the work of preparing dinner and methodically packing things back up as I went along. As dusk gave way to night I lay in my tent, desperate not to think about my problems and distracted myself by rereading a book I’d already read twice. My life was on unfamiliar ground and it was comforting to sink into a story I already knew well.

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    The next morning I decided to focus on finding a new mirror. There were motorcycle shops on the east side of the island and the mission to find a replacement made it necessary to take paved roads. I told myself I was riding pavement because it was necessary to replace the mirror, but yesterday’s mishap had shaken me and I wasn’t eager to get back to the dirt roads where something else could fail. But my search was in vain. I found a few unsatisfactory replacements and ended up not buying anything. Having wasted half the day I was feeling more confident about getting back to the forest roads but had to stay on the pavement to make up for lost time. I rode pavement into Port Alberni and stopped for lunch before picking up the TCAT again, heading north. It was late enough in the day that the logging roads were clear of trucks, but the sections of clear cut forest left the roads fully exposed to the sun, baking them into dry, chalky hard pack with jagged gravel. After a few hours of hot, dusty roads I stopped at a Canadian tire to buy some zip ties to secure my tool roll that was behind my left bag. In the crash it had loosened and was rubbing the rear tire when the suspension fully compressed. I found a clean campground just outside the town or Campbell River and set up camp.

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    In the morning I went about my business of making coffee and oatmeal and breaking down camp and spent a long time writing messages to people back home. The camper across from me had come in in the middle of the night and made a ton of noise parking his trailer. I saw he was smoking and walked over to bum a cigarette (I know I shouldn’t, don’t judge me). He gladly handed one over and told me about his woman troubles without me even asking. He said he was sleeping with a woman he thinks is married. They meet every Thursday night between 11 and 2 in motels and had been doing so for years. I figured he was right about her being married but just shrugged and just said “that’s crazy, man.” I told him I was having woman trouble too and he leaned towards me in his rusted metal lawn chair and said “when you have woman troubles, just find you another one. It’s that simple.” I’d rather step in front of a bus than take relationship advice from this guy, but given my situation, who was I to judge. I nodded an insincere agreement and put out my bummed cigarette on my boot and thanked him.

    I didn’t have it in me to get back on the wide, dusty logging roads with their loose jagged rocks and washboard surface. I didn’t want to spend any more time looking at the far off mountains through a grim, decimated forest. I looked at the map and a small town to the north named Woss connected to the TCAT and I figured it was far enough north to be less touched by logging. I followed the inland highway north, and eventually made it to Woss. What I though would be a town turned out to be a run down gas station and an even more run down motel and cafe. The sign out front advertised sushi. I was intrigued by what sort of bastardized attempt at sushi this sad little roadside motel could produce, but I figured it was best not to temp fate. It was 3:00 and inside the cafe, two scrawny, leathery old men sat at the bar. One eating breakfast and the other drinking whisky. They looked me over with curiosity but showed no sign of hostility toward me. I cautiously waded into conversation with them, and found them to be lovely people. The woman behind the counter asked if I voted for the “Cheeto man” and they all turned to me waiting for a reply. I was relieved that she had openly mocked our president and felt like I was safe to let a little of my liberal nature show around them. I said “absolutely not” and she sneered, “well then who’d you vote for?! Hillary?!” putting a nasty emphasis on her name. This was already not going well. “Well yea, what choice did I have?” I said, hoping that would make me seem reasonable in their eyes. They nodded and raise their brows in a way that said “yea, he’s got a point.” and I once again felt accepted. I ordered a burger and coffee and our conversation flowed from their small town troubles to comparing American and Canadian politics. They praised Canada’s social programs but were envious of America’s self defense laws. They wistfully wished they could murder a home invader in the same tone that my mom talks about wanting to travel to Italy. If only I could see Tuscany. If only I could shoot a man in my yard. I liked them though. Overall, they were honest and kind. I payed my bill and left them to it.

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    I headed towards the dirt roads again. There was still some clear cut areas but they were few and far between. The mountains I had seen from a distance we’re now close, towering over the tree line. I came around a bend and was briefly startled by the sight of a black bear down the road. It heard me coming and bolted into the woods in a panic. I cursed myself for not having my camera on to catch it and found a spot to stop and change the battery in my GoPro, constantly looking around for a hungry, sneaky bear that didn’t exist. As I continued I saw 3 more bears dart to the woods and once again managed to not get any of them on camera.

    As I headed north, the forest got denser and the mountains taller. I came to Atluck Lake and was floored by its beauty. The mostly vacant campgrounds lined a sandy beach at the south edge of the lake. The views of the mountains and lake looked like a landscape painter’s wet dream. It was still early in the day so I reluctantly kept riding letting this slice of paradise shrink in my one remaining rear view mirror.

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    I stopped at a pull off for something called “the devil’s bathtub. From the observation deck at the side of it, the view was blocked by a few large trees so I couldn’t get a decent picture of it. It was a deep, dark pool of water surrounded by a sheer cliff on one side and dense forest on the other. I wondered what kind people name places like this. I imaged an old, superstitious prospector peering over the edge, his imagination running wild, trying to reason out the existence of such a formation.

    It was getting late and I wanted to make it to another campground on Alice Lake before dusk. I flew down the dirt roads a little faster than I was comfortable with. The gravel road tilted down and I was barreling towards a sharp left hand turn with loose gravel. I panicked a little and locked my rear wheel trying to slow down and augered the front wheel into the deep gravel and went over the front of bike, into the dirt. The bike and I were fine, and I was relieved I hadn’t landed in one of the many piles of bear shit that dot the roads in the area. There’s so much bear shit on the roads here that I wondered if it was their way of protesting man encroaching on their forests.

