Canadian Arctic Winter Ride; Ice Roads and the Dempster Highway

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Northern Rob, Jan 10, 2009.

  1. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

    Joined:
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    Bike Weapons farkle:

    Shotgun, slugs, photon torpedos, laser cannons, particle weapons, fur-seeking missiles, nunchucks, napalm, throwing knives etc...

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    If you've been with me for this entire thread (congratulations on your persistence), you'll know that I received some conflicting advice about whether to take a gun along or not. There were reports of polar bears on the Dempster as far south as Fort McPherson. One long time resident of the Yukon told me I was mad if I didn't take a gun. The other, Benno Jaeger - a professional arctic guide - told me I was a fool to pack one.

    Given conflicting advice, I decided to risk being over-prepared and get some firearm training and take some firepower with me.

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    I am not a gun lover, but as I said earlier in the thread, if it's a choice between doing lunch or being lunch, I'm happy to take the other life form out of the gene pool and into my belly. I didn't spend 4 billion years climbing to the top of the evolutionary ladder to be taken out by some grumpy stuffed toy. :2guns

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    I chose not to use the stock gun turret that mounts on top of the sidecar (the Ural was designed as an army bike). I didn't want to unnecessarily stress out the locals with a rolling display of my firepower. :eek1 So instead, I went for something more subtle...

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    Hello Papa bear, say "Hello" to my little friend. :evil

    That's what I call "riding shotgun" old school style! :lol3

    Now, back to reality...

    It took a considerable amount of time, effort, and expense to get trained up, practice the emergency load and fire proceedure, have all the appropriate paperwork in order, and store the weapon securely during our travels.

    VERDICT?

    IT WAS A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME. It was worse than a waste of time. It took away from the enjoyment of the trip because we were always worried about keeping the gun legally, responsibly and securely stored. In the end, after talking to locals while I was up there, I decided to leave the gun locked in the truck, and I drove the bike without it.

    Okay, I'll admit it was pretty cool to be able to strap a shotgun next to me on the bike like I was some kind of bad ass. But I'm not.

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    You do not need a gun for this trip. Do not take a gun.
  2. soph9

    soph9 Would Love to ride ALL the TIME

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    Congratulations on completing a trip that many of us will never get a chance to do....or perhaps would want to?:rofl

    I loved reading your RR....and all the pics and your story....well done and living it through your eyes I feel as though I took a winter journey myself! Thanks again and glad you made it safe and sound!:freaky
  3. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    Thanks Soph9!

    Lap Apron from Langlitz Leathers

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    It keeps the rain and snow off your lower body, keeping you warmer and dryer. Two thumbs up.

    Hippo Hands from Hippohands.com

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    I wouldn't want to do the ride without some kind of wind protection for my hands like this. I would have liked them to go further up my sleeves and had a bigger mouth opening for my big gloves. Good, but I would make a few mods to them for next time. One thumb up.

    Fork Gaiters from Hippohands.com

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    They keep the sand, salt , crud and ice from building up on your shocks. Two thumbs up!
  4. OldLemmy

    OldLemmy Adventurer

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    GREAT RR!!:clap
  5. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    Wrapping your brake and clutch levers with tennis racket grip and hockey tape: Two thumbs up.

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    This was a great and practically free upgrade. Even with heated grips and Hippo Hands, the cold metal of the levers tends to suck heat out of your hands. This bit of insulation fixes it. And it feels nice for summer riding too.

    Heated Grips from Hot Grips . They work great. It's a no-brainer.

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    Additional electrical sockets to plug in heated clothes and bike cam. Purchased from Powerlet . Two thumbs up.

    Garmin Zumo 550. Two thumbs up.

    Digital voltmeter/temp/time. It broke as soon as it got cold. Piece of crap.

    Tach from Crawford Sales . Two thyumbs up. Between the wind and noise and my well insulated helmet, it was hard to hear the engine rpm. This gauge was useful in keeping away from the red line.

