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 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Epilogue: I purposely waited several months to write this RR. As it contains little useful, practical information, no one would miss its presence. Others have posted RRs of far more value, with better writing, and photographs worthy of publication. Obviously, writing this RR was more for me than you. And since it was for me - I wanted the experience of the trip to sit for awhile. I wanted to see how I would feel about it six months later. I wanted it to age.

    I'm still extremely grateful for my youngest son who made it possible. He picked up after the dog and mowed the lawn, and generally took care of the loyal canine that loves our family. They are mundane tasks but without him I would have had to put off this trip until some time in the future.

    I left on this trip with a high school classmate in the hospital. Kenny had hernia surgery in January but collapsed in his bathroom, "... just like Elvis ..." he posted, in April. He and I were not close in high school or after but we chanced to have breakfast together four or five years ago. We were able to look back on our youth with the wisdom of being fifty year old men. He shared with me the loss of his mother, his love for his children, and this profound thought: "I am a dinosaur. I know I am a dinosaur." He was speaking politically, but at the same time we both acknowledged what happens to dinosaurs.

    I received a text while I was in Cantwell. It was from my sixth grade crush. [I proved my devotion back then by throwing her books off her desk onto the floor which got us both sent to the hallway for a chewing out by Mr. Steele. Roller skating hand-in-hand during the slow song under the disco ball in seventh grade has been replaced by an occasional round of golf, shanking a few balls into the adjacent fairway, and comparing notes on physical infirmities.] The news was not good. Kenny, who had been her Prom date and fellow class clown, was in the ICU. The situation was dire. I sent a postcard from Cantwell hoping that Kenny would pull through and get a chance to see it. I thought of him a lot over the remaining miles. He passed at the age of 54 two weeks after I returned home.

    One thing I want to make clear: I'm a nobody. Both on this website and in the world. And that's ok. Anonymity is underrated. Given the money, minimal riding ability and the time off from work, almost anybody can ride almost any motorcycle to Alaska - Ed March proved that without any question. [Google "Ed March C90 Adventures"]

    There is a lot of debate in our community and society about what is and isn't "Adventure". My trip to Alaska taught me that Adventure is Relative. I saw literally dozens of bicyclists pedaling to Alaska, Deadhorse, and even met a German fellow who had already bicycled all across Europe and the entire perimeter of Australia. He was on his way to Ushuaia at the rate of about 100 miles per day. I even saw two separate families bicycling with young children! I met a fellow who was walking from Ontario to Deadhorse. I met an engineering intern from Louisiana who was doing his summer internship in Kotzebue - two jobs were posted nationwide and he was one of only two applicants - and he was thrilled to be there. [Type "Kotzebue" into Google Maps] Lastly, I met Carl & Ilene in Fort Nelson headed northbound on an older HD Ultra Limited with their blind and handicapped thirty year-old daughter, Maddie, in a sidecar. They have taken Maddie all over the country in that rig and they were headed to Alaska.

    I'm no adventurer compared to these people, you, or many others. I'm just a guy who had a dream as a kid.

    It came to me in that Boston Pizza restaurant on that rainy day in Fort Nelson with Kim (from Calgary) sitting across from me:
    Adventure comes in different sizes but is always a path away from comfort and familiarity. It is the trail of uncertainty trod with confidence in one’s abilities and trust in your fellow man - not fear of others or the unknown.

    MikeC
    aka "72 Yamaha RD350"

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  2. Kiwi Canuck

    Kiwi Canuck Been here awhile

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    Great RR, I got to read it over the last few days as you posted it.

    "I met Carl & Ilene in Fort Nelson headed northbound on an older HD Ultra Limited with their blind and handicapped thirty year-old daughter, Maddie, in a sidecar. They have taken Maddie all over the country in that rig and they were headed to Alaska."
    I got to meet them in Whitehorse as they stayed in the same hotel as us, that was on July 1st or 2nd IIRC, very interesting people, and certainly put my challenges into perspective, if for only a few hours.

    I was surprised by the number of bicycle riders as well and Moto Riders from Mexico and South America I met on our trip, almost all on big BMW's, must have been 10+ riders out of the 30 - 40 riders we interacted with, did you notice that as well?

    I'll be going back this summer, may take the DR650's this time if we ride to all the way to Tuk.

    Heck, I'm actually leaving in 2 weeks to go do some dog sledding North of Whitehorse, that should be fun and hopefully not toooo cold.

    David.
    wilfred and 72 Yamaha RD350 like this.
  3. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

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    Definitely the most enjoyable trip report I've read on here. It's not the prose, the photos or the places visited. It is the attitude. Thank you.
    bentlink, Pabst, Ltbrkm3 and 2 others like this.
  4. Bruincounselor

    Bruincounselor North Plains Drifter Supporter

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    But now I don't have any trees, mountains, or glaciers to obstruct my view of the scenery.