    Even though the WR is a light bike, picking it up when it’s loaded with luggage is tough. It gives me more respect for people who do this kind of thing on heavy BMWs. I passed another signpost for the “Eternal fountain”, but picking up the bike had zapped my energy and I figured, with and name like that, it’s surely still be there in the morning. At Alice lake I found a spot on a rocky beach next to a mountain fed creek. These views over the water were lovely but didn’t match the grandeur of Atluck lake. The wind asserted its dominance over the lake, pushing small waves onto the shore and singing its low, soothing tune through the trees. There was a grim looking, vault toilet in the bushes. The doorless green shack leaned to the side. It had certainly seen some shit and I decided it best to hold it, rather than adding to it’s already hard life.

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    I was getting ripe from riding every day and camping every night without a shower and risked a quick bath in the freezing water of the lake. I refilled my filtering water bottle in the creek and laid my riding pants on my bike to dry out over night. The next morning i woke up to rain and my pants were halfway soaked through despite being waterproof. It was cold and wet so I didn’t bother pulling out the stove to make coffee and oatmeal and instead ate some flour tortillas and peanut butter and chased it with cool, fresh water from the stream.

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    I packed camp quickly and rode on through the winding forest roads and arrived in Port Hardy just after noon. The small port town had a weary air about it. It was a place that thousands of people passed through but hardly any ever stayed long. Lunch options were slim so i settled on an A&W that was attached to a small pawn shop. Desperate looking people went into the pawn shop holding various items they had less use for than cold hard cash and came out with meager wads of money. I felt paranoid leaving my bike unattended and found a spot inside the restaurant where I could crouch down a bit and see the bike just past a sign. I felt a little ashamed about feeling like I had to watch the bike. These people were poor and desperate, but that didn’t mean they were thieves.

    I considered continuing the TCAT north but I was tired and and finding a place to shower and do laundry in Port Hardy was the sensible choice. First I had to secure passage on the ferry for the following day. The website showed a ferry leaving at 6pm but there was no option to purchase a ticket. It seemed best to ride down to the terminal and make my plea for passage in person. I walked into the main office, interrupting a staff meeting, but they didn’t mind. I told them I was trying to book a ferry and they all laughed. They knew something I didn’t and I could tell they were pleased to feel a little superiority over the lone, senseless traveler that had just wandered through their door. The waiting list for the ferry was 40 cars long already, the maximum they could enter into the system. They wrote my name on the end of the list by hand and sent me off with the cautious optimism that there was a chance they could squeeze in a bike, even if the ferry was full.

    I rode off searching for a place to stay the night and get cleaned up. There were rows of clean, modern log cabins along the road to the ferry, but the price for their luxury was too high for my budget. I found a run down campground that offered dollar laundry and cold showers, but the sites were packed tightly and I could imagine being overrun in the night by the rats that likely made the overgrown brush around the campground their home.

    I continued back into town and spotted a building with “hostel” on the side and pulled in to take a look. The “open” sign was off but people were mulling around and the owner came down and gave me a tour of the hostel. It was early in the season and they were still cleaning and getting the place set up. It seemed like I’d have the entire place to myself so I chose a bunk in the men’s dorm room. The twin mattress were covered in plastic underneath the sheets and my feet hung off the end, but it was relatively comfortable and the hot showers and laundry sold me on the place. I stood in the shower with the hot water turned all the way up until I couldn’t stand it anymore and scrubbed off the last week of sweat and grime. With dust and dirt washed off my face I discovered I was developing a sunburn on my cheeks and nose. The rest of me, covered with helmet, and riding gear was still pasty white. My ex had always insisted that I wear sun screen every day, but I always forgot to and now was no different. I washed all my clothes including my riding jacket and pants. The buttons and buckles made an incredible racket in the machines, but I didn’t know when I’d have another chance to clean them.

    After a while, 2 more travelers showed up. One was a tall, barrel chested logger and the other a scrawny 19 year old German who was on his gap year. The logger was friendly but quickly got lost in his phone, scrolling through social media and watching random videos on Facebook.

    The German, named Ole, was quiet and humble, not something you see often in Americans at his age. He was also planning on catching the ferry to prince Rupert the next day. On his gap year, he had traveled around Canada, picking up small jobs here and there when he could. He was heading to the Yukon with the plan to catch up with a friend that had a car and find some kind of work while he was up there, but he had no idea what the Yukon was like and didn’t have the faintest idea what kind of work he would find, if any. Someone had once told him there were jobs to be had there and in his blind, youthful optimism, that’s all he needed to make the journey north.

    Back in the dorm, the logger wedged his phone in the rails holding up the bunk above him so he could watch videos hands-free. I got as comfortable as I could on my small, plastic covered mattress, but before I could fall asleep the logger began rattling the walls with his loud, cartoonish snoring. His phone was still wedged in the bed frame above his face, autoplaying videos on Facebook and lighting up the room with erratic, strobing light. I missed the soothing tones of the waves breaking on the lake and the wind through the leaves. Hostel dorms would be a necessity at times on this trip, but if they’re anything like this I was sure I’d be camping as much and possible.