    Head temperature sensors from Aircraft Spruce . 50/50 Phil Funnel warned me that one of his cylinders stopped working on his BMW when he rode up the Dempster in the winter. The fix he recommended was to wrap insulation around the cylinder heads to keep them warmer. I wanted to know what was going on down there, and this did a good job of it. It's also handy if you're riding in really hot weather to know if your engine is overheating. Really though, I don't think it was necessary for the ride.

    Oil temperature gauge - found on E-bay I think. Two thumbs up.

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    This was useful. It let me know from cold start when the bike was warm enough to ride. Also in hot weather, it lets you know if you're overheating. I don't use it on normal rides as it makes it harder to check the oil. But for this ride, I would take it again.
  6. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    PIAA auxillary lights: Two thumbs up.

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    Sidecar nose rack from Dauntless Motors : two thumbs up
    Sidecar bash plate from any Ural dealer: two thumbs up, yup used it.
    Ural touring windshield, from any Ural dealer: two thumbs up, no-brainer

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    Spot location transmitter - can I give this three thumbs up? It's either this or a sat phone

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    Wheelchair battery wired in for extra juice and cold cranking power. Two thumbs up.


    Centech fuse panel from Centech : Two thumbs up.
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    You're going to need somewhere to run all your extra electric gizmos.

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    2 spare tire holder from Eastern Block Silver Goose. Two thumbs up.
    Unfortunately this vendor is no longer in business. I wanted 2 spares as this bike has a disc front and drum backs. The device worked great after a minor modification to make it tougher for offroad use. You'll have to make your own.

    Upgrade to 3 auxillary tanks (from any Ural dealer). Two thumbs up.
    I recommend you carry significantly extra gas for this trip as some gas stations are closed, and bad weather could mean you could almost get to your target gas station and be forced to turn back due to road/weather conditions. We carried enough spare gas to idle the truck through a 4 day snowstorm.
  7. L.B.S.

    L.B.S. Long timer

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    What a fantastic RR! Absolutely wonderful read, through and through! Congratulations on a job well done:freaky

    Thank you for sharing:D
  8. pacmktg

    pacmktg Adventurer

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    Thanks so much for a great RR. It ended too soon.

    Bob
  9. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    Thanks folks, I'm really glad that you're getting some fun out of this...


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    Stainless steel braided front brake line - two thumbs up. Gave me much better braking than the rubber hose. Stainless brake line is now stock on all new bikes, so only for you old guys...

    Engine armour, oil pan bash plate (from your Ural dealer or Raceway): two thumbs up!

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    Rerouting crankcase exhaust directly to ground instead of air filter (also seal the air filter hole). Two thumbs up. You see it in its stock position here. Several people warned me I would get carb icing if I didn't do it. I took their advice and had no carb icing issues.

    Lockable trunk - two thumbs up. This was from Silver Goose again (now out of business), but others make similar stuff. Not needed for this ride, but it just is a high utility farkle overall.

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    Ural 2WD & Reverse shift kit from Raceway Services : Two thumbs up. Lots of shiny nice toys here at Raceway. Hide your Visa card! This kit extends the reverse and 2WD levers up to where they can easily be reached by the tank. Love it. Big upgrade, but not essential to your ride.

    DOT approved Kenda K335 Ice Racing Knobbies (Ural Northwest in Bellingham): two thumbs up.

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    Studs: Aerostich #4706. (www.aerostich.com) score 50/50.

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    Sorry punk #4706, you're no stud, you're a stud wanna be. E for effort.
    These just screw in with an electric drill so that's handy. They worked great on snow covered roadways. They extended tire life and I still got reasonable grip when I was on dry road. So that's good. They weren't tough enough for the Dempster and ripped out when I got some wheel spin on wet ice. So that's bad. I recommend you use these Aerostich studs to get to Dawson City, and then use Justanotherrider's stud technology as you head up the Dempster. See his write up on pg 29 of this thread. He put a lot of work into that post, thanks Mike!
  10. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    Cameras

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    Go Pro bike cam : Two thumbs down. At least it's cheap but also it's cheap. It didn't make the cut. It stayed at home. Save up your money for something better unless you want a throw away camera.

