Another Noob Went to Alaska!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by outdoorsman, Jul 22, 2019.

  1. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2011
    Oddometer:
    336
    Location:
    Elk Grove, California
    First off, I'd like to thank all these wonderful riders that have in some ways contributed to this bucket list trip for me. Whether it was by their RR or their posts/tips about Alaska, all of their advice were taken into consideration and went into the planning of my trip. And of course, the Milepost!

    Here we go, another RR about Alaska. I've spent many years reaping the benefits of this wonderful site and the knowledge that this site provides. It's time I contributed to this community with my RR to Alaska. I've been home for about 2 weeks now. But the memory is still very fresh and raw so I'm hoping to capture it all in this thread and hopefully it'll provide another perspective on the trip up north.

    This trip had been on my mind for many years, ever since I got into adventure riding and moved away from sportbikes and trackdays. Then 5 years ago, 3 friends went to Alaska. Their trip accelerated the desire to ride to Alaska even more. But then I switched jobs and couldn't take the time off to do the trip. Fast forward to 2017 and I took a 2 week trip to Montana to see Glacier NP, Yellowstone and Grand Teton on the way. That trip was cut short due to my friend's bike breaking down in Glacier NP. Then last year, we tried again but with Banff and Jasper as the destinations. Last year's 2 week trip was a success and I saw how beautiful Canada really is. That was it, I have to ride to Alaska now. So the planning started when I got my copy of the 2018 Milepost. The Alaska 2019 planning thread was very helpful as well.

    Sadly, everyone I know wanted to go on this trip but couldn't because of life. Up until this point, I have never taken a long trip by myself. But it will have to be this way since no one can make it, not for a month long trip away from work and life responsibilities. I put in my vacation time off almost a year in advance so my boss can plan for coverage while I'm away.

    Over the course of about a year, I slowly planned my route, upgraded my camping gear to lighter and more compact gear, got a garmin mini inreach, new riding gloves, boots, and a chest and back protector vest, etc. I even thought about buying a new bike for the trip. But my 2015 Triumph Tiger 800 XRX is more capable than I am. It even handled a trip to Death Valley for the Noobs Rally without fuss.

    A month before my trip, I dropped off my Tiger at the local shop for a major service which included a valve adjustment, fork service, and fresh tires. I got the bike back the weekend before I left for my trip and I packed everything up two days early. Nothing to do but wait. The night before my trip, I tried to go to bed early since I had to get up at 4am to leave by 5am before the heat, it was 106* that day in Sacramento.

    Here's my gear all packed up.
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    Here's my bike ready to roll before that sun comes up.
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    #1
  2. RJ44

    RJ44 Been here awhile

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    Location:
    Thunder Bay, Ontario
    Great looking setup. Looking forward to hearing more.

    Rob
    #2
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  3. cs84

    cs84 n00b

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2016
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    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    Nice setup. Can't wait for more of the RR
    #3
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  4. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2011
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Elk Grove, California
    For day one, the plan was to head north on Interstate 5 to Oregon but the heat was just too hot so after getting gas in Redding, I decided to head west towards the coast for much cooler weather. From I-5, I took 299 west to 101 north towards Crescent City. While the weather got much cooler, there was construction on 299 so that added more time. My destination for the night was a Tent Space in Newport, OR. Lots of riding today and was about 600 miles for day one in 13 hours.

    I got to Steve and Marina's place in Yaquina, OR just as they were coming back from dinner. Steve and Marina were wonderful hosts and I had a great time getting to know them and their 3 pups. Their house sits on the Yaquina peninsula overlooking the waters. Wish I had more time to stay longer because Steve wanted to show my the good riding in the area. Maybe next time, Steve!

    Here's Steve and one of his pups.
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    After saying good bye to Steve and Marina, I got back on the road and headed towards Seattle to meet a friend for lunch. The ride to Seattle was brutal. The traffic started around Portland and didn't let up until well north of Seattle. This was bumper to bumper traffic, and to make matters worse, Oregon and Washington State doesn't allow lane sharing. It was hot, my bike felt like it was going to overheat and every driver in these two states loves to tailgate a motorcycle. I thought my trip was going to be cut short a few ties due to being rear ended. It wasn't even during rush hour traffic. I left Steve's place around 7am and didn't get to Seattle until almost 2pm. I was an hour late to meet up with my friend Jacob for lunch.