    The next section is gonna cover a lot more ground. I'll try to have that up tomorrow.
    #24
    Foiler, BillUA, Plebeian and 15 others like this.
  5. DCrider

    DCrider Live from THE Hill

    Joined:
    May 7, 2008
    Oddometer:
    7,360
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Atluck Lake, that's an easy one to remember for the future if I'm ever up that way. Great ride, keep the story coming.
    #25
  6. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Alaska > Argentina
    The next day was a slow one. The women at the ferry terminal had told me I had to be there by 3pm if I was to have any hope or boarding. I got to work slowly packing the bike. I was done by 11am and didn’t have the energy to ride out of the city to pass the time, so I busied my self by making sure the tank bag locks were secure. A small padlock would have sufficed to lock the zippers together on the tank bag, but did nothing to prevent the whole thing from walking off. Before the trip I had scoured the internet for cable locks that could run through a zipper pull and came upon locks intended for hand guns. They looked like a normal padlock except instead of a solid metal shackle, they had what looked like miniature flexible metal hoses, coated in black shrink wrap. They metal cable was just thin enough to loop through a zipper pull. One locked the tank bag to the harness and another looped through the first lock and through the main compartment’s zippers. Of course even they dullest thief could just cut the bag open and take its contents, but it’s the “crimes of convenience” I was trying to avoid.


    One of the owners of the hostel, a man who looked to be in his late 60’s came out and we talked about travel and the places he’d been in his youth. Even though he was missing most of his front teeth, he carried himself with confidence and grace and smiled and laughed with a wide, open grin. He kept me entertained with his stories and offered me a complementary cup of coffee. I’ve gotten into the habit of accepting offers of free things, whether or not I need them. Free things are often just as much for the giver as it is for the receiver.


    As 2:30pm rolled around I headed to the ferry terminal. I planned on getting there early and looking as pitiful as possible in hopes they would be more likely to help me out. They recognized me immediately when i walked in and exclaimed “he’s back!!” “I’m back!” I yelled back raising my arms over my head like I was Norm, walking into Cheers for the 300th time. “We have good news!” She yelled in the same cheery tone “I love good news!!” I yelled repeating my ridiculous arm gesture. They had worked out another 10 feet of free space on the boat. Just enough for my bike. I was excited to finally be in the clear and paid the fair, trying to ignore the $340 hole it put in my bank account. I waited by the office and talked with another German man on a bicycle. He was careful not to boast, but eventually I got it out of him that he and been riding for 15 months and had crossed Iran, China and south east Asia. He was planning on riding as much as Canada as he could and then catching a plane to South America to finish out an even two years of travel. He would have cycled through the United States as well, but his visa was denied because he had traveled to Iran.


    Two BMW riders showed up and I walked over right as the older of the two riders was coming back out of the office. We were both wearing riding pants with suspenders and I hooked my thumbs under mine and jauntily snapped them as a way of saying hello. Mike and his son Jeff has rented the BMW’s and were catching the ferry to get to northern BC where they planned a loop up to Hazelton and back down to Vancouver. Mike had been a number of exotic motorcycles trips. He had trained with Raw Hide and joined a group tour from Peru to Ushuaia. He had ridden a Royal Enfield through Nepal and rattled off a few more group tours he’s been on. Mike and Jeff were smart and reserved their passage far in advance and had splurged on two cabins. They offered me a bunk in Jeff’s cabin and I gladly accepted. The alternative would be sleeping out in the open with the rest of the budget passengers, including the obnoxiously loud snoring logger from the hostel.

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    The ferry finally pulled away and I stood on the deck with the BMW riders, watching Vancouver island slowly shrink in the distance, the cool ocean wind threatened to steal my hat. After about 45 minutes on the water the ferry started turning right and I joked that we must be turning around. The ferry continued to turn and we realized it really WAS turning around. A garbled announcement came on over the loud speaker, saying the boat had forgotten some “necessary provisions” and had to return to Port Hardy. Other passengers groaned and we joked that the captain must have forgotten his packed lunch. It was almost 8:00 by the time the ferry started sluggishly pulling away from the harbor the 2nd time. Almost 2 full hours late. It didn’t darken my mood though. I had been lucky to get on the ferry at all and was doubly lucky to wind up with a free bunk. A two hour delay was the drop in the bucket when weighed against the remaining 51 weeks of my trip.

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    Inside I sat and watched the islands go by and the heat of the setting sun radiated through the window. The water started getting rough and the passengers stumbled up and down the isles like a boat full of drunks. Sea sickness started to seep it’s way into my guts. I managed to suppress the nausea, but couldn’t sit still. I wandered the boat and made it to the top deck just after sunset. The water looked dark and angry in the last light of dusk. The mountainous islands were layered with haze and looked like something Bob Ross would paint if he was stricken with deep, dark depression. It was strangely beautiful. I felt a swell of quite euphoria well up inside me. For the first time on the trip, standing alone on the top deck with the frigid night rushing past me, I felt free. I understood the grandeur and vastness of the world around me. The world had a cold wind for me and I stood there and accepted it gladly. The wind is part of the language of the world and I wanted to pay close attention to it.

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    Muffled by the monotonous low tone of the engines, I sang the two verses of a pirate shanty that i knew. It felt appropriate to sing to the wind. Pirate songs are best sung in a group and I wished I had someone to sing along with, but the BMW riders and the Germans were nowhere to be seen so I offered my lone voice to the mountains.


    The bunk cabins were small but comfortable. It was late and I tried to take my motorcycle boots off quietly, but the Velcro closure was loud and I heard Jeff wake up. He would have had the cabin to himself if his father Mike hadn’t offered me a bunk. The bed was small but more comfortable than the plastic covered mattress in the hostel last night. The bunks were perpendicular to the boat and as it lazily steered left and right the momentum subtly tugged me toward the foot of the bed and then back towards the pillow. Not enough to actually shift, but enough to feel the movement. The boat worked away through the night. The massive engines rumbled on and the aluminum and particle board interior quietly creaked its protest of the movement of the boat.

