Another Rookie Went to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by 72 Yamaha RD350, Jan 3, 2020.

  1. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Mr. & Mrs. Patel saw me off the next morning and I completed an uneventful ride to visit my elderly mother. While there I visited some of my favorite sites in Indianapolis.

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    If you know anything about the picture above, you know that it's not very far from Long's Bakery - one of the most iconic institutions of Indianapolis. This is a picture of Mrs. RD350 inside Long's on a prior trip.

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    I also met inmate RadianRider on this trip but neither one of us bothered to take a photo of the occasion. We'll fix that in a future post on the next ride to Indy before heading to Alaska.
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  2. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I intended the return ride to Minneapolis to be a two day run. I started early but even after taking a nap on a picnic table under a shelter at a reststop while a rainstorm passed, I was in Moline IL by 1pm with nearly 300 miles completed. Moline is the location of the John Deere Pavilion. If you're ever in the area, stop by - it's free. You can enjoy being a kid again by climbing up into all the JD equipment on display indoors.

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    #22
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  3. steved57

    steved57 Been here awhile Supporter

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    I'm in - Great writing and riding !
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  4. JmpRvrHntCmp

    JmpRvrHntCmp n00b

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    Awesome!!! I’m in!!
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  5. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    It's 385 miles from Moline to my house west of Minneapolis which is nothing to an Iron Butt rider, but I'm not one of those. In fact, I think you should call me Pansy Butt. When I initially purchased the Strom, my youngest son was attending college two hours away and working a research job that kept him there over summers. I rode out a few times to see him, always stopping at the DQ in Paynesville because it's sort of halfway, it's ice cream, it's an old style seasonal DQ like they all were when I was a kid, and because an hour was about all body could handle of the Strom ergonomics.

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    I discovered CycleErgo.com two weeks after I purchased the Strom and the stats were not good. And so I did what we all do. No, I did not mount a snowblower on the Strom. Nor did I go to the Darkside.

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    Three inch longer clutch cable, front brake cable, throttle cables, and two inch risers made the bike fit me much better. Besides spending time with my mom, the purpose of riding to Indianapolis was to determine how comfortable I was. I deliberately stopped short of replacing the seat - not being sure what direction I was headed with that modification.

    The bike was fairly comfortable with these changes but certainly not all day comfortable. After an hour stop at the JDP and texting my wife, I mounted up to see when I would call it quits for the day.
    #25
  6. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Have you ever ridden through a hail storm? A hail storm so bad that all the cars pulled off the road and sought protective shelter?

    Have you ever ridden through a hail storm so bad cars were pulling off the road and seeking protective shelter because your wife was sexting you?

    Wait. Did I word that correctly?

    Regardless, that's what next. Stay tuned.

    [Note: I have to leave this post here as a reminder where to pick this story up. Yea, I'm that old.]
    #26
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  7. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

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    Great so far. Feel like I've been there with you as you've gone thru life.
    #27
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  8. MotoChris521

    MotoChris521 motominded

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    Cool story so far, but you gots to know. 1973 was the first year of the RD 350. I had a '74.
    :amazon
    #28
  9. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Now is as good a time as any to introduce Mrs. RD350. She doesn't go to Alaska but said something supportive at a key moment that sealed my fate... something she's done a time or two.

    Mrs. RD350 is from Fillmore, Utah - a small town on I-15 midway between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. We grew up 1,600 miles apart and our respective childhoods had nothing in common aside from loving parents. Our paths eventually crossed after an improbable mix of tragic death, faith, forbidden love, divorce, and even more forbidden love. But the fact that my second girlfriend decided she was a lesbian was probably the biggest factor. [I wish I was making all that up but I am nowhere near that creative.] Here's a picture of Mrs. RD with a couple friends before she was Mrs. RD - she's the one on the far right.

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    We met the first week of September 1988 at Arizona State University. We were engaged six weeks later. Why? B-i-o-l-o-g-y. Biology doesn't care about where you're from, your religious affiliation/beliefs, moral principles, or that your last girlfriend played for the other team.

