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

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    I have a heck of an update for ya'll coming soon, but suffice to say for now that I ran into a little trouble and have been stuck in Fairbanks, AK for a bit. The downtime gave me a chance to look though some of the footage I've gotten thus far. This is a short little edit from riding part of the Trans-Canadian Trail on Vancouver island a couple weeks ago. Sometimes "adventure" isn't too pretty haha.
    #41
  2. BornAgain

    BornAgain Been here awhile

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    :rofl:imaposer:lol2
    #42
  3. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    :imaposer:imaposer:imaposer:imaposer

    Do you have everything you need in Fairbanks? Do you need anything shipped?
    #43
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  4. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Damn, a bit of a cliff hanger on being stuck in Fairbanks. Hope it's nothing too bad.

    Had a good laugh at your helmet rolling down the hill as you were trying to get footage of picking up the bike. Murphy never misses a chance to screw with you...lol.

    Nice clip man, looking forward to hearing what's up.
    #44
  5. Stromtom

    Stromtom Been here awhile

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    Nice writing and an interesting journey. After having been to Prudhoe myself I always find it refreshing to experience another rider's take on the whole journey. It makes it new all over again. Thanks for your efforts and safe travels to you. Subscribed!
    #45
  6. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
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    A few days at Billie’s hostel in Fairbanks had been a pleasant break from riding. Overall it was a great time but I waited a long time for the bathroom once. The door was closed and the light and fan were on. Eventually I felt I’d waited long enough and knocked and got no response so I cautiously entered. All I found was a foul smell and a massive unflushed turd. It was like someone had gotten raptured right off the toilet.


    On a Monday, I got up bright and early, (although it’s bright all the time this part of the year) loaded the bike and set off north. My progress up highway 2 was halted by road construction a few times. The remnants of old pavement had been scraped to the side of the road like unwanted pie crust. A bland parade of water truck, plow and steam roller slowly crawled up the road on the southbound side. The north and southbound traffic had to take turns using the one remaining lane every 15 minutes or so.


    Past the construction, I found myself at the back of a slow moving caravan of pickup trucks. In a long straight section of road, I could see the hold up was because of a particularly slow simi in the front. I charged ahead, overtaking most of the trucks at once until a blind corner and a keen sense of self preservation had me merge back in and overtake the last few trucks one at a time.


    The road varied from smooth dirt, to loose gravel, to cracked, frost heaved asphalt with almost rollercoaster-like peaks and valleys. Stunted black spruce covered the rolling hills and mountains on either side as far as I could see. After 80 miles I made it to the legendary Dalton Highway. Between the start of the Dalton and Coldfoot, the road is easily manageable. There are long stretches of dirt and gravel, but nothing particularly treacherous in my experience. Perhaps a bigger bike, with less knobby tires and wetter conditions would have been another story, but the WR felt light and sure footed the entire time, even with the loaded bags.

    [​IMG]

    I stopped at “finger mountain” because someone at the hostel had mentioned their “Arctic circle” tour bus had stopped there. Its a fairly unimpressive rock formation that looked vaguely like a finger, but I may just lack a true passion for geology. A tour bus was there and some of the tourists must have felt the same way about the finger, because they immediately took interest in me. A woman asked “what do YOU do for a living that means you can afford to ride around like this?” She had a little contempt in her voice and seemed to think i must be rich. By the look of her, I’d imagine she had way more money than I do. I didn’t have it in me to go through the story of my career and leaving my job and selling all my possessions so I just said “Me? Oh it’s easy. I’m unemployed. You can do whatever you want when you’re unemployed.”

    [​IMG]

    I tried to keep my speed down a bit to conserve fuel mileage, but at around 180 miles the bike began to sputter again. I first added my two 1 liter MSR bottles and nurses the throttle for a while until it started again and reluctantly added my 1.25 gallon gas can. I still had 40 miles to go until Coldfoot and decided to be cautious with my remaining fuel. So I backed down to 50mph and continued north.