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    Jeff got up around 7am and I considered staying in bed a few more hours, but I was compelled out of bed by the idea of seeing the sunrise over the mountains. At least half of the passengers had disembarked at Bella Bella, while I was asleep in the bunk cabin. There were garbage cans on board, but the main passenger area was still strewn with cups and garbage. I was a little too late to see the sunrise at its most dramatic, but the sun was still low enough in the sky to be obscured by the passing mountains and peek back out through the valleys. It was like the mountains were giving me a second chance to see a sunrise and I appreciated their gift. The islands and mountains stretched out through the channel for miles in front and behind. Every ridge slightly lighter in color from the atmospheric effect until the farthest peaks dissipated into the powdery blue of the sky at the horizon.

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    Mike offered to buy me breakfast and I couldn’t resist a free meal. My budget was still nearly full, but if I kept having $15 ferry meals it wouldn’t stay that way for long. We ate a mediocre meal of eggs, potatoes, sausage and bacon, but flavor is a luxury I was in no position to demand, especially when the meal is free. The ferry crawled up the narrowing passageway and the hours crawled by. It was hard to bring myself to go below deck into the warmth of the interior with such spectacular views outside and the hope of seeing whales or the odd bear mulling around the beaches. The more distant tree covered islands looked like fleece and I imagined what it would feel like to run a god sized hand across their surface.

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    I sat on an equipment crate with the German cyclist on the starboard side of the ship for a while. We talked about travel and vigilantly watch the shores for wildlife, pointing out dark shapes that could be bears but were always rocks or dark amorphous shapes between trees. The ferry arrived at prince Rupert just around 3:00. For a town with “Prince” in the name, it didn’t seem particularly stately. Its shore was dominated by a massive shipping yard and a small marina. We untied our bikes from the posts and railings below deck and I thanked Mike and Jeff for their generosity. We rode off the boat and into town. I wanted to prove the 250 was a viable travel bike compared to their 1200s, so when they easily overtook cars on the 2 lane highway, I rung out every bit of power the 250 had to keep pace. We pulled off at a rest area and took a group photo. It was nice to ride with other riders but I knew I couldn’t keep up with them at this pace. I told them not to slow down on account of me and we said our final goodbyes. Back on the road, Mike took the lead and before long they were tiny specs on the horizon, so I back off on the throttle and slowed my pace to give the 250 a much needed break.

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    I was headed to New Hazelton to pitch my tent in the yard of a rider I found on the ADV rider “tent space” map. Looking at the map I found it odd that all clustered together were the names “Hazelton, South Hazelton and New Hazelton” I imaged some sort of town fued that splintered the town into individual townships. I rolled into town around 7 and found a shirtless man, half buried under the hood of an old rusted pickup truck. I asked him if the knew a guy named Richard that lived around here who rode motorcycles. He pointed down the street and said “I think he’s the guy with the lawn business.” I thanked him and headed down the street. Richard’s house was easy to spot. It was a modest red wood cabin with a handful of old pickups in the gravel driveway. What made his house stand out from the others was an immaculate, lush green lawn, perfectly mowed in straight lines. He heard me coming and was standing in his front doorway when I pulled up in the small space between two trucks. “You found the place!” He called. He eyed me warily at first, but I broke the tension with a joke about being able to spot his lawn from a mile away. His face cracked into a smile and we shook hands and he welcomed me in and told me to make myself at home. A shared interest in motorcycles is just as good of a social lubricant as alcohol. I sat with him while he ate and we discussed some of the things I’d already been through on the trip and he told me about the single track he and his friends had been laying in the forest outside of Terrace. He told me about different places to check out on my way up. I was hoping for tips on back roads that would take me north, but all his suggestions were dead ends that would need to be backtracked. They still sounded fairly promising so I marked them on my map. I went to my tent around 11:30. The day has been unexpectedly hot, but the night was down to 6* celsius. I stayed warm enough with my 0 degree down thermarest blanket and a sleeping bag liner. Before I left the next day we talked a little politics and I joked that when I became the US president and he became the Canadian one, we could reexamine our governments and then mow down Maralago and put in some dirt bike trails. He laughed and it seemed like a good note for me to leave on. We shook hands and I rode off.
    #26
    NSFW, ProLeisure, td63 and 5 others like this.
  7. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Alaska > Argentina
    The first leg of the Cassiar Highway wasn’t particularly awe inspiring. It’s a 2 lane, paved road with very light traffic. Young trees and overgrown brush lined the road, mostly obscuring the snow capped mountains in the distance. After a while I came across another rider who was standing next to his bike in a pull off and I stopped to say hello. As I approached I recognized the model of his bike. He had a Suzuki Burgman 650 scooter. They are terribly ugly machines, covered in bubbly plastic that the designers probably thought looked very futuristic in 2003, but oddly enough I kind of wanted one. For a maxi scooter, 650 was pretty powerful has the typical continuously variable transmission most scooters have. The weird thing is, this mean machine allowed you to “shift gears” by hitting a button that set the belt to specific gear ratios to simulate fixed gears. I had dabbled with the idea of trying to build an ADV scooter a year ago and the Burgman had been the top candidate based purely on the idea that locking the transmission into low gear could prove useful in the dirt.