    Here's Jacob and I, I'm in front in the picture. Jacob and I used to work together but he decided to relocate to Seattle for cooler, wetter weather.
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    #4
  5. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

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    After a quick lunch with Jacob, I had to make up time and get to my next Tent Space for the night, across the Canadian Border in Chilliwack. The border crossing in Sumas, south of Abottsford was very quick and easy. A very attractive female border agent greeted me at the booth and asked the usual questions: Please take your helmet off. Where are you from? California. How long do you plan to stay in Canada? 4 weeks. Where are you going? Alaska. Do you have any weapons on you? No. Do you have pepper spray? No. Have a good day.

    After crossing into BC, Canada, I made my way east on highway 1 towards Chilliwack because I had set up a tent space there for the night. Not sure what happened but when I realized that I had passed it up, I was already in Hope, BC. Tired, hungry, and hot, I didn't want to back track so I messaged my tent space host and told him I won't be coming since I missed the turn off for his place in Chilliwack. He told me he's there if I need a place for my return trip, which I really appreciate.

    Since I got to Hope unplanned, I had to find a place for the night. Airbnb didn't have anything. Rooms were a bit pricey, so I looked for campgrounds. First one I found was right in town and right next to the Frasier River. Done, Telte Yet campground. $15 Canadian for a site with showers included. Camp host told me to ride my bike around the campground and find a site I want and take it. It wasn't very full so plenty of sites to be had. I picked the farthest one away from all the RVs and set up camp. It was shady and the grass was soft. I had a little trouble putting the tent up because it was really windy. But I just threw all my gear inside and staked the spikes into the ground and it was all good.

    They hadn't changed their wifi password in 5 years!
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    Camp for the night in Hope, BC at Telte Yet Campground.
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    I rode my bike into town to find dinner. Subway was open so I had a foot long turkey breast sub. I was loving the longer daylight as I'm heading north. It was almost 11pm when I went to bed, still not completely dark yet.
    #5
  6. TropicalDale

    TropicalDale The Adventures of Peter Pan

    Joined:
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    :lurk
    #6
  7. wilddoktor

    wilddoktor Adventurer

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    NorCal
    In!
    #7
  8. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

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    Location:
    Elk Grove, California
    I can never sleep in when camping, I'm usually a morning person anyway but when camping, I'm up with the sun. I got up pretty early and was packed and on the road before 7am. Next destination is Prince George where I have another Tent Space reservation. It was about 400 miles to Prince Geroge and I made good time so when I got to Kelly's place, it was still early enough to go grocery shopping for dinner. After unpacking and putting the bike away in the carport, Kelly (@GISdood) drove us to the store to get some things to BBQ for dinner. We got steaks, potatoes, asparagus, and beer. Kelly has a really nice setup with plenty of room to roam. We chatted over dinner and I can't say enough how wonderful and hospitable Kelly is anda great chef too. Dinner was delicious! If you're ever in Prince George area, stop by and meet Kelly.

    This was dinner.
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    Dinner was so good, even his pup was out!
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    Here's Kelly seeing me off the next morning.
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    Here's my mug.
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    Next stop, Dawson Creek and the start of the ALCAN highway and mile marker zero.
    #8
  9. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Elk Grove, California
    It was a shorter ride to get to Dawson Creek from Prince George, about a 4 hour ride. After getting gas in Dawson Creek, I wanted to continue onto maybe Fort St. John or somewhere between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson for the night. But first, I have to get some pictures of the famous Alaska Highway sign!
    I pulled up to the sign with no one around, so had to take only pictures of the bike. Then George aka @95Monster pulled up with his R1200GS rally and offered to take a few shots of me and the bike and I returned the favor. We got to chatting and I found out that Georgge had been on the roads for 10 months and had already did Argentina and the East Coast! I was in awe of the man and wanted to hear his stories. He has a thread for his trip that I'll link in here once I find it. We were heading in the same direction anyway so he let me tag along. Both of us hadn't eaten lunch yet so we stopped for lunch and got to know each other better. After lunch, I had to get some Canadian currency and George needed to address his gas can that he was carrying, it was spitting gas all over the place. I went into one of those money marts and the cute gal at the counter took quite a long time to exchange $500 US to Canadian dollars. At first, she told me that I'll be getting $693 back, then after a few minutes, she told me I'll be getting back only $649 Canadian. Not sure what happened there but I didn't want to inquire as $649 was good to me since I gave her only $500! LOL.

    Finally, back on the road. But about an hour north of Fort St. John, just 8 km south of Wonowon, I had a mechanical issue.