    I got stuck behind a truck on a particularly dusty section of road which made for an almost complete white out. Riding in his dust obscured the unknown road conditions and potential vehicles heading south meant passing could be fatal. I could see the road curving to the left with no traffic and was psyching myself up for the task of riding blindly into the cloud to attempt passing the truck. At that exact moment, I passed a sign that said “Gobblers Knob.” Risking my life to pass the truck instantly seemed ridiculous so I slowed down, letting the truck rumble up the road and did a u-turn to make sure I had read the sign correctly. There was a rest stop near by with an informative placard, but the information made no mention of the origin or entomology of the name. It was just a weird hill named by a weird Alaskan. I probably owe my life to that weirdo.

    [​IMG]

    I found a gas station/restaurant in Coldfoot and met a couple of retired adventure riders. I was feeling social and since the sun never sets here, they weren’t worried about burning daylight, so we sat for a while and chatted about bikes and trips. The truck stop had a surprisingly good buffet, so I crammed my face so full of food, I didn’t need dinner. Someone at the hostel had told me about a potentially free campground just north of Coldfoot. I found it 5 miles north, but unfortunately it wasn’t free. I paid $8 to camp, but there was a mountain fed stream nearby so I filled up my water bottle and settled in for the night.

    [​IMG]

    The next morning I headed north for the last time on this trip. Just north of Coldfoot, the Dalton is nicely paved and curves through jagged mountains, but road soon turned to dirt. I was expecting a rutted muddy mess but it was smooth, perfectly packed dirt and gravel. I was expecting simi trucks, screaming down the road at breakneck speeds spewing gravel and chunks of road debris, but every truck I came across was driving at a safe, reasonable speed and they always took care to give me as much room as possible. I’d read that Antigun pass was particularly treacherous and had nowhere to stop, but the pass was gorgeous and had a large pull off at the top. Since there was a truck in front of me, I pulled off to take some pictures and let him get a lead on me. Coming down the north side of the pass, the Dalton drops down into the rolling foothills of the Brooks range. The hills were covered with brown grass, with patches of green signaling the coming spring. Small boulders littered the fields, likely dropped by passing glaciers thousands of years ago. They reminded me of a heard of animals that had been turned to stone.

    [​IMG]

    I climbed the next ridge, sure that the other side would be a flat barren wasteland, but found more rolling hills of brown and green grass. Small lakes dotted the landscape and the Brooks range stretched out in both directions behind me. There’s a beauty to wide open spaces. I could see it getting boring if you had to drive the route regularly, but for me, it was a stark contrast to the mountains of BC and the Yukon. I passed a water truck and other large equipment tending the road, but it didn’t make the riding any more difficult. I let the bike wander over slick dirt and loose gravel, but never felt out of control.

    [​IMG]

    The farther I rode north, the colder it got. I’ve been carrying cold weather gear for 2500 miles and finally it was paying off. I put on a pair of insulated over pants I’d gotten for free when I bought my WR, and my rain jacket just to help block the wind. When I left for the trip I’d packed an expensive pair of insulated, waterproof gloves, but somewhere in the last 2500 miles I’d lost them. I replaced them in Fairbanks with a $40 pair of thick gloves I found at a hunting store and they worked just fine.


    I spotted an Africa Twin at a crossroads and pulled over to see what was up. Around the corner was a MotoQuest tour group. They were swapping a bike out of the chase truck because one of the Vstroms had caught a rock in its radiator and was pissing coolant. The rider was stuck with a lowered 750GS. Some of the riders were keen on talking but I got a strange, cold feeling from some of the others. They told me the temperature drops dramatically further on and the landscape flattens out. The heat generated by my electric jacket had dissipated and that was my cue to get back on the bike and wave goodbye.

    [​IMG]

    After 20 more miles of hills and valleys, the horizon settled into a flat line and the freezing winds got stronger. This was the Dalton I was expecting. The last 60 miles of the gravel road had severe washboard and slick sections of mud from the road work. The 87 octane I’d filled up with in Coldfoot was running short so I stopped to dump in the last two liters of gas I was carrying. In the process I discovered my license plate had snapped and was dangling from one loose screws. The rough washboard was probably to blame for rattling it to pieces. I removed the plate and stowed it in my bag, planning on finding a way to secure it later when I was back in civilization.