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    The rider was a man named Andrew in his 70’s. We chatted for a bit while he snacked on a simple ham sandwich and we were both swarmed with flies and mosquitoes. We were headed the same direction and he wanted someone to ride with, so I agreed, mainly to get out of the swarm of insects. We scooted along at a respectable 100kph. He had boasted that he’d gotten up to 150kph on the Burgman, but preferred to stay around 90. We arrived at Meziadin Junction and found it was little more than a gas station and restaurant in what looked like industrial housing. We filled up and popped into the restaurant. The layout of the restaurant was strange. The only door was on the long side of the building, not facing the road. It led to a hallway that passed a blocked off dining area and continued to an office and bathrooms and to the kitchen. I didn’t want to wander into the kitchen so I stepped over the bench blocking the dining area and awkwardly moved a few chairs that were placed like hurdles every 10 feet. I rounded a corner and found a group of bored looking women in an adjoining dining area. I asked if the restaurant was open and they said yes, but no one made a move. Seeing no one else was going to do it, the youngest of them got up and lead me to the kitchen and showed me the menu and wandered off.


    I helped myself to self serve soup, a premade sandwich and coffee. Andrew told me that riding up here was always a dream of his and he was going to visit a friend that owned a gold mine up north who’d been in a car accident. He didn’t seem particularly interested in what I was up to, but I didn’t really mind. He mentioned being on the lookout for other riders to split the cost of hotel rooms, and he seemed to be feeling me out as a candidate, but he was going to continue north and i was planning on heading west to see salmon glacier where I would inevitably hit gravel roads, something he was trying to avoid on his scooter.


    A German came in, and was just as confused as we were when we first entered. The other Germans I’d met so far seemed modest and soft spoken, nothing like the flamboyant stereotype Americans think off when they do a German accent. This German was very much the stereotype. His English was bouncy and he had a high pitch giggle. Andrew immediately turned his attention to the German and started reciting all the anticdotes he had just told me moments earlier. I found this to be a little rude, but we were parting ways anyway, so I just shrugged it off and ate my sandwich. The German was also headed to the glacier, so the old man was out another roommate.


    [​IMG]

    We parted ways and I headed west down 37A. The road dropped down into a valley between snow capped mountains. Dozens of small waterfalls fed the river below. The river was a soft blue-green. The color of unpolished jade. The views were so beautiful I couldn’t help but make regular stops for photographs. I’d seen Bear Glacier on the map, but didn’t think it’d be much to look at. I was wrong, as usual, and it was stunning. Seeing that much ice, winding down out of the mountains and feeling the heat of the afternoon sun confused my senses. Water rushed around the side of the glacier into a wide, calm section of river, but it could melt all summer and still not make a dent in the overall mass of the glacier.



    [​IMG]



    I moved on and headed towards Stewart. The road curved and twisted along the river, and the beautiful views never relented. Stewart was a small, ragged looking town. It’s main street of old western looking buildings were mostly boarded up, but locals made do and went about whatever business they had in the small town.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There was no American boarder checkpoint crossing into Hyder, Alaska. A sign over the road advertised the place as “the friendliest ghost town in Alaska” along with a happy, waiving ghost. It wasn’t wrong. Hyder was smaller and less populated than Stewart. More boarded up, western looking buildings lined the few hundred yards of road that constituted the main street. A service station, general store and souvenir shops all sagged into the weeds, looking like they hadn’t seen a customer since the 50s. I followed signs towards Salmon Glacier and the road turned north. Someone with a dark sense of humor had placed an old bicycle and a pair of boots under a large boulder in a small landslide along the road as an attempt at warning of the dangers of landslides.


    [​IMG]

    The road turned to gravel and eventually gave way to hard packed dirt, almost as smooth as asphalt. The road climbed into the mountains alongside a rushing brownish river, fed by more small waterfalls of snow melt from the peaks above. I came to a pull off where 4 elderly tourists sat at a picnic table snacking on sandwiches. From here you could see the end of the Salmon Glacier. It dwarfed the Bear Glacier that I had marveled at earlier. I stood there sweating in my riding gear, looking down the valley at the massive frozen glacier below. The end of it was jagged and black, but showed no sign of melting. The elderly tourists told me the road was closed up ahead and beyond it, the road was blocked by snow. I decided to go see for myself and they were correct. The snow on the road was about a foot deep. I tried riding into it but the rear tire dug in and lost traction after only a few feet. From this point on the road, the glacier was beautiful, but there was another lookout about two miles farther that offered a better view. The glacier curved around a mountain and the next viewpoint would offer a peak at the glacier’s full glory.

    [​IMG]

    I decided to hike up the road through the snow. The snow was icy and difficult to walk in. My motorcycle boots punched through the snow about 6 inches. I was parched and I’d forgotten my water bottle back at the bike. I turned to see it was too far to turn back now. There were small waterfalls coming down the mountain wall to my right. I figured they were from the melting snow on the peaks above and as far as running water in the wild, you couldn’t get much cleaner. I cupped my hands under the waterfall and drank the icy cold water. It was the most refreshing water I’ve ever had, but I kept it to only a few handfuls for fear of some unseen waterborne illness. I continued to hike through the snow, encouraged by what looked that looked like footprints that had melted into a series of featureless divots. Proof that someone else had made the hike. As I got farther I noticed a pinkish patch of snow. Farther along another, deeper red than the last. Still only halfway to the viewpoint, I came across a long streak of reddish marks though the snow, continuing up the road. I pieced together some horrific scene of a poor unsuspecting creature, being attacked and trying to make a run for it, only to be caught again and dragged along the road as it’s life blood drained out into the snow. (Some later googling revealed the pink spots could have simply been “Watermelon Snow” caused by algae.)