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    #9
  10. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    336
    Location:
    Elk Grove, California
    So I was riding along following George when I suddenly I heard a ping sound like something just fell off the bike and I lost power to the bike. I pulled in the clutch, nothing. Down shifted, upshifted, nothing. I coasted to a stop at a precarious location on the road because it was an uphill incline and a curve in the road and not much shoulder room to safely take the bike apart. After a minute as I was digging through my pannier box to get to my tools, George came back around and I shook my head at him to let him know that something is wrong. I looked over my bike and didn't see anything out of the ordinary. But when I looked at my chain, it was off and rubbing against the plastic front sprocket cover. I opened that cover up and a few profanity came out of my mouth. I had lost the lock nut and washer to the front sprocket. It somehow backed itself out and went off the bike. I walked back down the road hoping to find it but no such luck. George helped me looked for it too. While we were combing the shoulders looking for a needle in the haystack, Ed pulled over in his Toyota Tundra and asked if everything was alright and how he could help. Ed rides and belongs to the BMW Motorrad. Not having any luck finding the missing nut and washer, I thought it was best to turn my bike around and coast it down hill into a pullout area where we would have more room to assess the situation and away from traffic. Ed helped me pushed the bike around and I hopped on and coasted down hill into the pullout area.

    Ed called his contacts and tried to see if there were any shops that was still open on a Saturday afternoon, early evening. No one was open and being a Triumph, it wasn't likely that they'll have the parts in stock anyway. At this point, my only option was to call Triple A. Thank goodness I had reception. Called Triple A and got them to come out with about an hour wait, which wasn't bad at all considering I wasn't anywhere near a big city.

    So an hour later, Sam came out with his truck and enclosed trailer to tow my bike back into Fort St. John. I was glad to be riding in the truck and the bike safely secured inside the trailer. Sam took me back to the Econo Lodge in town and unloaded the bike. George and I got rooms there and I asked Sam to join us for dinner, to thank them both for their help today, I picked up the tab.

    Uh-Oh!
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    Ed on the phone trying to reach his contacts.
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    Geroge and I safely parked and waiting for Triple A.
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    Sam to the Rescue!
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    #10
  11. Bigguy136

    Bigguy136 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2017
    Oddometer:
    229
    Sorry to hear about your bike issue. Don't only look at Triumph for a new nut. Just find out the thread dia and pitch. Other brand bikes are likely using the same size nut. Look at all chain drive bikes.
    If you can't find a new lock tab, safety wire will also work.
    #11
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  12. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

    Joined:
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    Elk Grove, California
    All settled into my room at the Econo Lodge, went to take a shower and the shower didn't work. Went down to front desk and the lady gave me a free upgrade to a suite!
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    Since I had to wait until Monday for the shops to open, I told George he should continue his trip without me. No sense in waiting around with nothing to do. So I said bye to George Sunday morning and hoped to see him again once I'm back on the road. I went to front desk to ask about moving to a regular room since I figured the upgrade was only for one night. But the a different person at the front desk told me it's fine and that I didn't have to move rooms. I took this as I'm not being charged the regular rate for the suite and thanked him and went on my day.

    My lonely bike all by itself after George left.

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    There was really nothing to do in Fort St. John on a Sunday. I walked to the local Totem Mall and had some good Thai food. The mall was dead except for a few teenagers hanging out and a few families waiting to see the movies. The movie theater was only showing selected few, all of which I've seen or didn't want to see. With a whole day off and nothing to do, I started stressing about not being able to find the parts I need on Monday and losing more time on my trip waiting around for parts to be delivered, this was worse case scenario that kept playing in my head.

    Monday came and I was up early waiting for the shops to open. The Northern Metallic place next door was open at 6am so I went there looking for a lock nut and washer. They didn't have anything that would work. I had to wait until 7am for Gregg Distributors to open. It was about a 15 min walk. They had a nut with the right pitch (thanks to @MapMaster) but no washer. By now, Trail Blaz'n Power was open so I went there. The lady at the front told me to try another place in town but it's not within walking distance. But she went to the back and asked another gentlemen if he could help me. After explaining my situation to him, he went to his boss to see if he could help me.

    Tom Peters is the Service Manager at Trail Blaz'n Power. I told him that I'm broken down on my trip to Alaska from California. I could tell right away that he was going to help me as much as he could. He told me to go get my bike and bring it to his shop. Luckily for me, the bike was just across the highway at the hotel. He told me to put the nut on as tight as I could and ride the bike over and he'll take care of it for me. I went back to the bike, wrench the nut on as tight as I could, rode it over to Trail Blaz'n and pulled it into the back of the shop where Tom and his guys were waiting. Tom went to work and fabricated a lock washer for it and screwed on the lock nut with red thread lock to the right torque. I couldn't thank him and his guys enough. I was so lucky to get help from them and for free. He wouldn't take my money. He just told me to email him about my trip and to send him pictures of my trip, which I did last week. The nut and washer are still on there after 6K miles!