    :lol3


    People who think homer is spectacular haven't been to Valdez - the ride in is truly spectacular.
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  5. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I'll take that under advisement. :johntm
  6. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    That's probably the best news I'm going to hear all day. Carl was sweating over the segment from Fort Nelson to Liard Hot Springs because his Twin Cam sidecar rig only got low thirties mpg. He strapped one spare canister to his lower fairing and a second one to the top case. I reassured him that he would make it and there was even one or two pumps on the way but that the gas would be expensive.

    Like you, it definitely put my challenges into perspective. As we parted Maddie caught me off guard by saying, "I LOVE YOU, MIKE" as she sat in the sidecar with her doll in her arms. I glanced at Ilene before replying, "I love you too, Maddie."

    I'm sure they have their flaws but I can honestly say that Carl and Ilene are the only real-life superheroes I've ever met. Genuinely nice too. From Louisiana if I recall correctly.

    We met people on all makes of bikes. Certainly BMW GS's made up a third of what I saw on the AlCan. I saw virtually every make and model of "adventure" bikes - Stroms, S10's, etc... There were a fair number of KLR's and other medium/large thumpers. The model that surprised me most with its prevalence was Triumph Tiger 800's. The aforementioned non-GS group made up another third of the population. The final third was Harleys, a couple Indians, and a few more Gold Wings - big touring bikes built to knock down big miles. I'll put the couple, him on the CB500 and her on the CB300 (both newer bikes), as the final one percent - never got to speak to them but played leap frog with them for a day or two.

    The only breakdown we saw was a late '80's or early 90's Gold Wing with a flat rear tire - not the fault of the bike. That was somewhere around Dawson Creek. He said he had things taken care of and was just waiting on a rollback. I offered to stay but he insisted he was fine.

    I don't recall that we met other Moto riders from Mexico or SA. We met a lot of cyclist from European countries.

    Dog sledding sounds great. Apparently there is an event up there in the winter where people snowmobile hundreds of miles into Dawson City from all over the region with temperatures in the -20 to -30's. I wonder if they have a similar event for dog sledding. Dog sledding from Whitehorse to Dawson City in January would be incredible... in so many ways.

    Good luck on your trip to Tuk. That's a helluva ride.
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  7. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I appreciate the kind words. I will respond more fully this weekend.
  8. RJ44

    RJ44 Been here awhile

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    One of the most enjoyable stories that I have read on here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the great photos with us.

    Rob
    72 Yamaha RD350 likes this.
  9. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    You don't know, do you?
    I should have known.
    A Michigan native Steak'n'Shake newbee such as yourself.
    Alright.
    I guess it's my sworn duty to let you in on the secret.
    But you can't tell anyone - not even Deb, unless she's with you at a Steak'n'Shake.
    Sit down.
    Take a deep breath.
    .
    .
    .
    Steak'n'Shake is not on the space-time continuum.
    .
    .
    .
    Yea. You heard me.
    .
    .
    .
    Yes. It means what you think it means.
    .
    .
    .
    There is no such thing as time inside a Steak'n'Shake.
    .
    There is no morning. No breakfast.
    There is no noon. No lunch.
    No evening - hence, no dinner.
    .
    .
    .
    When you are at Steak'n'Shake - you just are.
    Time has stopped.
    Clocks haven't moved inside Steak'n'Shakes since the day the music died.
    .
    .
    .
    So yea. You were right. But not for the reasons you thought.
    But you're a smart guy. You would have figured it out in one or two more meetups.
    No, don't thank me.
    Just keep it tight.
  10. luftkoph

    luftkoph Long timer Super Supporter

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    Well done.
    72 Yamaha RD350 likes this.
  11. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Attitude. Let’s talk about that for a few minutes. Hopefully I won’t stir up a bees nest with what follows. I promise I’ll bring it back around to riding and an unforgettable moment in my Alaska trip.

    I notice you (@boristhebold) are from England. Many of us Yanks are descended from your country (although my ancestors came from Germany in 1720). English culture bestowed upon us a measure of politeness and decorum that resonates to this day. Americans, by and large, are quintessentially nice to everyone. “Please” and “Thank you” remain common courtesies along with the chivalry of opening doors for others and treating women with respect.

    I suspect that our roles in both World Wars and post-War industrialization, prosperity, and domination of the world stage has given us a bit of an attitude… and a certain absence of humility. You see it on display in world sporting events when we chant “U-S-A”, “U-S-A”, “U-S-A”. We aren’t just cheering for our team - we are getting in your face and telling you that we are going to kick your ass, kick it hard, and continuously. It’s very unchivalrous of us (if that's a word).

    If you have grown up in America during the last half century in a middle class (or higher) home, you have outsized expectations for yourself and what is possible in life. As you climb the income ladder your ego drives those outsized expectations higher and higher. Before long the Harley Davidson or BMW R1200/1250GS is in the garage next to an SUV and a full-size pickup truck. And there’s nothing wrong with that until we become pretentious assholes about it. Unfortunately, we’re getting really good at that.