    [​IMG]

    The last stretch of the Dalton follows the Sag river all the way to Prudhoe Bay. Thick chunks of dirty, broken ice lines its shore. As Prudhoe Bay rose out of the horizon, it looked like a settlement you might find on the planet Hoth. There’s nothing particularly beautiful about the settlement. Rectangular utilitarian buildings and heavy machinery litter the area in a rather haphazard way. I was running on fumes and eventually found the gas station. The gas pumps were hidden behind roll top doors to protect them from the harsh environment. Down the road I came to Brooks Camp hotel and booked a room. Before packing it in for the night, I stopped over at the Brooks General store for the obligatory photo with the dead horse sign. The wall surrounding it was covered with stickers from travelers who’d made the pilgrimage. Some tacky bastard had slapped a MotoQuest sticker directly in the center of the sign.

    [​IMG]

    I got up early and caught the shuttle bus to the Arctic Ocean. The tundra around Prudhoe Bay is surprisingly diverse. Much of the land is flat grassland, but the areas near the water are cracked into large hexagonal shapes where freezing water had split and eroded sections. There were areas of sand dunes topped with tufts of brown grass and the horizon is dotted with far off oil dereks, drill houses, boxy utilitarian personnel quarters and other support structures.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We arrived at the Arctic Ocean and the driver said we had an hour to look around, but nobody ever lasted that long. I put my hands in the 28 degree water and was absolutely certain, joining the “polar bear club” by skinny dipping in the Arctic was out of the question. After the tour I’d begin the 240 mile ride south to Coldfoot and starting the trip already hypothermic would make for a bad time. I picked a few small stones out of the water as a souvenir and we headed back to town.

    [​IMG]

    At about 10 am I got back to the bike and started the long journey south. I should have done something to celebrate and commemorate the beginning of my southward journey, but the temperatures were in the 30’s and all I was concerned about was getting through the next 60 miles of flat, open tundra and back to the slightly warmer rolling hills of the north slope.


    By 11 am I was almost out of the harshest part of the tundra and the high sun made it difficult to gauge the consistency of the road. I hit a 6 inch deep ridge of gravel the road crew had left behind and the front end stated flailing wildly. The Mefo explore front tire I’d bought in Fairbanks didn’t have enough knob to bite down into the gravel and with the bags on the back I didn’t have enough room to throw my weight back to lighten the front end. I went down hard to the right side at 45mph and the bike and I slid for about 20 feet. I was sliding down the road on my belly, but the 4 jackets (a heated jacket, a light puffy coat, my canvas motorcycle jacket and a rain jacket) and thick winter gloves cushioned the blow. My right leg was pinned under the bike, but I was able to lift the bike enough to pull my leg free.

    [​IMG]

    I realized my phone was in my front jacket pocket. I reached in my pocket, thinking I’d pull out a cracked phone and found that it was undamaged but it was slick and red. After the brief shock of seeing blood, I burst out laughing when I realized the phone was actually covered in Taco Bell sauce. In a moment of weakness a few days ago, I’d had lunch at a Taco Bell in Fairbanks and had stowed a few extra sauce packets in my jacket thinking I’d spice up a bland meal later on.

    [​IMG]

    My right mirror was broken and loose, the headlight glass was cracked, and the bark buster on that side had been ground down to the aluminum. The handle bars and bags had taken the brunt of the slide and the fairing and tank seemed unscathed. I noticed the chain looked rather loose, but standing in the middle of the Dalton was no place to work on the bike. I got back on the bike and started limping it down the road to find somewhere to pull off and adjust things.


    About 10 minutes later, I hear a loud metallic noise and the bike reved high and started slowing down. I knew exactly what had happened. I pulled over immediately and looked down to find the chain had snapped and oil was dripping from the engine. The chain had been thrown forward and left a gash in the crank case. With the sprocket cover on, I couldn’t see the extent of the damage, but it did not seem good.


    I took off my helmet and stood staring at my broken bike in the middle of nowhere. I had a chain breaker and the necessary tools to fix the chain, but had somehow forgotten to bring extra links with me. Even if I had, with a hole in the crank case, I wouldn’t get far before I lost enough oil to seize the engine. As a cherry on top, I did not have cell service.