    [​IMG]

    On the way back, I stopped at the Canadian boarder post. They had seen me ride by an hour ago, and it was simply a formality. The boarder agent asked me her standard questions and we exchanged a pleasant chat. I needed to get back to the Cassiar and find somewhere to camp. I found a lake on the map 150km north called Bob Quinn lake and headed that way. I found an industrial housing camp there and rode through it to a clearing on the lake. I set up camp and was immediately swarmed by mosquitoes. I somehow managed to get into my tent without being followed and didn’t want to go back out to cook, so I ate tortillas and peanut butter and went to sleep before sunset.

    [​IMG]

    In the morning I braved the mosquitoes and made coffee and oatmeal. the next gas stop was 120km north and it’d been 150km since i last filled up, but I’d figured I should get at least 300k in a tank so I packed up camp and headed out. With about 220km on the odometer the bike began to stutter. I’d been riding full throttle all yesterday and today and the gas level was below the main fuel pump. The safari tank comes with a secondary fuel pump, run off of a vacuum line from the engine. The secondary pump had lines that run down to the wings of the tank and pumped gas into the bowl of the main fuel pump. The tank was translucent and I could see the left side was draining more than the right. Something was wrong with the right line. I guessed maybe a hose clamp was to blame. I pulled over and tipped the bike left to rescue the fuel in the right side and poured one of my 1 liter MSR fuel bottles in for good measure. Still, the bike sputtered over half throttle and I was getting concerned. I found a restaurant/gas station 10 miles south of Iskut, but the proprietor and sole employee was busy on the phone, trying to get the large coffee machine to work. He seemed to be having enough trouble with his own problems so I figured I’d limp the bike to Iskut instead of adding my problems to his. Iskut was little more than a gas station with some groceries, including one of the grimmest produce sections I’d ever seen. There was no hardware store or mechanic and nothing in the gas station I could use so I filled up with enough gas to make the 110k to Dease Lake, plus a little extra and continued on.


    Dease Lake’s gas station/grocery store was far better stocked. I found some hose clamps and to be safe, I picked up a 1.5 gallon fuel can and a syphon, just in case times got desperate. I asked around the gas station if they knew a mechanic or someone who had a shop that I could do some work on my bike in and they directed me to Charlie, the only mechanic in town. I rolled up to his shop. It was a metal building in a dirt clearing. The yard was strewn with broken looking cars and heavy machinery. A guy inside was tinkering with a 4wheeler and I asked if he was Charlie. He pointed me towards a tiny office in the back of the shop. There i found Charlie. I introduced myself in a friendly way and shook his hand. He gripped the ends of my fingers with a course firm handshake, making it impossible for me to return the grip in any sort of manly way. I told him my secondary fuel pump was acting up and I needed a place out of the dirt to fix it. He was immediately cold and dismissive. It was clear that if he couldn’t make a buck off me, he didn’t want me around. I told him I wouldn’t be in his way but he wasn’t having it. If I wanted it done there I’d have to pay him $125/hr and it likely wouldn’t be gotten to for days. I thanked him, but I couldn’t keep the spite out of my voice and left.


    On the way back to town I spotted a man milling around a metal garage building with a slab of concrete out front. The building was surrounded by snow mobiles, kitchen appliances, bicycles and RV trailers in varying stages of disarray. There were piles of gas can and other odds and ends strew about. I pulled up and asked him if I could work on my bike there and what had just happened at Charlie’s. His first words were “Charlie’s an asshole.” Follows by “by all mean, make yourself at home. I have tools inside if you need em. Help yourself. I’m Rob.” Rob looked to be in his late 60s. He wore a too small, faded red T-shirt and his mustache was accompanied by a few day’s stubble. I got to work tearing down the bike and he went around his shop making small attempts at the Herculean task of organizing the chaos. He happily gave me a few small hose clamps, an o-ring and a few tools I needed but didn’t have with me. With the tank removed and the fuel pump out I had to stick my hand inside the bottom of gas tank to remove the secondary fuel pump and reinstall it with the new hose clamps. The hole was barely too small for me to fit my hand in, but with no other choice, I shoved my hand, taking off a few layers of skin on my 1st thumb knuckle in the process. After about two hours the bike was back together and the pump seemed to be working a bit better. I hung around a little longer and we talked about the state of the world. He was an old hippie deep down and had become a little cynical in his years, but he had a giving nature. I think he’d happily had given me anything he owned if I’d asked.

    [​IMG]

    I’d grown really fond of him over the 2 hours I spent with him, and wanted to hang around longer shooting the shit, but I had a mission to get to telegraph creek and back before nightfall so I thanked him again and headed west.


    Richard, the KTM rider who’s, lush green yard I’d spent the night in had told me that telegraph creek couldn’t be missed and that the “geology” was worth the ride, but he didn’t tell me anything more as to not spoil it. Telegraph creek road was a fairly nice tree lined dirt road, but seemed pretty ordinary. He had told me the ride was 110k and as the odometer climbed, I didn’t see anything special about it. I came to the top of a hill with a winding switchback below. The area had clearly been decimated by a wildfire, and i considered turning back, but I figured a few more kilometers wouldn’t hurt and maybe there’d be something more “geological” to see.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    I sped down a long straight stretch and the hill to my left rose in elevation. A turn off for a “rest area” climbed the hill and I rode up it expecting more sad rolling hills of burnt trees. What I found instead was a massive canyon with sheet rock walls and a rushing river below. My jaw dropped. It looked like something that should be in the American south-west, not an hours drive north of a glacier. I sat on a picnic table and awed at it. There were burned sections of forest around it and I mourned for the view that had once been, but my missing a Kodak moment was nothing compared to the grief of the people who made this area their home.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I continued on towards the town of telegraph creek and was constantly floored by the landscape. The town itself, seemed to be barely surviving. It was so remote and didn’t have anything that resembles the common amenities of a town, like a grocery store or gas station. The old part of town was a handful of derelict buildings. They had a rustic, western charm, but it wasn’t enough to bring in enough tourism since the forest fire.