    I’m not picking on HD or BMW. I love my Road King and, honestly, riding a GS or an RT is the only time I hear angels sing. (I hear Elvis when I ride the Harley.) Replace those motorcycles with boats, guns, cars, airplanes, horses, guitars, or any other paraphernalia Americans are in love with and we’re pretentious assholes about those too. I’m sure we don’t have a lock on it but I sometimes wonder how we come across to non-Americans on this forum and others.

    I’ve been one of those pretentious assholes and probably still am at times. What can knock you off that high horse is making a mistake, a major mistake, and having the balls to own it. Marrying the wrong person, marrying the right person but screwing it up, accepting a promotion to a position you truly aren’t qualified for - these things and many others can not just knock you down a notch, but throw you off the ladder. Personally, my major mistake was following the wrong God home. [With due credit to Clive Scott Chisholm, “Following the Wrong God Home”, University of Oklahoma Press, 2003]

    What does that mean? It means that I was wrong about the one thing I was sure about most. And being so sure about it led me to make other mistakes compounding the issue. It's easy to see once you've had the epiphany but the risk is the same whether you are following in your parents' footsteps or blazing your own trail.

    Until recently, NFL Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Cris Carter hosted the daily sports talk show “First Things First”. On his show he frequently stated: “Everybody thinks they are better than they really are. I was a Hall of Fame player but even I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Nobody is as good as they think they are.” That’s the attitude I took with me on my trip to Alaska: I could make a mistake - I’m not as good as I think I am.

    Day 4, Montney to Liard Hot Springs mostly in the rain. We came upon a small convoy of four or five RVs, maybe six. Visibility was poor for everybody with the rain and low cloud cover. They weren’t leaving enough space between themselves for us to get around easily. We were running the speed limit - they were running a bit under and encountering uphill grades slowing them down even further. We’re in a stretch of the AlCan with long sweeping curves - you can see ahead but not as far as you’d like. I finally get to where I can see far enough ahead to make a pass. In the dry I wouldn’t hesitate to crank it past 70 to 80 or 90 mph to get past them quickly, but I’m not keen on leaning into a curve at those higher speeds in the heavy wet so it’s a long drawn out passing maneuver. As I pass the third or fourth RV I’ve already consumed the long sweeper that we entered and the road is beginning a new long sweeper in the opposite direction. The timber along the roadside is not cut back far enough for me to have a good view around the curve. I make a split second decision to squeeze in between two RVs knowing I probably pissed off Rick who has to find another open space in this all too tight convoy. I see him merge in my rearview mirror. As I took a deep breath to relax three BMW R1200RTs passed me going the opposite direction.

    Even though I avoided disaster - I know: I’m not as good as I think I am.
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  12. 8feettogo

    8feettogo Adventurer

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    Bravo! You had me at RD350! My second bike in high school. When I picked it up the dealer said “keep it under 80 for a while” WHAT????
    Excellent story. I Loved this and read it non stop. Very inspirational. Please take another adventure - so we may all enjoy your fine style.
    The STOVL Co will give you time off I’m sure .
    btrrtlwtr and B10Dave like this.
  13. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Note: I've gone back and added some details that I left out previously, including one or two pictures, and some quotes from "Jupiter's Travels". The arc of the story is unchanged.

    Coming up: Winding down from a long trip by taking a 280 mile day ride with Mrs. RD.

    Maybe coming up: Adventure versus Faux Adventure.
    wilfred, B10Dave and 8feettogo like this.
  14. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    "You had me at Meat Tornado". Ron Swanson to Andy Drwyer, "Parks & Recreation"

    Thanks for the compliment.

    The endearing trait of the RD was not that it would do 80 mph - it was how fast it could get you to 80 mph.

    I'm sure there are faster bikes now... I should go take an R3 for a spin just to see how modern bikes of similar displacement feel compared to the RD.

    Actually, my current boss is not cool with me taking off more than one week so another trip of this magnitude is out of the question until she gets promoted.

    Again, thanks for the kind words.
    wilfred, shuswap1 and B10Dave like this.
  15. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    Great story. Truly interesting write up. Thanks.
  16. Martin74

    Martin74 n00b

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    great report, and inspiration for future trips.! I wish your boss the best of luck for a promotion
  17. radianrider

    radianrider Adventurer wanna'be

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    Well...that certainly explains everything.
    72 Yamaha RD350 likes this.
  18. 8lives

    8lives Dharma Bum

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    I could spent many words thanking you for this RR but I'll just say thank you so much for taking the time put this together, I agree with everyone else whom have complimented on your style.
  19. SteveBlack

    SteveBlack Adventurer

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    Top RR this year! top 5 all time! I had actually tired of the Alaska ride reports, knowing it will never happen for me but this one made my week. Thanks
  20. vhntr1

    vhntr1 Been here awhile

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    Excellent report planing the trip in two years,we are the same age ,life is going by too fast!
    72 Yamaha RD350 likes this.