    Here's Tom, working away to get me back on the road.

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    He made two of these cuts to hold the washer against the sprocket in place.

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    All done and the crew deserves a picture. L-R: Ryan, Tom, Al?, Scott.

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    Back on the road! Only lost two days, I still have time to get to Dawson City for the D2D.
    #12
  13. AllSeasonRider

    AllSeasonRider Wandering, maybe a little lost...

    Joined:
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    Thanks for the heads up about traffic! I think that cemented my plan to stay further east to cross into Canada.
    #13
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  14. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Jul 20, 2009
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    Location:
    South Louisiana
    Looking forward to the rest of your report
    #14
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  15. FlyingSkeet

    FlyingSkeet Adventurer

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    NorCal
    Luckily I live part of this with you! Following to see how it went after I went on my way.
    #15
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  16. bobw

    bobw Harden the phuck up

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    Location:
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    Every trip I find it's the people met along the way that are the real "icing on the cake"!

    In!
    #16
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  17. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

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    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Breaking down on a Saturday afternoon is a typical noob mistake. :lol3

    Us experienced travelers know to do so early on a weekday. :deal
    (I suffered the same missing nut problem on my trip in 2015 and after correcting some faulty memory, was able to tell @outdoorsman the correct replacement size:
    Day 46 - Slana to Tok - You wish your breakdowns were as good as this!)

    Glad you got it sorted (great lock washer fab) and if that was the worse thing to happen, then it was a great trip!
    #17
  18. Project Mayhem

    Project Mayhem Moto Aficionado Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2015
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Coal Creek Canyon, CO, USA
    My wife just got a '18 XRx in May, and we're leaving in a couple weeks for the Northwest Territories- guess I'd better double check that front sprocket nut and add some extra retention...I'll probably try to drill & wire it.
    Enjoying the report & looking forward to the next installment!
    :beer
    #18
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  19. rd400racer

    rd400racer Long timer

    Joined:
    May 14, 2013
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    Location:
    Louisville, Ky
    Great report so far! I had to look up Fort St. John as I'd never heard of it. That's when it hit me just how big and far away everything is there. I mean it's 1300 miles just to get to Whitehorse! Keep it coming...looks like a great trip.
    #19
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  20. outdoorsman

    outdoorsman Lets Ride! Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2011
    Oddometer:
    336
    Location:
    Elk Grove, California
    So as I was gearing up to leave the after my bike was fixed, the hotel front desk guy came out and gave me my receipt for check out. I thanked him and stuff it into my tank bag and didn't look at it until later. Sure enough, he charged me for the full price of the suite the second night even after I asked him about moving to a regular room and he assured me it's fine to stay in the suite. Shitty move on his part but I should have insisted that I be moved to a regular room.

    Hoping to make up time and to catch up with George (George's thread is called "The Gap Year: Alaska" if you all want to read his year long trip), I put the hammer down and made good time. I stopped in Pink Mountain for gas and when I came out from paying for the gas, I found some stickers and a card left on my bike. It was from Darcie, she has a website and social media, called MotoVetGal. We chatted for a bit and I was amazed that she was making the trek to Fort Nelson on a CBR500R. I asked if she wanted to ride together to Fort Nelson but she didn't want to hold me up so I went ahead. As I was having lunch in Fort Nelson, I see lots of bikes rolling through town. I also saw Darcie rolled through and that was the last time I saw her.

    This is Darcie and her loaded up CBR500R. She's in full race leathers and riding a sport bike. Everything was held on by bungee cords and a net. Any bike is an Adventure bike if you have the will to travel.
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    This is how I used to tour.
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    After lunch, I went to get gas and ran into fellow inmate, Paul @Blackfin31 and his friend Ken. They were heading south and making their way back to California. It was good to put a face to a name, Paul took a couple of pictures with me and kept saying how my bike is so good looking. :) Thanks Paul and nice meeting you and Ken. Keep in touch, you're only 1.5 hours from me.

    Paul with his GS and me with my Tiger.
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    From Fort Nelson, I bee lined it for Liard Hot Springs, it was my destination for the night. Passing through Toad River and Muncho Lake.
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    #20