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    V.I.O. POV digital helmet cam : two thumbs up. Put in a big chip, plug the battery replacement adaptor into a spare electrical outlet and you've got all day rolling video. It's tough too.

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    Sony HDr CX12 : one thumb up. When I bought this, it was pretty well the only consumer HD recorder with chip based memory instead of hard drive. They tell me hard drives are more likely to fail in the cold and with off road vibration. I liked that it had a good zoom, and that it had (windows) software so I could rip nice still pictures out of a video. I liked the infrared setting so I could see and shoot in the dark. I didn't like that it's a pain in the butt to use this on a Mac. Sony is Windows centric, and I'm not. So if I were to do it again, I would reach for something else that talks to a Mac better.

    Wayne and I also had some standard cameras. Nothing you'd care about.
  11. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    This part is going to be easy for most of you Canucks and snowmobilers.

    Just grab your snowmobile helmet, grab your gear, add some dirt bike armour at the knees and elbows (its not just good for a get off, it helps keep the cold wind from penetrating into and stiffening your joints).

    Hey, that was easy! You're pretty well ready to party!

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    But I'm here now, so we might as well go through it for the others...

    The art of dressing for the serious cold is that you don't want to let yourself get too hot, because if you sweat, you will soon get cold and then its hard to heat up again. On the other hand, you shouldn't let yourself get cold, because at these temperatures its hard to ever warm up again without pouring in some external (ie electric) heat. So you need to dress in layers and manage your temperature to keep in the sweet spot.

    I'd say plan to dress warmly enough so that you don't need to rely on your electrics. Electrics are nice, but they can break, and your engine can die, and you need to keep living until you're fixed or rescued, right? On the other hand, electrics are a comfort and backup plan - and a good one. So use them.

    So... wear long underwear, the same kind you would use for cross country skiing and such. It has to wick the sweat away from you. Directly over the long underwear, add your electric pants and top. It should fit snugly. Over that, add your shirt, fleece, pants and snowmobile suit. Thin and thick socks. A thin balaclava to protect your neck and face. Your helmet has to comfortably fit over it.

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    Important: electric pant and jacket liners. I chose Firstgear heated pant and jacket liners because they breathe somewhat and that helps you get your sweat away from your body. Also they fit snug so the heat gets to you better. The Gerbing stuff doesn't breathe as well and is looser. You need to get rid of the sweat or you will get cold.
    Two thumbs up!

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    Gloves: I used Gerbings glove liners under Army surplus arctic mitts. Two thumbs up for the glove liners. They're thin and nimble, and you can actually manipulate a camera or tool while wearing them. It's not nearly enough to keep your hands warm at -20 temperatures for any time though. The Army surplus mitts were good too. I had a problem with wind leaks, but it was the seam between the mitts and my snowmobile suit. I would have sealed it with duct tape if I wasn't taking the mitts off all the time to take pictures. (If I go again, there won't be any pictures ! :lol3 ).

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    Temp controller: Gerbings. Two thumbs up.

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    Sorel Men's Glacier Boots
    : Two thumbs up. They say on the web site that they're rated to -100. My right foot was getting cold anyway, but that's because the wind from the sidecar funneled right onto my foot. They're a good boot, but big, so be prepared to re-learn how to shift. I used a heel shifter to upshift.

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    Chemical hand and foot warmers:(Canadian Tire, Home Depot, sports stores): A solid 2 (3?) thumbs up. I dropped a couple of these into my boots and my cold foot problem was over for the day. Also, this is how I kept my camera and camera batteries warm. I dropped a couple of these into the camera case and they kept things warm enough that the cameras would work and the batteries would hold their charge. These chemical warmers don't heat up enough to risk damage to the gear. Perfect!

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    Bombardier Ski-doo DOT approved helmet: 3? thumbs up. I realize this look isn't going to win you points with the ladies :rofl.... but it's comfortable, warm, and the snow visor is the perfect tint to cut snow glare. Once I figured out how to clear the ice build up on the exhaust valves I had no fogging or icing issues. Paul Mondor lent me this helmet, and he was raving about how good it was. Now that I've used it, I have to agree with him. I would consider snapping out the breathe exhaust system and using it as my regular bike helmet. It's that good. I know you don't believe me. That's fine. I'm over it already.


