Big Oil and Tree Hugger Junk-it to Tuk

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by DarkRider, Aug 4, 2018.

  1. DarkRider

    DarkRider Curiously refreshing Supporter

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    It’s been a long time since I posted a RR...6 years to be exact...but given that I’ve been an inmate since 2004, you’ll have to forgive me. About a year ago, @selkins (another long time inmate) said, “hey, they’re building a road to Tuk, we should ride it.” Now I’ve been a horrible riding partner to him for...oh, about 6 years (life got in the way), so what was I to say but yes. Now @selkins, being no fool, figured I was full of sh1t, but here we are a year later, my bike is waiting for me in Calgary, and we’re 3 weeks from departure...

    Now just to set the stage, @selkins and I were college roommates...back when music was awesome (that would be the 80s) and the best show on TV was Miami Vice. I got back into motorcycles in ‘04 with an ‘02 BMW GSA. I dragged @selkins into the asylum in about ‘05-ish when he was looking for a hobby that would a) consume large parts of his discretionary income, and b) allow him long periods of solitude. Since then, we’ve done numerous trips, a lot of really stupid stuff on bikes (floods, broken bones, snowstorms, etc), and @selkins has ridden circles around me on mileage. So here we are, 14 years later, more middle-aged, and looking at a road that just NEEDS to be ridden.

    For perspective, I live in far west Texas...the middle of nowhere (unless you like oil). The challenge with the ride proposed is that I’ve got limited vacation time and need to stage things. So I did what any rational inmate would do...first I started at the Mexican border:
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    Went home (ok, it’s 400 miles north), grabbed my bike, and left Midland the next day heading north:
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    Day 1 – 760 miles to Cheyenne, WY.

    Day 2 – 670 miles to Great Falls, MT

    Day 3 – 320 miles to Calgary

    Scenery finally got decent on day 3:
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    Border to border in 3 days:
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    Dropped the bike in Calgary for tires, fluids, etc, and headed to the hotel before flying back.

    Stay tuned, @selkins has a route that’ll kick my butt (I assume) and since I’m bringing the high-end camera and lenses (and he’s bringing the drone), it should be a decent RR. And @selkins, I get OP cred since you’re too busy loading that GSA with electronic gizmos to start the RR.
    #1
  2. 08StangGT_CS

    08StangGT_CS Adventurer

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    Awesome. That first picture is about two miles from where I grew up. Are you from there? Oilfield guy here too (Eagleford). So far I’ve avoided Midland although I did visit last month.
    #2
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  3. DarkRider

    DarkRider Curiously refreshing Supporter

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    I was in Laredo on business. Took that picture from a balcony at La Posada Hotel. Beautiful hotel and great city!
    #3
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  4. DarkRider

    DarkRider Curiously refreshing Supporter

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    I’m sitting in the Anchorage airport at the moment, waiting for a red eye to Dallas, TX. My Enduristan pannier topper is with me because the zipper failed – long story involving the Dempster.
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    Also have my helmet, jacket, and wearing my Sidi boots. All were cleaned somewhat of their Dempster dirt in the rain this morning riding into Anchorage, but there’s adequate grime that no fellow air passenger will either look at me or smell my proximity and do anything other than run the other way.
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    I don’t blame them. I look and smell like sh1t, but at least I’m not coughing up my lungs like @selkins…PDB shouldn’t have touched the mummified toe along with 100+ of his closest friends. Maybe that’s where this RR went awry…fo0k if I know. Epic rides are journeys – they have an end and a beginning, but it’s what happens along the way that really defines the experience, and this was definitely an epic experience. So now that I’ve described my end, but not @selkins’ – he’s still on the road, let me jump back to Day 1, our elaborate plans, and where adventure led things to go not exactly as planned.
    #4
  5. DarkRider

    DarkRider Curiously refreshing Supporter

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    I arrived in Calgary after an early morning flight up from Texas. Met @selkins at Blackfoot Motorsports and collected my bike. I can't thank Randy at Blackfoot enough for getting my bike ready for the trip.
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    We were on the road out of Calgary by 4pm heading to Banff. It was a quick day - ~85 miles - and the weather was warm with extremely smoky air all around. We arrived in Banff and set up camp at Two Jacks. Then it was off to town for dinner. @selkins picked a great sushi place where they make the sushi and send it around the restaurant on an electric train.

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    Finished up with dinner, then it was back to the campground with a six-pack to relax, start solving life's problems over beers, and plan the next legs of the trip.
    #5
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  6. DarkRider

    DarkRider Curiously refreshing Supporter

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    Day 2

    Ok, since @selkins is too much of a weeny to share his Hemingway-like writing, I’m going to finish this RR, if for no other reason than I got some decent pics. Perhaps at a later date we’ll see some footage from @selkins kamikaze drone from our time up north.