    [​IMG]

    As I headed back to Dease Lake, I was in a mood to ride hard, leaning the bike into the corners of the dirt road, emboldened by the lack of traffic. The center strip of my tires were bald but because I still had side nobs, I practiced leaning the bike into curves taking care to position my body based on a flat track class I took a couple years ago. It was exhilarating. I came to a section with a rock outcropping on the right and sheer cliff on the left with no guardrails, just narrow enough that 2 cars could pass with a little pants shitting anxiety. As I rounded a downhill blind corner, A pickup truck was barreling uphill towards me. In a panic I hit the brakes, locking the rear wheel. The back end of the bike skidded left and right. I wasn’t scrubbing off speed fast enough to stop, so I let off the rear brake enough to regain control of the skid and dodged the the truck on the cliff side of the road. My mouth was full of the bitter taste of adrenaline. I stopped at the first lookout again and waited for the adrenaline high to wear off.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Eventually I got back to Dease lake and found a free spot to camp next to the water. I set up my tent and prepared a meal of ramen and canned chicken with 2 slices of American cheese melted in it and pepper to spice it up. I was pleasantly surprised that the canned chicken was fairly tasty. It had the consistency of a chicken nugget without the breading. The next morning I got up early and rode the 650km to Whitehorse.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Whitehorse is a nice little town. I found a hostel and when I showed up I found Andrew’s Burgman sitting out front. The woman running the hostel told me she was booked. I heard talking up the stairs in the living room and could just barely see the back of Andrew’s head. “Funny seeing you here Andrew!” He turned around and recognized me after a brief look of confusion. He said he hadn’t been feeling well. He’d set up camp in an RV park just outside of town and began to feel woozy and came to the hostel to relax and recuperate. He gave me the recipe from the campground and told me I could have his spot there since he’d already paid for it. He’d taken the last bed in the hostel, so this was sort of a consolation prize for me. I asked if they had showers and he said “oh yea it’s nice. They have everything.” So I got back on my bike and backtracked a few miles to the campground. It was an abysmal RV park right on the edge of the highway. I went into reception and told them I’d switched places with Andrew and supplied the receipt. They were fine with it so I found the site and set up camp. Of all the places I’ve camped so far, this was the worst. They did have showered, but hot water cost 2 dollars. The laundry was another 5 dollars and their power washer was 2 as well. I consoled myself with the idea that $9 all in is a far better price than i would have gotten at the hostel and made my dinner in a swarm of mosquitoes, 40 yards from a busy highway.


    I planned on heading to Dawson city and assumed there was only one road so I put away my gps and followed signs for Fairbanks thinking Dawson City was on the way. After about 100k I realized i wasn’t seeing signs for Dawson city so i checked my gps and found that I had take a wrong turn. I should have taken highway 2 out of Whitehorse but instead had taken the Alaska Highway. It would take too long to backtrack and the Alaska Highway was more of a straight shot to Fairbanks so I decided to continue on the way I was going. Perhaps I’ll take the other route on the way south. Kluane lake is stunning. Steam was rising out of the water on the south end. The decaying remnants of a town sat on its western shore, appropriately named “Destruction Bay.”

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I pushed forward, determined to make it to Alaska. At the border, the guard was brief and pleasant. She’d obviously seen the likes of me before. Almost as soon as I was across the boarder, the road and the landscape suddenly changed. The road in Canada had been rough chip seal which had been relatively even and free of potholes but It was absolutely hell on my tires. In Alaska the road was much smoother asphalt, but it waved and rolled and was littered with patched potholes and the occasional gravely patch that I tried to avoid.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I was looking for a place to camp off the road, but every little offshoot I found either was littered with garbage or terminated in a quarry. Camping in a dump or being rudely awakened by a quarry worker wasn’t appealing so I carried on until I saw a sign for Deadman Lake Campground. Luckily it was a free site so I rolled in and found a campsite near the water. A group of First Nations people were grilling at a nearby site. A very drunk looking man probably in his 60s waved at me and offered me a beer. The sun wouldn’t be setting til much later, if at all, so I took him up on his hospitality. He gave me a warm Blue Moon and a Younger man in his late 30’s stumbled over. He was heavy set with a shaved head and goatee and wore a cut off shirt with tattoos on his shoulders peaking out. He introduced himself as Kyle. He seemed drunk as well and immediately set to the task of trying to intimidate me. He had the look of someone who’d lived a hard life, and responded to life with sheer aggression. The drunker man, still looking jolly, handed me a plastic jug of Rich and Rare whiskey. I took a swig, more to be polite than anything else. “You take two!” Kyle barked at me aggressively. Unsure how to handle the situation I relented and took a few more swigs, until my eyes burned and I could feel my guts rejecting the bottom shelf whiskey. I forced it down and refused to drink more. Seeing me struggling, Kyle laughed and backed off. He asked if I was German and had a searching hatred in his eyes. I am not (to my knowledge) but I knew from the look in his eyes that if I had said yes, things might have gone worse. He never fully believed me because of my blue eyes. He asserted that he could stomp me into the ground and I agreed that he probably could and maintained eye contact and smiled. He kept saying “you’re jerking me off” and insisting that I was a fag. He said he’d seen some documentaries about Germans and said they were fucked up. I was happy to have a conversation that didn’t involve forcing me to drink or threatening me, but it didn’t last long before he said he could kill me and steal my bike if he wanted to. I maintained eye contact with every threat. He wanted to intimidate me but with his family around the campfire a few meters away I knew he wouldn’t act on the threats, so I refused to give him the pleasure of seeing me cower.