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    Oh, and I almost forgot!

    Don't forget your "Safety Nagging Farkle"! Fix it in a clear line of sight on your windshield.

    Because it can be a fine line indeed between having a brilliant adventure and being the next poster child for the Darwin awards.

    So be sure to pack your common sense! And then go have fun!
    Enough advice already!
  12. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    I just got off the phone with Merven Gruben (Mayor of Tuktoyaktuk).

    He confirmed that plans for the all weather road to Tuktoyaktuk are moving forward. He estimates they will have an all weather road between Inuvik and Tuk in as little as two years, but more realistically three to four years.

    His best guess is that we have the ice road for 3 more winters.

    You heard it here first. Plan accordingly.
    :freaky
  13. LostHighway

    LostHighway Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Location:
    British Columbia
    Very cool RR, I made the trip up the DEMPSTER this year and I enjoyed seeing the differences between what I saw and what you saw. Good job!
  14. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

    Joined:
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    It would be rude not to....

    As I said earlier in the report, I'm not your classic swash buckling ADV card carrying adventure rider. You know, popping a wheelie as I ride a technical single track along the edge of a cliff, while waving at the camera.

    Don't get me wrong, I'd like to be that guy, but I'm just not particularly good. All I really have on tap is a lot of enthusiasm.

    So to pull this off, I needed a lot of help.


    Thanks to:
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    Hubert Kriegel - for original inspiration. He did his winter ride just before my summer ride, and when the locals told me he pulled it off, I put this ride on my bucket list. http://www.thetimelessride.com/

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    ADV's Paul Mondor - the Ice Man - Paul, thanks for giving me so much of your time (even loaning me some of your gear), and teaching me how to ride my bike in the winter. Paul helped me the most of anybody. If you like winter riding, check out some of Paul's threads and books. http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=109911 Coast to Coast Canada in winter??. Trans labrador HWY in Winter http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=230898 . Books: "Two wheels through winter". 'Ice Man vs. Labrador". I am glad to call Paul a friend.

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    Benno Jaeger http://www.bennosadventure.com/g/index.html What a lucky find to get to meet Benno. He's the real deal. An arctic adventure tour guide. His advice was bang on while many others proved wrong. If you want to see the Dempster and the ice roads in comfort (instead of on a bike), he's the only guy I'd recommend you hook up with for a tour. I am glad to call Benno a friend.

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    I also want to thank Benno's touring guests for sharing their pictures with me.

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    Philip Funnell - Phil is winter motorcycling's Yoda. He was the first man to ride Canada's high arctic in the winter on a motorbike. He was doing this stuff in the 70's and 80's with very limited gear when the roads were even more primitive. Phil has done some seriously freaky rides and none of the younger guys know. It doesn't seem fair somehow. Phil also has some major pages in the history books in Canada with Harley, BMW and Ural. Thanks for your advice Phil. You were bang on.

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    David Barr - http://www.davebarr.com/ When I read he rode across Siberia in the winter on a hacked Harley (and with no legs), I asked him if I could give him a call. He gave me great advice on winter motorcycling gear. He talked me out of hacking my KLR and moving to a 2WD Ural solution. His advice was bang on. Cheers Dave!

    ADV Rider's Squonker - a real ice road trucker, no that TV show B.S. Great advice about the ice roads Squonker. Thanks! Squonker's ice road trucking thread: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=267881

    ADV Rider's ZZR_Ron for camera heating technology.

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    Ural NW in Washington State: http://www.uralnw.com/ Mark and Ben are the only wrenches that touch my bike. Good, honest, smart, and they taught me the basics of how to fix my bike. I was hopeless before they trained me. Great dealership in Washington state. I drive from Canada for them to work on my bike. 'nough said!