    We left Banff after a breakfast sandwich and coffee at a local diner and headed up the Icefields Parkway. It was a real bummer because between smoke from forest fires and steady rain about half the day, the scenery wasn’t as majestic as it normally would be. Still not too bad though.

    [​IMG]

    We stopped for lunch in Jasper and ate at Canada’s finest – Tim Hortens. Jasper was a quaint city but very crowded. The afternoon was mostly rain, however there was a brief respite followed by a fierce downpour about 5 miles outside Prince George, our destination for the day. @selkins had used hotel miles to book us lodging at the Courtyard, and when we rolled in, soaking and tired, the hotel staff about worshipped @selkins for his Platinum status. I’d never heard the term “appies” used before, but the manager was convinced that the best way to pay homage to the frequent hotel patron was free appetizers. After a beverage in the bar, we headed out to a local place for pizza. It was a beautiful Day 2 even with fairly constant rain. Of course, when the rain stopped, @selkins brought out the drone.
    #6
  7. DarkRider

    DarkRider Curiously refreshing Supporter

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    Our destination for day 3 was Stewart, BC. We rolled out of Prince George in mid-40s temps but with no rain. It was a perfect day for riding and even got fairly warm during the afternoon stretch. The smoke was bad most of the day and when we reached Fort Fraser, the smoke was very heavy. We stopped to take photos of a man-camp for firefighters.
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    Nasty smoke
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    We stopped for lunch at a nice pub in Smithers and when leaving, felt a few drops of rain. Given the prior days rain experience and clouds, I figured we’d have an afternoon of rain, but we dodged it and had a very pleasant afternoon. Once we turned on the Stewart-Cassier, it was a scenery overload. Glaciers everywhere and very little traffic.

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    As we came into Stewart we passed a small black bear sitting on the side of the road – looked like it had come up from a stream to eat some berries. Grabbed a room at the Ripley Creek Hotel and went out for a dinner of pizza and Kokanee.
    #7
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  8. selkins

    selkins Gotta light?

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    Holy smokes. You're writing a ride report!!!

    :hmmmmm :lurk
    #8
  9. slammer218

    slammer218 Slammer

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    Great read so far. Keep it coming..
    #9
  10. RevyRider

    RevyRider FXD Traveler

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    Revelstoke, BC
    I will be keeping an eye on this RR. Thanks for sharing.
    #10
  11. squiffynimrod

    squiffynimrod maximum shrinkage Supporter

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    Following along closely as I will be taking my 02 GSA up there in the summer.

    Make sure to include all the gruesome details :muutt
    #11
  12. DarkRider

    DarkRider Curiously refreshing Supporter

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    Someone's gotta do it :y0!
    #12
  13. DarkRider

    DarkRider Curiously refreshing Supporter

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    Ok, so Day 4 - this is where I started to sense that things weren't going to go exactly as planned.

    We rolled out of Stewart with our first destination being Salmon Glacier. @selkins said it was an easy 25 mile roundtrip and it would be our first dirt of the trip. The plan was to ride up, take some epic photos of the glacier, stop on the way back at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site to see the bears gorging on salmon, drop back in Stewart for breakfast, then be on our way to Dease Lake – our destination for the day. We departed as planned but found ourselves riding through rain and fog all the way up. When we got to the overlook, about the only thing we could see was the cloud cover between us and the glacier. No worries – dodging water-filled potholes up and back was fun, so it was off to see the bears. We pulled into the observation site, parked our bikes, then decided to move our bikes to a different lot. We headed for the entrance, only to have someone in the parking lot say "hey, did you see that bear, it ran across the street right behind you two." We'd missed it, so we paid our entry fee and went to find our own bears. Well. we saw lots of salmon, but no bears.
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    The scenery was spectacular so we hung out under the trees to avoid the steady drizzle, and enjoyed the peaceful setting.
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    From there, it was back through Hyder to Stewart, a leisurely breakfast at the Ripley Hotel (thinking we only had about 240 miles of riding to do), and we were on our way to Dease Lake at about noon. We rode through steady rain most of the way to Dease Lake and after a chilly and wet day of riding, pulled into Dease Lake, fueled up, and went to find a motel. Well, we found out that both motels in town were full with firefighters battling what I believe was called the largest forest fire in British Columbia in history. At this point, our options were to 1) pitch tents in the rain, attempt to dry out a bit, and hit it again in the morning, or 2) keep on going. We chose option 2 and continued north to Watson Lake, another 150 miles further. We rolled into Watson Lake at about 9:15pm after a quick stop at the Yukon crossing sign (I secretly think @selkins planned this all along so he'd have good camera lighting for this celebratory shot:
    [​IMG]