    After about 10 minutes of weighing my lack of options two trucks came over the horizons from opposite directions. I waved them down and the drivers hopped out to see what kind of mess I’d gotten myself into. Rob was driving south. He had just delivered a truckload of groceries to the various camps in Prudhoe Bay and was headed back to Fairbanks pulling an empty trailer. Without even the slightest hesitation, he opened the back doors of his trailer and the three of us heaved my bike into the back and strapped it to the walls and we were on our way south.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Truck drivers aren’t suppose to bring passengers, but finding a lone, stranded traveler on the side of the Dalton in 35 degree weather is a special exception. Rob had rescued me, my bike, and offered me half his lunch without even a thought to ask for anything in return. We talked the whole 11 hour drive back to Fairbanks, touching on almost every interesting topic of our lives. He told me about his time as a logger in Oregon, recounting interesting stories of odd jobs and the intricacies of sustainable logging. He’d had a hard time finding work and stumbled across the truck driving job on the Dalton and figured he’d try it for a while until he came across something better. He found that he actually loved it and had been driving this road for 10 years. He had an infectiously positive mood and it wasn’t just me who could feel it. Every time we passed a truck, the drivers would call out on the CB radio to him by name and chatter pleasantly for a bit before the trucks were too distant and lost signal. He was obviously well loved by the trucking community even though most of them would never meet face to face. (Rob is the guy on the right.)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We arrived back in Fairbanks at midnight, although you wouldn’t know it by how bright the sky was, and transferred the bike from the trailer to the back of his pickup. We dropped off the bike in front of a motorcycle shop and he dropped me off at the hostel I’d stayed at a few days ago. We shook hands and I thanked him for everything thing he’d done for me and he said he’d had a great time chatting all the way back.


    I found a spot in the hostel’s garage to stow my filthy bags and found an empty bed upstairs to crash for the night.


    The next day I walked back to the motorcycle shop to survey the damage. The gash in the side case was obvious but when I removed the front sprocket cover I found a far more devastating hole in the crank case. The sprocket cover has a chain guard built into it, but it hadn’t mattered. The chain had cut a 3 inch long, half inch wide section off of the crank case in front of the sprocket. I knew it was totaled but asked the mechanic to take a look and confirm it. The only way the bike would run again, is if the left half of the crank case were replaced, or possibly the whole engine.

    [​IMG]

    I wasn’t too bent up about it though. I had accomplished my goal of riding from Portland to Prudhoe Bay. I’d sailed through the narrow passages to Prince Rupert, ridden through beautiful mountain passes and seen enormous glaciers and deep canyons. I’d met incredible people and found help and friendship in some of the most unforgiving and remote places. My journey had come to a brief interruption, but it is not over. Not even close. I'll be back on a bike in the coming weeks one way or another and heading south to Ushuaia.

    [​IMG]
    #46
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  7. That.guy

    That.guy Been here awhile

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    Is the bike at Alaska Fun Center? Just guessing by being within walking distance of the hostel. Northern Power Sports is farther away but much better in my opinion. If you need a hand while you’re up here let me know, I’ll see what I can do. Unfortunately I don’t have a spare engine for a WR laying around but I figured i’d throw the offer out.
    #47
    PNWParker likes this.
  8. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto aka: trailer Rails Supporter

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    As a plan "B", that can be fixed with JB Weld epoxy. I have done that many times. I punched a hole in the case of a Wr on the first or second ride, off the showroom floor. Patched with epoxy and rode it for 4 more years, without a problem. You'll want to get any loose chunks of metal out of there first.

    Also, in those construction areas, motorcycles are allowed to go to the front of the line so you dont have to eat the dust of all the vehicles in front of you.
    #48
  9. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Damn man, that's one hell of an update :eekers :eekers

    Really glad you weren't injured in the off and then the subsequent unleashing of the chain :( :(. Seriously sucks to have the hole punched in the case like that. Curious to hear what your plan of attack is to get the bike sorted? JB Weld is a great piece of kit, but that gash looks nasty - be tough to get it in all the right places to ensure she's sealed up (not disagreeing with you @Yinzer Moto as I've used it for the very same thing...lol).