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    We married on December 16th of the same year in the Mormon temple at Mesa, Arizona.

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    Mormon? Yea. At the time. But let's not go there now. Let's get back on track 29 years years later.

    The seat on the VStrom became more uncomfortable after the first 300 miles so I stopped periodically just to get off the bike and stretch. Towns get sparse in northeast Iowa but there's a decent-sized one every 50-60 miles so I stopped to get off the bike, retrieve my phone from the top case, text my wife to let her know where I was, stretch my legs for 2-3 minutes, put the phone back in the top case, and then get on the bike. Total down time - about six minutes.

    It was over the span of several of these stops that the texts became more intimate. Like most couples who've been married a long time - we'd had our rough patches over the years. Despite an absence of common interests, we'd stuck it out for thirty years because we shared the one thing that could make up for the rest. The thought that we were going to have some fun when I got home helped me ride past the few hotels along the route.

    I checked the weather radar at my last stop before merging onto I-35. The western horizon was growing dark. Sure enough, a small but powerful storm cell was straight ahead. I elected not to pull underneath the only overpass in Iowa to wait it out because it wasn't raining yet - the cell being about three miles away. As I merged onto I-35 with the cell immediately to my left I took a stiff shot in the right shoulder. It wasn't big enough to knock me off and no feathers meant it wasn't a bird, but it was strong enough to be felt through the layers of gear I had on. About that point I got hit in the left hand and I knew - hail - marble to golf ball size!

    I was fortunate to be coming upon an exit ramp and dove off to the right into a gas station with a covered pump area. Cars had pulled off the interstate under the awning taking up all the spots but I was able to fit in between the cars and get off the bike. The storm cell hit with a ferocity common in the Midwest, 50-60 mph sustained winds and torrential rain sufficient to make the awning all but useless in protecting anything.

    Mother Nature threw her hell fire and damnation hissy fit for fifteen minutes before moving on to the east. As if nothing had happened, the sun shined brightly and a rainbow appeared as I returned to the interstate for the last three hours of a 671 mile day. My wife greeted me warmly and we later enjoyed what we had anticipated for half the day.
    #29
  10. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Yep. I don't know when the RD hit the showroom floors, but Joe told me it was a 72 and I didn't find out otherwise until I saw it on the title. It's forever stuck in my mind as a '72 even though the paperwork said it was a '73. All that matters now is that it is ancient history - another place in time.
    #30
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  11. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Mrs. RD is the reason I bought the VStrom. When I signed up for the BRC I told her that I didn't know if I would ride for a day, a week, a month, a year, or for the rest of my life. At the time I didn't know what I wanted out of riding. I just knew that I only had one life to live and I didn't want to have any regrets (or at least anymore than I already had). I asked if she would ride pillion and, being a country girl from Utah, she answered in the affirmative and that dictated which bikes were candidates to purchase.

    I didn't feel comfortable with rebuilding my riding skills on an 800 pound touring bike or the ST1300 she liked. The VStrom would do and she was true to her word. A weekly one hour ride became part of our routine limited by the height of the bike. Mrs. RD is on the shorter side and the Suzuki was too tall for her to comfortably mount and dismount. Longer rides would require a shorter seat height.

    Summer was coming to a close so there was no point in addressing the issue with so little time riding time left before winter. Better to reflect on the high points of our time together off the bike in 2018.

    SS Badger ferry across Lake Michigan.
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    Arcadia Bluffs
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    #31
  12. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    The VStrom was put away the first week of October due to poor weather and an early winter. The odometer showed over 9,000 miles in a cumulative nine months of riding.

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    In March a business trip to Phoenix provided the opportunity for me to rent a Harley with a couple co-workers and ride to places I had loved when I lived there. I elected to ride a Road King to see if it was a bike I could enjoy riding solo. There was no question my wife would able to mount/dismount its low seat height.