    Once in Watson, we got one of the last available motel rooms in town, went for some of the most delicious (because it was warm) but horrible Chinese food I've ever had, and afterwards, called it a day. Well, I'd also bought a bottle of Fireball at Dease thinking we were done for the day, so before collapsing for the night, we had a celebratory toast for making it closer to 375 miles and crossing into the Yukon.
    #13
  14. 08StangGT_CS

    08StangGT_CS Adventurer

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    Great trip so far. Currently reading it from Laredo.
    #14
  15. selkins

    selkins Gotta light?

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    Darkrider has been good enough to get this thread launched, and I've been slow to contribute for reasons that may become clear as this evolves. But it's the New Year, and a good time to come through for oneself and others. So, here goes. I think I'll just append my thoughts and photos as replies to the sections that Darkrider puts together, as I've done here. My own ride started much later than Darkrider's, as he transited his bike to Calgary months ahead of time, while I rode there just a week before our shared ride was to begin.

    On August 17 I woke up at 3:30am, two hours before my alarm, and tossed and turned through the early hours. As Renn, my 20-year-old kid home for the summer from college, said the prior evening: "You're so stressed out."

    It's true, work had been more stressful in the lead up months, and I always get a level of anxiety before a big motorcycle jaunt - death-dreams, worries about my (lack of) riding skill, ambivalence about leaving my family for weeks. For some reason, all that seemed enhanced this time. But I also knew how much these trips have meant for me. Seeing remarkable things, meeting new people, the essential pleasure of a long-day's ride and the satisfaction of distance, and the opportunity to escape the universe of daily pressures that push us into a tight corner of broader potential. So, yes, this morning and for the next three days I would ride, as a week-early preview of the trip to the far north that Darkrider and I would share.

    These three days would be largely familiar. Day one a flat-out throttle twister along I-94 from Minneapolis, through Fargo and on to Dickinson, North Dakota. It was a hazy day, the first hints of smoke whose source I'd be moving closer towards for roughly the next 1800 miles.

    [​IMG]

    August 18, day two, was all about the Great Plains. Rumbling past the Teddy Roosevelt Nat'l Grasslands, I got off the Interstate at Glendive and followed state highways. Wide vistas punctuated by hay meadows with scattered round bales, the product of summer ready to be hauled to the feed-lots.

    [​IMG]

    Light rain fell for periods between Circle and Winnett, Montana; and riding through a section of range land I breathed in a lung-full of sage-rich air, the kind you experience only right after a rainfall has opened it up.

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    Not long after, past Jordan, a little uprising with the first grove of short, fire-singed pine - and then the undulations of the landscape began to increase, and the groves of pine gradually expanded. The smoke lies like dense fog in Great Falls, and the woman at the hotel front desk says it's been like that for a week and a half.

    August 19 is my last day's ride - a shortish route up to St Mary via US-89, then through Blackfoot land with cattle ranging open and wandering into the road.

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    Then up and over the border at Chief Mountain, a brief detour into Waterton, and then up to Calgary via 6 and 22. Watched a coyote chasing its tail in a field near Browning, and played with my drone and g*pro. This trip I'd let Darkrider use his nicer camera to take most of the stills. I'd be focusing on video, which in time will get edited and show up on these forums, but for this thread I'm going to play with GIFs.

    And still with the smoke.

    [​IMG]

    Riding on 89, where in year's past I've had dramatic views deep into the mountain front, this year only the faint outline of the nearest peaks. Just a few days later, Waterton would be evacuated as fire threated the town. The smoke thinned further north riding along the highly trafficed but thinly populated 22.

    The hotel I find in Calgary is new and fairly empty, the tall, striking person at the front desk chats me up for a while before handing over the room key. I have always loved travel. Moving through new spaces, engaging people without context or expectation. And after a day's ride, walking into a hotel room and shedding the layers of gear and luggage is like entering a private sanctum. Tomorrow I'll fly back to Minneapolis for four more days of work - closing up loose ends, pruning my to-do list and email inbox as tightly as possible. And then - adventure awaits.
    #15
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  16. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer Supporter

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    Interesting first page. You guys went up about the same time of year I’ll be going next year. Doesn’t exactly inspire enthusiasm. Too much smoke to see anything, and riding in the rain every day. I’m in.
    #16
  17. selkins

    selkins Gotta light?