    Pretty cool about the truck driver from OR stopping to help, pretty dire situation given the lack of cel service. I've found that most of the time, situations like yours bring out the good in people - reminded me of when I was fubard on my WR in remote SE Oregon and had to hitch a ride with a family who saved my arse (though nowhere near as remote or far away as you are).

    Good luck getting everything put back together, hope the time you get to hang in Fairbanks is ok and starting your journey southbound isn't delayed by too much.
    #49
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  10. Stromtom

    Stromtom Been here awhile

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    Camas, WA
    Glad you are all right and uninjured. The bike is replaceable, you are not.
    #50
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  11. DCrider

    DCrider Live from THE Hill

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    Sorry to hear about the set back but you have a great positive attitude, keep us posted.
    #51
  12. 9Realms

    9Realms Drawn in by the complex plot

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    The offer still stands for some free Clive Cussler paperback books if you are going to be stuck somewhere awhile.
    PM me some kind of general - delivery address at a local Post Office, the Hostel, etc., glad to send some your way if it would help you pass the time.
    #52
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  13. td63

    td63 Been here awhile Supporter

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    Hell of an adventure so far!

    ...and you haven’t even actually started! ;)

    Glad you’re ok, good luck with the repair, and looking forward to rest of your epic.
    #53
  14. Jedi2Rider

    Jedi2Rider Been here awhile

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    Love the ride so far!

    All things chalk up to experience. Keep us posted on the repairs and look forward to having you back on the road.

    While you have some down time, here's a tip about your license plate:

    After you clean it up, make a couple high-res color copies and double-laminate them.

    Put the real plate in your luggage somewhere, and mount one of the paper ones. If questioned by a LEO, you can always show him the real one, and explain it was just getting too damaged.

    If/when the first laminated one wears out, replace with the second, repeat as necessary.
    #54
  15. Junya

    Junya Adventurer

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    Dude you were on a roll!! Enjoyed your RR to date.
    Sorry about the bike, hope insurance will cover it,but a least your not "cracked".

    I second the ghetto JB weld fix...
    #55
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  16. BMW-K

    BMW-K F800GS FTW!

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    I JB'd the case of a Ducati and it held for 20k...right up until a belt broke and ate the valve train.

    JB's worth a shot, along with a piece of sheet metal plate to cover the big hole. Biggest challenge is degreasing the case enough to get proper adherence.

    Oh, and might as well change that front sprocket while you're at it. :)
    #56
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  17. brucebeck1911

    brucebeck1911 n00b

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    midwest
    Just curious... what’s the total weight with you and your packed gear on that 250 30hp WR. Thinking that in the mountains you may be down shifting a fair amount. As in the 50 to 55 mph range.
    #57
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  18. Jedi2Rider

    Jedi2Rider Been here awhile

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    Hey PNWParker,

    How ya doin' up there? Getting a line on some parts? How long until you think you'll be rolling again?

    Still pulling for you!!:dj
    #58
  19. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Hey folks!

    Sorry about the cliffhanger again. I’m still waiting on insurance stuff to get sorted out. At this point I probably could have had a new crank case shipped in and had the bike basically rebuilt, but once the ball was rolling with the insurance I didn’t seem to have a lot of options. Apparently Progressive insurance in Alaska is pretty short staffed, and they decided to throw me a curve ball and split the accident into two claims. One for the initial fall and a SECOND claim for the chain/engine damage, simply because after I went down I picked up the bike and continued down the road for a few minutes before the chain went out less than a mile later. Theoretically it shouldn’t change the final outcome, it just adds delay and potentially splits the payout into two claims. To complicate matters even more they’ve transported the bike from one shop to another to get a different estimate from an actual Yamaha dealer.

    In the mean time though, it didn’t seem helpful to continue eating away at my budget by staying at the hostel in Fairbanks. Even though Billie, Art and Ray at Billie’s hostel had become a second family to me, I needed to get back on my path. So I flew back to Portland to stay with a friend and started shopping around for a replacement bike.