    His very drunk friend reached in the car and pulled out a bolt action rifle with absolutely massive bullets hanging off of it and waved it around. I backed up, keeping myself out of the guns crosshairs and Kyle told him to quit fucking around and put the gun back and thankfully he did. Standing up to a drunk bully is one thing, taking a bullet to the chest is another. Eventually A woman came over and asked Kyle if he was ready to go. While we had been talking the rest of his group had packed up. He relented and gave me a hug and left. I let out a heavy sign of relief and went back to setting up camp in a slightly drunk haze.


    The next day I rode to Fairbanks. It rained the entire day. It was in the low 50’s but with the rain and windchill, I was thankful I had my heated jacket. At some point in the last 2 weeks I apparently lost my waterproof winter gloves. I ran into some bmw riders and they gave me some latex gloves. I put on glove liners, the latex gloves and my regular riding gloves and it helped some, but the rain still soaked through everything. My rei rain jacket did the best it could, but I wasn’t weatherproof enough to keep out all the driving rain.


    I kinda missed the metric system. One kilometer is 60% of a mile and they go by so much quicker. Even though the physical distances are the same, watching the Kms roll faster makes it seem like you’re covering more ground. I didn’t fuel up on the way to Fairbanks to test my fuel capacity. I made it to Fairbanks with 250 miles on the clock with a bit of fuel to spare, so it seemed like I’d be in good shape on the way to Prudhoe. The bike still sputters some when the fuel is really low, so I need to figure out if there’s a solution for this or if i just have to take it slow when i get that low.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I found a Hostel in Fairbanks and rode around town to the handful of motorcycle shops looking for suitable tires. I ended up buying two different tires from two different shops. I replaced the front myself to save some money and paid the 2nd shop to replace the rear since their rate for tire changes was only $25.

    Tomorrow I set off towards Prudhoe Bay.:clap
    #27
  8. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    26,176
    Location:
    Pittsburgh PA
    When looking for a place to camp, look for the rivers, there are many little roads that lead down to the rivers for people to fish from the banks. Avoid the ones that are strewn with garbage because the local bears might use the spot to look for food.
    #28
    9Realms likes this.
  9. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 6, 2009
    Oddometer:
    529
    Location:
    Redondo Beach CA
    Great report. Still waiting for a picture of a bear though.
    #29
  10. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,628
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Damn man, quite a set of updates since I last checked in! The scene with the f-tards at that camp...woof.

    Good job sourcing tires and getting the fuel pump issue sorted in Canada, hope the pump issues don't cause any additional problems (I run the same tank on my WR).

    Amazing scenery up there, especially the glaciers.

    Looking forward to the next update @PNWParker :ricky :thumb
    #30
    bluemtnridr and PNWParker like this.
  11. Cal

    Cal Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    3,007
    Location:
    Calgary
    Very nice writing style!
    #31
    PNWParker likes this.
  12. 9Realms

    9Realms Drawn in by the complex plot

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    5,869
    Location:
    Central Mn
    It's like reading Clive Cussler mixed with Hemingway :lol3
    Subscribed.
    #32
    lanztek likes this.
  13. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Alaska > Argentina
    [​IMG]

    I’ve never read any Clive Cussler, but he looks like an absolute boss so I’ll take that as a compliment haha.
    #33
    9Realms and lanztek like this.
  14. 9Realms

    9Realms Drawn in by the complex plot

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    5,869
    Location:
    Central Mn
    If you get holed up someplace long enough to get some mail, I will send you some Cussler's to read, you will be hooked... :-)
    #34
    PNWParker likes this.
  15. Tgoranson

    Tgoranson 2018 Africa Twin

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2017
    Oddometer:
    22
    Location:
    Whitehorse, YT
    Great read! I must say, that after meeting you in the Whitehorse Canadian tire parking lot the other day I'm happy I came across you're ride report. I'll definitely be following this one.
    #35
    PNWParker likes this.
  16. sperduton

    sperduton Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2003
    Oddometer:
    682
    Location:
    Lebanon Township, NJ
    Fantastic writing.
    #36
  17. lanztek

    lanztek Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2014
    Oddometer:
    67
    Location:
    Lewiston, Id
    Very descriptive writing style. Your use of adjectives and bringing the reader into the story remind me of BwanaJames RRs.

    Keep posting and I'll keep reading!
    #37
    PNWParker likes this.
  18. Oh2RideMore

    Oh2RideMore Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,633
    Location:
    St Louis MO
    Great to see these wizzers go. Planning to ride up to alaska one day. Any other issues than fuel starvation on the wr? Did you feel the 3.7 give enough range? Subscribed.
    #38
  19. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Alaska > Argentina
    If I were to have a do-over kitting my bike, I’d either go for the IMS 4.7 or keep it REALLY dummy proof and get the IMS 3 gallon and a rotopax since the 3 gallon doesn’t require a secondary fuel pump. I may be able to fix the safari tank eventually, but for now only 3 gallons are usable. I can get between 140~180 miles on three gallons depending on fuel grade and how throttle happy I’m feeling that day.

    So to make the 250 miles up the Dalton I brought 2 MSR 1 liter bottles and a 1.25 gallon gas can and used every drop (except for the .7 gal left in the wings)
    #39
  20. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Alaska > Argentina

    Hey!! Good meeting you! I never did find that thermometer I was looking for. Ah well.
    #40