    Greg and I rode first to Florence to meet up with Dave who was riding up from Tucson. From Florence we rode east to Globe and up AZ188 to Tonto National Monument. I lived in Arizona for fourteen years and traipsed over most of it but continually missed Tonto NM for one reason or another.

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    We hiked to the lower ruins and enjoyed the view of Roosevelt Lake.

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    We pulled onto the Apache Trail and parked at the lot overlooking the dam and bridge. The Apache Trail was one of my first and favorite adventures when I moved to Arizona in 1988. At that time there was no bridge and the road passed over the top of Roosevelt dam. Later, after the bridge was built in the early 90's, the top of the dam was raised. Ironically, the lake level never rose to utilize the increased capacity and boat ramps stood high and dry hundreds of yards from water due to year after year of drought.
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    We rode north to Mogollon country, another of my favorite and frequent destinations. While the temperatures had been mid-70's in the lower desert, it dropped to the mid-fifties as we climbed on top of the Rim. We pulled into the Woods Canyon Lake turn-off where there was still snow in the shade of the Ponderosa. It was nippy and we made plans for dinner at Kohl's Ranch which was as good as the last time I was there eighteen years previous.
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    Greg and I escorted Dave south toward Tucson. We parted at a reststop on I-10 halfway to Tucson.
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    I turned in the Road King the next morning with 430 miles on the trip meter. I was completely satisfied with it.
    #32
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  13. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Next up: Bye, bye VStrom. Hello Road King.
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  14. djroszina

    djroszina Long timer Supporter

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    Great Lakes Shipwreck museum, Whitefish Point , UP Michigan

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    #34
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  15. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    As soon as the weather turned favorable I moved the VStrom out of winter storage and prepared for the 2019 riding season. I had made an itinerary for a trip to Alaska and thought that 2019 might be the year. The plan required three weeks and few things to fall into place. I told a co-worker with a fully kitted out 2016 Africa Twin that it might happen and he was welcome to go along. He said, "I guess I can't say that I don't have the right bike" and, with aging parents in poor health, left it undecided.

    Spring began rainy and cold. Having been unfaithful to my Suzuki by taking that harlot Harley Davidson for a spin, I felt cold toward the VStrom whenever the weather allowed me to ride. The Heed crash bars I had mounted, while very well made, amplified the engine vibrations above 60mph reminding me of the RD. A custom seat I acquired over the winter at considerable expense was a vast improvement over the stock seat, but it began to sink in that the seating position itself was never going to be all day comfortable for me. Most of all, I missed the under-stressed lumpiness of the big v-twin engine beneath me and the perfect cruise control of the HD.

    I knew that upgrading to a Touring class bike, either HD or Indian, was going to be expensive. Mrs. RD was supportive of a change and loved the styling of Indians. I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of taking such an expensive bike to Alaska. While I don't typically let other's opinions overly influence me, the Harley culture and its stigma among some riders is impossible to ignore. A co-worker who had ridden a Yamaha sport bike cross country earlier in his life shared his wisdom: "If it's the bike you enjoy riding, don't let others steer you away."

    My plan had been to be in Dawson City for D2D but I wasn't keen on taking an 800 pound bike over the Top of the World Highway - especially if it was wet. I didn't know how a touring bike handled on gravel or wet hardpack and I certainly didn't look forward to having to pick one up. The rational thing to do was to take Dawson City off the itinerary and so that's what I did. Mrs. RD saw no reason that I shouldn't take a touring bike to Alaska - who was I to argue!

    In late 2017 a fellow rode his older Harley into an HD dealership and traded it in on a brand new Road King. When he got home his wife was not happy. He held onto it for fourteen months before trading it in on a new boat. How unhappy was she? Three hundred and nineteen miles unhappy. Having identified my mark, I put the VStrom in the Flea Market at an attractive price and it sold quickly. I picked the Road King up a few days later.