    Unfortunately, other WRR owners typically don’t have the questionable inclination to kit their bikes for long distance overland travel, so all the available WRRs were basically stock. It took me months and a lot of money to kit mine out. The safari tank and fairing alone took nearly 2 months to arrive. Since time is off the essence and a properly kitted bike is essential (to me at least) AND since I still don’t know how much I’m actually getting out of the insurance so money could be tight, I had to look at other bikes. For better or worse, I ended up buying a 2007 DR650 for $3000. It already has most of the bells and whistles I want, and has been lovingly and expertly upgraded with a Suzuki GSXR exhaust and perfectly tuned carb. Plus its already been resprung for my weight and has all the small, necessary tweaks all DR650 owners know and love. Wired NSU sensor, upper chain roller delete, and clutch sensor and kickstand sensor delete. I guess I’ll have to change the title of the Ride Report now haha. (I’m open to title suggestions of course.)

    It pains me to admit it, but the DR650 is a pretty stellar choice for this kind of trip. Don’t get me wrong though, I love my WRR. The simplicity and reliability of fuel injection. The light weight. The smooth power band with just enough exciting torque at high rpms. It wasn’t the fastest thing on the road by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fun bike. I got a kick out of every bewildered look I got from riders plowing their massive 1200GS’s up the road only to see me doing the same thing on a bike with 1/5 the engine and half the weight of theirs. There’s a really strong chance I’ll own one again one day.

    All that said, I’ve actually ridden DR650’s before and they are damn near indestructible (I hope haha). The DR will also hit 90mph, something the WR would never have been capable of with someone of my weight on it. Not that I make a habit of pushing bikes that fast.....but you gotta try at least once, right?! Even though the DR is peppy, I do find myself searching for a 6th gear that just doesn’t exist, no matter how many times I lift my left toe.

    About 4 years ago I rented a DR650 in Bolivia and rode it for 2 weeks all over the country as kind of a dry run to see if I really liked international motorcycle travel. With a pillion!! The no frills, nearly electronics free bike got us in and out of the Salar de Uyuni with ALMOST no trouble. Because of the high elevation, the owners had Swiss cheesed the air box and I ended up with about 2 inches of water in it. After draining that and pulling the plugs to shoot out any water that may have entered the cylinder, I reassembled the bike and attempted to start it only to find the salt had killed the battery. Without a kickstart, push starting was the only option. Doing that with a 650 thumper can be a pain on its own. Doing it at 3600 meters above sea level, loaded down with gear, is Herculean. After about 6 exhausting attempts we pulled the bags off the bike to lighten the load and dumped them in the 1 inch of standing salt water and I finally got it going. We made it to the famed Isla Incahuasi, a cactus covered island in the middle of the vast, open salt flats and camped there for the night. After a thorough washing back in Uyuni, the bike performed perfectly and dutifully for the rest of the trip.

    When I started this trip, I was hoping to add my voice and experience to the “light makes right” theory of motorcycle travel. But now, simply proving points don’t really matter to me any more. I just want to keep on seeing the world from behind a set of handlebars.

    Having already ridden from Portland to Prudhoe Bay, I’m planning on continuing south from Portland. That way I mostly keep on schedule, and hopefully make it to Ushuaia by February. That does pose the question though...is this still an “Alaska to Argentina” trip? Does it still count if I do all the miles, even though some of them were in the wrong direction? Or like my infuriating insurance adjusters splitting my accident into two separate claims, does this split the journey into two separate trips? In the end I guess it doesn’t really matter. In just the first five weeks, the trip has given me profound insights on the world and my place in it, and I can’t wait to see what Mexico, Central and South America have in store for me.
    #59
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  20. PNWParker

    PNWParker @roughpass on instagram

    Joined:
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    Alaska > Argentina
    Oh and by the way, thanks so much for all the suggestions and support! It really warms a fella’s heart to know there’s folks out there that care and want to help out however they can. I never had the chance to try the JB weld fix, but it’ll be a permanent addition to my kit just in case I run into another similar situation down the road.

    Also I got those Clive Cussler books from 9Realms in the mail so now I have some rather interesting reading material to keep me company while I wait for tires and other assorted odds and ends to show up. I see what you mean about the writing style haha. If everything goes according to plan I’ll be southbound by early next week!
    #60
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