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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by 72 Yamaha RD350, Jan 3, 2020.
The Liard River.
Day 15 – Canadian Rockies
Day 15 – Canadian Rockies
Day 15 – Tetsa Lake
“Cinnamon Bun Center of the Galactic Universe” - that’s what the sign said and it wasn’t lyin’.
Day 16 – Fort Nelson to Valleyview
Sunday, June 30 – 428 miles – 77F Sunny – 1,416 miles from home
Day 16 – Fort Nelson to Valleyview
Day 17 – Valleyview to Lloydminster
Monday, July 1 – 366 miles – 46F Heavy Rain across all Alberta on Canada Day – 1,051 miles from home
We woke up to a 51F cool misty morning in Valleyview. The forecast didn't look good and the reality was even worse. The mist turned into rain which turned into heavy rain and the temperature dropped as we approached Edmonton. Rick's ambient air temperature gauge on his instrument panel bottomed out at 41F.
We rode 230 miles to Edmonton without stopping until our low fuel lights came on. Rick had his heated vest plugged in. I was wearing every layer I possessed, including the base layers I use for skiing. We filled up at a gas station and soldiered on.
The plan had been to do 456 miles to North Battleford. As we came to a stop at a light in Lloydminster my bladder cried for relief. To my right was a Denny's and I flipped on my blinker. Rick's teeth were chattering as we sat down to order. I was chilled but not overly cold. (I can advise you to never wear two layers of Columbia's Omni-Heat unless it;s below 50F 'cause otherwise it will cook you alive.) While waiting for our food I cancelled our reservations in North Battleford and re-booked us at the hotel in Lloydminster.
There are few days I will remember my entire life, but Canada Day 2019 will be one of them - it was THAT miserable. The weather was so bad we saw Canadians on vacation for Canada Day towing their boats and campers back home en mass. In retrospect we should have called it a day much earlier and let the system blow through.
Day 18 – Lloydminster to Minot ND
Tuesday, July 2 – 588 miles – 65F Partly Sunny – 477 miles from home
Nothing to see here. Move along.
Note: I recommend not smarting off to the Border Patrol Agent when you re-enter. When asked, "What were you doing in Alaska?" I said, "Being an American!". Wrong answer. He made me open my panniers but decided I wasn't worth anymore hassle on a slow day.
Day 19 – Minot to Home
Wednesday, July 3 – 477 miles – 86F Sunny
I found the most unexpected beauty in North Dakota - rolling green hills, a few lakes, and endless blue sky. My daughter recently moved to Williston - I look forward to seeing more of the state.
Both temperature and traffic density increased as we entered Fargo. While portions of Saskatoon and Alberta were boring, this was the only stretch of the trip that felt monotonous.
Day 19 – Carrington ND
On the way to Alaska we rolled through Carrington in the rain. I saw the Chieftain and knew I wanted to stop there on the way home. It's definitely a place I plan to return to in 2020.
Tomorrow: Some concluding thoughts and pictures.
Thank you for posting this RR. I’ve enjoyed reading it
Excellent RR! I enjoyed reading it. I'll be riding to AK for the second time in June!
Nice RR. Now you need to go back and see some more. Valdez, the Kenai, the Panhandle are all worth the time. Oh - at the Casiar too. I did this in 2000 and then moved there the next year. Now I'm in Fargo; I miss the scenery of Homer sometimes.
If I lived in Fargo I think I would miss Homer all of the time.
No question that I left some things unseen, including Hyder, Homer, Alyeska, Katmai, and Valdez. Similar to Banff and Jasper, I left some things off the table because I want to go to some of those places with Mrs. RD.
Mike & Cathy from Homer said they have traveled the world and they've found no place as beautiful as Homer. I believed them... but still chose not to ride the 200+ miles down the spit and back up again. Might have done so if rooms had been more affordable, but I don't regret not riding to Homer.
Life is about finding a balance - not necessarily a perfect balance - but a balance that works for you.
There's some other places closer to home that are a higher priority for me to see than the rest of Alaska. At the top of the list is Glacier, Banff, and Jasper. Big Bend, Palo Duro Canyon, Chaco Canyon, and Trinity site are on the list too. There may even be some places I've already seen higher on the list than returning to Alaska. There is a recharging of the soul that occurs when you return to a special place you've been before. If I wait long enough - Alaska will become one of those places.
The Milwaukee 8 engine of the Road King hummed a steady beat across the hills of North Dakota between Minot and Carrington. It was the last day. Only a few clouds spotted the blue sky. It was perfect riding weather. Rick rode tailgunner as I pulled into rural gas stations every 60 minutes to stretch the day out as long as possible. I was looking forward to being home, but I dreaded the last stretch on I-94 - the antithesis of the last nineteen days.
I reflected on where we had been, the landscapes we had been absorbed into, the people we had met [far more than are shown in this RR], the weather we had endured, and the miles that had passed by. Fresh in my mind was the picturesque river valley northwest of Minot where graduating classes had placed their year on the hillsides. Unlike grandiose homes that disfigure mountainsides elsewhere, these humble markings from the 60's to the current year endeared me to the people and the place - people who longed to be recognized yet achieved no social status by placing their mark.
Although we had endured some rough weather days, we had been graced with an absence of prairie winds across the Plains. On the bike or off, wind is my least favorite weather. It rarely makes things better. A breeze can provide relief on a summer day but more often it makes cold colder, hot hotter, and rain wetter. Yet wind is the essence of motorcycling - moving quickly through air creating wind where otherwise it isn't. As we rode north through this river valley on the way to Alaska the road happened to align exactly with the direction of the wind. I had never before experienced on a motorcycle such perfect peace of the wind at my back and quietness around me. Subtle tones of the engine and rubber on pavement played their music to an audience of one.
Motoring along that morning in the blessed emptiness that is North Dakota I contemplated the unthinkable: Do I sell the Road King when I get home? Will I ever have a trip like this again? In some respects it would be fitting. I had had a dream when I was seventeen years old to take a long ride on a smooth motorcycle. Alaska was a legitimate long ride. Others ride longer and further but anything after this for me is anticlimactic. I wouldn't be like my godparents, Doc & Jackie, who toured the country for decades on Gold Wings. This might be it for me.
Jamestown was a familiar sight. It is instantly endearing but the next 305 miles pass only slightly easier than a kidney stone. It's sweltering hot. Traffic on I-94 is dense due to the impending July 4th holiday. Speeds are between "Ridiculous" and "Ludicrous" on the Space Balls scale. Alternative routes are even less desirable.
Rick and I live in neighborhoods directly opposite each other on the same county road. Occasionally we ride to or from work on our motorcycles together if the timing works out. As we crested the hill he turned on his blinker, I turned on mine, and we split left and right as we had done dozens of times before. For a moment I had a strange sense of deja vu. Had we really gone to Alaska?
My neighbor, Pete, rides a 2017 Street Glide (with stunning Crushed Ice Pearl paint). He's ridden to Sturgis with his brother every year for the last five years. He gave me the Gremlin Bell that survived the trip to Alaska beneath my Road King. His wife is the first person I see as I pull into my driveway and she acknowledges my accomplishment with a wave and a yell.
I am greeted by the one who truly loves me more than any other. He speaks to me as only a dog can do in happiness that I have returned.
I kissed Mrs. RD and took a shower. I think she slaved over some Dominos pizza and wings for dinner. At some point I remembered I had something and went to the garage to dig through a pannier. It was a joyous reunion.
Next: An epilogue and concluding thoughts.