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    #35
  16. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I quickly added a backrest for myself and for Mrs. RD's comfort. A rear rack was added to support touring.
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    It was that time of year to visit my mother again and the RK needed a shakedown run. I've done the trip so many times by so many different routes that I don't really plan for it. The 680 mile ride down was long, but uneventful. After resting for a few days and visiting with mom, I took the RK on a tour of favorite haunts.
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    #36
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  17. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    Mel passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1984 while I was in college but I stopped by to see Lois every few trips into town. She was 95 years old, lived in the same house as when I was a kid, but didn't answer the door. A neighbor told me that her daughter had passed away from cancer in April. I tracked her down through her son-in-law to a nearby assisted care facility. (He still has that 1964 Corvette in his garage and proudly showed it to me.) Lois was excited to see me. We had a wonderful conversation about her life, the recent loss of her only child, and her grandchildren. This is a picture from our visit in 2016. (She didn't drive much at this point but the last car she bought was a late model Ford Mustang - and that typifies the kind of woman she was.)
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    Next up was a visit to Sue & Al to pay my condolences for the recent loss of their son, Fred. Fred was one year younger than me but collapsed on a treadmill six weeks prior. EMT's arrived within two minutes but the artery that burst in his neck left his brain without oxygen. Fred and his father hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail every year and it was their dream to thru-hike it someday.

    Besides seeing mom, I don't mind the trips down to Indiana because it gives me time to catch up with a few high school classmates and visit the Eiteljorge Museum - one of the best museums of the American West. You'll see in the Alaska postings that I have a thing for museums - art museums, tree museums (arboretums), landscape museums (national parks), car museums, technology museums, etc... If its any type of museum and I have the time - you'll find me there. Museums of the American West are especially attractive to me and the Eiteljorge has Robert Griffing's "Secrets of the Dark Forest" which is my favorite work depicting a native American scene. If you love art of the American West and find yourself in Indianapolis for a few hours - make the effort to go to the Eiteljorge - you won't regret it.
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    RadianRider and I met again for socializing - this time at my father's favorite place to eat.
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    #37
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  18. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I rode through Galena on the way home because I wanted to see Grant's home and take another shot at riding C9Y.
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    Grant's home is reportedly furnished in the original items from his occupancy. He received the news of his election to the Presidency in this room.
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    Galena is a town I will have to go back to with Mrs. RD. There's more there than what I had time to see on this trip. Also, the gnats nearly ate me alive and the humidity was pushing into the uncomfortable level.

    As I crossed into Dubuque I noted a road construction sign stating closure of my intended route north to C9Y. In the humidity I didn't feel like snaking my way through the road construction so I took a raincheck on C9Y and headed west.

    I don't recall where it was that I stopped to inquire about a hotel room, but the quote was $120 and I wasn't tired enough to justify paying that much for a hotel room in rural Iowa. I arrived home later that night after a 700-plus mile day on the King.
    #38
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  19. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I forgot to mention that while I was visiting my mom, I received a text from my co-worker telling me that he was tagging along with me to Alaska. I arrived home from Indiana two weeks before departure day for Alaska.

    He had been eyeing the new 2019 Africa Twin and pulled the trigger on a trade-in of his outfitted 2016. He was in a rush to get the minimum necessary farkles completed for the trip. He elected to go with soft bags this go round but the ones he selected definitely wouldn't arrive in time. He found some budget soft bags that worked fine.

    Rick is a big guy. One of the weak point of the AT is the aluminum sidestand which had broken on his 2016. He quickly ordered a steel replacement and got that installed... with unforeseeable consequences.