    Ontario Old Vintage Cranks in Ontario, Canada http://www.uralontario.ca/ great advice on winter mods for my Ural. Too bad they're so far away.

    Fire Depts:
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    Rob Currie - Rob hooked me up with the motorbike cancer fundraiser charity when I told him about John. He called around and arranged support for us with the fire departments along our route. He also sponsored our fund raising efforts through his on-line motorcycle parts business MTR sports So I guess that deserves a plug.

    Thank you firemen of:
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    Prince George,

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    Fort Nelson,

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    Inuvik

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    Thanks to firefighter Dana in Whitehorse for going way above and beyond, working on my bike, and letting us hang with his family.

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    The Motorcycle Ride For Dad cops and firefighters for looking after the donations and getting it to a cancer charity.

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    Mayor Nancy Moore of Watson Lake, Yukon

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    April from Tourism Fort St. John and Dustin from Tourism Dawson Creek.

    A big thanks to ADV Rider's Mark and Michelle in Fort Nelson for opening up the doors of the community to us. That was probably my favourite "people" stop on the whole tour.
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    Earl Brown in Fort Nelson - a true force of nature and a great guide to the community.

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    Roy Raycroft at Tourism Yukon

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    Adam at the Best Western Goldrush Inn at Whitehorse for his tourism tips and for taking great care of us at the hotel.

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    Rachel from the Klondike Visitor's Association http://www.dawsoncity.ca/ This gal is the ultimate ambassador for Dawson City and she has a lust for life that is infectious.

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    Jamie, our bartender and sourtoe cocktail hostess at the Downtown Hotel.

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    Steve Watson from the Braeburn Lodge, Yukon.

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    Jaksun in Fort McPherson

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    Curtis in Tsiigehtchic

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    Evelyn in Eagle Plains

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    Judith Venaas, tourism officer, Gov't of Northwest Territories

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    The Inuvik locals for sharing their traditions with us.

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    Merven Gruben, Mayor of Tuktoyaktuk (second from left, next to our Prime Minister). Thanks for lending us some great pictures Merven and thanks for your tourism tips. Good luck with that all season road to Inuvik.

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    Raymond James Ltd. The best firm I have ever worked at. When John got sick, they rallied around us and helped us through some really difficult times. They also cut a big cheque for cancer research in honour of John.

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    Dad, my personal MacGyver and cheering crew. Thanks Dad, I know you didn't want me to go, but you helped anyway.

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    Mrs. Northern Rob for looking after the kids solo and putting up with me while I go do stupid midlife crisis things.

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    and all the people who contributed to "Punch Cancer In The Face" or any cancer charity.
    Together, we're going to beat this thing.

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    My buddy Konrad. He was supposed to do the entire trip with us, but got the bad phone call about his brother's funeral. He flew into Whitehorse to ride back home with me. We'll get you up the Dempster on your bike Kon, it's unfinished business.

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    Wayne. I wouldn't have done this ride without you. Wayne was supposed to have a party in the truck with Kon as they rode along with me. Instead he rode alone for weeks and took thousands of pictures. Wayne was my backup plan if bad things happened. You're the best Wayne. Thank you.

    I hope I'm not forgetting anyone. I probably am. Sorry if I did.



    Tomorrow, it will be one year since John passed away.

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    Man, so many good memories...

    Gone but not forgotten.

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    John...this ride's for you buddy.



    Seems like a good place to end the thread,

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    Thanks very much for tuning in. Let's make today a good one!

    Con Brio!

    Rob
    kpinvt and smilin jack like this.
  15. b3h

    b3h ol dog on a stray

    Joined:
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    lost on the E coast
    Just wanted to chime in and say thanks. Really enjoyed this RR and the effort you put into it.
  16. JADM

    JADM Adventurer

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    Jul 14, 2009
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    San Jose Ca.
    were always worried about keeping the gun legally, responsibly and securely stored.

    it looks to me that you did your home work and kept the SGN in a responsable manner. think of it as being better off not needing it than
    not having it when the need arose. ( kind of like the first aid kit)
  17. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    kpinvt, #1Fan and i4bikes like this.