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    So, revising the approach on my posts and playing with GIFs. Feedback welcome.
    #17
  18. DarkRider

    DarkRider Curiously refreshing Supporter

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    Finally, the Walt Whitman of Jo Mama (aka @selkins) surfaces :clap
    #18
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  19. selkins

    selkins Gotta light?

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    "So what you gonna do when the novelty has gone?" - Joy Division

    One of the formative experiences of my life was the chance to spend a term abroad, in northern England, during my time in college. And even more, the month of solo, freewheeling travel I spent the month prior to classes beginning. I had a Eurail Pass and absolutely no itinerary for 30 days. I swear, for years afterwards I could clearly recall every waking minute of the month - the experience was that powerful. Among the impacts of that time has been a lifelong compulsion to learn my way around a new city, by foot and transit.

    So, when my plane landed in Calgary late in the evening, I eschewed the cabs and boarded a bus to downtown, from there a light rail train to the end of the line south of town, and then another late-night bus to about 1/4 mile away from my hotel. All the while soaking in the voices of fellow passengers and the textures of the neighborhoods. It was a chilly night with overcast and showers. While it was late on a Friday, I recall many more tired, end-of-day workers than weekend revelers.

    I had hoped the light rain might lessen the smoke, but it was still there the next morning. Seeing Darkrider as he rolled into Blackfoot Motorsports from the airport made me feel like a giddy kid. We'd been planning this trip for more than a year, and that much expectation is a powerful thing. What lay ahead (we thought) was two weeks of travel with Darkrider, with a visit to the Arctic Ocean. And afterwards, for me, another two weeks of solo wandering. So much time! Sitting in front of a month-long motorcycle trip was like embarking on an ocean voyage - all that can be seen is the wide, mysterious ocean before you, with no hint of landfall.

    Lots of little tasks to manage, packing to be done, a hot dog lunch to be eaten, and final steps - and then finally we were off on the road. But just as far as the Two Jack Campground outside of Banff. Where we set up tents and went into town for dinner at the Banff Sushi House.

    Your's truly, at our campsite outside Banff:

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    Don't ever let it be said that I'm the goofy one between us:

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    I think a shitty part about being a human is that we've got this super-short life span, so our brains are wired to really, really quickly decide that we've "been there, done that." Case in point: the Canadian Rockies. I've done a fair bit of traveling, and there is nothing that compares to the mile-after-mile majesty and drama of the Canadian Rockies and the Icefields Parkway. But I've spent some time there, and while it's still amazing, the novelty is gone. So there's this impulse to make the miles on the trip and to blow through this part of the story.

    So, instead I'm going to make a point to say, the Canadian Rockies are AWESOME! Go there! It's not about the twisties or fast straightaways - the road is mostly straightish and levelish, and the speed limit is low. But you'll wish your head was mounted on a 360 swivel. Every mile reveals a new vista of snowy peaks, rushing rivers, deep green forests, lapis-blue lakes, and that's not even touching on the wildlife. My wife leads a week-long hiking trip there every-other year, the lucky duck.

    Aaaand, the smoke was still there when we woke up the next morning. So this time the views were more limited, but still it was Darkrider's first time there, and I hope it whet his appetite for more.

    [​IMG]


    Darkrider was irritated at the smoke-obsured views:

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    I'm fascinated at the way my LEDs strobe in video. I had a professional camera-operator friend explain the "why" of it to me. Went totally over my head.

    [​IMG]


    Once past Mt Robson Provincial Park, outside Jasper, the scenery mellows out along Hwy 16 as you ride northwest along the Fraser River valley. But still, the scenery is fine and really exceptional if you hadn't just been through the Icefields Pkwy.

    Bridge over the Fraser River:

    [​IMG]

    That day we rode through to Prince George, where we stayed in a downtown hotel in the Fraser River valley. The largest fires - ones whose smoke I had been breathing for more than 1500 miles now, were off to the west of town. I had hoped that we would be camping that night or the next at campgrounds close to Fraser Lake, but they were all closed down due to the fire.

    In fact though, we were fortunate in Prince George, just a week prior, the skies looked like this:

    [​IMG]

    Looks like a sort of colorful early-morning dawn, until you realize that the sun had risen five hours before the photo was taken.

    The woman at the hotel front desk shook her head in dismay recalling that day. The fires, she said, were like nothing they'd experienced before. Later that evening, after walking down to yummy dinner at Betulla Burning, we ran into a group of wildland firefighters outside the hotel. We thanked them for their work. Amazing people, really, and they chatted with us with the sort of sang-froid you might expect from folks who put their lives on the line that way.
    #19
  20. selkins

    selkins Gotta light?

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    Keep reading MissouRider. The adventure is more than sunny skies and easy riding. I wouldn't trade these weeks for three years of day to day life.
    #20
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