    We live a half-mile apart so it was convenient to get together a few times to review plans and gear. I had planned to hotel it solo because I have camped way too many nights in my life already - somewhere around 200 nights, maybe more. (Remember, I was a BSA Scoutmaster for ten years.) I've got the gear and I enjoy the camping experience, but I'm just over the additional hassles that come with camping - especially tearing down and setting up every day if I'm moving. And forget about camp cooking while moving day-to-day. That takes way too long for someone who's already on a tight schedule. But Rick wanted to camp and I acquiesced. We agreed on no cooking. So tents, sleeping bags, and a few miscellaneous items are coming along. Fine. Rick hasn't camped since he was a kid and I understand that some people really like camping and others fall in love with the idea of camping. Fortunately, Rick recognized that he wanted a hotel every third day for a shower and comfortable bed.

    I annotated the itinerary to identify campsites along the route. It is 1,500 miles to Edmonton from where we live and a good portion of that is on the Yellowhead Highway. Hotel rooms are inexpensive ($60-$75/night) so camping in an established campground doesn't save a whole lot of money for two people splitting the cost of a room.

    My only concern regarding the entire trip was weather. I had watched enough YT videos of ADVRiders to know that some of the low pressure systems that slide eastward across Canada can last days. I made it clear to Rick that I wasn't fixated on getting to Alaska if it meant day-after-day-after-day of rain. If the weather didn't cooperate then I would turn in the direction of clear weather and pick a new destination. With jobs to return to on a set date, we simply didn't have the flexibility to sit tight for more than a day. We had to make miles during critical portions of the trip.

    Rick wears an Aerostich and has a heated vest. I wear full Olympia gear and have Frog Togs stashed in a pannier. I do not have heated gear.

    We also both picked up leg gaiters from the HD dealer as I know my Alpinestars GoreTex Gunner boots are not truly waterproof. The left boot is good for a half-day in heavy rain but the right boot is a sieve under anything greater than sprinkles.

    Rick wears Aerostich Elkskin gloves. I have two pair of quality riding gloves - neither waterproof. In good weather I alternate both pair of gloves just to have a different feel in the hands throughout the day. I know the lack of waterproof gloves is a risk, but I accept that I'm not covering every contingency. To some degree I'm willing to deal with whatever comes my way. I've had too many friends who pack the kitchen sink and I'm not That Guy.
    #39
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  20. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Long timer Supporter

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    I'm a child of the 70's. Although I own a GPS from 1998 and pack it in my pannier just in case , I'm perfectly comfortable without electronics in front of me on the bike. The phone remains in airplane mode in a jacket pocket or in a pannier. I don't own an electronic communicator and have no desire to have one for the Alaska ride. I'm perfectly comfortable inside my helmet for 24 hours a day with no music, no podcasts, no phone calls, no texts. Yea, call me a Luddite.

    It's pretty straightforward to get to Fairbanks from where we live. Essentially you go to Edmonton and hang a right. More precisely:
    US52 to the Portal border crossing
    Canada-39/6/11 to the Yellowhead at Saskatoon
    Exit the Yellowhead on 43 to Grande Prairie/Dawson Creek
    Alaska Highway until you see the sign for Fairbanks

    Glacier/Banff/Jasper are deliberately left off the agenda because I want to do those with Mrs. RD. The Cassiar is off the table due to excess mileage/time - it will have to wait until I'm retired.

    Literally, that is the plan. Boring as hell for a good 2,000 miles but good tarmac that supports a safe speed limit. I have studied the maps for months. I have the major towns in sequence stored in my brain. If I have a brain fart I can always pull out the phone at a gas stop and check the map. I don't need a GPS or phone screen in front of me for 7,000 miles. I have two giant-ass screens in front of me every day at work. The last thing I want is for this trip to have any semblance of work.

    The plan is to do 500 miles per day for six consecutive days to get to Fairbanks. Once we get to Fairbanks, we'll plan out the next 6-7 low mileage days and during those days begin to work on a plan for the return 3,000 miles. That's enough structure for me. My daily job is planning, budgeting, scheduling complex engineering projects that last 14-20 months. Relatively speaking, planning and executing a trip to Alaska and back is a piece of cake in comparison. Some people need more firm plans, some less. Do whatever makes you comfortable.
    #40
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